With the glaring absence of Sony at this year’s E3, the stars aligned for Microsoft to really get a lead on its competitor and win over the gaming crowd back towards the Xbox brand. The stage was literally set for Microsoft to blow Sony out of the water and leave them playing catch-up going into the next generation of consoles. The potential was high and the hype was huge (were our predictions correct?), but did Microsoft manage to live up to those expectations, and did they steal a march on their main rival?
The short answer is: no.
Microsoft pushed a clear message, building on last year’s E3, that they are making software and hardware with games and the players in mind. Gone are the messages of all-in-one entertainment systems, Kinects and motion controls. What we now have is a conference full of games, 60 in fact, 14 of which were first-party. They really backed up their words by showing as many games as possible that will be headed to Xbox in the future. The biggest problem is it all felt a bit safe.
There were no real surprises, we already knew about most of the games that were shown, even though we got deeper looks at games like Battletoads and Halo. Even the games that we didn’t know about were not enough to really get the crowds off their feet, even if they do look interesting. There was also an expectation of seeing a lot more of Gears 5 and a first look into Halo: Infinite but both of these fell short too, offering very little to get excited about. It was great to see Microsoft put gamers at the forefront of their messaging and backing that up with a mammoth amount of games at their conference, but it definitely felt like a “more is better” approach.
The one trump card that Microsoft had up its sleeve was Scarlett. With the reveal of their next console, they would steal the show and put Sony in a difficult place. Right at the end of the conference, Microsoft used their devs to run through the specs of the new machine. Finally, we were going to get a real glimpse at how the next generation would look. The problem was everything that was revealed was practically identical to what Sony had already revealed about their new machine in an interview with Wired. A custom built SSD, load times are quicker, it is 8K compatible; it does Ray-Tracing and backwards compatibility will be present. Instead of using this opportunity to get ahead of the competition, they used it to match them. Microsoft did, however, give a release date of holiday 2020, so we at least know when Microsoft intends to unleash its new machine.
Despite the fantastic opportunity, Microsoft seemed to play things relatively safe, and focus on delivering a strong PR message over surprises and new information. If you are not already a fan of Microsoft properties and franchises, there wasn’t much reason to get excited about the games and hardware on the horizon. Although Microsoft really backed up its claim of putting gamers first, it feels like they really missed an opportunity to steal a march on their rival. Over to you Sony.
Let us know in the comments below if you were disappointed with Microsoft’s conference or if you thought it really hit all the right notes.