We are in the second half of 2020 and now the hype has begun. Sony announced the PlayStation 5 officially in June, showing off games that are sure to please customers such as Spiderman: Miles Morales, Gran Turismo and Horizon: Forbidden West. This week, all eyes are on Xbox to see how they bring back the fight after the much-criticised May 2020 showcase which showed very little gameplay, a mistake that Xbox admitted to themselves. On Thursday, Phil Spencer and team will take to the stage (living room webcam?) to show off all the Xbox exclusive games that will make gamers rush to buy the new console when it launches this holiday season. Here’s what I think will be shown without a doubt, what I expect to see announced and finally my hopes and dreams, no matter how unlikely they are.
Halo Infinite campaign gameplay – confirmed
If there’s one thing we can all be sure of, it’s that the world premiere of the Halo infinite campaign will be shown, and we’ve been promised gameplay. The big question on everyone’s mind is what form this game will take. Will it be a traditional, linear, mission-based campaign like the Halo games we know and love? Or will 343 reinvent the formula, adding their own spin on the universe after having stuck to Bungie’s DNA for so long? Personally, I think we will see a traditional campaign with areas that are slightly bigger but generally 343 will play it safe here. I don’t see Microsoft letting them go crazy when they need this to be a guaranteed system seller. 343 need to remind people what Halo can do that no other shooter can. They need to take it back to its roots and show people what made the original Xbox console a must buy.
Of course, the Halo experience isn’t complete without multiplayer, but I expect we’ll see that at a later date, maybe even with an Xbox One open beta (after all, Microsoft has committed to releasing all their exclusives on both consoles for the next few years). However, Xbox needs to keep Halo relevant for the masses, and the only way to do that in 2020 is with a battle royale mode. Yes, yes, 343 Industries said it wouldn’t be happening. But that was before Call of Duty Warzone was propelled into the mainstream and became one of the most played games of the year. I have a suspicion that in the past year, 343 will have had a change of heart, and I fully expect to be dropping from a Pelican onto the shores of a gorgeous Halo on the Series X before the year is out.
Forza Motorsport 8
Forza isn’t as integral to the Xbox launch process as Halo is, but we’re long overdue a new Forza game. It’s been almost 3 years since Forza 7, which is the longest launch gap in the franchise’s history. I fully expect Turn 10 to be at the showcase, blazing around a beautiful racetrack in a brightly coloured McLaren. Racing games always act as the graphical showcase during console launches, full of gorgeous weather effects and hyper realistic supercars, so this seems like a guarantee for Thursday’s showcase. And after Sony finally announced the highly anticipated next entry in the Gran Turismo franchise in June, Xbox need to hit back with their popular racing series to show the world that they won’t be left in Sony’s dust this holiday season.
I’m not certain of what other games will be shown, but I can give one more guarantee – we’ll see loads of gameplay footage. After the botched May showcase, Microsoft apologised for setting expectations too high, but that won’t be enough. Recently Xbox has had a huge shift to being actively pro-consumer, and what’s more pro-consumer than plenty of gameplay to feast our eyes on to keep us occupied until the rumoured August showcase, when hopefully we’ll hear more about pricing and the rumoured Lockhart model.
After Microsoft’s slew of studio acquisitions in the past year, I’d be very shocked if we didn’t see them finally give us a look at what some of them have been working on. Between Compulsion Games, Double Fine, The Initiative, InXile Enertainment, Obsidian and Undead Labs, Microsoft have a whole host of talent to tap into which could give them the upper hand in the next generation of consoles. My bets are on something being unveiled from Double Fine since they are apparently working on not one, not two, not even three but four titles for Xbox Game Studios. They must have something to show for all that work, and my bets are on a range of smaller games. This makes a lot of sense – smaller games cost less money to develop, which means it’s less of an investment for Xbox. When four games produced by Tim Schafer and his team are unveiled, all slated to launch alongside the Series X straight on to Xbox Game Pass, I’m certain it’ll attract lots more subscribers to the already fantastic service, which can only be good for Microsoft. Low investment, high reward. And the same is true for the consumer as they’ll get access to a range of exciting Double Fine games alongside the huge range of other games already available on game pass.
