The biggest show in gaming is almost upon us, and that means that it’s time to start guessing at what the major press conferences will have in store for us come Monday. It promises to be an exciting show, with Microsoft coming out swinging at a dominant Sony that’s still, arguably, riding the momentum it gained after its much-lauded performance at last year’s E3. The Xbox One has changed a lot since then, and new chief Phil Spencer will hopefully be able to pull of a slightly less tone-deaf show than last year. Here are five things to watch for on Monday:
Halo 5: Hard to imagine we won’t be seeing something about the next installment in Microsoft’s flagship franchise. The game itself won’t be coming until 2015, but that has never stopped anyone from using a popular title to rile up the audience before. We’ve already seen the box art, so I’d say we can look forward to a cinematic trailer with a little bit of live gameplay thrown in for good measure. Id’ be surprised if we see a full-on demo.
Lots of Indie Talk: The games industry loves indies right now, and for good reason: small studios have been producing some of the most innovative and fun experiences on the market with the sort of flair a big studio just can’t afford. On top of that, Sony and Microsoft love them because they’re inevitably sold through their own stores. But while Sony has been aggressively supporting smaller developers for years, Microsoft has only just begun to ramp up its involvement. We can expect Phil Spencer to spend some meaty time talking about the ID@Xbox program, with a little laundry list of games to come in the form of a video montage.
Feeling Very Good About Unbundling Kinect: Unbundling the Kinect from the Xbox One to drop the price is, in many ways, an admission of failure — the original vision of the console was getting creamed by the PS4, and Microsoft had to find a way to get to price parity. But this is a press conference! Expect a lot of enthusiastic descriptions about why this was a great idea, and how it’s spurred sales of the console.
HBO GO and Other Entertainment Apps: Entertainment apps are a sort of kryptonite for Microsoft right now — it got burned pretty bad when it focused on TV at its initial Xbox One reveal. The E3 show needs to focus on games to get the hardcore crowd on board, but E3 isn’t just for games fans. The show is one of the only times of the year the gaming industry makes the rounds at major news networks, and Microsoft is still trying to sell toward that larger audience. Without Kinect, Xbox One looks more like PS4 than ever, so expect Microsoft to stress entertainment apps as the reason why its console is still unique.
Other First/Third Party Games, Something New: We’ll see Call of Duty, that’s a given. And there’s a new Gears of War game on its way, though don’t expect much more than a cinematic trailer for that. We may see an encore performance from Sunset Overdrive, and we’ll almost definitely see a little bit more of Quantum Break. The majority of this press conference will be spent on games and games trailers, because Microsoft still needs to remind the core gaming community that this box plays games, and some of those games you can’t play anywhere else. And you can’t have an E3 without at least one surprise: expect a cinematic trailer for a new exclusive game, possibly an RPG or third-person action. Shooters are already fairly well-covered.