Let’s Chat: Xbox Games Showcase Reaction!

Following on from our prediction article for the Xbox Games Showcase – which you can read here – this Let’s Chat is going to be Ashley Harrison and I reacting to the event. There is a lot to talk about here, and also scores from our predictions to tally up! The Ascent was in the pre-show, so I am immediately 1-0 up. Just saying.


William Robinson: Hey Ash! As we recently did predictions, it makes sense that this Let’s Chat is going to be all about reacting to the Showcase. Microsoft revealed a lot of new games, so as with the Ubisoft Forward, let’s go through it chronologically. First, though; I was impressed at the variety of different games shown, and the dedication to fixing the area of weakness that has been their first-party line-up compared to their rivals. Before we go into it, just recap your general expectations for the Showcase as a whole and whether as an initial reaction, it satisfied those? I mean, there wasn’t Minecraft 2… Haha!

Ashley Harrison: Hey again Will! Honestly, I have to say, I wasn’t really expecting much from this Xbox Games Showcase because, like I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’ve just never been that much of an Xbox player. However, saying that, I was extremely impressed by Microsoft’s recent showing, and it’s genuinely starting to sway me towards buying an Xbox Series X as my next-generation console rather than a PlayStation 5. Although I do wish Minecraft 2 was a thing as well.

WR: Wow, that’s a significant swing and goes to show that they did a great job here. Microsoft has clearly put a lot of effort into addressing the first-party weakness that the Xbox One has suffered relative to other consoles; their flagship exclusive is Halo, and they kicked off the Showcase with a decent chunk of gameplay from Halo Infinite. That now makes it 1-1 for predictions! It was great to see it in action beyond cinematics, but whilst it ran smoothly, it didn’t blow me away as a next-generation preview. It doesn’t stand out as particularly beyond the capabilities of current consoles to me – it seemed to be Halo but with larger areas.

AH: They’ve stepped up both their first party support, and their third-party indie support for this generation so much already compared to the Xbox One, and I’m more than here for it. I’m with you on that about Halo, as I said when we were watching live, it looked impressive from a framerate standpoint (that lovely 60FPS action looks soooooo smooth) but visually I expected more. I get that it’s the very beginning of the console generation, and developers are going to take a couple of years to get to know the hardware, but for a first-party game (especially one as synonymous with Xbox as Halo is) it’s a bit of a letdown in my opinion.

WR: Especially after building up anticipation for it for around two years now; it seems as though it is going to be a bit of a reboot for the series, but aside from those larger spaces I haven’t yet seen much innovation… I’m not sure solid Halo gameplay is enough, when both Sony and Nintendo have found acclaim for taking flagship series in new directions – I was hoping for more of that here. Put it this way; as someone without a particular investment in the franchise, I didn’t see why this is an essential purchase.

Halo Infinite was fluid, if unspectacular

AH: I’m with you there again 100%. Compared to many of Sony and Nintendo’s first-party exclusives, this Halo demo didn’t scream “God damn, this is the game to sell me on a system!” to me whatsoever. You look at the recent PS5 reveal event, and games like Ratchet & Clank and Horizon Forbidden West (even though I personally won’t be picking the latter up as I wasn’t a fan of the first game) definitely had that feeling for me.

WR: There appears to be some criticism for the Halo Infinite showing around; do you reckon there is real concern to be had? 343 has never garnered the same level of praise for their Halo games (Halo 4 onwards) that Bungie did back in the day. They’re the equivalent of the leading first-party studio at Sony, Naughty Dog (you may have heard of it?), but they just don’t have that reputation yet.

There’s a clear difference in quality between Bungie and 343’s Halo offerings in the view of fans of the series

Ashley Harrison

AH: Naughty Dog? Who are they? Never heard of them. I wouldn’t say there’s real cause for concern after a single 8-minute gameplay segment for what’s surely a much longer game, but at the same time though I wouldn’t hold out much hope. Like you’ve said, there’s a clear difference in quality between Bungie and 343’s Halo offerings in the view of fans of the series, and I don’t expect this one to be anything different.

WR: The Studio Head Chris Lee then segwayed into a CGI trailer, which is where the predictions become 2-1 to me after I successfully called the reveal of State of Decay 3! There was not any gameplay here, so it seems a way off, but I thought the tone of the trailer was great. My hopes for State of Decay perhaps going in a more mature direction may actually be happening… it’d be great to see the franchise evolve in that way. I will say, though, that this marked a return to a lot of CGI trailers in this Showcase, with not that much gameplay…

The tone of the State of Decay 3 reveal is a departure for the series

AH: Xbox and not showing gameplay, name a more iconic duo! It definitely sucks to see them going back to CGI trailers instead of just showing gameplay, and honestly, it does get my suspicion levels going a bit. I assume that State of Decay 3 probably isn’t all that far into development and they likely don’t have much (if any) gameplay to show. When games are so different to the CGI trailers being shown (remember the original Watch_Dogs unveiling compared to the final product?),, then I’d rather wait until developers are able to show gameplay to reveal their games.

WR: Yeah, especially with this cinematic being so different in tone to the more B-movie-style marketing for State of Decay 2, it raises suspicions. This then led into us finally seeing the one and only Head of Xbox Phil Spencer with his usual T-shirt game on show. My real question here is… is he in the future? Those pristine grey walls, a lack of exits… is he being held hostage? Perhaps being sent back in time to fix Microsoft mistakes?!

