E3 2011: The Microsoft Balancing Act
After much excitement and rumour in the build up to E3, gamers around the world were treated to, in my opinion, the most underwhelming E3 in a long time, with Microsoft leading the yawn fest. To me, the excitement for E3 is all about the revealing of games and hardware to the public that have never been seen before, despite Nintendo's efforts in the hardware section, I don't think I have been so underwhelmed and surprised by the lack of megatons at a E3 showcase before.
This feeling started the moment Microsoft's press conference finished, which in my view, failed to inject any real surprises of note, although I had a feeling all along that this was going to be the case due to the lack of stern investment in exclusives to the console. There is no doubt in my mind Gears of War 3 and Forza 4 will be of a high standard while Halo 4 will no doubt give many Xbox 360 players something to really look forward but for me it is not enough.
When I first heard that Gears of War 3 was going to be demonstrated on stage at Microsoft's press conference, I asked myself why would they do this? Sure it is a highly popular franchise and after a good few weeks on the much highlighted beta, the third person action shooter by Epic will be most enjoyable but E3 is about surprises and announcements so why spend the time on stage to play a game that will be released in September this year, has had a lot of coverage beforehand along with a beta? Surely Epic and Microsoft could of released a HD video via Xbox Live Marketplace and various gaming websites with brief footage of the single player campaign like they did with Gears of War 2?
Another element I found strange during Microsoft's press conference was what seemed to be a flow of games that are also available on other platforms. Sure, games like Modern Warfare 3, Tomb Raider and Mass Effect 3 are sure to be excellent titles in their own right but this is E3, gamers that have invested in a individual system want to see what is coming in the future, what new games will be announced, not showing games that are playable on the competition's machine and treating them like a exclusive.
Then we have Kinect, a product that is causing heated debates more so than ever after Microsoft's showing. Some gamers like it while others feel a strong dislike for it. Microsoft have spent a lot of money on Kinect and it is to be expected that they have to invest a lot of software and marketing for it. What seems to be missing is the ability to provide a balance of motion control Kinect games and traditional controller games exclusive to the platform. At E3 Kinect was the dominant force for Microsoft, which seems off putting for some and I can understand it.
Having owned a Wii, which was sold after three years and a current owner of Xbox 360 Kinect, experiencing what motion control has to offer on two different platforms I have come to the conclusion that, as it stands currently, not one game via motion control has offered me personally a fond and memorable experience. That is not to say motion control should be scrapped, if people enjoy motion control then respect to them, there is a market for it and it's clear that it has proved to be a successful alternative to the traditional control pad experience.
My problem, which is mentioned briefly above, is the balancing act Microsoft at the moment seems to be struggling with to offer motion control and traditional exclusive games to each type of gamer. While I am not calling for a exact number each way, it's becoming clear that those who plan Microsoft's strategy are pushing a lot more for the motion control experience on a console that was considered by many to be a core console suited to a traditional controller.
With employees such as Aaron Greenberg hyping Microsoft's strategy for the core gamer in the month's building up to E3 claiming deals were in place similar to those such as Codename Kingdoms from Crytek ( now with the title Ryse and seems to be offering motion control as the marketing campaign) it is somewhat disappointing that all they could provide was Halo 4 and a remake of the original Halo: Combat Evolved remastered in high definition for the traditional controller.
I question the goals and strategy of people such as Phil Spencer, who is current head of Microsoft games studios and I question his thinking in terms of the long haul and in terms of being able to provide a balancing act that will keep those consumers happy who have invested time and money in the console for all those years and those they hope to bring in via the Kinect experience. At the moment Spencer seems intent of telling gamers what they should want rather than actually giving what gamers want. They have seen what sort of profit the Nintendo Wii has made and want a piece of the money pot, understandable as this is business but what they should not do is alienate the millions who had a choice to invest in the motion control experience back in 2006 and decided not to and if you look at the Nintendo Wii today with it's stern price cut and lack of software in the pipeline, could Microsoft suffer the same fate eventually?
Microsoft needs leaders that will give all gamers what they want without the excuse of multiplatform games and without the need to dominate one template of gameplay for another in terms of exclusive library. People who can manage to work out how to give gamers of all tastes what they want instead of telling them what they want, the likes of Peter Moore and Robbie Bach are sorely missed at the moment, people who I feel would of done a much better job of balancing the line ups and maybe cooling down the frustration many traditional controller players are feeling at the moment.
Will their answer to the balancing act next year be a new console? We shall see...