We finish our look at next week’s E3 conference with Microsoft. With public opinion against them long before the reveal of their Xbox One console, Microsoft have it all to do to win back the hardcore gamer. We take a look at how they might do that…
1st Party Games
Expect Microsoft to go big on games at E3. They’ve already announced that they have 15 exclusive games in development for Xbox One, which is more games in active development from their own studios than ever before. With Microsoft’s show due to last 90 minutes, and with space being given to their partners, we’re not going to see all 15 of these titles – it’s a lot of games! Microsoft Studios current line-up is for the Xbox One’s first 12 months, so we’ll see 5 or 6 of them that are due for release by May 2014 at this E3 with the others announced closer to their late 2014 launches.
So, what will we see from Microsoft? Forza 5 and new IP Quantum Break have already been announced, so expect a longer look at those – we’ll see hands-on play for the former as well as a look at new modes (probably social heavy) and we’ll get a better idea of just how Quantum Break’s gameplay will mesh with its TV storylines. Also already announced is Ryse from Crytek – this, of course, was a Kinect-only title due for release on 360 ages ago but has now been confirmed as an Xbox One launch title. Expect this to look very different from the last time we saw it, and expect a lot of time given to it – especially if it uses Kinect in a major way.
So, we can safely count on Forza 5, Quantum Break and Ryse so far. What else? Microsoft will want to have a game for every genre and Lionhead have been very quiet of late. Fable IV should be revealed at E3 – a family friendly, huge-selling, well-known RPG that will likely make some use of both the Xbox One’s Kinect and cloud capabilities. Lionhead have been working on this since 2010, and it will be the first Fable game without the input of Peter Molyneux. Rumours have been swirling that it will be an MMO, we’ll find out soon.
Microsoft will want a FPS of their own for launch, but we’d be amazed to see Halo 5 ready. While we wont rule out seeing an appearance from Master Chief (probably in a Halo 5 teaser trailer at the of the conference, for release in 2014), it’s more likely to see something from new super-studio Black Tusk. Created by Microsoft to concentrate on AAA next-gen titles for Xbox One, we reckon we’ll see them debut a new FPS franchise. Zombie themed? Rumours would say yes, but Black Tusk’s website and font styles give off a distinct sci-fi feel.
Another Microsoft Studio that has been suspiciously quiet is Rare. Having been relegated to making Kinect-only titles for the last few years, Phil Spencer (head of Microsoft Studios) has confirmed we’ll be seeing something from Rare and their “historic IPs” at E3. While new IP from the studio can’t be ruled out (8 our of the 15 games in development at MS are fresh IP), Killer Instinct seems likely – Microsoft do like to launch their new consoles with a fighter. We’d personally prefer to see new entries in the Jet Force Gemini, Conker, Viva Pinata or Banjo franchises but there you go.
That gives us 6 so far – and we’re likely to see a new fitness-style game for Kinect too. Sorry. Microsoft will want to show off the new capabilities of Kinect whenever possible and a fitness game is likely to do this. A new Dance Central too? Possibly. It’s a franchise with a good reputation and will entice the casual market. That’s where we think Microsoft’s own titles will end – Forza 5, Quantum Break, Ryse, Fable IV, Black Tusk FPS, Rare IP, a fitness game and possibly a new Dance Central – a great line-up with something from everyone. Don’t rule out a brief sizzle reel of titles for 2014 too, with a sneaky appearance of Halo 5. However, if these titles don’t float your boat there will be 3rd party titles on show too.
3rd Party Exclusives
While Microsoft are developing their own 1st party titles to match the output of Sony and Nintendo, rumour has it that they have been aggressively pursuing exclusive 3rd party titles too. Microsoft knows it needs to keep (and grow) its core base – even if they are billing the Xbox One as an “all-in-one” entertainment hub, they know it’ll be the gamers who’ll buy it first and get it into the homes – and securing AAA titles from the likes of EA and Japanese companies such as Capcom would be a huge coup. There have been plenty of rumours too.
Microsoft and EA are very friendly. Don Mattrick, head of the Xbox division at Microsoft, was head of EA. Peter Moore, current head-honcho at EA, used to be the games-man at Microsoft. EA often use Microsoft as a lead-platform and announce a lot of their titles through them – expect this to continue. As well as further looks at the EA Sports line-up (though this will mostly happen at EA’s own conference), we’re almost certain we’ll see Mirror’s Edge 2. Listings for the title have been popping up all over the internet of late and EA have always been keen to bring the title back. Will it be exclusive to Xbox One? Rumours say yes. As do the rumors concerning Respawn’s debut title, Titan. Respawn, set up by the creators of Call of Duty, have been working on Titan for a couple of years and is believed to be a fast action, mech-based FPS with big online features – exclusive to Xbox One. They will be revealed regardless of exclusivity, but if they are Microsoft will make a huge song and dance out of them (Titan has been rechristened Titanfall – and as we predicted, its Xbox One exclusive!).
Microsoft are still trying to break in Japan. Historically, they’ve struggled in the East despite throwing crazy money at Japanese developers (and getting criminally overlooked exclusive like Blue Dragon and Lost Oddessy back in return), but Microsoft aren’t a company that give up easily so expect more of the same. Anything could happen in this department; the Japanese games market has been struggling for a while and many studios are looking to grow in the West so a link-up with Microsoft could be mutually beneficial for many developers. We’re likely to see some presence from prestigious studios like Capcom, Square-Enix and Namco but exclusives will be thin on the ground. Elsewhere, we’re likely to see on-stage demo’s from old friends Ubisoft, while it would be a perfect time for Bethesda to unveil Fallout 4…
PR Disasters and Other Business
Away from the games (which we reckon WILL take up the majority of the 90-minute show) Microsoft will spend a little time trying to fix the disastrous PR fallout from their console reveal. While going big on exciting games of high quality will go some way to repair relations with gamers, Microsoft NEED to outline their plans for pre-owned, trade-ins, lending and borrowing games between friends, console and Xbox Live pricing points, and online usage as early in the show as possible. While a lot of their plans may end up being unpopular (or similar to their competitions) it would be better for all involved if Microsoft were to set the record straight once and for all. While Microsoft do have a potentially exciting vision for the future of gaming and entertainment, they need to realise a lot of gamers simply don’t have the means to follow yet and they can’t be left behind.
Not to be forgotten, Microsoft have promised big news for the 360. While there will be some games shown off for the console (expect a few cross-generation announcements), we think we’ll see a new, cheaper, smaller, digital-distribution only version of the console announced as a test bed for how popular this distribution model might be. Don’t be surprised to see Xbox Live for 360 get a shake-up too. While we expect a subscription-fee to continue for Xbox One, we’ll speculate it could be done away with for the 360. We could also be wrong.
Finally, while all this has been within the realms of reason there could well be some big surprises so we’ll take the opportunity to let our minds run free. SEGA will announce and Xbox One exclusive, voice controlled version of Football Manager which would make LFG editor Dave extremely happy, a new Deus Ex title will be revealed for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, the pre-owned and online issues will be explained and everyone will be wondering what the fuss was about and Rockstar will reveal a 6-month exclusive next-gen version of Grand Theft Auto 5 for Xbox One. The internet will explode.
– Dave Green. Follow him on Twitter and let him know how right or wrong he was @davidpgreen83