“Taking The Offensive”

Getting E3 2016’s big day of press conferences off to a fantastic start, Microsoft stepped on stage to deliver the best briefing of the expo thus far. Pound for pound, Microsoft was firing on all cylinders. With the exception of a painfully heavy-handed showcase of one of my most anticipated titles, Sea of Thieves, most everything worked in the company’s favor. Games, behind the scenes updates, and an exciting dawn of new hardware, all elevated Microsoft’s conference to the upper-echelon of their shows in recent memory. Above all else, this briefing showcased what Microsoft looks like on offense, a position they haven’t found themselves in this entire generation. It’s a position that could very well turn the tides of this generation in their favor.E3 2016 Microsoft's Briefing Impressions (Braxton Haugen) Sea of TheivesIn possession of quite the robust portfolio of games, Microsoft brought the punches with big titles such as Gears 4, Dead Rising 4, and Halo Wars 2. Following the announcement of Xbox One S at the top of the show, the briefing opened its arms to a nine minute look a Gears of War 4’s co-op campaign. The Coalition’s latest project is shaping up nicely, looking to offer players a fantastic reason to return to the acclaimed Gears series. Out of all the compelling games that found their way onto Microsoft’s stage, Gears of War 4 is among the most promising and sits atop my most anticipated list of titles from the Xbox brand in coming months. Easily one of the most exciting slices of information to come from the briefing was the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. Pledged to bridge the console ecosystem with Windows 10, Xbox Play Anywhere will let you buy select Xbox One games and play them for free on PC, sharing saves and achievements as well. This is a big step for Microsoft and one I believe is wise for them to take, allowing them to plant their feet on new, exciting ground, offering potential growth.

Returning to the games, Microsoft gave us a tightly organized look at some of their upcoming projects, including the likes of already announced titles such as Killer Instinct, ReCore, Scalebound, Sea of Thieves and Halo Wars 2. Looking a little rough, we got our first look at ReCore in action in the form of a sightly underwhelming gameplay trailer. I remain cautiously optimistic, but what we saw led me to believe ReCore isn’t going to be anything special. On the other hand, a game that has quite a lot of potential to become something special is Rare’s newest game, Sea of Thieves. The swashbuckling adventure first caught my eye during last year’s show, and I’d been eagerly anticipating a formal gameplay reveal ever since then. While a gameplay reveal was at the briefing, it certainly wasn’t what I expected. The game itself looks incredible, but the reveal trailer was composed of painfully obnoxious YouTube commentators playing a build and screaming like a bunch unsupervised adolescents. It was easily the weakest part of the briefing, and made me sad to see a game I’ve been looking forward to, shown in such an immature, distasteful light. Beyond that, the rest of the games on display looked great. Announcements regarding Dead Rising 4, State of Decay 2, and Forza Horizon 3 were all cause for applause, gifting Microsoft with yet another fantastic slate of games on the horizon.E3 2016 Microsoft's Briefing Impressions (Braxton Haugen) ReCoreAs expected, hardware played a huge role in Microsoft’s conference. From the convincing reveal of Xbox One S at the top of the show, to the goosebumps-inducing final reveal of what is being called the most powerful console ever created, Project Scorpio, Xbox cleaned up on the hardware side of things. Leaving the ball in Sony’s court for when they take stage this evening, Microsoft pulled off quite the tedious task of refraining from alienating early adopters during the announcement of a more powerful model. Set to hit shelves holiday 2017, the upgraded Xbox one is still a ways out, and that’s part of why this announcement worked so well. It doesn’t muddy the waters for the market right now, instead allowing both time and options for gamers to contemplate which purchase best suits their desires.

With Xbox One S coming this August for the fair asking price of $299, players that missed out on Xbox at the beginning of this generation have the chance to jump in sooner rather than later. On the other hand, early adopters looking to upgrade to a more powerful system have the chance to do so later next year. For those who got in on this generation early who don’t want to upgrade as soon as next year, today’s announcement continually reiterated that demographic will not be left out. This, of course, would be ideal, yet it’s simply too early to tell if this is a promise that will be kept over the course of the next few years. I’m crossing my fingers for the sake of both Microsoft themselves, and the gamer.E3 2016 Microsoft's Briefing Impressions (Braxton Haugen) Xbox One SBelow is the biggest news from Microsoft’s E3 2016 press conference.

The Big Announcements

Microsoft’s presser had everything a briefing should have, embracing steady, assertive pacing, placing a focus on compelling upcoming games, and a smart reveal of what hardware is in store for the Xbox ecosystem, moving forward. While there wasn’t an overload of surprises in terms of unforeseen announcements, I found myself taken aback by how strong Microsoft presented their “play anywhere” initiative. As someone who predicted the Xbox brand would make strides toward melding with Windows 10, even I didn’t see just how robust of a pitch the company would unveil on stage. This year’s E3 briefing gave Xbox gamers a great and confident look into what’s to come. While I was certainly bummed we didn’t see Crackdown 3 or any substantial new IP, what we did get was certainly enough to even the scales of disappointment. Sony is going up against stiff competition tonight thanks to this briefing, and that alone proves the success of Microsoft’s presence at this year’s show.

Note: Be sure to check back everyday for continually updated and exciting content surrounding this year’s show.

To keep up with my thoughts on all things E3 2016 as they go down live, connect with me on Twitter @BraxHaugen.