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Analysis: Microsoft manages to pad it out for another year

Tuesday, 5th June 2012 08:54 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Microsoft’s E3 conference was a success in that it managed to keep 360 moving for yet another year, but with Kinect quietly moved aside and the AAA blending into one, the next gen has to be something special, says Patrick Garratt.

It was solid. There were no surprises. It was better without Kinect. Microsoft at E3 2012 was about setting the co-ordinates with enough precision to make the jump to light-speed. The real action comes next year, and it had better be good: we can’t keep up with this for much longer.

It was strong enough, and given just how old Xbox 360 is, it’s was all you can hope for. Microsoft’s E3 conference this year was a functional affair specifically designed to keep this generation alive until 2013′s new console reveal, and it did enough to make the entire strategy seem plausible.

It says a lot about the current state of this generation that a new Gears of War game can be announced, trailered and vanish in the space of a few minutes with little fanfare. Microsoft at E3 2012 was all about treading water.

That’s not to say there was no merit. Microsoft is an old hand at managing third-party exclusives while mixing in a slim but solid triple-A portfolio, and this year proved just how valuable the strategy can be. Halo 4, Gears of War: Judgment and Forza Horizon all looked dependable as the first-party offering for the year, and Black Ops II, Splinter Cell and Tomb Raider – and their exclusive pieces of DLC – are all guaranteed FY2012 smashes.

No matter how well they’re going to sell, though, it’s all starting to blur. Halo and Black Ops are floating sci-fi guns. Splinter Cell and Tomb Raider are hyper-violent cover shooters. There was little to buoy anyone looking for a shift in platform holder publishing from Microsoft, but 2012 isn’t about moving off the beaten track: it’s about doggedly following the compass until we reach the next gen waypoint of E3 2013.

There were hints of the future, though. Kinect, as is now obvious, has been dropped like a hot rock. Dance Central 3 was the only Kinect-specific game in the entire conference. The only other Kinect features on show were voice-related, in games such as Madden and Splinter Cell. There’s no accident here; Kinect hasn’t worked in the way Microsoft hoped it would. There are too many problems with a device that requires oodles of room and perfect lighting, and it should be no shock that game-makers should only allow voice-recognition into their software in terms of Kinect. You can’t gamble on whether or not a motion feature’s going to work when you have a $20 million budget.

Another pointer at what’s to come was shown in SmartGlass and the inclusion of Internet Explorer in 360 this year. The SmartGlass demo was excellent, showing how companies like Microsoft are now keenly aware that the savvy consumer is looking for a connected living room eco-system, and that openness is key to any successful method. SmartGlass will support iOS, Windows Phone and Android, meaning you’ll be able to hook everything to your 360 no matter what you own. This will be a standard moving forward, and you should expect next gen consoles to support iPad and the like straight out of the box.

The weight of services to software was really nothing unusual, as you’ll know if you’ve watched Microsoft at E3 in recent years, and it was nice to see Xbox Music finally announced. As ever with these initiatives, though, the proof will be in the eating. It may be the music service of “dreams,” as the effervescent presenter had it last night, but Sony’s VidZone sounded amazing until you sat in front of your TV watching nothing load. We’ll see.

It was solid. There were no surprises. It was better without Kinect. Microsoft at E3 2012 was about setting the co-ordinates with enough precision to make the jump to light-speed. The real action comes next year, and it had better be good: we can’t keep up with this for much longer. For 2012, you’re stuck with first-person shooting, cover shooter and dancing like Usher. You’ll just have to be patient.

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17 Comments

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  1. Bruciebabe

    The core Microsoft strategy is to integrate the living room (console) with the desktop (Windows PC) with mobile (Windows phone) with tablets. All sharing content from the cloud.
    Once you realise this the waymarkers along the route become obvious. The major changes to Live over the last year, for instance. SmartGlass is another such announcement and its capabilities will expand as the strategy rolls out.

    Microsoft are doing this because they can and nobody else has the presence across so many markets to follow them. It gives them huge strategic advantage. For gaming the possibilities are fascinating and endless.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. G1GAHURTZ

    Looking forward to seeing what they do with SmartGlass.

    Has loads of potental for RTS games…

    #2 2 years ago
  3. polygem

    smart glass has potential. it is just their answer to vita and wiiu tablet use though. we will see this on every console.
    i really was shocked abot the absence of cool in ms´s presentation. there literally was just halo, tomb raider and a short gears trailer that even looked rushed.
    halo 4 was among the very best the e3 as a whole had to offer this far though. that demo really saved me from throwing my 360 out of the window.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Old MacDonald

    “It was strong enough” … oh no it wasn’t, not by a long shot.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. rainer

    #1 sounds like a PR person, anyway it was pretty bad all around.

    The smartglass stuff was nonsense, who starts checking their phone/tablet while watching the middle of a movie/show and if they do they mustn’t be that interested in it in the first place.

    Remote control for the web browser wasn’t a bad idea but it has been done before so MS were straight up lying when they said it hasn’t, you can get these remotes for various smart TV’s that have browsers.

    No-one will ever do RTS games on the Xbox again, Microsoft isn’t interested and third parties on the PC aren’t.

