Laying the seeds.

phil spencer e3 2014

Cullen Plays LIVE stream:

“This week, we share a common purpose with our friends at Sony, Nintendo and the developers and publishers in our industry. That purpose is to showcase the passion, creativity and potential of the fastest growing form of entertainment in the world, games. And we’re here together at an incredible time in our industry with the launch of two new consoles in the last year, this generation is off to the hottest start in history. This renewed interest and excitement benefits everyone: creators, publishers, console manufactures and especially gamers.”

And with that classy speech, the new Head of Xbox Phil Spencer immediately became a much more impeccable leader of Microsoft’s console business than Don Mattrick ever was in his five years in the job. If there was a trend that came across from start of Microsoft to the end of Nintendo, it’s that this year’s pressers was all about games and games only (shame Sony deviated from it a bit, but lets come back to that for Sony’s presser).

The argument could be made that Microsoft decided to play it somewhat safe this year, and fair enough, it did seem like they did. A lot of its lineup was very action heavy one way or another, be it shooters like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Evolve or Halo: The Master Chief Collection to others like Dragon Age: Inquisition, Assassin’s Creed: Unity or Sunset Overdrive to name a few.

That’s not to bash upon them, though. Most of them looked great no doubt, and god damn if demos of The Division and The Witcher III were absolutely afuckingmazing, although I’m still not feeling anything for Evolve. That announced open beta may go a long way in turning my opinion around (assuming I get an Xbox One before then).

Microsoft did dare to step outside its safety net a few times, though: there was the announcement of Platinum Games’ Scalebound from Hideki Kamiya, which seemingly meshed Devil May Cry x Monster Hunter. And there was the hauntingly charming and beautiful Ori and the Blind Forest from Moon Studio

And as well as seemingly finally realising that what gamers wanted was wall-to-wall games, fan classics were brought back. Phantom Dust from the original Xbox was coming for a new generation (seemingly, folk like me who didn’t play it first time) whilst Crackdown returned for a reboot with creator Dave Jones returning as part of new developer Cloudgine, previously a cloud firm now ramping up to become a developer, though there’s a part of me that – as much as I love Crackdown – felt the show could have ended with something bigger than just Crackdown. And that was mean teasing Conker like that, only for it to be Project Spark.

One area Microsoft seemingly still couldn’t keep up with in regards to Sony was indies. Playdead’s next game, coming to Xbox One first, was shown for the first time, but the remainder of the segment was just dumped into a montage. As Sony would show later that night, it took the matter of indies far more seriously.

In terms of pound-for-pound surprises, Microsoft didn’t have any besides Ori and the Blind Forest or the announce of the next AAA Tomb Raider game (whilst Crystal Dynamics’ next game was confirmed for the show, it was widely assumed it’d be for a Guardians of Light successor – an assumption that later checked out). In fact, most of the big stuff – such as Crackdown and Scalebound back when it was known as Project Nagano – was leaked months back by Microsoft informant ntkml on NeoGAF.

Still, for his first E3 in his new role as head of Xbox, Phil Spencer listened to feedback and made sure it was all about gamers. There was nothing massively earth-shattering shown with perhaps such a safe and predictable lineup, but even then, most of the content shown from that line-up was still terrific. And if anything, it showed that Xbox One is finally about games first, everything else second rather than trying to be the ‘All-In-One’ entertainment device. Like it should have been from the beginning.

Having a games man who cares passionately about games, who respects the competition as he did in his opening speech and his open-door policy to fans on Twitter lays down a solid foundation for what can be built upon for the future, both for Xbox One and Spencer’s reign in charge.

Only good things can happen.

Game of the conference: Ori and the Blind Forest (Special Mention: Sunset Overdrive)

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