AH: I’m like 90% Phil Spencer is a robot anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “him” have any life behind the eyes, this one being shown is probably straight off the factory line, hence why the area looks so strange, top secret facility ain’t it?

Yes, I just spent time taking screenshots of Phil Spencer. What did you do with YOUR day?

WR: Oh… what if those T-shirt swaps from previous E3s are actually just different Phil Spencers rotated through the conference?! OK, so, in all seriousness, he says important stuff here. We get a glimpse of the 15 Xbox first-party studios, with Spencer noting about 9 being present, with 5 new reveals. This is where we saw Mojang and started half-predicting Minecraft 2 was actually happening haha! Crucially, though, he then informs us that EVERY game is going to be available to those with Xbox Game Pass, which is amazing. This isn’t getting as much discussion as it should; for the up-to-£10.99 a month, you get access to ALL first-party games. Halo Infinite, State of Decay, Forza, Gears of War, Fable, etc. – that value is incredible, even if my personal favour for purchasing games physically goes against it. To clarify: for £7.99 you get the base Game Pass, including access to all the games in this Showcase! For £10.99 you get the Ultimate version, which is all of that plus Xbox Live Gold, which is usually £6.99 a month separately. Oh, and your first month of Ultimate is £1 – and if you already have any remaining time on your Live subscription, it turns all of that into Ultimate for just £1 extra. Again: that is *incredible* value.

AH: Honestly, I thought we’d gone on some weird tangents in previous Let’s Chat articles, but that was definitely the weirdest one we’ve been on. Game Pass is staggering value for what you get, and it’s another of the reasons that I’m genuinely considering going to Series X for next generation. It’s ridiculous just how good value it actually is – for the price of 2 games a year at launch, you get access to all those games (assuming you’re going the base Game Pass, Ultimate works out a bit more) and those already on the service. I’m genuinely so surprised that Sony haven’t copied it already, rather than just pushing the massively inferior PlayStation Now service. I really do wonder if that will change for PS5.

WR: They may have to if Microsoft is supporting it with better games; really, the main aspect holding it back before is that whilst you got first-party games through the service, there wasn’t all that many actually available. If there is now an increased range and quality, which there appears to be, then suddenly it’s a much better proposition. Sony may be forced into adopting a similar functionality with PS Now, depending on how it plays out, and that’s great for gamers. If you only usually have money for one or two game purchases now and then, suddenly for around the same price you have this vast library available to you. Or for younger gamers with less money, too, it means they can try out more games. It’s an exciting prospect!

All the games from these studios are included in Game Pass. Wow.

AH: The only fear I have with it isn’t even one that is guaranteed to happen. With the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, and with more games sales happening digitally than ever before, it looks like we could be set to go into an all-digital future, so if that does happen soon and buying games physically isn’t a thing any longer, it leaves the price of Game Pass up to be changed at any time, and as such it could become less value for money than it currently is.

WR: As I mentioned, I’m very much on the side of physical media, so that isn’t a future I would like to see! With all-digital consoles and the evolution of Game Pass, we’re getting more options which is great; as long as one doesn’t get a monopoly, as you say. However if PlayStation had a similar service, that would mean price competition and may keep that at bay. Right, next up is another correct prediction for me in the new Forza Motorsport (3 to 1 at this point), with Phil Spencer introducing in-engine footage of the Turn 10 game. Forza has often been a great graphical powerhouse for Xbox and it seems to be continuing in that vein.

AH: Whilst the Forza showcase was only in-engine footage, rather than actual gameplay, I have to say, it’s looking absolutely incredible. The lighting and reflections on the cars especially are insane to look at, this is definitely the graphical prowess showcase if you ask me, not Halo. In my opinion, this is what the conference should’ve opened with, and have that big “yeah, this is what we can do with Series X” moment instead of Halo.

WR: Yeah, I agree with you, Halo may actually have been more impressive if we were already convinced by Forza of the power of the Series X, and then Halo could have been more of a gameplay and framerate demonstration. It is intriguing that there is no number after Motorsport (the last one was 7). Maybe this is more of a platform game that is added to over time? That would synergise well with the subscription service being offered through Game Pass.

Those are some nice-looking cars. So shiny…

AH: Honestly, I can’t say I’m a fan of the “games as a service” model many developers have taken up over the past half-decade or so, so I’m really hoping that it’s not going to go along that route, especially if they sell a new “Year X Pass” every year. If it’s free updates throughout the life-span then I wouldn’t mind too much, though, having said that.

WR: Yeah, and if they’re getting funding through Game Pass, maybe they can make them free? We shall have to wait and see. OK, next up is a game that was a highlight for both of us: Everwild, the stunning new Rare game. This trailer enchanted me – it has the aesthetic of an amazing animated film. I can see this being a console-seller, and it was great to see the clear enthusiasm Executive Producer Louise O’Connor has for the project.

This trailer enchanted me – it has the aesthetic of an amazing animated film.

