Microsoft @ E3 2019

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Microsoft brings games and only a tease of what’s to come and leaves us asking more questions than answers.

Microsoft had a strong showing of games this year, though nothing truly surprising. That’s mostly thanks to leaks. I was disappointed not to see more of Elden Ring, but I take the lack of details now to mean it is a next gen game and I’m okay with that. Despite not being surprising, I was impressed with the case Microsoft made. I still don’t think I’m sold on any of the Xbox franchises like Gears or Halo based on what they’ve shown. But, the improved PC Game Pass offering piqued my interest as that has been one of the strongest points of Xbox for quite some time now. It was just severely limited on PC. It’s nice to see Xbox making an effort in the PC space because Game Pass is an incredible value. Microsoft has shown a commitment to bringing games to the platform, and the ability to play many of those games at launch with Game Pass is fantastic.

I was surprised not to see more information on xCloud. The ability to use your console as a server sounds like Playstation’s Remote Play option but maybe more robust. I imagine that it will be free for anyone with an Xbox. However, the actual game streaming from something that is not your console is another matter entirely. They say the entire Xbox One library will be streaming, which includes over 3000 games. The big question for me then is, do they look and run better than they do on an Xbox One S, and how do they compare to the Xbox One X? Google is offering 4K at 60 frames per second with Stadia, numbers that the One X is unable to reach, despite its power.

I imagine we will get more information soon, as some form of the program is supposed to roll out in October (ahead of Google Stadia). This was a chance for Microsoft to come out swinging and convince people to cancel their Stadia pre-orders and stick with something they may already have. I ended up with most of my questions about the service unanswered. They’re sort of last to the game with the streaming stuff – even Nintendo has done some streaming stuff with Resident Evil 7 in Japan and Assassin’s Creed 3. They at least have Android support functional right now, and it’s not limited to a single line of devices, like Stadia and the Pixel.

Halo Infinite being a next-gen title is very interesting, as that means there will have only been one Halo game on the current hardware. A game that was not very well received if I recall. But it had a gauss-mongoose, so what do other people know? I fully expect people to be able to stream it on current hardware if they’re into that. Then once you eventually upgrade to the next-gen hardware, you will own the game and be able to download it. No latency, no need to be always online, and much kinder to data-caps than streaming.

As I predicted, they did not go hard on next-gen hardware because they’re still 16ish months away. They talked about the same things Mark Cerny talked about when giving a demo of the PS5 a few months ago. Much shorter load times and the benefits of SSDs are coming to the next generation of consoles, as is ray tracing, which also has some interesting benefits for audio. But all we really got was some vague tech specs and promises of being four times faster than the current hardware. Sony and Microsoft have now both touted 8K as a selling point as if 8k is anywhere near consumer ready. Much less 120 hertz, when most people are playing on TVs that don’t have that sort of refresh rate. The biggest improvement over this gen is going to be SSDs, but the new AMD chipset is certainly no slouch either. AMD recently improved their chips by leaps and bounds, so I expect a substantial difference in CPU performance for these new consoles.

While I expected a Cyberpunk 2077 trailer and release date in the spring of 2020 (April 16, to be precise), I was not expecting Johnny Mnemonic himself to show up. Keanu Reeves in this game is maybe the biggest surprise of the show, and I am very excited about it, almost as enthusiastic as Reeves is to be telling us all about it. I didn’t expect the Keanussance to continue into 2077, but I welcome it with open arms. The trailer did confirm for me that I am way more interested as playing as the woman protagonist than the man. The trailer seemed to be showing the conclusion of the mission shown in the gameplay they released last year after Gamescom. It still looks incredible, and I’ll be building a new PC to play it.

Overall, I think Microsoft continued to do what they have the past few years, and show that they are committed to being a platform that will bring you services to use wherever you may be. I may not be clamouring for the games they are producing in general, but they are indeed working to make me more and more interested in what they do. I’m rooting for Microsoft to continue pushing the industry to improve.

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About Andre Cole

Andre is an English teacher in the Kansai area of Japan. You can keep up with his thoughts on games by listening to his podcast, Gaming Fyx (www.fyx.space).

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