Microsoft’s E3 Showcase Had a Catchphrase… And It’s Great?
One of the most difficult things to achieve when striving to make positive change in any industry, is to do so without it feeling fake. We’ve seen that before. But yesterday, during Microsoft’s E3 Showcase, I had an epiphany: they had a catchphrase. They used one specific word throughout their presentation, in many different contexts, and with many different meanings. But the overall meaning of it is quite clear: Microsoft is serious about diversity.
Here We Go Again… And Yet, Not
I first realized Microsoft’s use of the word “diversity” during the Forza Horizon 5 showcase. Of course, it’d make sense, as the game is set in Mexico. They would want to highlight that aspect of the game. When the presentation first started, I thought it was a bit… much. A bit forced. “Oh, no”, I told myself. “Here we go again”. Here comes another gaming company using Hispanic heritage as a prop to appear inclusive. “At least we’re not the bad guys this time”, I thought, as I had another tab open with Far Cry 6 details. But then, something magic happened.
Forza Horizon 5 isn’t tokenistic about its efforts toward representation. It’s a bit… crass sometimes, what with the piñata popping mini-game and all. But they really seem to care about representing Mexican culture in the game. And doing it properly. No cartels or lazy janitor jokes. These have been replaced by Mexican voice talent and in-game murals created by Mexican artists. The gameplay they showed featured the fantastic colonial architecture we’ve come to love, but in a light that celebrates its heritage, rather than propping it up as a means to help the player understand they’re not in Kansas anymore. And that is huge.
Diversity Takes A Bigger Seat at the Big Boys’ Table
One would be forgiven for thinking this is the first time one of the Big Three (Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony) center one of their major IPs around diversity and representation. But let me cast your mind back to the announcement that started my time here at Dread XP:
Almost a year to the date on which this article was first published, Microsoft’s E3 Showcase featuring Forza Horizon 5 would further cement the point I tried to make in the Spider-Man: Miles Morales piece: it matters. It matters when huge corporations fly a representative flag on their tentpole IPs. Doing so signals to the industry at large that it is OK to be diverse. In fact, believe it or not, it might even be profitable! It’s not always a smooth transition, of course. Internet trolls aplenty crowded their moms’ basements to get on the computer and renege on Sony for making Spider-Man a racial issue. Of course, Salvatore Mondello himself commented as early as the 1960s how Peter Parker had a tendency to reflect the civil unrest of the era. But I digress. Let’s go back to the presentation, because Forza Horizon 5 wasn’t the only diverse thing about it.
Take a Shot Every Time “Diversity” Is Said During Microsoft’s E3 Showcase
That’s a comment I made early on in the Forza presentation in our private Discord, as I was still on the fence about Microsoft’s true intentions. “I respect my liver”, came the response from one of my comrades. Touché. The truth is, though, the further into the presentation we got, the more I realized the diversity perspective didn’t just encompass Microsoft’s new racing game.
Having gone back to re-watch the presentation, I’ve come to realize that Microsoft used some clever neuromarketing techniques to get their point across throughout the showcase. The word “diversity” either shows up in the cultural meaning, or in terms of how different all the games shown were, and so on. Naughty, yes. But also effective.
I gotta admit: Microsoft seems to have gone all in on diversity and representation. And I love that. They have been doing things differently from the other two in an attempt to get a bigger market share. Game Pass looks amazing, and it will only get better. Backwards compatibility and Smart Delivery are incredible features. But for me, the biggest achievement in Microsoft’s E3 Showcase was seeing a huge corporation understand that the gaming industry isn’t homogeneous. Not only that, but also the fact that it is this lack of homogeneity which makes gaming, and humanity as a whole, so interesting, vibrant and exciting.
Microsoft: you’ve won me over. Now please: don’t screw up.