Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference: All The Details

Microsoft had an E3 press conference, as you may have guessed. And it was very pretty! But it also raised more questions than answers.

The Xbox One, Coming This November, $499

Yep, it’s going to be a console slapfight this holiday, at least if Sony doesn’t announce a release date change: The Xbox One arrives for the holidays. Beyond that, we didn’t learn much more about the One. We do know a lot of tasks, like buying DLC and comparing Gamerscores and seeing how far along your friends are, are delegated to SmartGlass via Live. It mostly makes Live seamless, and the clip editing and broadcast features are pretty cool. But it does raise the question of how ubiquitous they think tablets are.

However, the big news is that points are dead. And that might be the best news all day, really.

The Xbox 360

The new Xbox 360 Slim is available as of today, and actually looks a lot like the Xbox One, which we’re sure will trigger a whole bunch of articles about customer confusion. Also, Gold members are getting two free games a month from now until the Xbox One launch, and big ones: Assassin’s Creed II and Halo 3, for example. Microsoft also asserted that you’d see platform support for years to come.

Then they immediately followed that up by announcing the free-to-play World of Tanks was hitting the 360. So what “support” really means is going to be an open question, for now.

Games For The Xbox One

Tellingly, the number of “exclusives” dropped to thirteen to fifteen, but equally tellingly, the bulk of the presentation was focused on first-party games.

  • Surprisingly nobody, Kinect Sports Rivals, the next Kinect Sports game, is coming this holiday season.
  • The presentation opens with a Metal Gear Solid video that looks very much like Red Dead Redemption with tanks and cheesy J-Pop. It’s fairly impressive-looking footage, and making an exclusive multiplatform is a coup, but you don’t need a Xbox One to play it.
  • Ryse gets an official reveal. Since it’s been in the works for years now, this is probably the least surprising reveal. However, the fact that it’s exclusively a Kinect-controlled game has been dumped, and replaced with quick-time events, although a squad-based brawler is at least something different. The result is that it looks like a case of God Of War-envy.
  • KILLER INSTINCT. We don’t know anything beyond the fact that it’s a fighting game, and it looks amazing. But Killer Instinct!
  • Insomniac debuted Sunset Overdrive, an open-world shooter that they bill as a “living-world game”. The trailer showed off some traversal, including wall-runs and boarding, as well as a mix of multiplayer shooting and mutant-fighting. This actually looks like a lot of fun, and a nice return to the lighthearted tone Insomniac is known for.
  • Forza 5. Again, predictable, but it does look very, very slick, even for a racing game, which is essentially the tech demo genre for consoles anyway. The fact that they spent a solid minute talking about graphics in the presentation should tell you where the focus is. They also have what they call a “Drivatar”, which is a terrible word to describe what amounts to a cloud processing agent that copies your driving style in order to make races more realistic. Notably missing from the presentation is whether or not the game would be playable without these “Drivatars” and their magic cloud processing, however.
  • Less than shockingly, Minecraft is coming to Xbox One. Guess Notch should prepare for another $100 million in his bank account.
  • We also got more information on Quantum Break, the SF game from Remedy. Essentially, as you play the game, it changes the episodes of the TV show. Yes, there’s a TV show, and you have to watch it to get details to play the game. Notably missing? Any gameplay footage.
  • Swery65 debuted D4, which looks… interesting, although “episodic” does not inspire confidence.
  • Project Spark seems essentially to be a LittleBigPlanet knock-off, except with pre-defined designs and some painfully cheesy dialogue. It’s an interesting idea, and it could be fun, but the mix of Kinect and SmartGlass seems more gimmicky than anything else.
  • Crimson Dragon had no audio, but it looks like Panzer Dragoon with more horsepower. This is in no way a bad thing.
  • Dead Rising 3 features on the fly crafting, and artillery support courtesy of SmartGlass. And, yes, it’s an Xbox One exclusive, but this looks pretty awesome.
  • The Witcher 3, again, no surprises here. At least it’s finally free-roaming, and the quests are non-linear. Thankfully, the voice commands are also optional.
  • Battlefield 4 made an appearance, although the demo crapped out at first. The big selling point is that the demo was running at 60fps, and watching ships rip apart and planes slide off the deck is pretty cool, but beyond that… not much creativity on display. The Xbox One gets the map packs first, of course.
  • Below didn’t get much love, but it looks like a fun mix of top-down and sidescrolling action.
  • There’s a new Halo game, of course, coming for 2014. Apparently, Master Chief will become a Jawa! Oh, it too is 60fps.
  • Finally, Titanfall! Which basically looks like Call Of Mech Duty. However, the wall-running and jetpacks look fun, and the mech combat does actually change the nature of the game.

What We’re Missing

Once again, Microsoft didn’t address used games or always-on. A lot of these games sound tightly, tightly integrated with the cloud, and other accessories like tablets for the use of SmartGlass. If you need a $499 console, a broadband Internet connection that’s reliable and constant, and a tablet or smartphone to get the most out of these games, that’s a very small subset of gamers. Microsoft has hopefully thought about this, but they’d also better hope Sony has a very, very bad E3.