On a new day, Sunday afternoon, Xbox has their most important press conference of the past few years, in what it looks like a make or break one. Looking to reveal the highly anticipated Project Scorpio, address the lack of first-party titles and the assumption that there are no real meaningful games on the platform. And unlike last year, no leaks have surfaced regarding their revelations. So, what can we expect from the Xbox this year?
First things first, the moment that can help define the brand for the next year, Project Scorpio, or the most powerful console ever made. We’ll probably see the final design of the console, that according to reports may have a similar one to the One S. We’ll find out the release date, I’d guess September, to be launched with Forza 7, and the tricky part, the price.
If it’s 499,00 it shows a company that’s thinking about differentiating it, displaying to the market that it is a premium product. However, it creates a space in which PlayStation could lower the price of the PS4 Pro to 349,00, in a situation impossible to compete, given the price difference. If I were them, I’d eat the loss, and would bring it at 399,00, being a powerful demonstration to the market that they are here not only to compete, but to win. But a Ferrari isn’t anything without gas, and a console isn’t anything without games.
Talking about games, we expect to hear more about the exclusives promised by Phil Spencer. And here I’ll try to separate some possibilities and some guesses regarding First, Third-party and Indie titles that may appear in the conference.
First – party
343 Industries – Halo Spin-off or Perfect Dark Reboot
They have announced that they won’t show the new Halo, but instead they’ll show something else. Maybe it is a 10-year anniversary edition of Halo 3. But I prefer to think that it may be a spin-off title of the Halo series, something like Halo Reach, but in another genre, maybe a third-person shooter.
There’s been rumors regarding the possibility of 343 creating a new IP or a Perfect Dark for the Xbox One. Personally, I find it a great idea, it could become a way to use something from their back catalogue to become another staple for the brand. A female-lead FPS is very rare to find in the market, and 343 has proved to be able to produce quality titles, and they could change the setting so it won’t overlap with Halo. But in the end, I think they’ll just talk about Halo Wars 2 DLC.
Rare – Sea of Thieves and New Banjo, Possibly
Sea of Thieves looks like one of the most promising titles for the platform, after all, it could become a profitable game as a service, something that Phil Spencer has been talking a lot about in the media. The team-based structure with a strong multiplayer focus could reap benefits to the console, representing the resurrection of Rare as we used to know: an innovative and beloved company.
Tests have been happening and from what can be seen around the web, the reception has been very positive. It could become of a surprise, if it manages to keep players engaged for a long time, with a robust update strategy, producing new content, missions, places to explore. But most multiplayer centric titles have failed to do that, with the vast majority becoming ghost towns after a few months.
Few games like Destiny had legs for years, and who knows, Sea of Thieves could become a tentpole franchise for the brand, however it’s facing an uphill battle. Another project is currently being developed at Rare, and there’s been talks that it is Battletoads, but I can think of another studio more suited for it, that I’ll talk about a little later. Rumors of a return of Banjo have surfaced after a tweet from the creator of the franchise hinting at a possible reveal, but at least this year we might not hear much, only a teaser, as it wouldn’t make sense to overflow the audience with Rare projects, as it could confuse the audience.
Turn 10 – Forza Motorsport 7
Another year comes and another Forza will be revealed, and unless a surprise happens, Forza Motorsport 7 will likely come out this year. In a very different situation than when 6 was unveiled, as the smaller brother of the Horizon spin-off, that received critical acclaim and sold extremely well, being regarded as one of the best games of last year, and one of the best racing games ever.
Mainly because while the spin-off series always brings innovations, rain, snow, interesting DLC’s as the Hot Wheels for Horizon 3, the Motorsport series seems to be always one step behind. I’d guess that the biggest innovation will be more racers online, 4K, and snow, and if that is all, they will continue as the inferior Forza game.
Reagent Games – Crackdown 3
The one game that can become their main Fall game is Crackdown 3, and after years of silence around the game, it looks like they’ll come with guns blazing at E3. A franchise that received some love in the 360 generation, but never reached the stratosphere, Crackdown comes back with the original director, and a promise to use the power of the cloud, fast-paced, heroic action.
It will work as a gamble for them, and I’d say that it will be the game which they try to push as the face of Scorpio. A beautiful open-world, a gameplay based on destruction is perfect to show the power of the machine, and if successful, can be instrumental to the success of the platform. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came with a new name, either removing the 3 or with a subtitle, looking to release it with a clean slate.
The Coalition – Gears of War 4 DLC
They will make an appearance, but unless they bring a new IP this will probably be about DLC for Gears of War 4, maybe a story one, looking to develop on the story told, maybe enhancing some side characters. But other than that, it doesn’t look like it will blow people away, but we can always hope.
Undead Labs – State of Decay 2
Even though it comes from a second-party studio, State of Decay 2 is being treated like first-party, set to be much bigger and expansive than the first entry in the franchise. The studio has more employees now, a bigger investment from Microsoft, appearing to be a bet of the company as a Fall lineup title. With a more complex world, mechanics and moving towards a AAA level, expecting to repeat the success of the first one and improve on it.
