Following Sony’s “State of Play” livestream earlier today, Microsoft jumped in with an Inside Xbox presentation featuring new content and services coming to its platform.
More games are coming to Xbox Game Pass. On Xbox One, Jump Force, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and Lego Worlds are being added. On PC, Cities: Skylines, Saints Row 4, Bad North, and Dirt Rally 2.0.
The Xbox Game Pass app itself will be updated as well with improvements to the interface. More indie games will also be coming to Game Pass, including Genesis Noir, Lonely Mountains Downhill, and Demon’s Tilt. The rest of the lineup will be shown off in an [email protected] Game Pass video on September 26.
Additionally, Felix the Reaper, a comedy-puzzle game about death, will be available October 17, and will be available on Game Pass that day.
Project xCloud, the service that will let people play Xbox console games on phones, tablets, et cetera via streaming, will have a public preview beginning in October. If you’re in the U.S., the U.K., 0r Korea, you can apply today. Halo 5 Guardians, Gears 5, Sea of Thieves, and Killer Instinct will be the four games available in the preview. You’ll need a wireless Xbox One controller and an Android phone to try it.
xCloud is a distinct service from what Microsoft calls “console streaming,” aka using your own console to remotely stream games to your device. This, it said, is coming at a later date.
Four new characters and many other updates are coming to Gears 5. (The hosts also reminded players that if they want to unlock Batista as a character in the game, you have to do that before October 28 or the actor-wrestler will go “back in the vault.”)
Atlas, the pirate MMO that released into Early Access on Steam last year, will be arriving on Xbox One on October 8. Content will arrive simultaneously on Xbox and PC as Atlas is updated, making it the “exact same game on both platforms.”
New Xbox One X and Xbox One S hardware bundles will include Forza Horizon 4 and its Lego Speed Champions expansion.
Other trailers and footage shown during the livestream included Children of Morta (out now on PC, October 15 on Xbox One/PlayStation 4), Code Vein (September 27), The Outer Worlds (October 25), Afterparty (October 29), Tropico 6 (September 27), Ghost Recon: Breakpoint (beta this weekend, full game October 4), Hitman 2‘s Haven Island expansion (today), new DLC for Ace Combat 7 (September 25), and the new map for DayZ, called “Livonia” (coming soon).
Microsoft officially announced a new, all-digital version of the Xbox One S during the latest episode of Inside Xbox today, confirming previous rumors. It will have a 1 TB hard drive and be priced at $250, with Microsoft saying it will receive price drops as necessary that will make it always cheaper than the standard Xbox One S.
“We expect to maintain at least a $50 difference between Xbox One S and the all-digital version during sales,” said Microsoft’s Lawrence Hryb. That means that while the price of the Xbox One S All-Digital is technically $250, it will sometimes be less than that.
For example, Microsoft currently lists several Xbox One S bundles, including one with The Division 2, for $250. Based on what Hryb said, the Xbox One S All-Digital should only be $200 right now. Currently, however, pre-orders for the new console are priced at $250.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the apparent discrepancy.
The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is the same as the existing Xbox One S minus the optical drive, meaning it won’t play physical discs. Instead, players will need to download games from the Microsoft Store. To help with this t comes with Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, and Forza Horizon 3 pre-installed.
In addition, owners will have the option paying $1 for a three-month subscription to Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft also announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate today, a subscription that combines both Game Pass and Xbox Gold into a single bundle for $15 a month. It’s clear the All-Digital Edition and new Game Pass Ultimate tier are meant to dovetail together, but since neither is dramatically cheaper than the existing alternatives, the entire package feels slightly lackluster.
In exchange for a $50 discount upfront, potential All-Digital owners are giving up the optical-drive, and with it the ability to take advantage of cheap, older used games from not just this console generation but past ones as well thanks to Microsoft’s robust backwards compatibility program. For people who only plan to download games digitally it’s still a nice, cheaper option to have, but it’s not as aggressive as some might have expected this late into a console generation in which the Xbox One has lagged behind its predecessor.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection will soon include Halo: Reach and be available on the Windows store and Steam, Microsoft announced today during its Inside Xbox livestream.
Rather than make every game in the collection available all at once on PC, Microsoft said the collection will roll out one game at a time, starting with Halo: Reach and going in chronological order from there. Microsoft is pitching this incremental approach as a way to make the games available sooner rather than waiting until the entire collection is ready. The games will run at 60fps and support 4K.
On Xbox One, Halo: Reach multiplayer will be available as a free add-on for everyone who already owns the collection, while the single-player campaign will cost extra. Halo: Reach doesn’t yet have a release date on either PC or console.
At launch, The Master Chief Collection consisted of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4. In 2015 343 Industries added Halo 3: ODST to the collection. The addition of Halo: Reach means it will soon contain every Halo shooter except for Halo 5, and that every game in the series will be available on Xbox Game Pass.
The last Halo game to get ported to PC was Halo 2 in 2007. Since then, every new game has been exclusive to the Xbox platform. A few years ago Microsoft began developing a free-to-play Halo game for PC using the Halo 3 engine. It was playable for a short time in Russia but was eventually canceled.
Modders later tried to bring that PC Halo game back to life but in April of last year those efforts were put on hold after Microsoft stepped in.
