Microsoft E3 2016 Conference, What Do They Have?

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Microsoft’s E3 2016 Conference will be an interesting show to watch not least because they’ve done an admirable job of keeping leaks at a minimum, even if some pipes have started to burst around their hardware plans in the last few days.

They’re also in an interesting spot particular because changes to their first-party structure – with Twisted Pixel leaving and Lionhead & Press Play being closed mean they have very few internal studios:

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  • 343 make Halo and Halo 5 just launched, they’re partnered with Creative Assembly on Halo Wars 2, presumably Halo 6 is due in holiday 2018
  • The Coalition are making Gears of War 4 for release this October
  • Turn10 just launched Forza Motorsport 6 and as well as releasing DLC for that are presumably partnering with Playground Games for Forza Horizon 3 this holiday with Forza Motorsport 7 due in 2017
  • Rare are making Sea of Thieves which is due for release in 2016
  • Mojang make Minecraft and that isn’t even exclusive to Xbox

Microsoft have a long list of partner studios (more here) but unless they have some internal studios that they havent announced and have kept incredibly well under wraps they’re going to need new partnerships or to keep going with current long-term partners, I think this is an interesting strategy although curiously its at odds with what a lot of publishers are doing – Ubisoft, Electronic Arts for example are primarily moving development internally, we’ll have to see who Microsoft have managed to get as partners.

This isn’t too much of an E3 predictions list, more the obvious structure and how that will pan out, the conference has a schedule I think we can do well to predict.

Games

ReCore (Armature Studios/Comcept)

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Announced at E3 2015 and due for release in Spring 2016, ReCore has remained a mystery and will almost certainly get an unveiling in June and possibly a release date for not long after. I’m expecting something open-world with dynamic weather, crafting, some sort of online functionality but not necessarily specifically multiplayer.

Im excited to see what Armature have got to show us.

Scalebound (Platinum Games)

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Quantum Break skipped E3 twice for Gamescom, I think with the delay announced at the beginning of the year it’s very likely Scalebound will do the same thing – which it also did last year. Platinum are a developer with a great track record and Microsoft opting to give the game more time early on in development is a good move and when they next show it I hope it gets a big unveiling and looks even more awesome.

Crackdown 3 (Cloudgine/ReAgent Games/Sumo Digital)

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Microsoft’s wording on Crackdown 3 has been very specific, the multiplayer is due this summer (not even a beta mention) and that’s it, I think it can be reasonably assumed the full game with the campaign will launch at some point in 2017.

I’m wondering if the multiplayer will hit the Xbox Store in Xbox Game Preview to get feedback and making improvements to the cloud tech they are utilising as they push towards the final launch, it could well be delayed beyond Summer too but you never know.

Sea of Thieves (Rare)

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Rare’s big new IP, they’ve teased it a lot on twitter with some gifs, pictures and giveaways but have yet to show it off in any amount of real depth yet. I’m not so sure a 2016 launch would be a very good idea for the game if it comes in the busy holiday period so I’m anticipating a delay to early 2017 but I still expect them to give it a good demo at E3 to give people an idea of what exactly the game in and how you and your friends will be plundering treasure islands and running your ship.

Forza Horizon 3 (Playground Games/Turn10 Studios)

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Probably the most obvious announcement possible at the show but one that is very welcome with the fanbase FH1/2 have built. What location could they go for? Something urban, a new country or continent? Who knows! There is a specific Forza Motorsport showcase later in the day as well so I wonder if we’re getting another Motorsport expansion and maybe they will use that to show people more of Horizon 3 as well.

Halo Wars 2 (Creative Assembly/343 Industries)

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The sequel to the best Halo game to date (bait!) will be interesting to see what their plans are for it and how close it stays to the original. I’m expecting this to be their November release, it makes a lot of sense because it’s not going to be competing with the likes of COD due to being an RTS and I think the Windows 10 audience will buy it regardless of that – assuming its good which I hope it will be.

