Friday Five: The Five Things That Microsoft HAS To Do at E3
Posted by Ken Barnes
Do or die.
The Xbox One Reveal event has been and gone, and a lot of people weren’t happy with it, if you’re to believe what you see on the internet. For the majority, the company didn’t show enough games, and in the aftermath of the event, have sent a billion and one mixed messages about some of the company’s policies for the Xbox One.
A lot of people were evidently pretty well satisfied by what they saw. Blockbuster US claims that the machine is the fastest preordered product that they’ve sold in the 24 years that they’ve been in business. In the UK, early business has been similarly brisk, albeit maybe not as brisk as across the pond. But unless preorders convert into sales, they mean nothing. In the majority of places, preorders are free and can be cancelled at any time. Microsoft needs to address some key points during their E3 conference on June 10th, and in this week’s Friday Five, we’ve lined up the five things that we think that they absolutely, positively HAVE to do.
At the Xbox One Reveal, we saw Quantum Break, Forza Motorsport 5, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and the EA Sports range. In total, that’s seven titles, which isn’t enough in this day and age. For starters, we didn’t see anything of the new Kinect (barring using it to change channels) and how its higher fidelity can be used in a positive way in games. We didn’t see any of the other 14 games that are supposedly due to be published by Microsoft Studios. We didn’t see anything of Rare. No Halo. No Gears. No digital titles.
Microsoft promised to bring the hardware during their reveal event, and the games at E3. Most of us knew that going in. They’ll need to go big to convert some of the folks who weren’t aware of that situation, and we’re hoping that’s what they do.
We know that Microsoft wants to stop unlicensed use of games. We know that there’s some sort of initiative in place that allows game licences to be tied to your Xbox One account. Pretty much everything else we’ve heard, is nothing but rumour and conjecture. Even Microsoft’s almost-main-man Phil Harrison has come out with a few hum-dingers on the subject since the hardware was revealed, a few of which are highly unlikely to be true. Does the retailer pay the fee to transfer the licence on a preowned game? Does the publisher get a cut of that fee? How much will that add to the cost of a second-hand title? Can Johnny’s little brother Jimmy play an Xbox One game that’s registered to Johnny’s account? We don’t know. We’re hearing through the grapevine that Microsoft is looking to clear up this mess BEFORE E3, but if they don’t, they have to get it done on June 10th, one way or another.
Most sensible UK retailers have pegged the console price at being around the £399 mark. The country’s (and the world’s) biggest online retailer Amazon, however, has decided to open with a bid of £599.99 for all preorders. Obviously, Amazon won’t be charging that much if the console launches at £399, but the fact that the price is there is driving negative sentiment right now. People see that price, ignore the caveat about prices being subject to change, and assume that the box will cost £599.
We’re as sure as we can be that £599 is far too high a price, but Microsoft needs to drop some knowledge on us. Price is a big factor when it comes to selling out on day one and driving Christmas demand so if they can pitch it correctly, they can get some serious momentum going.
We know that the new Kinect features an infra-red lens for playing in pitch black darkness. We know that the camera has a higher resolution than before, and can track more body points and players. We know that it absolutely has to be connected to the console in order for the console to boot. We also know that when the console is off (or in standby mode), we can turn it on by shouting “Xbox On!” at the device.
What we don’t know – and what the tin-foil hat brigade seems to be most concerned about – is whether or not we can actually turn it off. A lot of people are up in arms about privacy. They think that because they have a Kinect device in the room that can listen for specific phrases, they also think that Microsoft is going to be able to use it a surveillance device and catch them having a bit of hanky-panky (with themselves or with another party) on the sofa, or record them talking about their plans to rise up and overthrow the US Government. Whether Microsoft would be interested in the actual facts – which we imagine would be hundreds of thousands of hours of recordings of folks watching Breaking Bad with one hand holding a beer and the other hand casually resting in their pants – we’re not sure.
If Microsoft can confirm this little piece of information, we reckon a fair few thousand people would be happier about getting a preorder in.
We know that the console is coming out before Christmas around the world. That’s fantastic. What isn’t fantastic is knowing that a lot of franchise titles will be coming to both the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One, and not knowing which one to order. Do we get FIFA 14 on the 360 in September, or do we get our orders in for the Xbox One edition, which could reasonably launch with the console just two weeks later? Aside from that, a lot of people will be planning their Christmas spending if a new console (or two) is on the cards – we’re saving up already! – so it would be nice to know exactly which paycheck the new machine is going to come out of.
The Microsoft E3 Press Conference kicks off at 10am Pacific, on June 10th. We'll be liveblogging the scene, of course.