While the expo officially runs from June 11-13, the real excitement - the conferences from the industry's largest publishers and manufacturers - are scheduled for this weekend. This is when the largest surprises of the expo are announced - complete with exciting trailers, gameplay debuts and information blowouts.

EA will kick things off Saturday with its annual EA Play with a schedule of game showcases throughout the day, including the first gameplay footage of this fall's "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order" from "Titanfall" developers Respawn. There doesn't appear to be any major surprises scheduled, but no one ever knows from EA.

Microsoft and Bethesda will each host conferences Sunday. More on the former in a moment. Bethesda will have "Doom Eternal" and "Wolfenstein: Youngblood," along with a few surprises. Don't expect anything from "Elder Scrolls VI" or "Starfield," both of which were revealed last year for nextgen consoles.

Monday's schedule will feature conferences from Ubisoft and Square-Enix and the PC Games Show. Ubisoft will unveil the first gameplay footage of the recently announced "Ghost Recon Breakpoint." Leaked retailer reports point to a new "Watch_Dogs" title being unveiled. The publisher has hinted at a new "Splinter Cell" for some time, and a new title was part of the massive Walmart online leak last year that included the then-unannounced "Just Cause 4" and "Rage 2."

Ubisoft reported to its shareholders in February that it expects to release four AAA games by March 2020. The new "Watch_Dogs" and "Ghost Recon" titles account for two of those. The publisher already confirmed a new "Assassin's Creed," set in the age of Vikings, will not be ready before 2020. So that could leave room for a new "Splinter Cell" or a new IP.

Square-Enix won't have much, but will finally show off "The Avengers," which has been announced for more than two years. Also look for additional footage of the "Final Fantasy VII" remake and a possible release date.

Nintendo will participate in E3 in its own way Tuesday with an extended Nintendo Direct. The company doesn't have a whole lot of announced games beyond August, so this will be a time for an information blowout. Could this finally be the time we see what Retro has been working on for the last five years? Probably not. But it's been a while since Nintendo's main development teams have released anything, so this could be a packed Direct.

Now, back to Microsoft, which essentially has E3 to itself this year after Sony pulled out. This is the company's chance to step forward in the industry in an attempt to put the disappointing Xbox One behind it as the next generation hype train departs from the station. Phil Spencer, Executive Vice President of Gaming at Microsoft, has promised this will be one of the most impressive, feature-packed E3 conferences yet. Then again, he promises that almost every year. But there's something special about this year.

Microsoft has remained relatively quiet in the public sphere. Reports point to a pair of new Xbox consoles - one focused on streaming and another more powerful unit like the Xbox One X - being prepared for launch in 2020. Microsoft has made some major moves by purchasing multiple studios, and additional reports suggest more studios will be added at E3. Next-generation software development has ramped up and changes Spencer has made to the gaming division are now paying dividends. So what's next for Microsoft at E3?

"Gears 5" is going to receive a major push this year. It's Microsoft premier fall title and last year's showing already looked great. The newest entry in the franchise could be used as a catalyst for a multimedia push. A report surfaced Tuesday that Microsoft has partnered with Netflix for some sort of "Gears of War" series or movie. The streaming giant has enjoyed success with its animated "Castlevania" series and has already announced more video gamebased series in development. There's also "Gears Pop!" in development, so it's a good time to be a "Gears of War" fan.

Microsoft will also showcase new downloadable content for "State of Decay 2," "Forza Horizon 4" and "Sea of Thieves" - all three of which are available on Gamepass. The subscription service will also see a bunch of new games added to it.

A new trailer for "Halo Infinite" will be part of the show, hopefully featuring the first gameplay footage. The game isn't set for release until 2020 - perhaps as a cross-platform release with the new Xbox. But 343 Industries has been hard at work on the game since "Halo 5: Guardians" released in 2015. Whatever they're working on is going to be special when it does release.

Spencer has announced 14 games will be showcased from Microsoft's development studios. That still leaves many unannounced games, including several new IPs that could debut. Look to see recent acquisitions like Ninja Theory and Obsidian show new glimpses of what they're working on - even if they're for next-gen.

Speaking of the next generation Xbox, E3 should provide the first confirmed details. Microsoft won't detail the exact hardware specifications, but should talk in relative terms compared to the Xbox One. Backward compatibility should be a major component of these new consoles and should enhance Xbox One and Xbox One X games with better graphics and gameplay - similar to how the Xbox One X can play enhanced Xbox 360 and Xbox games at higher resolutions and framerates.

Microsoft's E3 conference is scheduled for around two hours, so it should be packed with plenty of information and excitement - along with a few surprises. E3 is a fun time to be a video game industry fan and - Sony's absence aside - this event could have a lot of great information and announcements.

Recommended for you