Now that the dust has settled on E3 and the postmortem articles have started to appear, it’s time to take a look at where the Xbox brand is going. Not long before, E3 Mulehorn117 wrote an article about his concern over the future of Xbox, and he had some valid points. I was also a little concerned about the perceived lack of focus on games, but E3 definitely helped me reaffirm my choice to be an Xbox gamer. As Mulehorn117 wrote in his article, Microsoft needed a big a E3, and I think they had one.
The Xbox Press Conference
The Xbox presentation was packed with games and was very gamer-focused. Microsoft showed off 42 games during their 2-hour press conference and 22 of them are Xbox console exclusives or “launch exclusives.” The Xbox One X (I still think it should have been the Xbox Scorpio) was also debuted and is going to be a monster of a machine. The Xbox team showed off the power of the X with a few games including the next Forza game, which looks amazing. The X is not why I am excited about the future of Xbox nor what I am most excited about from the press conference.
There was an energy and game focus to the Xbox press conference that did not seem to be there in the other conferences. The Xbox team seems to care about both the games and the gamers playing them. The audience was not just the press; they also had fans there which is great and helps them craft their gamer-focused image. Another nod to gamers was the reveal that original Xbox games are coming to the already very well received backwards compatibility program. This is a feature that gamers have wanted since the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility announcement and should energize long time Xbox fans. We still don’t know what games will launch, or when it will launch (“later” this year), but it shows that Microsoft is listening to its fans.
Some other highlights from the E3 conference were the inclusion of more indie games as well as the section on Bioware’s new game, Anthem. The Anthem reveal was a huge win for Microsoft as the game looks incredible. Being able to show Anthem to the world after a short teaser during the EA press conference helped Microsoft compete with Sony’s resident juggernaut, Destiny. Anthem is still over a year away, but will be one of the most talked about games until it is released.
For more information on Microsoft’s E3 press conference, check out our E3 – Xbox Trailer Roundup.
The Sony and Nintendo Conferences
Both Sony and Nintendo had press conferences at E3 after Microsoft’s and, while both were good, they did not seem to have the flair of the Microsoft conference. One of the biggest knocks on the Sony conference was the lack of games that are coming out in the next year. Most had dates of either late 2018 or no date at all. Most of the games were also shown at last year’s E3 making it feel like part two of the 2016 conference.
Nintendo was able to focus on the new games coming for the Switch including Rocket League, Minecraft and Skyrim. Nintendo also debuted its new Mario game as well as announcing that the next main-line Pokemon game will be coming to the Switch. One of the more interesting things to come from Nintendo was the announcement that both Rocket League and Minecraft will have cross-play with the Xbox One. This is a major development and shows the two companies want to work together to help gamers play on their system of choice. Noticeably absent from this is Sony. They have declined to allow cross-play between the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 saying it is a security issue.
Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, did an interview with Time after E3 and had some very pro-gamer things to say about the future of Xbox and Xbox Live. Spencer sees the future of Xbox intertwined with the future of Xbox Live. During the interview he says, “I see Xbox Live from a platform perspective as the most critical asset we have. Xbox Live is on iOS, it’s on Android, we talked about cross-play with Switch, and it’s obviously on PC and Xbox.” This shows that while they make consoles, Microsoft sees the potential of the Xbox Live service and Spencer knows that gamers don’t play on just one type of platform. This resonates with me since I love to play games on consoles, PCs and mobile devices. Microsoft wants gamers to be able to play games, and play them with the people they want to play with even if they don’t own the same hardware.
Spencer also touches on backwards compatibility and mentions that over half of Xbox One gamers have played a backwards compatible game, which is fairly stunning. He goes on to say that the games actually run better on the Xbox One due to the extra power than they did on their original consoles. He also points to the revitalization of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, “we’ve seen things like when [Call of Duty] Black Ops 2 was released as a backward compatible game, it hit top 10 NPD sales, and this is a game that’s five years old.” Having a five year old game break into the top 10 NPD sales is a fairly incredible feat and shows that gamers want to play their older games.
Reading through the full interview shows that Spencer understands gamers and wants to make games and hardware for them. He also seems to have an eye for the future of gaming and is building the Xbox platform to support that vision.
Why I am Excited for the Future of Xbox
Overall, E3 has me excited to be an Xbox gamer because Phil Spencer and the Xbox division seem to know gamers and what they want. Microsoft is not just focused on the Xbox One family of consoles, but the entire Xbox (and Xbox Live) ecosystem. This is being built for the future, and more specifically, the future of gamers. I can envision a future (a couple of console generations down the line) where you will be able to play Xbox games from any console era and digital purchases won’t be lost when the next generation comes along.
Prior to E3, Sony’s Jim Ryan told Time.com, “When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much. That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?” This is a very short-sighted viewpoint and thankfully one Microsoft does not share. Sony does not seem to understand that gamers are nostalgic and enjoy going back to old games, and this may end up hurting them in the long run.
Microsoft is also not focused entirely on exclusivity since the company (probably mostly Phil Spencer) feels that exclusive deals hurt gamers and fracture communities. The worst recent example of this is Destiny’s exclusive content deal with Sony. Playstation players get a few extra items, a strike, and a PvP map for at least year while paying the same price as Xbox and PC gamers. This probably did help Sony sell consoles when Destiny was first launched, but has also been a sore spot for Xbox players (and soon, PC players) for the past few years.
Microsoft wants gamers to be able to play games on whatever console they choose and not have to worry about missing out on content. The Xbox team has also been vocal about allowing players to play the same game with other consoles, as shown in its new deal with Nintendo. Sony has been very stubborn on this point and have shown no indication that they are willing to work with other console makers on cross-play.
Microsoft is building a platform for the future and is working on the games as well. The Xbox E3 press conference was definitely a highlight of the expo and being able to show Anthem on the Xbox One X was a fantastic get for the Xbox team. Sony may have some great exclusive games now, but I think the future will belong to Xbox.