E3 2018: What to Expect from Microsoft & Xbox

With the first-party console makers about to hold their annual E3 press conferences, Shacknews is keeping track of what to watch out for, starting with Microsoft.

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E3 2018 feels like it comes sooner every year. A big part of that is because the big press conferences and presentations have started earlier over the last couple of years. The first one will come from Electronic Arts on June 9 from this year's EA Play in Hollywood. But the first one from the major three console makers will begin on Sunday, June 10, as Microsoft takes the stage in the aptly named Microsoft Theater.

What can we expect to see from the folks at Xbox? Shacknews is here to offer up some educated guesses, as well as a few wild stabs in the dark.

Crackdown 3, But For Reals This Time

Crackdown 3 has had quite the development cycle. It was first unveiled way back in 2014 (!) and it's been a tumultuous ride ever since. First, it missed its target release window of 2016, as developers Cloudgine looked to spruce up the game's campaign. The game popped up again during E3 2017 with another release window in mind, hoping to make it out before the end of that year. And hey, Terry Crews was on board, so surely it would make this date.

Unfortunately, it didn't. Crackdown 3 suffered another delay, this time to Spring 2018. And astute readers may notice that Spring 2018 has come and gone and there's still no sign of the third entry in this series.

Crackdown 3 being a big part of Microsoft's presentation feels like a no-brainer. But a release date isn't going to cut it this time for a lot of fans. This time around, people will expect tangible gameplay footage, along with assurances that this will be more of manic, destructible action that made Crackdown such a wonderful series in the first place. Given how long Cloudgine has been at work, it's reasonable to expect both a release date and extended gameplay footage at this point. Look for Crackdown 3 to be one of the centerpieces of this year's presentation.


A Return to Gears of War

This reveal would be a lot more exciting if Walmart Canada hadn't decided to play spoiler.

The heavy implication following Gears of War 4 was that fans were in for another trilogy, this one centered around the next generation of humanity's toughest soldiers. The battle against the Swarm has just begun, which made a new Gears of War inevitable. But Walmart Canada's listing makes it appear that the inevitable is a lot closer than anyone may have expected.

If Gears of War 5 were to release this year, it would come only two years after Gears of War 4. While it would be an unexpected surprise to get to continue J.D. Fenix's story, fans probably shouldn't get their hopes up too much for a 2018 release. On the one hand, Microsoft could tout this as the publisher's flagship Spring 2019 release. Then again, Xbox has languished behind PlayStation 4 in terms of reliable first-party games and marquee francises. Too much is better than too little at this point, so while a fall release for Gears of War 5 would risk drowning out the long-delayed Crackdown 3, it may be a risk worth taking.

Either way, expect to see at least some mention of Gears of War 5, with potentially more details coming at GamesCom.


Third-party Timed Exclusive DLC?

While Xbox has backed away from timed-exclusive DLC over the past couple of years, desperate times can lead to desperate measures. With the Xbox One's first-party library languishing in comparison to its competition, the move will likely be to emphasize the merits of third-party games, particularly on the Xbox One X.

It wouldn't be unprecented for Microsoft to offer up exclusive DLC content or timed exclusive releases. This is entirely speculation, but keep in mind that Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield V's reveal trailers sported the Xbox One bumpers.

It certainly wouldn't be the first time that the the Tomb Raider series has offered up timed exclusive content on Xbox One. And with Activision's Call of Duty series still partnered with Sony, the easiest way for Xbox to make up ground would be to offer timed exclusives for the nearest comepetitor. Of course, given the Battlefield series' new lease on life regarding free post-launch content, this latter scenario becomes highly unlikely, though it could still feasibly release on Xbox platforms first.


Will Halo Finish The Fight?

When times are tough, the Xbox division knows it can rely on Master Chief and the Halo franchise. But even with Halo 5: Guardians not quite meeting certain expectations, it's surprising to hear little buzz about the last chapter in the series' second trilogy.

It's hard to imagine anything Halo releasing this year or even anytime soon. Whatever one's feelings of Halo 5 may be, the game's years of updates and REQ pack system was clearly designed with the long-term play in mind. Even if the narrative was a bit underwhelming, multiplayer remains as reliably fun as ever, differentiating itself just enough from Halo: The Master Chief Collection to stand out on its own.

So with Microsoft and 343 Industries clearly in no rush to usher out Halo 5, it's almost impossible that Halo 6 will be announced for this year. Will they say anything at all about Master Chief's potential last ride? That's a toss-up. If anything does pop up, it'll likely be a non-gameplay teaser that indicates something is in the works. But don't look for gameplay or details on the last Halo. Microsoft will likely have just enough of a teaser to try and convince Xbox One X skeptics that they should start investing in the 4K console now.


The Shacknews Outside the Box Pick

It's hard to imagine what Microsoft could do to generate excitement this year. The Xbox division is working behind the 8 ball and has been for the past couple of years. So for this feature, the Shacknews staff is looking at something that will excite the niche crowd.

What's the easiest way for Rare to relax after completing a strenuous pirate game? The answer is pinatas. So imagine Rare going back to the 2006 cult classic Viva Pinata on Xbox One. While it's been fun to relive the original games on Xbox One via Rare Replay, there's something about attracting live pinatas on an upscale Xbox One X.

It's unlikely that we'll get to revisit the wonderful world of Viva Pinata, but for this first Outside the Box selection, it's hard to blame the staff for picking something a little more sentimental to us.


What are you expecting to see from Microsoft and Xbox this year at E3 2018? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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