So what should we expect out of the annual E3 game convention that starts Monday?

Well, the secret announcement that everybody knows about is that Microsoft will be cutting the price of the Xbox 360 by $50. That's decent, although a $100 cut seems more appropriate three years into the system's life cycle. Even with the $50 reduction, the Xbox 360 Pro (the cheapest model with a hard drive) will be $299. It's unknown whether Sony will follow suit with a PlayStation 3 price cut, although I would guess so.

Don't bet on Nintendo making any price drops on the Wii. With the way the Wii is selling, Nintendo could announce a $50 price hike and still count on sellouts from here to 2010.

On the software front, this might be a fairly quiet year for unveilings, but we should get to see extended previews of games we already know about.

"Gears of War 2" and "Rock Band 2" are likely to be tent-pole games for Microsoft, while Sony will probably lean heavily on "Resistance 2," "LittleBigPlanet" and perhaps even "Killzone 2."

Buzz has also picked up around the potential announcement of a PSP Phone, sort of Sony's version of Apple's iPhone.

Nintendo is harder to peg. I expect lots of titles that take advantage of the "Wii Fit" board, and news on the promised Wii version of "Spore," the PC game that lets you evolve from an amoeba to a space-faring civilization. Other than that, Nintendo is a cipher for the second half of the year.

So-called hard-core gamers, though, have reason to be excited. Marc Franklin, director of public relations at Nintendo, recently told GamePro magazine that the baseball title "Super Mario Sluggers" should please die-hard Nintendo-ites.

"Additionally, we will be announcing several new titles that core gamers will be interested in around the time of E3," he said.

A new "Metroid"? Another "Zelda"? Who knows?

PC gaming, while lagging behind the popularity of consoles, should get a boost at E3. In addition to "Spore," new details on "Starcraft II" from Blizzard should be a big hit.

Beyond the specific platforms, though, a lot of people will be monitoring the health of E3 itself. After shrinking last year and scattering the presentations all over Los Angeles, the convention is back in a single building. But there have been a series of reports of big-name publishers dropping their memberships in the Entertainment Software Association, the group that organizes E3, and rumblings that E3 might have outlived its usefulness.

This might be a make or break year for E3, especially if it loses money.