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Xbox One vs. The Internet [E3 2013]

During the week of E3 we, the gamers, are inundated with an abundance of Video Game news. The primary source of which is the panels, which we tend to review, dissect, criticize, and “improve” as though we were those snobby bitches on the E! Channel talking about award-show attire.

Not to say that I’m immune to it though.

Leading up to each E3 the most popular question I get is “who is going to ‘win’ E3?” and the most popular question after day one (when the majority of the conferences have taken place is “who do you think ‘won’?”

Ian and I have always had a great working relationship where we collectively we represent the two big players in the industry. Obviously Ian is a big fan of all things Sony and was watching the Playstation 4 conference with a vested interest (you can check his wrap-up here). I, on the other hand, tend to gravitate towards Microsoft and the Xbox for my primary gaming console.

Traditionally this is because of the different gamers we are. Ian is a big fan of indie development and unique titles, while I’m, admittedly, a bit more of a “bro-gamer” type who loves him a shooter and is always out for the next big action title.

It’s provided our site balance for a number of years, and honestly Ian and I have the most interesting conversations in our private moments about our pseudo-rivalry via Skype and FB chat (both of us have a high level of respect for the other’s opinion, even though it’s generally a different one). Which, by the way, is something we’re hoping to promote a little more publicly moving forwards as the site transitions its goals and voice.

If it seems like I’m a little off-topic, I apologize. However, I’ve always felt that context is important, and I want the readers to know why we’ve split the difference on this year’s conferences (if this is your first year joining us for E3 re-capping at Shogun Gamer) and to insure full-disclosure when I start talking about Microsoft’s 2013 E3 conference and the details surrounding the Xbox One’s November launch.

I’m going to break this down into four key components that everyone is talking about and give my personal thoughts on each of the “hot topics.”

 

The Next Generation DRM and Used Games Discussion

Xbox One + Kinect 2 Shot

I started writing about this in the midst of my conversation about the Microsoft panel, and it wound up being a full-length discussion about how the world of gaming is changing and sooner or later we’re all going to have to accept it. So, if you want the full break down of my opinion you can read that here. If you’re not interested in a long drawn-out conversation about why things are changing and how Microsoft is simply reacting to the world we’re moving into (primarily thanks to digital distribution and rampant piracy) then let me simply say this: Microsoft is not the demon that the vocal community of “hardcore gamers” is making them out to be. They are simply addressing the concerns of their publishers who have legitimate reason for the safety of their product as we move into a brave, new, digital world.

The core marketplace (the people actually funneling record-breaking amounts of money into these publishers) will not care about 24-hour check-ins and not being able to play their game in 20 years’ time. They are the Call of Duty players with the high-speed connections and inherent “always on” mentalities. They are the people that will buy a new version of the game ever year, and it is those consumers that are the primary focus for these publishers; which means they are also the primary focus of the next generation of hardware.

 

Quality of the Conference

Xbox One 3/4 Shot

Overall the Microsoft conference was not bad. If you were watching the press conferences real-time on Monday (or even better, taking place in the online discussions) you’d have seen that no one was saying it was a bad conference. There was no point where Microsoft shot themselves in the foot; though they did have a couple of technical difficulties.

They did what they had to: Address the issues that the gamers were interested in hearing about and revealed their game line up for their next generation console. If we were giving out ratings for the conventions in the vein of our video game reviews I would have provided it a solid 7 out of 10. They dropped some bombs (like the return of Killer Instinct, and their partnership with Twitch), showed us a bunch of exclusive content, and revealed some new games that we’ve all been looking forward to hearing from (like Forza and Dead Rising 3) along with some surprises (like Crimson Dragon, and Sunset Overdrive). Not to mention a complete overhaul of their online services (cribbing from Sony) to give their players more bang for their buck with free games to the Xbox Live Gold Members starting in July.

It was a solid performance and I think the majority of people who tuned in to it walked away feeling pretty good (though there was some lingering discussion about the $499 price point). I think the reason people have been talking about Microsoft’s “failing” since is because Sony absolutely killed it.

There hasn’t been a showing as strong as the one Sony put on for probably the last decade (maybe even longer than that). They absolutely knocked it out of the park (as they needed to after the previous generation). But you can read more about that in Ian’s article; let’s get back to Xbox One.

 

Some Games of Note

I’m not going to go through the full list of games here, but there are a couple of highlights that I wanted to talk about a little. Games that got me excited about the next generation of gaming on the Xbox platform and hold the most interest of myself and those of similar mentalities. If I don’t happen to hit up the game that most intrigued you, I apologize, but also feel free to let us know what you’re hyped for (or even displeased about) in the comments below!

·“Battlefield 4”
I’ve always been a fan of this franchise. The 64-player concept is something new and exciting for Xbox One players. Not to mention the fact that we have dynamic maps now (the building taking a fall mid-multiplayer match gave me all manner of nerd-wood). On Xbox One look forward to not having to wait in lobbies for matches thanks to Xbox One’s ability to run two instances/games at once.

·“Crimson Dragon”
As the site’s resident Sega fanboy, I can’t tell you how excited I was to see that the Panzer Dragoon saga is continuing on the Xbox One. Surprisingly our boy Ian is also quite hype for this title as well. He actually made note (we were chatting during the broadcast) that he was probably the only one excited for it (little did he know!).

·“D4”
I might be including this just to entice Ian (and his ilk) a little. Personally I have very little information about this game, I haven’t been following along with its development, but it’s clearly something that the indie fanboys will be getting rather excited about. After seeing the teaser-trailer on stage at the Microsoft press conference it is actually something I’m going to keep an eye on as well.

