Two of E3's biggest press conferences are now fused into one. With all of Microsoft's studio acquisitions in recent years, its annual Xbox event was already shaping up to be the Captain Planet of E3 conferences. (I'm not sure which studio is which planeteer, but surely Double Fine is Heart, right?) If any element was missing before, adding Bethesda to the ranks definitely changed that. By their powers combined, this year's event could easily be the biggest of the summer.
Then again, Microsoft now has so many studios with so many games in development, it can afford to be picky and focus on the ones that are coming out soonest. There are probably a whole lot of Xbox games that won't show up at E3 this year. Here's what we think we'll actually see.
- E3 2021schedule: Hit the link for our full breakdown of all this year's events
When and how to watch the Microsoft + Bethesda E3 showcase
Microsoft hasn't said how long the event will be, but based on past years, we'd expect a packed hour of games.
Bethesda's big contribution: Starfield
The graphic for the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase strongly hints at Bethesda's long-in-the-works Starfield being a big part of the event. In fact, we'd expect that and a long look at a new-and-improved Halo Infinite to dominate this show. If a Todd Howard presentation is on your E3 bingo card this year, the odds are good.
We don't know much about Starfield yet, other than the fact that it's Bethesda's next big RPG, and it's set in space. If Bethesda is treating this reveal the same way it did Fallout 4, Starfield could be out this year—Fallout 4 was revealed in June 2015 and released in November that same year. All we've seen of Starfield is a 2018 teaser trailer. Maybe it's almost ready—or maybe it's not out until 2022. We should find out at this event.
Bethesda certainly has other games in development, but we might not see many of them at this showcase for different reasons:
- Deathloop is well-known at this point, and will probably show up in a montage but not as a showpiece game
- Ghostwire: Tokyo has so far only been shown as a PlayStation console exclusive, not a prime candidate for the big Xbox stage
- The Indiana Jones game teased earlier this year just started development, and is likely too early to show
- The Elder Scrolls 6 is still years away
Bethesda could certainly pull out a surprise. Like a new Wolfenstein, if MachineGames is developing multiple projects. Or something new from id Software. Or another game from Arkane, which is definitely working on another game in addition to Deathloop.
Xbox games: Halo Infinite and more
Halo Infinite was a big part of Microsoft's E3 show last year. Hopefully things go better this time: the reception to last year's reveal was so poor, Infinite was delayed a year and is now arriving this fall.
I expect a beefy Halo Infinite presentation this year, with a few minutes dedicated to showing off graphical improvements since the previous demo—someone, likely Joseph Staten, will say the words "community," "feedback," and "we listened" while showing off some oooh-worthy HDR lighting. I think the majority of Infinite's screen time will actually be devoted to a first look at its multiplayer mode, which Microsoft has said will be free-to-play.
It'll close out with a final release date announcement—November 15, probably, because that's the 20 year anniversary of Halo: Combat Evolved. Irresistible symmetry.
But what else is Microsoft going to show? It has so many games in development now. Our colleagues at Windows Central expect Microsoft to reveal Forza Horizon 5 is coming out this year. Psychonauts 2 is definitely coming out this year, and Tim Schafer will probably pop in to give us a surprisingly imminent release date (but if you've read this far, the joke's on Tim: You won't be surprised!). Sea of Thieves seems a likely candidate for a short trailer about a new update, as the game is now in its third year and still popular. If the PC gets some love, Age of Empires 4 will be front and center.
Obsidian has us especially curious. Last year one of Microsoft's big debuts was a cinematic trailer for Avowed, a new first-person RPG. It could reappear, along with an update trailer for Obsidian's Grounded and even Josh Sawyer's project, whatever that may be. The Outer Worlds 2 is also entirely possible, but since the first game was published by Take Two's Private Division label, it may not debut during this show.
What other known Microsoft games could we see? There are tons—but some of these are a year or more away from release, and thus could be sitting out this showcase:
And this isn't even mentioning games from other publishers, which Microsoft typically devotes some time to at its show. These may not be big reveals, but expect at least a few new trailers from EA or Activision or Take Two or Ubisoft. Microsoft also had the privilege of running the first and so far only trailer for Elden Ring at E3 2019, so maybe we'll see it here again.
Microsoft explicitly called out new Game Pass games as a feature of this event, so a montage of cool indie games coming to Game Pass is almost inevitable, too.
What are all the studios Microsoft owns, again?
It's hard to keep track, I know. Here are all the studios Microsoft has bought or founded over the last decade or so, and what they're currently known for:
- 343 Industries: Halo
- The Coalition: Gears of War
- Rare: Sea of Thieves, Everwild
- Mojang: Minecraft
- Obsidian Entertainment: Avowed, The Outer Worlds
- Turn 10 Studios: Forza Motorsport
- Playground Games: Forza Horizon, Fable
- The Initiative: Perfect Dark
- Ninja Theory: Hellblade
- Undead Labs: State of Decay
- InXile Entertainment: Wasteland 3
- Double Fine: Psychonauts 2
- World's Edge: Age of Empires
- Compulsion Games: We Happy Few
When Microsoft bought Bethesda, it acquired all the other Zenimax studios, including: Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within), MachineGames (Wolfenstein), Arkane Studios (Dishonored), id Software (Doom), Alpha Dog Games (mobile developer), ZeniMax Online (The Elder Scrolls Online), and Roundhouse Studios (former Human Head developers).