Another year, another Microsoft E3 press conference in the books. Phil Spencer and the Xbox team set out to deliver a stellar presentation for the gaming industry. After nearly two hours of trailers, reveals, and a glimpse of the future, how did Microsoft do? Honestly, I’m feeling conflicted. There were so many positives scattered throughout the show, but the negative aspects are weighing down my enjoyment of the conference. Let’s dive into my overall thoughts regarding Microsoft’s E3 2019 press conference.
Do you want games? We’ll give you games
Let’s start with what I loved. Microsoft did not hold back when it came to the games coming to Xbox and PC over the next year. I’m excited for a handful of games shown off during the show. We have Battletoads, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Bleeding Edge, The Outer Wilds, Gears 5, Halo Infinite, Wasteland 3, and Microsoft Flight Simulator from the company’s array of studios. There were also third-party titles such as Elden Ring, Dying Light 2, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, and Cyberpunk 2077. Can you believe the company got Keanu freaking Reeves to walk on their stage? I’m even more excited for CD Projekt Red’s next experience now! Microsoft kept driving the point home that there are plenty of games coming to Xbox One.
Xbox Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass also took the spotlight for an extensive period of time. If you’re not a Game Pass subscriber, Microsoft did an excellent job showing why people should use the service. I’ve always been a fan, but today’s conference further solidified why I campaign for people to give it a shot. Game Pass officially came to PC today, alongside Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a combination of Game Pass for (Xbox One and PC) and Xbox Live for $14.99 a month. It’s a deal that all Xbox One (and now PC) players should take advantage of. Xbox Live, and a bunch of free games for that price is an absolute steal.
Not only did Microsoft add new games today, but a bunch of titles revealed at the show will also come to Xbox Game Pass at launch. I was particularly thrilled to see that Bloober Team’s Blair Witch would be launching day and date on the service. For those who love Layers of Fear and Observer, Blair Witch is something to keep an eye out for. Let’s not forget that a handful of titles like Metro Exodus, Shenmue 1+2, Hollow Knight, Guacamelee 2, Moonlighter, and SteamWorld Dig 2 are among the latest batch of games that entered the program today. It’s a service is quickly becoming essential for Xbox owners.
Xbox working with Japanese studios
I’ve mentioned multiple times that Xbox needs to work with Japanese developers going forward. FromSoftware used to make exclusives for Xbox during the first two generations, with the Otogi games on Xbox as well as Ninja Blade and Steel Batallion on Xbox 360. That console also had Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon, Tales of Vesperia, Dead or Alive 3+4, Ninja Gaiden, and, Enchanted Arms. Being an Xbox fan in the previous generations was great if you loved Japanese games. Unfortunately, the Xbox One hasn’t been too kind for fans of games from Japanese studios. Luckily, Phil Spencer is working hard to bring these games to Xbox One. The official reveals for Elden Ring, the collaboration between FromSoftware and George R. R. Martin took place on the Xbox stage. We also saw reveals for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot and Tales of Arise.
The biggest shock came when Phantasy Star Online 2 appeared on stage. My friends and I have been waiting for years to see the game come West. Now, it’s not only confirmed to be coming to the west, but it’s also an Xbox One console exclusive. PSO2 is also coming to PC, and what’s cool is that there is cross-play. Xbox needs Japanese support, and the lineup of games shown at today’s conference shows that the team is working hard to bring more titles to the platform.
Looking forward to the future…
People wondered whether or not Microsoft would talk about the rumored Project Scarlett for a while. Well, it’s officially been revealed. I don’t know much about specs to be honest, but here are some details according to a Microsoft press release.
Project Scarlett will set a new bar for console power, speed, and performance, arriving Holiday 2020 alongside Halo Infinite. With a custom-designed AMD processor, high bandwidth GDDR6 memory, and a next-generation solid state drive (SSD), Project Scarlett will give developers the power they need to bring their creative visions to life. Thousands of games across four console generations will look and play best on Project Scarlett.
