50 games. 18 exclusive. 15 world premieres. Phil Spencer, head of gaming at Microsoft, told the audience exactly what to expect at the start of the Microsoft E3 press conference.
To be fair, however, within the “exclusive” category were things already out, like Sea of Thieves, or things not out until much later, such as Crackdown 3. But the best parts of the conference were the third-party announcements and world premieres.
To be fair, Microsoft announced some positive steps for its first-party lineup. And there’s some good news for fans of Forza, Gears, and Halo. Microsoft is fixing its first-party problem, but it’ll take a while.
The sting of the Xbox One launch is still felt around E3. Microsoft’s mantra of “TV, TV, Sports, Sports” was widely ridiculed in a console generation in which Microsoft saw its new Xbox One as the one machine you’d need in your living room. Its gaming offering was largely propped up by Halo and Forza.
It wasn’t enough. By any metric — sales, exclusives, PR, features — Sony won that battle. But this year, Microsoft has rallied, and all the eyes on its E3 press conference would’ve been pleased with the positive signs of things to come.
Here’s everything announced from the show.
New Microsoft Acquisitions
As a nice surprise, Spencer announced that Microsoft had acquired five game studios. Many would argue that more game studios making original content is exactly what Microsoft needs, and there’s not a lightweight among them.
- Undead Labs. Fresh off the of the release of State of Decay 2.
- Playground Games. The studio behind the Forza Horizon series. Spencer announced that Playground would also be using its open world tech to make a new IP for Xbox.
- Ninja Theory. A storied studio behind many great games such as DmC and Hellblade. Good things will come of this.
- Compulsion Games. Makers of Contrast and We Happy Few.
- The Initiative. A new studio based in Santa Monica, led by Darrell Gallagher of Tomb Raider fame. Watch this space.
“We are committed to building a leading first-party studios organisation,” said Spencer.
As we mentioned above, Xbox lost the last round of the exclusives battle, and this is a big commitment to rectifying that. Let’s hope Microsoft lets them do what they do best, so we don’t have another Ensemble Studios situation.
Forza Horizon 4
One of the best showings of the conference was the new Forza — and this time it’s set in Britain. You’ll be tearing up the green countryside with adorable stone cottages. There’s also a new 60 FPS mode.
“Seasons change everything,” according to the developers. “Seasons, weather conditions, and time of day are dynamic. But they’re synchronised so all players experience the same thing.”
Microsft previewed the winter season, during which new areas were accessible via lakes and rivers that had frozen over. Events will also be different depending on the season.
It’ll be included in Xbox Game Pass on the same day. In a huge development, as mentioned above, Microsoft also announced it had acquired Playground Games.
We already knew this one was being delayed until next year, but it was nice to see Crackdown 3 make an appearance. Terry Crews is front and centre and this trailer leans heavily into the action movie/Brooklyn Nine-Nine star.
The graphics and physics on show already look a bit dated, likely a product of such a prolonged development. But you won’t find a better fit for the term “power fantasy.”
The open world policing game will allow you to change your car into a tank at whim, go up the sides of buildings, and toss around massive pieces of the world as if they were stones.
We’ll still have to wait a while for this one, but there’s plenty of other stuff to keep us occupied in the meantime.
Gears of War 5
In what was almost certainly a troll, the Gears symbol was shown — only to then announce a mobile game based on Gears of War POP figurines. Then, a developer came out to announce Gears Tactics (see below), and finally, Gears of War 5.
Playing as Kait, you’ll go “back to where it all began.” Her goal is to get to the bottom of visions she’s experiencing, and her squadmates are concerned she might not have control over her own mind.
There are some incredibly cool enemies and settings on display here. This won’t be a Gears game with the same greys and browns all over the place. The characters and weapons don’t look to have changed much, but the variety of locations and slick enemy design could carry it home.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
The protagonist’s arm can be seen in the early section of the trailer, clearly the same limb that was hanging in the teaser trailer from the Game Awards. Mystery solved. Out of the three From Software games we’ve been waiting for, this will be the one that’ll seem most familiar. Expect Bandai Namco to show more of the other mecha game during the show too.
Contradicting earlier rumours, this one won’t be out before the end of the year. Expect it in early 2019.
Four times the size of Fallout 4 and set in the hills of West Virginia, Fallout 76 is a prequel to all the other Fallout games, and you’ll be one of the first to emerge into the wasteland.
