E3 2019 is just around the corner, and it’s going to look very different this year without PlayStation. Before we look to the future and are blinded by the razzle-dazzle of trailers and announcements at this year’s event, we need to address what happened in 2018. As we ask every year: Did the three big console makers and their development partners deliver on their promises made at last year’s E3? Let’s find out. First up is Microsoft.
The Xbox E3 2018 Briefing happened on Sunday, 10 June, from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. It followed a familiar stage format as Microsoft rolled trailers—some introduced by developers—for new games and updates.
When head of Xbox Phil Spencer took the stage a few minutes into the conference, he promised to showcase a “curation” of games the studio had in store—this meant 50 games, 18 of which were titles with some sort of exclusivity, and 15 world premieres. Microsoft’s theme of the evening was that “gaming is the great unifier” and “what unifies is our shared love of this artform.” He also said the games would highlight “creativity unleashed.”
In addition to the usual showcase, the company made a major announcement which outlined Microsoft’s acquisition of five developer studios. This tied to that promise that the company was working with a range of developers, “from big studios to single developers—creators who’ve seized the full potential and power of Xbox One to express their most daring vision for games.”
It was a lot to get through, but let’s look at the details on how the nearly two hour presentation unfolded.
The promise: The sights and sounds of nature—water droplets and a deer silhouette—were delivered in the first trailer that kicked off Microsoft’s 2018 E3 briefing. That gave way to a sci-fi setting with the reveal of alien wildlife when a familiar helmet was shown, and beam emitters blasting into the atmosphere. Halo Infinite was revealed but no release date was provided.
Did they deliver? Not yet. Information on Master Chief’s next adventure, which will run on a new game engine created by 343 Industries has been been light. Perhaps we’ll learn more at this year’s E3.
The promise: After Spencer’s introductory speech that laid out Microsoft’s plans for the evening, an exclusive title was shown, and it featured another gorgeous forest scene. This time, however, the setting was host to a community of forest dwellers welcoming a newcomer to the world. Ultimately, the peaceful scenario turned to a harrowing adventure. Ori and the Will of the Wisps was unveiled as a 2019 title.
Did they deliver? Not yet. First revealed in 2017, the follow up to 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest did have an update about a new game mode, Spirit Trials, at last year’s Gamescom. The mode would allow players to “asynchronously race against their friends and the world.” Hopefully we’ll learn even more about the game next week.
The promise: A world premiere trailer showed fire, ancient Japan, and a warrior with a mechanical arm. FromSoftware’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was revealed to be coming in 2019.
Did they deliver? Yes. On 22 March 2019, FromSoftware’s latest game released on Xbox One, along with PlayStation 4, and PC to positive reviews, discussions on the difficulty of games, unholy mod crossovers, and more.
The promise: The first guest presenter of the conference, Bethesda’s Todd Howard, took the stage to discuss Bethesda’s 16 year history with Microsoft, from Morrowind (“now backwards compatible”) to user mods for Fallout 4. Fallout 4 would head to Xbox Game Pass, and would launch that day. But that wasn’t all. Country roads would take us home in a world premiere look at a prequel, Fallout 76, which Howard stated would be four times the size of Fallout 4. The trailer showed that pre-orders would begin June 15 on the xbox store. Bethesda gave a 14 November 2018 release date at the company’s own press conference later that day.
Did they deliver? Yes on Fallout 4’s Xbox Game Pass inclusion. And yes on Fallout 76’s November release date for Xbox One, in addition to PlayStation 4, and PC. Fallout 76 was announced on 30 May, with sources stating it would be an online survival RPG, which was confirmed by Bethesda at E3. The game got a beta, first on Xbox One on 23 October, followed by PS4 and PC on 30 October. The months following the game’s launch were disappointing—from weird patches and bobby pin decisions to unsatisfactory swag—but have also provided some interesting stories from creative players. The game received a road map for its 2019 plans, so we’ll continue to see how things shape up for Fallout 76.
The promise: Forested areas seemed plentiful in the presentation as yet another world premiere trailer rolled on. Dontnod’s The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, a game set in the Life is Strange universe, was presented next and would be available as a free download on 26 June.
Did they deliver? Yep. The gut-punch of a game released on Xbox One on 26 June as promised, and a day earlier on PlayStation 4 and PC.
The promise: A Microsoft Studios exclusive, starring Terry Crews as Commander Jaxon in Crackdown 3, was the subject of next trailer shown, and would be available in February 2019 and headed to Xbox Game Pass.
Did they deliver? Yes. After being delayed from November 2017 to 2018 and then again to 2019, Crackdown 3 and its uncomplicated, big explosion action-driven self, finally released on 15 February 2019.
The promise: From a colourful city as a playground for destruction and mayhem to a drab, destroyed Earth filled with robots and YorHa, the next game shown was Nier: Automata: Become as Gods Edition, which would feature the "3C3C1D119440927" DLC and some cosmetic items. It would land on Xbox One on 26 June 2018.
