Digital Trends’ 2018 guide to game conventions and trade shows

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Entertainment Software Association (ESA)

Each year, the vast majority of video major announcements about new and upcoming games are made during a handful of press conferences. Everyone knows E3, but there are plenty of events throughout the year where developers will talk about the games you’re looking forward to, revealing, new trailers and need-to-know information on upcoming games.

We’ve compiled a list of 15 annual events we think you should mark on your 2018 calendar. We don’t know what 2018 will bring, but we do know that a substantial portion of the gaming information you crave will be delivered at these events.

Nintendo Direct

When: Every two to three months

Where: The internet

Nintendo’s recurring live-stream series, Nintendo Direct, is a must-watch for any Nintendo fan. Most Nintendo-related announcements and game reveals come during these streams. In 2017, Nintendo hosted 10 Direct events (12 if you count the two Japan-only streams), not including the Nintendo Switch presentation and the E3 Spotlight. The events included info on big 2017 Switch games such as Splatoon 2, Arms, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Fire Emblem Warriors.

While exact dates for Nintendo Directs aren’t revealed until a few days before they air, Nintendo tends to host roughly one stream every couple of months, lasting upwards of an hour. Expect 2018 Nintendo Directs to focus heavily on the future of the Switch as the platform goes into year two.

Consumer Electronics Expo (CES)

When: January 9 to 12

Where: Las Vegas Convention Center (and surrounding hotels), Las Vegas

You won’t find new information on upcoming games at the annual Consumer Electronics Expo, but gamers, particularly of the PC variety, should still pay attention to the biggest event of the year for all things tech. Each year, companies show off the latest gaming laptops, PCs, headphones, keyboards, monitors and much more. If you’re a PC gamer or have interest in becoming one, CES is the best event for learning about all the new products in the pipeline.

Digital Trends will be on hand at CES 2018, of course, so keep an eye on our CES section to read about what’s going on!

PAX South

When: January 12 to 14

Where: Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, Texas

PAX South has only been around for three years, and its January date inherently lessens the likelihood of big game reveals. Despite these disadvantages, PAX South has shown off some gems in recent years. What Remains of Edith Finch, Rime, and Gorogoa were on hand at the 2017 show, each of which proved impressive upon release.

Entering its fourth year, it’s hard to say how many interesting titles will be shown at PAX South, but at the very least, it will likely give us our first look at a batch of new indies in 2018.

Dice Summit

When: February 20 to 22

Where: Delano and Mandalay Bay Hotels, Las Vegas

An annual conference created by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, the Dice Summit convenes each year to present achievement awards to major names in the game industry. The conference focuses more on the art and business of making video games, rather than the games themselves, but it gives many of the industry’s brightest minds a platform to discuss current game design trends. In 2017, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan gave the keynote speech, a year after Hideo Kojima served in the same role.

Game Developers Conference (GDC)

When: March 19 to 23

Where: The Moscone Center, San Fransisco

Developers from around the world flock to the Game Developers Conference to discuss the art of game design. While many of the roundtables and keynotes focus on games that have made a big splash, or look at the future in broad terms, those talks almost always lead to fascinating insights on our favorite games, sometimes years after launch.

Plus, there’s generally a steady flow of game news that comes out of the show each year. At the 2017 conference, Monolith Productions officially revealed Middle-earth: Shadow of WarGone Home developer The Fullbright Company showed off the opening of its latest game, TacomaIn 2016, a conversation between two attendees led to the first reports about the PS4 Pro.

The bulk of news out of GDC, however, revolves around independent games. Last year, Microsoft’s ID@Xbox indies program showed off 20 titles, including Observer and Full Metal Furries. If you’re into indies, GDC is one of the best conferences for new looks at innovative and exciting titles from smaller studios.

PAX East

When: April 5 to 8

Where: Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston

PAX East, like all Penny Arcade Expo events, focuses on giving the public access to current and upcoming games, rather than breaking news. PAX East’s value is in signal boosting exciting indies. For many smaller games, building up buzz at PAX can turn an unknown project into a relatively big name. For the public, it provides a large number of glimpses at mostly soon-to-be-released titles that can help gauge your buying interest.

Plus, both PAX and PAX East host a series of panels, some of which have led to juicy gaming gossip. Case in point: Almost everything we know about the next Borderlands has come out of PAX panels.

Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)

When: June 12 to 14 (but really June 8 to 15)

Where: Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles

If you pay close attention to one game conference all year, E3 should be the one. With keynote presentations from Microsoft, Sony, Bethesda, Ubisoft, and more, every major publisher and console manufacturer is on hand to reveal new projects and give updates on the biggest games of the year.

At E3 2017, a smattering of exciting games was revealed, including Metroid Prime 4, Anthem, The Crew 2, Skull & Bones, and the upcoming Pokémon title for Nintendo Switch. Add to that new looks at Spider-Man, God of War, Crackdown 3, Far Cry 5, and Assassin’s Creed Origins and it’s no surprise why E3 continues to be the most important event of the year for the inquiring game fans.

E3 is undergoing some major changes. In 2017, it made the jump from industry trade show to a public event. The show’s attendance soared to over 68,000. At the same time, publishers have started moving away from publicizing their products through the show directly. Nintendo no longer holds an E3 press conference, instead opting to stream a Nintendo Spotlight event right before the show opens. (Let’s be honest, that’s the same thing for most people). Similarly, EA now hosts a separate event called EA Play in Los Angeles, directly adjacent to E3. This decentralization has turned E3 into a longer, more complicated affair.

That said, E3 2018 should be a can’t-miss event for any gamer. Expect to find out or hear about the biggest games of 2018, 2019, and beyond.

