Microsoft E3 2017 Conference Roundup

Microsoft takes the lid off the Xbox One X and delivers on quantity, but is it enough?

By Alex Winton
This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series E3 2017

Microsoft clearly heard the concerns about its games library, because last night at their E3 2017 conference, they delivered a showcase of 42 games, just over more than half of them having some form of Microsoft exclusivity. Whether those games are enough to really sway consumers is really going to up to the individual, given how wide and varied they truly are, but at the very least, no-one can say Microsoft didn’t deliver on quantity this year…

Xbox One X

A while ago, I personally pondered out loud whether Scorpio’s real name would actually end up being Xbox One X – following on from the naming scheme of the Xbox One S and having the handy feature of being able to be acronymised into ‘XBOX’. Turns out, either someone at Microsoft was listening that day, or happened to come to the same conclusion at the same time, because that’s the name we’ve now gotten. As much as ‘Scorpio’ was a strong product name in and of itself, it’s definitely more important to Microsoft that the ‘Xbox One’ part of the name remains the most prominent. The confusion over what these ‘not-a-new-generation-but-still-much-more-powerful’ consoles really meant in terms of software compatibility and more was already quite rampant under the name of Scorpio. It is now abundantly clear: Xbox One software and accessories will work on any device called ‘Xbox One’ – regardless of whatever else Microsoft adds to the rest of the title. Early prediction for the Xbox One X’s follow up? Xbox One XL, of course.

The Xbox One X will launch worldwide on the 7th November for $499US, £449 and €499. That matches the original Xbox One with Kinect launch price in the US and Europe, but given the issues with the Pound since, means a slight increase for us in the UK. That means that while the Xbox One X is the most powerful console on the market, it’s also easily the most expensive too. Not that anyone was expecting anything less. In fact, keeping the price in the same range as the original price for the Xbox One itself is a pretty significant achievement for Microsoft.

Third party publishers delivered

One of the first games Microsoft led their show with was an in-depth reveal of Assassin’s Creed Origins. From there on we saw the likes of a new Metro game, Dragonball Fighter Z, Code Vein, a prequel to Life is Strange, an extended gameplay demo of Middle Earth: Shadow of War and of course, a proper look at Anthem. It may not have been a huge amount of third party support on show, but it was a diverse range aimed at picking up a little something for everyone. In particular, a small shot across the Playstation’s bough with some Japanese-led content from Dragonball and Code Vein. The in-depth playthroughs of Assassin’s Creed, Shadow of War and Anthem, though, highlighted that even though these games will be multiplatform, Microsoft’s pitch is that they will be most at home on the Xbox One X.

Forza 7 impresses

Launching just ahead of the Xbox One X on the 3rd October, it might feel a little bit cheating to use Forza 7 to demonstrate the Xbox One X’s power, but it’s hard to disagree with the results. In what is, by far, the best looking racing game ever made, Turn 10 seem to have stolen some of the world-building design from Playground Games’ Forza Horizon series to make their tracks even more impressive. Combined with Forza’s legendary attention to detail on the rendering and simulation of the cars themselves, and it’s possible that the only way to get any closer to the look and feel of driving these powerful beasts (and trucks) around a track is to get out there and do it yourself. As fantastic as Forza 7 surely will be though, it also just increases our appetite for a Forza Horizon powered by the Xbox One X…

Even if Microsoft didn’t have much of a surprise on their hands with the reveal of Forza 7, they still managed to pull a stunt reveal of the actual 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS live on stage – the cover star for Forza 7. The E3 reveal was the very first official reveal of the car – something that’s as big a deal in the car industry as if Nintendo had shown up on stage last night to reveal a new Mario game.

Sea of Thieves gets more features, but is delayed

We got a full 10 minute run-through of gameplay in Sea of Thieves. Not a huge amount that was brand new was detailed, but we did get to see players going underwater into the sea for the first time – expanding the shared world of the game even more. Perhaps it’s this expansion that has now pushed the game from a vague 2017 release to an ‘early 2018’. One thing was made absolutely clear from the demo last night though – RARE’s British wit and humour is still there in abundance.

