With the Xbox One X officially out the door, Microsoft finally has to start doing a job it’s been neglecting for a few years now: making games. We have a lot of guesses and expectations for what we’ll see from Microsoft at E3 this year, so let’s lay them out:
What we’re expecting:
Forza Horizon 4
Microsoft has released a Forza game of some kind every year since 2011, alternating between Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon. We don’t expect 2018 to be any different. Rumors have been floating around for months that this year’s entry, Forza Horizon 4, will be set in Japan. If true, that could mean a really fresh new entry for the series. Traveling to Japan means tons of expectations for downhill mountain racing and a focus on drifting. A Horizon game is the perfect place to dig into this car fantasy and I’d love to see Playground go there and make our dreams come true. Forza Horizon 3 might be my favorite Forza game to date – I still boot it up sometimes to squeal around the totally-bonkers Hot Wheels expansion.
A Crackdown release date
We’ve been hearing about Crackdown for years. As its Fall 2017 release date closed in, Microsoft pushed it out into 2018 at seemingly the last minute. The company’s been cagey on the release date since then. We actually played it last year and had a pretty good time with it, so we’re fully expecting to see it release this year. If Microsoft wants to really impress us, they’ll do two things: first, they’ll show the online-only gameplay that takes advantage of the much-touted cloud-powered destruction that lets you lay waste to the entire city. Second, they’ll finish the presentation with “and you can play it today, only on Xbox and Windows 10.”
The Xbox Adaptive Controller in action
Microsoft officially unveiled its accessibility-focused Adaptive Controller earlier this month, and it’s cool as hell. It offers an under-served audience a cheaper (though $99 is still not cheap) alternative to the bespoke solutions previously available to gamers with different accessibility needs. The company won’t likely spend a lot of time on it, but we’ll probably get a hard release date and a look at the ways different gamers can setup the controller for their needs to see just how flexible the controller can be.
Xbox service changes
Microsoft has been tweaking just about everything about the Xbox experience in the last few years. Countless updates to the Xbox One have totally changed the way people use it. The Xbox One X has offered a new tier of gaming previously unavailable to console gamers. Xbox Game Pass lets gamers access piles of games for one monthly fee. We’re expecting to see that continue this year. We’re not sure what it’ll be yet. Maybe Microsoft will bite the bullet and make multiplayer free. The cross-compatibility with PC and other platforms already makes it a little bit silly. When I play Sea of Thieves with my brother, he plays on PC while I play on Xbox. I have to pay the yearly cost of Xbox Live to do so, but he doesn’t. And there’s a growing list of games that these rules apply to. Dropping the fee for multiplayer would be a risky move but a big, gamer-friendly, cross-platform-focused move. Or maybe Microsoft will roll the Xbox Game Pass into the Xbox Live service or find a way to make the Xbox Game Pass service more appealing with some “gets” from big third-party developers. The same way Netflix courts exclusive releases and relationships, maybe we’ll see Ubisoft, Capcom, or some other developer putting one of their big games on Xbox Game Pass day-and-date with its release.
Something Gear of War related
That Walmart Canada leak spilled a lot of beans all over everything. We’re still cleaning up all the game beans. It’s starting to seem like the whole thing was accurate but just rife with typos and assumptions. Rage 2 turned out to be real against my best guesses, and there’s almost definitely a Forza Horizon game on the way as we’ve covered, but it’s definitely not “Forza Horizons 5.” One of the other games on that list was “Gears of War 5.” Based on that, we’re betting something Gears of War-related is on the way, though we’d be surprised if it was Gears 5 already. We’re still waiting on Halo 6, and we’re not even 2 years out from Gears of War 4, which released on October 2016. something with the Gears name on it is coming, almost certainly.
What we’re hoping for:
Three years is a pretty good stretch between games. Halo 5: Guardians hit back in 2015, and we haven’t heard much from developer 343 Industries aside from ongoing support of its latest game and of the Master Chief Collection. It’s time for Halo to return.
While we haven’t heard anything about Halo, really, rumors have been floating around that point to Fable making a return, though not with its original developer, the now-shuttered Lionhead Studios. Instead, it seems like Forza Horizon developer Playground Games will be taking the reins. The studio has been staffing up by the hundreds to work on a story-focused action RPG, and rumors point to it being a Fable game. Microsoft pushed around Fable with junk like the failed Fable Legends until they couldn’t justify keeping Lionhead open anymore. It’s a bit sad to think we might see Fable returning so soon after the studio closed, but Playground has the potential to do some awesome stuff with the property and put a fresh spin on it.
Something totally new
With Sea of Thieves out of the gate, there’s nothing truly new from Microsoft in the wings right now. Gears, Halo, Forza, Fable, we know all of these. A new entry is just another serving of the same delicious meal we’ve had before, unless someone manages to pull a God of War and totally reinvent one of those. Barring that, it’s time for Microsoft to show off some new characters, new stories, and new game worlds. The cancelled Platinum game Scalebound was a rough hit for Microsoft’s first-party offerings, and the company needs to give us something.
Something totally NOW
Further, Microsoft needs to give us something soon. While the Xbox has seen niche titles like State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves – both games I enjoy a lot! – Sony has been releasing games like God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Uncharted: Lost Legacy while it prepares for Spider-Man and who knows what else. Sony seems to have one hit after another while Microsoft is standing by watching helplessly. C’mon, Microsoft – it’s time to get back up, and it needs to happen in 2018.
We’ll see which of our dreams are fulfilled and which are dashed when Microsoft’s E3 press briefing kicks off at 1PM PST on June 10.