The Road to E3 2016: Microsoft and Xbox

                           Seth Turner

                         Seth Turner

Welcome to our Road to E3 Week here at Rocket Punch! This week, each of the members on the crew are taking some time to talk about each of the main conferences headed our way this month from our favorite game companies and developers. Each day, we are going to focus on a different company and platform, and talk about some of the games we expect to see, any hardware or software reveals we expect them to show, as well as throw some guesses out as to any surprises they may have in store for us.

Microsoft's E3 press briefing is ramping up to be one of my most anticipated events at E3 2016. They are a wild card right now, and that can make them dangerous. We know some of the upcoming games, but we have no idea what direction the platform is going. Phil and the Xbox team have done a fantastic job turning the Xbox brand around, and I'm excited to see how they will forge a path for the future of the Xbox One.

Be sure to check each day for a new article from each of us at Rocket Punch about a new company and platform, and make sure to tune in to our Twitch channel during E3, as we will be hosting pre- and post-shows of each conference and have live commentary during the best moments of the presentations!


The Games

SEA OF THIEVES

Open world pirate adventure. With these four words, I’m already sold. Add online co-op and a massive online multiplayer shared world, and you’ve got the recipe for my most anticipated game at E3 this year. I can’t wait to see what Rare has been up to. I want to get on a big ass boat with my friends, board a complete stranger’s ship, and claim that their gold as my own! I fully expect this game to deliver all that and more as it highlights the Xbox first party discussion this year.

 

CUPHEAD

Cuphead is shaping up to make Dark Souls feel like playing Candy Land with with a Keebler elf. This game looks great. It sounds great. It feels great. This is the type of game that people reflect on for years to come. It has style. As much as we all love triple-A titles, a good indy gem can get any crowd fired up, especially when it has this much class.

 

BELOW

I’m honestly tired of hearing about Below. I just want it. Give it to me! This top down adventure game is going to be amazing if it would just release already. Below was announced at E3 2013, and we’re still here waiting for it three years later. I know it’s going to be good once it comes out, but I really want it soon.

 "GIVE IT TO ME!" -Seth Turner on  Below

"GIVE IT TO ME!"
-Seth Turner on Below

GEARS OF WAR 4

I can tell you this… Gears is going to be a big deal. Don’t be surprised when this game takes up a good portion of the event with a big ass gameplay demo. Gears of War is one of Microsoft’s biggest franchises behind Halo, and I don’t doubt we’ll get plenty of Gears this year.

SCALEBOUND

This is perhaps one of the biggest question marks for Microsoft this year. After it’s unexpected delay, I believed Scalebound would disappear from all media until well after Final Fantasy XV’s release. Hopefully, we can learn more about Platnium’s latest action RPG and see some more witty banter between a headphone wearing cool dude, and a freaking dragon.

CRACKDOWN 3

Crackdown is going to be big. It’s so big in fact, that we’re going to need the power of the Microsoft Cloud® to even think about running it. Expect to see some MASSIVE explosions and over-the-top open world shenanigans as Sumo Digital brings us what could be one of the most delightful surprises at Microsoft’s E3 press briefing.

RECORE

What the hell is ReCore? I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows! We need to at least learn what the game’s hook is. Who is this mystery girl? What’s up with her energy orb dog buddy? Why are they being attacked by sinistar robots? Expect to see some gameplay with a possible release later next year.

TITANFALL 2

There is no doubt in my mind that Titanfall 2 will headline EA’s Play event this year. However, I really hope that Titanfall 2 gets some love at the Microsoft press event. Titanfall was one of the headlining games during the early days of Xbox One, and it would be nice to see it return to the Microsoft stage for a live gameplay demo. If the recent report that grappling hooks will be added are true, I might get hooked on Titanfall 2 when it (hopefully) drops this fall.

HALO WARS 2

Halo Wars 2 is one of the biggest surprises from E3 last year (aside from backwards compatibility). It makes sense that Microsoft would want to bring such a unique game back to life on the Xbox One. Strategy games have long called the PC their home. Microsoft managed to make a compelling console strategy game with Halo Wars, but with their renewed focus on building a single Xbox identity across Xbox One and Windows 10, I think Halo Wars could be a compelling bridge between platforms.


