E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.
It seems Microsoft has released some E3 news a bit early. Fans have found a large list of games that are now available to play via Game Pass, ahead of an official announcement later today at their E3 Media Briefing.
Over on ResetEra and Reddit, fans are putting together lists of all the new Game Pass titles. On Xbox, the list includes Shenmue 1 & 2, Steamworld Dig 2, Hollow Knight and more. This is the list that fans have put together so far, though it might be incomplete.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Bridge Constructor Portal
Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight
Old Man’s Journey
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Silence – The Whispered World 2
Smoke and Sacrifice
SteamWorld Dig 2
Wizard of Legend
That’s a lotta games! The way fans are finding these right now is by searching up each game and checking to see if it is included in Game Pass. Currently, the games don’t show up on the Game Pass catalog on either the console or PC versions of the store or website.
Fans are also finding some PC Game Pass titles are available early, including Metro Exodus, ARK and Ori And The Blind Forest. A store page for “Xbox Game Pass PC Games” is currently live and seems to indicate that the plan will cost $5 a month. The full list of PC Game Pass games can be seen on Reddit.
All of this news and more will most likely be confirmed in a few hours when Microsoft gets on stage for their press conference later today. We will also learn some new information about the next-gen Xbox and their future plans for PC gaming and possible cloud gaming.
The conference starts today at 1 p.m. PDT/4 p.m. EDT.
PlayStation Now used to be a pricey way to stream the PlayStation’s back catalogue of games, which was only useful for people with good internet and no bandwidth caps. Last September the company added an option to download certain games directly, allowing users to play them offline. PlayStation Now is now a lot more like Microsoft’s Game Pass and a lot better as a result.
Sony dedicated a portion of its fiscal 2018 earnings call with investors earlier today to pointing out how PlayStation Now has evolved since it was first announced back in 2014. While the service only has 700,000 subscribers at the moment, a small fraction of the 96.8 million PS4s that have been sold, Sony said that number has grown 40% since the year prior. Even more surprisingly, the company revealed that PlayStation Now users actually spend more time playing downloaded games than streaming them. (PlayStation Now costs $20 per month, or $100 if you sign up for a year.)
“Since the launch of this download service, gameplay time per user has grown significantly to the point where gameplay time on downloaded PS4 titles is double that of streamed titles, a trend which has contributed to higher user engagement with, and retention on, the PS Now service,” Sony said.
PlayStation Now originally grew out of Sony’s acquisition of the cloud gaming tech company Gaikai in 2012. When the service rolled out in 2014, it was pitched in part as a way to work around the PS4’s lack of backwards compatibility. It was also a way to bring big games like The Last of Us to less powerful devices like the PS Vita and certain TVs manufactured by Sony.
While it was good in theory and worked in practice, latency was still an issue, especially for those with poorer quality internet connections. The prices were also terrible. People had to rent games a la carte, with the option of buying four hours, seven days, 30 days, or 90 days of access to a game. Four hours with Final Fantasy XIII-2was $5 when the service launched, while Guacamelee, which cost $15 to buy on PS3, was the same amount for a 90-day rental on PlayStation Now.
Sony ditched the individual rental scheme in 2016, added support for PS4 games in 2017, and then last September finally made select PS4 games downloadable, similar to how the monthly PlayStation Plus games work. When this switch happened, a lot of games weren’t initially included. Now nearly all of the PS4 games on the service, including Bloodborne, Prey, and XCOM 2, are.
Sony’s big first-party exclusives like Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last of Us Remastered are still missing from the service, but it’s come a long way from the days of paying $5 to play an old JRPG for a few hours.
Despite all of the explosions in Avalanche Studios’ open-world chaos simulator, Just Cause 4 did not set the world on fire when it launched last year on December 4. Now, less than 100 days later, it’s free for Game Pass subscribers to download and play on Xbox One.
Microsoft announced the game would be the latest to arrive on its Netflix-like service today alongside 2012’s Lego Batman 2. Meanwhile, F1 2018 and Fallout 4 will get added on March 14, the latter of which was previously available on Game Pass last year but was removed just prior to the release of Fallout 76.
F1 2018, Fallout 4, and Lego Batman 2—older games or niche titles—are the types you’d expect on Game Pass. Another typical category includes first-party games like Forza Horizon 4 and Crackdown 3, which arrive on Game Pass the day they launch. Increasingly, there appears to be another category of Game Pass games: those that struggled when they were first released and are now looking for a second wind.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War came out in September 2017, and though the game was positively received at first, its microtransaction system quickly became a target for outrage. Warner Bros. removed the in-game purchases last summer, and in January, it arrived on Game Pass.
In February, Microsoft announced that Shadow of the Tomb Raider, not even 6 months old at the time, would be arriving on the service. That same month, Square Enix announced that it had shipped 4.12 million copies of the game, meaning it had actually sold some amount less than that. The publisher said at the time that it hoped future DLC would continue to boost that number going into the future.
