Microsoft had a lot to talk about at its E3 2018 keynote – at the outset, Xbox head Phil Spencer said a total of 50 games would be revealed, including 18 exclusives (in some form) – and that resulted in a frenetic pace at times, as trailer after trailer was showcased without a pause. Some of those 50 reveals were more like a tease of what's to come in the near future; though we got a look at the next Halo – yes, it's called Halo Infinite – and a sneak peek of Cyberpunk 2077, the next game from the makers of The Witcher 3, there was no mention of release dates for either. Typical E3, we know.
And oh, Spencer also said that they're working on the next Xbox console, to much applause from the fan-heavy crowd. But no more details. Here are the biggest (concrete) Xbox announcements from E3 2018:
1) A homecoming for Forza Horizon, sort of
Playground Games' arcade-y spin-off to Forza Motorsport now commands the same – an argument could be made for having even eclipsed – popularity as its parent franchise. And with new entries every two years like clockwork, Forza Horizon is back after 2016's stellar iteration for its fourth instalment, which is a bit of homecoming for its British developer: Forza Horizon 4 will be set in Great Britain, yep. One of the game's biggest features are seasons, which will completely change how it looks and how you play.
And of course, as is the case for all Microsoft exclusives now, it'll be available to Xbox Game Pass members at no additional cost. Forza Horizon 4 is out October 2.
2) Gears of War expands
Since its 2006 origins under Epic Games, Gears of War has blossomed into an immensely important franchise for Xbox and Microsoft. So much so that it bought out all rights in 2014 because it had bigger plans. Those came to light at E3 2018, with Spencer announcing not one but three entries in the Gears world: a Funko-inspired spin-off for mobile called Gears Pop, a turn-based strategy for PC in Gears Tactics, and of course a main entry to the series: Gears 5.
After five entries (don't forget Gears of War: Judgment), Gears 5 will be the first in the franchise to have a female protagonist (Kait Diaz), whose decisions cause a rift in the surviving faction of humanity. Plus, Game of Thrones and Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi is back to provide music. Both Gears 5 and Gears Pop will release sometime in 2019, while Gears Tactics has no release date as of now.
3) Devil May Cry, back where it belongs
A decade since the last main entry, and half a decade since the failed reboot under Ninja Theory, Capcom has handed the reins to its demon-exterminator hack and slash franchise back to its in-house team, led by Hideaki Itsuno. The Japanese game director even appeared on stage at E3 2018, to convey how happy he was to get another shot with Devil May Cry 5. Most importantly, it seems to continue where Devil May Cry 4 left off, putting you in the role of Nero with fan favourite Dante having a role to play as well.
The bad news? Devil May Cry 5 isn't out until spring 2019.
4) Microsoft has five new internal studios
Spencer has repeatedly promised that Microsoft is committed to deliver more exclusive games for Xbox, and it took a small-big step towards fulfilling that with the announcement of five new in-house studios: four acquisitions and one from scratch. The former include Ninja Theory, the award-winning maker of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, the maker of Forza Horizon Playground Games – Spencer said it's working on an all-new title outside of Forza – We Happy Few developer Compulsion Games, and State of Decay team Undead Labs.
As for the latter, Microsoft is setting up a new Santa Monica studio called The Initiative, which will be headed by former Crystal Dynamics – it makes Tomb Raider – head Darrell Gallagher. We don't know when we'll see new games as a result of these partnerships, but the variety on offer – teams known for either pioneering "Independent AAA", conceptualising racing open-worlds, or taking on dystopian societal themes – bodes well.
5) A new era for gaming in the near future
Tucked away as a small mention towards the end, but carrying big implications considering Microsoft's cloud infrastructure, Spencer said the Xbox team is working to engineer "console-quality game streaming on any device" as part of his closing remarks. He didn't have anything to add to that, so we don't know what it will look like let alone when it'll reach consumers, but it's great to see Xbox ready to embrace the inevitable streaming-first future of gaming.
Yes, streaming efforts already exist in the form of PS Now and GeForce Now, but they have their own hardware limitations (PC, PS4, Nvidia Shield). Hardware is a big barrier for console-quality gaming, which is why the ubiquity of mobile devices has turned Apple and Google's ecosystems into the most popular platform choice. But if Microsoft can deliver on Spencer's words at E3 2018, it can help usher in a new era of gaming.
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