E3 2017: Microsoft Predictions

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We're a month away from E3, so it's high time we start getting hyped beyond any reasonable measure! All month long we will be making some predictions for each of the big E3 conferences, from Nintendo to Sony and beyond. Thankfully, Ubisoft managed to reveal their entire conference in a recent financial earnings call, so they've done that job for us.

Today, we're talking Microsoft! Heading into E3 2017, Microsoft's conference is without a doubt the most shrouded in mystery. With a huge console upgrade on the way and precious few AAA games to go along with it (for now), Microsoft should have a lot to bring to show-and-tell. That being said, Microsoft's conferences can also be somewhat predictable -- most of the time.

That's where this type of prognostication comes in. We'll be making a handful of (fairly) safe, yet bankable, predictions to give you an idea of what you can expect from the upcoming conference. Microsoft has a lot riding on this year's E3, having fallen so far behind the PS4 and losing a ton of the remaining mindshare to Nintendo. So we're hoping the company comes out guns-a-blazing! 

A Full Scorpio Reveal

This reveal is the only certainty heading into Microsoft's E3 showcase -- but it's also the most newsworthy, and arguably the most important. Just what is Project Scorpio? Well, it sounds like a lot more than a high-powered Xbox One.

Based solely on the innards of the machine, the Scorpio is a next-generation console. However, Microsoft has stressed that it won't have exclusive games, thus making it a machine that merely improves visuals and load times for current gen games. And that begs the question: Why does it need to exist? As is the case with the PS4 Pro, if the Scorpio is solely for visual enhancement, then it becomes a baffling waste of resources.

There are two alternative scenarios here: 

1. Microsoft is lying and the power will be used by developers, eventually leading to the standard Xbox One games running poorly and becoming obsolete. If you create a super powerful machine and developers create games for it, then attempt to scale it way down to work on the original Xbox One, chances are the game will not work properly. This happened with Hyrule Warriors on Nintendo 3DS and the New Nintendo 3DS - it ran very poorly on the older hardware, despite Nintendo saying that would never be the case.

2. All that extra power is secretly for use with Oculus VR. It's no secret that Microsoft has a partnership with Oculus, and all the extra power in the Scorpio could be used to make the Xbox One the best place to play the Oculus. Should that be the case, I think there will be a large amount of disappointed Xbox fans, especially considering Oculus is, so far, the least viable VR platform.

What the machine is, and its purpose, will be revealed sooner rather than later, along with an official release date and price. The latter is also a huge matter for Microsoft and fans -- considering the specs, conventional wisdom puts the price tag around $499 (at best), which makes it twice as expensive as its closest competitor. Microsoft is in a huge bind when it comes to revealing the Scorpio, which makes E3 all the more exciting.

More Details on Games Already Revealed

This prediction is as safe as can be: We will see more of the games we already know about. Here's a quick rundown of the major games we know about that should make an appearance at Microsoft's big show.

Forza Motorsport 7

Over the past several years, the Forza franchise has risen to the pinnacle of the racing genre. But for the first time in years, Gran Turismo is back with a major installment in the series. That doesn't mean there is any real pressure on Forza because the two series are exclusive to their respective consoles. However, It does mean that the spotlight will be on Forza Motorsport 7 for the first time in a while -- but I expect Turn 10 Studios to knock it out of the park.

Crackdown 3

Crackdown 3 was revealed two years ago, and we haven't seen anything of it since Gamescom that year. Based on the history of Xbox One games being revealed only to then disappear, this is a little worrisome. Generally, this absence can mean one of three things:

  1. The game had barely started development when it was shown at E3.
  2. The game is almost finished and it's being saved for a quick release.
  3. The game is in trouble and it's being hidden.

Each of these scenarios are equally plausible, and perhaps Microsoft has been saving Crackdown to really showcase the power of the Scorpio. However, if Crackdown skips this E3 as well, you should probably know that it's on the chopping board. Regardless, we will know soon.

Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves is an upcoming pirate-MMO from Rare. This game was also revealed at E3 2015 and was lauded as a return-to-form for the ex-Banjo Kazooie developer. Hands-on impressions of the game have been positive but it's difficult to see the game being a big success. That being said, it seems an open beta could be announced at E3 2017, as well as a nice new gameplay clip -- and hopefully a release date.

State of Decay 2

State of Decay 2 is going to be a big deal. Of all the Xbox One games on this list, State of Decay 2 is by far the most exciting. The original State of Decay was a great video game, albeit with a few issues that held it back. This is the reason I expect the sequel to be a fantastic game that builds upon the best elements of the original.

The original title is probably the closest you can get to a true The Walking Dead/zombie survival experience. Undead Labs has hopefully fixed a lot of the bugs from the first game while introducing new gameplay mechanics and better graphics. And that's about all State of Decay 2 needs to be.

Frankly, Microsoft does not have a lot of great games on its roster right now. In fact, I can't recall any time when the Xbox's upcoming slate was this poor. The system badly needs a big new game, especially considering both Halo and Gears of War are no longer the mega-selling franchises they used to be. And with Sony nabbing high-performing exclusives like Horizon Zero Dawn and Nioh, Microsoft really needs to step up its game. 

New IPs

Without a shadow of a doubt -- even more so than the Scorpio reveal -- the most important thing Microsoft can do at this year's E3 is reveal a new IP. The Xbox One needs at least one new game series very, very badly.

