Xbox at gamescom: Greenberg talks Xbox One X, PUBG exclusivity and togas

Microsoft is winding up for a huge Q4 in 2017. The platform hasn’t looked this energised in years, and seeing Aaron Greenberg in action at gamescom is the very embodiment of that new-found energy. Whether he’s taking selfies with superstars such as Steve Aoki, dressing in a toga for the Age of Empires livestream (pictured with Julia Hardy), or talking about the next few months for Xbox and Windows gaming – he’s all go.

We wonder how launching the One X is a different marketing challenge to an entirely new platform? “It’s totally different, because we’ve never done this before. We’re not sacrificing compatibility with the innovation that we’re doing, so we have to think about how do we let people know it’s one product family, one game disc on the shelves at retail, and that the game disc works across all Xbox One consoles.”

It’s the huge catalogue of titles that Greenberg feels is the key point to get across: “When the Xbox One X launches it will have a larger games library than any new console launch in history,” he exclaimed, adding that’s “over 1,000 games.”

Many of those titles will be enhanced for the new console as well. Many more than we originally expected, in fact: “We’re close to 120 today and by the time we get to launch who knows what that list will look like,” he said.

The Xbox One X will launch with a larger games library than any new console launch in history.

Aaron Greenberg, Xbox

Greenberg tells us “all the biggest titles this holiday” will be enhanced, name-checking “FIFA 18, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Need for Speed and Shadow of War,” alongside older titles such as Fallout 4 and Titanfall 2, as well as first-party games, too. “We’re updating Gears of War 4 in 4K with HDR, Halo 5 to 4K and Forza Horizon 3, too.”

Getting those enhanced 4K games into the hands of consumers is key, he told us, which is where gamescom comes in. “Events for this console are more important than ever, you have to see and experience what true 4K looks like, you can’t get that watching a YouTube video on your mobile phone. So we have 70 playable stations here at gamescom running games on Xbox One X.”

That’s a lot of games in one place, but one we haven’t yet talked about is possibly the most exciting deal of all: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).

“What we’re doing is bringing tech, sales and marketing benefits to the table. That allows [developer Bluehole] to focus on the PC and Xbox versions of the game, bring the game faster to Xbox fans, and for us we’re going to publish the title, and so it just steps up our commitment,” said Greenberg of the partnership with Bluehole.

It’s a huge win for Microsoft and one that looks better every day: “When we announced our partnership at E3, they had sold 2m units of the game. Today, just five months since release, it’s 8m units,” Greenberg enthused. “It’s the number one most-watched game, it’s the perfect fit for Xbox, for Xbox Live and the integration of being to stream and do stuff on Mixer is a natural fit as well.

Battlegrounds is the perfect fit for Xbox

Aaron Greenberg, Xbox

‘We’re excited, they’re a great team and the only console you’ll be able to play PUBG on this holiday will be on Xbox One,” he said. Though we were curious as to the details of that deal.

“At this point, we’re just saying that we’re publishing it on Xbox, and the Bluehole team have been really clear they are focused on development only for PC and Xbox, and this is going to be one version, one community, they’re not making a separate version for the console. It’s one version and for a team like them to be able to focus their development efforts is great.”

Finally, we came around to that toga, which Greenberg wore for the Age of Empires livestream. He’s obviously a huge fan of the game. “We all grew up on Age of Empires and I’ve been at Microsoft for 20 years, and I was there when the first Age launched.”

We asked why bring it back now? “So we went and looked at how many are playing Age on their PC and there are millions of people around the world still playing this franchise, it’s super active.” So Microsoft is remastering the first three games in 4K with some “thoughtful modernisations.” And the new title is in a great position, too: “With Age 4, we wanted to find the right developer to do it right. And with Relic we’ve got our dream partner.

“It’s great to be able to invest and innovate both on the console and in the PC space”, Greenberg concluded, and it certainly looks like Microsoft has lined up all the right elements with Xbox One X, Battlegrounds and Age of Empires for a great year ahead.

Additional reporting by Jake Tucker.

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