The dust has settled and with E3 wrapping up, now would be a good time to reflect on what the Electronic Entertainment Expo of 2017 delivered to audiences around the world. This wasn’t the year of awe-inspiring surprises, nor was it devoid of reasons to be truly excited as a gamer, instead, the 2017 showcase offered in-depth previews of titles with imminent release dates. The promises made by some of the top developers and publishers from last year are finally coming to fruition, and it’s us, the gamers, that get to reap the rewards. Microsoft was just one of these companies to partner their newest games with (hopefully) solid release dates. It can’t be easy for the Microsoft team knowing their hardware output is being outsold by the PlayStation 4 three-to-one, but, if their 2017 conference is anything to go by, they’re certainly going to do their utmost to claw back that market share. Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Microsoft E3 conference of 2017.
They want their audience to feel the power
The Xbox One X will be the most powerful console on the market. It boasts 6 teraflops of processing power, true 4K gaming, a centrifugal fan, the first ever vapor chamber with advanced liquid cooling for a home console, the Hovis method incorporated to maximize console performance and 326GB/s of memory bandwidth… and breathe. For anybody in the know about these technical specifications It sounds pretty good, but it poses a potential problem: who is this console for? A retail price of £449.99 ($500) is incredible value for a machine of this calibre, but without exclusive Xbox One X titles to exhibit its capabilities and the slow adoption rate of 4K televisions it might be a hard sell for consumers who already own an original Xbox One or its smaller counterpart. Microsoft promised a feature known as super sampling will upscale non-4K titles to fulfill their potential, but is this enough? The Forza 7 demo undoubtedly looked gorgeous running natively in 4K at 60fps, but if console gamers focused solely on specs wouldn’t they just jump ship to PC gaming?
They want you to continue playing with friends
The PlayStation 4 team presented their audience with a series of exclusive single-player, narrative-heavy titles. Even their surprise announcement of the Shadow of Colossus remake acts as a solo experience. Xbox’s biggest titles are dependent on the social experiences of their fanbase. Alongside Mario Odyssey, Rare’s Sea of Thieves looked to be the most fun game shown at E3. The opportunity to sail on a pirate ship with a crew of pirate-d friends doing pirate stuff is simply not something you should pass up. Sailing the seven seas in search of clues and maps that lead to coveted treasure seems intended as a multiplayer experience – the kind of game where failing spectacularly in a mission in which you all get gobbled up by a prowling shark is just as fun as succeeding. Likewise, State of Decay 2’s open-world, zombie action game practically relies on co-op participation as you’re tasked to work together to survive in a harsh post-apocalyptic environment. Only by combining your friends different strengths in perfect harmony will you make any progress, and it’s an enticing offer to plunge straight back into this world of zombies and nightmares. Crackdown 3 works just as well in single-player as it does in multiplayer, but we already knew that. These games make up the bulk of Xbox’s biggest exclusive titles, but…
They don’t exactly scream AAA exclusive
Xbox’s main issue stems from their inability to match their previous big AAA exclusives like Gears of War and Halo. While Sony continue to grow their brand by injecting an inspired sense of maturity into their games, Xbox failed to notice and empower their first-parties with the same sensibilities. God of War, Days Gone, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Detroit all tackle difficult adult themes in new and refreshing ways; Xbox needs to pay attention to this trend in their bigger titles to recapture the market they want to dominate. Microsoft revealed a total of forty-two new games at their conference with twenty-two of those being Xbox exclusives, and while a large amount of them were undeniably impressive, they lacked the killer blow to truly worry the hotshots over at Sony towers. Third-party titles remain a huge part of their business strategy, but they need the exclusives to convince undecided consumers that their console is the best on the market.
They have a lot of love for Indie games
What Microsoft lack in exclusivity they make up for in adoration for the indie crowd. Not only were games like the hotly anticipated Cuphead given a release date, but Microsoft was keen to present an indie showreel to convince players that these are games that matter. The Last Night adopted a retro-bit, Blade Runner style as we witnessed the protagonist traverse a neon-tinged dystopian future while The Artful Escape from acclaimed indie publisher Annapurna looks to portray a world of psychedelic surrealism and music. Sony may have forgotten to acknowledge the indie scene in their conference, but Microsoft were on-point and sincere in their commitment to supporting a diverse range of unique experiences.
They also have a lot of love for their history
The announcement of Xbox 360 backwards compatibility on the Xbox One in 2015 was a big deal, so big, in fact, that Phil Spencer confirmed half the users of Xbox Live have played a 360 title on their Xbox One. It was inevitable that Microsoft would go back even further to make their first console’s output available on the Xbox One, and it’s exactly this kind of nostalgia fueled respect for their history that reinforces Xbox’s superior online services. Xbox Play is a more robust and reliable service than PlayStation Now’s mediocre streaming service, and their dedication towards ensuring players can access hundreds of titles (regardless of console iteration) is staggering. The thought of returning to games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the Original Project Gotham Racing, and even Blinx: The Time Sweeper is both gratifying and exciting.
Microsoft had a damn good conference with a constant stream of impressive and diverse titles to suit all players. The inclusion of the Xbox One X and its place in the Xbox library raises a few key questions, but overall a very solid performance from a company that knows where it stands.