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Xbox 360 to Xbox One Backwards compatibility confirmed for November 12

What most considered was the biggest deciding factor in the winner of E3, backwards compatibility of 100+ Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One is finally nearing a full release.

While preview members have been benefited to seeing it over the last few months, the amount of games has been fairly slim, but games like Mirror’s Edge, Burnout Paradise and Halo: Reach will be some of the new titles that preview members have yet to revisit through backwards compatibility.

It was revealed by Phil Spencer at the Halo 5 launch event that November 12 would be the official day that all Xbox One gamers would get access to their old Xbox 360 games.

Xbox One 360 backwards compatibility
The current top Xbox 360 games requested for backwards compatibility on Xbox Uservoice.

The exact list of which games are coming has yet to be revealed, but Microsoft has been asking fans through their Xbox Uservoice system which games they would like most. The Xbox team simply waits for the go-ahead from developers and then ports the game through an Xbox 360 emulator.

Games like Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and more are potential titles on the way. However, Microsoft will be primarily focusing on their own first party games and IPs.

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PlayStation 4 is finally $349

Early holiday for gamers

It was only a matter of time before Sony delivered the proverbial slice in its flagship console’s price tag from its debut price of $400 to Microsoft’s competing $349 mark.

John Koller, Vice President of Platforms Marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America, announced the console’s first price cut Thursday on the PlayStation.Blog:

“Since the launch of PS4, we have been thrilled with the amount of gamers jumping into the world of PlayStation for the first time. If you haven’t made the jump yet, and you’re starting early on your holiday wish list, I have good news – we’re dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 system in the U.S. and Canada. Starting tomorrow, October 9, you’ll be able to pick up PS4 starting at the new price of $349.99 USD / $429.99 CAD (MSRP).”

This move is geared toward continuing Sony’s reign atop the consoles sales with a slew of interesting holidays bundles hitting shelves in November, some of which include Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Bundle (10/9), Limited Edition Call of Duty Black Ops III 1 TB Bundle, and of course, the mecca of PS4 bundles, Star Wars Battlefront Bundle.

However, if you want to obtain the limited edition Star Wars bundle, which includes the Darth-Vader themed console and DualShock 4, you will still have to shell out $399. But let’s be honest, do you want to argue with the Sith Lord over prices?

PlayStation 4 dominance

The PS4 is simply on fire, currently holding 50 percent of the console market. It has shipped over 25 million units as of July 31 and outsold Xbox in August for the fourth consecutive month. In fact, the PS4 has sold more than the Xbox and Wii U combined.

Xbox head Phil Spencer admitted in an interview with Videogamer, he’s unsure if Xbox could ever catch the PS4.

“You know, the length of the generation… They have a huge lead and they have a good product. I love the content, the games line-up that we have.”

As of October, PS4 console sales are estimated at 25.4 million, passing the original Xbox which sold 24 million worldwide.

Last year, Microsoft marketed the Kinect-less Xbox One for the holiday season as $349 and made the price permanent in January. But although the price change boosted sales for Microsoft, it did not slow down the PS4.

Sony has sold the PS4 for $399 since its launch.

It’s also interesting to note the differences between this generation and last generation.

The Xbox 360 launched with two separate versions — Core ($299) and 20GB model ($399) as well as Sony — $20GB ($499) and 60 GB ($599) — which was a bit pricey.

Xbox proceeded to create Arcade, Pro and Elite versions, each with new price tags. Meanwhile, PlayStation 3 received its first real price cut three in a half years after its launch when Sony introduced the PlayStation 3 Slim 120 GB for $299.

Sony put all its money into its launch and it seems what looked like an interesting race two years ago has turned into a lopsided affair. With the Black Ops III beta being “the most successful beta in the history of the PS4” and an exclusive Star Wars Battlefront bundle being offered only on the PlayStation brand, you can bet PlayStation’s owner base will grow over the holidays.

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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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Oculus Rift Pre-E3 Press Conference – All You Need To Know

The Oculus Rift has been a long spoken about Virtual Reality head-mounted display. Birthed from Kickstarter around 3 years ago, it has grown at a tremendous pace. This has led to many admirers from all over the tech industry. In July 2014, internet superpower Facebook purchased Oculus VR for a staggering $2 billion.

On June 11, Brendan Iribe led a pre-E3 press conference showcasing the Oculus Rift. The final consumer unit was revealed as well as an array of exclusive titles. Here’s all you need to know:

The Device Itself

Oculus Consumer Unit

The Oculus Rift consumer unit is very similar to what we’ve seen. It is smaller, looks a lot more comfortable and is meant to be far lighter (you can hold it in one hand with ease). It has a custom display and optics as well as two OLED screens that deliver low persistence.

