Every year, Microsoft comes out at E3 claiming that ‘this year is going to be the biggest E3 yet’. While E3 is slowly losing out its appeal to many companies as they resort to more and more private and separate announcements, Microsoft is still sticking to the same formula. The last few years of E3 have been crucial for Xbox with the company trying really hard to recover from the blunders of the early Xbox One days. If you start counting from 2013, E3 for Microsoft has been about growth and redemption and it has all been building up for this year. If you think that Microsoft saying that this E3 will be the biggest is just a statement intended to introduce hype, think again.
Back in 2013, the Xbox 360 was at the end of its life cycle and Microsoft was hyping up its next generation console, the Xbox One. At E3, the company unveiled the future of Xbox but the announcement was met with disappointment rather than enthusiasm. The whole show was a total mess. Microsoft barely talked about games (which the whole console was built for) and instead tried to talk about Xbox One as a home family entertainment system. This change in philosophy obviously angered a lot of people and the only loser here was Microsoft. The company did not have many new IPs or exclusive games for the Xbox One and the console had pretty much lost the generation fight against PS4 even before it had come out.
After the disaster that ensued at E3 2013, it took a couple of years and a change in direction for Xbox to find its footing. Phil Spencer took the reins at Xbox in 2014 and helped it gain back the reputation that it had lost. The goal was simple; focus on the games and success will follow. Microsoft, in the next few years bought some high profile studios for first party games. The company also launched the most powerful console in the world, Xbox One X along with Xbox One S. Both of these were a major success considering how badly the original Xbox One had performed. Furthermore, Microsoft released a games subscription service called Xbox Game Pass which has taken off during the past couple of years. So, all of the preparation comes down to this year’s E3.
Most of the studios that Xbox has bought have been working for an original IP for Xbox for at least a couple of years by now and should have something to show at the show floor. The next-generation Xbox has also been in development for at least 5 years now and we’ve already had ton of rumours about it. There is an extremely high chance that Microsoft could try to one-up Sony by revealing its console first and there is no bigger occasion for it than E3. Microsoft has also been working very hard on Project xCloud, its game streaming service to combat Google Stadia and PS Now and would probably have progress to show on that too. Moreover, recently, there has been a massive push for PC gaming by Xbox so we could expect some more details on that as well.
The biggest key to success for any gaming console is the catalogue of games that it offers. Yes, specifications are important as well but nothing beats a well-made game (take Nintendo Switch, for example). Microsoft has learned the hard way that its main core audience is still gaming oriented and diverting its focus from that and trying to make Xbox something other than a gaming console would probably hurt the sales and reputation. Therefore, the company has been buying out some big game developers. These include names like Ninja Theory, Obsidian Entertainment, The Initiative and Playground Games. Most of these studios will have games to show at this year’s E3 because they’ve been working on their new games for at least 2 years now. So, we could expect Microsoft to have a plethora of exclusive games to show-off at E3.
Other than the games from newly acquired game developers, we should not forget that Microsoft already owns a bunch of well-known studios that have very successful franchises. This year, we can also expect to see a lot of them coming out to show their new games.
Master Chief is back after a short hiatus of 5 years as 343 Industries gets ready to finally show what the Spartan’s next adventure is going to be like. Halo 5: Guardians was not a bad game by any means but it just didn’t have the spark of the classic Halo games especially in terms of storytelling. This was probably because the game revolved around 2 teams but the extra characters felt pretty bland. However, the game did eventually pick up the pace by the end and the story revolving around Cortana and the guardians was really good. It would be interesting to see where it all goes now from the end of Halo 5.
Microsoft did show some Halo: Infinite teaser footage at E3 last year which pointed to Master Chief being stuck on presumably a halo world. From the trailer, it felt like the game is going to be a lot more personal and Master Chief will play a bigger part in the whole story than Halo 5 which, frankly, is exactly what the Halo franchise needs right now. Hopefully, we’ll see some detailed footage along with gameplay this time around. Halo Infinite is also touted to be a launch title for the next generation Xbox.