William Robinson

AH: This game is genuinely a highlight of the whole Showcase; it just looks so good! The art style for it is just absolutely gorgeous, I’d much rather developers adopt styles like this rather than try and push to make their games look hyper realistic because, in my opinion, it looks a million times better, and also means that the game won’t age anywhere near as badly visually. I love the nature theme that seems to be the core of the trailer, it definitely seems like it’s going to be one of those games where the world is just so much fun to mess around in and see what you find.

WR: See, to me, it has actually been games such as this and Kena: Bridge of the Spirits in the PS5 reveal presentation that have been the clearest graphical step forward for me. The games with this sort of art direction now seem to be visually at the level of animated films, but now we can play them! The vibe of this trailer was so my style, and the character designs are awesome. Excited to see more of this… At this stage of the Showcase I was wondering how they could keep the momentum up, as there had been major first-party reveal after first-party reveal.

Everwild is a standout exclusive

AH: I definitely see where you’re coming from with the animated movie comment. I know they worked on Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch & the sequel Revenant Kingdom, so I’d LOVE to see what Studio Ghibli could do on these next generation consoles, I bet whatever they came up with would look beyond gorgeous. And yeah, as you say, this conference was just reveal after reveal after reveal of fairly big first-party games up until this point, it definitely made you question just how much they had up their sleeves to reveal if that was how the first 20 minutes or so went.

WR: Oh wow imagine a Ghibli game on next-gen… yes please. The conference started to lose a bit of momentum from here on out, but it still kept my interest. Tell Me Why from DONTNOD is one I’m not sure on; I am of course a superfan of Life is Strange, but after being affected by the glitch that deleted all my save data at the end of Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 I haven’t gone back and that sequel has been a bit of a soured experience for me as a result. Tell Me Why has got the DONTNOD traits; emotional family themes, and that art style – an art style that does at first glance appear to have been pushed on visually.

AH: Straight away it just screams “yup, this is a DONTNOD game” from the visuals and character design and there’s part of me that doesn’t think that’s all that good of a thing; it feels like they haven’t really moved on from Life is Strange. When the characters in the trailer saw the ghost things in the trailer, I was genuinely expecting it to end with a logo for Life is Strange 3. I wouldn’t want DONTNOD to go the same way as Telltale Games, making basically the same game over and over until they go under.

Guess the developer! Oh, we already told you.

WR: The story did admittedly capture my attention though, so I am probably going to try it out when the first episode releases on August 27th. You? Did you ever start Life is Strange 2, for that matter?

AH: The story definitely captured my attention and it’s definitely on my list of games to play, it just depends on when. If it’s episodic, I’ll just play when all the episodes have released, but if it’s a full game, then I’ll wait for a sale honestly. To answer about Life is Strange 2, nope, still haven’t played it, and honestly I don’t ever really see it happening unless the full season drops to below a fiver or something. It’s not something I’ve ever really felt that I actually need to pick up and play through, I’m quite happy for my Life is Strange experience to be the original season and Before the Storm.

WR: Following this we saw some news about additions being made to games we know about. Gennadiy Korol, Co-founder and Director of Technology at Moon Studios, gave us details on a new version of Ori and the Will of the Wisps for Series X, giving us detailed explanation of the new 120 FPS (!) and full 4K HDR, plus new audio development options. This game was already known for visuals; that new 120 FPS is very impressive. It’s a game that is already out though, so not as much of a headline as, say, Everwild.

AH: It’s always nice to see improvements for older games, especially when it’s the fastest we’ve ever seen a game running on a console, but like you say it’s dampened a bit by the fact that it is an already released game, rather than a big-budget upcoming one. However, it’s 100% something I’d pick up if I do decide to get a Series X because of the fact that it’s running at 4K/120 FPS, that’s insane to me because you’d only ever really hear of framerates that high on PC until now.

After the Ori segment was Obsidian Entertainment, who showed off Grounded (above) and more

WR: This directly led into another already-release game, The Outer Worlds by Obsidian Entertainment (now a Microsoft first-party studio). Peril of Gorgon (releasing September 9th) is the new DLC, and seems fun enough if not particularly surprising in the features we saw. Of more note to me was the rest of this Obsidian section of the Showcase, with two new games on show: Grounded, a retro, nostalgic garden RPG (July 28th) and a brand new sprawling RPG Avowed. This was, again, a CGI reveal, but the tone of Avowed is very much to my tastes – epic fantasy adventuring, yes please! How did you find the Obsidian segment?

AH: I was actually a big fan of the Grounded reveal trailer, I love the fact that it wasn’t serious whatsoever, and just poked fun at itself all the way through. Hopefully that humour carries through into the game itself as well, because it’s definitely got me interested. Also, it has a Battletoad in it, so that automatically wins points if you ask me, GOTY material right there. Honestly I wasn’t too interested in the Avowed reveal, it just didn’t capture me as much as it has done for you. And besides, if you ask me, it wasn’t even the best fantasy RPG shown during the showcase (this is where Ash put a winking emoji, the millennial).

WR: Ooh, masterful foreshadowing there Ash. Haha! I’m already noticing the amount of games you’re mentioning very positively – exclusive games, and it’s such a change from the start of last generation when that just was not the conversation around the console (there were other issues with the Xbox One, too). This is why this Showcase was very optimism-fueling for me – it is the company learning from their errors. Returning to the dystopian future, Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty then told us about independent studio Interior/Night and their new game set in Southwest USA, As Dusk Falls. I’m not convinced by the static approach to the art style, but I shall wait and see.

