Microsoft sits at the forefront of the video game industry at the moment, with millions of Xbox 360 systems sold and plenty of franchises to keep them afloat both in single and multiplayer sessions. And let’s not forget the Kinect, which has pushed them ahead in the motion gaming market, thanks to titles like Kinect Star Wars and Fruit Ninja Kinect. Now it’s time for the company to show off some new things to keep them in their dominant position, and E3 2012 looks like the place to do it.
So what do we expect the company to do once it starts up its run on the E3 show floor this Tuesday? Quite a bit, actually.
First off, you can expect major support from the third party companies, as they remain a key staple in the success of the Xbox 360. Square Enix has already stated that more exclusive gameplay footage from their upcoming Tomb Raider reboot will be shown at the company’s press conference. Activision is likely to announced exclusive downloadable content (for a short time frame) for Call of Duty: Black Ops II for the system. Other big hits for the system will get plenty of exposure, including Assassins Creed 3 and the upcoming Need For Speed game, which is expected to be a sequel to the fast-paced Most Wanted. Don’t be surprised if the recently confirmed Dead Space III rears its ugly head as well.
In terms of hardware, the company will introduce new services for the Kinect such as the recently announced Sesame Street Kinect, which will allow kids to interact with their favorite characters. In addition, expect a few surprise game announcements for Kinect, including a possible version of Infinity Blade, as well as Kinect Sports 3. They are also likely to introduce more functionality with the dashboard, including quicker menu interaction and more Bing search options.
As far as new services for the Xbox Live Marketplace, look for Microsoft to support online gaming with a new Summer of Arcade line-up, including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, as well as its new Avatar-based motocross racing game. More games are also likely to be unveiled, including Sunsetriders HD from Konami and an updated Tomb Raider Trilogy from Square Enix.
Beyond games, Microsoft will also announce a new sports deal, either with the NFL Network or possibly even the FIFA broadcasters, bringing soccer match-ups to the world. Also expect more movie services to be streaming soon on the service, including possible tie-ins with pay channels like Showtime and Starz. Don’t be surprised if World Wrestling Entertainment also opts to bring streaming programming to Xbox Live, including live pay-per-views (like the UFC channel) and exclusive features, such as interaction with THQ’s upcoming WWE 13.
Then there are the games. Up until yesterday afternoon, it seemed like Microsoft’s spotlight would be on Halo 4. While that’s obviously a key player at their booth, a new Gears of War game is also bound to get some attention. Epic Games is involved with this project, which was unveiled on a Game Informer cover on Thursday afternoon, but there has been no word yet if they’re handling development. Regardless, this new title, which will be officially unveiled Monday during Microsoft’s press conference, definitely intrigues us. Especially if it’s as good as last year’s stupendous Gears of War 3.
Halo 4 will be the key centerpiece for Microsoft at this year’s event, as it brings back Master Chief and an all new trilogy that will somehow tie into the next generation of games. At the moment, however, 343 Industries is focusing solely on this current release, which will feature revamped multiplayer, an all new single player campaign, and a level design approach that, while keeping in the spirit of the former series developer Bungie, strides in all new directions. Expect Microsoft to have the game on the show floor, both with a couple of single player kiosks and a huge multiplayer set-up that’s likely to have a line going out the door.
Along with these “big guns,” Microsoft will also have other titles on the floor. Forza Horizon will make its debut with a new developer and “racing direction” so to speak, appealing to more casual audiences than hardcore racers. That said, it should be a lot of fun, and you can expect to see plenty of kiosks that feature not only driving controls, but also Kinect integration.
You can expect plenty of third party games on the floor that support Kinect, including Harry Potter Kinect from WB Games, Madden NFL 13 from EA Sports, and Medal of Honor: Warfighter from Electronic Arts, which will feature a similar weapons selection system as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, among other possible features. Kinect Sports 3, if announced, should also have major presence on the floor. Don’t be surprised if Harmonix lets loose with a third Dance Central, complete with four player dance battles and possible online support.
Lastly, there’s the small possibility that Microsoft may announce a price drop, bringing the Kinect bundle down to about $200 and its deluxe Star Wars/Gears of War packages to$300. That’s a long shot, but seeing as how the company can comfortably hold onto the lead in the industry with such a move, it could very well be in the cards.
Though these are some pretty bold predictions, we have a feeling that some of it is likely. Stay tuned for the full report!