E3: My Thoughts on the Xbox Briefing

xboxbriefingHow 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?

13 Responses to “E3: My Thoughts on the Xbox Briefing”

  1. Tazz Says:

    I totally agree. I believe the strategy Microsoft used this year was slick, focusing heavily on third-party games and new add-ons for the Xbox 360, making people forget that they barely have any exclusives coming this year. They had a great showing though and it was fun to watch.

  2. Adam Says:

    Just a quick point, Halo ODST is not a first party title, as they are no longer owned by Microsoft. However, JoyRide, the very forgettable racing game with avatars is made by a newly acquired studio

    And yes, I agree with pretty much everything you said, but you seem to have forgotten Splinter Cell is still an exclusive

  3. Aaron Stuart Cohen Says:

    Overall, I liked Microsoft’s brief, despite some of the banter being forced. That’s pretty normal for them, though, and at this one I felt they kept the injected “hipness” down to a minimum.

    Honestly, with all of the games shown, I think one of the brightest spots had to be Epic’s Shadow Complex. A Metroid-esque 2D adventure that looks amazing and is going to be on XBLA? So much awesome. Too bad they followed that up with Joy Ride.

  4. Joseph2411 Says:

    Great article. All what stated there are good points, sure Microsoft had the best presentation but the content they delivered wasn’t out of this world, at least for me. Looking forward to your thoughts on the Sony and Nintendo briefings soon.

  5. m3ga0n3 Says:

    This is exactly how i felt about the Xbox briefing. At least Geoff you know what you are talking about.

  6. Segitz Says:

    Agreed with the Mass Effect notion.

    And, if I remember correctly, the EA video of ME2 didn’t include either a 360 or PCDVD logo at the end (again iirc, none of the ME2 videos had them), which I found odd too…

    But, even to me, as a PS3 guy, I admit, MSs presser was good. I am just at odds, how the press can hail Natal as the next best thing, when most of what they showed either had massive lag (Ricochet), didn’t work (Well “BAM”) or was prerendered PR (the sizzler). Milo should work on any system with a camera too^^

    But anyways… sadly E3 is over… hopefully I’ll get press tickets for GC Germany this year!

  7. Lane Says:

    No reason to put ME in there because EA has been hyping it up with videos before the show and in between. It’s EA’s call on how they hype this game from here on out. MS simply had too much to show as is and with that fact they went over time big time. The FAQ went up on ME2 last week and regarding platforms the question on PS3 is there for all to see. It ain’t happening.

    Now this fall MS doesn’t have to drop tons of first party because they have exclusive first party and third party support with 4 games exclsuive on the console side. I would put up the likes of Splinter Cell Conviction, Halo ODST, Left 4 Dead 2 and Forza 3 to UC2, R&C and what maybe MAG this year any day of the week. Considering Sony had been touting Heavy Rain and GOW III as hitting this year and to have them slip is just more of the same old delay tactics. So going into this fall MS has a very strong lineup again like last fall and the one before it. Also Shane Kim has already stated they haven’t shown all their games for 09 just yet. GC would be a perfect place for that.

    And for the record Milo was the perfect ending to the show since between Natel+Milo that is pretty much got all the main stream buzz right now. Jimmy Fallon show I mean cmon.

    Any measure you use between GAF, Buzz Study or MM that pretty much took the cake.

  8. Kid Sidious Says:

    “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).”

    As far as I can tell Sony has 1 game more for the PS3 for the back half of 09. Uncharted 2, MAG, Ratchet And Clank. So by definition is Sony in the same drought or do the 1 extra game turns their first party lineup into an ocean?? Not saying that anything is wrong with their lineup just curious if it’s classified the same way.

  9. Aaron Miller Says:

    Mass Effect 2 was likely held back by EA so that the hype would go to their conference instead.

    Joy Ride would have interested more people if Microsoft had spoken briefly about it’s Mario Kart-style weapons and the open world mode.

    Microsoft should have made a video montage of its already known, imminent titles: FUEL, Prototype, Batman: Arkham Asylum, NCAA Football 10, etc. I’d keep the montage separate from distant games, but playing both side-by-side would demonstrate what an impressive line-up the 360 has. Exclusives are important, but an extensive library of quality games is equally impressive even when most of the games are multi-platform.

    The 360 already sells an impressive amount of software and doesn’t need to focus on the Wii before Natal is released.

    Next E3 will be exciting as Microsoft and Sony try to best each other with presentations of non-prototype motion control demos. They might even show vertical slices of AAA motion titles.

  10. TheEnd Says:

    Call me an idiot but I didn’t feel Microsoft’s press conf was great…the likes of Patcher and Media in general give scores to the conferences in regards of strategy, headlines and so on…

    I’m just a gamer, don’t care about strategies or sales figures but only GAMES and I didn’t see anything there that makes me re-pick up a X360 this year… only real game coming out this year is Forza 3…a racing game!?!

    Good for them to focus on the Wii audience but just don’t forget about original X360 owners that bought the console touted as the one for the “hardocore” gamer… a buddy of mine said it was silly of SONY to release Killzone 2 and inFAMOUS early during the year… I don’t feel at all in the same way, I’m really happy can get to play those games.. 2 of the few games I’ve bought this year actually.

    I like your site

  11. Geoffrey Says:

    To your point about Live Anywhere, I thought for sure that we would see an announcement for that this year. The recently revealed Zune HD has full wi-fi capabilities and a browser and they are rebranding the Video Marketplace as Zune Marketplace. I was really surprised that they didn’t show a Zune HD running some kind of Live Anywhere app. It’s not like Tegra isn’t powerful enough to run something like the Forza Mobile Garage.

  12. logikil Says:

    Halo:ODST would indeed be considered a first party game. The ip and publishing are all owned by Microsoft. Bungie just happens to be an outside developer. That’s like saying that the new Team Ninja developed Metroid isn’t a first party title.

    Actually MS did create montages of both regular and xbla games, however they were both available from Live. I wondered myself why they opted not to present them during the conference, but I guess tehy wanted something that was a bit more focused I guess.

  13. g-man Says:

    “Um, what about the PC?”

    I think Microsoft is quite content with abandoning the PC in favor of the 360. The ability to watch TV and movies, play retail and downloadable games, listen to music, and interact with your friends via social networks all point to MS wanting to shift the PC experience into the living room.

    But, can you blame them? With the fear of piracy, failure of GFW and rise of Steam as the near-standard for centralized content distribution, why would MS want to invest in could easily be a losing battle?

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