Yesterday Microsoft finally allowed the world to get a glimpse behind the curtain of the most powerful video game console to date. Previously known as Project Scorpio, Microsoft introduced the Xbox One X during their E3 2017 press conference.
Taking to the stage in normal Xbox fashion, department head Phil Spencer wasted no time, opting to get right to the heart of what the next chapter of Xbox is all about. Games, games, and more games was the obvious tone out of the gate as Phil Spencer prefaced the presser by announcing that 42 games in total would grace the stage before it was all said and done and impressively that is exactly Microsoft did.
Founded on the robust power of the Xbox One X, launching November 7, 2017, Microsoft’s new system offers a strategic maneuver in the war of 4K gaming dominance, with hopes of winning select gamers over, looking to take their console gaming experience to the next level.
While the name Xbox One X maintains the notion that the new hardware is a premium addition to the Xbox One family of hardware, how the casual consumer distinguishes this new system from the Xbox One S might be confusing with the latters attractive $299 price point. Mix in the fact that Microsoft’s new hardware comes with what I would consider a very reasonable $499 price tag, due to the robust specs under the hood, on the surface this price point distinction could leave many potential adopters scratching their head as most casual consumer would have no clue of how 6 teraflops or 12 GB of GGDR5 RAM make for a justifiable purchasing option. Especially when the competing hardware is claiming to also offer a 4K gaming experience listed at only $399. The optics make for a compelling sale in favor of competing hardware, despite the raw horsepower advantage of the Xbox One X.
However, whether you like the games on display at Microsoft’s press conference, or not, it was certain there are a healthy dose of games arriving and some very soon, as early as this year, all gracing the Xbox One X, Xbox One S and Windows 10 platforms. Before going any further, let me just admit that my expectations were probably a bit lofty in anticipation of how Microsoft would actually leverage their Xbox One X showcase. Oftentimes, looking at what seems to be the main strategy of the video game console market leader, their formula of success seems heavily supported with games which can only be played on their console and sometimes also on PC, and nowhere else. So, naturally, with the previously announced update from 343 Industries that the next iteration of Halo would not be on tap, I felt certain we would still be blown away as Microsoft obviously needs to combat the increasing marketshare advantage of the competition.
First up to bat, Microsoft felt the need to introduce gamers to an onstage Porsche showcase, literally, as part of the many available supercars arriving for Forza Motorsport 7. Running at a smooth 4K resolution and 60 frames per second, Forza 7 was simply a prettier version of itself. While opening up with an actual Porsche reveal was rather awkward, it made sense to show Turn 10’s committment to their loyal racing community.
While Microsoft smartly used words the term ‘Exclusive’ across twenty-two of the games showcased, the mass majority of these games were tagged as ‘Launch Exclusives’ given the impression that those games would eventually release on competing hardware. Despite the stunning trailer for Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the most compelling games revealed during Microsoft’s presser were mutli-platfom titles supported by the reveal of Metro Exodus, Assassin’s Creed Origin, Middle-earth: Shadow of War and the jaw-dropping spectacle of Anthem, Bioware Edmonton’s (the team that bought us the first three Mass Effect games) upcoming new third-person action advention/shooter.
With a steady pacing of games the conference was implemented supporting the fact that most of the games on display were Play Anywhere titles across the Xbox One S, Xbox One X and Windows 10. Including the announcement that original Xbox games will now be backwards compatible with current generation Xbox hardware, there was a level of quantity with the games being revealed that supports a list of fun games to be experienced across the Play Anywhere formats which positively added to the notion that there are certainly fun options to chose from and that is important.
Assassin’s Creed Origin looked great appearing to offer a far more RPG based experience, even deeper than previous games in the series. Ubisofts new Assassin’s Creed adventure revealed the killing of enemies for experience points and also acquiring legendary items. We also saw leveled enemies as well. Even the combat seems to have received an updated approach with parrying and shield combination fighting mechanics.
PlayUnknown Battleground, the popular PC experience was also celebrated at Microsoft’s presser as a launch exclusive titles, meaning it willl be also launching for competing platform as well.
Sea of Thieves gameplay showed a 4-player cooperative experience where a team of pirates journeyed to a nearby island seeking the loot of a treasure chest which they acquire and then work in effort to bring the chest back to their ship. Probably the most impressive sequence from the Sea of Thieves reveal was the ability to shoot players from a cannon from the ship to land and vice versa, even ship to ship leading to an instant ship sword brawls in some cases.
Other first party games were Ori and the Will of the Wisps as mentioned before, including State of Decay 2 and Super Lucky’s Tale. Crackdown 3 while its reveal offered a rather entertaining intro featuring Terry Cruz, the gameplay showcased seemed to shy away from all the cloud computing assets talked about with the games initial reveal associated with the games fully dynamic and destructible environments. While we saw agility orbs acquired in the world of Crackdown 3, which offer a variety of enhanced abilities based on previous games in the series, what was on display was underwhelming at best, due to how the game had been previously marketed. Sure, there were some explosions happening in the world but there was nothing remotely resembling the level of volumetric destruction of the first reveal, making this footage rather disappointing to say the least.
Previously announced to launch with Project Scorpio (now officially Xbox One X) was the full built-in VR support, which based on the presser was a complete no show as Microsoft obviously decided against revealing anything related to the new hardware and its VR capabilities. On a more positive note Dragon Ball Z: Fighter 2 looked awesome. In addition, Cuphead, and launch exclusives such as Deep Rock Galactic, The Last Night, The Darwin Project and Black Desert added a somewhat compelling offering to the list of games.
Microsoft ended their press conferene with a pleasing gameplay walkthrough of Anthem, Bioware’s new sort of Destiny and Mass Effect meets Titanfall experience with very convincing flair. The game has undoubtedly peaked our interest as the most impressive showpiece during the big M’s presser, with Metro Exodus and Assassin’s Creed Origin very close on its heels. Yet, knowing that the game is not an exclusive for Microsoft’s new hardware, didn’t help the cause for the new system.
Of course, it should be understood that Microsoft is positioning the Xbox One X as a premium 4K gaming option, yet aside from the continued spec updates of the new hardware which are undeniable, Microsoft’s presser unfortunately did not reveal any must have titles forcing my hand as an early adopter for the Xbox One X, which I cannot get anywhere else and in 4K for that matter. For example, based on the footage showcased for Anthem, if the game was in fact only ever launching for the Xbox One X, then there would be no question that the $499 price tag would appear far more resonable because of the games must have excitement, unfortunately that is not the case.
Based on what was revealed at Microsoft’s press conference, while some games certainly peaked our interest, the real question comes down to whether Microsoft did enough to convince us to buy their new most powerful console on the market when it launches on November 7 for $499, and at the moment, not so much. Despite the fact that 42 games were on display, not one game sold the compelling idea that I must buy the Xbox One X in order to play this amazing game only here and no where else and that problem is only compounded with the $499 price point.
Walking away we ask ourselves the question, did Microsoft do any favors for the Xbox One X and ultimately that is a question only you can answer with your wallet.