E3 2016 starts next week, and with it comes the opportunity to cheer or groan over teases about upcoming games and news. As we do every year, we’re checking back on the hype from last year’s show, to see what the big three platform holders actually delivered. Let’s start with Microsoft and see how they and their development partners did.
Credit: Christian Petersen, Getty Images
The Microsoft E3 2015 press conference happened on 15 June 2015, and opened with a montage of some of Microsoft’s most beloved franchises, including a rousing speech voiced by main characters from game series including Tomb Raider, Gears of War, Halo and Fable Legends. The introductory video ended with the slogan, “Jump ahead.”
In an opening speech, 343 Industries’ Bonnie Ross promised that Microsoft would “continue the tradition on what this show has always been about; the characters, the games and the stories that people love”. She said that Microsoft would be “…delivering greatest games lineup in Xbox history” in 2015. That tagline was repeated by Microsoft Xbox head Phil Spencer at the close of the show. Some of the usual buzz-words followed, including “…new and innovative IP [intellectual property], ground-breaking indie games, blockbuster franchises and of course, the best exclusive games launching this year!”
Was it true? Of course, “greatest” and “best” are subjective terms. But in looking back at the past year — when it comes to fulfilling promises on new IP, indie games, blockbuster franchises, exclusive games and the greatest games lineup in Xbox history — Microsoft did alright with some caveats. They met many of their 2015 release dates and promises. Their big promises beyond 2015, including the HoloLens, are still shaping up. Others such as Fable Legends‘ cancellation and Lionhead Studios’ closure came as unfortunate surprises.
The promise: The first featured game of the Microsoft press conference came with a video and live demo of Halo 5: Guardians. The live demo showed four- player co-op, with the head of Halo internal development, Josh Holmes stating that “…the epic scale of Halo‘s campaign carries over to our multiplayer experience”. He showed off the gameplay of a new 24-player battle mode called Warzone. The release date was marked as 27 October 2015.
Did they deliver? Yes. Halo 5: Guardians released 27 October 2015. For claims on how great Warzone and the multiplayer experience are, check out Kotaku‘s in-depth review. Spoiler: Our critic generally liked the new additions to the already solid multiplayer elements that Halo is known for.
The promise: In a world premiere trailer, a young girl and her mechanical companion took shelter from an oncoming sandstorm. Some action scenes later, a lost friend with his remnant core got into a new machine, and it was off to a new adventure in ReCore — a new IP and Xbox One exclusive from Keiji Inafune and the makers of Metroid Prime, to launch Autumn 2016.
Did they deliver? Not yet. The game got delayed to the latter half of 2016. It’s also not only coming to Xbox. An announcement was made in January that this Microsoft collaboration with Keiji Inafune and Armature studios is also headed to PC.
The promise: Spencer announced Xbox One backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games, which he acknowledged was one of the most requested features from the Xbox gaming community. The head of the platform engineering team, Mike Ybarra, explained that Xbox One compatibility would work with digital games and retail discs. He promised that features from Xbox One would be used to enhance the gaming experience, including screenshots, broadcasting, game DVR and game streaming functionalities available through the Xbox app on Windows 10, with multiplayer sessions available with Xbox 360 players. He said the release date for the feature would span a period of time, beginning with a limited number of games available to Xbox preview members after the briefing; over one hundred games by Holiday 2015, which would be available to all; and “hundreds more added in the months to come”. All at no cost to players for games they already own.
Did they deliver? Yes and not yet. A few games were released for preview members following the presentation. Microsoft made good on their promise and on November 12 launched 104 backwards compatible Xbox 360 games as part of the first wave. Although there has been a steady stream of games added since then, as of this date there are under 200 games (188 by the time of this writing, actually) available. The promise of “hundreds more added” titles has not yet happened.
The promise: The announcement of the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller happened via a snazzy video showing various features, including pro-level precision, hair trigger locks, customisation, button and paddle remapping and swappable components, to name a few. The controller would be compatible with Xbox One and Windows 10. Release date: Spring 2015
Did they deliver? Yes, the controller was released on 27 October 2015 with a $US150 price tag ($200 in Australia). The controller has all the promised features and even comes in its own carrying case.
The promise: Bethesda and Microsoft were going to work together to make mods created on PC be transferable, playable and shared for free from PC to Xbox One for Fallout 4. A note on the E3 presentation screen pointed out that Fallout 3 would be included with Fallout 4, and that’s an Xbox exclusive. The game would be released on 10 November 2015.
