E3 Week: Atmosphere on the Eve of Microsoft’s Conference

It might seem a little silly to be prefacing this entire thing with what could read as a defensive statement, but I’d like to point out I don’t hate Microsoft and I don’t want to hate Microsoft, even if we’re sometimes a bit negative here. We don’t say things or ask questions for the sake of being anti-anything, but Microsoft have been making headlines recently and with their conference being the first big event at this year’s E3 tonight (or tomorrow, or whatever – look, timezones are confusing) it’s natural for my thoughts to constantly be turning to them.

It’s unfortunate that nobody can really deny the public response to the Xbox One has been mixed at best. The arrival of more next generation consoles should be an exciting time, but here we sit looking at a bit of a trainwreck. Responses to the Xbox One reveal event weren’t so great, due in part to a focus on wider multimedia features over pure gaming – but E3 is here and it’s the games time to shine, okay, that’s cool.

The problem comes from the mixed messages churned out by Microsoft since the initial reveal, things that are only now being cleared up properly – and for some people are either still too unclear or confirm exactly what they feared. The internet has spent the better part of the last few weeks arguing with itself over the merits of the Xbox One (affectionately referred to as the Xbone, now). The public image of the console has undoubtedly suffered as a result. Claims that Microsoft are trying to repair their image by making fake consumer accounts on sites like reddit probably aren’t helping matters either. Rumours circulating the net have become depressingly believable. That’s just where things sit right now.

At the end of those weeks since the Xbox One’s reveal we’re looking at a bit of a mess. Whether you’re hyped for the console or not (more power to you if you are) things haven’t gone smoothly, and now one question remains. Actually, plenty of questions remain, but right now I’m particularly interested in this one: what will the atmosphere at Microsoft’s E3 conference be like?

I’m talking about the general feel of the room, the mixture of anticipation and doubt felt by the people gathered in the room reflecting those of the wider gaming community, and how that might impact the presentation itself. People will be paying attention to Microsoft, but maybe not all of them will be doing so for the ‘right’ reasons. There are always console fan wars, but one has to wonder and almost dread what responses will be like this year.

In fact, maybe I’m one of those people watching for the ‘wrong’ reasons. Of course I’m interested in the games. We’ve only seen a few things from Microsoft in that regard, so it’s going to be interesting to see what they’ll have on offer. But if there was anything compelling me to stay up with a caffeine overdose into the early hours of the morning to watch this, it’s a bizarre and curious interest in the presentation itself, not on what’s actually being presented.

If you’re pessimistic, you might see Microsoft backing out of a media round-table post-conference as an early sign of how they’re feeling right now. And it’s certainly a fair point to take as support – what else could it really mean? It’s easy to see the negative there.

But what must be going on behind the scenes at Microsoft in this moment? How must it feel to be hours away from a conference preparing to talk about a console with such a mixed response swirling around it? And how does anyone approach talking in a conference with such weight behind it?

There are two extremes: confidence and sheepishness. Barge through the conference with bravado, unaffected by any negative hype circulating on the web, absolutely confident in the product you’re selling. Or be a bit more reserved, more hesitant to not risk adding more fuel to the fire. While the former seems more likely, neither can be perceived as a win for Microsoft. Confidence presents itself as blatant ignorance of criticism, while sheepishness would be treated like a childish victory for naysayers. How do you even win there?

Perhaps it’s pointless to think about this and assume that anything other than bravado will be in full force tonight/tomorrow/whatever. You don’t market a console by being underwhelming. But what if? The world has shown an intense reaction, the public image of the Xbox One is already at risk, surely there are a few people on edge. And that would surely extend to Sony as well, who many have looked to as an alternative to Microsoft and thus have built up their own expectations Sony may very well shatter all too soon. But hey, they might not. Is this an experience to learn from?

It’s a messy situation. I feel as if we’ll be looking with almost morbid interest at how everything plays out. On the eve of Microsoft’s conference, some of us are watching with hesitance about the next generation of console gaming. We can only hope that E3 is the event that turns everything to the better.

I need a hype injection, stat.

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