The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3) showcase took place this past week, and as usual, Microsoft decided to participate on what was essentially day minus one. Nevertheless, on Sunday, the company featured lots of games, joined by hardware announcements, new services, and much more. Be sure to find out about all that took place there and outside of E3 below, plus the usual bit extra, in your Microsoft digest for the week of June 8-14.
E3 recap extravaganza
As I said in the previous paragraph, E3 took place this past week, and Microsoft chose its usual slot at 1PM Pacific on June 9 at the Microsoft Theater in LA to showcase everything game-related. And boy was there a lot to show.
Between first-party and third-party titles featured, the show highlighted 60 games, as well as a brand-new studio acquisition, a new Elite controller, a few details about Scarlett and xCloud, and more.
As you may remember, last year’s recap went announcement by announcement, in order of appearance. This year we’re doing things differently, as this main section is going to be sub-divided into four: first-party announcements (including studio acquisition news), third-party announcements, hardware and services, and finally, related announcements, for Microsoft properties about which news has been shared, though not at the company’s main E3 event. Without further ado, be sure to grab your favourite beverage and let’s get right into it.
This year’s E3 was Microsoft’s biggest show, not just in terms of total games showcased, but also when it comes to news from first-party studios. After all, as Xbox Head Phil Spencer announced, there were 14 first-party games shown on stage.
As you may remember, last year at E3, the Redmond giant announced that it was buying Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games, as well as starting up another first-party studio of its own, The Initiative - led by Darrell Gallagher who was behind the Tomb Raider reboot. Furthermore, later in the year, Microsoft also announced that it was acquiring Obsidian Entertainment as well as InXile Entertainment, bringing its total number of first-party studios to 13.
At its 2019 show, Microsoft announced that another studio would be joining its first-party game organization. That studio is Double Fine Productions, makers of Brutal Legend, Broken Age, and Psychonauts. Speaking of the latter, Double Fine’s Tim Schafer came on stage to present a new trailer for Psychonauts 2, but keep in mind that the title still doesn’t have a release date, so it’ll most likely come out in 2020.
What does however have a release date is Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds, which got to open the show with a reasonably lengthy trailer. Because it’s now from a first-party studio, it’ll also be playable via Xbox Game Pass, despite its Epic Game Store exclusivity on PC. The Outer Worlds launches October 25.
Right after it was Ninja Theory’s newest game, Bleeding Edge which unfortunately leaked before the presentation. Nevertheless, the 4v4 online melee title was still showcased, and it is set to kick off a technical alpha on June 27.
Next was Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the highly anticipated sequel to Moon Studios’ 2015 Metroidvania platformer Ori and the Blind Forest. It’s coming out February 11, 2020, and there’s a new gameplay trailer available.
Minecraft Dungeons followed, with a more extended look at the Action RPG spinoff of the main sandbox game, complete with different classes and items to equip. It’ll be four-player co-op (both local and online), and it’s coming Spring 2020.
We then got to see a first look at gameplay for the Battletoads reboot that Dlala Studios and Rare are working on, though we didn’t get any kind of a release date.
The next announcement was as surprising as it was probably delightful for fans of the series. Touting captured footage in 4K real time, as well as the use of satellite data and Azure AI, the Redmond giant unveiled its 2020 reboot of Microsoft Flight Simulator. It’s been 13 years since the last one (Flight Simulator X), so the reveal was a rather pleasant surprise.
Swiftly following Flight Simulator was Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, a 4K remaster of the venerable strategy game. It features upgraded visuals, fully remastered audio, and a new campaign. It’s coming Fall 2019 to the Microsoft Store and Steam.
In addition to all of those, InXile had its very own title to show with Wasteland 3, the latest installment in the isometric RPG series. It’s coming Spring 2020 and has the same folks behind Torment: Tides of Numenera creating the story.
Following it was Gears 5, which finally has a release date of September 10. Developed by The Coalition, this game will get a three-player co-op mode dubbed Escape, and a Horde Mode set to be unveiled at gamescom in August. The Tech Test will begin July 17, for those who want to try out Versus mode.
