Emboldened by the success of its inaugural E3 press briefing in 2015, Bethesda Softworks is returning to Los Angeles this year to make it an annual event. Fresh off the smashing debuts of two games that made a splash at last year's show, Fallout 4 and Doom, Bethesda is set to kick off its E3 2016 Showcase at 10 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 12.
As usual, there are a few things we know about the show, and plenty that we don't. Will Bethesda jump the gun on a big game announcement again, as it did by unveiling Fallout 4 the week before E3 2015? Will we see another surprise-reveal-that's-a-game-you-can-play-right-now, à la Fallout Shelter?
Even with the known quantities, the possibilities are wide open. Bethesda and its parent company, ZeniMax Media, own a few game studios and franchises that have been sitting on the sidelines for some time. Any number of them could arise again at Bethesda's E3 event. Let's start with a recap of last year's show, and then dive in to what we expect this year.
We don't have any inside information, but it's safe to assume the presence of certain Bethesda products at E3 2016.
Arkane Studios announced Dishonored 2 at Bethesda's event last year with a CG trailer that introduced us to the game's two playable characters: Corvo Attano, the protagonist of the original Dishonored, and a grown-up Emily Kaldwin, the young princess from that game.
Bethesda has already said that its E3 2016 showcase will feature the debut of Dishonored 2 gameplay footage. By that point, the game's release date of Nov. 11 will be less than five months away. We'll presumably get a glimpse of the new southern setting of Karnaca, and perhaps hear some lines spoken by the game's all-star voice cast.
Doom's multiplayer component hasn't been nearly as well-received as its single-player campaign, but we've known for a while that developer id Software is working on multiplayer downloadable content. While the studio will deliver free updates to SnapMap, the in-game suite of creation tools, players will have to pay for new maps, weapons and characters. Three add-ons priced at $14.99 each are on the way, with the first one coming this summer, so an E3 showing is probable.
Bethesda Game Studios recently launched Far Harbor, the first big expansion for Fallout 4's story. The developer is planning more add-ons for the game later this year — according to the company, the expanded DLC plan warranted an increase in the price of Fallout 4's season pass to $49.99 from $29.99. So it's likely that we'll get a glimpse of those upcoming DLC packs at E3.
Bethesda announced its first digital card game, The Elder Scrolls: Legends, at its E3 2015 press briefing. Originally scheduled for a release later that year, Legends was pushed back to 2016 and launched in a closed beta last month. Developer Dire Wolf Digital is looking to set Legends apart from games like Hearthstone with a single-player campaign that features branching storylines. The studio hasn't yet offered details about the campaign, and E3 seems like a good time for that.
We're now moving to less stable ground, connecting the dots and thinking about what Bethesda might do at E3.
BattleCry is still a thing, as far as anyone knows. Bethesda founded BattleCry Studios in Austin, Texas, in 2012 to develop free-to-play games, and the company announced BattleCry for Windows PC in May 2014. The class-based competitive multiplayer title was supposed to get a worldwide beta in 2015, but last fall, Bethesda said it had concerns about the game.
If there were ever a time for BattleCry to to resurface, this would be it — unless, of course, Bethesda has shelved the project.
Bethesda announced a follow-up to the 2006 shooter Prey in 2011, and Prey 2 developer Human Head Studios stole the show at E3 that year with a stylish CG trailer as well as an impressive demo. By late 2014, the publisher had canceled Prey 2, saying that the game "wasn't up to our quality standard."
However, rumors have been swirling for three years that instead of shelving the project entirely, Bethesda put another developer on Prey 2: the Austin, Texas, branch of Arkane Studios. And a recent report suggests that Bethesda will make it official at E3.
Could this finally be the year that Prey returns? And if so, what would the game even be at this point?
MachineGames' first title, Wolfenstein: The New Order, managed to be perhaps the best shooter of 2014 while resurrecting a series that had been missing in action for five years. The studio followed it up with a smaller prequel, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, that launched in May 2015 to a relatively lukewarm reception.
We haven't heard a thing about what MachineGames is working on now, although job listings on the company's website indicate that it's staffing up for a first-person game of some kind. Perhaps the Sweden-based subsidiary of ZeniMax is going back to the Wolfenstein well.
Tango Gameworks, the Tokyo-based studio that Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami founded in 2010, has been quiet since finishing the DLC for its first game, 2014's The Evil Within. That puts it on a similar track to MachineGames, in terms of time elapsed since its most recent project. So while there's no indication of what Tango might be working on, it's presumably working on something, and that something may just be revealed at E3.
Wanting something to be true doesn't make it so. But that won't stop us from dreaming, will it?
Let's get this out of the way: There's almost no chance that Bethesda Game Studios will announce the next proper entry in the Elder Scrolls series at E3. The company generally focuses on one game at a time: Although pre-production on Fallout 4 began in 2009, Bethesda has generally said that it spent four years developing the game — the gap between the release of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim in 2011 and the arrival of Fallout 4 in 2015. And considering the game's expanded DLC plan, Bethesda will be working on Fallout 4 content for a long time to come.
On the other hand, the existence of Fallout 4 leaked a year and a half before the game was announced. Might Bethesda want to get out ahead of any potential leaks with, if nothing else, an offhand mention of a new Elder Scrolls title?
Probably not. But maybe?
It's been 20 years since the first video game convention to bear the Quake name: id Software's QuakeCon, held annually in Dallas. It's been more than a decade since the last proper Quake game, 2005's Quake 4. (Splash Damage launched Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, a multiplayer-focused spinoff, in 2007.)
Supporting Doom with the aforementioned multiplayer DLC shouldn't take up too many resources at id, since the studio teamed up with Certain Affinity for the multiplayer component. And with id riding high on the reception to the game, wouldn't now be the perfect moment to announce the return of another beloved '90s shooter franchise?
A relevant follow-up question: Would it be called "Quake 5" or just "Quake"?
During a talk at the 2016 DICE Summit, Bethesda Game Studios director Todd Howard hinted that the company may not simply alternate between Fallout and Elder Scrolls titles in the future.
"We actually have three longer-term projects that are all — we'll talk about them at a much future date — they're different from anything we've done before while also being a Bethesda-style game: big and crazy," Howard said, "but in many ways different from what we've done before."
Granted, June wouldn't seem to qualify as a "much future date" from Howard's lecture, which he gave in February. And in its E3 2015 press briefing, Bethesda tended to focus on games for which it could show trailers or gameplay footage, rather than far-off projects that the company merely teased. Still, it's worth keeping this in mind, in case we hear something about it at E3.
For more details on E3's livestreaming schedule, make sure to check out our one-stop shop for the show's streams.