The new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition. (Microsoft Photo) Microsoft today unveiled the new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, confirming rumors of the . The $250 console — $50 less than other Xbox One S models — is geared toward gamers who prefer to download games digitally rather than buy physical discs. The new console is another example of Microsoft shifting’s gaming strategy to focus on reaching more gamers on a variety of devices and a greater emphasis on cloud-based gaming. Xbox One S All-Digital Edition will go on sale starting May 7 and come bundled with , and . Microsoft is painting the new device as the most affordable way to play Xbox games and guaranteed that it will remain less expensive than other consoles even as prices fluctuate. Microsoft today also announced plans to , the company’s rotating catalog of 100 games that users can download. The $15 per month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will roll out later this year. Microsoft might have another new console up its sleeve. A second rumored Microsoft project, “” is designed to work with Microsoft’s planned game streaming service. There’s a chance it could be unveiled at the big E3 gaming conference, where Microsoft promised its . The all-digital console feels like a bridge to the company’s grander vision where users can play Xbox games on any number of devices. It has taken other steps to get there, including to Android and iOS devices. The shift will really kick into high gear later this year when the ambitious Project xCloud begins public trials later this year. Microsoft will look to leverage its cloud presence by making it possible for people to play high-powered Xbox games on smartphones. The news of the new Xbox console comes as rival Sony on plans for its next-generation console. The new model won’t arrive this year, and it will feature capability that provides a greater degree of visual realism and ship with a solid-state drive to make it easier to seamlessly load big-budget, open-world games.
Valve announced big changes coming for its widely used Steam video game platform, including a new feature, Events; a new look for the application’s Library page; and its new Steam Link Anywhere software. The Bellevue, Wash.-based company made the announcements as part of its at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, conducted by Valve’s Tom Giardino, Kassidy Gerber, Aiden Kroll, and Ricky Uy. Events, a new feature for Steam which is headed for open beta “within the next couple months,” will be shown on a dedicated page in the Steam application. Any game in a user’s library that has an upcoming event will have that information pushed forward via the Events page in Steam, enabling developers and publishers to reach their players on Steam directly. Events can involve items such as tournaments, content patches, flash sales for games on a user’s wishlist, bonus periods (such as free weekends or in-game “holidays”), or livestreams, with a weekly roundup page for events that affect any games in a given user’s collection. Steam’s Library page is also receiving an overhaul, switching from the old mostly text-based screen to a more visual environment. Your friends list will now be directly incorporated into the new look, with your complete library shifted to the bottom of the screen in a box-art tileset reminiscent of Netflix’s streaming menu. The top of your library will list your most recently played games, with all of your current selection’s details available at a glance. An early mockup of the new look for Steam’s Library page. (Source: Official Valve asset) Steam Link Anywhere earlier this March. The software, currently in beta testing, allows users to stream games from a PC running their Steam account to other devices, via the discontinued Steam Link hardware or devices running the free Steam Link app. It supports the Steam Controller, as well as Bluetooth-enabled gamepads, keyboards, and mice. Other developer-focused updates on the Steam backend include Developer Homepages, which allow existing fans to track a favorite studio’s next release, and store-page broadcasting capability, which lets creators livestream their gameplay footage or someone else’s to prospective buyers. One of the themes of the presentation was highlighting Valve and Steam’s existing investment in their systems, for developers and players alike. According to Gerber, in 2018, through Steam, Valve delivered 13 exabytes (13 billion gigabytes) of installation and update data to its users, with 11 billion software updates delivered via their service. This was made possible via Valve building its own private gaming network with 30 points of presence and 125 relays on a global backbone connection. A slide from Valve’s presentation on Steam at the Game Developers’ Conference 2019. (Source: Valve, .) Steam’s presentation at this year’s GDC comes one day after ‘s keynote, in which Epic announced a murderer’s row of old and new games that will be exclusive to its new online storefront. This includes big titles such as Ubisoft’s The Division 2, Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds (which will debut on Steam a full year after its debut on Epic), and 4A Games’s Metro Exodus. The French developer Quantic Dream also surprised the market by announcing that it would be bringing three of its narrative-focused cinematic adventures, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Detroit: Become Human, to the PC for the first time, all as Epic store exclusives. Epic is shaping up to become a major competitor to Steam in the digital games marketplace, placing an emphasis on delivering a huge lineup of exclusive titles, as well as giving its registered users a free game every two weeks. Steam’s response appears to focus on further developing its user experience and infrastructure, while highlighting the enormity and ubiquity of its current efforts; Epic may have a few games it doesn’t, the strategy seems to say, but look at everything you didn’t realize Steam was already doing for you.
