Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Xbox Plans Revealed In Emails Tied To FTC

A huge collection of purported Xbox files related to the Federal Trade Commission’s case against Microsoft have been published online, spilling some of the company’s plans for the gaming console into public view, NBC News reported.

The files were uploaded Friday to a website hosted by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where the FTC is suing to block Microsoft’s acquisition of the video game company Activision Blizzard.

According to NBC News, the files include more than 100 documents, many of them partially redacted, related to Microsoft’s Xbox plans.

Douglas Farrar, director of the FTC’s office of public affairs, told NBC News that “Microsoft was responsible for the error in uploading these documents to the court.”

The files include emails from corporate executives like Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer and timetables for gaming releases.

Windows Central  reported that the FTC v. Microsoft case has the news cycle on fire right now with all the leaked plans coming out from both Microsoft and Bethesda, but a new diskless console and a Fallout 3 Remaster are just a few of the spicy leaks we’ve had this morning.

Documents have been published by The Verge that details Microsoft’s plans well into 2028 for a full amalgamation of cloud gaming and physical consoles to create a perfect hybrid device and “cloud hybrid games.”

According to Windows Central, the idea, pitched by Microsoft, is to create a platform that seamlessly combines the power of the cloud and device to enable gaming anywhere. This may already be in the works at Xbox HQ, and the presentation shows it planned to partner with AMD for the required chips by early 2023 to secure the Navi 5 graphics technology.

Other considerations were made like using Zen 6 CPU cores and Arm. Microsoft also anticipated using the power of AI to improve resolution, reduce latency and smooth frame rates.

The documents show a possible timeline for the technology that would have started hardware design in 2024, sent out the first dev kits in 2027, and created the first hybrid cloud games from 2024 to 2026.

Engadget reported that a massive leak from the FTC v. Microsoft court battle showed Microsoft’s roadmap for a mid-generation Xbox Series X console, but that wasn’t the only news.

The same document also revealed Microsoft’s tentative plans for the next-generation X-box – what it calls a “hybrid game platform.” The system would combine local hardware and cloud computing to create an “immersive game & app platform” arriving around 2028, according to a leaked May 2022 presentation hidden inside another PDF.

In my opinion, someone at Microsoft made a big mistake when they sent the documents to the FTC. Was this an accident? Or was it done intentionally? Either way, this is likely going to be problematic for Microsoft now that the FTC appears interested in those documents.

Microsoft Announces Paint App Update

Microsoft announced a “Paint app update adding support for layers and transparency begins rolling out to Windows Insiders” It was written by Dave Grochocki. From the announcement:

“Today we are beginning to roll out an update for the Paint app to Windows Insiders in the Canary and Dev Channels (version 11.230818.0 or higher.) With this update, we are introducing support for layers and transparency!

You can now add, remove, and manage layers on the canvas to create richer and more complex digital art. With layers, you can stack shapes, text, and other image elements on top of each other.

To get started, click in the new Layers button in the toolbar, which will open a panel on the side of the canvas. This is where you can add new layers to the canvas. Try changing the order of layers in this panel to see how the order of stacked image elements on the canvas changes. You can also show or hide and duplicate individual layers or merge layers together.

We are adding support for transparency as well, including the ability to open and save transparent PNGs! When working with a single layer, you will notice a checkerboard pattern on the canvas, indicating the portions of the image that are transparent. Erasing any content from the canvas now truly erases the content instead of the area white. When working with multiple layers, if you erase content on one layer, you will reveal the content in layers underneath…”

BleepingComputer reported that Microsoft is finally rolling out support for layers and image transparency to the Paint image editor application 38 years after its launch.

According to BleepingComputer, the Windows Photos app was also updated last week with support for background blur, content search for One-Drive-backed photos, and Motion Photos captured on Samsung and Google devices.

ArsTechnica provided what might be the most hilarious headline: “Hell freezes over, MS Paint adds support for layers and PNG transparency”

According to ArsTechnica, the venerable, equally derided and beloved MS Paint app has been on a roll lately, picking up a major redesign, dark-mode support, better zoom controls, and other fit-and-finish updates all within the last couple of years. But today, Microsoft announced that it is finally adding two features that could make the app a bit more useful for power users: support for Photoshop-esque image layers and the ability to open and save transparent PNGs.

Support for creating, editing, and saving transparent PNG images goes hand in hand with support for layers, ArsTechnica wrote, since its been useful to be able to pull a single object out of an existing image so you can put it in a new one. Transparent PNG support goes well with the automated background removal button that Microsoft added to Paint builds earlier this month.

In my opinion, Microsoft did something great for the Paint app. The more features it has, the more likely artists will use it to create things. That said, it appears to be a Microsoft/Windows app, and I don’t expect it will easily port over to Mac computers.

