Why Microsoft Won E3 2014

Don't call it a comeback.


Last year was not a great E3 for Microsoft. After an Xbox One reveal that offered a terrible first impression with a comically overdone focus on TV, Sony completely stole the company's E3 thunder by offering the PlayStation 4 at a lower price, with easy used game sharing, and with no online requirement. But this has been a year of change for Microsoft, and nowhere was that more obvious than at this year's E3.

Microsoft's press conference in particular was focused solely on games. With exclusives like Sunset Overdrive and The Master Chief Collection coming later this year, and newly announced games like Scalebound coming in 2014, Xbox One owners received the reassurances they needed that Microsoft had learned from its mistakes and would continue to listen to its fans. And the Xbox 360 is still going strong with multiplatform games from almost every publisher. In 2015 we'll start to see a larger number of current-gen only games, but 2014 is still about making games that play on consoles new and old.

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Taking a play from last year's Sony conference, there was even a focus on indies at both Microsoft's booth and the press conference. A montage showcased indie games like Beyond, Mighty No. 9, and Plague, Inc. And Inside, the follow-up to Limbo from developer Playdead, took center stage at one point of the conference.

Microsoft is still focused on providing entertainment services to their platform, but they made sure to get all of that out of the way before E3. The system's original television programming, including info on the Halo series from Speilberg, went out in April. Big updates to the system were covered in simple press releases and blog posts every month. And the bombshell--a Kinect-free version of the Xbox One for $100 less--was announced at the beginning of May.

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If anything, that separation of messaging helped to define the Xbox One in the lead-up even more as a machine with a broad audience. Rather than trying to cram every detail into one presentation, thus alienating people that don't care about one aspect or another, Microsoft kept each portion distinct. If you're interested in the TV aspects of the system, there was a time for that. If price and system specs are important to you, Microsoft singled out those updates individually.

But to me, Microsoft didn't come out on top this E3 just because of the improvements it made over the past year. The pacing and content of its press conference were spot on and carried over into the conference itself. There was hardly time to breath in between game trailers and announcements, and Microsoft's messaging to its fans has been humble and eager to please. Sony and Nintendo both had great shows as well, and I look forward to playing some fun games on my Wii U and PS4 in the coming year. But this year Microsoft focused on its fans, and the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, put it best earlier this week, "gamers" won E3.

For more discussion, catch up on GameSpot's full E3 opinion round up right here.

Justin Haywald on Google+

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