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Microsoft's E3 2012 Press Conference: Usher-ing In a New Era of Intelligent Glass

Microsoft provided a few big games and a few interesting demos, but mostly stuck to the further media-ization of its current-gen console.

Few expected Microsoft to unveil much of anything regarding its upcoming next-generation console, reportedly codenamed "Durango." But even those that were skeptical had perhaps hoped that at least a small tease of the things to come might be in the cards. After all, with no hardware to talk about and only a few big exclusives on the horizon, what the hell else were they going to talk about for 90 minutes?

Halo 4 made a big splash to open the show.

Tragically, those fears mostly came true during a primarily uneventful showing that offered a few glimpses of some very promising games, but also leaned extremely heavily on extraneous media apps and web browsing functionality that didn't exactly scream "let's talk about this stuff on a giant stage in front of a live TV audience!"

The show did at least start off promisingly enough, with a lengthy Halo 4 demonstration that offered some solid glances at in-game action, and a lush jungle setting that showed off some of the game's visual prowess. That was followed by the debut of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the long-awaited next Sam Fisher adventure from Ubisoft's Tom Clancy machine. The demo showed Fisher in a terrorist encampment on the Iran/Iraq border, infiltrating a group and effectively laying waste to everyone using a new version of the mark-and-shoot functionality, complete with requisite slo-mo. The game will also feature Kinect support, as is custom nowadays, allowing Sam to distract bad guys with vocalizations and even call in airstrikes. Unfortunately, Michael Ironside does not appear to be returning to voice Fisher this time around.

This demo was followed up by an EA Sports presentation, featuring FIFA and Madden 13 and their all-new voice commands. Madden features the expected play-calling, audible-at-the-line functionality (as demonstrated by a depressingly hunched Joe Montana), while FIFA features the ability to call substitutions using Kinect, as well as some kind of swearing sensor that actually drew a yellow card when the player cursed. That seems like it'd be pretty useful for XBL chat, especially in Gears of War multiplayer.

Much of Microsoft's conference was regrettably dedicated to media apps and functionality that, quite frankly, didn't offer much excitement. The announcements of NHL and NBA live streaming via their respective sports packages, as well as the addition of several new networks (including Nickelodeon and Machinima) are fine gets, but the amount of time dedicated to these things, as well as elements like improved Bing search and the perhaps inauspicious debut of Internet Explorer on the console seemed out of whack.

The new Nike+ fitness game.

The same could be said for the company's new fitness initiative. Long-rumored and now confirmed, the company introduced Nike+ Kinect Training. The package seemed to offer all the sorts of bells and whistles you'd expect of a piece of fitness software, but it didn't exactly make for a compelling demo on stage. I mean, let's be real about this: there's probably no good way to demonstrate fitness software. So dedicating several minutes to it maybe doesn't play so well.

The one big tech announcement Microsoft did have at least turned out to be an intriguing one. SmartGlass is a tablet-and-phone-based app that allows your Xbox 360 and smart device to sync up to one another. The example shown involved someone watching a movie on their tablet, then immediately syncing that movie up to the Xbox upon returning home. In-game functionality was also teased, though little concrete information was actually shown. Presumably, it may offer similar concepts to what's been shown via the Wii U's GamePad, as well as the app functionality used in Mass Effect 3. Microsoft says that SmartGlass will be available for multiple devices, including iOS-based ones.

Among the highlight games shown, South Park: The Stick of Truth debuted a new trailer, which was followed-up by series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone offering up the only unscripted speaking portion of the morning. Their levity was a welcome break from the usual rounds of corporate speak, though no live demo of the game was shown. However, the pair did offer up a release date for The Stick of Truth. It'll be headed to stores on March 5, 2013.

Dance Central 3 was also finally unveiled, thanks to a lengthy performance by featured artist Usher, who did not actually play the game, but did actually sing while back-up dancers performed moves more or less similar to what will be played in game. Sadly, Don Mattrick did not join them on stage.

