E3 2011: Microsoft
What Does The Green-Eyed Monster of Microsoft Have In Store For The X-Box 360 and Kinect?
Last time, we discussed Sony’s position coming into E3. In the interim, their “Welcome Back” program will hopefully improve their standing going into the conference. With Sony’s hand tipped, we know precious little about what Microsoft has in store for us – even less than Nintendo.
Unlike Sony, Microsoft has a very small list of established exclusives this year. Gears of War and Forza are certainly popular franchises, but they won’t carry a holiday season. However, several multi-platform games such as Arkham City, Skyrim, and Modern Warfare 3 will sell in numbers favoring the X-Box. Unfortunately, bragging on how multi-platform games sell better on their system isn’t going to help Microsoft with their press conference. No… they need something to wow their audience… so what could it be?
A Multi-Media Bonanza
Microsoft does have a leg up on its competitors: they’ve turned the X-Box into a family friendly multi-media machine. Sure, Sony has blu-ray and a host of lovely perks for connecting an entertainment array, but they’ve done a poor job on selling your average family that the PS3 is their machine.
Kinect sells itself as a family product with software that’ll bring parents and children together… and it’s done a pretty good job so far. Even though it didn’t make a huge splash, the ESPN capabilities are certainly a universal perk for many fathers. Expect Microsoft to push even more media perks for its followers. I’m sure they have a few deals under their sleeves that they can’t wait to announce. In addition, while Microsoft bought Skype in part to deprive other companies from doing so, it’s possible they may announce an upgraded video chat service on Kinect that can access Skype accounts.
Kinecting To The Hardcore
Kinect is a big hit with the Wii crowd: families and the casual market. Hardcore gamers, however, are still weary of the device. Gamers learned their lesson with the Wii and are waiting for evidence the device can live up to its promise. The staged Star Wars demo at last year’s E3 is an interesting prospect, but the fact you couldn’t actually walk anywhere is a huge handicap. The rumored Kinect options for Gears of War 3 are intriguing, but what could they really employ with the device while you’re on your choice with a controller? No one wants to have to reload with the wave of a hand or point a weapon without dual analog sticks. It’s doubtful, as it would go against their motto, but a companion controller designed for Kinect games would be an interesting prospect.
It stands to reason that Microsoft is going to have a few new game announcements and possibly even a new franchise specifically aimed at gamers. Really, most people bought the Wii for two (maybe three) games, played them, then rarely found reason to turn the machine on again. If Microsoft wants to keep the Kinect away from the dust frontiers of a closet, then they’ll need constant reason for people to come back. A game with multiplayer or possibly an RPG could go a long way to convincing gamers the Kinect is worth investing in. Microsoft is going to try their hardest to sell more Kinects – the question is if they can convince you the help them.
Other than any Kinect surprises in store for the press conference, Microsoft will milk the tried and true franchises before our eyes. Most likely, we’ll see demos for Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3, and the next Forza title. While Mass Effect went multi-platform, it’s possible we’ll get another trailer for Mass Effect 3 if EA doesn’t release one the day or two before. The same is also possible with Skyrim.
The big “reveal”, despite heavy rumors, is most likely to be the new Halo game. Word on the street is that the game is a remake of Halo: Combat Evolved, which I’m sure will get an excellent crowd reaction. The rumblings are so strong it’ll be hard to believe we’ll get something else.
One other possibility is Codename: Kingdoms, the game teased by Crytek last year. Hopefully, enough progress has been made on the game to give a demo at both the press conference and the show floor. Hopefully, Microsoft will have SOMETHING from Rare, as their talents have been put to waste for years. It has been said Rare is making Kinect games… so we can only hope it’s something special.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that Microsoft smelled blood in the water during the whole PSN fiasco. While it could be unwise to outright attack Sony’s lack of security (notice Microsoft has stayed very quiet about the whole affair), showing an unusual level of support for X-Box Live would make for a subtle and insidious poke at the expense of their competition. A new summer program, or highlighting upcoming releases would be a tasteful twist of the knife that Sony has found in the PSN for the last month.
What Can Microsoft Do To Win E3?
In short? Surprise us.
Microsoft has always had very concise, but also very unexciting press conferences in the past. While they certainly may harbor a surprise or two, overall they don’t keep up their momentum going the way Nintendo has been known to do. Very little is known about what Microsoft has in store for us, which could work both to their advantage and disadvantage. With no expectations comes the ability to make a huge impression (Nintendo is facing the opposite problem), but if Microsoft really doesn’t have much of a show people are going to wonder where they have to go from here. Sure, Kinect and the X-Box are selling well enough, but forward momentum is the key to any successful business. Microsoft needs to show that their console not only has enough life to last until 2014 or 2015, but also do so with prosperity and innovation.
Don’t tell us how successful and dominate you are in the gaming industry – show us. Make us believe with the products to back up your claims and you’ll have won the day… though topping Uncharted 3 is a difficult task indeed.
E3 2011 is almost here! Check back with us next time for breakdowns on Nintendo’s show, but in the mean time, tell us how you feel about Microsoft! What do you think they need to do at E3? Let us know!
Aaron also writes reviews and editorials on his site Media Rushes.
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