Another year, another GAMESCOM. This year’s event begins in earnest on August 5th and continues through the 9th. The event is larger than America’s E3 Expo and because of that, the major players usually save a portion of their exclusive reveals for that stage.
Unlike previous years, however, Sony will be foregoing doing a keynote and will instead be seen purely behind closed doors and on the show floor. Nintendo never does the show which leaves Microsoft. For their part Microsoft will have the opportunity to steal back some of the thunder they lost during E3 where Sony blew their wad and peoples brains with giant fan-pleasing announcement after announcement. Microsoft’s keynote briefing will be live broadcast on the morning of Tuesday, August 4th.
Read on and let’s take a look at their possible offerings and chances of success.
WINDOWS 10, CROSS-PLAY, CROSS-BUY
The release on July 29th of Microsoft’s latest Windows operating system was not just the beginning of a new era for the desktop platform, but it marks the beginning of the new single core regime for Microsoft’s entire ecosystem. The operating system will soon be running not only on the PC side, but will migrate to their entire device family. In short this means that the underlying software platform for desktop, tablet, phone, and XBOX ONE game consoles will all be the same. This will translate to developers being able to make a single game that could play across all those devices.
E3 was the first time where we saw Microsoft make announcements that support their new direction. Gears of War Ultimate, a remaster to the original game in the series will be coming not only to XBOX ONE, but also to the PC. The same will happen with their XBOX ONE launch fighter Killer Instinct and the new Fable Legend, a free-to-play multiplayer D&D style actioner where you can be either the hero or the villain (Games Master). All these titles will be available in nearly identical forms on both XBOX ONE and PCs.
With their availability, Microsoft also announced that those same games will take advantage and support Cross-Buy (buy the game once and be able to install and play on both PC and XBOX ONE) and Cross-Play (PC players could fight against or adventure alongside their XBOX ONE player counterparts). These are features Microsoft has actually been talking up for at least 2 or 3 years, but that they’re finally in a position to fully realize. We should also start hearing non-Microsoft companies doing similar things. Maybe not during the briefing, but likely during the rest of the convention.
PC has also become a first-class citizen (in Microsoft parlance) and because Europe is a very big market for PC-only gaming, it’s very possible that Microsoft could begin to split their onstage announcements to include PC specific titles. There’s been rumors that they might be resurrecting one of their older franchises so, this would be a great place to make that reveal. If they do start showing off PC titles on stage, we’d love to see big surprise showings from AAA studios like say a new peek at Cyberpunk 2077 from The Witcher studio CD Projekt Red or even something from Crytek who gave Microsoft (on the XBOX) a rather under appreciated launch title in RYSE: SON OF ROME. Giving PC only or PC heavy devs more visibility on their stage would go a lot further than what they decided to do during E3 where they kept the PC announcements fairly hidden from the general public.
During E3, Microsoft chose to concentrate most of their announcements on game titles coming in the very near future. Even so, they had several surprise announcements that they dropped during their keynote. Re Core and Sea of Thieves both chief among them. Some titles that were announced in years past were dropped from their E3 show though, but expect that we’ll see and hear more revealed during GAMESCOM.
Quantum Break is the latest title from Remedy Entertainment is the ambitious new action-adventure title from the makers of the Alan Wake and Max Payne game franchises. We’ve seen quite a bit of it over the past several years, but as we’re getting really close to a release for the game, look for our most comprehensive demo of it yet. I expect that we’ll see a significant part of the show dedicated to this game. We’ll also hopefully hear an actual hard release date announced.
Halo 5: Guardians had a prominent showing during E3 this year, but a conspicuously missing element from the presentation was the distinct lack of the games titular character; Master Chief. Look for hopefully our first look at actual campaign gameplay starring the Chief and his Blue Team squadmates. NOTE: Journalists were shown the Chief’s campaign gameplay behind closed doors during E3, but this could be the first opportunity to see it as the general public.
CRACKDOWN is an XBOX exclusive game franchise that was originally intended for the first console, but actually ended up being delayed and released on the X360. It was created by the designer behind the Grand Theft Auto series and shares a few of the same elements in common. Unlike GTA however, the game was much more centered around action play as the story revolved around a private police force tasked with cleaning the streets by any means necessary. Very similar to the gameplay in this years Batman Arkham Knight actually. Needless to say, it was very popular for those who played it. It was one of the first game series to feature co-op gameplay though it was clunkier than what we’re used to today.
E3 2014 brought a concept teaser for what appears to be a reboot of the franchise and in terms of technology, this will be the first game to truly showcase cloud-based graphics pre-processing. This will allow much larger game levels and destructability not possible on a console due to the processing power requirements. We’ve seen very early leaked footage online for this technology, but this should be our first proper look at what’s possible. It’s unclear when this game will be released though so, the best look at the game may be saved for behind closed door showings. Stay tuned though for reports here of anything we might learn coming out of the event.
Scalebound is the dragon fighting game that the highly talented by oft-divisive game designer Hideki Kamiya (Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, Okami, Bayonetta, Wonderful 101). He’s largely peerless when it comes to his game designing track record. He claims that Scalebound is a fulfillment of his childhood dreams and that can only mean great things are afoot. We have only seen a CG teaser for this so far so, this should hopefully be our first look at gameplay for the title. We’ll hopefully also learn what kind of game this is beyond that it’s dragons and people, living together. Kamiya has so far only hinted that the title tells us much of what we need to know. I hope that means huge open worlds and even bigger (scale) boss fights.
INDIE GAME SHOWCASE
Sony has set the example of the last couple years for how to treat it’s independent developers. They’ve done a great job of giving them equal time on the stage and Microsoft has slowly begun to follow suit. Expect a continuation of that attitude for this briefing.
In terms of developer/game showings, we’re especially interested to see more of INSIDE from developer Playdead (LIMBO). They skipped E3 this year, but we hope their game gets the spotlight in Cologne. Although this hasn’t been announced, we’re hoping that Ninja Theory reveals their latest game title as coming to XBOX ONE. We know about their indie title, Hellblade, that’s coming to PS4 and PC, but they also have a AAA title in the works that they’ve yet to announce. No idea what it is, but we could be hearing about it at GAMESCOM and I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft has the exclusive (Sony will not be doing a briefing this year). There are many other titles ofcourse and we look forward to being surprised by games we didn’t even know existed.
PHIL HARRISON LEGACY
Former Sony and now former Microsoft executive Phil Harrison was responsible for several game studios in Europe that we’ve yet to see any new game titles for. It’s very likely that any surprise announcements will be coming to us from one or all of those studios. Before he left, Phil (via the studios he was responsible for) was tasked with basically bringing innovative game ideas to the Microsoft first-party brand. Any serious gamer can probably admit that while Microsoft makes technically good games; they really don’t hold a candle to the kinds of innovation in gameplay that comes out of the Sony development houses. There isn’t really a Media Molecule equivalent at Microsoft. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, has come of those teams that now fall under Kudo Tsunoda. If you hear/see the names LXP, Lift London, or Decisive Games perk up.
Microsoft (by any standards) had a really strong showing at E3 this year though they were quickly overshadowed by the Sony offerings. Everything we know (and have discussed above) of their upcoming offering suggests another more than solid presentation. Having a convention audience as large as Gamescom all to themselves, Microsoft has only themselves to blame if they show up empty handed.