There's no sugarcoating it: Microsoft faces an uphill battle at E3 2018.
The Xbox One is reportedly being outsold by Sony's PlayStation 4 two-to-one, and can't come close to the red-hot excitement that the Nintendo Switch has generated with its strong first-party games and unique portability. And with Crackdown 3, one of Xbox's few notable exclusives, officially delayed to 2019, things are looking grimmer than ever as the console inches closer to its fifth year on store shelves. Sure, Microsoft has the most powerful console out there in the Xbox One X, but it doesn't have enough big-name games to back it up.
Fortunately, E3 2018 is a chance for redemption. Here are five ways Microsoft can turn the conversation around on gaming's biggest stage.
Bring Back Beloved Franchises
The most important thing Microsoft needs to do is remind folks why they fell in love with Xbox in the first place. Microsoft-owned franchises such as Fable, Perfect Dark, Crimson Skies and Viva Pinata are among gaming's most beloved, and the company would be wise to bring them back in a meaningful way. Give us a new Fable RPG that can hold its own with The Witcher, and a revitalized Crimson Skies that recaptures the dogfighting thrills of the 2003 original. Properly rebooted versions of these games could absolutely crush in 2018.
Introduce New IP from Trusted Studios
Microsoft deserves credit for launching a fair amount of new franchises this generation -- the problem is, many of them haven't landed. Quantum Break is a novel but flawed fusion of game and TV show; Sea of Thieves is a fun but barren multiplayer adventure, and ReCore was a potentially great platformer absolutely ruined by bugs. One of Microsoft's most promising announcements of 2014 was the Japanese-developed Scalebound, a project that unfortunately got canned three years later.
If Microsoft is going to announce new IP this year, it needs to give us confidence that they'll be great. Let established, in-house studios such as 343 Industries (Halo) and Playground Games (Forza Horizon) work on something truly new, and give us some concrete gameplay so we know it's not just a pipe dream.
Deliver Sequels Worth Caring About
Halo, Gears of War and Forza are all likely to see new installments at E3, and Microsoft delivering more of the same with these series simply isn't going to cut it. After Halo 5's lacking campaign, Halo 6 needs a story that wows. Gears of War 4 was great but overly familiar, and the aging cover-shooter series deserves a significant overhaul. Forza Horizon 4 will likely be another gorgeous open-world racer, but it should be more than that (why not add some boats and planes to the mix?)
And for the love of Phil Spencer, give us a new Sunset Overdrive already.
Double Down on Cool Hardware and Features
Microsoft's platform and hardware announcements are always a big part of E3. Perhaps the biggest pop of E3 2015 came from the reveal that Xbox 360 games would work on Xbox One, and the company's high-end Xbox Elite Controller got a similarly rowdy reaction that same year.
So what new hardware and services could Xbox delight with this year? An Elite Controller 2 would certainly be a good start, and it would be pretty exciting to see Xbox's rumored Alexa integration announced on a big stage. And if Microsoft really wants to make people happy, it could combine Xbox Game Pass with Xbox Live Gold, resulting in a single service that gives you everything you need to make the most out of your Xbox One.
Join the Battle Royale Craze
This last one might sound crazy, but hear me out. Microsoft has some of the most beloved shooter franchises out there in Halo, Gears of War and Perfect Dark, so why not mash them all together for an all-star battle royale game in the vein of Fortnite and PUBG? We've yet to see a high-quality, console-exclusive battle royale game from a first-party developer, and no publisher would be better suited for it than the one that helped put console shooters on the map in the first place.