Microsoft has updated their service agreement and Code of Conduct with a new Community Standards for Xbox site.The page breaks down the normal legal jargon into easy-to-parse text for gamers. Most of it is generally good advice like “win or lose, be a good sport,” but there’s a real head-scratcher in the examples of acceptable trash talk.
“That was some serious potato aim. Get wrecked.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of having “potato aim” by anyone in an online game, but I don’t think my life will be complete without someone legitimately yelling that at me. It would be so much nicer than the things I have had hurled my way.
On-demand game streaming is the hot thing to talk about. Like Google’s recent Project Stream announcement, Microsoft is taking the cover off their own game streaming service. Project xCloud will leverage Microsoft’s Xbox experience and architecture to deliver gaming on the go someday. Unlike Google’s effort, Project xCloud isn’t open for select player tests, but Microsoft has the advantage of currently having millions of customers already willing to pay a subscription fee for Xbox Live Gold and Gamepass. Freedom from consumer ownership is right around the corner!
Microsoft will release new first-party Xbox games on Xbox Game Pass on their global retail launch dates. Subscribers to Microsoft’s buffet game service will play Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, the next Forza, the next Halo, and anything else Microsoft Game Studios publishes on the same day everyone else gets to buy them. Going forward, Xbox Game Pass won’t just be a service for older games, significantly increasing its value to people unwilling to pay for access to titles that may have already gone on deep discount or even been offered as freebies in the Games for Gold program.
Xbox Game Pass launched in June 2017. It costs $9.99 per month to subscribe.
A report from Windows Central asserts that the upcoming revamp of the Xbox Avatar feature will include a “career” system with levels, quests, and even cosmetic loot crate rewards. The Avatar reboot, first previewed back at E3 2017, showcased the company’s commitment to adding more diversity and options to the virtual characters, but contained few details on any meta-game changes. The new report cautions that any or all of the information on loot crates and ranks could be test runs of the system, but code was gleaned from preview builds that matched what Windows Central had gathered from other sources. In an interview last August, Corporate Vice President Mike Ybarra stated that the Xbox Achievement and Avatar features were being looked at with an eye towards better reflecting an Xbox player’s accomplishments rather than just boiling it all down to a raw score. What better way to celebrate that than a random drop of virtual cosmetic junk?
The new Xbox Avatar system is expected to release this year.
A few original Xbox games will be available tomorrow for the Xbox One. Microsoft confirmed through IGN that thirteen old-school Xbox games, including Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, will be added to the backwards compatibility list on the newer console. As with the current Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles, you can either pop your old disc into your Xbox One and download an update to allow play, or you can purchase a new digital copy through the Xbox Store. You’ll soon be able to enjoy BloodRayne 2 or The King of Fighters Neowave on your gigantic TV in glorious 1080p.
In related news, the Xbox 360 backwards compatible games Halo 3, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Assassin’s Creed are getting Xbox One X enhancement updates on November 7th.
Microsoft announced a revamped Xbox Avatar program yesterday at E3 2017. The new Xbox Avatars have been redesigned with diversity and inclusiveness in mind, so for example, avatar clothing and accessories are no longer locked into gender categories. Prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs are options as well as a pregnancy “baby bump” and various other physical traits. According to the producers, the redesign is being done in Unity.
Xbox Avatars were originally launched in 2008 on the Xbox 360, but the characters dropped in popularity when the Xbox One launched which (as of now) does not feature them in any prominence. The new Avatars will launch this autumn on Windows 10, then later on Xbox One consoles, presumably with a user interface update that will give them more visibility.
Currently, there’s not much you can do about getting a refund on a digital purchase of an Xbox or Windows 10 game. Microsoft’s policy as it stands now is a simple “no” on returns. But that may soon change. Selected Xbox and Windows 10 Insider members have access to a self-service refund pilot program, with parameters that are similar to the Steam return policy. Games eligible for a full refund must have been purchased within the last 14 days, and can only have less than two hours of play time recorded across all accounts. DLC and other digital add-ons are not allowed.
While the refund policy being tested seems like a great idea for customers, not everyone is pleased. The Chinese Room, the studio behind Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, has been firing offon Twitter about the impending policy change, mostly taking issue with the two-hour play window.
It’s REALLY simple. Refunds should operate off a percentage of game completed. Simple, fair, representative.
A common complaint of Steam’s refund policy by some independent developers follows in the same vein. Critics say the two-hour refund turnaround is unfair to smaller, more “artsy” projects. Games that can be finished or have a majority of their content experienced within the time limit can then be returned for a full refund because there is no difference in the policy between a two-hour linear videogame story and a limitless open world sandbox. Essentially, Steam customers can consume the whole product, get their money back, then leave the developers in the lurch.
Microsoft hasn’t officially commented on their refund policy yet, but it’s possible we may get more news at E3 in June. Also, it will be interesting to see if Sony follows suit.
Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry has the exclusive tech analysis of Microsoft’s next iteration of the Xbox One. Buried in all the teraflops, gigawatts, numbers, (so many numbers) CPU and GPU talk, there is the intriguing revelation that Project Scorpio uses a vapor chamber heat sink to cool its chips. That’s a first for a console. Rather than being a millennial way to ingest tobacco products, advanced PC gamers will recognize the technique from higher-end graphics cards. Friction heats the 4K graphics, so Scorpio sprays a fine mist on them as they pass by to keep the textures cool. It’s like a Slip ‘N Slide for the graphics.
