It's that time of year, folks! The spectacular carnival of lights and sound that is E3 is just days away, and we fully expect to witness some barnstorming reveals, a truckload of dubious "celebrities", swathes of bombastic metaphorical genital swinging, and hopefully some games.
Naturally, an event of this magnitude is always surrounded by rumours and secretive whispers. Each of the big five companies delivering press conferences or presentations next week will be hoping to outdo the others, and it would be remiss of us to let the festivities begin without hazarding a guess as to what might be in store.
For the next five days, we'll be counting down the days to E3 2014 with a bunch of predictions of our own, and we hope that you'll let us know your thoughts and hopes and wishlists as we get stuck in to convention season.
So without further ado, here's what we're expecting from Microsoft...
Microsoft's E3 2014 presentation has already started. Rather than letting Sony overshadow and absorb all of the hype at the very end of the day, they've cannily made several massive announcements over the last few weeks in clear air, getting us good and hungry in the process. What we need now is consolidation: gobsmacking Halo 5, Forza Horizon 2 and Sunset Overdrive gameplay to seal the deal, perhaps alongside a little reassurance that Kinect is still worth owning with some innovative TV applications.
Speaking of consolidation, we'll also learn more about several previously-announced games including Fable Legends, D4 and perhaps a little Gears Of War teaser. Some third-party studios will hitch their wagon to Microsoft's horse, almost certainly Activision with COD: Advanced Warfare, and perhaps even another look at The Phantom Pain courtesy of Hideo Kojima. Mind you, he might be better off waiting until some of the ill-will surrounding Ground Zeroes' value simmers down.
Knowing Phil Spencer's past form, we'll also get plenty of [email protected] announcements, both for announced titles such as Below alongside a few fresh faces -- perhaps with a surprise from a well-known indie figure or two.
Then they'll have to show us something new.
Since the Xbox One is releasing in Japan, I suspect that Microsoft will be keen to show off some more Japanese-centric exclusives. 5pb's visual novels probably won't get a mention, but rumours of a new Phantom Dust sequel/reboot seems like a good place to start, as would a JRPG or two. The legendary freelancers at Platinum Games would also be worth getting on board for a gloriously OTT shooter or slasher, at least if Spencer has the sense to offer a sizeable incentive.
But what about the core US audience, not to mention us Eurotrash? Crackdown 3 seems unlikely given that Sunset Overdrive is peeking over the horizon (see what I did there?), but I'd love to be wrong. We'll see Halo 2: Anniversary officially announced if the increasingly likely rumours are true, hopefully alongside remastered versions of Halo 1-4 available separately or as part of the 'Master Chief Collection.' Again, I'd love to be wrong about the aforementioned compilation being a pricey special edition rather than a retail price game -- seriously, I want to be utterly humiliated on that front.
And what about Rare? They're clearly not going to announce another Kinect Sports rivals, and the time is right for Banjo & Kazooie to return at the very least. If not Viva Pinata or... Conker? Let's not hold out too much hope on that front, but hey, we'd love to see it.
Critically, Microsoft needs to surprise us and prove that the Xbox One can measure up on the only issue that matters now: games. 'TV TV Sports TV Sports Fantasy Football Sports TV' needs to become 'Games Games Games'... and preferably games set to release before Christmas.
Anticipated Highlight – Phil Spencer's amazing t-shirt collection.
Master Chief is coming in some form or another to this year's E3. We know that for certain. Frank O'Connell was rather peeved that Halo 5: Guardians got out of the bag ahead of this year's big event, and I fully expect a hint-stuffed presentation completely lacking in any meaningful gameplay footage to herald the Chief's return. Fingers crossed too that Halo 2: Anniversary has given way to some sort of expanded Master Chief collection. If Microsoft announce a Halo multiplayer experience for Xbox One for this Christmas, I'm going to have to buy their shiny funbox.
We can certainly expect Forza Horizon 2 (please set it somewhere more interesting than a dust bowl this time) and Sunset Overdrive to make appearances, not to mention a big indie push, and although MS often spent their pressers showing off other people's games last generation, I really hope that they continue to look to their exclusives this E3 -- the rumours are certainly pointing towards some sort of big third-party exclusive deal.
Go on Phil, give us Shenmue III. You know you want to. More realistically, I reckon we might get a Crackdown reveal, but it'll be brief and at least another year or two away.
Microsoft have to go really big at the end of their presser to ensure that they're not forgotten by the time Sony grace the stage with someone in a Jack Tretton onesie. So here comes an enormously outlandish prediction -- Microsoft bring the house down by announcing Fallout 4 as a timed exclusive for the XO. Boom!
Anticipated Highlight – Master Chief bursts onto the stage in Santa's sleigh emblazoned with "Christmas 2014", backflips out of there, pulls out a boyband spin, and removes his helmet to reveal none other than Usher.
For Microsoft, the run up to E3 hasn’t been the same song and dance as we’ve seen in previous years, and that both excites and concerns me. On one hand, it opens up the conference to excessive amounts of gameplay footage and live demonstrations as they don’t have to waste their time on flashy reveals, but at the same time the lack of big reveals could soften the impact of the show at large. Then again, always going first has always been a disadvantage for Microsoft and so something had to change with their E3 tactics.
Here’s the thing though – showing off Master Chief will always excite people, regardless of whether we know it’s coming or not, but at the end of the day I’m split with how I feel about the Xbox One at E3. On one hand, the lack of any knowledge of what they could potentially surprise us with is exciting, as I could genuinely be caught off-guard if Phil Spencer and co. have sorted out something super-secret. On the other hand, it could be a showcase of gameplay reveals that don’t do anything new, which with the recent move of launching a dis-Kinect-ed Xbox One is a very real possibility.
At the end of the day, we all just want fun games, and lord knows I love me a bit of Halo, but at a time where my apathy towards new/current-gen is at an all-time high I need something to excite me into a purchase. I seriously hope Microsoft surprise me with something that does.
Anticipated Highlight – Phil Spencer runs on stage with a sledgehammer, smashes a TV with it and then states “Television is dead. Open Casket. Punch and pie” before dropping both the sledgehammer and mic on-stage. Like a boss.