How Microsoft Can “Win” E3 2018

We have just about reached the twilight years of this console generation and systems typically have their best exclusive lineups during the last couple of years of their life. Who knows how long this generation would last, since the highest-tier graphics on consoles still look stunning. However, if I were to estimate the end of the 8th generation, it could be 2020 or 2021. What makes Microsoft’s E3 so interesting is how little we know about their 2019 plans. So far, their 2018 exclusive lineup has failed to impress consumers with the lackluster launch of the highly-anticipated Sea of Thieves. Add more salt to the wound with Sony’s blockbuster game God of War receiving dozens of perfect scores and becoming the highest scored PS4 exclusive so far. Xbox fans want their own God of War, and the closest they’ve reached is Halo 5 or Gears of War 4, which both failed to exceed franchise heights. We need to see the meat, and Microsoft knows that.

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Phil Spencer repeatedly promised on Twitter and at public trade events that Xbox is expanding their first-party output, but actions speak louder than words. As of right now, Sony has three killer titles in their future lineup: God of War, Spider-Man, and The Last of Us Part II. Hell, even that is ignoring Ghost of Tsushima, Days Gone and Death Stranding. Microsoft, on the other hand, has a blockbuster game that failed to provide gamers the content of a blockbuster game. (Even our own Xbox fanboy despised it.) In addition to Sea of Thieves, there’s the zombie game State of Decay 2 which looks promising, but not quite killer app material, and the perpetually delayed Crackdown 3. Forza Horizon 4 is also expected to hit this holiday season, but racing games are typically seen as appetizers to a larger entree. Unless Halo 6 has a surprise holiday launch date, nothing else notable is there. There’s a solid selection of indie games, one of which being Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a sequel to the critically-acclaimed Ori and the Blind Forest, but again there’s nothing blockbuster about those games.

This is why E3 is so important for Microsoft. They consistently promise massive showcases and, while 2017 had a few (emphasis on the word few) neat games, they never quite delivered. When they say “big”, we think of a triple-A, exclusive new IPs that turns heads like Horizon Zero Dawn or Splatoon, not dozens of small games and 3rd party games. Halo, Gears, and Forza are great, but we’re starting to get fatigued by those franchises. If they continue showing us the same IP, at least soft reboot them like Sony did with God of War. Otherwise, they’ll become stale, or at least less potent than before. Fable has been under speculation of a return and I hope that’s the case. Reviving dormant franchises is a completely valid option. In fact, Microsoft can absolutely benefit from some of them, especially Perfect Dark. That series is notorious for pushing console boundaries and imagine it pushing the Xbox One X to its limits. A neo-noir, FPS game in stunning 4K visuals…oh my. Hell, any old IP would be great see come back as long as Rare stays far away from the project.

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What would happen if Microsoft touts indie games or exhausted franchises this conference? Well, that could kill their chances of reaching the PS4. If they show off nothing eye-opening, people will just turn towards Sony. Like I said before, their lineup is far more interesting at the moment. Even if they do show off something big, what’s the probability that it will come out next year? 2019 looks great for Sony, but if Microsoft’s biggest surprises are coming out 2020 or later, then that year benefits their competition more because there’ll be yet another drought for Microsoft. The hurdle in front of them isn’t easy to surmount for any publisher. Microsoft shouldn’t rush out games otherwise they’ll churn out more Sea of Thieves-like games. Realistically, they should just put all hands on deck for the next generation at this point, but there’s still time to squeeze in a few big titles before it arrives.

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However, they should have a competent and competitive lineup that threatens Sony’s lineup of Days Gone, The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Death Stranding, Dreams, Spider-Man, and whatever Sony Japan Studio is working on. Remember, Sony’s still bolstering their first-party. There’s no word on what Ready at Dawn is preparing other than it’s a third-person action game, and their new project could be exclusive to PS4. Sony could also be building a brand new development studio assisted by Naughty Dog, according to several LinkedIn accounts. Their first-party already double the support of Xbox. They need to win over customers looking for a console with the best games. They have to have something that pushes units by next year or even sooner. If not, that’s all folks. Better luck next time!

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