xbox

Xbox Live is down for many (Update: It’s back up)

Posted by | Gaming, Microsoft, TC, xbox, xbox live | No Comments

If you were trying to sneak in a quick game on Xbox Live during your Friday afternoon lunch break and found that you can’t get online: don’t worry, you’re not alone.

While Microsoft’s Xbox Live Status page still says all things are good to go (Update: Microsoft’s status page has now caught up with the outage, and says that it’s impacting sign-ins, account creations and searches), reports are pouring in of an outage keeping many users from logging in.

Microsoft acknowledged the problem on Twitter, saying that they’re “looking into it now.”

Update, 2:30 PM: It’s back up! The status page shows all lights as green again, and a Microsoft spokesperson says that services have been fully restored.

We’re aware that some users are unable to sign in currently & our teams are looking into it now. We’ll update when we have more info to share. Thanks for all the reports!

— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport) August 30, 2019

 

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Microsoft will offer console streaming for free to Xbox One owners

Posted by | e3 2019, Gaming, xbox, Xbox One | No Comments

Microsoft’s Sunday E3 pressure was all about the games. In fact, while the company did offer some information about hardware and services, the information all arrived fast and furious at the end of the conference. While it’s probably unsurprising that the company had very little to offer in the way of information about its upcoming 8K console, Project Scarlett, most of us expected Project xCloud to get a lot more face time on stage.

The company powered through a whole lot of information about its upcoming streaming offering like it was going out of style (or, perhaps, like the lights were going out at its own theater). The speed and brevity of it all left a number of audience members confused on the specifics — and caused some to speculate that the service night not be as far along as Microsoft had hoped.

We caught up with a few Microsoft reps on our final day at the show to answer some questions. The company is unsurprisingly still mum on a number of key details around the offering. A couple of key things are worth clarifying, though. For starters console stream is not considered a part of Project xCloud. Rather, the ability to play games on one’s own Xbox One remotely is a separate feature that will be coming to users via a software update.

Asked what advantages console streaming has over the parallel xCloud offering, Microsoft’s answer was simple: it’s free. Fair enough. This serves a two-fold purpose. First, it helps differentiate Microsoft’s streaming offerings from Stadia and second, it provides another value proposition for the console itself. As to how performance is expected to differ between console streaming and XCloud, it wouldn’t comment.

As I wrote earlier today, the company does see the potential of a large scale move to the cloud, but anticipates that such a shift is a long ways off. After all, if it didn’t, it likely wouldn’t have announced a new console this week at E3.

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What do subscription services and streaming mean for the future of gaming?

Posted by | Apple, e3 2019, events, Gadgets, Gaming, Google, Hulu, Media, Microsoft, Netflix, Nintendo, Sony, Spotify, stadia, Streaming Media, ubisoft, Uplay, xbox | No Comments

The future of gaming is streaming. If that wasn’t painfully obvious to you a week ago, it certainly ought to be now. Google got ahead of E3 late last week by finally shedding light on Stadia, a streaming service that promises a hardware agnostic gaming future.

It’s still very early days, of course. We got a demo of the platform right around the time of its original announcement. But it was a controlled one — about all we can hope for at the moment. There are still plenty of moving parts to contend with here, including, perhaps most consequentially, broadband caps.

But this much is certainly clear: Google’s not the only company committed to the idea of remote game streaming. Microsoft didn’t devote a lot of time to Project xCloud on stage the other day — on fact, the pass with which the company blew threw that announcement was almost news in and of itself.

It did, however, promise an October arrival for the service — beating out Stadia by a full month. The other big piece of the announcement was the ability for Xbox One owners to use their console as a streaming source for their own remote game play. Though how that works and what, precisely, the advantage remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that Microsoft is hanging its hat on the Xbox as a point of distinction from Google’s offering.

It’s clear too, of course, that Microsoft is still invested in console hardware as a key driver of its gaming future. Just after rushing through all of that Project xCloud noise, it took the wraps off of Project Scarlett, its next-gen console. We know it will feature 8K content, some crazy fast frame rates and a new Halo title. Oh, and there’s an optical drive, too, because Microsoft’s not quite ready to give up on physical media just yet.

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Here are the game trailers from Microsoft’s E3 2019 press conference

Posted by | e3 2019, Gaming, Microsoft, TC, xbox | No Comments

Trailers. You love them, Microsoft’s got them. According to the company, there were a ridiculous 60 games trotted out on stage at today’s big E3 kickoff. Looks like the Xbox got a little extra love at the event since Sony’s MIA this year. Along with more information on its streaming service Project XCloud a sneak peek at its next console and a very special appearance by Keanu, the company had a LOT of games to show off.

