That time is once again upon us: Xbox E3! Well. Not E3. Per se. With the pandemic hollowing out the industry's favorite trade show, games publishers have moved beyond the aging showcase to build up their very own bespoke events.
We've already seen a big Sony State of Play this past week, which featured reveals for the Resident Evil 4 remake and Street Fighter 6, among others. This next week we'll see another event from Capcom, a big showcase from Geoff Keighley's Summer Games Fest, and for Xbox fans — the headline event — the Xbox & Bethesda Showcase on June 12.
Microsoft's big showcase is expected to run between 60 and 90 minutes, featuring games from its sizeable home-grown studio stable alongside some big third-party publisher reveals. Expect to see games of all shapes and all sizes, from the biggest budget AAA blockbusters to intriguing and creative indie titles from smaller teams.
With this show, we've heard Microsoft is aiming to primarily feature games set to launch within its next fiscal year, giving Xbox fans a much-needed definitive roadmap of upcoming content for the Xbox Series X|S consoles. Microsoft is also gunning for real gameplay over CGI or pre-rendered videos too, following criticism of previous shows.
Though I quite honestly don't have a huge amount of hard info on what to expect in terms of big surprises, the most fun way to experience the show is to go in with zero expectations. So if you want to avoid spoilers, I'd argue to skip this article.
In any case, you should take all of these predictions as fun guesswork recapping some previous and fresh rumors I've heard more recently. At the very least, you should expect to see a heavy emphasis on diverse Xbox Game Pass content, from big AAA exclusives to unique and fun indies.
If you want to get deeper into it, here's an A-Z of everything we expect (and don't expect) to see at the Xbox & Bethesda Showcase.
Xbox Games Studios
Microsoft has massively expanded its home-grown studio stable in recent years, buying up smaller teams like InXile, Compulsion, Undead Labs, and more, while committing resources to hiring more developers and in some cases, even physically expanding the studios to new locations.
343i is working on Halo Infinite right now, although we've heard the team is exploring other projects alongside Infinite's live service as well. It's unlikely we'll see 343i debut any new games at the showcase, although there is a hint that the company will appear during the extended June 14 showcase with an announcement. We know that 343i is teaming up with Certain Affinity on a new mode for Halo Infinite codenamed Tatanka, which seems to take some inspiration from battle royale shooters, combined with some Halo Warzone DNA. There's a chance we could see a hint of Tatanka at the show, but I think it may still be a little too early given that the mode could be targeting Season 4 out in 2023.
Compulsion is an up-and-coming studio with a lot to prove and has grown a fair amount since the team joined Microsoft a few years ago. Compulsion is known for We Happy Few, and we've heard they're working on a dark fantasy action game currently codenamed Midnight. It's unknown exactly what phase of development this game is in, as such it might be too early to see it this week — but the art style and southern gothic aesthetic is a tantalizing prospect from a studio that really knows how to nail atmosphere.
Having recently shipped games, it seems unlikely we'll hear from Tango Gameworks (Ghostwire: Tokyo) or Double Fine (Psychonauts 2), but Tango is known to be incubating its first non-horror title. Double Fine has been linked to the Banjo IP in some rumors, but I'm inclined to believe that these aren't true. There's a chance we could see Rare show off future content for Sea of Thieves, but I suspect Everwild will remain in the shadows for the time being, although it would be cool to catch another glimpse of it.
Mojang also just shipped The Wild Update for Minecraft, and typically has its own Minecon Live events to debut games and new features. That being said, following on from my earlier information that the company is making another Minecraft spin-off, Jeff Gerstmann on his new podcast revealed that Mojang may be working on a Minecraft-style RTS. I suspect this could be codename Badger, in development in partnership with Blackbird Interactive, and there's a good chance we could see it revealed at one of the big shows in the coming days.
One studio you will almost certainly hear from in a big way is Obsidian. You should very firmly expect to see Avowed gameplay at the show, which we've previously seen early exclusive footage of. Avowed is perhaps most easily described as "The Outer Worlds meets Skyrim," set in the incredible Pillars of Eternity RPG universe. Expect vibrant colors, epic spells, large monsters, and open areas in another RPG extravaganza from what is arguably one of Microsoft's best studios right now. Obsidian may also be on deck to showcase Grounded 1.0 and attach a final launch date for the early-access survival game, alongside Pentiment, which is an investigative narrative RPG from industry legend Josh Sawyer. Obsidian is also building The Outer Worlds 2, and from what we've heard, the game is developing nicely, but it is set to launch further out than Avowed, where the focus will land for this year's "not-E3" show.
