Gaming Features

76 Stray Thoughts From Microsoft’s E3 Briefing

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I’ve lived through enough E3s to know a thing or three about the format of the show and I’ll say this for Microsoft’s E3 press conf—I mean briefing: Phil Spencer says some pretty lofty things at the top of the broadcast and, while most of it is insane and over-the-top showmanship (see below), they kept their hour-and-a-half(ish) to a pretty considered focus on game trailers. Minus the reveal of Project Scarlett, a too-early look behind the scenes of their new console, this was pretty tight with trailer after trailer, with nearly no talks with developers and zero on-stage playing. Even if their slate didn’t 100% wow you, the forwardness with their presentation was, especially at an event that has regrettably focused on gimmicks in the last decade, refreshingly visual. Below you can find a chronological series of takes on Microsoft’s 2019 E3 dispatch.

  1. The intro music of this press conference is wildly self-important to the point it resembles the GAME OF THRONES opening with a similar, epically scoped series of title cards and graphics. Nostalgia for a thing that just ended is quite the way to kick things up.
  2. THE OUTER WORLDS trailer feels immediately like a BORDERLANDS rip. From the character design, to the guns, to even the kind of reckless outlaw nature of it, it focuses (I’d imagine) on too many familiar things and not enough unfamiliar.
  3. The speakers from Ninja Theory, who are announcing BLEEDING EDGE, are rocking annoying conference headset microphones. Steve Jobs just came in his pantaloons somewhere in hell.
  4. BLEEDING EDGE ironically has a kind of steampunk-y, Borderlands-y kind of style to it which like, way to double down in the first six minutes of your press confere—er, briefing.
  5. The third-person combat looks cartoon-like and interesting in BLEEDING EDGE, certainly not a conventional shooter by any stretch. It would be great to learn a bit more detail about this game but, for reasons that will never be fully understood, the 90 seconds we get from the developers to introduce the game is literally all Microsoft can afford us.
  6. The next trailer that is unceremoniously starting opens with an insane, Shelob-esque spider, so it can fuck itself.
  7. Update: ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS, while beautiful and cinematic in its platforming surrealness, still feautres a giant spider and can still fuck itself.
  8. “From the Creators Of MINECRAFT” is an interesting flex… except when your game is just more MINECRAFT.
  9. The stock names for the characters of MINECRAFT: DUNGEONS are, among others, DarkEnchater01 and MCDungeoneer, AKA people I for sure spent time with in online AOL chat rooms circa 2003.
  10. It remains genuinely amazing to me, even watching the pretty conventionally looking MINECRAFT: DUNGEONS gameplay, that this studio didn’t cash in on this franchise much, much sooner. Shame they hate money, I suppose.
  11. Phil Spencer (Vice President of Microsoft Gaming) is dressed like anyone’s actually cool stepdad. You know the stepdad where you saw them when you were a kid and you were like, “Oh, I get it,” despite not fully understanding the reasoning behind why people would cheat and remarry. (I mean, he’s still a nerd but you get it, as a nerd he’s the best case scenario for this.)

    Microsoft Keanu

    This is a man learning to accept the love he’s being given for the first time in his life and, in many ways, it’s beautiful.

  12. lol Phil Spencer just dropped the “this is a big deal in history” bit, so maybe he’s actually just a shitty stepdad.
  13. Spencer’s is, as far as state of the union speeches go, pretty safe. Yeah it’s filled with hyperbole and like, it’s very “yay, we’re all gamers,” but you’re reading this and you watched it so, honestly, fuck you. This. Is. What. You. Wanted.
  14. “This today is the largest showcase of games on any stage, anywhere, this year.” — Meaningless Bullshit Peddler Phil Spencer
  15. Didn’t know R.O.B. was in the Star Wars universe.
  16. HOLY SHIT NOTED OVER-ACTOR FOREST WHITAKER HAS SHOWED UP TO DO SOME OVER-ACTING.
  17. Good to know that the overly woke Star Wars franchise has time to make a bland white guy a jedi in this universe. STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER and Star Wars fans at large will be all the better for it.
  18. Games where you spend time with flashlights in first person suck, I said it.
  19. Honestly, September 1996 probably sucked too.
  20. A game that panders this aggressively to the true crime, TRUE DETECTIVE camp, is kind of exhausting, but I might only be watching that this way because I’m A) not a SILENT HILL fan and B) uninterested in someone converting BLAIR WITCH into a gaming franchise.
  21. You, a rube: The CYBERPUNK 2077 trailer feels and looks a lot like BLADE RUNNER. Me, someone with a film degree: The CYBERPUNK 2077 trailer feels and looks a lot like (and hopefully just is) a game version of JOHNNY MNEMONIC.
  22. The bad guy in CYBERPUNK 2077 could be Rick Ross if anyone around CD Projekt actually gave a fuck.
  23. “Please Welcome Keanu Reeves” is such an amazing flex in a press confere—I mean, briefing. It’ll be hard to top.
  24. Keanu Reeves has probably never played a video game. He drinks at the Chateau Marmont by himself, listens to indie punk bands, has meaningless (but consensual) sex, and occasionally passionately delivers lines like “CyberPUNKKKKK” with a raw, yet invisible energy that says he’s enthusiastic, but also hollow inside. He is easily excitable, which is what E3 needs more of, probably. But this has zero impact on his life and it’s kind of delightful to watch how self-aware of that he is yet still doesn’t care.
  25. Nothing about the second CYBERPUNK trailer he debuted (to just announce the date? Wow.) makes me think it’s not just a JOHNNY MNEMONIC game trailer.
  26. It’s good to see Microsoft finally let Wes Anderson make a game and, as cynically twee as it is, I’ll probably play SPIRITFARER anyway. It’s a true self-own.
  27. The SPIRITED AWAY-style music in the SPIRITFARER trailer is delightful.

