Microsoft Xbox Conference Analysis | E3 2018

Xbox press conference

With E3 weekend behind us and the conferences out of the way, we are getting a good look at the gaming landscape heading into the back half of 2018 and beyond.  We have seen some great new titles and updates on games we’ve been waiting some time for.  With the show floor open, bombs have been dropped and there has been enough game reveals that there truly is something for everyone, including some big news from the Xbox team.

While EA had a fairly lackluster conference, Bethesda and Microsoft seemed to knock it out of the park.  The thing to note is that each publisher took a very different approach to their shows.  Each has its pro and cons.  Each had some failures and successes.  But at the end of the day, they both gave us what we needed; games.

Microsoft Press Conference

It’s no secret that Microsoft has been in a bad way since E3 2017.  With Scalebound and Fable Legends getting placed on hiatus and Crackdown 3 getting delayed repeatedly, things were looking dire.  2017 saw Microsoft release the fewest amount of exclusives titles in the lifespan fo the Xbox One.  With Forza as it’s only Triple-A title and a few (albeit strong) Indie titles, it was one of the leanest years the Xbox has endured.  The first 6 months of 2018 haven’t faired any better.  Sea of Thieves was the flagship title for Xbox One and while reviews were fair, it’s sales and the concurrent player base has been well below expectations.  Worse yet, was the mystery and uncertainty that surrounded Microsoft’s appearance at E3 2018.  With only Crackdown 3 as a for sure thing alongside the obligatory annual Forza entry no one could really say what to expect.

Microsoft returned to E3 in rare form this year.  Over 50 games were discussed or shown in some form on stage. As stated by Microsoft, 12 exclusives were revealed and in current development.  There was no focus and nary a mention of UI updates, new hardware or the multimedia aspect of the console.  This year was all about games.  Microsoft brought the heavy hitters with reveals of Halo Infinite and Gears of War 5.  A continued dedication was shown towards indie titles with the announcement of Ori and the Will-o-the-Wisps, Battletoads (freakin’ Battletoads!) and Tunic.  With the amount of content Microsoft discussed it appears they have things back on the right track; at least on the surface level.

So How’d They Really Do?

The announcements that we saw are definitely a step in the right direction.  Microsoft has seen the mistakes from last year and is striving to not repeat them.  But more of this is smoke and mirrors than it appears to be.  On stage, it was stated that 12 exclusives were discussed but taking a deep look at what those are revealed much.  A new Halo, Gears, and Forza, while great, are par for the course.   These were to be expected.  Crackdown 3 is being touted as one of “the twelve” but this is a game that has been in development hell for years.  Cuphead DLC and the “arcade” Ori and (most likely) Battletoads games aren’t going to be the console drivers that Xbox needs.

These are great games and more content for them is a welcome sight, but can hardly handle the load of pushing out systems.  With Gears of War getting a few spin-off titles, the franchise opens up to some much needed new blood.  New characters and stories will derive from this.  Unfortunately, when broken down, only 7 out of the 12 “exclusives” are new or not  DLC.  We need more exclusives that are full games.  DLC is nice but new IP’s and fresh games are what is needed.

One of the biggest bright spots for Microsoft is the acquisition of 5 previously independent development studios.  Ninja Theory, Undead Labs, Playground Games, The Initiative and Compulsion Games.  Bringing these developers to the team is a huge move. Adding studios and overhead costs have been something Microsoft does rarely.  These purchases say more to me than anything else that they are serious about delivering high-quality exclusive content.  While the move doesn’t have much glamour or hype to it at face value, it will pay big dividends in the future.

So at the end of the day what do we have?  Microsoft is setting up for the last hurrah of the Xbox One.  Hardly any of the games discussed will be dropping in the next 6 months.  This doesn’t solve the issue of a barren holiday 2018 but it does make the future look promising.  While showcasing 50 games is great, many of these titles are games that are multi-platform and don’t have any direct ability to drive Xbox’s to any greater degree than its competitors.  On the bright side, Microsoft has shown a recommitment to driving games.

While not anything to save 2018, this goes a long a way to make the Xbox relevant in the future.  The question of what Microsoft brings to E3 has been answered. It’s good to see Legacy franchises with new entries and new developers being acquired works for the long term but no quick fixes were made for the short term.  That being said this a huge win for them.  We had no knowledge of what they could do to fix the empty slate of titles and they’ve done much to improve that.  Now we just need a new Fable title and a few more new IP’s and Microsoft is back to what they do best.

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