The reveal of As Dusk Falls had a unique art style

AH: Honestly, I don’t mind the static art style whatsoever, it reminds me of the old choose-your-own-adventure style games and I’m okay with that; though I know that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It reminded me of an episode of Retro Replay where Nolan North gets stuck on the same style of game thanks to Quick Time Events (none of those please) and any game that reminds me of when that show was actually good is great in my opinion. I don’t know why it also reminded me of the game Space Age exactly, because flicking back through the episode it’s not similar at all, but whatever.

WR: “when that show was actually good”, woah, shots fired! Yeah, I am okay with a stylistic approach; let’s hope the story is of a quality where it works. See, this upcoming part of the Showcase was quite odd to me; we go to Ninja Theory, where Studio Head Dom Matthews reveals… Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is set in Iceland and you can now watch a development diary about it. Huh? There was no new footage… It still technically counts for your prediction, I guess. 3-2…

AH: It was there, I get to count it. I’ll agree though, it’s odd that there’s no new footage, but I have to admit that I quite like behind-the-scenes documentaries that explain development choices, so I definitely need to go watch this one at some point. Guess it hasn’t progressed all that much since seven months ago with the world going to shit? Which is understandable, I guess.

Nevertheless, the setting of Iceland is a stunning one (image above is from the CGI trailer)

WR: Maybe… when we got the “Xbox Game Studios Presents” screen afterwards I thought it was going to be a new trailer for it, but instead it was Double Fine! VERY different tone, with Jack Black singing over a trailer for Psychonauts 2. I don’t have the investment of playing the original but I know there is a fanbase with nostalgia for the series, and this is an example of the new first-party variety of Xbox.

AH: Imagine if either of us had put “Jack Black to appear” on our pre-Showcase predictions, we’d be calling each other crazy for it, and yet, there he was. I also never played the original (though I’m fairly sure I own it on Steam) so I’m not too interested in this to be straight up honest, but again, I love the art style for it. With how synonymous Xbox has been in the past with being a console for shooters and sports games, and nothing else, I’m so glad to see such a variety and most of all, actual colours! If this is the future of Microsoft, I’m more than happy.

With how synonymous Xbox has been in the past with being a console for shooters and sports games, and nothing else, I’m so glad to see such a variety

Ashley Harrison

WR: It actually seems to suit your tastes for 3D platformers, no? Yeah, variety is the spice of life, and from Halo to Everwild to State of Decay to this, you can see the range of genres and art styles. I’m gonna blast past Destiny as it is a game we know about – the new info was about being able to play updated content on Series X and on Game Pass – and into the next WORLD PREMIERRRRRREEEE for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 and then again for Warhammer 40,000 Darktide, both more gritty reveals in the vein of those less colourful shooters you just mentioned. Tetris Effect Connected, a new version with multiplayer, was then after that to return the vibrancy… this section was where I felt the Showcase lost some of that front-loaded momentum. The reveals were okay, but blended into one a bit…

AH: Yeah, honestly, I can’t really say much about this section either. Nice to see Tetris slowly catching up to DOOM as the game able to run on the most devices though.

It’s pleasing to see the variety of games; Psychonauts 2, above

WR: Though Skyrim may have an argument about that too, haha! A game much more in our wheelhouse was the shock exclusive from Image & Form Games, The Gunk. I say shock because usually their priority has been Nintendo platforms, so to see them have such a presence in the Xbox Games Showcase was a surprise to me. They haven’t got much experience with 3D games, but they’re a fantastic, talented development team so I am confident this will be great. I really find the environment design brilliantly eccentric – it has mechanical elements so it could still be in the SteamWorld universe…

AH: Image & Form might genuinely be the best indie company around right now for my money, so I’m really hoping this serves as their big break into the mainstream that they thoroughly deserve. Whilst they might not have any experience in the 3D design world, they haven’t made a single bad game yet if you ask me, and this looks set to continue that trend. The Gunk is very heavily Super Mario Sunshine inspired from the looks of things, an under-rated Mario game if you ask me, so I’m very much looking forward to this being released. Hopefully down the line it’ll be released on other systems instead of just Series X and One, but if not, this is without a doubt the game that will get me to buy Series X more than any other. I’m that confident in Image & Form’s previous development quality that I’ll say that right now.

WR: Even more than Everwild? Yeah, Image & Form have proven their qualities time and again – I was hoping that they would be allowed to do a steampunk version of Metroid at some point – and I hope this is a success. In the trailer the movement seemed a bit clunky and unrefined, but I imagine that shall improve a lot.

I am anticipating fun interviews with Brjann Sigurgeirsson (who runs Image & Form) about The Gunk

AH: Even more than Everwild, yeah. This is without a doubt the highlight of the Showcase for me, I just love Image & Form’s games that much. I don’t think this is a permanent move from Nintendo (speaking of which, we still need the other console ports of SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech…) so they might well yet get the opportunity to do their own take on Metroid, and I’ll be there to buy it Day 1.

WR: With the Metroidvania elements of the two SteamWorld Dig games, it would be such a great collaboration! OK, so we’re getting to the final reveals of the show now, and after picking up with The Gunk we again switch genre into horror with The Medium. This has really stylish visuals but without really seeing the gameplay it’s hard to place where it is going to be quality-wise. Rendering two worlds at once is mighty remarkable though!

