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Xbox pulls off the best E3 showcase in years, it’s a pity that both brands died before it could happen

Rumours of Xbox’s demise have clearly been exaggerated

An Xbox toaster plunges into a bath, electrifying the E3 logo
Image credit: Microsoft, E3, Adobe Stock, VG247

Here’s how things stand re Xbox: strictly speaking, there’s no longer any such thing as an Xbox exclusive, and that’s been the case for a while now. Its console exclusives are all proudly coming to PC. Xbox is a brand of consumer gaming hardware, yes, the box that sits under your TV, but it’s also a Windows app, an Android app, and it’s part of a much larger game publishing portfolio that Microsoft runs, as much as it makes sense to, as a platform agnostic enterprise. It puts games on Switch and PlayStation. It even funnels games directly to your TV, bypassing the need for a console entirely. Does that mean there’s no longer any reason to own an Xbox? Well, that depends entirely on you. Xbox is the American games platform and the American USP, for better or worse, is choice.

This is to say that we’ve pretty much transcended the old paradigms of which box is best. Every major platform holder has its own proposition, its own image, its own price barrier for entry. And so, it really doesn’t matter if the games showcased on Sunday night are exclusives, console exclusives, or timed exclusives: the point is that they’re Xbox games, wherever they happen to get played. And Xbox games are looking great.

We had major updates on legacy IPs that have until now felt chronically under-leveraged while Spencer & Co were bogged down with lengthy acquisitions, fighting PR fires about whether or not game X would be on competitor Y’s box, or solemnly putting hundreds of people out of work while gleefully spending literal tens of billions on the aforementioned. Fable and Perfect Dark look superb, both sporting new gameplay trailers that suggest a carefully applied sense of what these properties are supposed to look and feel like, while showing no hesitation in updating them for modern tastes.

Glimpses of Fable’s Bowerstone and wispy woods feel classically familiar while sporting a level of detail and implied interactivity that the original games just didn’t have. Joanna Dark slices through her rebooted sci-fi world with the kind of acrobatic flair that you always imagined her doing, but that the N64 could scarcely have rendered with any conviction. Classic IPs as you remember them, not as they actually were, seems to be the directive for both projects.

Fable header Xbox showcase
Fable is looking, and sounding, superbly authentic, with a great cast such as your man from The IT Crowd and your man from Peep Show. | Image credit: Xbox Game Studios

More classic IPs are set to enjoy fresh time in the sun. DOOM: The Dark Ages promises the freshest take on the old FPS franchise since, well, DOOM (2016). Flight Simulator 2024 looks like the most comprehensive update ever, taking Flight Sim 2020 and adding actual things to do beyond finding your house and uninstalling it. And first party studio Machine Games showed off more of their visceral first-person take on the traditional Tomb Raider slash Uncharted archaeology-em-up with Indiana Jones and The Great Circle, which is looking more and more like a worthy and exquisitely well-observed entry in the franchise. It even sounds like your man Troy Baker does an excellent job of fitting in with Harrison Ford’s version of the character. A better impressionist could probably have been found, but Baker’s performance is a solid soundalike that leaves a lot of room for him to make his own choices. Which is what you actually want when recasting an iconic role: a performance that audiences instantly feel at home with, that isn’t creatively limited by previous works. A holy grail, if you will. Ahem.

Indiana Jones and the Great Circle
Troy Baker is nailing this incarnation of the great archaeologist, Mr. Whippy | Image credit: Microsoft/Bethesda/MachineGames

We were certainly shown enough New Old Stuff to call Xbox’s showcase a success, but that barely constitutes a third of what was shown. We’ve got Obsidian’s imminent third entry in the Pillars of the Eternity franchise, Avowed, which the studio’s legion of fans can’t wait to get their hands on – if Outer Worlds was their in-house take on Fallout, Avowed is their Elder Scrolls. A welcome pit stop on the long road to TES 6, if nothing else. We were shown a more substantial chunk of third-person action adventure South of Midnight. Annapurna Interactive’s Mixtape, a coming-of-age skating adventure featuring a banging licensed soundtrack from the likes of Devo and Iggy Pop. Major content updates to Starfield were Beyonce-dropped while Shattered Space, the game’s major expansion due later this year, finally got a full reveal.

Perhaps most importantly, in what seems to be an industry-wide trend but it was very apparent here, the Xbox showcase was very light on live service titles, multiplayer only games, and MMOs. And of the ones that got in, most of them were going concerns: Fallout 76, TES:O, WoW, etc. We were shown banger after banger of interesting and/or exciting single player games, of various scopes and sizes, from studios of vastly varying headcounts, and they were in a comfortable majority. Not outnumbered by an endless roster of doomed GAAS endeavours, as it feels like we’ve had to endure in these things for the past few years.

People have been clamouring for Xbox to knock out some third person action adventures. Voila.

So, in summary: the console wars are over (as they have always been for anyone with a mental age above nine), Xbox is good again and everyone benefits, it doesn’t matter if you buy an Xbox or not, Game Pass will still be a good deal well into 2025, and there are so many rad games coming out that you won’t have time to play them all before you die. Which is, you know, a great position to be in. Kinda. Look, everything dies, that at least isn't Phil Spencer's fault.

Sony’s thing was good too.

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