“Eyes on the Future”

This year’s Gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany kicked off strong this morning with Microsoft’s exciting press conference. The briefing was packed with strong reveals, trailers, and news, continuing the excellent showings from Xbox since E3 earlier this year. Microsoft’s press conference hit a lot of similar notes the company had previously covered this past June, but still had plenty of tricks up its sleeve. The briefing struck a solid balance between bringing to light improvements to the console itself, such as new DVR functionality and Windows 10 integration, along with all the exciting, upcoming games to play on the console. For those who haven’t made the jump, or for those who already own the system, Xbox One is slowly, but surly becoming the definitive place to play.TombRaiderThe briefing kicked off as Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, took the stage, detailing the company’s commitment to giving Xbox players a wealth of exclusive, quality content. Spencer wasn’t kidding, as he proceeded to give the floor to three major exclusives coming to Xbox One in 2016. Remedy’s TV/Game hybrid, Quantum Break, immediately grabbed my attention. It’s been a year since we last saw Quantum Break in action and the game looks very promising. The gameplay trailer showed off some unique features and also gave us our first good look at the game’s intriguing television component. It will follow an all-star cast, who will be portrayed both as in-game characters and as live-action humans. The Xbox One exclusive will finally arrive on April 5, after previous delays in a supposed effort to make room for other big, first-party titles this year. The new Crackdown game–officially Crackdown 3–made quite the explosive appearance. The big selling point during the presentation was the game will feature “100% destructible environments.” Not much gameplay was shown though, aside from a few buildings crumbling down and some brief snippets of the game in action. We’ll definitely see more Crackdown 3 as we move into 2016, and until then, I consider myself totally onboard. Topping off the three big exclusives for next year was Platinum’s Scalebound, a game that has been somewhat mysterious up until now. The impressive live demo of the open world action RPG didn’t disappoint, and delivered some really exciting gameplay as the main protagonist fought alongside his dragon.

In terms of exclusives dropping this fall, Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Forza 6 all had strong showings. Halo 5 was given numerous details, but the overall focus seemed to be on Guardians’ multiplayer, which has been crafted with the future of eSports in mind. Rise of the Tomb Raider was given a fairly lengthy demo that highlighted some of the games improved stealth and combat options. It’s the most Metal Gear we’ve seen Lara Croft, as she quickly and resourcefully executes enemy soldiers in her path. Rise of the Tomb Raider is much more open and diverse than its predecessor, accommodating for everyone’s distinct play style. Forza 6, on the other hand, did exactly what it needed to by dedicating its attention to realism and the physics-based, wet weather. The fact the game is absolutely gorgeous and harnesses the Xbox One’s true power, really drives it home.

The event also put a heavy focus on Windows 10 and how its integration will further the Xbox brand. Many upcoming titles, like Bloodstained Ritual of the Night and Halo Wars 2, will be launching on both Xbox One and Windows 10, simultaneously. This leads to my single biggest concern with Xbox moving forward. Microsoft choosing to support Windows gaming may alienate some of their console audience. Hypothetically, if one year from now, all big Xbox exclusives were to be released on both platforms, doesn’t that devalue the point of owning an Xbox One? It all depends to what extent the Microsoft will choose to take Windows 10 on the gaming side of things, as it could certainly go both ways. Only time will tell, but it’s important to understand there is potentially a lot at risk; fingers crossed it will be handled with utmost care.QuantumBreakBelow are the biggest and most pertinent announcements from Microsoft’s event in Germany.

The Big Announcements

The Xbox brand has really pulled itself together and is finally coming into its own this generation. With a more prominent focus on games and the goal to accommodate those who play them, the Xbox One has risen above the mixed messaging that resulted in its somewhat rocky launch. The stronger lineup of exclusive games alongside more interesting features such as backward compatibility, coming this Fall, makes picking up an Xbox One all the more tempting for those yet to make the jump ahead.

To keep up with my thoughts on all things Gamescom for the next few days, along with a whole bunch of other nonsense, you can follow me on Twitter @BraxHaugen.