Tag Archives: xbox

Blizzard President On The “New Era” Under Xbox

The dust is finally starting to settle from Microsoft’s huge acquisition of Activision Blizzard, but even Blizzard president Mike Ybarra still isn’t exactly sure how things will change for the company, The Verge reported. “I literally haven’t sat down with [Microsoft Gaming CEO] Phil [Spencer] and said, “So, what does all this mean?” Ybarra tells The Verge in an interview.

Ybarra doesn’t seem worried, though. As part of his opening remarks at Friday’s BlizzCon 2023 keynote, Ybarra said that the show as the start of a “new era” for the company.

“I think the way [Spencer] approaches building teams and focusing on culture and enabling creative freedom is going to give Blizzard a lot more of that sense of being an independent studio than ever before,” Ybarra says. “That’s what I really mean when I talk about a new era of possibilities, of empowerment, of serving players even better than we ever have.” (It probably also helps that Ybarra worked for Spencer for eight years before joining Blizzard.)

Right now, things are “pretty much business as usual,” Ybarra says. Spencer and his team visited Blizzard recently, but “it was more about just meeting people,” Ybarra says. “They didn’t want to talk about business.” It seems like that means any Microsoft-driven changes might be a little ways out: Spencer has already said not to expect any Activision Blizzard games on Xbox Game Pass until 2024, for example.

Video Games Chronicle reported that the Xbox maker completed its $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard last month, in the process of taking ownership of franchises including World of Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch.

Discussing the idea with The Verge, Ybarra said he thinks Blizzard will be afforded more freedom that has previously been the case.

Ybarra, who joined Blizzard in 2019 following almost 20 years at Microsoft was joined by Spencer on stage during BlizzCon’s opening ceremony last week.

Microsoft’s head of gaming, who recently visited the Warcraft studio with Xbox’s leadership team to meet employees, proclaimed “the future of Blizzard is brighter than ever” during last week’s fan convention.

“Blizzard’s influence is everywhere, and because of its enduring legacy and phenomenal, revolutionary development, with a care and a craft that is incredibly rare in this industry,” he said.

“Our commitment at Xbox is to bring more great games to more players, in more places. And now that Blizzard is part of Xbox, we will nurture the essence of what has made Blizzard unique.

“We are going to empower our new colleagues in a culture of trust, inclusion, and collaboration, to continue what they do best: redefining existing genres, creating new, never before seen experiences, and uniting players globally in new ways – in Azeroth, in Sanctuary, in near-future Earth, and beyond.”

I didn’t go to BlizzCon this year, but I was able to watch some of the panels online. It sounds like Blizzard gaming and Xbox are going to be a good match. I’m looking forward to seeing what this merger will do for both companies.

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.

Xbox Introduces Enforcement Strike System

Xbox provided information about their Enforcement Strike System. The purpose appears to be a means of giving players, who are doing things Xbox doesn’t like, to have a penalty.

From the blog post:

We are constantly improving our safety measures and bringing more systems and tools in place that empower players to respectfully interact with one another – because everyone deserves a place to comfortably be themselves online, free from harassment and bullying.

One of the most common questions we get from players though feedback, posts, and appeals is how repeated enforcements impact their gameplay, how they escalate, what they escalate to, and how they know when their account is back in good standing. To help address this, we are introducing a new enforcement strike system.

The new system attaches strikes to every enforcement, ranging in severity based on inappropriate activity. Each player will now have a view of their enforcement history including strikes and the overall impact these have on their player record.

This revised system gives players a better understanding of enforcement severity and the cumulative effect of multiple enforcements, Enforcement transparency is about giving players clarity into how their behavior impacts their new enforcement strike system.

…With the new system, enforcements will also include strikes based on the severity of their actions. The system is similar to demerit strikes used in driver’s license systems in many countries. For example, a player who has received two strikes will be suspended for seven days. Players have a total of eight strikes and, once reached, will be suspended from Xbox’s social features like messaging, parties and party chat, multiplayer and others for one year from the enforcement date. All strikes received stay on a player’s record for six months.

Today, players will all begin with a black slate, or zero strikes. Any previous enforcements such as suspensions, must still be completed; new enforcement as of today will result in strikes…

Gizmodo reported: Sorry gamers, Xbox says you will need to behave. Starting today (Tuesday) Xbox will be cracking down on its Community Standards by rolling out eight-strike policy that should help curb abusive behavior while educating players about their own rap sheet.

