e3 2014

Analysis - Microsoft Kicks Off E3 With 90 Minutes Of Games

by Mike Futter on Jun 09, 2014 at 09:04 AM

Despite leaks, pre-announcements, and pre-announcement leaks, Microsoft still delivered surprises. It wasn't what we didn't know that made the biggest impact though, it's how Microsoft delivered on its most important promise: games.

What We Saw (And Loved)

In addition to showing off titles we knew were coming, Microsoft fulfilled a commitment to bring to the Xbox One new IP and platform-exclusive classics. One of the big concerns going into this E3 was new-gen exclusive content, and Microsoft will help fill in the gaps this fall with Sunset Overdrive (now with a confirmed October 28 release date), the Halo Master Chief Collection (coming November 11), the gorgeous looking Ori and the Blind Forest, and betas for Halo 5 Guardians and Fable Legends.

In 2015, Microsoft is bringing Limbo studio Playdead's next title, Inside, to Xbox first. Platinum Games is working on a multiplayer Xbox One exclusive called Scalebound, which includes huge monsters and big fights.

The return of both Crackdown and Phantom Dust give Microsoft safer "new" IPs for Xbox One. These have established fan bases and expectations tied to them, but have been dormant for so long as to feel fresh. Even Conker got a nod as part of the Project Spark trailer.

What Surprised Us

We expected a brief teaser for Gears of War, even if just the logo as a reminder that the franchise will be making a return. We also were surprised to hear that Xbox will be the home of additional Assassin's Creed and The Division content first. Ubisoft historically has a strong relationship with Sony. There still might be unique content on PlayStation platforms, but these announcements are worth noting.

What We Didn't Hear

Microsoft didn't mention Kinect, even in the context of Dance Central Spotlight. The device is a hot-button issue right now, but this also reaffirms that we shouldn't expect much by way of meaningful content for the device. That world rests on Harmonix's shoulders, it seems.

We also didn't hear anything about Microsoft flipping the switch on turning retail units into devkits. We spoke with Xbox leadership last year about this, and while we knew not to expect it at launch, the ID@Xbox segment would have been a good moment to announce that.

Xbox 360 was absent other than cross-generational titles like Forza Horizon 2. I don't expect this means that Xbox 360 is going to get the original Xbox treatment, and rather that Microsoft took the opportunity to reinforce reasons to upgrade.

Overall, Microsoft had a good balance of exclusives, multi-platform reveals, and kept its promise to focus on titles for this year and 2015. Kinect's absence isn't surprising, but it is telling about the future of the device (especially since standalone units won't be available until this fall).

Microsoft is staying the course on console price, which also falls in line with its recent announcement to offer an Xbox One SKU without Kinect. Hardware took a back seat, and entertainment was only given a nod in relation to the Halo project bundled with The Master Chief Collection. This was a night-and-day difference from last year, and Microsoft seems to be headed in a very different direction under Phil Spencer.