Microsoft at E3: Back to Gaming and New Hardware!

Microsoft at E3: Back to Gaming and New Hardware!

Microsoft at E3: Back to Gaming and New Hardware!

1 comment 📅14 June 2016, 13:58

Day two of E3 2016 has begun, and Microsoft has taken the main stage and started us off right by giving us big announcements and awesome gameplay trailers right away. Let’s see what the company backing the Xbox One console has in store for players!

The first big, and official announcement comes in the way of a new model of the console, dubbed the Xbox One S. The announcement for the new console was actually leaked a few hours before the official press conference by members of the online video game forum NeoGAF, along with many other tech blogs across the web. The short-lived rumors/leaks were true, and Microsoft is launching a ‘slim’ version of their current-gen console, and is set to release sometime in August (Amazon.com has them for pre-order and a release date of Aug. 31st, 2016).Xbox-One-S

Xbox One’s next iteration is said to feature a 2 terabyte hard drive included with the console (a step up from the original Xbox One’s 500gb HDD), support for UHD/4k resolution video (blu-rays and possibly video streaming services), a design of the machine that is 40% smaller than the original system and a “new streamlined controller.” The starting price, according to the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division Phil Spencer, will be $299 for the new Xbox One S. Very cool announcement!

From here, Phil Spencer welcomes Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson to the stage, to show its audience and viewers around the world new gameplay demos and information on Gears of War 4, the next installment to the always-popular third-person-shooter. He is joined on stage by American voice actress Laura Bailey, who is cast as the character of Kait in the game. A lengthy gameplay demo of Gears 4 is quickly started and we’re shown what to expect from the single-player campaign, including fast-paced and over-the-top gore in its combat, beautiful environments and a frightening tone in its gameplay. All things you’d expect from the franchise to deliver, and you can watch the trailer here.Gears-of-War-4-Multiplayer-Beta-490112

Along with the new details and showcasing of Gears 4, Rod Fergusson also introduced Xbox and PC gamers alike to Microsoft’s new “Play Anywhere” feature coming to many games in the near future. This new feature is represented by an icon on select games from Microsoft and their studios, allowing consumers to play their games on any system they’d like, either on the Xbox One console or a Windows 10 PC. Gears 4 will be supporting this feature and will also include cross-platform capabilities for competitive multiplayer and co-op features, as will any game with the Play Anywhere feature. This seems like a very smart move on Microsoft’s part, allowing them to diversify and broaden their market space within the gaming industry, and players don’t actually need an Xbox One console to play huge triple-A titles, like Gears 4. Pretty cool!

Next up, a teaser trailer for the upcoming Forza Horizon 3 was showcased, and it looks awesome as always. The trailer showed us beautiful renditions of many available vehicles in the game, including some fun looking off-road type vehicles like dune-buggies, and many levels in the game seeming to emphasize the sandy terrain the vehicles are known to be great for. Playground Games, the studio responsible for the Forza Horizon series brought their Creative Director Ralph Fulton on stage to give us some more information on the game.

Ralph is met on stage with 4 other members of the development team, two of which are playing the open-world racing game on Xbox One, and the other two on Windows 10 PC’s, showing off the cross compatibility features of the game and the addition of Microsoft’s Play Anywhere. The players on stage are playing in the same game world on different platforms seamlessly, and is very exciting to see Microsoft embracing this new form of social gaming! The game is slated for a September 27th release exclusively to Xbox One and Windows PC.

Shortly after the gameplay unveiling of Forza Horizon 3, Square Enix’s Game Director Hajime Tabata, and Senior Product Manager Matthew Kishimoto entered the stage to show the first ever demo of Final Fantasy XV on the Xbox One. The gameplay demo showcases a combat encounter with a HUGE boss (really, it was huge. Check it out here) and the scale of this Final Fantasy seems larger than ever before. The battle was intense and made the game looks promising, but with such a long development time and numerous delays, this installment in the famed franchise is yet to be seen as great or mediocre. It’s set to release across all major platforms on September 30th of this year.

After Square Enix showcased their footage, CD Projekt Red’s Lead Designer Damien Monnier came to the stage to discuss something that fans of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have been asking for since the game’s release: a standalone Gwent game! If you aren’t familiar with Gwent, it’s a simple yet deep strategy card game within The Witcher 3, in which players were able to visit taverns and inns (among many other places) to sit down and play cards all across The Northern Kingdoms. Monnier says “Something that really, really amazed us after we released Witcher 3, is that in this huge, huge open world, players took a lot of time to just sit down in taverns and play cards. In fact, they were so excited about the card game that they sent us thousands of emails asking us to turn it into a standalone (game).”gwent

As a huge fan of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and possibly an even bigger fan of the card game Gwent, I can attest to this claim made by the Lead Designer, as I was one of those fans that emailed the studio begging them to give Gwent its own game. “…so, we listened to them,” Monnier continues, “and over the last year, we’ve been secretly working on a real passion project.” From here, Gwent: The Witcher Card Game is showcased, boasting refined mechanics and new cards added to the game, the ability to battle players all across the world, a “monumental” single-player campaign and a completely redesigned interface. Awesome! The standalone Gwent game will be coming first to Xbox One and PC players, and there’s a beta that you can register for in September at www.playgwent.com. More information regarding availability to PS4 users is yet to be seen, but no exclusivity was claimed to Windows during the conference.

