E3 Show Daily

Microsoft's Major Moves

Microsoft Corporation helps to set the tone for Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) each year by holding the first of the console makers’ press conferences, and the company came out strong this year by revealing multiple new hardware models, alongside an array of thrilling Xbox game experiences. 

The crowd went wild when Head of Xbox Phil Spencer announced the brand-new Xbox console, codenamed Project Scorpio. Microsoft claims it will be the most powerful home console ever when it releases in time for the 2017 holiday season. The console can run games at 4K resolution and power immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences, but will still be a part of the Xbox One family. In great news for current Xbox fans, Project Scorpio will let gamers utilize all existing Xbox One games and accessories.

While Scorpio is an exciting glimpse into the future for the Xbox brand, Microsoft also announced refreshed Xbox One hardware on the more immediate horizon. Adding functionality to the original Xbox One console while cutting down nearly 40% of the previous model’s size, the new Xbox One S packs a powerful punch within a diminutive frame.

The new model is not only a visual redesign; it also adds new features. The Xbox One S supports 4K resolution video playback, which makes it capable of pumping out ultra-crisp footage from streaming services and Blu-ray discs alike. It also offers support for high dynamic range (HDR) output, which provides a wider disparity between light and dark colors for more strikingly vivid imagery.

Even with that smaller frame, the console comes with up to a hearty 2 TB hard drive, for storing a large number of games and other content. Microsoft will begin selling the Xbox One S in August, starting at $299. In addition, the company revealed a new Xbox Wireless Controller that revises the existing design, adding a textured grip and Bluetooth connectivity. Players can even customize their new gamepad—choosing colors and optional laser engraving—through the new Xbox Design Lab feature at Xbox.com. The new controller will also release in August.

Microsoft also announced new features to the Xbox Live platform for all Xbox One consoles, including the ability to create Clubs, so that players can find new friends with shared interests. Xbox Live will add an Arena mode this fall, which will help to enable competitive e-sports experiences, and EA Sports has agreed to bring its FIFA soccer simulation series to the Arena service in the future.

Microsoft’s own game franchises have helped make the Xbox the premier destination for action fans, and that reputation is reinforced with the return of Gears of War. Now under the care of The Coalition—Microsoft’s internal studio, formed to shepherd the franchise forward—Gears of War 4 introduces an array of new characters and scenarios as the series leaps to Xbox One.

Gears of War 4 takes place 25 years after the previous entry, with new lead character J.D. Fenix—son of earlier heroes Marcus Fenix and Anya Stroud—leading a squad to help defeat a new alien threat. The game promises an intense campaign mode and plenty of raucous online multiplayer action, and will anchor Microsoft’s holiday lineup with an October 11 debut.

Gears 4 will also be playable on Windows 10 devices with the same purchase, thanks to the new Xbox Play Anywhere initiative—and it will have shared online multiplayer servers between platforms. Microsoft will also bring Gears of War antagonist General RAAM to the new season of Killer Instinct, its free-to-play fighting game for Xbox One and Windows 10, and release a special Gears 4-branded version of the Xbox One Elite wireless controller, as well.

Microsoft’s Halo franchise is also back in action, but in a different format than we usually see from the blockbuster series. Halo Wars 2 for Xbox One and Windows 10 is a real-time strategy game that reimagines the intergalactic firefights as large-scale tactical battles, with players controlling large numbers of units to take down the enemy force. This sequel to the 2009 original from Xbox 360 features six-player online multiplayer skirmishes, and the Creative Assembly and 343 Industries-developed game is due out on February 21, 2017. An open multiplayer beta is running this week on both platforms.

Racing aficionados can look for the fan favorite Forza Motorsport franchise to speed back to Xbox One and Windows 10 on September 27 with Forza Horizon 3, a new entry in the arcade-style, open-world side series. Developed by Playground Games, Forza Horizon 3 puts a greater emphasis on off-road racing in a new, Australia-inspired setting, and brings in seamless online cooperative play that lets friends pair up with ease.

Another popular sequel hitting Xbox One and Windows 10 this year is Dead Rising 4, the latest entry in the Capcom-developed zombie-slaying series. Dead Rising 4 brings back original hero Frank West to the fictional town of Willamette, Colorado, and looks to maintain its trademark blend of whimsical humor and over-the-top action in a Christmas-time escapade. Dead Rising 4 will deliver its unique brand of holiday cheer later this year.

Looking ahead, Microsoft has multiple new properties in the works, including next year’s Scalebound, an ambitious action-adventure game from PlatinumGames. Director Hideki Kamiya is best-known for eccentric action affairs like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, and that energetic style is on full display in this fantasy-themed, dragon-filled experience for Xbox One and Windows 10. 

Before that, players will have a chance to explore the world of ReCore, an action-adventure saga set in a desert world and featuring a daring hero and her robot companion. Developed by Armature Studio and Comcept, Inc, ReCore hits Xbox One and Windows 10 on September 13. Meanwhile, legendary game studio Rare debuted the first gameplay footage from Sea of Thieves, a multiplayer experience in which players band together in pirate gangs to pilfer loot, take part in ship-to-ship battles, and engage in other exciting conflicts.

State of Decay 2, a sequel to the well-received zombie survival epic, will enhance its multiplayer elements and allow players to form communities to help stave off the impending zombie apocalypse. Created by Undead Labs, State of Decay 2 will release in 2017. Meanwhile, fans of Limbo and developer Playdead received word that Inside, the studio’s mysterious new game, will release on Xbox One on June 29, and Windows PC on July 7. 

Microsoft also dedicated time during its press conference to an array of exciting third-party titles coming to Xbox One, including Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 1, Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV, Bandai Namco Entertainment America’s Tekken 7, and Gwent—a digital card game spun off from CD Projekt Red’s popular The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Based on comments from Xbox head Phil Spencer, the defining theme of Microsoft’s E3 2016 lineup and announcements is choice: more options for hardware this year and beyond, a wider variety of games available for both platforms, and more ways that players can experience those games. As the conference clearly demonstrated, no matter what kinds of games players like—and whether on console or PC—there is an Xbox experience waiting for them.

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