I was wrong. Laughably wrong. I say this not in shame but with a smile on my face. A big, Halo ring sized smile. After the lackluster Sea of Thieves release back in March, I was convinced that Microsoft is backing out of strong single-player experiences and sticking with shallow, more group focused titles to push Game Pass forward. While we’re still a bit light on Microsoft exclusive titles per say, the Xbox brand seems ready to cater to all types of gamers after this years show.
First off, Microsoft bought Ninja Theory. Yes, you read that right. The developers of the excellent Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and the criminally overlooked DmC: Devil May Cry reboot is now under the wing of Phil Spencer and team. We’ve no clue what the team is working on, but we can expect it to be a fantastic single-player experience.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Square’s Kingdom Hearts 3 and the surprise port of NieR: Automata are great ways to cater to solo players as well, even if these are third-party titles. That’s not to mention the Tales of Vesperia remaster, a port of a title in a series that has minimal history on Xbox hardware. It’s great to see Phil pulling some massive titles with his visits to Japanese studios. We also got to see more of the Ori sequel, alongside footage of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and a Cuphead expansion! Single-player Xbox gamers have a lot to look forward to, especially with the push for strong new titles on Game Pass.
Of course, we expected games like Halo, Gears, and Forza, though franchise fans should be ready for a different take on the former two. Halo Infinite almost looks like a reboot of Master Chief’s story, and we know the multiplayer portion of 343’s games take place on the massive Infinity ship. These facts lead me to believe that Infinite will be some sort of multiplayer, shared-world experience. Maybe a service game like Destiny or Anthem?
Gears 5 is continuing the new trilogy established with the fourth game, but we’re also getting two brand-new twists on the formula. Gears Tactics is an XCOM style game set in the post-apocalyptic universe. It’s nice to see Gears from a perspective other than over-the-shoulder of a hulking mass of a person. Gears Pop! was also teased as a blend of the popular Xbox franchise in the style of FunkoPop! collectibles. I have no idea what that’s about, but I won’t shun creative ideas before I see them.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of talk on how Microsoft’s E3 conference isn’t as great as we say. They say you can pull out the third-party games and Xbox has the same stuff we always see. Yes, this is true, but to say that is to look at E3 conferences in a very narrow sense.
While they may not be first-party exclusives, it’s crucial for Microsoft to present titles like Metro: Exodus, Devil May Cry 5, and The Division 2. In doing so, gamers associate the Xbox branding with these names. A majority of the titles shown aren’t coming until next year, and Microsoft has a lackluster fall season this year. Yet, when we hear talk of Cyberpunk 2077 and other trailers shown, we’ll think of them on the Xbox platform. There is a reason we’re saying the Xbox conference was fantastic, and that’s because it was.
At an E3 conference, it’s not just about the games that release on the console – though that is important – it’s about which company has the most mindshare in your brain. First impressions are essential, and we’ll remember all the studios Microsoft acquired, the titles they revealed, and the games we saw first at their show. Phil and team accomplished something this year that we thought impossible: putting Xbox back in the forefront of gamers’ minds.
Microsoft still has a ways to go with the Xbox branding, but E3 2018 has shown that Phil is ready for the future. The seeds have been planted. Game Pass isn’t going to be a way to push insubstantial releases. New studios are in-house and working on some exciting projects. Plus, Phil made a point to mention they are working on next-gen hardware. He knows this generation has been “lost.” Instead, Xbox is proving they will be a force to reckon with very soon. It’s time to do what all Microsoft divisions have always done best: ignore the present and lead us into the future.