Microsoft To Sell Off Activision Cloud Gaming Rights To Ubisoft

Microsoft is restructuring its proposed Activision Blizzard deal to transfer cloud gaming rights for current and new Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft. The transfer of rights is designed to appease regulators in the UK that are concerned about the impact Microsoft’s $68.7 billion deal will have cloud gaming competition. The restructured deal has triggered a new regulatory investigation in the UK that could last until October 18th, The Verge reported.

“To address the concerns about the impact of the proposed acquisition on cloud game streaming raised by the UK Competition and Markets on cloud game streaming raised by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, we are restructuring the transaction to acquire a narrower set of rights,” says Microsoft president Brad Smith. “This includes executing an agreement effective at the closing of our merger that transfers the cloud streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years to Ubisoft Entertainment SA, a leading global game publisher. The rights will be in perpetuity.”

This restructured deal means that if Microsoft does close its proposed acquisition, then it will not be able to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games on rival services. Instead, Ubisoft will control the streaming rights to Activision Blizzard games outside of the EU and license titles back to Microsoft to be included in Xbox Cloud Gaming.

According to The Verge, Ubisoft will also add Actvision Blizzard games to its Ubisoft Plus Multi Access subscription, which is available across PC, Xbox, Amazon Luna, and on PlayStation via Ubisoft Plus Classics.

The GOV.UK website posted a press release titled: “Microsoft submits new deal for review after CMA confirms original deal is blocked.” From the press release:

CMA finalizes decision to block original merger after rejecting submissions by Microsoft to revisit its original decision;

Microsoft submits new, restructured deal for review, triggering a fresh Phase 1 investigation by CMA;

Under the new deal, Microsoft will not acquire the cloud streaming rights to all current and future Activision games released during the next 15 years (excluding in the EEA).

Here is a key part of the press release:

…Microsoft has stated that the restructured deal is intended to address the concerns set out in the CMA’s Final Report in April. In particular, the transaction is intended to provide an independent third-party content supplier, Ubisoft, with the ability to supply Activision’s gaming content to all cloud gaming service providers (including to Microsoft itself). Ubisoft will be able to license out Activision’s content under different business models, including subscription services. The deal also proposes that Ubisoft would have the ability to require Microsoft to provide versions of games on operating systems other than Windows…

It seems to me that this paragraph implies that Ubisoft will have the ability to require Microsoft to actually put versions of Activision Blizzard’s games on “operating systems other than Windows.” I’m hoping that means that players who use a Mac will finally get access to more games!

The Xbox 360 Will Close July 2024

Dave McCarthy, CVP Xbox Player Services posted that the Xbox 360 store will close July 2024, but you can keep playing your favorite games. Here is part of the blog post:

This November will mark 18 years since Xbox 360 launched. It was a generation-defining console that invited many to jump into gaming for the first time and connect with friends around the world. Over the years, we’ve heard stories of players who found a lifelong love of games, starting with the likes of Kameo, Gears of War, Fable 2, and other Xbox 360 classics. We’re thrilled so many fans keep playing their favorite Xbox 360 games on Xbox 360, or on newer consoles via Backward Compatibility.

As we head toward 2024, we have a change to share about the Xbox 360 experience:

On July 29, 2024, Xbox will stop supporting the ability to purchase new games, DLC, and other entertainment from the Xbox 360 Store on the console and the Xbox 360 Marketplace (marketplace.xbox.com)

Related to this change, the Microsoft Movies & TV app will no longer function on Xbox 360, which means TV and movie content will no longer be viewable on your Xbox 360 after July 29th, 2024.

Between now and July 2024, you can continue purchasing games and DLC from the Xbox 360 Store and at the Xbox 360 Marketplace.

This change will not affect your ability to play Xbox 360 games or DLC you have already purchased. Xbox 360 game content previously purchased will still be available to play, not only the Xbox 360 console, but also Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S the best place the play now and in the future.

ArsTechnica reported that users will still be able to download and play games they have already purchased for the foreseeable future after that date, and many other network features will continue to work, like communication with friends, cloud saves, and online play in multiplayer games whose developers still support it.

Developers will be able to issue patches and updates to Xbox 360 games, too. Backward-compatible Xbox 360 games will still be available for purchase on the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S stores, Microsoft says.

According to ArsTechnica, the same won’t be true for video content users have acquired. TV episodes and films purchased via Xbox’s online marketplace will remain in users’ libraries, but playback will no longer be possible on Xbox 360 consoles. Users will have to turn to other machines like Window’s PCs or newer Xbox consoles like the Xbox One or Xbox Series X to view the content.

