You know, we’ve been quite harsh on Xbox this gen. Understandably so given their ignorant attitude as of late. There’s no denying that this gen has been the worst gen for Xbox, certainly the most underwhelming and most confusing. Fans have endured the cancellation of games, closing of studios, canned support of Kinect and much more. It hasn’t helped matters that Xbox’s lineup has been, well, bland, to say the least. Microsoft needed to deliver at E3 2018, which is something they managed to achieve magnificently well.
I came into the event with very few expectations. After all, Microsoft has a tendency to over-hype and under-deliver. How wrong was I come the end of the briefing. Phil Spencer and all supporting studios and reps, presented one hell of a meaningful presentation, grouped with announcements and reveals that were equal to that. Phil Spencer wasted little time revealing the investment in development of original content, doubling its game development studios by adding five new creative teams to the Microsoft Studios family.
The Initiative – a brand-new Microsoft game development studio headed by industry veteran Darrell Gallagher, Playground Games – known for their excellent work on Forza Horizon, Ninja Theory – the developers responsible for the outstanding Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Undead Labs – creator of the popular State of Decay franchise and Compulsion Games – developers of We Happy Few. Safe to say, there’s a massive amount of potential right here. Each of these studios, save The Initiative, have easily proven their worth.
It’l be interesting to see what experience each brings to the table, though, I suspect that that will be something we witness at the turn of the gen. Speaking of which, Spencer also confirmed that work on the “next Xbox” is under way, going on to speak about the innovations and evolution of the Xbox brand on the whole. This included FastStart, an innovation from Microsoft’s Machine Learning Team, and plans from Microsoft’s Gaming Cloud Team to build a game streaming service to hit console-quality gaming on any device.
On the topic of services, Spencer also revealed that Fallout 4, Elder Scrolls Online and The Division, are now available in Xbox Game Pass, as well as confirming that Crackdown 3, Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Ashen, Afterparty and Phoenix Point, will join Xbox Game Pass at the same time as their respective launch dates. That’s not to mention that Halo: The Master Chief Collection will also follow suit. It pushes the value of Xbox Game Pass through the roof, ten times over. No doubt more will join in, in due course.
The briefing, unlike previous briefings, was paced excellently well. No idle chit-chat, no stage-hogging cringe moments and more importantly, very little talk about anything outside of games. The briefing introduced the world to a plethora of exciting upcoming games; The Division 2, Devil May Cry 5, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Cyberpunk 2077, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Fallout 76, Dying Light 2, Kingdom Hearts III, Just Cause 4, Ori and The Will Of The Wisps and much more. You can check out the truck-load of new trailers right here.
Sea of Thieves fans were also treated to a sneak peek of what the game intends to offer up in the very near future; Cursed Sails and Forgotten Shores. You can check out the truck-load of new trailers and reveals, right here. Surprisingly so, the briefing didn’t spend nearly as much time introducing new installations to established IPs; Gears, Forza and Halo. Sure, they got a healthy serving of stage-time, but the reveals of Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Gears Pop, Gears Tactics and Halo Infinite, were showcased and ushered off for more additions.
All in all, Spencer’s clear cut vision for the future of the Xbox brand was stronger during that 100 minute briefing, than any briefing or presentation before it. Taking to the stage to showcase fifty games of varying quality and exclusivity, as well as lifting the lid on a heap new experiences, all at a brilliant pace, was exactly what Microsoft needed to do. This was all bolstered further by the new additions to Microsoft Studios. After all, if you want to make great games, you need great studios to see it through, am I right or am I right?
I don’t think there’s many Xbox fans out there that didn’t appreciate the event. Myself, I’ll reiterate, thought it was the best Microsoft presentation to-date. Phil Spencer, if anything, has shown Microsoft’s commitment to truly drive the Xbox brand forward. It’s a step in the right direction and although I highly doubt we’ll be seeing Microsoft outshining Sony or Nintendo this gen, I think next gen will be an entirely different story. It’s crystal clear, now more than ever, that Xbox is finally taking itself more seriously after 5 years of dull torture.
One honorable mention goes to ID@Xbox, which continues to show a great deal of promise. It will be interesting to see how the rest of E3 2018 pans out, but at least from Xbox’s perspective (and taking comparison out of the picture), they’re now walking a fine line with their best foot forward. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that future events can maintain the same steady pace. Did you watch the event? Were you as impressed as we were? Were you expecting to see more or less? Sound off in the comments below.