Did they deliver? Yes. Just recently too. Mods became available for the Xbox One on May 31 — June 1 for Australia (mods have been promised for the PS4 in June, too). Here are some of the most popular ones so far. Fallout 3 was available for free for Xbox One for 90 days after the release of Fallout 4 back on 10 November 2015 when the game released. At Fallout 4‘s pre-order, Fallout 3 was available to download during a limited time period, as well.
The promise: EA brought news on its EA Access monthly subscription service and its next batch of big games. Madden NFL 16 would launch August 25. They noted that, with EA Access, Xbox owners would be first to play starting August 20. They made the same promise of early access for upcoming titles such as Need for Speed. New titles would arrive on EA Access, including Titanfall at the end of that week and Dragon Age: Inquisition at the end of winter. Along with this, all Xbox Gold Members would get to try EA Access for free during the week of E3, with access to all 12 titles available in the vault.
It was then announced via an exclusive world premiere trailer that Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 would release in the autumn of 2016.
Did they deliver? Yes. Madden NFL 16 was available on August 20 on EA Access ahead of its August 25 release date, with 10 hours to play of every mode. Need for Speed got a similar treatment of 10 hours of play before everyone else. Also, yep, Titanfall was added to EA Access on 15 June 2015 with Dragon Age: Inquisition added on 5 August 2015. From June 15 through 22, Xbox Live Gold Members got Free Play Days — the ability to play the 12 games available in the EA Access vault at the time.
And finally, here’s a twist: Garden Warfare 2 released in summer, slightly ahead of schedule on 23 February 2016.
The promise: A Ford GT descended from the ceiling to hype a partnership between the Ford Motor Company and Turn 10 Studios. The GT was going to make an appearance in the Xbox One exclusive Forza Motorsport 6 for the car’s 50th anniversary. The game would feature 26 famous destinations, and over 450 forzavista cars. Release date: September 15.
Did they deliver? Pretty much. The game released on Xbox One on 15 September 2015, with 26 destinations and 450 cars, along with all the puddles that make a Fahey cry. The game has since received some expansions, adding new cars, multiplayer events and tracks. While the game itself is an Xbox One exclusive, a stripped down free-to-play version has since found its way on PC, called Forza Motorsport 6 Apex.
The promise: A world premiere trailer of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls 3 was shown, teasing an early 2016 release date.
Did they deliver? Sure. Dark Souls 3 released on 12 April 2016 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
The promise: A world premiere trailer, and news that Ubisoft’s The Division to get an exclusive Beta, first, for Xbox One players in December 2015.
Did they deliver? Not quite and not with much of an advantage for Xbox One users. In December, The Division got a closed alpha for Xbox One players who preordered the game. A closed beta was delayed to January 2016, which Xbox One players got to test out first on the 28th, one day before PlayStation 4 and PC. An open beta happened on February 18, once more with Xbox One members having access 24 hours before PC and PS4 owners.
The promise: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege got a release date of 13 October 2015. At launch, players would be able to play Rainbow Six Vegas and Rainbow Six Vegas 2 as part of the Holiday 2015 Xbox One backward compatibility features. The games would come free with Rainbow Six Siege.
Did they deliver? Yes but with a delay. Siege released on 1 December 2015. Vegas 1 and 2 were available during the launch of the Xbox One backward compatibility program.
The promise: Free to play Windows 10 and Xbox One exclusive MOBA Gigantic from Mortiga got a trailer and a date for a beta on August 2015.
Did they deliver? Yes. The closed Beta began August 28. In February 2016, the company announced “significant, temporary layoffs”.
The promise: An indie highlight reel showcased a sampling of games as part of the [email protected] program. Among them, Gone Home development studio Fullbright’s next game, Tacoma, set to debut first on Xbox One and PC. The reel also showed Tiger & Squid’s Beyond Eyes. Aurora44’s Ashen and Studio MDHR’s Cuphead would both be Xbox console exclusives.
Did they deliver? Yes and not yet. Of the four games, only Beyond Eyes has been released. It fulfilled its promise of being first on the Xbox, a week ahead of PC and just over a month before PS4. There is currently no solid release date on Ashen, but the game is listed as coming to PC and Xbox One. Cuphead is now listed as coming to PC in addition to Xbox One, with a release window of 2016. And Tacoma has a autumn 2017 release window.
The promise: The launch of Xbox Game Preview would “lets gamers buy and play a selection of games while they’re still in active development”. The hope is to help shape the outcome of a game based on community feedback. Over the course of the year, the following games would be released with a free trial: The Long Dark, Sheltered, Elite Dangerous and DayZ. The Long Dark and Elite Dangerous would be available after the briefing. Additionally, Ion, a new game from DayZ‘s lead creator, would launch exclusively on Xbox and PC and listed as coming soon, and would also be part of the Game Preview Program.
