Every year in June, the video game industry heads to Los Angeles for a week of showmanship at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Companies debut their upcoming software and hardware, allowing the press and those with industry credentials to get a sneak peak at what they have to offer.
The highlight of every E3 is undoubtedly the press conferences that kick off the show. Publishers and platform holders typically each hold a 1-2 hour press conference packed with announcements and live stream them to fans around the world. Today, I’m welcoming Brendon from casual conversations back to share his predictions for the Microsoft E3 press conference…
Recently, E3 has been a somewhat fickle beast for the good ship Microsoft. From plunging into the depths of gaming ire with the unveiling of the Xbox One to riding the high seas of last year’s backwards compatibility surprise, the Microsoft console has certainly seen its share of ups and downs.
With Phil Spencer at the helm of the Xbox brand, Microsoft has fought hard to earn its way back into the hearts and minds of hardcore and casual gamers alike. Last year’s renewed focus on games and gamers alike was a huge step forward, but will Microsoft be able to continue that momentum?
Spoiler alert: I think so and here are my predictions on how Microsoft will pull it off…
Xbox One Slim/Xbox One Upgrade
First, let us tackle the elephant in room. Will we see a remodeled Xbox One at E3? No. We will see two.
When the Xbox One was originally announced, Microsoft touted its inclusion of hardware that had the potential to allow developers to use memory more efficiently at a lower manufacturing cost and while that was a mighty fine theory, it went over like a lead balloon. They then followed that up with a one-way ticket to an online only future and $500 price tag, cementing their place in console gaming infamy.
Since then, the Xbox One has had to battle the perception (and often reality) that it cannot do the things that the superior hardware found in the PS4 are capable of doing. The only way to fix that? Iterate on your console and make a better one without harming the progress made by the previous version. No easy task, but one that several industries have undertaken with great success.
My prediction here, which is really more of a “reading the tea leaves” scenario, is that Microsoft will release a new Xbox Slim later this year, followed up by a new and improved model next year. Here’s my wrinkle: While the 2017 console will certainly be a beefier and more capable version of the current Xbox One, the Xbox Slim will focus on digital downloads and streaming games. Which brings me to my next prediction…
Xbox Cloud Reborn
Ever since we first heard about the Xbox One and all of its online functionality, we have also heard about Microsoft’s cloud tech and virtual servers. Gamers have heard this song and dance so many times that it has become a sore subject and often a topic of ridicule. However, while Microsoft has retreated from these buzz words, they have still been hard at work trying to implement their cloud services into their everyday existence with companies like GE and NBC buying in on the tech. This year, I believe Xbox will finally dip its toes into the realm of streaming games, perhaps starting with backwards compatibility for original Xbox titles.
Ever since Satya Nadella took over, Microsoft has been all about brand synergy and creating universal platforms for apps and services. Xbox One has already started to assimilate some of these services (Windows 10 dashboard, universal app platform, etc.) and that trend will continue when Phil Spencer announces nearly full integration with Windows 10 in this year’s big dashboard update. With Cortana expected to roll out in the coming months, expect the ability to download Windows 10 PC apps to join the fray this fall.
These apps, along with games like Quantum Break and the Forza series, will lead the charge for a universal platform between Windows PCs and Xbox One that will fully realize the vision that the “Steam machine” was supposed fulfill for Valve.
Halo 5: DLC
In my opinion, 343i and Microsoft have taken the best approach to post release DLC for a multiplayer title and have made all content completely free to all of its players. This way the player base is not split up into the typical haves and have nots, and those who wish to speed up their unlocks progress can buy “card packs” to get more pieces of gear that add a visual flair, leaving gameplay untouched.
However, single-player DLC is another matter altogether and I fully expect that we will be getting a new story from 343i that focuses on what Blue Team is doing while you’re playing as Fireteam Osiris in Halo 5. Overall, Locke and company were met with a rather tepid response and I believe that this expansion, a la ODST, will not only make fans forget that Halo 5 was 20% Master Chief/80% that dude who plays Luke Cage, but will also bridge the gap to Halo 6, which would then release three years after Halo 5. This title could also act a sort of tech demo in disguise for an updated Xbox One and give players a glimpse at what better hardware could do with something familiar.
Alan Wake 2
If you have played Quantum Break, you have undoubtedly run into the Alan Wake Return teaser, and if you have not…well you are playing a Remedy game the wrong way. Fans of the original Alan Wake may recall that “Return” was a manuscript that Alan could collect in one of the game’s DLCs. Combine this piece of evidence with the recent release of Alan Wake 2 test footage and throw everything Same Lake has said about Alan Wake Return not being a thing, and what do you get? Alan Wake 2, coming 2018.
Dates, Dates, Dates
Microsoft has a number of games that need dates and I think we are about to get flooded. Here are my predictions:
Crackdown (Multiplayer starts this summer, game launches in September 2016)
ReCore (pushed back to 2017)
Cuphead (available after the Microsoft briefing)
Inside (available this summer, along with return of “Summer of Arcade”)
Sea of Thieves (November 2016)
Odds and Ends
Here are some quick hit predictions:
- Scalebound is shown, but no date is announced.
- Phantom Dust lives and its coming summer 2017.
- Phil Spencer continues his commitment towards new IP and announces a new title.
- Dead Rising 4 will be teased and it will be an Xbox exclusive.
- HoloLens is nowhere to be found.
I’d like to send a sincere thanks to Brendon for sharing his XBOX E3 2016 predictions with Non-Linear Gaming! For more of Brendon’s opinions on gaming (and sports), follow him on Twitter!