Microsoft’s annual E3 Media Briefing has come and gone. So, what stuck out in resident niche gamer Benny’s mind? You know, besides all the trailers.
The annual media briefings that kick off E3 are something I look forward to each year. Watching them is a great way to get a feel for the state of each platform. Sometimes epic announcements are made, and surprises unveiled. Other times, we get a bunch of trailers that tell me about a game as much as a press release would. This is especially disappointing since with PlayStation being absent, the ball was in Microsoft’s court to do something amazing. Still, there were some notable announcements and that’s why we’re here.
Let me preface this by saying this isn’t a “Top 5” list. This is just five things I took away from the media briefing. In addition, I’m very much a niche gamer. As such, my choices are based on things I found interesting. Showing me a trailer for Gears 5 is not going to get me excited when A) I haven’t played the Gears games and B) your trailer doesn’t showcase any actual gameplay. With that preamble out of the way, let’s start with what should have been the big announcement: Microsoft’s next console.
1. Scarlett is Coming
Yes, Scarlett. Microsoft’s codename for their next generation of console. You might be wondering why I’m leading off with this and the reason is simple. While Scarlett is massively important, we only learned the release window for it and little else.
I’m sure the more technically inclined among you are happy that we got some technical specifications. However, for a general audience, this was lackluster. While I wasn’t expecting a price or concrete release date, I was expecting something more than talk about abstract concepts and theoreticals. We need examples of what Scarlett can do. A sneak peek at a game being worked on would have been nice. Or, heck, an inside look into how the team is expecting devs to take advantage of Scarlett. Instead, what should have been the crown jewel of this briefing was yet another trailer. And after over an hour of those, I was bored by this point. Are there positives though?
Well, we know Holiday 2020 is going to be the start of a new console generation. And we also know that Microsoft believes consoles are an important part of this increasingly mobile and PC world when it comes to gaming. Whether I grab Scarlett on release day is going to depend a lot on avoiding the same mistakes that the Xbox One had during its official unveiling. But, at least I know I need to start saving money now in case I decide to take that leap. The wait is long, but thankfully, I’ll have a very welcome remake to keep me busy until then.
2. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition on Game Pass? Yes, Please!
Age of Empires II was part of a holy trinity of RTS gaming for me when I was growing up. The other two games being Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 and StarCraft. I can remember spending hours playing against the computer and trying to micromanage my troops to either overwhelming crush the enemy or see what crazy strategy may work. While I was never any good, this was one of the games that got me into the strategy genre. So, imagine my glee when I saw it was getting a remastered edition. However, that’s not the only reason this release is important. The fact it’s being offered on Game Pass is.
Microsoft announced before E3 that they were working on a version of Game Pass for Windows 10. During the briefing details of the pricing plan were announced as well as Game Pass Ultimate. Which would give you Game Pass for both platforms and Xbox Live Gold for $15 a month. While I don’t play many PC games, the lure of Age of Empires II is enough to make take the plunge to convert my annual membership to an Ultimate one. And I wasn’t alone since the Microsoft Store app on both the Xbox and Windows 10 had trouble handling the traffic during and after the briefing. Then again, when you offer the first month for $1, what do you expect? So, could anything be better than this? Well, I think fans of aeronautic simulators might think so.
3. Microsoft Flight Simulator is Clear for Take Off Once Again
I have never played Microsoft Flight Simulator, nor am I a fan of games like Ace Combat (not because I dislike them, mind you. Just haven’t tried them) but even I can understand the cultural significance and the rejoicing that was going on when this announcement was made.
For those of you who have no idea why a flight simulator is a big deal, let me put it to you this way. This is the Densha de Go of flight simulators. It was the flight simulator. In fact, some organizations apparently used it for actual training back in the day. A big reason for that is the amount of love and detail the developers poured into the game. And if the trailer is any indication, that same level detail is back because this game looks gorgeous! But, what makes it immersive you may ask?
In short, your sandbox is the entire Earth itself. If this release is anything like the previous ones expect a lot of different planes and the ability to go anywhere you want if you have the fuel. Will, this be a game I’ll end up playing? Probably not, but I know there’s many a gamer out there who are rejoicing that Microsoft Flight Simulator is once again spreading its wings and taking to the sky. In fact, I think there were pigs flying alongside those planes in the trailer because SEGA has quite decided to shock the world.
4. Phantasy Star Online 2 FINALLY Comes to the West.
Well, it only took seven years, but SEGA has finally relented and will bring Phantasy Star Online 2 to the West. Consider me floored on this about-face since SEGA hasn’t said much since missing the game’s original 2013 international release. Just constantly saying it was “delayed”. Then again, we are getting Shin Sakura Wars next year internationally, so maybe SEGA is becoming more open to the idea of sharing its Japanese titles with the rest of the world. Still, you must imagine Microsoft had a strong hand in this as well. And for that, I think we owe them some thanks. But, not only them. The fans deserve credit as well.
The saga of PSO2 is something I don’t have time to research or get into here. But even while doing some cursory reading for this article it was easy to see that PSO2 has a very dedicated international fanbase. In fact, there’s a fan translation group who created an English patch and launcher so that people outside of Japan could play the game. Its efforts like this that keep fanbases alive when titles like PSO2 are denied a localization. So, pat yourself on the back guys. This victory is as much yours as anyone else’s in my book. Finally, let’s a look at another surprising acquirement and announcement that I’m sure has many of you seeing double.
5. Double Fine Productions ✕ Xbox Game Studios
I don’t think anyone quite called this. Double Fine Productions has joined Xbox Game Studios. I know at least I definitely didn’t see this coming. Still, it’s just one company acquiring another. Happens all the time, right? The answer is not quite that simple.
This is a bigger deal than many of us realize, I think. Even having never played many of their games (like many others I’ve learned about them through Let’s Players and Streamers), I can tell that Double Fine is a studio that prides itself on creativity and quality. These guys don’t make decisions lightly. Thus, joining Microsoft Game Studios is definitely a huge assurance for other developers who may be on the fence about developing for the Xbox. With platform holders becoming more conservative about their content, creative freedom is becoming more and more important. Perhaps Microsoft can soothe some fears with an acquisition like this. Showing that they’re willing to take a chance on new ideas and are open to trying different things. But, we’ve gone on long enough.
That my friends are five things I took away from Microsoft’s Media Briefing. Are you surprised at my choices? Disappointed? Perhaps you found the Gears 5 trailer to be a work of art. Well, let us know in the comments below. Be sure to also keep checking back into Hey Poor Player as we continue to cover the rest of this E3.