Did they deliver? Sure. Robots and androids invaded the console on the promised date so that Xbox players could be as traumatised as everyone else was back in March of 2017, when the original game launched for PlayStation 4 and PC.
The promise: First person shooter Metro Exodus, which was previously shown at E3 2017 and delayed to 2019, made an appearance at Xbox’s 2018 show. This time with a release date of 22 February 2019.
Did they deliver? Yes, they did. Actually, the game launched days earlier—on 15 February 2019—than previously scheduled.
The promise: Phil Spencer returned to introduce an RPG from Japan. Not just any RPG but one from a series making its debut on an Xbox console: Kingdom Hearts III. Sora, Donald, and Goofy’s adventure would be released on 29 January 2019.
Did they deliver? Surprise! The game that was a tad bit late finally released on 29 January 2019 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It was a good thing that fans could look forward to a new Toy Story world and more, in peace, without the game being leaked weeks ahead of its release. Oh.
The promise: Sea of Thieves was the next exclusive game presented with a trailer that showcased two new pieces of DLC. Cursed Sails would be available in July and The Forsaken Shores would be available in September.
Did they deliver? Yes. The second free update, Cursed Sails, arrived on 31 July 2018—adding some necessary feelings of peril to the pirating adventure. And The Forsaken Shores DLC followed on 19 September 2018 with an even more difficult region to explore. The game has continued to receive updates since, with a two year plan recently outlined.
The promise: From pirates on the high seas to a person sinking in an ocean, next up was a short teaser for Battlefield V. The game would be available for pre-order that day with no release date specified. However, when developer DICE showcased a first look at the game back on 23 May 2018, it was slated for an 19 October 2018 release.
Did they deliver? No. The game, which generated backlash for daring to have women as playable characters, was pushed back to 20 November. It did release on that date, with its co-op mode available on 17 January in the ‘Tides of War’ update. The battle royale mode, which was announced back at E3, released on 25 March 2019 and is called Firestorm. As we noted, release dates for those modes were never technically announced so that is not considered a delay.
The promise: An exclusive world premiere trailer showed a McLaren zipping through a countryside with changing seasons. Creative director Ralph Fulton from Playground Games took the stage to talk about, and present a gameplay demo of, Forza Horizon 4. The game would be set in Britain, feature “dynamic seasons” in a “shared open world,” and head to Xbox One, Windows 10, and included on Xbox Game Pass on 2 October 2018.
Did they deliver? Absolutely. The amazing racing game met its promise.
The promise: Here’s where a huge surprise reveal was in store as Phil Spencer returned to the stage and began announcement after announcement of game studio acquisitions. He led the segment with an introduction about the creation of a new Microsoft Studio called The Initiative. Undead Labs (Into the World) would join the Microsoft family. Playground Games was next, with Spencer saying that the team would continue to work on the Forza Horizon games but would also work to bring “their open world expertise on an entirely new project.” The fourth company was Hellblade: Senua creators Ninja Theory. To cheers and applause, a fifth and final studio was announced—Compulsion Games, known for We Happy Few, which got a trailer and a release date of August 10, 2018.
Did they deliver? Yes. The narrative-driven survival game mix launched on 10 August on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
The promise: Console launch exclusive PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was shown next. The Sanhok map, as the trailer revealed, would be available in summer 2018, with the game leaving early access and launching in winter 2018.
Did they deliver? Yes. The Sanhok map launched when the full game did, as an exclusive console launch, on Xbox One on 4 September 2018. This means the survival shooter actually released way ahead of its initial winter 2018 window. And it remained a console launch exclusive for a few months until the game also released on PS4 on 7 December 2018.
The promise: Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, featuring new content and characters, was the next world premiere trailer, and the game would be headed to the West for the first time with a “coming this winter” release window.
Did they deliver? Yes, indeed. The original JRPG released on Xbox 360 in 2008 and on 11 January 2019, the definitive edition starring the badass blade-wielding dog Repede, Yuri, and the gang, made an appearance not only the Xbox One as promised but on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC too.
The promise: A world premiere trailer of a game’s Washington DC in trouble was revealed next. It was followed by gameplay footage of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. The sequel would be released on 15 March 2019.
Did they deliver? It’s another yes. The sequel landed on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on its target date. There’s been a lot happening since launch including a tough first raid which did not go smoothly for some.
The promise: The head of engineering of Xbox Game Pass Ashley Speicher presented the next segment. Speicher showed off FastStart, a system for faster access to games (twice as fast). FastStart would launch for select titles later that June as part of an update. Games promised to be released on Game Pass included Halo: The Master Chief Collection (later 2018), Forza Horizon 4, Crackdown 3, Ashen, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Afterparty, Phoenix Point (all on the same day as global release). But that was not all. The games that would be released that day to Game Pass included Tom Clancy’s The Division, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, and Fallout 4.