Just Cause 4, which Square also published, may have been in an even weaker position. It’s hard to know precisely how the game sold, but we have some clues: It came in at No. 6 on the UK’s chart of top selling games the week it was released, just behind Battlefield V, which came out the previous month, and Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, which came out the previous year. And in its earnings report for the third quarter of 2019 released in February, Square said that sales of Just Cause 4 fell “below expectations.”
“It got off to a sluggish start, so we were not able to offset the amortization charges on the development costs,” the company said during a Q&A with investors. At the same time, Square said it intended to increase sales over the next couple of years through updates and other initiatives.
It’s not clear whether putting the game on Game Pass is one of those initiatives, or how much it will help, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have more people trying out and your game. Just Cause 4 also has a $30 expansion pass for three pieces of DLC planned to come out sometime this year, which won’t be available for the Game Pass version.
Last fall’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider will join Xbox Game Pass starting February 7.Pumped BMX Pro and the first season of The Walking Dead will also get added that day. Crackdown 3, de Blob, and the Batman: Return to Arkham collection will follow later in the month.
It’s now taken as gospel that the future of a game isn’t written in stone when it first comes out. Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege rebounded from a lackluster launch, hampered in large part by its grinding, fragmented progression system, into one of the most successful shooters on PC right now. No Man’s Sky released bereft of a lot of the features players felt led to believe would be in the game, like multiplayer, only for last year’s NEXT update to make feel like a new (and much better) game. Fortnite went from being a cooperative tower-defense shooter most people didn’t care about to a battle royale sensation.
Master Chief Collection never made a similarly triumphant return, but it is a far better game than when it launched. In the four years since it debuted it’s become one of the better examples of how it’s never too late to get things right. Microsoft could have simply abandoned it in favor of people playing the old games through the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility program but didn’t. The collection is now arguably worth owning an Xbox One for, assuming you like Halo of course, and is now the basis for a series of big Halo 3 throwback tournamentstaking place throughout 2019. It was a long time coming.
Master Chief Collection launched back in November 2014. It had been two years since Halo 4, the first numbered game after 343 Industries inherited the series from Bungie, and one year since the launch of the Xbox One. The collection was Microsoft’s effort to take the legacy of the old games and neatly package it for a new console generation so that classic Halo multiplayer could live on throughout the 2010s. There was just one problem. The collection’s online component was broken.
By mid-December 343 Industries head Bonnie Ross was calling the experience “humbling” in a letter to fans. She thanked them for sticking with the game up to that point, and promised players one free month of Xbox Live Gold, an exclusive in-game nameplate and avatar, and future content, like new maps and eventually the Halo 3: ODST campaign, as free updates. But the game was far from turning a corner on the multiplayer front. In late January of 2015, 343 Industries announced players could sign-up to beta test the game’s next update aimed at solving its wonky multiplayer. In terms of sound, music, and visuals, Master Chief Collection was arguably the definitive repository for the old Halo single-player campaigns, but as a platform for reviving the series’ classic multiplayer, it was a bust.
Even though that portion of the game moderately improved over the first 100 days, it was still in an unacceptable state. Parties would still disband at times for seemingly no reason and hits would occasionally not register in Halo 1 and 2 matches, in addition to general connectivity problems worse than most other online games. 343 Industries inability to right the ship in a reasonable time frame led plenty of people, including diehard Halo fans, to write the collection off as just the latest in a growing trend of games launching before they should.
Still, 343 Industries kept working on the collection. Even though it wasn’t really a game-as-a-service like Destiny or The Division, with regular updates, Microsoft still treated it like one. Major updates came in March, April, and May of 2015, continuing to reduce matchmaking times, rooting out bugs that caused some players to deal extra damage and others to deal none at all, and increasing the accuracy of matchmaking based on skill so teams were less lopsided.
Spurred on by the launch of the Xbox One X, 343 Industries announced in the fall of 2017 that it was going to really clean house on Master Chief Collection’s multiplayer architecture, helped in part by an extensive beta program starting in the beginning of 2018. In effect, rather than putting more bandaids on the game, the studio was going to rebuild its online portion through big updates to the game’s underlying engine. It was finally implemented in the game in the summer of 2018 in a whopping 73 GB update after months of quiet, unrushed play testing. It worked. No more dropped matches. No more obnoxious queue times. No more weird breakdowns or glitches when trying to go from a multiplayer match in one Halo to a matchmaking in a playlist in another.
Microsoft added The Master Chief collection to its subscription download service Game Pass last September.
We see studios collapse, games launch and fail, or get canceled altogether, a lot. It can still be surprising when, without much fanfare or hype, one of them gets resurrected from the dead and turned into what everyone always hoped it would be.
343 Industries is still tinkering around with and improving Halo: MCC, the latest fruits of which arrived in the game’s January update earlier this week. More aim options, additional skulls for the single-player campaigns, and a freshening up of some of the match playlists. At this point it’s hard to think of any other shooter series as pivotal as Halo that’s been preserved an revitalized in the same way. Hopefully it doesn’t stay that way for long.