If last year’s performance is anything to go by, Microsoft’s E3 2019 press conference should be stacked to the ceiling with games. Not only because the corporate giant has been shopping for studios like a kid at one of those Pick N’ Mix displays, but because a lack of PlayStation at the show means a lot of third parties will be looking to Xbox for their moment in the spotlight. With all the new acquisitions, the lack of a Sony presser and potential new hardware to talk about I think this could be Microsoft’s biggest (and longest) E3 showing in a long time. I’m #callingit
First things first, Microsoft still have a fair few loose ends to tie up from E3 2017 (and even a couple from 2016!), hopefully resulting in some long-overdue extended gameplay reveals and release date announcements. I’m talking Ori and the Will of the Wisps, I’m talking Dying Light 2, Session, The Last Night, those weird Gears spinoffs, and some solid info on Battletoads. The list goes on. I don’t expect all of the last couple years of announcements to be revisited, especially the indie stuff, but it’d be nice to finally see some of their huffing and puffing actually come to fruition. I’m actually kind of keen to know more about Minecraft Earth too, but I’m not sure if it’ll make an appearance at an already-stacked show when Microsoft have been banging on about it outside of the show already.
Of course Halo Infinite will have to be featured in some capacity. It’s hard to say in how much detail. It was only a year ago that all 343 Industries had to show for it was an engine demo so it’d be asking a lot to see any kind of gameplay, but who knows? Conservatively, I’d say we’re looking at least at a new ‘story’ teaser with maybe some quick slices of concept gameplay. Maybe an on-stage presentation and explanation of what we can expect from the game. To me, the name belies some kind of persistent shared-world shooter type deal (yep, I’m calling that idea in both of my E3 prediction pieces) which would be a cute full-circle moment considering Bungie moved on from the series to do a similar thing.
Gears 5 is another big one for the old ‘box, and I’d be surprised if this one isn’t shown in a lot more detail with extended gameplay. We may even see a release date of either this year or early next year. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a new Forza announcement, either. Let’s be honest, Microsoft are kind of leaning on their core franchises throughout this generation and I don’t expect that to stop. Updates on Sea of Thieves and the still-to-come Cuphead DLC wouldn’t be unexpected, either. Age of Empires IV should come up as well. I’m more interested in whether we’ll see the rumored Fable reboot – I think there’s a good chance, plus whatever else all of MS’ first-party studios might be up to, including all those new ones like Ninja Theory and inXile. Ninja Theory seem to have some sort of sci-fi action adventure thing going on with Bleeding Edge, as much as anyone can tell from a trademark filing at least. My money is on a bunch of new multiplayer/persistent online stuff from the other studios.
As far as third parties go, it’s really hard to predict what’s going to feature on the Xbox stage this year. There are just so many already out there, let alone anything unannounced, and with Sony out there are a lot of titles looking for a stage to call home. Cyberpunk 2077 is a pretty safe bet, as that featured quite prominently last year. We may even get another cool ARG-style trailer easter egg again. Activision will want to make a bit of a splash with Call of Duty Modern Warfare, and the game is so far not carrying any of the usual PlayStation-partnered branding so perhaps we’ll see it feature here. Other than that it’s honestly anyone’s game. I reckon we’ll see at least half a dozen brand new third-party features and probably a bunch of indie stuff, too.
The big question though – will we see new Xbox hardware at E3 2019? I think it’s safe to say we’ll at least hear something about the new Xbox SKUs, especially in regards to what we can expect in spec and also how they will take advantage of Microsoft’s new Windows environments and the leveraging of their cloud tech. We might not see the hardware itself or get full deets just yet – remember, the One X was ‘soft’ announced at E3 2016 but wasn’t full revealed until the 2017 conference. I expect the new hardware to be pretty much in line with what the PS5 looks like; new machines that will complement the current hardware for the first little while without completely marking the end of an era. Backwards (and forwards) compatibility is the way forward (or backward?).
On the wilder side of the ‘hardware’ side of things, there’s a good chance Microsoft will want to talk about game streaming with xCloud and maybe even revisit one of their favourite words: teraflops. If xCloud turns out to be more powerful than Stadia, and Microsoft opts to leverage their newfound friendship with Nintendo, there could be a very interesting future for the Switch.
Am I reaching? Probably. This is my prediction piece, not yours.