What to Expect from Microsoft at E3 | E3 Pregaming
Microsoft is entering E3 in a better position than usual. The company promises the “biggest” E3 showing to date, and there are a lot of things they could do to earn that title. Foremost among them is something the Xbox has been sorely lacking in: games. This isn’t the year to be worried about, though, if rumors are to be believed.
We’re on the tail end of the console generation, with Sony executives telling investors that the PS4 is in the last stage of its lifespan. Xbox has had a rough go of this generation. But sending the Xbox One out with a bang, earning the goodwill of its fanbase, and showing they can deliver top-tier platform exclusives is something that’ll sell Xboxes long after the Xbox One is replaced. Simply put, Microsoft isn’t just making exclusives for the five year old box. Xbox needs to be a platform known for high-quality exclusives before the next hardware generation arrives.
Can they do that? I certainly believe they can. And I firmly believe they will. Here are my predictions for Microsoft’s 2018 E3 conference.
Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon 4 was rumored to be set in Japan, a definite change of scenery from the locations we’re accustomed to. Allegedly leaked concept art however, points to the game being set in what looks like Hong Kong. The last Horizon game was set in Australia, though, and an Asian city is definitely the next logical step, at least geographically. Expect to hit the road this Fall.
The next step for Playground Games, one of the two devs behind the Forza Horizon games, seems to be a different kind of offroad, however. All signs point to them as the new guardians of the Fable franchise. The game “Fable Legends” was heavily promoted early in the Xbox One’s life, but was cancelled in 2016, and Lionhead studios was subsequently closed. It seems Playground is picking up where they left off, in what is likely a reboot, although a sequel certainly can’t be ruled out. I’d expect this title in early to mid 2019.
Gears of War 5
It’s been almost two years since Gears of War 4 released, so while a sequel isn’t overdue, the announcement of one seems like it should be on the horizon. The prior title was a well-received refinement of what made the previous trilogy such a wild success, but a sequel would likely bring innovation to the franchise. Studio head Rod Fergusson promises to mix up the series’ famous third-person hyperviolence and I can’t wait to see what that looks like. I’d expect to see it announced this year, with a release in late 2019.
Remedy Games is known for the gritty, stylized slow-mo shooter Max Payne, but their recent games have hit a pretty wide range. Alan Wake took us into a moody Stephen King horror story while Quantum Break had us travelling through time to save the world from an evil corporation. So, where are they taking us next? Remedy’s website calls it:
“A cinematic third-person action game set in a new Remedy-created universe, P7 features an intriguing story with a cast of memorable characters. The game structure offers a long-lasting, story-driven gameplay experience and the deepest game mechanics yet in a Remedy game.”
Unlike previous games, Alan Wake and Quantum Break, however, P7 is being published by 505 Games, not Microsoft, and will be multiplatform. Meaning, this isn’t confirmed to be at the Xbox show. But given their history as a Microsoft-facing studio, it’s most likely where we’ll see the game make its grand reveal, although I wouldn’t count on it actually being named P7.
Since the its announcement back in 2012, the hype for Cyberpunk 2077 can only be described as being at fever pitch. Set in ‘Night City’ California, the game will treat players to an atmosphere soaked in Cyberpunk style with gameplay promising to be even more complex than The Witcher 3’s. How complex? The game will let you play as a number of classes, including variants of cops, hackers, criminals, executives and even journalists.
The actual gameplay won’t just change based on each class, but the missions as well. Other complications include NPCs that speak different languages, meaning owning digital translators will affect who you will and won’t interact with. Further, a player owning a cheaper translator to a given language is going to have a far more restricted conversation versus someone with a more expensive model. If The Witcher 3 is anything to go by, CD Projekt Red’s talent at implementing complex mechanics to master is something you can spend thousands of hours obsessing over.
The studio’s been secretive on the game so far, but all signs show this is the year we’ll get an official reveal, and I have a hunch that the Xbox show is where that’s going to take place.
A representative from CD Project Red told Polygon that they’re only confirming the game for PC so far, but that the game is “most probably” going multiplatform. It’s worth noting that their last game ‘The Witcher 3’ was announced for PC only before releasing multiplatform, a pattern that games such as Overwatch and Fortnite have followed as well. The Witcher 3 had gameplay shown on the Xbox stage in 2014 and is most likely where we’ll see Cyberpunk 2077 in 2018.
We’ll almost certainly see Microsoft’s flagship franchise at E3 this year, almost 3 years after the launch of Halo 5. While the game sold fairly well and has maintained a strong playerbase, it’s received a lot of flak for a lackluster story and the inclusion of sprint and aim-down-sights for the first time in franchise history. An otherwise well regarded game with few but very noticeable weaknesses, putting a slight shadow over its eventual successor.
So, what should we expect from Halo 6? The writer of the original Halo trilogy, Joseph Staten, has returned to Microsoft as Creative Director of Microsoft Studios and recently wrote a short Halo novel. If Staten’s comfortable dipping his toes back into the Halo universe, I’d warrant it’s a near certainty that he’s writing Halo 6.
Changes we do know are coming include a more Master Chief focused story, courtesy of 343 head Bonnie Ross. Ross also said that splitscreen would be in all Halo FPS titles going forward, after its controversial absence in 5. Even more exciting, Xbox boss Phil Spencer indicated in 2016 that future Halos would come to PC, while just weeks ago, franchise development director and Bungie veteran Frank O’Connor voiced that Halo 6 is in fact, currently being developed for PC.
What should we expect at E3? Well, I’d expect a reveal trailer, hopefully more substantial than just a teaser. But I wouldn’t expect the game to release in 2018. Pro players were recently given details on the 2018 series of the Halo Championship Series that indicate they’ll still be playing Halo 5 this fall. That means we probably won’t see Halo 6 until 2019, and if history is any guide, Fall 2019.
That said, 343 Industries seems to be hinting that a completely different Halo game could release this year.
In a blogpost on the Halo website:
“2018 has arrived and with it, the promise of new fun times to be had and adventures to be embarked upon. No, not those adventures, but plenty of exciting ones regardless – some which might surprise you more than others."
As to what kind of adventures to expect, it’s easy to speculate. While Halo 3 passed its 10th anniversary last year, a Halo 3 Anniversary remaster could be in the cards. 343 recently claimed they had plans for ‘Classic Halo’ to release on PC. A Halo 3 Anniversary for Windows and Xbox seems like the most likely option, although it could be a Master Chief Collection rerelease, which would also be welcome.
We could see a Halo spinoff in the vein of Halo 3: ODST. Maybe even a successor. Halo 5 ODST? Halo 3: ODST 2? 10 ODST Lane? Definitely a possibility I’m jazzed about.
All in all, Microsoft has a lot of solid IPs that have been dormant for long enough that we should expect releases around this time. The big question isn’t if we’re getting many of these games, it’s how soon? With the Xbox’s lack of exclusives, they can’t come soon enough.
Of course we won’t know for sure until Microsoft unveils them onstage, but there’s a lot for Xbox owners to look forward to.