Phil Spencer, head of Xbox talks during a media briefing at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles on Monday, June 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
E3 is right around the corner, and that means we're about to get deluged with colossal news and shiny new trailers. And as we do every year before the hype, let's first take a look back to see if the three console makers delivered on all the grand promises they made at last year's E3. Up first: Microsoft.
E3 2016's buzz and excitement was overshadowed by the horrific mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub on Sunday, June 12. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo each took the time to acknowledge the tragedy at their press events, in a show of solidarity and support to the LGBT community. Overall, the press events from the big three had the usual: some expected reveals and surprises, with leaks prior to the E3 festivities taking away from the latter.
A music-thumping, crisp presentation of the new Xbox One S console kicked off Microsoft's E3 2016 press conference. The briefing, which was held on June 13, 2016, showcased news and titles that had almost all leaked days ahead of the event. The biggest reveal, a new higher-powered Xbox codenamed Project Scorpio, occurred at the end of the 90-minute presentation, although Kotaku readers already knew all about it after our report.
The theme that dominated Microsoft's briefing: Games would be available for cross-buy and cross-play on both Xbox One and Windows 10 as part of Xbox's new "Play Anywhere" program. As of today's date, 12 games are a part of the program with 7 more in the works.
The promise: Xbox One S, a slimmer console and sharper way to play Xbox One games with HDR gaming, 4K Ultra HD video and Blu-ray features was presented in a trailer. It even boasted up to 2TB of internal HDD, an integrated power supply, and an IR Blaster. The same trailer introduced the new Xbox wireless controller featuring Bluetooth and increased range capability, as well as a textured grip. Once the Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, took the stage, he revealed the pricing of the console ($US300 ($404)) and a launch window of August 2016.
Did they deliver? Yes, with options to boot. The highest-end version of the console with a 2TB hard-drive launched on August 2 with a $US400 ($538) price point. Additional console options were later made available on August 23rd as bundled packages: a $US350 ($471) 1TB hard drive with a Madden or Halo bundle, or an even smaller 500GB hard drive with a Halo collection priced at $US300 ($404).
The promise: Gears of War 4's Rod Fergusson took the stage to present the "Xbox Play Anywhere" program, which went something like this:, "When you buy a game digitally you get to own it and play it on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PC." Another big feature promised was that Gears of War 4 would support cross-play with PC and Xbox players able to play together for all of the various modes, including a co-op campaign, co-multiplayer and a Gears 4 Horde mode. After a live on-stage demo of the co-op elements to the game, a release date of October 11, 2016 was announced, as well as a Gears 4 limited edition Elite Wireless controller.
Did they deliver? Mostly. The game released on both PC and Xbox on October 11, along with satisfying gameplay but an unfortunate hiccup for its lengthy matchmaking times. Cross-play rolled out for some modes, but not others. In December, a play test weekend for cross-play between PC and Xbox One players happened in December 2016, and on January 27, Gears of War 4 received cross-play for its Versus Multiplayer mode. Oh, the controller released in October too, but now seems to be sold out just about everywhere. Such is the way of limited-edition things.
The promise: Community Manager for Killer Instinct Rukari Austin unveiled the franchise's next guest character: Gears of War's General Raam. It was noted during the trailer that Killer Instinct's Season 3 is an Xbox Play Anywhere title. After General Raam shanked his opponent, he was promised to be available to play for free during the week of E3.
Did they deliver? Yes. General Raam is in the Killer Instinct roster, and the game has cross-play and cross-buy features.
The promise: Next up was a trailer for an Xbox and Windows 10 Exclusive featuring a scenic Australia being torn up by a bevy of cars on highways, the beach, and off-road, all to a cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game." Yep, it was Forza Horizon 3. Playground Games' Creative Director,Ralph Fulton joined three other developers to play a live demo of the game utilising Windows 10 PCs and Xbox consoles to show seamless four player co-op integration. September 27, 2016 was pegged as the release date for both platforms.
Did they deliver? They did, and Mike Fahey may say it keeps delivering, what with the snowy weather addition last December and the joys of the Hot Wheels expansion pack released on May 9. Forza Horizon 3's early access began on September 23 and was an enjoyable experience on Xbox One and PC (mostly without the anticipated crashes, too).