Yesterday afternoon, Microsoft aired its latest episode of Inside Xbox, a monthly livestream in which the company updates players on new stuff in the world of Xbox. Like most episodes of Inside Xbox, it was long, precisely staged, and light on interesting news. If new Nintendo Directs have become exciting, mini-E3 press conferences, new episodes of Inside Xbox feel more like the ads that run before a movie.
In theory, it’s nice for Xbox fans to get regular updates from the people behind the platform, and Inside Xbox is by no means Microsoft’s only way of sharing Xbox news firsthand. The company has twitter feeds and a news site, podcasts, developer video series and other regular short-form showcases for getting out its message.
The Inside Xbox series, however, has been presented by Microsoft since last year as a premiere, almost-monthly showcase. The video episodes have the length to suggest it, clocking in at well over an hour. The content, however, has been oddly lacking, with small news bits diluted by lots of host chatter and an unusual amount of time spent on granular topics it’s hard to imagine Xbox fans tuned in for.
Take last night’s three minutes spent on the announcement that the name of Microsoft’s internal studios is changing from Microsoft Studios to Xbox Game Studios, a shift in part to make it extra clear going forward that Microsoft’s studios make games for Xbox.
Or take the 10 minutes spent announcing a touring Halo fan experience that will let attendees play laser tag and geek out at life-size replicas of their favorite Halo stuff, among other activities. It was reminiscent of Inside Xbox episode 3 last May when the big news was a Halo light gun game coming to Dave and Busters. Last night’s Halo segment culminated with this exchange between one of the show’s hosts and Kiki Wolfkill, the head of transmedia at Halo studio 343 Industries.
Inside Xbox host Kate Yeager: “I’d be remiss as a Halo fan if I didn’t ask, even if you can’t say anything, even if you say no, I want to know if there’s anything you can tell us about the new Showtime Halo project.”
343 Industries’ Kiki Wolfkill: “Yeah. Nothing new to officially share. I mean, we are knee deep in it. It’s really exciting for us. These things take so much time and we’re really in the knitty-gritty and it’s so much fun.”
Presumably the point was to let people know that there still may be Halo series on Showtime after its initial director departed in December, but these are hardly thrilling updates, especially when you consider a new Halo TV show was first announced back in 2013.
Some news trickled in. We learned D’Vorah will be in Mortal Kombat 11,and Jotaro and DIO from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure will be coming to Jump Force. Plus Shadow of the Tomb Raider, not even a year old yet, will be arriving on Game Pass on February 7 followed by a bunch of other games.
There was also an announcement of an announcement. At the end of his segment on Sea of Thieves, executive producer at Rare, Joe Neate, revealed that on March 20 the studio will announce details of a big future update coming to the game. The disclosure of that news about upcoming news, and that friends of Sea of Thieves players would be able to try the game for free for a week, took approximately 12 minutes.
The extent of the whole show, including cinematic trailers for Crackdown 3 and Metro Exodus, would easily have fit within a brief 15-20 minute video instead of the roughly 80 minute marathon Inside Xbox episodes tend to be.
After the show the Xbox Twitter account asked fans what their favorite part was. “The moment when you guys announced new exclusives. oh wait..” wrote one person. Others were less cynical. “For me it was all the Game Pass news plus the Metro story preview was pretty awesome,” wrote someone else.
I watched the episode through Twitch where the chat was less than kind for the most part, and the audience dropped from 10,000 to under 5,000 by the end of the show. YouTube numbers were similar.
The most recent episode marked the nearly one year anniversary of the show’s return since its Xbox 360-themed predecessor ended in 2012. Microsoft said at the time it hoped to make the show a monthly event, but since last fall episodes have been sporadic. The formula is usually the same: nuggets of light news scattered between interviews between Xbox personalities and video game developers where everyone seems to already know what the answers are but acts like they’re just shooting the shit in a friend’s basement.
In theory, incorporating interviews with developers is a great way to try and get the people who makes games in front of the people who play them. It’s just that in practice any potentially interesting answers tend to be stifled by the format, which more closely resembles the excited chit chat of a red carpet event than two human beings having a relaxed and interesting conversation about a new game.
There have been a few exceptions, most notably when Hello Games’ Sean Murray went on the show last May to announce No Man’s Sky: Next, a massive update adding multiplayer and other long-sought-after features to the game. His exchange was fascinating in part because he was passionate and didn’t sound scripted, like when he said “[Next] is like the potential that everyone’s always seen in No Man’s Sky,” acknowledging the two years of work that had been required to make it the game everyone had expected at launch. It also benefited from him having new information about what was essentially the game’s 2.0 launch.
During the segment involving the name change to Microsoft’s game development studios, Xbox executive Matt Booty was asked by longtime Xbox hypeman Larry Hryb when players would get a glimpse of what the company’s new studios have been working on. If only, Booty had said “now.” Instead, he said: “We’ll be excited to share some news about what we’re up to coming up in the next few months and at E3.” It’s nice to know that Microsoft has more Xbox news coming, but for Inside Xbox to really work, and to make it worth everyone’s viewing time, the show needs to make more of Xbox’s biggest news worth announcing right there on Inside Xbox. Maybe next time?