Xbox at E3 2016: Microsoft’s new console(s), HoloLens, games, and what else to expect


Remember E3 2006? Ten years ago, Microsoft shared its roadmap for the still young Xbox 360 with a list of big-name titles, including the first Gears of War, Crackdown, and Forza Motorsport 2.

The Xbox 360 era was very good for Microsoft. Now that it's the underdog to Sony's massively successful PlayStation 4, the company is looking at ways to close the gap and expand the Xbox platform. That includes new hardware, new big-name games... and yes, perhaps a new Gears of War, new Crackdown, and new Forza.

Microsoft's E3 2016 press conference is Monday, June 13th at 9:30AM PT. Here's what we expect to see.

Xbox One Elite Console stock Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

A slimmer Xbox or two

Alongside the usual teasers of upcoming games, Microsoft looks to launch a wide range of new Xbox hardware this year. Rumors suggest the first new device we’ll see is a slimmer and smaller version of the current Xbox One. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell us that it will be around 40 percent smaller than the current model, and will likely support 4K video playback. Microsoft previously created a slimmer version of its popular Xbox 360 console, so an Xbox One Slim isn’t exactly surprising. What might be surprising is what’s inside. Microsoft could opt to ditch its Kinect port or even the HDMI-in port it uses for TV set-top box controls.

Speaking of TV and Xbox, Microsoft is also rumored to be launching two new Xbox streaming devices at E3. The first is said to be Chromecast-like, with simple streaming options for entertainment. Microsoft’s second "Xbox TV" could be the more interesting option. Rumors have suggested it will be more like a set-top box, and allow owners to use Windows 10 apps or play casual games. If the device is genuine, it’s likely that Microsoft will allow streaming of Xbox One games to the set-top box so you wouldn’t need two consoles in a house to play elsewhere.

Codenamed Scorpio: the future of Xbox

Microsoft’s hardware showcase might not end with just streaming options and a slim console, however. Polygon recently reported that Microsoft may detail its plans for future Xbox hardware upgrades. A new, more powerful, console is expected next year, and it’s currently codenamed Scorpio. Although it’s unlikely we’ll see exact specifications about Scorpio, a price point, or even what it looks like, Microsoft could outline how it plans to move toward a more PC-like upgrade cycle for the Xbox One. Microsoft is relying on its universal apps strategy to ensure future titles will still work on older Xbox One consoles, all while the company upgrades the components of the Xbox more regularly.

Exclusives, exclusives, exclusives

E3 is Microsoft’s chance to show off what consumers can get with Xbox — and only Xbox. The company has a number of exclusive franchises with sequels expected this year, chief among them Gears of War 4, which is already set to launch this October. There's also a new Halo Wars to showcase, as well something new for Forza and (hopefully) an update on the long-awaited Crackdown 3, which first debuted at E3 2014.

And then there are all the exclusive games from last year's Xbox press conference that still haven't seen the light of day. At the top of that list is ReCore, from Keiji Inafune (Mega Man) and the former developers of Metroid Prime. To name a few more: Rare's "ambitious" pirate-themed Sea of Thieves, DayZ creator Dean Hall's Ion, and Capybara Games' stylish roguelike Below. Okay, that last one's actually from E3 2013, but it’s due out later this year, so we're hoping it makes one more appearance on stage beforehand.

Seriously, just watch the ReCore trailer again:

More merging of Xbox and Windows

Alongside the more powerful hardware plan, Microsoft is also expected to talk more about its platform plans to integrate Windows 10 and Xbox. We’ve seen plenty of concepts in the past, but the reality of Windows apps and games reaching the Xbox (and vice versa) is finally arriving this summer. Windows 10 apps will be able to run on the Xbox One thanks to a new update, and even Cortana is making its way to the console. This sets the stage for even deeper integration, and it’s possible Microsoft might want to share its vision for turning PCs into Xbox One consoles. Either way, expect to hear more about how Windows 10 and Xbox are going to work together, especially on how the new store will work for game and app purchases.

Oculus? HoloLens?

Microsoft surprised everyone last year when it partnered with Oculus to ship its Xbox One controller with the Rift. We haven’t heard much more on the partnership, or when the promised game streaming to the VR headset will arrive. E3 would be an ideal time and location to provide an update on Microsoft’s VR plans, and to answer whether its rumored Scorpio console will support VR natively.

Microsoft still seems focused on augmented reality, or what it calls "mixed reality" with its HoloLens headset, and the company is unlikely to miss an opportunity to show off some more of it in action at E3. (Last year's press conference had an extended Minecraft demo using HoloLens.) Microsoft wants its Windows Holographic software to power AR and VR headsets in the future, and we’ll likely see some demonstrations of exactly how that will work. Microsoft wants to bridge the gap between AR and VR with its own platform, and convince hardware makers to adopt it and games publishers to build for it. E3 is the place to start those tough conversations.

... and now the long shots

And now for all our wishful thinking. New Battletoads. New Perfect Dark. New Viva Pinata. Something else big from Rare. New Kinectimals. New Kinect Adventures. New Kinect Sports. New anything Kinect-related. Anything at all. Remember Kinect? Good times.