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E3 2013 Preview: Microsoft

Microsoft is up next in our daily series of E3 previews as they have the first actual press conference at Monday, June 10 at 9: 30 AM PT/12:30 PM ET.

Despite coming into E3 riding high on the Xbox 360’s continued success in North America, Microsoft is tasked with the difficult challenge of overcoming the poisonous perception that the Xbox One has gained from their most hardcore fans. They don’t have anybody to blame but themselves for sending out mixed messages due to either incompetent PR or arrogance after the reveal. Luckily, the complaints of their lack of focus on games during the Xbox One reveal should get to see a much more focused Microsoft talk up the games that are coming to Xbox One and the things that are most important to them.

Microsoft has already shown the Xbox One’s hardware and major peripherals, so there isn’t much more to talk about in that unless they announce a price and launch date at E3. That very well could happen, but I can see them holding off until more of their plans for the launch are set in stone to announce at their own event. There’s not much to really get excited about on this aspect.

At the last minute before this article went live, Microsoft finally came clean on the plans for DRM and used games policies, which means that the system OS aspect of hte press conference should just be focused on their digital digistribution plans. We got a few details about Xbox Live during the reveal, but I’d expect to get more news about what sort of upgrades the online service will get. On the digital games front, Microsoft has said that labels like Xbox Live Arcade, Indie Games, and Games on Demand are going away, but that looks to just be a change in title only from what we know. They quickly turned off indie developers with the news that self-publishing was not happening, so their plans on that front seems to be the same as what we have now with a limited amount of slots that requires indie developers to find a publisher and give up revenue in the process. Microsoft's attitude suggests that it only wants to court developers that it deems to be worthy rather than be more open and give their audience the chance to decide what they want instead.

Microsoft claims that E3 will be all about the games, so this is where the Xbox One will have to make its mark to regain the hype that a next-gen console needs. They made the claim that they’ll have 15 first-party exclusives in the first year, though they didn’t necessarily specify how many of those games are Kinect-focused or XBLA-level games. We know Forza 5 and Quantum Break are two of those games and a Kinect game from a past E3, Ryze, will make its return, but what else? For the big retail games that we most care about, do we see the return of Halo, Fable, and Gears or do we see those studios get a crack at new and exciting IPs? Rumors have been buzzing about Microsoft buying up third-party exclusives to bolster their lineup, which specifically featured the mysterious game from Respawn Entertainment. There are a lot of ways that the games can go, which makes this the most exciting aspect of their press conference since there isn’t much of a controversy here unless Kinect is heavily featured in these games.

As the Xbox One begins its trek to launch this fall, Microsoft still has some things to do with the Xbox 360. They’ve said that there is news to come about the future of the Xbox 360, which has been rumored to be a new redesign to make it a tiny console that focuses on digital games and the media apps. Other rumors suggest that this slimmed down console connects to the Xbox One as a means of providing BC to the Xbox One, though the matter of fact statements about the status of Xbox 360 BC on Xbox One suggests that this is farfetched. Of course, the easy thing to surmise from all of this is that you don’t have to worry about an original Xbox-style early death for the Xbox 360, which is the best news possible.

At this point in its life, the Xbox 360’s dashboard isn’t really going to change much. The Xbox One’s dashboard isn’t much different from what we currently have, so this will be the first year in a while where we don’t have a firmware update to overhaul the dashboard. That’s really about it.

Onto Xbox 360 games, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of games they have in the works since they seem to be highly-focused on Xbox One development right now. We know that Lionhead Studios is working on an HD remaster of the original Fable and they’ve claimed to have more in the works for Xbox 360, so it seems like games will be the most interesting part of the show after all. The safest thing to expect for Xbox 360 in terms of games are plenty of multiplatform exclusives to talk about, especially if they’re still making deals for exclusive DLC.

Microsoft almost went into E3 with a lot of hate and controversy, but they're attempting to get their giant foot out of their big mouths by spilling details on the ore nefarious aspects of the system in order to free up the press conference from that negativity. There was no way that they could've gotten out of E3 without do this, so they just did it all before they get their to try to diffuse the hate. Their prior statements about E3 being all about the games now makes more sense with the big remaining question marks being what games Microsoft and third-parties will announce at the show.

We will be liveblogging the announcements Microsoft’s press conference on Monday, June 10 at 9:30 AM PT/12:30 PM ET directly from our Twitter account, so feel free to follow us in ahead of game to get ready for all of E3. There are press conferences all day long, so be sure to stick around all day as we keep you up-to-date on the latest announcements at each show.

To cap off this E3 Preview, I’ve asked my fellow staffers for their thoughts on what to expect from Microsoft’s showing at E3:

Editor's Note: These comments were solicited before the details of Microsoft's DRM policies were announced, so not all of these were written with that in mind.

Alex Quevedo:
"Because of the ire drawn from their announcement event, they will have to focus on games and facts, the former of which will be priority number 1. They'll try to keep the talking to a very limited amount of people, but they'll open up more about their exclusives and launch titles. Perhaps more importantly they will need to address how people will play these games: always online? Can it be a used game? One voice, or they're in some trouble."

Danreb Victorio:
"Here's what Microsoft's problem is: its all-in-one features are things that both the Wii U and PS4 can do… Short of the Kinect's vitality sending capabilities. For me, it's all about the games, and I just know that all the games they'll feature are run-of-the-mill popular third party titles or rehashes that only shooting and sci-if fans are into. If they show even one title that tickles my fancy the same way Heavy Rain did, I'll be satisfied."

Filippo Dinolfo:
"Knowing what I know now about the connectivity requirement and used game sales, I'm fairly sure that I won't be buying one. I do have a fairly solid internet connection, that isn't the issue, it's just the heavy handedness of their approach that irks me. I'll be watching their keynote with interest, but I don't think an Xbox One will be making its way into my living room until all my concerns are allayed."

Jonard La Rosa:
"Ideally, Microsoft would reveal multi-player games that can be simultaneously played cross-compatible with WP8 and Win8/RT devices which have been promised for almost a year now. They could also reveal a highly emphasized platform for Indie Developers to launch their better-than-mobile games. A generous line-up of unique Triple A titles should be announced for launch. Unfortunately, what will probably happen is that the reveal will make me want to buy a rig with a Haswell processor as I already own an Xbox with a Kinect that I can use to play games, watch TV shows, and movies."

Patrick Mifflin:
"The good news for Microsoft is that they have precious little left to lose after an abysmal console unveiling last month. The bad news is that said unveiling was so atrocious that much of the playerbase has already written them off, and may not care what they have to say at E3. There can be no mistakes from here on – not only must Microsoft put forth a tremendous software lineup, they must back off on what they had already previously hinted at or confirmed were sure aspects of the Xbox One. It all comes down to a simple thing that seems lost on them right now: respect us and respect gaming."

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