My Microsoft press conference off-the-cuff reaction spectacular!

So I’m trying something a little different this year. Rather than do what everyone else does and clog up Twitter with live snark of the big platform holder press conferences at E3 (which also got me out of watching the Applegasm going on about iOS 7 going from the mobile equivalent of Windows 3.1 to 3.11 at the same time), I’ve decided to watch the conferences in solitude, making notes as I go and just making a post here with my impressions from the show that is more articulate but still in point form based off those notes.. I feel this will keep things a little more contained and easily referenced in other discussions. I’ll break stuff down into some broad-ranging topics and go from there. Cool? Alright, let’s do it:

Conference As A Whole
-This still felt like a corporate presentation but not nearly as gross as the original reveal.
-The ball was dropped huge by the technical problems with two demos, particularly Battlefield 4. I’ve been there as a stage tech before and I know how badly that sucks but still, that was really bad.
-Stop it with the awkwardly scripted stage demos. They’re not funny and make everything cringe. Seriously, STOP IT!
-“Hey guys, we remembered that this is a GAMES MACHINE!” Very nice to see the entire show devoted to games and only games.
-I’m not convinced any of the few stage demos played with a controller were real. They looked a little too polished. That’s potentially worrisome and says to me that they weren’t confident enough either in the hardware, software or both to show it live.
-They didn’t even touch on any of the legitimate concerns that have been stirring in the Internet hornet’s nest. I didn’t expect lengthy discussion on it but I think it was dumb to not touch on them at all, even if to just say “We hear your concerns and we’ll have more soon.” Given that Microsoft cancelled interviews with most game journalists, this is a troubling sign to me.

Tech/Online Stuff
-Everything they showed looked very pretty as one would expect. I’m all for pushing the boundaries of tech but this focus already has the industry in a bad way. I’m not sure doubling down on that is what’s needed right now. How much do these graphical improvements bring and at what price?
-Lots of talk was had about cloud processing and the games working with it. If it’s actually going to be an integral to the functionality of some of these games as they made it seem, forget the 24-hour DRM check-in because this is way worse. Many of these cloud-powered games could either require you be on the Internet to work at all or be severely gimped otherwise. Is this true? How much bandwidth will it require? No idea, not a word was uttered about that. I don’t know about you but sucking gigs of data from servers that won’t be up forever in order to get better car AI I didn’t ask for? Not for me.
-It’s funny how many times the words “imagine this with Oculus Rift” or something like it were uttered on the GameSpot live stream I was watching. I’m still not convinced about that thing but a lot of other people are and if it’s widely adopted by gamers and developers, that’s a huge ace in the hole for the PC platform. I’m curious if Microsoft or Sony will announce support for it or even acquire Oculus VR at some point soon.
-The system will have built-in video sharing and live streaming, something that comes as a surprise to exactly no one. Spamming content from games to your friends is going to be an integral part of the next generation because we all know everyone in the world cares about what you’re doing every minute of every day. And yes, I’m aware of the irony of me saying that given my own involvement with YouTube and eventually streaming. Having this functionality isn’t bad, I just hope it’s well implemented. Their partnership with Twitch is a huge deal, especially for North America. Twitch sucks as a service but it’s far and away the most popular one here.
-A 1,000 friend limit! Thanks Microsoft for finally adopting what people were asking you for 8 friggin’ years ago!
-SmartGlass! You’re going to hear about how you can use a second screen with Xbox One whether you want to or not! Look, you can use it as the menu screen for Ryse because, you wanted that right? I’m not opposed to the idea of tablet integration but for the love of everything, do something interesting with it!
-A new, even uglier Xbox 360. Sure, why not? Interestingly, it doesn’t appear to come with a price drop which makes me question why they even bothered. Smart of them to get 360 out of the way early in the show though.
-Look guys, we finally have our own version of PlayStation Plus for subscribing to Xbox Live Gold! And look, the first two games are ancient ones you can buy for under $10 sealed and pale in comparison to what PS+ offers even in a weak month! But…we’ve got it! YAY!
-It’s about damn time you twits ditched that stupid Microsoft Points system.
-Sharing Xbox Live Gold accounts is very cool and now I get why they ditched the Family Plan option. This has no impact on my situation but I’m glad to see them adding value that way.

