Microsoft is Stuck Between Hardware and Services

Apple confirms cloud gaming services like xCloud and Stadia violate App Store guidelines by Nick Statt for The Verge

Apple rejected Microsoft’s Xbox xCloud streaming app from the App Store. Apple’s statement to Business Insider:

Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.

This won’t last long. The bad press with the backdrop of the antitrust hearings will lead to a change in opinion rather quickly I’d imagine. This is like the Hey email app snafu back in June. Apple has a history of this and the current response is not surprising, in fact, you could have bet on it. Apple wants their cut and they certainly won’t get as much as they probably want when the dust settles. Running to the press will likely come to the rescue once again.

But Microsoft is not some gaming-friendly consumer knight-in-shining-armor here either. Their response raises questions too.

Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass…We believe that the customer should be at the heart of the gaming experience and gamers tell us they want to play, connect and share anywhere, no matter where they are.

I first realized this double standard while listening to the August 7, 2020 episode of Dithering. John Gruber makes an excellent point about Microsoft/Xbox only wanting to provide this cloud gaming service on their platforms if it is the one they own – xCloud. Where is the Stadia or Steam Link or even PlayStation Now app for Xbox? Would Microsoft even allow that if Google or Sony approached them? I highly doubt it. Sure, Stadia and Steam run on PC, but Microsoft owns the operating system there, not necessarily the hardware and not every person that plays games owns a PC capable of running games.

Game consoles are also general purpose platforms these days. They stream movies, music, have a web browser, and plenty of their own apps. Microsoft’s original pitch for the Xbox One was to be the all-in-one box for the living room: Essentially a PC for the TV. That didn’t pan out like they had originally envisioned, which has led to the company doing a complete 180 on their marketing and focus.

If customers should really be at the heart of the gaming experience and should be able play where they want then Microsoft should not solely focus on getting their service and content on every screen. If my games library is in Steam, why can’t I stream that content to my Xbox plugged into my television? Microsoft is trying to expand its own walled garden into Apple’s and other device providers. Phil described walled gardens as a construct of the 90s, but yet, here is Xbox building their own garden of exclusive content under the joint umbrella of Game Pass Ultimate and xCloud.

It’s not unlike Apple Arcade. A subscription service that provides access to a library of games that a user may download and play s long as they are a subscriber and the game is in the catalog that changes regularly. Microsoft is the pot and Apple is the kettle.

Microsoft is transitioning the Xbox brand from a box under your TV to a game developer/publisher and a services provider. It’d be like if Netflix made both the service that provides thousands of films and shows, but also made a television that only worked with Netflix, no Hulu, HBO Max, etc. I don’t think Microsoft can have it both ways. They need to open their own platform to the competition and complete their transition to a services provider.

“You and I might watch Netflix. I don’t know where you watch it, where I watch it, but we can have conversations about the shows we watch. I want gaming to evolve to that same level.” – Phil Spencer in an interview with Wired

Phil wants that conversation for xCloud, not video games as a whole. I don’t see the Xbox console making it to another traditional generation. Now, their service and game development will go on for years to come and a big part of that hinges on being on as many screens as possible.

Nobody Cares About Sound – hyperduker

Nobody Cares About Sound – hyperduker by Stephen Malone

Sony has spent a lot of time talking about the PS5’s new sound technology, and now Microsoft is using Halo Infinite‘s new “acoustic engine” as a selling point (and to distract people from the dull graphics). This is all well and good, except for one thing: nobody cares about sound.

This isn’t 1995, we’re not buying Soundblasters and begging game developers to use MIDI. Good sound is incredibly missable: you can’t hear all that fancy audio when you’re watching trailers on your phone, and you can’t hear it when you’re playing on your TV’s tinny-ass stereo speakers. It’s difficult and invisible, which means it’s bad for marketing.

Nobody caring about sound design is simply not true. Bad sound design sticks out like a sore thumb. Great sound design can entirely change a game. Look at Dead Space, PT, the Kurosawa Mode in Ghost of Tsushima, Return of the Obra Dinn, and even Super Mario Bros. It can make all the difference in a racing game like Forza Horizon. Sound is essential in a game like Rainbow Six Siege. Heck, it even can make a game more accessible to different players.

