Microsoft's E3 press conference last year was overshadowed by Sony's direct response to the Xbox One's online requirements and used game restrictions. But Microsoft has had a strong year, and the company is making every effort to ensure it isn't an easy target for attack at next week's E3. The PlayStation 4 may be ahead in raw numbers, but after reversing the system's most unpopular policies, charting sales that outpace the Xbox 360 during its launch, and even announcing the release a $100 cheaper Kinect-free version, the Xbox One is well on its way to success.
And the things that wouldn't play well at E3, like Microsoft's television programming plan, are already out in the open, leaving the company free to focus on what the fans demand: games. But will that be enough? In this editorial, GameSpot's editors discuss what Microsoft needs to address at their press conference to ensure that they're on track to pull ahead of the competition in the coming year.
The Presser - Kevin VanOrd
Microsoft has backtracked on its dedication to the Kinect, but the company still wants to sell its much-maligned peripheral. At this year's E3, Microsoft must convince us that Kinect is a vital part of its ecosystem, in spite of having revealed a cheaper Xbox One that will be sold without it. And for that to happen, Microsoft needs to reveal the killer app. Sony has already relegated Move to the children's table and focused on Project Morpheus, but I can't imagine Microsoft jumping on the VR headset bandwagon just yet. No--they need to convince us that we still need a Kinect, and doing so requires showing us what makes it so awesome outside of workout apps and inconsistent voice-and-body navigation. It's tempting to think that Microsoft will overlook Kinect in light of its upcoming Kinect-less system, but I bet it will find its way into the spotlight. The problem? I have no idea what that killer app would be.
Of course, Microsoft's primary tactic should be to focus on the games and leave the all-in-one-entertainment-product-for-bros-and-families strategy behind. Show us games, and make them good ones. Halo and Forza are fine and all, and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a Lionhead game, a new Project Spark presentation, and a taste of Sunset Overdrive. But to get us talking, we need surprises, exclusives or not. Get Square Enix up there to show off Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III. Get some unannounced big-budget games up there, and show us a commitment to supporting brand-new properties. And, importantly, show us that Xbox is still a brand associated with major indies. Sony's commitment to known independent studios like Supergiant Games has paid off. Microsoft needs to bridge the indie gap, and E3 2014 is the time to do it.
Microsoft Needs Focus - Mark Walton
This time last year, Microsoft unveiled its vision for the Xbox One, and it wasn't the one that people wanted. Now, with Kinect out of the picture, Microsoft has gone back on nearly every one of its plans for the console in an attempt to satisfy its audience. That's left the Xbox One in something of an odd place. Where it was once pitched as the go-to media hub, powered by Kinect, it's now a console without a unique vision or selling point. The PS4 made its focus games; the Wii U made its focus first-party titles and the Wii U GamePad. Microsoft's press conference needs to reaffirm what its console is about if it's to instill confidence in the platform among developers and potential customers. A stellar lineup of games over the next twelve months, a better-value Xbox Live to compete with the resurgent PlayStation Network, and a slicker, less sluggish UI would be a good start. But if Microsoft really wants to win people back, it needs another Gears of War moment. A game that blows our socks off, and lets us know the next generation is really here.
Going Beyond Sony - Thomas Mc Shea
Microsoft has had to make a lot of apologies in the last year. After announcing extremely anti-consumer policies for the Xbox One, Microsoft had to backtrack before the console even came out because the anger was so high. And recently, we saw the company do a 180 with the Kinect as well. Remember when the system wouldn't even be able to work without the camera? Well, that fantasy sure ended in a hurry. But even with those two major reversals, Microsoft still has to heal their image. The Xbox One isn't as powerful as the PS4, after all, yet costs just as much, and it's not like Microsoft has established a clear vision of its future. Why would anyone have confidence in the system?
And that's what Microsoft has to earn. Show just how sorry you are for burning the bridges that were previously built to make the Xbox 360 so incredible. Overwhelm us with exciting games and fascinating partnerships. Maybe foot the bill for a seemingly dead franchise, even though it's not a big seller, just like Nintendo did with Bayonetta 2. Lower the price of Xbox Live Gold so it's at least comparable with PlayStation Plus. Remove the indie policy that demands them to be released at the same time as the PS4 version, or not at all. Though all of those steps are necessary, they aren't enough. Drawing even with Sony doesn't matter at this point. If the Xbox One is going to bring in new customers, it has to go even further. I'm anxious to see how Microsoft will try to do that.
Microsoft, Start Listening - Dan Hindes
I think there's a good chance Microsoft's press conference will be like a car wreck in slow motion--awful, yet hard to look away from. I can positively smell its desperation already; its fear that the console's recent price cut (accomplished by removing Kinect from the box) will undercut the significance of what it has to announce: a killer app for Kinect.
It's time to show us how the thing which makes the Xbox One unique can power a truly next-gen gaming experience. It needs to show us why we need the Kinect in the first place. Whether that reason comes from a first-party studio or is the result of a third-party locking themselves in a room with the tech for a year doesn't matter. And if I hear them talking about TV one more time, I'm switching off.
Microsoft Has a Shot at Rebirth - Edward Makuch
It's fitting that Microsoft's E3 press conference takes place on Monday, June 9 because that's the same day the new $399 Xbox One goes on sale. After all the missteps and 180s of the past 12 months, the Xbox One--come June 9--will have a shot at rebirth as the $100 price gap between the Xbox One and PS4 is finally erased. At E3 2014, Microsoft has a (second) chance to win over the hearts and minds of gamers, and in doing so, turn the tide in the battle for the living room.
Microsoft needs to deliver on its promise that its 90-minute presentation will be all about the games. Though entertainment usage may actually end up being the most popular form of interaction with the Xbox One like it is on Xbox 360, Microsoft needs to "wow" us with games. We already know Halo will be there in some way or another, but that's not enough. Microsoft needs to show us what a truly next-gen experience is; something that's not possible on the 80 million+ Xbox 360s sitting in homes today. That's how you drive mass adoption of a new platform, and what we've seen so far just doesn't cut it.
You've read our thoughts, but what do you think Microsoft needs to talk about at their press conference this year? Let us know in the comments below.
And For even more E3 discussion, check out our full pre-E3 series:
And for even more E3 discussion, check out our full pre-E3 series:
- What We'd Like To See at E3 From Sony
- What We'd Like to See at E3 From Microsoft
- What We'd Like to See at E3 from Nintendo
- What We'd Like to See at E3 on PC
- E3 Press Conferences, What Does Sony Need to Do?
- E3 Press Conferences, What Does Nintendo Need to Do?