Microsoft at E3: What to Expect

Analysts chime in on what we'll see at the Xbox press briefing. Don't expect any next-gen talk

E3 2012 is fast approaching, and as usual, the big three platform holders will be holding their respective press conferences on Monday and Tues (June 4 and 5) right before E3 itself officially opens its doors. There have been tons of rumors about Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, but what should we realistically expect to see?

GamesIndustry International rounded up several leading games analysts to get their take on each of the console manufacturers. In part one, we'll take a look at Microsoft. In parts two and three we'll showcase Sony and Nintendo (which is the actual order of their briefings.)

Microsoft arguably is in the best position (certainly in the US, where the company's Xbox hardware continues to outsell the competition) and at this point in the cycle, it's all about maintaining momentum while trying to expand the audience via Kinect and Xbox Live.

Here's what the analysts had to say.

Jesse Divnich, EEDAR

Microsoft is in a very comfortable position at the moment. I believe their E3 will be focused more on the total entertainment experience the Xbox 360 can deliver. But yes, the typical Halo, Forza, and Fable trailers are likely to be shown, on-top of a few family focused Kinect titles.

The console manufacturer under the least amount of pressure is Microsoft, so I expect them to stick to a similar script as last year.  I don't foresee them announcing anything too jaw dropping or off-the-wall.  The ball is really in Sony and Nintendo's court to break the current momentum Microsoft has and I don't foresee Microsoft sabotaging that momentum by their own doing with some outside of the box presentation--sorry, Cirque du Soleil is unlikely to make an appearance again.

David Cole, DFC Intelligence

One of the biggest things Microsoft is pushing is the diversity of the Xbox 360.  In the new DFC Intelligence report Consoles as Entertainment Hubs, we noted that in March 2012 Microsoft announced that over 50% of time on Xbox Live was spent in non-game related activities.  Microsoft's goal is to increase that ratio even more so that the Xbox 360 is a central entertainment hub of the living room.  There is a major race to bring entertainment services to consumers both on television sets and mobile devices.  While Apple and Google may have an advantage on mobile devices, the Xbox 360 gives Microsoft an edge in the living room. 

"Microsoft must also demonstrate greater influence in the much larger casual games market. Many hardcore gaming enthusiasts probably won't like the coverage of casual games"

Billy Pidgeon

So Microsoft will clearly focus on the diversity of the Xbox 360 and I expect to see a lot of Kinect products, including unique uses for the Kinect that are non-game related. With that being said I think it is important for Microsoft to show they are not leaving gamers behind.  So to that expect to see a focus on a handful of big titles like Halo 4 and some big third-party titles like Call of Duty Black Ops 2.

Billy Pidgeon, M2 Research

I think Microsoft will focus on software and network services at E3 2012.  There will be a strong emphasis on hardcore titles including Halo 4, and there will be at least two previously unannounced first party games. I'm also expecting several big third party titles with downloads, characters, modes, or other assets exclusive to Xbox 360. 

Although the press event will stress software and services for hardcore gaming, Microsoft must also demonstrate greater influence in the much larger casual games market.  Many hardcore gaming enthusiasts probably won't like the coverage of casual games, but Microsoft will throw out some hardcore red meat at regular intervals to keep hardcore fans engaged. Microsoft will demo some quality casual and family entertainment (often with Kinect) and we'll likely hear more about the value of the subscription-subsidized $99 Kinect bundle offer for all sectors, including family and mass market.  It's possible Microsoft will announce additional consumer value bundles to stoke hardware sales going forward.       

You can bet Master Chief and Halo 4 will make a splash

You can bet Master Chief and Halo 4 will make a splash

Microsoft will likely showcase multiple improvements and new features for the Xbox LIVE network.  These could include games and entertainment features provided by partners for tiered pricing models similar to premium cable deals.  Tiers might include game and entertainment features provided by partners such as EA, ESPN, Netflix.  I'd also like to see Microsoft add more value to the free and Gold levels of Xbox LIVE.  Free casual games would add great value and would help Microsoft better prepare for competition with upcoming services from Apple and Google.   

As Xbox LIVE has systemic connections to other Microsoft networked services and direct connections to web, PC and mobile devices, Microsoft typically promotes these connections to make a case for games as a proprietary cross-platform service.  This has been more marketing than action to date, so I am hoping to see a more impressive integration of Xbox LIVE services into web, PC and mobile this year.  

"I think part of Microsoft's E3 positioning will be to try to preempt demand for Wii U."

Lewis Ward

Unlikely but wouldn't-that-be-cool surprises Microsoft could unveil: a compelling demo of Kinect control in a hardcore game, an exclusive deal with a cable provider to offer Xbox 360 as a set-top box option, or a peek at next generation software or hardware.

Lewis Ward, IDC Research Manager

For Microsoft, I think we'll hear a lot more about new XBL content, planned feature/UI enhancements, and their broader vision for opening up digital distribution. There will be blockbuster game trailers and demos to please their core customer base community, but I don't see them taking their foot off the gas in terms of the strategy to go after the entire family and casual gamers with content and services, the "$99" Kinect bundle and so on. That may sound a little vague but I think part of Microsoft's E3 positioning will be to try to preempt demand for Wii U.

I think people will be disappointed by the lack of news about their next-gen Xbox. I could be wrong about this, and there's been a lot of speculation, but I think E3 2013 will be where that big reveal happens. I think cloud gaming will be a significant piece of that platform, so I don't think we'll hear about "instant-on" game availability this year, but I could be reading the tea leaves wrong on this as well.

Scott Steinberg, TechSavvy Global

Expect big news surrounding new everyday entertainment features for Xbox 360, as well as new Kinect games that speak to broad (and potentially enthusiast) audiences too. Microsoft Game Studios will also have a number of large announcements surrounding in-house retail games products, DLC content and downloadable titles for Xbox Live as well.