Sony has put tons of money into developing their own 3D audio engine that claims to change how sound is perceived and experienced across multiple sound output devices—from fancy headphones to “tinny-ass stereo speakers.” This needs to be tested out in the real world, but the potential is immense. And with a company like Sony, that has invested millions and developed countless audio devices and platforms, investing in video game’s audio future, it is easy to imagine it being successful.

Audio is one of the most immersive elements in games. It can blend seamlessly into the setting and subconsciously amp the engagement the developer is going for. It can be right in your face and move you emotionally like Journey. Audio makes truly immersive VR possible, something Sony definitely has stake in.

I think audio is about to get a major and long overdue upgrade in console gaming. I believe this is going to be like the jump from 2D to 3D games for our ears.

Xbox Games Showcase Delivers the Game(Pas)s

Introducing the Largest, Most Creatively Diverse Games Lineup in Console History, Led by Halo Infinite by Will Tuttle for Xbox Wire

Last month, I wrote about what Xbox needs to standout against the competition.

What Xbox needs to expand is their library of games. They have strong titles like Halo, Forza, Fable, and more, but the Xbox One generation has felt lackluster compared to both Sony and Nintendo. This must be a huge factor in the decision to go buy studios and create some from scratch. It will take years to build up properly, but Microsoft is getting all their ducks in a row.

And as June came to a close with no new Xbox information, I reiterated this fundamental need for games.

Microsoft needs to come out swinging in July with games. Make the next Xbox more enticing than numbers on a spreadsheet and flashy features in a sizzle reel. The Halo teaser from last week zapped my pulse for Xbox hype back to life. There are rumors that Fable will make an appearance. What is The Initiative working on? I hope Microsoft answers these questions and teases more.

The big July showcase finally aired and Microsoft did come out swinging. While it favored its tried and true IP, Microsoft did throw in enticing new IP and partnerships. The heart of the message wasn’t “Xbox Series X is where you get to play all these games.” Instead, Xbox spent an hour selling audiences on Xbox Gamepass and why subscribing is the best option for them.

Xbox showed off a diverse library of games with at least on game for everyone. For everyone else, you can try any of the games out through Gamepass and maybe discover a new game to love.

Halo Infinite started off the show and it looked like Halo. I was incredibly happy with its showing. The campaign is supposed to run at a locked 60 fps but they didn’t say it’d be native 4K. I cannot wait to see the performance breakdown across all Xbox platforms when it releases.

A new Forza and Fable game were both announced. Forza is back in the hands of Turn10 this time around, while Playground Games is tackling Fable. I wonder what this means for Forza Horizon: Is Playground Games big enough for two teams?

Obsidian announced their next sprawling RPG titled Avowed and it sure looks a lot like Skyrim 2. I bet this game is roughly five years away. I wonder which will release first, Avowed or Elder Scrolls VI. Heck, maybe Avowed will release before Starfield. Not my cup of tea, but I know plenty of folks that are jazzed for this kind of game.

Tetris Effect: Connected was revealed. The same Tetris Effect I love, but with multiplayer included. This is exactly what I would have included in Tetris Effect, so much so that I mentioned it in my review of the original game in 2018.

If there was anything I wish I could add to Tetris Effect, it would be some sort of versus mode. I always enjoyed putting Tetris skills to the test against another player in a head-to-head battle. With the online leaderboards in place, I think they’d be a cool addition. There are Weekend Rituals that happen for 24 hours, starting on Saturdays. These involve the community coming together and working toward a goal in a specific mode. If the goal is met, participating players unlock new event-only avatars and game levels. It’s cool for the community to come together, but I’d like to be able to put my skills to the test against others in a real time game, rather than just high scores on a board.