Here are the biggest trailers from today’s event.

Minecraft: Dungeons – Everyone’s favorite building block title gets its very own single and multiplayer RPG adventure.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps: Announced in 2017, Moon Studio’s platformer finally arrives next February.

Bleeding Edge: Ninja Theory’s latest is a multiplayer melee combat title.

Flight Simulator: You know, you love it — or are otherwise indifferent. The classic simulator returns in 2020.

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition – Coming later this year, the title will also be available for Xbox Game Pass for PC.

Wasteland 3: The party-based role-playing sequel takes players to…Colorado Springs?

Battletoads: Don’t call it a comeback. Zitz, Pimple and Rash return for a new Gamepass title.

Gear 5: Probably the most eagerly anticipated game of the press conference, the new Gears is launching September 10.

Gears 5: Terminator Dark Fate – Here’s a fun reveal. Those who buy Gears 5 by September 16 with get a character pack, featuring the T-800 Endoskeleton from the forthcoming Terminator sequel.

Forza Horizon 4 Lego Speed Champions: The popular racing series gets the Lego treatment.

Kitten Around with RAAM: A series of animated shorts based on characters from Gears POP.

State of Decay Heartland: A new DLC pack for Heartland 2, features two stories and will be available as part of GamePass.

CrossfireX: The latest version of Smilegate’s FPS is arriving on Xbox One.

Halo: Infinite – What’s this, then? Why it’s a brand new Halo title, launching alongside Microsoft’s next-gen Project Scarlett console during the 2020 holiday season.

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Microsoft teases 8K Xbox

Posted by | e3 2019, Gaming, Microsoft, xbox | No Comments

Microsoft is working to create its most powerful Xbox yet as it gears up for the next wave of gaming console hardware. Xbox shared some details on its next hardware at E3 and it sounds appropriately next-gen.

The company teased some huge factoids in a teaser about what it’s calling “Project Scarlett.” The upcoming console will have 8K capability, will be able to handle frame rates up to 120fps and will utilize SSD storage to keep load times low. The hardware will be powerful enough to enable real-time ray tracing.

“This generation is going to be a bigger leap than any generation before,” a video describing the new hardware detailed. Microsoft says the new hardware will be four times as powerful as the Xbox One X.

The next-generation console will be arriving in the holiday season of 2020, the company says. It will be launching alongside a new Halo title, Halo Infinite.

“A console should be designed and built and optimized for one thing: gaming,” Xbox head Phil Spencer said onstage at the company’s E3 presser.

We’ve already heard a bit about PlayStation’s plan for their next generation console, mainly details regarding the system’s transition to SSD storage and its reliance on a third-generation AMD Ryzen CPU.

We’ll see how the systems stack up against each other as we hear more.

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George R.R. Martin’s next project is reportedly the video game, Elden Ring

Posted by | e3 2019, Gaming, george r.r. martin, Microsoft, xbox | No Comments

E3 doesn’t technically start until Tuesday, but the leaks are already arriving fast and furious. Now that winter has come from HBO’s Game of Thrones, creator George R.R. Martin’s got several other projects in the works, including, reportedly, a new video game.

Welp.

Looks like everything is leaking before E3. Elden Ring is probably next up.

— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) June 7, 2019

Word is we’ll be hearing more about that last bit on Sunday, during Microsoft’s big kick off press conference. For now, however, we’ve got a smattering of information about Elden Ring from Daniel “ZhugeEX” Ahmed. The perennial game leaker tweeted out a poster for the title, which is said to be a collaboration between Martin and Hidetaka Miyazaki, best known for his role in FromSoftware’s Souls series.

In addition to Xbox One, the title is also set for release on PS4 and the PC. Supernatural powers and monarchical kingdoms abound, making this pretty standard fare from the A Song of Ice and Fire writer. Beyond that, details are pretty thin at the moment, so stay tuned to TechCrunch’s E3 coverage, which kicks off in earnest on Sunday.

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Destiny 2 goes free to play and gains cross-saving on all platforms

Posted by | Bungie, destiny 2, game streaming, games as a service, Gaming, Google, google stadia, Microsoft, playstation, playstation 3, PS4, Sony, Steam, streaming, Valve, xbox, Xbox One | No Comments

Bungie aims to fortify the popular but flagging Destiny 2 with an expanded free-to-play plan and universal cross-platform saving, the company announced today. It’s an interesting and player-friendly evolution of the “games as a service” model, and other companies should take note.

The base game, which is to say the original campaign and the first year of updates, will be available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Google Stadia. You can play as much as you want, and your progress will be synced to your account, so you can do some easy patrols on console and then switch to your PC’s mouse and keyboard for the more difficult raids.