Did they deliver? Not quite, yes and not yet. FastStart was available on 20 June 2018 for members of the Xbox One Preview Alpha and Alpha Skip Ahead Ring in an update that day but FastStart would not roll out for select titles until a few weeks later, as part of a 5 July update.
Let’s break down all the games that received a yes: Halo: The Master Chief Collection arrived on Xbox Game Pass on 1 September 2018. These games arrived on Xbox Game Pass on their respective launch dates—Forza Horizon 4 (2 October 2018), Crackdown 3 (15 February 2019), Warhammer: Vermintide 2 (11 July 2018), Ashen (7 December 2018). And The Division, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, and Fallout 4 launched that day as promised.
These games have not yet released: Afterparty is slated for release in 2019 and Phoenix Point has not yet received a launch date, and is still in early access.
The promise: It was Microsoft’s highlight reel of indie games next! No release dates were provided during the reel but some were revealed prior to the show or later that week. Here are the games that were a part of 2018’s showcase: Outer Wilds (a console launch exclusive), Afterparty (Xbox Game Pass), Kingdom: Two Crowns, The Golf Club 2019 featuring PGA Tour, Warhammer: Vermintide II (Xbox Game Pass), Fringe Wars, Below (console launch exclusive, 2018), Conqueror’s Blade, Waking (console launch exclusive), Raji: An Ancient Epic, Super Meat Boy Forever (2018), Planet Alpha, Islands of Nyne, Sable (2019), Harold Halibut: A Handmade Adventure Game, Bomber Crew (Xbox Game Pass), Children of Morta, The Wind Road, Wargroove, Generation Zero, Dead Cells, Ashen (console launch exclusive and Xbox Game Pass, 2018)
Did they deliver? Yes, no, and not yet. Some, such as Afterparty, Warhammer: Vermintide II, and Ashen, were already discussed in the previous section. Here are the others that have been released: Outer Wilds (30 May 2019 on Xbox One and Epic Games store), Kingdom: Two Crowns (11 December 2018 on Xbox One and PC, a day later on PS4, and a day earlier on Nintendo Switch), The Golf Club featuring PGA Tour (28 August 2018 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC), Below (14 December 2018 on Xbox One and PC), Planet Alpha (4 September 2018 on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC), Bomber Crew (10 July 2018 on Xbox One and it’s also on Xbox Game Pass, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. It’s been on PC since 19 October 2017), Wargroove (1 February 2019 on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC), Generation Zero (26 March 2019 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC), and last but certainly not least, Dead Cells (7 August 2018 on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC),
And here are the ones that have not yet released: Fringe Wars, Conqueror’s Blade (Early Access in May 2019 on PC), Waking, Raji (coming in 2020 on PC), Super Meat Boy Forever (coming in 2020), Islands of Nyne, Harold Halibut, Children of Morta, and finally The Wind Road.
Here are the games that did not make it: In a recent update from the developers of Sable, the game will now be released in 2020. Super Meat Boy, which was originally planned for 2018, was pushed to April 2019—that date also changed recently as per an update from the developers.
The promise: It was storytime around an open fire, as Lara Croft told a tale of the world ending in the trailer for her next adventure, Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The game would be released on 14 September 2018.
The promise: Hieroglyphics’ rap, “Powers That Be,” played over the next trailer, showing a person skateboarding in a city. Session would be a console launch exclusive but did not receive a release date.
Did they deliver? Not yet. Not much has been revealed since either.
The promise: The next Xbox console exclusive trailer was for the MMO Black Desert. Beta would begin in autumn 2018.
Did they deliver? Yes, the open beta began in early November. A final open beta happened in mid-February this year, and the game launched on 4 March 2019. It’s got some catching up to do to be on par with its PC counterpart, which released three years prior, but it’s getting there.
The promise: Demons, and they’re everywhere, in the next world premiere trailer presented. But no worries because the Devil May Cry 5 crew would stylishly kick demon ass in spring 2019, as per the given release window. Capcom’s Hideaki Itsuno, Director on Devil May Cry 5 and Matt Walker, Producer on the game, took the stage to assure fans that this is the game they want after the 10 year release of Devil May Cry 4.
Did they deliver? Yep. On 8 March 2019, earlier than its promised spring release date, the series made a triumphant return for all the demon slashing players could handle when Devil May Cry 5 released on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.
The promise: It was then DLC time for console launch exclusive, Cuphead. “The Delicious Last Course” would feature a new playable character, Ms. Chalice, new isle, new bosses, new weapons, and more, and was given a 2019 release window.
