This Sunday, June 11, Microsoft and Bethesda held their annual E3 press conferences. Between the two, there was plenty of new and interesting information, so there’s a lot to digest.
Strap in, because this is going to be a long one.
As expected, Microsoft started its Press Conference with the Xbox Scorpio announcement. But the new console is no longer the Scorpio. Instead, they’ve renamed it the One X.
Note: The new name is fine, but I can’t help wondering if there will be any confusion between the One S and One X once they’re both available for sale. I expect the naming difference will largely be a non-issue for gamers in the know, but what about those buying the consoles as gifts? Still probably not that big of a deal, but the thought crossed my mind…
Microsoft bragged that this is the smallest, and most powerful, console they’ve ever built, capable of running games in 4K at a silky smooth 60 FPS. The new console will be available worldwide on November 7, and will cost $499. Microsoft accompanied this announcement with news that the price of the Xbox One S would be dropping to $249. It seems that some outlets have already taken the opportunity to put the price drop into effect.
To supplement the official One X reveal, Microsoft jumped right to the games that would be supporting this new console. In all, 42 games were covered during the near two-hour-long Press Conference.
Microsoft started the parade of games with one of its flagship titles – Forza Motorsport 7. An extended trailer and a gameplay of the game was shown.
It looks fantastic running on the Xbox One X and will definitely scratch an itch for any racing fans out there. This is an especially important title for Microsoft when the Gran Turismo franchise for PS4 has been quiet for a few years now. Without an answer from Sony, Forza Motorsport 7 will likely be a huge selling point for racing fans.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
Microsoft followed with gameplay from Ubisoft’s new AC title. It’s been a while since the last game in the series, so this was another fairly high-profile reveal for the One X.
For fans of the series, most of what was shown is familiar, but there was a prominent “Alpha Footage” tag at the bottom of the screen. This means that there’s a possibility that much of what’s currently being shown can change. That’s not to say that anything needs to, however. It seems that this outing of Assassin’s Creed will be somewhat different than the last. And, set in Ancient Egypt, the series has an option to delve back into the semi-mythical roots of the series.I’m looking forward to seeing more of this game and hope that Ubisoft shows more at their press conference.
Microsoft also announced that Battlegrounds would be making its way to the One X, in full 4K. We’ve already taken a close look at the game and know that it’s good. That it will soon be available on consoles will be even better!
Microsoft ran through the next titles fairly quickly, pausing to expound on only a few of in detail.
Among those was Minecraft and a new title called The Darwin Project.
Minecraft is getting a new lease on life with the latest iteration of Xbox. This fall, the game is getting a 4K graphical update called the Super Duper Graphics Pack, as well as the availability of third -party servers. Microsoft also plans to enable the game for cross-play for every medium the game is available on—Xbox One, Windows 10, and Nintendo Switch users could conceivably play on the same server.
While this isn’t really anything new, per-se, it does greatly expand the capabilities of the game that kicked off the sandbox survival genre.
The Darwin Project was announced via a trailer and a live commentary on some gameplay. While the game has a unique art style, it feels very much like it will fit in the same niche as Battlegrounds.
Besides that, the other titles mentioned were Deep Rock Galactic, State of Decay 2, Dragonball Fighter Z, Black Desert The MMORPG, The Last Night, The Artful Escape, Code Vein, Tacoma, Super Lucky’s Tale, Cuphead (coming September 29), Crackdown 3, Ashen, Life is Strange Before the Storm (Episode 1 available August 31), and Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
Many of these trailers were shown in such quick succession that it was impossible to get really excited about all of them. And it was equally difficult to miss a few of the other, more prominent, titles in the mix. For instance, Code Vein is the new game from the creators of Dark Souls, so seeing it was almost a “blink and you’ll miss it” type moment.
A few of the other titles caught my eye due to their art style (like The Last Night and Ashen), but little else is available other than the trailers at this point.
Note: To see trailers for many of the games listed above, you can visit the official Xbox YouTube page.
One trailer that almost slipped my mind was for Metro Exodus. It looks fantastic running on the Xbox One X, and looks to be a marked change for the series.
The Heavy Hitters
The heftier titles of the night were Sea of Thieves and Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Both games were announced with extended gameplay footage.
Sea of Thieves is a first person pirate game. What was shown at the Microsoft Press Conference makes the game look like a “best experienced with friends” title.
I’d like to see more of the title in the coming months.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War seems like a logical extension of the first game. The developers have taken the nemesis system of the original and kicked it into high gear.
While the first game was good, the second one looks to be shaping up into something far more enjoyable. The game will be available on October 10, 2017.
To supplement its gaming catalogue, Microsoft is also taking steps to increase the number of indie titles on its platform.
Many of the games shown in the above montage should be familiar to PC gamers and, hopefully, will be just as enjoyable on console. Either way, it’s good to see indie games getting better traction in the console market!
And All the Rest
Microsoft spent the latter half of its press conference talking about their plans for the future.
