Microsoft’s E3 (Let’s Talk about Xbox)

I just watched Microsoft’s E3. There are no words to describe the level of confusion, anger, and bafflement at this company. At first I was happy, not excited, but I felt fine. Microsoft showed off the Xbox One S and I was impressed. It is about damn time this thing gets a slimmer model because I hate the giant-ass console I have in my living room that Microsoft thought was okay. So cool, the Xbone is getting a slim redesign with a bigger hard drive and “new” controller. Fascinating shit there, Microsoft. What else do you have? Obviously a bunch of games, 90% of them shooters. It’s your standard Microsoft fare. Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Battlefield 1, all the games that you are already used to seeing on Microsoft’s game catalog. There were very few games that I was personally interested in like Recore, Tekken 7 (I fucking love me some Tekken), Dead Rising 4, Cuphead, and of course, Scalebound. That’s about it because the rest of what was shown was astonishingly boring to me. However, there was one thing that I noticed, though, that kept resounding throughout their presentation.

I noticed that for all of the showcased games, they kept saying that digital purchases would carry over to Windows 10. So if you get Gears of War 4 on Xbone, you can get the Windows 10 version for free. Your saved progress carries over and you can seamlessly play between devices. This was something Microsoft made damn sure was understood. So I analyzed the situation like this: Microsoft recognized the value of gaming. I mean, that’s the only reason they ever created the first Xbox. They saw it would make them a lot of money. Now to ensure this, they also crafted Xbox Live and stamped a $60 a year membership cost. So Microsoft would not only make money off their console and first-party games, they are also making a pretty penny off of Xbox Live as a service. Now, this made sense because this meant that if you paid your $60, you can play with your friends over Xbox and have a blast. BUT now that these same games are coming to Windows, what is the incentive to keep buying into Xbox live when you don’t have to pay to play online on PCs? Does Microsoft see their IP as more valuable and competitive then Steam? I ask this because Steam has completely leveled the field when it comes to PC Gaming. You can play online with your friends for free and get all kinds of games for dirt cheap when they go on sale, which they do…frequently. Not to mention that Steam is such an intuitive and easy-to-use service. Now in a world where Steam exists and is loved by many, why the hell does Microsoft think it can compete with Steam? My answer is that they can’t. I’m actually surprised that they aren’t trying to sell their games through Steam with the stipulation that they’d be available only to Windows 10 users. Then again, I’d be equally surprised that a company that sees itself as more of a service than a platform would suddenly use a competitor to sell their games.

This brings me to the final part of their conference which was the big announcement that Xbox One Scorpio is a thing. Don’t know what that is? It’s basically what Microsoft SHOULD have made the Xbox One. They showed off a bunch of developers talking about it and they all said the same things. Its “true” 4K graphics (again almost typed $K instead of 4K) and its “6 Teraflops” (Are teraflops the new bits? Like 16 bit? I dunno, whatever, anything with -flop as a suffix sounds really dumb). My rough translation is this: “Hi, at Microsoft Studios we use graphics as a crutch to justify our lack of creativity in designing our games. We know many of you flocked to the PlayStation 4 because of how powerful it is and we get it. So we made a new console that is even stronger than the PlayStation 4, so please buy it…please?” Now, they did announce that all games will be compatible between the original Xbone, the slim, and this Scorpio. But as you can tell, I am enraged by this announcement. For me, it comes down to one question: WHY?! Why make this console at all? How am I supposed to believe that there are not gonna be any games that take advantage of these 6 glorious teraflops that just can’t work on the older models because…they aren’t 6 teraflops? Are they even 1 teraflop? Do they flop at all??? Plus if the games expected to be compatible between all Xbox One models, how can any one game truly take advantage of the power inside the Scorpio? I believe that they can’t, and eventually, games will become exclusive to the Scorpio. Anyway, my point here is this: Better graphics do NOT make for a better game. You know what does? Gameplay. Unique and/or fun gameplay. You know why classic games are considered to be timeless? It’s because they are just fun to play. Rarely is it because they just look good.

You know what better graphics do improve? A game’s budget. If a game is expected to output 4K graphics with 6 Teraflops of fun, I’m willing to bet this requires more time and effort on the side of the developers, while the publishers will be putting on pressure for a best selling game. Now to alleviate the costs, they will make a game that appeals to as many people as possible. What this results in is a game that has no identity and plays exactly like previous games, and there’s an 80% chance that it’ll be a shooter of some sort with a lead male protagonist who may or may not be white. Better graphics do not make better games. You know what does? Creativity. So thanks, Microsoft, I truly feel like buying your Xbone was such a worthwhile investment. Especially since I only paid $320 dollars for the friggen thing and it came bundled with both the best Assassin’s Creed game (Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag) and the WORST (Assassin’s Creed: Unity).

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