I expect a gameplay demo although I don’t think its the sort of game that would demo well on a conference stage, just show some new units, maps and if there are any new factions playable (Prometheans? Flood?) and people will be happy, maybe there will be a beta or something too

Gears of War 4 (The Coalition/Splash Damage)

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Microsoft’s biggest and best current franchise (more bait) is back and Rod won’t let us down. The beta was great and showed off their plans for the competitive multiplayer scene, now we need to see the co-op mode and campaign.

Horde has yet to be confirmed but has been hinted at, if they’re waiting for a grand unveil E3 is a great place to do that. The campaign is going to get a proper demo, the E3 2015 one isn’t a level specifically in the game now so they’ll show us something new and how all the new enemies work, co-op play and I suspect there will be a tease for the main man Marcus Fenix in there too.

New games?

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Microsoft will have new games, the only issue is its hard to see looking from the outside in where they will come from, they did well to keep partnerships with Armature/Comcept secret for ReCore and also Creative Assembly for Halo Wars 2, what else have Phil, Shannon and co been keeping on the down low?

We know a sequel to State of Decay is due, quite what its going to be like is unclear, Undead Labs have just made a newsletter with the second mailing going out just after E3, its perhaps an outside bet but next month represents 3 years since the original launched.

Ori and the Blind Forest was a great success for Moon Studios and Microsoft, the physical edition launches the day after the E3 show, rather convenient timing? Moon have new projects underway and I think this year we’ll get an idea of one of them – if its for Microsoft. I think an Ori sequel at some point is an obvious one but they have also played around with new IP concepts so it could either be more Ori or something new, personally i’d like to see what else they can do and comeback to Ori after that.

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Could Microsoft have rekindled partnerships with some developers they’ve worked with in the past? Insomniac? Crytek? Certain Affinity? Ruffian? Mistwalker? Access Games? Frontier? Capcom Vancouver? Double Fine? Grounding Inc? Harmonix? Epic Games? FromSoftware?

It’s also possible they have new partners, when trying to rack my brains on who exist let alone, the ones that spring to mind are: Ready At Dawn, Obsidian, Yager, Human Head, People Can Fly, Ninja Theory, Turtle Rock, Techland, United Front Games…

I’m not suggesting Microsoft have any partnerships with these studios above but when looking at who they could partner with theres are two questions to be asked: 1) Who would let Microsoft own the IP to the games they make, which Microsoft really want to do? Since Perfect World took over Gigantic publishing Microsoft now own every IP they have coming. 2) Of those above who even has the capacity to make an exclusive for them? Obsidian are busy with Paradox and a F2P game, Insomniac have a lot of VR games in development, the list goes on.

It’s an interesting situation, not to mention any smaller games Microsoft could have from non-AAA developers which will widen the net even further. It’s an exciting prospect really, I hope they surprise us with some interesting games.

3rd party exclusives

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Microsoft may have one (or two), my personal opinion is that they should focus on newer IPs or older franchises that could do with the help and support of a reboot, as well as not picking anything that clashes with what they already have.

Tomb Raider was a good one because they don’t have a similar game, I wouldn’t personally go for Dead Rising 4 again because they have State of Decay which they need to keep building with Undead Labs and I don’t think another open-world zombie game would do much for them.

Things like Splinter Cell – a stealth game would be good as they don’t have a similar title, I’m not saying I want them to go out with the money hat and get stuff but its likely somewhere along the line they might have something and if so i’d rather it help broaden their range of genres and style of game than just keep within something they already have.

3rd party marketing

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They’ll have Battlefield 1 there, did they get Titanfall 2? Mass Effect Andromeda? Any other games from publishers, Sony are acquiring a lot of the big games for marketing deals but Microsoft will no doubt have some, they’re close to EA at the moment and have had deals with most other publishers recently too so I expect there will be a few there.

