Thoughts On Microsoft’s E3 Conference: A General Sense of ‘Meh’
Glimpses of greatness amidst a murky swamp of boredom and Usher dancing away merrily.
With Microsoft officially announcing they had no plans to reveal the Xbox 720 at this year’s E3, all eyes were on them to see what their plan was for this year. Well, after sitting through an hour’s worth of conference, we’re still not sure what the plan was.
This year was critical to Microsoft. They needed a great show where they wowed us with new games and useful technology, one that would keep the Xbox 360 going strong throughout 2012 and 2013 while fighting off competition from the Wii U. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that, and what we got instead were a few exclusives, and a great deal of focus on pretty irrelevant technology that isn’t of interest to the vast majority of Xbox 360′s core market. Also, Usher? I mean what in the fudge was that all about?
Starting off strong with a great showing of Halo 4, Microsoft piqued my interest. I’m definitely getting Halo 4 no matter what, but the first gameplay really showed that that title is shaping up nicely. Unfortunately my interest after that really started to dwindle as Microsoft dedicated countless minutes to sport, Kinect features and the introduction of Internet Explorer. This section really went on far too long, and I feel for the journalists who were sat in the auditorium wanting to hear about games but instead were introduced at length to Nike and ESPN. Even the new Gears game was barely shown, and honestly, dedicating more time to casual entertainment purposes and not focusing on the Xbox 360 as a gaming console really undermines what the console’s all about.
I saw a really interesting Tweet as I was writing this article which reference Black Ops 2, saying they should of put a ‘in the interest of time’ message between Halo 4 and the climax of the conference, and I have to say I’d probably agree. There was just such a shocking lack of focus on actual games this year that it felt like Microsoft wants to remove all focus on games and instead push the Xbox 360 as an entertainment hub. It’s all well and good to do that, but honestly, how many people use the Xbox as an entertainment centre rather than a games console? It’s got to be not that many and I feel that this massive focus on Xbox 360′s non-gaming features really shows how desperate Microsoft is to pigeonhole the casual market that the Wii has so much influence over.
Speaking of which, how much of a Wii U copy is the Xbox Smart Glass? It’s almost like they literally stole everything Nintendo’s doing and said you can use it with your existing tablets, which would be cool if the majority of people actually had one. This, again, brought out the too-much-focus on integrating different forms of technology with the 360 and – honestly – I was rapidly going from bored to brain-melting stages. We really don’t care about all this integration Microsoft – all we need is a controller, sometimes a Kinect, and we’re happy. To dedicate your biggest conference of the year to the fact you can use a damn smartphone to navigate web pages is a joke, and I really am deeply, deeply disappointed by the whole event.
If I had to pick a favorite moment it would clearly be South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone totally lampooning the entire conference before they came out in just one simple quote. You only had to hear the laughter of the gathered gaming media to hear that they’re thinking exactly the same as they were as the two funniest men in cartoons essentially made fun of Microsoft’s entire strategy by announcing the insanely awesome South Park: The Stick of Truth.
But yeah, Halo 4 and Gears look good, but the rest of the conference really left a sour taste in my mouth. Black Ops 2 did pique my interest, but it’s really a multi-platform game so I shan’t give any props to MS for that one.
Microsoft’s E3 conference was… interesting to say the least, the very least.
Sports games – I appreciate them, I see the potential, but I just don’t get excited for them. Watching Microsoft promote EA Sport’s new titles today was almost yawn-inducing. After so much hype about the ability for voice control within Kinect, it seemed predictable that sport titles like NFL 13 and FIFA 13 would be compatible with this feature. On one hand, I found it cool watching NFL legend Joe Montana administer verbal plays while demoing NFL 13 but on the other hand, I don’t think I would enjoy playing the game this way. Maybe it’s my lack of football knowledge or my preference for a controller, but I cannot see myself yelling plays at my console. To be fair, for those of you who come to EA Sports titles with sound sports knowledge and an interest in an immersive gaming environment, Microsoft Kinect would be right up your alley.
Microsoft also announced Smartglass, an innovative way to integrate your mobile device to your gaming experience, just in case you can’t multitask like the rest of the world. The concept is sound, integrate your entire entertainment setup with Smartglass, Xbox Music, TV, and Movies, however I feel like the iShip has sailed a while ago for this target market.
To keep the audience on their toes, Microsoft had invited Usher for a life performance of “Scream”, his latest hit that will be featured on Just Dance Dance Central 3. Now, I can admit that I like to get my groove on to Usher every now and then, but mixing E3 and an Usher performance is just unnecessary. Microsoft, stop using celebrities to distract us from the fact that you really don’t have anything new and exciting for E3.
One positive from this conference was a sneak peak of Tomb Raider, which really added to the overall feel of the game. I can truly say that I am so excited for this title even after watching Lara repeatedly get banged up and bruised.
I was pleasantly surprised to see South Park introduced at the conference with South Park: The Stick of Truth to be released in 2013. Trey Park and Matt Stone did an incredible job of showcasing the often-crude cartoon show as a videogame. What really excites me is the interaction between the gamer and the characters we have grown to love (or hate) in this adventure game. I just wonder if you will have the chance to have a Canadian avatar…