We still don’t know what the final product will look like, nor do we have any pricing information, but Microsoft will undoubtedly have more to share at E3. In the meanwhile, eager consumers should enjoy reading comparison charts and discussing ad nauseam which company is winning the console war.
Microsoft has announced Xbox Game Pass, an all-you-can-consume game service, coming to Xbox One and Scorpio. For $9.99 a month, Xbox Game Pass allows subscribers to download and play any of the program’s titles onto their consoles for as long as they remain active members. It’s like EA Access, but Xbox Game Pass includes multiple publisher partners. There are over 100 Xbox One and backwards-compatible Xbox 360 games from 2K, 505 Games, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Capcom, Codemasters, Deep Silver, Focus Home Interactive, SEGA, SNK, THQ Nordic, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Microsoft Studios included in Xbox Game Pass with more planned to be added. Subscribers will also be offered discounts on DLC for the games in the program.
Xbox Game Pass begins testing today with selected members of the Xbox Insider Program community. The full program will launch later this spring.
Microsoft has two new Xbox consoles coming. The first, given about 30 seconds of show time, is the Xbox One S, (pictured above) a slimmer, slightly improved Xbox One. It will be available in August and costs $299. According to Microsoft, it’s 40% smaller than the current Xbox and has a better wireless controller. The second new console wasn’t even shown, but amidst all the rumors of Sony following a similar iterative strategy, Microsoft apparently wanted to get ahead of the competition. Project Scorpio was unveiled. It’s a 4K, VR-ready system coming in 2017. According to a video full of talking heads “no one gets left behind” and all Xbox One games will work on all three consoles.
Microsoft’s Phil Spencer announced the Play Anywhere program. Gamers can purchase upcoming Microsoft published games once and play them on Xbox One and their Windows 10 PCs. All five fans of Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform apps can celebrate.
Cooperative gameplay from Gears of War 4 was shown. Chainsaws, guns, and a gun that shoots saws. Speaking of Gears, General Raam from the original game is coming to Killer Instinct. Forza Horizon 3 is set in Australia. Heroes fought a giant arm in Final Fantasy XV. The Friendly Update for Minecraft went live today, which brings cross-platfrom play to the crafting game. Scalebound was on stage for the fourth E3 in a row. Frank West took some gruesome selfies in a cinematic trailer for Dead Rising 4. The standalone free-to-play Gwent game from CD Projekt Red was announced. Sea of Thieves gameplay consisting of YouTube celebrities yelling at one another debuted. State of Decay 2 involves recreating the car door scene from Zombieland. Finally, Halo Wars 2 from Creative Assembly and 343 Industries premiered and made everyone sad for what happened to Ensemble Studios.
Three hardware revisions. A complete overhaul of the user interface – twice. The Red Ring of Death. Custom faceplates. Xbox Live Marketplace. Kinect. After over ten years of ups and downs, Microsoft is ceasing production of the Xbox 360 console. Remaining stock will continue to be sold, but once those units are gone, that’s it. Time to move on to something else.
Thanks to the Xbox 360, we evolved Xbox Live from the original Xbox into the thriving online gaming community it is today. And the console became a beloved gaming and entertainment hub with over 78 billion gaming hours played, nearly 486 billion Gamerscore on 27 billion achievements and over 25 billion hours spent in apps over its lifetime.
Although no new Xbox 360 machines will be manufactured, Microsoft assures gamers that their legacy hardware will still be useful. Live services will continue allowing new purchases of Xbox 360 games, multiplayer servers will stay up, and technical support will be honored during the valid warranty period.
Microsoft says the company has heard the complaints about Universal Windows Platform Apps, and will take steps to course-correct. At the Build 2016 conference, Xbox honcho Phil Spencer, revealed that some of the issues people (including Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney) noted with Windows 10 Store PC games like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition would be fixed. The specific points noted hinged on the fact that due to the nature of the way UWP works, user mods, overlays like Steam, disabling vertical sync, and using some graphics processor software, are all currently not possible. Spencer promised that Microsoft is working with engineer partners to enable these features into UWP that PC gamers have enjoyed for years previously.
During the same conference, Microsoft announced that the Xbox Store and Windows 10 Store would merge to present a consistent experience across all Microsoft platforms.
Microsoft is extending the Games with Gold program indefinitely. The program allows Xbox Live Gold members to download and keep two games a month for free. According to Microsoft’s Xbox Wire post, the free games offer has proven popular enough to keep around for the foreseeable future.
“At E3 2013, we launched Games with Gold as a limited-time program to thank our Xbox Live Gold members. Within that short period of time, we’ve seen an overwhelming response, with more than 120 million hours played with Games with Gold titles. Today, as a part of the “Week of Xbox Live,” we’re excited to announce that we are making Games with Gold an ongoing benefit for Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox 360.”
Previous games given away in Games with Gold have included Rainbow Six: Vegas, Crackdown, Assassin’s Creed II, and Fable 3. The current game offered to Gold subscribers is Halo 3. Unlike Sony’s similar Instant Game Program for PlayStation Plus members, Games with Gold allows gamers to keep any game they’ve downloaded if their subscription lapses. Microsoft has not said if Games with Gold will continue with the Xbox One.
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