As you look around there’s no motion blur or judder. Visual clarity is very important to those at Oculus and the way Iribe spoke about the device, it was pretty evident.

It features a wireless sensor which sits neatly on your desk. This is designed to measure depth. The Rift itself is covered in fabric and is meant to “slip on like a baseball cap.”

Iribe also mentioned the importance of sound and how the virtual reality experience isn’t just visual but also audible. The Rift comes with (removable) headphones in order to enhance the experience.

Partnership with Microsoft

How important is this partnership?
How important is this partnership?

Then came the news everyone is talking about. Phil Spencer (Head of Xbox) took to the stage to announce that every Rift will ship with an Xbox One controller and adapter. Rift will have native support with Windows 10 and will also have the ability to stream Xbox One games a la Remote Play. You will be sitting in a virtual living room and playing Forza. Great for when the your television is not available.

DirectX 12 has been developed with the device in mind to make sure that using a Rift on a Windows machine will be a seamless experience.

The Games

Edge of Nowhere

An array of games was shown for the Oculus Rift, including Edge of Nowhere by Insomniac Games. A third person action adventure set in the Antarctic. A grueling test of wits and bravery as you scale across a mountainous terrain using makeshift weapons.

CCP (the brains behind EVE Online) showed a short demo of Eve Valkyrie. A multiplayer dogfighting shooter where you helm a spaceship allowing you to enjoy a fully immersive space war.

Amongst the other games were Chronos (Gunfire Games). A third person adventure RPG with some very interesting gameplay elements. You get to explore an atmospheric fantasy world. The unique leveling mechanic means that as you get older, the way you approach the game changes.

Some other games mentioned included VR Sports Challenge, AirMech VR, Lucky’s Tale and more. The most interesting and arguably most important factor of the game slate was the developers signed up to work with Oculus. Square Enix, Ready At Dawn, and Harmonix are just some of the names on an impressive list.

Developer List

Developers

Anna Sweet (Head of Developer Strategy) reiterated how Oculus have been working closely with Unity and EpicGames. This means the Rift works natively with Unity 5 and Unreal Engine 4. Two of the top game engines today.

Also mentioned was the revamping of Oculus Share; the platform that allows developers to self-publish, discover, download and experiment with a plethora of Rift related technologies. More pertinent was the ten million dollars that Oculus have pledged to help the Rift indie developing community. A real push for all the indie developers out there.

The Software

Oculus have been working closely with Microsoft, Nvdia, and AMD to make sure the Rift works straight out of the box. As soon as you wear the Rift and activate it you boot straight into Oculus Home.

Oculus Home is the Rift’s dashboard — the portal for everything Oculus related. It puts all your Rift games in one place. You can see what’s new, what’s featured and what games your friends are playing. A neat feature is that before you purchase a game, you get to experience a full virtual reality preview of the game in question.

There is also a 2D interface that allows you to stay in touch with your friends as well as browse, manage, and download games.

The Oculus Touch

Oculus Touch 2

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, made the final announcement of the press conference. As well as having each Rift ship with an Xbox One controller the team at Oculus are constantly working on innovative ways to improve virtual reality input. The latest being the Oculus Touch (prototype name: Half-Moon).

The Oculus Touch is a pair of wireless controllers designed to be held in each hand respectively. This allows for the users to experience “hand presence” – the feeling that your hands are also part of the virtual world you are experiencing.

Oculus TouchThe Touch lets you interact with the virtual world such as picking up a gun and shooting or throwing it. The precise manipulation of virtual entities is key to creating a fully immersive VR world and this is one of the many pieces of technology that Oculus are offering. The Touch also allows for communicative social gestures such as pointing or waving.

The controllers themselves have traditional buttons, analog sticks and a hand trigger. This trigger allows you to use your index finger to shoot a gun for instance. Oculus are also aiming for a “low mental load.” Low mental load is the idea that we shouldn’t have to think about what we are doing when using the Rift. The user experience should be a natural and fluid understanding. As always with Oculus they are taking massive strives into making virtual worlds a reality.

Pricing and Release Date

Unfortunately there were no pricing or bundles announced for the Oculus Rift. The only remnant of a release date they gave was Q1, 2016. The timeframe we have all really been expecting.

Everything at the press conference will be available at E3 so hopefully we can hear about some hands-on reactions.

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Vice President of Xbox Europe, Phil Harrison departs from company

Phil Harrison has been a major executive within the gaming industry since 1992.
Phil Harrison has been a major executive within the gaming industry since 1992.

