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E3 2012: The Microsoft Press Conference Review

Written by Linwood Earl Knight on Tuesday, June 05 2012 and posted in Reviews

As has become tradition, Microsoft kicks off E3 the way it always does. Will Microsoft continue to bring Kinect out to play, or will they show remind us why they became the Core Gamer system of choice? The answers are all just click away


From a personal point of view E3 2012 has come without much hype connected to it. As for why this is, maybe it's because I've been fully entrenched in this generation of games for the past 2 years, but unlike previous years, E3 doesn't feel like some mega-event that I've been hyped months for. Instead, it feels like just another trade show that I'll pay attention to, but not suspend my life for in order to scrounge up every piece of news and rumor that came from these 4 days. Despite my tempered hype, the Press Conferences are always worth a watch, simply because they give you an outward indication as to what each presenter has in store for the next 6 – 12 months. Can Microsoft get us hyped for the week from their Press Conference alone? Sadly, the answer is pretty much no.

How the show came across?

"Our Target Demographic is the really hardcore otaku cinematographer hipister mom vocalist." For those of you who don't remember this quote, this was how Penny Arcade summed up the Microsoft Conference in 2008, which not only consisted of games, but a lengthy presentation about how the X-Box 360 was positioning itself to appeal beyond the gamer demographic. At the time, the comment was considered tongue-in-cheek commentary on Microsoft's strategy as a whole, little did anyone know that 5 shows later, Microsoft would not be still taking this strategy, but depending on who you talk to, it was a sign of the good old days.

Since the dawn of the decade, these Press Conferences have taken on a different life altogether. Due to the Kinect taking center stage, traditional/core gamers have felt legitimately alienated by an outward business strategy that seemingly took their presence for granted. For this year's show, there was an attempt to restore a Pre-2010 balance to the proceedings as Microsoft went in its traditional games-non gaming entertainment-games order, that had (at least for them) a good amount of exclusives. Despite more emphasis given to traditional games, the show was still significantly flawed from a number of perspectives.

For all intents and purposes, the show started off extremely well as we were treated to an extremely atmospheric trailer and white-knuckle gameplay demo of Halo 4. For someone who is only a fringe fan of the mythos, the display sold me on getting the game on release day, so I'd consider that part of the show a slam dunk. From there, things went from glorious to somewhat awkward and wildly inconsistent in many different ways.

For starters, I couldn't help but notice a significant degree of non-emphasis on the Kinect add-on. Yes, there were 5 games announced during the Press-Conference that had some kind of Kincet application, but the overall enthusiasm that was present in both 2010 and 2011 presentations was completely absent. On one hand, if this means more time for traditional games, I couldn't be happier. However, it's still extremely disappointing to see such potential not being fulfilled as the same flaws that were present from the first showing still rear their ugly heads.

Speaking of momentum killers, the non-gaming parts of the show served to accomplish that mission in grand fashion. Don't get me wrong, I am not against the 360 being more than just a videogame system, nor am I against them showing off these applications during the show. However, this year's presentation suffers from more than just going on too long. Beyond being boring, the most egregious issue of this part was the sheer shamelessness of the some of the proceedings. The newly announced X-Box Smartglass is guilty of this, as the app gives the devices the ability to share functions between them and can even enhance gameplay experiences, just like the Wii U controller. Needless to say, Microsoft has a significant amount to prove that this just isn't another Sixaxis. Beyond that, while I was impressed with Nike+, I was significantly underwhelmed that the X-Box 360 would finally get be able to explore in Web with Internet Explorer.

Taking everything into consideration, the aspect of the Conference that underwhelmed me most of all had to do with how the games were presented. While there were 17 games present in some form only 6 of them were shown off in any significant capacity. This wouldn't had been so disappointing if it wasn't for the fact that virtually all of the games shown involved guns, sports titles or cinematic on-rails gameplay that has become far too common in AAA –Level games. If this generation had gotten stale before, it definitely got stale at this Press Conference. Of course, one should note that there will be plenty of titles available (across all platforms) for those who want something different from the blockbusters, I just wish we got to see more of it at this Press Conference.

Overall Score: C

Written or Contributed by: Linwood Earl Knight

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