Microsoft’s E3 presentation was filled with games this year, and while the company certainly had their high points, one troubling low was their inability to sell their upcoming Xbox One X console.
The Xbox One has been neglected over the past year ever since Microsoft officially announced that it was working on the Xbox One X, then referred to as the Xbox One Scorpio. Its received very little in the way of exclusives, and while Sony was wheeling out critically-acclaimed hit after critically-acclaimed hit at the start of 2017, Xbox One owners were left twiddling their thumbs while Microsoft plugged away behind the scenes on their 4K system.
Heading into E3 2017, all eyes were on Microsoft and how they would sell both existing Xbox One owners and potential newcomers on the Xbox One X. Sony have mostly treated the PS4 Pro, their own less powerful entry into 4K gaming, as a nice complement to the existing PS4 ecosystem. However, with Microsoft putting the entire Xbox One release calendar on the backburner until the Xbox One X’s release, it was clear that they had more planned for their own ultra HD console.
Kicking off their E3 2017 presentation with an overview of the console, Microsoft confirmed what we already knew: the Xbox One X is going to be really powerful. They wheeled out the newly announced Forza Motorsport 7 and showed it running at a native 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, and it didn’t break a sweat. Even if it did break a sweat, Microsoft have outfitted the Xbox One X with a liquid cooler, the first console to ever need one.
But with a year of near radio silence on the Xbox One front, that arguably wasn’t enough to sell the masses on the promise of the Xbox One. Since E3 2016 Sony has released a plethora of modern classics on the PS4, while Nintendo shocked many by finding Wii-esque success with their handheld hybrid console, the Switch. Microsoft had already informed us that the Xbox One X was going to be very powerful — so powerful, in fact, that they were handing out cringe-inducing t-shirts reading “I Witnessed The Most Powerful Console Ever” — so what else could it do that would restore faith in the Xbox One and its flagging library of games? It turns out that the answer was “not that much.”
The Xbox One X showcase at E3 2017 featured a variety of pretty games, but while the system undoubtedly pushes the boundaries of what can technically be achieved by a home console, at $499 it’s a high price to ask for people to invest in an upgrade of hardware that has gone relatively unsupported for a year. While Microsoft debuted some very interesting exclusives during its presentation, closing the show with BioWare’s beautiful new IP Anthem, the Xbox One X is lacking any discernible hook outside of the ability to play games in 4K. While this could also be said of the PS4 Pro, at least Sony didn’t spend months leaving the PS4 to gather dust in preparation of its launch.
Outside of Forza Motorsport 7, there were a distinct lack of games that Microsoft really pushed as being notably better on the Xbox One X. While they understandably don’t want to make current Xbox One owners feel like they’re being left in the shade, it could be argued that they’ve already done this by way of neglecting the console in favor of busying away on the Xbox One X’s development, and as a result they had a lot riding on how well the upcoming console would be received after its first proper reveal. Unfortunately, with its previously mentioned virtual reality capabilities being completely ignored, for those who don’t want to throw $500 to play their games in 4K then there was very little here to convince them to make the leap.
4K console gaming in general is a tough sell. With the majority not yet owning a 4K TV, getting the most out of the Xbox One X will require them to invest in one that preferably boasts high-dynamic range, too. But with the amount they would have to spend on buying the 4K HDR TV and an Xbox One X to go with it, it would be more beneficial to instead splash that cash on a gaming PC, which would have more longevity and a much wider selection of games. With Microsoft’s Xbox One X showcase focusing firmly on its 4K capabilities, they’re appealing to that niche audience of console gamers who, for whatever reason, don’t want to make the jump to PC, and who also likely already own a 4K TV. For everyone else the Xbox One X presents a lot of expense with little reward in comparison with a gaming PC, and Microsoft did little to prove anything different during its underwhelming E3 2017 presentation.