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The E3 2017 Game Plan: Microsoft – E3 2017

The E3 2017 Game Plan: Microsoft – E3 2017

Each year I struggle a bit in coming up with a semi-cheesy way to introduce E3 season.

Last year, I think I talked about father time continuously pushing the calendar, time marching on, or something along those lines.

This year let’s just cut to the chase, shall we?

It’s FRIGGIN E3 SEASON!

masterchiefhappeninggif

If you are playing games and somehow don’t get excited at the prospect of what could go down at the annual super-gathering of the industry’s insider’s, then what more can I say?

You kinda stink.

For the rest of us, E3 represents a gaming Christmas: a potential bonanza of dreams becoming reality.

Last year there was a ton of uncertainty. Would Sony be able to top their now legendary “E3 of Dreams“? Would Microsoft really announce multiple new iterations of the Xbox One? Would Nintendo be competitive with their decision to showcase a single game?

Now as we enter E3 2017, the tables are turned, and each of the big three have new stakes riding on the big show.

Sony – Can they remain the undisputed king and keep excitement high for the PlayStation 4?

Microsoft – Will Project Scorpio revitalize Xbox One development, or is this a desperate last stand?

Nintendo – Now that the sleeping giant has awoken, how much steam will the Nintendo Switch really have?

These are all fascinating questions that will play out over the next several weeks, and we here at Nerd Bacon will be on hand to bring you the answers.

Recently, we began our annual series with Nintendo and explored the possibilities in store for the Switch’s E3 debut. Today we examine Microsoft, and take a hard look at on what’s on the line on their journey to E3 2017.

Please keep in mind that this article is based solely on my opinion and speculation. I don’t have any inside info on what may or may not be presented at their respective conferences and I may be entirely off-base on my predictions, however if I somehow manage score at least a 90% on those predictions, I respectfully request that you honor my mental acumen by sending me a box of cookies.


Xbox-One-Logo-600x300

When the lights went down on Monday afternoon following Microsoft’s E3 2015 presentation, the world was their proverbial oyster.

Microsoft orchestrated a presentation that was laser-like in its precision; succeeding in the ultimate goal of each company that enters the E3 arena: create an atmosphere of energy and excitement around the Xbox One console.

Microsoft did a great job at E3 2015

Microsoft did a great job at E3 2015

Throughout the two hour presentation Microsoft sold consumers on their mantra that this was indeed “the best line-up in Xbox history”; presenting a holiday line-up consisting of Rare Replay, Halo 5, Forza Motorsport 6, and a big third-party holiday exclusive in Rise of the Tomb Raider. We also got announcements of exciting future projects with ReCore, Sea of Thieves, and Gears of War 4.

Microsoft also exponentially increased the value of the Xbox One by announcing backwards compatibility with a number of Xbox 360 titles, as well as providing a glimpse into the future with a stunning HoloLens demonstration featuring Minecraft.

In any other year the content that Microsoft unveiled at E3 2015 should have been enough to easily “win” E3.

But fate is sometimes a cruel mistress – and this was 2015.

This was the E3 of dreams.

And less than twelve hours later, all of that carefully crafted buzz, that oh, so sought after word of mouth that Microsoft had rightfully won, was gone – usurped by Sony’s impossible display of shock and awe.

In looking back to that magical year, one can’t help but ponder the “what-if’s.”

What if Final Fantasy VII: Remake and Shenmue III – two titles most people thought would only happen through an act of God, hadn’t been announced at Sony’s E3 2015 event?

What if the Last Guardian, a game most fans had relegated to the status of improbable, hadn’t been reintroduced?

What if Uncharted 4 hadn’t looked so impressive, or newcomer, Horizon: Zero Dawn so promising?

Would the current divide between in units sold of PlayStation 4’s versus Xbox One’s be so wide?

While we may never fully get the answer to that speculation, what we do know is that Microsoft embarked on an entirely different course when it came time for E3 2016.

FFVII: Remake - It's really happening!

FFVII: Remake – It’s really happening!

Rumors surrounding a mid-generation refresh for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were abundant as E3 2016 approached. While Sony acknowledged the existence of what would become the PlayStation 4 Pro prior to the event, they decided to hold off on any formal announcement until a later time. This left Microsoft free to go in with hardware guns blazing – after all, what better way is there to generate excitement than to announce new hardware?

Microsoft took the opportunity to announce their Project Scorpio – a machine that held the promise of being “the most powerful console ever developed.” While full specs and details were not discussed during last year’s show, Microsoft did drop a few tantalizing hints as to what we could expect when Scorpio was ready to strike. Terms like 6 teraflops per second processing and speeds of 320gb per second bandwidth were liberally brandied about, as Microsoft tried to stoke our imaginations of what was to come in this new world order of 4k visual fidelity.

The problem is – Microsoft didn’t just announce Project Scorpio.

They also announced a slimmed down version of the original Xbox One which would ALSO take advantage of 4k television displays: the Xbox One S.

So in addition to the original Xbox One model from 2013, this brought the total number of Xbox One sku’s available on the market up to 3, however, they weren’t done yet.

