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E3 2007
What Was Microsoft Thinking?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on July 13, 2007   |   Episode 2 (Show Archive)  

   
devil may cry 4 art
E3 may be different this year, but there's one thing that never seems to change - the Pre-E3 press conferences. In past years Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft have taken up the two non-event days telling the press about their upcoming games. This was cool because people that got down to L.A. early (on Monday or Tuesday) were treated to press conferences from the major players. This year all that changed, because Microsoft was the only company to offer their conference on a non-E3 day (Tuesday).

To be fair, both Nintendo and Sony had their press conferences before E3 ... but only a couple hours before the E3 event actually opened. But Microsoft was the company that made everybody come a day early; it was Microsoft that kicked off the event.

The Microsoft press conference was held at 8:30 pm at the Santa Monica high school. That's right, it was held at a high school. Because nothing says "video games" more than a high school! Way to grow the industry guys. Can you image the Sundance Film Festival being held at a high school? Why not just hold the Canne Film Festival at an elementary school?

But I digress; despite the fact that Microsoft's event was held at a high school, I have to admit that the surroundings were actually quite nice. I don't know about you, but my high school was a dump. I mean that in the nicest possible way; I mean, it was a good dump. It got the job done, there was certainly a lot of educating going on and a school full of people who didn't want to be there (which is pretty much every school as far as I can tell). But my school was nowhere near as nice as what I witnessed, which actually pisses me off. Where was my beautiful amphitheater? Why couldn't I go to school three blocks away from the beach?

Before I get into the look and feel of the amphitheater perhaps I should set the scene. The Defunct Games staff (made up of Patrick and myself) showed up to the press conference about 90 minutes early. We hadn't slept, we hadn't eaten, and we had just gotten done laughing our butts off at Knocked Up (which, for what it's worth, was about Santa Monica and featured a shot at the end of the movie that was literally 50 feet away from where our car was parked). I won't say we were in a bad mood, but our fuses were pretty short and we wanted to be impressed.

After parking and being promised that those going to the Microsoft Press Conference would not have to pay the $8 charge, we decided to go check in and see what this event was all about. For a good hour we sat outside the venue waiting for something (anything) to happen. Finally they let us in and we witnessed the grandeur that was the Santa Monica high school amphitheater. All along the seating was soft foam butt pads and bottled water from Iceland. Of course, the bottled water wasn't cold and the foam pads, while nice, didn't exactly make our butts feel any better after spending two hours listening to Microsoft pat themselves on the back.

The Defunct Games crew was about three rows up, right smack dab in the middle. Apparently Microsoft took pictures of the event and put them on their site, so at least there's proof that we got one of the best seats in the house (see below). For thirty minutes we sat there watching people file in and wait. If you want to know exactly how I felt while this was going on I suggest you stay up for about 35 hours straight, not eat, and sit for a half hour on concrete. Do that and you'll know exactly how we felt.

protesters

Before the event even started I told Pat that three things were going to happen. First we would hear about Gears of War for the PC. Then we would hear about an Xbox 360 price cut. And finally we would be introduced to a Halo 3 trailer that showed us what the single-player game looked like. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

I won't bore you with the minute by minute details, if you want to know exactly what happened then you can go ahead and read Joystiq or watch the videos of the event on any one of dozens of game websites out there. Instead I'm going to focus on exactly what I thought about what was announced.

After a "rousing" rendition of the Halo theme song performed by a bunch of kids from the Midwest Peter Moore decided to jump on stage and get the party started. Of course, this meant that he was going to have to talk about his newest tattoos and tell us why the Xbox 360 was the system to own. But before he even got to those two important points Peter announced something that almost made me want to walk out. He said, "Tonight we're only going to show you games that will come out this year."

Wait ... WHAT??? Are you fucking kidding me? I stayed up all this time and came a day early to hear you talk about games I already knew about? If all you are going to do is tell us about what we already know then why not buy another spot on MTV and show us these known quantities there? I don't want to see the stuff I already know about, I want to see new games I've never heard of and projects you've been hinting at for years. I want Halo Wars, I want Alan Wake, I want Fable 2! I nearly walked out when I heard that everything he was talking about was going to be released in 2007. What a way to start E3, guys!