My personal bet would be that the indie exclusives will be part of a sale highlighting them, like what Summer of Arcade would do. My bet would go on a lineup with Below, Tacoma, We Happy Few, Cuphead and a Battletoads reboot. Going a little further, I’d say that their indie highlight reel will be composed of games present in the sale.
Moon Studios – Ori 2 or Battletoads
Here’s where Battletoads comes to me, and it may sound strange, but bear with me. Can you think of any other studio with better credentials to do it? Ori and the Blind Forest was a beautiful platformer, that had a Metroidvania structure, was just stunning, recognized for its quality and difficulty. I can’t think of better of better characteristics for any studio to work on it, it doesn’t even have to have a Metroidvania structure.
Let’s face it, the Battletoads franchise isn’t as important as people like to remember, it’s not a juggernaut. And releasing it as a 2D platformer with 3D elements is the safest and most reasonable way to do it. It would be a nice answer after Phil Spencer’s E3 shirt. And if that doesn’t happen, we can get a new Ori.
The Fullbright Company – Tacoma
The second game of The Fullbright Company, Tacoma, has the hard task to follow Gone Home, a revered indie game that reached the mainstream through its remarkable storytelling. An exclusive for the Xbox One, it would fit beautifully in the summer.
Set in a space station, it shows some unique gameplay elements, and a heavy focus on storytelling. It was scheduled to be released in 2016, but was delayed in order to change some areas the developers weren’t happy with. We can expect the final release date this E3.
Compulsion Games – We Happy Few
The biggest surprise of last year, We Happy Few might come back with a gameplay demo, or a trailer of the story mode. After being part of the preview program, we’ll probably find out the release date of this long-awaited indie game.
Capybara Games – Below
Dark Souls with an isometric view, that’s how Below has been defined. From the studio behind Super Time Force, Below has had a troubled development, with several delays. To the point that the studio has announced that they would only talk about a date when they were certain. And I think this E3 will be their last chance to garner some attention to their title, without the fear of tiring the consumer, that has heard about it for years. Sometimes you just must release it and don’t think about it.
StudioMDHR – Cuphead
Cuphead, an indie darling, that received a lot of attention not only from the media, but also by fans, mainly due to its unique visual style, is scheduled to return to the Microsoft stage. Although the hype has certainly decreased, as what happened to Below, due to a prolonged exposure, Cuphead should be released in the next few months.
Third – party
Splinter Cell (Exclusive?)
This is a guess that for some reason looks very feasible, mainly due to a fairly recent history of the franchise. Splinter Cell: Conviction was a console exclusive for the 360, and I believe this story could be repeated here. Blacklist wasn’t an overwhelming success, with the franchise ever since being dormant, so if Microsoft decided to finance a sequel, that could become a real possibility. And it would fill a void in the company’s catalogue, something that Phil Spencer always talks about. Who knows a reboot might be coming.
Ninja Gaiden (Again, exclusive?)
Another dormant franchise since 2014, the Ninja Gaiden series has a history the brand before, with 2004’s Ninja Gaiden being originally exclusive to the OG Xbox. After Nioh’s success, Microsoft must be paying close attention considering bringing a hack n’ slash to their audience.
An alleged leak of this year’s conference referred to a title from the franchise coming exclusively to the console. Spencer himself acknowledged on Twitter his awareness of the desire of the Xbox audience earlier this year. Although it’s all circumstantial, it wouldn’t really come as a surprise if it happened.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
With the marketing agreement, we’ll probably see an extended gameplay of the first game announced to the Scorpio. We should find out more about the story and the Nemesis system in the demo.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
As reported by the reliable insider Shinobi, Microsoft closed a marketing agreement with a massive IP, and this looks like the most probable choice. It would be a great stage to show the comeback of the franchise, that skipped a year, in order to further polish the title, in what looks like a reboot.
CD Projekt Red claims that they are focusing on Gwent, but a teaser wouldn’t hurt anybody, only make them go crazy.
Rumors say that it will have a significant appearance at Microsoft’s conference, and it does feel like the right time to do it.
Studio Gobo – Not Yet Known
The studio behind the Disney Infinity playset announced a partnership with Microsoft for an exclusive game, and some job openings gave us some hints regarding what the project could be about. A third-person AAA action game, that may be a free-to-play based on a famous IP. Could it be a Halo game, Gears, or based on a property from other medium? There are no real hints, but it is the most mysterious and exciting project we may see.
Some Predictions and 1 Crazy Thing I’d Like to See
- One or two free games given, as what happened in the past few years.
- Sunset Overdrive 2 announced, will be released February 2018.
- Skate 4 on stage following reveal at EA’s conference.
- OG Xbox backwards compatibility announced.
- Marvel announces an exclusive game for the platform, my bets: Iron Man, Captain America or The Avengers.
- Dino Crisis reboot or exclusive Capcom game.
- Possible Obsidian AAA exclusive.
- thatgamecompany’s new game announced.
- Dino Crisis reboot exclusive for Xbox.
1 Crazy Thing I’d Like to See: Phil Spencer with an IO shirt revealing they bought the studio and the Hitman Franchise.