The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is a Real Disaster

Exactly as rumored, the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition has been announced without a disc drive for May 7th.

At $250, the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is a $50 discount on the $300 price of the regular Xbox One S.

The only slight bonus to this version is that you get Minecraft, Forza Horizon 3, and Sea of Thieves bundled with the digital-only Xbox One

When this revision was rumored, I wondered what the pitch would be. It’s not an Xbox One X, so the All-Digital Edition is lacking in performance. The discount is practically speaking, nothing, today.

That $50-off-the-$300 MSRP of a regular S is not enough of a discount, especially when the Xbox One S is regularly on sale for $250. At the time of writing, you can get an Xbox One S 1TB console with a game and a disc drive for $250 from Best Buy, Wal-Mart, or Gamestop.

My only guess to explain this odd strategy is that at E3 Microsoft could announce a price drop for the Xbox One X. Maybe $350, and cease producing the Xbox One S with the Blu-Ray drive. That distinction, a cheaper Xbox One X, and a Xbox One S All-Digital Edition that could be regularly discounted to $200 would be a good wrap-up price on this generation for Microsoft before their next console is released.

Hats off to Sony for upstaging Microsoft with their PlayStation 5 announcement. With new consoles coming in the next year or two I don’t think I’d buy or recommend a PlayStation 4 Pro at this point, or an Xbox One X, to anyone who owns a base PS4 or Xbox One. I’d expect much more from Microsoft about their commitment to a next generation console at their E3 presentation.

Also, this video Microsoft’s crack marketing team put together to announce this all-digital edition is supposed to be funny. Yikes.

Xbox One S All-Digital Edition Rumored for May

If this actually ships with this name it probably won’t be the worst-named product Microsoft has ever shipped, but it will be close. The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition has been rumored to come out in May without a disc drive. Jez Corden of Windows Central has the sources and more details.

As I’ve remarked before, the Xbox One is such an odd console. Every exclusive game I want for it is now either available on Windows 10 or will be. Sunset Overdrive is even finally available on Steam for Windows. Still, I keep the Xbox One because of the backwards compatibility features for some 360 and original Xbox discs. However, the 360 games I’d like to play with my family are Kinect games that won’t work on the One.

I don’t know what a disc-less machine really offers anyone picking out a console besides, possibly, being slightly cheaper and more reliable. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft makes the pitch for this revision, if it happens.

Microsoft Is Buying Obsidian

Jason Schreier has the scoop:

Microsoft is finalizing a deal to acquire the independent development studio Obsidian Entertainment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations. We don’t know if ink is on paper yet, and plenty of major acquisition deals have fallen apart in the final hours, but those close to the companies believe it is all but done.

Obsidian’s RPGs could work very well over a streaming service.

Microsoft’s xCloud Game Streaming Disempowerment

Microsoft is making good on their E3 promises and has announced a marketing name and demonstrated their Xbox cloud gaming streaming service, xCloud in a video and news release attributed to Kareem Choudhry, their Corporate Vice President of Gaming Cloud:

Today, the games you play are very much dictated by the device you are using. Project xCloud’s state-of-the-art global game-streaming technology will offer you the freedom to play on the device you want without being locked to a particular device, empowering YOU, the gamers, to be at the center of your gaming experience.

I hate that we don’t own games today. What we “buy” to download from services like Steam, PSN, Nintendo’s eShop, or Microsoft’s store that doesn’t have a sassy marketing name, is so ephemeral.

Subscription services like PlayStation Now, Plus, and GamePass take that to another level. The second you stop paying them, every game you were enjoying with your friends, and experiencing alone or with somebody on the couch is gone.

It’s the same for Netflix, and Apple Music, and all of the other video and music streaming services.

We own nothing with these services and platforms, nothing lasts, if we can’t pay and keep paying for multiple services we don’t get to continue to enjoy creative works and participate in culture.

I can understand how it could be exciting to work on the technology behind these services, and it will enable some people to access things that they would never be able to, but the real goal is obvious and I’m not excited for it.

Microsoft, Sony, EA, everybody who already has a platform and an audience are all rushing to be the platform that gets your $10 or $15 or $20 a month and hooks you for as long as you can pay. They want to convert us from people who buy a box and a few games a year to people who are just paying them all the time for access to whatever games will work with the latency their service has.

How many services are you subscribed to? I can think of so many that my family uses: Netflix; Hulu; Apple Music; PlayStation Plus; 1PasswordiCloud storage.

Subscription services, and game streaming subscriptions in particular, are the opposite of the “empowerment” Chowdry is talking about. I don’t doubt that Microsoft will come up with a more compelling pitch when there are new games that can only work on their streaming service.

Forza Horizon 4 is a Delightful Arcade Driving Thing

I have only barely dipped my toe into Forza Horizon 4, but it’s already a fun and goofy open-world driving game just like the last few, with the notable addition of changeable seasons affecting the greater British landscape this entry takes place in.