    The whole interactivity thing with games was fluff, I’d be amazed like with third parties on the Wii U if anyone ever does anything interesting with it.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. absolutezero

    Halo 4 just looked like they took the worst parts of the previous games and spun them out. No one liked fighting the flood, they enjoyed pitting themselves against the Elites and the Brutes.

    I enjoyed the ping ponging about guy but then he more or less just got one shotted by the forerunner gun.

    What would have been amazing was if the flying drone that was tossing grenades back actually stuck the guy playing.

    Aside from that it was a couple of nice enough looking third party titles and a shit load of fuck all.

    You know I thought the way to get fully immersed in a TV show is to, you know, actually watch the TV show and not play about with a tablet while its on.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Yoshi

    @3 Are you stoned? XD Halo 4 looked pretty meh. The only good thing about Halo 4 was that they’re going into some new environments this time.

    There’s also the fact that Master Chief has a voice now while also being babysitted by the “suit voice”. “Over there, over here, behind you, lets look here, lets walk forward” That will get very annoying and it wasn’t like it took breaks it was constantly saying stuff.

    Watch Dogs & Last of Us were the main games that took it beyond and made this years e3 awesome. Best part is, they’re new ips. So maybe devs/pubs won’t be too scared to make some new ips now.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Ge0force

    Another Halo, another Forza, another Gears, another Fable… always the same core games every year again. At least some games switched devs now, and there wasn’t as much Kinect as the previous years. Smartglass seems very promising, but not so much for core games.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Da Man

    Last of us looked like yet another eye candy with borderline non existent gameplay, typical Sony. And typical smoke and mirrors.

    Come back to me when you produce a video game with a tad bit more open environment, enemies with separate AI and a few of those on screen at once.

    Oh wow, a zombie videogame. They really took us beyond.

    That and the new tech demo from David Cage. Oh well, I suppose it’s all exciting when your biggest expose to literature was Xenosaga.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. OrbitMonkey

    Hmmm…

    Halo 4 looked like yet another eye candy with borderline non-existent gameplay, typical MS and typical smoke and mirrors.

    Oh wow a space marine fps, they really took us beyond.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Da Man

    Orbitmonkey, you really should try harder.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. ManuOtaku

    For me it was good, but it could have been better, as much as i like halo, gears of war, fable, alan wake, etc, i mean all the microsoft exclusives, i would love to see some new tittles of old franchises, like a new killer instint game, perfect dark, kameo, too human, banjo,conker, etc, and a few quality kinect games like the gunstringer or the new panzer dragon kinect game, something on those lines, but i got the feeling they are keeping much of these for the 720, so no biggy.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Ireland Michael

    @10 I think you’re trying too hard in this instance.

    Even I though the Halo 4 demo looked good. AI has always been one of Halo’s strengths, and I’m interested to see what they can do with these news species. They definitely have a cool design too.

    The Microaoft conference was mostly awful. The only thing that really got me excited was the Tomb Raider footage. Game looks phenomenal.

    SmartGlass looks like a nice idea that will unfortunately probably just end up being under-utilized due to its reliance on external, third party hardware that not everyone will own. It’s just an attempt to grab someone the Wii U market.

    Usher. That’s all else I have to say. Ugh…

    #13 2 years ago
  14. OrbitMonkey

    @11, Lolshock94? Hasn’t your 3 month ban lifted yet? Or is the constant name changing your new schtick?

    #14 2 years ago
  15. polygem

    @7. you wasn´t blown away by the halo 4 demo and call ME stoned? you stoned man? :P
    the master chief has been in jungles before. even in halo ce there was a jungle section. the demo looked and felt like a halo game. the best looking and most sexy halo game i have ever seen.
    the “baysitting” voice was cortana. the connection between her and john will be a huge part of the story. this isn´t annoying for anyone who likes halo. it makes sense that she talks, she always has, it´s her job. the chief talked too. that´s something.
    the new enemies looked great. the old enemies looked great as ever. the hud was perfected, the artdesign was halo, the execution looked more than impressive. the trailer bits after the demo with a screaming, mad cortana looked so very promising. the music was awesome, great atmosphere, all you can wish for in an epic stroy based fps videogame was there…there was nothing bad about it. it was all awesome. the best bit of e3 so far, by far.

    the rest of the ms presser was the worst of e3 so far unfortunatley.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Moonwalker1982

    E3 2013 has to be it that they are revealing the new console then. Last year they ended with the Halo 4 announcement, a game that was planned for the next year and it will, this november. This conference ended with a multiplatform title, not exactly what i’d call…going out with a bang. Nothing huge planned for next year, except for the new Gears title, but that didn’t seem too important for some reason. E3 2013 reveal and a launch for late 2013 or even 2014 i guess then.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. fearmonkey

    This year’s MS conference was disappointing. While Sony focused on games, MS focused on non-gaming primarily. The smartglass thing is interesting and could be cool, but for E3 I want to see new games, not sequels we all knew were coming, and surprises.

    Sony showed Beyond which is new and exciting, MS didn’t have anything near as cool.

    Also, I wish MS would get a clue and stop with the non gaming stuff at E3, like the Usher concert.

    #17 2 years ago