Gizmodo reported that the shift away from the gaming console and Marketplace will allow Microsoft to focus on its Xbox Series X|S which will become “the best place to play now and in the future,” Microsoft said in its blog post. “A lot has changed since the Xbox 360 launch in 2005,” the company said, adding that “technology has evolved” and “expectations from players have shifted.”

In my opinion, I can see why Xbox wants people to shift from Xbox 360 to one of its newer (and likely more expensive) consoles. My concern is that some people won’t be able to afford an Xbox X or Xbox S, and might be left out in 2024.

Microsoft And Activision Agree To Extend $69 Billion Deal Deadline

Microsoft and Activision Blizzard on Wednesday agreed to extend the deadline for their merger agreement until Oct. 18, Activision said in a statement Wednesday, CNBC reported. The two companies had originally agreed to complete the transaction by July 18, but regulatory pushback from the U.S. and U.K. delayed the takeover.

According to CNBC, if Microsoft had not extended the deal deadline, the company could have been on the hook for a $3 billion breakup fee to Activision Blizzard. By extending the period for the companies to close their transaction, Microsoft and Activision are giving themselves more time to satisfy regulators’ concerns and to get it over the line.

A new agreement between Microsoft and Activision, struck on July 18, included a provision to bump up the termination fee by increments at certain periods, if the merger is not cleared by the new deadline.

CNBC also reported that by August 29, the breakup fee will be increased to $3.5 billion of the transaction is terminated by the parties, while by September 15, the potential breakup fee will rise to $4.5 billion.

Activision Blizzard posted the following press release on BusinessWire. From the press release:

“This quarter, our talented teams delivered strong performance for our players and shareholders. We delivered a 50% year-over-year increase in net bookings, operating income growth over 70%, earning per share growth over 80%, and a record quarter for Blizzard with over $1 billion in net bookings for the first time,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “Most importantly, we continue to set new standards of excellence for workplace culture and provide joy and connection to hundreds of millions of players around the world. While we continue to have concerns about the economy and growing industry competition, we remain focused on the long-term opportunities ahead and completing our merger with Microsoft.”

Polygon reported that the CMA blocked Microsoft’s buyout of Activision Blizzard in April, arguing that the merger would lead to “reduced innovation and less choice for UK gamers over the years to come” in the burgeoning cloud gaming market.

According to Polygon, on Monday, the Xbox maker and the CMA asked a judge to stay that process – the parties are reported to have held “productive” talks on remedies that Microsoft could agree to in order to help the deal pass.

“The recent decision in the U.S. and approvals in 40 countries all validate that the deal is good for competition, players, and the future of gaming,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to Polygon. “Given global regulatory approvals and the companies’ confidence that the CMP now recognizes there are remedies available to meet their concerns in the U.K., the Activision Blizzard and Microsoft boards of directors have authorized the companies not to terminate the deal until after October 18. We’re confident in our next steps and that our deal will quickly close.”

Polygon also reported that Microsoft and Activision will be hoping to close the deal well before the Oct. 18 deadline. The U.K.’s Competition Appeal Tribunal has given Microsoft and the CMA until late September to reach an agreement, while the CMA says it expects to have finalized its conclusions well in advance of its own deadline on Aug. 29.

It seems to me that the date of the acquisition has been moved up a bit, in part to allow Microsoft to appease the CMA’s concerns. Considering the huge financial penalties that Microsoft and/or Activision Blizzard would face if the merger doesn’t close by then, I expect things will work out.

Xbox Live Gold Ending After 18 Years As Microsoft Launches Game Pass Core

After nearly two decades, Xbox Live Gold will die on September 14, Kotaku reported. In its place is Xbox Game Pass Core, a cheaper version of the Game Pass service that’ll allow gamers to play online together, as well as offer a curated selection of games to play. And, yes, that also means Games with Gold is going away too. You’ll still have access to those games you downloaded via the program, but there are some things to consider.

According to Kotaku, you will be able to access games you’ve downloaded via the Games with Gold program, but here’s the catch: For Xbox One games, you’ll need to remain a Game Pass Core or Game Pass Ultimate subscriber to keep your Games with Gold games.

