COLOGNE, Aug 18 — Microsoft’s August 20 Gamescom keynote represents the corp’s last best chance to cement loyalties and pre-orders ahead of the Xbox One’s debut with details on big-name games, streaming media, and a launch date.
The European video game expo is now the largest of its kind, opening the doors of Cologne’s Kölnmesse to both corporate clients (August 21) and members of the public (August 21-25) and expecting over 275,00 visitors in person, not counting the throngs watching from the web.
‘Call of Duty’ and casual gaming
A multiplayer appearance for “Call of Duty: Ghosts” and first showing for “Kinect Sports Rivals” are both on the cards, while already-seen launch window games are sure to be given another run-out.
That means the likes of “Forza Motorsport 5,” “Zoo Tycoon” and “Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare” are likely to make a reappearance, while “Disney’s Fantasia: Music Evolved” deserves more time in the spotlight.
We’re still waiting for new projects from “Fable” studio Lionhead and “Gears of War” production house Epic, while the “Crackdown” series is known to be a favorite of Microsoft Studios VP Phil Spencer, and a new “Halo” was subject to only the briefest tease at E3.
Third-party support and TV deals
With French/Canadian developer Ubisoft keen to support all major players in the console market, we could be seeing Microsoft unveil exclusive peeks at action games “Assassin’s Creed IV,” “Tom Clancy’s The Division,” or party champ “Just Dance 2014” — but driving game “The Crew” may prove too similar to “Forza” to be given big-time approval.
Close ties with Electronic Arts should materialise in another big push for action title “Titanfall” and an opportunity for EA to sell the Xbox 360 and Xbox One versions of football favourite “FIFA 14.”
And any mention of transmedia crossover “Quantum Break” provides an excellent opportunity to talk multimedia, a Microsoft strong point, announcing any Xbox One partnerships with preferred national, cable and satellite TV companies, as well as film studios and record labels.
Both the Xbox One and its premium online services will be presented as sturdy, high-quality offerings, with an emphasis on exclusive experiences designed to raise the perceived value of a US$499/€499 machine with annual subscriptions extra (currently US$59/€59 per annum on Xbox 360).
An App Store approach
Microsoft will also be mindful of the way that both Sony and Nintendo have been courting independent games developers known for smaller-scale, highly innovative titles.
For a long time, “Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition” has been Microsoft’s Xbox indie champion, and an Xbox One Edition, teased at E3, should be the spearhead for a new wave of independent support.
Supposedly Microsoft’s big Gamescom reveal but leaked late in July is the new ability for game developers to self-publish on Xbox Live, just as with the App Store and Google Play, a move that brings the Xbox and Windows 8 model closer to the two mobile megastores, challenging for living room dominance.
Finally, Microsoft is expected to plump for an early November release, enough lead time to ensure good uptake between then and the end of the year.
In contrast to Microsoft’s more difficult year in specialist press, blogs, and forums, Sony has enjoyed excellent publicity, presenting itself with humility, passion, and offering a higher-spec, lower-price PlayStation 4.
With Gamescom stage time booked from 7pm CET the same day, there’s thought to be a real chance that Sony will get the jump on Microsoft by announcing a late October launch for the PS4. — AFP/Relaxnews