Gears of War 4 was a fantastic game that carried on with the tried and tested formula of the previous Gears of War games. The introduction of new characters is always going to be a risk and while Marcus’ son felt kind of basic good guy soldier, the other characters like Kait certainly had a lot of depth to them. The story of Gears of War 4 also ended on a cliff hanger so we knew Gears 5 was in the works. Microsoft showed the game off during last year’s E3 and this time around, Kait has become the main character which makes sense since she is a much more fleshed-out and interesting character.
Gears 5 follows her story as she tries to uncover some secrets about herself and how the Locust are coming back to life. The game itself might actually be closer than we think and could probably end up coming out later this year.
Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon games come out alternatively every other year and since last year was Horizon 4, this year is probably going to be the year of Forza Motorsport 8. The racing series has firmly cemented its position as the king of racing games in recent times and there are no signs of it slowing down. The game has consistently had some of the best gameplay paired with stunning visuals and a vast catalogue of cars. It would also be cool to finally have a full Forza Motorsport title on Xbox Game Pass.
Other than the usual IPs, Microsoft has also bought some very reputable studios that have games in the works. While we do not know what most of these games are yet (wait for E3), we have had some leaks about one game. Ninja Theory, the developer of DmC and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is reportedly working on a 4v4 multiplayer melee combat game for the Xbox called Bleeding Edge. The game is going to have stylized heroes and will have a cyberpunk setting.
We’ve also heard reports of Playground Games working on a new RPG/Adventure game. Playground Games is the developer of Forza Horizon series and to see them taking on a totally different challenge would be interesting to say the least. Some people have pointed out from leaks and rumours that the new game from Playground games might actually turn out to be Fable 4. If it is indeed Fable 4, we could see a lot of momentum shifting in Microsoft’s favour.
Third Party Games
Since Sony is skipping this year’s E3, we could also see a lot of third party games making an appearance at Microsoft’s E3 press conference. Last year, one of these games was Cyberpunk 2077 which is one of the most hyped games right now. We’re probably going to see more footage of it as we edge closer to the release. We could also see some Call of Duty: Modern Warfare details even though it is more of a Sony thing. There is also going to be a ton of indie games shown as a part of ID@Xbox program.
New Xbox Consoles
Xbox One came out way back in 2013 with the One X refresh coming out in 2017. For a single generation to last longer than 7 or 8 years is extremely unlikely. Phil Spencer did say last year that Microsoft is currently working on its next gen consoles so, it would not be a surprise if we actually see those consoles at this year’s E3. Don’t get too excited though as the consoles are still probably going to come out next year. However, Microsoft could really play a big hand here by setting a 2019 release date and beating Sony to the race. We also know that the next generation Xbox will not come as a single console but would instead have variants like the current Xbox One S and Xbox One X.
The next generation Xbox is going to be based on the latest AMD Zen 2 processors and is probably going to have Navi graphics inside. The console has also been touted to have an SSD (finally) to boost data transfer rates. As far as naming is concerned, Microsoft does not really have a tradition for naming stuff so your guess is as good as mine. The next generation Xbox is probably not going to be called Xbox 2 though as the One in Xbox One was supposed to signify the fact that it was an all in one entertainment system. We have heard rumours though that the next Xbox will be called Xbox Infinite or Xbox i. You can see all the rumoured specs and details of the next generation Xbox right here.
Xbox Game Pass and xCloud
Xbox Game Pass has been a major part of Microsoft’s resurgence over the past few years. It has revolutionized the gaming business with a reasonable monthly fee for some amazing titles. The fact that every Xbox exclusive game comes out on Game Pass on the day of its release is just an added bonus. This year, however, Microsoft’s focus will be on bringing the Game Pass to Windows and expanding its horizons. It would be interesting to see how the company manages the game libraries between the two platforms. We could also see some big names being added to the Game Pass library at E3 2019.
Microsoft is also hard at work to develop its own version of a game streaming service called Project xCloud. The company has showed off some demos already but there still has not been a full-featured show and announcement on it. With Google revealing the pricing and other details of Stadia, Microsoft is expected to step up as well and announce xCloud on the big stage. If any company can take on Google in the game streaming department, it is Microsoft.
This is the biggest year for Microsoft at E3, without any doubt. The company is recovering from a bad generation and hopes to regain the trust it had during the last generation. With someone like Phil Spencer at the helm, I’m sure that would not be much of a problem.