‘Our journey together has just begun.. As the green-tinted lights dimmed at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, that was perhaps one of the main messages to take away from the reveal of the Xbox One. The industry giant showcased the sleek, chrome black console today and re-iterated their desire to provide consumers with an all-in-one system that will harmonise the traditional gaming experience with interactive entertainment. With the E3 press conference casting a long shadow over the video game industry – in fact, the Expo is less than three weeks away – Microsoft’s revealing of the Xbox One was a preliminary, yet essential keynote.
In truth, we didn’t see a lot of games – crucially, we saw even less gameplay. But Microsoft was quick to showcase their new console before meandering into their ambition to takeover our living room. This will not only result in switching between applications instantaneously, it will mark the company’s venture into live action television in the form of a Halo TV series – produced by none other than Steven Spielberg. However, with Microsoft trailblazing a wholly new path into the next generation with their Xbox One, when you consider Sony’s Playstation 4 conference back in February, the respective driving force set out by each company couldn’t be more different. For every multimedia function that Microsoft presented, Sony flexed their first party support. The two industry titans are careering along opposite trajectories and it presents a fascinating dichotomy on the brink of E3 2013.
Undoubtedly, the Xbox One is Microsoft’s ambitious attempt to reach the broadest audience possible. The company’s third home console represents the most multi-purpose machine yet – a technological Swiss army knife, if you will – and when it launches this holiday season, it won’t just be orientated to the average gamer. Significantly, it will be built with a mainstream appeal in mind, which is a type of architecture that comes with consequences. As a global business, Microsoft is experiencing trouble with the PC market and the Windows Phone clutches to a meagre portion of the market share in comparison to its competitors, hence; the Xbox One is poised to become the company’s flag bearer in not just the gaming sector, but also the entertainment market as whole. Added features including the picture-in-picture attribute a la Microsoft’s Surface tablet and Skype functionality are ultimately bells and whistles with the goal of extending the audience threshold.
To put things into perspective, barring a brief mention about a next-gen Forza – which later turned out to be Forza 5 – it was a full thirty minutes before Andrew Wilson of EA stepped onto the stage to talk about actual games. Up to that point, the primary focus of the Xbox One was entertainment. In comparison, Sony opened their Playstation 4 conference with a visceral sizzle reel teasing future games. The disparity between the two gaming companies is almost palpable. And, from Sony’s perspective, that isn’t a bad thing.
My initial reaction to today’s event has been disappointment. As a press conference, the constant shift in focus from entertainment content and Kinect functionality with rare sprinkling of games for good measure made the entire event feel rather uneven. As though Microsoft extended their reach so far they forgot who queues up for their new consoles on the day of release: the core gamer. Of course, the Xbox One has been unveiled on the company’s self-constructed platform in Redmond allowing them to dictate exactly what to unveil, but for E3, it’s an entirely different story.
With Microsoft and Sony both holding their conferences on June 10th – though the former will take the stage first – the industry titans will go toe-to-toe for the lion’s share of the next-gen audience. This is unquestionably the most important E3 for both Sony and Microsoft in quite some time, and with the latter controversially adjusting today’s conference for the mainstream American market, Sony is in a prime position to steal back the next generational thunder.
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