It's here! Well, almost. The little screen in the back of Rupert's seat tells me that as I write, E3 is hurtling towards us at a rate of exactly 532 miles per hour, from our current vantage point 38,000 feet above the Hudson Bay and 2552 miles from our target.
We've got five hours and nine minutes before Los Angeles' hot asphalt hits this Boeing and the video games event of the year hits us in the face. By the time you read this, it will all be about to kick off in earnest.
So here we bring you the lowdown on what to expect from the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo - and from Eurogamer's coverage. As well as our traditional big game previews and live reports from the press conferences, we're aiming to bring you closer to the show than ever before. That means better news coverage and some cool daily features running from Tuesday to Friday, including a daily podcast.
Every year in early summer, at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the games industry stages an orgy of self-promotion unlike anything else in entertainment.
E3 doesn't have the glamour of Cannes or the community warmth of Glastonbury - it's always going to be a trade show, not a festival. But not even those events are this all-encompassing. E3 brings an entire industry under one roof at a single, thundering bazaar. As far as the gaming year is concerned, it's the only show in town.
Or is it? There's a new player in games, and it's delivering a pointed snub to E3. Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference takes place in San Francisco this week, and if the rumours of the iOS App Store coming to Apple TV are true, it could be as significant an announcement as anything to come from LA.
But it will definitely have competition, in the form of the unveiling of a new Nintendo home console. It's the first time since PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 all took their bows in 2005 that E3 has seen a debut of this magnitude, and for those attending and watching, nothing could be more exciting. Put simply, E3 and new home hardware go hand in hand. It's been too long.
Sony, meanwhile, will be announcing launch plans and a name for its Next Generation Portable, while Microsoft will be looking to show 10 million Kinect owners what their new gadget will do next.
We'll be reporting live from the traditional Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo pre-show press conferences today and tomorrow.
Press Conference Live Reports
While all three hosts should be supplying live video streams of their presentations, it wouldn't be E3 for us - or, we hope, you - if we weren't delivering a live blow-by-blow in good old-fashioned text.
With 'typed stand-up' pioneer Ellie Gibson far too pregnant to come to California, keyboard warrior Tom Bramwell will be manning these. Our new live report system means you can see your own comments alongside ours, and we can also post videos, screenshots and photos live to the feed. Here's when to watch the site:
Microsoft Xbox Media Briefing
- When: Monday at 5pm UK / 6pm Europe / 9am Pacific / 12pm Eastern
- What to expect: Microsoft wasn't prepared for the runaway success of Kinect, so it will be keen to play catch-up with a bonanza of Kinect software, including some non-gaming applications. Microsoft Game Studios will highlight Gears of War 3, Forza 4, potentially Crytek's Kingdoms and a major unannounced game which we're certain will be the rumoured remake of the first Halo, and we think Rare will be there - but where's Lionhead? And what's the latest with Xbox Live? There'll be plenty of third-party heavy-hitters too, like Modern Warfare 3.
Sony Computer Entertainment of America Press Conference
- When: Monday night/Tuesday morning at 1am UK / 2am Europe / 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern
- What to expect: First order of business will be an attempt to put the damaging PSN security debacle to rest - this isn't just important for the PlayStation business, it's vital to the whole corporation. After we've watched top brass eat humble pie, the twin stars of the show will be NGP - definitely a name, probably a date, maybe not a price - and Uncharted 3; Sony is throwing all its might behind Naughty Dog's blockbuster. There might well be a big third-party reveal, and Sony invariably announces a few interesting and off-the-wall first-party exclusives. The Last Guardian, though? We reckon it won't show.
Nintendo E3 Presentation
- When: Tuesday at 5pm UK / 6pm Europe / 9am Pacific / 12pm Eastern
- What to expect: The console formerly known as Project Café, confirmed back in April, makes its debut. We think it's similar in size to Wii, and in power to Xbox 360 and PS3. Reports indicate a touch-screen controller with media streaming and portable gameplay capability. Is it true that Nintendo wants to reclaim its disenchanted hardcore audience with this machine? And will there be a big game for it - maybe even a massive third-party coup? Meanwhile, Super Mario and Zelda: Skyward Sword fly the flags for 3DS and Wii respectively.
In other news...
Although we're unable to go to San Francisco, noted Apple-fancier Johnny Minkley will be keeping an eye on events at WWDC and bringing you the biggest stories. If you need something to hold your interest until the late start for Sony, watch out for breaking news through the evening from EA and Ubisoft press conferences. We're sure to hear plenty about Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3, Need for Speed: The Run and Assassin's Creed: Revelations. We also think both publishers have a big game to reveal: a long-awaited sequel and something new from a major studio. But which is which?