Articles tagged with microsoft

EGX 2017 Impressions:
Posted by Mark at 18:25

Alright, I was wrong- Sunday was heaving.

Microsoft was the other absentee at last year's show, but they were back this year- although notably while Sony had the PS Access lot on stage all show, and Nintendo had not only their usual stage show but also announcers over on their tournament booth, Microsoft had nothing.

Well, they had games, obviously. But no stage, which is increasingly unusual for a show where Twitch rock up with a full arena and even Dissidia (ref. Thursday's article) got a stage to itself.

The three main pillars of their booth were Forza 7- skipped today because they just released a demo, Sea of Thieves- skipped since it's been on closed beta for donkey's, and Middle Earth: Shadow of War- skipped because I don't particularly care, even if it was guarded by a massive fibreglass dragon.

Tucked into a corner of the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (skipped because it's basically already out) area was Age of Empires: Definitive Edition.

Much like with Total Warhammer II, being a big PC strategy game it's hard to get a feel for it on the show floor, especially as its surprising popularity meant people had to be swept through the booth on a timer. However, it's clear that this is closer to a 'proper' remake than AoE 2 HD was, which just seemed to be the original game running at 1080p.

Also managing to clock up the square footage was Super Lucky's Tale, the cartoon platformer unveiled at E3 which, going off the EGX demo, might not be shit. Admittedly it's not going to make Mario shake in whatever footwear the poor sod his hat's possessed was wearing, but it's an entertaining enough straightfoward platformer.

The demo had you reunite three robot heads with their respective bodies in order to wake up a golem. The first of these was right next to the bodies- a simple tutorial- the next at the top of a small tower, and the third behind a more involved course including enemies and jumping puzzles.

Inside the Golem was another decapitated automaton whose head needed to be carried along a fireball-filled gauntlet, while Lucky himself was being chased by a larger, sentient fireball. Nothing new, but tighter and more focused than last year's Yooka-Laylee.

(Also, quite charmingly the Lucky demo pods all had bright orange controllers with light blue trim, and 'Lucky' laser-etched on them. Clearly an ad for their Design Labs customisation service, but clever nonetheless)

A few smaller games knocking about on their booth included Huntdown, which is doing the retro arcade run-and-gun thing very well, Robocraft Infinity which is combatitive Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts And Bolts, and Away: Journey to the Unexpected which starts with a late-80's-early-90's, Samurai Pizza Cats-era anime opening and hammy Japanese theme tune.

It's a kind of RPG-like game, not dissimilar to Elder Scrolls, but aiming to be a little lighter and have a- quote- 'wacky' sense of humour. So it could be good, or it could be another Citizens of Earth.

Full gallery (1)
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Mark at 17:16

Announced during the franchise's Gamescom stream, all we have to go on at the moment is a trailer, which contains precisely zero gameplay:

Show/hide video

Continuing Microsoft's outsourcing of their RTS stable to Sega, this game will be handled by Dawn of War devs Relic Entertainment.

Also there's going to be a "Definitive Edition" of the first AoE. But never mind that- AoE IV!
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Mark at 19:11
There's been an amount made about the state of the event at this year's EGX- and while I'll be trying to focus on the games played, there are a few things that can't be avoided.

First, and the one which created the most noise was Sony's handling of Horizon: Zero Dawn- only available to play in a closed-off area, the 30-minute demo meant that formal queuing was abandoned early on in favour of booking sessions, all of which were filled up by 11AM each day- completely shutting out anyone who didn't have an Early Access ticket to the event.

Sony are not the first people to underestimate the demand to see a title at such a show, but questions have to be asked as to why so few consoles were made available considering the length of the demo, more so when the games immediately next to it on Sony's booth were Overwatch and Uncharted 4- both well-marketed games that have been out for some time, the former of which had its own dedicated booth.

The other two platform holders were also conspicuous by their absences- Microsoft's presence being limited to showing Gears of War 4 in a corner of the 18+ area and Forza Horizon 3 making an appearance on the Twitch booth, and Nintendo not showing up at all.

