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Microsoft keeps rolling out Xbox One bundles — this time with Fallout 4

Fallout 4’s upcoming release is as highly anticipated as any game, and Microsoft is looking to cash-in with a new Xbox One bundle offering a 1 TB console, Fallout 4 download code, and a Fallout 3 download code (through backwards compatibility).

Backwards compatibility is making it easier for Microsoft to offer more enticing bundles.
Backwards compatibility is making it easier for Microsoft to offer more enticing bundles.

The bundle will release the same day as Fallout 4 (November 10, 2015) and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Microsoft’s official store, and other retailers.

This console will likely be the last bundles to release with the original Xbox user interface. The new Xbox One experience (NXOE) will be rolling out to all Xbox One owners in November.

The Fallout 4 package deal is the latest in a recent stretch of bundle announcements from Microsoft. Right now there are eight+ varying Xbox One console choices each offering different games, storage sizes, and other peripherals. The Fallout 4 bundle joins the Halo 5, Forza 6, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, FIFA 16, Madden NFL 16, LEGO Movie, and two multiple-game-package consoles currently available at retailers.

Something to take note of is only one of these eight offers includes the kinect. Since Phil Spencer has taken charge at Microsoft the body/head tracking and microphone has rapidly been phased out as the primary advertised choice — and with the $150 difference between the cheapest kinect console and the cheapest kinect-less console it very much makes sense.

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Digital gaming is on the rise; up 11% in August

Digital gaming is the future — or perhaps digital gaming is the present. As the disc-based, physical model of video games continues to shrink with the new digital-heavy approach of the Xbox One and PS4 it’s no surprise to see each month the market continue to expand.

SuperData‘s recent analysis shows nearly a billion dollars (exactly $979 million) were spent on digital games in the month of August — an 11% increase from where it was just one year ago.

PC gamers have been a steady source of revenue for digital gaming for many years even before the Xbox One and PS4 consoles with online stores like Steam and Origin.

PC gamers and console gamers accounted for $250 million of the $979 million and with many major titles like Fallout 4, Halo 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and more on the way, it’s a fairly safe bet to make this number is only going to go up.

SuperData suggests that this could be the biggest holiday-season yet for the digital gaming industry.

The latest Apple TV also comes into play a bit, and despite the excitement some may have for the additional gaming features in the console the limitations of the platform is far too great for it to take any sizeable chunk of the market.

SuperData explains that “…mobile gamers are just that: they prefer to play on their smartphone or tablet and are ultimately much less likely to switch to a large screen in their living room.”

The expectations for the Apple TV as a gaming console should be set very low. There is a slim-to-none threat of the platform threatening even Nintendo’s WiiU console let alone the major Xbox One, PS4, or PC gaming platforms.

Overall, gaming as a whole is in a fantastic place as a medium with the launch of YouTube Gaming helping popularity stay on it’s skyrocketing pace along with twitch.tv merging the video and interactive media together.

 

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Phil Spencer looking for more outside devs to utilize cloud computing

After the recent Crackdown 3 demonstration showcasing the “power of the cloud” as Microsoft likes to say, fans and critics alike were impressed by the system’s capabilities. Crackdown 3 was able to utilize up to 13x the power of a single Xbox One through cloud computing, and now the head man at Xbox, Phil Spencer, wants to see more developers take advantage.

While Crackdown 3 is the first game from Microsoft it’s a certainty that more first party games will take advantage of it as well, but there were still question marks of how available the system would be to other devs working on Xbox. Spencer has confirmed on twitter that the tech will be open to others.

The point of innovation flourishing provided there are more people taking advantage of the tech is correct, but for third party developers releasing games on multiple consoles/platforms it becomes much less likely when the tech isn’t also available on those consoles/platforms.

If the power of the cloud continues to have success from first party developers on Microsoft’s console it would make sense for Sony to address it head on with a similar system, however their current infrastructure would not be capable of supporting it. But if this new way of implementing cloud computing is successful enough Microsoft may leave them with no choice but to match it.

What franchise would be best paired with the cloud computing used for Crackdown 3?

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The cloud works; Crackdown 3 demonstration gives Microsoft’s computing system more credit

Microsoft has boasted that the power of the cloud could give the Xbox One console a distinct computing advantage over other platforms. Until now the system had yet to be fully implemented into a game. Now Crackdown 3 is utilizing the additional computing power and showing how effective it can be in stabilizing a hardware intensive game.