Even though I wanted to walk out I decided to stick around. We had already seen a stirring demonstration of Rock Band and hoped to see some Halo 3. I also held out hope that maybe, just maybe, Microsoft would introduce some holiday game we hadn't heard about.

Lo and behold Microsoft DID announce a game we hadn't heard about. Unfortunately that game was, and I'm not kidding, Viva Pinata: Party Animals. Look, I love Viva Pinata, but this non-Rare Mario Party rip-off is the very definition of the word "lame." I suppose some of the mini-games looked okay, but how many Mario Party rip-offs do you remember being impressed with? Heck, even Mario Party isn't fun anymore. So you can only guess how excited I was to know that this was the game Microsoft was going to use to beat Mario Galaxy.

From there on the Microsoft event went pretty much as expected. They talked about most of the big Xbox 360 games, including Bio Shock, Assassin's Creed, Project Gotham Racing 4 and Call of Duty 4. Oh, but that's not all, they also spent a good five minutes talk about the new Naruto game. So let me get this right, the two unannounced Xbox 360 games are Viva Pinata: Party Animals and Naruto? Microsoft, you really need to do something to turn this sinking ship around!

Much of the show is kind of a blur for me; they had a lot of clips of upcoming games, some trailers for sports games and RPGs, and a few brief announcements about Xbox Live Arcade. While they did show off Puzzle Quest, there was no news about Ikaruga, Streets of Rage 2, and a possible Geometry Wars sequel. At least we get Marathon ... it's about time!

At one point Cliffy B comes out to tell us all about Gears of War for Vista. Oh joy, looks like I was right. There's no denying that the game looks great, but here we are again with the PC lagging a year behind the console when it comes to Microsoft games. I may not be a PC gamer, but I can certainly understand why some computer lovers are feeling left out by Microsoft.

Cliffy announces that Gears of War will be available for Vista and XP. So wait, you need Vista for Halo 2 but you can run Gears of War in XP? Can somebody explain this to me? Also, apparently Cliff let it slip that Windows XP will be getting the Games for Windows Live accounts.

At one point Peter Moore announces that he has Grand Theft Auto IV and Halo 3 tattooed on his arms, which the audience apparently ate up. After the event I was told by several people that they were going to focus on that in the interview. Really? You're actually going to waste your time talking about his tattoos instead of important matters? Isn't that like covering Paris Hilton instead of an on-going war? If you're one of those people who actually cares what kind of tattoos Peter Moore has then what the hell is wrong with you?

Eventually Peter Moore gets to Halo 3. He shows a new trailer (which shows absolutely nothing) and talks about how it's going to be the best thing ever. He announces that there will be a new Xbox 360 SKU that has a bunch of Halo 3 stuff in it. I can only hope that it costs a completely different price, maybe $450 or something. Because as we all know, Microsoft desperately needs another SKU. The Halo 3 gameplay trailer does look good, it fills in some of what we should expect from the story, and it makes us all excited about the future. But it doesn't help me forget that we didn't see the games I'm most excited about, like Fable 2 and Alan Wake.

But don't worry; the conference wasn't a complete loss. There was the extremely cool Resident Evil 5 trailer (which was also shown at the Sony conference). I won't kid you, this game looks stunning and it's easily one of my most anticipated games. I love the new location, I love the new look, and I love the new zombies. But I really don't love that the game isn't even close to coming out.

While this was far from the worst press conference I have ever seen, Microsoft dropped the ball by not outlining their long-term plan. Despite having problems convincing people of it, Sony has always talked about a long-term plan. Microsoft's approach seems to be entirely different, only talking about what's happening immediately. It's disappointing to say the least and I think that it's dangerous, especially given Sony's impressive conference. The games look good, but part of me can't help but be a little pissed that I hurt my butt sitting on concrete for this batch of known games. Better luck next time Microsoft.

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