    Battletoads

    The YouTube wormhole I fell down with BATTLETOADS was quite something… who was asking for this game to return to the forefront of culture **checks notes** 25 years later??

  28. “They’re Back—Rash, Pimple, Zitz” is something I say every morning when I look at myself naked in the mirror.
  29. The word “epic” should be banned from game trailer copy. Imagine being so unimaginative, says the guy writing a list of thoughts on a video game presentation.
  30. RPG TIME: THE LEGEND OF WRIGHT is a game that has so many side quests and mini-games that you have to complete that I nearly rage-quit the trailer.
  31. Cutting OUT of the sizzle reel you’ve put together to slow pan into the same trailer that’s playing is a surreal decision every time. We know it’s a press confer—I mean briefing, and we don’t care. Just play the goddamn trailer.
  32. Sarah Bond (General Manager of Business Development) is dressed like anyone’s actually cool stepmom. You know the stepmom where you saw them when you were a kid and you were like, “Oh, I get it,” despite not fully understanding the reasoning behind why people would cheat and remarry. (I mean, she’s still a nerd but you get it, as a nerd she’s the best case scenario for this.)
  33. “You mean, I’m just gonna tell people about years-old games? Yeah, great. What an opportunity.” — Sarah Bond, being a cool stepmom somewhere, probably
  34. Amazing that there’s a game called “FOOTBALL MANAGER 2019” that I’m sure has sold a billion copies.
  35. The 4k captured graphics on MICROSOFT FLIGHT SIMULATOR are, unquestionably, amazing. But the response from people in the audience learning that it’s a fucking flight simulator was so amazingly tepid (as it should be). Like, did that have to happen now?
  36. AGE OF EMPIRE II: DEFINITIVE EDITION has a very specific set of gamers very excited, but isn’t it kind of nerve-wracking to be so, oh, I don’t know, definitive about the whole thing? Really no walking that back, hopefully it doesn’t suck!
  37. WASTELANDS 3: Finally a game that acknowledges what a fucking nightmare Colorado Springs is.
  38. Matt Booty (Head of Xbox Game Studios) is dressed like a fucking nerd. Yeah he’s got a kind of neat jacket, but you know he didn’t pick it out and it shows. Even his announcement (Double Fine joining Microsoft) is an inside-baseball kind of nerd move. With a name like Matt Booty, do better.
  39. The interaction between Booty and Tim Schafer is beyond awkward, and also I don’t care about PSYCHONAUTS 2, a good reminder to myself and to those reading that E3 is a good ‘ol fashioned mixbag—I’m sure when we get a world-exclusive Madden trailer and my excitement registers as a one out of ten, this take will come back to haunt me online.
  40. MORE STAR WARS!
  41. Oh, Lego!
  42. If you read thought #41 as a complaint, check yourself. Lego owns so fucking hard. Have you played a Lego Game? They all fuck. You get to break shit and it’s beyond satisfying when you do it.
  43. Confession Time: I know next to zero about Dragon Ball Z, but have at it.
  44. “An Interactive Thriller” as the first words of a game trailer sucks so much. These are all fucking interactive, get bent. HALO 3: An Interactive Space Shooter. SUPER SMASH BROS.: An Interactive and Dizzying All Star Fighting Game. LEISURE SUIT LARRY: An Interactive Handjob Simulator
  45. The people in this one bedroom apartment in 12 MINUTES make me sad. The couch faces the dining room table. What do they watch?
  46. WAY TO THE WOODS is gorgeous. TV Editor Kate Brogden allegedly fainted when watching it because it’s essentially canonical in the BAMBI extended universe. Also more Studio Ghibli music.
  47. My only gaming claim to fame is that if you’re reading this, I’m better than you are at Gears of War. Any of them.
  48. The slowed-down Billie Eilish music is a poor choice for a series that once used a cover of “Mad World” to really push the desperation home.
  49. “Biggest Gears campaign ever”—the story is AT LEAST 9 hours long.