Google unveiled a new gaming streaming service called Stadia on Tuesday morning, looking to shake up the video game world by leveraging its experience in cloud technology, and posing a new threat to fellow tech giants that operate the dominant gaming platforms. The search giant’s announcement promises to accelerate the industry’s evolution away from high-end hardware in the living room and toward streaming technology in the cloud. The move will be closely watched by existing game platform providers such as Nintendo, Microsoft, Valve, Sony and Apple, some of whom are or their own streaming services. Google is unveiling its plans this morning at GDC, the Game Developers Conference, starting at 10 a.m. Watch the live stream above and stay tuned for updates. The company also unveiled a Stadia controller with a dedicated button for sharing and saving gameplay on YouTube, and another button to get help from Google Assistant, using a built-in microphone. The connection to Google’s dominant video platform illustrates the potential threat to Amazon’s Twitch. Google gaming exec Phil Harrison shows the new Stadia controller. (Screenshot via YouTube.) The search giant previewed its gaming ambitions with Project Stream, a test that allowed gamers to play a streamed version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in Chrome web browsers, with the game streamed from a Google data center rather than running on the user’s hardware. “Internally, we were actually testing our ability to stream high fidelity graphics over a low latency network,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, in his opening remarks at the event this morning. “We learned that we could bring a Triple-A game to any device with a Chrome browser and an Internet connection, using the best of Google to create a powerful game platform.” Sundar Pichai unveils Google’s plans. (Image via live stream.) Phil Harrison, the former Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation executive who now leads Google’s gaming initiatives, said the company was able to stream games at 1080p and 60 frames per second in that test. “We will be handing that extraordinary power of the data center to you, the game developers.” Previewing the features of the Stadia service, Harrison showed the ability to jump directly into a game from a YouTube trailer, without any download required. “This new generation of gaming is not a box,” he said. “With Stadia, the data center is your platform. There is no console that limits the developer’s creative ideas, and no console that limits where gamers can play.” As the operator of a large-scale cloud platform, Google is in a unique position to launch a streaming service. , “It’s not a new technology, but past stabs at it have fizzled mostly because of latency issues, a problem that Google’s decision-makers think they can solve thanks to the data centers they’ve got all around the world.” Developing story, refresh for updates.
Nintendo abruptly broke its silence today regarding the next core entries in its popular Pokemon franchise. The next original role-playing games in the series are now officially known as Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, and will release exclusively for the Nintendo Switch towards the end of 2019. “This year, a new Pokemon journey will begin for all of you,” said Tsunekazu Ishihara, president and CEO of The Pokemon Co., introducing the new games. This marks the first original Pokémon release on the Switch, as last year’s Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! were enhanced remakes of earlier titles for the Game Boy. Sword and Shield were initially announced for the Switch at E3 2017, but no further information had been released on the subject until today’s early-morning livestreamed conference. Sword and Shield, according to producer Junichi Masuda, are “new entries in the Pokémon series, that will get any player fired up and excited.” They’re set in the previously-unexplored Galar region of the , which is inhabited by Pokémon both new and old, who work together with the local humans to develop the region’s industry. You play as a young novice trainer, heading out into the world to explore, find new Pokemon, and battle other trainers. You’ll be initially aided in this by one of three brand-new starter Pokemon: Grookey the chimpanzee, Scorbunny the rabbit, or Sobble, a timid water lizard. As always, you can pursue and capture Pokémon in the wild to expand your team and widen your options, until you work your way up to a team that you can use to defeat your rivals and attain the title of Champion. Traditionally with paired Pokémongames like Sword and Shield, the primary difference between them has been that a certain number of Pokémon are only available in one game or the other. You still get a full game either way, but if you decide you