It’s inarguable that Microsoft’s E3 2018 showing was the strongest of any of the big three hardware developers. Chock full of announcements, acquisitions, and surprises, Microsoft’s Xbox One may not be lighting up the sales world, but their continued support and dedication towards making it “the best place to play” means there has been a steady stream of announcements over the past few years. Since Sony is sitting out this year’s show, Microsoft will have plenty of space to soak up major announcements. With E3 2019 just around the corner, it’s time to run down what we know, and what we think we know will make an appearance at this year’s show.
The Obvious – Already Confirmed, or Almost Guaranteed to Appear
Slated to come sometime later this year, it’d be more surprising if The Coalition and Gears 5 didn’t make an appearance. Considering three separate Gears games were announced at last year’s show, odds are that at least one of them will show up. Now one of the premier shooter series on Xbox, Gears 5 is promised to be the “biggest Gears yet” and was recently confirmed to have its own panel at E3. It’ll be interesting to see just how well the second major outing from The Coalition shapes up, especially after taking over the series from Epic Games.
What’s more of an unknown is the other two Gears games that were announced last year. While many Microsoft fans likely would prefer to not see Gears POP!, the XCOM-lite nature of Gears Tactics is at least something different for the series. After the mildly lukewarm reception of Gears of War 4, a chance for The Coalition to flex their game design muscle might do the series some good. With the current console generation winding down, it’ll be interesting to see if Gears 5 ends up being the last mainline title released for the Xbox One.
Microsoft’s strength of their press conferences in recent years has been partially due to the power of their indie library. From aesthetic darlings like Cuphead to the stylish dystopian streets of We Happy Few, the indie games library is diverse and fresh, and E3 2019 looks to be no different. Building off of the success of last year’s show, which featured a sizzle reel with a whopping 27 games shown, we can expect a similarly strong showing this year. Last year’s reel had a number of console exclusives or ports of indie games, but the whole showing was diverse in artstyles, gameplay, and developers.
Some things to watch out for this year is some more news on the Cuphead: Delicious Last Course DLC, Tunic, The Last Night, and Session. Sony’s absence will be no more apparent than in Microsoft and Nintendo’s showcases, as well as the myriad of PC gaming shows. While in years past appearing during the console maker’s showcase was a great way to get your indie game in front of millions of eyeballs, Microsoft’s proven track record of supporting indie developers and Nintendo’s willingness to publish just about anything on the Switch store means indie games enjoy relative security on non-Sony platforms.
Xbox Game Pass
As E3 is more of a season than a singular event, announcements trickle out in the weeks leading up to the conference. One of Microsoft’s biggest selling points for the Xbox One, Game Pass will be coming to PC later this year, with its own slate of 100 titles on offer. This announcement comes courtesy of the one and only Phil Spencer in a blog post just last week. Not only will Game Pass bring dozens of titles to the often-ignored Windows side of Microsoft, but Microsoft is also committing to putting more games on Steam, as well as adding support for 32-bit games. These last two points can be seen as a direct shot towards Epic, as they attempt to secure exclusivity deals and criticized Microsoft for locking games behind the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) API.
You may recall that Microsoft had been making a push for more first-party titles to be “Play Anywhere” games, where if you bought the game on PC, it’d be playable on Xbox at no extra charge and vice versa. However, the list of Play Anywhere games was by design small, as it was restricted to only Microsoft-owned titles. As you can clearly see in the image above, plenty of third-party developers and publishers have already signed on to supporting Game Pass on PC. Microsoft has already confirmed that many more details will come out during the show, so anyone looking to see what Game Pass will look like will be able to get their fix during the show.
Additionally, Microsoft has been bolstering the Game Pass library on Xbox with dozens of third-party titles, and E3 2019 is sure to bring more announcements out. More and more first-party games are launching directly into retail and Game Pass simultaneously, helping multiplayer games like Sea of Thieves thrive where they otherwise might not. Hopefully Microsoft has more surprises for Game Pass for Xbox this year too.
