Microsoft came into E3 as the victim of a number of unfortunate leaks, which immediately hit NeoGAF and from there, of course, the internet as a whole.
Thankfully, they still had plenty to show, and overall delivered a solid conference, if not a bit safe.
The already-leaked Xbox One S kicked off the conference, and honestly, I would love to have one to replace the hulking behemoth on my TV stand (along with its ridiculous power brick). The decrease in size is commendable, and they’re even selling at the same MSRP as the old system.
But by the end, it seemed like kind of a waste to announce a revised Xbox One, only to announce its successor an hour and a half later. No matter the PR spin about going “beyond generations” or whatever, it’s pretty obvious that Project Scorpio is a next-gen console in all but name. It’s clear that, after the shellacking they’ve been receiving this gen, Microsoft is trying to beat Sony to the punch with a more powerful system, releasing within the same relative time frame. With VR being the latest fad in demand, and technophiles demanding 4K, it’s a convenient excuse to kill off this generation of consoles early. Unfortunately, I don’t see how this isn’t going to negatively affect Xbox One sales over the next year and a half – redesign or not.
Regardless of your thoughts on Scorpio, Microsoft spent the rest of their show talking about games. And they had a pretty solid lineup, all things considered. Gears of War 4 actually looked halfway decent, to my surprise, as did Forza Horizon 3. There were some fairly significant announcements as well, including Dead Rising 4, the standalone Gwent game, and Tekken 6.
And, unlike EA, Microsoft seems to understand that gameplay demos are a good thing. Seeing Rare’s Sea of Thieves finally gave us an idea of what that game was about – even if the player dialogue was cringe-worthy. Scalebound‘s demo looked much smoother than last year’s framerate trainwreck. And We Happy Few may have become the dark horse standout of the conference.
I do wish that we’d seen gameplay of ReCore rather than just a trailer though. I think that game has a lot of promise, yet we still don’t really know how it plays. Halo Wars 2‘s lack of a gameplay demo also stood out, considering it’s one of their biggest upcoming titles.
But an increased push for PC gaming, more than anything, dominated Microsoft’s conference. The Xbox Play Anywhere program promises to be a huge step forward in connecting the PC and console realms, and it seemed like just about every upcoming game will be coming to both Xbox and PC. While that program offers cross-buy, it seems that Microsoft will also make cross-platform play a bigger priority.
Ever since the Xbox One reveal debacle, Microsoft has rightly figured out that E3 should be all about the games. In contrast to Sony, however, they seem to take a different approach in how they talk about those games. Whereas Sony will announce projects that are years away, Microsoft sticks to games in the near future. Microsoft prefers to show games that they can actually show, rather than nebulous planned games that may or may not even exist at the time. Sony’s method arguably produces more hype and buzz, but Microsoft’s is a bit more grounded – plus it’s nice to actually be able to see the games that are being talked about.
Still, it’s easy to be disappointed that Microsoft really hasn’t dropped any megatons in years. Despite having a solid lineup of games, as well as some impressive announcements, it’s hard to deny that the whole thing felt a bit safe and by-the-book. And the whole hardware announcement debacle – announcing a system only to announce its successor by the end of the conference – definitely raised an eyebrow.
But, in the end, it was a solid showing from Microsoft, and a decently promising start to the second day of conferences. Xbox has an impressive lineup of games in the near future, and Microsoft seems to be in tune to fan and developer demands. It’s hard to complain about them playing it safe when it seems to work for them.