It’s no secret that in the fan created, “actually not a thing so shut the fuck up” console war, Xbox are lagging behind Sony. Exclusive games such as God of War, The Last of Us, Uncharted and Bloodborne have earned success from both critics and fans, whilst raking in cash like nobody’s business.
On the other side of the fence, you’ve got Xbox. Though their exclusives line-up has a number of heavy hitters, including the likes of Halo, Gears of War and Forza, current releases just haven’t been landing as well as their competitors. Games like Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2, though enjoyable and have created a core group of dedicated fans, have by and large been met with a resounding, apathetic “meh”.
Going into E3 2018, Microsoft are effectively on the ropes, and that’s why they need to come out swinging. With just a few hours to turn public perception around, Microsoft can’t afford to waste time, or having some bumbling idiot who hasn’t spoken in front of a crowd before talk about enhanced social integration or spouting some inane PR rhetoric.
They need to cut the bullshit.
In past press conferences or briefings, Microsoft have had an innate tendency to focus on the wrong thing. During the now infamous Xbox One reveal, Microsoft devoted too much time to talking about how the Xbox can function as a TV, whilst also fanning the flames of fear by making Kinect mandatory and would always be listening to you. Let’s also not forget that fiasco regarding second hand games.
Admittedly, Microsoft conferences have improved immeasurably since then, with Xbox wisely focusing on games, stage demos and big announcements. That’s a trend that needs to continue into 2018. With a lack of major first party releases lined up, save for the perpetually coming soon Crackdown 3, Xbox have some big gaps in their schedule; gaps that need filling.
We can already make educated guesses about gaming announcements that’ll arrive at E3 2018. 343 Industries have already confirmed that Halo 6 is in development, with a release in the next 18 months looking quite likely. Meanwhile, third person shooter Gears of War is practically guaranteed a follow-up in the form of Gears 5.
Rumours of a fourth game in the Forza Horizon series have also been doing the rounds, along with the return of the popular Fable franchise after the failed launch of Fable Legends. Even more intimate indie games like Ori and the Will of the Wisps help bolster the overall Xbox line-up.
The announcement of any of those games would be a big win for Xbox. Though they might lack a level of originality, being sequels to established franchises and all, they’ve retained a core following that’ll be excited to see a follow-up, especially considering that Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best racing games ever made. You heard me.
But Xbox also have an announcement or two waiting in the wings. Last year’s E3 saw the reveal that popular MMO Black Desert Online would be making its way to the Xbox One, so more news on that would be welcome, if only so we can spend five hours dicking about with that seriously impressive character creator.
Meanwhile, the critically praised backwards compatibility feature is always looking for some big additions to its roster, specifically in the regards to the original Xbox. Big name games like Burnout 3, the original Splinter Cell games, Def Jam: Fight For New York, Freedom Fighters and Midnight Club 3, to name but a few that I randomly plucked from a Wikipedia list, would be perfect additions guaranteed to blow the roof off the Microsoft Theater and probably causing Twitter to meltdown as a result.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an E3 briefing without a surprise announcement here or there, and Xbox is currently in dire need of something like that. An original IP attached to a big name developer would be something that could really galvanise the Xbox community. If it doesn’t get cancelled before hand anyway. Rest in peace, Scalebound. Gone from this world too soon.
In fairness to Microsoft, we don’t exactly expect them to spend an hour and a half on stage lollygagging. If anything, their actions before E3 have proven their intentions to hit the ground running once the conference kicks off. Xbox was one of, if not the first company conducting a briefing this year to set their stall out early on and give information on what would be taking place. It’s a bold move, and perhaps one you’d make when you’ve got a killer show lined up.
Meanwhile, the choice to announce the Xbox Adaptive Controller outside of E3 worked twofold. Firstly, it gave the historic announcement a chance to breathe on its own, giving it its own well deserved spotlight. Secondly, not saving the announcement for E3 allows Xbox and Microsoft to focus on more pressing concerns: the lack of games.
Events like this are often an opportunity for big companies to give thanks to their fans for their continued support, but for a successful media briefing, Microsoft would be better served focusing on their games and cutting the bullshit. The fans will thank them for it.