Thoughts on the Xbox 360 presentation

Just a few random observations:

  • I don’t think anyone was impressed, or fooled, by the “rent-a-demographic” of beautiful, hip young 18-34s that Microsoft paid to sit at the back of the stage and cheer and whoop whenever anything was announced/shown. I’ve spent a lot of time at EBs over the years and I’ve never seen any chicks that hot or dudes that cool, unless they’re walking past on their way to the Abercrombie & Fitch next door. Sorry, this was a lame stunt.

  • Too much “yeah, right” blue-sky visionary bullshit. Peter Moore’s speech about how the controller will become an extension of your body and gamers will enter a state of perfect, zen-like mind-body equilibrium elicited a few unwanted giggles.

  • Microsoft is going to reach ONE BILLION GAMERS with Xbox 360. How? By, um, providing games like Solitaire and Blackjack on Xbox Live. They obviously knew this number was ridiculous because they kept saying things like “now, we know this number sounds ridiculous…”

How do they ever plan to quantify this many gamers? They clearly don’t expect to sell that many units, and I doubt they even expect to register that many Xbox Live players. Since they were talking a lot about how they’re going to get people back in the living-room, crowded around the console jostling for the controller like some 80s Intellivision ad, I think they’re going to end up relying on that most specious of statistics - what’s known in the magazine business as “pass-on readership” (the number of people who read your copy of the magazine but don’t buy their own.) A few carefully-worded surveys about how many other people play (or even watch) your Xbox360, and they’ll easily be able to massage some totally bullshit number about how many gamers they are “reaching.”

  • I sat through the whole thing waiting for something, SOMETHING Halo-related. Through either luck or design, Microsoft has achieved what Sony still has not - a gold-standard killer app that they own and control. Sony tried to create their own Mario/Sonic with Crash and failed, now their #1 app is Grand Theft Auto, and they don’t control it. HALO is Microsoft’s Mario, and to launch a new system without some kind of HALO product, even if it’s just some kinda “SE” port, is folly.

What do they expect to be the killer app at launch in its stead? No clear contender emerged, but it’s probably going to have to be PGR3 or DOA4. It’s not going to be Perfect Dark Zero, which Microsoft seemed to gloss quickly over, perhaps in reaction to the piss-poor response it’s received since the MTV thing. But Xbox 1 launched with a PGR and a DOA and Halo. By that factor alone, this is a weaker launch.

  • Disappointed that 90% of what they showed was clearly just cinematic and pre-rendered stuff. They actually showed most of the gameplay footage at the end when people were headed to the bar. What gameplay they did show - particularly on Call of Duty 2 and Kameo - was unimpressive and choppy. If I’d been in charge of that presentation I would have pulled some of that footage. I understand the games are not optimized yet, but if that’s the case, why show it? Why show footage that’s probably WORSE than it will look on the final system? Call of Duty 2 in particular looked like it was running on a PC that was badly in need of a videocard upgrade, and Kameo… well, probably the least said about that, the better. With each new game it becomes increasingly clear that Rare is a money pit for Microsoft.

  • Finally, this for me, summed up the whole thing…


“With Xbox 360 we’re going to totally change your idea of what videogames are. We’re ushering in a new era of a totally new and different kind of gameplay experience. We’re going to make you completely rethink the concept of videogames. Now, please enjoy this footage of Madden NFL, Dead or Alive, Final Fantasy XI, Need for Speed, NBA Live, Elder Scrolls and Tiger Woods.”

Disappointing to me. Their “its your community, make the games your own” message is not for me. I don’t want to customize my experience, spend my own money downloading skins, etc. I want the game the way the designer intended me to experience it. Clearly I’m not the consumer MS is targeting next generation.

After their disappointing MTV showing everyone was convinced they still had a few tricks up their sleeves. Well if they did they sure didn’t show it. Almost the same footage we had already seen. And the omission of PD0 speaks volumes- that title must be in serious trouble at this point.

Square-Enix support was impressive until it was revealed to be FFXI. Not significant at all IMO. And while the S-E president promised future collaborations during the MS conference, he specifically promised future FF titles at the Sony conference. Sounds like Drakenguard 3 Xbox 360 Exclusive to me!

I also got the impression that Sony was getting more industry support. Larry Probst at Sony’s trumps the EA guy at 360 unveiling. Tim Sweeny at Sony’s presentation also says good things about Unreal Engine 3 support on PS3.

Oh yeah, and I really dislike J. Allard.

I think Xbox 360 will be great and I’ll defiintely get one but I haven’t seen anything yet to convince me they will overtake Sony.

Come hang out at the EB near me, right next to campus. You’d be surprised…

If memory serves me, the lack of AAA launch titles was what a lot of people were complaining about when the first Xbox came out. I guess they still have time to announce something, though.

This kind of thing seems to happen every time a new console launches. They say “Check out this BITCHIN’ HARDWARE!” and we say “That’s great, what can I actually play on it?”

Come hang out at the EB near me, right next to campus. You’d be surprised…[/quote]

Gaming/electronic stores near college campuses don’t count.

The thing that caught my eye was the Square Enix tech demo that followed the Final Fantasy XI bullshit… looks pretty! Would it be too much to ask for a new original product? Bleh. The PS3 tech demo was also very cool, probably a bit nicer. I wish the Xbox 360 demo had been showing a little more of something more iconic of Square Enix, though. Maybe a billion moogles falling out of the sky and landing on the pretty architecture and bouncing off in realistic physics?

I do. I want to customize my games. I want to download mods. But Microsoft can suck it down if they think I’ll pay for something that is already free on PCs!

Don’t worry about the hype. It’s pretty standard now. I for the most part have learned to recognize it for the big bullshit that it is. They’ve got big marketing budgets for a reason ;).

Oh one other thing that I feel compelled to comment on:

Among the twee one-liner marketing blurbs that were being projected throughout the auditorium (“Piss of the world. Laugh. Repeat.” “Konichiya, hashbrown”, etc) was this little gem:

“I’m making some spank stew and you’re the meat.”

SPANK STEW? Did NOBODY see the rib-tickling ways in which this could perhaps be misconstrued? The first question I asked was how somebody could possibly be “making spank stew” while maintaining reasonable control over the Xbox gamepad.

Why didn’t they try projecting some of the things that you might ACTUALLY hear on Xbox Live? Things like:

“Oh man, I’m so fucking bombed right now.”
“Shit, the cat just jumped right in my lap.”
“Shit, I gotta go, my mom’s calling. I’LL BE RIGHT DOWN, OKAY? JEEZ!”
“That was fucking bullshit.”


But it’s powered by human energy!

No thanks, I will resort to using hamsters if I have to.

I guess that, technically, both your Xbox and the human body are powered by electricity, so in the strictest sense they’re not really lying.

Sweeter words have never existed in the world of advertising.

More E3 speakers should wear hoodies.

Under a sports coat, no less.