People hoped for a name at least. A date, perhaps? A box, even just a picture of a box - you can dream, right? In the end, Microsoft gave us a lot of talking heads - talking, in all fairness, about fairly specific things - but no box. They gave us a launch window rather than a date, and the whole thing's still at the "project" stage. Project Scarlett: Holidays 2020.
Does it matter? Probably not as much as I initially thought. Just like it probably doesn't matter that most of the big games present on stage tonight were in trailer form with actual gameplay saved for another day. Some of the presentations were odd too: in the Halo Infinite trailer, Master Chief boldly walked across the length of a fairly small room, and took quite a while to do it. Some of them were joyous: having Keanu Reeves on stage for Cyberpunk 2077 is, in 2019, the closest E3 was going to get to an appearance from an actual deity. But none of these things mattered so much as the message that was always there in the background. A drum beat. Game Pass.
Game Pass is an astonishingly good deal at the moment - and not just because, if you pick it up today, it will only cost you a pound. Loads of games ready to play on launch day - and now PC is joining in alongside the Xbox One. Trailer after trailer at the E3 presentation had the same message: playable on day one with Game Pass. Forza 4 Horizon with Lego. Gears 5. Halo Infinite. Seven new studios bought in the last year, and now Double Fine entering the fold. Microsoft is spending a fortune on games that it doesn't want you to actually buy. Or, to put it another way, those studios are making content for Game Pass, aiming to release on something that looks more like Netflix than it looks like the Xbox 360.
(Actually there's more. Starting with a preview this October you'll be able to stream from your Xbox One. You'll have access to your Xbox library and - what's this? - Game Pass. Who needs Project Scarlett when you can eventually stream Halo Infinite straight from your telly?)
By the end of the evening it was the subscription that felt like the true platform - it was the subscription that would be taking on Stadia, and that will presumably be the core that any new Xbox hardware is built around. After the conference ended, there was a slight feeling of disappointment in the office: no name for the new box, no firm date for the calendar. But the future, magically, is already here. It's a big idea, and it charges monthly.
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