First, they spoke about fan feedback and how it had prompted them to work towards bringing original Xbox games to the One S and One X. They didn’t say much, only announcing a Crimson Skies port, but did make it clear that other games would be on the way.
They also talked about the new the Xbox One X Enhanced Program. With the One X as their new flagship system, Microsoft wants to make 4K games more accessible. In support of this endeavor, Microsoft convinced 30 third party developers to work towards updating their games to 4K. Some of the games announced included Final Fantasy XV, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Resident Evil 7, and Rocket League. They also announced free 4K updates to Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Forza Horizon 3, Minecraft, and Killer Instinct.
All around, it seems that Microsoft is doing everything it can to steal the show at this year’s E3. And even after all of that, they weren’t done. They had one more trick of their sleeve…
New Bioware IP
It’s no secret that Mass Effect: Andromeda was somewhat of a flop. And it’s sad hearing that the franchise will be put on hold for a bit. But that hasn’t stopped Bioware from working on something new. Something big enough that Microsoft used it to close out their Press Conference.
The game looks interesting, but it feels very much like it’s encroaching on a space already filled by games like Destiny and The Division. While I’m sure that more than a few people will jump at the opportunity to play the game, I’m concerned about Bioware going in this direction. Destiny was wildly popular – enough so that Bungie is making a sequel, but there were massive growing pains to get the game to the point where it would produce a sequel. And the same could be said about The Division (there’s no news of a sequel yet, but the game is far better off than it was at release).
That being said, I’m not sure how I feel about Bioware putting out a title like this. As a fan of the their past games, I can’t help but wonder whether this is a first (and last) step away from the epic single player titles they’ve produced in the past.
I guess we’ll see as more information about the game drops.
This year’s Microsoft E3 Press Conference was a good one, but still left me feeling only lukewarm. Microsoft has a lot going on, but none of the flagship titles gamers have come to expect made an appearance at the show. Still, Microsoft is making a hell of a case to pick up its new flagship system. And, even at $499, they’re making sure that there are more than enough games to justify the purchase.
Bethesda took the stage late Sunday night to talk about everything they had planned for 2017. They started the Press Conference with a game montage that looked back at the last year, then segued into a campy, cartoonish montage centered around their titles. It was called Bethesdaland.
Most of what was shown at the Press Conference was familiar. The first two announcements were Doom and Fallout 4 for VR.
While it’s cool that Bethesda is showing real support for VR, it remains to be seen just how much traction these two games will have. To my knowledge, VR is still very much niche technology, so I question whether spending so much time on these two titles is really worth it. Time will tell.
Bethesda spent a lot of time talking about expansions to current offerings. The Elder Scrolls Legends card game is getting a Skyrim expansion this year, and Bethesda spent plenty of time reminding everyone about the TESO Morrowind expansion that just came out.
Then, they (finally) gave everyone a brief look at Skyrim on the Switch…
And, finally, a new expansion for Dishonored 2 was revealed. Called Death of the Outsider, it will be available on September 15.
Probably Paid Mods
Following talk of expansions, Bethesda announced that it would soon start supporting Fallout 4 and Skyrim with something called the Creation Club. According to Bethesda, the Creation Club is a way that they (Bethesda) can work with mod studios to produce high-quality content that will be compatible in every way with Fallout 4/Skyrim.
The idea sounds great, except for when they mentioned that mods could be downloaded by using credits, but there was no mention of how credits are obtained. Without further explanation, I came away from the announcement with the impression that these would be paid mods – much like the paid content that Bioware tried to sell way back when Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 first came out (buying credits to pay for content). It left a slightly sour taste in my mouth and a desire to know more.
The show moved on to talk about the return of Quake and a worldwide tournament that would pit players against one another in a bid to win their share of a $1 million prize pool.
Bethesda did have two big games to show during their Press Conference. First, they showed off an interesting trailer of The Evil Within 2.
The second reveal came at the end of the show with an extended look at Wolfenstein 2. Fans of the series will rejoice, but others might feel less excited about the announcement.
Overall, I found the Bethesda show disappointing. There was a lot of cool stuff on display, but nothing really new. It’s nice to know that Bethesda will continue to support Fallout 4 and Skyrim, but I’m not a fan of the fact fact that they may be doing so with an initiative that sounds suspiciously like “paid mods”. Especially considering how many mods are available on PC – for free.
At the end of the roughly 45-minute press conference, I was wondering more about where Todd Howard was (with a super cool announcement about the next Elder Scrolls game) than anything else. Hopefully, all of the things Bethesda is doing shape up to be awesome, but as things stand, I’ll be watching their next steps with some apprehension.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday
The second day of E3 press conferences was more interesting than the first, but I’m still not nearly as excited as I was last year. Both Microsoft and Bethesda had a lot to say, but neither press conference felt like it really created the same kind of excitement as E3 has over the past few years.
If nothing else, Microsoft has set the bar fairly high for Sony this year. I can’t wait to see how they’ll respond.