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Companies of E3 2017: Microsoft Xbox Briefing

 

 

The second press conference of this E3 season is now over, as Microsoft $MSFT just wrapped up its Xbox 2017 E3 Briefing. And it was a good one!

 

What It Showed:

 

 

Xbox One X

 

After its chest-bumping viral marketing campaign for “Most Powerful Console Ever” Project Scorpio, Microsoft finally shared exactly what the hardware is all about. It’s new iteration in the Xbox One family is called Xbox One X, releases on November 7th and it will cost $499. The above videos will give you an overview, and head to this link if you want the nitty-gritty of the tech specs in comparison to the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro.

 

But let’s get to the fun stuff. Microsoft featured 44 games at its show, 22 of which had some sort of console exclusivity which means either the game itself or some of its content will only be available on the Xbox platform, forever or for a certain amount of time. I’ve gathered up trailers and my quick impressions below.

 

 

Lastly, in a fan-friendly announcement, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer revealed that Original Xbox games will soon be added to the backwards compatibility library. He pointed out a game like Crimson Skies will be available to play on the current generation of consoles, and it will be available later this year along with “other titles.”

 

 

Forza Motorsport 7: First game featured in the show, as car games are technical showpieces. Developed by Turn 10 Studios, it was introduced by showing off a new Porsche 911 GT2RS on stage. The game boasts more dynamic racing and will be out on October 3rd for base Xbox One models but no word on Xbox One X version.

 

 

Metro Exodus: This new entry in the Metro series of shooters was the first “brand new” game unveiled at the show. Speculation is that it’s open world. 2018 release.

 

 

Assassin’s Creed Origins: One of my most anticipated upcoming games, Ubisoft’s AC Origins was finally confirmed. Set in ancient Egypt, as anticipated. It’s a story about one man, Bayek, who is the protector of his community and fighting local corruption. It marks the start of the Assassin’s brotherhood, so I guess it’s the most prequel of all prequels in the series. Will have more RPG elements and a systemic world.

 

 

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: Honestly, this was the biggest surprise of the show for me and a HUGE get for Microsoft. The super popular “Battle Royale” game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds PUBG) is launching “later this year as a console launch exclusive.” I assume this means that it will be a part of Xbox preview program, as the game is still technically in early access on PC. Regardless, this game has sold more than 2 million copies just on PC and it’s been one of the biggest stories in gaming this year.

 

 

Deep Rock Galactic: Hadn’t heard of this one before, by Ghost Ship Games. Kind of sci-fi first-person action shooter.

 

 

State of Decay 2: One of the games we knew would be at the show. Follow-up to the original entry, with new mechanics. It’s also a Play Anywhere title on both Xbox One & PC.

 

 

The Darwin Project: This game from Scavengers Studio looks like a cross between a survival game and an online competitive game. Exclusive to the Xbox platform.

 

 

Minecraft: More content and improvements for the game that’s bigger than gaming itself. The biggest news being that Microsoft is introducing cross-play across mobile, virtual reality devices, consoles and PCs. Not to mention a “super” 4K update.

 

 

Dragonball Fighter Z: As part of an effort to get more Japanese games onto the platform, Microsoft showed this fighting game in the Dragon Ball universe. Early 2018.

 

 

Black Desert Online: Fantasy MMORPG game by studio named Pearl Abyss.

 

 

The Last Night: Odd Tales’ pixelated noir adventure game that actually originated as a Flash browser game.

 

 

The Artful Escape: This one published by Annapurna has an intriguing premise, looks like a rhythm/music platformer.

 

 

Code Vein: Bandai Namco’s vampire RPG that was announced recently. Release date in 2018.

 

 

Sea of Thieves: Microsoft treated fans to an extended gameplay section from Rare’s upcoming shared-world pirate adventure game. Currently in its technical alpha phase, release window is supposed to be early next year.

 

 

Tacoma: Fullbright’s space station exploration game now has a release date, which is August 2nd.

 

 

Super Lucky’s Tale: Cute 3D platformer from Playful, based on the virtual reality game Lucky’s Tale.

 

 

Cuphead: We finally know when Studio MDHR’s artistic 2D platformer and boss rush will be out along with its cool, classic cartoon stylings: September 29th!

 

 

Crackdown 3: In one of the highlights of the show, the latest installment of Sumo Digital‘s open world superhero franchise will be releasing on November 7th.

