E3 2017: Microsoft Press Conference Recap and Review

I feel like I say this about Microsoft every year, but E3 2017 was a very important one for the company and their Xbox brand. For them, the focus this year was almost entirely on their secretive new hardware, Project Scorpio.

While Microsoft revealed the system’s hardware details a few months earlier, almost nothing else was known including how it looks, the price, release date, and everything else in between. Coming into E3 this year, Microsoft had two things to ultimately satisfy its fan base: Reveal the new console in full and show off new first party exclusive games.

So did Microsoft accomplish those goals? Here’s the recap and my thoughts on how they did.

The Good:
Kicking things off with a bang, Microsoft officially revealed the Xbox One X, formerly known as Project Scorpio. The console is the smallest Xbox ever built as well as the most powerful, even getting a slight boost since it’s April reveal. The system launches on November 7 for $499.99, so you best start saving now. Better yet? Most of the trailers on display at their show were running in 4K on the new hardware, which gave fans a better look at the system.

Microsoft then went on to showcase an astonishing 42 games for the rest of the time. For the sake of our time, I’m not going to provide commentary on every single one here.

Naturally, Forza Motorsport 7 came up first and it was a natural choice considering how visually impressive the series is. The first surprise of the show came next with Metro Exodus, the next entry in the franchise showing off more of the unsettling subway system and ruined surface of post-apocalypse Russia.

Assassin’s Creed Origins followed next, giving a surprisingly lengthy gameplay demo, which many expected to see the next day with Ubisoft. I think this game looks like a breath of fresh air, something the series desperately needed.

Smaller titles started rolling in now with PlayerUnknown’s BATTLEGROUNDS coming to Xbox One, then State of Decay 2, and a few more indie titles. Dragon Ball FighterZ from Arc System Works looks absolutely bonkers, combining their excellent fighting pedigree with gameplay from a classic Marvel vs Capcom style game.

Sea of Thieves, a game I’m still unsure about, was given a massive gameplay demo. While it looks cool and seems to utilize humor well, it strikes me as a game that requires co-op in order to enjoy. For friends who regularly play with friends, this could be a gem. For single player fans, I’m not sure it’s going to work for you.

Crackdown 3 and Cuphead finally got actual release dates and Middle-earth: Shadow of War got an extensive on-stage demo, which showcased an orc named Bruz the Chopper. Surprisingly this orc, once turned, showed off a lot of wit and personality, which was a breath of fresh air for a series known for its series tone.

A new trailer featuring that lovable creature Ori was also revealed for Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The same haunting music and the incredible art style are back along with wonderful Metroidvania gameplay. I’m already excited to dive back into this world.

Before the big surprise at the end, Microsoft also confirmed that the backwards compatibility functionality is expanding to include original Xbox games like Fusion Frenzy and Crimson Skies. Not only that, existing Xbox One games like Killer Instinct, Forza Horizon 3, and many others would be getting free 4K updates later this year as well.

Finally, BioWare came out to reveal Anthem, it’s first original IP in quite a long while. Visually, the game is stunning. The gameplay demo showed off a more action style game as players teamed up to adventure into this lush, forested world. With multiple classes to pick from and loot to collect, Anthem seems to be EA and BioWare’s answer to shared world, MMO-lite style games like Destiny and The Division.

The Bad:
While focusing on games is generally good, I feel like the amount of games showcased took away from other, perhaps more important ones. Namely, Crackdown 3 which got a great trailer, but nothing else. Considering this first party game is due out later this year and to this point has not really been seen by anyone, you would have figured Microsoft would have given it a little more time to shine. Perhaps cutting down on a couple of the demonstrations would have freed up a bit more time.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I like what Microsoft had to say. Revealing the new console was fun, even if I probably won’t be picking one up anytime soon. I enjoyed the focus on games, but like I said, perhaps they went a little too far with it.

I know what you’re thinking. I docked Sony for having a press conference filled to the gill with games as well. Yes, Microsoft packed their show with games as well, 42 in fact, but they still found time to come out on stage to introduce or set up things. That’s the key difference for me. Sony’s press conference felt a little more impersonal, relying heavily on trailer after trailer to roll. While Microsoft had a lot of that as well, they also had developers and people come out on stage so they didn’t just let the trailers handle everything.

Final Grade: B+

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