E3 2017 | Microsoft Press Conference Predictions and Expectations
Xbox has had a rough time this generation, with the poor unveiling of the Xbox One back in 2013, constant inferior versions of multi-platform games, suffering through an identity crisis with all their big franchise "exclusives" such as Gears of War and Forza being released on PC, and several big games in production ending up being cancelled. This is the year I feel makes or breaks Xbox this generation, with the announcement of Project Scorpio at the end of last years E3 and it slated to release this fall, Microsoft needs to do everything they can this E3 to show consumers why they need a Scorpio this holiday season, and I'm confident that they'll do just that.
The Sting of the Scorpio-n
Starting with the biggest talking point, Project Scorpio itself. This will without a doubt be the first thing and a consistent thing throughout Microsoft's press conference. After seeing how poorly Sony revealed the PlayStation 4 Pro to the world last September, I'm confident that Microsoft has seen what worked and didn't work for Sony at that reveal and will one-up on it. Games will be shown in a DigitalFoundry-esque way, where they'll announce the game and show it running on a regular Xbox One but then have a side-by-side comparison of both Xbox One and Scorpio versions, with developers of these games coming out and talking about what upgrades you get over base hardware. The price of the Scorpio is the biggest concern as it is much more powerful than the PS4 Pro and is being sold as a 'premium product' for the hardcore gamer. I predict it costing $499USD and releasing in the middle of October before all the big fall games launch, anything more than that and it could hurt the ability to sell the Scorpio to the mass market as well as the hardcore fanbase. However, it won't be called the Scorpio despite the attachment fans have had with the name since its E3 teaser last year. Hidden away in one of Microsoft's latest E3 teaser clips is a quite prominent code; ""X10S101-317". Fans have deciphered the numbers to 101317, which could mean a release date of October 13, 2017. The remaining characters however, X10S, are a mystery, unless of course this means the Scorpio's finalized name is Xbox 10S - a blend of Xbox and Windows 10S, which could very well be the case but sounds more like an attempt to ditch the Xbox One name and start a new generation.
The Third Party Marketing Deals and Exclusivity
PlayStation for the past few years has dominated the third party marketing scene, with them having the marketing deals to the biggest franchises releasing in the next 12 months such as Destiny 2, Call of Duty: World War II, Star Wars Battlefront II, Red Dead Redemption 2, FIFA 18 and Far Cry 5 (A lot of twos there). If Microsoft really wanted to push the Scorpio and get developers back on board with partnering with Microsoft again like Phil Spencer has said, I expect them to unveil and have the marketing rights for at least three big games at their conference. Project Dylan from Bioware was revealed earlier today at EA Play, with an official title of 'Anthem', and is getting a full reveal on the Microsoft stage. One that I could see happening is the official reveal of Borderlands 3, with the relationships Gearbox and Microsoft have had in the past this would make for a huge announcement at their conference. The next Assassin's Creed, all but confirmed to be called Assassin's Creed Origins, could also be another game revealed with a marketing deal considering Assassin's Creed Unity in 2014 was marketed by Xbox (however this may be an announcement saved for Ubisoft's press conference). Lastly, the next Tomb Raider game, rumored to be called Shadow of the Tomb Raider, could potentially see an official reveal on the Microsoft stage with another marketing deal similar to Rise of the Tomb Raider but won't be a timed exclusive (Surely they learnt their lesson from that).They need to showcase to people these games on Scorpio and prove to them why they need to buy an Xbox One or Scorpio for these games, in-particular the Scorpio.
Halo, Gears, Forza, Repeat?
So far in terms of first-party exclusives announced for Xbox One/ Project Scorpio, we have Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Cuphead and Sea of Thieves. As it's an annualized franchise, we will most certainly see the announcement of the next Forza Motorsport game by Turn 10; Forza Motorsport 7, which will release Late September with native 4K 60fps support on Scorpio once it's released. Crackdown 3 will most definitely be shown and given a release date of this year, launching in tandem with the Scorpio as a launch title running at native 4K, though I feel that game will be drastically different compared to the last time it was shown. State of Decay 2 is definitely something I'm keeping my eye on, and my bet is it will release this September with native 4K support on Scorpio. Cuphead will finally get a release date but much sooner than expected, releasing late July to mid August, with native 4K 60fps support on Scorpio once it's released. Finally, Sea of Thieves will release between August and October this year with native 4K support on Scorpio.
343 Industries, the current developers of Halo, have gone on record to state that the next Halo game will not be shown at E3 but do have "a little something" to share that is not related to the next major entry in the franchise. They've also shot down rumors of a potential Halo 3 Anniversary Edition as 2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of Halo 3, and the recently "leaked" images of Halo Gravemind, so what could it be? Personally I can see them announcing that Halo Master Chief Collection and Halo 5 Guardians will get native 4K 60fps updates when the console launches, but I'm sure another spin off Halo game is in the works and will be announced there.
If there's one thing that Microsoft needs, it's new IPs. This generation we've not seen many new and exciting IP's come from Microsoft, one of which was cancelled earlier on in the year; Scalebound. For this E3 to be a success for Microsoft, they need to show people they understand what the gamers want, new IPs are important and ones done right can become very successful for a brand, just look at Horizon Zero Dawn that launched earlier this year and sold 3.4m copies within 2 months. Microsoft I believe will show off no less than three new IPs on stage at their conference, one of which will be out as a Scorpio launch title.
Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility has been extremely successful for Xbox One and I can see them definitely talking about it, future games they will be adding and it being supported on Scorpio with upscaled 4K. What would be crazy is if they announced original Xbox backwards compatibility, or a system similar to PS2onPS4 where original Xbox games are ported over to Xbox One/Scorpio in 1080p/4K with achievements and the ability to take screenshots, record and stream gameplay. Windows 10 Ports of Sunset Overdrive and Halo The Master Chief Collection could be a very unexpected announcement along with Sunset Overdrive Scorpio support in native 4K 60fps.
Microsoft is in for an interesting day with the Scorpio reveal and I wish them all the best, its hard to predict what exactly they have planned for us but we do know from head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, that the conference will go over its 90 minute run time to make sure more games are revealed, which to me sounds super promising. Hopefully they can come back swinging and give Sony and PlayStation some actual competition!