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Xbox One Reveal was a Success Regardless of Reaction


Peter Molyneux was a guest on IGN’s Xbox One coverage earlier, and he said something that got me thinking. They were talking about the release date and the difference between “worldwide” and “around the world,” and the difference that that wording might imply. Molyneux was pretty certain that the wording was important, that everything said and shown would have been very carefully selected to give off a very specific vibe. How can a conference so lovingly put together be so hated by so many? Why did they so obviously miss out on opportunity after opportunity when they had everything to prove against the PS4?

The only answer that seems to make sense is that this whole thing – negative reaction, memes, joke videos – has all been meticulously planned.

Lightning in a Bottle

The conference tonight appealed to a very specific sort of Xbox owner. The sort of person for whom ESPN, Fifa and Call of Duty is the absolute pinnacle of the gaming experience. There’s nothing wrong with that range of interests, and as the figures show, there are a lot of people that that describes. That’s the important thing to remember. The conference last night was a complete hit for Microsoft’s largest demographic.

It wasn’t that long ago that Microsoft announced that the 360 was being used more for Netflix and similar apps than it was for gaming, and it’s no secret that EA Sports and Call of Duty games make up much of the top ten online Xbox games. There’s a sizeable audience out there that is desperate for a console that does exactly what their current console does… but better. There are people scratching their heads at the thought of share buttons, cloud gaming and “kiddy” platform games, but offer them an upgraded Call of Duty and something to do with their smart phone and they’re in. Tonight will have made their week. It might even have made their year.

That’s not specifically the sort of people that I’m talking about though. Instead, I’m talking about the sort of people for whom E3 is a non-event. They won’t watch it, they won’t follow specific news, they’ll probably get lost in the mess of announced titles. Some of them will check out the latest trailers for whatever shooter their friends say look interesting, and that’s it. These people wanted to be told their experience would be enriched by buying a new Xbox One and that the stuff they like would continue onto their next purchase.

On the other hand, hardcore gamers ARE likely to watch streamed conferences from E3. At the very least, they’ll read about announcements on the web. They’ll pick through every trailer, they’ll shred down each piece of news until they’ve consumed the whole console. It is there that Microsoft will try to capture the hardcore gamer.

Think about that for a moment though. Tonight seems so badly done and when combined with Molyneux’s comments, seems almost perfectly terrible. Every chance they had to redeem themselves got shot down. From the pre-rendered trailers to the obnoxious screeching from the back seats, it got worse as time went by. For a core gamer, each new announcement seemed to drain more and more from the overall excitement of the event. They must have known this would happen. They must have known the people who were interested enough to be watching would march in their millions to message boards and comment sections everywhere, ranting and raving about the many, many mistakes on display.

Sony put a huge amount of their latest console on display when they announced it earlier this year, and that paid off. People were excited, overly so in some cases. Microsoft couldn’t compete with that regardless of the quality of their console, so they did the next best thing. They manufactured anger without actually setting anything in stone. They’re pushing you down so they can pick you back up in the future. They’ve caught the lightning in the bottle, and through their purposeful mistakes have gone viral in a way they never would have otherwise.

Waiting for E3

The truth of the matter is that we know absolutely nothing about Xbox One after today’s conference. We know nothing about what it’s capable of as a gaming machine, we know nothing about its social or online capabilities. We arguably know (or suspect) less now than we did going in. If you think this was an oversight, you’re insane. They’ve purposefully left out every single detail important to the core. They’ve told us the system specs so that number obsessives can argue about which console has the most power (without ever really understanding a word they say to one another) and that’s about it. 

They didn’t even show the Unreal Engine 4. 

Does that make sense? Showing a next-gen console and not showing what would be an incredibly simple tech demo? It would take up less than 30 seconds, would be an almost impossible comparison between the two consoles (the demo would run identically) and would, in a small way, show that the Xbox One is up to the next-gen battle. They didn’t even mention Unreal Engine 4.

They said enough to pique interest, but left enough out that you have to watch the E3 conference to know the details. All the people that are angry will be following the next set of Microsoft announcements like hawks, probably because they want to continue to watch the train wreck. It’s here that they’ll bash out Gears of War 4, it’s here that they’ll announce the likes of Kameo 2 (or other exciting core titles). It’s here that they’ll turn public opinion, which they’ve strategically lowered so that everything they say and do goes viral in the run up to E3.

Before and After

If you want to go full tin-hat, you only have to look at either side of the Xbox One reveal conference this evening. In the months, even the years running up to this evening’s stream, there’s been a lot of negativity surrounding the system. The always-on rumours, made worse by internal Microsoft staff. The rumours that the used market would be completely blocked. These were all half-truths, ideas that got people talking – that got people angry. You can be sure as hell that many of those people were interested in being proved right tonight. The language during the conference proves my point – how often was the word connected used? During the opening moments of the conference, how often was it implied that you’d need constant internet to get the most out of things?

Remember, it was worded that way for a reason. The fact that the always-on rumour turned out to be false aside, Microsoft executives seemed pretty specific in their language. It was to create confusion and to create conflict.

The hours after were filled with even more questions. Will the Xbox One play used games? Initial thoughts were that it would not, although later clarification revealed that it would, but that you’ll need to pay full price for a new licence (hardly used then, is it?). When will it be out? How much will it cost? The achievements will change, but how so? I’ve seen official releases and descriptions, but they seem equally vague, promising something but not explaining how it will work.

Xbox One

Xbox One has been a carefully planned mess, a how-to guide explaining the worst way of revealing a gaming console. And in the cloud of madness, a platform of sanity, a realisation that they’ve hooked everybody who could possibly be interested in a new console without revealing a single damn thing. Whether you hated it or loved it, you’re now ready to jump into E3 and be blown away by exclusives and features that you’re not at all expecting. Even the name – which can only have been implemented as a source of hilarity (I wish this was a joke) – has been designed to get people talking, by any means necessary.

Sony and Microsoft have gone different ways this generation, almost the polar opposite to their attitude this time last-gen. And yet we still know very little about what to expect from next-gen. I guess one way or another, both the marketing teams for Sony and for Microsoft have more than done their job.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott