Last year’s E3 was a disaster for Microsoft, one that haunts them even now. Can they turn things around this year? They almost have to. While management at Microsoft has made it clear that the Xbox division isn’t going anywhere, a major failure at this E3 could give the competition an almost insurmountable lead.
Currently, the Playstation 4 has a significant lead in worldwide console sales. This is in large part due to several blunders on Microsoft’s part last year that Sony masterfully exploited, gaining an enormous amount of good will. Sony seems to be quickly settling back into a feeling of confidence however, and possibly even complacency. If Microsoft is to strike, now is the time, but how will they fare? We have some predictions, some ideas and some warnings.
A large part of what Microsoft needs for E3 has already fallen into place beforehand. This is due in large part to the overall reorganization at Microsoft. Microsoft has a new CEO that has made some drastic changes resulting in a much more agile company on all fronts. This has also meant quite a bit of reshuffling in management. While CEO Don Mattrick was ousted last year, and that was the right move, it still left the future of the Xbox division in doubt. This year, all of that changed.
Phil Spencer was announced as CEO and immediately things seemed to change for the better. His first order of business was to make it clear that the focus of the Xbox division would be games first and everything else second. This was the first major step in regaining goodwill.
The next major step has been much more transparency. In recent years due to the influence of powerful people like Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft had become much more secretive, much more closed mouthed. It had begun to create an increasingly larger rift between them and their consumers. That’s begun to change. Announcements seem to come out every week. There is more open dialogue between the teams at Microsoft and the consumer. There could always be more, but they’ve moved in the right direction with this. It finally feels like our feedback matters again.
Finally, the biggest change is, they’re getting things done. This has been a constant issue in the past, and they definitely still have a lot of room for improvement, but we’re seeing regular updates to the platform. We’re seeing promises delivered upon. We’re seeing constant changes in policies and new ideas. The platform is becoming more dynamic and less intransigent by the day. It’s a breath of fresh air.
So given all of these recent changes, what can we expect with reasonable certainty from Microsoft at E3? That’s actually really hard to say. There are of course, a couple of sure things, but given Microsoft’s new openness, they’ve actually gone ahead and revealed a lot prior to the conference. This has lead to a lot of speculation that what they haven’t shown us is so much more. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s definitely something to hope for. That said, there are a few things that are pretty sure bets. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Expect the primary focus of the conference to be on games. Given their insistence on games in recent weeks and the amount of good will it’s garnered them going into E3, it would be an idiotic move indeed to squander it with endless NFL and TV demos.
- Halo Remakes: Expect them. It remains to be seen if it will just be Halo 2 Anniversary or the entire series re-mastered for current gen, but mark my words, we WILL see one or the other.
- Gears of War: it will be present in some form. Likely a teaser for the next game. Maybe just a casual mention.
- Fable: Expect Legends to be a big part of the conference, probably showcasing the SmartGlass functionality. I’d actually expect a gameplay demo.
- Quantum Break: Don’t expect too much on this front. Something minor as the big reveals are slated for Gamescom later this year.
- Sunset Overdrive: Will be there in a big way, expect a lengthy gameplay demo.
- Forza Horizon 2: It’s been announced, so expect see plenty more on this.
- Indies: This will be the year Microsoft tries to win back the Indie crowd. Expect Microsoft to make a big play for them this year. Maybe even announce the long awaited dev kit unlock for everyone.
- Kinect: Despite everyone’s celebrations, the rumors of Kinect’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Expect at least one Kinect title to be talked about, likely Fantasia.
- New Exclusive IP’s: Because captain obvious says so.
- Despite Microsoft’s newfound clarity, expect there to be plenty of entertainment announcements.
- Xbox Music on Windows Phone’s latest update just got delayed by a week. I expect that is for a very good reason, expect some interesting announcements on this front and Xbox Video.
- Plenty of new Apps. HBO Go may very well launch at the show, but there will be of course a showcasing of apps.
- New shows. Expect to see several of these announced and at least one released. Halo, will likely play a big role here, though the best you can hope for is a teaser.
- New Kinect functionality will be showcased in these regards. Interactivity with TV will be a thing.
There’s also plenty of going around the rumor mill. While everything above are likely sure things, the list below may be more wishful thinking than reality. Still, I wouldn’t count these out:
- New Lionhead Game: It’s been talked about, there’s a very real chance you’ll see it at the show. An original IP
- Platinum Exclusive Game: Heavily rumored to be in the works. Very likely to be shown.
- Crackdown Next: Heavily teased, constantly rumored. It’s a toss-up.
- Windows Apps: Universal apps is something heavily touted by Microsoft of late. There’s a good chance they’ll begin showing off more cross compatibility between their platforms. From Windows, to Windows Phone, to Xbox. Maybe even a cross platform game in the vein of Spartan Assault.
- New PC Gaming platform: Games For Windows Live is dead. However, expect a renewed push from Microsoft on PC gaming. No idea what form it will take, but it’s likely we’ll see it here.
- Rare: Much has been made of the effect the recent Kinect problems have had on the developer, but Rare is not a one trick pony. They may very well surprise this E3.
What Dreams Are Made Of
Here we move away from the plausible to the merely possible, but highly unlikely. Things we’d love to see, but don’t expect. Still if Microsoft could pull off even one of these, the internet would explode.
- Shenmue III: Yes, I went there. No E3 wish list is complete without this on the list. Phil Spencer has mentioned it’s the most requested game on the platform. So he’s aware there’s a desire for it. Is it likely to happen? No. But that won’t stop me from praying I’m wrong.
- Phantom Dust 2: Lots of rumors, nothing solid. This is a cult classic that would please a lot of people. Sadly, Crimson Dragons poor reception may put a damper on this.
- Banjo Kazooie: A snowball’s chance in hell perhaps, but I’m sure that’s enough for the diehards.
- Viva Piñata 3: More likely than Banjo I’d say, but likely still a pipe dream.
- Conker Next: The most likely thing on this list, but I still wouldn’t hold your breath
- Alan Wake 2: May very well be teased if Remedy takes the stage, but unlikely.
- Family Sharing: The ability to share your digital games with family, without the need for draconian DRM. There was a lot of interest in this last year, and Microsoft promised to look into it, but who knows if that went anywhere.
- Another Price Drop: Don’t expect it, but this would be a huge boost to sales.
I think we’ve covered our bases pretty well. Of course, most of this is speculation, so we’ll have to wait and see. That said, I honestly believe Microsoft has their heads on straight this year and we can expect a significant turnaround from last year. Expect energy, expect openness, but most importantly, expect games. Lots of games. As it should be.
Fanbolt will be covering E3 all next week. Make sure to come back next week to see how our predictions panned out and for all the latest coverage.