Microsoft’s E3 Slagfest

July 16th, 2008

xbox 360 avatar based interface

These comments are related to Microsoft’s E3 conference and showing. You can read an account here.

Considering that Microsoft has started loosing its grip on exclusive 3rd party properties to multiplatform-ism, unaided by weak first party support, they have done a fantastic job this E3 with the limited resources available. Much like my predictions, they flaunted their exclusives while added value to their already existing services.

As for their showing of casual games, I’m also quite pleased with how they avoided copying motion control and instead focused on key software to appeal to the casual audience (even though they still don’t understand them and everything except for Lips is destined for complete failure). The new front end and Mii styled rip offs are neat as well. What frustrates me though is how they have tarnished a more than solid showing with rude and outlandish comments regarding the “console war” and how the Xbox 360 is trampling all over it, casual gaming and the Playstation 3.

While Microsoft ought to be pleased about Final Fantasy XIII making the leap to their console, such a move doesn’t represent the pulling power of the Xbox brand at all, it represents a struggle to break even in a consolidating industry. This didn’t stop Microsoft’s cock headed gloating by Don Mattrick; “Final Fantasy joins a long list of former PlayStation franchises finding a new home on Xbox 360,”. He later raves of how Microsoft have been tallying the number of previous “Playstation exclusive” games making the switch to Microsoft’s console.

Of course, this is PR nonsense designed to feed the fanbase and as such his logic is weak as many of the PSone’s big brands (Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill etc.) all went multiplatform long before Microsoft appeared on the scene. Is this really necessary though? It gets worse, of course.

final fantasy xiii xbox 360 screenshot

The same guy (he is the Xbox 360 boss BTW) later proclaims “I’m willing to declare here today that Xbox 360 will sell more consoles worldwide this generation than PS3,”. Sony are rigging for the long haul on this one and the early entrant is already dancing a victory tune, I don’t think so. Once again though why does he need to make these sorts of remarks? Keep reading though:

“Our games are everywhere. The hardcore are devouring our biggest blockbusters. Fathers and sons are playing their favorite sports games. Rock-star grandmas are taking over our living rooms…and fun-to-play games are inspiring the new family game night. Today, our industry belongs to everyone.”

Obviously some pretty fraudulent stuff here, this is a segue into their casual showing BTW. Common sense among the industry paints a different picture of adolescent kids, harkening for digital blood and fowl mouthed abuse, contradicting this PR nonsense. Getting over the natural PR spin though, why are Microsoft doing this? It is common knowledge that they struggle with an expanded audience so why is he pretending as though the console is doing some form of public service? They haven’t got there yet! This is worsened by other comments stating that the Xbox 360 is “fuelling growth” within the industry. If this quote is indeed true and the 360 is already capturing a wide audience (and fueling growth) then why does Micrsoft need to introduce a series of games marketed towards the casual audience, especially when they have never properly done this before? It’s just poorly implemented positioning designed to align them with the affluent success of the Wii and away from the Playstation 3. Unfortunately for them Sony has always been a better innovator (even plugging into the casual audience before Nintendo, you’ll have to be European or Australian to fully appreciate that one though).

There were also derogatory comments, carefully put, regarding the new Avatar people (ala Miis) which will feature in several upcoming games. Even though the Avatars do appear a little child like in nature Microsoft were clear to point out that they wanted them to “not to look like a toy,” but instead be “stylized”. The use of the word ‘toy’ in this case, I think is a light stab at the Mii characters on the Wii, you can tell as Microsoft has used the word ‘toy’ before to dismiss Nintendo products before. Is this not further proof that they are too arrogant to ever understand this “casual” audience?

One last piece of banter was a comment made by Shane Kim who stated that the “Xbox 360 is the clear leader” when it comes to music based games. I guess this is why Xbox Music Mixer was such a success, right? Depending on your tastes, this might be true and the backing (sales figures) this time are not ridiculous. I guess this was said unaware that Nintendo would later drop a bombshell announcing the Cow Bell as being an instrument in Wii Music. ^_^

What frustrates more than these blatantly silly quotes is how they are a slap in the face towards Nintendo and Sony yet all of Microsoft’s innovation is completely derivative of the work of these two companies. If Nintendo didn’t make casual gaming relevant than Microsoft wouldn’t care (ie. casual games = money = me too!), and hence no Xbox 360 “casual” line up. The Avatars are rips on Miis, the new interface is a blend of iTunes and the Cross Media Bar, Lips is basically Singstar rebranded and so on. It’s one thing to respectfully use others ideas, it’s another to use them and then show great disrespect, makes you look utterly transparent.

  • Ptolemy

    Yeah, my gut reaction about the new interface…
    This smacks of front row, the whole entire apple TV interface.

  • This is Microsoft though – they have always ripped ideas from everyone else, and then dominated the market with them. It’s stood them in good stead ever since they began!

    Hopefully, Sony, who have always seemed to focus on quality games, will indeed pull ahead. I just bought a PS3 myself, and have been quite ridiculously impressed with it, so my vote is quite firmly with them now.

  • Microsoft really did come off a bit to strong on bashing of Sony. There were some punches been thrown back by Sony at thier confrence but they were much more subtle about it.

    The avatar system doesn’t really bothered me. I never really understood the appeal of Mii’s. I wonder how Mii haters will respond to avatars being so strongly tied to the 360 dashboard. Thier casual game line up actually got me a bit interested. They seem to have taken on a sort of niche with movie based casual games but I don’t know if that’s neccessarily the group to target considering that the Xbox 360 doesn’t play BD’s. I really liked the concept of In the Movies, it looked great but I’m just not sure if people will be willinging to put in the time commitment to make these movies. Youtube integration for this game is a must.

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