Microsoft’s E3 conference was a woeful affair. Its insistence on trotting out its usual stable of ‘core’ intellectual properties has become tiresome – Halo, Forza, Fable and Gears of War are titles many of us are all-too-familiar with. Solid, perhaps – but well-trodden.
And its for this reason that the Xbox creator’s attempt as satisfying its ‘core’ audience smacks of complacency. In fact, any strength to be found in the company’s conference – and the platform’s future – seemingly lies largely in the hands of third-party efforts.
Resident Evil 6 and Tomb Raider provided a stark contrast by comparison, offering refreshing takes on established entities. Microsoft, on the other hand, comes across as the dog owner that doesn’t want to walk Fido anymore, instead hiring others to do it for them. Its attempts to bring substantial exclusivity to the platform are almost non-existent.
Its dependance on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was a predictable move. To act like this multiplatform first-person shooter is somehow an exclusive – or that first-access downloadable content is somehow platforming defining – is indeed bizarre. If a platform holder isn’t willing to venture a risk on its own creation, it’s difficult to see why consumers would feel inclined to do the same.
For years now, Microsoft has seemingly neglected to invest in new properties, instead choosing to focus on expanding the Xbox 360’s reach in entertainment. We can only hope that its a result of a behind-the-scenes next-generation transition. That its teams are instead dedicated to developing new games on new hardware.
Its conference wandered into Nintendo territory, filling the obligatory gaps for its ‘hardcore’ audience, whilst looking to expand its Kinect and entertainment functionality. Throughout most of the conference, I couldn’t help but ask, “But what about the games?”.
Microsoft did what I once thought was the impossible: they made video games feel secondary on a platform designed for that very purpose. But I’m also a traditionalist. As impressive as Xbox Music and its portable device integration are, functionality, to me, isn’t the heart of a system.
And that is, perhaps, where my issues lies: I only care about the games. That’s why I bought the platform. So, as we sit aside what increasingly appears to be the deathbed of a generation, it would appear that, in many ways, Microsoft has already pulled the plug.
But it could be for this very same reason that Microsoft has little interest in attracting new punters in the way we’ve come to expect. As the Xbox 360 comes to the end of its life cycle, luring consumers with big-budget titles might seem needlessly risky. Now, it might seem better to piggyback on third-party development and an expanded feature set.
Or perhaps Microsoft envisions a different a future: a future where exclusive content is replaced by exclusive functionality. In the present, though, they aren’t unlike that student at the back of class, cruising through till the end of term – it’s doing the bare minimum to ensure a passing grade.
It’s feigning an interest. It’s half-hearted, half-committed and half-baked.