Tag Archives: xbox

Xbox All Access Pass hardware, software, and services subscription

Ben Thompson, Stratechery Daily Update:

That noted, it is not too difficult to imagine this program morphing into something much more significant in the ninth-generation, which is due in 2020. I’ve already discussed the anticipated shift to streaming, at least for some titles; that, naturally, fits a subscription model perfectly.

What is particularly compelling, though, is idea of assuming regular hardware upgrades throughout the generation. Microsoft could, of course, simply charge its best gamers for those slight upgrades every time they come out, but what if instead of financing new consoles the model was more akin to leasing? Pay one monthly fee, get access to online services, streaming games, and new hardware every few years?

Consumer hardware as a service.

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Sometimes Failure Leads to Opportunity

Ben Thompson, Stratechery:

I’ve been pretty critical of the Xbox over the years, arguing that it failed at its strategic goal (winning the living room not just for gamers but for everyone) and didn’t make sense for Microsoft in the long run. Microsoft, though, has continued to insist that it was committed to gaming, and it backed that up at the ongoing E3 game conference.

First and foremost, if you’re not paying for Ben’s Daily Update, you’re missing out on the best business x tech analysis out there.

Ben’s latest regarding Xbox is a great snapshot of Microsoft’s motives for the future. Here are some choice quotes to summarize.

On Microsoft’s big acquisitions announcement of studios Ninja Theory (DmC: Devil May Cry, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), Playground Games (Forza Horizon), Undead Labs (State of Decay), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few):

The Xbox One originally lagged behind the PS4 this generation due to its misguided focus on the living room (including charging $100 more at launch because of the now-discontinued Kinect that was at the center of that effort), but the bigger problem has been a lack of exclusive titles relative to the PS4. One way to counter that is to simply produce them yourself, and these purchases augment Microsoft’s ability to do just that.

On Microsoft’s announcement of a game streaming service, “dedicated to perfecting your experience everywhere you want to play — your Xbox, your PC and your phone”:

Still, PlayStation Now requires a PS4: what EA and Microsoft are talking about is a service that works on any device, from a phone to a smart TV to a PC to a console, because all of the computation is done in the cloud, and that right there is where the Xbox suddenly starts to make a lot more strategic sense: Microsoft has a massive advantage in a future where games are predominantly cloud-based.

Ultimately, I think Ben summarized the Microsoft showcase perfectly. I do hope you read it. To end:

Indeed, I find this idea so compelling that I must formally withdraw my recommendation that Microsoft get out of gaming; I still believe that the Xbox was a failure in terms of its original goals, but sometimes failure leads to opportunity, and streaming seems to be a significant one, for both Xbox specifically and Azure generally.

I have to say, the Xbox event was my favorite of E3, with Nintendo in a close second. With that, I truly think Microsoft has turned a storytelling corner.

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Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller

Microsoft Story Labs has a great piece by in-house writer Deborah Bach about the development of the Adaptive Controller. It’s great storytelling through and through; chock full of touching stories, business cases, and design implementation all the way down to the packaging.

Here’s the opening story:

Dan Bertholomey awoke in a hospital in June of 2010, four days after a hit-and-run driver almost killed him while he was riding his motorcycle, to the sinking knowledge that he’d lost the use of his right arm and hand.

As he lay in his hospital bed, Bertholomey pondered his future. He thought about his daily life and the things he loved to do. How am I going to game again, he wondered? He’d been an avid gamer since age 10, when an original Pong console from Sears magically transformed his family’s television set into an electronic playground that he could control. Bertholomey was instantly hooked. He loved the competitiveness of gaming, loved the places it took his imagination.

Bertholomey continued gaming into adulthood, playing often with his son and daughter. In 2005, when he was 40, Bertholomey placed sixth on “Madden Nation,” a televised competition of the U.S.’s best “Madden NFL 06” football video game players. For him, gaming wasn’t just a hobby, something he did in his spare time. It was a lifestyle.

“You can’t fathom losing something that you love so much, said Bertholomey, 52, who lives in Mesa, Arizona. It’s incredibly devastating.”

Bertholomey began looking for ways to play with one hand. He found someone to hack him a foot pedal that connected to his Xbox, but it didn’t work well for him. He eventually taught himself to play with his left hand, but it was awkward and he couldn’t play at anywhere near his previous capacity.

The solution Bertholomey needed is now a reality — and it has the potential to make gaming accessible to players with disabilities worldwide. The new Xbox Adaptive Controller, which will be available later this year, can be connected to external buttons, switches, joysticks and mounts, giving gamers with a wide range of physical disabilities the ability to customize their setups. The most flexible adaptive controller made by a major gaming company, the device can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games and supports Xbox Wireless Controller features such as button remapping.

Bertholomey, who is among a select group of gamers who have been testing the device, said the controller makes it easy to create different setups for various types of games and seamlessly switch between them. Gamers can set up three different gaming profiles on the controller and don’t need to reset the device every time they change games, as they sometimes do with modified controllers.

This controller is really something else. There should have been steps taken to get to this point a long time ago, but this is wonderful, nonetheless.

