This article was written with cooperation between Steven Strom and Dali Dimovski. There were chairs thrown.
SideQuesting is preparing you for E3 with our guides for what to expect from the show. You’ve already seen our specials on Nintendo and Sony, and now it’s Microsoft’s turn. You can even listen to our Microsoft at E3 podcast where we divulged many of our thoughts.
The biggest unknown at E3 isn’t what Nintendo is showing with the Wii U, it isn’t what Sony will do to *save* the Vita, it’s what Microsoft will be showing. We’ve heard nary a peep out of the company, apart from some entertainment hub rumblings. Games, apps, and Kinect are all giant question marks right now.
That’s why it’s perhaps the most fun of the three conferences to speculate upon. Microsoft doesn’t usually drop megaton surprises at the press event, but with the tail end of a generation upon us and new hardware on the horizon, things might get VERY interesting.
Is it time for Microsoft to announce “Kinect 2.0”?
Kinect, as it is, doesn’t work as well as much of the ‘core’ audience (myself included) would like. However, that hasn’t stopped it from selling like… well, sort of like what the Wii used to sell like. As a company, Microsoft has absolutely no reason to show off updated Kinect hardware just yet. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and give you a special bonus prediction; “Kinect 2.0”, whatever it’s actually, eventually called, will be announced right alongside the “Xbox 720”, whatever that’s actually, eventually called.
This E3 will still see the expansion of Kinect onto other devices, with full integration into Windows 8 and perhaps even tablets or phones.
Probability of Kinect 2.0: 5%
Probability of Kinect shown fully for other devices: 85%
Will Microsoft expand Xbox Live to other devices?
Though the first forays for Microsoft to put dedicated gaming services on other devices haven’t been great, it now has a unified interface in Metro and Windows 8 that is easy to adapt across products. It’s already on the Xbox 360, Windows Phones, and Windows 8, and tablets aren’t too far behind. A single sign-on is a certainty, and the only puzzle piece is how the company makes gaming experiences gel. Expect it to allow the start-stop of gaming from one Windows-based device to the next, as the product becomes Xbox Live rather than Xbox hardware. What it means to developers is an unknown.
Probability of Xbox Live across other devices: 100%
Probability of Xbox Live stop & go gaming across devices: 32%
Will Microsoft expand Xbox Live to non-Microsoft devices?
Yes, most assuredly. With its ties to the world of entertainment growing at an exponential rate, and cable companies falling in love with the Xbox’s capabilities, it should be a given that Microsoft will bundle the device in with some provider’s network. AT&T already allows U-Verse to work through the Xbox — until it mysteriously pulled earlier this month for an expected relaunch. It may be to everyone’s advantage to build an giant HDD-based, XBLA-only version of the Xbox that functions as a receiver or DVR. “Xfinity with Xbox” rolls off the tongue nicely, doesn’t it?
Probability of Xbox Live on other manufacturers’ devices: 65%
Will we see a price drop?
Yes, though it may be two-fold. It’s safe to expect a price drop on the Kinect from $150 to $129 or even $99, especially if rumors of an impending Wii price drop are accurate. More interestingly is if Microsoft will drop the price of the Xbox 360 itself. A $249 Kinect bundle is tempting, as is a $179 standalone 4gb Xbox 360. MOST interestingly is the precedent the company set with the subsidization of the price of the Xbox to $99 with a monthly fee. Expect this to become a real thing across all retailers now, instead of just the Microsoft store.
Probability that the Kinect will drop in price: 87%
Probability that the Xbox 360 will drop in price: 65%
Probability that we will see a $99 Xbox with monthly subscription fee extended to all retailers: 97%
Will we see Durango/Xbox 720?
Not the hardware, no. But it may be safe to assume that a sizzle reel — perhaps of the Unreal Engine 4 kind — will debut at the tail end of the press conference. It wouldn’t be a way to kill current sales, but it WOULD look good to consumers if the next Xbox console will look more powerful than the soon-to-be showcased WiiU. How much of a pimp move would that be?
“We know that you’ll be seeing new hardware this week, but you won’t see the next generation… because this is what it will look like from Microsoft.”
Probability that we see some video of next gen Xbox tech: 27%
Probability that we see the Xbox 720: 2%
Probability that we see a modified, smaller Xbox with a built-in hard drive for media capabilities: 25%
Will we see the next Xbox 360 user interface?
Boy, Microsoft sure likes their updated UI’s. And boy do they just get worse and worse.
The response to this latest upgrade has been so lukewarm-to-outright-scathing that there’s a good chance that they’ll want to show off whatever it is they’ve got planned. Such a showcase would also dovetail well into showing off some of the Xbox’s newer features like Amazon instant video and third-party applications. Wrap all of that neatly in a “Xbox 360 is the leading source for multimedia entertainment blah, blah, blah…” press quote and you’ve got yourself a Microsoft press conference, alright.
