Things haven't been easy for Microsoft lately. Despite having a relatively powerful piece of hardware on offer, the Xbox One has been consistently outshined by Sony's current-gen machine. It certainly doesn't help that Microsoft's initial reveal went about as badly as it could - while the Xbox One has certainly made up some ground since launch, it's still lagging behind its main competition.
To be fair, Microsoft has done a lot to help the Xbox One's reputation, and E3 2015 is a perfect example of this. Not only did Microsoft finally ditch the dead-on-arrival Kinect, but the announcement of backwards compatibility finally gave the Xbox One something that the PlayStation 4 still doesn't have - add in a few great games, and you've got one of Microsoft's better showings in recent years.
So, will 2016 be able to keep that momentum going? Without a major Halo release to lean on, Microsoft really has to pull out all the stops this year - whether it's a new model of the console or an updated version of HoloLens, the Xbox One needs something to put it over the top.
As it turns out...well, Xbox One fans have quite a bit to look forward to.
Xbox One S
First up is the Xbox One S, the oft-rumored hardware update to the original Xbox One model. It's 40% smaller, features brand-new HDR and 4K video capabilities, and comes with an updated iteration of the Xbox One wireless controller. Not only that, but the system comes with up to 2TB of integrated storage space - no more external hard drives required!
Oh, and the best part? The Xbox One S will be available this August, starting at $299.
Gears of War 4
First and foremost: Microsoft used Gears of War 4 to announce the new Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, which will allow gamers to buy one copy of a game and play it across both console and PC platforms. Not every game in Microsoft's showcase was part of the program, but it's easy to see just how expansive the cross-play library already is.
Now, onto Gears of War: following last year's relatively quiet demo, the E3 2016 demo featured one of the game's set-piece moments. As it turns out, the Swarm - which bear a striking resemblance to another Gears of War foe - have absconded with Kait's mother. JD and co. set out to find her, but quickly find themselves in one of Sera's ridiculously epic storms...oh, and the Swarm doesn't seem to happy to see them.
Weather continues to be a big focus of Gears of War 4, with wind and lightning changing the battlefield dynamic on the fly. Gamers will have to wait and see just how scripted the system is, but the current version certainly makes for some pretty pyrotechnics. As for the swarm, Drones return from the beta while Juvies swarm players at close range. The demo ended with a hulking, Berserker-like creature - though Microsoft didn't reveal how players would take it down.
Better yet, players won't have to worry about taking the Swarm on alone: as part of the Xbox Play Anywhere system, all of Gears of War 4's modes - traditional multiplayer, co-op and Horde Mode 3.0 - will allow for cross-platform play when the game launches on Oct. 11.
Oh, and good ol' Marcus Fenix is looking a little worse for wear...
Microsoft didn't devote too much time to Killer Instinct, but it did take a moment to thank the fans with a brand-new character: Gears of War's General RAAM (the bad guy from the first game) will be coming to Season 3.
Forza Horizon 3
After a surprisingly detailed look at a virtual Australian beach, Microsoft revealed that Forza Horizon 3 is due out this September. Most of the on-stage demo focused on co-op play: friends will now be able to seamlessly join races, without having to wait at a loading screen. Hopefully, the transition is a bit smoother than the one shown on stage: it looked as if the game was cutting between two entirely different screens, instead of a smooth jump from one game to the other. Oh, and like Gears of War 4, Forza Horizons 3 is an Xbox Play Anywhere title.
Otherwise, it looks like much of the Forza formula has remained intact. There's a much bigger focus on off-road terrain this time around, but if you've been driving via Microsoft's psuedo-simulator for years now, it looks like you'll be right at home in Forza Horizon 3.
After a year of waiting, ReCore finally got the treatment it deserved. While the gameplay may not have the same visual polish as last year's trailer, it did reveal quite a bit of new information in regards to gameplay.
First off, players won't be accompanied by a single companion. Several different robotic allies - seeming based off a dog, a spider, and a gorilla - will aid in both combat and traversal. Speaking of, there was a surprising mix of both brawler-style combat, third-person shooting, standard platforming and traditional puzzles. Granted, the trailer was too short to figure out how exactly all of these different mechanics will work together, but anyone who's worried about a lack of variety in ReCore can rest easy.