The last game that stood out to me was As Dusk Falls. It’s an “interactive drama” from a brand new studio called INTERIOR/NIGHT headed up by Caroline Marchal, formerly a lead game designer at Quantic Dream. Here’s the pitch:

As Dusk Falls is a multi-generational story set in the American Southwest about resilience, sacrifice and how the mistakes of the older generation transmit to the younger. What begins as a focused tale of two families trapped in a hostage situation, becomes a sprawling epic about how people grow and change over decades.

Xbox had a strong showcase today that really fleshed out the reason Gamepass is their future and not necessarily the Xbox consoles themselves. With the fact that xCloud will be included with Gamepass Ultimate, there is no need to buy a new beefy box. All you need is a subscription, controller, and a compatible screen. Maybe old Xbox One consoles can become the xCloud compatible box for people’s televisions. While this may be the future Xbox as a company wants, they smartly are still pouring millions of dollars into developing powerful and capable hardware. Giving consumers choice about how and where to spend their money and time is helping Xbox themselves become ubiquitous with modern gaming.

Microsoft discontinues Xbox One X and Xbox One SAD – The Verge

Microsoft discontinues Xbox One X and Xbox One S digital edition ahead of Series X launch by Tom Warren for The Verge

“As we ramp into the future with Xbox Series X, we’re taking the natural step of stopping production on Xbox One X and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “Xbox One S will continue to be manufactured and sold globally.”

That’s one way to clear out the inventory. Ironically, I was looking up Xbox One S prices yesterday for a friend and noticed that no major retailers appeared to have any Xbox systems in stock. I attributed this to a retailer shortage due to COVID-19, but it sounds like Microsoft themselves are pulling the plug. Why spend the money building consoles that will be obsoleted in a few months? Especially if players will be able to stream newer Xbox games in their higher fidelity to the Xbox One S. While this will slightly help with store shelves and consumer confusion, especially between “Xbox One X” and “Xbox Series X.” Now all we can hope for is that the rumored, weaker next-gen Xbox is not called “Xbox Series S.”

You Are the Future of Gaming – Xbox Wire

You Are the Future of Gaming by Phil Spencer for Xbox Wire

One week ahead of the next Xbox 20/20 event that will focus on Xbox Studios games, Phil and the Xbox team shared a sort of quick hit bullet list of all the consumer-focused pros that the Xbox ecosystem has steadily built over the generation. Xbox truly is diversifying access to their platform. They are becoming the melting pot of gaming, taking the best ideas from competitors and leveraging Microsoft’s technology (and bankroll) to build the best ecosystem out there.

Xbox Series X is designed to deliver a new level of fidelity, feel, performance and precision never seen before in console gaming. All games will look and play best on Xbox Series X

Reaffirming that the Series X will be the best place to play Xbox Game Studios’ titles. I also see this as a subtle hint toward the Xbox Series S, which has been rumored for quite a while now. “The Series X will be the best place, but we will give you options,” is how I read that statement.

We want every Xbox player to play all the new games from Xbox Game Studios. That’s why Xbox Game Studios titles we release in the next couple of years—like Halo Infinite—will be available and play great on Xbox Series X and Xbox One. We won’t force you to upgrade to Xbox Series X at launch to play Xbox exclusives.

Again reaffirming cross-generational support. Extremely consumer friendly, but am still curious what this means for developers. Here’s what I wrote when the last big leak for the Series S occurred:

Microsoft will have two new boxes, with different performance, plus continuing cross-generation support for the Xbox One. Halo Infinite could be playable on six different pieces of hardware; Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, and PC (what a naming nightmare). That has to be a testing and optimizing mountain to climb.

And I forgot that all of the Xbox Game Studios’ titles will be on xCloud as well. While hardware performance will not be so much of an issue for xCloud, the quality and performance of the stream will be.

Finally, today we’re announcing that this September, in supported countries, we’re bringing Xbox Game Pass and Project xCloud together at no additional cost for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members.

