After having purchased ZeniMax/Bethesda for a sum of $7.5 B, Xbox is looking to make a meteoric splash during this year’s digital-only E3 event. With the pandemic spurring spending by consumers, yet constraining supplies for manufacturers, Microsoft has to sustain momentum with a strong showing. They’ve yet to really put that exclamation on this gen as Sony is really starting to do (Returnal, Ratchet & Clank soon, and their showcase of Horizon Zero Dawn), but with their acquisition and Game Pass strategy, the audience is there for the taking.
Here is what we think and hope will be shown at Microsoft & Bethesda’s E3 2021 Conference.
This is a given. After a lackluster showing during last year’s Game Show Case, 343 Industries is in a spot where they have to wow us with what many believe will be a showing heavily featuring Infinite’s multiplayer offerings. No matter what acquisitions are made, Halo remains a tentpole franchise that can drive serious engagement with the Xbox brand. While recent Halo games haven’t necessarily set the world alight, the brand certainly has the mindshare, but does it have enough brand power to fight through the competition?
Between the live service games like Warzone and Fortnite, the competition has never been more fierce for a user’s time. Making Halo Infinite’s multiplayer free-to-play is an amazing first step. Hopefully we get some sort of beta to finally get our hands on one of Microsoft’s most important franchises.
Prediction: Firm release Date and beta for Multiplayer in July
Forza Horizon 5 & Forza Motorsport
Oddly enough, based on how the two titles release, it should be Motorsport’s time to shine, but there have been many rumors of Forza Horizon 5 coming out this fall and set in Mexico. Jez Corden and Jeff Grubb fueled these rumors in April:
I much prefer the Horizon series to Motorsport, but either one would be a welcome addition utilizing the Series X hardware. Suffice to say, we are in line to get a lot of Forza really soon. Even better? They, as all first party games, will be coming to Game Pass Day one.
Prediction: Release date for Forza Horizon 5 this year. Motorsport late next year.
If you didn’t already believe Microsoft’s commitment to Game Pass, it’d be hard to have that thought after what we’ve seen thus far in 2021. From their partnership with EA Play bringing 80+ games to the service or the inclusion of day one titles like Ubisoft published Outriders (by People Can Fly) and MLB The Show 21 (developed by Sony San Diego and published by MLB), Game Pass is a growing selling point for Micrsofot and Xbox. So, where does it go now? There is no doubt that an already insane value is only going to get better once the ZeniMax/Bethesda titles hit, but I have to imagine there is something far closer than that. There will certainly be one or two more day one titles, and I think it would benefit them to look toward japanese titles. Japan has always been a tough market for Xbox, but I think their inclusion can work wonders to further diversify Game pass.
Prediction: Two third party day and date games revealed. One new Game Pass game available after the show.
You pretty much had me at space RPG, but to realize that this is Bethesda’s first non-sequel RPG in 25 years. 25 YEARS! This could be a historic moment in what might become the next Elder Scrolls or Fallout. There is just something about seeing a studio with such weight in the industry creating something entirely new. We don’t know hardly anything about it, but the interest is at a fever pitch. Their first teaser (June 10 2018) felt like a lifetime ago, and it didn’t really show much of anything. I am hoping this E3 gives a blowout of information, some gameplay and a release date. It’s asking a lot, but at least two of the three and I would be satisfied.
Prediction: Gameplay reveal. Release window of late 2022, early 2023.
Arkane Austin Unannounced Title
With the acquisition of ZeniMax, we know there are a ton of games in the works. While a handful of those are likely exclusive to PS5 for a set period of time (Deathloop for sure), there are still a lot of unknowns out there. We know Arkane Austin is working on an unannounced project led by Studio/Creative Director Harvey Smith and Co-Creative Director Ricardo Bare, but what could it be? Gamesradar, via a user finding a LinkedIn post believe it is a fantasy game Prey developer Arkane Austin could be working on a fantasy game | GamesRadar+. I’m always on board for anything Arkane related, but will Xbox really have three fantasy games? Between The Elder Scrolls IV, Fable and now this, that seems really heavy on the fantasy-RPG side. I’m not complaining, but it’s hard to imagine many fantasy games coming out within the next 2-4 years.
Prediction: Title reveal. Cgi trailer.
To my shock, as I am sure to yours, Obsidian has three confirmed projects in the works: Avowed (clearly a ways off), Grounded (which should be getting a beefy update soon) and most likely working on more DLC for The Outer Worlds. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were working on more, but I have to imagine that, of the three games above, the one most likely to make a showing is Grounded. That game will surely hit its content stride soon. As for Avowed, we got very little from its first teaser, and I fear we are just a bit too early for them to divulge additional info.
Prediction: Massive update for Grounded available after the show. CG trailer for Avowed.
It’s highly unlikely that Microsoft is done acquiring studios. While I doubt any purchase will come close to the $7.5 B they just ponied up, I could see them buying 2-3 smaller studios. Similar to the size of the ones they announced at E3 2018. A brief reminder of the FIVE studios they announced: The Initiative, Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory and Compulsion Games. It is possible that they could try the angle that Sony has been diving into where they buy exclusivity, but I think they want devs in house. Main reason? To fuel the Game Pass beast.
Prediction: Three small-mid sized acquisitions announced.
Surely there will be far more that is revealed during E3 2021 from Microsoft and Bethesda, but what are you most looking forward to seeing?
The Xbox & Bethesda E3 Conference is on June 13 at 10AM PT and you can watch it here: Xbox – Twitch