 

 

Above is a sizzle reel of indie games available on the ID@Xbox program. They are: Osiris: New Dawn, Paladins Champions of the Realm, Raiders of the Broken Planet, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Unruly Heroes, Fortnite, Battlerite, Surviving Mars, Robocraft Infinity, The Artful Escape, Astroneer, Observer, We Happy Few, Fable Fortune, Dunk Lords, Minion Masters, Brawlout, Ooblets, The Last Night, Black Desert Online, Hello Neighbor, Path of Exile, Ashen, Ark: Survival Evolved, Riverbond, Dark and Light, The Darwin Project, Strange Brigade, Shift, Conan Exiles.

 

 

Ashen: Exclusive RPG looking to be inspired by Dark Souls or Bloodborne, from development studio Aurora 44.

 

 

Life is Strange: Before the Storm: The follow-up to time-bending adventure game Life is Strange.

 

 

Middle-Earth Shadow of War: Monolith Productions’ sequel to Shadow of Mordor, obviously set in the Lord of the Rings universe, had an extended gameplay segment during Microsoft’s show. Monolith says an important feature is expanding on the Nemesis System introduced in the first game, in which enemies would have distinct traits and remember the player’s actions throughout the story.

 

 

Ori and the Will of the Wisps: This is the follow-up to Moon Studios’ exclusive standout Ori and the Blind Forest. Was showcased alongside a beautiful piano melody most likely from the new game’s soundtrack.

 

 

Anthem: The very last game shown in an explosive show was BioWare’s Anthem, which was revealed for the first time yesterday during Electronic Arts’ conference. Described as a game in which the player can explore the unknown and protect humanity, it looks to be a co-op third-person game featuring Exosuits (called Javelins) with flying capabilities. BioWare said it has a vast open world with dynamic weather and storms plus loot to find.

 

What It Didn’t Show (Yet): Capybara’s indie game Below, nothing related to Fable and then my long-shot prediction of Shadow of the Tomb Raider wasn’t present either. Yet.

 

Whew. There you have it! What do you think of Microsoft’s Xbox One X? Are you planning to buy one? What about one of these 44 games that were featured during its show? I certainly thought it went well with the console reveal right away then a show full of new games, so let me know and feel free to get in touch on Twitter to chat more.

 

-Dom

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Casual Friday: February 24th, 2017

 

Hi! Yup, it’s me again. Dom. I know it seems like it’s been a while.

 

I’m back with a new edition of Casual Friday for February 24th, where I round up the week’s most recent and relevant news to give a quick commentary. This week the companies featured are Nintendo, Koei Tecmo, Sony and Microsoft. Take a load off, keep it casual!

 

 

It’s hard to believe that the newest console from Nintendo ($NTDOY), the Switch, is out just a week from now next Friday, March 3rd. But it’s true, it’s around the corner and that means previews of the console-handheld hybrid itself plus its launch games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and 1-2 Switch are starting to pop up. While we won’t get full reviews on the Switch until next Wednesday, March 1st or Zelda until next Thursday, March 2nd, we do know the early impressions are somewhat mixed on the hardware.

 

The concept of the Switch is awesome: a device that you can dock at home to play games on your TV, then bring on the go as a handheld gaming device. But according to previews and hands-on impressions, the execution is where it’s lacking so far leading me to believe the launch of the system is a bit premature. The reason? I think it’s that Nintendo wants to release it before fiscal year-end in March, before which the company has stated it will ship 2 million units. All hardware launches are messy, granted, but the Switch is being bogged down by a number of concerns: lackluster launch line-up apart from Zelda, technical issues with its “Joy-Con” controllers, no Virtual Console at launch (a service where gamers can download and play classic Nintendo games) and lastly, certain aspects of its online services will not be available right away.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the console and will personally be a day-one buyer. I just feel that Nintendo is soft-launching the Switch hardware around its financial calendar, which is causing some features to be non-existent and lots of games are still in development. Good news is that I fully expect the console to look a whole lot better come holiday season later this year.

 

 

In very upbeat news, Japanese publisher Koei Tecmo ($3635) shared that its latest samurai action game Nioh has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide in just its first two weeks on sale. This is great news for the publisher of games like Dynasty Warriors and Ninja Gaiden, the latter of which being made by Team Ninja, the same team responsible for Nioh. You’ll also recognize the Tecmo name from classic sports titles like Tecmo Bowl during the late 80’s. Nioh features action and role-playing elements and is lauded (or cursed, by some) for its very challenging difficulty, pitting the main character William against tough human enemies and supernatural bosses during a trek across 1600s war-torn, Sengoku-era Japan.

