Full Court Presser: How Microsoft Won E3 2015

Yes, Sony’s E3 conference this year was one of the best ever, but Microsoft still won.

The day started with Microsoft’s Xbox conference and even though they showed Halo 5: Guardians and teased a new Gears 4, the biggest win at team green’s show wasn’t a game at all.

Xbox One backwards compatibility was by-far the biggest announcement from Microsoft’s press briefing.

“We weren’t sure it was possible,” Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox said. But it happened.

For now, only 100 Xbox 360 games will be compatible with Xbox One. Spencer noted that more will be added in the future.

“We won’t charge you for the games you already own,” Microsoft’s Head of Platform Engineering Mike Ybarra said as he played the original Mass Effect on current gen hardware.

Backwards compatibility isn’t going to singlehandedly propel Microsoft’s console past Sony’s but it certainly helps, especially during a generation where players are asked to shell out cash for “remastered” or “definitive” editions of older games. Compared to Sony’s PlayStation Now service, where players must pay to stream PS3 games, Microsoft offers a more elegant, free solution that’s also pro-consumer, a rarity these days.

The new feature shows that Microsoft is making good on their gamers first mentality, a promise that Spencer has stated time and time again. Along with Xbox Game Preview where gamers can play games that are still in development and provide feedback, backwards compatibility is one of the few steps they’ve taken to truly make Xbox a great place to play games.

Backwards compatibility was the biggest announcement at the Xbox briefing but some may argue that The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy VII: Remake were the biggest reveals from this year’s E3, period.

Yes, I lost my shit when Sony opened with the fabled bird/cat/dog and the young boy from The Last Guardian (Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favorite games of all-time) but it wasn’t until the meteor-sized Final Fantasy announcement that forced me into a couple of deep breaths. Throw in the fact that Shemue III was in there too, it’s safe to say that I practically lost my mind. All of this happened on top of the expected but very fun Uncharted 4: A Thieves End demo and a handful of exciting new IPs like Horizon: Dawn Zero from Guerilla Games and Media Molecule’s Dreams.

Microsoft countered with their own set of triple A exclusives like Halo, Gears, Forza, a new title called Recore from Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune. There were also strong indie games at the Xbox conference like Tacoma, Ashen, Beyond Eyes and Cuphead. So far all of these are console exclusive to Xbox One. Comparing both platforms, I’d say that both have a lot of great indies to look forward to. The only difference is that games like DayZ, The Long Dark and Elite: Dangerous will make their console debut on Xbox One this year while only one of three games from Devolver Digital’s section of Sony’s press conference will be available before 2016 and that’s Ronin. Let’s not forget No Man’s Sky, quite possibly the biggest indie game of all time at this point, but who knows how long it’ll be before that’s released on the PS4.

A large number of Sony’s trailers ended with the number 2016 or nothing at all. And that’s a problem.

There’s wasn't a The Last Guardian equivalent from the Xbox show, but a large number of the games that were announced will be available later this year. Gamers can actually play these games in a few short months while a large number of Sony’s trailers ended with the numbers 2016 or nothing at all. And that’s a problem.

There’s nothing more deflating than to watch an incredible trailer and not hear or see the game for over a year. Or what’s even worse is a vague CG trailer that’s eventually forgotten and buried. As a gamer, I don’t want to see something that’s obviously unfinished because doing so only creates false hope and disappoints especially since games are always changing and evolving during development. Something shown off in 2013 may not even be the same game in 2015. Show me the game and let me play it.

With all this being said, Microsoft’s press conference wasn’t without flaws.

Personally, the entire Rare section was a little underwhelming but I’m curious to see what Sea of Thieves actually is. I’m hoping it’s the pirate game we all want. Oh and I don’t care about a $150 controller. EA was also a whatever moment for me. Fable Legends, I guess. Also, the beginning of the Hololens demo where they played Minecraft on a wall was uninteresting, that demo went from boring to mind blowing in no time, and you can’t say the same about Sony’s VR showcase.

Sony’s super start to their conference was only slowed by the talking points surrounding their virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus. RIGS, a competitive shooter for Morpheus was quickly shown but not entirely memorable. Sony also glanced over the fact that players can share a virtual world if each player had their own headset, but they didn’t showcase this and since we’re only judging what was on stage, I can’t say that I’m too excited for PlayStation’s VR solution. Compare this to the Microsoft Hololens demo earlier in the day and just about everyone tuning in could see the amount of faith these companies are putting into their peripherals.

Microsoft spent much more time demoing Hololens. They demonstrated how one can project a Minecraft world onto a tabletop and manipulate the view, taking a look underground or panning around the maps as another player plays. It felt like the beginning of a sci-fi novel.

The Sony conference also featured the expansion of Bungie’s Destiny, as well as the first time a Call of Duty game was shown outside of the Xbox Media Briefing. But these games haven’t excited me for a very long time and after doing no scientific research at all, I’m beginning to think Call of Duty fatigue is real. The Black Ops III and Destiny trailer looked more generic than ever before. Maybe Microsoft knows this and that led to the decision to keep Activision’s shooters out of their presser.

Even though Sony’s show was marred with more uninteresting moments than Microsoft’s they still had three of the biggest announcements at E3 this year.

With the Shenmue, Final Fantasy VII and The Last Guardian announcements, Sony officially crossed off three of the most anticipated games of all time, the only title missing was Half-Life 3 but that’s a game that deserves its own super long opinion piece.

Yes, I’ll say it again, Sony’s conference was amazing, but most of the big titles shown weren’t close to release.

With strong showings from Forza, Gears, and Halo alongside a timed exclusive in Tomb Raider, not to mention their console exclusive indies like Tacoma and Ashen, Microsoft showed more exclusive games and more games that will be available this year than Sony did. And that's important because gamers care about games and actually playing the games. I also suspect that more indie developers will jump onto the Xbox platform thanks to Xbox Game Preview. Throw in the fact that the console’s now officially cheaper than a PlayStation 4, is able to stream to any Windows 10 computer and also offers native backwards compatibility, it’s difficult to say Sony had the better conference overall.

Xbox had more exclusives, more games, and stronger initiatives like Hololens and backwards compatibility and Sony just couldn't compete. Microsoft fired on all cylinders while Sony was unmistakably top heavy.  

Think of it this way, Sony's show was a lot like the 2014 NBA Finals Miami Heat, which revolved around LeBron James, D-Wade and Chris Bosh. Three all-stars that eventually lost to the depth and consistent multi-pronged approach of the San Antonio Spurs. 

And all of this is coming from a gamer who is still on the fence about which current gen console to buy. I play most of my games these days on a PC and if I had to choose a console today, based on these two conferences alone, I’d shell out the cash for the chunky VCR that also happens to play modern video games, the Xbox One.

God, it’s ugly.

The opinions in this article belong solely to the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the site.

Billy is trying his best not to go crazy from all of the news coming out of E3 2015. He wants to desperately beat The Witcher 3 but can't stop chasing question marks. Follow him on Twitter.

Billy Saefong

Co-founder of Biya Byte and longtime partner-in-crime to Stephen, Billy's primary focus in life is to find the perfect slice of cheesecake (WHERE'S THE WHIPPED CREAM?!) while also doing his best to keep the site and all of its productions alive. He's a self-proclaimed Beatles historian, technology enthusiast and mislabeled Xbox fanboy (he doesn't mind). Most recently, Billy has become the all-around gadget-guy for Biya Byte as his magic backpack carries everything from his trusty Sony a6000, three microphones, and 60'' tripod, to a red Moleskin notebook that holds only what may be described as pure magic.