It’s that wonderful time of year again, E3 the largest video game game expo in America is back. This E3 has a very different feel from most. Numerous big companies have pulled out, Activision, EA, Disney, and Nintendo to name a few, they will have no or very little to show at E3. The big two Sony and Microsoft have been creating hype for this years show thanks to a series of leaks showing that both companies are working on upgraded versions of their current consoles. Codenamed Neo and Scorpio respectively, these consoles were expected to be formally announced at the company’s conferences, but earlier today Sony released a statement confirming Neo is real but it will not be shown at E3. So, where does that leave Microsoft? Do they jump ahead and announce Scorpio at E3 and get the hype train rolling or do they hold back now as well and see if Sony makes any changes to Neo. I will dive into my thoughts on this and also what else Microsoft could have up their sleeve at E3.
Last year Microsoft held its E3 with head Phil Spencer running the show and it didn’t take long to feel his impact. The focus was games, games, and more games, landing a huge blow right off the bat with the announcement of backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games. This had to be their best kept secret because it caught the gaming world off guard. Sony was spending millions creating Playstation Now an online game streaming service to allow players to play games from previous generations and Microsoft absolutely took the air out of their sails with that announcement. Along with that news we were bombarded with new games coming to the system exclusively, titles like Quantum Break, ReCore, Gears 4, Halo Wars 2, Scalebound and a healthy lineup of exciting indie titles coming the Xbox platform. So what’s in store for 2016 let’s start with a few sure things.
Announced back in 2014 Crackdown should be in a near complete form and ready for a late 2016 or early 2017 release date. I expect to hear much more about this title and a rumor about a possible beta that could launch during the show. Forza has almost become a staple of Microsoft’s E3 press conference every year, this year will be no different. Halo Wars should have a presence at the show, touch on the story and see some gameplay and how it stacks up in a very crowded genre. We saw quite a sizeable chunk of gameplay for Scale bound at last years Gamescon, so a release date and a new tease should do it for this title. of the returning titles the 2 I see getting the most time should be Gears 4 and Recore. We don’t know much about Recore except that the studio making it, Comcept studio is being run by Keiji Inafune the designer behind Mega Man. They will be working with Amature Studio which is made up of former designers and developers of the games in the Metroid Prime and Batman Arkham series. There was recently a leak that shows this game could be released on October 25th 2016. That’s not that far off so I expect to see plenty from this title. Gears 4 is already the biggest title of 2016, so I expect them to show details of the story and any changes coming to the multiplayer based off the feedback of the beta.
There have been several leaks already before the show, the big one of course is the aforementioned Codename Scorpio and Xbox slim. I do not think we will see Project Scorpio at E3 but we should see the new Xbox One Slim. The leaks pointed out it will come with a new controller but I don’t think the changes end there. Of course the aesthetics of the system will be vastly different seeing that the Xbox One is one of if not the largest video game console ever created. The leak points out that the Slim will be the smallest console ever, that’s quite the leap and I’m dying to see what the end product could be. In order to shrink the system down so dramatically I am assuming there are going to be changes to the system, first out Kinect. I am a huge fan of kinect but even I can admit it has wore out its welcome, adding a mic to the controller will give gamers access to the best part of kinect, the voice control and also paving the way for cortana on Xbox One. Another subtraction is most likely the HDMI in port. An interesting concept when released but it never really grabbed on with many of the Xbox One owners. With Xbox returning it’s focus to games,these cuts to the entertainment functions just make sense and should appeal to gamers looking to get an Xbox One. The leak did point out an addition with the slim and that would be a 2 TB hard drive, the 500 GB that came with the Xbox One at launch is nowhere near enough space this generation. Along with that we should see a performance boost seeing that the kinect will no longer be taking up processing power.
