I think this is the year Microsoft really needs to smash their E3 presentation out of the park. The past few years have been consistently good, with some ‘safe’ announcements made, but there has been a real lack of any huge WOW announcements to really make me, personally, lose my composure. I think the last BIG, exciting announcement that caught me off guard was when they announced backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games.
But other than the recent positive reception the hardware reveal for the Scorpio received, Microsoft has been riding a wave of negativity from both the press and the gaming public. Cancelled games and a lack of any real concrete roadmap for beyond summer of this year, has left alot of gamers clamouring for any juicy morsels to give them something to look forward to.
Now, we already know not to expect any big Halo or Gears of War announcements this year (although I bet we will see Halo 5 running on Scorpio hardware, with a possible Halo 6 tease). So what does that leave us? Not a huge amount that we know of, at the moment at least. We can expect to finally see some proper gameplay footage of Crackdown 3, and not just another engine demo. There has been talk behind the scenes of an Ori and the Blind Forest 2, and then we have their open world Zombie survival game, State of Decay 2. Will we get some footage of a new Forza running on final Scorpio hardware? Or will it be Forza 6/ Horizons 3 with a ‘scorpio’ patch? Perhaps we will get some Halo Wars 2 season pass announcements, with news of the previously mentioned campaign expansion? Perhaps we’ll get a decent demo of Sea of Thieves showing us what to expect in the full game?
Hardware wise, we know to expect a proper showing of the Scorpio and the unveiling of its final name, form and price. Question is, will we get more than one Scorpio sku? Maybe models with different hard drive capacities or something like that? Perhaps even a redesigned Xbox elite controller? Rumours have also been circulating around Microsoft’s VR solution. Will it be compatible with the range of Windows 10 VR headsets, or HMD’s that have been recently shown at trade shows, or will there be a deal in place with HTC or Oculus for compatibility with their respective headsets?
We also already know that Microsoft and Warner Brothers have a marketing deal for the new Shadow of Mordor game, so that’s one third party game we know of and with Microsoft trying to position the Scorpio as ‘THE’ console for third party developers, perhaps there are more marketing deals yet to be announced. No doubt there will be a Ubisoft franchise in there somewhere. Maybe the new Assassin Creed Game that is doing its rounds on the rumour mill, or even the rumoured Western themed Far Cry, also been talked about in hushed whispers? EA and Microsoft are still strong partners, so no doubt we will get an EA Game or two shown on stage, hopefully something more exciting than the inevitable Fifa and Madden 2018. Will we see Todd Howard from Bethesda taking the stage this year? He was in the Scorpio reveal video back in E3 2016, where he mentioned Fallout 4 VR and Scorpio in the same sentence. Will he be the one to show us our first VR game being played for the Scorpio? Perhaps you can announce a VR edition of Skyrim while you’re at it if you don’t mind, Todd. K. Thanks! Finally, we will probably have another showreel of all the indie games to expect in the coming year with a separate showreel for games entering the Xbox preview programme in 2017/18. Speaking of which, Player Unknown has already ‘talked’ about putting their new game ‘Battlegrounds’ into the preview program – I’m REALLY hoping that makes a show at E3, as that would be a HUGE announcement for Xbox.
Now let me indulge myself by coming up with some things I would like to see during their E3.
Original Xbox Backwards compatibility. The backwards compatibility team have already shown that they are, in fact, wizards. Really, there is no denying the amazing work they have achieved in actually making 360 games play better on the Xbox one. Not only that, but they’ve proven that there is still an appetite for the older gen games. Now, if Phil Spencer, was to announce original Xbox compatibility I could die a happy man. And, please, don’t bother me with the finer details about old Nvidea deals or Microsoft having to secure the rights to let these old games play on new hardware, a man doesn’t need his dreams popped with trivial, legal hurdles. This would make the Xbox One (and Scorpio) capable of playing EVERY xbox game ever made – a vision Phil Spencer has declared on more than one occasion. And while, I admit, the appetite for OG Xbox games might not be as strong as they are for 360 games, there is still a huge library of classics just waiting to have an opportunity to become relevant again. With titles such as the original Splinter Cell series, Crimson Skies, Mech Assault, Kung Fu Chaos, Blinx the Time Sweeper, Jet Set Radio Future, the Otogi series… Oh the glasses are tinting a great pale shade of red at the thought…
Microsoft acknowledging they have a great library of old IP’s. Yes, believe it or not, Microsoft actually owns some incredible IP’s that they could easily tap into and modernise to make them relevant once again. Like the Mechwarrior series. They could easily make a new Mech Assault with modern mechanics or, if we go a bit wild with the speculation – turn it into the next big sim franchise and tap into the fame it once held with the original Mechwarrior 2/Mechwarrior 2: mercenaries in the mid to late 90’s. What about Crimson Skies, another great game that was left to go into obscurity. We have the black mark that is Shadowrun – a game that was perhaps ahead of it’s time in light of the shooters that is now gaining in popularity with the likes of Overwatch and the like. Or, you know, how about releasing a proper rpg game set in the Shadowrun universe, like everyone originally hoped? Halo Wars 2 showed us that an RTS game can work on console, how about revisiting the Close Combat WW2 strategy games or even Age or Empires? What about Starlancer and Freelancer? Space sims are ‘hip’ again, are they not?
Microsoft announcing new first party studios and they have games due out soon. This would be a major WOW moment for me. Phil has already acknowledged the Xbox team needs to have stronger first party output and nothing would excite me more, as an Xbox owner, to see Phil put his money where his mouth is and show us he’s investing on this side of things. Ideally, they would also announce a new IP along with the new studio, but I could accept even tapping into any existing IP they already own, mentioned above. I just hope Microsoft can start to build up a few more studios that can provide a more diverse gaming experience rather than the Halo, Forza and Gears factories we currently have
So, that’s just a few of my wild predictions for the Xbox presentation. Coupled with what we know above along with some educated guesses I flung in for good measure, the potential is there for Microsoft to leave their fans excited for the coming year and beyond. I just hope their final reveal of the Scorpio is a meaningful and impactful one and they back it up with a strong lineup for the next year to keep gamers engaged and excited.
After I finished my article above, a couple of new announcements and rumours have made the rounds. First off, apparently Microsoft has indeed secured the marketing rights to an unannounced AAA game (https://twitter.com/shinobi602/status/862728983573663746) And, Microsoft just announced their Mixed reality controllers and they are being bundled with an Acer headset. (https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/11/15622496/acer-microsoft-build-windows-mixed-reality-motion-controller-pricing-availability) – Which I think could be a possible Scorpio VR solution.