It's the largest annual event on the video game calendar: the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
From June 2-4 this year, thousands of developers, publishers and representatives of the media will descend upon the Los Angeles Convention Centre in a celebration of all things gaming related.
New titles will be revealed. Existing titles will be showcased. Exciting announcements will be made, and for a brief period of time we'll be able to examine not only the horde of games on the horizon, but reflect on the entire gaming industry itself.
E3 is known for surprises, and since few studios and publishers have revealed the entire catalogue of what they'll be showing, we can only hope to make some educated guesses. So in no particular order, here's where we think the action will be...
In the red corner: PlayStation
It's shaping up to be a big year for Sony as they amp up the console battle with Microsoft's Xbox 360. We're expecting the announcement of a new PSP, which will hopefully have the troubled UMD replaced by flash memory of some description, and perhaps if we're lucky, a touch screen.
As for the PS3, you only have to google "PS3 Slim" to see the rumour mill operating in overdrive. It would make sense to announce a redesigned PS3 at the same time as a price drop, so could this be the reason Sony have fixed their RRP for so long? Or were those photos of a new PS3 from a Chinese factory just a hoax?
As for firmware, there's bound to be some kind of update to Home as Sony continue to evolve their online-based service.
2009 is also looking to be tremendously important for PS3-exclusive titles such as Massive Action Game, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, God of War III, InFamous and (if we're lucky) Gran Turismo 5, so expect to see a great deal of chatter regarding these titles. Don't forget too, Sony's Online Entertainment team will probably be on-site to pimp DC Universe Online, and we're expecting Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer to get a tremendous amount of attention if it's shown this year. This dark film noir thriller could be exactly the type of game to breathe a bit of life back into the genre.
The green team: Xbox
Sony may have the dark film noir covered, but as far as psychological action thrillers go, we're expecting any demonstration of Alan Wake to secure a fair bit of foot traffic. This single-player title has been in development for a long time now, with very little revealed about which direction it's taking. This year's E3 would be a prime time to start the hype machine if Microsoft is looking to release it this financial year.
Speaking of hype, Halo 3: ODST will almost certainly make an appearance. Likewise, Forza Motorsport 3 and Crackdown 2 will most likely be shown in some capacity.
We're not expecting any major revelations from Microsoft's hardware team. There's long been rumour surrounding the inclusion of some kind of motion-sensing peripheral in the Xbox line-up (whether it's a camera or a waggly stick, or both, is anyone's guess) so we may learn more about this attempt to squeeze Nintendo's rampant profit share.
It's extremely unlikely that we'll hear anything at all about a new Xbox console. But anything is possible.
It'll be interesting to hear Microsoft's plans for the Zune Marketplace integration, and how that will affect kiwi consumers (if at all), but the most important reason to follow Microsoft this year is down to what they haven't been hyping. They've deliberately kept quiet about the majority of their gaming line-up this year, so it's quite likely we'll see a bunch of new titles announced. Exciting times!
Over in the blue corner: Nintendo
It's really a case of business as usual for Nintendo this year. They've already released the revamped DS to the market, so about all we can expect in terms of innovation will be a dedicated DSi game that showcases the camera functionality for the first time. As for games, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Mario & Luigi 3 will probably get a heavy focus, beyond that we'll just have to wait for the press conference on Tuesday morning to hear more!
It's all about the games
A cursory investigation reveals that there are well over a hundred titles from at least twenty major game studios that will be vying for media attention next week. Some will attract more attention than others, but it's safe to assume there will be something for everyone.
Activision have a massive line-up this year, and, as announced today, Modern Warfare 2 looks to be the stand-out title. DJ Hero is either going to be a tremendous success or a complete flop, but you'd have to assume with Activision's experience in the music market that if anyone can make it work, they can. Guitar Hero 5 will see the franchise go back to its roots, and we're hoping to see a lot more from Wolfenstein and their new IP Singularity.
Meanwhile, Electronic Arts have done their best to out-shine Activision with a bunch of exciting new titles. We're getting some time with The Beatles Rock Band, so stay tuned for that. We also hope to see how Dragon Age: Origins is coming along, not to mention how the war is progressing in Battlefield 1943 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The two new Need for Speed titles will get a workout, and just what is Bayonetta all about anyway? With all these titles, we just hope there's enough time left over to check out Mass Effect 2, Dead Space 2 and The Saboteur!
Although Rockstar will be joining Blizzard as spectators only this year (the absence of Red Dead Redemption will be noticed) parent company Take-Two will send representatives from 2K to show off Borderlands, Mafia II and BioShock 2, and with any luck we'll see some new gameplay footage and perhaps even some hands-on time with these important 2009 releases.
It's a good year for Sci-Fi games too - Jumpgate Evolution, Lost Planet 2, Bionic Commando, Aliens vs. Predator, Terminator Salvation, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and The Conduit are expected to be shown, to name but a few. If you prefer your combat a little on the sneaky side, then Thi4f, Alpha Protocol, Assassin's Creed 2 and Hitman 5 will be of interest, and if all else fails, Valve is certain to wow us with Half-Life 2: Episode 3, Portal 2 and additional Left 4 Dead content.
We were as surprised as everyone else to hear about Fallout: New Vegas earlier this year, but it won't be the only title we'll be following closely. Anything at all we can find out about Star Wars: The Old Republic, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Supreme Commander 2, Beyond Good & Evil 2, Brutal Legend and The Agency, we'll do so!
Then in about a week, E3 2009 will wind up, and we'll be left with the long wait until the holiday season to see most of these incredible titles hit the shelves.
Our team of four at E3 this year will do their best to get as much information to you as possible, so keep a track of all the action by subscribing to our newsletter, check us out on Gameplanet's Facebook page, and for instant information as news comes to hand, follow Gameplanet on Twitter.