E3 Pre-Show Thoughts: Microsoft
Part 3 of my E3 Pre-Show Thoughts. Go read Parts Two and One here and watch me make guesses so you can make fun of me about it later!
I've never, ever been much of a Microsoft fanboy. To the contrary, when the console wars were still a thing that even remotely sane people did, I was always pretty hardcore in favor of Sony. (Sega died, and Nintendo betrayed me as a young, fledging RPG fan who asked his mom to buy the N64 for Christmas.) But for what its worth, since Playstation 4 took its place as lead console, I've been watching Microsoft's work with the Xbox One come away pretty impressed every year. For two years in a row, Microsoft has consistently held its own with a conference that's both packed with games and consistently entertaining. Last year's showed off both third-party exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider and first-party mainstay Halo while also introducing games like Gears 4 and Sea of Thieves. For this year?
In the same way that Halo 5 lead off last year, Gears 4 will probably lead off this year. It's their big holiday game (though they're the only company that seems to still do that) scheduled for this November, and with that they need the time to show off both the single-player campaign and the multiplayer experiences, so it'll likely take up a good chunk of the opening minutes of the show.
If ReCore has any shot at still being a 2016 release, it has to make an appearance here. First premiering at E3 of 2015, the last time we saw a sign of it was at the last E3. The fact that it's both a smaller game and one we barely know anything about mean for it to get the eyes that it needs, a reappearance at E3 is going to be the best thing for it. This time though it's going to need to actually show off some gameplay, since as far as I know there's been absolutely no gameplay for this title yet.
While Xbox has made claims that they have little interest in VR for now (y'know, aside from the Oculus Rift), it's doubtful they can make it through E3 without some kind of hardware or app talk. While rumors of the PS4 Neo abound, there's just as strong a chance there'll be an Xbox One+ project as well. If it appears, expect an even larger chunk of time devoted to it since it'd be launching later this year. Even moreso than Sony, I feel like Microsoft would stick to the $399.99 pricetag, given the last time their system exceeded that price point things didn't go too well. I'd expect some additional functionalities to make it a more attractive prospect...or they may just get lazy and just do Gears 4 as a pack-in.
At some point, Forza Horizon 3 is going to pop up. I've got zero proof this is a thing and near as I can tell no one else does either, but at some point you just have to pay attention to trends. Forza has been alternating between the main brand and the Horizon off-shoot since 2012 and there's no real reason to stop when both versions of the game are well-received and make a good bit of money. No, Playground Games sat on the sidelines last year so this year they're up. I just hope I never have to hear the word "drivatar" again.
With MS having lost the major deals for Destiny and Call of Duty, I'm thinking there'll be no shortage of third-party exclusives and partnerships. Last year had The Division, Rainbow Six: Vegas, Dark Souls 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and a TON of smaller and/or indie games. Honestly this is a big reason why I find Xbox's conference to be so interesting--they seem to be well aware of what kind of situation they're in right now as no longer being the number one console publisher and have been working overtime at E3 and Gamescom alike for the past couple years to play catch-up. It hasn't worked yet, but I absolutely feel like hungry Microsoft is the best Microsoft.
There's a 50-50 chance we see Scalebound at the show. Remember, it's a 2017 project so they could show it again to fill some time or bump it to show some newer project while saving it for Gamescom in August. If I had to pick one side or the other in that case, I'd definitely say it'd be something to save for Gamescom. Microsoft doesn't seem to have a shortage of products to discuss and there IS a limited amount of time to present.
With Fable Legends down (RIP Lionhead), I'm hoping they have another fantasy-type project to show off.* But more likely than not, we'll just get more Sea of Thieves footage and hopefully some idea of an actual release date. Even though the game looked fairly far along, this generation has made me uncomfortable at the idea of declaring when we should see a game, since everything just gets delayed anyway.
And if I had to guess, the show will probably cap off with Crackdown, a game that's been in production for a couple years now. It's actually had quite the long piece of gameplay shown off, but it felt like a game that still needed a couple more years in the oven. We only saw destruction, and not much of actual gameplay in the city. Presuming they don't have another major game to close things down with, this is next up after Gears as a major 2017 project.
*Correction: Scratch that. Hearing why Fable Legends happened instead of Fable 4 lets me know they aren't terribly interested in making a fantasy RPG that isn't Scalebound.