Xbox comes out guns-a-blazin' at E3 2017
The sheer number of gorgeous-looking games on display shows perhaps that teraflops really do matter
Coming into E3, all eyes have been on Project Scorpio, now officially branded Xbox One X.
Everyone knew Microsoft would be on a mission to not only show off the new console, but to justify a $499 price when it launches on November 7th. That RRP appears high on paper, and it will no doubt limit initial sales (IHSMarkit is forecasting 500k sales this holiday), but early adopters will flock to the system regardless.
Xbox One X is geared to the 4K, HDR crowd. It's aimed at people who have big, shiny 4K televisions wall-mounted in their living room. They will want a games machine that can really push the pixels on those expensive screens. Yes, a high-end PC could do that too; and indeed Microsoft would love people to also play on Windows 10 (many of the games on show were for both Xbox One and Windows 10), but there's something to be said for console gaming in the living room.
There's no denying that 500 bucks is a lot to ask, but the technology packed into the Xbox One X makes it almost a bargain. Moreover, unlike the big fumble Sony took with its $600 PS3, Microsoft isn't expecting everyone to purchase the Xbox One X. This isn't make or break for the business; it's additive. As Phil Spencer told me at E3 2016, Microsoft would be more than happy for gamers to keep playing on any of its Xbox One systems, or on Windows 10. If you're in the Xbox Live ecosystem, and you're downloading games, that's what matters most. Over time, Xbox One X will come down in price, as will 4K TVs, and the installed base will rise. In the meantime, don't be surprised if the Xbox One S gets a more permanent price cut before Christmas.
"This was the most important E3 for Microsoft since the original Xbox One reveal, and it's thrown everything at it"
As for yesterday's media briefing, Microsoft showed why hardcore gamers may want an Xbox One X. Hardware isn't worth anything without games, and with 42 on display (22 of which had some form of exclusivity on Xbox One/Windows 10) Phil Spencer kept his promise that the Xbox team would shine an even bigger spotlight on games during its E3 conference.
For a show where 15,000 consumers will be roaming the halls, this was a smart play. This was the most important E3 for Microsoft since the original Xbox One reveal, and it's thrown everything at it. Whether you were impressed by Forza 7, Metro Exodus, Assassin's Creed Origins or BioWare's stunning new IP, Anthem, or charmed by the likes of Rare's Sea of Thieves, Moon Studios' Ori and the Will of the Wisps or indie titles like The Last Night from Raw Fury, it felt like there was a game for most gamer demographics. And much of it was quite colorful, as opposed to the drab grays and browns we've become accustomed to - no doubt enhanced by the wider color gamut of HDR.
Microsoft chose to end the show on a third-party product with EA's Anthem. It already looks like the game of the show, and it's perfect timing for BioWare, which was reeling from the negative reception to Mass Effect: Andromeda. Creating new IP is a challenge, but doing so for new hardware is often the best time to try it. Anthem could be the game to convince consumers to upgrade to 4K.
As a bonus for Xbox fans, Microsoft even doubled down on backwards compatibility at the same time that rival Sony has dismissed it as a feature often requested but little used. Phil Spencer would beg to differ, as he boasts that over half of Xbox One players have utilized backwards compatibility.
At E3, Xbox showed a lot of endeavor to try and claw back some of the share it's lost to PlayStation. The bar has been set high. Can Sony top it?