Microsoft’s #XboxE3 Presentation: Who, What, When?

Xbox looks to the future, gives us a shedload of games too

It’s that time of year where thousands of people descend upon Los Angeles Convention Center and millions more tune into the coverage of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3). Over the years, E3 is something of a pilgrimage for gamers and tech companies like Microsoft have used it to mercilessly shill their wares in order to get more money than any of their competitors make their biggest announcements and elaborate on some of the most exciting endeavors for Team Xbox. So why care? Here’s why.

Miyamoto unveils new ga- wait, no that’s Keanu Reeves

Yeah. Yeah, you read that right. Keanu Reeves was at the Xbox presentation at E3 today and, frankly, it was awesome. The actor – renown for his work in The Matrix, John Wick, and many other popular films – confirmed that he was approached by development studio CD Projekt RED to be in their highly-anticipated game Cyberpunk 2077 and he accepted because he was impressed with what the game had planned in terms of plot and how players will go about exploring the world CDPR created. Keanu’s entire likeness – face, body, and all that jazz – will be used and Reeves will presumably be a non-playable character that assists SAMURAI, the game’s main protagonist, after a deal Sam’s involved in turns sour in that usual criminal underworld kind of way . SAMURAI is, as it turns out, not from Japan nor is he Japanese but he’s qwhite an interesting character once you set aside the usual tropes 99% of every male protagonist video games usually have. Keanu also was tapped to announce the game’s release date, which he did in his adorably affable style. Cyberpunk 2077 drops on 16 April 2020. The game promises to be better than CDPR themselves are at sincerely apologizing but time will tell.

Never talk to me or my dog again

Speaking of surprises, the world premier of the trailer for the game Blair Witch was debuted at the Xbox conference. Yes, Blair Witch is [or presumably will be] a first-person supernatural horror game done within the same universe as the films and PC game trilogy that precede it. The main protagonist is accompanied by a dog so you’re never truly alone but all the more terrified because whacked-out occultists are trying to kill you before you figure out what they’re up to or indeed what they’ve conjured up. Developed by a studio called Bloober – the fine folks that gave us Layers of Fear and ObserverBlair Witch is set to get yet another reboot, its second as a game adaptation. The trailer certainly piqued many an interest but to quote the character Alan Parrish from the original film adaptation Jumanji “What year is it?!” It’s 1999 again, apparently.

A Scarlett Letter X

It appears the rumors of the next generation Xbox console are indeed true but Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer didn’t give too many details about Project Scarlett (codename for Microsoft’s next console) away as some might’ve suggested in the lead up to the Xbox presser. As a result, folks can expect to see even more speculation about what exactly Project Scarlett will or won’t do but here’s what we do know: Project Scarlett is being made by the same team that put the Xbox One X together, will have a custom AMD processor that is four times more powerful than the One X’s, will use a solid state drive, will have visual fidelity of up to 120 frames per second, and will launch with a new Halo title called Halo Infinite, picking up where Halo 5: Guardians left off. Spencer himself did keep mentioning the word “anywhere,” which came off as a subtle-but-not-so-subtle hint as to what Scarlett will enable gamers to do when they’re not at home. We’ll have to wait until Holiday 2020 to see what Scarlett actually is but in the meantime, we’ll have all the tech and gaming blogs dropping off quality clickbait full of speculation about Scarlett’s final form to tide us over.

Xbox Game Pass: Ultimate Edition

Xbox Game Pass has gotten a significant upgrade and has added quite a bit of new content with loads more on deck. Sarah Bond – head of Xbox Partnerships – spilled tea on what exactly Xbox Game Pass will be offering to both Xbox and PC going forward, how much it will cost, and even unveiled a brand new tier of Xbox Game Pass subscription. Starting with Xbox Game Pass for PC, it was announced that the open beta is available, would cost $9.99 a month, and will lead off with games like Imperator: Rome, Football Manager 2019, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection (starting with Halo: Reach). Xbox Game Pass also has what is called Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a brand new subscription tier for those that want it all. Xbox Game Pass for Xbox and Xbox Live Gold are combined with Xbox Game Pass for PC thrown in for no additional cost for $14.99. Everyone can subscribe for $1 for the first month, including folks who are already Xbox Game Pass subscribers. Sarah also announced the latest XGP drop, which includes titles like Batman: Arkham Knight, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, Metro Exodus, and Hollow Knight just in case you’re still on the fence about joining the XGP party.

xCloudy With A Chance Of Streaming

Another intriguing Xbox project that got elaborated upon ever so slightly is Project xCloud. With Google Stadia coming soon and options like Parsec and Shadow already available where cloud gaming is concerned, Phil Spencer confirmed that Xbox is coming for a piece of that streaming pie and announced streaming from your Xbox would become available in October 2019. Much like the Project Scarlett portion of the conference, not a whole lot was given away in terms of detail but Spencer did say that xCloud would also give folks the option to either use their Xbox as an xCloud server or they could have one in the cloud. This also could be linked with what Spencer kept vaguely referring in regards to “playing anytime, anywhere” and Project Scarlett but we’ll leave everyone else to speculate endlessly about that.

Best of the rest

Xbox was pretty much focused on talking about as many games as possible throughout the conference, an apparent nod to the deluge of complaints Microsoft have been inundated with since that E3 where the Xbox One was unveiled and then panned by everyone as a consequence. Dying Light 2, Elden Ring (a Fromsoftware title in collaboration with Hidetaka Miyazaki and George R.R. Martin), Phantasy Star Online 2, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition, Ninja Theory’s Bleeding Edge, and Namco Bandai’s Tales of Arise all got the world premier treatment to varying degrees of excitement from the audience. The Coalition’s Rod Fergussonn unveiled the Gears 5 release date (10 September 2019), a brand new Gears multiplayer mode called Escape (complete with cameos from WWE Superstars Xavier Woods, AJ Styles, and Tyler Breeze), and announced that anyone who purchases the Ultimate edition of Gears 5 or is an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriber would get to play the game four days before it officially drops. The Coalition also want to “earn your trust” and cordially invited everyone to participate in the Versus Multiplayer tech test in July and/or the Horde Mode beta testing in August. Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty announced the acquisition of seven new studios, including Double Fine and brought Tim Schafer out to crack some jokes and announce Psychonauts 2. All in all, Xbox doesn’t appear to be slowing down in the current console gen while they work to be the leader of the pack where console gaming’s future is concerned.

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