LOS ANGELES—Microsoft used its pre-E3 press conference today to stress that, despite recent troubles securing high-profile exclusive content, the Xbox One can do toe-to-toe with the PlayStation 4 when it comes to games and content available on no other console.
Many of those console exclusives will come from newly purchased developers that are now part of the Microsoft Studios family. The purchases of Undead Labs (State of Decay), and Playground Games (Forza Horizon) were not all that surprising, given their previous work on Xbox exclusives. But Microsoft’s acquisition of Ninja Theory (Hellbalde), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few, now coming August 10) we a bit more surprising, and a sign Microsoft is looking to bring new talent in house.
Those four purchased studios will be joined by The Initiative, a new Santa Monica-based effort to bring in new talent and create new “world-class game experiences” exclusively to Microsoft platforms.
“We know that exclusive games from our Microsoft Studios are what originally turned so many of us into Xbox fans,” Microsoft Head of Xbox Phil Spencer said from the LA Live stage. “This is why we’re increasing our investment in our existing franchises you already love and this is why we are amplifying our investment in new worlds that will deepen your love for gaming on Xbox.”
Bring out your exclusives
As expected, Microsoft will be dipping into its stable of first-person shooters to help round out its exclusive catalog. Halo Infinite was teased in a brief trailer showing “in-engine footage” from the new Slipspace engine, but conspicuously lacked any gameplay or release date details.
A story-focused trailer for Gears of War 5, meanwhile, centered on the mysterious physical and psychological changes starting to manifest in protagonist Kate via a strange family heirloom necklace. Microsoft also announced Gears Tactics, a turn-based strategy take on the familiar Gears universe, and a still-mysterious mobile gaming collaboration with Funko called Gears Pop!
Forza Horizon 4, coming October 2, will take the familiar racing franchise to Britain, with a dynamic season-changing system. Snow and ice in winter can change the way you drive, and also let you access new areas via frozen over waters. Ori and the Will of the Wisps, meanwhile, looks like an able follow-up to the painterly 2D platforming adventure Ori and the Blind Forest, which launched alongside the Xbox One.
Some of the Xbox-exclusive announcements were a little less expected. The first new Battletoads game in years, due in 2019, got a short tease featuring a cartoon drawing of the familiar, frustrating speeder bike sequence but not much else. And Finji’s Tunic— an adorable, isometric, low-polygon take on the Zelda formula by way of a Fox protagonist—will hit Xbox One first.
Session, meanwhile, is a “console launch exclusive” for Xbox that immediately brings to mind EA’s dormant Skate series in a short, rap-infused teaser. Black Desert, on the other hand, looks like an extremely generic fantasy MMO that will also be coming to Xbox before other consoles.
Other game premieres
Microsoft also used its attention-grabbing showcase to premiere footage of some other titles that won’t be exclusive to the Xbox One.
Bethesda’s Todd Howard was on hand to show off the previously announced Fallout 76, a prequel “four times the size of Fallout 4.” Taking place in the hills of West Virginia, it follows some of the first survivors emerging from the vaults and into the wasteland.
A voiceover hinted at the base-focused gameplay that will require you to “rebuild, not just walls, not just buildings, but hearts, monuments, and ultimately, America itself.” More details will probably have to wait until Bethesda’s own press presentation this evening, though.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, coming from Dark Souls and Bloodborne maker From Software in 2019, looks like a slightly faster-paced take on the studio’s previous hard-as-nails melee combat games. A short trailer showed a lot of jumping across rooftops and two-handed weapon combat against climbable giants, multi-segmented centipedes, and a mounted spear-wielding foe.
Techland’s Dying Light 2 refocuses the first-person, zombie-fighting parkour action of choices that affect how the game’s “functional ecosystem” looks and plays. Developer Chris Avellone highlighted an example where you could take our a rival faction to secure a reliable water supply for the struggling people on the street, or partner with them and corner the black market for the valuable, lie-giving resource.
Ubisoft staff came out to show off a carefully pre-scripted section of The Division 2, with four players working together to take out opposing factions in a plague-ravaged Washington DC. And CD Projekt Red showed a short, non-playable look at the beautiful, dystopic, body-modification-and-augmented-reality-filled world of Cyberpunk 2077.
Some other notable announcements and highlights from the conference:
- “War Mode” will be coming to the Xbox One version of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds as a “Console Launch Exclusive” in Winter 2018.
- Crackdown 3, which was recently delayed into early 2019, introduced Brooklyn 99‘s Terry Crews as a playable character.
- “Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course” (get it? DLC?) will feature a new island, new bosses, and new playable character Ms. Chalice in 2019.
- Two new expansions are coming for Sea of Thieves: Cursed Sails in July and Forsaken Shores in September.
- Philosophical PS4 robot-shooter Nier Automata is coming to Xbox One on June 26. The “Become as Gods” edition will come with Xbox One X enhancements and all existing DLC included.
- Kingdom Hearts III, the first franchise title on an Xbox system, showed off a new area incorporating Frozen‘s Elsa and Olaf into the expansive fantasy universe.
- Devil May Cry 5 from Capcom looks a bit reminiscent of Dead Rising, with Dante now “kicking demon ass” in urban environments with the assistance of a robotic arm.
- Bandai Namco’s Jump Force will bring together characters from the Naruto, Dragon Ball, and One Piece universes, now “united to fight for our survival.” Due in 2019.
- A short tease for Just Cause 4 made it look a lot like a continuation of Just Cause 3.
- The Division, Fallout 4, and The Elder Scrolls Online are all available as part of Microsoft’s Xbox Games Pass subscription plan starting today.