AH: Now this is a game that interests me greatly, and because of the gameplay, as impressive as rendering dual worlds is. What intrigues me is that whilst watching the reveal trailer for it, I can’t help but feel like I’m watching a trailer for Stranger Things: The Game. And since calling the official game for the show god awful is still being kind, I’m more than happy to have this as a replacement. There’s so many similarities between The Medium and Stranger Things, with the worlds being the same layout wise but the “other side” being a dangerous place, to the monster you see in the game sharing more than a passing resemblance to the Demogorgon from the show.

Well, that’s just showing off

WR: This is where you tell me, again, to watch the show, right? Haha, it’s on the list… there is some really creepy imagery, and having the Akira Yamaoka (of Silent Hill) on music duties is awesome. Again, this fills a genre gap for Xbox – even if it is only a launch exclusive. So, er, for the next reveal, are you a Phantasy Star Online player? I feel as though New Genesis: Phantasy Star Online 2 is a really significant reveal as a launch exclusive (especially considering the track record of Xbox in Japan) but I just don’t have that investment in the series.

AH: For fuck’s sake Will, go watch Stranger Things, it’s so good. Plus, that way, you’ll see what I mean when I compare the two. I can’t believe that you haven’t already seen it. As for PSO, nah, I’m not a player. Like you said, it’s a cool get for the console in Japan especially, it’s just not for me.

WR: It has a very Xenoblade Chronicles style with the open world and real-time combat, especially Xenoblade Chronicles X considering the tech and guns. That’s a complimentary comparison, so if I get a Series X this is a huge adventure I shall have my eye on. The penultimate reveal was a single-player campaign for CrossfireX, but again it sorta blended into the gritty-shooter genre for me without really standing out?

I’m sure Phantasy Star Online makes sense. Somehow.

AH: It’s definitely just another shooter in my view, does nothing to separate itself from the crowd and as such, nothing to honestly make me remember it. It’s definitely a skip for me honestly, should I choose to buy Series X. I know people will probably say that the first trailer for a game is way too early to write a game off, but when you can tell a game isn’t made for you, it doesn’t matter how far into development it is for me.

WR: It did seem a strangely generic reveal to have so close to the end of the show. We return to the future where we reunite with Matt Booty, and he reminds us about how all these games are included in Game Pass, before sending us off with one final reveal – a reveal a lot of people were predicting, Fable! Playground Games (of Forza) are switching genres and bringing back this well-know RPG IP. It was a CGI trailer, yes, but it had a great, whimsical tone and, y’know, announced Fable! It was a brilliant one-more-thing to close the show in my opinion, even if it may far away.

AH: And, from what I’m reading today, it’s going back to the single-player RPG roots rather than the online MMO style of the cancelled Fable Legends, I’m genuinely so happy. This was one of my “hopeful” predictions for the Showcase, and I’m extremely glad to see it there. A good RPG is something I’m always up for, and when it’s something the calibre of classic Fable, it’s a day one game for me. Even with it being a CGI trailer, the rendering on the frog is ridiculous, you can see how bumpy the texture of its skin for crying out loud! It’ll be interesting to see what Playground Games are able to do with the series, especially considering their only previously released games are the Forza Horizon series…

There it is! Now, er, wait

WR: Oh really? That’s great to hear, and with this and also the Obsidian games, RPGs could be an area where Microsoft really has an advantage over Sony in the coming years. We have seen Guerrilla Games go from FPS of Killzone to Action RPG of Horizon Zero Dawn successfully, so I hope there is another similarly successful story here. This was a real crowd-pleaser of an announcement, and has got me considering educating myself on Fable by getting the 360 games! Also, yeah, this makes it 3/6 predictions each, not bad!

AH: I knew I recognised the name of Playground Games but I couldn’t place where, so I had to Google it and yeah, Wikipedia says their only previous games are Forza Horizon 14. Also they’re a British developer, based in Leamington Spa, so always nice to see our little island get repped in such a huge conference. I like to think it’s 3/4 predictions each because, let’s be honest, we both knew beforehand that the ridiculous predictions were never going to happen, and if they did, whoever got even one right would’ve automatically taken the W between us haha! Overall, this is absolutely the strongest showing from Microsoft in a long while if you ask me, and like I said earlier, so strong that it’s genuinely making me consider picking up an Xbox Series X as my next generation console, so fair play to Microsoft for that, never thought that’d happen.

There is a reinvigorated, energetic feeling about Microsoft at the moment

William Robinson

WR: There were quite a few British developers in this actually! Yeah so if we judge the whole Showcase now, how do you compare it to the Sony PS5 event? Both had a particular focus on games which is great to see. I reckon they’re quite close; they both had exciting exclusive reveals, and also considerable third-party presence. There is a reinvigorated, energetic feeling about Microsoft at the moment with all these new studios that is really drawing me towards that Series X. If you add the value of Game Pass, it’s a really attractive proposition.

AH: It’s crazy how comparing the Microsoft that started this generation by, let’s be honest, completely flopping the Xbox One reveal, and today’s Microsoft who’s done everything right with this Series X game reveal, it’s like looking at two completely different companies. Microsoft has definitely been forced to learn from its mistakes with the launch of Xbox One and in my opinion has done so. I’d have to rewatch the PS5 reveal to be able to give a definitive answer as to which is better, but I’m fairly sure this would edge it in terms of content I’m interested in that would make me buy the system, and thus be the better showcase in my opinion. Now it comes down to price as to which console I pick up.

