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What to expect from Microsoft’s E3 2018 press conference

Xbox One X review controller in front
Mike Epstein/Digital Trends

Microsoft finds itself in a peculiar position this E3. The company’s recent launch of the Xbox One X has helped to reinvigorate the brand, and third-party games look absolutely incredible on the system, but there are still very few games you can only play on Xbox. With a new commitment to first-party game development, we suspect Phil Spencer’s team is going to bring some heavy hitters to the conference this year, including the return of a certain armored super-soldier. Here’s what to expect from Microsoft’s E3 2018 press conference — and stick with Digital Trends for complete coverage of E3 2018.

‘Forza Horizon 4’

Forza Horizon 3 Blizzard Mountain Expansion

A new Forza game has released every year since the first Forza Horizon was released for Xbox 360, and we see no reason why Microsoft would change this in 2018. Playground Games has only improved over time, with Forza Horizon 3 standing as one of the best games on the entire system. Following the backlash to the microtransaction systems in Forza Motorsport 7, Microsoft has an opportunity to push a more consumer-friendly business model.

It has been reported by Eurogamer that Playground Games has another project in the works, as well: A new Fable game. If true, the game is still in the very early stages of development, but it could help bolster the Xbox One’s small library of AAA games. It would certainly be a change for Playground, which has only developed the Forza Horizon series thus far.

‘Crackdown 3’

Crackdown 3 – E3 2017 – Official 4K Trailer

Originally planned to launch alongside the Xbox One X in November 2017, Crackdown 3 was delayed significantly as its many development partners worked to add more polish. Early gameplay demonstrations haven’t blown us away, with sloppy movement mechanics, an art style that failed to showcase the power of the Xbox One, and uninspired design choices.

But public opinion could turn around in a big way if Crackdown 3 has a strong showing at E3. With tweaks to the visuals and tighter controls, it could be one of the best open-world games to release for the platform. Its online multiplayer mode is also extremely ambitious, with unprecedented environment destruction made possible by the Azure cloud servers.

Crackdown is scheduled to release later this year for Xbox One and PC.

‘Ori and the Will of the Wisps’

Ori and the Will of the Wisps - E3 2017 - 4K Teaser Trailer

Since it was announced during Microsoft’s E3 2017 press conference, we’ve heard almost nothing about Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The open-ended platformer is a sequel to Moon Studios’ excellent Ori and the Blind Forest and will expand the story beyond the titular forest seen in its predecessor.

It isn’t the most taxing use of the Xbox One’s power, but Ori is still a big deal for Microsoft. The first game stands as one of the most critically acclaimed games to not also appear on a PlayStation or Nintendo system this generation, and Moon Studios’ knack for creating tough challenges without causing frustration is nearly unparalleled.

‘Gears of War 5’

It’s more likely that Halo 6 will get announced at E3 than Gears of War 5, but a listing at Walmart Canada has us wondering if the next entry in the series is coming sooner than we anticipated. A number of unannounced games were included, including Rage 2, and publisher Bethesda appeared to hint at its accuracy with a series of tweets a short time later.

Gears of War 4’s campaign wasn’t the most thrilling thing in the world, but The Coalition still delivered a worthwhile sequel that included an excellent competitive multiplayer mode. If the fifth game can give us a few more surprises and more varied enemy design, it could make the Gears of War series the talk of the town again.

According to a new rumor, we could be looking at more than just Gears of War 5 at E3. There’s been talk that Microsoft could announce as many as three Gears of War themed games during the press event, including a strategy spinoff similar to Halo Wars, and a Fortnite-style “Battle Royale” game.

‘Halo 6’

Halo 5 Guardians: Hammer Storm Launch Trailer

It hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s about time to hear news on Halo 6. The last main entry in the series, Halo 5: Guardians, launched back in 2015, and with a general dearth of games coming down to pipeline, Microsoft needs Master Chief back more than ever.

With Halo 6, 343 Industries has a chance to get the franchise back on track. Returning to a Master Chief-focused story and a simple multiplayer structure could go a long way toward bringing back lapsed fans. And with the increased power of the Xbox One X, Microsoft has a chance to show just how gorgeous the games can look.

New Splinter Cell game

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands - Special Operation 1: Splinter Cell | Ubisoft [NA]

Included on the same Walmart Canada listing as Gears of War 5 was an untitled Splinter Cell game, and recent events have led us to believe that the game’s announcement is imminent. In addition to the game appearing briefly on Amazon Canada before its listing was removed, protagonist Sam Fisher — voiced by original actor Michael Ironside — appeared in a special mission for Ghost Recon: Wildlands. The end of the mission alludes to a stolen nuclear device, potentially setting the stage for the game’s story.

As it’s a Ubisoft franchise, we would typically predict the game would be announced during that publisher’s show, but Splinter Cell has its roots on the Xbox platform. Moreover, the previous game in the series, Splinter Cell Blacklist, was officially announced at Microsoft’s E3 press conference back in 2012.

‘Sea of Thieves’ content update

Sea of Thieves: Gameplay Launch Trailer

Rare’s Sea of Thieves has all the style of a game from the famous studio, but it didn’t launch with very much to do and we quickly lost interest in its repetitive missions structure. By releasing a free content update to all players, Microsoft has a chance to reinvigorate the game in the same way Hello Games did with No Man’s Sky after its lackluster launch.

For a large free content update to make much of an impact at E3, it has to be released as soon as the press conference is over. If this were coupled with a free trial of Xbox Game Pass for anyone who watched the conference, it could introduce the game to a whole new audience and encourage some of them to pick up the game permanently.

‘Spider’ Elite Controller

The Xbox One X is already available, but there could be another piece of hardware shown off during E3 this year. In January, it was reported that an updated version of the Xbox One Elite controller was in the works, with a new USB-C port, three-level trigger locks, adjustable tension on the control sticks, and different grips. Given that the Xbox One X is billed as the premium console meant for serious players, a redesigned Elite controller could be marketed as the perfect partner.

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