Gears POP! Level 6

I wanted to revisit my first take on Gears POP! given the rather harsh assessment offered by Kotaku, and my own worry that I may be a little too optimistic about what others saw as a mediocre game.

But, nope. I’m still enjoying it – and Kotaku is wrong.

At first glance, reaching Level 6 probably isn’t quite at the top of the enlightenment period to be able to safely dismiss Kotaku’s rather short-sighted take on the game, but there’s quite a bit of work that goes into getting to this level. I don’t doubt that the gloss of many casual gamers has started to wear off for Gears POP!, and so the competition I’m left with are either the true believers, or the late-to-the-party types, but having understood how many games and how many win-losses it takes to get to that stage means that there is a not-insignificant amount of respect for anyone competing at what I’d consider this ‘mid-tier’ level.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say that I am regularly loosing quite a few games – it’s about a 50-50 split, but the shine hasn’t quite worn off as quick like it has with Hearthstone. Perhaps it’s because I still get the drip-feed of delicious Xbox achievements, or perhaps I’m still just simply enjoying the game. In either case – from either a philosophical or a business perspective – I’m still playing it, and that means something.

I’ll be interested to see if other first party studios lean into some mobile development for Microsoft, or whether xCloud will pickup the mobile audience – but in any case, it’s definitely not a flop for me.

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One OS to Rule them All

In the last 48 hours, Microsoft announced two things which tickled my fancy. The first is updates to Microsoft Office, which – as rumoured – is likely to be the implementation of Dark Mode across all of its Office products – which is great for a heavy iOS user like me. The other is that they will be holding a hardware event in New York at the start of October, again – another rumour – likely to bring with it a dual-screen Surface Pro.

As part of some comments on some news article (I have a few Microsoft-specific blogs on rotation, including MSPoweruser and On MSFT), I mentioned that I would absolutely be interested in upgrading from a Mac to a Surface if they introduced USB-C in as standard (like they have with the iPad Pro, and the MacBook). I think we’ve reached an age now where pushing ahead with the best in technology, like the USB-C, should be the norm. It’s no longer ‘innovative’, it’s standard. If I’m buying the latest, greatest product, then I want the latest, greatest offering.

But no, that’s not what the internet picked up on, did they?

Instead, and I’m paraphrasing, the response went along the lines of: well, if you like Windows so much, you should have abandoned Apple long-ago.

Now, make no mistake about it – I love my Apple products. I am yet to find a single piece of Apple hardware that hasn’t been able to withstand everything I throw at it – up-to-and-including my three kids. Consider also, that most products I use from Microsoft are now available on iOS, then it’s largely only gaming and a few specific pieces of software (like Visio) that require me to either dual-boot into Windows, or use another computer for. But that being said, I don’t hate using my Windows computers when I do have to use them either. I think Windows 10 is as close to the perfect version of Windows as I’ve seen since they launched Windows 95, and now with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, I’ve found myself using my Windows PC’s more-and-more. Couple that with the fact that most of my services are web-based, then it really doesn’t matter what hardware I’m on most of the time.

Right now, I’m writing this on my Surface 2, with my MacBook beside me showing my Google calendar for the week on Microsoft Edge Dev while notifications go off on my Apple iPhone.

All that’s missing is a bit of a Ubuntu on my desk and I’d have the whole family together.

So, like all of these other fringe arguments, my point remains the same – why is this a zero-sum issue? Why can’t I like iOS and MacOS and Windows and Linux equally and at the same time? Why and how does my decision to like one-or-more ‘other’ products lessen your enjoyment? Sure, there is enough marketing out there that will make you feel like your choice is the superior one (Remember: “Hi, I’m a Mac.” “And I’m a PC.”), but surely there is enough education out there now to recognise fluff versus feelings and preference.

Back when Xbox One launched under Don Mattrick, there were very real issues when it came to console choice. There was a clear divide about why Xbox sucked and PlayStation was better, and Microsoft adapted their product based on those decisions. These days, the products are like-for-like, and silly historical quibbles belong in the past. Right now, Windows and Mac are in the same position: like-for-like.

