The best line-up in Xbox history”. That was the promise Microsoft made in the run-up to E3 2015, and it's hard to argue that it failed to deliver.
At this stage last year I was trying to look at the positives of what was ultimately a lukewarm E3 2014 from Microsoft. Hours later I was saying that Sony had gone and won the show. Let's not even start on how the pair fared at E3 2013 (hint – Sony smashed it).
We're still over six hours away from Sony's E3 2015 showing, but the PS4 platform holder is going to have to do something incredible if it wishes to repeat this success. Microsoft's presentation was fantastic, packed not only with new IP but also progressive and impressive initiatives that really do add value to the Xbox One platform.
Xbox 360 compatibility is a headline-friendly move from the company that on paper certainly makes a lot of sense – there are a lot of 360 owners out there who have yet to make the move to next-gen, and this is definitely an extra nudge.
Still, the reality remains that while backwards compatibility is always high on wanted features checklists, its real-world impact is less pronounced. And as it has to be implemented on a title-by-title basis, there's no way to know how many titles it will grow to include, or at what rate they will be added. Lots of question marks remain concerning this one.
However, Microsoft's move to bring Early Access titles to console via Xbox Game Preview is entirely sensible, and shows that the company is aware of modern market developments. That all XGP titles must also offer a free trial shows that the platform holder wants to protect its consumers, too. And it even has a console exclusive title on board to help push the service – Dean Hall's new title Ion.
The news that Fallout 4 mods will be available for free on Xbox One is another smart move, furthering ties between Microsoft's console and computer platforms.
Having already got into bed with Oculus – it was confirmed earlier this week that Rift will ship with an Xbox One pad and that Xbox One games can be streamed to the headset, albeit in a clumsy virtual theatre setting – Microsoft has now gone and sealed some sort of partnership with Valve VR, too. The details remain unknown, but Sony's Project Morpheus is certainly starting to look a little isolated.
Let's not forget, either, that Microsoft has its own new technology to shout about – Hololens. The Minecraft Hololens taster was perhaps the single most impressive E3 tech demo since the company first unveiled Natal. Obviously we all hope that Hololens goes on to enjoy better fortunes than Kinect, which Natal eventually became. Kinect was not mentioned once, by the way. But it can have no better weapon in its arsenal than the mighty Minecraft.
Games were flowing freely, too. As well as the very Halo-looking Halo 5, the very Gears-looking Gears of War 4 (and Gears of War Remastered), the very car-looking Forza 6 and the very un-tomby-looking Rise of the Tomb Raider, there were lots of new titles on show.
Rare is finally doing something new, and it looks decent – Sea of Thieves will be lapped up by default by Rare fans (as will the confirmed Rare Replay collection) but looks appealing enough to attract a wider audience. Inafune's Recore seems like another strong string in the bow, and the list of console exclusive indie title on the way – such as Ashen and Beyond Eyes – once again seems very on the pulse. Hell, Microsoft even grabbed the Dark Souls III trailer for its show.
Microsoft's repeated pledges to make E3 2015 its best ever looked very much as if it was risking setting itself up for a fall. But the platform holder will be delighted tonight. It delivered, and coupled with Xbox One's recent price drop and a decent selection of games with which to close out the year, there's every reason to argue that Xbox One could very much close the gap on its competitor in the coming year.
Will that happen? Our eyes now turn to Sony's conference at 2:00am tomorrow morning. MCV will be offering live coverage once again.
Here's a roundup of all the Microsoft E3 2015 announcements:
- New first party IP Recore unveiled
- New Halo 5: Guardians gameplay shows multiplayer focus
- New 'Elite' Xbox gamepad revealed
- Xbox One gets Xbox 360 backwards compatibility
- Xbox details and dates Forza 6, lowers fancy car from the ceiling
- Fallout 4 PC mods will also work on Xbox One, will be free
- Dark Souls III confirmed for spring 2016
- Rainbow Six Siege will include both Rainbow Six Vegas games
- Indies take to the stage at Xbox media briefing, firm gives ID@Xbox update
- Console Early Access is happening
- Ion, the new game from DayZ creator Dean Hall, is coming first to Xbox One
- First Rise of the Tomb Raider gameplay shown, date revealed
- Rare announces brand new Xbox One IP, Rare Replay collection
- Xbox has partnered up with Valve for VR
- HoloLens gets brand new version of Minecraft
- Gear of Wars 4 revealed alongside Ultimate Edition of first game