The internals of the Xbox Series X

WR: My personal feeling is to edge slightly towards the PS5 event in terms of games I am excited for – Horizon Forbidden West, Resident Evil VIII – but the Xbox Showcase was a better presentation, with more variety and an even snappier pace than Sony. The best praise we can give it is saying that we are much more inclined to get a Series X now, which we both seem to be. Price is going to be crucial, and they can’t both wait forever! One of them is going to go first, it’s going to be fascinating to see it play out. If you’re being critical, where would you say this could have been better? From our discussion, maybe moving Halo to a different point so it isn’t the graphics focus and then not having so many of those less-impressive reveals around two-thirds in?

AH: Yeah, if we’re being critical, you’ve hit the nail on the head there with how I’d improve it. Get rid of the less impressive reveals that could be a Twitter announcement or something, and have a game like Everwild showcase the Series X graphical capabilities rather than Halo Infinite. Although I do get why it opened with Halo and closed with Fable, as those were the two biggest games shown and by placing them first and last, the consumer is way more likely to remember them.

WR: Yeah, I mean, Halo was always realistically going to either start or end the show. That’s their most well-known first-party franchise. You staying with The Gunk for your favourite game of the Showcase? Everwild is mine, closely followed by Avowed and Fable.

The impact of Halo Infinite may have been more keenly felt elsewhere in the Showcase

AH: My top 3, in this order, are: 1. The Gunk; 2. Everwild; 3. Fable. Nice to see for once that we pretty much basically agree on it all, haha!

WR: Yeah, so positive! Going back to the start of our talk, then… how likely do you reckon it is you are going to get the Series X at launch, in comparison to the PS5?

AH: Honestly, if I were being forced to put a numerical percentage on it, probably at a strong 75/25 split currently, Sony really do have work to do if they’re to convince me now.

WR: I’m more around the 50/50 mark myself, price is going to be a factor. Game Pass is, as aforementioned, such an incredible offer too and a considerable advantage over PS5. When ya reckon we get price reveals?

AH: Well, considering both consoles are set to be released before the end of the year, hopefully within the next couple of weeks. It’d be stupid to leave it too much later now if you ask me.

Isn’t Everwild beautiful?

WR: I genuinely am not sure who is going to end up on top of the two! Microsoft has delivered a fine counter-blow. Is there any final remark from you before we close out? We’ve been quite thorough already.

AH: Nah, I can’t think of anything else to say, other than I genuinely can’t wait to get my hands on a lot of the games shown. November-ish time is going to be crazy!

WR: This is certainly a unique year… Now, Nintendo, where are you at?! Thanks for joining me again, Ash!

AH: Nintendo please show up properly soon. But yeah, in a bit Will! See ya next time!


The Showcase impressed us, and the prediction scores ended up even at 3 all – what a wonderfully satisfying conclusion. If you would like to read more of our Let’s Chat articles, click here!

Let’s Chat: Why Microsoft Needs to Strike Big at E3 2018

– This article was originally posted on 21st May 2018 and is being updated and archived here. I am bringing over the back catalogue of Let’s Chat gradually, and finding that going back to these moments in time has a nostalgic appeal! –


The E3 2018 hype train continues to roll, and this week, Ashley Harrison and I are going to be discussing the presence of Microsoft at the show (we covered PlayStation last week). For them, it is an especially important event; troubles with a lack of quality first-party exclusives and a continued sales deficit to Sony’s PlayStation 4 means that they need to hit big. Microsoft are doing things a bit differently in 2018, moving their briefing to the Microsoft Center near E3. This location will also be used to host their hands-on game demos, and their usual E3 convention space will instead be used to push their streaming service Mixer. Yeah, I am baffled too.


William Robinson: So, Ash: Microsoft time. As we talked about last week, Sony have already come out and said that they will only be showing 4 first-party titles, so Microsoft could have a significant chance to be the big story of E3 in terms of surprises and reveals. Frankly, they need it. Phil Spencer has to come out and convince us that Microsoft is working hard to be distinct in software as well as hardware – the Xbox One X is the most powerful console, sure, but without an equivalent to Horizon Zero Dawn or God of War over on PS4, what is the point?

Ashley Harrison: If you figure that out, be sure to let me know. At the moment, my Xbox One S is just sat in its box in my cupboard, unopened in who-knows-how-long. As you said, the biggest criticism of Microsoft right now is the complete lack of console exclusives, both first- and third-party, so Microsoft need to ensure that is their main focus of E3 this year.

WR: It is interesting to think that they have been so focused on getting the hardware to be comparable – favourable, even, with the X and backwards compatibility – that the software has not seen the same attention. The Scalebound cancellation, big names like Halo not finding the mainstream success Xbox would like, and not much else coming soon. We know that Crackdown 3 has to release, like, one day, but even that was met with a lukewarm reaction at the E3 2017 reveal.

Crackdown 3 is still on the way, but is the excitement level the same?

