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Gaming News

Xbox One Livestream Recap: Halo Convention, Crackdown 3, Hardware Bundles, And More

Microsoft held an Xbox Insider livestream on Tuesday, and it was unusually chock full of news about the coming months and beyond. Packed into the presentation were announcements regarding the Halo series, Game Pass, Sea of Thieves, new console bundles, and more. Read on for a full recap of the news.

Halo Outpost Discovery

We’re still not sure just when to expect Halo Infinite, but fans can live out their Halo fantasies this year regardless. 343 and Microsoft will be hosting a traveling event with in-universe activities, panels, and more. It will visit five cities this year, open for one weekend in each. You can explore a Halo Ring, visit a Warthog, play VR simulations and laser tag, attend panels with creators, and get cosplay tips. Plus, of course, you can just play yourself some Halo. Check whether it’s coming to your neck of the woods.

Game Pass in February

The smallest month is bringing some big games to Xbox One Game Pass, the all-you-can-eat subscription service. The February line-up includes Shadow of the Tomb Raider, The Walking Dead Season 1, and Batman: Return to Arkham, to name a few. The real headliner is Crackdown 3, which is finally really coming out after years of delays. As a Microsoft first-party game, it’s included as part of Game Pass, so if you’re a subscriber you already as good as own it. Check out the full calendar for when each game will drop on the service.

The Division 2 and Anthem Bundles

Two more big games are dropping soon, and Microsoft is partnering with each one’s publisher to offer hardware bundles. Both Anthem and The Division 2 are getting paired with Xbox Ones. The Anthem bundle includes the game’s Legion of Dawn edition with bonuses, an Xbox One S 1 TB, and one-month trials of EA Access, Game Pass, and Xbox Live Gold. The Division 2 is getting two separate sets of bundles, one with a black Xbox One X and one with a white Xbox One S. Check out price and release date details to plan your purchases.

Sea of Thieves Brings Your Mateys Aboard

If your adventures on the high seas are feeling a little lonely, Rare and Microsoft are making it a little easier to fill your crew. Owners of Sea of Thieves or Game Pass subscribers can gift a copy of the game to up to three people, which will let them play for free until February 13. After that, they can purchase it for a 35% discount. Keep in mind that they’ll need to a Gold membership to play the online game.

New Red Controller is Sporty

If you need a brand-new controller to play all these games on, the livestream covered that too. It debuted the new Sport Red Special Edition, which aside from the nifty paint job features rubber grips along the back. Because sports. It will cost $70 and release on March 5. A matching Pro Charging Stand will also be available in North America. Read more details on the nifty piece of kit.

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Microsoft Game Studios Becomes Xbox Game Studios

In a bit of branding news that you may notice when you start up a first-party game in the future, Microsoft Game Studios is no more. It’s been renamed Xbox Game Studios, which corporate VP Matt Booty says is a reflection of how the Xbox brand itself has expanded. This comes just after a series of acquisitions, so the newly rebranded Xbox Game Studios is now composed of 13 teams. Booty said the teams are working on “incredible exclusives, original IP, and all-new chapters from your favorite franchises.”


The Division 2, Anthem Getting Xbox One Bundles

Microsoft has announced two more Xbox One bundles that join the already-massive array of hardware bundles that the company offers. As part of the Inside Xbox broadcast today, Microsoft announced that Anthem and The Division 2 are getting Xbox One bundles.

The Anthem Xbox One S bundle comes 1 TB white system, matching white controller, and a copy of Anthem’s Legion of Dawn Edition. This includes armor packs, a weapon, and other bonuses. Also included in the package are one-month trials for EA Access, Xbox Game Pass, and Xbox Live Gold. The bundle arrives at retailers alongside Anthem on February 22; it’s priced at $300 USD.