 

There are a number of reasons I find this number quite impressive. First, the game is a PlayStation 4 exclusive title and a brand new IP for Koei Tecmo in somewhat of a niche genre. Also, the game is almost entirely in Japanese and its story is communicated via subtitles. Lastly and arguably most notably, Koei Tecmo totally underestimated how much demand there would actually be for this game as it based physical shipments on pre-order figures. This is proven by the firm openly acknowledging that retailers do not have stock. Even the game’s Amazon listing has shown a one to two-month shipping target for the past week or so. I can’t recall the last time that’s happened for any game!

 

What that means is this sales figure could have been even higher if more physical copies were available. Especially in Japan, where in a show of goodwill, the company offered a discount on the digital version if you were to purchase it in lieu of a physical disc.

 

 

 

As you can see, it’s quite a busy time for tech and gaming in particular. In other big gaming news, Sony ($SNE) and its internal studio Guerilla Games is releasing sprawling open-world action title Horizon: Zero Dawn next week and it’s been getting rave reviews. Horizon is another PlayStation 4 exclusive title, set in a world where humans have reverted back to tribal ways and now coexist with technologically-advanced animals of all kinds. It features a strong female protagonist named Aloy (not the most “traditional” name, I know) that is trying to find the origins of both her people and the mysterious, mechanical creatures.

 

Reviewers have compared Horizon to games like Tomb Raider, as both star leading ladies with bad-ass bow-and-arrows, or even RPGs like Witcher 3 in that they are set in beautiful, lush open worlds. Friends at Super Data predict that the title could sell around 8 million copies over its life span, but I actually think it could reach almost that amount just this year IF Sony bundles Horizon with a version of its newest console version the PlayStation 4 Pro. Which it would be silly not to, honestly.

 

Think about a triple-A console exclusive such as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, which has sold roughly 8.7 million copies since its release mid-last year. Granted that’s an entry in a well-established series, while Horizon is a new brand, but I still think it proves there is huge upside for a great exclusive within Sony’s ecosystem. Especially since I predict there will be at least 60 million PlayStation 4’s sold by this year’s end, if not more, I believe Horizon can eclipse 7 million in a year’s time implying roughly 11% of PS4 owners have bought the game. Not an unrealistic amount.

 

 

And now to wrap things up, let’s briefly chat on Sony’s main competitor this generation, Microsoft $MSFT. The firm’s Xbox brand has announced its Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) briefing will take place on Sunday, June 11th at 2 pm Pacific/5 pm Eastern. Now, I tend to place less stock in the importance of public press conferences than other gamers, but even I admit it’s a big opportunity for Microsoft to tell us a lot about the future of its Xbox hardware family, Project Scorpio.

 

It’s no secret Xbox One is not selling as well as the PlayStation 4 this generation. Or that gaming revenues have declined recently for the firm overall. But I still think there is a lot of brand recognition and confidence behind Xbox, and it’s crucial to maintain healthy competition in the console gaming market. Microsoft’s online gaming service Xbox Live user base is up 15% since mid-2015 to 55 million active players despite being the lagging console in terms of hardware sales. Plus, sales are gaining within gaming software and services businesses, with digital game transactions hitting $1 billion for the first time in its history during 2016’s second financial quarter.

 

Additionally, the Xbox division under Phil Spencer’s leadership has placed user-friendly efforts of backwards compatibility (where you can play older games on the Xbox One) and cross-play across console and PC in the forefront. Sure, these types of features don’t necessarily sell consoles, but it’s crucial for Xbox to continue providing fan service in the interim before its (expected) big reveal of Scorpio in June at this E3 presentation. And I think it will be just that: a big reveal that will reinforce my confidence that Xbox can remain a viable competitor in the console space.

 

What are your thoughts on upcoming gaming hardware in Nintendo Switch or Project Scorpio? Have you played Nioh? Do you plan on trying out Horizon: Zero Dawn? Feel free to comment or chat on Twitter, and enjoy your weekend!

 

-Dom

 

Sources: Nintendo, Koei Tecmo Twitter, Sony, Open Critic, Super Data, Microsoft, Xbox Twitter