With the cancellation of Scalebound for the Xbox One last week, Microsoft’s confirmed 2017 lineup is one game thinner. We still have plenty to look forward to (Halo Wars 2, Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2), but that “Greatest Games Line-Up in Xbox History” vibe from 2015 is noticeably absent.
But here’s the thing — I think this year has more in store than we know right now. GDC and PAX East are both a bit more than a month away, and before you know it, we’ll be talking about E3. Microsoft undoubtedly has an ace or two up its sleeve, and since this is a thing I enjoy doing now, I’ve compiled a list of 5 Xbox predictions for 2017. Here we go.
Original Xbox Backward Compatibility. It’s time. Both the original Xbox and the Xbox 360 had extremely diverse catalogs of games, and while the Xbox 360 BC library continues to grow on the Xbox One, we’re still missing some of the games that originally made Xbox great. I’m talking KOTOR, Mech Assault, Shenmue II, Crimson Skies, Jade Empire — there’s so much variety there that it’s hard not to be sad for the loss of Scalebound. So what makes me think we’re getting original Xbox BC this year? This tweet, and the fact that Microsoft continues to present Xbox as the place to play all your past, present, and future games, regardless of hardware. Bringing original Xbox games to Xbox One would make good on that promise.
Halo 3: Anniversary. You may have heard of 2007’s best-selling game of the year. Halo 3 released on September 25, 2007, which means it’ll celebrate its 10th birthday this fall. Every Halo game has received an anniversary makeover, and despite the fact that 343’s Frank O’Connor has said it isn’t happening, I simply don’t buy it. Halo 3 was easily the most dated looking game in The Master Chief Collection, and it’s time to make up for that by not only remastering it for the current generation, but by totally blowing it out for Project Scorpio, too. That’s right. 4K Halo 3, announced at E3. That’s my call.
Some kind of Xbox-branded portable hardware. Because this is hardware-related, this will likely be rumored or else leak in some way months before it’s announced (which I would guess is E3). It’s tough to look at the Nintendo Switch and not think that there is already a company in prime position to put out a similar, way better supported product, and that company is Microsoft. Play Anywhere has already laid the groundwork for cross-device licensing, and Windows is an ecosystem teeming with gaming goodness dating back to the 90s. Microsoft could slap some joysticks and buttons onto a tablet, call it an Xbox P (for portable) and sell them like hotcakes. Or, less sexy — Microsoft could release a gaming-focused laptop.
Xbox Scorpio will support both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Microsoft is already going to be a year behind Sony in the VR space, and while Sony isn’t exactly killing it at the moment, it won’t help Microsoft to try and decide who will win or lose between Oculus and HTC. Microsoft will work with both companies (and with Valve) to support both platforms, touting it as another example of the company offering choice to gamers.
Microsoft will cease production on the Kinect. It’s been a while since the Xbox One has come bundled with a Kinect. The company’s latest console, the Xbox One S, doesn’t even come with a port for the device, requiring what may be the most convoluted mess of breakout boxes and cables this side of the PSVR. Seeing as games have mostly stopped building functionality for Kinect and it more or less functions as a webcam/Cortana interface, Microsoft will finally kill the device off entirely in favor of a much-cheaper USB webcam/microphone solution.
Agree? Disagree? I’m all ears.