Another developer I’m expecting we’ll hear from is Obsidian. Apparently both The Outer Worlds and the upcoming survival game Grounded (releasing July 28th) were both smaller projects for the team, so I imagine they’ve got something else brewing, and hopefully it’s something big. I’d love to see a return to the Fallout universe for Obsidian but that isn’t going to happen, but I’m sure we’ll see an exciting new triple A single player RPG for us to sink our teeth into when the Xbox Series X launches in the holiday season.
Playground Games is another team I’m expecting we’ll hear from considering the rumours that have been swirling for years now. The game I’m talking about is, of course, Fable 4. This one is a big one for me, and any other year it’d be my big wild showstopper prediction that would keep me glued to my monitor throughout the entire E3 presentation despite knowing it’d never happen. But now we are hearing from sources across the gaming world that Fable 4 is coming – it’s basically the industry’s worst kept secret. So, while I don’t want to put it in my obvious predictions section with Halo and Forza just in case, I think it’s safe to assume that this year we’ll finally see the grand return of Albion. And I sure hope it’s their big ‘one-last-thing’ showstopper announcement. Fable wouldn’t be the same without overwhelming hype building up to every release. Hopefully gone are the days of overly ambitious Molyneux promises though.
These are my wilder predictions that I don’t expect to see for various reasons, but wow it’d be amazing if we did see even one of these.
Game pass is Microsoft’s big advantage over Sony right now. Access to a huge range of fantastic games all for one low monthly cost. It’s the Netflix of games, the giant of the video game subscription services and there’s no doubt in my mind that Xbox will want to go all in on making it the best service imaginable. That’s why I’d love to see them announce that some of the big third-party releases lined up for this Christmas are coming to Xbox game pass on (or soon after) launch. I’m thinking Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Crash Bandicoot 4 (how big of a twist would that be?!) and even Cyberpunk 2077. Like I said it’s never going to happen, but damn it’d be amazing if it did (maybe this is just the poor University student in me though).
When the Playstation 5 was announced in June, it came with confirmation of a kind-of Spiderman sequel with Spiderman Miles Morales, Ratchet and Clank and of course Horizon: Forbidden West. These games drew a lot of attention and they are all exclusive to the PS5, meaning anyone with a PS4 will have to upgrade to play these big new games. Sony already have a lot of console sellers announced, not to mention the high likelihood that we’ll see the return of big franchises like The Last of Us, Uncharted and God of War at some point in the console’s lifespan. That’s why I’d love to see Xbox lean into the single player narrative driven games that Sony have clearly mastered this generation. I want to see direct competition from Microsoft, some genuine attempts to draw consumers towards the Xbox. PS5 gets Spider-Man, then Xbox could get a brand-new single player open world RPG from Obsidian. PS5 gets Ratchet and Clank, well Xbox could give us a big Banjo Kazooie comeback. Xbox have the FPS market cornered with Halo, now they just need to start expanding into other genres and claim some of the market back from Sony. I doubt we’ll see direct competition like this from Xbox as they seem to be drifting away from the console war idea, but it’d be amazing to watch.
And now my big dream (other than Fable 4). I want to see the screen cut to black, and then just as we think that’s it… a horrific shriek bursts out. The camera zooms out to show a screamer shambling through a field, surrounded by a large horde of the undead. That’s right, I want to see State of Decay 3. These games are particular favourites of mine, and I want to see the series evolve to fill its triple A shoes. I want huge hordes, richer, more complex environments, deeper survival systems and proper online multiplayer, without the player tethering that they had in State of Decay 2. I want them to really lean into some dark storylines, really showcasing the horrific, traumatic world in which any of your survivors can perish at any second, leaving your base wide open to horde attacks. It really is a fantastic series, and I hope the third game could fully realise its potential and become the ultimate 4-player zombie survival sandbox.
And that’s it for my predictions! No matter what, I can’t wait to see what Microsoft unveil on Thursday, I’m sure they’ve got some great games up their sleeve. Share your own predictions below!