Speaking of xCloud, an official public launch window has finally been given. I wonder if older Xbox One consoles will support xCloud streaming. Say you own an OG Xbox One (like I do) and Halo Infinite runs below 1080p when natively installed. What if you could stream the 1080p version via xCloud? I know that the Xbox One S has 4K video output capabilities. Why not allow users to stream the native 4K version of Halo Infinite to their Xbox One S? Microsoft may lose the initial sale of the shiny new box, but they could be gaining a new monthly subscriber to Game Pass Ultimate. At $15 a month, that may seem like the more appealing choice to folks hesitant to upgrading their box, especially if it can run the newer games through streaming.

It’s our intent for all Xbox One games that do not require Kinect to play on Xbox Series X at the launch of the console.

RIP Kinect. I wonder if the dongle will work with Series X…

We hope you’ll join us next Thursday, July 23rd for the Xbox Games Showcase for the first look at the Halo Infinite Campaign and more.

Way to bury the lede Phil!

PS5 and Xbox Series X Games Appear to Cost $70

NBA 2K21 Current-Gen Release Date Revealed Alongside Special Kobe Bryant Mamba Forever Edition by Adam Bankhurst for IGN

Furthermore, the standard PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions of NBA 2K21 will cost $69.99 USD, a $10 increase over the current-generation platforms and that makes NBA 2K21 the first next-gen game to commit to that price point.

Games can cost millions to make, so an increase in price was bound to happen eventually. For games of a massive scale, like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’d be comfortable with paying $70, but I do realize that a $10 jump can be a lot for some people. Even huge blockbuster titles like The Last of Us Part II are worth $70, in my opinion. Sport games are a harder pitch for me, but I don’t play those games; that doesn’t belittle their worth or cost to develop.

Some recent releases have also been cheaper than the typical $60 price point. Spongebob: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is a $30 game; Star Wars Squadrons (a brand new Star Wars game!), is releasing at $40. I’m curious how wide the range will be during next-gen: Will Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales be $40 just like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was (a game it is compared to in scope) or will it be $50 or $60?

Both Sony and Microsoft need to reveal the price points for their new consoles. It is getting closer and closer to the Holiday season when these systems are expected to launch. How long will they keep consumers in the dark? How long will publishers stay mum on their own pricing plans?

If 2K is any indicator, not long.

The Latest on Lockhart – Thurrott

The Latest on Lockhart by Brad Sams for Thurrott

Here’s a fun fact though, the original launch plans for Lockhart was that it was going to be released in Mid-October. That may not sound all that surprising, but Anaconda, the series X, was going to release in late August; clearly plans have been adjusted since the conception of the hardware.

Obviously, none of this can be confirmed now, since plans would have changed due to COVID-19, but what a wild world it would have been to launch the next-gen Xbox in August!

If there is a lower powered Xbox launching near the launch of the Series X, I have a hard time imagining the two launching apart now. Say the Series X releases in November and the Series S aims for January, keeping the originally planned two month gap. There could be a lot of people miffed that the cheaper box came out after the Holiday shopping season. I see this as a dual launch now.

Launch timing aside, while I personally wouldn’t buy the cheaper, fewer-featured box, I imagine that the mass consumer would just go for the cheaper box. Microsoft is looking to deliver a killing blow at the start of this generation. Sony has two boxes, but they have feature parity, minus a physical disc drive. Microsoft will have two new boxes, with different performance, plus continuing cross-generation support for the Xbox One. Halo Infinite could be playable on six different pieces of hardware; Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, and PC (what a naming nightmare). That has to be a testing and optimizing mountain to climb.

No surprise that those dates have slipped and the announcement timeline for Lockhart has been far more fluid than we have seen in previous years. That’s why it’s a bit hard to lock down the exact date but the announcement should be coming sooner, rather than later.

I don’t understand why they wouldn’t use June to reveal and educate consumers about Lockhart.

But the big unknown will be the pricing. If the consoles were only $50 difference, even though consumers are typically very price sensitive, the overhead of launching two consoles with that difference doesn’t make much sense. The minimum price difference needs to be $100 or more to create enough of a gap to make the additional marketing and the cost of educating the consumer worthwhile.

$100 is the minimum difference these two Xbox consoles need to have. If the Series X costs $500 then that could lead to a $400 Series S. If the PS5 comes in over $500, Microsoft will dominate the pricing discussion. If they can come in clutch with the launch line up and promising games, then Xbox will have solid footing for the generation to come.

