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By Rich Woods
Microsoft announces live-stream event for Xbox Series X|S launch
by Rich Woods
Today, Microsoft announced that it's going to be holding a live-stream event on November 10, the day that its next-generation Xbox consoles launch. Obviously, the event is to celebrate the launch of the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S.
The company says that this event is meant to be a companion for your already-existing gaming plans that day. There are going to be "Let's Play" segments, and you'll be invited to play alongside of the content creators on the stream. Microsoft refers to it as grabbing your "device of choice", a nod to how you don't need an Xbox to play Xbox games anymore, as we can stream them to an array of Android devices.
"To honor the launch of the new Xbox generation, we invite you to celebrate this power of play with us," said Xbox chief Phil Spencer in a blog post. "On November 10, we invite you, players of all identities and backgrounds, console generations and devices, skill sets and tastes, to celebrate, connect, and play together. We invite you to grab your device of choice and play alongside Team Xbox, your favorite creators, and our partners, right from your homes around the world. We invite you to take a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the next generation of games, hear the stories of people who make them, and play along with them."
The event will be at 2pm Eastern Time on November 10, and you'll be able to watch on YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook Gaming.
By Rich Woods
Xbox Games with Gold for November includes Full Spectrum Warrior and more
by Rich Woods
Microsoft revealed today next month's round of four games for Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members. This time around, there are the usual two Xbox One games, but the other two are split between one Xbox 360 game and one game for the original Xbox. Obviously, they can all be played on the company's current generation of consoles, and they'll actually be available to play on the next generation of consoles (Xbox Series X|S) as well, being that those consoles can play anything that's playable on the Xbox One family.
Here are the free Games with Gold titles announced today and their arrival dates:
Aragami: Shadow Edition (Xbox One, November 1 - 30)
Swimsanity! (November 16 - December 15)
Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox, November 1 - 15)
LEGO Indiana Jones (Xbox 360, November 16 - 30)
As usual, Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers need to claim their games between the designated dates, and if they cancel their subscription, they'll only be able to keep the Xbox and Xbox 360 games.
Note that you can still claim most of last month's Games with Gold. There are a couple of days left to grab Slayaway Camp: Butcher's Cut (Xbox One) and Costume Quest (Xbox 360), and you've got until November 15 to claim Maid of Sker (Xbox One).
By Rich Woods
Microsoft has more updates coming to the Xbox Game Bar on Windows 10
by Rich Woods
Microsoft has been working hard on improving its Xbox Game Bar on Windows 10. It completely redesigned the utility in mid-2019, and even introduced a store for third-party Game Bar widgets earlier this year. It's no surprise that more improvements are on the way, as the company announced today.
These improvements come in the form of new widgets. There are new Resources and Performance widgets. The former will let you see which apps are using which resources, and it allows you to shut down those apps without having to leave your game. The latter lets you monitor GPU utilization and GPU memory.
Gamecaster also has a new widget, which is an in-game overlay that lets you track things like followers and chat messages from your audience while streaming. There's also a new ASUS Armory Crate widget, which lets users toggle between five different HyperFan modes.
Finally, there's one non-widget-related update. If you go to Settings -> Gaming features, you'll be able to see if your PC supports DirectX 12 Ultimate. DX12 Ultimate lets you use new features like DirectX Raytracing, Variable Rate Shading, Mesh Shaders, and Sampler Feedback.
All of these new features are available today.
By Abhay V
Microsoft says Xbox Series X and S will leverage "full" RDNA 2 capabilities
by Abhay Venkatesh
AMD took to the virtual stage today to unveil its next-generation GPU offerings based on RDNA 2 architecture that is built on the 7nm process. The firm announced a trio of Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs that aim to go against Nvidia’s latest RTX 30 series offerings, promising higher performance per watt. During the presentation, the company also mentioned that it worked with Microsoft to optimize the architecture with technologies like DirectStorage API and more.
Now, Microsoft has explained through a blog post how its next-generation gaming consoles, the Xbox Series X and Series S, will integrate with the RDNA 2 architecture to leverage all the capabilities announced by AMD today, to deliver a “level of power, performance and compatibility never before seen in console gaming, powered by AMD’s latest “Zen 2” and RDNA 2 architectures”. These benefits include hardware-accelerated DirectX Raytracing, Mesh Shaders, Sampler Feedback from the Xbox Velocity Architecture, and Variable Rate Shading.
The Redmond firm says that it has been working with AMD from the initial development phases of the Xbox Series X|S, and that it “chose to wait for the most advanced technology” from AMD before finalizing its architecture. It has worked to improved NPC intelligence and visuals through machine learning.
The firm is also working to bring ML-powered super resolution to the consoles as well, a possible rival to Nvidia’s DLSS 2.0 supersampling method, to the Xbox consoles. All these technologies, the company says, allows the consoles to achieve high quality, high fidelity visuals with realistic shadows and reflections.
Along with bringing these technologies and capabilities to the console, Microsoft says that it is also working with AMD to bring these benefits to the PC, which will provide developers a “common set of features” when developing games across the PC and console platforms. Other improvements from AMD such as Smart Access Memory - that allows full GPU memory access to Ryzen 5000 series CPUs - will further improve performance on the PC.
Microsoft’s post is interesting because the PlayStation 5 also features a custom RDNA 2 architecture-based GPU running alongside a Zen 2-based CPU. It will be fascinating to see what benefits the Xbox consoles can bring to overall performance thanks to the “full” hardware-level integration with the RDNA 2 architecture.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft earnings: $37.2B revenue with big Surface and gaming growth
by Rich Woods
Today, Microsoft announced its earnings for the first quarter of its 2021 fiscal year. Overall revenue grew by 12% (12% in constant currency) over the same quarter last year for a total of $37.2 billion. That's broken up into Productivity and Business Processes with $12.3B revenue and 11% (11% CC) growth), Intelligent Cloud with $13B revenue and 20% (19% CC) growth, and More Personal Computing with $11.8B revenue and 6% (6% CC) growth.
In the Productivity and Business Processes department, it was led by 9% increase in Office Commercial products and cloud services, including 21% (20% CC) growth in Office 365 Commercial. The other piece of products and cloud services, the products, declined 30% as more businesses move to the cloud.
For consumers, Office products and cloud services revenue grew by 13%, and Microsoft 365 Consumer subscribers are now at 45.3 million, a 27% increase. LinkedIn revenue grew by 16%, and sessions grew by 31%. For Dynamics, products and cloud services revenue grew by 19% (18% CC), driven by Dynamics 365 revenue, which grew by 38% (37% CC).
As usual, Azure drove the growth in the Intelligent Cloud section. All Server products and cloud services grew by 22% (21% CC), and that includes a 48% (47% CC) growth in Azure. Server products actually declined 1%.
For More Personal Computing, Windows OEM revenue actually declined by 5%, but that actually includes 31% growth in non-Pro revenue, so there was also a 22% decline in Pro revenue. Windows Commercial products and cloud services grew 13% (12% CC).
Surface revenue saw a big boost, with a 37% (36% CC) increase. For this and the increase in Windows non-Pro revenue, Microsoft attributes increased PC demand. Gaming revenue increased by 22% (21% CC), including a 30% increase in Xbox content and services. Finally, search advertising revenue, excluding traffic acquisition costs, was down 10% (11% CC).