Xbox Entertainment Evolved: What It Means For Microsoft's E3 2012 Conference

It’s that time of year again, the time of year when all gamer’s get excited for whats going to be shown at E3. I think it would be easy for people to pick on Microsoft because they have fully supported Kinect the past couple of years, they are also clearly pushing for the Xbox 360 to be the de facto choice when it comes to entertainment in people’s living rooms. I think getting the jump on Google and Apple for living room dominance is more important to Microsoft at this point than trying to lure in a few more hardcore gamer’s with a ton of gaming announcements. What can we expect to see from Microsoft newly dubbed Entertainment Evolved conference?

Well I think we will see a solid mix of things, we will see games and we will probably see a nice demo of what is surely to be the biggest exclusive game of the year, Halo 4. I actually expect about the same amount of games as the past couple of years, if we look back, its pretty obvious that Microsoft has always had an entertainment focus with their E3 shows. This will be the first Microsoft E3 conference that can be streamed directly to your Xbox 360 however, which is a natural progression. If you were hoping for less Kinect games, you’ll probably be disappointed, the fact of the matter is that Microsoft has a lot of money invested in Kinect and E3 is the biggest platform to show off games for the product. Even though some people might not like it, its something we have to deal with. Personally I don’t own a PlayStation Vita, so when Sony shows Vita products it’s not something I really pay attention to, but I bet people with Vita’s are greatly interested. That pretty much sums up what I think about companies showing certain things, I own and like Kinect, so I look forward to those types of things. I can fully understand the flip side, in which case I suggest watching the conference after its initial run so that you can skip over what you don’t want to see.

Games almost assured to be there:

Contrary to popular belief, there will actually be games at Microsoft presser. Keep in mind that some of what you’ll see is an educated guess on my part, as not much has really been confirmed yet.

1.Halo 4:
This one is kind of obvious, Halo 4 has been in production since before Halo Reach launched. I think it was probably a good idea to have 343 work on a new Halo game that featured Master Chief. Could you imagine the backlash had 343 been tasked with Halo Reach? It probably wouldn’t have been looked at in the best light. I actually believe that Microsoft planned it this way so that 343 would have a better chance at being accepted by a very unforgiving Halo fan base. We will probably see a pretty good sized demo of this game played out on the stage.2.Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
This one is actually pretty important to show at E3 in my opinion. Word is that its one of the most accurate and Immersive Kinect experiences to date. The game requires both a standard controller and Kinect. A lot of people who aren’t exactly on the Kinect bandwagon are looking forward to this game. It could go a long way in bridging the core and casual gap where Kinect is concerned.3.Forza Horizon:
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Forza fan, I own all of the games and think the Forza series is easily the best racing series of this generation, so I was really excited when I heard about a totally new IP was being introduced under the Forza name. There are plenty of rumors surrounding this game, most notably, is that this is an open world racer or a game similar to the Need For Speed series. We haven’t seen much from the leaked trailer, but what we’ve seen surely intrigues us. I know people will probably say that it’s a Forza game and will probably dismiss this as a new IP, but I think Microsoft is just going for the notoriety that the Forza brand brings, this is looking like a new IP, but with a familiar branding.

4.Fable: The Journey:
We will finally see some footage of Fable The Journey, and while Peter is no longer at Microsoft or Lionhead Studios, his crazy dream lives on in the form of Fable The Journey. I’m interested to see what a first party developer can do with a Kinect game. It’s clear that Lionhead has had this game in development for a lot longer than most Kinect titles tend to get. They are familiar with the tech and hopefully can get the most out of it. I love the Fable series, I’m interested in this game, but mostly I’m excited because with Microsoft releasing this Fable title this year, it buys Lionhead time to polish the inevitable Fable 4 game, which will be a proper controller based RPG experience. This game could surprise some people and help bridge gaps the way Steel Battalion Heavy Armor might. It’s definitely worth checking out, even if Kinect isn’t your thing.

