The Completely Unnecessary Guide to E3 2014 – Part 3: Microsoft

We’re trying a new format out here at Expansive; our Completely Unnecessary Guides are massive, serialised articles intended as a off-beat and irreverent source of all the information you to need about a subject to pass off as being vaguely knowledgeable. Yesterday we looked at the history of the conference, and learned nothing useful.

Microsoft e3 Press Conference 2013

Phil Harrison mid-embarrassment circa 2013

The Microsoft Press Conference

When and Where?

Monday 9th June, 9:30am Pacific Time (5:30pm UK Time) at the Galen Center.

The State of Play

Despite the 360 having ended the previous generation in a comfortable and profitable third place worldwide, the somewhat disappointing launch of the Xbox One has sent Microsoft’s black monstrosity spiralling into a dismal and money haemorrhaging third place (yes, I know, video game rankings make no sense okay). While scepticism about the Xbox One began before E3 2013, Microsoft cemented the unrest with a series of poor business decisions, including a ludicrously high price for the base unit, the decision to pack in a second generation Kinect with every console and a bizarre hybrid physical and digital distribution system that would have wiped out the second hand games market. Whilst all of these problems have been dealt with in some fashion, the Xbox One still suffers branding issues related to these early mis-steps.

Meanwhile, a reshuffle further up in the chain at MS has placed Satya Nadella, a known critic of the Xbox division, in charge of the corporation as a whole, putting the longer term future of the Xbox brand in some doubt.

As a result, this year, Microsoft will be in damage control mode, undoing the mistakes of last year in a desperate effort to win back their fanbase and to rescue their fledgling console from the jaws of irrelevancy, proving to Microsoft’s board and shareholders that the Entertainment division is an integral part of the corporation.

What to Expect

If what Microsoft are claiming is true, expect a press release tightly focused upon games, with plenty of information about new exclusive partnerships, lots and lots of trailers and live demonstrations of upcoming games. Having seen the last half-decade or so of Xbox presentations, however, I suspect that it would be a miracle if those oh-so-tantalising details weren’t interrupted by endless fluff, some sort of performance by a completely irrelevant music nonentity to go along with a new rhythm game, a long and boring presentation about a US-Only media deal and some of the most awkward pre-written banter known to man. Still, I would expect them to at least have screened the script for rape jokes this year, which will be an improvement over 2013.

The Games

Halo 5: Guardians

Chief, why are you upside down?

Whilst Microsoft is keeping admirably schtum over what exactly they have under their sleeves, we do know for a fact that there’s a new Halo title due (Halo 5: Guardians) that we will probably be seeing in some form or another, but as it’s still a year and a half away, I doubt it’ll be playable. Aside from that, the traditional Xbox mainstays of Fable Legends (which Lionhead studio head John Needham claims will have a ‘huge presence’) and Forza Horizon 2 should help to fill out the ranks. Quantum Break has been confirmed as a no-show and has been pushed into Gamescom, later this year.

There’s some rumours about Ryse 2, Fallout 4 and a new Crackdown making an appearance, but take any supposed claims of the event’s lineup with a pinch of salt. Regardless, unless Microsoft have something super-secret to reveal, it’ll also more than likely end with our first decent look at Call of Spacey: Advanced Warfare, or whatever they’re calling it.

Notable Faces

Between Microsoft’s tendency to hire interchangeable middle aged white men to important roles and the ongoing overhaul of the company’s corporate structure, Microsoft’s spokespeople lack the… longevity and iconography of certain other companies. Still, there’s a couple of easily identifiable faces left in the company;

  • Phil Spencer: The chap with the utterly fascinating jawline and the rather casual attire is Phil Spencer. He’s the new head of Xbox, possibly due to the fact that everyone else eligible for the job has fled the corporation. Still, it’s been a long time coming; Phil is a real company man, having been developing products for Microsoft since 1988. His credits include Microsoft Works, Microsoft Money and Microsoft Encarta; the mere mention of which make me feel old.
  • Phil Harrison: The English bloke with the shiny head. Phil Harrison used to be a bigwig at Sony UK, giving him the dubious honour of being part of the rather laboured launches of both the Playstation 3 and Xbox One. Phil was actually a game designer back in the early nineties for the now very defunct Mindscape International. In more recent years (aside from being a highup at two of the big three) he has also spent a good amount of time at Atari (formerly Infogrames), and some time at David Perry’s game streaming service Gaikai.

Things to Tweet

“GET ON WITH IT!”, “Xbox, off.”, “Where’s Crackdown III?” “Oi, Spencer! Bring back Mindmaze!”

Tomorrow: Electronic Arts

About the author

Mark Cope

A sort of gaming jack of all trades, Mark is a lifelong enthusiast who has more recently directed his interests towards the PC and indie gaming scenes. He once wrote about a different game every day for a whole year, but nobody is entirely sure why.
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