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Microsoft Press Conference Impression

June 14, 2010

I had concerns going into the Microsoft press conference and, unfortunately, they were completely valid. With Nintendo’s success in the casual market and the Wii it’s understandable that Microsoft would want to tap into that revenue stream. But after seeing the press conference I think that they’ve done that at expense of their fan base without making any appreciable gains in the casual market. Here’s my impressions of what Microsoft showed and what we can expect over the next year.

It started off pretty well with impressive demos of Gears of War 3, Halo:Reach, and a new Fable 3 demo. They all look really great and gamers should be pretty happy this fall spring. With the addition of four player co-op in Gears, a new mode called “Beast,” and even better graphics it should be one helluva ride and a great send off to the series. The same for Halo: Reach which looks like it might just be the best Halo game to date.

To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the Call of Duty: Black Ops demo. Treyarch has long been the “me too” of the series and their games have typically followed in the footsteps of Infinity Ward. With this latest edition that doesn’t to have changed and it appears to be a series of set pieces linked together by a thin plot.

Outside of these first couple of games, the rest of the conference was pretty terrible. Microsoft tried hard to push the Kinect as some grand piece of technology but the games look nothing short of terrible. Instead of creating games to pull in the hardcore crowd, the ones who have created the Xbox brand, Microsoft has almost singlehandedly abandoned them in favor of glorified mini-games that aren’t even original. Kinectimals is Nintendogs, Kinect Sports is Wii Sports/Resort, etc. And just looking over the comments posted around the web you can see that most gamers feel the same way.

Kinectimals, the killer app of Kinect.

On top of all that, the demos themselves showed a glaring flaw with the whole device, lag. Input lag is probably one of the worst things that can happen to any game and from the demos not just during the Microsoft conference but also the EA conference there was noticeable lag. Whether this is a hardware limitation or something that has to do with the game isn’t known. This creates some big problems though because if the game isn’t responsive then how can we expect to have something beyond these lame party games.

The entire segment reeked of a Nintendo press conference. Feel good moments trying to pull in Mom as she’s making lunch for little Johnny just out of school. Too bad she’s not the person who’s going to be watching the press conference, on Spike TV of all channels. Microsoft had their night for Kinect, the Sunday show that’s being replayed on MTV and Nick at Nite. Today should’ve been the moment for the gamers who set aside their Call of Duty or Halo matches, not showing us a tiger cub jumping rope.

Even more disconcerting is that we didn’t see what else we can look forward to next year. Halo: Reach is this September, Fable 3 is October, and Black Ops and Kinect are November. Gears of War 3 is the farthest out big name title for the console and after that…what? We really have no idea about what games we’ll be seeing on the console past April. This could mean a few things. Either Microsoft has no games planned which is unlikely, they’re waiting until next E3 to announce some games, or they’re planning on doing a sort of mid-term show. We’ll have to see what Microsoft does but as a fan of the brand I’m concerned about where we’re headed.

The reveal of the new Xbox was also ruined by an Italian ad that popped out so when Dan Mattrick pulled the case of the old box off it was more than anti-climactic. I’d be lying if I wasn’t still waiting for a “Oh, I’ve got one more game” type moment to try and breathe some life into the corpse of the show but obviously that didn’t happen.

Compared to the past few years, Microsoft’s conferences have been quite impressive. Big reveals and new features have blown away the competition who still talked about numbers and sales figures in between the journalists waiting to break news about the next big game. This year was definitely not a good year for Microsoft which is a shame since they’ve been putting so much effort into trying to make Kinect look like the next big revolution in gaming. Maybe it will be, but right now I know a lot of Xbox gamers have been left with a sour taste in their mouth following this year’s conference.

Grade: D+

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From → Video Games

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