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On Monday, Microsoft puzzled journalists and fans alike with their convoy of seemingly useless technology, re-hashed franchise sequels, and the questionable appearance of Usher. A common discussion during every E3 conference is usually, “Who won?” Well, we here at Player Affinity got together and compiled our notes and realized it’s pretty clear that Microsoft did not beat the competition.
Does Xbox 360 have the potential to be a full video content hub? Is that even what people want? Does anyone even care about [Enter Franchise Here] 4: We Changed a Couple Things, Kinda? And, what purpose will SmartGlass technology even serve? These are questions that have been running through our heads since Microsoft’s showing at this week’s conference. Our dedicated Xbox 360 writers go into more detail below on their personal thoughts about this week’s events.
After Microsoft’s presentation at E3, the only word that could be conjugated by my tongue was, “Why?”. Why does Microsoft think forcing gamers to move away from their consoles to fiddle with an iPad is preferable to a new-gen console? Why is Usher dancing on stage? And perhaps most importantly, why am I supposed to care about an 11-year-old game franchise’s 23rd iteration? The only somewhat plausible answer is Microsoft has recognized that what represents a “gamer” has dramatically changed. There is a great division within the industry of those individuals who love games and play as many as they can, and the far larger amount of gamers who will buy two games a year. Chances are, those games will have a numeral value attached preceeded by “Halo” or “Call of Duty”. Microsoft understands this divide better than any other presenter at E3 and knows if you show 5 minutes of sub-par gameplay from a tired and stilted genre, you will make a billion dollars. Save your time, watch the trailer for the new South Park game and Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs.
The moment that summed up the Microsoft press conference was when Trey Parker and Matt Stone came onstage and explicitly mocked Microsoft’s new “Smart Glass” technology. This press conference was a parade of features that I’m not going to use. While Microsoft could have been devoting their resources to creating new exclusive games and original intellectual properties, they were hard at work giving me the abilitiy to speak Spanish at my iPhone to bring up a web browser on my Xbox 360 so that I can watch the trailer for awesome Playstation exclusives like Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us. Who won E3? Quantic Dream.
Microsoft’s E3 press conference was all about showcasing how the Xbox 360 can be sold as the complete home entertainment solution. With the technology of “Project SmartGlass” and the partnerships with Paramount, NHL, NBA, and ESPN, Microsoft will be offering even more video content options for streaming. These offerings, in conjunction with Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, and the recently added Amazon Video, will help make Xbox 360 a single solution for streaming video. Less exciting were the announcements of several of bland, unimpressive sequels. Most notably, the trailer for Fable: The Journey appeared to be a gimmicky Kinect-exclusive title, in the realm of Star Wars: Kinect. Gears of War: Judgement will bring back more of the same, only this time as Baird as the lead. Even the trailer for Halo 4 was lackluster. Sure, it was pretty, but it appears to be just that…the fourth Halo game. For me, the game I’m looking forward to most is THQ and Obsidian’s upcoming South Park title, South Park: The Stick of Truth. Written and voiced by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, this game will be like playing through episodes of South Park, and with Kinect, players can actually trade obscenities with their favorite characters.
Microsoft’s E3 conference was pretty disappointing. As Charles rightfully said, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker managed to sum up the entire conference before it had even finished. Why end it on Call of Duty? Am I bothered by Black Ops 2? No, I’m not—it’s another rehash of a series that should have died a long time ago. At least what we saw of Halo 4 was promising. Any previous doubts over 343 Studios have now been completely wiped as the game appears to be shaping up fantastically. I’m excited to see which direction they could take the series and the new Forerunner enemies look as though they could bring a totally different playing style. For me, I wasn’t too bothered about the heavy focus on Kinect interaction. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool piece of hardware, but I would have liked to have seen more titles. And what was Usher doing and why can’t he sing? The best thing about E3 was Naughty Dog revealing the incredibly impressive The Last of Us. I think I’ll be picking up a PS3 at some point in the future.
An ever-evolving market, the videogame industry is constantly changing and shifting their goals in effort to reach more consumers and accumulate more fans. This has been even more present in the last few years, with the emergence of motion-control gaming and the increase of novelty dancing/exercise-type games. Unfortunaely, this new business strategy is leaving the true fans out in the cold. Yes, it’s understandably easy for developers to pump out a franchise sequel every holiday season. But, every one of those franchises started out as awesome, innovative IPs, and it was a shame to not have anything actually “new” coming out of Microsoft’s corner.