Since Microsoft is intent on primarily focusing on games coming out between now and next summer, there's a good chance we could see Forza Motorsport 8 debut at the show, giving us a glimpse at the sim racer's modernized direction. You shouldn't expect to see Playground's RPG Fable there, however, though there's perhaps a slim chance of a quick look at how the project is progressing. Although, we most likely will see Forza Horizon 5 DLC either at the Xbox show, or one of the other Summer Game Fest shows throughout the week.
That being said, I have heard Microsoft will demonstrate or tease at least a few things that are further afield than 12 months, and there's perhaps a chance Fable could rank among those. In that case, what about Gears of War 6? The Coalition has practically gone dark in recent years, with Gears 5 essentially wrapping up. We haven't seen much from the studio since then, besides the rather excellent Matrix demo a few months back. As for Gears 6, it might simply be too early for that right now, as The Coalition explores how to take the franchise to the next level. Gears 4 and 5 did a lot of heavy lifting for Xbox exclusives during Gen 8 and launched on a relatively rapid cadence. Microsoft may be reticent to launch yet another Gears game based on the same arguably familiar formula without some major changes, though, but we'll have to wait and see.
There is a range of other projects we could see emerge. Codename "Cobalt" from InXile is an upcoming steampunk RPG from the creators of Wasteland, for example. World's Edge may drop by to show off Age of Empires IV on Xbox, as well as a mysterious additional "Age of" project I've heard of in recent months, that is gunning to build a new audience for the franchise alongside the more hardcore Age of Empires RTS games. Oxide Games' codename Indus may appear, which is tipped to be some form of 4X turn-based strategy game in the vein of Civilization with card-battler mechanics. I also suspect the side-scrolling multiplayer action game Project Belfry to appear, from the developers of The Banner Saga.
It's highly likely we'll see Contraband in some form, known to be a vehicular combat game from the creators of the Mad Max game and Just Cause franchise. As for Hellblade II, State of Decay 3, and Perfect Dark, I suspect these games may fall out of scope for this show, but it's always possible Microsoft may want to offer a glimpse at them if they have the footage available. Other rumored games like Project Dragon from IO Interactive, Suerte from Certain Affinity, and Shaolin from Brass Lion may be further out. There are even rumors Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame may be working with Xbox, too. There's always a possibility some of these games could at least get revealed with a teaser trailer, even if they're a bit further out.
It's pretty obvious what game will headline the show: Starfield. The high-profile delay a few weeks ago won't prevent Microsoft from finally showcasing the game, giving us a deeper dive into what could become next year's marquee act. Few concrete details are known about how Starfield plays, suffice to say that it will be a true Bethesda-style RPG, with rumors of interplanetary flight and a broad-branching narrative. I suspect that we'll get a shorter gameplay trailer on June 12, with Bethesda offering a deeper dive in the extended showcase on June 14.
We'll also most likely see Redfall, which while delayed to 2023, is likely deep in development. The 4-player co-op action game is expected to behave similarly to games like Borderlands complete with loot and character-based combat mechanics, albeit with an immersive Arkane-style urban environment.
Beyond that, my information on ZeniMax is generally a little harder to come by, so herein lies some vaguer guesswork.
My podcast co-host and legendary Pokemon esports professional Rand_Al_Thor_19 suggested on a show recently speculated that Fallout could be present at the show in some form, perhaps with a Fallout 3 or New Vegas remaster, or a tease of the long-rumored return of Obsidian to the franchise. I think it would be a smart move for Microsoft and Bethesda to at least acknowledge the franchise exists and will continue, considering it's one of ZeniMax's biggest properties, and has been essentially radio silent outside of Fallout 76 updates.
Another highly probably reveal is that of Indiana Jones from Machine Games. Disney is ramping up its promotion of Indiana Jones to push the fifth movie, cutting deals to push Indy into games like Fortnite, for example. It would line up nicely to showcase exactly how Indiana Jones will play to that end, although there's also a chance that Indiana Jones appears at a different show, given that I've heard it isn't fully exclusive to Xbox owing to contractual obligations that predate the Bethesda acquisition.
Could we catch a glimpse of Wolfenstein III? It has been rumored for some time that Machine Games is working on another project alongside Indiana Jones, and the Blazkowicz saga against futuristic Nazi oppression has plenty of capital left to explore.
It's totally unknown what fellow FPS connoisseurs id Software is working on, too. The studio has wrapped up DOOM Eternal with the final Ancient Gods expansion. id Software has hinted that this story arc of DOOM is over, which lends credence to the idea that the team may pivot to other things. Many have suggested that we could see Quake get some similar reboot treatment over the years, and if so, it would make sense to present that on the Xbox stage this week.
Bethesda's other studios, such as Roundhouse and ZeniMax Online, are undoubtedly working on new projects as well, but like Bethesda teams in general, what they are building remains a mystery.
Given that there's no E3 proper this year, many studios will be looking to showcase their multi-platform games at other events. It stands to reason that Microsoft will feature games that it has marketing deals with. One of those games I've heard could be Diablo IV.
Blizzard has lurched from scandal to scandal in recent years, but the company soldiers on regardless, building out games like World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Overwatch 2, and recently Diablo Immortal. Given that the latter has become embroiled in controversy owing to its pay-to-win elements, Blizzard will be keen to reassure Diablo fans that Diablo IV is a true successor to the legendary action RPG franchise, with a big gameplay showcase and possibly even a launch date reveal at the Xbox event.
Given Microsoft's uniquely renewed relationship with Activision-Blizzard given the acquisition proceedings, we could also see a reveal of Toys for Bob's new Crash Bandicoot game, which I'm told is a unique team-based 3D platform competitive brawler. The game features characters from across the Crash universe as well as some fresh ones, so am I told, and should be gearing up for a reveal either at Xbox's show, or one of the other summer showcases this season.
Xbox may be exploring ways to remind fans that it is gunning hard to court Japanese games too. Xbox didn't clinch the marketing deal for Capcom's Street Fighter 6, but at the very least it is actually coming to Xbox this time, unlike the last entry, which skipped the platform entirely.
To that end, we've also seen Atlus bring some support to Xbox with Soul Hackers 2, surprisingly, which could raise hopes of finally seeing the Persona franchise hit Xbox too. Xbox fans have been clamoring for Microsoft to land Persona for years, and it would be cool within the year of the game's recent 25th anniversary to see it finally hit Xbox. The turn-based play would be ideal for Xbox Cloud Gaming and touch controls, too.
Another game that is mysteriously absent is Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Despite the much-advertised exclusivity period ending, the game has yet to materialize on Xbox, enjoying a lengthy stint on PlayStation and the Epic Games Store. Square Enix may be gunning to grab some of that sweet Xbox Game Pass cash for inclusion on Xbox, as my buddy Rand speculated on our Xbox Two Podcast this past week. If FF7R is indeed coming to Xbox, seeing it appear at the stage would help put fears of the game never coming to Xbox to bed, but there's also a fair chance that we could never see it hit Xbox too, much like Street Fighter V.
There is a range of other studios that may drop games on the Xbox stage. From smaller indie titles in the vein of Tunic and Death's Door to bigger AAAs. Microsoft has marketing with multi-platform games like A Plague Tale: Requiem and ARK: Survival Evolved 2. With Starfield skipping this year, Microsoft may be looking to a major third party to fill in the Xbox Game Pass void this holiday season. To that end, I suspect we'll get some other major surprise reveals from Microsoft's partners, as is often the case with Xbox's big marketing showcases.
The future of Xbox
The theme of this showcase will revolve around the next 12 months of Xbox games, both in terms of exclusives and high-profile additions to Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft is keen to showcase the value and potency of the service, which is growing at a rapid pace in certain markets, particularly on the PC and cloud side. Fortnite in particular hitting Xbox Cloud Gaming has created a surge in interest in the service, and Microsoft has an opportunity on its biggest stage to catalyze visibility of its nascent platform, albeit at the risk of causing servers to hit capacity.
The pandemic is winding down in severity, which should eliminate some of the disruptions the industry has seen in recent years. Some games have been delayed out of 2022 as a result, but 2023 is already looking like a jam-packed year regardless of your platform of choice. And for Xbox fans, those games will be available to you whether you're playing from a TV, a PC, or indeed, even your phone — Microsoft will be keen to emphasize that, showcasing the bounty of content heading to the platform across the next fiscal year.
There has never been a better time to be an Xbox fan, in my view. It's time to get hyped.
Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!
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