They also used E3 2016 as a platform to unveil a new Xbox ecosystem through their Xbox Play Anywhere initiative.

Now players were able to digitally purchase every single first party Microsoft title, as well as a good chunk of third-party releases, through their online store, and play on their PC’s or Xbox One’s. This meant that games like Forza Horizon 3 and Killer Instinct – titles that were previously exclusive to console, were now available on PC.

Xbox One S was a sexy replacement for the original Xbox One hardware, but the Scorpio announcement that followed made things confusing.

Xbox One S was a sexy replacement for the original Xbox One hardware, but the Scorpio announcement that followed made things confusing.

While that certainly sounds great on paper, one has to remember that exclusive titles are the lifeblood of a console. By assuring a large segment of the gaming population that the Xbox One was not needed in order to enjoy some of these games, Microsoft shifted the desired conversation from:

“Sweet! I can play great Xbox One games anywhere!”

to:

“Sweet! Who needs an Xbox One?”

Throwing the Xbox One S into the mix, along with their continued messaging of the upcoming Project Scorpio being the most powerful console ever developed, has only served to further muddy the marketing waters.

As time proceeded, Microsoft’s messaging behind Project Scorpio became less clear.

Where first we were lead to believe that this would be along the lines of PlayStation 4 Pro – where games could be enhanced to take advantage of the extra processing power within the Pro, but not featuring any titles that were exclusive to that sku. In the subsequent months though, Microsoft’s messaging continued to assert the premium status of the machine, suggesting that it would have titles that would only be playable on the upgraded hardware.

If that were the case, then we could no longer consider the Scorpio to be a mid-generation upgrade; it would be a fully new console generation, only four years removed from the launch of the last one.

The actual games that were featured in Microsoft’s E3 2016 presentation were not quite at the level that we saw in 2015.

Sure, there was a nice extended demo of Forza Horizon 3 (which is an unparalleled high-water mark for the series) and ample amount of time spent with Gears of War 4; however as good as those games were, they were also continuations of well-established series. There just weren’t a lot of surprises to those games.

Couple that with a presentation for the now cancelled Scalebound that ended up being universally panned on the net, and we come up with a 2016 presentation that frankly, didn’t deliver.

As we enter E3 2017, it will be Microsoft that stands to gain, or lose the most; and it’s that wild variability that makes them the most intriguing and unpredictable of the big three.

Microsoft has to make a compelling argument for Project Scorpio

Microsoft has to make a compelling argument for Project Scorpio

For Microsoft to win  E3 2017, they will have to present a clear, unwavering definition of what it means to be a part of the Xbox One platform: whether you’re playing on an original Xbox One, Xbox One S, Project Scorpio, or PC.

They will also have to definitively establish the advantages of Project Scorpio; whether it’s a premium version of the Xbox One, or a whole new and separate platform.

But most importantly, Microsoft absolutely MUST have exciting software in order to compel people into playing on their platform.

If they fail on these three fronts, then the questions that will be surrounding Microsoft after E3 2017 will be along the lines of:

“Why is Microsoft still in the video game industry”?


Predictions

It’s extremely difficult at this point to predict what Microsoft is going to show at E3 2017.

We know for sure that this will be the coming out party for the Project Scorpio. Here we will get the full Scorpio story – learn the release date, the price, and it’s true purpose in the gaming landscape.

The two key factors for Scorpio will be what games will really take advantage of the beefier hardware, and how much will the damned thing cost?

One of the factors that severely handicapped the Xbox One’s launch in 2013 was its $499 price tag: a full $100 less than the PlayStation 4. As the old saying goes: “those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.”

It’s that factor that makes me want to say that Project Scorpio will retail for $399 when it launches, however, Microsoft has touted on numerous occasions that the Scorpio is being built as a premium product. So that would lend itself to the assumption that it will have a premium price: perhaps in the $600 range.

Earlier this year I predicted Scorpio would eventually be the start of a whole new platform and launch for a price between $500 – $600. Today, I’m sticking by that. The current release schedule for the Xbox One, and its lack of a major exclusive release within the next six months is a clear indication that internal development has shifted to something Scorpio.

Either that, or Microsoft has developed an extraordinary talent for keeping things under wraps.

I expect an early November launch for Scorpio and a price of $499.

I also think that Microsoft will look to make Scorpio compatible with a variety of VR devices. Whether you have an Oculus or an HTC Vive, you’ll be able to use those with Scorpio.

Admit it - you'd be willing to drop some money on a VR set up if it meant being able to play Half Life 3.

Is it possible that third-party VR units could be compatible with the Scorpio?

Now let’s talk about games, shall we?

What wonderful pieces of interactive entertainment will we be playing on our Xbox One devices?

We already know that 343 Studios will not be showing off a new Halo title at E3 2017, so that alleviates any speculation about Halo 6 making its debut.

Gears of War just had their latest installment last year, so it’s too soon for the next one. That leaves Forza as the last established pillar of Microsoft’s stable available to spearhead the Scorpio launch. So it’s pretty much a given to expect Forza 7 to be unveiled and to play a prominent role in Microsoft’s E3 2017 plans.