There was also a small showcase of gameplay for the Gears Pop! mobile title with no release date in sight.
Forza Horizon 4’s second expansion was unveiled on stage too, and it’s dubbed LEGO Speed Champions. As the title implies, you’ll be able to race both LEGO cars and take part in LEGO-themed challenges. It’s available now.
Right after Horizon 4 we got to see State of Decay 2 Heartland, the game’s biggest expansion to date. It features two separate story paths, and is available now for $9.99.
Microsoft decided to cap off the show with a better look at 343 Industries’ Halo Infinite, which is set for a Holiday 2020 release. This is because it’s a launch title for Project Scarlett, about which we’ll talk more in the “Hardware and services” section. Infinite will be a so-called spiritual reboot, featuring some new characters – and of course Master Chief -, but keeping the same gameplay feel of the older titles.
If you’ve followed the company’s recent efforts in gaming, you’ll know that all of the titles listed above will be playable in Xbox Game Pass on launch day.
As usual, the third-party showcase this year dwarfed Microsoft’s first-party efforts, but that’s to be expected.
Opening the floodgates was Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order with a new slice of gameplay. The game is set to arrive November 15 to current-gen consoles and PC.
We’re skipping one ahead because the next title, Blair Witch – developed by the same folks behind Layers of Fear and _observer, was also featured in the ID@Xbox showcase which we’ll cover in a bit.
The next reveal was for Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt RED’s upcoming open-world RPG. It had two surprises, one of them being the addition of Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand. The other one, perhaps not as big, though equally as surprising, was the unveiling of an actual release date: April 16, 2020.
Following it was RPG TIME: The Legend of Wright, which is a tabletop RPG-type game, coming to Android, iOS, and Windows in 2020.
Now we arrive to the ID@Xbox showcase, the annual sizzle reel that Microsoft puts on to highlight titles from independent developers. Do note that titles which have an asterisk next to them have been featured both for a few seconds in this sizzle reel, and have also gotten their own trailers played in full separately at the show.
|Blair Witch*||The Good Life|
|Dead Static Drive||Totally Accurate Battle Simulator (TABS)|
|Star Renegades||Secret Neighbor|
|Way to the Woods*||Unto the End|
|Creature in the Well||Riverbond|
|Killer Queen Black||Felix the Reaper|
|Pathologic 2||Totem Teller|
|The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game|
All of the titles listed in this table are playable on launch via Xbox Game Pass.
The next title to be shown off was LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, a new game which is set to feature content from all nine films. It’s coming out in 2020.
Next up was Dragon Ball Z Kakarot, an RPG set in the Dragon Ball universe and previously known as Dragon Ball Project Z. It’ll come out early 2020.
In a bit of a contrast to the previous entry, we had Twelve Minutes, an “interactive thriller about a man trapped in a time loop”. It’s seen from a top-down perspective and published by Annapurna Interactive, with a release year of 2020.
Techland’s RPG and parkour-infused first-person action game Dying Light 2 followed, with a brand-new look at the world and a release window of Spring 2020.
Perhaps one of the most surprising additions to the show was Phantasy Star Online 2, the second iteration of the popular Japanese MMORPG. Keep in mind that Phantasy Star as a series launched back in the late 80s, and the original Phantasy Star Online came out in Japan back in 2012. PSO2 will be the first time the game is brought to the west, via Xbox One. Also playable on PC, it’s coming Spring 2020.
Sticking to games that are very popular in Asian territories, next up was CrossFire X, a new entry in the online FPS series which reportedly has 660 million registered accounts. It’s coming to the Xbox One first, in 2020, though an interesting detail wasn’t present in the briefing. CrossFire X will have its usual online component developed by Smilegate (the current developers), and a single-player campaign developed by Remedy, the same folks behind Control, Quantum Break, and perhaps more famously, the first two Max Payne games.
After this there was a Bandai Namco game, Tales of Arise, which is the latest in the action RPG series and is set to come out in 2020.