Several smaller games also received some attention. Xbox Summer of Arcade title Wreckateer got a full-blown stage demo, while Twisted Pixel's new jam LocoCycle, the new game from Toy Soldiers dev Signal Studios (Ascend: New Gods), and Gore Verbinski's game project Matter were all shown via short trailers.

Those awaiting details on Gears of War: Judgment will be waiting a bit longer. The trailer at the conference illuminated little.

That was about it for surprises, however. Lengthy on-stage demos of Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 6 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II offered more or less what you would expect from these games, which are mostly known quantities at this point. Additionally, a few brief trailers for Gears of War: Judgment, Fable: The Journey and Forza Horizon were shown. Each of those demos looked suitably strong, but weren't quite enough to overcome the prevailing sense that Microsoft really just didn't have that much to show this year.

That's not a slam against the company--after all, in a year when they had no new significant hardware to talk about, nor any major initiatives outside of additional media-ization of the console, it's tough to really come off in a huge way unless you have a slew of big games to show. And therein lay the ultimate issue with this year's conference: outside of Halo 4, there wasn't much that really seemed to blow anyone away. A handful of interesting smaller titles, and some big third-party, multiplatform games are always good to have, but in the absence of some other noteworthy surprises, the overall offering felt a bit paltry.

Random Thoughts:

  • The absence of the shrill, piercing laughter of children at this year's event was, at the very least, a welcome surprise. Only adults were allowed to humiliate themselves during Kinect demos this year.
  • Whoever applauded during the announcement of Internet Explorer does not deserve to be sitting in the audience of an E3 press conference. I don't care if you work for Microsoft. If they're not holding a gun to your head, there's no excuse.
  • Don Mattrick's hair continues to be amazing. It looks self-aware.
  • For as little as was shown of LocoCycle, I am disproportionately excited for it. Crossing my fingers that it turns out to essentially be Heat Vision and Jack: The Game.
  • No Phil Harrison on stage, which is surprising, given that he's actually kind of good at delivering these robotic stage demos. None of the guys on stage this year had much to offer, so maybe next year.
  • Anyone else notice that the conference just kind of abruptly ended? Like out of nowhere? I mean, I know that Black Ops II demo was dragging, but that seemed pretty harsh.

Look for more recaps later as we hit EA, Ubisoft, and Sony today. Nintendo tomorrow. And by all means, feel free to comment to your heart's content about everything you believe I am wrong about here. I enjoy it, really.

Alex Navarro on Google+
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Posted by Alex

Few expected Microsoft to unveil much of anything regarding its upcoming next-generation console, reportedly codenamed "Durango." But even those that were skeptical had perhaps hoped that at least a small tease of the things to come might be in the cards. After all, with no hardware to talk about and only a few big exclusives on the horizon, what the hell else were they going to talk about for 90 minutes?

Halo 4 made a big splash to open the show.

Tragically, those fears mostly came true during a primarily uneventful showing that offered a few glimpses of some very promising games, but also leaned extremely heavily on extraneous media apps and web browsing functionality that didn't exactly scream "let's talk about this stuff on a giant stage in front of a live TV audience!"

The show did at least start off promisingly enough, with a lengthy Halo 4 demonstration that offered some solid glances at in-game action, and a lush jungle setting that showed off some of the game's visual prowess. That was followed by the debut of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the long-awaited next Sam Fisher adventure from Ubisoft's Tom Clancy machine. The demo showed Fisher in a terrorist encampment on the Iran/Iraq border, infiltrating a group and effectively laying waste to everyone using a new version of the mark-and-shoot functionality, complete with requisite slo-mo. The game will also feature Kinect support, as is custom nowadays, allowing Sam to distract bad guys with vocalizations and even call in airstrikes. Unfortunately, Michael Ironside does not appear to be returning to voice Fisher this time around.