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As for The Division 2, it’s getting bundles for Xbox One X and Xbox One. The $500 USD Xbox One X edition comes with a 1 TB black console and a matching controller, as well as a copy of the game’s standard edition. It also comes with a one-month trial for Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold. The $300 USD Xbox One edition comes with a 1 TB white system and a matching white controller, as well as a copy of the game’s standard edition. It also includes one-month trials for Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold. Both go on sale March 16 alongside the game.

These new Xbox One bundles for Anthem and The Division 2 join the existing lineup of Xbox One hardware bundles featuring games like Battlefield V, NBA 2K19, Forza Horizon 4, Fallout 76, PUBG, and others.

Some of Microsoft’s other Inside Xbox announcements today included the re-branding of Microsoft Game Studios as Xbox Game Studios, a new Xbox One controller colour, and a free event for Sea of Thieves, among other things.


February’s Free Nintendo Switch Online NES Games Revealed

It’s a new month, and that means Nintendo Switch Online subscribers are getting even more free classic NES games to play. Available from February 13 will be Super Mario Bros. 2 and Kirby’s Adventure, Nintendo announced today.

These follow on from January’s new additions, which included Zelda II: The Adventures of Link and Blaster Master in North America. Last month, players in Japan got a third game, Joy Mech Fight, but it’s not immediately clear if there is a Japan-exclusive game this month.

The NES library for Switch Online subscribers launched with 20 big-name games, including Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Dr. Mario, Ice Climber, Metroid, and Donkey Kong. As you can tell from January and the titles coming in February, the catalog is adding some great games.

Nintendo Switch Online costs $4 USD/month or $8 USD for three months. A 12-month subscription goes for $20 USD, while a Family Membership for up to eight Nintendo Account members costs $35 USD for a year. New subscribers can sign up with a seven-day free trial. In addition to free NES games, subscribers get access to cloud saves, and online play for many titles such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Mario Kart 8 Ultimate.

Nintendo recently confirmed that Nintendo Switch Online had reached 8 million members, and teased that it will “expand” the service. “Nintendo Switch Online has had a good start,” president Shuntaro Furukawa said. “In keeping with the goal of providing Nintendo Switch owners with ‘More Games. More Features. More Fun,’ we are working on continuing to expand the service offerings.”


Winning In Apex Legends Should Be A Lot Cooler

In battle royale games, winning is a pretty big deal. The very nature of the shooter genre puts extreme emphasis on victory because it’s so hard to come by. It requires being the last one standing of an often-huge number of players or teams, and it’s possible to go a long time–maybe forever–without winning one of these tough matches. So the fact that winning in battle royale games is often kind of boring is pretty strange.

Apex Legends, Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall-linked squad shooter, is only the latest game to suffer from dull wins. Surviving skirmishes with 19 other three-player teams earns you a big “Champion” sprawled across your screen, and other players see your squad’s names and characters, but there’s really not much else. You might get a little recognition later, if you’re designated top-ranked champion squad in the next match, but Apex Legends’ minor celebration for a hard-fought victory right now leaves something to be desired.

It’s weird that battle royale games don’t make a bigger deal of victory, really. Fortnite has learned that lesson a bit, adding confetti effects and music to the celebration at the end of a match, but there’s still not an especially high degree of fanfare. By contrast, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which could be credited with popularizing the whole BR trend, more or less made a gag out of how dull its wins are with the “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” note that appears in the corner of the victor’s screen. The game makes so little deal out of winning that you might almost think you actually lost. It’s certainly not much of an ego boost after fighting like mad to survive.

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But Apex Legends brings a level of shooter polish and pedigree to battle royale that it hasn’t really had up to now. The win screen is another place where Respawn could differentiate itself from PUBG, Fortnite, and others in the genre.

And since so much effort is put into teamwork, it also makes sense to put a greater emphasis on recognizing a team’s accomplishments in working together–not just in racking up kills. Right now, with kills and damage being two of the main stats portrayed during wins, it’s very easy to look like the member of a team who was getting carried, even though there’s often a lot more to a victory than getting the final shot on opponents. Apex Legends does track other stats, and you can show them off by unlocking trackers for your character’s banner that show, say, how many revives you notched over time. But that information is general and spread out over your career, rather than being reflective of your contribution in your last match.