Microsoft will close out June without a big Xbox 20/20 moment – Eurogamer

Microsoft will close out June without a big Xbox 20/20 moment by Tom Phillips for Eurogamer

Microsoft has spent June recapping Xbox Series X details in a series of Xbox Wire blogs. The content has largely been about features we knew about already, such as game optimisation on Xbox Series X, Smart Delivery, and… a round-up of everything else announced so far. The month’s biggest Microsoft “moment” was, arguably, the surprise it was killing streaming service Mixer to work with Facebook Gaming instead. It’s fair to say that was not Microsoft’s intended next-gen marketing beat.

Seems like Microsoft’s plan for June was to simply repeat themselves. Sony regained goodwill with a strong games showcase for the PS5 and being directly associated with the Unreal Engine 5 reveal.

The original plan was to showcase the Xbox Series S as part of Xbox’s big E3 2020 show, so the proposition of a cheaper next-gen option could be explained properly, sat alongside the graphical powerhouse provided by the beefier Series X, both playing the same next-gen games.

But when E3 was cancelled and remote working hindered progress on various internal game projects, it became clear Microsoft could no longer show both its boxes and next-gen games all at the same time.

Understandable that a “Lockhart” announcement would get pushed back, in a general sense. Why not take the clearly repetitive month of June as an opportunity to reveal and explain the Xbox Series S? Especially in light of Sony having two SKUs for the PS5, something no one really expected. Strikes me as foolish to keep it in the wings.

The other looming question is price. Sony and Microsoft appear to be playing a game of chicken. Phil Spencer has openly talked about staying agile with Series X pricing. Sony appears to be ignoring the question. I feel like Microsoft desperately wants to undercut Sony. If this rumored Xbox Series S is much weaker than Series X and/or the PS5, but significantly cheaper, it’ll be a win for Microsoft. If Microsoft can make both their next-gen offerings cheaper than the PS5, it’ll be an opportunity for marketing domination.

Microsoft needs to come out swinging in July with games. Make the next Xbox more enticing than numbers on a spreadsheet and flashy features in a sizzle reel. The Halo teaser from last week zapped my pulse for Xbox hype back to life. There are rumors that Fable will make an appearance. What is The Initiative working on? I hope Microsoft answers these questions and teases more.

The PS5 Reveal Has Put All the Pressure Back on Microsoft – IGN

Opinion: The PS5 Reveal Has Put All the Pressure Back on Microsoft by Ryan McCaffrey for IGN

But none of those services ultimately matter without great games. And not “great” on the IGN scale (8 out of 10), but the 10-out-of-10 masterpiece-level games that Sony has delivered time and again this generation, and Microsoft hasn’t done since the Xbox 360 days. It’s not just a first-party situation either. Sony seems to have no issue with luring third-party developers to its platform with timed exclusivity deals. Microsoft, in turn, is more bearish on the practice. To that end, I would argue that there’s more riding on that July showcase than there’s ever been for another event in the entire history of the Xbox.

A video game console is only as good as the games you can play on it. Microsoft has been crushing it with the Xbox Series X reveals by announcing consumer friendly features, legacy support, and bonkers specs. Now, Microsoft needs the games.

Sony showed off a strong line-up of PS5 games last week and Sony has the history to instill confidence that these titles will be top tier. Microsoft needs to know this July showcase out of the park.

Xbox Series X Smart Delivery – Xbox Wire

Xbox Series X: Buy A Game Once and Play the Best Version Across Generations with Smart Delivery – Xbox Wire

Microsoft continues the trend of transparent, concise, consumer-friendly language detailing Xbox Series X features. They actually have a list fof currently supported games or crying out loud.

  • Halo Infinite 
  • Cyberpunk 2077 
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla 
  • Destiny 2 
  • DiRT 5 
  • Scarlet Nexus 
  • Chorus 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon 
  • The Ascent 
  • Call of the Sea 
  • Gears 5 
  • Second Extinction 
  • Metal: Hellslinger 

Not a long list, by any means, but it will undoubtedly grow in July when Microsoft reveals their slew of games for the Series X. The next-gen console wars  are just beginning.

