Microsoft’s E3: slow and steady wins the race?

Microsoft’s press conference might have lacked surprises, but the quality and integrity were there.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, June 15, 2010


Glance at the forums of a few videogame websites right now, and you might conclude that Don Mattrick had personally tracked down and bitch-slapped the internet’s grandma. After a fairly dismal (if theatrics-crammed) Kinect reveal gig over the weekend, with pre-taped show-reels markedly more evident than genuine gameplay, all eyes were on yesterday’s press conference to ‘save’ Microsoft’s E3. Salvation, however, was not at hand. Or was it?

Let’s run through a few of the criticisms. Perhaps tellingly, many of them are those so often levelled at Nintendo’s pressers since the Wii’s E3 debut in 2006. The nutshell version: too much emphasis on ‘expanding the market’, on family-friendly or lifestyle offerings powered by suave gimmickry; not enough in the way of new core titles, like shooters, role-playing and action games.

Motion-sensitive tech has been in shops for half a decade, and lightsaber fights are still the best possible use for it.

Motion-sensitive tech has been in shops for half a decade, and lightsaber fights are still the best possible use for it.

Having fudged its big entrance on Sunday, Kinect was more or less guaranteed to take something of a kicking, and take something of a kicking it dutifully did. While the presser went one above the ill-fated Cirque de Soleil event by actually showing us the technology in action (and with barely a lapse to boot), the six titles explored were predictable in their orientations, all too easily derided as sops to Nintendo’s customers.

There was a high definition Nintendogs rip-off, complete with adorable child actor accomplice, a kart racer in bright pastel colours, a potential Dance Dance Revolution killer from Harmonix, two glossy variations on the Wii Sports/Wii Play tune and a robust exercise sim from Ubisoft. By and large, these were the kinds of games we expected Microsoft to unveil for Kinect’s launch when the publisher began beating around the ‘E for Everyone’ bush in 2009.

The hardcore game slate, pushed towards the front of the event in an attempt, perhaps, to quench the bloodlust of attending would-be Master Chiefs before casualification set in, went big on old warhorses and known quantities. Gears of War 3, Halo: Reach, Fable III, Call of Duty: Black Ops and (fleetingly) Metal Gear Solid: Rising were treated to gameplay footage of one kind or another, all of it impressive but none of it unexpected.

Ain't no way I'm doing that in front of a TV.

Ain't no way I'm doing that in front of a TV.

In terms of fire-and-brimstone game reveals, watchers had to content themselves with a teaser trailer from Crytek for the vaguely God-of-War-ish Kingdoms, and a slightly less tentative showing for a Kinect-powered Forza title. The announcement of timed exclusivity on all Call of Duty DLC packs released in the period 2010-12 caused a bit of a stir, but nothing to rival the upset surrounding Final Fantasy’s defection to Xbox 360 last year.

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