One of the problems with putting backwards compatibility in the hands of publishers and developers to pick and choose which games get brought forward is that they go out of business and can’t make a decision, make bad choices based on financial decisions, or in this case Microsoft has decided that they’ve done enough and will stop updating the Xbox 360 and original Xbox compatibility lists for the Xbox One.
We’ve listened closely to community feedback and respect the game libraries you’ve built throughout the last 18 years. That’s why we’re taking our work a step further and announced this week that thousands of games from all four generations will be playable on Project Scarlett. As such, we have now shifted our focus to help make the games you love playing on Xbox One compatible with future Xbox hardware. After this week, we have no plans to add additional Original Xbox or Xbox 360 titles to the catalog on Xbox One, but we’re excited to continue our work on Xbox compatibility across platforms and devices, which remains a top priority.
Microsoft have released a final update with eight more games from the original Xbox and sixteen Xbox 360 games brought forward (Too Human is free for some reason?), and it’s good that it can be assumed that these backwards compatible games were actually tested, but the backward compatibility story isn’t great unless a generic method is released to support every older game. Not just the ones that Microsoft receives approval to support.
Unique games like Steel Battalion, licensed games like Spider-Man 2, some of the best Burnout games, sorta-interesting war games like Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, classic stompy stompy games like Mechassault, Chronicles of Riddick, Project Gotham Racing. There aren’t as many as we lost when the PlayStation 2 backwards compatibility died off on the PlayStation 3, but Microsoft had the chance to make every Xbox and Xbox 360 game playable on hardware they still sell and support, and blew it.
Microsoft’s annual E3-adjacent event for their Xbox sub-brand was today. Here’s what they announced:
Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds was annonced for October 25th, 2019, it’ll be an exclusive to Microsoft platforms since Obsidian was bought out by Microsoft. This is a sci-fi, Borderlands-aesthetic, faux anti-corporate, first-person, single-player, RPG. It’s about a new person shaking up corporate control of colonized worlds. I didn’t really care for the art style, but Obsidian makes good games.
Ninja Theory’s Rahni Tucker and Dom Matthews appeared to talk about how stoked they are to be owned by Microsoft and announce Bleeding Edge. It’s a four versus four team-based multiplayer action game that looks like it’ll have a bit of Ninja Theory’s unique action gameplay. There is a “Technical Alpha” starting on the 27th of June.
Moon Studios’ Ori and the Will of the Wisps had another gameplay trailer, it’s out on February 11th, 2020.
Mojang’s Minecraft Dungeons got announced, it’s an isometric game that looks like it borrows a lot from Diablo in gameplay and of course it’s got that blocky Minecraft aesthetic. 4-player co-op, local and online. Spring 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows. Looks like fun.
Phil Spencer’s Soapbox 2019
Spencer showed up about 15 minutes into the show. It’s kind of good that the Xbox division of Microsoft lets developers speak first. The attitude from the audience during this entire thing is completely ridiculous. Press shouldn’t applaud or cheer, so I hope it’s just whatever group of fans that Microsoft lets in making all the noise.
Spencer had nothing of value to say. It was entirely pandering to gamers.
Respawn’s EA’s Jedi: Fallen Order had another trailer. It looks good, I’ll be interested to read reviews when it comes out on November 15th. Don’t pre-order games. It’ll be out on the Xbox One, Windows via Origin, and the PlayStation 4. Where is Titanfall 3?
Blair Witch is a first-person horror game based on the movie, I guess, I’ve never seen the movie. Lots of running in the forest with a camcorder. August 30th. No developer named. Xbox One & Windows.
CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 first-person RPG finally has popped-up thermal collars, a release date of April 16th 2020, every corpo-cop in the sector, a protagonist named V, and Keanu Reeves telling us to “Wake the fuck up, Samurai.”
Reeves also appeared on-stage to talk about the game. It’ll be out on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows.
Thunder Lotus’ Spiritfarer is about managing a ferry for the dead. The developers call it “cozy” and I couldn’t disagree. I love the look of this. Xbox One, Windows, PlayStation 4, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, 2020.
