The most anticipated E3 conferences each year are the first-party ones, and that's definitely the case in 2017 too. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that Microsoft is set to officially unveil "Project Scorpio". The reveal of a new console usually also means some exciting game announcements, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that we're looking forward to seeing what Microsoft has in store when their Xbox Briefing starts at 10 pm BST / 11 pm CEST on Sunday. In fact, we're so hyped that we have to share our predictions to relieve some of the pressure.
Let's start with the most obvious one. Microsoft has already announced that there will be a big focus on their new console at the conference and we expect to learn some very important details. We're obviously talking about the release date, price, and games line-up. These last few days, we've seen Microsoft hype their conference by using the phrase "Feel True Power", so there's no doubt what the focus will be. They're done playing catch up with PlayStation and want to show how much stronger the console will be. However, the powerful components inside the console aren't cheap. This has to lead to some very varied theories as to what it'll cost. We've heard everything from $399 to $599. Our guess is that it'll be closer to the former. Yes, we know Phil Spencer has said it's a "premium" console that isn't for everybody. That might seem as if he's preparing us for a "premium" price, but $599 is out of the question. The folks at Microsoft aren't silly. They know that power won't matter if it costs waaaaay more than a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Pro. Still, we doubt they're willing to sell the console at too much of a loss, so our prediction is that it'll cost $449 or $499.
October 13, 2017.
Theories and rumours about the launch date have also been appearing. When Warner Bros. unveiled Middle-earth: Shadow of War, they said that it would support the Scorpio. As the game was set to release in August, that lead many to believe that the console would be available by then. That's not happening! First of all, with the number of leaks we've seen from retailers and manufacturing companies through the year, we'd have heard something about that by now. Secondly, all console manufacturers want to release their consoles at a time where we've got a lot of game releases. That usually means October and November. It's also worth noting that the original Xbox, the Xbox 360, and Xbox One all launched in North America in November. One of the reasons for this is to coincide with the shopping spree that is Thanksgiving. There are however a few reasons for them to release it as early as October. It'll mean that the console is out right before the anticipated games of November arrive, and it would probably launch alongside Forza Motorsport 7 (more on that later). Some also speculate that Microsoft may have given us a big hint in one of their "Feel True Power" teasers. Look closely and you'll see the code "X10S101-317" on the stage with the huge crowd. The "X10S" part might stand for the Xbox Scorpio, with the remaining numbers meaning October 13, 2017. That's a Friday, a day that isn't exactly a stranger to console launches. And let's not forget that the Scorpio star sign lasts from October 23 through November 21 ;) Our prediction is that it'll launch mid-October.
Then we have the games. Multiple developers and publishers have already announced their attendants, so yet again we'll start with the announcements we are sure will be there.
Back in April, Undead Labs said that they would reveal State of Decay 2's launch date at E3 and we're confident this announcement will be made on Microsoft's stage. Expect a brand new trailer that shows how far the game has come and learn what they're doing better this time around. What will the release date be? We don't have a clue. We're guessing that the game is pretty much done and that Microsoft just wants it released on a date where it won't compete with their other titles. With that in mind, we'll venture a guess on August.
The main reason for this is that we think October is set aside for the all but announced Forza Motorsport 7. Most Forza games have launched in September or October, and we think Microsoft wants this to be the Scorpio's flagship when it launches. Forza is known as one of the most important graphical showcases for Xbox, so it makes sense that it'll be the one that shows just what the new console can do at launch.
Remember Crackdown 3? Consider how little we've heard from the game the last eleven months, we wouldn't blame you if you didn't. The last time we got anything besides a delay was at Gamescom 2015. That's where they showed how the game would use "the power of the Cloud" to create a whole new level of destructible environments. A very intriguing idea, but it went completely off the radar after that. We've heard rumblings of this being due to some significant changes being made, both in terms of gameplay and the Cloud idea. They apparently realised that the internet isn't exactly perfect around the world and that the Scorpio won't need the Cloud to create the desired destruction. Fortunately, the game is apparently set to launch this autumn. Back in March, Dave Johnson "art director" at Microsoft Studios said that the game would launch "Fall 2017 if not earlier", so there aren't all that many chances left for the game to be shown. This is also backed up by what the game's developers replied when a Twitter user asked about the release date:
"Are you asking for an announcement of an announcement?! You'll just have to watch the presser and see;)"
Chances of them just trolling are pretty much zero. We expect to get an extended gameplay presentation ending with a November release.