Taking a quick look back, and hindsight being what it is, I think it's fair to say that Microsoft has bungled exclusives all generation long. At first, we had Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Forza Motorsport 5 -- all good games, but nothing mind-blowing. Then came the atrocious launch of the Master Chief Collection, the fun Sunset Overdrive, and the promising Titfanfall.

We didn't know at the time, but Titanfall set a precedent for things to come: Microsoft paid a lot of money for exclusive rights to a game and it ended up selling poorly, thus forcing the developer to put the next game on the PS4 as well. We've seen that happen with Titanfall 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider (kinda), and games from both Insomniac and Remedy.

The pattern here is very clear: Microsoft doesn't have the resources to develop exclusives and instead pays experienced developers to make games for the Xbox One -- which don't sell well. Microsoft only has a handful of internal development teams, and they have been quite literally forced to work on the same franchises year-in year-out: Halo and Gears of War. On a podcast with IGN this year, Xbox head Phil Spencer admitted that creating a development studio takes a lot of work, money and time, so expecting a talented team to appear from nowhere is unlikely.

On a podcast with IGN this year, Xbox head Phil Spencer admitted that creating a development studio takes a lot of work, money, and time, so expecting a talented team to appear from nowhere is unlikely.What does this mean going forward? It means Microsoft sure-as-hell better have an ace up its sleeve. Should we get a new IP reveal at E3 this year, it's most likely going to be another second-party exclusive that Microsoft paid for. One very possible scenario is a

One very possible scenario is a Marvel-superheroes game. Marvel has stormed the industry recently, announcing partnerships with Insomniac, Telltale, and Square Enix -- and one of those announcements is a PS4 exclusive Spider-Man game. That partnership could very well lead to a similar deal with Microsoft and a yet-unknown developer. Maybe at E3 Microsoft will reveal an exclusive Iron Man game or X-Men or Fantastic Four. There's a lot of possibilities there.

Barring any partnership with Marvel, Microsoft needs a new IP that rounds out its exclusive line-up. Right now, it has two shooters and a racing game -- not counting Crackdown, Sea of Thieves, or State of Decay. What does the studio need in order to better compete with Sony? Well, Rise of the Tomb Raider was intended to rival Uncharted, but failed to do so both in commercial success and quality. So the obvious answer is an open-world RPG, akin to Fables or Horizon: Zero Dawn.

Cuphead & ID@Xbox

Where the hell is Cuphead? That's a question that's been floating around for a couple of years -- and still no answer.

This highly-anticipated game was revealed at E3 2014, a reported four years into its development (It's worth mentioning that the game started life under the development of two brothers, but now the team consists of almost 20 people).

Cuphead is a side-scrolling shooter -- like Megaman on steroids, with the art-style of a 1930's cartoon. The game is beautiful and was originally intended to be entirely made up of boss fights. But based on fan adoration, Microsoft decided to fund the developers to make the game significantly larger. So the team set about adding in platforming sections, which have, unfortunately, demoed poorly. Now the game is due for release this year and, surely to God, we will get an official release date at E3.

Aside from Cuphead, the ID@Xbox program will inevitably make a return this year to showcase all of its upcoming indie games. We Happy Few, Below, and Tacoma are just a handful of announced games for the Xbox One, with no full release dates as of yet. These games should be showcased at E3, alongside a handful of exciting new titles to play.

Halo 6

Halo 5: Guardians released in October 2015 to a decent reception from fans and critics alike, holding a respectable 84% on Metacritic. That being said, the game didn't sell quite as well as past entries -- and it seems that the adoration and reverence for this series is waning fast. Regardless, it seems all but certain that Microsoft's E3 2017 will close with a trailer for the next installment in the franchise, despite the studio saying it won't make an appearance.

It was reported a while back that Halo 6 will feature Master Chief as the sole protagonist, with no other playable characters. This comes as a surefire song to the ears of Halo fans everywhere, as the series has often gotten bogged down with secondary characters like Locke. For a while, it even seemed like developer 343i wanted to replace Chief with Locke going forward. Thankfully, it sounds like that idea has been scrapped.

Halo 6 will definitely make the Xbox's upcoming slate sound a lot better, not to mention it could be a showcase for the graphical power of the Scorpio. 343 Industries has said that Halo 6 will not appear at E3, but developers often lie about these kinds of things, and it's hard to imagine Microsoft not pushing for a CG trailer at the very least.

That wraps up our predictions for Microsoft's E3 2017 showcase. Nothing too crazy, but we're hoping Microsoft really surprises us this year.

The tech giant has a ton of ground to make up if it wants to keep competing with PlayStation and Nintendo, as its console is currently trailing in sales to PS4, and in mindshare to both. The importance of this E3 for Microsoft cannot be understated -- the company needs to prove to fans that there are new exciting games on the way, and at least a few good reasons to buy the Scorpio.

I think it would be hyperbolic to say that this is a make-or-break E3 for the Xbox One. The console has still sold very respectably -- but as far as selling the Scorpio and being a part of the console wars conversation again, it's a little less hyperbolic. As the saying goes, "pressure makes diamonds". And E3 2017 will prove if Microsoft crumbles or becomes a diamond.

What can Microsoft do to win gamers hearts at this E3? Would you be happy with a partnership with Oculus? Want to be blown away by the Scorpio? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

Make sure to check out our other E3 predictions: 

Published May. 10th 2017

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