LOS ANGELES - Let the games begin.
On Monday, approximately 45,000 video game developers, publishers, retailers, analysts and journalists will descend on the Los Angeles Convention Center for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the games industry's largest and most important trade show.
It's here that upcoming games and gaming hardware are generally unveiled for the first time, setting the stage for the all-important holiday-selling season as well as offering sneak peeks at titles and technology arriving in 2013 and beyond.
Video games remain big business -- annual global sales of hardware, software and accessories are pegged at roughly $78.5 billion -- though it's a business in a state of flux, with retail sales dipping as more gamers get their digital diversions through online downloads.
According to survey data released this month from the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 61% of Canadian households have at least one video game console (up from 47% in 2010), and 58% all Canadians reported playing a video game within the last four weeks, with that number shooting up to 90% for Canadians under the age of 18.
The average age of the Canadian gamer is 31, and the gender split is 54% male to 46% female, compared to 62% and 38% in 2010. The uptick in the adoption of games among women is attributed in part to the rise of so-called casual and social games, and this year's E3 show will mark the first time mobile and social gaming giants such as Zynga and Japan's GREE are in attendance.
For the 11th consecutive year, we'll be covering the major announcements from the show, conducting interviews with high-level executives and going hands-on with some of the most anticipated games of the coming year. Here's a sampling of what to expect.
Canada will have an especially strong presence at this year's show, with hotly anticipated titles coming from several Canadian studios, including Ubisoft Montreal's Assassin's Creed III and Far Cry 3, EA Canada's NHL 13, Digital Extremes' Star Trek (based on the J. J. Abrams reboot franchise), The Amazing Spider-Man from Quebec City's Beenox. Fans of super-spy Sam Fisher are hoping Ubisoft Toronto's new Splinter Cell game will also make an appearance.
We see you, Wii U
After announcing its upcoming Wii U console at last year's E3 show and showing prototype games, Nintendo will be taking the wraps off the new hardware (which features a tablet-style controller) and is expected to reveal the line-up of launch games and hardware prices.
Back in Black Ops
While literally hundreds of games will be shown at E3, among the most anticipated is Call of Duty: Black Ops II, a sequel to 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops, which sold 23 million copies. The original game's Cold War setting is being swapped out for a near-future conflict in 2025, and the sequel is expected to be the best-selling game of the year when it hits stores in November.