E3 2019: Microsoft | Press Conference Rambles

This thing is a lot to unpack. Microsoft’s 2019 conference had the potential to be the greatest E3 press conference of all time. Without Sony as competition this year, they would have had access to every third-party game at the show. Franchises like Call of Duty, NBA 2K, and Destiny tend to show up on the Sony stage. Those games could have been here. Bundle having basically all the games with the promised announcement of a new console, a new streaming service, and an expansion of the already great Xbox Game Pass, and this should have been an easy win.

Turns out, it was just the typical Microsoft conference. As usual, they’re both the best and worst example of what an E3 stage show can be. They seem to be of the belief that just showing a ton of games is the way to go. The problem is that becomes overwhelming and difficult to parse out. This year, they had over 60 games on stage, and, even though I’m literally re-watching the show as I write this, I can barely remember what they had. To make matters worse, they opened almost every trailer with a little pop-up saying “Xbox One | Windows PC”, but that was on exclusive and non-exclusive games, so there’s no way to know which are only on Xbox, only on PC, or everywhere. So, ultimately, the most I can take away from this show is “Video games are still going to come out.”

The highlight is certainly Keanu Reeves showing up both on stage and in-game for Cyberpunk 2077. They showed a CG trailer for that game, which is odd considering we’ve already seen gameplay of it. Why not just show more gameplay? Another highlight was an (entirely CG) trailer for the Escape mode in Gears of War 5. Dope co-op modes are probably the best thing about Gears games so I’m looking forward to that.

Among the cavalcade of trailers were games like the new Ori, Dragonball Z Kakarot (the DBZ action game formerly known as Project Z), Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Borderlands 3, The Outer Worlds, Elden Ring, and like 55 other games. Somewhere in there, they even revealed that Phantasy Star Online 2, a game people have been begging Sega to release in North America for over five years, is finally landing on Xbox One and PC next year.

But aside from games, Microsoft had a lot of business stuff to get through. They revealed that Xbox Game Pass is officially coming to PC. All of these subscription services — Game Pass for Xbox One, Game Pass for PC, and Xbox Live Gold — will be bundled together under the name Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, for $14.99 per month. That’s a great deal, especially when you consider that a Game Pass subscription includes being able to play new releases on launch day. As long as they can keep the lineup worthwhile, Game Pass will remain one of the best services in all of video games, and it’s certainly the best way to play Gears and Forza this year.

Following that, they touched on a feature they’re calling Console Streaming. On a basic level, it sounds like PS4’s Remote Play: a feature that lets you connect to your console via the internet, and have it stream games to whichever device you’re using to connect. However, some of what they said implied that Console Streaming will also let you stream games from a console in their cloud, which is where Project X Cloud comes in. There are a lot of loose details on how all of this works, and they mentioned people on the E3 show floor will be able to test it out, so I’m waiting to see those reactions before trying to wrap my mind around it.

And, of course, they had to pay some lip service to the next Xbox. To do this, they ran a lengthy video of engineers and developers randomly discussing technology and video games, while occasionally dropping details about the specs of the next Xbox. The video didn’t give a name (they still referred to it by its code name, Project Scarlett), nor a release date (holiday 2020 launch window), nor a price point, nor any real information about features like backwards compatibility, or if it’ll have discs… The whole thing was frustratingly vague. As far as the specs go, the guts of the next Xbox are almost identical to what we know of the PS5, except slightly less powerful (possibly).

While we didn’t get a detailed demonstration of the machine’s power, the show did close with the announcement that Halo Infinite will be a launch title for the next Xbox, followed by an “in-engine” trailer for the game. The trailer itself is incredibly confusing because it’s hard to pin down where in the Halo story Infinite will take place. It certainly doesn’t appear to be the next game after Halo 5. Visually, I wasn’t impressed by it, even by today’s standards, but every game looks better live than on a stream, so I won’t judge it too harshly. Still, when you hear stuff about how this machine will be “four times more powerful than the Xbox One X”, you don’t expect the first game you see on it to be less impressive than games that run on the standard Xbox One. If I hadn’t mentioned that the video above was running on Project Scarlett and not on a PS4 Pro or One X, would you have noticed?

As you can tell by the text wall, the show was packed full of stuff, and not always in a good way. If you want to see the most games, Microsoft has you covered. If you want to know anything about those games, wait for the articles that will come throughout the week. And if you want to know about the next Xbox console, you probably won’t learn much from this press conference.

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