Well, it looks like Microsoft has finally gotten their act together.  Gone are the forty minute long Kinect demonstrations, the awkward, bland, and sometimes offensive stage conversations, and the childish games of yesteryear.  No, this year, Microsoft came out swinging for the hardcore gamers.  Out with the old and in with the new.

This year’s conference was, as Phil Spencer said, “dedicated entirely to games.”  And boy, did we get games.  Lots of games.  Tons of games.  So many games in fact, that this reporter almost had trouble keeping up with all the titles that were announced. Almost.

So here are three of the biggest things that we learned:

1) Christmas is going to be incredible this year.  

13 games were announced that will be coming out before the year is up.  Those include:

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • Forza Horizon 2
  • Evolve
  • Assassin’s Creed Unity
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Sunset Overdrive
  • Super Ultra Dead Rising 3′ Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha
  • Dance Central Spotlight
  • Killer Instinct Season 2
  • Fable Legends
  • Project Spark
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Halo: The Master Chief Collection

That’s an incredible list of titles, both AAA and indie alike.  The fact that Microsoft has regrouped and embraced new IPs like Sunset Overdrive and Evolve is a welcome breath of fresh air.  Sure, the old pillars are still there; Call of Duty got a new paint job and Halo‘s being revamped.  But the fervor and excitement that came along with the announcements, expected or not, was palpable.  Microsoft really nailed the games this year, and that’s a good thing.

Of course, there were other announcements made for upcoming games, but none of them will be released before 2015.  Those games are as follows:

  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Phantom Dust
  • Inside
  • Scalebound
  • Crackdown
  • Quantum Break

All in all, Microsoft stood by what they said at the beginning of the conference: it’s all about the games.

2) Halo will be the flagship series for Xbox for as long as possible.

Microsoft and 343 Industries have made an extremely large commitment to Halo, announcing Halo 5: Guardians, Halo: The Master Chief Collection (including Halo 2: Anniversary Edition), and Halo Nightfall, the all new live-action show produced by Steven Spielberg.  This IP has been around for over a decade, and it’s never been more popular, and will continue to be so until Microsoft pulls the plug.  The fact that a television show is being made shows the viability of the franchise, and the huge amount of support it’s garnered not only in the gaming industry, but in Hollywood as well.

This conference was an important step for Microsoft letting us know that it’s fully behind the Chief and his story for the foreseeable future.  While that may be good for gamers who love the world the Bungie created, what does it mean for Microsoft as a company?  It’s obvious that Halo: The Master Chief Collection is simply a stopgap, a way to circumvent the fact that a new entry in the Halo universe isn’t going to happen until next year, which means that it will have been more than TWO YEARS since the Xbox One was announced that we see a new story in the Halo universe.

But, regardless of whether or not you love Halo, Microsoft is committed to pushing the story as far as they can take it, for better or for worse.

3) Indie is the new black.

Independent developers have had a notoriously bad relationship with Microsoft and getting their games out into the world (ex. Super Meat Boy.)  But when the Xbox One was announced, Microsoft restated it’s stance on independent devs: there would be a platform for self-publishing on their newest console.  No more waiting for Microsoft to try and manage everything about a game’s release, no more hierarchical problems coming down from top executives; a way to mitigate some of the power that Sony and Valve have on the marketplace.  The announcement was met with praise, but then Microsoft revealed that it wouldn’t be until later on this year that the platform would be ready.

[email protected] is that platform, and it’s finally ready.  Here are the games that were showcased during its promo trailer:

  • Aztez
  • Below
  • Cuphead
  • Fenix Rage
  • Fru
  • Hellraid
  • Hyperlight Drifter
  • Knight Squad
  • Lifeless Planet
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
  • Mighty No. 9
  • Plague Inc.
  • Slash Dash
  • Threes
  • White Night

This is a welcome announcement for Indie devs and indie gamers, one that Microsoft has really needed ever since debuting the Xbox One.  Now, we just have to wait and see who else will jump on the train.  With Sony and Valve so securely embedded in the minds of gamers looking for independent, non-AAA games, will Microsoft be able to cash in on the marketplace?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Microsoft has always had a certain stigma attached to it’s E3 conferences, ever since it’s introduction of the Kinect.  Often, attendees and viewers have found their presentations awkward, bland, and woefully self-aware.

This year was different, and Microsoft will be better for it.  They finally came back to what they’re best at: producing and hyping up exciting games from developers and studios that gamers love.  Will it be enough to win back all the lost traction that they suffered these past few years?  Who knows.

But it’s a very, very good start on what looks to be a fantastic year for the Xbox One.

Kyle Bailey
Kyle used to work alongside Nick Calandra in the early days of OnlySP, doing such things as "writing articles" and "posting" and "being the Editor-In-Chief". But then college happened, and things slowed down. But, now that he's graduated, he can resume his life-long passion of writing about video games. And making movies. He also has a beard.

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