This demo was followed up by an EA Sports presentation, featuring FIFA and Madden 13 and their all-new voice commands. Madden features the expected play-calling, audible-at-the-line functionality (as demonstrated by a depressingly hunched Joe Montana), while FIFA features the ability to call substitutions using Kinect, as well as some kind of swearing sensor that actually drew a yellow card when the player cursed. That seems like it'd be pretty useful for XBL chat, especially in Gears of War multiplayer.

Much of Microsoft's conference was regrettably dedicated to media apps and functionality that, quite frankly, didn't offer much excitement. The announcements of NHL and NBA live streaming via their respective sports packages, as well as the addition of several new networks (including Nickelodeon and Machinima) are fine gets, but the amount of time dedicated to these things, as well as elements like improved Bing search and the perhaps inauspicious debut of Internet Explorer on the console seemed out of whack.

The new Nike+ fitness game.

The same could be said for the company's new fitness initiative. Long-rumored and now confirmed, the company introduced Nike+ Kinect Training. The package seemed to offer all the sorts of bells and whistles you'd expect of a piece of fitness software, but it didn't exactly make for a compelling demo on stage. I mean, let's be real about this: there's probably no good way to demonstrate fitness software. So dedicating several minutes to it maybe doesn't play so well.

The one big tech announcement Microsoft did have at least turned out to be an intriguing one. SmartGlass is a tablet-and-phone-based app that allows your Xbox 360 and smart device to sync up to one another. The example shown involved someone watching a movie on their tablet, then immediately syncing that movie up to the Xbox upon returning home. In-game functionality was also teased, though little concrete information was actually shown. Presumably, it may offer similar concepts to what's been shown via the Wii U's GamePad, as well as the app functionality used in Mass Effect 3. Microsoft says that SmartGlass will be available for multiple devices, including iOS-based ones.

Among the highlight games shown, South Park: The Stick of Truth debuted a new trailer, which was followed-up by series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone offering up the only unscripted speaking portion of the morning. Their levity was a welcome break from the usual rounds of corporate speak, though no live demo of the game was shown. However, the pair did offer up a release date for The Stick of Truth. It'll be headed to stores on March 5, 2013.

Dance Central 3 was also finally unveiled, thanks to a lengthy performance by featured artist Usher, who did not actually play the game, but did actually sing while back-up dancers performed moves more or less similar to what will be played in game. Sadly, Don Mattrick did not join them on stage.

Several smaller games also received some attention. Xbox Summer of Arcade title Wreckateer got a full-blown stage demo, while Twisted Pixel's new jam LocoCycle, the new game from Toy Soldiers dev Signal Studios (Ascend: New Gods), and Gore Verbinski's game project Matter were all shown via short trailers.

Those awaiting details on Gears of War: Judgment will be waiting a bit longer. The trailer at the conference illuminated little.

That was about it for surprises, however. Lengthy on-stage demos of Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 6 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II offered more or less what you would expect from these games, which are mostly known quantities at this point. Additionally, a few brief trailers for Gears of War: Judgment, Fable: The Journey and Forza Horizon were shown. Each of those demos looked suitably strong, but weren't quite enough to overcome the prevailing sense that Microsoft really just didn't have that much to show this year.

That's not a slam against the company--after all, in a year when they had no new significant hardware to talk about, nor any major initiatives outside of additional media-ization of the console, it's tough to really come off in a huge way unless you have a slew of big games to show. And therein lay the ultimate issue with this year's conference: outside of Halo 4, there wasn't much that really seemed to blow anyone away. A handful of interesting smaller titles, and some big third-party, multiplatform games are always good to have, but in the absence of some other noteworthy surprises, the overall offering felt a bit paltry.