We saw no gameplay in the trailer, but the featured character puts on the iconic Fallout power armour.
Those worried that this would be something wildly different, worry no longer: Fallout 76 is definitely a Fallout game.
Developed by 343, there’s a new Halo on the block.
The halo ring in this trailer seems quite peaceful at first. We don’t even see any combat in the trailer so it’ll be interesting to see where 343 takes Halo Infinite. So far, all we know is that they’re making it.
We see a Spartan slotting what looks like a Cortana-like chip in the back of their head at the end. Or perhaps it’s a different AI? There’s still quite a bit of the story to tell with Cortana, considering the state we left her in.
Kingdom Hearts 3
We’re heading to the land of Frozen, as Kingdom Hearts 3 incorporates many modern Disney favourites. We see Elsa and Olaf in the trailer, among other Frozen friends. Ralph (of Wreck-It Ralph) is there, as well as Hercules, and the Toy Story gang.
This will be on both Xbox One and PS4, and fans have been jonesing for this trailer for a long, long time. We can expect the game on January 29th, 2019.
A non-exclusive fighting game from Bandai Namco, this title combines many franchises that Bandai Namco has the rights to into a kind of 3D Smash Bros.
Curiously, the trailer says that you’ll need to “unite” to survive, though all the footage shows the characters on opposing sides. It’s unclear at this point if you’ll “unite” by teaming up in the context of a fighting game or if there’s some kind of co-op element.
Dying Light 2
Narrative designer Chris Avellone came out to talk about the effects of your decisions in Dying Light 2, detailing a quest that involves the distribution of water. Growing your base and its resources attracts more people — both good and bad.
The freerunning and climbing gameplay you’d expect from the franchise are front and centre, and it looks like it’s making the daylight hours just as interesting as the night.
Channelling an Apple presentation, Phil Spencer had “just one more thing.” And what a thing it was.
We finally got a Cyberpunk 2077 trailer, and this game looks intense. Each scene in this trailer is like a snapshot of a deeper backstory. There is going to be so much to do in this game, and with CDProjekt setting the bar for dialogue and storytelling in The Witcher 3, we can’t wait to see what they’ve done in this sci-fi playground.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps will be exclusive to the Xbox store. It looks like Ori will have new friends to rely on, and some more combat-focused abilities than last time. The animations look just as amazing as in Ori and the Blind Forest.
Cuphead showed some DLC content scheduled for 2019, exclusive to Xbox.
Tunic is a new exclusive with a foxy protagonist exploring an isometric, 3D world. It looks very Zelda-ish, and the art style alone is enough to grab us.
More Xbox News
Without delving too much into the details, Microsoft talked about a feature called “Fast Start” that will use machine learning to make Game Pass games start twice as fast.
They also announced that Microsoft is working on a way to bring “console-quality gaming on every device.” It sounds a bit like streaming your Steam games to your phone or TV. Not a new idea, but wholly welcome.
Finally, we heard that the Xbox One engineers were “deep into architecting the next Xbox console.” We’ll probably hear a lot more about that next year.
Devil May Cry 5
In this non-exclusive title, a new kind of Dante will use a mechanical arm to drag enemies closer to slash away. Happily, lots of gameplay was shown (for a trailer).
The action looks solid, though it’s odd that Capcom would take this direction after Ninja Theory’s DmC reboot.
In addition to Gears of War 5, there’s a turn-based tactics game called Gears Tactics coming, exclusive to Xbox. It promises to have big boss battles in addition to the XCOM-like gameplay you’d expect.
Captain Spirit is the new game in the Life is Strange universe, about an imaginative boy who, together with his father, is dealing with the loss of his mother.
Sea of Thieves has two lots of content coming, in the form of Cursed Sails and Forsaken Shores. It’s doubtful Rare will be able to put out content at the necessary speed to keep this game afloat in any serious sense, but Microsoft is clearly wanting to show that there are things on the horizon.
Let’s hope you’re not tired of the skeleton warriors because they’ll have their own boats now…
Session, a non-exclusive skating game will arrive to fill the Skate 4 hole, and Black Desert is an Xbox-exclusive MMORPG which we’ll have to wait longer to see gameplay of.
My my, is that a new Battletoads game? Don’t mind if we do. Expect it in 2019.
Rounding out the news with another bit non-Microsoft title, Just Cause 4 got a release date and an intense trailer. Check it out below, and expect the game December 4th.
Trade in your old games and pre-order Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice now at GameStop.