Halo Infinite/Master Chief Collection on PC
Despite an exceptionally brief teaser to kick off last year’s show, there’s a very good chance that Microsoft talks at length about the future of the Halo series with Halo Infinite. With the reveal trailer sporting a decidedly non-Halo aesthetic, not talking about exactly what this Halo Infinite project is would be a mistake, especially for a series that’s looking to expand beyond the current “Master Chief saga.” 343’s plans for Halo Infinite have also apparently morphed into thinking of Infinite as a “spiritual reboot” of the Halo series, though exactly what that means remains to be seen. Considering the special place that Halo holds in the Xbox multiplayer pantheon, as well as being one of the most recognizable series worldwide, here’s to hoping we get some more concrete details about the next major Halo project soon.
Of course, Microsoft is already hard at work getting the massive Master Chief Collection ready to go on PC before the end of the year. While early footage shows there’s still considerable work that needs to be done before the eventual launch, a version of the Master Chief Collection will be playable at E3 with a few Halo: Reach missions. Initial reports suggested that the same PC beta would be playable in Microsoft stores during E3, but this was in error. With no new information about the public beta tests available at this time, it’s possible that Microsoft is saving further details for E3, either during their showcase or on the show floor. Either way, the highly-anticipated port will appear in one form or another.
Other Xbox Game Studios’ Projects
Other than what’s been mentioned above, there are another ten first-party games that we haven’t touched on yet. Phil mentions that “14 Xbox Game Studio games” will be at E3 this year, and if you’re counting, we’ve covered four so far. What’s left? Minecraft, We Happy Few, Battletoads, Sea of Thieves, Ori and the Will of the Wisps bump that total to nine, which leaves room for a few surprises.
Just finishing our final E3 rehearsal here with the team in Redmond. Feel really good about the briefing. Lots to show. We have 14 Xbox Game Studios games in the show this year, more first party games than we've ever had in the show. Fun times. #XboxE3
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) May 30, 2019
Considering Microsoft now owns Obsidian and inXile, we might also get an extended look at either The Outer Worlds or Wasteland 3. Gameplay for The Outer Worlds following its reveal was shown with an Xbox controller, so there’s a chance we could see it at the show. Additionally, rumors have swirled around the existence of Fable 4 ever since Fable Legends was canceled and Lionhead was shuttered. Playground Games (another Microsoft owned studio!) worked with Lionhead on Legends, so there’s at least some history on the series. Whether Fable 4 is real or not, Microsoft is sure to come up with something new to show off.
The Maybes — Rumors and Trends, Things We’d Like to See
Cyberpunk 2077 Release Date
Capping off their E3 2018 show with a surprise Cyberpunk 2077 trailer was the highlight of the show for many. Showing off the brightly-lit but dark streets of Night City, Cyberpunk 2077 oozed style, after disappearing from the public eye for many years. With CD Projekt Red announcing that E3 2019 would be the “most important E3 in company history,” one could reasonably surmise that Cyberpunk 2077 would naturally be involved in their show plans.
Unfortunately for anyone attending the show, the E3 demo of Cyberpunk 2077 won’t be directly playable by attendees. Members of the press will be treated to a demo that differs from the public showing, but Community Lead Marcin Momot didn’t specify how exactly it would differ. Kotaku’s Jason Schreier revealed just last week that Cyberpunk 2077 is “absolutely not coming out this year,” which makes sense, considering how little of it we’ve seen. Still, some sort of release date reveal, if not at Microsoft’s showcase, would be welcome.
Microsoft made major moves last year. Acquiring Playground Games (Forza Horizon) and Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, DMC: Devil May Cry) were reasonable purchases, but no one expected them to also pick up Obsidian and inXile Entertainment. Do we see more studio purchases this year? Likely so, if only to bolster the Xbox Game Studios brand. Considering Google is entering the gaming fray with its Stadia service, Microsoft might be looking to pick up interesting titles as much as keep them from getting locked to singular platforms or consoles.