Kotaku also reported that if you are an existing Xbox Live Gold subscriber, you’ll automatically convert to Game Pass Core on September 14. Microsoft provided the following list of games that will be available on September 14 via the new service, with more to be added ahead of the services launch:

* Among Us
* Descenders
* Dishonored 2
* Doom Eternal
* Fable Anniversary
* Fallout 4
* Fallout 76
* Forza Horizon 4
* Gears 5
* Grounded
* Halo 5: Guardians
* Halo Wars 2
* Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
* Human Fall Flat
* Inside
* Ori & The Will of the Wisps
* Psychonauts 2
* State of Decay 2
* The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

Xbox posted an announcement titled: “Introducing Xbox Game Pass Core, Coming This September” From the announcement:

Today we’re announcing our commitment to give players more choice and value by introducing Xbox Game Pass Core, launching on September 14. Game Pass Core is the evolution of Xbox Live Gold. Game Pass Core will give players access to our advanced multiplayer network, a select collection of 25 games to play with friends around the world, and exclusive member deals, all for $9.99 USD per month or $59.99 USD per year…

For current Xbox Live Gold members:

On September 14, Xbox Live Gold members will automatically become Game Pass Core members, with no change in pricing, and have immediate access to a new library of over 24 high-quality games.

Member deals & discounts will also be part of Xbox Game Pass Core.

Games with Gold will come to an end on September 1.

Players can continue to access any Xbox One games they previously redeemed through Games with Gold if they remain a Game Pass Core or Game Pass Ultimate member.

Regardless of subscription status, any Xbox 360 titles redeemed via Games with Gold in the past will be kept in a player’s library.

Engadget reported that Microsoft has signaled its intent to change Live Gold for a while. It stopped offering year-long subscriptions in 2020, and ditched Xbox 360 games in 2022. The company planned to raise Gold prices in 2021 before quickly reversing the decision.

According to Engadget, the change might be disappointing if you liked Games with Gold’s more frequent catalog expansions. While you do get some hits, it’s a not-so-subtle way to steer you toward an Ultimate subscription with a much larger selection (including some day-one titles), cloud gaming and an EA Play membership. In that sense, PlayStation Plus Essential (which still offers bonus games every month) may be more appealing if you’re open to Sony hardware.

Personally, I think I will give the new Xbox Game Pass Core a try. I’m already paying for Game Pass Ultimate. Ever since I purchased Diablo IV, I’ve spent a lot of time on Xbox.

Sony And Microsoft Sign A Binding 10-Year Deal To Keep Call of Duty on PlayStation

Sony has agreed to a 10-year deal for Call of Duty with Microsoft to keep the franchise on PlayStation after the proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer says Sony and Microsoft have agreed to a “binding agreement” to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation, The Verge reported.

This ends a bitter battle between the companies that has been waged both privately and publicly over the past year after Microsoft announced its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard in January.

According to The Verge, while Microsoft’s initial announcement doesn’t mention 10 years for Call of Duty on PlayStation, Keri Perez, head of global communications at Xbox, confirmed the 10-year commitment to The Verge. Perez later confirmed to The Verge that the deal is only for Call of Duty, though. That makes the deal similar to a 10-year agreement between Microsoft and Nintendo, but not the various deals Microsoft has struck with Nvidia and other cloud gaming platforms to bring Call of Duty and other Xbox / Activision games to rival services.

CNBC reported Sony has signed a binding, 10-year agreement with Microsoft to keep Call of Duty on its PlayStation gaming consoles after closing the Activision Blizzard acquisition, Microsoft said on Sunday.

Activision is the maker of the best-selling Call of Duty lineup. Regulators around the world had expressed significant concern about Microsoft’s power over the gaming market if an Activision acquisition was approved, CNBC reported.

Microsoft is the manufacturer of the Xbox, which competes directly with Sony’s PlayStation, prompting fears that Microsoft would be able to make games “exclusive” to its own consoles and displace Sony from competition.

According to CNBC, the deal does something to ameliorate those concerns, although Microsoft and Sony aren’t disclosing the duration of the agreement. A Microsoft spokesperson noted the deal was in place for the long term. The company has signed similar deals in the past.

Regulators in the EU signed off on the deal in May. The U.K.’s Competition and Market Authority, which has forced divestitures and blocked prior tech deals, said in Wednesday that it was prepared to negotiate with Microsoft over the terms of the deal.

Kotaku reported that Microsoft and Sony have finally reached a deal for keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation once the Activision Blizzard merger goes through. The surprise agreement comes after months of fighting between the two companies and is a sign the acquisition is all but inevitable.

According to Kotaku, it’s not immediately clear what the terms of that agreement are, and whether they are similar to proposals Microsoft recently signed with Nintendo and other cloud gaming providers. In the past, Sony has paid Activision for special benefits relating to Call of Duty, including timed-exclusive content and special marketing rights. It was also revealed during the recent court battle over the deal that Activision had leveraged its partnership with Sony to negotiate better commission rates for the franchise Xbox.

Personally, I’m hoping that this means we won’t have to hear much more about the Microsoft-Activision acquisition. It certainly seems like (nearly) everything has been resolved.