5.Call Of Duty:Black Ops 2:
Yes, this isn’t an exclusive series to Microsoft. That being said, they have kicked off the past few E3 conferences with Call Of Duty demo’s, and getting the world premier gameplay footage to the biggest franchise in the gaming world is still a pretty big deal. Microsoft does a pretty good job at promoting Call Of Duty like an exclusive and it’ll be interesting to see what the timed DLC situation is between Microsoft and Activision. We heard that the partnership runs through 2012, but it might behoove Microsoft to extend that pact even further, as it seems that a lot of gamer’s opt to buy the Xbox 360 version in order to gain early access to the Call Of Duty DLC.


Xbox Live Summer Arcade:
We will no doubt hear about another Xbox Live Arcade promotion, most likely a new Summer Of Arcade, which usually has some of the best titles that the industry has to offer. One of the other games that I am personally looking forward to seeing in action and getting more information on is Crimson Dragon, which is the true spiritual successor to Panzer Dragoon. Who doesn’t want a fully customizable Dragon to play online with?


Dawnguard DLC:

We know that Bethesda has DLC to show off for their critically acclaimed 2011 Game Of The Year winner Skyrim, we also know that Microsoft has timed exclusivity with Bethesda, which means this expansion is coming to the Xbox 360 first. This would be the perfect showing of this highly anticipated content. I know it’s not fully exclusive, but Skyrim is one of the biggest games of all time and getting this DLC first is a definite win if you have an Xbox 360. For the past few months all I’ve heard about is people clamoring for Skyrim DLC information, well this is the biggest stage for a reveal and Microsoft would have all eyes on them while showing off anything Skyrim related.

Entertainment and media:


We all know that Microsoft wants in on the living room wars, beating Google and Apple to the punch by utilizing the Xbox 360 and Kinect as a hub is a great start. Microsoft wants people to use their Xbox 360 for more than gaming, it’s a safe bet that more and more people aren’t turning to other devices to access this content. The Apps setup on the Xbox 360 is incredibly streamlined and there seems to be more and more content added weekly, we’ve heard the rumors of Internet Explorer 9 being added to the Xbox 360 recently, so I’d expect an announcement about that at E3. I know some people might think this is a little too late, but people who are new to the Xbox 360 might like the chance to surf the web with voice controls and hand gestures. It is something that I’d personally use, if it were properly implemented.

I think something a lot of people have been wondering about since its acquisition is Skype integration with the Xbox 360. We’ve heard rumors of this being announced at E3 this year as well. There have even been reports of people beta testing this feature. If you can access Skype with the Xbox 360 and use your standard Xbox 360 headset with the application, I think this could quickly become one the most used features on the Xbox 360.

There will probably be more partnerships announced that will provide content through Xbox Live, we will most assuredly hear about the forthcoming Xbox Live dashboard update, which is something Xbox 360 users always eagerly await. I know some people might not want to hear about new apps or things not related to gaming, but the truth of the matter is that Microsoft is positioning the Xbox 360 so that it can continue to sell to families and people who are looking specifically for an all around entertainment hub.


Possibility, but not a certainty:


This was announced a couple of years ago, we haven’t heard much since however. The biggest rumor is that it’s now in production as a Xbox 720 game, but we haven’t heard anything concrete. There is an outside chance that we could hear something about this game.2.Splinter Cell: Retribution:
Its pretty likely that we’ll see this game somewhere at E3, but the question is if Microsoft has paid Ubisoft to keep Splinter Cell a Xbox 360 console exclusive. Splinter Cell Conviction was one of my favorite games of 2010, I actually really enjoyed the new faster paced style of the game. This new version is supposed to be a throwback to the stealth roots of the series past.3.New IP:
We’ve heard from Microsoft earlier in the year that they had a new core IP to announce later this year, and E3 would be the perfect time to announce something entirely new for the Xbox 360. We know Microsoft has some of its studios working on games for the next Xbox, but we also know that some studios are hard at work on the current Xbox as well. There is a lot of intrigue surrounding this possible new IP.