Giving a winning team more things to congratulate each other about helps incentivize teams to stay and work together. And showing other players the impressive stuff a winning team does, even if that’s not gunning down opponents, can help encourage them to jump into more games, even if their talents aren’t in becoming the next kill leader.

Consider Overwatch by comparison. The team-based shooter’s influence on Apex Legends is obvious, with the focus on individual characters, team dynamics, and some of its in-game fanfare. But Overwatch leans into its post-match celebrations. Its Play of the Game video that grabs a key moment from the just-finished match is one of its best features, and something that made a big splash when Blizzard’s shooter arrived on the scene. And end-of-match readouts don’t just focus on who had the most kills, but show a variety of top stats. Making wins feel good and teamwork feel like it’s worth it are two things Overwatch does extremely well.

Play of the Game footage might be untenable for Apex Legends (grabbing footage from 60 players in every match is a lot for servers to handle, one assumes), but the things Overwatch does at the end of its matches are at least in the right headspace. The emphasis of much of Respawn’s game is on making players feel like victorious gladiators in a giant sport, and most of its mechanics are about encouraging smart teamwork. Spicing up those victory moments is right in line with what Respawn is already trying to do, and highlighting more ways that squads contribute to one another is only going to make chasing those wins feel all the better.


Disney Says EA Has Been “Good” Partner For Star Wars Games Despite Loot Box Controversy

At one point in time, media giant Disney published video games like Disney Infinity and Epic Mickey in-house through its now-defunct Disney Interactive Studios. That’s no longer the case, as it now primarily licenses its franchises to outside studios instead. One major partner is Electronic Arts. In 2013, Disney and EA signed a 10-year deal to make EA the exclusive publisher of Star Wars games on console, and now Disney chief Bob Iger has commented on the company’s philosophy about publishing games and its relationship with EA.

He said on an earnings call that Disney’s history of internal development and publishing of games has been shaky, so he’s happy that Disney has now shifted to a licensing model.

“Over the years we’ve tried our hand in self-publishing, we’ve bought companies, we’ve sold companies, we’ve bought developers, we’ve closed developers. And we’ve found over the years that we haven’t been particularly good at the self-publishing side, but we’ve been great at the licensing side which obviously doesn’t require that much allocation of capital,” Iger said.

Regarding EA specifically, Iger said Disney’s relationship with the publisher has been “good,” despite what could be seen as issues recently.

“We’ve had good relationships with some of those we’re licensing to, notably EA, and the relationship on the Star Wars properties, and we’re probably going to continue to stay on that side of the business and put our capital elsewhere,” he said.

While Disney has been enormously successful in the areas of making its own movies, theme parks, cruise ships, and TV shows, video games have been a tough nut to crack. “We’ve never managed to demonstrate much skill on the publishing side of games,” Iger said.

EA has released two Star Wars console games, Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: Battlefront II, since its licensing deal with Disney began in 2013. The next one is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Titanfall developer Respawn that is due out this fall. In other news, it was recently reported that EA canceled an open-world Star Wars game, with its developer EA Vancouver, now focusing on a smaller-scale project that can be released sooner. EA maintains that it is “fully committed” to making more Star Wars games as part of its deal with Disney.

2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront was an enormous success, shipping more than 14 million copies. The sequel, which was criticised for its loot box mechanics, shipped 9 million copies at launch.

Assuming EA’s deal with Disney for Star Wars video games hasn’t been updated, it runs until 2023. Unlike wholly owned franchises like Battlefield and Dragon Age, EA must pay Disney a licensing fee for its Star Wars games. However, the specific terms of the licensing agreement between Disney and EA is unknown.


