2018 could be the year Microsoft Xbox doesn’t get outshined by Sony or Nintendo. Their E3 Briefing in a new venue at the Microsoft Theater in LA was symbolic of their reawakening. This year’s Microsoft spotlight wasn’t cluttered by long demos of games the E3 audience had no interest in or talk of services you can use your Xbox One with. Xbox president Phil Spencer and company gave the audience at LA Live fifty looks at new games; eighteen of which were exclusive to the Xbox One/Windows 10 and fifteen of the games were world premiere titles the public had no idea existed. There’s a lot to come out of the conference but we’re picking five key points that could make Xbox the most exciting brand of E3 2018.

(If you want to catch up on all of the announced titles at Microsoft’s E3 press conference the video is below)

BATTLETOADS!

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Originally released June 1, 1991 by Rare (a studio owned by Microsoft since 2003) for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  2019 will see a brand new game by a new studio, Dlala Studios. A news release from Microsoft following the game’s reveal suggested this will be an entirely new game, as opposed to a straight port of the first game. Battletoads was last brought to the Xbox One in 2014 as part of the Rare Replay Anthology.

While the announcement didn’t come with much about the game, the unveil did mention “body-morphing genre mashups, three-player couch co-op, 4K hand-drawn 2.5D graphics, and broad non-specific feature declarations.” Battletoads has been dormant since the 8-bit NES and something that could potentially appeal to a generation too young to remember payphones. Battletoads is slated for 2019.

XBOX GAME PASS GETS GENERATION CLASSICS AND DAY ONE LAUNCH TITLES

The Xbox Game Pass is a monthly subscription service that lets players download a library of exclusive and 3rd party games for $9.99 a month. It’s a bargain compared to paying between $29.99-$59.99 for any of the games available. Microsoft is expanding its service to include Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited and Tom Clancy’s The Division. Microsoft also announced several notable titles launching through the ID@Xbox program that will be coming to Xbox Game Pass this year to coincide with their debut on Xbox One. These include Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Ashen, Afterparty and Phoenix Point, as well as blockbusters from some of the biggest first-party franchises such as Forza Horizon 4, Crackdown 3, Gears 5 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which will release later in 2018 and beyond. Imagine if you simply wanted to play through the story of Gears 5, instead of buying the game at launch for $60 and trying to resell or trade it later, with Game Pass not only would you have paid only $9.99 to play it for that month but you could play tons of other games once you’re done with Gears 5.

 

THIRD PARTY’S FILLED THE XBOX CONFERENCE

There’s a graveyard full of Kinect games Microsoft would devote too much time to instead of giving their partners a platform to make announcements simply because Kinect games were considered in-house. 2018 showed Xbox finally gets who’s watching these press conferences. Some big announcements came from non-exclusive titles during the Xbox press conference and while Microsoft can’t claim sole ownership, these are games we now associate with the Xbox brand because of being announced on their stage.

Devil May Cry 5

When that neon sign with the words “Devil May Cry” came on screen, I nearly ripped the bolted down seat out of the ground from a testosterone rush. The over the top action game series is among many best of all time lists. It went away for a bit to evolve just as Capcom did with the Resident Evil series. In fact Devil May Cry 5 is being built on the same tech that Resident Evil 7 was. Looking at it in glorious 4k, I was having a hard time thinking of a game that looked better than DMC 5. Seeing Nero and Dante on the same screen was the moment E3 was made for. Devil May Cry 5 comes out Spring 2019 on multiple systems.

Jump Force

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the famous Weekly Jump Magazine, the most famous Manga heroes are thrown into a whole new battleground. We saw the worlds of Naruto, Dragon Ball, and Shonen Jump share one gaming stage. What was most impressive about the reveal gameplay was how uniform Bandai Namco has blended the artistic nuances of these properties. This IS Anime Infinity War and something every fan of any of those properties is going to be clamoring for. Jump Force will be released in 2019.

