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E3 2014 Preview: Microsoft

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Microsoft comes into E3 2014 after reversing almost every decision they announced last year in an attempt to get the Xbox One back on the right track after the PS4’s dominant performance. Their press conference will start on Monday, June 9 at 9:30 AM PT/12:30 PM ET and will be the first press conference to kickoff E3.

In the weeks before E3 2014, Microsoft announced a new Kinect-free, $399, model of the Xbox One that that will hit store shelves on June 9, the day of Microsoft’s E3 press conference. This move puts them on even ground with the PS4 despite claims last year that the Kinect was integral to the design of the Xbox One, which proves that those were just more marketing lies and the lack of Kinect games proves that they didn’t have much invested in the development side either. That means that Kinect now has to fend for itself with the worst possible word of mouth circulating before its standalone release. The worst news is that Kinect’s best developer on Xbox 360, Harmonix, has the great job of being the only remaining developer to show new owners why the Kinect is worth buying, unless Microsoft has more Kinect games up their sleeves at E3.

Other pre-E3 news includes Halo 5: Guardians and Quantum Break coming in 2015 and heavy hints of some sort of Halo collection for Xbox One that contains Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 as a really impressive collection of the numbered mainline titles in the series. Quantum Break, however, will not be at E3 but will make its next appearance at Gamescom later this year. Xbox Live Gold received news of upcoming improvements in the form of the removal of the paywall for apps and the start of Xbox Live Games with Gold on Xbox One this month as a PlayStation Plus-style “rental” service and better deals on games. Plus, there will be a new Xbox One update adding support for real names and bigger external hard drives to cap off the pre-E3 news.

Moving onto what Microsoft has in store for E3 proper, what games can we expect to see at E3?

Halo 5: Guardians seems ripe for a big gameplay reveal of what 343 Studios is doing in their E3 debut along with the collection that’ll be announced for release this fall.

Lionhead announced Fable Legends last year for Xbox One, which is a co-op entry in the series that is supposed to be more open-ended with the option to become the hero or the villain of its story, sure to be demoed without the charming Peter Molyneux to sell us on it.

Sunset Overdrive has been shown off a few times by Insomniac Games in the past few weeks, so a demonstration of something new that could reaffirm why it was voted our most-anticipated next-gen game last year.

D4 is the new game from Access Games and Swery65, makers of cult hit Deadly Premontion, that could be a starting point to talk about their entry into the Japanese market with Xbox One.

Project Spark just celebrated its first birthday and will probably get some mention as a cool free-to-play game development tool.

The last of these games is that new Gears of War game from Black Tusk, which would be surprising if it had anything more than a teaser since development supposedly started earlier this year when Microsoft acquired the IP from Epic Games.

Microsoft still has a number of other developers under its roof that certainly have to be working on something to show off at E3. They’ve started a number of unknown studios that have been working on new IPs in secrecy that will probably comprise some of the biggest surprises at the show. The one thing that has been rumored for a long time is the next Forza game after Forza 5 should be a new Forza Horizon from Playground Games. New head of Xbox Phil Spencer has been hinting on Twitter that some older Xbox IPs could return with specific rumors swirling about for Crackdown and Phantom Dust being the most likely. We probably won’t see anything from Turn 10, Twisted Pixel, and Rare due to having big releases recently, though new games being announced from those last two studios would be great surprises, wouldn’t they?

One of the big rumors about third-party games on Xbox One is that Microsoft signed another game to be an Xbox One exclusive, which sent the internet into a frenzy to try to figure out which game that could be if it’s really on par with Dead Rising 3 or Titanfall.

As for more concrete third-party news, we can safely expect the new Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to be a centerpiece demo for this press conference like every other year in recent memory.

Fantasia: Music Evolved is the only upcoming Kinect game that we know about, so it has to be demoed at E3 to show people why they should not write off Kinect once it becomes a standalone accessory.

Microsoft loves to talk about Minecraft, so the recent news of the Xbox One version of Minecraft, along with PS4 and Vita versions, coming in August with a $5 upgrade price for owners of the Xbox 360 edition will be big news as Microsoft’s next big system seller.

Capcom and EA could also be other big third-party publishers to push games that could feature exclusive items paid by Microsoft that could cover whatever the new Resident Evil game will be along with that Battlefield Hardline game that was leaked recently.

