You’d be forgiven for feeling that familiar sense of deja-vu if you happened to catch the Microsoft “conference” at Gamescom 2017. Gone was the formal presentation conference format from E3, what we got was an informal treehouse-esque sit-down session between some awkward hosts and their nervous special guest developers. Those expecting a traditional conference were instead treated to a series of reminders about multi-platform titles already announced at E3 and…a lot of other details already covered in Los Angeles way back in June.
With the recent delay of the long-awaited Crackdown 3 looming over Cologne like a bad smell, Microsoft had an opportunity to remedy (give me Alan Wake 2 already) their situation with a string of impactful announcements. It’s becoming abundantly clear that Forza 7 is the title to show off what the Xbox One X can do, and to its credit, it does display some very pretty visuals, but is this it? Apparently so, at least until 2018.
One of the highlights of the event came from the director of development himself, Albert Greenberg as he mentioned how Xbox fans should be expected to be hit with non-stop exclusives. This is both a hilarious and disconcerting comment built on the foundations of a blatant lie, and a sign of how far behind they are Sony and Nintendo in terms of exclusive content. The reminder that Cuphead will finally be with us soon did nothing to soften the blow of a weak first-party line-up. Whilst the game looks fantastic, its shoehorned platforming sections have yet to convince me. Still, we can all look forward to Cuphead on September 29th.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom at Microsoft’s treehouse; the new Minecraft-themed console stood out from a long list of woefully uninspired previews as something so hideous it actually looked good. Even the pig and Creeper controllers looked awesome, and you can be sure they’ll be snapped up swiftly by many a Minecraft aficionado. Xbox design labs, though expensive, is a great way to customise your controller the way to want it. With a number of additional colour variants and styles recently introduced, this was an ideal way to remind consumers about the service and what Microsoft actually gets right.
ID@Xbox celebrated its 4th year, a neat little milestone and an encouraging initiative in which developers can self-publish their own titles on the Xbox One with the help of industry professionals – it’s definitely a programme Microsoft need right now more than ever. The news that Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds development will be assisted by Microsoft is good…but this is exactly the issue; this event was a non-event. Recore: a game nobody bought – with the sales figures to prove it – is being re-released as Recore: Definitive Edition. This isn’t to say the game is bad, but why are Microsoft wasting their resources on failed experiments when they could be rectifying their longstanding glaring issues?
The biggest clue towards unearthing the fact that Microsoft truly had nothing new to show off was their unveiling of Jurassic World: Evolution, a park simulator with the added novelty of having dinosaurs as the main attractions. Again it doesn’t look bad, but was this the time to show off this one particular title? Has this boosted consumer interest in the Xbox one in any conceivable way? The new Assassins Creed and Middle-earth: Shadow of War trailers look the bees knees, but we know these games are coming, we got told back in June…we got told all this stuff back in June.
I’ve always been a fan of the different services Xbox provides to its customers, and in a lot of ways they surpass Sony’s efforts. Services like: Xbox games for Gold, Xbox Games Pass, Xbox Design Labs, the ever-growing backward compatibility list. Even the attention to detail with their exquisite elite controller is something to marvel at for the hardcore gamer, but all these services are intrinsically linked with what has come before. Why have that fancy new controller with a rude word etched into the base if Microsoft have nothing to set their console apart from the rest?
Microsoft continued playing up to their strengths with the announcement of the Xbox One x Project Scorpio edition. With its own unique graphic pattern on the exterior of the console and a slightly modified controller naturally, this glorious beast was only ever going to be limited edition. If that wasn’t already enough, there will also be an exclusive vertical stand for the Scorpio edition for all those who’re more vertically inclined in their console setup – truly a great time to be alive.
The Xbox “treehouse” conference informal chit-chat event was at the very most a friendly reminder about what Xbox has in store for us in 2017 (barely anything on the software exclusive front) and 2018 (a bit more). Were these echoes of E3 deserving of their own event? No. Was it at least entertaining? Not particularly, no. It will be interesting to see how the Xbox One X affects the videogame market, but nothing significant has changed since June. Wouldn’t a simple press release have sufficed?