Games And Virtual Reality Likely To Take Center Stage At E3 2014

This year’s E3 gaming expo in LA is set to kick off today, with Sony and Microsoft keynotes scheduled for mid-day and this evening, and Nintendo set to show off its news tomorrow. All indications suggest we’ll see a software- and games-heavy E3, given that almost everyone involved has recently introduced major updates to their hardware lineups, including last year’s Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and the only slightly older Wii U, as well as Oculus Rift’s updated DK2 developer prototype.

A software-rich E3 is exactly what the video game industry needs right now, luckily; the early console buyers have all bet on their horse (or placed multiple bets) and now they want those to pay off in the form of great games to use on their systems. Every major company has something to prove in this respect – Nintendo has had the most time to develop a mature library for the Wii U, but only recent releases like the new Mario Kart 8 have really started to light a fire behind console purchases for the slow starter hardware.

Some hardware news will doubtless come out – Sony’s PS4/PS Vita bundle, which promotes the strong interaction between its mobile and home consoles, should be an exciting announcement, and Nintendo’s likely foray into Skylanders-style figurines for its own extensive catalog of first-party characters will also probably be well-received (except by parents who have to stump up for more of the things). But most will be looking to software to set the tone for the next wave of new generation console adoption.

The big games to watch this year include some of the usual suspects, like Assassin’s Creed, which is rumored to possibly have two games in development concurrently, and Grand Theft Auto 5, which will probably finally get PS4, Xbox One and PC release dates. We’ll see more info on Nintendo’s next big console-seller for the Wii U, Super Smash Bros., which is rumored to make use of NFC (Skylanders-style figures that feature proximity based console interaction?). Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted, Halo, Call of Duty and virtually every other beloved franchise will likely see updates this year, too.

Sony has a second chance to show off its Project Morpheus virtual reality headset as well, and update us as to its progress developing that tech. It announced the initiative back in March, with a PS4-based accessory that competes directly with Oculus Rift, the startup hardware recently acquired by Facebook. Oculus will likely also have news at the show, as the two companies are now competing directly with each other to bring VR to market. From Sony, it’d be great to see something like an anticipated ship date or price tag, and from Oculus, which just announced its latest dev kit, what’s most likely is some updates on software and games in development for the platform, to reassure fans of the device that it’s still for gamers even after the FB acquisition.

We’ll have coverage of the big news right here on TechCrunch, as well as live video of the major events, which are all streaming this year, so check back for more as the conference progresses.