How did Xbox 360 do at E3 2009? By all accounts the Xbox briefing generated the most headlines and chatter at the show. With no games announcements since Halo 3 ODST at TGS 2008, Microsoft spent the better part of 8 months saving up news for its star-studded briefing. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were on stage, plus Steven Spielberg who introduced the biggest mainstream buzz-getter at the show: The tech demo for Project Natal, a 3D depth-sensing camera.
Xbox did what it needed to do at E3. It showcased a solid lineup of software, made a few platform announcements, and captured everyone’s imagination with Project Natal. But here’s the challenge: With Natal not likely to debut until late 2010 at the earliest, how does Xbox battle the Wii for the next 18 months?
Here are some of my thoughts on the Xbox briefing:
STAGECRAFT: While it ran longer than Nintendo’s 75 minute briefing, Microsoft had the best production of all the E3 showcases. Some groaned that E3 briefings shouldn’t include celebrities, but there’s no denying The Beatles and Spielberg helped Xbox grab major headlines. Still, Halo 3 ODST and Halo Reach would have been a better closer than Molyneux’s Milo video.
STRATEGY SHIFT: At E3 2007 and 2008, Xbox made a point to focus its briefing almost entirely on games coming out within 6 months of the briefing (the same year). In 2009, however, at least half of what was shown is due in 2010, including Project Natal, Alan Wake, Crackdown 2, and Halo Reach.
FIRST PARTY DROUGHT: The truth is that only two first party games are due out in the back-half of 2009: Halo 3: ODST and Forza 3. (I guess three if you count Lips).
THIRD-PARTY CRUTCH: With little in the way of first party software due in 2009, Xbox spent the first third of the briefing showcasing games that are coming to the PS3 as well as 360: Beatles Rock Band, Modern Warfare 2, and Tony Hawk Ride.
NOTABLE OMISSION: Mass Effect 2 was nowhere to be found at the briefing. Which is strange, since it is announced as only coming to the Xbox 360 and PC at launch. If it is indeed a 360 exclusive, wouldn’t Microsoft do more to hype it up?
ANNOUNCEMENT THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE: What about a search function for Xbox Live? Microsoft is hyping its new search engine Bing this week, but we still can’t search through Xbox Marketplace? C’mon!
BEST LIVE DEMO: A tie between Modern Warfare 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction.
BEST MOMENT: The Beatles arriving on stage to introduce BEATLES ROCK BAND.
WORST KEPT SECRET: A tie. Hideo Kojima’s appearance and the Xbox motion sensing camera.
FACT CHECK: At one point in the presentation Schappert said all the games, demos, and experiences from that point forward would be available “Only on Xbox 360″ as exclusives. Yet Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Rising, which debuted near the end of the show, is also coming to PlayStation 3.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Left 4 Dead 2 and Crackdown 2 were two of the biggest announcements at the showcase. But both were treated like throwaways, running as short trailers with no introductions or demos.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Xbox ran a video promoting user-generated cars in Forza 3. Whatever happened to the “Forza Mobile Garage” paintshop, which Bill Gates promised “by this time next year” in May 2006? Xbox Live Anywhere still has not materialized.
KARMA’S A BITCH: Last year Microsoft slammed Sony for showcasing God of War 3 and M.A.G. via CG trailers with no gameplay. This year the tables were turned: Microsoft debuted Crackdown 2 and Halo Reach via CG trailers. All of Sony’s first party games, meanwhile, were shown with real gameplay.
CONVENIENTLY DELETED: With rows of seats at the Galen Center reserved for “retail partners,” it’s no wonder that Xbox conveniently decided to leave downloadable on-demand Xbox 360 games out of the briefing. Still, on August 30 games like BioShock, Mass Effect and Oblivion will be available to download on Xbox Live.
QUOTE THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN RE-WRITTEN: “By the end of the year Xbox 360 will deliver more choices, better quality and more social entertainment experiences than any other device in the world,” said John Schappert. Um, what about the PC?