Microsoft's decision not to showcase the XBox One S and let Sony hog the limelight with PS4 Pro seems like an own-goal, but at least one of their flagship series made an appearance, to an extent doing what Nintendo did at E3 with Breath Of The Wild.

The next Zelda game, like its developer, didn't make an appearance at EGX, beyond a glancing mention in the show magazine (this year just an advert for Amazon rather than telling you anything about the games being exhibited), not even in a closed-off Horizonbox or as a developer session.

Nintendo not being present is almost inexplicable, especially when you consider that in the much less-attended Hyper Japan earlier in the year, Nintendo had a not insignificant showing, including integrating BotW's UK premiere into its stage show and creating a Pokémon showcase, capitalising on the back of the then-new Pokémon Go.

Despite what that event's name would suggest, Nintendo's showing there wasn't entirely niche titles with little appeal outside the otaku market, so it probably wouldn't have been too difficult to simply pick up that show and drop it into EGX, maybe adding a bit of Super Mario Run if they really had to.

Mainly appealing to otakudom still probably wouldn't have hurt, if Square-Enix' booth was anything to go by, showcasing World Of Final Fantasy- one of three FF games exhibited (four if Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 counts), a dungeon crawler whose gimmick seems to be that the characters can transform into cute chibis at will, a mechanic which seems to exist solely to sell Nendoroid figures.

More interesting was the adjacent Dragon Quest Builders, the Minecraftalike that Ben has already posted the trailer of.

(And if you were waiting, this marks the first appearance of a game I actually played)

The notion of Minecraft with story and objectives appears interesting, and advanced platformer-y tasks could be seen played on Sony's stage, although the playable demo didn't seem to last long enough to reach that point. The move to third-person, despite certain control changes to accommodate, makes placing blocks slightly harder than it could be, which is likely to cause frustration.

The rest of Squeenix' booth was made up of Rise Of The Tomb Raider and Hitman, promoting their PS4 re-release and latest episodes respectively.

Possibly as a factor of the absence of Microsoft and Nintendo, aside from the usual iterative titles (This year's CoD, FIFA, WWE, Pro Evo and Battlefield) the only other meaningful showing- save for Sega settling nicely into its strategy niche, and Sniper Elite 4 helping Rebellion continue to punch above its weight- from a AAA developer was Bethesda, showcasing Dishonored 2.

The level shown in the demo featured a mansion whose rooms could shift into different configurations at the pull of a lever- meaning in order to complete the level's two objectives (saving a colleague from the first game and taking down this game's antagonist) the player has to creep around the crawlspaces under the floors- a little like a Victoriana latter half of Portal.

The enemies shown, rather than the humans which made up the previous game, were all robots, which added an extra element of strategy to combat. Decapitation causes them to attack anything that makes a noise, meaning they can be used by the player to take down other enemies.

Sniper Elite 4, incidentally, was pretty much Sniper Elite 3, but bigger. Which is absolutely fine by me.

That feels like a nice cut-off point, tomorrow I'll recap the better indie and smaller games of the show.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Mark at 16:02
...and that of one specific RTS.

Microsoft have approved three more XBox 360 games for Backwards Compatibility on XBox one, and those three are:

Halo Wars
The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match and
SoulCalibur II HD Online

If you bought these on 360 the first go around, they should be available for you to download or in the case of Halo Wars, drop into the disc tray. Alternatively, with the most recent update to the XBOne OS, you can buy them straight through your console.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Mark at 08:25
Here's the link. It's free, even for XB Live Silver members, unless you're in Japan.

It's free while Microsoft promotes the new tranche of Backwards Compatible 360 games which can now be played on XBox one, which also includes:

Sam & Max Save the World
Aegis Wing
Counter-Strike: GO
Age of Booty
Space Giraffe
Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad
Small Arms

The company have also announced that this is the last bunch of titles to be released in this way, moving releases to a more ad-hoc, "as soon as they're ready" schedule.