The Future of Xbox Isn’t Just a Console – Wired

The Future of Xbox Isn’t Just a Console: by Cecilia D’Anastasio for Wired

A good interview with Phil Spencer. It’s interesting that now both Sony and Microsoft have gone to Wired for exclusive next-gen console coverage.

“This world where the hardware you bought keeps us from being able to play together seems totally foreign in today’s world,” says Spencer, describing “walled gardens” as “such a 1990s construct.” (There’s arguably more in it for Xbox to want to tear down those boundaries; for a lot of gamers, Sony’s plot of land has more appealing exclusive games.)

A great point by Cecilia. While Microsoft went on a studio shopping spree and does have some fun exclusive titles, Sony has a much larger and arguably better catalog of exclusives. A game console is only as good as the games you can play on it. PlayStation exclusives are a tour de force for the console.

But movies, television, and music are all becoming more and more device-agnostic. Why not games?

“You and I might watch Netflix. I don’t know where you watch it, where I watch it, but we can have conversations about the shows we watch,” says Spencer. “I want gaming to evolve to that same level.”

The democratization of software via services has been a mission for Microsoft for years. Give everyone access to our software through services and subscriptions. Looking at Project XCloud and the recently announced Fluid Framework, it’s not hard to see where Microsoft wants the company to go in the future. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella said that “the operating system is no longer the most important layer for us [Microsoft],” back in October 2019.

Xbox has the services in place. Xbox Live has been a gold standard of online gaming via console for nearly two decades. Now there is Xbox Game Pass which is a rotating library of games with Xbox’s own first party games being permanent additions. Project XCloud is actively in beta, which allows for players to stream their games—from either their own collection or Game Pass—to whatever screen supports the Project XCloud app.

What Xbox needs to expand is their library of games. They have strong titles like Halo, Forza, Fable, and more, but the Xbox One generation has felt lackluster compared to both Sony and Nintendo. This must be a huge factor in the decision to go buy studios and create some from scratch. It will take years to build up properly, but Microsoft is getting all their ducks in a row.

“I don’t think it’s ‘hardware agnostic’ as much as it’s ‘where you want to play,’” he [Phil] says.

I’m curious where the buck stops with this one. When will customers be able to play their Xbox games on their Nintendo Switch? What about PlayStation? Does the Xbox brand eventually become a service and game development brand? In a sense, does Xbox eventually become the next Sega; from console manufacturer to solely game development ?

“…I don’t think Xbox series X is our last console. I think we will do more consoles to make that great television play experience work and be delightful.”

I would agree with this notion. I think the streaming future is much further off than Google  would have you believe. The infrastructure is not up to snuff.

Microsoft’s next big event is happening in July. PlayStation is revealing games this Thursday, June 11. I wonder how the conversation will play out over the course of the next month.

Xbox Series X Backward Compatibility – Xbox Wire

Xbox Series X: The Most Powerful and Compatible Next-Gen Console with Thousands of Games at Launch – Xbox Wire

Backwards compatible games run natively on the Xbox Series X hardware, running with the full power of the CPU, GPU and the SSD. No boost mode, no downclocking, the full power of the Xbox Series X for each and every backward compatible game.

Microsoft continues their trend of clear, powerful, and effective communication and marketing. To watch this unfold and compare it to the Xbox One roll out is astounding.

This post focuses on Microsoft’s continued trend of backward compatibility. They have been unparalleled in continuous support for legacy consoles. While you can’t play every Xbox game, the support and growing catalog is remarkable. With the Series X, the backward compatibility is sounds unique in the ways it will alter the old games themselves, bringing features and performance never imagined when they were originally developed. It is not unlike the conversation surrounding classic games and FPGA consoles.

We are also creating whole new classes of innovations including the ability to double the frame rate of a select set of titles from 30 fps to 60 fps or 60 fps to 120 fps.

