In a little under two months, the highly temperamental volcano that is E3 will erupt once again, showering the land with reveals, trailers, scare quotes and insomnia. Games will be announced, detailed, screened, videoed, rated and slated. Grown men and women will form disorderly queues in order to wrestle control pads from the hands of underdressed booth attendants. A vision of the forthcoming 12 months in videogames will be hacked from the wreckage of journalist sleeping patterns. There will be jubilation and excitement, served on a bed of pain and confusion. It's going to be real.
Now, though, we enter the doldrums, with nothing much on the horizon till end of spring. A fine time to hoist sail and take stock. This year's show probably won't be the thermonuclear explosion 2013's E3 promises to be, with no major next generation consoles save the Wii U slated to appear. But for precisely that reason, it'll also be quietly significant: this could be the Xbox 360's final E3 - its swansong, with the suggestion of new hardware sneaking on-stage as the curtain falls.
What should you expect in terms of new games and content? Plenty. We have a few ideas as to the announcements that will be central to Microsoft's showing. Protip: skip to page two for the most exciting possibilities.
To get the supremely obvious one out of the way first, Halo 4 will be the centrepiece of Microsoft's E3. The game's out in November, and Microsoft will want to get the marketing ball rolling over the summer. While much is now known about the game's multiplayer component, comparatively little has been revealed of its single player; Microsoft conference attendees can look forward to a full disclosure with ample gameplay footage. Halo 4 is an interesting prospect for other reasons - it's the first in the new Reclaimer trilogy, with Halo 5 and Halo 6 all but guaranteed to appear on Xbox 360's successor, and choice of features - particularly the new episodic online co-op - could imply something about the make-up of next gen hardware.
The next Call of Duty, plus timed Xbox-exclusive DLC
Another obvious attendee, with rumours of a Call of Duty: Black Ops sequel hotly swirling. Xbox 360 and Call of Duty are all but joined at the hip; expect them to retake their marital vows in the form of a Microsoft Conference trailer and timed exclusive DLC, following a reveal in May. Speaking of DLC...
Bethesda has maintained a formidable silence on the subject, but with consumer interest in Skyrim inevitably waning and hype already gearing up for the autumn's releases, the publisher needs to show its hand in the next couple of months. The first two DLC packs are 30-day Xbox exclusives, making a conference appearance highly likely. The reveal may, however, precede E3 itself. Word is it'll be called Dawnguard.
Kinect Sports 3
A no-brainer. Kinect Sports has become Kinect's Call of Duty, seeing two profitable releases in as many years with no overt signs of wear. Look forward to another refresh with a half-dozen new events and a whole new roster of Kinect wizardry. The last two games released in the autumn, but this one may push into the summer, following the example of marathon UK chart topper Zumba Fitness. Coincidentally, we've just spotted a Wikipedia page for something called "Kinect Sports 3: Summer Edition", down for release in 2012. Hmmm.
Announced at Microsoft's Spring Showcase, sans in-game footage, Turn 10's festival-themed Forza is gunning for Q4 2012. If it doesn't show at E3, that's probably because it's held up in traffic. Launching in 2013, then.
Other potentials: a raft of new Kinect Fun Labs content; more film, music and TV apps; Windows 8 announcement and tie-in. Flip the page for Interesting Unannounced Stuff.