Microsoft has unofficially kicked off the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo and what they want you to know is that the big difference between the Sony PlayStation 4 and their offering is that the Xbox One “is for gamers”.
Kicking off the event with the first press conference Microsoft executives claimed that their offering in 2014 is all about the software and the experience gamers get using the Xbox One.
There was no mention of media apps or family-entertainment features, just games. And while we saw mostly titles from the top franchises-Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Forza and Halo-Microsoft also promised a plethora of indie games from lesser known studios and start-ups, too.
“Today we’re dedicating our entire briefing to games,” said Phil Spencer, who runs the Xbox division of Microsoft. “Our goal is to make Xbox One the best place to play games this generation.gamers are helping set the future direction of Xbox.”
The Wall Street Journal said that the Xbox One might be a few million consoles behind Sony in sales, but since it and rival PlayStation 4 launched last year, the current console war is far from over. Overnight in Los Angeles’s Galen Centre arena, Microsoft only talked about games, dozens of games-and nothing else.
Here are the top five new products announced by Microsoft.
1. Halo dominates. This comes as no surprise, but the franchise that propelled the Xbox into popularity was the big star. On top of a quick teaser to 2015’s Halo 5: Guardians, the company confirmed a massive Master Chief Collection, which features Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4. Along with every campaign level, it features more than 100 multiplayer levels. For newcomers, it’s a quick way to catch up on Xbox One, while veterans can revisit their favourite levels from older games in 1080p resolution.
2. Tomb Raider returns. The rebirth of Tomb Raider served as a big success for Crystal Dynamics and publisher Square Enix. The sequel made its global debut on the Xbox stage with Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s set to launch in 2015.
3. More Crackdown. The first chapter of this open world game was a surprise hit. It boasted police agents and criminals fighting for control of Pacific City. On top of weapons, players wield superhuman powers such as tossing cars into the air and leaping over buildings like Superman.
4. That Assassin’s Creed demo. Sure, it’s another Assassin’s Creed, but what’s most impressive about the demo of Assassin’s Creed Unity is the amount of activity happening in the background. The crowds gathered during the opening moments were far more massive than we’re used to seeing on older consoles. It appears to be another sign of the power of these new video game consoles. It wasn’t the only game that displayed this either. Others such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Dragon Age: Inquisition showed a promising future for the consoles.
5. No Kinect. Microsoft was adamant that Kinect played a major part of the company’s strategy. One month after unveiling a model of the Xbox One without Kinect, available starting today, Microsoft used one game — Dance Central Spotlight — to showcase the motion sensor. Doesn’t look like a good sign.
Other big mentions were:
Another game that is stepping up in-game environments: “Forza Horizon 2.” This edition of the popular racing series will be the first to feature what Microsoft is calling dynamic weather. From the trailer we saw, that means you’ll get to race in the rain and under cloudy skies. Previously, Forza games only took place under the sun with no real weather mechanics.
“Forza Horizon 2” will also take drivers out to European roads and highways, with lush nature scenes. The game is the seventh in the Forza series, and a direct sequel to the original “Forza Horizon” for Xbox 360, in which players drove around Colorado. Another new feature: “Forza Horizon 2” will allow gamers to create and join driving clubs with up to 1,000 other online players. “Forza Horizon 2” goes on sale Sept. 30, 2014.
There’s also an update for owners of “Forza 5,” which was an Xbox One launch title. Starting today, Germany’s N?rburgring track is available as a free download.
The latest in the Fable series, “Fable Legends” keeps the open-world role-playing game elements of previous titles intact. But this new game focuses more on playing online, cooperatively with friends. There’s also a new twist: You can play as the villain, setting up all the traps and challenges for the game’s heroes. Multiplayer beta will be available in October.
Microsoft also played a trailer for the Xbox One version of “Project Spark”-the company’s answer to Minecraft. Like Minecraft, “Project Spark” is all about letting gamers play in worlds that they themselves create. It’s already been released on Windows and the Xbox 360, and Microsoft says that more than a million gamers have created custom play using the title. The Xbox One version will add updated, improved graphics and the ability to create worlds in space, desert and forest themes. The Xbox One version of “Project Spark” will also add Conker, the hero of the Nintendo 64 game “Conker’s Bad Fur Day,” as a playable character.
Microsoft is placing a big bet on “Sunset Overdrive,” an entirely new property from Insomniac Games. If that developer sounds familiar, it’s because it previously built hit franchises for Sony over the years, including Ratchet and Clank, Spyro and Resistance. “Sunset Overdrive” is an open-world shooter, something that looks like a cross between Borderlands and Grand Theft Auto-it’s colourful and you shoot up mutants while running around a massive city. There’ll also be a feature called “Chaos Squad” that will offer 8-player co-op. “Sunset Overdrive,” one of the only new franchises shown off so far today, hits stores Oct. 28, 2014.
Ori and the Blind Forest Moon Studios:
Microsoft played a sizzle reel of games from little known independent developers and start-ups, saying that hundreds of indie games for Xbox One are on the way. Two in particular caught our eye: “Inside,” the new title from Playdead, the studio behind “Limbo.” Like “Limbo,” “Inside’s” protagonist is a child, running through a dark, dreary world. “Limbo” was a game made in black and white, and while “Inside” is in colour, the environments are still largely shades of grey and black. Another standout: “Ori and The Blind Forest,” an action plat former that features some hand-drawn art, set for a fall 2014 release.
Only two Kinect games were discussed, and no gameplay was shown for either: Disney “Fantasia Music Evolved” and “Dance Central Spotlight,” in which gamers can dance to current pop hits. These two games were elicited the most lukewarm crowd response.
Old Titles, New Life:
In addition to Halo and the return of Conker, the remake of the fighting game Killer Instinct is getting an update soon called “Killer Instinct Season 2,” which will add characters such as T.J. Combo-a boxer last seen on the Nintendo 64.
A New Message:
The strict focus on games this year is a major shift from Microsoft’s previous messaging around the Xbox One. The console is loaded with apps and features focused on streaming movies, TV shows and music. And, up until this point, Microsoft has pitched the Xbox One as the ultimate living-room hub. But with that marketing in place-and a launch price that was $100 more than the PS4-the company seems to have lost its hard-earned spot as the leading console seller, and is now trying to get it back.