E3 2018: Microsoft Predictions

by Sage Ashford

We’re back with part two of our E3 Prediction coverage, looking at Microsoft’s press conference.  The tech giant and hardware manufacturer moved from it’s Monday spot last year and now joins Bethesda on Sunday, June 10th at 4PM EST/1PM PST. You can find part one with EA here.

While EA will be busy trying to prove they’ve learned their lesson from the recent lootbox nightmare, Microsoft will be busy trying to entice people over to their side. Since developing the Xbox One X, Microsoft has the advantage of being able to show games that look ridiculously impressive without even having to run on PC hardware, so any third parties obsessed with graphics will instantly gravitate towards them. Knowing that, expect Microsoft to bolster an otherwise anemic first party line-up with tons of 3P partnerships.

First Party:

Sea of Thieves: This game’s launch wound up being more of a mess than it should have been.  Frustrated at the lack of content and the lack of what’s traditionally referred to as progression, Sea of Thieves was a title which started off with lots of positive reception, but became polarizing the longer it was out. The Hungering Deep is working to allay much of the initial complaints, though there’s still a ways to go. However, expect Rare to still talk about some of the content updates that will be part of the title going forward.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps: Follow up to Moon Studios’ 2015 installment in the Ori series, Ori and the Will of the Wisps seeks to make a quantum leap in terms of the quality of the franchise.  If the trailer they showed at E3 2017 was any indication, they’re already well on their way–the music and ruined but gorgeous locales combined to make one of the most memorable showings at Microsoft’s conference last year.  If this game is coming out any time in the next 12 months I’d presume it makes another appearance here.

Forza Horizon 4:  Forza Horizon 4 isn’t a prediction, it’s the way of things. The same way EA releases sports games, Activision makes CoD, and the Warriors will beat the Cavs again, Forza Horizon 4 will be at Microsoft’s press conference. The company has been alternating between it’s two major racing franchises (Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon) since Horizon first launched in 2012.  The rumor this year is the popular open world racing game will be set in Japan.  Expect some of the best graphics possible for a console game…and to spend way too much time on this if you’re not a fan of racing games.

Crackdown 3: One of the last remaining hold outs from Microsoft’s 2014 conference, this game has found itself pushed back a number of times as the developers work to master the revolutionary cloud technology that lets the work be infinitely destructible. After scaling back a bit on the scope of this game, Crackdown 3 seems ready for a 2018 release.

Ashen: The action RPG from Aurora44 and Annapurna Interactive made its first appearance during E3 2015.  Set in a sunless world, the game is supposed to be a survival RPG with optional co-op play, as the main character battles to find a home for himself. With the title scheduled for a 2018 release and a major part of the ID@Xbox initiative, there’s no way this doesn’t make a final appearance for Xbox. Essentially 2018’s Cuphead for them, hopefully it has the same critical (and commercial!) appeal.

Third Party:

Dying Light 2: Techland’s first person zombie open world game released to mostly positive reviews and largely great sales, but since then the developer has been largely quiet. However, the first title had a series of DLC packs released for it over the last year that ended…right in the month of E3.  How coincidental. With the first game being such a massive success, there’s zero chance the second title doesn’t make an appearance at E3, and Microsoft’s a good place to show it off. Yes, it’s first appearance was on Sony’s stage, but with Sony having both Days Gone and the Last of Us Part II, they might be a bit full on zombie titles.

The Artful Escape of Francis Venditti: If Ori and the Will of the Wisps was the most beautiful title at Microsoft’s show, The Artful Escape was solidly second place with everyone else a distant third. Channeling the psychedelic, otherwordly feel of those sweet rock album covers from the 70’s, the game features a musician working his way through his anxieties of an upcoming musical performance. Presuming this title is ready for this year, it should make a reappearance.

Gwent: Thronebreaker: The story mode to CD Projekt RED’s popular card game spin-off from The Witcher 3, the title spent much of last year in beta with an intent of releasing that fall.  However, after intense testing the perfectionist publisher/developer decided to push the game’s release into this fall with the intent of improving both the multi-player and offering a robust single-player campaign. With that in mind, the game’s reintroduction to the world will likely happen on the big stage as an prelude to an even bigger title…

Cyberpunk 2077: It wouldn’t be out of line to call this the most anticipated title for current-gen.  A video game based on the popular pen and paper RPG series, Cyberpunk 2077 has been basically invisible since the title’s reveal back in 2013. But with its social media account going active just a few months ago, it’s believed CDPR is finally ready to unveil their latest RPG.  Microsoft and CD Projekt RED have been tight going all the way back to The Witcher 2, with most of the Witcher 3 and Gwent reveals happening on their stage.  It’d be more shocking if it showed up anywhere else. Still, this game is probably 12 months away at the least, so expect a gameplay demo and maybe a targeted release year–hopefully 2019?