The Horizon offshoot of the Forza series have always been odd games. I don’t really enjoy the racing aspect because I’m terrible at it. Maybe it’s because even the simulated experience differs so much from the regular-ass driving I do in reality, I don’t know. Despite that, I just turn the game down into easy mode and love blasting through town and country hunting for bonus boards to knock down, hidden barn finds, and the absolute thrill that is the missions the game puts you on. The missions have specific goals that sometimes, and the most fun times, turn the game into an almost Tony Hawk Pro Skater-like experience and attempt to get a high score in flipping your car over five hundred times. It’s the only game I’ve ever played where I can spend an hour flying around a construction site and not make any progress but still have had great fun.

The cars are all well rendered and beautiful, I play on my desktop computer or streamed to the TV for big screen car drivin’.

Horizon 4 also includes real-time multiplayer in addition to the Drivatar ghost cars that populate your game and races with your Xbox friends in addition to randos.

It also still has the silly customizable skins you can download or create that can turn your ride into An Anime car or apply a livery full of advertising from your favorite race-mobile as-seen-on-TV.

Perhaps the most ridiculous new thing in Horizon 4 is the addition of unlockable dances for your avatar that appear before a race, after a race, and most ridiculously, whenever you find a vista in the game and you’re offered the chance to stand on or about it and dance.

The one change that is a little concerning is that I understand you can’t just download a new tuning for your car on the fly. That little bit in Horizon 3 let you turn a mediocre cheap ride into something approaching a supercar just before a race.

Keza MacDonald was moved by the seasons while reviewing Horizon 4:

The game even turns our weather into something beautiful. As the seasons change, so does the climate and the nature of the light, along with the driving conditions. Edinburgh’s New Town shimmers in pale spring sunshine, and in winter the snow in the Highlands sucks all the light out of the sky. The cottages in Ambleside are prettiest in the summer, when the trees are so bracingly green you can almost smell them. If you have a 4K television, this is what it was made for. Now and then, such as the first time I drove past Edinburgh Castle in the perfect twilit blue of a summer night in Scotland, its beauty made me quite emotional.

The Forza series meaningful to me for a different reason, the first Forza Motorsport was the last game I tested at Microsoft Game Studios before quitting that job, and I’ve never returned to play the Motorsport line. I’m just not cut out for more serious racers. Horizon’s got what I want in something slightly more earnest than Burnout.

Forza Horizon 4 is out now on the Xbox One and Windows. I recommend getting it digitally downloaded if you can so that you can play on either platform.

Microsoft’s Surface Go Sounded Interesting

Microsoft’s smaller, cheaper, version of the Surface sounded pretty interesting if you ponied up for something better than the base model. Unfortunately the performance is extremely limited for a device running Windows 10. Mashable’s Raymond Wong titled his review “…Barely better than a netbook” and had this to say about the performance:

This Pentium chip is significantly slower than the Intel Core m3 chip inside of the entry-level Surface Pro. Microsoft touts 33 percent faster graphics than a Intel Core i5-powered Surface Pro 3 and 20 percent faster graphics performance than Core i7-powered Surface Pro 3, but honestly, none of these figures really matter because the Surface Go chokes up fast under even light usage.

[…]

…the slowness is noticeable all throughout Windows 10 on the Surface Go. There’s lag when opening photos. There’s lag when launching apps. There’s even lag when opening up the settings to change the desktop wallpaper. Even on my higher-spec’d Surface Go review unit with 8GB of RAM, the slowdown was too real.

I had briefly considered that the Surface Go might be a good replacement for the iPad Mini I sold recently. Even after reading some more charitable reviews, the Surface Go doesn’t seem like a good choice anymore.

It’s a good thing that Microsoft is still working on devices like this, they were ahead of the tablet game years before Apple’s iPad was released, and even as a failure these Microsoft tablets provide a valuable look at what the future of computing could be. Large touch devices are so damn close to being good laptop replacements.

Microsoft’s Surface Go is Almost An iPad Cheap

Dan Seifert for The Verge:

Microsoft is getting back into the cheaper tablet game today with the new Surface Go, a smaller, less powerful take on the popular Surface Pro device. The Go features a 10-inch screen, integrated kickstand, Windows 10, and a similar design to the Surface Pro, and starts at $399. It is available for preorder starting July 10th and will ship in August.

The Surface Go doesn’t change Microsoft’s Surface design philosophy one bit — it really just looks like a smaller version of the Surface Pro design that’s been around since 2014’s Surface Pro 3. It has a 3:2 aspect ratio display (1800 x 1200 pixel resolution), the signature built-in kickstand with unlimited positions, a front-facing camera with facial recognition login, and Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connector port for charging and connecting to a desktop dock. Microsoft has added a USB-C 3.1 port, capable of charging the tablet or outputting video and data to external devices. It has also rounded the corners a bit compared to the latest Surface Pro, but overall, it’s the same familiar magnesium design Surface users have come to expect.