You'll need to be quick if you're going to grab the game though, as the game's only free until the 5th.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by James at 15:26
A new Xbox One “Mini” might be announced at a Microsoft event in October, if rumours from website WPDang are to be believed. The new model is set to shed the Blu-ray drive and be much smaller than the current Xbox One, whose appearance and hardware makeup haven’t changed in over two years.

The event was originally touted (thanks Neowin) to reveal a new Surface Pro 4 PC and two new flagship Lumia smartphones in time for the holiday season, so the appearance of more hardware, and something from the Xbox division, isn't too surprising.

The big question is whether an Blu-ray-less Xbox One would make sense at this time. In short: Possibly.

Xbox One is all set to receive its own unique version of Windows 10 October, where it’ll retain its media features but gain other functionality, like support for search assistant Cortana and the ability to run “Windows apps”, Microsoft’s app platform for the operating system.

Last year, we learned that AMD finished work on shrinking the Xbox One’s APU to the 20nm process, which will in turn open the door to a smaller, cooler and more efficient Xbox One model. This is in addition to a job listing posted by Microsoft for an electric engineer, in pursuit of a shift to a more cost effective and efficient memory solution for the console.

In other words, a slimmer Xbox One focused on streaming, apps and games could be Microsoft’s own answer to the next generation of Apple TV, and the premier media box running Windows 10. You could make a pretty compelling case that the audience such a system is aimed isn’t going to be primarily consuming content off Blu-ray disc…
0 comments / permalink

Posted by James at 09:27
At Gamescom last year, Microsoft announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be a timed exclusive on Xbox. This year, no similar deal was revealed.

Times are-a-changing for Xbox. As a brand, it now has close links with Windows, where developers can easily target both Xbox One and Windows 10 with their games, helping Microsoft to diversify its core business in video games.

The biggest change, though, is in how Microsoft has been dealing with third party content deals. Microsoft has been losing a lot of the marketing deals that they once commanded over the previous generation. This year, FIFA Football, Star Wars Battlefront and Call of Duty have gone to Sony. Those are three of the biggest releases launching this holiday, and Microsoft losing out on marketing time and early content will reinforce the PlayStation 4’s dominant position in the eyes of the customer.

As a result, there’s been a notable shift towards first party content for tentpole releases. At this year’s E3, Microsoft’s tagline was “the greatest games lineup in Xbox history” – all but one game was a first party release. Indeed, Phil Spencer himself has revealed this change in strategy when speaking in an interview with Gamespot. In a response to a question about Microsoft’s first party lineup and Sony “gobbling up so many third-party deals”, he replied with the following (emphasis ours):
So, they don't "gobble" the deals up. They buy them. You know, I read the same things you do, and I know some people think it's somehow less expensive to sign third-party exclusives if you have a bigger market-share. I can tell you, it has nothing to do with market share.

When you go in to do a deal, with a third party, that third party has its own view of the global market and the value of it. And they should, they should think about their assets and how valuable they are, just like anyone would when they are selling their goods.

I ran first party before I took on the job as head of Xbox. And when I was picked to do this job, I think people would have expected that my focus would be on first party. My view is, there are some bellwether companies out there in terms of first-party games, like Nintendo, which has incredibly strong IP, and a breadth of characters and games to play, which allows them to do a great job in lighting up peoples' interests.

So we're making a conscious decision to focus on our first-party games. It doesn't make it harder or easier, it's just a decision. I do think that building up first-party exclusives is creatively more difficult than signing a deal, just by the nature of what it is. But I'll point out too that Sony has some great first-party franchises. I'm a big fan of Uncharted, I thought that looked great at E3. I really admire the team at Naughty Dog, the team at Polyphony.
There’s a lot of truth behind this statement. Sony’s internal resources are focused on Morpheus right now, with SCE CEO Andrew House even admitting that its first party lineup was looking a little thin this year, during an investor relations briefing. It made sense for Sony to chase these third party deals so customers associate PlayStation 4 with that content in the short-term. And that has cost them more than Microsoft would see worth pursuing. Publishers use the value of their IP, and the value it would have to Sony (or Microsoft), as leverage in these deals.

