Xbox Gave a Solid Show But It Needed To Be More
Xbox delivered. Tonight’s E3 conference gave a look at a Microsoft that’s all-in on gaming. Great first party titles, big third party support and a mountain of Game Pass games. Subscribers are going to have a great six months, there’s no arguing with that. This is about as good as you can get in an E3 conference without announcing Final Fantasy VII Remake, Shenmue 3 and The Last Guardian. So it’s really unfair that it wasn’t enough.
As someone who is already fully converted to the new and improved Xbox, I have very little to complain about from tonight’s show. But tonight shouldn’t have been for me.
Tonight was about converting the unconverted. And I’m not sure tonight’s show succeeded in that.
And, by the way, I’m also not sure that’s entirely Microsoft’s fault either. Blame the insiders – that’s what I’m going to do!
Dan has already given a brief rundown of some of the games announced at tonight’s conference, so I won’t go over what he’s already said.
I’ll just say this: Xbox put on a good show. Part of this was down to production values, part of it was down to the games shown. This was a good night to be an Xbox fan. It was a good night to be a fan of gaming, full stop.
The year is packed with games to play, most of them included with the Game Pass subscription. And 2022 is looking equally enjoyable, thanks in part to that ridiculously late release for Starfield. Considering coronavirus must have hit hard, I can’t complain too much.
For its high quality delivery, there was one thing missing from tonight’s showcase: megatons. There were exactly zero mic drop moments, no opportunities to say “this is why you get an Xbox”. That might have been big acquisitions, a Game Pass bombshell or first looks at giant games – Indiana Jones would’ve been ideal if development had been further along.
This is where Microsoft starts tripping over itself though. It has so many studios that it makes no sense to look too far into the future. When you’ve got around 10 must-play games coming out in the next 18 months, it’s daft to focus on stuff coming out beyond that. But then what is presented looks solid, but not amazing. CGI trailers can be fun, but always leave the question of “what is it?”.
I’m not ungrateful for what we’ve got, but despite the obsession to the contrary, exclusive games do not drive console sales. Marketing and attitude sell drive console sales. Mindshare drives console sales. Excitement and hype drives console sales.
Thankfully, I suspect this is going to be a busy week for Xbox in other areas. Watch this space.
Outing the Xbox Insiders
Part of the reason tonight felt so expected was because it absolutely was. Insiders have been simultaneously lifting up the conference and knocking it down over the last fortnight. The same people have been tempering expectations and, in the next breath, talking about five new acquisitions.
They knew what was going to be there and, for the most part, have detailed it beforehand.
And so trailers were just that: an official confirmation of something we already knew. Forza Horizon 5 not only existed pre-announcement, but we knew where it was taking place. And being the fifth entry in an open-world graphical powerhouse racing game, we could make some assumptions from there as well.
Most of this is on the insiders. People want this stuff to be spoiled, and they provide the service. If they didn’t, someone else would. It still stinks. I’ve defended them in the past for outing difficult bits of information console manufacturers never would. They were heaven-sent during the pre-release information cold war last year. Months would go by with nothing from Sony or Microsoft, but insiders were there to fill in the blanks.
They’re not being nearly as useful here. They’re colouring the experience, with information that was best kept secret and with their own hot takes. They tell people what to expect before the game is even official.
But Microsoft have a problem too. I’ve seen this sort of ting firsthand. When something is out there, and everybody is talking about it, and you just go ahead with your reveal as if nobody could see it coming. Then you act shocked when it falls flat. We saw it with the Fable CGI reveal. Microsoft need to be better at getting ahead of the story, and doing more than just confirmed what the insiders have already said.
Tonight was a great night, cementing once again why my Xbox is getting so much more use than my PS5. I am not upset by what we saw.
But if Microsoft want to get people into their ecosystem – be that on console or through the cloud – they need to start consistently reaching more than just me and all the other people who love Xbox.
Tonight was safe. It was the purchase of Double Fine, rather than the purchase of Bethesda. That’s great, but it shouldn’t be what we expect from their biggest gaming showcase of the year.