A lot can change in a year. 2013's E3 conference saw Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) unveil its Xbox One gaming console to decidedly mixed reactions. Negative perceptions of the company's initial plans for the system prompted Microsoft to bring the Xbox One closer in line with its main competitor, Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 4.
June 9 marked the release of a Kinect-less Xbox One SKU, as well as Microsoft's return to the E3 conference stage. This year's show stands as a huge opportunity for Microsoft to begin changing the tides of the console war. What did Head of Xbox Phil Spencer bring to the table? How strong was the company's showing at the Xbox E3 media briefing?
Xbox E3 Recap
The Xbox show kicked off with Spencer speaking on friendly terms about the state of the gaming industry, emphasizing that Microsoft shares the goal of advancing the world's fastest growing medium with Sony and Nintendo. He then reiterated that the remainder of the show would be dedicated entirely to games, and segued into a gameplay demonstration and trailer for Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ:ATVI) Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
The game will have timed exclusive downloadable content on Xbox platforms and looked solid, very much a Call of Duty game, filled with cinematic elements. It seemed slower than other games in the series, but the title was a solid opener. The "Call of Duty" franchise carries a great deal of weight, and Microsoft having the game at their presser stands a good counterweight to Activision's premier upcoming IP Destiny being prominently featured at Sony's show.
New Forza game and DLC
The next new game shown was Turn 10 Studio's Forza Horizon 2. The titlte debuted after a representative from the studio announced that Forza Motorsport 5 owners would have access to new free downloadable content. The new exclusive Xbox racer has a heavy social focus, much akin to Sony's Driveclub, and will release September 30.
Upcoming releases and content expansions
Take Two Interactive's Evolve was the next game on display, and it looked fantastic. I suspect the game will be a breakout success. It was a great fit for the show. From there, an Ubisoft rep took to the stage to officially unveil Assassin's Creed Unity. The first part of the game's showing was heavily reminiscent of the first footage of the original Assassin's Creed, but the title's visuals have definitely benefited from being developed on the new generation platforms.
Electronic Arts' Dragon Age 3: Inquisition followed up a short segment where developers stated their favorite games. The game has timed exclusive DLC on Xbox One. From there, Insomniac Game's Sunset Overdrive had a great trailer and gameplay presentation, really fun and engaging stuff. The game has hit potential.
A humorous trailer for Capcom's new Dead Rising 3 DLC ran next, followed by the announcement of a new Dance Central game and Disney's Fantasia: Music Evolved. These two titles show that Kinect is still a priority and that the Xbox One will have its share of family centric games.
Xbox One exclusive Fable: Legends received a large amount of stage time, and it looks like the game is progressing well. A focus on multiplayer and a pleasing fantasy aesthetic could seriously reenergize the "Fable" series. Spark was the next game shown, exclusive to Xbox platforms and PC, and currently available for download.
The Master Chief Collection is big
Xbox One exclusive sidescroller Ori and the Blind Forest had a a very pleasant art style and preceded a Halo 5: Guardians showing, definitely one of the show's biggest moments. The trailer for the 2015 release led into the announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which includes the four mainline "Halo" games and is set for release this year. The collection will include Halo 2: Anniversary, which is an entirely remade version of the seminal 2004 title. The Master Chief Collection also includes Halo: Nightfall, Microsoft's live-action television adaptation of the series, and beta access to Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer. The content-packed collection should be a significant boon to Xbox One this holiday.
Indie titles and big third-party software
Phil Spencer then retook the stage to introduce the spotlighting of upcoming indie titles, the first of which was early 2015 release Inside. The head of the ID@Xbox indie development initiative assumed presentation duties and outlined perks such as free development kits for independent studios. A trailer for upcoming indie games ran. This was followed up by a CGI trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider from Square Enix.
Developers CD Project then took the stage to demo their graphically impressive title The Witcher 3. Xbox Creative Director then took the stage to introduce a trailer for Xbox One exclusive Phantom Dust, an update to an Xbox game of the same name.
Ubisoft's The Division was the next game shown. Like many other titles shown at the conference, it has a heavy focus on online cooperative play. Communication between players was put forth as central to the experience. The game launches in 2015.
Scalebound and Crackdown are the surprises of the show
Next, famed game creator Hideki Kamiya debuted Platinum Games' new Xbox One exclusive title, Scalebound. The game sees its protagonist teaming up with a dragon, and looked somewhat reminiscent of a darker, more serious take on the "How to Train Your Dragon" films. Crackdown, another newly announced Xbox One exclusive, followed up with a trailer of its own.
Wrapping it up
Phil Spencer once again walked to center stage and recapped what had been shown. A trailer featuring the biggest games of the show ran and wrapped up the presser.All in all, it was a very impressive showing for Microsoft and a huge step up from last year's conference.