Microsoft’s 2013 E3 Keynote: Pretty Pictures


Microsoft did everything they were supposed to do during their E3 2013 keynote, all except one thing they had to do: rescind or even address their iconoclastic approach to consumer software rights.

Master Chief was spotted, dressed in a torn, draped garb as he encountered a monstrous Forerunner. Jago and Saberwulf clashed on stage to subwoofer-driven, hardened themes as Killer Instinct returned to the playing field. Insomniac forgot they ever made Fuse and debuted colorful Sunset Overdrive. Quantum Break, an unspecified blending of TV and video games, went unexplained in its physics-driven glow of orange & teal tones.

Microsoft was right on with their promise: They showed us games. They gave us a price ($499 US) and a loose release date (November). They barely mentioned the required iteration of Xbox One Kinect, and ignored sports games. Canned dialogue was kept to a minimum. They ran into audio technical issues and kept running, because in 90-minutes, they had more games primed than most people expected.

And yet, it’s all fruitless. A sham. A cover equal to the one hiding Master Chief’s face.

Why go on a mainstream TV network with a penchant for fighting, guns, and shows about dying in stupid ways, revealing anything other than Metal Gear Solid V? Give them boobs and weapons: they will come. The mainstream audience still doesn’t know Metal Gear Solid won’t work when – inevitably – servers are hacked, offline for maintenance, or eventually shut down. They probably don’t care because no one explained why they need to.

That does not excuse what Microsoft has done, taking to a E3 stage of excitement while their fan base blasts them on social media (Xbox One commercials on YouTube shut down commenting), without even a mention as to their intended policies. It is the equivalent of putting fingers in their ears and yelling, “blah, blah, blah” like a small child throwing a temper tantrum. Pretty images will fix this.

Pretty images were everywhere. For Forza 5, a hyper-expensive concept car was elevated on stage, but who knows: Maybe the car needs a connection to Microsoft’s cloud servers for the engine to work. We can forgive the nonsensical promotional term “Drivatar,” because pictures. Pictures are pretty, and so is Forza 5. They promised indie support, and then revealed Minecraft for Xbox One, touting the billions they made from indie games, neglecting to mention most of those billions were from that one game. Those other voices, those of indie developers buried on the Xbox 360 Dashboard? They’re not being heard. Blah, blah, blah. Pictures.

Most insulting, Microsoft exces spouted multiple times, “We’re listening.” I suppose, partly, they are. TV was never mentioned at E3, Skype was a memory, and Madden never graced their stage. Some of the messaging is getting through about what we, the gaming community, cares about. All of it except the most important one.

Xbox One will cost $499. Game prices could be $70. Xbox Live will still cost money. This is a $650+ console at launch, one that you are stuck with because draconian policies trap you in their grip. You cannot escape the Xbox One to jump ship if you realize that you have made a $650 mistake. Your account holds too much value in Quicktime-obsessed Ryse or the already announced Battlefield 4 premium DLC.

But hey, pretty pictures make it all worthwhile, right?