These E3 press conferences can be laborious affairs. Men in suits pretend to play pre-rendered set piece moments from upcoming titles as plants in the crowd cheer wildly. Fancy cars are brought out on stage for the oohs and ahhs of idiots. Nervous developers show off games dripping with emotion to the sheer apathy of the onlooking media. “That’ll sell boatloads of copies” think the marks in the auditorium as retailers frantically double check their term sheets to ensure they are not contractually obligated to stock it. Yes, it’s E3 time again! Xbox kicked off the platform holder festivities.
Microsoft were humble and honest, acknowledging the issues it has had. They showed us their roadmap to success and all of the correct notes were played.
Microsoft had a strong showing, so strong in fact that to cover it all would mean I would use up all of the interwebs. Perish the thought, here’s the 5 biggest announcements from the Xbox stage.
Uncle Phil Spencer confirmed towards the end of this years Xbox Briefing that the next consoles are deep into development. Plural, consoles. What could that mean? Surely there won’t be an “X” type powerhouse version immediately?
PS5 is on the horizon (geddddit??) and we know that PS5 games are in active development so this is no surprise. It just feels so soon doesn’t it? Sure, PS4 outsells Xbox One by a 3:1 ratio and Microsoft want this gen to end but this cycle seems to only be hitting its stride now. The last gen was lengthened due to the global financial crisis, I get that, but I love my Xbox One and Xbox One X. Can’t we just relax and smell the roses?
Traditional logic dictates that the first rule of Next Gen is that you do not talk about Next Gen. It introduces uncertainty in the customers mind and ruins their confidence in a hefty purchase. “Will there be a new console soon after I buy this?”.
Perhaps Microsoft are daring Sony to announce the PS5 this week? It might slow down their sales! The ethos of this Phil Spencer led Xbox Division has been one of a linked ecosystem. They no longer view things in terms of generations. The Next Box will play your Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games. Chalk that down.
A 2019 full reveal for a 2020 release date would be my guess for both Next Boxes. I’m in no rush though.
Dovetailing nicely with the confirmation of the Next Box was the announcement that Microsoft have acquired five new studios.
Microsoft now own Forza Horizon developer Playground Games, Hellblade developer Ninja Theory, State of Decay developer Undead Labs and We Happy Few developer Compulsion Games.
Spencer also announced a new Microsoft Studios developer called The Initiative. The Santa Monica-based dev is headed up by ex-Tomb Raider boss Darrell Gallagher.
Microsoft know that the exclusive games battle was lost long ago but this is a step to correct it. However, we’ll be waiting a few years for those stocks to mature.
Halo Infinite! Gears of War 5! Forza Horizon 4! 49 others!
Compare the 2018 E3 Briefing to the infamous 2013 debacle and you’ll see why the above two points are so important. The Xbox One is a vastly different console to the one that came into the world in 2013, it absolutely had to be. The brand would not have survived.
The Xbox stage showed off no less than 52 games! 18 of those were console launch exclusives and 15 were world premiers. Xbox showed a little bit of everything in a well balanced conference. Anime to bombastic shooty bang bangs, it had it all. Only the staunchest of staunch Sony die-hards would find fault with it.
The closer was a reveal of CD Projekt Red’s next title: Cyberpunk 2077. It was a crowd pleasing end to an excellent games focused conference.
Microsoft trolled the watching millions by displaying the iconic Gears of War logo before a Pop Vinyl version of Marcus Fenix jumped through a wall to reveal Gears Pop. You could actually hear people’s hearts drop. Next, we had the reveal of Gears Tactics. Another audible coronary could be heard in downtown LA as a second mobile spinoff was unveiled.
Luckily, Gears of War 5, was revealed and Gears fans around the globe took their heads out of the oven and returned to their laptops to check out the new offering from The Coalition.
Kait Diaz, the Gears 4 lady, returns and is the protagonist this time around. Given the ending of the previous game this was no surprise. I look forward to seeing how Kaits locost medallion story plays out.
However, because Kait has breasticles it wasn’t received well in small corners of the angry virgin web. #NotMyGears filled the chat window of my stream but what these numpties fail to realise is that they caused the onslaught of female protagonists three years ago when people claimed there wasn’t enough diversity in games.
The games industry is a big ship to turn around. When complaints of games being “too linear” became loud enough the industry listened and now every game is an open world adventure filled with side quests to complete and thousands of golden fidledey-doodas to collect.
When gamers were sick of WWII games we had the Modern Warfare era. Then, three years ago when people tired of jetpacks and wall running we went back to storming beaches at Normandy.
When three years ago people complained about gender diversity we see the fruits of that now. Women are either more prominently featured, the leading light or are shoehorned into historically inaccurate roles just…because. Isn’t that what you wanted?
Does it really matter if your protagonist has a pee-pee or a who-who? No. Shut up.
As for those two Gears mobile games spin offs…no dice. I am a massive Gears fan but those games, like all mobile games, can feast upon a big bag of dicks.
When Microsoft realised that their race was run this gen they switched tact and focused on consumer pleasing format. Games With Gold, Game Pass and the Adaptive Controller are just a few examples of Xbox keeping their player base happy while drawing the attention of the blue boys. None of these initiatives are going to generate huge revenue for Microsoft, some won’t draw a dime, but the fact that they are doing these things improves the industry. If you don’t want to buy new releases for 70 bucks a pop every few weeks there’s the tenner a month Game Pass option that gives you all first party releases and a whole host of older titles.
The next consumer focused move is Fast Start which promises to install games twice as quickly as before. It’s not a fireworks laden announcement but these installs can take an age, this is great news! Like the red headed step child, you’ll learn to love it over time.
Sony have a mountain to climb to top the Xbox Briefing but they’ll announce a few games that we won’t see for 10 years and they will be declared the winners again. Anybody up for a spot of Shenmue 3? No? Perhaps I can interest you in the Final Fantasy 7 remake? Neither have come out yet you say? Hmmm…