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E3 2018: A new Xbox announced (kinda) and games like Fallout 76, The Last of Us, Halo, Fortnite

Get your controllers ready because it's the biggest video game show of the year.

Josh Miller/CNET

We didn't get to see any new Xboxes or PlayStations. But the companies at E3 did their best to showcase enough new video games and gadgets arriving in the next year to keep avid gamers, including me, excited about what's coming next.

Over 60,000 people are signed up to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles this week, a convention that plays host to the biggest announcements coming out of the $108 billion-a-year video game industry.

Many of the 2.6 billion gamers around the world will be watching, as will the 15,000 excited fans who paid $249 each to attend the show. It's the second year in a row E3 is open to the public (before then, only industry insiders and press could attend). And while having so many fans in the Los Angeles Convention Center means there will probably be plenty of long lines to play new game demos -- and lots of people dressing up as their favorite game characters -- that's far from the main event.

The real action happens before the "expo" floor opens, during the press-only media days. This year, everything started Saturday, as Electronic Arts kicked off three days of nonstop announcements, with news from game makers Bethesda and Ubisoft, and console makers Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

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Microsoft said it's working on a new Xbox, but no other details.

Josh Miller/CNET

On the console front, Microsoft said it's working on a new Xbox but didn't share any other details. Meanwhile, Sony said it's holding off on a new PlayStation console for a few more years to "prepare the next step." And Nintendo's hit Switch console just came out last year.

So what does that mean for E3 2018?

Fans are especially looking forward to details on Kingdom Hearts 3, the latest in the Disney character adventure series starring beloved characters such as Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Another crowd-pleaser will likely be Sony's The Last of Us: Part 2, a sequel to the hit 2013 postapocalyptic zombie survival game. Bethesda Softworks, meanwhile, already teased Fallout 76, the latest in its postapocalyptic role-playing series.

Electronic Arts used its press conference kicking off E3 on Saturday to announce that its next big war game, Battlefield 5, will have a "battle royale" mode, taking on the hit online game Fortnite from Epic Games. This genre of games refers to dropping about 100 players into an arena where they battle against one another, Hunger Games-style, until the last player is standing.

Some people criticized the company for quickly following its competitors to offer the game mode, but Patrick Söderlund, EA's head of design, said many fans had been asking for it.

"That's why you'll see Activision and us and others try to come up with our formula for what this means," he said.

The company also announced a new Star Wars game coming late next year and that its Anthem online epic, from storied developer BioWare, will be released Feb. 22, 2019. And EA showed off its efforts to build a cloud gaming service, which it's testing with an eye toward a release "soon."

Meanwhile, Microsoft announced its own take on the service, also without a release date, in addition to Halo Infinite, the latest in its hit space adventure series. The company didn't say much, other than that it was the main character Master Chief's "greatest adventure" yet. It also showed a series of new games to answer criticism that it hasn't been able to attract enough popular new titles. So Microsoft showed a new installment in its Forza Horizon driving series, and follow-ups to its hit Ori and the Blind Forest and Cuphead action games. It also announced Cyberpunk 2077, a sequel to a popular dystopian future game from two decades ago.

Sony meanwhile focused on showing just what it believed to be its upcoming top-tier games, including The Last of Us Part 2, a brutal-looking sequel to the hit post-apocalyptic zombie game, a visually beautiful samurai game Ghost of Tsushima, an intriguing game called Death Stranding and the company's upcoming Spider-Man action game coming out in September.

Nintendo, for its part, announced Fortnite was coming to the Nintendo Switch Tuesday, that its upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fighting game would go on sale in December and that the highly anticipated Pokemon Let's Go games will go on sale in November.

Bethesda surprised gamers with new titles ranging from Doom Eternal, the latest sequel for the industry-defining shooting sequel, to a new Nazi-shooting game Wolfenstein Youngblood. It also said it planned to release its highly anticipated post-apocalyptic adventure game, Fallout 76, in November.

Ubisoft surprised many fans at the show by announcing its partnership with Nintendo was expanding to include characters from its popular Star Fox space epic series. Ubisoft will be using those characters in its upcoming Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which will marry real-world toys with the game when it comes out in October.

The company also struck a partnership with actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who, among other things, was featured on the cover of CNET magazine for his movie Snowden). His startup HitRecord will give artists and musicians a chance to contribute artwork and songs to the upcoming space opera game, Beyond Good and Evil 2.

"This is the first time we're going to make assets that can go into a video game," Gordon-Levitt said. "If you're someone who loves Beyond Good and Evil 2, you can have a part in it."

