E3: Gamers taken aback as Microsoft reveals €500 price tag for new Xbox One console
Microsoft has revealed that its new Xbox One games console will carry an "expensive" price tag of €500 when it is launched before Christmas.
The US firm announced the price of its latest piece of hardware at the E3 electronic entertainment trade show in Los Angeles. It came hours before Sony was set to raise the curtain on its PlayStation 4, pushing the console war between the tech giants to fever pitch.
Microsoft's presentation saw the unveiling of XBox One games, with a mix of legendary franchises such as 'Halo' with a clutch of new titles.
Video games expert Daniel Krupa, who writes for entertainment website IGN, said: "The price is high, but the Xbox One right now has bags of functionality and promise. All eyes are now on Sony to see what they have up their sleeves."
After a week in which Microsoft came in for severe criticism over its controversial policies for Xbox One's once-a-day online check-ins and pre-owned games confusion, the company’s E3 press conference needed to go well for the Redmond giant.
There was, at least, a positive air of anticipation as the world's media filed into the Galen Center in downtown Los Angeles.
The initial reveal of the Xbox One was heavy on hardware and television services and light on games, sparking opprobrium from gamers keen on seeing what the next-generation will have to offer them. Microsoft pleaded for patience, promising that E3 would be about "gaming, gaming, gaming". And on that front at least, they delivered.
It began with a gorgeous look at Metal Gear Solid V, Konami's open world stealth game that will feature real time weather and several modes of transport. Series hero Snake trots past enemies on a horse, hunkering down behind the animal's haunches. Hiding on a transport truck, taking down enemies in close-quarters combat. It looks glorious, with plenty of the knowing eccentricity the series is famous for. Kiefer Sutherland is now voicing the hero. It suggested the technical boost the next-generation will bring, if not necessarily a significant shift in gameplay, a theme that was prevalent throughout.
But before Microsoft delved too headily into Xbox One, Yusuf Medhi sprung a surprise by announcing a new model of current generation console Xbox 360, available immediately. And then announced brand new games for the 360, World of Tanks; a free-to-play custom built port of the PC online multiplayer hit, and cartoon platformer Max: The Curse of the Brotherhood.
Then it was on to the Xbox One proper, with Crytek's new game Ryse: Son of Rome getting its first airing. A blistering, visually-stunning brawler based on the conquests of Rome. It wasn't a million miles away from the kind of cinematic action we're used to, with QTEs and meaty, violent combat. But what impressed was just how much was happening on screen. Fires raging in the background, battlements collapsing while a Roman battalion of hundreds storms the beach, with you as commander.
Next was the return of Rare's fighting game Killer Instinct, which received a raucous reception from the assembled crowd. Then, in something of a coup for Microsoft, they announced an exclusive from Resistance developer Insomniac. The studio was previously exclusive to PlayStation, and their new game Sunset Overdrive is a hyper-stylised, colourful open-world shooter. It looks every bit the amalgam of Ratchet and Clank and Resistance, as cartoon cool kids shoot monsters with a gun launching vinyl records.
We got our first real look at Forza Motorsport 5, which was Microsoft's first real push at demonstrating the uses of online cloud computing. Creative director Dan Greenawalt described "Driver time", which apparently uses the cloud to learn human behaviour and translate that into the game's driver AI.
It was the first attempt to break away from the extremely pretty, but extremely familiar, parade of games.
Microsoft then attempted to address the accusations that they were obsessed with the triple-A blockbuster by lauding their indie credentials. Sony's standard-bearer for the indie movement was Jonathan Blow's The Witness, Xbox One's is an all new Minecraft.
Remedy's Quantum Break was next, a fascinating, genuinely exciting game that also comes with a TV show that impacts and is affected by how you play the game. The protagonist can freeze time, pulling an apparently important doctor from an exploding window. Then came a brief look at interactive murder mystery D4 from Deadly Premonition director Swery65. Brief as their appearance was, these were two of the most exciting games at the conference - new, different and potentially disruptive.
Microsoft's motion-sensing camera Kinect and phone and tablet app Smartphone had been neglected thus far. Project Spark, a creative, build your own fantasy adventure game, addressed the balance in genuinely interesting ways, featuring voice control and touchscreen editing. It was hard to tell what exactly what was going on, but the demonstration showed two player co-operating and modifying the world on the fly to fight off a goblin horde. It became clear that Project Spark was Microsoft's answer to LittleBigPlanet, a tantalising sizzle reel showing the types of games you can create in its editing suite, from monochrome platformers to Geometry Wars style shoot-em-ups.
Smartglass, a project that can be charitably described as disappointing on Xbox 360, then got a more detailed airing. Showing how the app will offer tips and progress, and how you can set up multiplayer games on the fly, joining immediately from another game. The demo went from Ryse to Killer Instinct. You can instantly upload recorded videos from your game using Upload Studio, or broadcast live on gaming TV site Twitch. All very neat indeed and a very important addition in the era of YouTube and phenomenally popular "Let's Play" videos.
A brief public service announcement revealing that Microsoft Points, which you use to buy games on Xbox 360's download service are to be a thing of the past. With games on Xbox One being bought with real-world, easy-to-follow money. Who would have thought?
Two more new games were then showcased, Crimson Dragon, a spiritual successor to Panzer Dragoon (a reveal somewhat neutered by an amusing technical glitch that saw the demo run without sound) and open-world zombie game Dead Rising 3. More technical audio difficulties followed with a demo of Battlefield 4, though shouting "BANG" a lot would get the idea across for the visually impressive, but over-familiar military blasting.
That was contrasted rather beautifully, however, by a demo of Below, a pretty dungeon-crawler by Superbrother developer Capy.
But the blockbusters would not be silenced. A new Halo was teased for 2014, though with no further detail. This was then followed by the debut of Respawn's Titanfall, a big, bolshy sci-fi shooter set to rival Bungie's Destiny. Mechs stomped and bullets flew, putting across a Call of Duty meets Halo. Another FPS it might be, but a raucous pace and the strategic insertion of the titular Titans marked it out as one to watch.
Microsoft's conference was loud, proud and actually rather good. There was no escaping the familiarity of the grandstanding shooters, but mixed among the bluster was a few glimpses of something genuinely interesting with creative titles like Project Spark and Quantum Break. It's unlikely this showing will be enough to offset concerns about intrusive DRM and an eye-watering price-tag and it was no surprise to see Microsoft side-stepping those issues with a grin and well-rehearsed showmanship. But as a glimpse into the games that Xbox One will provide, it wasn't a bad start.