I wonder what these select titles will be. I imagine the best place to start is with games that Microsoft already owns. I would also hope that this is optional to the player. Bringing games to frame rates not originally intended for can feel off-putting.

An example I like to point to is Mario Kart 8: When you play with three or four people in splitscreen multiplayer, the framerate drops from 60fps to 30fps. While this is an example of the frame rate dropping, not increasing, the feeling is the same. An example of the frame rate increasing can be found in The Last of Us Remastered. The PS4 port offers up to 60fps, but the game’s new fluidity feels out of place, at least to me.

Can you imagine Banjo-Kazooie at 120fps?

In partnership with the Xbox Advanced Technology Group, Xbox Series X delivers a new, innovative HDR reconstruction technique which enables the platform to automatically add HDR support to games. As this technique is handled by the platform itself, it allows us to enable HDR with zero impact to the game’s performance and we can also apply it to Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles developed almost 20 years ago, well before the existence of HDR.

This sounds like black magic. I have got to see this to believe this. This almost sounds like fan hacks for older games by tweaking the actual visual representation of the game to bring it to more modern standards. Again, I hope this is an option. Microsoft has been giving millions of players choice and I don’t think this will be any different.

With more than 100,000 hours of play testing already completed, thousands of games are already playable on Xbox Series X today, from the biggest blockbusters to cult classics and fan favorites. Many of us in Team Xbox play on the Xbox Series X daily as our primary console and switching between generations is seamless. By the time we launch this holiday, the team will have spent well over 200,000 hours ensuring your game library is ready for you to jump in immediately.

This is the takeaway. If there was a box quote, this would be the one for backward compatibility.

Look at Sony’s messaging for backward compatibility back in March 2020.

A quick update on backward compatibility – With all of the amazing games in PS4’s catalog, we’ve devoted significant efforts to enable our fans to play their favorites on PS5. We believe that the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5.

We’re expecting backward compatible titles will run at a boosted frequency on PS5 so that they can benefit from higher or more stable frame rates and potentially higher resolutions. We’re currently evaluating games on a title-by-title basis to spot any issues that need adjustment from the original software developers.

In his presentation, Mark Cerny provided a snapshot into the Top 100 most-played PS4 titles, demonstrating how well our backward compatibility efforts are going. We have already tested hundreds of titles and are preparing to test thousands more as we move toward launch. We will provide updates on backward compatibility, along with much more PS5 news, in the months ahead.

I feel like I genuinely understand Sony’s messaging, but will the mass market? Microsoft is speaking to the people here. Sony may have the best selling console this generation (as well as the best of all time), but they are trudging along to reveal the PS5. If there is an event next week, I hope it is clear, direct, powerful, and shows some actual games.

Sometime in June, Microsoft is supposed to host another edition of Xbox 20/20. I wonder if this backward compatibility post was released to clear up air time and dedicate as much time as possible to the new console details. Microsoft has a store page.

We are very, very close.

Microsoft Announces Xbox 20/20

Xbox 20/20: Join Us as We Look into the Future of Xbox – Xbox Wire

Our goal remains to launch Xbox Series X and Halo Infinite this Holiday

The most important take away from this announcement.

Starting with the May 7 episode of Inside Xbox, we will be showcasing what happens next in the world of Xbox, every month…

The way Microsoft has handled the reveal and build up for the Series X is exciting to watch. They have kept the flow of information open and regularly amp up the hype. They are simply crushing it. The 3rd party reveals this Thursday will continue Microsoft’s trend to be the first at delivering next-gen news.

In July, we will dedicate time to focus on the incredible games coming from Xbox Game Studios. A number of our studio teams are looking forward to sharing first looks at new gameplay, insights from development teams being optimized for Xbox Series X, and brand-new game announcements.  We cannot wait to share this initial look at what some of those teams are working on.

Since these Xbox 20/20 streams are monthly, I wonder what will take place in June. It is super nice to just know when we will finally see Xbox Game Studios games, especially since it is probably a Locke that Halo Infinite gameplay will be shown. The hype train is getting ready to leave the station.