E3 2014: How Microsoft Fixed the Xbox One in a Single Day

Being wrong sucks. It’s easy to have a valid opinion based on facts, but harder to change that opinion once the facts change. For well over a year Microsoft has done everything possible to negate any interest I might have had in the Xbox One. Pushing the Kinect, emphasizing the media capabilities, and focusing too heavily on AAA games that all seemed a bit too similar to games I’ve played dozens of times already made the Xbox One seem like $500 better kept in my pocket. Actually, that’s too harsh. The honest truth was the Xbox One didn’t ping my radar at all, in the same way the romance section of the bookstore doesn’t- I know it exists but there’s nothing to drag me over there. I wasn’t incorrect to have that view, but the bit I was wrong about was believing it wouldn’t change. It took Microsoft one press conference to blow that belief to pieces, and a quick tour of the show floor to make me anticipate playing all the interesting things that are going to be coming out for it.

It can’t be overstated just what a difference the Microsoft of this year is from last. Last year it seemed like the Xbox One was a home entertainment system that just happened to allow games to be played on it. The year of backtracking and reversals of their original plans was, honestly, kind of fun to watch, but the library was still incredibly weak. The ID@Xbox outreach was promising, but it wasn’t delivering much in the way of news. Finally, the games that were coming out just weren’t anything special. Racing game, shooting game, sports game, wheeee….? The One was broken, and it seemed like fixing it would take a couple years. Nope, as it turns out, just a few days is enough.

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Sunset Overdrive looks like a ton of fun, although I didn’t get to play it on the show floor. Same again for Ori and the Blind Forest. God help me, the Ubisoft exercise game Shape Up is pretty damn awesome. Phantom Dust was the “You’re making a sequel to what!?” game of the show, if that award actually existed. Fantasia was super-pretty. Finally, Crackdown getting a sequel they budgeted more than $1.25 and some pocket lint towards was a fantastic surprise. On the non-exclusive side, The Golf Club, Cuphead, Mighty No. 9, Lifeless Planet, Volgarr the Viking, and Habitat all looked great, even if I do own a few of them already. The important part is that these games create a library that speaks well of any console that contains it, which isn’t something I could have said about the Xbox One last Sunday.

When the Xbox 360 came out it was an amazing gaming console, but over the years something broke over at Microsoft. I do not want, nor will I ever care about, an all-in-one set top box, which is what the 360 tried to become and the Xbox One was being positioned as. It’s a terrible concept, trying to lock all entertainment into a single delivery system, and the money it makes for any company that can succeed at it doesn’t matter to me in the slightest. A machine that does the job its designed for well (such as gaming) with a functional competency in any secondary functions (streaming media, playing whatever video files I toss its way) contains far more value than an All In One Wonder Box Of Joyous Media Marvels. The point of a gaming console is to game, and the Xbox forgot that for a while. I didn’t think they’d turn it around so quickly and honestly didn’t have much faith it would happen at all, but E3 2014 showed that belief to be wrong. I’m honestly a little worried that the message will revert back to the multimedia side of things now that E3 is over, but after talking to developers and hearing about the outreach MS made with them to work on the Xbox One’s library, I’m more than willing to give them the benefit of a doubt.

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All of which is a long-winded way of saying that Microsoft at E3 2014 sold me on an Xbox One. I didn’t think it could happen, but there’s no denying the facts of the upcoming library. After a rocky start it looks like there’s going to be a console war after all, and that’s going to be good for everyone.