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E3's here, and it’s got something to prove

Ever been to E3? The massive video game show happens every year in Los Angeles. The newest feature this year is that it's opening to the public.

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At E3, people come to play.

Josh Miller/CNET

For a week or so at the beginning of every June, about 65,000 people -- including me -- travel to Los Angeles to find out what's coming up next in the world of video games.

The reason I've trekked to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest game event in the world, for the past six years is that it's where big news is made. E3 is where we first learned about Nintendo's Wii. It's where Sony first showed off its PlayStation 3 video game console. It's where Microsoft kicked off its Kinect motion controller. And it's where the Oculus virtual reality headset was shown for the first time.

And I'm not kidding when I say biggest. We're talking more than 800,000 square feet of exhibits and meeting spaces, including larger-than-life statues of Master Chief, the supersoldier hero of Microsoft's Halo video games, movie props from the latest Star Wars film and plenty of monsters.

Even if you're not into gaming, the show's a big deal. That's because it begins building hype among the world's 2.6 billion gamers for the devices and titles they'll want for the holidays. Overall, they spent nearly $100 billion last year on games, according to market researcher Newzoo, and that's not including the costs of headsets, consoles and computers.

E3's got more than 2,300 games, devices and toys on display, with at least 75 announcements that haven't been seen anywhere else in the world. It also has shouting fans, two e-sports pavilions where people can watch some of the best gamers in the world compete against one another, possible impromptu musical shows by celebrities (like the dance music duo The Chainsmokers, who performed at the Bethesda Softworks event Sunday) and a whole lot more.

I'm exhausted already.

The real drama of new games and gear usually happens a few days before the "expo" doors open. How much drama? Two years ago, when Sony announced a remake of Final Fantasy VII, the 1997 industry-defining title, after years of rumors, the E3 crowd got so wound up that someone next to me actually broke down in tears.

The show kicked off on Saturday this year, but the expo opens to the public Tuesday. As in past years, I came in expecting a lot from companies like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Bethesda, as well as console makers Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

For E3 2017, Ubisoft has already talked about the latest game in its series about an ancient global conspiracy to take over mankind, called Assassin's Creed: Origins. Bethesda, meanwhile, said it'll release a new Wolfenstein Nazi-killing game in the fall. And EA spilled more details about its upcoming Star Wars game, called Battlefront 2, including that players can select characters like the villain Darth Maul from 1999's "The Phantom Menace" or the new hero Rey from 2015's "The Force Awakens." 

New devices made an appearance, too. Microsoft took the wraps off its $499 Xbox One X (roughly £390 or AU$660), which it said is the most powerful video game console it's ever produced. The Xbox One X lands on store shelves Nov. 7.

Sony, having released its PlayStation Pro last year, showed off a series of new games designed for it, including a new installment for its popular Uncharted action-adventure series.

Nintendo showed off more of its upcoming Super Mario Odyssey adventure game on Tuesday. (Here's our sister site GameSpot's breakdown of everything expected at the show.)

"The event has a personality and a noise level and a robustness that sends a message around the globe," said Mike Gallagher, head of the Entertainment Software Association, the trade group that puts on E3.  

Get your controllers ready

E3 may be considered the industry's biggest show, but some gamers debate whether it's still the best. That's in part because other confabs -- such as the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Gamescom in Germany, the Tokyo Games Show and PAX fan-based events in the US and Australia -- have highlighted gamer culture.

The EA Play event stage 

Alexandre Scriabine for Electronic Arts

They have fan get-togethers, shops filled with toys and T-shirts, and chances to meet top internet gaming personalities. E3's still the largest event for new announcements and big reveals, but it's felt stuffy at times by comparison.

The issue came to a head last year when a few of the industry's largest players, including Electronic Arts, pulled their booths from the show floor. EA instead held a weekend event for fans called EA Play. It was in LA, open to the public, and focused on letting people try new games and even stream their play online. 

"Those are things that might have seemed like a trend a couple years ago, and now it's the norm," said Chris Bruzzo, EA's head of marketing. The company's holding the event again this year, focused even more on the gaming culture highlighted at so many other gaming shows.

E3 is changing, though. This year, 15,000 fans who pay as much as $250 apiece can get tickets to roam the show floor. Previously, the screaming hordes have been mostly industry insiders and the press.  

Along with the typical booths and displays, E3 is adding shops around the show selling T-shirts, hoodies and toys connected to top games.

"These are gamers, and they want to be amazed," Gallagher said.

And so do I. 

For more on E3 2017, check out complete coverage on CNET and GameSpot.

First published June 9 at 5 a.m. PT.
Update June 11 at 10:55 a.m. PT: Added details from EA's press briefing Saturday.
Update June 12 at 10:54 a.m. PT: Added details from Microsoft's press briefing Sunday.
Update June 13 at 5:00 a.m. PT: Added details from Ubisoft's and Sony's press conferences Monday.

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