The PS4 cross-save ability is a surprise, since Sony has resisted this sort of thing in the past and rumors had it before the announcement that they would be left out of the bargain. It’s heartening to see this level of cooperation, if that’s what it is, in the new gaming economy.

Confirmed! https://t.co/WKWtPZ7mtD

— PlayStation (@PlayStation) June 6, 2019

As part of Bungie’s separation from Activision, which published Destiny 2 to begin with, the game is now switching over to Steam on the PC. That’s probably a good thing for most, and you won’t lose any progress. It’s also being renamed “Destiny: New Light,” because why not?

Importantly, no platform will have any content advantage over another — no Xbox-specific guns or PC-specific levels. At a time when consoles are fighting one another on the basis of exclusives, this is a breath of fresh air.

The news was announced in a stream this morning, though players got a sneak peak when a publication I shall not name posted it slightly early. But we also learned more ahead of Bungie’s announcement when Google’s Stadia event showed the game coming to the streaming service in free form.

The developers at Bungie reveal Destiny 2: Shadowkeep.

A new chapter for Destiny 2 and the studio begins this September.

🌑 Watch the full ViDoc: https://t.co/A1dBgdxgMQ pic.twitter.com/nHbAW9CuYA

— Bungie (@Bungie) June 6, 2019

Destiny 2 came out two years ago and has had a number of expansions — and has also been free for limited times or platforms a handful of times. The base game was really a bit threadbare and honestly may not convince new players that it’s worth it to pay. But the price is right and if you like the basic gameplay the expansions, which improved considerably on the game and added a lot of contents, can be bought year by year.

The move is obviously meant to help Destiny 2 compete with other games-as-services, such as the constantly improving Warframe and youth-devouring Fortnite. And it’s a good test bed for the new cross-platform economy that gamers are beginning to demand. You’ll be able to test it out for yourself on September 17, when the switchover is set to take effect — more details should be available well ahead of the relaunch.

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Rivals in gaming, Microsoft and Sony team up on cloud services

Posted by | Gadgets, game streaming, Gaming, Google, google stadia, Microsoft, playstation, Sony, streaming, streaming games, xbox | No Comments

For the last two decades, Sony and Microsoft’s gaming divisions have been locked in all-out war against one another: on price, on hardware, on franchises, on exclusives… you name it. But it seems they’ve set their enmity aside temporarily that they might better prevent that filthy casual, Google, from joining the fray.

The official team-up, documented in a memorandum of understanding, was announced today, though details are few. But this is clear enough:

The two companies will explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game and content-streaming services. In addition, the two companies will explore the use of current Microsoft Azure datacenter-based solutions for Sony’s game and content-streaming services.

Of course there is no doubt that Sony could have gone with a number of other cloud services for its gaming-on-demand services. It already runs one, PlayStation Now, but the market is expected to expand over the next few years much like cord cutters have driven traditional TV and movie watchers to Netflix and other streaming services. Expansion would surely prove expensive and complicated.

The most salient challenger is likely Google and its new Stadia game streaming service, which of course has a huge advantage in its global presence, brand recognition and unique entry points: search and YouTube. The possibility of searching for a game and being able to play it literally five seconds later is an amazing one, and really only something Google can pull off right now.

That makes Google a threat. And Microsoft and Sony have enough threats already, what with the two of them making every exclusive and chip partnership count, the resurgence of Nintendo with the immensely popular Switch and the complex new PC-and-mobile-focused gaming market making consoles look outdated. Apple Arcade exists, too, but I don’t know that anyone is worried about it, exactly.

Perhaps there was a call made on the special direct line each has to the other, where they just said “truce… until we reduce Google Stadia to rubble and salt the earth. Also Nvidia maybe.”

We don’t actually have to imagine, though. As Sony President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida noted in the announcement: “For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content.”

Sony doesn’t lack technical chops, or the software necessary to pull off a streaming service — but it may simply make more sense to deploy via Microsoft’s Azure than bring its own distribution systems up to par. No doubt Microsoft is happy to welcome a customer as large as Sony to its stable, and any awkwardness from the two competing elsewhere is secondary to that. Google is a more existential competitor in many ways, so it makes sense that Microsoft would favor partnering with a partial rival against it.

Sony has long been in this boat itself. Its image sensors and camera technology can be found in phones and DSLRs that compete with its own products — but the revenue and feedback it has built up as a result have let it maintain its dominance.

Speaking of which, the two companies also plan to collaborate on imaging, combining Sony’s sensor tech with Microsoft’s AI work. This is bound to find its way to applications in robotics and autonomous vehicles, though competition is fierce there, and neither company has a real branded presence. Perhaps they aim to change that… together.

