For the past year, fans have been forced to come to grips with the fact that the traditional console cycle is more or less over. With Sony’s PS4 Pro out in the wild, and the Nintendo Switch released this March, it was Microsoft’s turn to pull back the curtain on Project Scorpio. Phil Spencer and company have boasted for the past year about how the new Xbox will be “The most powerful console ever created”. Sure, that may reign true, but without a strong library of games to encourage sales, could the Xbox really make the difference for this generation’s second-best system?
Right out of the gate, Phil Spence unveiled to the world the newest member of the Xbox family, Xbox One X. There was of course the expected time focused on hashing out all the spec for the new console: 6 teraflops, 8GB of flash memory, an 8-core Custom AMD CPU is clocked at 2.3GHz, and an additional number of impressive qualities. The exterior design of the system was also shown, with the Xbox One X being from a dimensional standpoint, the smallest Xbox console ever. Xbox One X will launch on November 7th this year.
Alright, now to the games. Let’s be honest, that’s what’s really going to matter in the long haul for this new console. Following their traditional development rotation, Turn 10 Studios’ Forza Motorsport 7 was introduced and will be releasing on October 3rd. Microsoft’s flagship racing franchise, while releasing more than a month before the new console, will still come with Xbox One X enhanced updated features come early November. Forza Motorsport has always looked incredible, with the vast array of cars to select, its locales, and dynamic weather effects on racing, but to see that the new Xbox will seemingly push that envelope even further is a great sign for the Forza audience.
Another franchise that will be making its return is Metro, based off of the novel series written by Dmitry Glukhovsky. While Metro Exodus will look to extend the story of a post-apocalyptic Russia, the visuals of the Xbox One X demo were the star of the reveal. Metro Exodus will be releasing in 2018.
The next reveal is a personal favorite of mine, even with all the leaks and rumor surrounding it. After forgoing an annual mainline title for the first time since 2009, Assassin’s Creed Origins will be bringing back the series for the first time in two years. There were a number of announcements that were given that we’d already known about, such as the Egyptian setting and a October 27th release date. The gameplay demo shown on stage showed a couple of noticeable changes such as the absence of a world map in the game’s HUD, and armor and weapons that have a deeper attribute layout.
Up next was Bluehole Studio’s Playerunknown’s Battlegounds. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds will be coming out exclusively for Xbox later in 2017 with updates for Xbox One X enhancements. Battlegrounds will see players competing online against a large number of opposing players online for survival.
The next big title of Microsoft’s stage was Undead Lab’s State of Decay 2. Joining the already large number of games that center themselves around the zombie apocalypse setting, State of Decay 2 certainly takes inspiration from a series such as a Walking Dead in its group based survival ideas. State of Decay 2 is slated for a spring 2017 release.
Minecraft once again was back on the Microsoft stage. Along with the Xbox One X enhanced updates announcement via the Super Duper Graphics Pack, Minecraft will also be supporting cross play with tablet and Nintendo Switch users.
After Minecraft had its moment of triumph, there were a number of Microsoft exclusives that got their brief time of the conference stage. Dragonball Fighter Z was announced and is set to release in early 2018. High Fantasy MMORPG Black Desert was also announced as an exclusive for Xbox One, as was noir-themed side scroller The Last Night. Topping off the rapid-fire of new exclusive announcements were The Artful Escape, and CodeVein which is set to release in 2018. Hunger Games-inspired The Darwin Project was also announced exclusively for Xbox One.
At this point, it isn’t an Microsoft conference without the team bringing out Sea of Thieves to show to the crowd. This year’s presentation of the cooperative pirate themed title felt like more of the same, with players diving for buried treasure, drinking away on the ship deck, and going toe to toe with opposing players in naval combat. This time however, Rare was able to give players an idea of when to finally expect to have the game in their hands with an early 2018 release date.
Next up were a few long awaited games with newly announced release dates. First up was Tacoma from Fullbright, the team behind 2013’s Gone Home. Tacoma is the company’s newest narrative adventure now set in the isolation of deep space, set to launch exclusively on Xbox One on August 2nd. Next was Cuphead by Studio MDHR. Set in the style of throwback Saturday morning cartoons, Cuphead will be released on September 29th this year. Then the final major release date announcement came by way of actor Terry Crews in Sumo Digital’s Crackdown 3. After later confirming that Crews will in fact by a part of the final product, Crackdown was announced to be released on November 7th this year along with the launch of the new Xbox.
Following the likes of EA Origins from a day earlier, Microsoft’s owner independent branch, ID @ Xbox, came out to show off bits of a number of games that they’ve partnered themselves with. Some of the titles shown in the video include, but are not limited to: Osiris, Conan Exiles, Dark Light, Riverbound, Hello Neighbor, Brawlout, and much more.
The last two exclusive announcement trailers came by way of Ashen, a cooperative dungeon crawler, and a sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest.
While DONTNOD just recently confirmed that the studio is working on a sequel to 2015’s Life is Strange, there will also be a prequel mini-series made by a separate developer. Deck Nine Games will be taking the formula from the French Developer, and centering this prequel series around Max Caulfield’s best friend, Chloe Price and her stories and friendships two years before the events of the original game. Of course with Max not being the main character in this series, the time rewind option will not be featured in the end product, leaving players to be held more accountable for their actions. The first episode of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm will release on August 31st.
Despite being recently delayed from late summer into the onslaught of holiday releases, Monolith Productions Shadow of War made its way onto the Microsoft floor, showing off more the games combat mechanics and use of the Nemesis system that the first game was so well known for. Shadow of War will release on October 10th.
Now the moment that everyone was waiting for. Waiting until nearly the end of the conference, Phil Spencer officially announced the $499 price point for the Xbox One X when it launches this November, with a price drop in the Xbox One S during the week of E3 down to $249.
Last up for the briefing, we got a chance to see more of Bioware’s new (yet recently delayed) franchise, Anthem. After being teased during the EA Play presentation a day earlier, we got a chance to see the structure of what the game is and how it plays. From the early points of the on-stage demo, there are clear influences in games such as Titanfall, Destiny, and of course Mass Effect. Placed in a dystopian sci-fi setting, we were able to get a small taste of the traversal (both aerial and submerged), along with a bit of third person combat mechanics (clearly influenced by the mainline Mass Effect titles), and cooperative gameplay (Destiny). Anthem is set to release in 2018.
With that, Microsoft’s E3 2017 briefing is in the books. The $499 price point for a “new” console is still a tough nut for me to crack, considering the beginning of this generation saw the first Xbox One hits massive speed bumps to try and recover the past three and a half years. From a technical stand point, sure the Xbox One X is more powerful than the PS4 Pro, but the combination of strong first and third party titles are what are really going to make or break the system come this holiday season.