Microsoft has a few interesting things in store at this year’s E3.
Every year, it seems like Microsoft is in a new ditch. This isn’t to say that the company is doing horrible – far be it actually when it’s the clear number 2 home console around the world – but for the past few years en route to E3, Microsoft has had to “prove” itself. Last year saw the company make several successful moves with backwards compatibility, the new Xbox One S, discounts, top-notch games like Forza Horizon 3, Quantum Break and Gears of War 4 and the promise of Project Scorpio.
However, it’s fallen into a trap, one of its own making arguably – there just aren’t enough games. Think about the number of awesome PS4 titles (that also came to PC but still) that have released this year. Now compare that to the number of good/great Xbox One titles also available for Windows 10. Halo Wars 2 is the only title that really registers this year.
"Here’s the problem though – the Scorpio isn’t positioned as a console that’s going to offer brand new experiences."
It also doesn’t help that Platinum Games’ Scalebound was canceled, thus continuing Microsoft’s spree of abandoned/“on hold” games like Fable Legends and Phantom Dust. Don’t even get us started on games that have faded into the backdrop like Gigantic, Below and Cuphead despite large amounts of hype.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. E3 2017 is around the corner and Microsoft has the opportunity to establish itself in a number of ways. Project Scorpio could avoid the flak that initially befell the PlayStation 4 Pro and actually be a strong mid-generation refresh. It has the potential to bring true 4K gaming to the forefront, if nothing else.
Let’s talk about Project Scorpio first since that’s obviously the big thing. I expect the console’s actual look to be showcased (duh) since that’s always a big talking point. The price will probably be around $500 and get the right amount of people debating about whether it’s worth it. Which, by the way, still won’t stop a large number of people from buying it. Microsoft will dedicate a large amount of time to comparing games between Xbox One and Scorpio. There will be the usual VR gaming, native 4K and hyping up other features spiel.
Here’s the problem though – the Scorpio isn’t positioned as a console that’s going to offer brand new experiences. It’s not a console that’s going to have Halo 6 as an exclusive. As Microsoft has said time and again, this is a console for premium users. Right now, the problem with the Xbox platform is a distinct lack of games. First party, third party, 4K, non-4K, whatever.
"Perhaps the biggest game, that we know of at this point, for Microsoft’s presser is State of Decay 2."
So with games in mind, Forza Motorsport 7 is obviously an announcement. Microsoft has already established its bi-yearly cycle between the Forza Horizon and Forza Motorsport franchises. If anything, it would be a major surprise if Forza Motorsport 7 wasn’t announced. This especially when high-end device maker Fanatec confirmed it was meeting with Turn 10 Studios in November 2016 for the same. A release date announcement, specifically for September is all but confirmed at this point.
Sea of Thieves looks to be Microsoft’s big attempt at capturing the shared world multiplayer market. With an action adventure approach, it will be a very distinct experience from the likes of Destiny 2. Tom Clancy’s The Division is alive only thanks to its hardcore player base so it’s not like there isn’t a huge market that wants these kinds of games. Maybe the adventuring, socializing and hilarity of Sea of Thieves will be enough to appeal to these players? Look for a beta announcement at E3 with a possible release by 2017 end.
Perhaps the biggest game, that we know of at this point, for Microsoft’s presser is State of Decay 2. Here’s what looks to be a solid follow-up to a great game with three large maps instead of one, four player co-op, better visuals and some serious improvements. It’s everything that owners of the original, over 2 million of them, could want. If Microsoft is smart, it will tell us exactly how State of Decay 2 will be worth the wait. The sheer style of the game doesn’t make it very presentation-friendly but it’s probably the only game I can think to buy on the Xbox One when it finally arrives.
Apparently there’s an unannounced AAA title that Microsoft will have marketing on. This doesn’t indicate an exclusive of any kind but at very least we’ll have something that could headline the Xbox One’s releases in the coming year. Something tells me that if it’s Ubisoft Massive’s Avatar, then it won’t be out this year. Also given how the timed exclusive DLC deal didn’t quite pull a ton of consumers towards the Xbox One version of The Division, I’d say it’s unlikely that Ubisoft repeats the same. Maybe Microsoft will surprise us all and have the first look at Assassin’s Creed: Origins at its presser. Again, don’t look for it to be exclusive or even a timed exclusive.
"Don’t worry though – if you’re gaming on the Xbox One, Microsoft should have a few things to tide you over this Fall."
One potential wild card is Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Eidos Montreal is developing it instead of Crystal Dynamics. That’s pretty much all we know about it. ID@Xbox could have some new, unique indie efforts (expect Cellar Door’s Full Metal Furies to be featured and hopefully have a release date) but we’ll probably be reminded of Cuphead and Below again. 343 Industries probably won’t be showcasing the next big Halo but hey, maybe it’ll release a single-player expansion for Halo 5 or something. Here’s hoping, even if we eventually just end up with more multiplayer DLC. The Coalition doesn’t seem to have anything in the offering. Lionhead’s dead. Mojang might have something Minecraft-related. Maybe Crackdown 3 will finally emerge from its coma and grace us with a release date. At this point, the company needs it. Xbox Game Pass and a possible new Dashboard UI could also be revealed.
Don’t worry though – if you’re gaming on the Xbox One, Microsoft should have a few things to tide you over this Fall. It may not beat whatever the PS4 has to offer but it doesn’t have to. All hands are on deck for Project Scorpio and where it could potentially go, no one knows. Stay tuned for Microsoft’s E3 presser on June 11th, 2 PM PT to make up your own mind.
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