The rumours were true. Microsoft used its E3 2016 press conference to announce two new consoles, including Xbox One’s successor Project Scorpio.
Project Scorpio will indeed pack a whopping 6 teraflops of computing power which, if reports are to be believed, is way ahead of PS4 Neo… which could of course be the reason behind Sony’s E3 silence, although that is nothing more than idle speculation.
A confident Phil Spencer took to the stage at the close of the event to speak of the history of Xbox, its proud tradition of innovation and, tellingly, a world beyond generations". The reveal itself made a big deal of offering true 60fps 4K gaming, stating that the machine had been designed specifically for that very purpose.
Oh what an about turn from the Xbox One’s disastrous multimedia E3 reveal!
Also mentioned frequently was support for hi-fidelity VR, although what Microsoft’s VR plans comprise remained unspecified. What we do know is that Project Scorpio will be released in holiday 2017, and that all three Xboxes will feature complete cross-compatibility with one another.
That’s right, three Xbox Ones – as well as the current machine and the Scorpio, Microsoft also announced the Xbox One S. 40 per cent smaller than the current console, it will support 4K Blu-ray and video streaming, and include a slightly redesigned controller. Furthermore, the power brick has been internalised and the Kinect port has been ditched altogether (although both Kinect owners can still use their cameras via a separate USB adapter).
The 500GHb version of the console will ship for $299, with the 1TB costing $349 and the 2TB $400. It’ll be out in August.
It’s an interesting tactic to announce a sexy redesign of your current machine, only to undermine it an hour later by confirming a new console is on the way next year. On the flip side, Scorpio potentially gives Sony a big problem as we head rapidly toward its conference, in which its new console will not feature.
Microsoft put on a great show last year, only for Sony to storm up from the rear and steal the show. It’s hard to see the same happening this year, as it’s almost impossible to trump the excitement of new hardware.
However truth be told, were it not for the closing Scorpio announcement then Microsoft would probably be facing a fair level of disappointment after a show that lacked much in the way of new announcements.
Phil Spencer remains the company’s talisman, and his classy opening tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting – and his wearing of a pride badge throughout – felt perfectly fitting for a man who has leant an air of dignity to Xbox in recent times.
It’s also true, however, that despite the sentiment, gun violence featured several times throughout the show. This is in no way a criticism of Microsoft specifically as the same observation could be made about most publishers at E3, but Phil’s sincere sentiment was somewhat undermined by the frivolous shotgun beheading in Gears of War 4, or the blood splatter graphic that was ‘shot’ onto the custom GOW4 controller ad.
As for Xbox, the question that remains is this – is a smaller version of a console that isn’t selling enough going to fare any better than a bigger version? Were there any game announcements here that could take Xbox beyond its current audience?
Two titles spring to mind – We Happy Few, which was arguably the game of the show, and Rare’s Sea of Thieve are the two that spring to mind. But this is the thing – the first is multiplatform and the second is also coming to PC.
That latter point is most pertinent. Microsoft’s ‘Xbox Play Anywhere’ scheme was heavily touted here. Xbox Play Anywhere games will release on both Xbox One and Windows 10 – and every single first party game featured supports it. In truth this could have been called a Windows 10 conference just as much as it could an Xbox event. Is Microsoft gambling with Xbox’s future? And if it is, perhaps it doesn’t care if it can make serious inroads into the PC software market.
Microsoft’s strong E3 2015 showing did little to help Xbox One in the year that followed. With a more powerful successor now public knowledge and still a year and half away, can E3 2016 possibly hope for any better success? Especially now Sony knows exactly what it has to beat.
Here’s a look at all the news announced tonight:
XBOX PROJECT SCORPIO
The big one, left right to the end of the show. Project Scorpio is the new Xbox console and is due out in holiday 2017. It has been built from the ground up specifically for 4k Gaming at 60fps, and for hi-fidelity VR”, although Microsoft’s VR plans themselves were not specified. It will be compatible with all Xbox One games, and future Xbox games will be compatible with the Scorpio, Xbox One and Xbox One S.
XBOX ONE S
A redesigned version of the current machine is on the way in August. It’s 40 per cent smaller than the current device, and has a slightly redesigned controller with textured grips and increased wireless range via Bluetooth. The power brick is built into the machine, and the Kinect port has been scrapped. The 500GB version will cost $299, the 1TB $349 and the 2TB $399.
XBOX PLAY ANYWHERE
This is the idea – buy any compatible game digitally and get it on both Xbox One and Windows 10. Achievements and progress are shared across both platforms, along with cross-platform play where possible.
Head of platform engineering Mike Ybarra took to the stage to promise a host of things, such as an increase in the number of Xbox Live servers to provide a faster, more reliable network”. Background Music has proved a much celebrated addition online, while two new social features are also incoming – Xbox Clubs, for those with shared interests to join together, and Looking For Group, which allows gamers to appeal for online buddies when heading into a multiplayer online game. Perhaps most interesting was Microsoft’s new eSports platform, Arena on Xbox Live. The tournament format already has the support of the likes of EA, Hi-Rez and Wargaming.
XBOX CONTROLLER DESIGN LAB
Consumers will be able to design custom controllers online with up to 8m possible combinations online and have them delivered to their homes. This should do well for Microsoft.
FORZA HORIZON 3
Another Xbox Play Anywhere title, which was leaked earlier in the day. As per the reports, it’s set in Australia. Also featured is four player co-op and the largest car roster in Horizon history. It’s out on September 27th.
GEARS OF WAR 4
Is an Xbox Play Anywhere title with cross-platform play for all of its co-op modes, including campaign and Horde.
Co-op play is coming to Xbox, Windows 10, iOS and Android – but no, not PlayStation. That’s Xbox flexing its Mojang purchase powers, right there. This support also includes the VR version for Samsung’s GearVR, which was shown on stage by Oculus’s John Carmack. Also coming are dedicated servers for all platforms, some new city texture packs and, at a later stage, ‘Add-On’ mod support.
DEAD RISING 4
Everyone knew about this thanks to the extensive leaks. This Xbox Play Anywhere game is Christmas themes and utterly, utterly bonkers.
SEA OF THIEVES
Rare’s next game looks quite lovely and entirely original, and wasn’t even ruined by the shouty over-enthused ‘community’ members who were invited to play it for the video. It’s an Xbox Play Anywhere game, too.
STATE OF DECAY 2
Announced via a trailer.
HALO WARS 2
Was shown off by 343’s Dan Ayoub. If there was a flat n