Although EA was the first to take to the E3 stage this year, the expo doesn't really start until one of the Big 3 (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo) starts talking. As you may know from an earlier review, the reception for the EA conference was lukewarm, at best, so Microsoft didn't have a high bar to clear. However, with their long list of hardware and software news, the PC and console gaming giant outright sailed over that bar. Perfection is a nearly unobtainable concept, and Microsoft had some stumbles on their way to greatness.
The beginning of the conference put something of a bad taste in my mouth. Audience plants are no surprise at this point. They are members of the audience who are told to act excited for everything the presenter has to say, in hopes that they'll get others into the same hyped mood, or at least not leave the presenter with crickets and tumbleweeds. Spotting them is hard, and often makes one look cynical at best, and paranoid at worst. This year, it was downright obscene. In no reality can I believe that people would literally howl at the fact that the Xbox One X is the smallest Xbox ever made.
Microsoft hit some tone-deaf notes early on, by showing off a never before seen Porsche. If your reaction to that statement was anything like mine, you yawned. That's not to say that gamers can't also be car enthusiasts. However, a gaming convention is not where you showcase a new sports car. For the Forza 7 reveal, they also had professional drivers play the game. This trend of bringing athletes in to play games based on their sport needs to stop. Just because someone is a professional driver in real life, does not mean those skills translate to video games. It's the same when someone assumes someone who plays guitar in real life would be a beast at Guitar Hero.
After Forza, things really began to pick up. Microsoft took time between trailers to introduce and hype them up, which is pretty much par for the course at E3. However, it wasn't long before they were showing one trailer after another, with no interruptions from a man in a t-shirt and blazer (and one of those freaky flesh-colored mics). Only occasionally did they have someone come out to talk about the game, forcing the cameraman off the big screen.
Microsoft showed off a treasure trove of new games and new footage of games we knew were coming. The stretch that included Dragon Ball Fighters Z, Black Desert, The Last Night, and The Artful Escape was some of the most beautiful gameplay and artwork I've seen in games. They were nothing short of breathtaking.
Of course, aside from the 42 games shown, Microsoft also unveiled the Xbox Scorpio, officially named the Xbox One X (X1X). The reaction to the name is subjective, but the specific reaction from me was a snort and a look of disbelief at such a bad name. It just feels…lame. All of the specs for the new console were revealed, and all of the games shown were noted to be enhanced by the X1X's hardware. Without being able to compare the enhanced to the base versions, it's hard to say how much of an improvement was made, but the end result was still very nice to look at. Microsoft no doubt knew the price for their mid-gen upgrade would be a bit sour, as $499 is steep when the PS4 and Switch are far cheaper alternatives. They saved the price revealed for near the end of the show, which in my mind was because they didn't want people talking about the price for the entirety of their trailer showcase.
The phrase of the day was not the X1X or 4K or anything spiffy like those. Instead, the words that kept grabbing my attention were "console launch exclusive." When it comes to big companies, wording is key, and you have to be mindful of the context. So what does "console launch exclusive" mean? Well it doesn't mean the game will be exclusive to the console, at least not forever. That "launch" is key. Though more evidence is needed to confirm, the suspicion is that those three words mean "timed exclusive," which means it'll be exclusive for a little while, and then go multi-plat. So why come up with a new phrase when a shorter, more well known, way to say it already exists? One can't help but assume trickery. Stringing the words "console" and "exclusive" together, even if separated by "launch," may trick some consumers into thinking these games are exclusive to the X1 and/or Windows 10 (W10). So if you didn't pick up on the meaning of this phrase, you may think that Microsoft just got a ton of exclusive products.
Another worrying note is "Windows 10 exclusive." Now, again, more evidence is needed before pitchforks are raised and torches lit, but to me what that means is that those games will only be purchasable from teh Windows 10 store, and only playable if you have the W10 OS. Many people have upgraded to W10, but many still have not. This arbitrary splitting of the PC market is frustrating. There's no reason why those games can't be played on Windows 7 or 8.1. Add the fact that the W10 is infamously bad, and you got a bad situation if you're a PC gamer.
Despite this faults, Microsoft gave us all what we wanted: games. There wasn't a lot of talk about extra features, or bringing on celebrity guests, or anything that fills the time that could be spent with more trailers. Take away the bad, and you've got a benchmark for how these conferences should be conducted. Though the gameplay shown was obviously scripted for nearly all the games, and you should definitely expect downgrades upon release, the core of what was shown was impressive and exciting.
Overall, Microsoft's conference would have been perfect had it not been marred by shady wordplay and some meme-generating tropes. Despite the glaring flaws, the sheer number of games, across many different genres and appealing to many different demographics, makes up for those missteps. As a side note, it was amusing how, during a conference all about the future of gaming and looking forward, the announcement that got the biggest, most positive, reaction was that OG Xbox games would become backwards compatible with X1. In the end, the Microsoft conference earns a very respectable A-.
|+ So many new, and gorgeous, games.||– Suspicious wording for exclusives.|
|+ World premieres and exclusives.||– Really dumb name for the overpriced X1X.|
|+ Rarely uninterrupted stream of trailers.|