Xbox Won E3 2021, and It Wasn’t Close

For The First Time in Years, Xbox has Won E3

Maybe I should drop the competitive conjecture, but at the end of every year’s festivities fans and journalists will often decide which of the marketing blitz’s participants “won.” In reality, gamers did, because there was something for just about everyone this year. But if success is measured in hype and value provided to platform owners, Xbox murdered and buried the competition on Sunday with corporate gangster-level ruthlessness.

It’s worth pointing out that with Sony absent from E3 yet again the bar was not as high as it had been in previous years. Especially given the state of the other presentations at this year’s E3. Ubisoft went through the motions of their annual milking of the Tom Clancy brand and promised additional content for last year’s Assassin’s Creed (a game widely criticized for its bloated amount of content). Square Enix reminded everyone that they still don’t understand the online video presentation format with poor pacing, dragging out an otherwise interesting demo of their new Guardians of the Galaxy game and squishing the rest of their titles into the remaining time. It’s also worth pointing out that they showed the most meme-able trailer of the entire show with Final Fantasy Origin’s incredibly cringey “Chaos Killing Eminem” (which breaks my heart personally because I was looking forward to this the most out of everything rumored to be shown).


There was also Gearbox’s entirely forgettable presentation that, within the first few minutes of watching Randy Pitchford awkwardly bumble around the set of the Borderlands film while revealing nothing interesting, felt like a form of self-flagellation to watch. On the bright side, Devolver Digital’s consistently bonkers and entertaining presentation riffed on subscription services and NFTs while descending into its signature absurdist humor and showing off some pretty neat-looking titles along the way. Seriously, if Xbox hadn’t murdered it so hard this year, I would be deeming Devolver the winner right now.

Of course, I can’t overlook Nintendo’s great showing. They did a lot of things right like announcing a new side-scrolling Metroid game, a brand new Shin Megami Tensei, and showing off some gameplay from the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild. As much as I like to give credit where it’s due, I also lament correctly predicting that the new Zelda game would be “targeting 2022” for release, as that makes it sound an awful lot like the game is even further away than we thought. It’s also great to see new WarioWare and Mario Party games on the way, as well as a remake of the Advance Wars games – Nintendo fans, have been clamoring for all of those for quite a while, so it’s nice to see them finally take up these easy wins. But it was disappointing to not hear about 2021’s Worst Kept Secret in Gaming – the reported new Switch with 4K output. Bayonetta 3, Splatoon 3, and Pokémon Legends Arceus all should have made an appearance as well but were entirely MIA. It also would have been a perfect time to announce DLC for New Pokémon Snap, but I guess I’ll just eat my words on that one (as soon as I get my printer working!). I personally won’t play a lot of games that were shown during Nintendo’s presentation, but it’s undeniable that they generated hype and provided value to platform owners, as you can see from the fans frothing at the mouth all over the internet. Though, there is still an underlying sense of disappointment due to the lack of new hardware news.

The Future Looks Real Good

Xbox, however, brought the ruckus in every way they needed to. PC and Xbox console owners can’t help but feel overwhelmed right now with the number of titles coming to Game Pass over the next few months and set to come in 2022. Hell, even during the presentation Xbox was pouring titles onto the service, including several Bethesda titles and last November’s Yakuza: Like A Dragon. Shiny new updates for Xbox’s successful live service games Grounded and Sea of Thieves (a personal favorite) were also announced, including a full-blown crossover for the latter with Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Release dates for new games coming to Game Pass were announced consistently as well, including The Ascent at the end of July, 12 Minutes and Psychonauts 2 in August, and Sable in September, just to name a few.

Xbox Bethesda Games Showcase - E3 2021

But in addition to all of that, Xbox did exactly what they needed to do during this year’s presentation – give fans an update on Halo, flex their recent acquisition of Bethesda, and finally put a bullet in the “Xbox has no exclusives” rhetoric.

The Mission’s Changed

Halo Infinite finally looks as awesome as it should. With a short emotional story trailer shedding some light on the plot of the game and a closer look at the nostalgia-infused free-to-play multiplayer, it looks like longtime fans have a lot to look forward to. I’ll admit the non-committal “Holiday 2021” release window does give me some anxiety, but I have a hard time believing Xbox would miss two holiday seasons in a row with this game (but as we saw earlier I have been wrong before and likely will be again).

Xbox started off the whole show with Bethesda’s Starfield, which is honestly for the best because I bet nobody can actually tell me what the fuck that game is about aside from “space.” This is fine for Xbox’s marketing team for now – especially since they got to confirm that it’s an Xbox console and PC exclusive during their presentation. It’s clearly more than enough for fans as well, seeing as the internet has been abuzz with Starfield rumors for the past couple of months. But the real Bethesda flex on Sunday was Arkane’s Redfall, announced with a cinematic trailer at the end of the show. Also an Xbox/PC exclusive, Redfall is set to be a narrative-driven vampire hunting FPS you can play solo or with friends. Despite the trailer being purely cinematic, the folks at Arkane are masters of their craft and it’s easy to trust that this game will be one of Xbox’s best when it does launch. Plus, if the writing in the full game is as fun as the character banter in the trailer, it’ll likely end up on a lot of 2022’s Game of the Year lists. Plus, all of this helps tackle the aforementioned “no exclusives” argument.

On top of all that, Xbox continued to show off some interesting games including retro-side-scroller Replaced, a heist game called Contraband from Just Cause developer Avalanche Games, and a new trailer for the BioShock-esque Atomic Heart. Oh, plus the winner of the E3 Awards Most Anticipated Game of the Show, Forza Horizon 5. A new Forza Horizon wasn’t a huge surprise, but it was a welcome addition that looks to round out Xbox’s holiday release calendar. It’s set in Mexico and looks absolutely stunning. During the reveal, the developers from Playground Games explained some of the tech they used to bring the skies, terrain, and street art of real-world Mexico into Forza Horizon 5 and it honestly sounded like some of the most impressive technology ever used in game development.

forza horizon 5

Overall, Xbox did every single thing they needed to do to generate hype and provide value to people who have invested in the Xbox ecosystem – especially Game Pass. Exclusives, third-party titles, indies, DLCs, release dates, a wide spectrum of genres, and presentations for every type of gamer – in this one show alone there really was something for everyone. And if you do have a Game Pass subscription, and it’s pretty likely you do if you own an Xbox or PC, just about every game shown is being dropped onto the service on day one. As someone who does own a PS5, a Switch, a Series X, and a gaming PC, it’s looking an awful lot like the vast majority of my gaming time will be spent on the latter two platforms.

Oh! I just remembered Ubisoft also revealed their Avatar game. Should be a game, for sure.

Do you agree or disagree that Xbox “won” this year’s E3? What else would you have liked to see? Can you explain what Starfield is about? Let us know in the comments!

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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