According to Gizmodo, the new system also lets users take a peek at their own disciplinary record. The enforcement history interface will show a play how many strikes they have as well as why they received those strikes. The menu will also have a handy link to the platform’s Community Standards so users can brush up to prevent repeat offenses.

Gizmodo also reported that different offenses carry different numbers of strikes – Dave McCarthy, CVP Xbox Player Services, likened this to driver’s license point programs. A graphic in the blog illustrates some examples: profanity is one strike, sexually inappropriate behavior is two strikes, and hate speech is three strikes. Players will also be able to appeal strikes.

Personally, I think it is a good idea for Xbox to not only create a new Enforcement Strike System, but also to enforce it. Nobody wants to jump into a game on Xbox and be harassed by some random angry player. What happens when those players reach eight strikes? My best guess is that they will move to PlayStation or other consoles, and harass players over there instead.

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.

Xbox Doesn’t Want To Upgrade Its Xbox Game Console

Bloomberg reported that Microsoft Corp’s video gaming chief Phil Spencer said he doesn’t “feel an imperative” to come out with a major upgrade of its Xbox game console. (The rest of Bloomberg’s article appears to be behind a paywall.)

Fortunately, IGN reported that Phil Spencer is adamant that consoles are “critical” to Xbox’s business going forward, saying that dedicated gaming hardware is “the future of Xbox.”

According to IGN, in Xbox’s “What’s Next for Gaming?” Panel, the Xbox head was asked about the place of console in Xbox’s strategy. It’s a question some may have been wondering about in particular due to Spencer’s past comments seeming to deprioritize hardware in the grand scheme of the company’s strategy. If that was the case back in 2019, it doesn’t seem to be any longer.

“We know that for players, especially Xbox players, where we come from is people sitting in front of their television with a console plugged into their television. It’s what developers are targeting. It’s what so many of us play. Console is critical to the success of what we’re doing today and the future of Xbox. It’s not the only thing we’re going to focus on. We’re going to focus on player choice. But we know that console is the core of how people think – box is in the name of our product. Xbox. Console is critical to what we are building,” said Phil Spencer.

Spencer also reported that the team has been hearing positive feedback on the Xbox Series S, noting that “for some people around the planet, $500 for a console is too much for their situation,” and that the price point for Series S has brought many new customers into the Xbox ecosystem. However, he acknowledged that the 512 GB storage was a limitation for some.

ArsTechnica posted information about Bethesda’s Starfield Direct game. There is an embedded YouTube video of a “Starfield Direct – Gameplay Deep Dive” on ArsTechnica.

According to ArsTechnica, for Starfield’s character creation engine, Bethesda says it scanned faces from a variety of age groups and ethnicities to make a system that the developers used to create every character and NPC you see in the game. After choosing from one of 40 preset characters to start, you can modify everything from piercings to teeth settings to skin blemishes in a series of sliders.

ArsTechnica also reported that beyond physical traits, you’ll also be able to pick a background for your characters with options ranging from cyberneticist to chef. These can come in handy at unexpected times during missions; maybe someone is asking for a specific dish during a particular quest. You can also pick from a number of optional “traits” that come with their own pros and cons – being “hero worshipped” means that fans may give you gifts, but it also will annoy you with non-stop praise and commentary.

I think it’s cool that the developers of Starfield Direct put time and effort into giving players plenty of choices about what their character will look like. This is a great way to offer a variety of different looking people of various ages and genders. It’s always more fun to play a game with a character that resembles you.

Xbox Offers Access To More Games For NVIDIA GeForce Now Players

Xbox announced an exciting future for players and game creators, including dozens of new games, a new 1TB Series S console and new ways for players to get their games anywhere with PC Game Pass coming to NVIDIA GeForce NOW later this year.

“Our ambition is to release at least four first-party games a year – although we’ll balance that out with careful consideration for each project’s needs. That’s on top of the work our teams are doing to grow our existing communities that we’ve fostered over many years like The Elder Scrolls Online, Sea of Thieves, Minecraft, Forza, and so on.” Xbox wrote.

