Who Will Win E3 2018: The Case for Microsoft

Xbox | Ubisoft | Nintendo | EA | Square Enix | Sony | Bethesda

This series of articles considers the best case scenario for each developing company holding a press conference.  Check back every Tuesday and Friday to find out why your favorite game company will win, as we get closer to E3 2018. We invite you to read our other considerations by clicking the developer’s name above, as it releases.

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The Last 5 E3s

People may not remember, but there was a time when Microsoft won an E3.  I know it’s been a while, as the Xbox faithful have had to endure a few sigh-inducing moments in 4 out of the last 5 years of Xbox Briefings, but it HAS happened.  Five years ago, Microsoft was arguably in top form. It was 2013 and Microsoft had just debuted the Xbox One. While that definitely highlighted the conference, it was the amount of quality games they revealed that really set the presentation off.  Games like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Titanfall, Dark Souls II, and even a tease for a new Halo game. It was the perfect conference to launch what really has been one of their best consoles.

2014 was the start of the rollercoaster for Microsoft as they had a good, not great performance, having less exclusives and more first releases with Rise of the Tomb Raider and Dragon Age: Inquisition.  They also wow’d us with Scalebound and Fable Legends, although we couldn’t know at the time that these games would never come to pass.

Over the last few years, it’s hard to deny that Microsoft’s best showing was in 2015.  In fact, many could even say it won that year’s E3. With a lineup of Halo 5 Guardians, ReCore (though, now we know it didn’t do that well), Fallout 4, Dark Souls III, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Cuphead, Sea of Thieves, Rare Replay, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Gears of War 4.  They even showed something we had never seen in the virtual reality game with the Hololens. It really was the best showing from Microsoft and should explain to doubters as to why it was easily the winner in 2015.

Unfortunately, the following year, Microsoft couldn’t maintain that momentum.  They kicked off E3 2016 by revealing the Xbox One S, a solid 4K system at the fraction of the price of the original Xbox One.  Then, they rehashed a lot of what they showed the previous year, adding Halo Wars 2, but it’s what they ended with that had a lot of people scratching their heads.  Their main event was announcing that the following year they’d release something called Project Scorpio (Xbox One X). It was dubbed the most powerful system ever and that it would cost $500 and release during the 2017 holidays.  We all wondered why they would sell us the S if they were just going to make it obsolete in less than an hour.

Last year was the Xbox One X conference.  They finally showed us this beautifully-crafted console, and basically announced that the rest of the presentation would sell us on the games that would make the Xbox One X worth the price tag.  They claimed that we would see 30+ games and that a majority of them would be exclusives. The problem was, it was mostly indie games, with the exception of Crackdown 3.  No disrespect to the indie community but that’s not something that really sells a massive, game-changing console.  Then, they ended with EA’s Anthem, a game that isn’t exclusive to the Xbox One or the X. They essentially gave us little reason to buy the console, for non-Xbox faithful. It also created the narrative that Xbox lacked exclusive titles. A narrative that, if addressed, could bring Xbox the much-sought after win they’ve been pursuing over the last couple of years.

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How They Can Win E3 2018

When Microsoft was at their best, they weren’t trying to sell us a console.  They were selling us the games that made the console unique; that made it stand out.  They showed us exclusives, and that’s the recipe they need to focus on in 2018. Fortunately, recent leaks may have prematurely announced that that’s exactly what we’ll be getting.

Thanks to Walmart Canada, and Bethesda’s RAGE 2 announcement, it’s all but confirmed that we’ll be seeing Gears of War 5 at the Xbox E3 Briefing.  While that alone, is good news, it’s not enough to win E3. They need more, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another trailer for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, given their penchant for the franchise.  Additionally, another leaked game could find it’s way on the agenda for the Xbox Presentation and it’s one everyone has been clamoring for, Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell.

Debuting Splinter Cell would be a massive moment for Xbox.  Although, if Ubisoft doesn’t want anyone to steal their thunder, Xbox could settle for a Division 2 reveal (or both).  Whichever path they go down, Xbox’s history suggests that they will make a deal to get World Premiere rights, just like did with EA’s Anthem.

Speaking of which…last year Anthem closed out the show with a brilliant trailer.  With that kind of prestige, it’s highly likely that Microsoft will show us another amazing trailer, and I could see some sort of exclusive, whether its first-release rights or something similar.  EA, especially BioWare, have a lot riding on Anthem, so any more exposure is a positive for this ambitious prolonged shooter.

There is another shooter exclusive to Xbox that could be making its way to E3 2018, however.  It’s been long overdue since we saw Microsoft’s favorite soldier, Master Chief. It’s high time that he makes his triumphant return with Halo 6, and signs point to it happening this year.  The last time a Halo game was announced, the Master Chief Collection preceded it.

This year, Xbox announced that an update to the Master Chief Collection will allow players to pick and choose the parts of the games they want to download.  It’s not a concrete science, but it makes sense that this would be the year Halo 6 would be announced, with it ultimately releasing as a launch title for the next Xbox, which is inevitable.

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How They Could Lose It

There are plenty of ways Xbox fans and casual gamers could walk away from the Xbox E3 Briefing with a sour taste in their mouths.  It starts with looking at what Xbox did last year, giving us quantity over quality. Their biggest competition, Sony, has proven that the trick to getting gamers excited is to show them reveals for AAA titles that wow us, no matter how few there are.  That’s quality.  What Xbox did last year with all their indie titles is quantity.  It doesn’t matter how many titles you have, if no one has a personal connection to them. So, not showing enough AAA exclusives is one way of doing it.

Another way they could muck up this Briefing is if they spend the entire time focusing on the next Xbox.  Despite being near that time for the console wars to be reignited, no one wants to see another $500+ console. They already did that last year with the Xbox One X and any reveal now would serve to make the X obsolete.  In fact, if the Xbox One X really is the most powerful console ever, Microsoft shouldn’t feel pressured to release a new console anytime soon, unlike Sony. The pressures of selling a console have proven to be a stressful endeavor, one which Sony doesn’t care to undergo at this moment.  Therefore, neither should Xbox. They just need to go out there, have fun, and give us a reason to fall back in love with the green brand. If they don’t succeed in doing this, that will spell bad news for Xbox.

Oh and please don’t show off a car, again.  This is a video game conference, not an ad for the Porsche 911.  Though, I hear it can go 0-60 in 2.7 seconds and has a top speed of 211 mph, but I digress.

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Final Thoughts

Overall, I really do believe Microsoft will have one of their best presentations.  They’re at their best when they only focus on their own games, and that seems to be about to happen.  Furthermore, it speaks volumes that they left the LACC, in favor of having their own space. It means that we’re in for a lot of demos for highly-anticipated games and tech, also owning the building you’re presenting from to cut costs doesn’t hurt either.  

With the Xbox One X release behind them and games they’ve been rehashing for years, finally out.  This is Microsoft’s moment to start fresh and debut a new assortment of games that will wow and amaze us enough to want to own a piece of the Xbox family.  No matter what, the Xbox fans will still love whatever they show, but it’s the rest of the gaming community that Xbox needs to impress this year, and I believe it’s going to happen.