As expected, Microsoft will draw first blood again this year by being the first press conference out of the big three, which is on Monday. They promised to show titles that will come out both this fall and the next year from both first and third parties (Out of the three, most of the conference will be a third party showcase). So, might as well started with what Microsoft may or may not show next week.
- Modern Warfare 2 - I expect a big showing for Infinity Ward's next FPS at their conference just like the first one two years ago. Call of Duty 4 is still the most played shooter on Xbox Live and it is a no brainer for the IW guys to show off one of the new levels in their new blockbuster. Plus, that trailer above is an example of how a game trailer (whether it looks good or not) should be done with all those epic setpieces that the player will experience. Honestly, I skipped on Modern Warfare 1, and for now, I'm not skipping on Modern Warfare 2. Considering the success of the first game on Xbox Live, I won't be surprised if another exclusive multiplayer beta gets announced before the game's release on November 10.
- Tony Hawk Ride - Also, expect the new Tony Hawk game to make a big splash at E3 next week with the Birdman himself Tony Hawk showing off the new skateboard controller and gameplay at the press conference. If you already know, Tony Hawk Ride only uses the new skateboard controller that actually looks like a skateboard without the wheels and trucks. Plus, if GameStop is right, expect this game to be expensive at around 120 bucks. Of course, I'm still skeptical on how Tony's return to the gaming world may fare out with Skate 2 around, but this desperate idea for motion controls is something me and others would consider trying.
- Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony - This was just announced today by Rockstar themselves, which is the second downloadable exclusive episode for Grand Theft Auto IV. Once again, Rockstar is willing to push the envelope like they always have done in the past, especially the title alone grabbing people's attention. Just like Lost & Damned, this DLC is 20 bucks or 1600 Microsoft Points, but Rockstar is smart enough to bundle the two episodes together for 40 bucks as a retail standalone disc not requiring GTA IV to play them. For their press conference, I expect the debut trailer for this to be shown and it should be interesting what Rockstar will pull off this time.
- What's next for the "Plastic Instrument" genre? - I also expect something Rock Band and Guitar Hero related at Microsoft's press conference as well since the downloadable content has been a major success for the companies involved. Of course Activision has their milking of plastic instruments to go crazy about with DJ Hero, Band Hero, and Guitar Hero V and I expect a DJ Hero demonstration to be shown at the conference since it is the most interesting of the three games they have coming soon. Hopefully DJ Hero will bring something different to the genre, but I don't see that happening. As for Harmonix, they have said they're not doing Rock Band 3 this year, which is good, but I predict a big showing for Rock Band Beatles at the show and especially Sir Paul McCartney making an appearance to talk about the upcoming game. I have claimed on Twitter and elsewhere that I am pretty much done with this genre, but we'll see if this E3 will bring me back (I hope not honestly).
- Other things in MS's 3rd party showcase - There are many big 3rd party games that Microsoft would show off in their press conference even though the ones above should the ones that may spark the most interest. Of course, there's Splinter Cell Conviction, Assassins Creed 2, Madden 10, Brutal Legend, BioShock 2 (confirmed for November?), Lost Planet 2, Dante's Inferno, Fallout: New Vegas, whatever is next for Valve (Half-Life 2 Episode 3?) and more. Actually the most curiosity out of Microsoft's third party support is what the Japanese third parties will bring to the table for their system. Will Kojima finally fess up and announce a special edition of Metal Gear Solid 4 after being teased for the longest time? How much of an impact will Final Fantasy XIII have on both systems? - Is MS willing to moneyhat their way for an US exclusive demo (the same one that is out at Japan, but on PS3 only)? What is Capcom's other secret game besides Tatsunoko vs. Capcom on Wii? Hopefully things will be answered next week.
- Mass Effect 2 - Oh yeah, there's this sequel to a critically acclaimed RPG and this teaser just seen on GameTrailers TV is some crazy stuff. Sure, it looks the same as the first game, but if u have been attention since its official announcement, things are starting to get nutty in the world where Shepard and company have to deal now.
