Microsoft has been having a hard time shaking it’s anti-gamer reputation as of late. After it’s disappointing Xbox One reveal last month Microsoft was surely hoping to turn consumers around with their E3 press conference, it’s hard to say that they succeeded. The backlash over offering no backwards compatibility, an ambiguous used games policy, and complicated online requirements was not mitigated by todays demonstration. Microsoft did focus on games, a heavy criticism of their Xbox One reveal, but with only a handful of exclusives. It’s uncertain whether Microsoft will be able to shift public opinion by it’s release date in November.
On a positive note Microsoft did focus on the games. They wowed most by opening with the over the top Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain presentation. It was melodramatic and baroque but will likely please fans of the series. A Dead Rising 3 demo was exhilarating and impressive, showing off some of the console’s potential. The physics and collision detection were surprisingly realistic. When Nick jumps or falls his body looks and “feels” as if it has mass. The fast-paced demo exhibited an open world with no load times and an abundance of zombies always on screen. Smartglass, not surprisingly made an appearance, calling in an air strike on a freeway full of zombies. While an impressive feat, was it really necessary? Another highlight was The Witcher 3. The Witcher wooed with icy vistas and a heavily gray color scheme looking like it could have been lifted from scenes from Game of Thrones. This isn’t too surprising since Polish studio CD Projekt RED probably has been scouting in similar locations that the show uses. CD Projekt RED is boasting that they are going to reinvent the RPG with The Witcher 3. That is a tall order to fill. D4 was teased from Swery65, the man beind Deadly Premonition. This piqued my interst the most. D4 is being billed as an episodic murder mystery. We will have to wait for more details to come.
Other games were less than remarkable. Another Halo game was announced. Battlefield 4, Ryse, and Titanfall all blended together in a dizzying display on the continued journey toward photorealistic graphics. Forza 5 was unmemorable. It is disappointing that in a new console generation we are still being bombarded with mediocre sequels and unnecessary reboots, in the case of Killer Instinct.
To further add insult to injury, Microsoft producer Torin Rettig volleyed a rape joke at community manager Ashton Williams in an attempt to recreate “gamer banter.” The distasteful comment, “Just let it happen. It will be over soon,” elicited nervous laughter from the audience but has generated a well-deserved adverse reaction online. Microsoft responded with a pseudo-apology, citing that the producer was unscripted in his comments. This is apart of a much larger conversation surrounding sexism in the gaming community. However, coming from an executive, the offense is much more egregious. It also points to a greater problem of sexism within the game development community. Just in March Brenda Romero, and several other key developers, resigned from their seats in the IGDA, after scantily clad entertainers were hired by the Game Developers Conference. The fact that producer Rettig thought it was ok to share the joke in the first place, points to insidiousness of the problem.
The lack of Microsoft exclusives is just further evidence of how the gaming environment has shifted away from the software giant at the same time it appears to be refocusing on being an entertainment hub. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t demonstrate anything contrary to its lack of commitment to the gaming community.