By Darren Franich
Updated June 06, 2011 at 04:30 PM EDT

The Electronic Entertainment Expo — aka E3, aka Videogame Woodstock, aka Geek-Mecca-That-Is-Not-ComicCon — doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow, but the fun starts today in Los Angeles, with Microsoft and Sony both slated to hold press events (EW’s Adam Vary is currently live-tweeting from Microsoft’s press extravaganza.). E3 is always full of fun surprises, but here are the five things we’re most excited about.

1. The New Wii: Nintendo is set to roll out a new version of the Wii, which would be the first new game console in half a decade. The rumor is that the neo-Wii will focus more on “hardcore gaming,” which is a euphemism for “games that appeal to people who have actually played videogames before.” If that’s true, it would be an interesting move for Nintendo, which practically invented the casual gaming revolution with the Wii’s motion-control system. (Best pre-E3 rumor, per Game Informer: The new system might simply be called “Nintendo.”)

2. Sony’s Next Generation Portable: Speaking of casual gaming! Sony has already released plenty of information about its new mobile-gaming system, which promises to “blur the lines between interactive entertainment and reality,” which I believe was the plot of at least seven terrible techno-thrillers in the ’90s. The mobile device is currently called the “Next Generation Portable,” although look for a sexy name-change this week.

3. More Kinect Fun: Like a lot of XBox owners, I was excited to play with my new Kinect. But the initial Kinect launch was stuffed with games that seemed purposefully designed to stop being fun after about two hours. Still, Dance Central is great at parties, and I’m intrigued to see if Microsoft can make the technology work as more than just a gimmick. Star Wars Kinect and the XBox port of Fruit Ninja look fun. More intriguingly, there is some very uncertain evidence that Mass Effect 3 may have Kinect support.

4. An extended look at Batman: Arkham City: I wasn’t crazy about Batman: Arkham Asylum, but the game had a lot of promise, and the trailer for the sequel looks great. It’ll be interesting to get a better look at the game, especially since its basic set-up — supervillains running amok in Gotham City — seems like the perfect set-up for the epic superhero videogame we’ve all been waiting for.

5. The face-off between Modern Warfare 3 vs. Battlefield 3: The Call of Duty franchise is one of the most successful brands in the entire entertainment world, with the last two entries in the shooter series setting ridiculous sales records. But Electronic Arts’ Battlefield series has its fans, and EA’s CEO recently threw down the gauntlet, proclaiming that the upcoming Battlefield 3 has been specifically designed to take down Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Direct face-offs are rare in the videogame world, so expect lots of fun aisle-crossing jabs this week. (Or, more likely, expect the Battlefield people to take jabs while the Call of Duty people take money baths.)

5.5. More delays from our friends at Team Ico: The creators of the tragically beautiful PS2 masterworks Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have been promising their follow-up, The Last Guardian, for years — not to mention PS3 re-releases of their iconic earlier games. Release dates have come, gone, and been spat upon. Expect more delays… or maybe, just maybe, some good news. (The Ico/Shadow collection will supposedly be released in Japan this fall, so cross your fingers.)

Gamers, what are you looking forward to at E3?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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