It was then the turn of Borderlands 3 - which comes out September 13 - and a new Borderlands 2 DLC dubbed Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary. The latter is setting the stage for Borderlands 3 and is available now.
Lastly there was Elden Ring, a collaboration between Hidetaka Miyazaki and George R. R. Martin. It is of course developed by Miyazaki’s FromSoftware, with a release year of 2020.
Beyond the sizeable batch of games, there were also announcements pertaining to services like Xbox Game Pass, xCloud, and a bunch of hardware news.
First up, Batman: Arkham Knight, Metro Exodus, Hollow Knight, and Borderlands The Handsome Collection have all been added to Game Pass on console.
Second, Microsoft talked a bit more about its previously announced Xbox Game Pass for PC that is currently in open beta. The beta price is $4.99/month (set to go up to $9.99/month on launch), but Microsoft has an offer in place right now whereby you can get it for $1/month.
In related news, the company also announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a combo subscription which includes Xbox Game Pass for console, Xbox Game Pass for PC, and Xbox Live Gold for $14.99/month. This one is also part of the $1/month offer currently on, though there’s an interesting twist to it. If say you already have six months of Game Pass or Xbox Live Gold (just as an example), you can upgrade to Ultimate for $1, and the entirety of your subscription will be converted. In other words, you get six months of all three for the $1 upgrade price, since it’s a 1:1 conversion rate. You do need to have Gold bought beforehand for this to work though, and you can stack up to a maximum of 36 months.
To access Game Pass on PC you’ll need the new Xbox (Beta) app. If you want to install it, you’ll need to be on the May 2019 Update or version 1903 of Windows 10.
And speaking of PC, we now have a full list of all the PC games available via this subscription. Among them are a couple announced at E3 like Imperator: Rome, Football Manager 2019, and of course Halo: The Master Chief Collection which is set to be made available starting with Halo: Reach. We do know that if you want to own the Halo games, you’ll need to pay $9.99 for each, and if the Xbox app banner is anything to go by, Halo 5: Guardians may come to PC as well.
Microsoft also took the time to briefly mention Project xCloud which will be available in preview this October. There’s also a new platform feature coming dubbed Console Streaming, which, as per Phil Spencer’s own words “turns your Xbox One into your own, personal – and free – xCloud server.”
Moving swiftly onto hardware, Microsoft showed off a promo for the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 which is available for pre-order now, priced at $179.99, and features adjustable tension thumbsticks, a new wrap-around rubberized grip, shorter hair trigger locks, Bluetooth connectivity, a rechargeable internal battery, and more. It’ll be available November 4. You can check out our brief hands-on here.
And of course, as it was teased in the E3 promos, the company also shared a few more details about Project Scarlett, its next-gen Xbox. Arriving Holiday 2020 alongside Halo Infinite, it uses Zen2 and Navi tech from AMD for CPU and GPU respectively, utilizing of course GDDR6 VRAM, a “next-generation SSD”, and is reportedly four times as powerful as the now top-of-the-line Xbox One X. And yes, it will have a disc drive.
The last bits of news come from outside the main Xbox E3 briefing, as we found out that Xbox Game Pass isn’t coming to the Switch anytime soon. That’s because, as Phil Spencer stated in an interview, the company considers the platform differences “non-trivial” for it to declare that these games will definitely run on Nintendo’s hybrid console.
What is coming to a different platform is Cuphead. It’s coming to Tesla cars of all things, though no date or time frame was given.
In other platform-related news, you’ll now be able to choose whatever Xbox Live gamertag you want, as these are now handled in a similar way to Discord. It’s essentially the display name itself, followed by a # sign and series of numbers. The feature is available now.
In addition to all of this, Microsoft has also unveiled its last batch of Backward Compatible games for Xbox One, and they are quite a few. Among them are a number of Tom Clancy games, as well as Xbox One X enhanced Xbox 360 titles. There’s too many to list here, so be sure to check them all out at this link. The reason for the discontinuation of the program is that Microsoft wants to make sure that existing Backward Compatible games will also run on Project Scarlett.