want to get 100 percent completion and complete your , you’ll want to trade your collected Pokémon like baseball cards with friends who are playing the other version of the current entry. Sword and Shield are directed by long-time franchise veteran , who has worked on various Pokémongames as a producer, designer, and/or director since 2002’s Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire. The Pokémonseries has been a tentpole franchise for Nintendo since 1996’s Pokémon Red and Blue for the original Game Boy. Initially developed by Game Freak CEO Satoshi Tajiri, who based the original game off of his childhood hobby of collecting insects, the various games in the Pokémonseries have sold well over 300 million units worldwide, and led to a franchise that includes toys, a collectible card game, and multiple cartoons. Core entries in the Pokémon franchise are developed by the Japanese company Game Freak, and are published and marketed worldwide by The Pokémon Co., a joint venture between Nintendo, Game Freak, and the Creatures studio. Pokemon Co.’s U.S. operations are in Bellevue, Wash. While almost all Pokémon games are exclusively found on Nintendo hardware, Game Freak is an independent company, and has occasionally developed games for other platforms such as 2015’s Tenbo the Badass Elephant. Redmond-based Nintendo of America, which oversees the Japanese game maker’s North American operations, last week , Reggie Fils-Aimé, who will be succeeded by longtime Nintendo executive Doug Bowser.
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Nintendo announced that an eagerly awaited sequel to its Animal Crossing series will come to the Switch in 2019. (Nintendo Photo) Last week, Nintendo’s corporate headquarters in Japan was , which knocked the N off the Nintendo sign on the outside of the building. The next day, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit the island of Hokkaido. After that, you can’t really blame Nintendo for canceling its planned Nintendo Direct stream and rescheduling it for today. But the news was well worth the wait as Nintendo revealed several long-awaited new games, including a new Switch sequel in its Animal Crossing series, in addition to Nintendo Online, the new service for online play. Read the full rundown of today’s announcement — including new Switch games, the Nintendo Online serivce and new Nintendo 3DS games — below: Nintendo Online The new Nintendo Switch service, Switch Online, begins on Sept. 18th. The service features an entry-level cost of $3.99 a month, with savings if you pay for more time at once. It has five features included with a membership: online play with compatible games, classic NES games with online compatibility (with a surprisingly deep library), automatic cloud storage backup for your save data, and connectivity with a smartphone app that will let you voice-chat with friends while playing certain games. Nintendo also announced a wireless NES controller with compatibility for the Switch, in order to play the NES library on Switch Online as it was meant to be back in the day. They can be charged the same way you charge JoyCons, by sliding them into the Switch while it’s docked. Subscribers also receive special offers, although Nintendo will “have more to announce in the future” about that. New Switch games and features The stream kicked off with a trailer, displaying footage from a new Luigi’s Mansion: Luigi’s Mansion 3, scheduled for 2019 on the Switch. Shinya Takahashi, the Nintendo executive in charge of entertaining planning and development, took over from there, confirming that this was a brand-new reveal, of a game in active development. And the announcement closed with a surprise trailer for a new competitor in Ultimate: Isabelle, from Animal Crossing. In addition, Tom Nook showed up to inform us all that a new Animal Crossing, one of the most-requested titles on the Switch, is coming in 2019. All we know for right now is its title: Welcome to Animal Crossing. Get ready to get extorted by Tom Nook all over again! Explore a world crafted from household items like boxes and paper cups in ’s Crafted World, launching on in spring 2019! — Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) Going into the show, we’d , thanks to a few fans on Twitter who spotted an update to Nintendo’s website that wasn’t supposed to be there. The next Yoshi game is coming to the Switch in 2019, and is called Yoshi’s Crafted World. It follows up 2015’s for the Wii-U, a game where Mario’s faithful dinosaur buddy went on an adventure in which everything was made from yarn. Meanwhile, a coming update for Splatoon 2 will bring it to version 4, with a new mode called Turf War. Mega Man 11 is coming to the Switch as part of the franchise’s celebration of its 30th anniversary. It’s compatible with the Mega Man Amiibo, which can be hooked up