You don’t need to be a Mac or a PC person – you can be a little bit of both.

And tell the internet to keep their opinions to themselves.

Fortnite

You would be living under a fairly large boulder if you have never heard of Fortnite, considering it’s regularly news-shattering impact, notably the 2019 win by 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf (or his online alias, “Bugha”, which makes me think of the old Toyota Ad where various characters mutter one word: ‘Bugger’), who took home the US$3 million grand prize in the first Fortnite World Cup.

I feel like my early adoption of Fortnite was a sign of things to come. It came to market at a time when ‘PUBG’ was all the rage, and instead of trying to compete with the quasi-realistic shooter, it took things in another direction and just made them fun!

I don’t plan on rehashing the format of a Battle Royale, but it seems like there are a few new game modes up for grabs these days. For instance, my first game of the season was not a Royale as such, but rather a team death match with a score count. So, even when you died, you just respawned and got on with it. And it was as fun as classic Fortnite used to be.

Well played, Epic Games.

Guilty Pleasure

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A lot of people spend their lunch breaks doing different things. Some enjoy the company of a good book, others stare at the small glow of their phones while they read Buzzfeed or some click-bait-of-choice. Me? I like to play video games. I find with the combination of kids, more work responsibility, increasing civic involvement and the ravages of age, my free time is increasingly shortened.

Over the past year-and-a-bit, documenting my gaming life at Achievement a Day has offered perhaps no better example of how I juggle life and gaming. But the audience for that blog is niche, a sub-culture of gamers that enjoy achievement hunting. While being a ‘gamer’ has attracted a broader level of acceptance, particularly in younger demographics, there is still a lot of agitation, even within the gamer community, about identifying as a gamer. Yesterday’s Kotaku article about the culture at Riot Games, for example, focuses extensively on the culture of only employing ‘core gamers’ – something the article tries to contend that (Riot believes) women are incapable of.

So, if gamers can’t even play nicely among themselves, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a middle-aged white executive from the Accounts team of South African origin (who speaks like he longs for a return to Apartheid) might have difficulty accepting that gaming is a perfectly acceptable hobby to partake in during some down-time in the middle-of-the-day.

The game itself was Trailer Park Boys: Greasy Money, which I used for yesterday’s Achievement a Day, and so its comical appearance probably makes it no worse than watching something like Family Guy or Rick and Morty on my lunchbreak. But when Mr. South African stood from his desk and caught a glimpse of his screen, it wasn’t his disapproving look that bothered me the most, but rather the immediate onset of guilt for playing a video game.

Let me be clear: I was playing a video game on my own computer, during my own lunch-break out of the line-of-sight of most people. While Trailer Park Boys could be arguably quite an offensive game to the average person, it’s only in reading the cartoon-bubble text where you will get the offense. At least, that’s certainly the case yesterday.

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No, the guilt came purely and solely from the act of playing a video game – not the content itself, and I think that is worth discussing.

I am certain that there is some psychology behind gaming as a hobby in which it hasn’t received mainstream acceptance yet and so it becomes a closet activity which can only be enjoyed behind closed doors, in the confines of your own home.

It’s a crude analogy, but homosexuality has been like that for a long time – first it was out-and-out unacceptable, then it became something that could be tolerated by two consenting adults out of the public eye, through to today where it’s (typically) not given a second thought. (Well, perhaps that last point still remains a lofty goal – but it’s getting there.) In either event, gaming as an activity is still in the ‘toleration’ phase of development. Nobody outwardly berates you for being a gamer – you might get the odd sneer or sideways glance – but, at worst you’re considered to be a bit eccentric, or at worst, a socially-awkward nerd.

Neither of those labels particularly bother me – at times I feel I have a foot in both camps, but collectively, the act of playing a video game and being a ‘gamer’ should have no better or worse connotation than being a ‘reader’, and reading a book on my lunch-break.