Random Thoughts:

  • The absence of the shrill, piercing laughter of children at this year's event was, at the very least, a welcome surprise. Only adults were allowed to humiliate themselves during Kinect demos this year.
  • Whoever applauded during the announcement of Internet Explorer does not deserve to be sitting in the audience of an E3 press conference. I don't care if you work for Microsoft. If they're not holding a gun to your head, there's no excuse.
  • Don Mattrick's hair continues to be amazing. It looks self-aware.
  • For as little as was shown of LocoCycle, I am disproportionately excited for it. Crossing my fingers that it turns out to essentially be Heat Vision and Jack: The Game.
  • No Phil Harrison on stage, which is surprising, given that he's actually kind of good at delivering these robotic stage demos. None of the guys on stage this year had much to offer, so maybe next year.
  • Anyone else notice that the conference just kind of abruptly ended? Like out of nowhere? I mean, I know that Black Ops II demo was dragging, but that seemed pretty harsh.

Look for more recaps later as we hit EA, Ubisoft, and Sony today. Nintendo tomorrow. And by all means, feel free to comment to your heart's content about everything you believe I am wrong about here. I enjoy it, really.

Posted by Blind_Evil

Unf

Posted by twentyTWO

BLIND EVIL YOU FUCKER

Posted by Otogi

Looking good

Posted by Dixego

Interesting.

Posted by Thoseposers

Trey Parker and Matt Stone were the best parts by far

Posted by Heartagram

@Thoseposers said:

Trey Parker and Matt Stone were the best parts by far

Yeah...that was he only part of the show I actually liked. That and RE6 but it looked kinda meh.

Posted by hawkinson76

God Damn it, what will the neXt-Box be called?!!??!

Posted by EricFine

I hope next year Usher comes back and "ushers" in the X-Bawkz 720.

Posted by buckybit

... this article is waaay too well written for such a boring event, Alex.

Posted by Chindie

It was hideously dull.

Posted by crusader8463

@hawkinson76 said:

God Damn it, what will the neXt-Box be called?!!??!

Xbox 420.

Posted by Alex

@buckybit: I try to squeeze entertainment out of even the most barren wastelands of un-fun.

Posted by VoshiNova

@Thoseposers said:

Trey Parker and Matt Stone were the best parts by far

the sad truth

Posted by Deusoma

Well now, I was hoping they would focus more on the current generation than the next one, but seeing it basically ignored is a welcome surprise indeed. A promising start to E3, hopefully they'll keep focusing on the important things.

Posted by sterbacblu

Apple may be the surprise winner of the whole SmartGlass thing. If Microsoft wants SmartGlass to work with iOS, it will require an app, and if SmartGlass needs Xbox Live or uses an Xbox Music subscription service, per App Store rules, those subs need to be sold through the App Store or else no app. So Apple gets a 30% cut of any sales of those services done through iOS. Of course they can also pull the "this app mimics services already provided by the OS" (AirPlay) and block the app. They don't have anything to gain by blocking the app, but I think it's going to be interesting to see how this pans out.

Posted by big_jon

It started strong then it dragged, I was really bummed that their was no real excited game announcements in my eyes.

I was hoping Rare might show something awesome.

Posted by wewantsthering

A whole lot of "meh" from a 360 owner. Halo is the only exclusive on there and media stuff? Lame...

Posted by Mars

I was very disappointed in this years conference.

Posted by csl316

Again, Perfect Dark proves it was ahead of its time. It had a Farsight long before CoD.

Posted by Chop

"using a new target-and-shoot functionality, complete with requisite slo-mo."

MARK AND EXECUTE ISN'T NEW, YOU IDIOT!!! /sarcasm

Online
Posted by salmy

Well, that was uneventful. I guess all the cool stuff is being developed for the console they didn't announce, so they didn't have much to show. Xbox 360 successor ship holiday 2013? I don't think they could get another year out of this console.

Posted by therealminime

Halo 4 stole the show.