Thankfully, gamers won't have to wait long before they can finally play ReCore: the game is due out on September 13!
Final Fantasy XV
Much like Killer Instinct, Microsoft didn't Final Fantasy XV a lot of time in the spotlight - that being said, the demo on display was impressive.
Featuring a massive, three-way battle between Noctis, the Imperial Army and the might Titan, the Final Fantasy XV E3 demo was on a never-before seen scale. God of War 3 may have had a similar focus on scale, but nothing comes close to the level of detail on display in FFXV. Sure, it didn't reveal much in the way of new story information or gameplay mechanics, but come on - isn't watching Noctis block a building-sized punch enough?
Of course, as was previously announced, Final Fantasy XV will be arriving on Xbox this September.
The Division: Underground
Ubisoft's The Division was the next game to get the trailer-only treatment. While there is some anticipation building for the upcoming Underground expansion, almost nothing was actually shown. As it stands, it looks like players will be fighting the same enemy types as the core game, only underground - needless to say, fans should expect to see more at Ubisoft's conference this afternoon.
Hey, were you expecting to see some new Battlefield 1 footage? Too bad!
In all seriousness, it's a shame that DICE didn't have anything new to show at Microsoft's press conference: aside from a repeat of yesterday's teaser and the promise of early entry for EA Access subscribers, nothing new was shown.
Xbox Live Updates
Microsoft took a moment during the show to announce a few new features coming to Xbox Live's core services. Firstly, the publisher is creating more servers (which should allow for more reliable service) as well as adding in the ability for players to set their console's language independently of their region. In terms of new features, Background Music and Cortana will both be making their way to Xbox One this summer.
Later this year, players can look forward to 'Clubs on Xbox One', a seemingly console-based version of game-specific forums, and a host of new tournament-friendly features in the form of 'Arena on Xbox One'. It looks like EA Sports will be a big partner when it comes to Arena, though Microsoft wasn't specific about any other potential partners.
Minecraft: The Friendly Update
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft took some time to show off a host of new Minecraft updates. The majority of the demo was based around platform compatibility: players on both mobile and PC platforms will be able to play with each other as part of The Friendly Update. Three separate platforms were shown on-stage: one player using an iPad, another using a Microsoft Surface, and none other than John Carmack (father of Doom) playing on an Oculus Rift.
Multiplayer is also getting an upgrade: dubbed Minecraft: Realms, the update allows for private dedicated servers for up to ten players. Sure, PC players have had access to something similar for years now, but this is the first time something similar has been available for other platforms. Much of the on-stage presentation focused on typical Minecraft activities, though the addition of Add-Ons (officially-published updates that change the behaviors of certain creatures and characters) do bring the other versions a bit closer to that of a modded PC version.
And the best part? It's all available today, and console players can expect a new update later this year.
Considering that Microsoft's various independent titles are doing better than ever, it's no surprise that the ID@Xbox program made an appearance at this year's showcase. Sadly, not much was shown - gamers only caught a glimpse of Inside, the new game from the developers behind Limbo, and the montage trailer was simply too fast-paced to get an idea of the individual games on display.
It wasn't a total bust, though: not only did Microsoft announce that Limbo will now be free for all Xbox One owners, but the publisher revealed a new demo for We Happy Few. Previous demos have exclusively focused on the game's mechanics, but the story was front-and-center during Microsoft's show - and the combination of mind-altering drugs, fake piñatas and some seriously aggressive police helped the game stand out from everything else at the show.
Seriously, though: if a piñata is squishy, don't keep hitting it.
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
You asked for it: Gwent: The Witcher Card Game is getting its own, standalone release!
Then again, this is CD Projekt Red: not only will Gwent be getting its own release, but it'll come with new cards, updated mechanics and a full single-player story campaign. As an added bonus, players can now sign up for a chance to enter into the game's beta test - which, of course, will be playable across both PCs and consoles.