The promise: A character introduction, platforming and combat trailer played for Xbox One and Windows exclusive ReCore. The game was first announced at E3 2015 with an early Spring 2016 release date, later pushed to a Fall 2016 window. At E3 2o16's press briefing, ReCore received a specific release date of September 13, 2016.
Did they deliver? Yes. The game made its scheduled release date on both platforms but launched with longer load times on Xbox than PC -- up to two minutes in some cases, versus PC's 26 seconds. This was later patched. Kotaku's review praised its strong gameplay and gorgeous world but noted that bugs and backtracking hindered ReCore's overall experience. One of the bots featured in marketing for the game, the T8nk, still hasn't been released, though it is expected to be a free DLC... someday.
The promise: Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata took to the stage to show off The Trial of Titan, the "first ever demo on Xbox One" to demonstrate "how fast and fluid the battle system is." After Titan's arm was frozen and lopped off, he reiterated that Prince Noctis and crew's Final Fantasy XV adventure was set for September 30, 2016.
Did they deliver? No, but it wasn't Microsoft's fault. After E3, the global release of Final Fantasy XV was delayed by Jason Schr… uh, I mean, by Square Enix to November 29th, 2016. Square Enix's developers cited a need to work more on the game's optimization, among other things. The game did make its November release for Xbox and PlayStation... even though they weren't done working on it.
There's one section in the game in particular that's been hotly debated, and has since received its own updates to address its execution. In March, FFXV received DLC with more to arrive in the future.
The promise: The Division's Underground expansion pack received a trailer that highlighted randomly generated missions and deadly urban dungeons, which would release first on Xbox One on June 28.
Did they deliver? Sure did. As promised, on June 28th the DLC was made available to Xbox and PC owners, a week ahead of its PlayStation 4 release on August 2nd. The DLC took some brainwork out on how to access it, and once achieved, it's likely you were kicked out of matches if your name was Stephen Totilo.
In late August, the developers stated they would delay its next DLC to focus instead on fixing the game's rampant cheating, unbalanced level progression and other assorted issues in an October 1.4 patch, following a September release of a public PC Test Server.
The promise: The next presenter was DICE's General Manager, Patrick Bach. He featured gameplay footage for Battlefield 1 before revealing the game would be released on October 21st, with Xbox players with EA Access getting the chance to play first on October 13th.
Did they deliver? Yes, with a surprise: Members of EA Access and Origin Access were able to download the trial to Xbox and PC one day earlier than its planned October 13th release. The full game released for Xbox, PC and PS4 on October 21st.
Eventually, everyone got to enjoy the game's horses -- the ultimate killing machines -- followed by the game's other deadly creature: a massive shark, among other goodies and easter eggs. The latest DLC released on May 23, 2017 added female soldiers to the World War I battles.
The promise: Head of Platforming Engineering for Xbox Mike Ybarra gave a presentation to discuss improvements to Xbox Live. New features which would be available in the summer would include: 1. Background Music, with players able to listen to their own music while they play, 2. Language Region Independence, effectively allowing players to play any language of their choosing, and 3. Cortana, the digital assistant, who would arrive as well with new voice recognition capabilities for the console.
Did they deliver? Yes: All three features were implemented in the Xbox One Summer Update on July 30, 2016. Furthermore, a couple extra features were thrown in for good measure, including an improved Games Collection page, convergence of the Windows and Xbox online stores, and more.
The promise: Ybarra continued by promising that three new additional features would make their way to Xbox Live in the fall. The first would be "Clubs," as a common meeting place for games to connect with shared interests. The second would be "Looking For Group" as a means for players to be able to find each other easier, "...like a wanted ad for multiplayer." And lastly, "Arena," designed with competitive gaming in mind for players to easily sign up to matches. Games that would join the Arena offering included EA Sports titles such as FIFA in the coming year, as well as Daybreak, H1z1, and Wargaming.
Did they deliver? Yes and no. Clubs and Looking For Group rolled out to Xbox preview on September 6 and those two features were implemented on November 10 in the fall as promised. The Arena on Xbox feature got delayed until May 16, 2017.