Instead, Phil Spencer is playing the long game and is investing money that usually would have gone towards third party deals (marketing, timed exclusives or exclusives) into building up Xbox’s portfolio of first party franchises.

This is a much better strategy. Xbox is typically associated with Halo, Gears of War and Forza Motorsport despite generally offering much more, and given Xbox One is destined to be in second place, investing in third party deals won’t change anything in both the short term and long term.

Investing in first party franchises and making them into tentpole IP in the long term could change Xbox’s fortunes down the line, especially when a new console generation rolls around in around four years' time. Xbox has traditionally struggled in Continental Europe, Japan and Asia; it has been argued that the brand, as it stands right now, is mostly centred around Anglo-American markets.

In theory, investing in its own content is a much better way to give Xbox as a brand more universal appeal than buying the odd piece of third party content and marketing here and there. With Sony giving first party content a backseat, the ball may well and truly be in Microsoft’s court.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by James at 09:44
Despite pulling out of the Tokyo Game Show this year, Xbox Japan will be hosting two Xbox One experience events in Tokyo and Osaka on the 26th September and 4th October respectively. Demos for what we presume are new and upcoming games will be available for users to sample.

The event makes a lot of sense from a strategic standpoint. At current, Xbox One's AAA first party lineup only holds niche appeal in Japan's traditional console market, which itself is in decline. Hardware and software revenues last year were at their lowest in 24 years, and Xbox One has been at the bottom of the heap since it launched (snapshot here), selling only a few hundred units a week at best. What's on offer currently just isn't what the (mass)market is looking for.

Turning up to the Tokyo Game Show with that sort of lineup will do Microsoft no favours, so a couple of lower-key events are the best way to go about things in the short-term. There are still a handful of unique games coming to the platform from Japanese developers but they are, like the AAA first party lineup, niche.

A smaller, low-key event like this seems like the best way to show off these titles. Expect to see new games from Experience Inc. (Demon Gaze, Knights of the Round), Toy Logic (Happy Wars, Happy Dungeon), MOSS (Raiden V), Access Games (D4: Season 2), Triangle Service (Shooting Love Trilogy), Mages (Mistereet F, YU-NO) and more. A few ID@Xbox games from Japanese developers were announced recently over at the Xbox Japan Blog, too, though it's looking like slim pickings for now.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Mark at 16:59
Told you.

In a surprise reveal at their Gameccom conference today, Microsoft announced the sequel to Halo Wars, alongside a trailer.

Show/hide video

While the first game was made by the now-defunct Ensemble Entertainment, previously responsible for the Age Of Empires games, the sequel is being developed by Creative Assembly- so it remains to be seen how similar the new game is to the original, or if it's going to take on a more Total War-y flavour.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by James at 07:58
Despite trouble for Xbox One in Japan (which shifted a measly 319 units of hardware in the two weeks ending June 14), Microsoft has opened a blog to focus on all things Xbox in the region.

It's early days so there aren’t a lot of posts to peruse, but it’ll be interesting to see where the company takes this. Is this going to become an extension of the already super-niche messaging the new system has been known for in the region? Or does Microsoft have bigger plans to turn their ship around?

It’s likely to be the former, given a lack of any fundamental shifts in strategy since the console launched in the region last September. Two visual novels from Mages – Psycho-Pass and Chaos;Child – both performed poorly on Xbox One despite being timed exclusives. Upcoming Japanese Xbox One exclusives tend to take on a visual novel (like Mystereet F) or shooter (like Raiden V) flavour.

These games are as niche as they come, and the absence of any massmarket titles from the region suggests they will be focusing on ramping up interest among their existing pool of customers, rather than expanding their market.
0 comments / permalink

Older posts