Is there a solution? No. It’s a cultural trend that will have to die out like the dinosaurs – again, much like societal views on homosexuality or any other progressive stance. I don’t think there’ll ever be, or need to be, a ‘gamer pride’ celebration, but it will be a shift that takes time. It will take the conservative, close-minded relics to die out, or have their views so increasingly marginalized by the powerful voices of a progressive youth. There’s signs of hope – the growth of PAX, and this year’s introduction of the Melbourne Esports Open are both stepping stones towards a more mainstream acceptance of gaming and gamers.

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Perhaps once that acceptance kicks in, then there’ll be a greater ability to relax and stand proud when playing a video game over lunch.

Quote

Fortnot

The 30 per cent store tax is a high cost in a world where game developers’ 70 per cent must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games …

… there’s a rationale for this on console where there’s enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers. But on open platforms, 30 per cent is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney on why Fortnite won’t be featuring on the Google Play Store.


See: James Batchelor (3 August 2018) “30% store tax is a high cost,” says Sweeney as Fortnite skips Google Playhttps://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2018-07-31-30-percent-store-tax-is-a-high-cost-says-sweeney-as-fortnite-skips-google-play

Sony (PlayStation) E3 2018 Thoughts

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Right, Sony. The behemoth that is console gaming. Expectations for PlayStation are at an all-time high this year, which is a terrible place to be if you’re presenting at E3. I think there is a far better result from studios, publishers and platforms that work their communication around lowering expectations – resulting in either met expectations or pleasant surprise.

I think after Andrew MK, having Gustavo Santaolalla play a spot of banjo to lead us into The Last of Us 2 is much more my vibe. I never platinum’d TLOU1, but one of my proudest trophies is completing NG+ on Hardcore difficulty.

If you ever needed to show a bit of gameplay to get you excited about a game – then Naughty Dog absolutely delivered. Oh my God. For the entirety of this footage, I completely forgot about my overwhelming hatred of Sony and their inability to let me change my username. Hell, I’ll play this game on someone else’s account – it’s just downright gorgeous.

The intermission style panel discussion with Sid Shuman and Ryan Clements interviewing Shawn Layden was a strange change of beat, but I have to admit – it was nice seeing them in-the-flesh, rather than just a disembodied voice in my ear or car stereo once a week via the podcast.

Importantly, Layden announced the introduction of a New Game Plus for God of War, which I didn’t realise I even wanted until he mentioned it – but now that he has, I am completely on-board.

I could take-or-leave any of the Call of Duty news, but I’ll absolutely take a bit of Black Ops for free with my PlayStation Plus.

And I’m still a PSVR virgin, so I’m just going to gloss over any news in that space.

One of the surprising titles from the conference was Ghosts of Tsushima, which looks like something that might struggle on my OG PS4, or it’s certainly going to cause it to sound like a jet engine taking off. I don’t think I’ve heard or read anything about this so I’m not sure if it was an announcement, or more meat-on-the-bones, but either way, I liked the look of it. Like? Maybe strongly like is a better phrase. You know … like ‘like-like’ but not ‘love-like’.

You get the idea.

Destiny 2 Forsaken is still appealing to me, but I think that it’s been dissected enough over the past few weeks, particularly from the core Destiny sites, so I’m not going to be able to add much more – particularly when it was little more than a short teaser. I suggest you would learn much more through reading Bungie.net than holding out for info at the E3 press conference. Needless to say – they better not kill-off Cayde-6 though. Don’t you touch my Nathan Fillion, Bungie!

Control looked incredible. I even texted a friend to comment that Xbox had nothing that came close to this visually during their press conference, but it’s quite possible that I’ve just bought into the hype of the presser – if anything I think Quantum Break probably fits that criteria – but gameplay alone certainly held up as a work of art. It’s only after-the-fact that I realised that Remedy is the developer, which is exactly why it had the QB feel!