Dead Rising 5: Confirmed in development back in February, it’s believed Capcom put an end to Puzzle Fighter in order for this franchise to rise again, even in spite of Capcom Vancouver’s layoffs.  Though the game didn’t get especially high sales thanks to its exclusivity on Xbox platforms, it’s still easy to believe Capcom might go with Microsoft for a shot at the big stage.

The Avengers Project: The Avengers Project showed up during a teaser at the start of 2017 then fell off the map, as Square promised more in 2018. Well, 2018’s here now and there’s no better stage to show off such a massive project.  Now Square has their own show and I’m sure The Avengers Project will make an appearance there, however the attention on their show won’t be anywhere near what Microsoft can attain. Sony may well be busy showing off deep dives into their Big Four, and they’ve already got dibs on Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy VII: Remake, so there’s a good chance Square will want to spread some of their other major titles around.   Potentially, they’ll do a minor reveal here and a larger reveal at their own conference–especially if the game is due out in 2019.  If they’re even a little unsure about it though, they’ll just show the trailer here at their show the following Monday.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Though Tomb Raider is a “Sony” franchise, Microsoft did lock down this game’s predecessor for an exclusive one year deal. While that seems too costly for Square now, I can still see Tomb Raider getting a big gameplay reveal here. The game is one of many that will look excellent with Xbox One X graphics, and Square will be looking to show off how pretty their “well made” games are at E3, so this is an easy dunk for Microsoft.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey: Recently leaked (then quickly confirmed by Ubisoft), the latest Assassin’s Creed game will make it’s first appearance here. We’ll get a look at the world of Greece and its surrounding lands, and get to meet the protagonist(s) of Odyssey here. Since this is most likely Ubi’s major fall game, there’s a good chance we’ll see a lot of this title at E3 while ramping up for the fall. Origins was one of the best games to come out in the fall of 2017, so this hopefully will be able to reach the same expectations.

Remedy’s Project 7: Though Remedy Entertainment has broken away from Microsoft only titles, that doesn’t mean they’ve abolished all ties with them. Despite being confirmed for an E3 release, we don’t know much about this project yet, save for what’s present on their website: it’s a new universe and a cinematic third person action game with the deepest game mechanics seen yet in a Remedy title. Sounds exciting–though Quantum Break wasn’t able to achieve the heights the company would have liked, it was an ambitious project and really close to being something special.  They deserve another shot.

Lightning Round:

  • Forgive my crackpot theory, but Microsoft has been trying to woo gamers who primarily play Japanese titles for quite some time now. A month or so ago, someone asked Phil Spencer if any “JRPGs” would be present, and he said yes. Now I’ve racked my brain, and there aren’t many potential games Microsoft could show. It comes down to a small handful of games: Platinum Games’ Granblue Fantasy Re:Link, they could pass Code Vein off as a major game again, they could have Dragon Quest XI, or they could have the new Tales game.
  • There’s rumors that The Coalition and 343 Studios aren’t ready to unveil the next major installments of Gears or Halo. If that’s the case, they’ll probably be pushed to the Xbox Next. But there’s also rumors both of these franchises are going to have spin off titles make an appearance at their show.
  • Playground Games (known for their work on the Forza series) has decided to start working on a AAA open world IP. The going rumor currently is that IP is actually Fable rather than a totally new series. Will Fable be at this conference?  Maybe.  Microsoft isn’t afraid to show games years before they’re ready.
  • There’s a Perfect Dark rumor which doesn’t seem to have much substance to it, but it’s worth making everyone aware of it in case something happens.
  • In addition to Dying Light 2, it’s worth noting that developer Techland has had plans for a first-person fantasy open world RPG for the last two years, but they’ve been largely quiet on that.  Depending on how long of a lead time they want on the project, the company could easily have two games here at E3.

That about wraps up Microsoft. What games are you looking forward to?  Personally, though I’ve never thought Microsoft “won” an E3, I’ve always been impressed by how well paced their shows are in the Xbox One era–they introduce as many games as they can in a lengthy show while giving love to titles of all production levels.

Sage Ashford

A writer with way too many hobbies, Sage can often be found catching up on the latest anime, or reading a stack of comics between Wednesdays and Thursdays.