From the moment Phil Spencer took to the stage and referenced his ‘friends’ over at Sony and Nintendo, you knew Xbox was playing the humble card.
And that's fair enough, because they had been humbled. Last year’s E3 was a disaster for the platform holder, a mistake they must not repeat. Spencer said they had been listening to the fans and was delivering a conference just for them.
“You are shaping the future of Xbox and we are better for it,” he said, evoking the first ‘whoop’ of the showcase.
And so that means there was no Kinect. No SmartGlass. With the notable exception of a two minute reference to Dance Central, there was nothing in this press conference that would have put off any potential Xbox customer. Members of the trade, the retailers in the room, may have wondered what they had to offer consumers that aren’t hardcore gamers, but for everyone else this was a solid showing.
The fan pleasing moments came thick and fast. Revisiting cult games such as Phantom Dust and Conker’s Bad Fur Day, mixed with super franchises like Crackdown and Halo’s new collection. But was there enough on show to slow Sony’s momentum? Maybe.
The PlayStation press conference is still to come and Xbox has asked Sony a question: What do you have coming this year?
Microsoft’s line-up for the rest of the year includes Project Spark, Halo Masterchief Collection, Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive and all those little indie products and major third-party titles.
Sony’s current slate is weak, with only DriveClub on the Christmas line-up. If PlayStation does not offer enough this Q4, Microsoft will have another opportunity to close that gap.
Yet, likewise, E3 remains firmly in the balance. As solid as Microsoft’s conference was, it wasn’t particularly sensational either. One big surprise from Sony could change everything. And with Microsoft backing away from any talk of hardware and online service, Sony can generate extra excitement around its recent investment in Virtual Reality and PlayStation Now unchallenged.
It will be an interesting evening.