Crackdown 3 is all that remains from Microsoft’s E3 2014 ‘mic drop’ showing Crackdown 3 is all that remains from Microsoft’s E3 2014 ‘mic drop’ showing
So what's new from Microsoft, and why should we care? Crackdown 3 is all that remains from Microsoft’s E3 2014 ‘mic drop’ showing

As my colleagues and I left the Galen Centre ahead of E3 2014, there seemed to be a general consensus regarding the Xbox One’s future and games lineup, and it was one of hope.

Microsoft had just held its pre-E3 briefing, and lifted the lid on a number of console exclusives. They all looked and sounded great.

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After what had been a troubled start to the console’s launch, the Xbox brand appeared to be on the long trek back to respectability.

New Xbox head Phil Spencer, who replaced Don Mattrick in March, 2014, admitted that some “wrong decisions” had been made regarding the console, and that it would shift its focus back onto gamers and away from a broad “entertainment” focus.

Simply, he wanted to bring the Xbox brand back to its roots: gaming. In such a short period of time, the Xbox One went from being an “all in ‘one’ entertainment device” aimed at families, to a refined gaming console with a packed lineup of exclusives.

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While Sony’s PlayStation 4 continued to dominate sales charts, Microsoft appeared to be on the right track, and its E3 2014 showing proved it. Five games in particular stood out at the Galen Centre on that dry, muggy Los Angeles day. They were Ori And The Blind ForestScalebound, a remake of Phantom DustProject Spark, and Crackdown 3.

Ori And The Blind Forest is the only game from that list to have seen a full retail release. We barely saw a thing from the other four.

It launched in early 2015 to wide critical acclaim, and proved to be one of the Xbox One’s best ever games (a title it holds even to this day, almost two years on). At the time, it appeared as though Microsoft’s promise of unique, fresh new exclusives was coming to fruition.

However, it’s been all downhill since.

None of the likes of Quantum BreakSunset OverdriveDead Rising 4 and ReCore are anything more than just “good”, and they all closely tread the “above average” line.

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Halo 5: Guardians went to great lengths to reignite interest in the series — and it’s solid — but 343’s games aren’t even close to the standard we expected from Bungie.

Gears Of War has lost some of its pizazz: the fourth main entry was fun, but too familiar.

Forza Horizon 3 was good, but, like other established Xbox franchises, appears to be going through the motions.

The good news was that, while the familiar and defining Xbox brands were losing some of their appeal, things still looked promising. Scalebound was intriguing, Phantom Dust was being remade for a new generation, Project Spark fed into creative urges, and Crackdown 3 was … well, Crackdown: open-world shenanigans.

Fast forward to early 2017, and the IP situation is getting worse for Microsoft and Xbox. Fewer people than ever appear to care about HaloGears, Dead Rising and Forza. Scalebound has been cancelled, Project Spark never left beta, Phantom Dust has been relegated to merely a “remastering”, and Crackdown 3 has been MIA.

I saw Crackdown 3 at Gamescom 2015 and was rather shocked at the lack of actual solid, hands-on gameplay available. All the team had to show me was how the “power of the cloud” has allowed them to create a cooperative game in a destructible world.

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It looked fun, but it didn’t really seem like Crackdown, which was always about exploration and superhuman ability.

In hindsight, it seemed eerily similar to the Scalebound fiasco, and I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if Crackdown 3 eventually bites the dust and is cancelled, or if development is scraped and started from scratch for Scorpio.

It’s almost impossible to ignore Microsoft’s IP issues, and how painfully embarrassing its E3 2014 ended up being. This tweet after E3 2014 seemed about right at the time, but in hindsight it was obviously a bad move: either Spencer came in and tried to guide these already-in-development games towards launch, or he rushed them into development to have something — anything — to show to demonstrate that Xbox One was back on the horse.

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The Xbox brand has lost its best developers in Bungie and Epic Games, leaving the console’s most prized franchises to promising yet philosophically-different studios in 343 Industries and The Coalition.