I’ve recently wondered how to make games more accessible. The thought (rather shamefully) finally occurred to me while playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Switch in handheld mode. I have perfect eyesight, but the text was just small enough to be uncomfortable to read. Seeing as the game was originally intended for a TV experience on Wii U, it’s not terribly surprising that the experience wasn’t tailored for the Switch’s 6.2-inch screen. However, with the success of the Switch and Breath of the Wild, it’s surprising Nintendo hasn’t patched the text size while in handheld mode.

More recently, I’ve been playing God of War on a 720p TV. Golly, is the text tough to read.

Software accessibility is difficult, let alone manufacturing a piece of hardware for a niche audience. But it’s a niche audience that must to be considered. Where many companies seemingly glance over serving mental and physical handicaps, it’s wonderful to see Microsoft doing the right thing by enabling play for as many people as possible.

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More Battletoads

During today’s Windows 10 event, head of Xbox division and Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer was unabashedly sporting a Battletoads t-shirt. Polygon followed up:

When asked, Spencer told Polygon, “I don’t think I’ve ever worn a t-shirt that’s been a complete head fake. I don’t think I have … have I? I wouldn’t do that.” So if it’s not a “head fake,” we’ll consider it a confirmation of more Battletoads.

Rare games could be system sellers in my book. Relinking to last year’s post, Xbox One: Swinging for the Franchise Fences with Rare IP?

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‘Exercising With Nothing But An Xbox’

Stephie Grob Plante, writing for xoJane:

The free songs — including “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic and “#thatPower” by will.i.am ft. Justin Bieber — are not necessarily my jam(s), but it’s hard to complain about free. As I scroll through the song purchase options, I grumble at the glut of current(ish) tracks and dearth of classics. Swipe, swipe, swipe — WAIT: “Creep” by TLC for $1.99?! I hadn’t planned on buying anything, but…sold.

With one solid tune and a wealth of moves like “Niece,” “Rejectin,” and “Pros and Cons,” my childhood aspiration of becoming an In Living Color Fly Girl — a very real, very unattainable dream — feels within reach, at least from the confines of my 12×16 living room.

Hilarious read, surprising results.

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Rare and Lionhead are Crown Jewels

Phil Harrison, Microsoft Studios Europe, in an interview with Eurogamer:

We are very fortunate in having Rare and Lionhead in the UK as crown jewels of Microsoft Studios.

Rare is working on a couple of things at the moment, which we will announce at the right time. But I’m really excited by the things they’re doing and I believe you will be as well when you hear about them.

At E3 2014, Nintendo won over the hearts and respect of longtime fans by investing in first-party favorites, doubling-down on the Mushroom Kingdom, and acknowledging classic IP. Microsoft is not blind to the effectiveness of this move.

Killer Instinct was rebooted last year and Conker is making his way into Project Spark. My suspicions still lie here.

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Microsoft not selling off Xbox

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, tells The Verge:

I have no intent to do anything different with Xbox than we are doing today.

Did anybody actually believe this would happen?

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Xbox One: Swinging for the Franchise Fences with Rare IP?

With the recent news that Microsoft will be breathing new life into a ‘historic’ Rare franchise, a light bulb fired in my head. Could this be Microsoft’s attempt to appeal to the playful/children’s market that Nintendo has been rooted in for so many years?

Microsoft nor Rare have offered any insight to which franchise will be making a return; however, most of Rare’s franchises have been well known within the gaming community since the N64 era. I would even argue that Rare’s cast of characters and franchises are more recognizable and lovable than the majority of Microsoft’s and Sony’s combined.

After the Xbox One reveal, my “one” big take away was that Microsoft’s focus is not specifically the gaming market, but all markets. It’s not to say that people don’t love the Halo, Fable, and Gear of War franchises, but why not capitalize on a children’s market?

After the seemingly disappointing failure of Sony’s Playstation All-Stars and Nintendo’s continually draw of fantastic IP, Microsoft surely recognizes the importance of having a recognizable cast of characters to market to all-players, children through adults. While Nintendo’s consoles may not appeal to many, their franchises surely do. Colorful legends like Mario, Zelda, and Star Fox appeal not only to the child within the adult gamer but also to children and the parents buying their games.

While Killer Instinct is the rumored refresh, it surely would not serve as the greatest marketing strategy; however, the select few of playful characters such as Banzo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, and Battletoads could easily garner notoriety. Tone down a character like Conker and you’ve got another to add to the mix. While Donkey Kong is out of the question, Rare could take a lesson from Nintendo and develop a few more fun loving characters for each genre (Star Fox = dogfighter, Metroid = FPS, Mario = platformer, Zelda = adventure).

With a revival of Rare’s IP, Microsoft could pull the franchise rug out from under Nintendo and make their gaming line-up more recognizable, vast, and nostalgic than Sony’s.

What are your thoughts on the Rare announcement? Do you miss Rare Ltd.? Sound off in the comments!

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Notable Rare franchises/games:

  • Killer Instinct
  • Goldeneye
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Jet Force Gemini
  • Conker
  • Perfect Dark
  • Battletoads
  • Donkey Kong 64

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Originally posted on IGN.com

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