Phil Harrison the long tenured vice president of Xbox in Europe has elected to depart from Microsoft in search of new ventures. Harrison initially joined the senior Xbox team back in 2012 and had spoke of his excitement for the long-term picture with the company. However, it seems the lack of movement up the corporate chain may have influenced his decision to leave the gaming juggernaut.

Before his time with Microsoft, Harrison worked with Xbox’s rival company, Sony. It is not clear whether Harrison will stay involved with one of the major gaming companies or if he will move to an entirely different realm of work.

Both Harrison and head of Xbox, Phil Spencer spoke with gamesindustry.biz regarding their thoughts on the news.

“Phil has been a distinguished leader for our European Xbox team – overseeing production at our award-winning European studios and making a substantial contribution to the Xbox business globally. I want to thank Phil for his creativity and leadership over the past three years. Phil is a great friend of mine and I wish him the very best with his future endeavours.” – Phil Spencer (GamesIndustry)

Phil Spencer had taken the lead role of Xbox after the departure of Don Mattrick in 2013 while Harrison continued his work in Europe to expand the company’s presence within the market. Though the Xbox has been afforded respectable success in the United States, the console has been overshadowed for the most part by Sony’s PlayStation 4 console in other markets. Despite the underwhelming achievements that Xbox has had in Europe, Harrison still says that he’s very much enjoyed his time with the company.

“I have enjoyed the last three years at Microsoft enormously and it has been a privilege to lead and work along side the incredible talent within Microsoft Studios in Europe, including Rare, Lionhead, Lift, Soho and Press Play. I wish them and my many friends throughout the Xbox world every continued success and know that games will continue to prosper across Microsoft under Phil Spencer’s leadership.” – Phil Harrison

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No virtual reality for Xbox? Not so fast.

The Virtual Reality industry is just beginning to take off, and amid recent news of a Valve/HTC partnership that is spawning a virtual reality headset, and PlayStation’s Project Morpheus virtual reality that will also be hitting stores, Microsoft has been left out with little buzz regarding a VR headset of its own.

Head of the Xbox Division, Phil Spencer spoke with Eurogamer and assures that Microsoft isn’t “locked out” of any potential first party or partnership ventures into the VR industry. Spencer mentions HoleLens as being a comparable new tech that Xbox could utilize in the future as well.

“We’ve looked at a mixed reality space that we could do with Hololens and think about it as a unique set of features and technologies to enable, that doesn’t preclude us from doing anything in the VR space either from a first-party or partnership perspective.” – Phil Spencer (Eurogamer)

With major expectations for Valve to intrude on the console market Xbox still does not seem them as a direct competitor, but instead Spencer refers his great past work between Microsoft and the PC gaming platform. To them Valve’s VR headset is seen as a great opportunity for both parties.

“The conversations we have on a regular basis with Valve – I consider them a critical ISV… er, that’s independent software developer – on Windows, and very open to the feedback that they’re always active to give. Are they a competitor? I see it as upside opportunity now.”

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Custom themes and screenshot support coming to Xbox One

Xbox One continues to evolve as Phil Spencer ensures more customization features are being "worked on."
Xbox One continues to evolve as Phil Spencer ensures more customization features are being “worked on.”

Phil Spencer revealed in a Podcast with the Inner Circle Podcast that the Xbox One will soon be gaining more personalization options with custom backgrounds and entire themes.

A screenshot feature to complement the “Xbox record that” functionality is also coming as well.

Now, no specific date is set for the additions, but these highly requested features are now confirmed to be in the works by Microsoft staff and it’s reasonable to expect them to emerge on the console in the coming months.

The Xbox One has consistently been gaining more and more features since the release of the console nearly a year ago. Microsoft’s implementation of the Xbox Feedback system has shown ample community support and has helped reinvigorate the console’s public perception after a struggling initial launch.

Check out the podcast below!

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Xbox One develops clear direction for the new generation | Sales double in June

The Xbox finally shows significant progress from their initial struggling release.
The Xbox finally shows significant progress from their initial struggling release.

Microsoft finally reveals details regarding the Xbox sales and it shows positive progress for the company. In the month of June, the Xbox One doubled in sales, likely due to the new $399 kinect-less version of the console.

And while the price-tag of the new model is an attractive feature, something even greater is drawing more people to Xbox One; something that they weren’t able to convey during their initial release.

For the first time, the Xbox One has a clear definable direction and identity.

Since the departure of Dom Mattrick and the arrival of the “X-Boss” Phil Spencer, Microsoft has developed a prime focus on gaming and the advantages that their console can bring to consumers.

