Microsoft announced the date and time Tuesday for its 2014 E3 press conference. While we don't know the exact contents yet, the company is telegraphing that it learned from the mistakes it made last year with the "Xbox: Game On" conference title alone.
The Xbox One E3 press conference will take place on Monday, June 9 at 12:30 p.m. EST / 9:30 a.m. PST. "During the briefing, you’ll be treated to everything from in-depth looks at previously announced games to trailers for our unannounced games coming in 2014 and beyond," the company wrote on its Xbox Wire site.
Last year's E3 press conference was widely seen as a massive fumble for Microsoft as a combination of multiple issues appeared to batter the Xbox One going into its launch. The planned always-on DRM for the console was battered by the press and gaming public and then Xbox President Don Mattrick and others did not appear to have their messaging thought out when it came time to answer questions from the press. In fact, their response was largely perceived as either confusing or arrogant at the time.
Things were made worse for Microsoft when Sony followed with an E3 press conference that was celebrated simply for keeping the status quo when it came to DRM and allowing owners to freely share their disk-based games. The nail was driven home though when Sony revealed a more powerful machine at a $100 cheaper price than the Xbox One.
Microsoft quickly reversed its stance for always-on DRM for the Xbox One but the damage was done at that point. Recent sales figures for the PS4 and Xbox One show that the focus on price and games is paying for Sony in the short term. The PS4 has built a healthy lead of approximately three million consoles worldwide.
Meanwhile, Mattrick left the company as part of a re-organization shake-up and Microsoft Games Studio head Phil Spencer is now running the show for Xbox. The mantra at Microsoft is now games, games, games as evidenced by Spencer’s Twitter account.
“Halo”, “Sunset Overdrive” and “Quantum Break” should all play major roles during Microsoft’s E3 press conference as Spencer says that the focus will be on hardcore games with a mix of sequels and all new IPs. He also stated that “we have opportunities with IP we own that we’ve neglected.”
That’s a sign that we could see reboots of older Rare titles like we saw with “Killer Instinct” but there’s also the strong likelihood we will see at least a teaser for a new “Gears of War”, which was purchased by Microsoft from Epic Games earlier this year. “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” will likely make an appearance as well since that franchise has been a staple of Xbox E3 press conferences. Microsoft is going to have to fit in some significant love for the indie game scene during its press conference too though.
While the focus on games for the Xbox One over media capabilities is definitely something needed for E3, Microsoft is still going to have to deal with the elephant sitting in the room. Right now, its console is not as powerful as the PS4, it costs $100 more and it is available in fewer markets.
The last bit will be addressed this September when Microsoft begins releasing Xbox One to more markets. However, the power disparity will likely never be addressed unless some “magic sauce” is found with the upcoming implementation of DX12. That leaves the price as the only major factor left that can be addressed by Microsoft but, in an industry where hardware is sold at a loss or razor thin margins, can the Xbox team afford to take a loss a year into the console’s launch?
Microsoft has made all that right signals that it is trying to make gamers happy since the departure of Mattrick and the new leadership of Spencer. This year’s E3 should be exciting for no other reason than it should reflect the vision of the new Xbox leadership team. The only question is can they successfully make gamers forget the mistakes of last E3 and give them a reason to purchase an Xbox One?