On Monday, Microsoft took to the stage first in order to show the world exactly what they should care about Microsoft and Xbox 360 as an entertainment platform. And after last year's rather disappointing affair, the only way was up for Microsoft. That still didn't stop it from being rather underwhelming though.
Just like two years ago, Microsoft led with gameplay footage of the latest Call of Duty title, Modern Warfare 3. It's one of their core titles, despite being multiplatform, and the announcement that DLC will continue to be a timed-exclusive must be seen as a coup until the Call of Duty bubble bursts.
From here, despite there being a plethora of third-party high-profile games waiting in the wings, Microsoft decided to show Tomb Raider. An interesting choice, but the demo wasn't the best. It showed off quite a few quick-time events and some nice atmosphere, but there was no mention of titles like Batman: Arkham City, Dark Souls or Final Fantasy XIII-2. Titles which Microsoft will no doubt hope can drive Xbox 360 sales this year, where the previous titles were huge hits on the PS3.
Kinect then became the focus, as Microsoft attempted to convince us that it will be a useful extension for core games. They failed. Mass Effect 3 had Kinect integration for voice commands, but there's no reason why this needs to be a Kinect-only experience. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier's integration was also rather superfluous - fancy extensions that add little.
What's most disappointing is that aside from Fable: The Journey, Microsoft showed off no core Kinect games of their own. Instead, they just showed off sequels to existing casual projects, like Dance Central 2 and Kinect Sports: Season Two. They were basically saying that, if you have Kinect and like it, we have more of the same on the way, but if you don't, there's no real reason why you should bother.
They kept on with Kinect though, perhaps masking the fact that aside from Gears of War 3, which made a muted appearance, they had very little else worth talking about. Kudo Tsunodo even came on to talk about a mod hub for the peripheral called Fun Labs - fun little things, but nothing more.
It was perhaps ironic that Microsoft's biggest announcement was leaked beforehand by Microsoft themselves. They were supposed to go out with a bang at the end with the announcement of Halo 4 and a new trilogy, but by that point, it felt that people had just stopped caring about anything that was being said. Despite Halo being Microsoft's biggest franchise, the trailer was only greeted by muted applause.
Following last year's dismal conference, Microsoft only had one way to go, and they did improve. It was only a small improvement though. Aside from Halo 4, there was nothing to get excited about as a core gamer, or even a casual gamer - it seems as though they're just going through the motions at this point.