 

NOT FORGETTING WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THE DANCE

Microsoft is definitely starting to read the tea leaves correctly. A gaming system has to be about games and while Xbox needs to keep up with its competition by bringing the same 3rd party games to their Xbox One; the in-house built titles are what defines the identity of your brand. The Xbox One suffered early by putting out two Halo games that felt unfinished. Delaying Crackdown 3 will prove to be a better move for them in the end and the company is putting more care into its synonymous franchises.

Halo Infinite

Kicking off the show with a demo of what a game could look like was a risky move for Microsoft but using Master Chief to do so was a no-brainer. The Halo franchise defines Xbox as a brand and should always be the best looking game on the system. Developer 343 Industries showed what the world we played in the first Halo could look like and it’s absolutely breathtaking. There are many questions surrounding Halo Infinite but while everyone believes this new game will come to the Xbox One, it’s still a long way away. So long in fact that the possibility exists Xbox One owners may not get Halo Infinite and instead could be a launch title for new Xbox Hardware teased by Phil Spencer during the conference. Currently, there is no release window for Halo Infinite.

Gears 5

Going into E3, I thought we’d see maybe a title for a new chapter in the Gears of War series. Instead, the team over at The Coalition showed off an assortment of new Gears of War games which included a proper sequel titled Gears 5. The environments shown in the trailer are extremely varied compared to Gears of War’s past endeavors, with frozen tundras and lush jungles shown alongside narrow halls. This time around the story will focus on Kait Diaz in her search for the origins of her Locust pendant. The short reel of footage shown features the character wielding new mele weapons against some new scary sh**. Gears 5 comes out in 2019.

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course

Even last year’s biggest Xbox title Cuphead is now sitting at the adult’s holiday table. In Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, Cuphead and Mugman are joined by Ms. Chalice for a DLC add-on adventure on a brand-new island. The DLC features new weapons, new charms, and Ms. Chalice’s brand-new abilities. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course will be back in 2019.

 

MICROSOFT IS NOW IN THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS

While Microsoft Studios have published games since the dawn of time, the named seemed more like a simple gate rather than an entire compound cranking out originals. Perhaps what E3 2018 will be best known for is the year Microsoft finally showed everyone “we are about games”. It’s an exciting future for them built on the acquisition of new studios to join existing teams: The Coalition (Gears of War), Turn 10 (Forza), Minecraft, 343 Industries (Halo), and Rare (Sea of Thieves).

  • The Initiative. Based in Santa Monica, Calif., The Initiative is a brand-new Microsoft game development studio headed by industry veteran Darrell Gallagher that is working to create groundbreaking new worlds, characters and game experiences.

  • Playground Games. Microsoft has acquired U.K.-based Playground Games, a development partner since 2010 that has helped grow the Forza franchise to new heights. In addition to its work on this year’s Forza Horizon 4, Playground Games will have a team dedicated to bringing their open-world expertise to an entirely new project.

  • Ninja Theory. The relationship between Ninja Theory and Microsoft started in 2000 when Kung Fu Chaos was in development for the original Xbox and culminated in the release of Hellblade on Xbox One earlier this year. Microsoft’s intent to acquire Ninja Theory will help ensure the creative team has the resources and freedom to bring more ambitious games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to fans.

  • Undead Labs. Seattle-based Undead Labs is the creator of the popular State of Decayfranchise, enjoyed by millions of fans worldwide. In the first two weeks since State of Decay 2launched, more than two million fans joined the fight to survive and took down more than two billion zombies. By entering into a letter of intent to acquire Undead Labs, Microsoft is signaling its commitment to growing the franchise and taking the zombie survival-fantasy genre to new

  • Compulsion Games. As We Happy Few nears its full, multiplatform release on Aug. 10, Microsoft has entered into a letter of intent to acquire Montreal-based Compulsion Games. By joining the team at Microsoft Studios, Compulsion will have the resources, platform and freedom to take even bigger creative risks and create even more ambitious worlds with its future projects.

In just a few years Microsoft could have a legitimate pipeline of projects that will differentiate Xbox from its competition and convince an audience that may have jumped ship at the beginning of this hardware generation that there are good reasons to own two game systems.