Did they deliver? Not yet. The game’s no longer a console exclusive either. On the same day that developers StudioMDHR noted that a free content update would be coming on 18 April, Nintendo revealed that the tough as nails platformer, Cuphead, would be coming to Nintendo Switch on that day, too.
The promise: What’s this? An adorable fox clad in a green tunic, setting off on adventure in a console launch exclusive trailer? It was for the aptly named game...Tunic. There was no release window provided.
Did they deliver? Not yet but we may see Tunic some time this year, and perhaps learn more in a few days.
The promise: A collection of anime heroes—namely One Piece’s Luffy, Dragon Ball’s Goku, and Naruto’s...uh, Naruto—teamed up to fight Freiza in the next trailer shown for the fighting game, Jump Force, slated for a 2019 release.
Did they deliver? Sure. The fighting game released on 15 February for Xbox One and PS4, and PC.
The promise: A game of survival in a post apocalypse setting debuted in the next world premiere trailer shown for Dying Light 2. Narrative designer Chris Avellone took the stage to introduce a demo for how players’ decisions in the game would impact and create changes in the game world. When would those choices would play out? Not sure as a release date was not revealed at the end of the presentation.
Did they deliver? Not yet. Information on Techland’s game has gone dark and we’re still waiting to make life-altering decisions in the sequel. Perhaps more will be revealed in a few days at E3.
The promise: An exclusive world premiere was next for a game that would be available at launch on Xbox Game Pass. Battletoads would return in 2019.
Did they deliver? Not yet. Here’s another game that’s been quiet on details since but maybe there’ll be more information at this year’s E3.
The promise: A story about the Black Hand organisation unfurled in the next world premiere trailer as Rico Rodriguez stood on a cliff looking at a tornado in the distance. Just Cause 4 was officially announced (whoops), available for pre-order that day and would launch on 4 December 2018.
Did they deliver? Another yes. The action adventure game released on the date promised for Xbox One, as well as PlayStation 4, and PC. It’s on Xbox Game Pass, too.
The promise: The Gears of War symbol kicked off the next world premiere trailer but it wasn’t quite what anyone was expecting—soon evident by the Funko Pop vinyl figure that chainsawed its way through the logo. A Gears Pop! mobile game, available on iOS and Android, was revealed for a 2019 release. Rod Fergusson, studio head of The Coalition, took the stage to discuss that not only would the mobile game be forthcoming, but a new genre in the Gears franchise—Gears Tactics—would be coming as well, set 12 years before the events of the first Gears of War. There was no release window or information provided at that time. But that was not all. Fergusson revealed that Gears 5, starring Kait, was also in the works. As the trailer revealed, the game would be released in 2019 and also be a part of Xbox Game Pass.
Did they deliver? Not yet. Not much has been revealed since the three games were announced.
The promise: Phil Spencer returned to wrap up the show, reiterating giving gamers the choice to play what they want with Xbox Game Pass, and the show’s presentation of 50 games showcased with 18 exclusives and 15 world premieres for a “diverse gaming portfolio.” He continued to speak about Microsoft’s future plans. He noted that “Our cloud engineers are building a game streaming network to unlock console quality gaming on any device,” and also stated that Xbox’s hardware team was “deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles, where we will once again deliver on our commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming.”
Did they deliver? Yes and not yet? It’s probably safe to assume that one of the consoles Spencer acknowledged is the next generation console in Xbox gaming. But on 7 May 2019, Microsoft released the Xbox One S All-Digital console. The other interesting point about the game streaming network came with an October 2018 announcement of Project Xcloud, a game streaming service. There was also this news which broke a few weeks ago in mid-May about Microsoft and Sony’s collaboration on a cloud-based gaming service. Hmmm. What could it mean?
The promise: The tail end of Spencer’s closing speech was cut off when the next world premiere trailer hacked its way to the Microsoft stage. Cyberpunk 2077 closed out the show, with a trailer that showed in-game footage of a sci-fi city and its inhabitants, ahead of the highlight reel of some of the major games Microsoft presented at 2018’s conference. No release date or window was revealed for CD Projekt Red’s next game.
Did they deliver? Not yet. There is still no release date for the game but it is confirmed to be shown at E3 next week, so there’ll likely be more information then. We’ll see how things—such as reports on crunch—turn out before its release.
Microsoft and the third parties the company brought on stage delivered many of their E3 2108 promises. The Battlefield V delay is the biggest miss, and it wasn’t even for that long. Several games that were mentioned haven’t been from much—or at all—since then: Halo Infinite, Session, Cuphead’s DLC, Tunic, Dying Light 2, Battletoads, and the three Gears titles. Of course, with a lot of vague, unspecified release dates and promises, Microsoft and their development partners did not make any major grand promises that could be broken in the first place.
In the next two days we’ll look at Sony and Nintendo’s E3 2018 events and see the extent to which they spent the last year delivering on the hype.
Featured image: Christian Petersen (Getty Images)