Microsoft's E3 Conference: A Series Of Bangs That Ended With A Fizzle

Microsoft's E3 conference rattled along like a NASCAR race.

Whoosh. Here comes a trailer. Here's another one! Here's one crazy announcement you weren't expecting. Whoosh, here's another.

I'd describe it as a series of bangs that ended with a fizzle -- mainly because the new Gears of War was such a strange way to end the conference. It was staid, it was traditional and -- let's face facts -- it was a little boring. And it bookended a conference that was far from boring.

I'm going to start with what excited me most and that was the HoloLens demo of Minecraft.

It excited me because it was new, it was bewildering. It has the potential to change the way we interact with video games and things in general.

But these are also sentences we once used to describe Kinect.

Microsoft's Holographic Minecraft Demo Is Stunning

Kinect was the spectre that haunted Microsoft's E3 conference, in more ways than one. To begin with, it wasn't mentioned once. It was completely absent from the conference in a way that was almost strange. It has become the Voldemort of the Xbox universe. The device that must not be named.

But when HoloLens was unveiled, Kinect was on my mind. Sure, I thought to myself, HoloLens looks absolutely spectacular. But so did Kinect.

So I'm restraining the hype for now. I'm hoping that HoloLens can become everything I want it to be, but remain cynical about how it works in the wild, and how it will be implemented into video games themselves. Another hope: Microsoft has learned from Kinect and will apply that learning to HoloLens and the end product will be all the better for it.

Another theme from Microsoft's conference: the opening up of the Xbox One platform. I was shocked when Todd Howard announced that the Xbox One would allow users to install and play PC-developed mods on the console. SHOCKED I TELL THEE. Then when Microsoft announced Xbox Preview -- essentially Early Access for the Xbox One -- I became fully bewildered at the manner in which Microsoft is freely messing with its platform. It's a good thing in my opinion. A great thing even. Microsoft announced these things almost as an aside, but they might be among the most revolutionary announcements of the show so far.

Finally, the games themselves.

Post the annual Microsoft indie montage, I was just about to complain about the fact Microsoft never gives its indie line-up anything more than a montage.

Then they went ahead and made an idiot out of me by doing precisely that, giving the spotlight to games like Tacoma, from the team behind Gone Home; Ashen, a glorious looking game being made in New Zealand; and Cuphead, that 2D thing that looks like an old Disney cartoon in the most spectacular of ways.

Microsoft really does have a lot of interesting games on the way. Recore had me at 'from the makers of Metroid Prime'. Fallout 4 had a more gameplay focused showing and looked great. I love Tomb Raider's new shift to the icy, snow-laden landscape -- I LOVE SNOW LEVELS IN VIDEO GAMES.

And then there was Halo 5, in the Call of Duty slot, looking like Halo on PEDs. 343 Industries may have messed with Halo's multiplayer last time round, but I truly thought they nailed the single player experience. After falling in love with the online beta for Halo 5, I'm certain they'll do just as good a job the second go around with the main game.

So, a great effort overall, despite the glib ending with Gears of War.


What did you think of Microsoft's E3 showing? Let us know in the comments.


Comments

    I thought Gears 4 looked great, a darker horror vibe similar to the first one.

    The kinnect works well but once it was cut from the standard kit to cut the price everyone knew it was never going to reach its potential.

    Backwards compatiblity with 360 seems like a 'drop mic' moment to me but doesn't rate a mention much around the web. A healthy case of skepticism?

      it is a huge moment... sadly, it should have been there at launch.
      launch is when its a needed feature... people still loved their last gen games, there werent very many current gen games..
      It will help push microsofts sales up for the xbone one, but I feel most people who care about e3 are happy now with the selection of games on current gen.

      if microsoft announced this back in 2013, and kept their family sharing plan, didnt push always on, then they would be the ones owning the market share

      It was a drop the mic moment in my view - my 360 library is massive! I was doing cartwheels!

        Isn't it entirely dependent on the publishers to opt in to the backwards compatibility. Rereading the announcement transcript it looks more like they are providing the option for games to be backwards compatible, you stick the game disc in then it downloads a xbone binary to run the game - it's up to the publishers if they want their title to be so.

        I'll wait for more info - if it's not like i described above then yes, that's awesome. Otherwise its just meh unless all the publishers jump on board.

        http://www.kotaku.com.au/2015/06/how-xbox-ones-backwards-compatibility-will-work/

          Yeah it is up to the publishers - so it remains to be seen if it's good or not!

      If announced at launch it might have stopped a lot of 360 owners going to PS4, but I think that bird has flown. Here we are 18 months after launch and most of the hardcore gamers already have either an Xbone a PS4 or both. There are two things this announcement will achieve. 360 sales will hit a brick wall, and you'll get a modest bump of Xbone sales. It isn't going to open any floodgates.

      I have to say as a PS4 owner i am jealous when I heard the backward compatibility news. But then I have some time to digest it and honestly I can't imagine I go back to play last generation console games? Especially with all the excellent games that came out/going to come out this year. It is certainly a nice feature to have (and free!) but to me personally not one that I would use a lot.

      Last edited 16/06/15 9:38 am

        Same. I've personally still got my PS3 hooked up next to the PS4, so BC is not an issue for me.

    Unfortunately Mark, I reckon MS learned absolutely *nothing* from the failure of Kinect.

    They are doing the same thing, showing the product do stuff it just cannot even come close to doing, and the disconnect between what is 'shown' in the demos, and what happens when you use the actual product, is so huge that what should be impressive (if not pre-hyped) just feels lame and relatively useless.

    The minecraft demo for instance, the experience when wearing the hololens is nothing like that at all. You look at the table, and you see the Minecraft world in a tiny portion of it. You move your head around, and your tiny window of overlay moves with you, so you only see a little bit of the 'world' at a time. The same for playing it on the wall, you don't see your wall covered in minecraft, you see a tea-towel sized section that moves around as you move you head.

    People will be expecting it to work like the demos, it works nothing like that in real life, you will notice they haven't shown a single demo that gives the actual view through the glasses.

    I was so excited by the hololens, until I tried it. It is more like google glass with a slightly larger overlay.

      This is my feeling as well (although I haven't tried it). You get a huge FOV boost by viewing the concept demos in third person. I'm still very interested to see if decent games come out of this experiment, but I think that they will generally be limited to turn-based or strategic simulations.

    I really do hope hololens will work, but I have doubts

    Last edited 16/06/15 9:37 am

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