Living up to the hype

Each E3 has its share of hype, but this show seemed to have a bit more than normal as the press conference weekend got under way. Games like Red Dead Redemption 2, the highly anticipated sequel to Rockstar Games' hit 2010 western drama, have been gathering more views on YouTube than many movie trailers. Spider-Man, from Insomnia Games, meanwhile is vying to prove it can be the next franchise to break the curse of bad superhero video games.

Now playing: Watch this: E3 2018: A deeper look at Fallout 76
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There are 3,250 other games, gadgets and toys spread across 410,000 square feet of the show's exhibit space. There's also multimillion-dollar booths filled with props and life-size re-creations of game worlds -- like when Electronic Arts brought in a bunch of re-created Star Wars props, or when you could walk through Nintendo's Metro Kingdom from Super Mario Odyssey.

E3 will also include two esports pavilions, hosting some of the world's best gamers playing against one another, plus celebrity sightings. (Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood showed off a VR horror game called Transference that he helped make, and Snowden star Gordon-Levitt said his startup will try to inspire you to help make a video game.)

There's even a blimp flying over the convention center, displaying selfies that people take on the ground below. Because, why not?

"It's the largest stage in the world for video games," said Mike Gallagher, the head of the Entertainment Software Association trade group that puts on E3.

Entertaining entertainment

With this many excited fans tuning in for nearly a week of nonstop gaming news, there tends to be some drama, too.

The most common issue to pop up is GamerGate, a backlash against feminist media critics and game reviewers that was ostensibly about media ethics but turned into an internet movement that attacked women, game developers and journalists perceived as threatening game culture. Though it largely fizzled out a few years ago, flare-ups still happen.

Electronic Arts got caught up in the drama in May when it announced Battlefield 5. The latest installment in the 16-year-old series is set in World War II and prominently features female soldiers in its marketing -- a move some fans complained was inaccurate, despite the fact that many women fought and died in the war.

Even so, cultural battles likely won't steal too much attention away from the larger show, which in the past two years shifted from being an industry-only event to a fan event.

There will be esports competitions and a festival devoted to Fortnite. There'll be T-shirts, toys and tchotchkes celebrating games, too.

E3 organizers are also trying to make the famously long lines to play new games more appealing by offering us things to do while we wait -- like more game stations and food options. The show will also stay open later in the day to help accommodate everyone attending.

"It shows we're listening," Gallagher said. "It's going to be exciting for everyone."

I'll be ready.

The E3 press conference schedule

Saturday, June 9

Sunday, June 10

  • Microsoft said it's building a new Xbox, as well as creating a game streaming service. It also announced highly anticipated games like the space dramas Halo Infinite and Gears 5 and more. [Read our recap here.]
  • Bethesda showed off a bunch of new installments to its most popular franchises, including the alternative-history Nazi shooting game Wolfenstein Youngblood, a new game in the industry-defining Doom series, a sequel to the post-apocalyptic shooter Rage and a new Elder Scrolls game. Probably the most popular announcement of the evening though was Fallout 76, the latest in its post-nuclear war series of games. [Read our recap here.]

Monday, June 11

  • Ubisoft got a lot of cheers from fans when it made announcements around Star Fox and Beyond Good and Evil 2. The French game company also discussed The Division 2, a sequel to its popular post-apocalyptic online shooting game. It also discussed Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, the 11th major game in that series, this time set in Ancient Greece. [Read our recap here]
  • Sony showed what it hopes will be a slate of upcoming hit games. It also gave shorter glimpses of ither games including the follow-up to its samurai game Nioh, a remake of the zombie shooter Resident Evil 2 and a look at an action game called Control.  [Read our recap here]

Tuesday, June 12

  • Nintendo gave more detail about Super Smash Bros. and Pokemon Let's Go, in addition to releasing Fortnite for its Switch console. [Read our recap here.]

First published June 7, 5 a.m. PT.
Update, June 9 at 5 a.m.: Adds info on upcoming announcements and press conference schedule; 12:45 p.m.: Adds details from EA's press conference kicking off E3; 6:50 p.m.: Adds details about EA's cloud gaming efforts.
Update, June 10 at 5 a.m.: Adds detail about EA's battle royale mode for Battlefield 5.
Update, June 11 at 5 a.m.: Adds detail about Microsoft and Bethesda's press conferences; 3:22 p.m.: Adds details from Ubisoft's press conference.
Update, June 12 at 5 a.m.: Adds detail about Sony's press conference; 3:35 p.m.: Adds information about Nintendo press conference.

E3 2018: CNET's coverage of the biggest video game event of the year.

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