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  • Microsoft�s E3 2017 Presentation Shows Don Mattrick�s Influence is Nothing but a Bad Memory

    June 12th, 2017GamespotUncategorized

    Having just finished watching Microsoft’s E3 2017 showcase, it feels as though this could be a turning point for a company that looked to be stagnating in the video game industry. It was a consistent piece of on-point marketing aimed squarely at the gaming crowd, and it was pulled off superbly.

    Cast your mind back to four years ago, when the Xbox One was first revealed to the world. It left many fans disappointed, dumb-founded, even angry; it was, it's fair to say, a controversial reveal. The messaging was all over the place, and there was an unpalatable strain of anti-consumer practices running through it, from always-online to the inability to trade games. Many media pundits quite reasonably asked the question of who exactly this console was designed for given the heavy emphasis the platform's announcement made on entertainment at the expense of gaming.

    Interviews with Microsoft staff following the reveal only further compounded the problem. Don Mattrick's now infamous interview with Geoff Keighley in which he basically told Xbox fans who were unhappy with the reveal to just suck it up or stick with the Xbox 360 was a low point for the firm and a PR disaster, driving many away from the Xbox brand.

    And then there was the system's extortionate entry price, the lack of graphical parity with Sony's rival PlayStation 4, and of course the familiar criticism with Microsoft that exclusive titles, outside of a handful of mega-franchises, were an afterthought for the company. That's not to say there weren't good games available for the Xbox One early in its life span - far from it - but it did feel as though the gaming element of the video gaming console market had become a second tier concern for the division's executives.

    Don Mattrick became the sacrificial lamb and left the company just under two months after unveiling the Xbox One, and a matter of days after he was forced to U-turn on the online-only and trade-in restrictions ('features' which had initially been publicised as integral to the new system). By that point, however, the damage had been done. Thus Phil Spencer, despite generally being well-regarded by gamers, had a lot of work cut out for him when he took over as Head of Xbox following Mattrick's departure.

    Spencer brought with him a renewed emphasis on gaming. E3 showcases under his tenure have focussed almost entirely on showcasing new title announcements and footage for upcoming games. But still the PlayStation 4 has led to way in terms of mindshare and sales, and there have been more than a couple of instances of exclusive titles either failing to deliver, being delayed repeatedly, or being outright cancelled.

    But the years spent hammering the same point home haven't gone entirely unrewarded and Spencer's efforts to right the wrongs of the past are certainly leaps and bounds ahead of the arrogant aloofness that came before him. 

    This year's press conference was yet another showcase of games, games, games, but it was slightly different. There were more exclusives on display than there have been for many a year on an Xbox stage, and most of them were from fledgling franchises and developers.

    It certainly helps that Microsoft has put its money where its mouth is and has developed a console wholly dedicated to delivering bleeding edge games. The Xbox One X is an impressively specced console with horsepower to spare; one that I look forward to getting my hands on later this year. It may have a very steep price tag, but that's the downside to producing a console with enough power to sate the appetite of core gamers that have been critical of the Xbox One's limitations.

    The platform's backwards compatibility feature also represents a more consumer friendly approach than that adopted in early 2013 and the announcement at this year's E3 that original Xbox titles will be added to the list is yet another step in the right direction. Microsoft's efforts to allow Xbox One owners to play an increasing number of older games has already paid off, at least from a PR perspective, but probably a financial one too given the sales boost that popular Xbox 360 titles receive after being made available to play on Xbox One.

    'Only' about 50 percent of Xbox One owners have made use of the platform's backwards compatibility functionality, but it's reassuring to know that you'll have access to a plethora of games, both new and old, when you decide to upgrade to a new console, even if you ultimately don't make use of the feature.

    Phil Spencer and his team at Xbox have managed to turn the Xbox brand's image around. By the middle of 2013 it was almost reviled - an easy butt of jokes and source of derision - but it finally feels as though the ship has been righted and things are back on track, with Microsoft taking the initiative rather than constantly trying to put out fires of its own making. One thing's for certain from this E3: Xbox is back.

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