Microsoft just spend a solid hour and a half answering the main complaint of every Xbox One owner, namely that there’s nothing for them to play: It showed game demo after game demo, and in fact barely mentioned the console itself (and noticeably avoided the subject of the Kinect, which it’s unbundling from the core console). The result was not thrilling live video for anyone watching who isn’t completely enmeshed in the gaming industry, but it is good news for anyone currently staring at a powered down Xbox One wondering what to do with the thing.
The E3 conference started with a clear statement about critics who think Microsoft focused too much on making the Xbox One a media entertainment center, instead of focusing on its core gaming audience. An extremely drawn out demo of gameplay from the next Call of Duty (called Advanced Warfare) including all the typical tropes and finishing with a severed arm says “hey, we like the shooty guns and the macho macho just as much as the next guy” in as direct a way as possible. There was also lots of EDM and cars and more guns and even just playing Halo 2 multiplayer and tea-bagging like it’s college and you’re in your friend’s basement eating cheetos and getting really high instead of onstage at the biggest gaming even of the year.
But despite the fact that I’d rather have browsed a microsite with all this content presented at once than sit through demo after demo of tedious onstage walkthroughs, this was still a net win for gamers. Microsoft showed off a whole slew of interesting indie game content as part of its new ID@Xbox program, a self-publishing plaform that includes ‘Inside,’ a super-atmospheric side scrolling puzzler from the creators of ‘Limbo,’ and ‘Cuphead,’ a careful recreation of early animation complete with film grain effects and various other amazing looking game experiences that don’t involve wearing headsets and shooting things for vaguely conveyed reasons.
Project Spark also got a plug as it prepares to exit beta, and it still intrigues me as an open-ended gameplay creation tool even though it also looks suspiciously like it would involve a lot of work, and some old favorites come back to give me personally a reason not to sell my own console secondhand. Those include a brand new Crackdown game, directed by the director of the original, which was one of my favorite Xbox 360 games of all time, and a new Dragon Age (I can’t help my BioWare addiction, walk/talk RPGs forever), plus a new gameplay trailer for the somewhat interest The Division. Fan service remakes of classics including the complete Halo Master Chief franchise, the new sequel to Tomb Raider, and a spin on Fable that’s part Gauntlet and part Dungeon Keeper also looked decently entertaining.
Microsoft had to bring the games to this year’s E3, and bring the games it did. Now it just has to ship and sell the games, but many of these were promised in time for holiday season 2014, so hopefully it can do just that.