Xbox at Eurogamer Expo 2013
Posted by Ken Barnes
Hit and miss.
The 2013 Eurogamer Expo is in full swing, and we've been taking in the atmosphere over the first two days in order to see what Microsoft has brought to a packed Earls Court in London. With Nintendo bringing the likes of Mario Kart 8, and Sony showing off the PS4 and a slew of great-looking PS3 titles, there was a lot for the Redmond giant to try to overcome.
If we're honest, Microsoft's approach has only been half successful from a critical standpoint. Their stage show is annoying, overbearing, immature, and offputting to most of the attendees, it seems. But they're getting it right with the games. One portion of the Xbox-branded area of the show floor is great, with chances to get hands-on with Ryse, Dead Rising 3, Forza 5, Kinect Sports Rivals, and more. Queues in this area are understandably constantly long, and even with half an hour to go before closing on day two, there was a forty-five minute wait to even think about getting your foot on the accelerator with Forza.
Oh, but that stage show. At different times throughout the day, an MC turns up to absolutely bellow about game demonstrations that are taking place on stage. You can hear the guy on the other side of the exhibition centre, over the top of hundreds of TVs and thousands of people. Invariably, he kicks things off with a short demonstration of a game. Zoo Tycoon, Forza, and Kinect Sports Rivals are being pushed heavily. That's all well and good, but these demos take a back seat to giveaways and incredibly immature contests. At one point on Friday, the MC had people up on stage in order to find the best twerker, followed by a competition to see who could pretend to be roadkill the best. Everyone takes away an Xbox One t-shirt, with the crowd-judged winner of each "event" being given an Xbox One hoodie instead. At random intervals, batches of t-shirts and Zoo Tycoon-branded furry hats are lobbed into the crowd, which is the queue for people from all over the hall to come running like beggars to the stage.
These things might work with a drink-fuelled crowd at an Ibiza club event, but they're doing little to help the Xbox One's reputation. Pretty much everyone that we've spoken to in the hall is annoyed at the fact that the Xbox One stage is the only thing that they can hear, especially when the presenter is getting two hundred people to chant "Xbox, Xbox, Xbox" at the top of their lungs in order to maybe win a cheaply-made t-shirt. Heck, if you want to be an advertising board for a brand, there's no easier way of doing it. Sony's area of the room on the other hand, seems to be all class. Decked out in the Sony blue, and with screens demonstrating features of the PS4 while people queue to get in to try out the new console, it just seems to be a cut above Microsoft's brash, ham-fisted, and somewhat insulting effort, as much as it pains us to say it. It all comes down to whether you want people to be fighting over a free t-shirt, or whether you want them to be stroking their chins and saying "Hmm, you know what? I may just go and preorder an Xbox One, now." Which they'll have to do, as even if they win one of the big daily contests on the Xbox stand, they only go home with an Xbox 360 250GB, which is just poor fare. Give away an Xbox One, maybe? Just a thought.
But if you get past all of this and find your way to the game stands, there's no doubt that the hands-on demos are impressing a lot of people. Forza is generating some real hype and looks absolutely gorgeous, and the good people at the GAME stand are reporting that they're bagging a lot of Xbox One preorders at the show. Zoo Tycoon - as much as we feel like we've been brainwashed into saying it - is also looking pretty nice. It isn't a game that we expected to look and feel as polished as it is, but it really does seem to go the whole nine yards. From adopting animals (of which there are tons) to feature in your zoo, to keeping your zoo's guests happy - much as you would in Theme Park, for example - there's a lot to do. It could be a real sleeper hit.
We'll be heading back in tomorrow for another go-round, where we'll be taking on some of the titles heading to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One from the third-party publishers, with a view to putting together some previews in the coming week or two.