by Tanner Kinney
Microsoft, and in particular the Xbox brand, has struggled to get a leg up over the competition throughout the current generation. The Xbox One was controversial out of the gate, and even with continuous effort from Microsoft to improve user experience they aren’t keeping their customers. With previous major releases like Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 underperforming and potential system sellers like Scalebound getting cancelled, Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up. With only Crackdown 3, another Gears of War, another Halo, and another Forza on the horizon, Microsoft needs to make some major announcements of big, and most importantly new, exclusives to get people back on Xbox.
- A short cinematic teaser trailer was shown for a new Halo title, Halo Infinite.
- A new trailer was shown for Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The game seems to be expand on the mechanics of the first game, with even greater visual flair. The game will release in 2019 on PC and Xbox One.
- A new title by FromSoftware was announced, titled Sekiro Shadows Die Twice. The game features an art-style based around East-Asian culture. The game will release in 2019 on PS4, PC, and Xbox One.
- Todd Howard announced that Fallout 4 would join the Xbox Game Pass.
- More information was given about Fallout 76
- It takes place before all other games in the series.
- The game will be set in West Virginia, as predicted by many fans.
- Pre-orders will be available on June 15th on the Xbox Store.
- A new game set in the Life is Strange universe was announced, titled The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. The game will available for free download on June 26th on the Xbox Store, and allegedly on PS4 and PC.
- A new trailer was shown for Crackdown 3. The trailers showed a more complete gameplay experience than previous trailers, including the movement options and destruction features. The game is set to release in February 2019 exclusively on Xbox One.
- Nier: Automata‘s Xbox One version was a release date, June 26, 2018.
- Metro: Exodus was given a new story and gameplay trailer. The game features customizable weapons, along with other features from previous games in the series. The game will be released Feb. 22, 2019 on PS4, PC, and Xbox One.
- Kingdom Hearts 3 was given a new trailer. The trailer debuted a Frozen inspired world. Other previously announced worlds also had more gameplay shown for them. Gummy ship combat was also briefly shown. The game will release January 29, 2019.
- A trailer for upcoming Sea of Thieves DLC was shown. The first pack, Cursed Sails, will release in July, while the second pack, Forsaken Shores, will release in September.
- A short trailer for the Battlefield V single player campaign was shown.
- The new Forza game, Forza Horizon 4, was shown. The game features off-road vehicles and racing.
- The game is set in Britain.
- The game will feature a dynamic, shared open world.
- Real people will be racing in this shared open world.
- Co-op can be seamlessly entered with other players.
- The entire community will experience the dynamic open world changes.
- The game will release October 2, 2018 exclusively to Xbox One, and will be a part of Xbox Game Pass on release.
- Phil Spencer announced that they started investing in new developers to create exclusive Xbox One titles, under a studio called The Initiative.
- Phil Spencer also announced a series of studios working exclusively under Xbox, including Zombie Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games.
- We Happy Few got a story trailer to go along with its upcoming release. The game will release on August 10, 2018 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
- The official release of PUBG on Xbox One was given a launch trailer. New maps and game modes were also announced. The full release will be Winter 2018.
- Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition was announced. The game will include all the DLC and characters, brought to the West for the first time. The game will release Winter 2018 on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
- A story trailer was shown for a sequel to The Division, simply titled The Division 2. The game will take place in Washington and feature urban warfare, with themes of civil war. The game will release March 15, 2019 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
- A staged gameplay trailer also shown, featuring fake mic chatter.
- A new system for Xbox Game Pass, FastStart, was announced. It will launch for select titles later in June.
- New titles coming to Game Pass were announced, all coming to Game Pass on the same day as the global release, including Forza Horizon and Crackdown 3.
- The Division, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Fallout 4 were all announced to release on Game Pass today, right now.
- A video package was shown featuring a number of indie titles and smaller releases, some notable ones being Super Meat Boy Forever, Below, WarGroove, Dead Cells, and Ashen.
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider received a new story trailer. The game will release September 18, 2018.
- Session, a skateboarding game that isn’t Skate 4, had a trailer shown.
- Black Desert was given a trailer for the Xbox release, which is in Fall 2018.
- Devil May Cry 5 was announced and given a trailer. The game seems to be ridiculous and over-the-top, like previous instalments in the series. The game will feature Dante from the original Devil May Cry series. The game is set to release in Spring 2019.
- A focus on visuals was included, using Xbox technology.
- Cuphead DLC, titled “Delicious Last Course,” was announced. The game will feature a new island, new bosses, and a new character. It will release in 2019 on both PC and Xbox One.
- Tunic, a Zelda-esque looking title, was announced and given a short trailer. The game currently does not have a release date.