Xbox also mentioned its Starfield Direct game, “which will have a simultaneous release on Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Steam – with Game Pass day one on Xbox, PC and Cloud – it’s our belief that Starfield will become the most-played Bethesda Game Studios title, ever. Bethesda Game Studios has built on the Xbox development platform for a long time, and now that Bethesda is part of the Xbox family, we’ve been able to support them more than ever – and its allowed the team to create the most ambitious game in the studio’s history, inside their first new universe for her 25 years.”

The biggest part of Xbox’s press release is this:

Today we shared that Game Pass members will soon be able to stream select PC games from the library through NVIDIA GeForce NOW. This will enable the PC Game Pass catalog to be played on any device that GeForce NOW streams to, like low spec PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, mobile devices, TVs, and more, and we’ll be rolling this out in the months ahead…

The Verge reported that Microsoft is planning to bring PC Game Pass titles to NVIDIA’s GeForce Now streaming service. “You’ll be able to play your PC Game Pass catalog on all the devices supported by NVIDIA’s GeForce Now,” said Sarah Bond, head of Xbox creator experience.

“This will enable the PC Game Pass catalog to be played on any device that GeForce Now streams to, like low spec PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, mobile devices, TVs, and more, and we’ll be rolling this out in the months ahead,” said Joe Skrebels, Xbox Wire editor in chief, in a blog post.

The Verge noted that GeForce Now members will be able to “stream select PC games from the library,” so it doesn’t look like it will be the full catalog. Either way, this is a big deal for cloud gaming, allowing PC Game Pass subscribers to use Nvidia’s superior game streaming service with RTX 4080 levels of performance.

The Verge also reported that in their own testing, they found the RTX 4080 tier of GeForce Now was far superior to Microsoft’s own Xbox Cloud Gaming offering for performance and latency.

Personally, I’m in favor of giving players access to more games through Xbox S|X. I play several games on my Xbox S. That said, it appears that the release of more Bethesda games through Xbox is limited to people who have NVIDIA GeForce Now.

Phil Spencer Says Sony Wants to Grow At Xbox’s Expense

Public squabbling between two of the biggest console gaming companies has intensified, Kotaku reported. According to Kotaku, on a recent podcast appearance, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer blasted Sony for wanting to grow by “making Xbox smaller.”

The accusation comes after the Federal Trade Commission decided to sue to block Microsoft’s takeover of Activision because of a pattern of making recently acquired games like Starfield exclusive.

VideoGamesChronicle reported that Phil Spencer made the comments during an interview with the Second Request podcast, where the exec claimed that Sony was the “one major opposer to the [Microsoft Activision] deal.”

According to VideoGamesChronicle, Phil Spencer said: “Sony is trying to protect its dominance on the console. The way they grow is by making Xbox smaller,” Spencer said. “[Sony] has a very different view of the industry than we do. They don’t ship their games day and date on PC, they do not put their games into their subscription when they launch their games.”

VideoGamesChronicle also reported that Phil Spencer said “Sony is leading the dialogue around why the deal shouldn’t go through to protect its dominant position on console, so the thing the grab onto is Call of Duty”, Spencer told Second Request. “The largest console maker in the world raising an objection about the one franchise that we’ve said will continue to ship on the platform. It’s a deal that benefits customers through choice and access.”

Forbes reported that Xbox’s head Phil Spencer, normally an industry nice-guy, has had enough with Sony’s relentless protests to regulators over Microsoft’s attempt to purchase Activision Blizzard. These days, the gloves are coming off, and the language he’s using is as sharp as it’s ever been.

According to Forbes, the pushback to Sony’s objections is that they are transparently self-serving, and one argument Microsoft has made is to play up PlayStation’s position as market leader while downplaying Xbox’s position, including their relative lack of first party hits compared to Sony.

Forbes noted that Sony, meanwhile, very much does not want Xbox to get larger by acquiring a company with a market cap dangerously close to the entire size of Sony ($100 billion versus $70 billion). But while there’s an argument to be made about the size of the deal, it’s also pretty apparent that Sony is being obstructionist for its own sake to try and kill something that will benefit their rival and hurt them.

Personally, I don’t think anyone can know, for certain, how the FTC’s lawsuit against Microsoft will turn out. While it does appear that Sony is desperately trying to be the loudest voice against Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, that doesn’t mean a court will have the same opinion as Sony does.