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Humbled and honest, Microsoft finally admits it’s all about the games

Tuesday, 10th June 2014 09:00 GMT By Matt Martin

Microsoft put video games first during its E3 media briefing this year, a welcome message from a company no-longer obsessed with self-congratulatory bullshit.

Phil Spencer _E3 2014 Briefing_Photo

“Microsoft was giving you all its reasons for buying an Xbox One without any of the peripheral bullshit.”

Microsoft’s media briefing on the first day of E3 2014 delivered what everyone had been asking for this past year. Talk about the games, they said. So Microsoft did. The games looked good, a handful looked great and fair few fell flat, but regardless, Microsoft has listened to the criticism and shifted focus away from the business – the soulless corporation honking its own horn

Xbox boss Phil Spencer got straight to the point. For Microsoft to acknowledge “friends at Sony and Nintendo” was a great leap and acknowledgment that the Xbox One is not in it alone. We need more than one console on the market, we need competition, we need multiple publishers and we need to rally around one another in tough times. Nothing is a given. Nothing is a sure shot hit. The video game eco system needs to move and writhe and pump and live. This was Microsoft not speaking for itself but speaking for the games industry as a whole.

And it was also about the fans. The first three presenters thanked the fans for their feedback specifically, and it genuinely didn’t feel like those thanks were through gritted teeth. Console manufacturers have lost there way over the years, obsessing about movies and TV and sports and apps and nonsense. We hear you, said Spencer. Here are the games you’ve been asking for.

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The first 45 minutes of the briefing were dedicated purely to games that are out in 2014. Microsoft has heard the worries and concerns from players who bought these consoles 6 months ago and don‘t feel that their early investment has really been justified.

It’s solid line-up from now until the end of the year, with Forza Horizon, Sunset Overdrive, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Evolve, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Dragon Age Inquisition, Fable Legends and the ridiculously generous Halo Master Chief Collection.

“Microsoft has heard the concerns from players who bought these consoles 6 months ago and don‘t feel that their early investment has been justified.”

That’s a list of heavy hitters. And while Microsoft wasn’t boasting about it, it’s worth noting that with the third-party games Xbox One is getting a lot of DLC, extra content and the odd beta first. This was presented as fact, not as a self-congratulatory high-five. Times have changed.

When the focus is purely on games we have to understand that we can’t have 90 minutes of surprises and new IP. You can’t have bombs dropped across the whole presentation. So there was some content that made the eyes roll and some that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

No-one asked for Conker to turn up on Project Spark, a vanity project that never really should have gotten the green light. Fable Legends has a nice hook with players taking on the role of a villain but it feels like Lionhead’s last roll of the dice on that franchise. And you’ve got to feel for the guys at Harmonix, still chugging away at games for Kinect when Microsoft didn’t even (quite rightly) mention its name once.

The reality is Microsoft doesn’t really have a console system with a unique selling point anymore. Its USP has to be its games. Only time will tell if that’s going to damage the Xbox One. But for the time being there are games to last out the year, and they look good enough to keep us all going until Christmas

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So it was the second half of the presentation where we got an encouraging glimpse of where Xbox One is going in 2015 and beyond.

Playdead’s Inside, more ID@Xbox side-scrolling cuties, big hitters like Square Enix’s Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3, Ken Lobb’s pointless remake of Phantom Dust (what, why?) Ubisoft’s The Division and Scalebound, the exclusive project from Hideki Kamiya. Again, no real nukes to blow up the Galen Center or E3 this year, but solid titles that are made for the games players, not the mainstream entertainment crowd.

“Third-party games are getting a lot of DLC and extra content first. This was presented as fact, not as a self-congratulatory high-five. Times have changed.”

The only real surprise then was Crackdown, and the fact original creator Dave Jones is back on board. Maybe it’s just the fact Jones is involved that’s the real surprise, but regardless, the trailer looked awesome and there’s enough goodwill about that open-world franchise that at this stage it was a welcome addition to the Xbox One portfolio.