Further expansion into casual and mainstream markets is expected, as the company continues to pursue its strategy of becoming a bigger part of the connected home living room ecosystem. Limited noise is anticipated around PC titles this year, though news surrounding Windows Phone and its associated features and titles should be prevalent. What you likely won't see is much in the way of information about the next generation of Xbox console systems, with Halo 4 and other properties expected to get a bigger push and the company loathe to cannibalize surrounding media and consumer attention.

Certainly, there will be greater emphasis on an expanding feature set for both Kinect and the base Xbox 360 console set itself, as well as more announcements on the digital and downloadable front. To this extent, news may break surrounding free-to-play gaming, expanded downloadable content offerings and upgrades to the overall Xbox user interface, front-end experience, and Web and multimedia browsing functionality. Expect the company to push both partners' titles (e.g. offerings from Electronic Arts and Activision) and its own unique offerings and franchises, as well as of course provide a marked showing of support from third-party publishers, designed to promote the idea of continued interest in the system even as it enters late maturity in its lifecycle.

Announcements surrounding new entertainment-focused content (e.g. streaming TV options) and online music services are also anticipated. The manufacturer's core messaging will likely center on system differentiation, and future-proofing, with refinements to the Xbox 360's user experience and multimedia capabilities placed front and center.

Stay tuned for Part Two this week when the analysts put the focus on Sony's E3 showing.

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Latest comments (13)

Private VIdeo Games 10 years ago
You can expect me :)
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd10 years ago
Hehe good to know Graeme. Pretty sure we all expected some 343 representation. I'm looking forward to the conference this year. Hopefully I get a good seat for some good Halo 4 demonstrations. Don't let me down. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nicholas Pantazis on 24th May 2012 4:23am

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Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent10 years ago
No one's expecting anything next-gen at all? Hmm. If it's going to be the same as last year, I shall look forward then to equal feelings of disappointment as Kinect is once again pushed too hard and core games are not afforded their due limelight.

I just want it to be better this time.
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Show all comments (13)
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 10 years ago
Microsoft own the desktop with Windows. They want to own the living room with Xbox. And they want to own mobile with Windows Phone.

So increasingly they are making these three ecosystems synergistic with each other, meeting up in the cloud for content. The desktop is going to touch screen later this year, for instance.

To get from where they are now to where they want to be Microsoft have to make a large number of changes. So expect disparate announcements that are all part of an overarching strategy. Once you know their destination the announcements about their journey make sense.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game10 years ago
I worry that the emphasis on other services may go too far. Yes, if you have an XBL account and Lovefilm/Netflix, it may make sense to use the 360 to watch it on your TV, but does anyone buy an Xbox, then pay the yearly XBL gold fee if they have no interest in games, to use their paid for services that they could use their PC for? People who buy an Xbox for games will be happy to use it for other things but it is still bought for games.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam10 years ago
Maybe I'm wrong, but I always think of E3 as more of a core gamer show. Sure, the mainstream press reports on any big announcements (mostly new hardware), but most of the coverage is written by and for core gamers. In which case, pushing family friendly Kinect games and non-gaming services there is the wrong approach IMO. You need to cater to the audience that's actually watching and reading about the show.
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Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent10 years ago
I agree with John.
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Ben Furneaux Principal Designer 10 years ago
Call of Duty, Halo, Fable, Kinect, IP TV. Didn't we do this last year? And the year before? And the year before that?

To be fair to Microsoft, these are 'analyst' reports. It probably didn't take them too long to 'analyse' the release schedule for the next 12 months and piece those 'reports' together.

I wish for once games industry analysts informed their audience, maybe for once gave the scoop on what's not necessarily obvious. And thus ends my tangental rant.
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University10 years ago
I understand the rant Ben. There are things no-one seems to have taken into consideration. Are Microsoft really that safe in the home console business? How strong is their position in Japan, or more importantly, continental Europe? Ruling North America (which is by no means guaranteed when Wii U is out, given Nintendo's continuing strength in that region) might keep them safe and on par or slightly ahead of PS3, but it is enough against Apple and Google?

If they're going to rule the living room through Xbox, ahead of competition from rivals such as Apple and Google, surely they need greater success in those markets? For interests sake, are all these analysts in America? Xbox might be ruling that market, but that doesn't translate to global success. I know E3 takes place in America, but it's publicised in a way no other gaming trade event is. Surely Microsoft should begin to give signs they have products and services that will increase their success outside of the US and UK markets?
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Kevin Patterson musician 10 years ago
I am really looking forward to the Halo 4 presentation, and hopefully will some news on Skyrim DLC from bethesda, which I imagine will be at MS's conference.
I am also interested in seeing more of Fable:The Journey, and if that rumored Internet explorer update gets announced.
I am interested in the Elder scrolls online making an appearance as well.

I would love to see some great new announcements, but being that the next gen is a year away or so, probably won't see much if at all.
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Eric Weis Financial Analyst, Bethesda Softworks10 years ago
It's true that core gamers pay attention to E3 announcements, but so do retailers, investors, and other interested parties. These companies (Sony and Microsoft mainly - I'd argue Nintendo's already there) need to show a diverse array of enticements for their platforms as just focusing on the core simply isn't enough anymore.
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I think they need to announce a VR Headset. Kinect simply doesn't appeal to me as it is, but tie in it's skeleton tracking capabilities, with a VR Headset and you have a true 1st person experience. Well... closer than we currently have anyway. Come on Microsoft, let me be Master Chief! :)
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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam10 years ago
Eric - Wouldn't retailers and investors be better served by a separate briefing, rather than a glitzy show that seems to be more geared towards consumers and the press and generally focuses on a few high profile titles rather than covering the entire release slate?
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