2018 has not been a great year for Microsoft’s Xbox. While the Xbox One X has sold better than the PS4 in the US, Microsoft has certainly been losing the games war. God Of War was a big deal, and the memes it inspired shed a light on Xbox’s embarrassing lack of exclusive content this year. It may have “the world’s most powerful console,” but Microsoft certainly isn’t taking advantage of it. A great console is useless without great games.
Going into E3, Microsoft should be focusing on exactly that: showing great video games. Sony’s E3 presentation is usually a collection of trailers and demoes, and gamers have responded very positively to that. Nintendo has Super Smash Bros. for Switch in playable form, and that’s pretty much all it needs for a memorable E3. What does Microsoft have? Well, if the Wal Mart Canada leak is to be believed, a new Gears Of War is on the way. But even that won’t be enough. Microsoft needs to bring all its biggest franchises to this battle, and some surprises, if it has any hope of turning this year around. Here’s what Microsoft can do to win E3 2018.
Bring Out The Literal Big Guns
When WalMart’s Canadian website posted a list of pre-orders for several unannounced games, one name in particular caught the eyes of Xbox fans: Gears Of War 5. If true, this would be a very big deal. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly enough to match the current slate of PlayStation exclusives. That’s why another name on that list needs to come true: Forza Horizon. While the listing did say "Forza Horizon 5" when a 4 doesn’t even exist, that can be chalked up to WalMart error just as the many other typos in those listings. If Gears Of War and Forza are getting new installments announced at E3, then Microsoft just needs one thing to complete the trinity. It has to announce a new Halo game.
While Halo 5 didn’t do that well compared to past entries, the Xbox One X could give the series another chance at greatness with its superb power and 4K visuals. Really, any of Microsoft’s big franchises would look great given the 4K treatment. If power is what Microsoft is advertising, then it needs to make good on that promise by showing Master Chief, the Locust Horde, and intense racing action in the best graphics console gaming has to offer.
While new entries in the Gears of War and Halo series could do a great job bringing brutal, visceral combat to 4K screens, Microsoft is going to need some good plain fun as well. That’s where this wild rumor comes in: Microsoft is working on a revival of NBA Jam. The hit arcade game showed gamers a wilder side of basketball, and it just so happens to be the 25th anniversary of the original. A crazy sports game would give Microsoft something it desperately needs: a unique title that the other two consoles can’t match. Nintendo doesn’t really attract sports games and Sony will probably only have the more realistic offerings.
What would this remake of NBA Jam look like? The rumors don’t say. Perhaps it will be a more faithful update to the original, keeping the arcade-style visuals and gameplay. Or maybe it will be a completely modern take with current NBA players and very different systems. It would definitely make more sense to keep it old-school, but honestly any announcement involving NBA Jam will win Microsoft some points. It just might be that last-minute slam dunk that completely changes the game.
The Phantom Game
When Sony’s people take the stage for this year’s E3 show, there’s little doubt that they’ll be armed with some kind of information on Kingdom Hearts III. It could be a story trailer, it could be a gameplay demo from a whole new Disney world, but whatever it is it will make people go crazy. Kingdom Hearts fans are devoted, and have been waiting over 10 years for this next installment. An installment that is coming to Xbox as well, but few people will care about that. Those who grew up on the series are loyal to its PlayStation roots, and there’s no way newcomers could get past the convoluted story to just start with part III on Xbox. Fortunately, Xbox has its own long-awaited game. And if Microsoft wants to win E3, it better bring out Crackdown 3.
Crackdown 3 was first revealed at Microsoft’s 2014 E3 presentation. Then, a series of delays pushed it back from its planned 2016 release to 2017, and to 2018 after that. Here in 2018, there’s still no definitive date for the game’s release. In fact, the recent cancellation of several pre-orders has even insiders thinking it will get further pushed to 2019. Amid all the anger and disappointment the rumors are causing, Microsoft needs to say something about this game. While it hasn’t been 10 years, Crackdown 3 is slowly becoming the stuff of legends with each new delay. That legend would be best told at this year’s E3.
A lot of 2018’s hype trains have left the station and are running at full steam. Microsoft’s unfortunately, seems to be having trouble leaving the station. But the race isn’t over yet. Sure God Of War is an early frontrunner for game of the year and Nintendo somehow made playing with cardboard fun again, but Microsoft has the tools it needs to get the engines running. Its got an amazingly powerful machine and a modest but incredible stable of first-part games. All it needs to do is use those games with that machine. With Halo in 4K, people will be lining up to get an Xbox One X. With an NBA Jam remake, Microsoft would win the hearts of gamers as well as their dollars. And a Crackdown 3 release date would go a long way towards getting the hype train going. It’s rusty, but it’s not broken. It just needs a good kickstart.
Microsoft's E3 presentation begins at 1pm on June 10th.