One of the recurring themes of the Xbox press briefing on Monday was that games that are Xbox One exclusive will also be exclusive on PC to Windows 10. For PC gamers who have upgraded to Windows 10, this was the press conference that they’ve been waiting for from Microsoft. However, there was another treat in store for PC gamers. Microsoft announced their new Xbox Play Anywhere program that allows gamers to buy a select game once and play it on both Xbox One and Windows 10.
Day Zero of E3 featured both of the big console manufacturers showing off their wares. Microsoft went first leading with the Xbox One S and taking about 90 minutes to kill it by announcing the Scorpio. In between that, they had a number of games to debut with a few games getting featured billing like Gears of War 4 and ReCore and a number of smaller games.
As is the current state of operations for the pre-E3 press conferences, Microsoft will be the first company out of the blocks on Monday. Their annual press conference has a few tasks this year. As always, they have to hype the games coming this fall for the holiday shopping season. More importantly, there’s the matter of the second-generation Xbox One that they have to sell without scaring off current Xbox One owners.
From a gaming perspective, the big announcement at Microsoft’s E3 press briefing was that they are bringing backwards compatibility to the Xbox One. If you were looking for the next wave in technology and just general spectacle, Microsoft stole the show with a live on-stage demonstration of their HoloLens technology while playing Minecraft.
Two years ago, then-Xbox division boss Don Mattrick said “If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards” claiming that only 5% of users used new consoles to play games from a past generation of consoles. It’s funny how much things can change in two years.
While Microsoft might not have had a mind-blowing press conference in terms of new reveals, they certainly scored more than their fair share of points with hardware announcements. The biggest of those announcements was that Microsoft would be rolling out backwards compatibility of Xbox 360 games on Xbox One.
The first of the Monday press conferences was also the first from a console manufacturer. With Microsoft clawing back ground in the current generation console wars, this year’s E3 is the green brand’s opportunity to regain the lead over PlayStation that they had in the PS3/360 generation.
So from Microsoft’s keynote, we have a total of 16 trailers from triple-A and indie games alike for you to watch and get hyped over. They even pulled off a few unexpected third-party coups by getting Dark Souls 3 (From Software is often at Sony press conferences) and Mad Max (featured in Sony’s 2014 E3 presser). That doesn’t mention getting the first official announcement of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2.
When the Xbox One was unveiled last year and presented again at E3 last June, the focus wasn’t really on the games. Microsoft was more interested in pitching the Xbox One as an all-in-one entertainment unit for the living room by touting the entertainment apps and Kinect integration. Between not worrying about the games, the lingering DRM controversy and a price point $100 higher than the PlayStation 4, Microsoft has been in catch up mode for the last twelve months.
It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. With new Xbox division boss Phil Spencer at the helm, this year’s Microsoft E3 press conference was all about the games. The Kinect was hardly mentioned. Entertainment apps may as well not have existed.
When I was at Fan Expo last August, someone in line for the State of Gaming panel asked the group of us waiting where we thought the industry was headed. Increasing the quantity and quality of free-to-play games was a popular answer. More mobile games for core gamers was another answer. Motion controlled games on Kinect, Wii U and PS Eye finally becoming proper gaming was a less popular suggestion but it was made.
After some pondering, I realized that those answers weren’t wrong but I had a better one. While all those ideas might be right, I think Titanfall might be a harbinger for where the industry is headed. It has nothing to do with mechs or pretty graphics or third-party triple-A games going exclusive. It has everything to do with dropping the single-player campaign and launching a game with only multiplayer.
Another week, another console launch and another trip aboard the hype train to look at the final of the three next-gen home consoles. This time, it’s Microsoft’s effort at a new console with the Xbox One.
Unlike Sony whose PlayStation 4 is trying to be a thoroughbred gaming machine, the Xbox One is aiming to be an all-in-one box for the living room thanks to TV integration, apps, Smart Glass, Kinect, a Blu-Ray player and the occasional ability to play a game.
Microsoft might have gotten rid of the online check-in DRM requirements for the Xbox One but doesn’t mean that it isn’t still watching you. We’ve all read that it’s built around advertising with the Kinect integral to making that advertising work better for advertisers. The Kinect always watching and Microsoft’s compliance in giving data to the NSA doesn’t make me feel better about it.
So is the Xbox One going to be like a clingy girlfriend? The folks at Kensington make that case in a handy infographic.