Microsoft Aims to Meet Gamers’ Great Expectations

Microsoft on Tuesday launched the Rare Replay collection — the best games lineup in Xbox History, according to Xbox Chief Phil Spencer — at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany.

Even some loyal Xbox fans might disagree with that proclamation, but Microsoft attempted to back up its assertion with a content-rich presentation bedazzled with exclusive games.

With more than 400,000 gamers and developers and other industry players in its ecosystem, Microsoft has been trying to be the Microsoft people expect it to be, Spencer said.

The Xbox team strives to deliver on its vision for gaming, he added.

“That vision includes the games you want to play, and the connection to the people you want to play with, across the devices you want to play on,” Spencer told the Gamescom crowd. “Whether you’re a console gamer, a PC gamer or both, we are committed to delivering the experience you expect from Microsoft.”

During the ensuing hour or so, the Xbox team and its partners gave a performance befitting of E3. Although Windows 10 is driving Microsoft’s big year, the Xbox team restated its case as one of the biggest parts of Microsoft.

Lara Croft and the Exclusives

Gamers are starting to make their winter wish lists, with the highly competitive holiday season on the horizon. The focus of Microsoft’s Gamescom briefing, therefore, was largely the exclusive games coming to the Xbox One this year and in 2016.

Exclusives set to arrive this year include Rise of the Tomb Raider, sci-fi shooter Halo 5 Guardians (pictured above) and Forza Motorsport 6. Those set for a 2016 release include Recore and Sea of Thieves, Scalebound,Crackdown 3 and Quantum Break.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a timed exclusive that will arrive on PC shortly after its Xbox One launch, and it will hit PlayStation 4 about a year later.

Exclusives are always important for game consoles, and they move more people closer to buying the latest hardware, according to Roger Entner, principal analyst for Recon Analytics.

“With exclusives like that, more money flows to the game company, and that way, it’s a lower-risk endeavor to do the exclusive, because Microsoft helps a lot in paying for it,” he told TechNewsWorld. “For the individual consumer, it’s annoying — especially if they don’t have that platform — but it all evens out in the end.”

Tomb Raider, a franchise many associate with Sony, has given preference to Microsoft.

Call of Duty has done the opposite with this year’s release and will favor the PlayStation 4 with exclusive content, noted Game Whispering’s Alexandre Mandryka.

However, the practice of making games exclusive to one platform or the other is anti-consumerist, he said.

“We’ve seen some rather drastic steps in the opposite direction with the backlash against Xbox One initial DRM, and more recently through the new Steam refund system,” Mandryka told TechNewsWorld. “I believe and hope the industry will stop cutting down on the value consumers receive, and that better value propositions will be offered — like Witcher 3’s free DLC approach.”

Critical Acclaim

Nestled between its presentations on exclusive games and promising indie titles were several announcements indicating that Microsoft also has been working to innovate on the hardware side.

It introduced the Xbox Chat pad, an accessory with two new programmable keys, which can be used to receive messages.

Xbox One’s backward-compatibility feature will become available in November, and its DVR TV service will launch in 2016, Microsoft said.

Microsoft hinted at efforts to increase the company’s diversity, calling on Xbox One Engineering Program Manager Jasmine Lawrence — an African American woman — to headline part of the presentation.

That was no minor detail, considering the company’s efforts to redeem itself following CEO Satya Nadella’s “good Karma” gaffe.

However, Microsoft’s focus on Windows 10 and the DirectX 12 API fell flat, said Mike Schramm, manager of qualitative insights at EEDAR.

Using the Xbox One brand to bolster Windows 10’s value is smart — but moving in the opposite direction and pushing the next OS on gamers just hasn’t worked so far, he noted.

“Windows 10’s launch has been fairly successful, but players have shown nearly no interest in the cross-platform features between Xbox One and Windows 10,” Schramm told TechNewsWorld. “While DirectX 12 does allow for some impressive technology, players are more interested in the experiences offered rather than how they’re made.”

Xbox One and PC gamers want cross-platform features, but the limitation of the features announced and the handful of compatible games has left many of them still asking Microsoft to be the Microsoft they expect it to be, he observed.

Still, it’s hard to deny that Microsoft and friends gave gamers a great show on Tuesday overall, Schramm acknowledged.

It “was an impressive midyear event, and has definitely raised the profile of games like Quantum Break and Scalebound, and introduced a nice surprise in the tease of Halo Wars 2,” he said. “We look forward to seeing what EA and Blizzard have to announce in their conferences later this week.”

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