Currently, the exclusives lineup looks mightily uninspiring: aside from Halo Wars 2, the likes of Crackdown 3Sea Of Thieves and State Of Decay 2 are all that Western Xbox gamers have to look forward to outside of Scorpio.

This suggests to me that Microsoft may intentionally be cutting its losses with Xbox One, planning to reignite its tired gaming division ahead of a new console launch. There’s really no other way to explain it, because the current state of the IP lineup is extremely dire.

Neither Sony nor Nintendo have allowed any of their major franchises to drop off as much as Microsoft has allowed theirs, and while the Halo‘s and Gears Of War‘s of the world are still great games, they simply don’t demand the attention they used.

So what’s new from Microsoft, and why should we care? It should definitely make for a very interesting E3 2017, just ahead of the Scorpio era.

How would you rate the Xbox One exclusives lineup?

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Gaetano Prestia Editor in Chief

Gaetano loves Doritos and always orders Mountain Dew with his KFC. He's not sorry. He also likes Call Of Duty, but would much rather play Civ. He hates losing at FIFA, and his pet hate is people who recline their seat on short-haul flights.

  • Michael Clanton

    January 11, 2017 #1 Author

    Another dumb post, this post is full of opinion. I could write the same about every PS4 exclusive, which most of them are not sellers, they are niche titles that a very vocal few like. Uncharted is a game that i could compare to gears due to familiarity.

    Your OPINION is obviously coming from the stand point of a sony fanboy, and while you didnt like forza, gears, halo….they obviously sold millions.

    Fanboys lie, fat game reporters lie, sales numbers dont.

    Unlike this half whit, I understand the PS4 is number 1, i also understand the X1 is selling better then the x360, and the x360 was not considered a failure. Besides the last of us, grand turismo, and uncharted…sony has a bunch of niche titles that dont sell all that well…according to this post, it should because it should sell better then the uninspiring X1 exclusives.

    FYI Halo sold 5 million within 3 months of its release date…just because you dont see press releases for something as common(halo has always sold a ton), doesnt mean its not selling well.

    • Profile photo of Master Fenix

      Master Fenix

      January 12, 2017 #2 Author

      Hey @Michael-Clayton

      Actually, if the name didn’t give it away – “FENIX” Bazaar — this site tends to lean towards Xbox coverage. And yes, it’s my opinion :) Hence why it’s marked as “opinion” at the top of the article, and featured in the “opinion” section of this site.

      As for Halo, I wasn’t talking about unit sales. I was referring to the fact people don’t buy Xbox for Halo anymore, at least not in the same way they did for the original Xbox, or 360. It’s an important franchise, no doubt, but it doesn’t have the same “pull”. I think you’d be crazy not to see that.

      By the look of it, every major Xbox franchise — Halo, Gears, Forza — sell decently, but their Xbox One entries are *WELL* below 360 rates. So if you want to talk about sales, there’s that. But that’s not what this article is about. It’s about the pull and originality of the IP. Having Halo, Gears and the like is fine, but there’s nothing else.

    • Profile photo of Gryllis

      Gryllis

      January 12, 2017 #3 Author

      I actually agree that the PS4 lineup this year has been a bit overrated. Besides the Crash Trilogy remastered and some Uncharted DLC, it’s all pretty niche. Not as strong as PS4 fans are making out. However, it is very strong compared to what the PS4 had in 2016 – very little. And as it stands, Xbox is on-track to mimic what PS4 did last year, which is very little outside a trickle of exclusives, and a heavy reliance on third party games while it focuses on hardware, without many games for it. The focus on VR and PS4 Pro last year left Sony with no major PS4 exclusives in the second half of the year, so no games to really make use of that new hardware. Unless there are some big surprises at E3, Microsoft will probably do the same with Scorpio – focusing on the hardware leaving little games that actually make good use of it at launch.