Okay, enough with the big third party stuff as we should focus on Microsoft's first party offerings now, since they're still the weakest of the big three companies, and their other online services.
- Halo 3 ODST - This Halo 3 expansion is still coming out this fall and while it will appeal to Halo fans, it won't be the 360 shooter of the year. We'll see how Bungie will try to spice up the gameplay a bit in this one as no gameplay footage has not been revealed yet. Hopefully its playable in some form at the show, but I think only a new trailer will be the only thing Bungie will show next week.
- Forza 3 - This has been teased for a while as well as Turn 10 has been declining that it exists. They might as well confirm its existence at the show and show off any new features that hopefully will beat the competition (if Sony shows off Gran Turismo 5).
- Alan Wake - Will this E3 be the coming out party for Remedy's long awaited action thriller? It seems likely that it may be.
- What's next for Rare? - After Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, who knows what Rare is doing now other than updating the avatar thing on the NXE. It seems likely that Perfect Dark will be officially announced for Xbox Live Arcade after all those leaks. Then again, their big game is still somewhat of a secret as I'm betting on a new Jet Force Gemini game or the heavily requested Killer Instinct 3 (ULTRA COMBO!!!).
- The Gears 2 downloadable movement and what's next for Epic? - Epic continues to support Gears of War 2 with more downloadable maps for multiplayer and a recently announced single-player expansion. So expect Cliff to show off some of that at the show and maybe his new game too since that has been a hot rumor heading towards next week.
- MS continuing their casual division? - Last year, Microsoft tried to go after the casual market dominated by the Wii, but failed with disappointments of Lips, You're Into the Movies, and Scene It Box Office Smash. It will be interesting to see whether or not Microsoft will continue their efforts towards getting more of the casual market with things like Xbox Live Primetime, and the heavily rumored motion controller.
- Xbox Live Arcade - XBLA continues to be the #1 downloadable game service out of the three with the quantity and quality of games being a mix mash of old and new games (Even though PSN is still getting better and better). I expect them to continue their trend even though we are seeing bigger games in terms of size (They might as well get rid of the size limit) with more original games and others from established franchises. In terms of established franchises, expect MS to brag about Marvel vs. Capcom 2, TMNT Turtles in Time remake, the new Behemoth game, Tecmo Bowl, and perhaps new classics getting the remake treatment that we don't know yet. Expect one of those crazy montages like they always have done next week.
- Another dashboard update? - Even though the New Xbox Experience is a success for Microsoft, hopefully they will fix some things and add more features to their dashboard. With Netflix support at their grasp and working well for them, I could see Microsoft trying to get a deal with a social phenomenon like FaceBook or Twitter to be used on the 360. That would be interesting if they managed to pull that off.
- Games for Windows? - Who knows if Microsoft will show some PC games at their press conference, but maybe they will with Valve's new stuff, Crytek's new game, and others. It will probably be just another random montage of the same old stuff. UPDATE - Expect MS to show Zune Marketplace on Xbox Live since they confirmed the existence of the Zune HD.
- The big question... Will they jumpstart the next generation or rehash the 360 again? - It is probably still too early for the next generation of consoles to start, but considering that the 360 launched in the fall of 2005, will they announce the new Xbox or put out a rehashed 360 with the biggest hard drive, HDMI out of the gate, WiFi enabled, the rumored motion controller, and hopefully fixes all those red ring of death issues? I'm leaning on the latter likely to happen because they need a new SKU even though there are too many SKUs already. Maybe a price drop will happen as well to make it the cheapest console out on the market too.
Okay, this is getting long, but there are so many surprises Microsoft can pull off here other than the suggestions I listed above. They are actually the only ones out of the big three that can pull something crazy out of their hands considering we don't have a firm answer on what in the world they are officially showing from themselves. I still expect half of the conference to be a third party showcase since they're still the lead platform for most of these games and the other half to be on first party, hardware, and online related stuff. We'll see if Microsoft will make me buy their console again even though I have already given up on that system due to their numerous hardware failures.