Backwards Compatibility and EA Access

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One of the same in this instance, whilst Battlefront and Need For Speed (2015) are rumoured to be joining the vault I expect we will get a lot of EA games hitting the vault, or announced for joining it in the future such as the rest of the Dead Space franchise, Mirrors Edge (360), Mass Effect 2/3 and other EA games on Xbox 360.

I also suspect Microsoft have been saving a few announcements for the show, with Deus Ex Human Revolution Directors Cut – the two disc re-release of Eidos Montreal’s hit being the first multi-disc game to work I think we can expect to see more titles coming in the near future such as the much requested Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey among others.

Perhaps these will be spread between E3 and Gamescom a bit but Rockstar’s titles must surely be coming soon too? Red Dead Redemption was playable on Xbox One following a leak and they’ve been very supportive of PS2 classics on PS4, I don’t see why they would be against Xbox 360 games on Xbox One. Red Dead, GTA, Max Payne, LA Noire, Bully, Midnight Club, Table Tennis would all be good candidates to join BC, hopefully it happens soon.

ID@Xbox

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It’s an easy section to put in, I’m sure Chris Charla and co have been putting in lots of hard work to get quality content for the program, Cuphead, Ashen, Below are the big ones with Below due this summer, perhaps MS will give it one last conference appearance.

Some more Game Preview titles are due as well.

Windows 10

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To add this section in, I don’t expect Microsoft to announce much here that is specific to Windows 10 and by that I mean I don’t expect a large amount of ports to be announced but their games going forward will be on Xbox consoles and Windows 10, I’m sure the likes of Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3 and Scalebound will get that treatment, maybe even a Halo The Master Chief Collection Windows 10 announcement

OS and Hardware

Operating System

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Improvements to My Games & Apps, Background Music, Xbox Store merging with the Windows Store, Cortana among other things are all due at some point, I don’t know how many of these will come around at the same time but hopefully they are all due in the next few months. I don’t expect a big OS change-up again but they will continue to add new features, perhaps this won’t specifically be at E3 but either side of the conference instead.

Hardware

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This is where the ship has sprung a few leaks: A slim is due, as well as a chrome cast competitor and Apple TV competitor as well as the fabled Scorpio although these could be spread among the next year or longer.

A slim is obvious, particularly if they want to rebrand, Microsoft have recently filed new trademarks for their Xbox logo (both the silver/green version and black/white version) although I couldn’t see anything specific in the differences, a new box fits with this and hopefully has a nice price. A new controller is also rumours, I’m not sure if there will be any significant changes to it but maybe some more tweaks like the 2015 version.

I just want the slim to be smaller (which is a given?), Tom Warren mentioned a new Xbox that was 40% smaller, that would be a good size reduction.

The Chromecast competitor will be interesting particularly if it has streaming from Xbox to the device with the Xbox controller able to connect to it and be playable, if it doesn’t have that sort of functionality I’m not sure about its purpose though, with all the big streaming apps available on Xbox, if it uses the Windows Store (which it will) then it will be a useful and hopefully inexpensive device.

I’m not sure about the Apple TV competitor and its role, play some Windows Store games? I don’t know if that’s worth it particularly if they have a pretty premium price of $150 but we’ll see what they have.

scorpio

The big one is Scorpio, will they or won’t they? If its Spring 2017 I think they just might, if its further out I don’t think they will and nor should they. I also wonder how they position that? They can’t announce a Scorpio and show all the games at the show on that instead, but then I’m not sure it’s really a good idea to show all their games on Xbox One and be like “btw the 4x in power Scorpio is due in 2017, get hyped!”, they will need to consider this carefully, I probably wouldn’t announce until later.

We’ll have to see what MS have got planned at E3, I think and hope it’ll be a great show with some good unveil for both software and hardware, new games are the most exciting thing for me and i’ll pick up a slim console if the Scorpio is a 2017 release.