X018 was fine, but after all that hype, you can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.
So, the first X0 event in over a decade just concluded, and… it was fine. It wasn’t the best. It was nowhere close to that. I won’t even call it great. But it wasn’t bad. It was just… fine. It did the job, it achieved what it was supposed to. There were multiple updates announced for Microsoft’s games on the market, new looks at some eagerly awaited third party games, some deals and promotions highlighted, and new studio acquisitions announced, bringing Microsoft’s roster, which had swelled to 10 at E3, to twelve.
There were, however, no new game announcements made whatsoever (except for a handful of new indie games shown off as part of Game Pass or ID@Xbox sizzle reels). Nothing new from Microsoft’s first party portfolio, nothing from any third party. Even the new looks we got to have at previously announced games were shorn of excitement. Well, Just Cause 4 looks great, but nothing that we saw was new, it was stuff we’d known already. Jump Force, without getting into larger questions of that game’s apparent quality, again, had nothing new announced. Kingdom Hearts 3 was the lone exception here, showing us a new Winnie the Pooh trailer, and looking great in the process.
Even the updates for Microsoft’s games? They were all announced for stuff that’s already out. So—a new update for Sea of Thieves, a new update for State of Decay 2, a new update for Forza Horizon 4. All good. But what about maybe giving us more of a look at Ori and the Will of the Wisps? Why not show us more of Gears 5? We knew Halo Infinite was not going to be at the show, but why not any of the others?
We did get to see Crackdon 3 again, including the multiplayer mode at long last. The destruction looks great, and more than anything else, it looks like the game came together to at least be a coherent, playable package (whether or not it turns out to have been worth the five year wait remains to be seen). We also got a release date for it, which was cool. No more delays from here on.
A lot of the show was focused on Game Pass, which is what Microsoft sees as an integral part of its future strategy (though Xbox head Phil Spencer was very careful to note that it’s not a replacement for the traditional console gaming model). There were sixteen new games announced for the service, including Ori, it’s upcoming sequel, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which, again, is great. I’ve no complaints with any of this.
Microsoft even announced a bunch of great Black Friday deals, including price drops across the whole Xbox One range (bringing the Xbox One X down to the lowest price it has been yet), price reductions on controllers, Game Pass, and even games. A bunch of new titles, mostly from Square Enix, were also announced for backward compatibility.
All of this was fine. The thing is, in terms of the scope of what was shown off, and their significance to Xbox in terms of where it stands in the market, this was a short term show. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, whatsoever. Microsoft has monthly updates to keep players updated on its short term outlook for its games, hardware, and services, and really, this was just a big, blown up version of that.
Which is where my problem is. The show was billed as a major event, with major announcements, but we really didn’t get much of those. We got some cool stuff, and Xbox fans and owners will probably be happy at the updates we did get to see a look at, but there was no one show stopping moment that reallky justified this being its own event, beyond an Inside Xbox episode. What I am trying to say is, Microsoft mismanaged expectations.
This isn’t unusual, incidentally. Sony had the same problem with PlayStation Experience the first time they tried it in 2014, although eventually, they managed to make it a premier event that fans look forward to every year. Nintendo had the same problem with its initial batch of Nintendo Directs, although now Nintendo Direct is the company’s primary way of communicating announcements and updates to fans. Microsoft is in no way alone in having hyped up the first in its series of events to seem far more important than it really was. But just as it detracted from what was otherwise a solid round of announcements at the first PSX, and at the first few Nintendo Directs, so it detracted from an all round solid show, because there was this nagging feeling that we were promised more, and we didn’t get it.
There was one exception to this. The closer to the show was Microsoft announcing more studio acquisitions, and they’re pretty major ones. Microsoft’s great big weakness in terms of first party output has been meaningful single player adventures so that gap can be filled now. That was a good announcement, but it didn’t feel like it needed an entire two hour conference. Microsoft could have just announced it in a video release, or a regular Inside Xbox, or maybe via press release. The end result would have been the same. Right now, the excitement is almost tempered by the feeling of minor disappointment from the rest of the show.
In the end, there was nothing wrong with X018 in and of itself. It was… fine. But Microsoft promised more than fine, and a short term look at their future felt a bit deflating after all that.
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