Small Games
-The claim that no one is supporting indie developers better than Xbox One is ballsy as Hell given what a mess the 360 has turned into for all but a select few.
-Minecraft coming to Xbox One is no surprise. I’m sure Notch was given truckloads of money to keep that away from the PS4. Now you can buy the same game again, only looking slightly better! This feels pretty weak to me. Talking about how much you love indies by showcasing a game that makes more money and has more sales than most successful triple-A titles and then immediately following that up with a triple-A trailer is pretty tone deaf. Minecraft may be an independently made game but it hasn’t been “indie” for a long time.
-A new game from Capybara interested me, then I saw it was another Superbrothers game. I’m sorry but Sword & Sworcery was boring and pretentious. I hope this isn’t like that but I’m not confident based on the demo.
-A new episodic murder mystery brawler from Swery65? Yes, tell me more please!
-And…that was it. Guys, if you thnk this is going to show anyone that you care about indies, you’re clueless. This is a joke, even versus what Sony’s already brought from indies to their current machines this year. It’s embarassing and shows how little Microsoft truly understands about where a big segment of gaming is going.

Big Games
This is the big one. I’m not going to talk a ton about each game but here’s what I took from each reveal:
-World of Tanks on Xbox 360. Umm, sure? Not sure how well that game will play with the controller. Also, pro tip guys: If you have to be an Xbox Live Gold user to access it, it’s not free-to-play.
-None of the other 360 stuff was a surprise.
-Metal Gear Solid V is a huge way to start the show and a big sting against Sony. Wonder how much Konami got paid for that. I love Kiefer Sutherland but sorry, David Hayter is Snake. Fox Engine looks stunning and that this is going to be an open-world game is insanely ambitious, even for Kojima. I’m really interested to see more because his brand of insanity in that big an environment could be something special.
-I have to admit, Ryse surprised me. Looks like a neat idea for a combat game. Not terribly impressed with their attempt to ape the Normandy landing idea but that’s not something to really get upset about. The combination of fighting on your own while commanding troops could be cool if it’s deeper than what was shown. Was very interested in it until I saw that you apparently finish every enemy with a quick time event. Friggin’ really? The demo was nice and long which I liked, it shows they have confidence in it. I’m interested to see more but the QTEs were a big turn-off.
-Screw you guys, I liked Killer Instinct a lot back in the day. I was excited to hear they were actually doing a new one. Then I saw that it looked like a last-gen game. And it’s being developed by Double Helix, one of the Foundation 9 shovelware teams whose most recent creative masterpiece is Battleship. Oh dear. My guess is this will be a downloadable title. We’ll see but I’m not confident.
-I did not expect an Insomniac reveal, let alone it being for an exclusive on a non-Sony system. Potential big win for Microsoft. I was also wondering why Insomniac didn’t seem too worried that Fuse is tanking. This game seems to have the crazy, colourful, cartoony, original-looking style that Fuse had when it was called Overstrike and wasn’t another generic, boring shooter. It looks like a kind of MMO zombie killing game but with a goofy sense of humour. Colour me very interested. Here’s hoping they can keep the bloody style this time.
-McLaren is exclusive to Forza Motorsport 5. I’m sure that’s a big deal to someone but it isn’t to me. I like the Forza games but you’ve got to figure out something new to do with this guys. Just driving around prettier cars isn’t that big a deal. But maybe that’s me. I’m less into cars than I used to be so maybe I’m not in the target any more. Driveatar is possibly the stupidest name I’ve heard in a long time. The idea sounds neat but the first thing that came to my mind was “Teach the game to play itself for you! Why bother trying to get together online to play with your friends when you can just play their AIs from the cloud?” That misses the point entirely to me.
-Dead Rising 3 looks cool but honestly, that series has never appealed to me. I’m assuming they’ll want it to be as brutal and punishing as the other two. I’m fine with that, it’s just not for me. That was a lot of zombies on the screen though. Also, calling artillery in from my phone? Why would I want this thing?
-Quantum Break is a TV collaboration project and apparently player’s choices in the game will affect the show in some way. It’s clear Microsoft is into producing TV content now. It sounds cool and all but I’m skeptical and honestly, I just want a good game, I don’t care about a TV show. Anything Remedy does automatically has me interested and it looks very cool but they’re a very small team and this seems crazy ambitious. I hope it works out well though, I want to see it.
-The new Black Tusk Studios game has me interested simply because it looks like a spy game. Please be focused on stealth rather than run-and-gun action!
-Crimson Dragon looks neat. I’m happy for a new Panzer Dragoon-like game but I think it’s Kinect exclusive which is a turn off. There was also no sound during the demo. Oops.
-Did not expect to see CD Projekt RED on stage but it’s so good to see those guys getting the mainstream attention they deserve. The Witcher 3 looks gorgeous and it’s open world which is very impressive. Hey Rockstar, this is a small Polish team making a massive, open-world game on their own engine in just a couple of years. How come it takes you 1,000 people and 6 years to give us GTA V, which doesn’t look nearly as impressive? Don’t get me wrong, I want GTA V right now but what CDPR is pulling off is incredible.
-Battlefield 4 looks like more Battlefield. Guns and explosions and dudebro bravado masquerading as attempts at emotion. I love that series but geez guys, could you at least try to do something new? 60fps on a console is nice and all but that’s not a design innovation, especially when we’ve had that and similar looks on PC since 2011.
-To no one’s shock, a new Halo game is coming. And they showed exactly nothing of it. I still think Halo is the most overrated series of all-time and this isn’t going to change my mind. That it will run at 60fps is a cool first, now if the game didn’t play like it was on downers, we’d be all good.
-Project Spark looks kind of cool in a LittleBigPlanet kind of way but it also looks like it’s designed to let people be creative which having to put only the barest amount of actual effort into it. Why work to make something cool when the machine can do it for you? What they showed of the real-time multiplayer collaboration looked cool though and I’m hoping there a lot more depth to this than what was shown. We did see a crazy amount of variety in the projects but they were all quick sting shots, nothing substantive. Proof will be in the pudding.
-Respawn’s game looks cool I guess but it was a let down for me. It’s not a modern military shooter but it’s pretty much as close to that as you can get. Near-future with mechs. Definitely interested to see more but this looks like a no-risk idea and I’m disappointed by that. If I get it, it will probably be on PC.
-There was no mention of Call of Duty whatsoever. Now we know why they put that in the other reveal. It would have been impossible to put that and Respawn’s game in the same presentation without ruffling a lot of feathers but I’m still really surprised that we saw nothing at all.