AH: I am genuinely not sure what to expect with Microsoft to be honest with you. Focusing on building a PC-level console with backwards compatibility can not be a sustainable long-term plan, and at this rate, I would not be at all surprised if this was the last Microsoft console.

WR: Massively disagree there – I think Microsoft has been building up goodwill with gamer-friendly choices that Sony is not willing to make (such as backwards compatibility and cross-play) and setting themselves up for a win in the next generation. The losing publisher tends to do great in the generation after – look at PS3 to PS4, or Wii U to Switch. Having their backs to the wall makes publishers bring positive changes to the industry. However, like with Wii U and Switch, perhaps Microsoft is sacrificing a few years of exclusive space in order to have a great first year with the next system. I do expect to see some new exclusive announcements for the One this year, though – whether that means Halo, Gears of War, or something else.

AH: Nah, I am going to have to disagree with you there too. Fair enough, we saw it with Wii U and Switch, as you say, but I just do not see how Microsoft pull this one back; I do not see a new generation of consoles for another 3 years or so. If Xbox players are already getting disgruntled as it is, how much worse is it going to be, should Microsoft still not release as many exclusives as it needs to?

It seems Halo needs to reinvigorate itself as a series

WR: For those dedicated Xbox gamers, though, do you think a new Halo and Gears, as well as a yearly Forza, is enough to satisfy them?

AH: Honestly, no. Halo is obviously a big franchise, probably Microsoft’s biggest, but it is going to take a hell of a lot more than that to satisfy the very reasonable complaints about the lack of exclusives.

I would love a new Fable game personally, but I do not think that would come anywhere close to being the Super Mario Odyssey or God of War-level game that is needed

Ashley Harrison

WR: Even Halo is on the downturn, though – the series is nowhere near the popularity it had with, say, Halo 3, when it was one of the biggest things in gaming. 343’s efforts (they worked on Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians after Bungie did the original trilogy – Bungie are now the developers on Destiny, and have their own issues… ) have clearly not been as resonant. Microsoft is lacking that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or God of War game, to name but two examples. The game that is not just good, but essential, and necessitates having an Xbox. There were rumours of a new Fable game going into formative production, and that could be the type of expansive, rich game they need.

AH: I would love a new Fable game personally, but I do not think that would come anywhere close to being the Super Mario Odyssey or God of War-level game that’s needed. Let’s face it, Xbox gamers are not exactly known for being the biggest fans of RPGs, as much of a stereotype that is, so Fable isn’t the best idea in my opinion.

Could a return to Fable be on the way?

WR: Fable Legends, let us remember, was another first-party cancellation for Xbox One – a game that lent into multiplayer. Getting back to their E3 presentation itself, what do you make of their change of venue? Perhaps a hint at trying to make a new kind of impact?

AH: It is a pretty smart decision if you ask me, they have a whole building dedicated entirely to whatever games they are showing. Plus, they do not have to compete with the other companies on the show floor in the main building.

WR: How about that Mixer booth though, huh? Hype?

AH: It’s only worth it if they use it as a joke to play some really annoying song all week. Otherwise, it is a completely stupid idea I see no point in.

WR: I just hope there is not a “PLEASE TRY MIXER PLEASE” message over every trailer, like last year…

AH: You know it is going to happen.

In recent years the Forza series has been reliably successful for Microsoft

WR: Microsoft knows they have a first-party problem, but is it too soon to see anything from that? Those types of games take 3-5 years to develop nowadays, so the problem for them is whether they are realistically able to show anything yet.

AH: Nah, it is not too early at all. Microsoft will have surely anticipated the lack of games, and they must have have been working on stuff behind the scenes to change that. They can not genuinely just be sat doing nothing, can they?

WR: Do you think that started years ago, then? Enough time for them to have something new? The cancellations of the games mentioned earlier must have sprung them into action, I suppose…

AH: Without a doubt, it started years ago. I am looking through the Wikipedia page right now, and there are only a handful of games Microsoft have published themselves each year that the Xbox One has been on sale. And with only two games listed for release this year from Microsoft Studios (Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Crackdown 3) along with the cancellations of other games, I would hope Microsoft have been working on other games for this year.

One of the Microsoft exclusives in 2018 is the stunning Ori and the Will of the Wisps

WR: We have had Sea of Thieves and, now, State of Decay 2 so far this year, with Crackdown 3 and Forza hopefully inevitable. I would ideally like them to come out with some sort of more story-driven game; those games have stories, sure, but they do not tackle them with the sophistication of a God of War or The Last of Us. They feel distinctly throwaway, and to get people interested in buying an Xbox, you need something more meaty for solo players.

AH: Is a meaty, story driven game the thing that would sell on the Xbox though? I know the majority of my friends who have an Xbox buy it for the “big” multiplayer games, such as FIFA/Call of Duty, etc.

I would ideally like them to come out with some sort of more story-driven game

William Robinson

WR: Those big multiplayer games are everywhere, though. Think of what sets apart Nintendo and Sony – their more intimate, solo experiences. Switch? Zelda and Mario, which are about playing alone or with friends around you. PS4? I think of UnchartedHorizonGod of War – again, games that have little or no online focus. I think Halo can still be that, if they come out with a really strong and original approach. I have been tempted to get into the series before, and if I heard of an amazing Halo 6? Sure, I would be interested in getting an Xbox One X, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and catching up in glorious 4K. Similar to how the hype for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End led to me catching up on that series via Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.