    Microsoft Terminator

    The only successful thing to come out of the Terminator franchise in two decades

  50. The pyrotechnics of this entire GEARS 5 segment is… embarrassing. But the flip to below the stage does look unnecessarily cluttered with shit that would appear in a GEARS map.
  51. The use of the “Let’s Go (Crazy Train remix)” in this new GEARS trailer is inarguably more embarrassing than the pyrotechnics.
  52. Nope, they had WWE wrestlers in the “underground hive” of the stage to play the game. Now we’re at peak embarrassment (and I LIKE Gears of War).
  53. Honestly the Terminator character reveal should be embarrassing for this franchise (for many reasons), but like, I’m still in.
  54. Tried to imagine a world where I would be excited about a controller trailer but I fell asl—
  55. DYING LIGHT 2: AKA Assassin’s Creed Zombies
  56. Confession Time: FORZA sucks and no amount of Lego is going to make me reconsider technical racing games. Bring back BURNOUT, you cowards.
  57. Confession Time Part Two: I don’t care about cars. And as much as I DO care about Legos, a lifesize Lego car does nothing for me inside.
  58. Is the fanbase of Funko POP! Figures big enough (especially as a crossover with GEARS OF WAR where the Venn diagram is even smaller, I’d assume) that it can carry a franchise?
  59. The trailer for STATE OF DECAY 2: HEARTLAND would probably work if we hadn’t been so inundated with fish-out-of-water zombie stories for a decade.
  60. “Japan’s Greatest Online RPG” as a lede is a great way for me to tune out of the broadcast, but eat your heart out gamers. The visuals look rad but there’s less than a snowball’s chance in hell I play PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2, which undoubtedly fails to showcase the thousands of hours of character development in its carefully cut teaser. But good for Microsoft for making a meaningful push from East to West.
  61. Even though it looks like it’s gonna devolve into TOP GUN big dickery immediately, the trailer for CROSSFIRE X honestly whips ass.
  62. The music cues in CROSSFIRE X work (despite being a pretty generic adrenalin-pumping, momentum-inducing gamer rock moment) because the trailer is pretty straightforward. It’s not a big ask to get excited by beautiful visuals and well-paced action as long as you don’t get hung up on weird stylistic cues. This trailer doesn’t, it plays it safe and that’s the correct move. Listen to Trailer Trashed on the MGRM Podcast Network.
  63. I’ll be honest, I spent most of the TALES OF ARISE trailer assuming it was a Final Fantasy game, so. Take that for what it is.
  64. “You play those games because you want those characters to fuck, right?”—my girlfriend right now, earnestly commenting on the TALES OF ARISE gameplay.
  65. The character title cards in BORDERLANDS 3 trailer flash by with an insane disregard for the viewer. But that’s kind of the speed of that game so I guess it adds up.
  66. Shame to see a disregard for the new (decent) Cage the Elephant album in the new BORDERLANDS 3 trailer.

    Halo

    Poor Man’s Oscar Isaac to the left is deeply unprepared for everything that happens in the HALO: INFINITE trailer

  67. I mean, easy joke I’m probably lifting off Twitter inadvertently but: George R.R. Martin has time for this (probably average) game and not Game of Thrones? C’mon my guy. It’s the Giants offseason. Spend your time better.
  68. Stray thought: It’d be dope to never release another GoT book and just put out a game instead as the conclusion. Probably alone in that.
  69. ELDEN RING is a very generic title.
  70. It’s gonna come out soon that Phil Spencer had his speech written by an A.I. who had watched the last decade of E3 press conferences.
  71. An emphasis on gaming as an emphasis of the next generation (not a given) is a good move for Microsoft, and honestly for a press conf—I mean briefing—that doesn’t have a lot of pause for true technological self-indulgence, if you’re gonna do that once, highlighting Project Scarlett is a good time to unload all of it.
  72. Let’s be honest, “It eats monsters for breakfast” is such a cringy thing to end on.
  73. The average joe in the HALO: INFINITE trailer fell off three feet of boxes and seemed genuinely hurt, so I assume this is the next generation of realistic Halo games.
  74. The visuals of what I assume are in-game cutscenes are fucking insanely gorgeous. But that’s a boring thing to type so just ignore it.
  75. Chief was on a space vacation for a long time, was recharged, and like eight seconds later wanted to leave. Take a break buddy.
  76. Ending on HALO: INFINITE would have obviously been a great idea and works to the BRIEFING’S strength. I’ll, like a rube, be there. Ending on a sizzle reel of everything we just saw, however, is no good.

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CJ Simonson
CJ Simonson is Merry-Go-Round's music editor. The only thing he knows for certain is that "I Can Feel The Fire" by Ronnie Wood is the greatest closing credits song never used in a Wes Anderson movie. Get on that, Wes.

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