Tensions were high as Microsoft was the first company to take the stage at this year’s E3. The conference was undoubtedly an important showing for Microsoft, as the company’s initial Xbox One reveal managed to raise more questions than it answered. The console manufacturer looked to quell consumer concerns over the Xbox One’s lack of focus with an impressive array of titles, including a handful of exclusive games.
Shooters from Start to Finish
Microsoft wasted no time getting to the action as a visually impressive trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain set the tone for the title heavy show. As expected, a large portion of Microsoft’s offerings remained shooter-focused with the company showing off an extensive gameplay demo of Battlefield 4 and teasing 343 Studio’s new Halo game. Microsoft looks like it will continue to try to corner the FPS market this generation, as developer DICE announced that the fist map pack for Battlefield 4 will be a timed exclusive for Xbox One. Microsoft announced a similar deal with Activision for its Call of Duty Franchise at the Xbox One reveal event.
With such a strong shooter presence it comes as no surprise that the show closed with a trailer and brief gameplay demo of Titanfall. The multiplayer focused Sci-Fi shooter is newly formed studio Respawn Entertainment’s first offering. A large portion of the studio’s staff migrated from Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty, explaining the familiar frantic twitch-based gameplay. However, with a slew of mechanized robots populating the field of battle Titanfall seems to offer enough to differentiate itself. Titanfall could prove to be a big winner for Microsoft as the game is not set to release on Sony’s PlayStation 4, though it is expected to release on Xbox 360 and PC.
Xbox 360 and the New Gold Standard
One of the more reassuring points that Microsoft made during this year’s conference was the promise of continued support for the Xbox 360. Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi took the stage claiming that hundreds of titles are currently in development for the Xbox 360 and will release over the course of the next few years. While Mehdi’s claim seems like a bit of a tall order, Microsoft did put their money where their mouth is by showing off numerous Xbox 360 titles including free-to-play title World of Tanks, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, and Dark Souls II. It’s also important to note that a wide collection of next generation games will be receiving support on the Xbox 360 as well (i.e. Titanfall).
Mehdi also announced that a major change is coming to Xbox Live Gold subscriptions to compete with Sony’s PlayStation Plus service. Similar to PlayStation Plus, Xbox Live members will now receive free rolling games for their membership, with Microsoft adding two new titles every month. Assassin’s Creed II and Halo 3 will be first titles offered.
First Party Presence
Microsoft isn’t typically known for its strong first party offerings, but the company still managed to provide a strong showing at this year’s event. Besides Halo the company had a few big names, including Turn 10’s Forza MotorSport 5. Microsoft also looked to capitalize on gamer’s nostalgia announcing a remake of Rare’s 1994 fighting franchise Killer Instinct. Interestingly enough Rare won’t be the one working on the reboot, instead that duty falls to Double Helix Games.
Dave McCarthy from Microsoft Studios showed off Project Spark. The new title appears to be less of a game and more a level editor reminiscent of Sony’s LittleBigPlanet series. Players appear to be able to create original maps and scripting with the ability to share their creations with friends.
More content is surely to come from Microsoft Studios, as Phil Spencer revealed that Microsoft has opened five new studios aimed at first-party development. Out of those five new studios only Black Tusk Studios had a game to show. The game appeared to be centered around an espionage theme, though details remain scarce as the game does not even have a title yet. With five more studios in the mix, Microsoft has shown that it’s serious about bringing more first-party games to the Xbox One this generation.
Third Party Powerhouse
To no surprise Microsoft showcased its strong third-party support with a vast array of titles and a number of key exclusives. Crytek’s Ryse: Son of Rome was one such title, as the large sprawling hack and slash game will be an Xbox One exclusive launch title. Remedy Entertainment will also be offering its version of exclusive flare with its TV/game hybrid Quantum Break. Similar to recent release Defiance, Quantum Break boasts strong connections between mediums as events within the game potentially influencing the television series and vice versa. Dead Rising 3, Capcom’s latest addition to its over the top open-world zombie fighting game is also heading to Xbox One as an exclusive. Microsoft showed some love to RPG fans as well as CD Projket Red announced that the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be available on Xbox One, thought the title is also expected to appear on PS 4 and PC as well.
Price and Availability
Microsoft kept technical details regarding the Xbox One to a minimum, but the company did announce that the Xbox One will be available this November for $500. The price point isn’t too surprising considering each device comes equipped with a Kinnect, but Microsoft’s new console will cost $100 more than Sony’s PlayStation 4.
Microsoft’s dedicated focus on games was certainly well received, but the company may have made a mistake by failing to address rising concerns over the Xbox One’s reported built-in DRM. Microsoft simply may not know how its DRM system is going to work; but in its continued silence, Microsoft is leaving consumers confused. Microsoft may do well to remember that “monster you don’t know, is often far more frightening than the one you do.”