The promise: In the Minecraft portion of the show, Lydia Winters and Sax Persson discussed uniting players across Xbox, iOS, and Windows 10 platforms to play online together easily. They would achieve this through "The Friendly Update," allowing players to host their own servers that friends could play in even when the host was not online. Minecraft Realms would be available to try for free on the date of the briefing, and cross-platforming would include Xbox Live, Android, Windows 10, iOS, and Gear VR devices. Texture packs such as the City pack would be released that day for Minecraft Pocket edition and Windows 10.
In the spring, an add-on allowing players to modify things in addition to tweaking AI would become available as initial steps to making Minecraft fully modifiable. Finally, more add-ons would happen in 2017 for Xbox, with more information to be provided at Minecon in September 2016.
Did they deliver? Yes and no. The Friendly Update began rolling out and Realms free to try for 30 days on June 13th. Add-ons were made available, too. The 1.10 update to add mods happened on the first day of Winter on December 21st for consoles, but other updates prior to the big one allowed for some customisation -- tweaks, but not full-on modding.
The promise: "You design. We build." With Xbox Design Lab, players with an eye for design would be able to customise and design their own controllers with an array of colours and engraving. Players could try the customisation on Xbox's site that same day.
Did they deliver? Priced at $US80 ($108) (with an additional $US10 ($13) for engraving options), Xbox Design Lab's colourful offerings appear to make it difficult for anyone to create a bad combination. (That said, the Xbox Design Lab isn't available in all territories and the shipping costs from the US are pretty exorbitant.)
The promise: Inside, the latest from the creator of Limbo, got a somber trailer and a lot of praise from [email protected] Creative Director Chris Charla. To celebrate the June 29th launch of Inside, Playdead's first game would be made available for free to Xbox One players on the day of the conference.
Did they deliver? Yes. Inside launched on Xbox on the promised date to overwhelmingly positive reviews and excited discussions. The game later released on PC on July 7th, and on PS4 on August 23rd. Playdead announced on January 20th that a new game is in the works.
The promise: Next up was the Xbox Indie Highlight Reel, featuring peeks at Cuphead, Outlast 2, Deliver us to the Moon, Flinthook, FAR, Slime Rancher, Shadow Tactics, Figment, The Culling, For the King, Beacon, Stardew Valley, Hand of Fate 2, Below, Raiders, Bloodstained, Yooka-Laylee, Everspace. Release dates were listed as "soon." Discussed in further detail were plans for ARK: Survival Evolved stating that Xbox owners would be able to play on Windows 10 in the Fall. Other titles that would join Xbox Game Preview program -- which allows feedback between game developers and players -- include Slime Rancher, The Culling, Everspace, and DayZ.
Did they deliver? Overall, no. Quite a few of these games haven't shipped yet, and some don't even have dates a year later. Outlast 2 was delayed to early 2017, received a terrifying demo in the fall, and was released on Xbox One, PS4, Mac and Windows on April 25, 2017. Yooka-Laylee released on Xbox, PS4, PC and Mac on April 11, 2017. Flinthook released on April 17, 2017. Slime Rancher and Everspace are a part of Xbox Game Preview. Shadow Tactics is slated for an August 1, 2017 release on Xbox and PS4.
The Culling is headed to Xbox Game Preview on June 2. Stardew Valley released on Xbox and PlayStation 4 on December 14. Hand of Fate 2 had a Q1 2017 date but remains unreleased. No release information yet on Deliver us to the Moon, For the King, Beacon, Raider and DayZ, either. Below was scheduled for mid-2016 but has been delayed with no definitive release date.
Bloodstained has been pushed to 2018. As of this date, Cuphead, FAR, and Figment also remain unreleased, each with a vague window of 2017. ARK: Survival Evolved has not yet released as a Play Anywhere title.
The promise: A game trailer for We Happy Few placed the action in 1964 with reality altering drugs and the one man who refused to take his "joy" pill.This first-person indie adventure game would go first to consoles on the Xbox One, and available in July on Xbox Game Preview.
Did they deliver? Yep. In July, the game went to the Xbox Game Preview program as well as Steam's Early Access (and it really was early).. In December, the game received a big update that added a story tutorial and fixed many of the problems related to quests, NPC behaviour and other issues.