I was concerned that this was going to be a PlayStation exclusive, but Sam Lake has since come out and confirmed that it’s coming cross-platform.

Resident Evil 2 … looks gorgeous … I don’t think I’ve ever actually played RE2 … If I cast my mind back, I’m not actually sure I’ve finished RE1 properly … but there is certainly enough aesthetic here to get me interested.

Trover Saves the Universe. What? Much like Seth McFarlane has turned every one of his creations into essentially ‘the same thing’, this felt very Rick and Morty – just with new characters. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not, I’ve only just really started getting into Rick and Morty (which I love), but I feel like you could grab yourself a cheap voice actor for a bit of variety and – if the material is good enough – it will hold up.

I can’t understand the deep-rooted love for Kingdom Hearts III but it was clearly enough to get coverage at both Xbox and Sony’s stage … so I guess this is now going to end up on my to-do list. What did appeal to me was Sony packaging them all together as part of the final package (though I assume that 1.5 and 2.5 are remasters).

Nioh 2 adds itself to the list-of-games-that-I-haven’t-played-the-first-one-of. The internet seems excited though, so it seems like I’ll be locked in a gaming room for the rest of the year to try and finish this off.

Not even touching Death Stranding. I wonder if I have to hand in my Sony fan card (which was already on its last legs – where was my username change, Sony?) if I admit to not really liking the vibe I get from Kojima’s latest foray?

And then, the title we’ve probably all been waiting for – Spider-Man. It’s so utterly, utterly disappointing that this isn’t coming to Xbox or PC, but business is business, and I think Sony have made a very sensible decision grabbing this one as an exclusive. If I ask my son who he likes more – Spider-Man or Batman – he comes back with a decisive Spider-Man, which nearly gets him disowned from the family every time, but I satisfy my rage by telling myself that Spider-Man is actually my favourite Marvel character and Batman my DC. It hasn’t helped the last few years in realising that the rights to Spider-Man were owned by Fox, but once again, I have become incredibly good at disassociation as I get older, so I will endure.

Let me just say, the gameplay for Spider-Man is A+. A PLUS. The city is beautiful, the combat is second-to-none and the library of characters looks to fill a comic-book lover’s wishlist. If I can find myself a limited edition Spider-Man PS4 Pro console, then there’s a not-insignificant chance that I’ll be throwing my money at whatever retailer is going to take it.

The post-conference chatter with Shuman and Clements essentially included a little more gameplay from Spidey, as well as the announcement of a new PSVR game from From Software.

https://twitter.com/RorytheFilmSnob/status/1006362990755696640

If you listened to the internet, you would think that the Sony conference was terrible. Sure, the approach to focussing on 5-6 big games and the inclusion of a panel was a bit ‘different’, but it was a good example of quality over quantity (compared with Xbox’s focus on showing 50 games). And when it comes to quality, Sony certainly delivered. I won’t say that the quality on-show was necessarily better or worse than Microsoft’s – I think there’s been strong positives to take away from most shows this weekend. But, and I apologise for the wax lyrical, but maybe at some point the discussion can turn from ‘who won?’ E3 to just being about the general love of gaming and the communities which form around it. For all my pessimism in life, I don’t really play PUBG, but I do enjoy its success. Kojima isn’t really my bag, but I love that others love him.

In the wise words of Rodney King: Can’t We All Just Get Along? 

Congratulations to everyone at E3 2018, and I sincerely mean that. For every shooter, puzzler, platformer, strategy, collectable card game, platform, and engine that fills our gaming libraries with great content each-and-every day, thank you.

It’s a great time to be a gamer …

… even if we’re stuck with our twelve year old PlayStation usernames.

Ubisoft E3 2018 Thoughts

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For starters, I’m going to leave everything associated with Just Dance 2019 aside, because I think that it’s still a ridiculous title to lead E3 with. The only time I get a hint of enjoyment out of Just Dance is when costumed superheroes or dinosaurs try their best to hit the moves on the dance floor at things like PAX. My loungeroom, and my beautiful big coffee table which sits in the middle of it, are not dancing friendly. Heck, ever since Xbox Fitness died, I haven’t had a need to gesticulate in front of my TV for a long time.