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An Xbox controller with a built-in Braille display is Microsoft’s latest gaming accessibility play

Posted by | accessibility, Blindness, Braille, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, Microsoft, vision impaired, xbox | No Comments

Microsoft has been leaning into accessibility in gaming lately, most visibly with its amazing Adaptive Controller, and a new patent suggests another way the company may be accommodating disabled gamers: an Xbox controller with a built-in Braille display.

As you might expect, it’s already quite hard for a visually impaired gamer to play some games, and although that difficulty can’t be entirely alleviated, there are definitely things worth doing. For instance: the text on screen that sighted people take for granted, documenting player status, items, onscreen dialog or directions — how could these be read by a low-vision gamer who might be able to otherwise navigate the game world?

In many circumstances a screen reader is what a visually impaired person would use to interact with this kind of data, but often that text is relayed to them in audio form, which is far less appealing an option when you’re in-game. Who wants to have a computer voice reading off your armor levels and inventory burden while you’re trying to take in the ambient environment?

There are already some Braille display accessories for this kind of thing, but there’s nothing like having support direct from your console’s designer, and that’s what Microsoft has demonstrated with its patent for a Braille-enabled controller.

The patent was filed last year and just recently became public, and was soon spotted by German tech site Let’s Go Digital; there have been no official announcements, though the timing is favorable for an E3 reveal. That said, patents don’t necessarily represent real products in development, though in this case I think it’s worth highlighting regardless.

The Braille Controller, as it’s referred to in the patent, is very much like an ordinary Xbox One gamepad, except on the back there appears to be a sort of robotic insect sticking out of it. This is the Braille display, consisting of both a dot matrix that mechanically reproduces the bumps which players can run their fingers over, and a set of swappable paddles allowing for both input and output.

The six paddles correspond to the six dot positions on a Braille-coded character, and a user may use them to chord or input text that way, or to receive text communications without moving their fingers off the paddles. Of course the mechanisms also could be used to send haptic feedback of other types, like directional indicators or environmental effects like screen shake. I wouldn’t mind having something like this on my controller, in fact.

Naturally this means games will need (and increasingly are including) a metadata layer for this kind of conversion of visual cue to auditory one, and vice versa, among many other considerations for gamers with disabilities. It’s on everyone’s minds, but Microsoft and Xbox seem to be taking more concrete steps than the rest, so kudos to them for that. Hopefully their leadership in this space will help convince other developers and manufacturers to join up.

We’ll be sure to ask the Xbox team about their plans for this controller design and other accessibility improvements when we talk with them at E3 in June.

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Nintendo and Sony temper console expectations ahead of E3

Posted by | e3, Gaming, hardware, Microsoft, Nintendo, nvidia, PlayStation 5, Sony, xbox | No Comments

E3’s just over a month away, and per usual, the news in the lead up has offered more insight into what we won’t be hearing about at the big gaming show. Late last year, Sony announced that it would be skipping its big annual press conference at the event. The move marks a key absence for the gaming giant for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, as the company will instead be “exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019.”

The sentiment should ring familiar for those who follow the gaming industry. Several years ago Nintendo made a similar move, eschewing the in-person press conference for the online Nintendo Direct “Treehouse” it uses to showcase new trailers. It’s a method Nintendo has held to ever since.

Game publisher Square Enix this week happily slid into Sony’s prime-time slot, leaving Microsoft the last of the remaining three major console makers with a press conference at the Los Angeles event. The death of shows like E3 has been overstated throughout the years, of course. These things tend to move in cycles, with much of the hype tied specifically to new system reveals.

Microsoft took the wraps off its disc-free Xbox One S “All-Digital Edition” this month, leaving many wondering what the company could still have up its sleeve for the June event. Earlier this week, meanwhile, Sony batted away suggestions that the PlayStation 5 was coming soon. Details are, not surprisingly, still vague, but the company says the next-gen console won’t be arriving in the next six months.

On its earnings call, Nintendo similarly dismissed recent rumors that it would launch a low-cost version of the Switch. The console has been a wild success for the company on the heels of the disappointing Wii U, but slowing sales have pointed to Nintendo’s longstanding tradition of offering modified hardware. Rumors have largely pointed to a lower-cost version of the system that can only be played in portable mode.

None of this is to say we got some kind of preview. Companies love to tease these sorts of things out, but it does appear that the big three are tempering expectations for the show. That leaves some opening for other players — of course, E3 has long been dominated by the big three. Among the other rumors currently circulating ahead of the show is a 2-in-1 gaming tablet from Nvidia.

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