For all the talk about virtual reality and other advanced technology, Microsoft spent much of its briefing time on the world’s biggest electronic-gaming stage talking about exclusive games and features designed to make the game console more attractive.
LOS ANGELES — With one foot planted in the future of gaming platforms, Xbox is going back to basics.
In a video-game industry buzzing with virtual-reality bells and whistles and free-to-play mobile games untethered to hardware, Microsoft spent the vast majority of its time at an Electronic Entertainment Exposition presentation touting console games, the traditional heart of the industry.
The Redmond company Monday showcased a slate of exclusive games, including the latest version in its flagship “Halo” sci-fi shooter series, “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” and “Forza Motorsport 6.”
Microsoft also made a bid for gamers to upgrade to the latest version of its hardware, announcing the Xbox One console will soon be able to play games built for Xbox 360, the prior generation of the console. Previously, Xbox One couldn’t run games for Xbox 360, rendering virtually useless the libraries amassed between that console’s release in 2005 and its successor’s in 2013.
In closing a 90-minute event in the University of Southern California’s basketball arena, Xbox chief Phil Spencer asked Xbox 360 users who are still holding out to upgrade to the latest model.
That signals a turnaround for Microsoft, which used to spend part of its time here touting its ambition for Xbox to serve as a living-room hub whose reach extends beyond video gaming.
While the console retains many of those capabilities, the company has scaled back those ambitions in an effort to make fans out of more gamers and close the gap with Sony’s better-selling PlayStation 4.
Spencer said exclusive games were “critical to our platform’s success.” Representatives of other game studios took the stage at Microsoft’s event to announce goodies for Xbox users, including an early look at the new “The Division” shooter from Ubisoft and a week of access to Electronic Arts’ batch of games offered under one subscription.
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Microsoft isn’t putting all its efforts into console gaming, though. The company Monday announced a second deal in as many weeks with a maker of a virtual-reality headset.
Microsoft Studios Vice President Kudo Tsunoda described a partnership with Valve to make the Bellevue company’s new headset work well with computers running Windows.
On Thursday, Facebook-owned Oculus had said its own headset would be released with an Xbox controller and that users would be able to stream and play Xbox games through the headset.
Microsoft also showed off its new hardware.
A Microsoft employee wearing a HoloLens holographic headset played a “Minecraft” game projected onto a wall. Later, with a voice command, he re-created the game virtually on a tabletop and continued playing.
A second demonstrator nearby used a tablet to interact with in the same world.
Microsoft has used the wildly popular “Minecraft,” which it acquired last year in a $2.5 billion deal to buy developer Mojang, as a showcase for the gaming possibilities of HoloLens. Monday’s demonstration was similar to one it showed journalists and analysts at the unveiling of the device in January.
Also unveiled Monday: a high-end Xbox controller that comes with more and customizable buttons. The Xbox Elite controller is scheduled for October release and will cost $149.99.
In other E3 developments:
• Game publisher Bethesda Softworks held its first E3 news conference Sunday evening, bumping up the unofficial kickoff of a trade show that already featured a full day of events before its official opening Tuesday. The audience seemed to think it was worth the time.
The publisher of titles like “Doom” and “Fallout” shared a bit more about the next versions of both franchises. “Doom,” among the original first-person shooters, is set for a gory-as-ever reboot in 2016. “Fallout 4,” the latest installment post-apocalyptic role-playing shooter, will be released in November.
• Every game is a platform, everything is customizable.
The upcoming version of “Doom” will come with SnapMap, a built-in map and game editor that allows players to create custom environments and tweak the in-game logic of enemies.
Bethesda similarly pitched a “Fallout” feature that lets players build and decorate outposts in the in-game environment.
Electronic Arts on Monday spent a good chunk of its time describing its upcoming “Need for Speed” racing game, explaining how players can customize their cars.
• “Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2,” the latest installment of the quirky, colorful shooter franchise made by Seattle’s PopCap Games, is set for release next year for Xbox, PlayStation and PC. EA bought PopCap in 2011.