No, instead, let’s get into the meaty stuff.

Beyond Good and Evil 2 is another of the titles that make me feel guilty for never finishing their predecessors. I am fairly certain I got the original as part of a Games with Gold Backward Compatibility title, or on PC (I can’t remember), but in either event, I haven’t had the inclination or the drive to get this over the line, and so the emotional attachment to the game just isn’t quite landing for me. Visually, it looks quite good, so I’m interested to play it – but this will probably be a 2020 game for me at the earliest, considering everything else I have in my backlog to get through!

I spoke a little bit about The Division 2 yesterday following Xbox’s conference – and I quite enjoyed the first game, but can completely understand its limited appeal. There is a big focus on games-as-a-service these days as everyone tries to be the next Destiny, but I don’t think the inclusion of ‘raids’ and free DLC is going to be enough to get anyone over the line. For me, I still have a swath of achievements I haven’t unlocked from the first game, so I’m not holding out any great burning desire to get back into The Division 2. Sure, it looks great – and the gameplay looks sensational, but it’s more of what made the first game good. I want to play it … but I just don’t know whether the investment is worth it. A story run might be the best I can hope for when it comes to the latest instalment.

I don’t even own a Nintedo Switch, so the new Mario + Rabbids Donkey Kong DLC doesn’t float my boat … one day I’ll get a Switch (because I’m a sucker for Pokemon) but because of my long-standing love of achievements, the absence of a reward system, as well as known issues with the career setting on the Nintendo Network means that I’m holding out.

That, plus I grew up as a SEGA kid.

I like the look of Skull & Bones but I remain a little bitter that it doesn’t just pull all the piratey goodness out of AC4 and dump it into a new game on its own. The focus on naval combat is what gives me the most pause, because what I enjoyed most about AC4 was running around the island settings … complimenting the naval combat. If anything, what really gets me excited about Skull & Bones is the prospect of a really good collectors’ edition. Ship-in-a-Bottle Anyone? Ubi Collectables certainly know how to make me happy – and if they can’t do it with a great pirate setting, how can they do it?

I could do without the whole ‘working together’ aspect of piracy … I don’t like it as a general rule for most games, and 2018 had a fair amount of focus on online co-op gaming. Has nobody told these studios that playing online with people is a terrible idea?

Next up was Starlink, which is going to fill the gap that Skylanders and Disney Infinity have left in my collectable obsession. The inclusion of Star Fox in the Switch version is fairly inconsequential, seen as the series is coming to all platforms, but if you put that to one side (remember there was a Donkey Kong special crossover in Skylanders for the Wii U), then you can begin to feel the anticipation for the game. Time will tell if kids are on-board as this thirty-something adult is, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

I only played the main campaigns in For Honor, nearly a year ago when it had a free weekend. It’s not really my kind of game – well, online certainly isn’t anyway – so the news about an expansion doesn’t really float my boat. I think it’s good for those people who are obviously still passionate about it … I’ll be honest, I’m surprised it continues to have such traction in the gaming community – but I can appreciate that people thrive on variety, and For Honor certainly brings variety to the gaming landscape beyond the shooters and sports that fill the esport landscape.

Last, but certainly not least, was the close of the conference with some Assassins Creed Odyssey. I was a huge, huge fan of the series taking a bit of a break, and I think it helped AC Origins come back bigger, better and badder than ever. I have some concerns that the reintroduction to a yearly title might start to stretch the friendship, but for now I have to just take comfort in the fact that this entry actually looks pretty good! The focus on gender-selection at the start is a nice touch – I can’t imagine it’s entirely being begged for by the community, but I think any step towards equal representation is a good one.

Plus, if Mass Effect is anything to go by – female protagonists are actually more thematically believable.

