Nothing Happened At X018 and It’s Stuck In My Craw

I was responsible for our X018 coverage on Saturday. So I’m Fanbyte’s authority on the event. As Fanbyte’s authority on the event, I was almost embarrassed to write our roundup that afternoon because nothing really happened at X018. What was the point of X018? Was it just a fun trip to Mexico City?

Game Pass Still Rules

Maybe “nothing” is unfair to Microsoft. The big functional development from Saturday is Xbox’s continued support of their subscription service, Xbox Game Pass. With the pass, you get over 100 games to download for just $10 per month. In a very WWE Network move (presumably to get more subscribers before the Holidays), they’re dropping the price to $1 for the first month for new members.

xbox game pass pubg x018

They announced 16 new games for the service; most notably PUBG and the Ori games.

Perhaps the strangest bit in their Game Pass announcements was ending the show with its last four entries, the last being Thomas Was Alone. Mike Bithell’s very good, very interesting, and very successful platformer is six and a half years old.

Six and a half.

No shade at the game! It’s a great and should absolutely be in your library. What I’m getting at is the total lack of excitement and newness to all of Xbox’s announcements on Saturday. It was Microsoft’s biggest fan event of the year, by its own description. Why does it feel so two thousand and late?

Dev Acquisitions: To What End?

The showstopping announcement Phil Spencer alluded to in Saturday’s stream ended up being Microsoft’s acquisition of inXile and Obsidian. Both companies have had successes as independent studios and both have recently focused on CRPGs: distinct throwbacks in an industry where everything is getting bigger, flashier, and decidedly not CRPG-like.

microsoft studios obsidian

There’s nothing wrong with either approach, considering the critical and commercial success of games like The Witcher 3 and Obsidian’s own Pillars of Eternity. There’s a place for both.

It doesn’t feel like a mainstream blow, though. Even stranger was that the announcement had no followup—just quick messages from executive leadership from both companies and extremely vague commitments to make good things. There were no actual games attached.

“Hey, yes! Xbox owns us now and we’re excited to make games owned by Xbox!”

You’re at the exciting event. Say something EXCITING.

What’s the endgame for Xbox? Are they simply acquiring studios that will own the critical darling, commercially okay market? That’s cool! Centering an entire event around this strategy feels odd, though.

Announcements for Your Announcements

That leads me to my next point. If your event ultimately equates to “We’ve gathered you here today to let you know that we’ll tell you a different thing later,” you’ve planned a bad event.

I feel especially sorry for Terry Crews, an exceptional actor and seemingly wonderful person, who is being strung along by the Crackdown 3 whatever-the-opposite-of-hype-is.

X018 informed us that a game we all assumed was vaporware does indeed exist. It exists so much that you can install it now and play it when it definitely comes out in February 2019. The multiplayer mode also exists. It exists so much that it has a name called Wrecking Zone. It exists and you can look at the file they created for it on your Xbox One until February 2019.

In addition to the Crackdown 3 stuff, we were told about Winter of Arcade! It’s the return of the very good indie showcase from Xbox 360 (then called Summer of Arcade). That’s good, right? Well, if we want to know anything about it, we need to tune into The Game Awards.

I love this! It’s fun!

Practice Mode

The most jarring thing from Saturday’s conference was the 10 minutes of Devil May Cry 5 coverage, which featured game director Hideaki Itsuno playing the practice mode of his AAA video game. The good we got out of this was the revelation that there is a weapon called The Pasta Breaker and that Mega Man’s Mega Buster can be acquired.

pasta breaker devil may cry 5
Thank god for The Pasta Breaker

The bad was spending a hyped marketing event watching a really good game designer play a practice mode for a game that isn’t out yet.

What was this event, Microsoft? Why did lots of us spend two hours of a Saturday watching it?

Don’t get it twisted. The public’s reaction to the Diablo Immortal stuff at BlizzCon was terrible. I’ve never seen so many bad reactions to something that will very obviously be successful and (continue not getting things twisted) loads of people want. They just weren’t in attendance at BlizzCon. I’m not trying to have that same kind of reaction to X018.

I’ve just never understood the expense and time devoted to the creation and execution of an event that could be accomplished in a shareholders phone call.