The Gear

Xbox One Slim

This one is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. The Xbox One was designed to be an all in one media/cable box replacement + game console, but those plans are long dead. After Phil Spencer became head of Xbox, I’m sure he sat down with the rest of the Xbox team to come up with the look of the Xbox in years to come. We will see the result of that new look this year at E3. Here’s what I hope to see from the Xbox One Slim:

A smaller form factor (duh)

I don’t think the Xbox One is too large. It’s a quiet machine with a lot of power, so I’m fine with the larger size. However, considering how drastically the direction of the console has shifted in past years, I expect for the size to shrink. We no longer need HDMI passthrough, so all those components will probably disappear too. It’s not a necessary requirement, but calling it slim kind of implies some kind of smaller size.

An integrated power supply

This has probably been the number one requested hardware feature since the launch of the Xbox 360. I’m not a hardware engineer, so I couldn’t begin to explain how this process would work. I’m not sure why they are so resistant to including the power supply inside the console, but the Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 have both had them built in. It would be really nice to have a single universal power cable instead of a propitiatory brick with two cords protruding from it.

An interchangeable 2.5” hard drive

This was something I didn’t think I cared about at first, until I ran out of space on my hard drive. The option of using an external hard drive is nice, but not everyone wants an extra thing sitting on their desk or entertainment center. Internal drives are also much cheaper, so it makes sense to let users decide how they want to upgrade storage space. Solid state compatibility would also be fantastic in this department.

The ability to sit the console vertically

This was a staple of consoles for a long time. I remember the first time I saw a console sitting vertically, my mind was blown. Besides looking cool, it allowed a lot of flexibility for setting up a console. I see why they removed this option with the Xbox One, but again, those old dreams are dead, and I think this is a small perk that should return.

Oculus Rift compatibility with Xbox One

I would like to think that VR will not dominate E3 this year, but sadly, it's going to. Microsoft has decided to double down on augmented reality with Hololens, but that doesn’t mean they are out of the VR race. The Oculus Rift already comes with an Xbox One controller, so I fully expect to see some kind of Oculus partnership or support on the Xbox. Will it work on the Xbox One? Who knows? I think they will talk about a partnership so people won't count Microsoft out of the VR landscape.

Xbox Streaming Device

This is a weird one, but it makes perfect sense. Microsoft has made some amazing gains as far as game streaming is concerned. Imagine if you could plug a streaming stick into a bedroom TV and stream a game from the Xbox One that is in your living room. I know this is a crowded space, but I think Microsoft could make a compelling and unique device for this category.

Xbox Scorpio

This is easily the most exciting rumor for Microsoft’s E3 press event. Microsoft has done a fantastic job turning the Xbox One around since its rocky announcement in 2013. Phil and the Xbox team have worked a miracle to turn a glorified cable box that plays games into a full bodied game console with a slew of powerful features. However, I can’t shake the feeling that hardware has been a chokepoint for the console since its launch.

Enter the next Xbox console iteration, codenamed Scorpio. We’ve heard some rumors about this new console, but we’re still not even sure what Scorpio might be, but according to rumors, it’s a powerhouse. If this a thing Microsoft wants to release this year, they should without a doubt talk about it, but if this isn’t coming till next year, they should pass on talking about it for now.


The Unknown

The new Xbox One experience

The new Xbox One experience was a headline feature for the Xbox in 2015. Faster navigation, the return of the Xbox guide, and an entire interface overhaul helped the Xbox feel fresh again. However, my biggest pain point with the Xbox One interface remained.

The B button should do nothing when you’re on the Xbox One’s home screen

It makes sense that the B button closes an overlay, but the Xbox home screen is not an overlay. At one point, multitasking was everything to the Xbox One. However, the “dream” of watching TV while a game downloads is long dead. The niche snap feature now lives in the Xbox guide for anyone who might need it, so it’s time to finally turn off the B button on the Xbox home screen.

KEYBOARD AND MOUSE SUPPORT

I’m going to die on this hill. Keyboard and mouse support have been my personal all-time greatest requested feature on consoles. I know that people love to argue about how it would break the competitive nature of console games, but quite honestly, I don’t care. I just want to play shooters with the same precision and accuracy as I do on the PC. Everyone is different. Some people prefer controllers, some prefer keyboard and mouse. I’m not asking for one to overpower the other, just give us the choice. I don’t understand why it’s so taboo to have the primary input for computers around the world available on what is essentially a plug and play gaming computer. Make it happen. You have the power!