Battletoads was a game on the NES so bad that it became notorious. With notoriety it became a meme. As a meme, Microsoft decided that was worth resuscitating. This looks like a pretty standard brawler, with the addition of minecart levels. No release date. Xbox One.
Deskworks’ RPG Time: The Legend of Wright has a colorful hand-made aesthetic of 2D art on 3D pages and pieces of cardboard that looks like it was created from the perspective of a child. Very promising. Xbox One, Windows, iOS, Android. 2020.
id@Xbox had this montage of various indie games. Sarah Bond followed up to talk about the games in the trailer and guarantee they would be on the Xbox Game Pass the first day they’re released.
Bond also guaranteed that every Microsoft Game Studios’ game would be on the subscription service the day they are released.
The previously announced Windows version of the Xbox Game Pass “For PC” (Windows) is in open beta today. It’s a separate $10 subscription from Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass for the Xbox. Here’s the trailer of games they played for the Windows version of Game Pass which promises “Over 100 High-Quality PC Games by August”:
Presumably Xbox Game Pass for Windows doesn’t require Xbox Live for online multiplayer, but bond also announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a $15 subscription that includes the Windows and Xbox One version of Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold.
The open beta appears to be not entirely functional. It requires version 1903 of Windows 10, which Microsoft says is available to anyone who manually checks for updates on Windows 10, but doing so didn’t provide my install with the update. It’s also hard to find the beta installer of this new app, which is linked from this page TK https://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-game-pass/pc-games
Microsoft Flight Simulator is getting rebooted in 2020 for the Xbox One as well as Windows.
Age of Empires II Definitive Edition got announced. It’s a remastered version of the original game, for Windows only.
Inxile Wasteland 3 was announced a few years ago for the ridiculous Fig crowd-funding faux-investment platform, here it got a trailer all about the isometric action-RPG in Colorado. It’s on Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One. Spring 2020.
Matt Booty came out to talk about games games games games games games great games games games games great games and they’ve also acquired Double Fine.
Tim Schafer appeared to joke about DF making Halo Stuff, Forza Stuff, and Excel Stuff, before introducing a new trailer for Psychonauts 2:
The description of that page promises that Psychonauts 2 is still coming to every platform it was announced for, Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
WB’s Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was announced for 2020, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Nintendo Switch. They say it’s all nine films in a “brand new” game, so, not redone versions of the original games? We’ll see.
Bandai-Namco’s Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot appears to be an action-RPG with lots of DBZ yelling, powering-up, and drama in addition to fishing, eating, and training with Goku. Those things don’t seem usual for DBZ games, but I wouldn’t know. Early 2020 release window. Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows platforms according to Cyber Connect 2’s Twitter.
Annapurna’s Luis Antonio’s Twelve Minutes looks like an interesting take on the mini-groundhog day nature of stories that repeat themselves. “Coming soon” for Xbox One, Windows.
Anthony Tan’s Way to the Woods was shown again. It’s a third-person game about a deer and fawn adventuring through some version of our world. 2020, Windows, Xbox One. Tan’s video description on YouTube is good. Recommended to click through.
It’s Gears of War 5. I am struggling to stay awake, the protagonist appears to be struggling, too. Rod Fergusson appeared to give a release date, September 10th. Xbox One, Windows. Game Pass Ultimate gives people access a few days early which is kiiind of shitty.
Fergusson introduced this trailer for Gears’ 3-player co-op Escape mode in the under-stage dungeon that also held some wrestlers who are playing the game for some reason:
A third trailer said that some people would get to play as an Endoskeleton from Terminator if they pre-order the game or play within the first week. Don’t pre-order games:
The Xbox Elite Controller is getting an update on November 4th. It finally gets Bluetooth support that the Xbox One S controller has had for years in addition to other promised improvements. Unfortunately there is a now a built-in battery pack, so you can’t use your own recharagable batteries. That isn’t going to be fun when you run out and can’t just swap in recently charged set. It’s $180 for the new version.