Lastly, if you have Xbox Live Gold, Rivals of Aether and Earth Defense Force 2017 are free to claim.
The Tuesday of patches
After the wall of text that is this week’s gaming news, this section may seem a little barren, though it nonetheless highlights the patches that got pushed out on Tuesday to a number of Windows 10 versions:
- May 2019 Update (1903): KB4503293, build 18362.175 – addresses a security vulnerability by intentionally preventing the connection between Windows and Bluetooth devices that are not secure; Various security updates to Windows App Platform and Frameworks, SQL Components, JET Database Engine, and more.
- Known issues: Windows Sandbox may fail to start with “ERROR_FILE_NOT_FOUND (0x800700002)” if you change the OS language on your device during the install process of 1903.
- October 2018 Update (1809): KB4503327, build 17763.557 – addresses the same Bluetooth security vulnerability, plus the bug with PXE not allowing devices from a WDC server to start properly, and a bug which prevented the Windows Mixed Reality keyboard from rendering correctly. There are also a number of security updates to various components, like the ones mentioned in the 1903 changelog.
- Known issues: Operations like rename may fail when performed on files or folders within a Cluster Shared Volume (STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL 0xC00000A5); Attempting to print from Edge or a UWP app will give you this error: “Your printer has experienced an unexpected configuration problem. 0x80070007e”; After installing KB4493509, devices with certain Asian language packs may get error “0x800f0982-PSFX_E_MATCHING_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND”.
- April 2018 Update (1803): KB4503286, build 17134.829 – very similar changelog to 1809.
- Known issues: Operations like rename may fail when performed on files or folders within a Cluster Shared Volume (STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL 0xC00000A5).
- Fall Creators Update (1709) Enterprise, Education: KB4503284, build 16299.1217 – similar changelog to 1803 and 1809.
- Known issues: Operations like rename may fail when performed on files or folders within a Cluster Shared Volume (STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL 0xC00000A5)
- Creators Update (1703) Enterprise, Education: KB4503279, build 15063.1868 – identical changelog to 1709.
- Known issues: Operations like rename may fail when performed on files or folders within a Cluster Shared Volume (STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL 0xC00000A5)
- Anniversary Update LTSC (1607), Server 2016: KB4503267, build 14393.3025 – very similar changelog to the ones above, with the addition of a patch for the issue that caused authentication to fail when using Windows Hello for Business on Server 2016 with Server Core as an installed option.
- Known issues: Operations like rename may fail when performed on files or folders within a Cluster Shared Volume (STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL 0xC00000A5); SCVMM cannot enumerate and manage logical switches on the host after installing this update; After installing KB4467684, the cluster service may fail to start with error “2245 (NERR_PasswordTooShort)”; Some devices running Server 2016 with Hyper-V enabled may enter BitLocker recovery mode with error “0xC0210000”.
- Windows 10 RTM LTSC (1507): KB4503291, build 10240.18244 – similar changelog to 1607, with the addition of a fix for an HTTP and HTTPS string character limit for URLs when using IE, and various time zone information updates.
- Known issues: Operations like rename may fail when performed on files or folders within a Cluster Shared Volume (STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL 0xC00000A5); When expanding, viewing or creating Custom Views in Event Viewer, you may run into error “MMC has detected an error in a snap-in and will unload it” – built-in views should work fine.
Of course, not everybody is on the latest OS, so for those still on Windows 7 and 8.1 (plus their server equivalents), here’s what you need to be on the lookout for:
- Windows 7 SP1, Server 2008 R2 SP1: KB4503292, KB4503269 (security-only) – has a fix for an HTTP and HTTPS string character limit for URLs when using IE, plus a number of security updates to components like Windows Storage and Filesystems, Virtualization, JET Database Engine, and more.
- Known issues: Issue with McAfee ENS 10.x, Host Intrusion Prevention 8.0, or VirusScan Enterprise 8.8 which causes a slow startup and the system to become unresponsive after restart; IE11 may stop working when interacting with Power BI reports that have line charts with markers or other content which contains SVG markers.