to your Switch for free items once a day, including life-restoring Energy Tanks. Birdo, Shy Guy, Koopa Paratroopa, and Petey Piranha are joining the playable roster of Mario Tennis Aces, all of whom can be unlocked by playing online. A new mode called co-op challenge is coming soon in a new update. There will be more additions to the roster until at least next June. The game updates to version 2 on September 19th. Capcom’s Beat ‘Em Up Bundle features the classic arcade brawlers Final Fight, The King of Dragons, Captain Commando, Knights of the Round, Warriors of Fate, Armored Warriors, and Battle Circuit, with 4-player functionality with JoyCons and online compatibility. The last two games on that list have never received a port to home systems before. You can pre-purchase the game later today, and it’ll be out on September 18th. New Super Mario Bros. U is getting “the deluxe treatment” by heading to the Switch. Nabbit and Toadette will become playable; Nabbit doesn’t take damage from enemies, and Toadette can power up into “Peachette.” A single Joy-Con controller can allow up to 4 players to play together. It’s coming out on January 11th. The popular Katamari Damacy series is debuting on the Switch with Katamari Damacy Reroll, an HD rework of the original game in the franchise. You can use the JoyCons to control your katamari with the built-in gyroscope. It’s coming out later this year. The show concluded with a rollercoaster of impending Switch games, such as Diablo III: Eternal Collection, an RPG from Game Freak with the working title Town, the aforementioned Yoshi’s Crafted World, and the announcement of several StarFox-based missions for Ubisoft’s forthcoming space shooter Starlink. Square Enix is bringing a whole host of ported Final Fantasy games to the Switch, including VII, IX, X, X-2, and a “Pocket Edition” of XV with simpler graphics. Finally, Nintendo announced that there will be a Switch bundle for Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, available on November 2nd, with special Smash designs for the dock and controller. It comes with a download code for Ultimate. New 3DS game releases Some upcoming games for the Nintendo 3DS include a port of Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn from the Wii, with new abilities for Kirby, such as the ability to conjure wind or larger yarn balls, or a Devilish Mode that involves having to outrun an enemy. Bowser Jr.’s Journey is a solo adventure for Bowser’s son, taking place during the events of Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, coming out on January 11th as a package deal with the latter game. The original Luigi’s Mansion from the GameCube is getting ported to the 3DS, along with a two-player mode that lets the second player play as another, greener Luigi. If only one player has the actual game, two players can still team up to fight bosses together using the 3DS’s Download Play feature. There’s also four different Amiibos that feature compatibility with the game. You can buy it on October 13th. Yo-Kai Watch Blasters is receiving some free software updates on October 11th that will add new content to the game, such as new yo-kai to befriend and new boss battles. This is in addition to the coming Moon Rabbit Crew update in September.
(Via Microsoft) Microsoft today unveiled a new Xbox subscription plan that lets gamers pay for a console and play games for a monthly price. Called , the two-year contract starts at $21.99 per month for a new Xbox One S, an subscription, and an Xbox . The monthly fee goes up to $34.99 per month for an Xbox One X. Customers can keep the hardware after the contract expires. The confirms earlier reports about Xbox All Access, which is only available at Microsoft Stores in the U.S. for a limited time. Microsoft said gamers can save more than $130 by signing up for the Xbox One S All Access plan, versus buying the console outright with the attached subscriptions. “This is one of the most value-driven ways to join the Xbox family we’ve ever offered,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post Monday. Offering an All Access-style subscription is a “potentially seismic disruption to the typical video game console’s sales model,” GeekWire contributor Thomas Wilde last week. “In a lot of ways, this is the natural evolution of the ‘games as service’ model that’s been driving a lot of the industry’s digital offerings for the last few years, and Microsoft has been transparent about its desire to ,” Wilde . All Access also gives gamers a chance to play Xbox without needing to drop hundreds of dollars at once on a console. In June, Microsoft that it is building a “game streaming network to unlock console-quality gaming on any device.” The company is also working on two new Xbox consoles, including a lower-cost option powered by Microsoft’s cloud streaming service.