Backwards Compatibility Microsoft pledged support for the current Xbox through 2006 and beyond and also announced that the X360 will be backwards compatible with at least some Xbox titles. We still arent sure what they meant by when they announced it would be backwards compatible with top selling Xbox games whether that means only certain games will work or if it was a blanket statement to cover themselves in case some things wont work for technical reasons but the fact that it is included at all is a good thing.
Xbox 360 Was Playable at E3 2005 The X360 was playable on the show floor but it was only running with about 1/4 of the power of the final system, so it isnt really a great indication of how things will look. At least we have real gameplay footage to look at rather than pre-rendered trailers that Sony used to wow everyone with the PlayStation3. Even at only 1/4 power, the Xbox 360 games look good and it is a great sign of things to come.
Next-Gen Power Means More Than Good Graphics One thing that is apparent in this new generation is that there isnt going to be a huge jump in terms of graphics compared to what we have today. We arent going to see the huge gap in quality that we saw in the transition from the SNES to N64, or PSX to PS2 and Xbox. You have to understand that even though there is a ton of power to play with, creating intricately detailed worlds and making everything look gorgeous takes a lot of time and money because someone has to actually go in and build those characters with 10,000 polygons and draw all of those photorealistic texture maps. Games will look better than they do now, there is no question, but I think it will be a while before we see something that will really knock our socks off. What we will see in the new generation of consoles is everything will be bigger and more will be going on at one time. We will see more characters onscreen at any given time. We will see more destructible and interactive items. We will see even bigger and more detailed worlds. We will have more complex and realistic AI. And we will have better, more realistic physics. These are all great things that will really expand gameplay and that is what we should be excited about and not just the graphics.
Xbox 360 Games Games are the most important thing, though, and it was nice to see Microsoft try to show something besides a long line of sequels. Well have our Perfect Dark and Project Gotham Racing and Tony Hawk and Need for Speed and Dead or Alive on the Xbox 360, but we will also have new properties such as Blue Dragon, Dead Rising, Full Auto, Gears of War, Kameo: Elements of Power, Lost Odyssey, Ninety-Nine Nights, The Outfit, and Saints Row. We will have all of the franchises we want to see along with a lot of new stuff and I like that. I hate to pick on Sony again, but the only things they showed for PS3 were sequels and that is a bit of a turn off no matter how great they look.
Xbox Games For the original Xbox, there wasnt a lot of new stuff shown. There are a lot of good looking games scheduled for release over the next 12 months, but there wasnt really anything new or unexpected for the system at E3. Just a lot of sequels, mostly, but at the end of a systems life that is acceptable. Star Wars Battlefront II is going to be absolutely amazing and I also have high hopes for Burnout Revenge, Far Cry Instincts, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Half-Life 2. Tony Hawks American Wasteland also looks interesting and is another example of people getting tired of the Tony Hawk series and Neversoft doing something new to bring us all back in. There is still a lot of life left in the Xbox and Microsoft claims there are about 200 games still scheduled for release over the next year, so things are still looking good if you arent interested in picking up an X360 at launch.
Bottom Line Overall, this was a good E3 for Microsoft and the Xbox brand. If it wasnt clear to you by now, Microsoft actually knows what they are doing and it looks like they are going to be in the videogame industry for quite a while to come. They have always done things their own way and on their own terms ever since they announced the original Xbox and it looks like all of their plans and experiments and new ideas they used for the Xbox are going to come together to create a really great overall experience with the Xbox 360. The growing pains are over and 2005 and 2006 are going to be the time when Microsoft really steps up as a powerhouse.