Do you know what was missing from all of this? Splinter Cell. Walmart Canada really made me angry with this one – all I have been excited about out of this E3 was Splinter Cell, given almost everyone else had their titles on-show today, I was simultaneously disappointed and surprised not to see Ubisoft pull out a ‘one last thing.’

Will I get over it? Of course I will. If anything, I’ve been treated to a stunning variety of games that are going to fill up my library (and their prequels which I’ve never played), and they all signal a great future for game quality on the horizon.

But, you better believe I’m going to get back to Splinter Cell: Conviction this week to get my fix.

Square Enix E3 2018 Thoughts

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Huh. I mean … we’re all used to E3 having most of the surprises spoiled for us in the weeks leading up to it, but Square Enix were actually a touch underwhelming in their announcements today. I mean … they weren’t bad announcements, were they? It was just … well, expected.

Just Cause 4 is going to be all about the weather. OK. That’s good. But really, the Just Cause series has been all about having fun. Pretty much everything about JC3 (by the end of the DLC) was pretty much perfect in my mind. Rocket packs, tanks, and the standard epic destruction that the series is known for is more than enough for me – you could call the whole thing Just Cause Three-and-a-Half and I’d be happy.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is just an automatic win for me. I don’t really need to see the expanded stealth options or story … I just know that I’ve been happy with the remakes so far (the only thing nearest to God of War, in my view) and I’ll be happy to just throw my money at the screen.

Everything else seemed .. well … ‘so-so’. The Quiet Man looks like it’s about a deaf brawler, I still haven’t played any Monster Hunter: World to get excited about a crossover and both Dragon Quest 11 and Octopath Traveller hold zero interest for me.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing necessarily – but d’frent strokes and all that. And these strokes certainly didn’t appeal to this folk.

Here’s hoping Ubi and Sony can make up for lost ground today. Anything less than the ability to change PSN usernames and the PlayStation Vita 2, and I’ll probably Hulk-out.

Or not … time will tell.

Bethesda E3 2018 Thoughts

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You know you’re in for a bit of a party when Bethesda kicks off it’s conference with Andrew MK doing his best to start the infamous shenanigans with a spot of rock, but admittedly it felt about as normal as watching pornography with your parents, judging by the stilted looks from the audience and the seemingly audible collective groan from Twitter.

It felt like an unnecessary evil we had to face to get to the meat of the show, which kicked off with Rage 2. E3 means a lot of different things to me each year – this year it’s making me play a whole catalogue of games that I’ve never touched in order to be ready for the sequels. Kingdom Hearts, Rage, and I suspect that I’ll need to play some Borderlands before the weekend is out. Either way, the whole package was enough to get me interested, and interested I am! Do you know what gets me over the line? Avalanche Studios … in terms of chaos and destruction, these guys are the masters.

I haven’t really played much of the first Doom, and I absolutely can’t get into Prey, so skipping over those two titles, we next stop at Fallout 76.

Two things: I hate online games, and I love the look of this game. May God have mercy on my soul. Already, I’m very tempted to grab the power armour version of 76, which would match nicely with my unopened, unblemished, display-only Pip-Boy.

Moving right along, and Wolfenstein got some love on-stage this time around. Two new spin-offs were announced, one of them a VR title, and the other which I am incredibly down with – Wolfenstein: Youngbloods – which follows the story of BJ’s twin daughters and is set in the 1980s! Bethesda certainly feel like they’ve ‘leaned in’ with the Wolfenstein IP, and they’re running it for all its worth. And, to be honest, they’ve been doing a pretty darn good job with it – why wouldn’t they?!

Other than a brief mention of their ‘next gen’ new IP, Starfield, the rest of the show was centred around some Elder Scrolls IP. The delightful way that new mobile game, Elder Scrolls: Blades was pitched (“meeting mode” to describe holding the phone in portrait mode is my new favourite gaming slang) got me pre-ordering that game straight away.