The console is exciting because it’s not only the start of the next generation, but Xbox is also looking to change the streaming market as well with Project xCloud. This program allows Xbox owners to stream their games from the console to a smartphone or tablet. The team at Xbox really want players to experience their games in a wide variety of ways.
With Xbox looking toward the future, we also have Halo Infinite launching alongside Project Scarlett as well as new experiences from Ninja Theory. The studio mentioned during the Bleeding Edge reveal that it’s working on other titles that aren’t ready to be shown yet. With such a significant acquisition like Ninja Theory, I can’t wait to see what the studio can bring to the Xbox portfolio. Speaking of acquisitions and looking toward the future, Microsoft buying Double Fine is a massive get for the company. With a unique catalog featuring Psychonauts, Brutal Legends, Costume Quest, and Grim Fandango, the Xbox library will benefit from having Tim Schafer working alongside them.
But what will we see?
So far, I’ve praised Microsoft for plenty of things. Overall, the company’s show was stellar, but something was missing. It’s refreshing to have another studio acquisition. New game reveals are fantastic. But what about the next generation? Microsoft has been touting all of these new studios, yet, it all feels a little flat. Playground Games is rumored to be working on Fable. A teaser would’ve sent shockwaves. With Sea of Thieves doing well, I’m surprised we didn’t see anything regarding the game. Between the Rare properties Microsoft owns, The Initiative, and the next generation quickly approaching, why didn’t we see anything to really pump us up for the upcoming year?
We didn’t get a trailer for Forza Motorsport 8, which means this is the first year in a while without a new game in the franchise. It’s tough to get excited about games like Psychonauts 2 and The Outer Worlds when they are also going to be on PlayStation 4. What’s that killer app that will make people scream, “I want an Xbox.”? There’s no doubt in my mind that Project Scarlett will be worth it, but Microsoft needs to convince others from the outside. Besides Halo Infinite, no one can tell you what’s going to happen next year.
Shooting for the stars a little too early
I’m pumped for Project Scarlett as I said in the last section. Honestly, Microsoft should have skipped announcing the console altogether rather than glossing over it. Instead of 15 minutes of Xbox Game Pass, that time could have been better suited for the console. As with the Xbox One, maybe a reveal event was the better way to go. What exactly is Project Scarlett? Why should I buy one? What can I play on it? These are questions that Microsoft should have answered on stage, but instead, they left me (and many others) with more questions than answers.
Even announcing the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 seems a little misplaced. Will Xbox One controllers work with Project Scarlett? With the Series 2 controller costing nearly $200, it would suck if that controller was irrelevant once the new console launches. Microsoft had a good showing, but misconstrued messaging left me scratching my head in confusion.
Conclusion: Microsoft delivered a mixed bag of fun and games
People always look for a winner each E3. Microsoft and Sony have a rivalry according to the Internet. To me, there aren’t any winners or losers. When exciting games are announced, regardless of company, gamers win. This year, Microsoft didn’t have to contend with Sony. It seemed like Microsoft was poised to “win” the show, as many gamers would say. After all, is said and done, I feel like Microsoft didn’t fully deliver on what could’ve been a stellar E3.
Sure, it delivered on some cool things like Bleeding Edge, Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077, the LEGO expansion in Forza Horizon 4, the Gears 5 footage, the Double Fine acquisition, Phantasy Star Online 2, and the phenomenal Halo Infinite trailer, but it failed in other aspects. The company left us with more questions than answers regarding Project Scarlett, Project xCloud, and what’s in store for Xbox owners going forward. I’m excited about what’s coming in the next few months, but without transparency, I’m nervous that Xbox is going to fail to deliver on the excellent next generation I’ve begun to anticipate. Did Xbox “win” E3. Despite not having much competition, Microsoft could have easily gone one step further. I like Phil Spencer, the Xbox team, and their goal, but honestly, I thought they dropped the ball where it mattered the most, the next piece of hardware.