E3 Predictions: Microsoft

by Sage Ashford

Welcome back to the next installment of our E3 Predictions for 2019, where this time around we focus on Microsoft. With Sony bowing out from this year’s festivities, all eyes turn to the Xbox division to see not only what the fall holds, but possibly the next six or seven years. In the latter half of this generation, Microsoft’s gone out of its way to bring as many third-party titles as possible to their conference.  I expect this year to be no exception, but I also expect them to do more than that, with them having confirmed that this show will give us the first glimpse at the power of their next-generation console. But what else do they have in store?

If you missed it, we already did a write-up on what Google might do in the coming weeks over here. Now let’s dive in to what these guys have planned.

Halo Infinite: Last year, Halo Infinite got one of those “Why’d they even show us this?” type of reveals. The kind that’s cinematic so we had no idea what gameplay looked like, and doesn’t last long enough to help players understand the developers’ vision for the world the game takes place in. Presumably, this is because Halo Infinite is meant to be one of Microsoft’s first cross-gen games which will find a home both on the Xbox One and their Xbox Scarlet project. There were rumors that this title was meant to have some manner of RPG elements and possibly even a branching story, and whether that’s true or not will be confirmed here if we actually get to see some gameplay.  Could Microsoft be bold enough to allow players to alter the iconic Master Chief armor with loot?  We’ll find out.

Gears 5: This is the lock of all locks for this show. Gears 5 is scheduled to release this fall, so there’s no reason for them not to give us another look at it as they begin the ramp-up the promotion for it.  The big swerve of the game being about Kait out of the way, maybe they can finally delve into showing us exactly what it’s like with her in the lead.  This game looked mostly done last year, so this time around the focus will likely be on a set piece boss plus the stuff around the game like the release date, pre-order bonuses, and so on.  They’ll try to roll Gears Tactics and Gears POP! into this trailer as well, providing updates on Initiative’s “Gears of War” universe.

Ori and the Will of the Wisp: Moon Studios provided one of the most beautiful games of Microsoft’s 2017 E3 when they introduced this sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest.  Players adventure beyond Nibel (the location of the last game) to see the rest of the world, bringing Ori closer to learning his destiny while meeting new allies, learning new techniques, and battling epic bosses.  For a “smaller” game, this has spent a lot of time in the oven, but it’ll all be worth it if it’s as good as the original.  Presumably it’ll appear here with another stunning trailer and a release date to go along with it.

That’s basically it for the Xbox-exclusive and/or first-party titles that we know of. However, Phil Spencer assured Xbox fans they would be “going big” at this E3. That could be meaningless PR talk, but for the past two years Microsoft has made incredible showings by snagging key third-party partnerships. But with Sony stepping down for the year, there’s every chance Microsoft will take advantage of the reduced signal noise to take over.  It’s a risky plan, but I can see them going far enough to show games from literally every developer they have right now–from Ninja Theory’s next game and Playground’s Fable to inXile’s upcoming Wasteland 3. Even if it’s years away, it makes a statement: they’re not the Microsoft from the first half of this generation.   That’s a statement they need to convey as plainly as possible before the next-gen begins in earnest.

Third Party

Dragon Ball Z RPG: Bandai-Namco unveiled this game earlier in the year, but we haven’t seen or heard from it since. Technically it’s supposed to release sometime this year, and even if it gets pushed to early 2020, they need to start showing this off sooner rather than later. Combine that with Bandai-Namco’s growing relationship with Microsoft and the fact that a B-N game has been a highlight at Microsoft’s E3 Conference for the past two years, and this seems like the most likely location for the next (hopefully longer) glimpse of the game.

New Capcom Game: What we know is that other than Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, there’s no major Capcom game coming until the next fiscal year for the company, which doesn’t begin until April 1st, 2020.  What we also know is that last year when Capcom released it’s annual report, they mentioned wanting to do three major games every fiscal year going forward.  Now while that lofty goal might not be possible, Capcom’s established a pretty consistent pattern of showing off their next big blockbuster title at E3 for the past two or three years now, and it’s unlikely they want that trend to break.

