Microsoft have it all to do at this year’s E3. They’re once more the underdog in a landscape increasingly dominated by Japanese heavyweights, and as anyone that’s watched Rocky, or…. erm, The Mighty Ducks, that’s when you can catch them by surprise.
All our predictions are below, but perhaps you think yourself a better soothsayer and crystal ball gazer than us? Try you hand at our annual E3 Bingo!
At this point it can almost go without saying that Microsoft’s entire conference will revolve around the public unveiling of their upgraded Project Scorpio console. We already know an awful lot about the console, with it having been announced at E3 2016 alongside Microsoft’s broad goals and statements of intent, and then they revealed the system’s final specs a couple months ago.
A further customised 2.3Ghz take on the Xbox One’s CPU, 40 compute units clocked at 1172Mhz in the GPU and a whopping 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, it’s a beast that seems well suited to meeting Microsoft’s desire of native 4K gaming. Fascinatingly, the Project Scorpio dev kits go even further than that.
However, as Microsoft are all set to take over the mantle of having “the most powerful console ever made”, there’s still a lot for them to tell us. We’ll get our first look at the finalised retail hardware, we’re pretty likely to find out its real name, its release date and just how much we can expect to pay for all this 4K gaming goodness.
Of course, all of that needs to be backed up by games – why have a 4K console with nothing to play on it? – and that’s what the rest of the show will have to be dedicated to.
Forza Motorsport 7
Microsoft’s release schedule has become fairly easy to read in recent years, with a number of regularly occurring game series. One thing we know for certain is that we’re due for the next outing in the fantastic sim-racing series Forza. Given that the early tech demos for Scorpio have already shown Forza Motorsport running at native 4K, Forza 7 will be a key launch title for the new console this Christmas, likely going head to head with Polyphony Digital’s GT Sport on PS4.
Crackdown 3 and Sea of Thieves
Exclusives haven’t exactly been forthcoming on Xbox One this year, with only Halo Wars 2 causing the mildest of ripples in the release pond, but the long in development Crackdown 3 and Rare’s Sea of Thieves will hopefully be confirmed for arrival in 2017.
The Crackdown games have always been a hell of a lot of fun – who doesn’t want to be able to bound from building to building? – and the third instalment is set to carry that on. There are any number of unanswered questions about it, not least of which being whether it’s still the first true example of “the power of the cloud” or whether it’ll now be all about the power of Scorpio, but if it retains the original game’s sense of fun then either way it’ll be a real treat for Xbox One owners.
Sea of Thieves meanwhile is coming from Rare, though it’s worth remembering that many of the team that made the studio what it is are no longer there. Still, the first-person piratical adventure does at least look interesting, and could be an awful lot of fun in co-op, though perhaps not with the screaming and shouting that was shown last year. It’s spent the early parts of this year in closed alpha testing, but that will hopefully be followed by a more public beta test and release.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Halo 6 and Halo 3 Anniversary
Alas, here we are already scratching names of our list. While we’d love to see Lara Croft return and an unveiling of the rumoured Shadow of the Tomb Raider (timed exclusive or not), that’s already been ruled out by Tomb Raider Senior Community Manager Meagan Marie. “This will be a quiet E3 for Lara,” she said back in May, “but we’re looking forward to catching up on her new adventure later this year.”
It’s a similar story for fans of Halo, who might have expected Halo 3’s 10th anniversary to be celebrated or the announcement of Halo 6. 343 Community Manager Brian Jarred exclaimed “OMG stop. There is no Halo 3 Anniversary,” in the middle of May, as well as stating that while they will have “a little something at E3 but it’s not related to the next major entry in the series.”
With Scorpio coming out, it would still make more than a little sense to have Halo leading the charge in some way. That could be as simple as announcing a Scorpio update for Halo 5, but they might also sprinkle a little love for the PC community here with a PC release – they did, after all, treat PC gamers to a remaster of Halo Wars: Definitive Edition.
Unveil Some New IP
If any of the big three need some new IP announcements, it’s Microsoft. Not just that, it needs to be compelling enough to override the wealth of experiences that are both already available and coming soon to the PlayStation 4, and indeed to the Nintendo Switch, which has to be taken into the equation now.
With a number of high profile cancellations over the last few years, Microsoft have struggled with expanding their line-up of first party titles, and their core games have remained more of less the same since the Xbox 360. They might be fantastic, but it’s time to introduce some fresh blood into the mix. Now is both the perfect opportunity to do so, with a gap in the Gears of War-Halo duopoly on Xbox action gaming, and the only real chance to provide a number of compelling and attractive games for Scorpio’s launch at the end of this year.
Hololens and Augmented Reality
With even Apple hopping onto the augmented reality bandwagon, there’s further weight to the assertion that Hololens technology could have a place in our computing and gaming futures. Microsoft have previously brought it on stage at E3 to show off a rather unique looking take on Minecraft, but this is a technology that’s still deep in development and Microsoft really ought to deal in the much more tangible reality of Scorpio.
One of the key bullet points at last year’s Scorpio announcement was that it would be more than capable of handling virtual reality gaming. It most certainly is capable of that, with its hardware easily meeting the recommended requirements for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. However, Microsoft have shown no signs of developing this technology in house, as Sony did with PSVR, and so would likely need to strike a deal with either Oculus or Valve and HTC.
That could happen, but at the same time, it seems that they’re keeping their VR horses firmly in their stable until they feel the technology is ready. Alex Kipman, technical fellow at Microsoft, said to Polygon that “console VR should be wireless,” and that “right now we are focused on developing mixed reality experiences for the PC, not on the console.”
Just as with Hololens, this feels like another one to put a pin in for the time being.
Of the three manufacturers, Microsoft have the biggest opportunity to surprise and delight gamers at this E3. With so much about Scorpio already known and so few exclusive titles announced, they can easily exceed expectations this year and perhaps steal the spotlight from Sony and Nintendo.
At the same time, because there are so few existing announcements, they’re under real pressure to deliver and build excitement for the Xbox brand one more. Again, what’s the point of a shiny new console if there’s no real prospect of exciting games to play on it?
Naturally, we hope for the former scenario, as strong and healthy competition between the manufacturers is only good for us, the gamers. We’ll have to wait and find out what they have in store this weekend on with Microsoft going live on Sunday 11th at 10PM UK time. Be sure to check in with TSA for all news, trailers, and announcements.