Shaggy Will Not Be In Mortal Kombat 11 So You Can Stop Asking, NetherRealm Confirms

In the first Kombat Kast livestream since the reveal of the upcoming fighting game Mortal Kombat 11, the NetherRealm team unveiled that Kabal is returning to the roster. In addition, D’Vorah was announced to be another returning character during the Inside Xbox stream. However, it may come as a disappointment to some that NetherRealm confirmed Shaggy of Scooby Doo fame will not be a guest character, regardless of how loud you scream the memes.

Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon himself got in on the meme when he tweeted a fan art mock up of “Hack and Slash Shaggy variation” hitting Scorpion with a brutal knee. But today during the Kombat Kast, community manager Tyler Lansdown stated, “Shaggy will not be in the game, ever, sorry, dead meme!” The series has a strong history of bringing in guest characters with the likes of Leatherface and Jason, but Shaggy will not be using any percentage of his power for Mortal Kombat 11.

If you’re not caught up on what’s going on with the latest sequel in the long-running franchise, be sure to check out every character confirmed so far, our compilation of fatalities of the initial seven announced characters, or see all the wild things happening in Mortal Kombat 11’s story mode. We also caught up with Ed Boon during the reveal event to pick his brain about how fatalities are made and what microtransactions will look like for the game.

Props to everyone who tried to let their memes not be dreams. Mortal Kombat 11 is set to launch on April 23 this year for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.


EA Has “Difficult Quarter,” Stock Price Nosedives

Video game giant Electronic Arts reported earnings today for its fiscal third quarter ended December 31, and it could have gone better during the all-important holiday period. While EA did post gains in revenue and profit, the company said in its official remarks that it was a “difficult quarter” that saw the company fail to meet its commercial expectations.

CFO Blake Jorgensen said in prepared remarks that 2018 was a “tumultuous” year for the gaming industry overall. Though he did not share any specifics, he might have been referring to the way in which the absolute juggernaut Fortnite shook up the industry in the past year. Not only that, but Red Dead Redemption 2‘s release in October might have impacted sales of EA’s games.

While it might not have been the quarter EA wanted, Jorgensen said EA is “making adjustments to improve execution and we’re refocusing on R&D.” EA CEO Andrew Wilson said the company is looking to “sharpen” its execution going forward.

One title that struggled during the period was Battlefield 5. The World War II shooter sold a massive 7.3 million copies, but this was 1 million shy of what EA expected. For more on this underperformance, you can check out this story that explains the downturn.

EA just recently launched the free-to-play Titanfall battle royale game Apex Legends, and it’s off to a fantastic start with 2.5 million players and 600,000 concurrent users after just one day. Beyond that, EA will launch BioWare’s new game, Anthem, later in February, and it’s expected to sell as many as 6 million copies by the end of March. Additionally, EA is working on new Plants vs. Zombies and Need for Speed games, along with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order for this year. On top of that, more Titanfall is coming, while all of the usual sports games are expected as well.

This is all to say that while EA’s latest financial quarter might not have been the rosiest, the company is still doing just fine and it has a pipeline of major titles in the works. It made $1.29 billion in revenue over the three-month period and a profit of $262 million; both figures are up year-over-year. Despite those gains, EA’s stock price is free-falling; it’s down more than 15 percent in after-hours trading currently.


MLB The Show 19’s first gameplay trailer focuses on baseball legends

We finally have some gameplay footage of MLB The Show 19 to pore over, courtesy of Tuesday’s release of the first full trailer for the latest iteration of Sony’s acclaimed simulation baseball franchise.

Members of the Baseball Hall of Fame are sprinkled throughout the trailer, including MLB The Show 17 cover athlete Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, and Christy Mathewson, the latter of whom is new to the franchise’s collection of “legends.” Presumably, they will play a role in one of MLB 19’s new game modes, Moments — the trailer closes with a clip of Willie Mays, an in-game recreation of his fabled over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series. (One of the taglines in the trailer is “relive history.”)

The other new mode in MLB 19 is called March to October. That sounds like it could be a rebranding of the old Season mode, which developer Sony San Diego removed in last year’s MLB The Show 18. (Baseball’s regular season runs from the end of March through September, followed by postseason play in October.) A screen in the trailer shows the 30 MLB clubs split into four tiers (“favorites,” “contenders,” “underdogs,” and “longshots”), with players having to choose a specific team and a difficulty level on the subsequent screens.