In fact, by all accounts, they have a lot of potential titles in the works.  Hideaki Itsuno has been pretty blatant about moving on to Dragon’s Dogma 2 now that Devil May Cry 5 has been wrapped up. There’s rumors of not one, but three Resident Evil titles being worked on (Resident Evil 8 and R3make being two obvious upcoming choices) for the future. And that’s to say nothing of the Darkstalkers tease we got a while back, Onimusha’s remaster clearly being a set-up for bringing that franchise back, and the potential for them to release new IPs.   Capcom’s slowly but surely been winning it’s way back into the hearts of gamers, and I don’t expect them to stop now.

WB Montreal & Rocksteady: I’m not sure which of these will appear first. Honestly, it could turn out to be both–there’s no reason for Warner Bros. to wait it out if they can both come out within the next eighteen months.  Rocksteady’s latest game has been in the oven presumably since the end of 2015. There’s little known about it, save that it’s a superhero title and will be mostly single-player focused. At this point, we actually know more about what it’s not: it isn’t Superman (courtesy of Rocksteady themselves), and it’s not Justice League either. After that, we’re basically just throwing darts at a wall…and praying it’s not Suicide Squad.

As for WB Montreal, they’ve been quiet for far longer than anyone could’ve expected. After releasing 2013’s Arkham Origins, they basically fell off the map. It was presumed they would do Suicide Squad, then that fell apart. A couple years ago, Kotaku journalist Jason Schreier talked about how they were going to do a Batman game with Damian Wayne as the lead, and that vanished too.  Lately rumors have surfaced about them working on a Batman: Court of Owls game, and if that’s the case it’s possible it could be seen soon.  If the initial plans were for a Batman game and it was scuttled in favor of another Batman game, many of those assets are possibly still reusable, meaning their development cycle may not be nearly as long for a proper open world AAA title.

Tales of Next: The Tales of series has been MIA since the release of Berseria at the beginning of 2017, two years ago.  We know another Tales of game is in the works due to their appearance during last year’s Tales of Festival.  Now Tales of Festival is actually the weekend after E3, so they could make their first appearance there. But supposedly the current producer would like to be more worldwide oriented.  Combine that with Microsoft’s penchant for showing Japanese games lately plus their growing relationship with Bandai-Namco, and it’s hard to think of a bigger or better stage for the next Tales of than here.  Y’know, unless they decide to bow out on that in favor of showing off Code Vein again.

Cyberpunk 2077: They’re supposedly doing a closed demo of this at E3, but even if they are I’d still place odds on this coming out in the 12 months between the upcoming E3 and the big one in 2020.   They spent years working in absolute silence, claiming it was coming “when it was ready”. No one even expected it last year, so they could’ve not been there and things would’ve been fine. Why bother showing up last year if it’s not close to being finished?  An optimistic version of me says this is done, and will come out in the Fall.  A more realistic version says they might try to polish it until the last moment, and finally release it in Q2 like they did The Witcher 3.

FromSoft: FromSoft made an appearance at both Sony and Microsoft’s conferences last year, with the VR title Deracine and the traditional action game Sekiro. But we know for sure they’ve been working on two more titles they have in the works.  Most recently, rumors have surfaced concerning a potential team up between George R.R. Martin and From Software for an open-world RPG pulling from Norse Mythology known as “Great Rune”.  If it’s true, and they successfully manage to combine the worldbuilding of Martin with the gameplay the company is beloved for, this will almost certainly catapult them to new heights as a developer.

The Outer Worlds: The way this works is actually pretty weird. Since Obsidian began working on this as a part of Take-Two’s Private Division, it’s a multi-platform game even though the company has already been purchased by Microsoft and will be a first-party developer for them going forward.  Still, this title has already been confirmed as one of the titles showing up for Microsoft’s E3 conference, so we’ll be getting another extended look at this unique science fiction RPG.

And that about wraps it up.  Other third-party titles potentially available for appearing here include CyGames’ multiple titles from their two Granblue Fantasy games to Project Awakening, but all three of them feel more like titles that likely won’t pop up before a while.  At best, Granblue Fantasy Versus (with it’s target release date of 2019) is the most likely of the three to show.

Nonetheless, if Microsoft can bring all of these titles to their show this year, they’ll undoubtedly steal the conference.

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