- A new Bandai Namco game, titled Jump Force, was announced. It is a fighting game featuring a number of Shonen Jump characters. The game will release in 2019
- Dying Light 2 was announced and given a short teaser trailer, plus a more detailed gameplay trailer. A release date was not given, but it will release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
- The game will feature a fluid parkour system, deep and tactical melee combat, and zombies
- Dying Light 2 will have choices that have genuine consequences on the game world
- There is a functioning open-world that reacts to your choices.
- A brand-new Battletoads game was announced, set to release in 2019.
- Just Cause 4 received a new trailer. The game will release December 4th, 2018 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
- A Gears of War mobile title was announced, titled GearsPop after the FunkoPop art style used for the characters. The crowd was not happy.
- A new real-time strategy Gears of War game, Gears Tactics, was announced.
- Gears of War 5 was also announced and given a story trailer. The game features a female protagonist. It will be available for Xbox Game Pass at launch. No release date was given.
- The next Xbox consoles were hinted at, and are being worked on, but no other details were given.
- CD Projekt Red’s highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 was given a world premiere trailer as the final show stopper. Although not much was shown in terms of specifics, it does feature a snazzy logo.
Microsoft did something very similar to last year, and that was bombard the audience with games that are available on Xbox. Considering the accusations that the console has no games worth playing, it’s no surprise Microsoft wants to make notice of the games and only the games. Very little time was taken away from the games, and titles were being announced at a constant pace. This kept the energy high for the whole conference which was a big plus, and likely made fans feel proud to be an Xbox fan.
The games themselves were also definitely selected well. The show started with Halo Infinite and ended with Cyberpunk 2077, both of which are highly anticipated titles, particularly Cyberpunk 2077. Throughout the show, there were enough surprises, like Battletoads and Devil May Cry 5, to keep the audience engaged and interested.
Finally, surprisingly enough, most of the guest speakers were also very interesting. The developers they brought on to talk were all very passionate and barely corporate, and Ashley Speicher who talked about Xbox Game Pass (something rather dry) managed to still be interesting. Plus, Todd Howard got to speak for a bit, and that’s like a pocket of sunshine on a cloudy day for anyone, except maybe Bethesda fans.
The bad parts of the conference itself don’t really come from Microsoft themselves. The scripted mic chatter used during The Division 2 gameplay trailer was as embarrassing as always, with lots of “gamer” speak and phrases no actual human being would use while playing multiplayer with friends or even strangers. A skateboarding game being shown that isn’t Skate 4 is a bit of a let-down for fans, and that GearsPop game definitely shut the audience’s excitement up fast.
The main problem with the conference are problems that Xbox has had for the longest time, and they certainly weren’t solved here. Many of the titles that got major attention, such as Kingdom Hearts 3, Dying Light 2, Devil May Cry 5, and Cyberpunk 2077 are all releasing multiplatform. Although Microsoft got to give the first look at these games, these games are not exclusive. It’s a tactic they used last year with Anthem to make their line-up look more promising, despite Anthem being multiplatform. At the end of the day, the only true exclusives that matter are still Halo, Gears of War, Crackdown 3, and Forza. Fans of Playstation, Nintendo, and PC still don’t have a reason to buy an Xbox One, and it will likely stay that way since no major new exclusives were announced.
The strange, or more accurately the boring, goes to Phil Spencer. As a businessman, Phil Spencer managed to turn the sinking ship of Xbox abandoned by Don Mattrick into an actually viable gaming platform, to which he deserves commendation. As a speaker and a showman, he isn’t very interesting to listen to. Specifically, after the major announcements of Halo Infinite at the start of the show and Gears 5 towards the end, he gave long speeches with lots of flowery language, but no substance. He may not have talked down to the fans, like EA and Ubisoft have a habit of doing, but he successfully managed to kill any energy built up to that point. Had the presentation been entirely the games, with him saying as few words as possible, it would have been much improved. Twitch Chat, though perhaps not the best judge of audience reactions, was spamming sleeping emotes anytime Spencer spoke, and for good reason. If Microsoft had Todd Howard double-dip and host both this conference and the Bethesda conference, the show would have improved significantly.
Overall, this conference was a good show that had a lot of great reveals and great games. This is a good thing for the gaming community as a whole. For the Xbox platform, it still doesn’t bode well for the future. While Sony has been both investing in new IP, and reviving old IP in new and interesting ways, Microsoft remains stuck with the same four-horse show they’ve had for the past four years. It will be interesting to see how many of the titles that got special attention at Microsoft’s press conference will get more attention at other shows later in the week, particularly at Sony’s and maybe Nintendo’s, though few titles shown here are confirmed for Switch as of now. If Sony can show the same great titles with more interesting exclusives, it will likely be a much stronger show.
Tanner is a Film and Media Studies major and a Digital Media minor. His Neo Yokio review won a second-place CSPA Golden Circle award for the 2017 semester. He enjoys playing JRPG’s of any variety, regardless of how obscure and strange it is. Tanner is also the host of Byte at the Movies, the premiere movie discussion live-stream.