Terry Crews stars in Crackdown 3

Crackdown 3 finally broke cover last night and confirmed a release date of the 7th November – alongside the Xbox One X. Introduced by the inimitable Terry Crews – who apparently will also star in the game – Crackdown 3 will include the same over the top action the series has been infamous for in the past. Previously revealed in 2014 with extreme city-wide destruction powered by the Microsoft Cloud as a main feature, none of that was demonstrated at Microsoft’s show. There’s been confirmation since that it will still be part of the game’s multiplayer – presumably because of the reliance on an internet connection – but it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to not have that included in single player in any fashion.

Cuphead finally nails down a date

It’s taken a while to get this far, but much anticipated indie title Cuphead finally has a release date. Due out on the 29th September on Xbox One, Windows 10 and Steam, the game, designed in the art style of classic 1930s cartoons, has been rumbling around since 2014 in extended development. Originally due to simply be a short boss-rush title, the response to the game at Xbox’s E3 that year ensured extra investment – including from Microsoft – to expand on the game’s platforming features for a more feature-complete game. Some of the hype for the game has understandably faded with time, but it’s still hard not to be enthralled by the classic cel-drawn art style of the game.

Minecraft’s world opens up

There are some content updates coming for Minecraft – including Xbox One X targeted visual upgrades that stretch the limits of the game’s basic blocky look – but the biggest announcement of them all was true cross-platform multiplayer. Gamers on Windows 10, VR, mobile, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch will all be able to play together for the very first time. Also marking the first time cross-platform multiplayer has come to a Nintendo console. Playstation is not included, which seems to be a Sony-led decision more than anything else.

Super Lucky’s Tale

The original version of Lucky’s Tale was developed as a launch title for the Oculus Rift by Playful Corp. It was an adequate enough platformer – definitely inspired by the Nintendo 64 era classics but it was an odd fit for the Oculus Rift. Much more normally the home of immersive first person experiences than third person platforming. Coming to the Xbox One and Windows 10 store exclusively on the 7th November, Super Lucky’s Tale builds upon that original game in a bit more of a natural home. It seems more an acknowledgement of the success of Yooka-Laylee than any success on the part of Lucky’s Tale, but could it indicate a sort of resurgence of the classic 3D character platformer?

Ori and the Will To Make You Cry Again

The original Ori and the Blind Forest was a gorgeous looking game that didn’t shy away from hitting you hard in the feels. The follow-up to that indie hit, Ori and the Will of the Wisps looks set to follow on from that in every regard. It’s looking unlikely the game will release this year, but it’s definitely one to keep an eye out for.

Bioware’s Anthem might just be something very special

Our extended look at Bioware’s new IP, Anthem, was incredibly impressive. The game goes from a first-person perspective with some incredibly impressive visuals – and importantly for Bioware after Andromeda, facial animation – into third person for action in the game’s exo-suits, named Javelins. Each Javelin suit – of which each player can have ‘many’ – has different stats and gameplay attributes. Overall the gameplay seems to fall somewhere between Horizon Zero Dawn, The Division and Destiny. A visually impressive game combined with the storytelling pedigree of Bioware Austin and some very exciting looking open world co-operative gameplay all come together to potentially make something very special indeed. The game will not be a console exclusive, though you can expect some sort of content deal between EA and Microsoft when it releases around late 2018/early 2019.

Did Microsoft deliver?

In a sense, it’s hard to argue that they didn’t deliver on quantity at least. With such a wide range of games on show, as well, there definitely will have been a couple of games there to interest everyone. Despite 22 ‘exclusives’, though, it’s hard to argue that there were many that would potentially sell consoles. The loss of Scalebound is still clearly having a huge impact on the games lineup for Xbox, and it’s understandable that fixing that within a few months was very unlikely. The raw power of Xbox One X – and its ability to run the huge range of AAA third party games this year at their best – might be enough to sway some consumers this year, but it kind of feels like it’s really next E3 where we’ll begin to see a compelling push for software on the platform. The clock is now ticking for Microsoft to start putting together a stable of first party titles for next year that can make up for the gaps that recent cancellations have left.

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