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E3 2011: Microsoft Press Conference – or – How To Paint By Numbers

Posted by on June 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm

A Call of Duty demonstration. A brand new dash optimized for Kinect, Kinect Sports, Dance Central. Cliff Bleszinski on stage for a Gears of War 3 demonstration. Forza Motorsport with Kinect functionality. I’ve just described the bulk of Microsoft’s E3 2010 press conference. …and their 2011 show as well.

I can’t be too harsh on Mattrick and Co., I am a Microsoft fanboy after all. Unfortunately, it seems that a year on top of the console race has made the software giant a little softer. Sure they’re gonna show off the new Call of Duty game on stage exclusively: it’s the biggest game of the year on the biggest platform. But there’s only so far their self-mimicry can carry them. Some highlights:

– It was odd seeing Microsoft’s old sons on stage. Peter Moore used to be head of the Xbox division, a role now owned by Don Mattrick (although Peter Moore did it with a lot more spirit) and came back on stage to show off EA’s new sports games, with Kinect support, of course. Tim Schafer was on-stage for Double Fine’s new Sesame Street game, which is exclusively on Xbox 360 with Kinect support, of course. His Double Fine studio was on Microsoft’s slate a decade ago when they were still slated to publish Psychonauts. Microsoft couldn’t figure that game out and dropped it. Consumers couldn’t figure it out and didn’t buy it.

– New Kinect flagship titles for holiday included sequels for Dance Central and Kinect Sports, games that debuted a year ago exactly. While the former was a darling, the latter was a Wii Sports-ish obligation. With Kinect support, of course.

– Hardcore titles like Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Mass Effect 3 are ‘enhanced with Kinect support’, of course, but there’ll be no flinging of grenades, but plenty of voice commands. Anyone remember how interesting that was when Ubisoft included that in Rainbow Six 3 for the original Xbox. No?

– A gorgeous, new Metro UI interface for Xbox 360 to match its counterparts in Windows Phone and Windows 8.

– HALO HALO HALO HALO HALO.

– HALO HALO HALO HALO HALO HALO.

– HALO.

– At least they didn’t show off ESPN3 again. That was bor-ing.

– MediaRoom/DVR functionality finally popping up on Xbox 360, only about a billion years after Bill Gates showed off IPTV running on the hardware at one of his last CES keynotes.

Forza Motorsport 4. That’s a thing.

Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that I’m not really interested in seeing the Xbox stagnating, like what happened to Nintendo with the Wii or Sony with the PS2. Stay tuned for more editorials on today’s revelations!

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