With Bethesda’s E3 opening press conference out of the way, it’s time for the big boys to play with the four Monday press conferences that we typically see on the Monday before E3 officially begins. The first of the four Monday pressers is Microsoft. While Microsoft bounced back from the Xbox One launch E3 presser last year, this year looks to be an even bigger year for Microsoft at E3. This could be their big chance to move ahead of Sony in the 8th-Gen console wars.
The big money reveal at E3 will be all about Halo 5: Guardians. The new Halo game appears to have a stronger emphasis on the story and characters. It will see you pick up eight months after Halo 4 from the perspectives of Master Chief and a new character hunting MC. Each character will be travelling as part of a team of four. The campaign is playable alone or in a co-op mode.
If E3 last year taught me anything, you can expect co-op campaign to get an on-stage demonstration. And if I know anything about Halo, it’s the multiplayer that will keep players coming back. 343 is also promising something big for multiplayer this time out.
By the way, a leak says that Microsoft will be releasing a 1 TB version of the Xbox One with a copy of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Best Buy has it pegged at $400 which is $50 more than what appears to be the current bottom price of a new 500GB Xbox One.
Speaking of selling systems, I’m not sure what Microsoft sees in Rise of the Tomb Raider. While the reboot was good, nothing about it screamed so overwhelmingly great that I had to forego a timed-exclusivity period to play it. I’m not sure that RotTR will sell additional Xbox One consoles when it’s coming out in the same year as proven system seller Halo.
That being said, I estimate Tomb Raider’s attach rate for Xbox 360 at about 3% (8.5 MM copies sold times 38% sold on Xbox consoles times 79% of copies sold on last-gen consoles divided by 80 MM consoles sold). The attach rate for Rise of the Tomb Raider should be better than that but I’m not certain that they’ll top Uncharted 4.
Anyway, with Uncharted 4 expected to drop in early 2016, RotTR will have to compete with the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection coming out just ahead of it for the same price. We don’t really know what to expect from Rise of the Tomb Raider but more of the same might be good for some but I’m not sure that’ll be enough.
The third big first-party exclusive Microsoft will bring to E3 is Forza Motorsport 6. I find it kind of funny that we’re expecting the eighth entry in the Forza franchise in ten years and third on the Xbox One this year. Gran Turismo launched in 1997 (’98 outside Japan) and release only the seventh entry inside the next 18 months.
There isn’t too much that’s been revealed about Forza 6 but we know that this is effectively the confirmation that Forza will be an annual franchise for Microsoft going forward. That’s confirmed in the same year that EA is rebooting Need For Speed after running it out of steam as an annual franchise.
If you want your release dates spoiled, Forza 6 is supposed to be the first of Microsoft’s big first-party titles to be released in September. Halo 5 will drop in October. Rise of the Tomb Raider will come out in November.
Gears of War will be getting some time at E3 but what exactly will be shown is somewhat up for speculation. Microsoft has confirmed that a remaster is being worked on for at least the first Gears of War but it’s entirely possible that all four Gears of War games will get the remaster treatment ahead of GoW4’s release.
Speaking of Gears of War 4, we know that it’s being worked on by The Coalition. You may remember it as Black Tusk Studios before it was renamed a couple of weeks ago. The official GoW Twitter account teased an announcement at E3 related to the franchise that could be either the remaster or Gears 4.
One of the more interesting pieces of speculation is around Rare. With the Kinect experiment apparently dead (when I was looking for Xbox One prices, I couldn’t find a new console bundled with the Kinect), Rare looks to be going back to basics. A few titles could be announced from the studio today. The most commonly mentioned are a new Battletoads and a new Banjo-Kazooie game.
I almost forgot that Mojang is now a Microsoft first-party developer. I would expect some sort of Minecraft showcase at E3. I’m not too familiar with the game so I can’t guess where Microsoft content might get wedged it. However, Telltale is working on Minecraft: Story Mode. A little preview of that would be appropriate here.
One thing that will be new for Microsoft at E3 is an emphasis on PC gaming. With the upcoming launch of Windows 10, it’s expected that Microsoft will be showing off the gaming capabilities of Windows 10 and possibly some cross-play or other compatibility between your Windows 10 PC and the Xbox One (which will also run some Windows 10 software).
Virtual reality is going to get some time too. Whether it’s limited to a teaser of what you can expect from the largely theoretical HoloLens technology or if we’ll get to see some of the Oculus Rift (which will ship with an Xbox One controller). Considering that everyone expects Sony’s virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus, to get some featured time ahead of its expected 2016 release, Microsoft pushing its apparent partnership with Oculus would be a good pre-emptive returned fire.
Now, a question I have is if something is a surprise when you’re expecting a surprise. Phil Spencer has already announced that a new Xbox exclusive IP will be unveiled at E3 but no one knows what it might be. If they think that this new IP will be a big deal, expect it last.
Also, while not officially confirmed, I anticipate three different t-shirts worn by Phil Spencer.