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Microsoft all but ignored its biggest advantages against Sony at E3

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Why have power if you don’t brag about it?

Microsoft Announces Its Latest XBox Games At E3 Conference Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Xbox One X is the most powerful console on the market, but Microsoft itself did very little to promote this fact during its press conference at E3 this year.

The hardware was brought up a few times. There were visuals in the corner of many of the trailers that brought up the 4K resolution and HDR support that comes with using an Xbox One X with a 4K display. It was sometimes remarked that games would “look best” on an Xbox One X. The system is currently on sale. I’m not sure the lower price was mentioned at all.

Microsoft did a pretty good job talking about why the Xbox platform was going to be better in the future, but why wasn’t the fact that — at least visually — the Xbox One X is the best right now?

It’s true that raw power won’t win a console generation, and it may not even tip the scales. But the difference in power between a PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X isn’t just an issue of numbers on the spreadsheet; players who are picky about performance and resolution are going to want to buy their multi-platform releases on Xbox One X.

The system is able to hit native 4K resolutions much more often than the PS4 Pro, and is less expensive than a comparatively powered gaming PC. That’s a major talking point, and it seems like a waste to not spend at least a little more time slamming that point home. I still stand by the statement that the full-throated power of the Xbox One X often makes the PS4 Pro feel like a stutter-step toward the future instead of a major upgrade.

The title screen for The Division 2 with icons for 4K UltraHD resolutions, HDR and Xbox One X support
Those little icons should have been a bigger deal during Microsoft’s press conference
Microsoft via Polygon

Many of the demos at E3 were of course running on very high-end PCs, but I kept noting to myself that I would likely buy each of the big multiplatform games on Xbox One X because that’s where the visuals would look the closest to the demos.

It’s a distinction that Microsoft almost seemed hesitant to bring up; you can make a point to note that your console often hits 4K natively while your competition is often scaling up to 4K without it sounding like you’re being petty and throwing shade. Why offer the feature if you’re not going to make it count while trying to win over players?

The lack of bragging about the ongoing and enjoyable backward compatibility of the Xbox One X was also a bit strange. It’s not enough of an advantage to get people to ditch their PlayStation 4s for the Xbox platform, but it is a pretty large competitive advantage that Sony isn’t going to match. Especially when you’re playing your classic games on Xbox One X where, again, they’re being rendered in 4K natively. If you haven’t played Red Dead Redemption in 4K, for instance, you are missing out. It’s hard to oversell how great it looks in person.

And it doesn’t look like the trend of supporting classic games is going to end soon.

“What I would say specifically, without announcing anything, is I’m very proud of our track record of compatibility and us respecting the purchase of games you’ve made with us and bringing that to the current generation,” Microsoft’s Phil Spencer told Eurogamer. “It is in our core on who we are.”

That’s a message that could help fans feel better about their software purchases right now while looking toward the future. Why not state it in front of everyone instead of saving it for an interview?

It’s tricky to show the power of HDR and 4K displays without being able to, you know, show the image to most fans, but the power of the Xbox One X and the ongoing advantage of the Xbox platforms’ backward compatibility features were mostly absent from discussion at E3 this year. It’s a shame; this was the perfect time to talk up what you can offer, and your closest competitor can’t.