Crackdown has been one of Microsoft’s most popular first-party IPs with the first game offering a large open world that impressed many people during its debut in 2007. Microsoft’s latest work is even more extraordinary.

Crackdown 3 is able to register up to 13 times the computing power of a single Xbox One with cloud computing. This gives the developers the capability to create massive destructible world with physical objects in that world rather than a static polygon with a single texture overlayed on top of it.

The demo shown at Gamescom 2015 is an exaggeration of what the actual gameplay will be like with the player taking advantage of a immensely overpowered assault rifle to demolish a 15 story-high building. While it is incredible to see destruction on such a large scale, the way the building is destroyed is unlike most other games that exist today. There is a multitude of particles that shatter from the building with many still remaining a bit destructible after the initial blast.

This demonstration does a remarkable job displaying how effective cloud computing can be and gives the distinctly weaker Xbox One console some hope to gain ground power-wise against Sony’s PlayStation 4.

While this is the first time the Power of the Cloud is being used for a game it wasn’t too long ago that Microsoft was testing this tech. At Build 2014 cloud gaming was just initially being shown off to the public and the demo from then looks vaguely similar to what we’re seeing now in Crackdown 3.

Crackdown 3 is slated to release in 2016 exclusively on the Xbox One.

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False Xbox’s Games with Gold August selection leaked on 4chan

At the start of July Microsoft rolled out one of their best months of Games with Gold yet on the Xbox One offering both Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and So Many Me — a campy and very fun indie game. Some speculation has arisen regarding how or if Microsoft will be able to top that and a rumor began to spread on 4chan.org supposedly leaking the Games with Gold for August.

The image on /v/ shows both Ryse Son of Rome: Legendary Edition and Slash Dash for the Xbox One as well as Fallout New Vegas and Catherine on the Xbox 360.

While the games rumored are not particularly outlandish, the likelihood that Ryse would include all of its DLC is unfortunately too good to be true.

In addition, Slash Dash has released less than a week ago and Microsoft has yet to handicap an indie title like this so abruptly after it’s initial release.

Perhaps the biggest giveaway is the incorrect Xbox 360 circle logo at the top left corner which is an older design using a darker gray.

This is the current Xbox 360 logo.
This is the current Xbox 360 logo.

Xbox’s Games with Gold will soon be officially revealed, and while there is still a glimmer of hope that this rumor could be true, it’s really just a blind shot in the dark. Check out MajorNelson’s blog for official word on what the next selection of free games will be.

Update: Phil Spencer confirmed that this is not August’s Games with Gold lineup.

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Halo Channel comes to mobile devices; available now on iOS and Android

The app popularized on Xbox One and Windows 8 PCs is now available on mobile devices; The Halo Channel comes to iOS and Android.

The Halo Channel — part of Halo Waypoint — gives fans a variety of media to read, watch, and listen to. The most popular aspects of the channel offered include a detailed look at the making of Halo 5 and other general news pertaining to the Halo universe.

Season 2 of the Sprint is currently available giving fans a look at the work that went into getting the 343i presentation at E3 2015 ready. Get a “firsthand look at the drive, determination, and dedication required to bring their best at gaming’s biggest showcase.” Gamers can also check out videos on the implementation of HoloLens in Halo 5 as well.

Also included on this app is Halo Nightfall, the live-action series giving fans a greater breakdown of the upcoming co-protagonist of Halo 5 Guardians, Spartan Locke. All five episodes are available to be streamed through the app.

Those who download the app on either of the new two platforms will be given a promotional REQ (Requisition) pack containing a special emblem for use in Halo 5: Guardians when it releases on Xbox One October 27, 2015. For gamers that have already downloaded the app on their Xbox One or Windows 8 PC the same REQ pack will be given to you.

Download iOS version here

Download Android version here

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Microsoft looking to Universities for expanding research on HoloLens applications

HoloLens and augmented reality is an incredibly new field with so much potential waiting to be unlocked, and Microsoft will be looking to Colleges, Universities, and Research Institutions to reach its potential.

The tech juggernaut is offering $100,000 grants to students for them to explore potential applications and other general ways the platform could be utilized. Currently five grants are available — each offering two HoloLens developer kits

The posting on the Microsoft Research site details six specific topics to be expanded and explored for the people chosen for the grant.

