Gamescom returns next week, and it should be big for Microsoft. Sony's absent. Nintendo is seemingly out of the picture (until it returns to announce that the NX is, like, a single massive mechanical cloud that will rain solar-powered micro-consoles onto the countries it crosses). This is Xbox One's biggest chance to take aim at its target market, cock the fun-trigger, and then shoot it right in the head, leaving consumers twitching in joy and spurting out gobbets of slick cash.
It's no surprise, really, that Microsoft held back some of its most interesting exclusives for next week's conference - with all eyes on the media briefing, some never-before-seen material will serve them well. But that's a portion of what's to come - a strong indie showing, some mammoth third-party titles and a few unknown quantities could make the console suddenly unmissable. Here's my pick of the bunch - you may spot that the E3 biggies are missing. That's not because I suddenly hate them, don't worry, it's just that saying "Fallout 4 looks fun" is a bit like saying "yoghurt should not go in one's eyes" by this point. Obvious. Onwards!
One of three in-house exclusives held back for Microsoft's Cologne outing, the open-world superhero classic is returning, and could perform its 'quietly rewriting all the rules' trick once more.
It looks fairly certain that we'll be seeing proper gameplay next week - but what it'll entail is currently anyone's guess. We're hearing tell of cloud-powered, fully destructible environments (think Red Faction: Guerrilla if it was set somewhere that wasn't just red dust), multiplayer shenanigans and more. And then there's Windows 10 integration - could we see some measure of cross-play emerge to show off Microsoft's new multi-platform focus?
Potential award: Most Entertaining Collateral Deaths
This is the one, guys. A Hideki Kamiya-directed Platinum action game about dragons, exclusive to Xbox One. I may be showing my personal interest here, but I'm pretty sure this will be the greatest game of all time and could actually become the basis of a world religion within the year.
We're a little in the Crackdown boat here too, as it happens - we've seen a teaser trailer that suggested many things (co-op, open world, multiple rideable beasts, a headphone sponsorship contract) but confirmed nothing. Given Platinum's good record, and Kamiya's incredibly good one (the guy made Devil May Cry by accident), that leaves me pretty pleased - whatever we see, I have faith it'll be spectacular.
Potential award: The Joe Skrebels Memorial Award for Making My Heart Actually Stop Fully With Pleasure
The last in the held-back Microsoft triumverate is the best-known. We've been seeing snippets of Quantum Break for some time, covering its story, its weirdo mutable TV show conceit and, last year, some good old Remedy shooting of people in unusual temporal circumstances.
The Finnish studio's rightly respected for its action chops (and its delectable, ham-flavoured dialogue), so the real challenge is convincing us that reluctant time traveller, Jack Joyce is as interesting a protagonist as their previous leads, Messrs Payne and Wake - some standout gameplay would do the trick nicely.
Potential award: Slowest Bullets
Now here's an odd one. Below's seemed like the jewel of the ID@Xbox crown when it first appeared, a deeply on-trend procedurally generated roguelike adventure made by the Canadian lovelies at Capy Games (Super Time Force, Sword & Sworcery). And then it disappeared a bit.
It's natural for a project to go quiet when in the midst of development, but then came reports that it was playable at E3 this year, despite not even making the indie showreel during Microsoft's conference. Is this the hip equivalent of those AAA hold-backs? Here's hoping - I want more gloomy permadeath in my life. Well, more than the gloomy permadeath that is life, anyway.
Potential award: Sexiest Dungeons
Hey look! It's another mysteriously disappeared indie effort. The Limbo follow-up got a creepy little trailer at E3 2014, then Playdead Games went into full-on blackout mode (believe me, I've tried emailing them). Numerous Limbo re-releases prove that they're all still alive over there in Denmark, at least.
A year and a bit is surely long enough to piece together some new footage of a scared little boy battling deadly forces for our enjoyment, right? Like, that's all I want - and another feather in the increasingly fluffy ID@Xbox cap would help too.
Potential award: Most Absolutely Nowehere To Be Found At The Show
Homefront: The Revolution
It was always sort of amazing that Homefront was being given a second chance, so the fact that The Revolution's gone through a series of development hurdles (studios shutting down, being substantially delayed) has been a little hard to watch.
There's been chatter about it popping up again in Germany, which makes sense - away from the very biggest announcements, the open-world FPS has a chance to show off a little more.
Potential award: Best Heart-Warming Dev Stories
Alpha gameplay leaks are the breadcrumb trail of the news game, and Hitman's looks Cologne-bound. People are out there, playing it, sneakily recording it, placing dangerous bets that they won't be assassinated for real.
With that teaser trailer out in the wild, and the E3 level flythrough showing people playing in the very environment we've been seeing in scrappy YouTube videos recently, there could be more to come next week. Here's hoping - a proper Hitman should show the current glut of stealth-action titles how it's done.
Potential award: Most Implausible Disguises
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016
PES can win Gamescom simply by not allowing Pele to talk about it. FIFA lived up to its bombastic, multi-media brand image by failing to mention the game as much as it did a man who legitimately sells his own compressed hair as diamonds.
The more down-to-Earth PES needs to show off why its game is simply more beautiful, then. Not only did the 2015 edition play a better game of football, Konami finally got its act together, releasing a functional online component and starting to nab some of FIFA's more beloved features, too. If that trend continues, it'll take more than an old man on a big stage to convince me FIFA's where it's at.
Potential award: Most Jordan Henderson-less Packaging
Final Fantasy 15
Another E3 casualty, Square's drastically reworked centrepiece will absolutely be popping up here. Frankly, god only knows what we'll be seeing. The game's been in development since 2006, and has changed direction any number of times. It could be a rhythm game about an octopus. It could just be a Monopoly clone.
It's probably still an arrestingly gorgeous action-RPG hybrid, though, and the chance to see more of that is more than welcome.
Potential award: Coolest Game to Turn 10 Years Old Before It's Actually Released
Mafia 3 is sort of a wildcard. The second game was a game so experimental that it pretended to belong to to the open-world genre, when actually it was a twisting, linear action-narrative spanning decades. Whether its follow-up will be emboldened by that work, or shrink from the criticism it got as a result could be one of Gamescom's most interesting stories.
A single teaser image might be very little to go on, but we're already dreaming of four-player co-op, a swampy, grotesque True Detective-alike Louisiana setting and the ability to feed snitches to 'gators.
Potential award: Biggest Fake-Out When It Turns Out To Be Set In A Half-Submerged Atlantis
SteamWorld Dig is really, really good, you guys. It's a Metroidvania where you make the dungeon by digging tunnels through increasingly compacted soil, collecting gems and upgrading your robot protagonist as you do so. Its sequel is nothing like it, which is very cool indeed.
Heist is best described as a 2D XCOM, where you lead a squad of robots through space, hijacking other ships, shooting all their guards to pieces and stealing their stuff to make hijacking even bigger ships a bit easier. Quite apart from looking great on its own terms, it might make that XCOM 2-shaped hole in our Xbox One libraries a tad easier to bear, too.
Potential award: Most Terrifyingly Unexpected Ricochets