- Windows 8.1, Server 2012 R2: KB4503276, KB4503290 (security-only) – has a fix for an HTTP and HTTPS string character limit for URLs when using IE, plus one for the PXE bug and the Bluetooth device security vulnerability mentioned in the 1903 changelog.
- Known issues: Issue with McAfee ENS 10.x, Host Intrusion Prevention 8.0, or VirusScan Enterprise 8.8 which causes a slow startup and the system to become unresponsive after restart; IE11 may stop working when interacting with Power BI reports that have line charts with markers or other content which contains SVG markers; Operations like rename may fail when performed on files or folders within a Cluster Shared Volume (STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL 0xC00000A5).
And as was probably obvious if you’ve kept an eye on the Microsoft support lifecycle page, version 1703 of Windows 10 Mobile is no longer supported as of June 11.
More Insider news
A lot of things took place in the last seven days, but if you’re an Insider you might’ve also noticed a new build. Specifically, 18917 is the build I’m talking about, which brings in Windows Subsystem for Linux 2, Narrator and Windows Ink Workspace updates, plus download throttling options for Delivery Optimization.
On the fixes end of the spectrum, folks should no longer experience error 0x8007000E while downloading a build – this being caused by high RAM consumption -, Start and taskbar should no longer be 100% transparent on second monitors, and the audio service no longer hangs on shutdown if spatial audio is turned on.
Perhaps more interesting than the more obvious new features, 18917 seems to be the first build to begin splitting the Shell from the operating system. This is most likely in line with things planned for later like Windows “Lite” or Windows Core OS. Through this digging by Twitter user Albacore, we also found out that Microsoft may be working on a new, more advanced syncing mechanism for settings like File Explorer configurations.
If you were on the fence about plunging into the 20H1 Fast ring builds, or maybe were waiting for an ISO, there’s good news: images for build 18912 have been released. This was the build at the beginning of June.
Last but not least, also within the realm of the Insider program, those who have signed up as Office Insiders should be getting version 11629.20196. This is for those in the Monthly Channel (Targeted) branch, and the version brings improved link handling and the ability to use ink in Outlook messages, features that debuted in the Fast ring at the beginning of the month.
The Fast ring
- Microsoft has announced new Power Platform features such as AI Builder and PowerApps Portal.
- You can now pre-order the Microsoft To-Do app in the Mac App Store.
- Surface Go has gotten a bunch of driver and firmware updates for pen and touch input.
- Teams for Education turns two, adds a redesigned homepage, gradebook, new sharing tools.
- Apple’s iCloud app is now in the Microsoft Store.
- Microsoft has patented a stylus that can turn into an earpiece.
- Excel now has a new Dynamic Arrays feature to improve the way formulas work.
Hot corner is a section of The Fast ring dedicated to highlighting five Microsoft-related stories that haven’t been covered over here, but might be of interest.
- The open source FHIR Server for Azure now supports Azure Cosmos DB and SQL backed persistence providers.
- Azure Shared Image Gallery is now generally available.
- Version 1.42.0 of the Storage Migration Service extension for Windows Admin Center is now available.
- Freedcamp, Meta4 Global HR, and more are now available as pre-integrated applications in Azure AD.
- If you’re curious about the various categories of Azure services, there’s now a map to help folks better understand the cloud service’s structure.
Since we’re on the bottom edge of this column now, I think it’s appropriate that we talk about Microsoft’s rapidly changing Chromium Edge. Or Edgium, which sounds much better.
Though it has no date or time frame attached to it, we do now know that the Edge team is working to bring “global and per-site setting” for blocking of media autoplay. This is something present in the current, non-Chromium Edge, though such capabilities will obviously take a bit of a back seat until Microsoft nails down the fundamentals and makes Edgium available on all its targeted platforms.
And the company is indeed working towards that goal, as Edge Dev build 126.96.36.199 was made available on Thursday, complete with fixes for the “+” button being invisible, the bug which prevented users from signing out of user profiles, and much more. You don’t have to do anything, as Edgium will automatically update in the background.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.