The Road to E3 2017: Microsoft
Here we are with the first major conference of E3. Microsoft is in a tough position here, as I'd say they're probably the company with the least amount of excitement surrounding them. Sony has drowned their fans in first-party titles and gone on to have monster sales for their PlayStation 4 console, and the Nintendo Switch is currently lighting up the sales charts as fans enjoy Zelda and re-discover Mario Kart 8 while looking forward to titles like ARMS and Splatoon 2 for the summer. By comparison, Microsoft's currently enduring a drought of first-party titles and enjoying a distant second in the console race. Is all hope lost for the company?
Probably not, as they do have the Xbox Scorpio to show off here, which all but guarantees they'll have the vast majority of the best-looking titles of E3. Plus they've got an array of major first- and third-party titles launching this fall, so let's get into them. Microsoft's conference airs Sunday, June 11th at 2PM Pacific, 5PM Eastern. And if you missed last week's discussion on EA's conference, you can find that right here.
Crackdown - The return of Microsoft's sandbox "superhero" action shooter, when we first saw Crackdown 3 back in 2014 I thought it was odd, considering everything I'd heard told me it hadn't been in development terribly long at all, and that it was a 2016 release at the earliest. Since then it's been delayed a bit into this year (hopefully), but I wouldn't say that was indicative of any major problems since nearly every major AAA title has found itself getting pushed back this generation for a variety of reasons. In Crackdown 3's case, since it's working so heavily with the cloud to make a fully destructible city, I imagine that might be slowing them up a bit.
Still, if this video remains true and the title has both a strong offline world to explore as well as an online multiplayer experience, this should be one of the strongest titles for Xbox and Xbox Scorpio this fall.
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game - In addition to creating the best open-world RPG of this generation in The Witcher 3, developer CDProjekt RED also created a rather addicting card-based mini-game in TW3 that gained so much popularity it ended up being spun off into its own separate game. And Microsoft has pretty strong third-party ties to CDProjektRed, as they were the home of The Witcher 2 last gen and this gen has done the promotion at E3 for both The Witcher and the Gwent spin-off card game, so I'd bet we see this game appear again at their show. Now by the time E3 happens, Gwent will have had its public beta potentially going for two weeks or so (it doesn't have an announced end date yet) and will likely be ready to announce a potential release date.
At the same time, one game I would tell you not to expect is Cyberpunk 2077. The last time we heard from CDPR about this title was at an investor call where they said the game would need "much more time". I think the earliest estimate for a release date of the game would be Fall 2018, which means they'll probably skip this year to maximize hype at MS's conference next year.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War - Another third-party title Microsoft has ties to, Shadow of Mordor was one of 2014's best titles, and Shadow of War looks to be just as good. Fortunately the franchise managed to build its name up a bit though, because it's competing in a much more stacked year than 2014. It already looks absolutely gorgeous as-is, since this time around the studio isn't being held back by a last-gen version, but given we'll also likely see it run on Scorpio this will be another jaw-dropper for Microsoft's conference. Shadow of War drops in August, so I'd expect this to be one of the meatier presentations, especially since Monolith has never been shy about showing off their product. The thing is still three months away and there's been tons of gameplay released already; don't expect that to change here.
Hopefully they've learned how to keep the weighty feeling Armored Core mecha have always had while also keeping combat intriguing, and offering tons of unique looking mecha with a lot of customization. I'd love it if they could get to a point where FROM had multiple franchises they could rely on in the HD era, so I'm hoping a new Armored Core will be a hit with people.
If you think this list looks a little short, you'd be right. No company plans on canceling games, so I'm guessing Scalebound left a massive hole in their first party schedule that they're not going to immediately be able to fill. We know for a fact that 343 Studios won't be showing Halo 6 and they claim there's no such thing as a Halo 3 Anniversary title. Meanwhile The Coalition just launched Gears of War last year so expect them to be silent as well. The rest of their first-party studios will be front and center as I pointed out above, but I'd also expect a handful of third-party partnerships to fill out the show. A partnership with Ubisoft for Assassin's Creed: Origins has been rumored, as well as Shadow of War and a "hidden" major AAA title, so look forward to that at the very least.
I'm not too concerned; every conference Microsoft has put on since 2014 has been nothing short of solid in terms of focusing heavily on games and having a good pace, so I'm confident this show won't be the one to break the trend. It's the year where they're going to show off their new Scorpio upgrade to the Xbox One, and that has to come with some major titles to grab people's attention. Microsoft is literally rich enough to buy every single major gaming competitor they have, so it's not like they can't throw money at some third-party companies for some exclusives, timed or not.
That's all for now. Make sure to be back when The Road to E3 continues at 12:30PM today with Bethesda.