Microsoft managed an unusually smooth keynote at E3 2015. It adroitly stayed away from less popular topics like Xbox apps and the Kinect (which was totally absent) and included crowd-pleasing announcements like the option to play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. It's nearing the release of its flagship exclusive Halo 5: Guardians, which is coming out later this year. And the rest of its slate, including Rise of the Tomb Raider and a new Gears of War, doesn't look half bad either.
In theory, Microsoft is competing with Sony here, but its keynote seemed like a much more direct response to PC gaming: it introduced a more customizable controller and an early access program for Xbox One games. And the rest of the week is going to be big for augmented and virtual reality: one of the coolest parts of the show was a HoloLens version of Minecraft, which we'll be learning more about next month.
The Xbox One will play 360 games
Microsoft was dismissive of backwards compatibility when the Xbox One was in development. Now that the console has been out for a year and a half, though, the company is walking that back. Around the end of the year, Microsoft will make its first batch of around 100 last-generation Xbox titles playable on the console, with a promise that players won't have to pay for titles they already own.
There's A new Xbox One controller
The "Elite" wireless controller is a more customizable version of the standard Xbox gamepad, with features like controls that can be re-mapped and a directional pad that can be swapped out. It works on Windows 10 as well as the Xbox, making it a bit of a competitor to the computer-friendly and similarly remappable Steam Controller.
Halo 5 is really big
Halo 5: Guardians appeared at last year's E3 as well, but we've now gotten a much better look at the game's cooperative combat and its over-the-top cinematic graphics. Among other things, there's a new multiplayer mode called "Warzone," and the multiplayer maps in general are supposed to be several times larger than in past games. Halo 5 is coming out in October, giving the Xbox One a much-needed exclusive blockbuster.
A new game from Mega Man's co-creator
We generally know very little about the post-apocalyptic ReCore, but our own Jake Kastrenakes describes it as a mashup of Star Wars and Wall-E. It's an Xbox One exclusive developed by Keiji Inafune, who helped create Mega Man, and the makers of Metroid Prime. And it's going to be out in the spring of 2016.
Forza Motorsport 6 looks gorgeous
Granted, the Forza series generally banks on looking gorgeous — if you don't have any guns in your game, you've got to have something to make up for it, and it might as well be dynamic weather. But the early Forza Motorsport 6 footage from E3 gives us a hint at what's to come. The game itself will be out on September 15th.
Play Xbox One games before they're released
Microsoft is announcing something that looks a lot like Steam's Early Access program, which has helped boost cult games like DayZ. As of today, Game Preview will let Xbox One owners buy and play unfinished versions of games, effectively acting as beta testers in exchange for getting to play it sooner. The program is starting with The Long Dark and Elite: Dangerous, but if this follows the trajectory of PC early access games, it could take off quickly.
A classic collection from Rare
Rare is the studio behind beloved titles like Perfect Dark and Conker's Bad Fur Day, and the Rare Replay collection is exactly what it sounds like: a whole lot of Rare games (30 of them, actually) bundled and sold for $30 this August. Sadly but predictably, it looks like the especially beloved games Goldeneye and Donkey Kong Country won't be included — licensing issues with Nintendo have tied them up a little too firmly.
Minecraft is a HoloLens game
One of the original demos for Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset was something very much like Minecraft, but now it's official. You can create a pixelated world on your coffee table, using HoloLens' voice and gesture commands to build it. These controls still aren't very sophisticated, though, so a standard controller is probably still more comfortable We'll learn more about AR Minecraft this summer.
The next Tomb Raider game is still coming
Besides Halo, one of Microsoft's more high-profile exclusives is Rise of the Tomb Raider. The game, which was announced in 2014, will launch first on the Xbox platform (both One and 360) before making its way to PlayStation. Microsoft showed off its prize at today's event, giving us a glimpse of some wintery exploration.
Gears 4 comes late next year
Gears of War, the series Microsoft acquired from Epic Games last year, is getting its first non-Epic installment. It's called Gears 4, and while we saw some footage at E3, all we really know is that it's slated for the holiday season of 2016. As it did with the Halo series, Microsoft is also remastering Gears of War, with an "ultimate" edition available in beta today.