Of course, if you weren’t happy with everything that was on display, and you felt like the show needed a little something more to whet the appetite … it certainly delivered with nothing more than a Elder Scrolls VI teaser.

I think the call of the day goes to Twitter user Link40K though …

Xbox E3 2018 Thoughts

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It is a truth, universally known, that Phil Spencer is a Gaming God. The man has single-handedly … well, perhaps not single-handedly … but he’s certainly been instrumental in bringing about some incredibly consumer-friendly policies at Microsoft, including Play Anywhere, Backwards Compatibility, and library continuity between platforms.

Today, he stepped it up a notch.

I think I watch the Xbox Press Conference much the same way that I watch Sony’s. I find games themselves inconsequential at these events – sure they are nice reveals and I do get excited about the odd title, but it’s the systems and services themselves which I get most excited about. Well, today, in my humble opinion, Phil delivered.

The Games

With that in mind, let me whip through the games. The standout for me was clearly From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice … which is a strange thing to say for a guy who completely and utterly sucks at Bloodborne and Dark Souls, but the trailer for this one looked … I don’t know … ‘accessible’. The trailer itself is probably designed with that in mind, but the game itself looked great. The pacing, the setting, and the variety of combat combined to offer what looks to be a nice refresh and development of the Souls‘ pedigree. It’s certainly a ‘watch this space’ title.

I feel like showing Crackdown 3 at the Xbox conference is just asking for trouble. It goes to show that even Terry Crews can’t save every franchise. Even the trailer for the game is starting to show its age … and while I’m sure it has the delightful, frolicking fun of every other futuristic sandbox with destructive physics, there’s nothing that is really holding this game up as a ‘must have’, and certainly not ‘worth the wait’.

The show concluded with Cyberpunk 2077, which was a nice artistic way to end the show, and it showed a rich, detailed world which is what we’ve come to expect from CD Projekt Red in a post-Witcher 3 world. I don’t quite have the nostalgic attachment to the Cyberpunk series that I do many other titles, but I’ll absolutely give it a go – certainly off the back of Geralt’s last adventure.

All-in-all, I was pleased to see some of these titles on the Xbox stage, but there wasn’t enough exclusivity there to get me excited. The titles that were exclusive are largely available on PC as well, and while I still remain fairly committed to the Xbox ecosystem, I can feel the PCMR pull more-and-more each time I watch a gaming press conference.

Spending Spree

Perhaps the only real moment my heart felt a flutter was when Phil Spencer started going through the list of acquisitions Microsoft have made as part of its consolidation and expansion of Microsoft Studios. In addition to announcing the creation of a new studio, ‘The Initiative’, Spencer listed off some new studios (which I, to be honest, already thought were first-party):

  • Undead Studios (State of Decay)
  • Playground Games (Forza)
  • Ninja Theory (Hellblade)
  • Compulsion Games (We Happy Few)

It’s fair to say that Microsoft will be getting some more exclusives in the coming years, though – as I say – I thought most of these studios were already first party. It’s also telling that these studios have all published titles onto Xbox already, and while they’re all ‘OK’ titles … none of them are God of War killers.

Game Pass

The big takeaway from today’s conference was that, if you have Xbox Game Pass, you are probably going to get all the benefits from the Xbox ecosystem. It seems that there are advancements in technology for the service which are coming thick-and-fast, and today’s announcements that Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls Online and The Division are all going live on the service ‘today’ is certainly a vote of confidence.

What’s Next

Game Streaming and the new Xbox console were flat-out confirmed by Phil during the presser. Nothing concrete, and no details to announce, but he revealed that Microsoft is working on it, and that is huge. Hot off the back of EA’s reveal that they’d be doing game streaming in the near future, it seems like 2019 will be the year that everybody reveals their consumer-ready streaming service, if not beforehand.

If you were there for the games … then you probably left ‘happy’. If you were there for anything else, then you were probably more than happy. Either case, it’s not a bad outcome for the console underdog – Phil, Larry and the team should all be exceptionally happy and proud of their work.