Posted by Marokai

Not a disaster, just incredibly boring. And in some ways, that's worse. Paltry is the right way to describe the press conference, there just wasn't much there, and what was there were either known quantities, or the adding features to your features to your features announcements that I got tired of in 2009. 

Posted by tooPrime

Do you people even like games anymore? Crap, you people are jaded.

Edited by Vorbis

South Park and Tomb Raider were the most interesting parts. The gameplay of TR they showed on gametrailers was much more interesting than the stuff they showed on stage.

Also I could swear Laras breasts are getting bigger every time they show that game.

Posted by Lunar_Aura

If there was a time to give the audience free Xbox 360 S, this would have been the time. Hell, even a free 1600 MS points card would suffice.

Edited by chriscalla

Spot-on summary and reaction, Alex.

Posted by i8246i

I'm really sorry you had to experience this crap first-hand Alex.

Posted by Marokai
@tooPrime said:

Do you people even like games anymore? Crap, you people are jaded.

I love video games. I don't like where the the industry has been going for a few years now, however.
Posted by probablytuna

Oh I see what you did thar Alex.

Posted by huser

@hawkinson76 said:

God Damn it, what will the neXt-Box be called?!!??!

That's what I was waiting for, too.

Posted by Cathryn

Nice write-up, Alex -- great job of capturing the overall sense of "meh." Totally agree with everything you've said here.

Posted by mustachioeugene

Michael Ironside needs work. And booze.

Posted by Jimi

Trey and Matt was the best part by a mile. The games were ok. Everything else was boring as fuck.

Posted by SathingtonWaltz

I won't lie, Microsoft's conference was kind of bad. I don't really blame them though, you can tell that they are hard at work developing their next console, so it's understandable that they are wrapping things up with the Xbox 360.

Posted by bigsmoke77

The ending was horrible.

Posted by Scodiac

Halo 4 looks fucking awesome.

Posted by andrewf87462

Excellent write up Alex, key highlights for me was Resident Evil 6, Tomb Raider and Halo 4.

Posted by SathingtonWaltz

@Scodiac said:

Halo 4 looks fucking awesome.

It really does look great. Halo 4 to me was Microsoft's only redeeming showing for E3 this year. I'm so burnt out on shooters like CoD and Battlefield, I'm totally game for some zany arcade shooting fun.

Edited by MolluskLingers

Why is it ok for Harmonix to put out a new Dance Central literally every single year but Neversoft were insulted and bashed for putting out a new Guitar Hero every year? Shitty industry.

Posted by DharmaBum

The lack of an Alan Wake announcement is quite depressing.

Posted by ExplodeMode

@bigsmoke77 said:

The ending was horrible.

*plays call of duty in a silent room for way too long* 'I guess we're done, see ya.'

Posted by brownsfantb

Man, I'm gonna get so many yellow cards in FIFA next year.

Edited by eternitymemory

@Lebensbaum said:

The lack of an Alan Wake announcement is quite depressing.

I'm with you, but I'm still crossing my fingers that there's gonna be some news about it shown sooner or later today (or anytime this week? I don't usually keep track of E3 so I have no clue about how trailers/announcements not shown during the conference are released). I guess I'm still hopeful because just a few hours ago I discovered that weird blog Remedy tweeted about a few days before and now I'm super excited.

Posted by koolaid39

I honestly think the SmartGlass is a potentially cool software. It looks like it could be a counter to the wii u controller, and make for some fun ideas with games. I'm still cautiously optimistic for Tomb Raider, and Halo 4 looks solid. Black Ops looked very meh for me.

This was clearly just a lead in for next year and the probable new hardware announcement.

Personally, I just want to see more about Borderlands 2 :)

Posted by Rirse

I agree, it more boring then awful.

Posted by Cretaceous_Bob

I don't really understand who their show was for. Anybody that would have cared about anything they were showing wouldn't be watching it.

Posted by mikey87144

Wow what a dud.

Posted by JRock3x8

that was a fucking train wreck

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