Did they deliver? Yes and not yet. Elite Dangerous and Sheltered went through the preview program and have since seen full-releases after being in the program, with The Long Dark still in preview. DayZ got pushed to early 2016 but has not yet made a debut, and it also appears the game is headed to PS4 sometime. Other games have since entered the program as well, including ARK: Survival Evolved and The Solus Project. As for Ion, there has been little information on the game since its announcement.
The promise: They staged a world premiere live gameplay demo of Xbox exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider. Release date: Holiday 2015
Did they deliver? Mostly, with what will now be a familiar caveat. Lara’s adventure released on Xbox One and 360 on 10 November 2015. But it recently got a 28 January 2016 release on PC as well.
The promise: An Xbox exclusive video revealed Rare Replay, 30 classic Rare games such as Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and Battletoads on one disc. The memories would be released on 4 August 2015 in celebration of Rare’s 30th Anniversary.
Did they deliver? Yep, they certainly did. The game released on its promised date.
The promise: Rare studio head Craig Duncan announced a new, Xbox One exclusive title described as “a shared world adventure game” called Sea of Thieves.
Did they deliver? Not yet. The website now shows the game is going to Xbox One and PC, however.
The promise: Fable Legends, an Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive, would be free to play on Xbox One with Xbox Live Gold and Windows 10. Collecting or purchasing items in one version would carry over to the next. Release date: Holiday 2015
Did they deliver? No. The in-development free-to-play game, Fable Legends, has since been cancelled and its developer, Lionhead Studios, is no more.
The promise: Microsoft Studios’ Corporate Vice President, Kudo Tsunoda announced partnerships with Valve VR “to make Windows 10 the best platform for VR gaming”, and noted Microsoft’s partnership with Oculus Rift to include an Xbox One controller with every Rift at launch. He also noted that “Xbox One games will be playable on Oculus Rift. By streaming Xbox One games to Rift through Windows 10, gamers can play the games they love on the newest devices.” Tsunoda then spoke about Microsoft’s pioneering steps into bringing “holograms into your real world”. This would be done through Microsoft HoloLens. Mojang’s Brand Director, Lydia Winters then ran a live demo of Minecraft using the Microsoft HoloLens to show how “Microsoft HoloLens gives the community a different way to play in the worlds they already love”.
Did they deliver? Sort of. A standard wireless Xbox One controller comes with the Rift. Can Xbox One games be streamed to Rift? Technically, they can be streamed to Windows 10 and then displayed in the Rift through third-party apps like Virtual Desktop. But the direct Windows 10 and Xbox One Oculus integration they promised — even if just to play them in a virtual theatre mode that they teased rather than with immersive all-around-you graphics — has yet to materialise. As for Microsoft HoloLens, there’s been ongoing news and information on the HoloLens over the past year, with pre-orders opening to developers for the $US3000 ($4067) headset on 29 February 2016.
The promise: Gears of War Ultimate Edition was unveiled. The original would receive a remastered version for its 10th anniversary, with new content, 1080p graphics and 60fps in multiplayer, and would be available 25 August 2015. The public beta for multiplayer of the remastered Gears of War would start the day of the briefing.
Did they deliver? Yes. Gears of War Ultimate Edition arrived on Xbox One on August 25, and the beta did kick off during E3, which ran from June 15 to 23. It was later announced at E3 that the game would be headed to PC as well. The Ultimate Edition included 1080p, ran at 60fps in multiplayer and had some new additions (content from the PC version of the game), while some improvements from newer games in the series were missing.
The promise: A nonchalant mention was made for the latest game in the franchise, Gears 4. The release window was marked as Holiday 2016.
Did they deliver? Not yet. Earlier this year, Gears of War 4 was announced as having an 11 October 2016 release date. A beta was made available on April 18 for players who played Gears of War Ultimate Edition on either Windows 10 or Xbox One and was then made available to all Xbox Live Gold members on April 25.
The closing promise: It’s actually a statement by Phil Spencer, reiterating the points from Xbox’s opening speech. There are promises of unique experiences in collaboration with Windows 10 when it launches on July 29. There are also promises that games such as Quantum Break, Scalebound and Crackdown would be shown at August’s Gamescom. He also said, “There truly has never been a better time to be an Xbox gamer.”
Did they deliver? Microsoft showed games at Gamescom, sure. Windows 10 did get a global July 29 release, yep. Phil Spencer’s statement is an interesting one that can only truly be answered by you. Thoughts
That’s it for Microsoft’s E3 2015 showing. Stay tuned for breakdowns of Sony’s and Nintendo’s E3 promises later this week.