E3 2014 – Microsoft

I touched on Nintendo and E3 for my last blog post. Today, we move on to Microsoft and what I expect from them at this year’s E3 Conference.

Given the dismal sales Nintendo has had with the WiiU, what I’m about to say will seem counter-intuitive, but I feel that of the Big 3, Microsoft has the most at stake at E3. On the console front, Sony’s PS4 is comfortably beating the Xbox One in sales. Yes, there is a large gap in region availability, but that’s a situation Microsoft is allowing to happen. Also, despite the trouble the WiiU seems to be in, Nintendo can also fall back on the 3DS as well as the massive profits they generated with the DS and Wii. Microsoft has one main front in this console battle, and that is the Xbox One. They absolutely have to convince consumers that they need to either upgrade from an Xbox 360 to the Xbox One, or convince new console buyers that the Xbox One is the better choice than the PS4.

A great starting point would be to continue distancing themselves from the….unpleasantness that was created at the Xbox One reveal. This is a dead horse now, but even with a reversal of the most egregious policies, Microsoft has still not shaken all of the ill will that they themselves created and which Sony capitalized on at last year’s E3 Conference. I believe they would do well to once again reaffirm that those policies are dead and that they realize now that they were the result of some poor decisions. Continue to fall on the sword and admit being in the wrong. People are very forgiving of missteps. Don’t necessarily dwell on it, but definitely acknowledge it and make it a point to say that after 6+ months of availability, those policies are absolutely a thing of the past.

Bigger than citing and owning past mistakes though, Microsoft has to add value to owning an Xbox One. It isn’t enough that it is a more advanced console, or that you can now get one without Kinect for the same price as a PS4. They must differentiate themselves in some way. One thing that Microsoft doesn’t mind doing is buying either exclusives or timed exclusives, and I suspect they’ll go that route again. It’s not a bad plan. In this age of gaming, exclusives are what can swing the tide in your favor (or away from you, depending). I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Microsoft get an exclusive entry in a popular franchise that has been multi-platform in the past. I have no guesses on what franchise, but it my mind it fits how Microsoft likes to operate. I mentioned it a moment ago, but want to point out that Microsoft also needs to make Kinect important in some way, while not alienating those consumers that buy an Xbox One that doesn’t include Kinect. I have no real thoughts on how to make that happen, and don’t envy those that are tasked with making that happen.

The final issue that I think is hampering Microsoft, and also ties into my last point to some extent, is that many gamers are still quite happy to keep and play their Xbox 360 (or PS3, and I believe that Sony is going to have this same problem). Looking at upcoming game releases, I can’t say I blame them. Try to name three AAA titles that are coming exclusively to the PS4 and/or Xbox One by year end. I’ll wait… The thing is, I can’t, and I follow gaming closely. I’m sure there are some exclusives, but where are those “must have” games that are going to make jumping into the current generation of consoles worth it. Until this past week, I was thinking that Batman: Arkham Knight would be that game, but like so many other games slated for the end of 2014, it has now been delayed to 2015. Meanwhile, games such as Titanfall, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and even the recently announced Mortal Kombat X continue to be developed and published for both the PS4 and Xbox One as well as the PS3 and Xbox 360. I’ve touched on this issue before, and it’s playing out mostly as I expected. Developers are hedging their bets. Microsoft (and Sony) has to find some way to combat this and herd gamers to the Xbox One. They have to make it that much more desirable than the Xbox 360, something they’ve failed to do so far.

Thoughts & Predictions

  • More info on Halo 5 and Sunset Boulevard
  • Titanfall sequel in 2015 (Xbox One exclusive)
  • Timed exclusive of popular franchises (Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, EA Sports franchises?)
  • Outright exclusive of at least one well know franchise
  • Kinect feature that ultimately impresses virtually no one
  • Totally off the wall prediction: backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games

I’m a bit down on Microsoft here, but I don’t think they’re in any major trouble, I just believe that they’ve put themselves in a bad position with some very questionable choices. The Xbox One is selling well, even if it is behind the PS4, and I think it will continue to perform respectably. But this blog is about where they are now and where they need to be. My heart is always with Nintendo, but I think I’m most intrigued to see exactly what Microsoft does in their conference. Like I said at the beginning of this blog, I think they have the most to prove and the most to lose. I’m rooting for them to prove something. Successful game consoles are ultimately a win for all gamers.

Brandon Nicholson is a blogger for TMRzoo.com and the founder of Just Another Video Game Blog and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3 and PS4, Microsoft XBOX One and XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Brandon provides his readers with reviews, previews, release dates and up to date gaming industry news, trailers and rumors.

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