A lot of gamers passed on Microsoft this generation. After a poor launch, their Xbox One console never gained any momentum, for one simple reason — the games weren’t good enough.
But at E3, the major electronic entertainment expo in LA, Microsoft stole the show with a different kind of pass.
The Xbox Game Pass has, suddenly, become the best value deal in gaming. Ostensibly, Game Pass is Microsoft’s answer to Netflix, where gamers can pay a monthly fee for access to a library of titles.
We assumed the service would only host older games, but at E3 Microsoft really blew that notion out of the water.
Not only did the Redmond giant showcase an impressive 60 games in total during their E3 show, they also announced that 34 of those games would be available on Xbox GamePass at launch.
This effectively means that a monthly subscription fee of €10 will allow you to download both Triple AAA and indie titles on the service when they launch, without paying the usual full fees for such games.
In addition, Microsoft announced that the Xbox Game Pass for PC was launching this week and would be cross-compatible with consoles, meaning you can download titles on both Xbox and Windows machines.
Games like Elven Ring, the collaboration between From Software and George RR Martin which was announced at the show, will be available at launch on Game Pass across both platforms.
Microsoft spoke a lot about “making gaming for everyone” in their opening salvo, and this commitment to Game Pass certainly backed that declaration up.
After pushing for cross-play this year, this move to make new games available via Game Pass, at a reasonable cost across multiple platforms, is commendable.
Microsoft didn’t get a pass from most gamers this generation, so they decided to give gamers a pass instead. Maybe next generation, that will be their key to victory.
Speaking of next generation, with Sony sitting out E3 entirely this year, Microsoft were free to talk about their next console, code named Scarlett.
While they didn’t show a chassis or give anything beyond a code name, we did get a launch date of Christmas 2020 and there was plenty of enthusiastic talk from developers about the console’s technical capabilities.
One developer happily announced Scarlett would be ‘40 times more powerful’ than the current generation, while the majority of talk focused on a new SSD hybrid that would supposedly allow for far superior loading times.
“No more waiting in those elevators, where you know the game is loading and the developers are just trying to hide that,” said another developer.
It’s an unusual step for both Sony and now Microsoft to reveal technical attributes of their next generation consoles well over a year before launch, but it’s a sign of the times.
With streaming looming large over the landscape, the emphasis is less and less on hardware and more on services and connectivity.
Fittingly, Microsoft also announced that their new streaming service xCloud would begin in October and that Xbox One consoles could even be repurposed as streaming devices.
In theory, this means people with decent internet connections should be able to stream their Xbox games on any device, including phones and tablets, from anywhere, using their own console as a server.
Finally, with Microsoft dominating this year’s E3, it seems only fair to finish as they started — with an emphasis on games.
The biggest announcement was Halo: Infinite, a new Master Chief game that will launch on Scarlett next year.
The trailer we saw was cinematic, but rendered in-game, and showed Master Chief being rescued from the depths of space and rebooted for a new fight against the Covenant.
Fans of the series will have felt chills from the musical cues and Chief’s old suit design.
In addition, Microsoft made two big announcements from Japan. The first was a fully translated port of Phantasy Star Online II for the west, bringing Japan’s biggest online RPG to English-speaking fans.
The other was the aforementioned Elder Ring, a collaboration between From Software — who made Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro – and Game of Thrones author George R Martin.
If that doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven, then you’re in the wrong hobby.