The promise: Oh hey, Gwent! CD Projekt Red's digital card game spin-off from The Witcher series was announced and presented by Lead Designer Damien Monnier. Registration for the beta began that day. It'd be first on Xbox One and Windows PC and the beta would arrive in September.
Did they deliver? Not quite. The closed beta actually began at the tail end of October. But when it did, some people got addicted to all the big changes from the game's Witcher 3 counterpart. The public beta released on May 24th, 2017.
The promise: After a movie trailer starring Heihachi Mishima fighting Akuma with some plot-driven dialogue was shown, Tekken 7 Game Director Katsuhiro Harada jumped into a live gameplay demo with Game Designer Michael Murray to battle it out with digital fists on stage. The release date was slated for "early 2017." During the week of E3, Xbox Gold members would receive a free copy of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, available via Xbox Backwards Compatibility.
Did they deliver? No. Well, yes for the free copy of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, but no for the release date. Tekken 7, which has been out in Japan's arcades since 2015, was delayed and is now scheduled for a June 2nd release on Xbox One, PC, and PS4.
The promise: It was Christmas in June with the next trailer presented for Dead Rising 4, featuring zombies and all the festive ways they could be killed, all to a soundtrack of "Jingle Bell Rock," confirmed as coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 in Holiday 2016.
Did they deliver? Yep! On St. Nicholas' day, no less. The game released on December 6, 2016 for both Xbox and Windows 10. Frank West's zombie bashing return had a brush with controversy in the promotional department, and while Dead Rising 4 turned out pretty fun, it was not necessarily seen as a good Dead Rising game.
The promise: Hideki Kamiya, Creative Director for Platinum Games, stepped on stage for a preview of Scalebound, which Microsoft touted as an exclusive for Xbox One and Windows 10 that would be its "biggest 2017 release." With four players on stage, Kamiya and company showed co-op gameplay of a headphones wearing protagonist and his friends battling a gigantic spider-like foe.
Did they deliver? Not only is Scalebound not going to be Xbox's biggest 2017 release, it's never going to release at all. Confirmation of Scalebound's cancellation came on January 9, 2017, almost three years after its first announcement at E3 2014. An apology soon followed.
The promise: Pirates, ahoy! Xbox and Windows 10 exclusive Sea of Thieves was up next. Rare's co-op pirate game, first announced during E3 2015, was introduced by Studio Head Craig Duncan via a gameplay video that featured lots of laughing, screaming, and a sinking ship. The game was announced as also being a part of Xbox Play Anywhere.
The promise: Another Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive trailer was shown, this time for a car speeding along a desolate highway and barrelling through zombies on its way to a gas station. State of Decay 2 was a co-op survival game with a release window of 2017.
Did they deliver? Not yet. There's been very little said about the game since its debut trailer at E3 2016. Perhaps there'll be more information on it in a couple of weeks.
The promise: Halo Wars 2's movie trailer was presented next, depicting a grand battlefield between aliens and humankind. With a promised release date of February 21st, 2017, the game was said to be playable at E3, be a Play Anywhere title, and have a weeklong multiplayer beta on Xbox One beginning June 13th through June 20th.
Did they deliver? Indeed they did. Yet another leak -- this time about the open beta -- was confirmed by the press conference, and on June 13th as promised, the beta launched. The tepid real-time strategy game met its February launch date.
The promise: Returning to the stage, Phil Spencer mused that Xbox's next step was to look "beyond generations." A video of interviews with hardware developers and third party software makers unveiled Project Scorpio, which boasted 4k gaming, six teraflops of GPU, 8 CPU cores with more than 320gb per second of memory bandwidth, et cetera. Spencer stressed that Project Scorpio would not leave the Xbox One family behind and that all games and accessories would work on all Xbox One family consoles. He also stated his belief that Xbox's next console would be "the most powerful console ever" when it launched in the holiday season of 2017.
Did they deliver? Not yet, but Holiday 2017 is some time away, so time will tell. Specs for the leaked console were unveiled by Xbox in April of this year, and they're impressive. We'll presumably see much more on this, and what else Microsoft and Xbox has up their sleeve in about two weeks' time.
And that was all for Microsoft, which mostly delivered on its promises even if it had a few huge whiffs. Later this week, we'll examine Sony's and Nintendo's E3 performances.