Opinion: Project Scorpio gives Microsoft its best E3 press conference in years

By Patrick Garratt, Monday, 13 June 2016 20:54 GMT

In case it’s still sinking in, Microsoft just announced it’s next generation Xbox. For 2017.

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It could have been so dull. It nearly was. While the “fans” in the pit at Microsoft’s E3 2016 press conference dutifully waved and yelled into the ever-circling Microsoft film crews’ lenses as we waited for the show to start, the anticipation was that we knew everything already. But the announcement that Xbox One S is to be a mere 40% of the size of the current, gargantuan Xbox One kicked off a strong showing that finished with a giant fuck-you to Sony and the confirmation that Project Scorpio, Microsoft’s next generation Xbox, will be the world’s most powerful video games console when it releases next year. Yep. 2017. Phil Spencer’s moment of triumph threatened to leave hard-to-brush-out stains on his t-shirt in the conference’s final moments, but you could forgive him considering the shit he’s had to deal with since Xbox One launched in 2013. Spunk away, Phil. You deserve it.

Microsoft delivered a thumping blow to its critics and started to show how its bravado, infrastructure and commitment mean Xbox’s future is OP, HD and anything but dead.

Microsoft made a fantastic job of a flat software year this morning at the University of Southern California’s Galen Centre, plugging AAA game gaps with some brilliant hardware innovations and strong indie announcements, including a long look at unique projects such as We Happy Few. Microsoft is listening. The Xbox One S has no external power supply and can now stand up on its end. At $299, it’s new, extremely attractive hardware for Christmas 2016. Will Sony have a counter? We’ll see later today, but if it doesn’t, it would be unwise to under-estimate the impact on PS4 sales this Holiday. New is good, especially when it’s exactly the thing Xbox gamers have been asking for since launch.

The announcement of Project Scorpio represents Microsoft’s plan to take consoles “beyond generations,” and, coupled with the new slim chassis, now means there’s a strong chance you’re going to be investing in a new Xbox One console both this Christmas and next. It’s a killer move for a machine of which many were beginning to question a future. It has one. And it’s going to be in 4K.

Microsoft’s hardware plan this year extended to a fresh line of customisable wireless controllers, using a new service called Xbox Design Lab, that allow users to change the colour of everything on the pad, including the buttons, and add text to the front. They looked brilliant, and are sure to prove an instant hit. Why wouldn’t you want one?

And backing up the hardware announcements came plays to Microsoft’s system strengths, the further fusing of the Xbox and PC platforms and the announcement of Play Anywhere. This is the same as Sony’s one-buy vision for PlayStation and Vita, except this one’s going to work. If you buy a Play Anywhere game on Xbox One, you get the PC version for free. Cross-platform play was a major aspect of Microsoft’s presentation this year, and with so much of PC gaming now done on pads, it’s finally time for gamers to realise the future. Gears of War 4 co-op, no matter whether you want to play it with friends on your TV or monitor? That’s useful. And because you’re getting the second version for nothing, it’s essentially free. Sony will have no answer to this.

Kait Knife Battle

Fortunately, the hardware and system announcements were backed up with decent games, even if E3 is so painfully obviously missing the “monster” Christmas release we all profited from last year in Fallout 4. Forza Horizon 3’s jaunt to Australia is a safe bet, sure, but it’s a beautiful one you know’ll be fun, and Gears of War 4 represents a spectacular re-run of the third-person movie shooter. Dead Rising 4 looked surprisingly awesome given the frame-rate-hobbled nonsense that was Dead Rising 3, and Scalebound, Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 and Halo Wars 2, along with its instantly available beta, plumped a line-up that may play in tested genres but packs obvious high quality. It’s looking good for Xbox One games right now.

But it’s the announcement of Project Scorpio that’ll keep everyone jabbering over E3 week. We’ve heard gossip since we’ve been in LA that Sony won’t talk about Neo, its 4K PS4 upgrade, in its press conference later today, as the various pre-E3 leaks have apparently impacted current console sales. We’ll see. But we have to say that right now Microsoft delivered a thumping blow to its critics at E3 2016 and started to show in real terms how its bravado, infrastructure and commitment mean Xbox’s future is OP, HD and anything but dead. Bravo, Phil and team. Good job.

Be sure to check out our E3 2016 hub for all the news, videos, screenshots, interviews and much more, live and direct for this year’s show.

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