Strangely enough, Tekken 7 made an appearance at Microsoft's show - even if there wasn't much on display. The game will be receiving guest characters from Street Fighter (including Akuma, as seen in the demo) - as well as a more cinematic story mode. Sadly, that's about it: Tekken 7's didn't get much time to shine.
Don't worry, there's still some good news: as of today, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is available to Xbox Live Gold members for free via backwards compatibility - though the offer will only last throughout E3, so you better download your copy now!
Dead Rising 4
Following a number of different leaks, Dead Rising 4 has been officially confirmed. Seemingly built on the same engine used in Dead Rising 3 (albeit heavily updated), the game sees the return of original protagonist Frank West, along with a heavy holiday theme. There wasn't much in the way of story, but a ton of new weapons - including a flame-spewing dinosaur mask - more than make up for the lack of narrative.
Unsurprisingly, Dead Rising 4 is due out later this year - and it'll probably right around Christmas.
Scalebound is a bit of an odditiy in the Xbox One line-up. There aren't many Japanese-developed games on the system, and after it was delayed to 2017 earlier this year, many were worried that the project was in trouble. Turns out that's not necessarily the case: an updated multiplayer demo was shown at Microsoft's press conference, and it's certainly something to behold.
Right off the bat, the game oozes attitude. It's almost like a mix of Devil May Cry (the good ones) and Sunset Overdrive - something that any Hideki Kamiya fan probably saw coming.
There's also the scale of the game: while switching between on-foot melee strikes, third-person shooting and flying dragons is certainly impressive, the boss in the demo is absolutely huge. Think Bayonetta-sized, with three additional players along for the ride.
Scalebound is looking good, and it looks like the delay to 2017 will help smooth out some of the rougher edges before it joins the Xbox Play Anywhere program next year.
Sea of Thieves
It's been a long time since gamers have gotten excited about a new Rare game - but, if Sea of Thieves can actually achieve what Microsoft is hoping for, maybe the studio will finally pull itself out of the rut it's been in for the past several years.
At its core, Sea of Thieves is meant to be an 'emergent experience' - that is, everything happens because of player interactions. Crews are given a ship and a piece of ocean to explore, and the rest is up to them. Much of the on-stage demo focused on player-versus-player combat, though it's much more than that: players can drink, explore the island, get into fights, and yes, blow up each other's ships.
Sadly, there's still no solid release date - though Microsoft did confirm that Sea of Thieves would be a part of the Xbox Play Anywhere line-up.
State of Decay 2
State of Decay may have been a bit glitchy, but there's no denying its success - especially on Xbox consoles. As such, it's really not all that surprising that a sequel is on its way.
The trailer shown at Microsoft's showcase didn't reveal much, other than a seemingly increased focus on co-op play. Microsoft did confirm that the game is coming next year, but there was a surprising lack of the 'Xbox Play Anywhere' logo during the teaser.
Halo Wars 2
If there's any one game that fans expected to have more of a precense at this year's show, it was probably Halo Wars 2. With Halo 6 not yet ready for prime time, many assumed that Microsoft would lead with its go-to franchise. That being said, even without a full demo, Microsoft did pull back the curtain on Halo Wars 2.
From what the trailer showed, the crew of the original game will return to face a new threat known as 'The Banished.' Seemingly a rogue faction of the Covenant Remnant, this splinter group still has some serious hardware: new units were sprinkled throughout the teaser, including a new walking artillery tank.
Of course, the game will join the growing roster of Xbox Play Anywhere games, but that's not all: before Halo Wars 2's Feb. 21 release date, Microsoft will be hosting an open beta - that's live all throughout the week of E3 2016!
It's all led up to this: a new, more powerful Xbox One is on the way.
'Project Scorpio', as Microsoft calls it, is set to be the most powerful console ever released. With features based around VR gaming, 4K visuals and a ridiculously powerful GPU, Project Scorpio could be the answer to the current Xbox One's somewhat lackluster hardware.
For more information, check out our in-depth story on Project Scorpio - otherwise, you'll just have to wait until it launches next year.
It's safe to say that Microsoft had a pretty strong showing this year, but E3 is just beginning! For everything on this year's show, make sure to check out our ever-expanding E3 2016 coverage hub!