E3 2016 Preview: Microsoft

Microsoft is the first of two platformer holders that I’m going to be covering, so I should clarify some things.  These preview blogs exist purely to talk about games.  Hololens, Scorpio, and a potential VR announcement won’t be in this blog.  Neither will any system wide features similar to the backwards compatability announcement last year.  Also, I will only be talking about games that have or could have some sort of exclusivity.  Microsoft is going to probably show some third party games at their show.  However, those will be covered by the EA, Bethesda, and Ubisoft blogs as well as a more general third part blog that will post on Saturday.  So with that out of the way, let’s get on to talking about Microsoft.  The Microsoft media briefing is being held on Monday at 9:30 AM.  Xbox has been a little leaky lately, with this reddit user claiming to have exploited the API.  I’m taking this with a grain of salt, but I’m not discounting it either.  Microsoft’s big game of the first half, Quantum Break, came out to mixed reviews, so they probably want to come out of E3 with a strong looking future.  Their announced lineup of exclusives is promising.  I think Scalebound looks great, ReCore could be cool, and I can’t wait for Forza Horizon 3.  However, I can’t think of anything they could announce at E3 that would excite me.  Gears 4 isn’t doing anything for me, and none of their big studios have been quiet for a while.  But I would have said the same thing going into E3 2014.  I wouldn’t have been able to predict Scalebound, Crackdown 3, and Phantom Dust, but I was excited to see them.  So while below are the games that I think could be shown at E3 2016, I hope they show something that I can’t even think of.

Gears of War 4

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Gears 4 is coming out on October 11 this year.  That leaves room for something to come along in November, but I think the most likely scenario is that Gears will be Microsoft’s big holiday game.  I don’t know if Gears can still be the tent pole franchise that it was last generation, but Microsoft seems to think it can be.  Anyways, I imagine they will open the show with Gears.  They did the same think opening with Halo last year, and it makes sense.  While last year’s demo was very survival horror focused, I imagine this year’s will be focused on action.  I think that’s a better way to start a conference and something we haven’t really seen yet from Gears 4.  I hope what they show excites me.  I like the fact that the game takes place over one night, and I think a more horror focused Gears could work.  But nothing they have shown so far interests me.  I hope they can prove me wrong both about this game and the viability of the franchise.

Crackdown 3

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But while Gears might not excite me a whole lot, Crackdown 3 has me incredibly worried.  The idea of a new Crackdown sounds great, but the messaging for this game has been bad.  They have only shown gameplay from the multiplayer, and even that was mostly off-screen stuff.  They said that the multiplayer portion of the game would be launching this summer, yet we have heard very little about that.  I think two things could happen with this game.  I think we could get a singleplayer demo, an announcement that the whole game is launching at once, and a fall 2016/spring 2017 release date.  I also think we could get a multiplayer demo with a summer 2016 release date and just a small update on the singleplayer.  I think the former is the smarter option, but who knows what they will do.  Regardless, I guarantee they show the first extended demo for this game they announced two years ago.

Forza Horizon 3

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But let’s drop the negativity.  I have worries about those games, but everything from here forward is mostly positive.  And that starts with the game I am most excited to see, Forza Horizon 3.  Forza Horizon 3 has not been officially announced, but I think it’s inevitable at this point.  There was an announcement recently that the next Forza game would be at E3, and the franchise has been on a yearly schedule rotating between Motorsport and Horizon.  There are also rumors that I see popping up on Neogaf and other places that the game is set in Australia.  None of them seem super reliable, but I’ve been hearing it so much that I’m starting to believe it.  It also makes sense as a location since it has a nice mix of urban and rural and plenty of opportunities for off-road racing.  I don’t expect to see anything more than a trailer at the conference.  That’s what they’ve been doing for the past few years, and it seems to work.

Halo Wars 2

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The big reveal at last year’s Gamescom was always going to make a splash at E3.  I mean, it wouldn’t be an Xbox conference without Halo.  But this was all but confirmed when some art leaked over the weekend.  I’ll be interested to see how they choose to show this game.  An RTS game might not demo well, but a cinematic trailer would misrepresent the game.  I assume they’ll go with a demo.  I imagine they will settle on a demo, or at least a trailer that features a lot of gameplay.  It will probably also get a release date.  I’m expecting sometime this fall, and I wonder if Microsoft thinks the Halo brand is enough to help this game sell in November.  But regardless, I’m excited to see it.  A Halo RTS is a great idea, and Creative Assembly is a great developer.

Sea of Thieves

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Sea of Thieves is a game that I could go either way on.  I’m excited to see a new project from Rare, and I have a general policy that says games with boats are better than games without boats.  At the same time, I don’t know how I feel about this being an MMO-lite.  I could also see this game going either way in terms of what is shown.  I could see it releasing this summer or next year.  I could see it getting a long demo or a short trailer.  The Reddit leak says that it will be a huge focus, but that’s not confirmation to me.  But no matter what, I expect it to be there.  It was there last year and is supposed to be out this year.  If it doesn’t show up at all, then they have some explaining to do.  This should be the game’s big coming out, and I hope it impresses.