AH: I just don’t see it, myself.

The stories of, for example, Gears of War 4 do not have the same reputation as some Sony exclusives

WR: What would you need to see to become more invested in your Xbox, then? Specifically, what do you need to see?

AH: To be honest with you, I am not quite sure. I just want something that blows me away and makes me go “holy sh*t, I need this game”.

WR: Perhaps if they somehow managed to get the rights to show, or even get exclusively, a massive third-party game such as the next Rocksteady project? Then again, if they did, they would have to message it better than Rise of the Tomb Raider. Microsoft has the money to make a deal like that, even if the game itself is a loss. If it drives people to the system, it is a necessary move.

AH: That would be insane if it did happen, but would definitely turn the tides and would sell Xbox consoles. And what bigger company to get an exclusive from than Rocksteady?

Rise of the Tomb Raider was a timed Microsoft exclusive

WR: Imagine the salty fans. People would lose it, but if it was a DEFINITE exclusive, they would buy the console.

AH: Of course they would buy the console. Imagine if Microsoft just threw a ton of money at Rockstar to get Grand Theft Auto VI, given Grand Theft Auto V is the best selling game of all time.

WR: I think both of those are probably too optimistic. Xbox also would be wise to go for the start of a series – with Tomb Raider, it was an anticipated sequel, and so immediately alienates those who played it on PlayStation. For Rocksteady, it could work, as they have finished the main Batman: Arkham trilogy. Another very interesting idea would be if they could get the Square Enix Avengers game exclusively. That is more realistic to me, and whilst it could be a big gamble for both parties (Square Enix, y’know, being the Tomb Raider publisher), it could pay off massively. Xbox got a taste of what this can do with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds; their was noticeable word of mouth that came from them getting the exclusively on console. Bloodborne is an example of a major third-party exclusive on PS4, and Xbox could do with an equivalent success.

Should Microsoft try to land an exclusive series such as Batman?

AH: Yeah, Grand Theft Auto VI is probably being too optimistic, but it gets across the idea of the caliber of exclusive Microsoft need. The Avengers game being a Microsoft exclusive could be a good gamble, especially if the game is actually half decent, given how big the superhero genre is right now.

WR: Especially Avengers. Master Chief becomes an Avenger? No, forget I said that. DON’T DO IT, MICROSOFT.

AH: Do it, Microsoft. It would be hilarious.

WR: Getting past the big game announcements, I would like to see the indie support continue too. Cuphead and the Ori series have been big wins for Microsoft.

AH: I think Microsoft definitely recognise that for sure, too. Whilst Ori and the Blind Forest was an Xbox exclusive, the fact that the second game is also an exclusive shows that Microsoft are down with Ori, in my opinion.

For the systems it has been on, the emergence of Cuphead as a cult hit has been positive

WR: Yeah, Cuphead in particular worked out for them – there is a big fanbase around that game, and the long wait was rewarded. Microsoft is making smart decisions left, right, and centre, but it just needs that magic bullet: a killer first-party game that refuses to let you say no.

AH: Throw in three killer first party games rather than one if you ask me, and it’s a great start to recovering the Xbox as a major player in the console game.

I want 100% of the conference to be games and release dates

Ashley Harrison

WR: I would ask about hardware, but honestly, I think they are leading Sony on hardware. They have sorted the system out, and they just need to talk games, games, games. Agree?

AH: Oh, definitely. I do not want anything about hardware, or extra features (remember the reveal where it was all just “look, TV!”). That is not what Microsoft needs, it is games. I want 100% of the conference to be games and release dates.

Less cancelled games such as Fable Legends, yeah?

WR: I will always be most excited for Nintendo – who we will talk about next week – but this year I am honestly most interested by the Microsoft press conference. Sony seem to be taking a backseat after announcing all their reveals; Phil Spencer and Microsoft have to know they have a big chance to dominate the conversation this June. I would love to see them come out swinging, as a competitive game industry is a healthy one.

AH: To repeat the point we ended on last week, Sony are presenting Microsoft with an open goal by announcing their plans in advance, let’s just hope they do not do a Torres and completely miss.

WR: Ah, Chelsea reference! The problem is, however good they are, Nintendo are there to slide tackle them with PokémonSmash Bros. and Metroid to steal the spotlight. Man, I really would like another Mario Strikers game.

AH: Nintendo could genuinely have their E3 conference be a 90 minute long actual football match of Mario characters, and I would be like “best conference ever” if it ended with “Mario Strikers Switch, Coming Soon”.

More success stories such as Sea of Thieves, yeah?

WR: Let’s keep the rational predictions for next week, yeah? Before we sign off, I would like one thing from each of us: one reveal we would most like to see from Microsoft. I will start with something I mentioned earlier: a really story-heavy Halo game that entices me to delve into that world, and makes it feel unmissable (in contrast to Halo 5: Guardians, which came and went).

AH: Banjo-Threeie. Come on, Microsoft.

WR: I am rooting for you, Microsoft! Impress us!

AH: Until next week!


Next week shall be part 3 of the great Let’s Chat pre-E3 super-chat! We’ll be tackling Nintendo, so, as ever, that means unrealistic hopes and dreams. You can read previous Let’s Chat articles here!