PRE3 - What can we expect from Microsoft at E3 2012?
E3, the event of the gaming calendar, is so close you can smell the over-used buzzwords from here. But what does Made2Game want from E3 2012?
An exhibition notorious for its high profile reveals and quotable conferences, E3 means one thing to us here at Made2Game – games. The good, the bad, the unlikely, our PRE3 articles are designed to give you a quick round-up of what's been muttered before the real thing next week, alongside a little speculative dart throwing of our own.
In the second of three articles examining the three major platform manufacturers (read our Nintendo piece here) Made2Game examines Microsoft, and comes to the conclusion that E3 2012 may be more about apps and hardware than games for the internet giant. With almost no rumours at all concerning upcoming game announcements, it’s more likely that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 will continue to close the gap between games console and media hub between now and E3 2013 – because we all know what’s coming then, right?
But enough talk of the future – we live in the now, and right now here’s what we expect to see from Microsoft this year. Read on to find out what we know, what we've heard, and what we're hoping for.
What we know will be at Microsoft’s E3 Conference
Gears of War 4
Already announced, this one, but enough to set tongues wagging and ears buzzing at its mere mention. A franchise arguably as important to Microsoft as Halo, Epic Games’ big budget shooter series is set to return for a fourth instalment, with details promised for E3. It’s more than likely the much-hinted-at prequel set during the Pendulum Wars, and almost certainly won’t be called Gears of Wars 4 but will carry a snazzy, catchy subtitle. More importantly, it will bring back Dom (sort of). Huzzah!
Halo 4’s “Infinity” Multiplayer
The Halo series, as a gestalt entity, is one of those rare breeds of shooter that counts the solo campaign as equally important to the multiplayer. Open spaces allow tactical play, aggressive enemy AI keeps you on your toes and huge, blockbuster set-pieces keep the cheesy grins in place – but Halo 4 is taking multiplayer to the next level with “Infinity”, an online mode that weaves its own story around the exploits of Teams Red and Blue via the Spartan Ops missions, and gives players a hub of operations in the UNSC Infinity. Customisation is ramped up and “Combat Enhancements” are Halo’s equivalent of CoD perks. It’s expected that Microsoft will go into the new multiplayer mode in depth at this year’s conference.
And the other exclusives...
Fable: The Journey, and Forza Horizons are continuations of two of Microsoft’s biggest, most expensive and most successful franchises and both will be present this year, of that we have no doubt. As Fable: The Journey is currently the great, white hope of Microsoft’s hit-and-miss hands-free controller, Kinect, special emphasis will be put on making it look super slick and worth your money.
What’s rumoured to be Microsoft’s E3 Conference
New Windows 8 integration
In their quest to integrate everything they’ve ever invented with everything else they’ve ever invented, Microsoft are rumoured to be working on a Windows 8 facility for the 360, adding a fully dedicated web browser to the already-heaving dashboard and allowing for smoother cross-compatibility with the Windows Phone and tablets, as well as more ways to use Xbox Live on the move.
Skype and the Cloud
Skype is already everywhere else – it’s even on the Vita – so it’s no surprise that Microsoft have been whispering about getting the app onto the 360 dashboard for a while now and, as such, it’s almost guaranteed that Skype for XBL will be announced at this year’s E3. Also, given the likely appearance of both Windows 8 and Skype, it’s very possible that the barely-touched-upon Cloud storage facility will be getting some enhancements soon, too. Either the announcement of an upgrade to the cache size or simply more usability would be welcome. We’d really like the option to temporarily transfer our arcade games or NetFlix movies to our friend’s machines – but that wouldn’t make Microsoft any money, would it?
While Microsoft aren’t expected to announce any brand new IPs at this year’s Expo, there is a chance that Dark will be officially unveiled. A modern-day, vampire-themed RPG, Dark sees you take control of Eric Bane, a neck-biting hoodie (well, he’s in a hood in the above screenshot at least) who must battle his amnesia to uncover the secrets of his past. With some incredi-sexy visuals on display in the screenshots and a setting and theme that are almost completely unheard of in traditional role-playing games, there’s every reason to raise an eyebrow in Dark’s direction.
What we want to be at Microsoft’s E3 Conference
An image capture app
In this day and age, “social media” sites and their associated apps are everywhere – and more and more we’re seeing the option to share in-game screenshots with our friends woven into the make-up of specific titles (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted 3 and Dragon’s Dogma) to name a few – so we know the technology is possible on the 360 as it currently stands. The option to capture images and video from any game we’re playing without external hardware / software would be hugely exciting, and the kind of service many gamers would even be prepared to pay a small subscription for. Surely there’s an app in the works to make this possible. And if not, why not? Come on, Microsoft, make it so.
Diablo 3 Enhanced Edition
Maybe it’s a long-shot that Acti-Blizzard will reveal any information about the biggest project they’re “not necessarily currently working on” at this year’s E3, but those of us at Made2Game who aren’t James can only hope that the possibility of a Diablo III 360 port continues to mature into a solid fact – especially now the PC version has finally blasted onto the shelves, shattering all sorts of sales records as it came. Yes, we are aware we’re chasing rainbows here, but this is the What We Want section, right?
The rumoured Soul Reaver reboot
Ok, so it’s unlikely to be a 360-exclusive, but the rumour that surfaced a while ago concerning a possible reboot/remake/re-skin of Crystal Dynamics’ gothic masterpiece got Made2Game’s juices flowing so hard we nearly drowned in a pool of our own over-excited nerd-spittle. We don’t care if it’s 360-exclusive, we don’t even care if they develop a special console entirely for Soul Reaver that can only play Soul Reaver and which costs £500 brand new that you have to buy to play it. We’re in, regardless.
So there you have it, boys and girls, all the facts, rumours and hopes from Microsoft’s E3 showing. Of course, fingers are still crossed for the unveiling of a couple of brand new IPs, or possibly even an improved Kinect device, but we’ll see come next week.
Microsoft’s conference takes place on Monday June 4th at 9.00 a.m. PT (which is 5 p.m. to all us British types).
Words by Mick Fraser (@Jedi_Beats_Tank)
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