ReCore

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Another game that was announced last year that we haven’t heard anything about since.  Keiji Inafune isn’t the most popular man in video games right now, but ReCore still looks really promising.  The trailer last year showed an interesting setting and some potentially interesting gameplay mechanics.  I think now is the time to blow this game out.  I want a big demo that shows us what this game really is.  It’s probably the game in Microsoft’s lineup that I am the most curious about.  It was supposed to come out in Spring 2016, so I think an August or September release date is a real possibility.

Scalebound

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I don’t think Scalebound will be at E3.  The game got delayed into 2017, and Microsoft typically likes to save games that we know about but aren’t coming this year for Gamescom.  If they do show the game here, I just expect a trailer.  It’s a shame because I think the game looks cool, but I don’t think we will get another blowout until Gamescom in August.

Killer Instinct Season 3

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Recent leaks say that Mira, as well as Gears of War’s General Raam are coming to Killer Instinct Season 3.  This would make sense since the four characters so far this season have been two guest characters and two original KI people.  This might get shown in the conference, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this got announced on a stream somewhere.  Killer Instinct is three years old at this point, so the only way I see them dedicating time to the game is if it’s a quick announcement that transitions into something else.

Phantom Dust

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The developer of the Phantom Dust reboot was shut down in early 2015.  However, Phil Spencer said as recently as March of this year that the project is not dead.  Whether this means that they want to work on it again one day or they have a studio who has been working on it for a while, I don’t know.  Even Phil’s own comments were very reserved.  Personally, I think it’s probably dead, but I hope it isn’t.  If they do show it again, they need to really bring it.  I doubt people would get their hopes up based on another CGI trailer.  Because of this, I definitely don’t think it’s a game for this E3.  That seems like two soon considering when the project ran into issues last time.  If this game still exists, I wouldn’t expect to see it until next year.

ID @ Xbox Showing

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After Sony’s E3 2013 conference, both console makers always make time for independent games at their conferences.  Microsoft has been building a small list of exciting indie games, with three in particular sticking out to me.  Those three are Inside, Below, and Cuphead.  We have known about all of these games for a while, but none of them have released yet.  I hope Microsoft gives updates about all of them at the show.  The dream scenario would be that the reason we haven’t seen these games is because they are holding them for a Summer of Arcade style event along with one other game, perhaps Tacoma.  The other indie game I could see Microsoft making a big deal about would be Yooka-Laylee.  They have made an effort in the past year to get Rare fans back on their side, and this would be a great way to continue that effort.

Battletoads

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Speaking of Rare fans, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened yet.  Rare Replay, Phil Spencer’s tee shirt, the Battletoads in Shovel Knight, and Rash in Killer Instinct all have to be leading to something.  I think a new Battletoads is an inevitability at this point.  I have no idea what the scope of the game would be, what it would cost, or what it would look like.  I just know that a game with Battletoads in the title is going to be announced at one point or another.  I’d be curious to see what Microsoft does with the IP, although at this point I just want the announcement to happen no matter what.

New Undead Labs Game

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State of Decay came out three years ago and was pretty successful.  I think it’s probably about time that we hear about a sequel or at least something new from the developer.  I just don’t know if E3 is a big enough stage to announce it.  It might be if the second game expanded in scope from the first one, but if not I think this makes more sense as a Gamescom reveal.  Regardless, it probably won’t be anything more than a trailer.

Age of Empires 4

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I’ve thought for a long time that a new Age of Empires made sense.  When Microsoft said that they were bringing back a beloved strategy game, I was certain this would be it.  Then they announced Halo Wars 2.  But I stick by my convictions that Age of Empires 4 is in development.  That reddit leak said it is, and I also think it makes sense.  Microsoft wants to get serious about PC gaming.  A true Age of Empires sequel could go a long way to fostering some good will.  My only hesitation is that I don’t know if Microsoft wants to show two RTS games in one conference.

Dead Rising 4

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To top things off, Dead Rising 4 is the only third party game I have on this list.  I don’t know that the game will be an exclusive, but both 1 and 3 were so I wouldn’t be shocked if it was.  After being confirmed to be at E3 be respected Neogaf user ekim, even more leaks came out.  The rumors are that it is a full remake of the first game that includes the mall and new surrounding areas.  Although with a four on the end, I find it hard to take the word remake seriously.  It could just be using the same location.  This could be a good ending game for Microsoft, and I hope we see a demo along with the announcement.  If the demo is strong, Dead Rising 4 would make for a great closer.

If Microsoft checks the boxes on this list and all the games look good, then it will be a solid showing.  It will just be a showing without any real surprises or huge reveals.  But Microsoft has gotten into a trend of revealing games too early lately.  If they want to take a break to let the announced games breath for a bit, I’m fine with that.  The hardware side is a whole different story with them, and I can’t wait to see how they try to position the Scorpio.

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