e3 2016

The Highs And Lows Of Microsoft's E3 2016 Press Conference

by Mike Futter on Jun 13, 2016 at 08:32 AM

It's day two of E3 2016, and Microsoft has just wrapped up its annual press conference. This year brings us the expected announcement of new hardware, a look at previously announced games, and confirmation of rumored games coming over the next year.

HIGH: Xbox One S Arrives At $299

The new Xbox One S will feature up to a 2TB internal hard drive, but the console itself will start at $299. That's on par with current Xbox One pricing, which means that the new features are available without Microsoft forcing customers to make a choice between new hardware and saving some money. The only thing that isn't clear quite yet is what size hard drive $299 gets you, though retailers suggest that the 2TB model is $399.

The new, slimmer Xbox One also features an internal power supply. Provided this doesn't overheat the smaller frame, this is great news. My Xbox One power brick is enormous, and I'd love to be able to get rid of it.. Microsoft pulled off some impressive engineering to fit everything into the new box.

We can safely say at this point that the Kinect is dead, especially with Cortana compatible with headsets. Dig a hole in the backyard and say your farewell.

Microsoft has also revamped the controller to support Bluetooth and a longer range. It also has new textured grips. The improvements are great if you don't have an Xbox One controller for PC use, but there's no reason for existing owners to rush out to replace what they own.

For those looking for 4K video, the Xbox One S is an affordable option. We're inquiring about whether the drive is standard blu-ray or ultra HD. If the latter, the value of the Xbox One S just jumped significantly.

Update: Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox One S will come with an ultra HD blu-ray drive.

HIGH: Xbox One Play Anywhere Finally Brings Cross-Buy To Xbox

With Microsoft's increased focus on PC gaming, cross-buy was a necessary innovation. Gears of War 4 is one of the first games that delivers an Xbox One and a PC copy for one price. Additionally, just like Quantum Break, the game is cross-save and offers up a unified achievement list.

When he took the stage, Rod Fergusson was careful to say that cooperative play will be cross-play between Xbox One and PC. This includes campaign, the new Horde mode, and co-op multiplayer. Given the careful language, it doesn't seem like all modes will support cross-play. We'll know more later this week.

Killer Instinct, Forza Horizon 3, and Sea of Thieves will also be part of the program. For those that game on Xbox One and PC already, this is the move we've been waiting for.

HIGH: Xbox One Exclusives In Significant Number, But...
LOW: PC Owners Have A Better Place To Play

Dead Rising 4 has been confirmed, Scalebound made an appearance, State of Decay finally emerges from the shadows with multiplayer, Gears of War 4 continues to look great, Sea of Thieves gets Rare out of the Kinect rut, Halo Wars 2 from Creative Assembly  and Forza Horizon 3 will take us to the Outback. However, each of those games will be playable on Windows 10.

I want to be clear that this is great for software sales. Microsoft IS Windows 10, so even if games are console-exclusive and not full exclusive on Xbox One, it's a big win for team Xbox.

However, this won't move hardware. Yes, PCs are more expensive, but with the possibility of consoles becoming iterative, there are more reasons to build or buy a gaming PC. If I didn't already have an Xbox One, I'd have no reason to purchase one as someone who also plays on PC. 

Microsoft is making a calculated play here, but it needs to keep providing reasons for players to have interest in a living-room console when PCs can play every single Xbox One console exclusive. It's a risky play, but it could pay off with careful management.

LOW: Halo Wars 2 Delay Is A Loss For Microsoft's Holiday Schedule

Halo Wars 2 was supposed to be out in 2016. Today, we learned that the game has been bumped to February 2017. 

Microsoft still has Gears of War 4 this October, but Crackdown 3, Scalebound, and Halo Wars 2 all having slid into 2017. And with the Scorpio announcement looming, it feels like Microsoft is scaling back 2016 (and practically ceding this generation as a competitive loss). Microsoft clearly believes it has the power advantage in the next hardware iteration. Based on the little we know of Neo, that seems accurate.

HIGH: Microsoft Fully Commits To Full Backward Compatibility, But...
LOW: It's On The Next Console Coming Holiday 2017

Xbox One was just given its expiration date. Microsoft confirmed the rumored Project Scorpio that will support 4K gaming (and not just video) when it releases during the holiday season 2017. We don't know the price, but we suspect 4K gaming won't come cheap. It will likely be more affordable than a beastly gaming PC.

All of the games and accessories you already own for Xbox One will be compatible with the Scorpio, but Phil Spencer's "world beyond generations" has the potential to introduce challenges and cost. Developers will now have to ensure that games work on four core console specs: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Sony's Neo, and Microsoft's Scorpio. This introduces the potential for patches and updates to introduce different bugs on the different hardware configurations.

Microsoft's assurance that all Scorpio games will play on Xbox One and Xbox One S is great, but I'm unclear why anyone would rush out this August to buy an Xbox One S when a better system is coming. 

The Xbox One isn't fully a lame duck since you won't be missing out on games, but I'd caution anyone thinking about jumping in now to hold off unless you've got cash to burn. Microsoft didn't ensure that the games would share the same feature sets. Playing the same games doesn't mean you will play them the same way.