The thing that kind of sucks about the Surface Go, besides the lack of capable and competitive apps in Microsoft’s app store, is that even Paul Thurott points out how shitty the base model is and you really have to get a more expensive Surface to have an acceptable level of performance:

Sure, the $400 price tag looks compelling. But the PC you’re getting at that price is not compelling, and it’s absolutely not future-proof. The biggest issue here is the same thing that doomed Surface 3 to poor performance: This entry-level Surface Go utilizes slow eMMC storage rather than speedy SSD storage. Combined that with just 4 GB of RAM and a low-end Pentium processor, and you have the makings of a disaster.

The good news? For just $150 more, you get some nice upgrades: 8 GB of RAM and more and faster storage: Not only does the higher-end Surface Go configuration double the storage from 64 GB to 128 GB, that storage is dramatically faster, since it is based on NVMe SSD technology. That’s a device that might actually make it through four years of high school or college.

I’m not sure if the eMMC storage performance, as well as the other cheap parts, are as bad as Apple carrying around 16GB base models of their iOS devices for too long, but it’s pretty bad that you have to go to $550 before you get something that might be functional. I’d probably rather have the 2018 iPad Cheap.

GitHub Getting Acquired by Microsoft

Microsoft, today:

Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced it has reached an agreement to acquire GitHub, the world’s leading software development platform where more than 28 million developers learn, share and collaborate to create the future. Together, the two companies will empower developers to achieve more at every stage of the development lifecycle, accelerate enterprise use of GitHub, and bring Microsoft’s developer tools and services to new audiences.

Yours truly, 3 years ago when Google’s Google Code code hosting service shut down:

This is your continued reminder that Google, and start-ups funded by VC money, are not a safe place to store your work. Own your shit before GitHub starts inserting malware into downloads or sells out in some original and disruptive way. Get a domain, some shared hosting, maybe a Linux or BSD VPS if you’re rich. With git it is easy enough to move a project if you have cloned the project locally and have established a web presence that people can check for updates. At the very least, don’t make the GitHub page the public-facing home for your project.

This kind of bullshit is why ioquake3.org exists and is the front-door for that project. Github has some great collaboration tools in their web front-end, and I’d guess there are developers out there that don’t even understand yet that there are other options for Git hosting.

It’s a burden that hosting is expensive, but these kinds of sell-outs happen all the time, that’s why you have to give your project a real homepage and not rely on a third-party that doesn’t have a sustainable business model.

I don’t know yet if we’re going to move ioquake3’s code off of Github, but at least people will still be able to find the project if we decide to do so.

What Would Make You Want to Upgrade Your Console?

Yours truly back in June writing during Microsoft’s E3 presentation for the Xbox One X:

…it feels like Microsoft is less interested in challenging Sony with this high-end console than harvesting their hardcore Xbox fans for yet another console purchase.

I don’t doubt that this console will live up to its technical promises, but it won’t offer much to anyone who already has an Xbox One, it’ll still play the same games. Unlike an iPhone upgrade, the smaller physical form-factor won’t make the Xbox One X any more pocketable. A more powerful desktop computer can also run many of the same exclusive games in Windows 10.

Eurogamer’s headline from Martin Robinson yesterday: Microsoft’s final sales pitch for Xbox One X falls flat:

Microsoft stepped up its commitment to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, backing a proven winner and this year’s true phenomenon in what amounts to quite a coup for the Xbox brand, but the messaging was all over the place. This, it seems, is an exclusive in that very loose definition of the word, with all sorts of obfuscation being peddled out when it comes to future versions on other platforms. Maybe if Phil Spencer hadn’t skipped this week’s show he might have advised that, mindful of a Gamescom from the not-too-distant past and the muddied reveal of another Xbox ‘exclusive’, you can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes for too long.

There were better signs elsewhere, and the list of 100-plus games that will be receiving updates to make the most of the Xbox One X hardware makes for impressive reading – the promise of an improved and definitive console version of The Witcher 3 is almost enough alone to justify the upgrade, and elsewhere there’s an appealing list of games that will benefit from a facelift. But at this point in the console lifecycle, Microsoft needs more than prettier versions of multiplatform games if it’s to make serious inroads into Sony’s considerable lead this generation.

At this point I’m pretty sure that in general people aren’t interested in more expensive mid-generation console upgrades to support 4K televisions unless they have a tremendous amount of disposable income.

The argument that people would buy a desktop computer as powerful also doesn’t seem to hold water. Are people really buying them in droves? Where are the boastful hardware companies filling press release pipelines with numbers? I haven’t seen them, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

I get the sense that people are pretty displeased with the PlayStation 4 Pro, as well, but at least Sony has truly exclusive games like Uncharted and that won’t also be available on Windows 10.

What reason is left to buy the upgraded consoles? Here I am back in June again:

That could change later on. In the future this could be the baseline version of the Xbox One and some games could require the Xbox One X to run at all. The same is true of the Playstation 4 Pro, and I wouldn’t recommend buying either of the original Xbox One or the original Playstation 4 at this point.

So, the fear of being left behind when games might require the upgraded consoles, that’s basically all I’ve got for reasons to buy the Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro today. Maybe Microsoft and Sony don’t want to tank sales of the the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Amateur. Is something going to change between now and November 7th?