Look, its hard to debut a new console without having a massive reveal event. Its something Sony has constantly been struggling with and now Microsoft is too – its monumental first look event that promised Xbox Series X gameplay in spades was a disaster.
That sounds harsh and overly critical about a third-party launch event, but I say that with the utmost love for the system: until now, I felt like Microsoft was building up the Xbox Series X as the gamers dream console with ray tracing, solid state drives, 60 frame-per-second gameplay as a standard and lightning-fast loading times.
And its first look event was supposed to be a culmination of all that work, I had thought, with marquee games from its most trusted partners like CD Projekt Red, Activision and EA. That’s what you’d expect from a third-party showcase, right?
Instead what we saw was vague new IP that feels scarily similar to vaporware weve seen at E3s past and pre-canned cinematics from Assassins Creed: Valhalla.
I hate to say it, but I think Microsoft just made its first big mistake with the Xbox Series X.
Xbox Series X gameplay reveal: what happened?
The mistake in question revolves around the Xbox Series X gameplay reveal that Microsoft announced in early May and took place over a scant 30 minutes on May 7.
On every social channel Microsoft made it sound like this would be the moment gamers had been waiting for – our first deep dive into the games Microsoft had been curating for Xbox Series X. Exciting! I thought.
What transpired instead was a cavalcade of trailers from newer developers that, in many ways, didnt look like they were pushing the hardware to its limit.
What transpired instead was a cavalcade of trailers from newer developers that, in many ways, didnt look like they were pushing the hardware to its limit. Even the one headline game, Assassins Creed: Valhalla, missed the mark when it focused almost exclusively on story exposition in its 2-minute ‘gameplay trailer instead of… you know, cutting-edge gameplay.
There were some standouts among the new games shown like Bright Memory Infinite, an extremely fast-paced first-person shooter that takes the gameplay of Bulletstorm and matches it with the near-future setting of a Black Ops game, and Call of the Sea, an exploration game set on an idyllic island, but for every good trailer there were two disappointing or, worse, cringe-worthy trailers for a bland new thriller or twin-stick shooter.
Theres value in showing new IP, obviously, as it shows that youre partnering with new and varied game studios to produce tons of games for niche audiences, something that Microsoft and the Xbox team have struggled with in the past. But because that wasnt interspersed with flagship titles or familiar franchises, it reflected poorly on Microsofts fledgling console.
This is a golden opportunity for the PS5
When Sony made the faux pas of unveiling a logo at CES
or calling the banners of its fanboys for Mark Cernys deep dive into the PS5s architecture, we were quick to call Sony out for its mistakes. “Sonys rumored PS5 announcement at CES 2020 was a dud” was a headline we actually wrote back in January.
Teasing gamers with a dripfeed of announcements may work for minute, but very quickly that excitement will turn to resentment.
But until now, Microsoft was making all the right moves with the Xbox Series X by unveiling the hardware and controllers with unparalleled authority and confidence.
On the other hand, until now, Microsoft was making all the right moves with the Xbox Series X by unveiling the hardware and controllers with unparalleled authority and confidence. It might be that those were flukes from Microsofts marketing team – but, until today, it seemed like Microsoft had really honed into what gamers wanted.
The problem with a misstep like this, at least if youre on Microsofts marketing team, is that it presents an opportunity for Sony to win gamers back if it can move fast: weve heard rumors that Sony will have a showcase of its own either in late May or early June, and if it uses that showcase for games like Marvels Spider-Man 2 or Horizon Zero Dawn 2, Microsoft will be in serious trouble.
And dont forget that, as unimpressive as todays showcase was, all of those games will likely be available on PS5, too. Theyre all third-party after all.
The silver lining is that Microsoft says it will have another first-look event in July – this time with the first-party Xbox Studios titles like Halo Infinite – so theres another chance to right the ship.
Heres hoping the first-party games look a lot better than these third-party games.