This is what we asked for. Microsoft was giving you all its reasons for buying an Xbox One without any of the peripheral bullshit. “Games, games, games” shouldn’t have been a message that was ever lost in the first place but the stubborn-headed Microsoft of old has seemingly calmed down. Nothing is Better With Kinect. TV and sports aren’t on the same level of interactive entertainment. Novelty isn’t front and centre – the developers and their video games are. The fans are being listened to and catered for.

It turns out that the future of video games is video games. Microsoft has come full-circle. Let’s hope it’s a vision it sticks with and a realisation the rest of the video game business can get behind.

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12 Comments

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  1. stretch215

    I feel like MS did better this year, and I feel they are now focusing in the right place. By the time I get an Xbox1 there’ll be a good number of dope games.

    #1 2 months ago
  2. mistermogul

    To be honest they had to put the games first after last years balls-up.

    At least Phil realises where they went wrong and is making amends.

    They are now towing a similar line to what Sony were last year about being “all about the gamer” blah blah but they are a little too late with that and the damage has been done. I’m already a happy convert in Sonys camp.

    #2 2 months ago
  3. Doc Robotnik

    Wow. That was pretty vitriolic and not a little bit self-satisfied. Not a pleasant read.

    Also, “Project Spark, a vanity project that never really should have gotten the green light”. Where on earth did this nonsense come from?

    Throwing around comments like that without so much as an acknowledgement of a justification shows very little class.

    #3 2 months ago
  4. unknown_gamer

    Tomb Raider isn’t a M$ game , Derps

    #4 2 months ago
  5. super3001

    troll harder martin

    be ashamed of your bad journalism

    #5 2 months ago
  6. John117

    Personally I found the only thing lacking from MS conference was something regarding Halo 5 except the 30 sec cgi trailer of some random Spartans fighting and the promise of a MP beta.
    Calling Project Spark an unwanted game seems a bit biased though, if they actually deliver on what was shown last year it could become one of the main reasons to buy a Xbox One. Espeically since the concept looks alot like Little Big Planet if I’m not mistaken but with the design taken from Fable. And after reading your article regarding Sony’s conference this opinion piece just kinda reeks of a hint fanboyism hidden behind forced neutrality especially since Sony is at fault for doing the exact same thing MS did last year of promoting TV and camera instead of games the whole time.
    Not to mention that MS was consistent the whole way with new games lined up with some short breaks for developers to come with some input while Sony started strong and ended strong but came too short in the middle. But then again that just an opinion.

    #6 2 months ago
  7. apollyonbob

    Were there no games at E3 last year? http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/183878-microsoft-at-e3-watch-a-live-video-of-the-xbox-one-event-updated-live-blog

    A cursory Google search shows you’re wrong.

    But I’d rather instead ask if this is going to typify your articles going forward, because stupid shit like this is why I quit reading RPS and STARTED reading VG247. I’d appreciate it if you just tell me upfront so I can find some other site.

    Thanks.

    #7 2 months ago
  8. apollyonbob

    @apollyonbob Copied the wrong link! http://www.ign.com/wikis/e3/E3_2013_Press_Conferences

    #8 2 months ago
  9. Kreion

    @John117

    To be honest simply the use of ‘Arena’ being emphasized so much for Halo 5 tells you a fair amount about their decisions with the game. But I agree some game play would have been nice, I’m hoping that Halo will be a truly next gen game; it’s why I’m happy they’re taking their time.

    But this article…nah. Try harder, learn some objectivity without sounding like a child being forced to apologize.

    #9 2 months ago
  10. zoopdeloop

    E3 2013 Microsoft kind of rejects indies
    E3 2014 Phil Spencer returns in a LIMBO (kissing indie ass) t-shirt

    #10 2 months ago
  11. Gheritt White

    What’s with the fresh hate for Ken Lobb and Phantom Dust?

    #11 2 months ago
  12. Vice

    Obvious PC master race aside, MS will always win for me as long they have Halo. All thise shit like the last of us, uncharted, god of war, I don’t care, it can go to hell. Halo.. I can not live without.

    #12 2 months ago