 

  • Data visualization
    • Example: Using mixed reality to make large data sets easier to navigate and understand
  • Evolution of pedagogy in STEM, medical, and design education
    • Example: Using existing 3D assets or new 3D assets for high-value training (e.g., interactive 3D models for medical training)
  • Future of communication and distributed collaboration
    • Examples: Remote training and support, first-responder emergency management, and virtual conferences
  • Interactive art and experimental media
    • Examples: Narrative storytelling, new forms of artistic expression, interactive journalism
  • Psychology-related topics
    • Examples: Human perception and human-computer interaction
  • Solving difficult problems and contributing new insights that are specific to the applicant’s field 

Those involved with the project will be offered two workshops to work directly with the development team in Redmond, Washington. Regular calls and updates between both the researchers and the development team will continue as well.

While none of the subjects for these grants are involved directly with gaming, the experiments that will ensue will be vital to the general appeal of the product in a mass market.

Showing the potential of the system in a variety of formats can help HoloLens’ popularity grow and give it much greater odds from becoming more closely integrated with the Xbox One system.


Follow @Pixelpine on twitter and like us on facebook for more gaming news and reviews!

 

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Microsoft offering “Ultimate Game Sale” for Xbox July 7; 70+ games included

The digital age of gaming is in full swing and Microsoft is offering discounts ranging from 10% to 50% for both Xbox 360 and Xbox One titles on the Xbox Store in an upcoming “Ultimate Game Sale.” The promotion promises “The Best Deals of the Summer” with over 70 games having their prices cut.

Some of the biggest name titles include:
Assassin’s Creed III
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
Diablo III
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Far Cry 4
Goat Simulator
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Mortal Kombat X
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Ori and the Blind Forest
Slender: The Arrival
The Orange Box
Titanfall

The sale will be available to Xbox Live members from July 7 to July 13 on the Xbox Store. In addition, Xbox Live Gold members can get up to an additional 10% off games.

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Microsoft and 343i use powerful analytical approach for debugging Halo 5

When the Halo 5 Multiplayer Beta released back in late December the majority of the game’s fans were simply ecstatic at the simple chance to play the upcoming Halo game, but for 343 Industries and Microsoft the significance of the beta was much greater than just giving fans a chance to test the game for them. Partnering with Microsoft’s Research division, 343 Industries took a new approach to prediciting, analyzing, and understanding the results that came pouring throughout the beta’s open access.

This approach, called “Trill” is used to quickly debug and continuing to improve the overall Halo 5 experience. Based on a temporal data and query processing system model, Trill helps Microsoft manage the player’s game information in a database. The power of this system is superior to all others at “2 to 4 order magnitudes faster than the competition” according to Rob DeLine, Senior Resercher for Microsoft.

“the Halo team uses Trill, a high-performance in-memory incremental analytics engine, and Tempe, a web service for exploratory data analysis, to monitor and quickly improve the Xbox gaming experience.” — Microsoft Research team

While Halo is the biggest name game to take advantage of Trill they are not the only ones. While nothing is certain, the fact that there is this much more effort going into ensuring the quality of the game remains high should be promising for Halo fans disappointed in the overwhelming number of problems with the Halo: Master Chief Collection release in November 2014.

Check the video below for an example of how the Trill helps the team recognize an in-game medals glitch quicker than normal.

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Mojang ends Scrolls development; Servers to stop in 2016

With one more major content patch on the way (Echos) Mojang has determined that they can no longer support their strategy card game, Scrolls.

Scrolls released three years ago while Mojang was still under independent operation. Since being purchased by Microsoft in 2014 the focus for the developers have been almost entirely on the billion dollar hit sandbox game Minecraft.

Mojang will have to move on from this project as it has been underwhelming — esepcially relative to Minecraft.

“The launch of the Scrolls beta was a great success. Tens of thousands of players battled daily, and many of them remain active today. Unfortunately, the game has reached a point where it can no longer sustain continuous development.”

The game will continue to be operational and available for purchase, but in July 2016 the game’s servers will cease.

“We’ve had a great time working on Scrolls, and appreciate every last player who’s downloaded our game. Extra big thanks to the most dedicated members of our community; some of you have logged in almost every day since release and dedicated a large portion of your time to dominating the leaderboards and taking care of new players. We salute you, honourable scrolldiers.”

Official announcement