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Microsoft Pre-E3 2019 Media Briefing Summary

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 9, 2019 @ 10:30 p.m. PDT

During Microsoft's Pre-E3 2019 Media Briefing, it presented new coverage for Battletoads, The Blair Witch, Bleeding Edge, Borderlands 3, Cyberpunk 2077, Elden Ring, Forza Horizon 4, Halo Infinite, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Minecraft Dungeons, The Outer World, Phantasy Star Online 2, Project Scarlett, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Tales of Arisen, and more.

June 9, 2019, 1:00 PM PT
Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, CA

This is the first year that Microsoft hasn't been directly competing with the Sony conference, as Sony chose to skip E3 this year. Appropriately, it seems that Microsoft took this year to shore up its release schedule and prepare for what is sure to be a massive 2020. Why is that? Well ...

New Console

As everyone was expecting, Microsoft officially confirmed its next-generation console, codename: Project Scarlett. The exact details were kept largely under wraps, but we were told that it will be the most powerful Xbox yet. The focus is on performance rather than just better graphics. The emphasis seemed to be frame rates, resolutions, and load times. The Scarlett will have an SSD drive, more RAM, and will somehow use cloud streaming to offer higher performance than the modern console generation. We can expect to hear more about it at next year's E3, as it is expected to launch in 2020.

New Services

Microsoft also proved that it is going all-in on the idea of games as a service, rather than just one-and-done. The first and biggest is an update to the Xbox Game Pass. Now the Ultimate Xbox Game Pass, it not only includes the game collection seen on the Xbox Game Pass but also a new PC-exclusive lineup of games. Gamers can get the full Ultimate Pass for $15 or just the PC pass for $5, but the first month is currently $1 as part of a promotion.

The second is a greater emphasis on cloud streaming, possibly to compete with Google's upcoming console. The Project xCloud service will allow direct streaming either from one of Microsoft's server farms or from the current-generation Xbox One and the upcoming Scarlett. Thankfully, it doesn't seem like the next-generation console will be only streaming, like some were concerned about.

New Games

As usual, Microsoft showed a strong lineup of both indie and AAA titles. There were few surprises this year, perhaps because the industry seems to be holding its breath for the next generation of consoles. It's also noteworthy that this year was almost exclusively pre-rendered "cinematic" trailers rather than the gameplay walkthroughs we've been seeing recently. As a result, information on most of the games is sparse, but we can expect developers to tell us more about them throughout the show.

AAA titles

Leading the lineup of AAA titles would definitely be Halo Infinite, the next upcoming game in the long-running franchise. The trailer hinted that Master Chief is back, Cortana is probably back, and there's yet another Halo world. The big news is that it will launch in 2020 alongside the Scarlett, as well as for PC.

Developer Ninja Theory is launching Bleeding Edge, a four-on-four person 3D action arena fighter. It looks sort of like Borderlands meets Overwatch, with the gameplay of something like DmC. It's hard to get a feel for how it plays from just the video, but it looks more arcade-like than Ninja Theory's more story-focused games.

The long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077 finally has a release date: April 16, 2020. The cinematic trailer emphasized the punk-noir style we've come to expect from a cyberpunk-focused game, with everything from hacking to Adam Jensen-style arm blades. The big shock was the reveal that beloved film star and possible immortal Keanu Reeves would be a character in the game — or possibly playing himself, it can be hard to tell with Keanu.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is making its extremely long-awaited return after an absence of over a decade. As in the olden days, it looks to be an immensely detailed and breathtakingly beautiful realistic simulator that allows you to fly a variety of planes. It isn't for everyone, but the return has been a long time coming.

Star Wars also made a showing. We got a little more footage of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as well as the announcement of a sort of new LEGO Star Wars game: The Skywalker Saga which will cover all the films from "The Phantom Menace" to "The Rise of Skywalker," leaving out the side stories like "Rogue One" and "Solo." Considering how utterly charming the LEGO Star Wars franchise is, this is a welcome announcement.

Speaking of LEGO, it wouldn't be an Xbox conference without Forza, and this year is something a little special. Similar to the Hot Wheels expansion it did for the previous game, this year, Forza Horizon 4 is add the LEGO Speed Champions tie-in. It's going to be a LEGO-focused experience with LEGO cars, LEGO environments, and even LEGO drivers. Microsoft will be revealing more about it later this week.

Bandai Namco Studios also hit pretty hard with three big announcements. The biggest and best would be Elden Ring, a dramatic adventure in a dying world. It's the newest game from FromSoftware's director Hidatake Miyazaki collaborating with the famous writer George R.R Martin. Expect to hear more this week. There will also be a new Tales of game, Tales of Arisen, which looks to be a higher-budget affair than the more recent games. There's also another addition to the Dragonball franchise, this time an action-RPG titled Dragon Ball: Kakarot, which seems to cover the early Saiyan and Frieza arcs.

There will also be a bevy of shooters of all types. Borderlands 3 and The Outer World both look like different takes on the "fight on an alien world for loot" genre. The Outer Worlds promises RPG action while Borderlands 3 features the franchise's over-the-top action. Gears 5 showed a cinematic trailer of its new "Escape" mode, which will allow players to design enemy hives for their friends to try to beat. You can also play as a Terminator because why not? Popular Korean shooter Crossfire X will also be coming to the Xbox One for those who just can't get enough of shooting and looting.

There were a few surprises as well. Cult classic horror franchise The Blair Witch is getting a video game for the first time since the early 2000s. It looks exactly like expected, with creepy noises and a camera with the promise of lots of jump-scares. Long-demanded action-MMORPG Phantasy Star Online 2 will get a F2P release on PC and Xbox One, something that has been long considered an impossibility. Fallout ancestor franchise Wasteland is getting its second sequel, and it looks significantly more modernized.

There was also the selection of delightful smaller titles that Microsoft usually shows. There were no huge surprises, but the solid selection included the increasingly beautiful Ori and the Will of the Wisps and the latest Minecraft title, a Diablo-style spinoff called Minecraft Dungeons. There was a laundry list of new indie titles with the promise that all of them would be coming to Xbox Game Pass at launch, as well as popular existing games like Metro: Exodus and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. (The latter is also getting a brand-new free DLC to tie in to Borderlands 3.) There's even a new Battletoads coming out, for those who like their nostalgia with a helping of masochism.

All in all, this was one of Microsoft's quieter years. A lot of enjoyable games were shown, but there were no real surprises or twists. It's pretty clear that both Sony and Microsoft are building up for their next-gen consoles, and this is the quiet before the storm. Fortunately, there are still more than enough quality games to keep Xbox owners and PC gamers happy for a good long time.

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