ID@Xbox will probably get a huge push from the way Sony has been so successful so far with its indie-friendly messaging since the PlayStation 4 unveiling last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a big presence of indies at this press conference and their booth to make sure people know what to expect from the digital-only side of the Xbox One’s lineup. 

sunset overdrive

Now that the Xbox One is out and they got that pesky price drop and Kinect removal news out of the way, Microsoft can focus very heavily on games, games, and more games, but I’d still expect some news on their non-game endeavors. Their TV studio work with a series based on Halo would be big news to go along with Halo 1-5 being at the show and that documentary on the unearthing of the buried Atari 2600 cartridges of ET, Pac-Man, and other unsold games could get an announcement, though I’m not sure that Phil Spencer’s intent to reorganize their focus on games would let this be more than a footnote of their talk about the future of Xbox Live.

We’ve seen only a few games (Forza 5 and Titanfall) show off some of the potential of those crazy cloud claims last year, so more games to prove that they weren’t just lying through their teeth about the amazing benefits that it could offer. SmartGlass could also use some more demonstrations to show why that is still a meaningful part of the games they’re working on for the Xbox One. We may also see a new model announced for the Xbox One to promote an upcoming game, like Sunset Overdrive ,that will feature a 1 TB hard drive to give them a more expensive model in the future with a clear benefit of a bigger hard drive.

It’s no surprise that Xbox 360 will get the short end of the straw this year at E3 with Xbox One needing Microsoft’s immediate attention to get it going on the correct course for success.  This means we probably won’t see much of anything new for the 360 while the Xbox One received the bulk of the attention.  With Xbox Live Gold requirement being removed for entertainment apps on Xbox 360 and Xbox One, it wouldn’t be a surprise if that long rumored Apple TV/Roku competitor Xbox device is finally unveiled here to appeal to the non-gamer crowd that Microsoft tried to get onboard with the Xbox One last year, which would benefit from Microsoft’s experiences with the Xbox One to make this new console better as an video streaming device.

That is pretty much it for what we have to expect from Microsoft this year at E3 since they get the pleasure of being the first press conference on Monday morning. They have the tough challenge of showing that their attempts over the past year to right the wrongs they have done are going to pay off in the future with some awesome exclusive games and a more appealing console that won’t be trounced like the original Xbox two generations ago. To cap off this preview, I’ve asked a few of my fellow staff members to let you know what they’re expecting from Microsoft at E3 2014:

Danreb Victorio, Managing Editor:

“It’s weird how the Xbox One isn’t selling too well, yet it probably has the more impressive physical lineup when compared to the PS4. I’d take the combination of Dead Rising 3, Forza 5, and Titanfall over Knack, Killzone, and inFamous any day. As expected, I’m going into E3 expecting a lot out of Sunset Overdrive, but I’m also hoping the Kinect isn’t really dead… Nope, not kidding. That Fantasia game they showed off last year really tickled my fancy, and I would love to get my hands on that now.”

Filippo Dinolfo, Senior Editor:

“This is a new Microsoft we’re dealing with. New CEO, new Head of the Xbox Division, and a new, more sane attitude. Let’s see how that translates to their upcoming lineup. I’d love to see the return of Project Gotham Racing, and a sequel to Forza Horizon. Beyond that, I’d really like it if they shone a spotlight on some great indie games–Defense Grid 2 in particular.”

Patrick Mifflin, Associate Editor:

“On the one hand, it seems inevitable that Microsoft will drop some major domestic AAA exclusives to finally get the Xbox One the momentum it needs. We already know about Halo 5 and have a pretty good reason to believe the Halo 1-4 Collection is a thing, and certainly there’s more on the way. We’ll get more Sunset Overdrive, which seems more and more certain to be the best thing that has happened to the Xbox brand in years every time we see it. What could really put their presentation over the top would be seeing some real indie support to compete with Sony, and for some of that freshly-confirmed Japanese support to find its way stateside.”

Alex Quevedo, Senior Editor:

“After bumbling through last year’s E3, you have to expect Microsoft to come through with a unified, clear message. I wouldn’t out it past them to be overly robotic about it. They’ll push games almost more than anything and I expect them to make this ‘The Summer of Sunset Overdrive‘, as it’ll be a force at this year’s Comic Con International as well. They’ll need to provide legitimate forecasting for Kinect or this may be the last straw.”

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