Microsoft didn't start the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo (a.k.a. E3) on quite the note I had hoped. I feel like I could have guessed my way through the company's entire conference. It didn't really throw any surprise punches, though there were a few big game announcements nonetheless.
There was a big focus on multimedia this year: The Kinect, sports, video streaming, exercising. Sure, the games were there, but they almost seemed to be a side note. "Halo 4? looks awesome, and like the series, is actually starting to take some interesting new directions under new development.
We also got glimpses of the new "Tomb Raider," an action-packed but not too "Resident Evil"-looking peek at "Resident Evil 6," and new entries in the "Call of Duty" and "Gears of War" series, which is a lot of heavy hitters. But it seemed Microsoft's IP strain was really showing. Where was anything new or megaton worthy? Or at least anything that we didn't assume a sequel would come out for later this year?
Smart glass was one of the new features shown, which lets you use your smart phones and tablets as second screens for the 360, looking similar to what Nintendo is doing with the Wii U. I was most excited when I thought it would let you stream the games you are playing to those devices, but it seems more akin to the second-screen entertainment television developers are making for TV shows. Microsoft showed that off with a demonstration of how the second screen could be used as a map while watching HBO's "Game of Thrones." An interesting idea, but one that requires you to have a tablet or some other device separate from the system.
Xbox Music is also on its way, as is Internet Explorer for the 360, but are either of those important at this point? ITunes isn't going away, neither are Chrome or Mozilla. I don't expect Microsoft to let me use other (read: better) products on the 360, but I don't see the need for an Xbox music service. Maybe that's just me.
The biggest surprise, and personal highlight, was the showing of "South Park: The Stick of Truth," presented by show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker themselves. Needless to say, I was giddy. The game won't hit until next March, but it looks to be the "South Park" game fans have always wanted.
Even Usher's appearance, a celebrity surprise, didn't really help the Microsoft conference. Kinect seems to be limited mostly to voice support, with little shown gesture-wise, aside from one tower-defense game that looked to be as awkward to play as it was to watch. And not a total surprise, but the company didn't make a single mention of a next-gen console, leaving an overall lukewarm start for the big M this year.
Sony's conference is next up to bat tonight, and I'll have hands-on reports of the games on the show floor all week. Keep an eye here and follow me on Twitter (@_WillieClark) for blogs and photo updates all week.