For studio purchases, some bigger moves might be 4A Games (Metro) or DONTNOD Entertainment (Life is Strange, Remember Me), or some smaller studios like Mimimi Productions (Shadow Tactics). With the sheer number of game developers out there, guessing to see which studio, if any, gets picked up is nearly an exercise in futility.
Xbox One Successor
Is the time right for a new Xbox? That’s the question Phil Spencer and the hardware development team are currently at work answering, as he alluded to near the end of the show last year. In that time, remarkably little has leaked about the specs of the next Xbox, if a full set exists at this time. Microsoft did put out the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, a streaming-only variant of the Xbox One S that lacked a disc drive. Might this be the direction Microsoft chooses to go in the future? It’s hard to say, though with streaming games becoming more and more widespread, it’s likely that there will be a streaming-only variant at launch.
If anything, Phil Spencer likely talks about the specs the team is aiming for, as well as what sort of partnerships Microsoft is developing in conjunction with their new console. Still, I think it’s too early to get anything concrete at this time, and we definitely don’t see an Xbox One successor later this year.
Microsoft’s Accessibility Platform
One of the more surprising pivots Microsoft has made with the current generation of consoles is the adoption of hardware accessibility as a key market. From the Xbox Adaptive Controller to the Copilot controller linking option, much of Microsoft’s work to make their gaming platform as open and as accessible to all takes place behind the scenes. It’d be cool to see Microsoft make it a bigger cornerstone of their presentation, as well as announce more options during the showcase.
Don’t Hold Your Breath — Not Expected to Appear
Forza Motorsport 8
Marking the first time since 2011, there’s a very real chance that we see no new Forza game this year. With the release of Forza Horizon 4 (Our Review) just last year, Playground has been hard at work providing a steady stream of updates and DLC to enjoy amidst modern-day England. Still, Turn 10 promised that news surrounding the next Forza Motorsport game would come with the May update, but no news seems to have come with the update/stream. That’s not to say that a new Forza wouldn’t be teased at the show, but considering Turn 10 has spent a considerable amount of time post-launch with Forza Motorsport 7 fixing the loot systems, it may well be that Turn 10 doesn’t feel ready to launch a new Forza game.
The End of Xbox Live Gold
This may be just wishful thinking on my part, but either this year or the next, it’s possible that Microsoft could make multiplayer on the Xbox platform free for everyone, and turn Game Pass into the sole paid service. The reason behind this is because the original justification for making multiplayer paid was to cover the costs of servers and the bandwidth transfer between players. As the Xbox Live service has evolved since its initial offerings, the server costs could be viewed as largely “sunk” or negligible over the lifespan of Xbox Live. Additionally, the cost of data transferred between players when playing multiplayer games is also minimal at best.
The reason behind making Game Pass the paid service (and likely toting a price increase) would be because of the increased cost of streaming games to players. Compared to playing games online, the cost of streaming games in terms of bandwidth is magnitudes higher. Microsoft has already married the two services in pairing them with the disc-less Xbox One S, but what I’m thinking is much more drastic. This likely wouldn’t happen with the Xbox One, but there’s a chance it might come with the next iteration of Xbox hardware. This would represent a drastic shift from past policy, as Microsoft has charged for multiplayer over Xbox Live’s entire lifespan. Still, it would go well after the disastrous original announcement of the Xbox One.
That about covers the major announcements we think will happen at Microsoft’s E3 showcase this year. Undoubtedly, we’ve missed some, and no good E3 isn’t without a few surprises. Still, looking back on years past and seeing either just how right (or wrong!) our predictions turn out speaks to the nature of the games industry as a whole. With Microsoft’s E3 2019 showcase under a week away, we won’t have to wait long to see just how well our predictions hold up.
What do you think of our predictions? Any games you’d like to see at the show that we missed here? Let us know in the comments below!