·“Dead Rising 3”
Not even going to lie or pull punches here: I’m a big fan of this franchise, but I’ve been feeling a little fatigue with it for a while now… The changes that they are making are intelligent for the series, and I cannot wait to go hands on with this title. What most impressed me with the footage that they showed us at the Microsoft conference is the scope of the game. Everything is so much bigger, and the amount of zombies the game can have in the world now is nothing short of epic. The team at Capcom has always made a big deal about telling us how many zombies can be on screen previous, and at the conference they kind of just showed us the ludacris amount of AI that can be milling about as you move from section of the city to section of the city (with zero loading time). On the Xbox One look forward to integrated features like SmartGlass support call-ins.

·“Forza Motorsport 5”
This was an obvious choice. We knew there’d be a new entry from Microsoft/Turn 10 in Forza for the new platform, but I have to say that seeing it in action was quite impressive. I’ll admit the introduction of the new McLaren was a little strange… but it worked as a comparison with the game-version of the car on the big screen behind it. Honestly I was tempted to believe that they were just showing off the car inside of a show-room. If they hadn’t been on stage for the Xbox One presentation, I would not have called it. It’s only on closer inspection that you can notice subtle differences in the textures of the car in real life vs. the game. Wildly impressive, and I cannot wait for some new-era racing on the Xbox.

·“Halo Xbox One”
A title which Microsoft has made clear is “not final.” Where this is to be the official 5th chapter of the franchise or something of a more… subtitle nature, the new Halo is looking slick and the introduction of the chief in the middle of a vast desert preparing for a skirmish against a large Prothean angel-looking creature has me somewhat intrigued. Of course, it’s what they do for the next generation of online gaming that will be of the most interest to the core Halo fans and with the Xbox One’s improved match-making features and vested interest in getting you into the game with as little down-time as possible it’s sure to be a fantastic example of all the features the Xbox One has to offer.

·“Killer Instinct”
I don’t care for this franchise. As a fan of the fighting genre, this was one of the dark moments in our history from my personal perspective. I hated the floaty physics of the game and the juggling nature… but I’m pretty sure I’d get lynched (either by the rabid fan base, or by Microsoft themselves) if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that, for a lot of people, this was a major announcement.

·“Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”
Hot. Damn. This game is looking solid, and while I don’t personally agree with the choice to drop the series name-sake (and what I’ll pretend is a personal friend, he is on my voice mail) David Hayter, the game is looking like pure sex. The concept of moving Metal Gear into an open world and giving you the ability to plan your approach, making the game more open-ended, is an exciting one (even if the concept isn’t necessarily new). The FOX Engine as well is looking just ridiculous good on the next gen consoles. What I’m hoping to hear more about on the Xbox One specific end of the spectrum is something about integration with either the Kinect 2 or SmartGlass. Concepts like Metal Gear 3: Snake Eater’s menu/camo/survival system being moved to either a second screen or navigated via the Kinect 2 sensor is an exciting idea for the Xbox fans.

·“Project Spark”
I had completely written off this game about 2 seconds into its presentation due to the people who were presenting it. However, when they started showing the gameplay (namely surfing a hill as it was being created by a second player on a tablet-interface) I started to get excited. It’s basically a game that takes the concepts of creation that games like Little Big Planet for the PS3 to the next level. Now you can create entire 3D worlds with a simple manipulation of the ‘paint brush’ style terrain options and Kinect 2 activated voice commands and quickly build your own world, game, and story.

·“Quantum Break”
Easily THE reason I pre-ordered my console immediately following the end of the conference (and the Microsoft site went life with the option to order). Remedy is a company that I am a huge fan of, they are unparalleled in their ability to tell a compelling story, and the concept of them taking a stab at the TV show/video game cross-over (like Defiance before them) is something that has me at full-mast. I will be getting this one day one and I will be setting my PVR (perhaps through Xbox One?) for the TV series premier. If you haven’t taken a look at this one, I highly encourage you to at least watch the trailer (which is running in-game!).

·“Ryse: Son of Rome”
I’ve nothing to say about this title, but it’s apparently a big deal for Microsoft... so it’s in the article. Congratulations.

·“Sunset Overdrive”
Insomniac is jumping ships. There were plenty of “traitor” moments during this convention so far. People that were well established on one platform making announcements at the other (Bungie at Sony, for example) but this one was probably my favorite. Sunset Overdrive looks like something new and fresh, like Mirror’s Edge creating a world of bright white and red before it, Sunset Overdrive is turning the table on what a shooter looks like by having (what looks to be) a massive online shooter take place in a bright colorful world populated with unique looking characters and interesting/unique weaponry. This is one that I’ll be watching the development for with a vested interest.

 

What’s in the Box!?

Xbox One Box

So we now know the release window (November), we know the price ($499 in NA), and we have an idea of some of the first and third-party titles that will be releasing for the console… but what exactly is included in that November launch console for the hefty sum of $499 US/CAN?

Xbox One Headset

Along with the console, which includes a 500GB HDD, you’ll be getting a Blu-ray player, single controller, built in Wi-Fi, Kinect 2, a headset, and a trial membership for the new Xbox Live Gold. So out of the box you’ll, once again, be prepared to head online and interact in all the new social features that Xbox One is bringing to the table.

Personally I’ve always felt like having the headset included is a bit of a mistake (not everyone should be given a voice) but it’s a rather moot point at this point (considering the Kinect also has a mic).

 

 

Love it or hate it the next generation is en route and from the perspective of the media it’s shaping up to be an interesting one. Sony has fired some direct shots at Microsoft; its old-school rivalry in the vein of the Sega/Nintendo wars of the 1990s. I cannot wait to pull up a chair and bowl of popcorn and watch it all go down. These are the moments that the true gamers among us live for. Rivalries, debates, conflict, and getting new tech, better features, additional benefits, and awesome video games as a result!