Microsoft has had to take a more defensive position since the announcement of the Xbox One than the when they dominated with the Xbox 360 in the previous generation.
Last year at their press conference they showed off the powerful Xbox One X console, but did not show many exclusive titles to counter its console rivals. They are poised to show some unique experiences this year, though what they could be remains to be seen.
With less than two weeks to go, buzz is already building in the lead up to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. With high profile leaks from Walmart Canada, and countdowns counting down to more countdowns, the hype machine is hard at work competing for attention.
But where is the fun in what is already known? The real fun is in setting wildly high expectations and trying to figure out what sorts of strategies and announcements that will be seen in each show.
Microsoft Conference – June 10th
Microsoft finds itself once again looking to find an identity this console generation. Despite making many great additions to the Xbox hardware, and implementing some consumer friendly programs, they still seem to lack in software and it shows in overall sales numbers. What gamers should expect this E3 is for Microsoft to double down on the games,and more importantly, doubling down on exclusive titles.
With a new venue at the Microsoft Theater across the street from the official E3 showing, this will be the year to recapture some of their magic.
Microsoft’s head of the Xbox Division, Phil Spencer, has come out and congratulated Sony and their Playstation console time and again for its massive library of exclusive titles. He has made it clear that Microsoft plans to follow suit.
Spencer on twitter said: “Our hardware took time, our service/platform/BC took time and continuing to grow our 1P will take time. A high quality and diverse 1P (yes, with single-player) built the right way is our goal and what our customers deserve. We can have similar results to what we’ve seen in hardware and platform.”
This is Microsoft’s chance to really cash in on the momentum. Their hardware is the strongest console hardware currently on the market with their Xbox One X console. The Xbox Game Pass service and backwards compatibility, with Original Xbox and Xbox 360 games, are game changers for the industry.
This is a crucial year to show off exclusive titles. Microsoft needs to have at least two big new exclusives to put the pressure back on Sony. Not another Gears of War, Fable or Forza but big new exclusives.
Speaking of exclusives, it’s time to finish the fight again. Halo 6 would be another big AAA video game announcement exclusive to Microsoft. This seems like almost a guarantee as Halo 5 released on October 27th 2015.
Master Chief seems like the perfect icon to lead in this new exclusive push. He is nearly eponymous to the Xbox brand image, and with new interesting exclusives that would make for an interesting upcoming portfolio. This seems like a shoe in as Halo 5 ended on a cliffhanger and fans of the series have been anxious to get back into the action.
Even more important regarding Microsoft’s new exclusives is a definitive timeline for these games. Microsoft has gone down the exclusive game path before; Announcing Scalebound (PlatinumGames) Phantom Dust (Microsoft Game Studios) and Crackdown 3 in 2014. Yet now in 2018, Scalebound and Phantom Dust have been cancelled and Crackdown 3 is a no show for multiple years running.
It’s important that Microsoft has a vision and really delivers on it. The trust that has been built with fans needs to be kept intact.
This is one spot that Microsoft has had success lately. Securing early rights for games like Tacoma (Fullbright) and Cuphead (Studio MDHR) has given them a strong rapport with independent developers. There are still indie games that are already announced like Below (Capybara Games) and Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Moon Studios).
These types of independent games will be able to fill in many of the blanks left by the larger AAA releases.
Expect Microsoft to keep making these deals to keep independent games on their platform. There should be an entire section of the conference to highlight strong new games to keep players coming back.