Microsoft had a big show last year.
E3 2018 is right around the corner. We're expecting tons of big announcements during the big briefings from Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and others. But before that, we're taking a look back at last year to go over what was announced and determining if each company lived up to their promises. We've already looked at Nintendo and Sony, so now it's time to check up on Microsoft.
Project Scorpio Becomes Xbox One X
The biggest news from Microsoft's E3 2017 briefing came at the top of the show. The company officially announced the name, price, and release date of its super-powerful console. So long, Project Scorpio; hello, Xbox One X. Microsoft also talked about how the console was its smallest and most powerful yet, while the company announced a list of games that would receive enhancements on Xbox One X. The list has grown substantially since then. Microsoft does not announce Xbox sales numbers, so we don't know how well the Xbox One X is doing. One thing is clear, though: many multiplatform games, including Assassin's Creed Origins, look and perform the best on X, so Microsoft has the advantage over PS4 in that department.
OG Xbox Backwards Compatibility
Backwards compatibility support for Xbox 360 games on Xbox One is one of the system's most popular and beloved features. So it was great news last year when Microsoft announced that original Xbox games would join the catalog. Although there are far fewer OG Xbox games playable on Xbox One than Xbox 360 games, there are some great ones in there, including The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Jade Empire, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. Given the interest in and popularity of backwards compatibility on Xbox One (a feature that the PS4 does not offer outside of PlayStation Now), it will be interesting to see what more Microsoft does this year in that department beyond adding more games to the library.
Forza Motorsport 7 Looked Stunning
Its announcement was no surprise, but it was still impressive to see Forza Motorsport 7 for the first time during Microsoft's E3 2017 briefing. Running at 60 FPS and in 4K on Xbox One X, the game looked absolutely stunning; a powerhouse of graphical quality. With more than 700 cars on its roster, the game has one of the biggest lineup of cars ever in a racing game. It was announced for an October release, and it launched on time. Given the rotating schedule between Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon, 2018 would appear to be a Horizon year, so racing fans are looking forward to a reveal at E3 in June.
Another big announcement during Microsoft's briefing was about cross-play. In a somewhat surprising move, Microsoft announced a big update for Minecraft that would allow people on almost every platform to play together. With the update, people on Xbox One can play with those on Nintendo Switch--and PC and mobile (but not PlayStation 4). Microsoft and Sony still cannot come to an agreement on cross-play, so PS4 is left out for now. It is encouraging to see Microsoft push so hard on cross-play and help unite the overall gaming community, and it's exciting to think about what other cross-play pushes we see from Microsoft this year.
PUBG On Xbox
So much can change in a year. This time last year, PUBG was dominating the battle royale genre, not Fortnite. Microsoft partnered with Bluehole to bring Playerunknown's Battlegrounds exclusively (at least for a period of time) to Xbox One. Microsoft announced the game would launch in 2017, and it did, arriving on the console in December. The game, which is still in an early access state, continues to be somewhat rough around the edges, but it is undoubtedly improved. The game's second map, Miramar, was recently added on the game's test servers. There was a rumor that Microsoft sought to extend its timed-exclusive partnership with Bluehole to keep the game off PS4 for a longer period of time, but no official word has come down yet.
Following its announcement during EA's E3 briefing a few days prior, Microsoft provided the first in-depth look at BioWare's new IP, Anthem, on its own stage. We saw a multi-stage mission play out, providing the first look at BioWare's Destiny-like multiplayer shooter that certainly looks very nice. The game was supposed to launch in 2018, but EA delayed the game; it is now due out on Xbox One--as well as PS4 and PC--in March 2019. After the shortcomings of Mass Effect: Andromeda, fans will be looking for BioWare to return to form with Anthem. Intriguingly, BioWare owner EA recently said it wants to involve fans with the development process for Anthem early on to help make the game better, and that is encouraging news.
Crackdown 3 New Gameplay And Release Date
Crackdown 3 for Xbox One and PC was shown off with an explosive, Terry Crews-filled trailer on Microsoft's stage at E3 last year. Microsoft also announced that it would launch on November 7 alongside the Xbox One X. That was exciting news for fans looking to pick up a new first-party game at launch. Unfortunately, Microsoft delayed the high-octane, open-world sandbox game, and it's now due out sometime in 2018. Some have suggested that Microsoft's lineup of exclusives is weak compared to Sony, which just put out the critically and commercially successful God of War on PS4. Being one of the biggest companies on earth (Microsoft is close to becoming a trillion-dollar company) fans will hope to see Microsoft flex its muscle at E3 with some big exclusive announcements. In addition to what's expected--a new Halo, a new Gears, a new Forza--all eyes will be on Microsoft to show that it can compete with Sony in the area of exclusives with new franchises. After all, we recently learned that Microsoft was opening a studio in the Los Angeles area to work on a brand-new AAAA game (yes, that's four As).
A lot of big-name games were announced on Microsoft's E3 2017 stage, including much-anticipated sequels Assassin's Creed: Origins and Metro Exodus. Origins was released in October last year, and it proved by some accounts to be the return to form for the franchise that many were waiting for. Metro: Exodus, meanwhile, was originally scheduled for 2018 but is now due in early 2019. It aims to expand on the first games by giving players a more open sandbox to explore instead of the linear nature of the games that came before it. Also announced on Microsoft's stage in 2017 was Dragon Ball FighterZ. The game was announced for an early 2018 release date, and it made it; the game shipped at the end of January for Xbox One, as well as PS4 and PC. Microsoft has said it is committed to highlighting games from Japanese publishers at E3 this year, so it will be interesting to see what's in store.
Cuphead Release Date
After years of development and some delays, indie developer Studio MHDR announced Cuphead's September 2017 release date on stage during the Xbox briefing. The gorgeous-looking and brutally challenging Xbox One and PC platformer (that Microsoft partially funded) made it out then, and it was a big hit. By the developer's latest count, the game that looks like a Disney movie had sold more than 2 million copies. Given that huge success, gamers looking for a new challenge will be hoping Studio MDHR has something else to show this year.
Microsoft's E3 2017 briefing was understandably focused around clearing up the final questions about Project Scorpio, and the company delivered with those details and a smattering of other big news for fans. But there some notable omissions, too. Some left the show wondering where all the big game reveals were; after all, we didn't see or hear anything about the next Halo and Gears of War games, or anything totally surprising either. The $500 price point for the Xbox One X was also a shock to some. Microsoft had always billed it as a premium console with a price tag that would match the ambition of the system, but $500 (which is a full $100 more than the PS4 Pro) was still a lot for some to stomach. Microsoft is in second place right now behind Sony, and you should never bet against a company that wants to move up the ladder. Even if Microsoft can never catch Sony as it relates to hardware sales this generation, the company can do well by its existing player base and draw in new users with big game and service announcements that make the Xbox One an even more compelling purchase option.