Microsoft's 2014 E3 Presentation: The long awaited apology for last year

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We’ve waited a long time for it, but this evening’s Microsoft E3 presentation, announcing games for the forthcoming year was essentially an apology for last year’s disastrous presentation, which went on to set the tone for the opening salvos in this generation’s console war.

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One of the (many) criticisms made last year was the lack of a focus on games – Microsoft instead talked about media partners and what hardcore gamers viewed as more peripheral functions like Skype integration and motion & voice controls. This year, things were completely different.

Phil Spencer opened the presentation by announcing that the entire presentation would be devoted to games – with everything else excluded. Furthermore, he tacitly acknowledged the changes in Microsoft’s strategy that the backlash caused, saying “You are shaping the future of Xbox… and we are better for it”.

And as a result, we saw a number of exciting game announcements… though I dare-say nothing too surprising in terms of the big-hitters. Sure, the new Assassin’s Creed: Unity appears to be have been built to appeal directly to me, we heard of Rise of the Tomb Raider and the Master Chief Collection was announced… but these were all either expected, or rumoured to the point where they were essentially a foregone conclusion.

That said – I’m not complaining. It appears Xbox One gamers have a lot to look forward to over the next year.

What was perhaps most notable is what was missing – specifically, motion controls and the Xbox 360. Microsoft announced a few weeks ago that they were dumping Kinect as a required pack-in… but did anyone expect it to be killed stone dead quite so quickly?

There was no mention of any Kinect functionality throughout the whole presentation – the closest we got was literally a split second in the “ID@Xbox” indy-developer showreel, which showed a clever looking platform game in which players appear to have to contort their bodies to provide platforms. That’s a very cool idea… but Microsoft won’t be selling any more Kinects if there’s only one new game that uses it.

The Xbox 360 got short shrift too. Whilst this isn’t surprising given the Xbox One is supposed to replace the ageing 360, it similarly didn’t warrant a single mention. Whilst some of the games will no doubt go on to have a 360 release too, if you’ve still not upgraded to the latest generation it might be time to crack open the piggybank.

Ultimately though, the presentation showed how Microsoft has come to appreciate just how important it is to win over the sort of early adopters who follow E3 coverage. Whilst the gaming nerds may be smaller in number than the population at large, given the huge volume of online commentary, their words carry disproportionate weight.

More crucially, when you have competing but incompatible platforms, it is important to grow your user-base quickly – as people will buy the same system their friends have, so that they can game with them – like with all modern technology, the power isn’t in the individual chips or megahertz, but is in the network. This is one of the reasons why Sony has taken the lead over the past year, and why Microsoft are now playing catch-up. With this game-heavy presentation though, it seems that perhaps Microsoft has finally learned a lesson.

James O’Malley