With all this talk about sequels, it's time to focus on new IPs. Rare has been keeping us updated regarding the development of Sea of Thieves by making a bunch of developer diaries and conducting tech tests, but now it's time to really show it off to the world. The charming game has come a long way since we saw it on stage last year and we think the Brits are closing in on its release. That's why we think they'll have a presentation where they talk about how the final product will be, before announcing a public beta this summer and release in September.
Talking about charming games, let's talk about Cuphead and Below. Both of them were delayed last year, with the former apparently being very close to launch. Studio MDHR's Twitter account and Cuphead's FAQ still claims that it'll be released in "mid-2017". Well, there are twelve months in a year and we're now in month six. You don't have to be a math genius to figure at that we're in that window now.
Capy, on the other hand, is still working on the OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes game and reiterates that the next time they'll talk about Below it'll be to announce the release date. With such a small studio working on two projects, chances are Below will suddenly launch sometime this autumn or get delayed yet again.
Now it's time to move into speculation territory. The folks over at 343 Industries recently said that we won't see Halo 6 at the conference, but in the same statement said that they would show something from the Halo universe. There are two announcements that definitely cross our minds. The first of which is a Halo Wars 2 expansion. The game hasn't done as well as Microsoft hoped and we're guessing they might try to give it one last push to see if it sticks. The other option is The Master Chief Collection making its way to PC. Possibly with Halo 3 also getting the anniversary treatment. Microsoft's PC and Xbox departments have almost fused together the last couple of years. Combine that with Halo 5: Guardians kind of sticking a toe into the PC waters, and you might get the idea that the entire Halo series is making it's way to Windows 10.
When Phil Spencer said we wouldn't get a new Halo or Gears of War this year, many asked what they would have instead. Spencer mentioned both Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3 and a few other games, but also said that they've also decided to make it easier for indie developers to launch on Xbox One. This has apparently shown some incredible results already, which makes it fairly likely that some of these projects will be shown off during the conference. Not much more than trailer reel though. The only exceptions we can think of are some popular early access games coming over to the console. PlayerUnknown devs Bluehole keeps saying that they've barely started on a Xbox One version, but he might be understating things, and it's the kind of game Microsoft's likes to show at their conference.
A game that was indie but now has become giant is Minecraft. Microsoft dug deep into their pockets when purchasing Mojang and Minecraft, so it's rather curious that we haven't seen any significant updates since they showed it on Hololens two years ago. We doubt they spent all that cash to get a small demo. They have something up their sleeve. The question is what. Minecraft 2? Minecraft VR? This might be one of Microsoft's big surprises.
One game that caught many by surprise back in 2015 was Ori and the Blind Forest. Moon Studios' beautiful platformer was a part of many "Game of the Year" discussions, so we doubt neither Microsoft nor Moon Studios want to leave the adorable Ori behind after just one adventure. This might just be us dreaming though... and it may be too soon given the time they spent on the original.
You might not know who Decisive Games are, but they're one of Microsoft's first-party studios. It's been three years since they posted job listings for "the next instalment in a beloved strategy game franchise". Is it a coincidence that Microsoft owns the rights to Age of Empires (and Rise of Nations)? We doubt it, but we also think they are fairly hesitant after Halo Wars 2's performance. Still, they need something to show.
Everyone knows that Sony and Microsoft love to get exclusive content and/or deals with third-party studios. This year won't be any different. Microsoft has definitely signed some contracts to make sure certain games will look and play better on Scorpio. We already know that Middle-earth: Shadow of War will take advantage of the extra power, but that's only the start. Sony has made deals with Call of Duty: WWII, Destiny 2, Far Cry 5, and a few others. Then it wouldn't surprise us if Microsoft decided to approach the publishers' other upcoming games. Rumours of Assassin's Creed: Origins teaming up with Microsoft have been heard for some time, and we know that both Bethesda and EA have a few unannounced games that might suit Microsoft. And while it feels like Sony would be closer to landing Red Dead Redemption 2, you never know who's willing to pay the most money. The giant company has deeper pockets than Sony and they're going to use them to help ensure developers make "an extra effort" on Xbox One and Scorpio.
What better way to end our predictions than talking about new IPs. Microsoft has confessed that they don't have as many IPs as PlayStation. Not exactly that strange considering how few first-party studios they have. We're fairly confident that The Coalition is working on a new Gears of War, Rare is focusing on Sea of Thieves and Turn 10 on Forza Motorsport 7. Not many exciting prospects left after that. Could it be that they've expanded without anyone noticing? Do they have a few extra aces up their collective sleeve? We'll know when the conference ends Sunday night.