On Sunday, Microsoft will head to LA where the company will be hosting their annual E3 keynote. Unlike previous years, the company has a chance to fully own the spotlight as Sony is not making the trip and with xCloud and a new generation of consoles on the horizon, the company has a lot to talk about.
For the past few weeks, forums, Twitter, Reddit, and nearly every other gaming community has been filled with ‘leaks’. While I think most of them are simply logical guesses, after talking to many people in the industry and insiders at Microsoft, here are my expectations for Microsoft’s E3 event.
On the hardware side, I expect Microsoft to start to peel back the layers on the secrecy around their next generation consoles, Anaconda and Lockhart. For those who are hoping to see a list of raw specs, I don’t think that’s on the agenda quite yet. Instead, look for the company to provide performance multipliers for the hardware; I have heard that Lockhart and Anaconda are targeting at least a 2x performance gain for the high-end (Anaconda) and 4x for the lower end hardware(Lockhart).
Further, the company will likely highlight features of the new platform such as using solid-state drives, Navi graphics, Zen 2, backwards compatibility and other components of the AMD platform. Also, expect to hear about how these new consoles can take existing Xbox One X games and enhance the graphics and gameplay experience. By holding the explicit specs back, this allows the company to talk about the underlying features of the console without playing all their cards for the upcoming devices.
And there is an important reason behind this approach, the final configurations and performance are still in flux. Keep in mind, these consoles are more than a year away, Microsoft isn’t going to announce everything at this event, just enough to keep the event interesting but they will hold major details back until closer to release.
On the games side, Microsoft will be showing off 14 titles from their own game studios, according to Phil Spencer. Of that, I expect titles like Gears of War 5 (codenamed Halifax) will have a strong presence, and we will also see items like new DLC for State of Decay 2, Forza Horizon 4 Expansion 2, Halo Infinite trailer and gameplay, Age of Empires info, Fable details may be tossed in as well; it looks like there will be at least 3 new IPs that we haven’t seen previously.
For Halo Infinite, this will be the first real showing of the next generation game. Microsoft will be running the demos from a PC with an Xbox controller as they don’t want the first impression of the new game to be running on the now dated Xbox One hardware.
In addition to Microsoft having a solid first-party presence, sources at the company are saying that this is among the strongest showings from third-party companies in its E3 history.
But the darling of the event will be the company’s xCloud service. Microsoft has been talking about this service for about a year and at E3, we will get a new look at the offering. While I don’t think Microsoft will share the raw performance figures of xCloud, I have heard that it does best Google’s previously announced 10.7 teraflops.
Expect to see new demos of the service and I know at one point, they were looking to have a demo from a location outside the venue. Meaning, a demo that shows someone using xCloud at home but I have not heard if this scenario made the final cut.
As Microsoft announced last week, GamePass for the PC will be talked about in much greater detail. I noted last week that the company was working on a new PC application for the service code-named Garrison and WalkingCat has found evidence of its existence. Supporting my post, Microsoft is also rebranding today the Xbox PC app to Xbox Console Companion, clearing the way for the new app to arrive in the very near future.
In addition, I still believe that Game Pass for the PC will be included in Game Pass Ultimate and evidence supporting my original post has surfaced as well.
There are questions still around if Microsoft will have a separate SKU for only GamePass on the PC. According to French registered trademarks, it looks like that will be the case as Microsoft has claimed the name for copyright protection but they could also be doing this to simply protect themselves legally and not launch the stand-alone SKU.
And of course, you can expect new game announcements for Game Pass to be announced.
One oddball that I haven’t heard if it will be discussed is the Master Chief Collection for the PC. The game is already off to a rough start as the original public timeline to start testing has come and gone and it may be a couple more months until we actually see a true beta according to insiders for many of the games in the suite; timelines are still quite fluid.
When you look at all the big bucket announcements: high-level talk of next-gen console hardware features, xCloud demos, PC Game Pass details, a bunch of new game announcements for both first and third party, and sprinkle in a few other gems, it’s turning out to be a significant event for Microsoft.
While they could have dialed it back since Sony won’t be around, it looks like they actually doubled-down to make this show one of the best in years. With Phil Spencer now having been at the top of the Xbox org for several years, his plans to turn the brand around are starting to materialize.