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E3 2017 – Microsoft

June 12th, 2017 by

E3 Ms 001What a difference three years has made.  That’s when Phil Spence took over the Xbox division for Microsoft.  From the misjudged disaster of the original Xbox One launch, Phil’s team have overseen a complete turnaround in the brand. Refocusing from an entertainment hub back to its core business of gaming whilst moving away from the ill-judged Kinect to bring the price in line with its main competitor. Team Xbox has introduced Backwards compatibility, Xbox games pass and monthly Games with Gold (arguably the latter both consistently better propositions than that of  PlayStation).  In addition to the premium Elite controller, there was the launch of the revised Xbox One S, a smaller and sleeker console with better with 4K Media support.

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So the momentum has certainly been there.  But Playstation is by far the dominant system in Europe.  Although we have seen superb exclusives with the likes of Forza Horizons and Gears of War, Xbox does not have the sheer volume of first party support of Sony. So this year’s E3 is very much do or die for them.

Xbox One X

That was the name.  That’s a lot of X’s.  Not as many X’s as the XXX 70’s porn film.  Not as hairy, but maybe just as dirty.

First up after Phil was some guy who took great delight in quoting some tech specs  He looked like he lived for it.  REALLY LIVES FOR IT.  There was words like DDR, RAM and Nano-something technology.  Liquid cooled, that can’t be safe with electricity can it?  Apparently it is.  Luckily, he kept it to a minimum.  It boils down to all games you have on your Xbox One X will work better and run faster.

First shock, we all assumed that all this power would mean a bigger box, like the extra layer on the PlayStation Pro’s height.  Well, we are wrong.  This is the smallest Xbox ever made.  It’s smaller than the S.  I mean, I was quite impressed with that.  I let out a little Bill and Ted “Woah”

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Forza 7

This one was not so much of a shock as they come out every couple of years.  Then they talked about cars and showed a real life Porsche.  Now I like cars, but all Porsches look the same and this one was silver with a spoiler.  As for the game, it runs at 4K at 60FPS.  Any PC gamer will tell you that this is pretty impressive on anything below a full gaming rig.  There was some racing and some weather.  In short, with 700 cars it looked very pretty.

Lots of games

42 of them to be exact, with 22 of them being exclusive.   This was very much Microsoft continuing to redress the balance against their main competitor.  However, there was a lack of first party AAA games that Sony has amassed over previous years but this presentation felt like it was coming from a company launching a console for the first time  there was also a mixture of timed console exclusives too including the likes of Life is Strange :Before the Storm

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First up, Mutant Bear Shooter, or Metro Exodus as they were calling it.  I liked the Metro games.  Next up the new Assassins Creed game, which had some hippos, crocodiles and big snakes. Very animal centric this presentation was so far.  Having not played very much of the previous games I can’t really judge if this is any better, looked pretty and you could control a bird.  Which I suppose is nice.

This was followed by a bit about Mixer and Play Unknown Battlegrounds, now a console launch exclusive. I have watched the MidLife Gamer twitch streams of this and it looks a lot of fun.  Another console launch exclusive came in the form of Indi title Deep Rock Galactic.  Looked alright.  Then came State of Decay 2, the sequel to the very well received, if buggy original.

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Then, introduced in typical American bombastic style was the Darwin project and a bit about Minecraft, the game that just won’t die.  At least my kids have stopped watching bloody YouTube videos about it.  Now you will be able to play together no matter which platform you are on.  It will now also run on 4K, because this is a game that really needed a higher resolution.

Other titles included a Japanese Anime beat up -   Dragon Ball Fighter x  .  I am rubbish at fighting games, Black Desert – Looked like Witcher 3 combat on steroids, The Last Night – a  FlashBack looking futurist game that really peaked my interest, pretty platformer, the Artful Escape,  and Japanese inspired CodeVein.

Then we were shown a 10 minute section of Sea of Thieves which continues to shape up nicely.  This looks tons of fun with friends.  If only I had some friends….

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Platformers were catered for with the likes of the cute platform fox action with  Super Lucky’s Tale and the still amazingly beautiful Cuphead.  Finally being release in September of this year.

Crackdown 3 made reappearance.  I cannot wait to play this one.  Launching November 2017, that one will be on the Christmas list

Then a montage of a ton of different ID@Xbox games some of which including Observer, Surviving Mars and Fable Fortune all warrant further investigation.

Cross platform titles included Shadow of War, the sequel to Shadow of Mordar. A very amusing presentation. I think I love Bruce.

Backwards Compatibility got expanded to include Xbox One (the first one, not the first Xbox one, but the Xbox Xbox.)

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4K updates will be available later for the likes of Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3.  A number of third party developers will be also be updating current titles such as resident Evil and Final Fantasy.

Ending the show was Anthem from Bioware.  Now this game looked good, looking like the hybrid love child of a drunken one night stand between Destiny and Ironman.

Didn’t they do well?

Microsoft did a significantly better job of launching this console than the PS Pro.  The messaging was clear and not too technical.  Xbox One X Enhanced was the by-line.  I would say although a simple message, they didn’t really say how enhanced games would be if you don’t own a 4K TV.  But they did say that ALL games would run better.  This was the continuation of the reenergised Team Xbox, a company clearly hungry to regain the dominant positon they held with the previous generation.  There were a lot of strong exclusives.  Some will criticise the lack of any discussion of VR but I can understand why this was omitted.  Microsoft can clearly see that VR is still an expensive niche and the disappointing sales of the PS VR only prove this.  I am not saying the VR doesn’t still remain a potentially exciting progression but there is still a lack of killer apps on the market to justify the premium price tag.

Because of marketing exclusives with the like of Destiny 2 and COD, Xbox had no choice but to concerntrate elsewhere.  This led to a presentation that focused on other games, which in itself was refreshing.

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What took the wind out of the sales was the price of the new console, not surprisingly given the $499 tag.  That’s going to be the same price that the Xbox One when it originally launched with the Kinect and more expensive that the PS PRO.  This may put off some consumers, especially if they don’t have a 4K TV.  However, I don’t feel that this is aimed at the general consumer, it targets the hardcore gamer and those original xbox one owners who have been waiting to upgrade.  Overall it was a proposition that learnt from what some consider was the PS Pro’s half-baked introduction and subsequent time on the market.

Ok Phil, I’m sold.  But only once I get the TV and maybe wait until the console comes own in price a little..  Both of which I will have to run past the wife first.With PlayStation and Xbox both with 4K consoles in the field of battle, there can be only one winner and that is us gamers.  With two products on the market, 4K support will be even more likely to become the norm.

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