As solid as Forza is (and it’s arguably the king of the racing genre) I highly doubt that Forza 7 would be able to carry the launch of a new console all by its lonesome.

So what else is there?

Crackdown – It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since we got our first look at the new Crackdown game, and I fully believe that we will see this reintroduced in a major way for the Scorpio launch?

Crackdown 3 will be reintroduced at E3 2017.

Crackdown 3 will be reintroduced at E3 2017.

But those two are easy predictions. Let’s try something harder, shall we?

On January 6th, 2016, pro wrestler Ken Anderson posted an Instagram message thanking his friend for hooking him up with a voice over gig for what he called a “super secret squirrel video game project.” This led me to make the bold prediction that the planet’s beloved foul-mouthed squirrel, Conker would be making his Xbox exclusive return in 2016. Obviously, that didn’t pan out – at least not yet.

While I may have gotten the year wrong, I sure as heck didn’t get the rest of my prediction wrong.

Conker's return to the spotlight is imminent!

Conker’s return to the spotlight is imminent!

Microsoft will unveil an all new Conker project at E3 2017, which will launch on Scorpio and Xbox One this year! Mark my words!

I also think we are going to have some sort of Killer Instinct news this year. They already teased a new character at the Combo Breaker fighting game tournament, however, my thought is that this will be the lead in to a fourth season for Microsoft’s fantastic fighter.

There were quite a few headlines in May revolving around Square Enix’s decision to divest itself of their interests in the producer of the Hitman series, IO Interactive. It was an odd move, considering Square Enix’s solid financial year and their stated desire to create more episodic content – the very thing that IO Interactive did so successfully with Hitman. This presents a great opportunity for a deeper pocketed company to come in and help the struggling developer, and I think Microsoft will seize upon it.

Expect IO Interactive to be brought into the Microsoft fold, along with the Hitman series, which will now be exclusive to the Xbox platform.

Moon Studios was one of the indie bright spots for the Xbox One with their lovely platform game, Ori and the Blind Forest. I expect them to continue to shine when they announce the sequel to Ori at E3 2017.

Remember Cuphead? It’s okay if you don’t.

Cuphead was a side-scrolling action title that made a big splash a couple of years ago with its unique, vintage animated art design, which gave it the feel of playing a 1930’s Disney cartoon. Unfortunately, it’s been a long, long time since we’ve heard anything regarding the game.

I'm expecting a huge announcement for Cuphead!

I’m expecting a huge announcement for Cuphead!

Well I’m willing to bet that Cuphead will be back in a big way on Microsoft’s E3 2017 stage. I’m also going to go out on a major limb here and say that Microsoft will reintroduce Cuphead, and then close out that intro by announcing that it’s “out today.”

So you heard it hear first folks – Cuphead will be released for sale during Microsoft’s E3 2017 presentation.

There is a part of me that prays every night that Crimson Skies comes back. I don’t necessarily think it’s coming this year, but I just like you to know that I’m a praying man.

Finally, I want to close by talking about the constant 800lb gorilla in the metaphorical room that is E3 2017.

Half Life 3.

After the past two E3’s, and their insane barrage of mega-ton game announcement, it stands as the last mainstream dream to be fulfilled.

While there is nothing floating around in the ether to suggest that it is on the cusp of happening, and frankly, more than enough evidence to pretty much bury that dream six feet under the ground, there is still hope.

And where there is hope, there is a chance.

While I’m not going to say that Half Life 3, or Half Life 2: Episode 3 is going to happen at E3 2017, what I will say is this: If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen on Microsoft’s stage.

As I mentioned previously, Scorpio could be compatible with a range of VR devices. I have also stated that the only way for Half Life 3 to happen is if it happens on a VR platform.

With both VR technology as a whole, and Microsoft in desperate need of a bombshell announcement, the prospect of a console exclusive Half Life 3 announcement as the lead for your new premium platform sounds pretty logical.

Now I'm just being silly

Now I’m just being silly

If (and that is a colossal IF) Microsoft and Valve are somehow able to make it happen, then the conversation surrounding Microsoft and the Xbox One will rightfully shift to:

“Holy s#@t! I’m buying a Scorpio.”


There you have it – my thoughts on what we might expect from Microsoft at E3 2017.

Make sure you join us live on Twitch.tv/nerdbacon for our live coverage of Microsoft’s E3 2017 event. You’ll be able to interact with and watch us react to all the announcements live!

Our coverage kicks off Sunday, June 11th at 4:00pm EST.

And of course, let me know what you think about my predictions in the comments section below.

Written by The Watchman

The Watchman


The Watchman is a journeyman gamer who has seen and played a good chunk of gaming history.
He’s also an actor, a reporter, a pro wrestling connoisseur, and some say he’s a cat whisperer.
If you have any questions or just want to drop me a line, hit me up at thewatchman@nerdbacon.com
Or follow me on Twitter @DavetheWatchman
You can also game with me!
Look me up on Xbox Live @ DJKhadoken
Or on PlayStation Network @ Eaglevision_dl

 
 

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  1. Nerdberry
    Nerdberry says:

    Great article Watchman! You have a knack for making news fun and exciting, my friend.

     

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