Project Helix is a huge initiative at Microsoft right now, they are attempting to bring together all of their devices under one banner. Microsoft currently has the Windows PC, Xbox, Surface Tablets, and Windows Phone and they are attempting to unify all those system under Windows 10. The biggest push we are seeing is in gaming, Xbox one and PC gaming will soon be going hand in hand. You can currently stream your Xbox One on your PC soon they will be one and the same. This has been in the works for a while and we have started seeing it in the gaming world with simultaneous release of Quantum Break. Previously Xbox and PC gaming were seen as competing platforms with Project helix it looks like Microsoft it trying to bring them together. This isn’t just going to benefit PC gamers, this also means all Apps will work on the Xbox One. Given how well multitasking works on the Xbox One it will be interesting to see what developers come up with.
Oculus Rift started as a Kickstarter project and blew up, eventually catching Facebook’s eye as they purchased the company and have taken over Oculus Rift. The Rift recently released but with its high cost of entry ($600 for the Oculus and a PC powerful enough to run it) and unavailability, it hasn’t really taken off as it was once thought to. With competition in HTC’s Vive and Soon Sony’s low costing Playstation VR, Oculus is rumored to be in talks with Microsoft to become Xbox compatible. This wouldn’t be the first partnership with Microsoft seeing that currently every Oculus Rift comes with an Xbox One controller. If the deal has been made I can see this being announced at E3 but more details at a later date. Enter project Scorpio, in the leak it was rumored that Scorpio would be close to 4x more powerful than the current Xbox One and even 50% more powerful than Sony’s Neo. This makes sense seeing that Oculus Rift needs a powerful system to run it and Microsoft could be making Scorpio to be the system of the future and compatible with Oculus Rift. Don’t expect the Scorpio anytime in 2016, but both Microsoft and Sony are waiting to see who blinks first. I expect more information at GamesCon.
Now we get to the games, Dead Rising 3 was an Xbox One launch game and was a pleasant surprise. Originally a Capcom published game, following slowing sales for Dead Rising 2 the want was there for Dead Rising 3 but the money wasn’t. Microsoft needing launch titles and exclusives bankrolled the development of Dead Rising 3. Thanks to a retailer leak we now know Dead Rising 4 is coming. The question now is, Is it still exclusive to Xbox? I have a feeling that the answer is Yes. Capcom has been very quiet in the development front for a while now, focusing mainly on re-releases like Resident Evil remakes and Street Fighter. Therefore I don’t see capcom paying for the development of the game and Microsoft wanting more exclusives I can see them returning and funding Dead Rising 4.
This is a weird E3 because we know what Microsoft has been working on with their 1st party studios. 343 is busy with the Halo Franchise, The Coalition is on Gears, Rare is on Sea of Thieves, and Turn 10 is making Forza. With the closure of Lionhead the Fable franchise is up in the air and I expect Microsoft to announce a new Fable in the works by a new Studio, returning to the story driven quirky funny RPG. Just a logo, no trailer, no gameplay just a giant Fables logo. Another big announcement will be focused around backward compatibility, where they announce that over 100 new games are now backwards compatible including the Bioshock series, Red Dead Redemption, GTA Series, and the Call of Duty Series.
In connection with the backward compatibility, I predict we will see the return of Summer of Arcade. There have been a handful of big name indie games that have continued to be delayed and they are all set to release soon. Below, Inside, Mighty No. 9, Cuphead, have all been pushed and it’s not clear when they are coming outside of Mighty No. 9 which we know is coming June 21st. Along with the return of summer of Arcade we should see the return of Xbox Live Arcade with weekly releases and promotions accordingly. XBLA was one of the most successful online storefronts ever created. Many were left scratching their heads as to why it didn’t return with the Xbox One.
Third parties always play their role in these conferences, games like Call of Duty and Battlefield are usuals in Microsoft’s and Sony’s press conferences. This year the big prize is Rockstar games, the feeling is that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be announced this year. I predict it will be announced on Microsoft’s stage, I say that because earlier this year the original Red Dead Redemption was made available for backwards compatibility then removed. I feel that was a test so that they can use it to promote the game much like Fallout 4 did last year giving gamers Fallout 3 for free.
At the end, the next chapter in the Halo franchise gets announced. 343 is also working on Halo Wars so I’ll be interested to see if they can keep an annual schedule with the Halo Games. We can expect surprises, some third party, some Indie but First party has been pretty clear for a while. Should be an exciting show I know I’ll be watching. Thanks for reading.