Microsoft announced a whole raft of developments for the Xbox One at its E3 press event.
As well as releasing details of a range of new games and hardware, the company revealed a number of strategic decisions related to the Xbox One.
Xbox One starts to look more like a PC
Microsoft went to great pains to stress that its consoles would enjoy a stronger relationship with Windows 10 PCs. The new version of Windows is expected to be released in just over a month, and PC mods will be available on the console. In addition to games, the company revealed a new controller which will be known as the “Wireless Elite.” The new pad will feature highly-customizable buttons and will also work on PC.
Microsoft also showed off a demo of its Hololens virtual reality headset, in which it rebuilt Minecraft. The company announced a partnership with Valve’s SteamVR on top of last week’s agreement with Oculus.
In another departure from the traditional console model, Microsoft announced that gamers will now be able to buy and play games that are still in development. Gamers benefit by getting their hands on the games earlier than planned, and companies can effectively use them as beta testers. The first games in the new scheme will be The Long Dark and Elite: Dangerous.
Arguably the biggest gaming news was the new trailer and footage for Halo 5: Guardians. PC fans will be disappointed to hear that the game will not be making its long-rumored arrival on the platform, but Microsoft did, however, announce a new multiplayer mode for the Xbox One which will feature 24-player combat.
Backward compatibility with Xbox 360
Those whose favorite games were released for the Xbox 360 will be pleased to hear that Xbox One now has backward-compatibility. Microsoft Xbox 360 games will run natively on the Xbox One machine, but a short list of available games seems to suggest that the entire library might not make it over.
Microsoft also announced an exclusive game called Recore, but details are thin on the ground. Fallout 4 made an appearance during the press event, and it was announced that Bethesda PC mods will now be compatible with Xbox One, further evidence of the closer ties between Xbox and Windows 10.
Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 was revealed during the event, as was Forza 6. Microsoft saw fit to bring Henry Ford III onto the stage alongside a new Ford GT to announce that the game will be replaced on September 16. Other games which appeared during the event included post-apocalyptic shooter The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege. Further details are expected to be revealed at Ubisoft’s conference.
Announcements on games, old and new
Microsoft played a trailer for Dark Souls 3, which will be released early 2016, and revealed a “Windows 10 and Xbox exclusive” in the form of Gigantic. The new game will be free-to-play, and has a cartoony style reminiscent of Sunset Overdrive. Interestingly a trailer was also shown in which Lara Croft could be seen sprinting around in the latest version of Tomb Raider, which will be an Xbox One exclusive for some time.
The 30th anniversary of developer Rare will be marked by the arrival of a collection of its games to Xbox One, such as Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Viva Pinata, and Battletoads, among others. The latest version of Gears of War was also announced, and it will be known as Gears 4.
Although games are sure to pique the interest, some of the announcements signal an important development at Microsoft. By bringing backward-compatibility, allowing access to games which are still being developed and introducing free PC modifications for Fallout 4, the company is making its Xbox One more like a gaming PC.
Consoles taking on features more commonly seen in PCs
Access to modifications is especially important given that free game changing mods are currently exclusive to PC. The moves would appear to part of a wider trend towards blurring the boundaries between games consoles and PCs. The move could lead to interesting developments in Microsoft’s rivalry with Sony, given the fact that the latter does not enjoy the benefits of making the most widely-used PC operating system.
It is strange to see so much talk related to PC gaming at a conference which traditionally deals with consoles, but this may be symptomatic of a new relationship between the two platforms; one that could be of a significant advantage to Microsoft. The company appears to be doing a good job of making PC gaming more comfortable for armchair console fans, offering them the advantages of the PC platform without losing the convenience of the console.