While what Dom Mattrick originally envisioned for the console was quickly shot down, Phil Spencer’s clarity in his message has been extremely well-received. It may not even be the message itself being better, but his ability to showcase his plans clearly is what is helping the new-found management flourish.

Now, with multi-tasking, social gaming, cloud computing, a variety of different games, and Games with Gold, the console attempts to cater to every type of gamer.

The choice of games available is particularly interesting. Games like Project Spark open up the console to the creative minds and games like Quantum Break open it to the action-drama lovers.

And of course you have the oddball game, Sunset Overdrive, as it goes completely against the typical development plan most triple-A titles. With zero focus on being “realistic” and a keen enjoyment of the absurd potential in fictional worlds.

These choices help those who don’t like the typical run-and-shoot FPSs (like Battlefield and Call of Duty) find the library of Xbox games extremely attractive, while also maintaining support from the core gamers who do appreciate the typical FPSs.

Beyond their new-found intrinsic focus on gaming, the Xbox One’s consistent updates and response to community feedback are also giving it community support. Their latest update expands Xbox One Guide support to additional countries, and the release of the Xbox One in even more markets later this year are sure to boost sales as well.

Combine this new positive direction with the best franchise in Xbox’s history returning, the Xbox One has an opportunity to take a massive jump in popularity by the end of this year.

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Microsoft cuts the Xbox Entertainment Studios Division loose

With the workforce cuts to Microsoft also come the end of Xbox Originals
With the workforce cuts to Microsoft also come the end of Xbox Originals

The Verge got their hands on an internal memo to Xbox employees today that reveals the end of Xbox Originals just as it begins. Beginning just a month ago, Xbox Originals was an ongoing service that had plans to rival the likes of Netflix.

Microsoft continues shifting away from an “entertainment console” and moves forward with a true “gaming console.” Since Phil Spencer has taken over Xbox fans have overwhelmingly approved of his gaming-focused direction with the console, and the latest move stays in line with other changes the company has undergone since his take-over.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, called on Xbox “as a strong consumer brand, a creative center for gaming and a leader in bold innovation,” and Phil Spencer outlined the plans to keep this focused during their planned cuts to their workforce.

Current Xbox Originals in production will not end here though. Spencer notes that Signal to Noise, Every Street United, Halo: Nightfall, and the Halo Television series will all continue on, along with NFL on Xbox.

Take a look at the full memo below:

I hope you have had a chance to read today’s mails from Satya. I wanted to take a moment to share a few thoughts on what this means for our team and some of the changes we are making as a result.

In last week’s mail outlining some of the steps towards creating the culture and organization to bring our ambitions to life, Satya called out the strategic importance of Xbox as a strong consumer brand, a creative center for gaming and a leader in bold innovation. Every member of Team Xbox should be incredibly proud of the impact and reach your work has within the walls of Microsoft, with our developer community and most importantly, with consumers.

Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for a mobile-first and cloud-first world, and games are the single biggest digital life category in a mobile-first world. Success in this category, by growing a robust Xbox business, brings additional value to Microsoft. I have stated this before, but for Xbox to be successful, we must remain committed to being a consumer-driven organization with the mission of meeting the high expectations of a passionate fan base, to create the best games and to drive technical innovation.

As part of the planned reduction to our overall workforce announced today and in light of our organization’s mission, we plan to streamline a handful of portfolio and engineering development efforts across Xbox. One such plan is that, in the coming months, we expect to close Xbox Entertainment Studios. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the accomplishments from the entire team in XES. They have built an impressive slate of original programming and pioneered interactive entertainment on Xbox, such as the innovative reality series ‘Every Street United’ that succeeded in uniting audiences around the globe during the recent World Cup. I am pleased that Nancy, Jordan and members of the XES team remain committed to new, original programming already in production like the upcoming documentary series ‘Signal to Noise’ whose first installment takes on the rise and fall of gaming icon Atari and of course, the upcoming game franchise series ‘Halo: Nightfall,’ and the ‘Halo’ Television series which will continue as planned with 343 Industries. Xbox will continue to support and deliver interactive sports content like ‘NFL on Xbox,’ and we will continue to enhance our entertainment offering on console by innovating the TV experience through the monthly console updates. Additionally, our app partnerships with world-class content providers bringing entertainment, sports and TV content to Xbox customers around the world are not impacted by this organizational change in any way and remain an important component of our Xbox strategy.

Change is never easy, but I believe the changes announced today help us better align with our long-term goals. We have an incredible opportunity ahead of us to define what the next generation of gaming looks like for the growing Xbox community. I have a great deal of confidence in this team and know that with clarity of focus on our mission and our customers we can accomplish great things together. We already have.

Thank you again for all you do for Xbox.

Phil


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