San Diego Comic-Con

When: July 19 to 22

Where: San Diego Convention Center, San Diego

In recent years, Comic-Con has become the biggest event in the world for mainstream TV and film, especially stuff based off — you guessed it — comic books and graphic novels. Comic-Con crosses over a bit with gaming, particularly with Marvel franchises. We learned more about Spider-Man and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite in 2017. Square Enix also had a larger than average presence at Comic-Con last year, showing off its upcoming JRPG, Lost Sphear, and racing game, Gravel.

Gamescom

When: August 21 to 25

Where: Cologne Exhibition Center, Cologne, Germany

One of the largest trade shows in the world, Gamescom brought in 350,000 attendees in 2017. Microsoft, EA, Blizzard, and Nintendo all hosted press conferences (or streams, in Nintendo’s case) in 2017. Gamescom 2017 featured a number of smaller game reveals, including games such as Biomutant and Jurassic World Evolution, but the real draw of Gamescom comes from new looks at already announced games. New trailers for Call of Duty: WWII, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Shenmue III, and a slew of Nintendo games were shown at Gamescom 2017.

Most of the major players show up at Gamescom each year, and that trend will probably continue in 2018.

QuakeCon

When: August (TBA)

Where: Dallas (venue TBA)

Bethesda Softworks’ annual fan convention showcases games under its publishing umbrella, which includes id Software, Arkane Studios, and MachineGames. At the 2017 event, that meant new looks at Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, The Evil Within 2, and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, along with the VR iterations of Doom, Skyrim, and Fallout 4. One of the longest-running fan shows, QuakeCon is also a magnet for PC Gamers: The show’s annual “bring your own computer” showcase draws some of the craziest custom hardware around. In 2017, it also has an esports component, thanks to the Quake World Championship.

Bethesda typically gets all of its major announcements out of the way at E3, but QuakeCon serves up a second helping of Bethesda gameplay just a couple months later.

PAX West

When: September (TBA)

Where: Seattle (venue TBA)

Formerly known as PAX Prime, PAX West is somewhat of a grab bag conference. Like the other PAX events, it is a fan-focused show, with relatively few major news events; but because it falls just before the fall review season starts, it generally draws larger games and more notoriety. In 2017, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Monster Hunter: World, Battle Chef Brigade, and Life is Strange: Before the Storm were on hand. Again, like other PAX events, PAX West is a big show for indies games: In 2017, games like Ooblets, Donut County, and the cute PSVR game Moss, made a big splash.

Mark PAX West on your 2018 calendar if indies and extended gameplay sessions intrigue you.

Tokyo Game Show

When: September 22 to 23

Where: Makuhari Messe, Tokyo

One of the longest-running video game conferences in the world, the Tokyo Game Show has slowly lost global relevance in the last decade with the rise of Western game development. Still, for Japanese games (and their fans across the globe), TGS remains a hugely interesting and insightful show. Generally speaking, we tend to get new info on a small number of major games from Japanese publishers: At TGS 2017, Capcom announced the release date for Monster Hunter: World, Square Enix unveiled its survival horror game, Left Alive, and Sony released a new trailer for the Shadow of the Colossus remake.

Paris Games Week and PlayStation Experience (PSX)

Where: Paris Games Week — Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, Paris / PlayStation Experience (venue TBA)

When: Paris Games Week — October (TBA) / PSX — early December (TBA)

Technically, these are two separate events but Sony tends to split its post-E3 announcements across the two. Since 2015, Sony has passed on the opportunity to address the European press at Gamescom, opting to hold a press conference at the lesser known Paris-based show in the fall. For international press, Paris Games Week remains largely irrelevant aside from Sony’s event, though that may change over time as more gamers pay attention.

At Sony’s 2017 press conference, Sucker Punch revealed its next game Ghost of Tsushima, and we saw new footage of PS4 exclusives The Last of Us Part II, God of War, Detroit: Become Human, and Spider-Man. PlayStation VR fans got their first looks at Bow to Blood, Megalith, and Dead Hungry and Stifled. To round out the show, indies such as Spelunky 2 and Oure made their debuts.

Meanwhile, the PlayStation Experience, Sony’s U.S. fan convention, gives Sony one last opportunity to make any major announcements. In 2017, very little news debuted at the show, but Sony and its partners announced some major projects at the show in 2016, including Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite and The Last of Us Part 2.

Year to year, it’s hard to say which of these shows will more relevant to fans at home, but you can generally expect one or both of them to generate some late-year excitement.

Blizzcon

When: November (TBA)

Where: Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA

All Blizzard, all day. Blizzard’s fan convention is your one-stop shop for news about the beloved studio’s games each and every year. If you are a fan of Overwatch, StarCraft, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, or Diablo, you will want to tune in for Blizzcon. In 2017, the studio made announcements for almost all of its franchises (sorry, Diablo fans), including new WoW and Hearthstone expansions, plus a new level and character for Overwatch.

Blizzcon is also a major esports event, since nearly all of the studio’s games feature notable competitive scenes. Plus, with the Overwatch league launching in 2018, it’s only bound to draw bigger crowds.

The Game Awards

When: December (TBA)

Where: Los Angeles (venue TBA)

Geoff Keighley’s annual awards show has become a juggernaut in just four years. The 2017 show garnered 11.5 million viewers and that is possibly because the show has become as much about awards as new game trailers and reveals. Throughout the nearly three-hour show, From Software teased its next game, Owlchemy Labs unveiled Vacation Simulator, Campo Santo debuted In the Valley of Gods, PlatinumGames announced Bayonetta 3, and Bandai Namco revealed Soul Calibur VI. And, of course, who could forget the predictably bizarre extended look at Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding?

The Game Awards has evolved into much more than an awards show in its brief life. Look for that to continue in 2018.