xCloud Detailed, Inc Switch Compatibility
Microsoft is hedging its bets on streaming technology for the next generation, and so we should expect a substantial amount of conference time dedicated to unveiling the finer details of what xCloud has in store moving forward.
We already know that xCloud is pretty far along after Head of Xbox Phil Spencer spoke of internal testing earlier this year. The overall design philosophy, compatibility with touch screen controls, and the targeted minimum connection speeds have also been set in various blog posts and interview updates, too.
For E3, then, it’s a case of demonstrating xCloud working on-stage and showcasing the reality of the Azure technology before our very eyes. Let’s see Microsoft’s answer to Google Stadia’s impressive reveal back in March.
While we’re on the subject of xCloud, it probably makes sense for Microsoft to back up its “play anywhere” tagline by speaking of — if not demonstrating — the software working on multiple devices, including Nintendo Switch. Indeed, I’d be surprised if the partnership wasn’t at least mentioned.
Next Generation Gameplay
Sony has done a pretty good job at disrupting Microsoft’s E3 spotlight this year, despite not even attending the event (or the event even having begun yet, for that matter). Most recently, of course, with the reveal of Death Stranding’s release date, but it all started with the soft unveil of its next-generation hardware.
As a result, Microsoft’s ability to wow audiences with just the concept of its next console evolution alone has gone, and so the ultimate retort might be to kick things up a notch. Let’s see some actual next-generation gameplay –a world first for any company.
Whether it’s a Halo Infinite vertical slice or a random software demonstration tailor-made for E3 doesn’t really matter. The point is that they’d be stealing back the mindshare scooped up by Sony as a result of its unexpected ‘PS5’ reveal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still be happy to hear the full details of what Xbox has in store moving forward, and the reveal of the console’s actual name (it won’t be called Scarlett) would be notable. But if Microsoft really wants to stamp its authority on E3 2019, this could be the answer.
The Initiative Teases Its First Project
Of all Microsoft’s studio acquisitions announced at last year’s E3, none were quite as exciting as The Initiative. An all-new studio comprising some of the industry’s most talented and experienced developers, The Initiative has the potential to deliver some truly ground-breaking exclusives for the next-generation of Xbox hardware.
Talk of “pushing boundaries in games,” and “challenging convention,” and “taking risks” in an introductory video last year sounds like the hot-ticket to kick-start Microsoft’s first-party offerings, which have been a little lackluster this generation.
But we’ve obviously no idea at all on what sort of a game they’re working on. Is it an action/adventure, RPG, shooter? Is it to return to the story-driven single-player design that’s recently been missing from the Xbox One’s library or continue the ‘games as a service’ multiplayer model that Microsoft increasingly seems to favor?
Those are the sorts of answers we’re looking for, even if the project is in such a nascent stage that we’re not given all that much in the way of detail.
When Hideo Kojima arrived at Sony in late 2015 we had an almost immediate unveiling of Death Stranding, so perhaps it’s not all that unrealistic that The Initiative showcase what they have up their sleeves?
More First-Party Acquisitions
Speaking of studio acquisitions, I’m expecting Microsoft to announce that bolstering its developer portfolio is a continuing imperative. To back that pledge up, we’ll hear of at least one or two more studios joining the first-party line-up at this year’s E3.
Quite who that’ll be is anybody’s guess. But what we know for certain is that Microsoft is very keen to expand its Game Pass service as much as possible over the next few years, and to do that they’ll need a steady supply of games. In turn, that means as many developers on board as is feasible, churning out as many games as possible.
It would, perhaps, be unrealistic to expect the acquisition of any major developers. Instead, it seems more fitting that smaller, once AA studios, join the roster to keep a steady flow of Game Pass-suitable titles flowing.
After all, we’ve seen Netflix adopt a similar strategy –investing heavily into content to keep its subscribers locked in and perceiving a value for their monthly payments.
Fable 4 Revealed
This one is looking more likely by the day as rumors of Fable IV have now morphed into supposedly leaked details. The notion of developer Playground Games (Forza Horizon) seemed unlikely when it was first mooted last year, but now we’re hearing that is, in fact, the case.
It’s a big departure from the developer’s typical forte, if so, and it sounds as though Fable IV will be a big departure for the series in general if the leaks are even half true.
If you hadn’t heard, here are the key takeaways, according to Reddit:
- First/Third Person
- In-Depth character creator
- Completely Open
- No guns
- Can ignore main quest and never become a hero
- Players can build towns, ties into main quest heavily if you get the bad ending and fail
- Unreal Engine
“Albion and Aurora are gone. “Lands reduced to fables.” The Spire was rebuilt and used by a mad king to wish that an asteroid would strike the planet. He also wished it would happen again in the far future.
Eons later and everything is new (medieval themed, new continents) and you have to stop the destruction of the planet again. Theresa and a Heroes Guild are preserved on another planet via a demon door. Time Travel heavily involved in play. Jack of Blades returns.”
So between space and time travel, it sounds much more sci-fi than fantasy, despite the apparent absence of guns. Multiplayer functionality is another notable feature, and assuming any of this is real, it will be very interesting to see how Playground incorporates it without sullying the story components.
It’s all exciting stuff, though very ambitious for a developer who hasn’t much experience with this sort of design.
Regardless, there’s no doubt that the anticipated return of this fan-favorite Xbox franchise would earn some big brownie points with Xbox familiars, as well as add a bit of variety to the console’s lineup to attract newcomers.
Microsoft & FromSoft
We’re unsure what to make of George R.R Martin’s rumored collaboration with Japanese developer FromSoftware. Could his involvement in the developer’s upcoming project really mean a Miyazaki-made Game of Thrones game, or is it just his experience creating compelling fantasy worlds that FromSoftware is using as an asset?
Whatever the case might be, I suspect Phil Spencer’s recent visits to Japan might in some way be related. Gamers have long complained of Xbox’s lack of Japanese-developed games, as well its library not featuring enough role-playing games, either.
Combine that with Spencer’s keenness to build relations with more Japanese developers and what a scoop it would be to bring on board a huge name like Miyazaki and/or George R.R Martin/Game of Thrones and you have a recipe for a huge E3 announcement.
I’m picking FromSoftware’s new game to make its debut at Microsoft’s E3 2019 press conference, though I’m not so bullish that it has anything to do with the Game of Thrones universe.
Halo Infinite Gameplay & Release Window
Surely the Xbox’s biggest franchise, and one that’s in need of a big return to form, Halo Infinite is going to be Microsoft’s flagship first-party title showcased at E3 2019. I expect the reveal of Infinite’s gameplay to feature either at the very start or end of the conference for maximum impact.
To narrow down the prediction, Halo 5 will include a more story-driven narrative this time around, finally delivering on a promise made but never fulfilled with Guardians. But there will be plenty of multiplayer and ‘games as a service’ design, too, which will be either communicated or implied.
We’re still too early for a firm release date, though, so expect a quarter window — Q4 2020 sounds about right, timed with the launch Microsoft’s next-generation hardware. But Infinite will be playable on both current and next-generation consoles.