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Crackdown 3 in Xbox booth at E3 2017
Crackdown 3 at the Xbox booth on the E3 2017 show floor.
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Microsoft at E3 2018: What to expect

Doubling down on exclusive franchises

Microsoft launched the Xbox One X, the much-ballyhooed “world’s most powerful console,” last November, and the company has had an interesting time since then.

By all accounts, the Xbox One X delivered on Microsoft’s promises. It has the horsepower to outdo the PlayStation 4 Pro, and multiple Polygon staffers now prefer to play multiplatform games on Microsoft’s console for the visual and performance benefits that it offers.

As far as Xbox-exclusive games, though, Microsoft has a lot of work to do. We’ve seen some positive movement over the past half year or so, with games like Rare’s Sea of Thieves and PUBG Corp.’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. But the company has struggled to put together a string of hits, and its successes have been marred by some high-profile setbacks.

If the rumors are true, Microsoft is well aware of all this, and is renewing its dedication to first-party titles with some big reveals planned for E3 2018. Let’s take a look at what we can expect from the company behind the Xbox One — and Windows 10 — this year.

Crackdown 3 - dashing Sumo Digital/Microsoft Studios

Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusives all the way

Even aside from the now-infamous Walmart Canada leak of unannounced games, it’s not too hard to predict some of what Microsoft will bring to its E3 2018 press briefing.

Crackdown 3: Believe it or not, Microsoft announced Crackdown 3 way back at E3 2014. After multiple delays, the most recent update indicated that it was set to launch this spring. And now it has apparently been delayed again, this time to 2019. Yikes. It sounds like it’ll still show up at E3, though.

Forza Horizon 4: Microsoft has kept its marquee racing franchise on an every-other-year schedule since the original Forza Horizon in 2012, and since Turn 10 Studios delivered Forza Motorsport 7 last year, Playground Games’ number is up again in 2018. The Forza Horizon games have gone from Colorado to southern Europe to Australia — where to next?

Gears of War 5 (and more?): The Coalition took the reins of the Gears of War series after creator Epic Games sold the rights to Microsoft in 2014, and successfully revived the franchise two years later with Gears of War 4. But alongside the expected Gears of War 5, we’ve heard rumors that Microsoft could announce as many as three Gears titles.

Halo 6: It’s been a minute since the last proper Halo game, 2015’s Halo 5: Guardians. Microsoft did release the real-time strategy spinoff Halo Wars 2 last year, but it’s high time the company lifted the lid on the conclusion to what was originally announced as a second Halo trilogy. At this point, assuming 343 Industries does announce Halo 6 at E3, it’s hard to imagine the game would actually be released before 2019. Which leaves plenty of time for an I Love Bees-style ARG.

Exploring a forest in Capybara Games' Below Capybara Games

Indies: Of course, “Xbox exclusives” also includes what platform holders call “console exclusives” these days. It seems like Capy Games might finally release Below this year, more than five years after Microsoft announced it at E3 2013 and coming up on two years after the studio said it was pushing back the game indefinitely. We may see an update on The Last Night, the gorgeous action game from a controversial developer, which made its debut at Microsoft’s E3 2017 press conference. And there are plenty of other anticipated Xbox/PC indie games on the way, such as Stunlock Studios’ Battlerite, Glumberland’s Ooblets and Moon Studios’ Ori and the Will of the Wisps.

Third-party games: Microsoft and Sony each make co-marketing arrangements for multiplatform titles. These are the deals behind the presence of, say, an Xbox logo at the end of a Battlefield 5 trailer. Speaking of which, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Electronic Arts’ World War II shooter make an appearance at Microsoft’s E3 showcase, along with Square Enix’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, even though both of those publishers are hosting their own E3 press briefings.

Xbox features and services

A particular focus for Microsoft, and an area in which the company can claim multiple major successes, is the Xbox platform — and specifically, the unique features and services it offers. The Xbox backward compatibility initiative is unmatched in the current console generation, now supporting nearly 500 games across the Xbox 360 and original Xbox. Xbox Game Pass, the $9.99/month subscription service that offers access to a library of more than 100 games (including all upcoming Microsoft-published titles at launch) has now been around for more than a year. Could the company introduce a PlayStation Now-esque streaming service as well, or perhaps a streaming option for Xbox Game Pass?

We’ll find out what Microsoft has to offer on Sunday, June 10, at 1 p.m. PT.