E3 2016: What to expect from gaming's biggest event

UPDATED 07/06: New consoles! New games! It's the industry's most exciting week

Video games have changed and expanded in dramatic ways over the last 21 years, but one thing remains constant: the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3.

True, many companies now opt for live streams or online events to announce their big games, and a few big companies pulled out of the E3 show floor this year – but time and again, the annual event ends up being ground zero for new game and hardware announcements. It's the week that often defines our next year or two of gaming, so you must pay attention.

E3 2016 is sure to be another big one: Sony and Microsoft reportedly have enhanced and modified consoles to reveal, plus a wide array of new game announcements are sure to send our hearts racing. Can anything top the reaction to last year's Final Fantasy VII Remake announcement? We'll find out soon.

Curious about what's coming? Here are the things you ought to know about this year's E3, based on all the latest rumours and reports: the events kick off on 13 June.

1) The PlayStation 4K (or 4.5, or Neo)

So much for lengthier console generations: multiple reports claim that Sony is about to announce a half-step enhancement over the PlayStation 4, which is being referred to as the PlayStation 4K, PS4.5, or by its supposed codename of "Neo."

According to the sources, the new PlayStation 4 will allow for much better-looking games, although the prospect of AAA games running in native 4K resolution seems unlikely. That said, the added processing power should still result in sharper, smoother, and more detailed games, and make PlayStation VR experiences all the more immersive. And we'll get 4K Blu-ray movie support, as well.

Supposedly, Sony has mandated that all games offer an enhanced "Neo" mode and a standard one for the original PS4 model, so every single PS4 game works on every console. If so, that should prevent the market from becoming segmented and split apart, and the introduction of a higher-end model should drive down the standard PS4 hardware price.

2) Xbox One... Half? Two?

Sony is going larger with the PlayStation 4, it seems, but Microsoft may go smaller – for now, at least. Multiple sources speaking with Kotaku, Polygon, and The Verge claim that Microsoft plans to introduce a smaller and cheaper version of the Xbox One for release by autumn. It will supposedly be 40% smaller than the current model, however it may add 4K video support in the process and add a 2TB hard drive.

Microsoft may also have a streaming stick that pairs with an Xbox One gamepad and lets you stream games from an Xbox One to another TV in your house. Think of it like the middling PlayStation TV, or the Steam Link.

That's the plan for this year. The next is to release a much-enhanced Xbox One successor in 2017 that is significantly more powerful than the current model and could even run the Oculus Rift VR headset, with Microsoft reportedly eyeing an Oculus partnership. Microsoft plans to unify its Windows 10 and Xbox gaming brands with the new hardware, with future game releases debuting across platforms.

But the advanced hardware could still be a year away, and we may not hear anything about it at E3 this year. For now, the rumours say a smaller and slightly more capable Xbox One is coming.

3) Zelda. Only Zelda

Nintendo will release its new NX console early next year, but if the company is to be believed, we won't see it at E3 this year. Nor will we see many Wii U games: only The Legend of Zelda, which is also coming to NX at launch.

The Legend of Zelda appears to be the last significant game coming to the Wii U, so Nintendo's singular focus on the game makes some sense – except that it's releasing next year, and there's apparently little else for Wii U players to jump on in the meantime. We assume Nintendo will announce some other games during its usual live stream event, but it could be a rough rest of 2016 ahead for the Nintendo faithful.

4) EA's doing its own thing

Electronic Arts will be in Los Angeles that week, but the company won't be doing its usual E3 press conference, nor will it have a spot on the show floor. Instead, the mega-publisher is doing its own EA Play event for the public, also in London, with a livestream promising announcements as well.

We'll get a fuller look at Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, and Mass Effect Andromeda, and surely see FIFA 17 as well. Need for Speed is taking the year off, but we might see something Star Wars related – either the game in development at Visceral Games (under ex-Uncharted director Amy Hennig) or future Star Wars Battlefront DLC. A Battlefront sequel has already been announced for 2017, but it's probably too early for that.

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