Last year's E3 was all about the features that define Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
This year's will be about the games that define them.
Eight months after the new consoles' release, their exclusive libraries have good entries — some great — but none so essential they compel you to plunk down the cash for not just the software, but the hardware as well.
Meanwhile, third-party publishers like EA and Ubisoft have yet to commit fully to the console transition. "Assassin's Creed: Unity," a scarcely unveiled chapter of Ubisoft's history-mining franchise set in the French Revolution and scheduled for late fall, will also be the first major third-party game to not also be available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. (This would have been "The Elder Scrolls Online" and then "Batman: Arkham Knight," but both have since been delayed.)
Thus this year's E3 is poised to be all about "Unity," "Knight" and the other games that set Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Wii U apart from both their predecessors and each other. Here are the five I'm most looking forward to learning more about June 9-12.
"Fallout 4" — If Bethesda Softworks reveals the probably Boston-set next game in its post-nuclear open-world RPG series, it will quite likely be the biggest announcement of E3. Imagining the hypnotic desolation of "Fallout 3" and "New Vegas" to the scale and detail allowed by next-generation hardware gets my inner Geiger crackling.
"Project Beast" — Glimpses of the next game from "Demon's" and "Dark Souls" creator Hidetaka Miyazaki appear to have leaked, showing a figure brandishing a whip and a shotgun in the "Souls" games' familiarly godforsaken environments. Given Miyazaki's resume, the rumored PlayStation 4 exclusive already has heavy cultish and critical momentum behind it — I know I'd already buy it without seeing another frame. But it'd still be nice to see some.
"Quantum Break" — The next Xbox-exclusive game from "Alan Wake" studio Remedy Entertainment was revealed last year and certainly looked cool. It also sounded cool, with the lofty concept of inter-medium storytelling via a companion TV series mentioned. This year it'd be nice to see evidence that it's all coming together, and not the kind of project that winds up releasing after the Xbox Seven Two-ty does, a shell of its expectations.
"Star Wars: Battlefront" — It was revealed at last year's E3 that "Battlefield" developer DICE is helming the "Star Wars" shooter series' resurrection. And since then, become more precious, the saga's canon has. Hopefully next week we're given something that shows that the game is not only going well, but the newly Disney-owned universe is, as well.
"God of War 4" — What's most interesting about the next game in Kratos' war on Greek mythology will be whether that war continues as is. "Ascension," the sixth game in the series, felt stalled-out, and hinted at broader horizons for Sony's action saga. Whether that means Kratos hunts a whole new pantheon like Egypt's or players don the sandals of another deicidal maniac entirely, we just might find out at E3.