Will we see the Woodstock music app?
Yes. Zune is dead, Woodstock (or whatever it will be called) will be a huge push.
Chances we see the updated music app: 100%
Will we see Internet Explorer?
Yes. Why? No idea. Perhaps a version specific to Kinect?
Chances we see IE or a web browser: 100%
Will Microsoft show off any new third-party Live apps?
Speaking of third-party apps, you can probably expect to see one or two (or 25) announced at E3 this year.
Some likely candidates include: an ESPN app, another video game news site (ahem) and a Call of Duty service – possibly in the same style as Halo Waypoint, possibly something a little less complex.
Chances we see Pinterest: 70%
Chances we see Tumblr or a micro-blogging platform: 30%
Chances we see more television streaming apps (ABC, Showtime, NBC, Comedy Central): 100%
Will Microsoft show off an app store on Xbox Live?
This is a tantalizing one. Unifying all of Microsoft’s app stores (and ditching the Microsoft money for real world cash) would be so incredibly advantageous for the company and its product users. An API that allows first- and third-party apps to be created and sold through the Xbox? YES, PLEASE. The only drawback is the ailing Xbox infrastructure. Live is old, old, old, and may not have enough horsepower in the current generation to go through a massive shift in Marketplace sales technology.
Chances we see an Xbox app store: 22%
Will we see shopping on the Xbox 360?
“Bing: curtains.” Shopping on the Xbox has been mostly delegated to digital products. The shift to physical, using Kinect and Bing, or a shopping channel, would be a considerable step in bringing a new demographic to the console. It’s inevitable, and genius… but can Microsoft actually pull it off?
Will Microsoft show off new Alan Wake content?
Another follow-up to Alan Wake in one form or another is almost an inevitability. Remedy has the art assets, they have the critical recognition and most importantly for Microsoft, they’re an exclusive franchise to throw around.
It’s probably too soon coming off of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare and the PC ports to expect a full sequel, but a new downloadable continuation could seem likely.
That being said, the franchise has something of an infamous E3 history with its stop-start development and one-time vaporware status. The questions to ask now are whether or not Microsoft feels that the series deserves another chance in the industry’s biggest spotlight and whether or not a core game fits in with their recent self-promoted image as the family-friendly multimedia box.
Will we see a Gears of War prequel or spin-off?
Despite wrapping up the war with the Locust Horde pretty conclusively, the ending of Gears of War 3 left a few questions unanswered.
Who was the Locust Queen? Why did she look human? What was Marcus’ father’s involvement with Emergence Day? Where can I buy an actual box of Thrashies?
We know that there was already something in the works with a game called Gears of War: Exile being cancelled before its rumored unveiling at the VGA’s. That being said, Epic’s Fortnite doesn’t seem quite big enough to be taking up the entire studio’s attention. And even then, we know that Microsoft doesn’t like to let a series go just because its creator has moved on.
However, I think that this year is going to be all about Halo 4 for Microsoft and they’re not going to want to take attention away from their other action heavy shooter, especially not when it’s got so much to prove with Bungie gone.
Will we finally see Halo Wars 2?
I’m just going to keep predicting this one until I finally will it into existence. Just give it time.
But seriously, 343 Industries is, as I’m sure you all know, very busy working on Halo 4. That being said and like it or not, the Halo franchise is on a yearly schedule now. You can bet that they’ve already got something else in the works. My guess is that 2013 is too early for Halo 5 proper and that means they’ll need something to fill the gap. And we’ve still got another whole two years before Halo 2 turns 10 and we get another inevitable Anniversary Edition.
A man can dream.
Will Microsoft show off footage of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard?
I’m not certain that I could be any more convinced that we will absolutely see Dawnguard at Microsoft’s presentation.
The expansion to 2012’s smash hit is scheduled for release this summer and we’ve seen next to naught about it beyond a teaser image and a title. Not to mention that the whole thing is exclusive to Microsoft’s console for 30 days. Excepting for some major catastrophe befalling Bethesda before then, you know exactly where to look for more info on the studio’s next DLC.
Will we see see…?
Here’s a list of rumored games, and their chances of appearing at Microsoft’s presser. Because you were going to ask anyways.
GTA V: 100%
GTA V with Kinect: 95%
Shadow Complex 2: 95%
Kinect Sports Season 3: 75%
Mass Effect 3 DLC: 50%
Rayman Legends: 60%
Madden NFL 13 with Kinect: 100%
Microsoft All Stars Battle Royale: 0%
It’s going to be VERY VERY interesting on Monday morning. No one knows what card Microsoft will pull, since it still holds the industry leadership crown. We’re personally interested in what Xbox Live could mean for non-Xbox 360 devices, and what that does to game development. And games? Yes, there will be one or two shockers. There are ALWAYS one or two shockers.