So, at the time of writing, it’s been 18 months since the current generation of videogames consoles kicked off. We saw Microsoft stumble at the first hurdle with a disastrous PR campaign and more U-turns than a modern British government. Sony seized the initiative, leaving its competitors in the dust, only slowing down to oil the legs of its unstoppable sales machine. In Europe, Sony was matching every Xbox One sale with four sold-through PS4 units, giving the tech giant a huge edge over its rivals.

In fact, since launch, the PS4 has been responsible for $3 billion (just over £2 billion) of Sony’s profits, making it by far the most successful arm of the company’s tech endeavours. Microsoft hasn’t kept its head in the sand since last E3, though in fact, at the time of writing, the company had just slashed the price of the Xbox One by roughly $50, and as a result saw a rise in sales of 84% month-on-month (according to the NPD Group).


Nintendo and its handhelds and home consoles continue to defy all logic, selling ridiculous numbers across the globe despite a low install base and a myopic approach to audience targeting. Hardcore handheld Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate managed to ship an incredible 290,000 in its first week on sale, and The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D managed to hit 500,000 sales only three weeks after its general release. For context, Zelda outsold everything else in gaming over February. That’s good news for the upcoming Wii U-only Zelda game, surely?

Well, it depends. We’ve got E3 coming up around the corner, and you can’t underestimate how important the annual gaming showcase is to this industry. The Big Three are already moving behind the scenes, making announcement plans, trailers, demos and all sorts, ready for the June. Nintendo has forsaken the traditional E3 template, though, preferring to simply reveal its assets directly to its audience with a series of Nintendo Direct shows.
“ PS4 remains the cumulative leader in hardware sales with more than 20.2 million units sold to consumers worldwide ”
So what can we expect are Microsoft and Sony going to put on such a ridiculous show that Nintendo’s more subtle approach is overshadowed, or will the Japanese giant do what it did last year, and somehow manage to steal a lot of the limelight, despite its general absence from the show ? It’s clear that Microsoft needs to create the biggest buzz this year; the Xbox One may have picked up sales thanks to the dropping price point, but moves like that don’t create sales traction for long. Xbox will see a steep drop-off again before E3, and only a presser full of the biggest, shiniest new exclusives will convince gamers not already part of the new generation to adopt the Xbox over Sony’s console.

After all, we’ve already seen most of our friends (and a lot of you readers) migrate from a 360 past to a PS4 future. You can’t underestimate how important anactive friends list is in the modern console age.

We know for a fact Microsoft will be showing Halo 5: Guardians it’s the console’s biggest upcoming title. 343 Industries and Microsoft have already begun an alternate-reality game centred around the lore of Guardians, named Hunt The Truth. Combining innovative PR campaigns like that with(we hope) some actual gameplay footage and hands-on experiences will certainly renew our faith in Halo…because let’s be honest, The Master Chief Collection did as much PR harm to the brand as it did good.

Otherwise, Microsoft needs to drop a few surprises in to really evoke a sense of loyalty to its console we might have Fable Legends just around the corner, and no doubt we’ll be seeing some more Crackdown at E3, but if Microsoft really wants to heat up our blood, we need to see some of the new Gears Of War. Black Tusk is a relatively unknown developer in the industry and if Sony continues to push Naughty Dog out in the open as its pride and joy, Microsoft really needs to start shouting about the companies it’s got waiting out back.

Speaking of Naughty Dog, the blockbuster studio has just pushed back Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End into 2016 effectively decapitating Sony’s exclusive holiday line-up. As we’re seeing more and more gamers become dissatisfied with the now-annual end-of-year offerings (Assassin’s Creed, Call Of Duty, FIFA, et al) it’s becoming more important for the first parties to really push the boat and show off their hardware. Bloodborne might have gotten everyone’s blood up when it released last month, but Sony can’t ride that success for another eight months we can hope for Persona 5 in the West by the end of the year, but that’s unlikely, and Street Fighter V has already been confirmed as a 2016 release. So aside from a few risky new IPs down the line (SOMA, Daylight, Rime and Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture), Sony only really has No Man’s Sky to lean on.

Enter Nintendo. Looking at the data concerning  Zelda above, all Nintendo really needs to do to clean up this year would be to announce some legacy titles with 3D support for the ever-increasing 3DS install base, or simply remake some classics for Wii U.

The new, open-world Legend of Zelda is going to be massive we’re expecting to see a surge in Wii U sales in excess of 100% the month the game’s released and then there’s the new Star Fox game to consider, as well as Xenoblade Chronicles X catering for the hardcore.

Nintendo is unlikely to come out with any real surprises at E3, though (unless Kojima jumped from Konami to work for the publishing giant… but those odds are so small they’re almost insignificant). You know Nintendo will trot out the same IP you’ve been playing for decades, maybe with some new mechanics or in Claymation or something It’s got its mobile arm to consider now, granted but we're willing to wager Nintendo will announce, promote and release those games on a 'when they're ready' basis. It's Microsoft and Sony we need to Keep our eyes on this time around especially with this huge VR puch that's taking the industry by storm right now. We think, really, the only thing that’ll decide who wins this year’s E3 is who manages to present their VR better we already know quite a lot about Sony’s Morpheus, but some more unique games added to its release list couldn’t hurt. The Microsoft HoloLens, though… there could be some really interesting surprises there. Imagine if the AR headset allowed you to view a game’s HUD over real life, stripping back the sometimes-cluttered screens of the likes of Halo or Crackdown. Imagine if it understood your local geography so much so that it let you scan in things in your house and make them in Minecraft.

E3 this year is going to be a battlefield, there’s no doubt about that. The lack of confirmed exclusives for the PS4 could bite Sony’s hind quarters hard if the publisher does little other than sit on its success, and Microsoft’s array of upcoming titles could unexpectedly rout its rival console and maybe even retake the top spot in Europe (it’s worth noting the sales race in the is a much closer story; Xbox sales occasionally overtake Sony’s resting top spot there).

But then, wouldn’t it be nice to see PC games make a surprise re-emergence up on stage over the three day showcase? You never know, with the Steam Machines launching later this year, it might just happen…