It doesn’t seem like the Franchise mode will be getting much love in MLB 19 — the ability to negotiate contract extensions is the only addition that Sony San Diego called out in a schedule of its upcoming information reveals. But the trailer does suggest that further changes are on the way for Road to the Show, a mode that the studio overhauled last year. Early on, the video features shots of at least one new off-the-field interior environment (a bedroom) and a new training minigame (lifting weights). A skill tree with four branches of personality traits would also be a new element of the RTTS experience. Finally, it appears that Sony San Diego has tweaked the way that in-game challenges function in the mode.

The apparent changes showcased in the gameplay footage are more subtle. Transitional animations from tags to throws should make it less of a headache to play defense, and it’s always a good thing for players to show more emotion, like the way that Anthony Rizzo slams his bat on the ground in frustration after hitting a pop-up.

MLB The Show 19 is set for release March 26 on PlayStation 4. For more details, keep an eye on Sony San Diego’s schedule of Twitch streams.


Sea of Thieves free trial, limited-time voyage coming Feb. 6

Starting Feb. 6, Rare and Microsoft will offer a weeklong promotion that allows Sea of Thieves owners and Xbox Game Pass subscribers invite up to three friends to play the game for free.

Eligible players can access the codes via the official Sea of Thieves website. Any player who redeems the code for the free week will also receive a 35 percent discount on the game, which will last until Feb. 27.

What’s especially interesting is this promotion comes along with “Mercenary” voyages from the Bilge Rat emissary Duke in the taverns. Mercenary voyages will offer a mix of Sea of Thieves activities, likely similar to the “best of” format of an end-game Athena’s Voyage, and task players with finding the treasure of the notorious “Rum Runner.” There will also be Mercenary-themed cosmetics as a reward.

This event likely acts as a bridge between weekly events and full expansions, offering a fun dose of new content and an onboard ramp for new players. Sea of Thieves is enjoying a return to the spotlight after it shored up content over the course of four successive expansions. The game’s fifth free expansion, The Arena, will launch sometime early this year and will add a new PvP-centric, fast-paced, self-contained game mode.


EA Might Have Just Teased EA Access Is Finally Coming To PS4

Electronic Arts has offered a tease about bringing a subscription service to a new platform, and it could be EA Access for PlayStation 4. During the company’s latest earnings call, management said, “In the year ahead we plan to offer a subscription service on another major platform.”

No further specifics were divulged, but EA Access for PlayStation 4 lines up with the tease. It is one of EA’s subscription services, and PS4 certainly is a “major platform.”

EA Access launched in 2014 on Xbox One, before coming to PC in 2016 under the name Origin Access. A Sony representative said in 2014 that EA Access “does not bring the kind of value PlayStation customers have come to expect.”

“We don’t think asking our fans to pay an additional $5 a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer,” Sony said at the time.

That’s a hard line against EA Access, but Sony also initially refused to allow cross-play before eventually allowing it for Fortnite and later Rocket League. Things can change.

Reached for comment, an EA representative told GameSpot that the company has “no further details to share at this point” regarding the tease made during the earnings call. Keep checking back with GameSpot for the latest.

EA Access is a subscription service that, for $5/ month or $30/year, gets subscribers access to a growing library of free games, along with discounts on all EA digital content. Not only that, but members can play EA’s upcoming games ahead of time. Because no version of EA Access is on PS4, it’s the only platform where the game is unplayable perform launch. There are also perks like bonuses in new EA games like Apex Legends.

EA is also working on a new streaming subscription service of its own as part of its ridiculously ambitious-sounding Project Atlas platform. However, the comment from the earnings call about the subscription service coming to “another” platform suggests it’s an existing service not a new one.

Would you be interested in EA Access on PS4? Let us know in the comments below!