4.Kinect Sports 3/Dance Central 3:
These two games make the most sense, Dance Central is probably one of the most popular franchises for Kinect and each one sells millions of copies, while Kinect Sports is the franchise that sells better, it seems like a good bet that Microsoft would invest in new iterations of these games and show them off at E3 this year. The surprise I’d throw out there is that Rare Studios wont be heading up Kinect Sports 3, but it will most likely still get some of the credit like it did for Kinect Sports 2. People didn’t seem to notice that Big Park actually handled most of Kinect Sports 2, as Rare seems to be full on creating games for the next Xbox console. Or are they?

5.Rebooted franchise? Perfect Dark/Killer Instinct:
We do know that Rare is hiring for two next generation Xbox titles, but they have obviously been at work for something that might release on the current Xbox 360 either this year or early next year. We heard rumors earlier in the year about a “Killer Sequel” and a possible “reboot” coming later this year. This is all just speculation, but it might very well be something from Rare. We did see some shelved pictures of a rebooted Perfect Dark from a couple of years ago, its possible that they went back to the series after the first Kinect Sports game released.

6.Fable IV:
We all know we are getting Fable The Journey this year, but it’s not a true Fable game and it doesn’t count in the standard series as a true entry into that franchise. That being said, we are due a new Fable game and 2013 could see the release of Fable IV. I think Fable 3 was a bit rushed and Lionhead Studios wont make that same mistake, the bottom line is that the next Xbox is possibly a year and a half away and we are likely to see at least a couple of exclusives to tide us over. Fable IV makes the most sense, but this could also be a launch title for the next Xbox, so we’ll have to wait and see.

7.Gears Of War:
This is probably just some wishful thinking on my part, but Gears Of War is usually on a 2 year development cycle, which means they could potentially crank out a prequel in 2013. We know there is going to be a new Gears game at some point, but on which version of the Xbox is the question? We also heard in a magazine earlier in the year that Microsoft would show off all four of their biggest franchises this year, Fable, Gears, Forza and Halo. The only one not shown so far would be Gears Of War. So it’s a guessing game at this point.

There are three possible surprises that I’m going to call right now.
1.Xbox 360 gets exclusive timed Grand Theft Auto V content: This was extremely popular with GTA4.
2.The game Agent is no longer exclusive and will come to either the Xbox 360 or the 720.
3.Final Fantasy Versus is no longer exclusive and is going to come to the Xbox 360.


Wrap up:
Well its about time to wrap things up, I think that Microsoft will have a solid, but not spectacular E3. Clearly they are biding time until the next Xbox releases and they want to try to prolong the current Xbox 360 by any means necessary. Microsoft is a business and they are in the business of making money. Sure, I’d like a new exclusive or two, but I understand what being a business is all about and I know it’s a bad time in the economy and most low-level or new exclusives aren’t exactly selling or turning profit. So I choose to be realistic with my expectations, I wouldn’t expect anything on the Xbox 720 this year. Microsoft has already came out and said they wont show off the next Xbox this year, and although a lot of people are saying it could be a surprise, Microsoft is a billion dollar company with stockholders and investors, this stock goes up and down based on what people want to see and what gets people excited, so if Microsoft says there is no new Xbox this year, there wont be one. It’s not a kid game or anything like that, we would know if there was going to be a reveal.I’m sure we will hear mixed reactions from people after the Microsoft E3 presser. “Too much Kinect” “not enough games” “too much entertainment” and the list will probably go on. A couple of surprise announcements could go a long way in smoothing things out with people and fans alike, offering up a new IP this late in the game will only get Microsoft more and more accolades. Enjoy E3 and sound off on the comment section below with your expectations and hopes!

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