Techland’s Dying Light 2 is still in the works. Spring 2020. Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows.
Forza Horizon 4 was released last year, but this year Microsoft announced a bunch of Lego stuff is coming to the game on June 13th in a DLC pack Lego Speed Champions. I am on-board. Finally, the on-stage Forza car is a Lego car.
Funko Pop is objectively awful, Gears POP is that mobile game we talked about last year. It sure looks like a free-to-play game inspired by Clash Royale and absolutely nothing like the majority of the videos we’ve seen so far. iOS, Android. Another sad reminder that Windows Phone is dead. No release date yet. Please don’t encourage the Funko people.
State of Decay Heartland is an expansion for State of Decay 2 that’s out now.
The Free-to-Play Phantasy Star Online 2 is finally coming out next Spring for Windows and Xbox One. It had been available for years, but not localized for English. I’ve played a bit of this through the hacked version that the community had put together.
Phil Spencer introduced SmileGate’s Crossfire X, a ridiculous trailer that contained 0 gameplay. It’s “First to console on Xbox One in 2020.” Apparently the FPS has been around in one form or another since 2007.
Tales of Arise is another Tales game from Bandai Namco. 2020. PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows.
It’s Borderlands 3. I enjoyed 1 & 2, but wow it’s almost like any time I think about this game now, I think about how Randy Pitchford is probably at minimum a creep, and possibly someone who has embezzled money to steal from his employees, assaulted his employees, been a complete dickhead online to everyone, and much more. This game is coming out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows on September 13th. There’s a free DLC pack to link Borderlands 2 and 3 out now called Commander Lilith & The Fight For Sanctuary. That DLC pack is “free to download” until July 8th if you have Borderlands 2.
Elden Ring is coming from From Software’s Hidetaka Miyazak and Gerorge R.R. Martin’s George R.R. Martin. It’s another fantasy action-RPG from From. Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows, no release date.
Phil Spencer’s xCloud Soapbox
Spencer promised that E3 attendees would get to try the xCloud service at the event. Spencer said that you could stream from your home Xbox or their Xboxes in data centers “wherever you go”
Xbox Project Scarlett is the code name for the next Xbox. All of the technical details in this video are completely ridiculous. 8K, “up-to 120 frames per second” “ray tracing.” I would not buy into what either Sony or Microsoft are selling us about anything besides possibly quicker load times. Any kind of real ray tracing means there won’t be high frame rates, and especially not at an 8K resolution. I am going to bet that some people will be a little upset with Microsoft and Sony for advertising these features that they cannot deliver. Microsoft says that the new console will be available late in 2020. Halo Infinite is the only announced launch game. No information about the size of that SSD.
Here’s the Halo Infinite trailer:
Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass is obviously extremely compelling as a “Netflix for games,” just like EA’s Origin subscriptions and Apple’s Arcade could be. The first problem with these subscriptions is that they can be assumed to be a little like a pyramid scheme for developers. Presumably the first people on board with the subscription services get better marketing placement and better cuts. If these subscriptions become the dominant way that we get our games, the middlemen providing the subscriptions will look to decrease the developers’ cuts over time until it’s like Spotify and Apple Music with artists receiving 0.0002 cents per play.
The second problem is the same as with streaming platforms, a decreased ability to preserve the games for the future. Some day the Xbox platform won’t exist. Microsoft will be out of business. The games that are exclusive to their platforms could be lost forever.
The only platform I know of that isn’t directly opposed to game preservation is Humble’s subscription service, but even that only provides DRM-free downloads for some of the games.
Lastly, ongoing subscription billing services are the parasites that corporations are desperately seeking to attach to our bank accounts at every turn. As fun as it is to have access to more music, movies, games, and shows than we could ever consume, there are just too many of these services. It’s the greatest irony that the introduction to this year’s show was The Outer Worlds with a trailer that was incredibly faux-anti-corporate when it’s produced by a subsidiary of one of the largest tech companies in the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.