I think Microsoft did pretty well to be honest or at least a lot better than they could have. There was a lot of sequels and safe ideas but there were a few new things like could be very interesting if they’re given a chance to shine. What they showed of indie support was a joke though and they should be ashamed of themselves, especially if Sony brings it in that regard. They didn’t address any of the burning controversial questions about Xbox One and I still need to know more about those before I put down any cash for this machine. This could have been a lot worse than it was though. If there wasn’t that bad juju hanging over them regarding Internet requirements and DRM, I might be tempted to put in a pre-order. For now though, I need more answers and I hope those come soon. Given that they cancelled interviews with most game journalists though, I don’t know when we can expect them.

$499 for this system is a lot of money. I mean, given what it offers, it really isn’t but in this economy and with people rightly or wrongly thinking that they’re getting better value from a basic iPad that costs the same amount of money, this is a tough value proposition they’re offering. Maybe if they’d taken out the Kinect no one really cared about and all the live TV features no one asked for, they could have made a lower-priced console that could have sold to more people to make that up. Would it have worked? I don’t know but I think they’re going to have a very hard time selling Xbox One for that much right now. We’ll have to see if the PS4 can beat it on price.

Later tonight, I’ll be posting a similar analysis of Sony’s show and I’ll try to put one together based on tomorrow’s Nintendo Direct if it’s substantive enough. These are taking a lot more effort to put together than I thought but the pressure’s kind of fun. See you soon! 🙂

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3 Responses to My Microsoft press conference off-the-cuff reaction spectacular!

  1. Nyuuron says:

    I predicted that as long as the Xbox One was a good price point it would do well. I said less than $500, and it’s just at $500 at $499. I still think it has some promise, and some of the games and ideas thrown out there are interesting, but I’d agree the price point is going to make or break it, and it’s right at the edge. I’m surprised we didn’t hear about some kind of subsidized version of it, similar to the $99 360 with live subscription deals we’ve had lately, but then maybe they’re hold that back until after launch.
    I suspected Sony would be aiming for the same price point. So ball’s in Sony’s court again, and they only have to do two things — undercut Xbox One, and give some strong, well-known exclusives. Let’s watch and find out.

    • I’ll be doing one of these posts for the Sony show as well, even if I’ll be delirious from exhaustion as a result. 🙂
      I think a subsidised version could still happen. I think they might be waiting to see how many people pre-order it at $499 and if those numbers don’t come in where they want, they’ll announce the subsidised version of it closer to launch to bolster those numbers. As I understand it, the subsdised 360 has done quite well for them.

  2. Pingback: So that was E3 2013 – Now with video! | Geek Bravado

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