The Highs And Lows Of Microsoft's E3 2015 Press Conference
Microsoft kicked off a busy day of E3 press conferences with a number of large announcements about new games and old. We learned that a new Xbox One user interface will be unveiled this week, with additional system changes designed to please fans.
The Xbox One Becomes a Time Machine
Starting today for Xbox One preview members and available widely this fall, Microsoft will be supporting backwards compatibility. Unlike the intensive emulation process required last generation, playing eligible Xbox 360 games on Xbox One fully supports Xbox One system features.
Microsoft took a little jab at Sony, with Phil Spencer suggesting that it didn't want to charge again for games players already own (a knock on PlayStation Now). Players will start seeing Xbox 360 digital purchases appear in their Xbox One libraries. Retail discs will also work seamlessly.
The big news here is that publishers and developers need only give Microsoft permission to enable the game as backward compatible. No other work is required.
The Xbox Elite controller is also notable, because it appears that the company has contracted with Scuf. We've reviewed that company's high-end controllers and the rear, remappable paddles are a hallmark of Scuf's work, as are the "hair trigger stops." This is a partnership that would make a lot of sense.
Free Xbox 360 Games With Some Xbox One Title Purchases
Microsoft can now start giving away older games in a franchise thanks to its upcoming backwards-compatibility push. Two different titles will be coming with last-gen counterparts this year.
While Todd Howard was showing more Fallout 4, a banner flashed across the bottom of the screen. Fallout 3 is coming free with purchases of Fallout 4. Additionally, if you purchase Rainbow Six Siege, you'll get Rainbow Six: Vegas and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.
This is a smart move, as free, packed in games are going to be a strong motivator for some. Those on the fence about which version to buy will likely look for what might be bundled in. Fallout 3 free with Fallout 4 is a big deal.
Microsoft hit some high notes with the introduction of Warzone mode for Halo 5, Gears of War 4, and Recore from Comcept and Armature. Rare Replay brings 30 games together in a $30 package. Sea of Thieves, a new game from Rare, appears to be a pirate MMO. How it will work exactly isn't yet clear.
Rise of the Tomb Raider and Halo 5 both made strong showings. They weren't surprises, but they're important tentpoles for the holiday season that looked solid.
Microsoft brought out a lot of big guns, and the indies on display are interesting and attractive. It was a solid hour of game announcements and new looks at titles of which we're already familiar. The absences of Crackdown and Scalebound were unfortunate, but with so much else filling the hour, it worked well.
Minecraft on HoloLens
Microsoft's HoloLens presentation on stage was a bit long, but allowing those of us in the audience at home to see what the perspective looks like was smart. I haven't used the technology, and I'm curious how precise the manipulation of the terrain actually is. Kinect isn't quite precise enough for many people, and HoloLens needs to better.
Early Access on Consoles
Microsoft announced a new program called Xbox Game Preview that will allow users to purchase games before they are done. If this sounds like Early Access, you're not wrong.
The difference here is that you'll be able to try a demo before purchasing. The education for non-core gamers needs to be extensive, though. Microsoft needs to be very careful about labeling and explaining any place people can purchase a Game Preview title.
Kinect Absent Once More
Microsoft didn't mention Kinect one time during the press conference. At this point, it feels like the device is being abandoned for most features. It's still great to use the voice commands when they work, but the issues with the detection for voice and hand gestures might not be worth improving.