Nearing the end of Microsoft’s conference, Studio Head of Rare Games Craig Duncan was present to reveal some gameplay and information about their upcoming game Sea of Thieves, a cooperative and multiplayer pirate game with a charming art design and seemingly free-to-do-whatever type of gameplay.

Duncan quickly introduces a gameplay demo, in the form of a sort of ‘let’s-play’ format, with testers of the game recording themselves playing together. The group of players discovers their very own pirate ship, drinks some grog, sails around a large island and explores the captain’s quarters. Even more interestingly, the crew of pirates engages in a sea battle against what we could assume were other players in the universe of Sea of Thieves. The team showcasing the game eventually has to abandon ship, as their sails crumble and the ship becomes flooded, and ultimately sinks! The gameplay seemed fun and the idea appears to be an interesting one, so we’ll have to wait and see how it is. No release date was given, only that it will be exclusive to Xbox One and Windows PC, and the game should be one to keep an eye on.

hw2Serving as the last game to be showcased at Microsoft’s show this year, we have HALO WARS 2! Beginning with a short cinematic trailer of an epic battle scene complete with Warthogs, huge alien artillery and ODST soldiers, the trailer is simply amazing. Afterwards, Studio Head of Strategy Games for 343 Industries, Dan Ayoub takes the stage to tease a little more of the upcoming Halo game. Dan introduces a new enemy faction called the Banished, and their chief, a Brute warlord named Atriox(sp?). In collaboration with Creative Assembly, 343 Industries is releasing Halo Wars 2 on February 21st, 2017 exclusively to Xbox One and Windows PC. Very little further information is given, and a short gameplay trailer is showcased including exactly what you’d expect from a Halo Wars game: fast-paced action in a top-down strategy game, with updated visuals and audio design, and some new and interesting looking enemies. It’s sure to be a good one!

Lastly, serving as undoubtedly the most exciting official announcement from Microsoft this year, Project Scorpio is unveiled and teased to gamers all over the world. Phil Spencer took the stage one last time to introduce the audience and viewers everywhere to the brand new, upgraded and more powerful version of their premier gaming system. Boasting the capability of 4K gaming and high fidelity VR experiences, a short video is started to tell us more about the new and innovative project headed by Microsoft. “We gave the SOC 6 teraFLOPS of computing capability to be able to handle 4K resolutions,” one gentleman says in the video, “gamers are going to get the most powerful graphics processor that’s ever been put into a game console to date.”

To reiterate this spec of the systems graphics processor, ‘teraFLOPS’ is somewhat of an uncommon term used in the world of graphics processing units (GPU) these days. For comparison’s sake, the original Xbox One’s GPU holds roughly 1.3 teraFLOPS, and the PS4’s GPU boasts around 1.83 teraFLOPS. Compare this to a monster GPU used in PC’s, Nvidia’s GTX 980ti is capable of around 7 teraFLOPS. In short, this claim in power for the new system developed by Microsoft is pretty damn powerful for a console system. There’s much more technical mumbo-jumbo, and many other factors that affect graphics capability regarding these numbers and terms for graphics processing, but for now we’ll just say that it ultimately means a lot more power for the Xbox platform. More specs for the new system from Microsoft can be found here.

Without getting too much more in depth with specs and technicality within the system, it’s safe to say that Project Scorpio is going to be absolutely HUGE for the world of console gaming. Bringing hardware compact machines that should be on par with very powerful PC rigs is a huge step forward in the industry, and we’ve never seen anything like this. It’s also a very smart business move on Microsoft’s part, given the recent leaks and confirmation of Sony taking similar steps with the PS4 NEO, and for the fact that Sony has confirmed to not be showcasing their new system this year at E3.

Alas, no further details were given regarding Microsoft’s powerful new system, and this marks the end of their press conference at this year’s E3. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by Microsoft’s presence at this year’s show; they’ve seemed to recognize that presenting innovative games and new leaps forward in the industry are vastly more important than anything else, at least in reference to their space in this industry. Their willingness to give the player-bases more options in their gaming, and the ability to see their opportunity to diversify their space in the market is a breath of fresh air from the company. Well done Microsoft!projectscorpio-770x300_c

Can Sony top this showing of Microsoft this year at the event? We’ll have to wait and see! Stay tuned as I’ll be covering even more conferences at E3, with Ubisoft and Sony’s shows up next!

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Danny Rutherford
Danny Rutherford

My name is Danny, I'm a 26-year-old journalism major at Salt Lake Community College, an avid gamer for over 20 years and a student of the gaming industry. I hope to bring some good insight to the latest happenings in the world of video games, and join some discussions of what I'm most passionate about: GAMES! :D

1 Comment

  1. C. Mazza
    14 June 2016, 15:42 C. Mazza

    Great piece Danny.

    Reply to this comment

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