Microsoft Weekly: Next-gen game showcase, new Surfaces, and additional builds

We got to see some next-gen game announcements at Inside Xbox, the launch of new Surface devices, and of course, the expected Insider builds. You can find that, as well as much more, below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of May 2 – May 8.

Next-gen game showcase

As revealed last week, Microsoft revealed its special episode of Inside Xbox on May 7, showcasing a slew of both new IPs and a couple of updated looks at already announced titles. This is part of the Xbox 20/20 initiative that will see the company hold monthly Series X events until the console launches this holiday.

The firm made a point of underlining the fact that every game showcased was being optimized for Xbox Series X – debuting a fancy new badge for this -, and that games will play at 4K up to 120FPS and support ray tracing.

The first major title announced was Dirt 5 from Codemasters, via a trailer captured in-engine that’s “representative of expected Series X gameplay”. Slated to launch in October 2020, it has ten locations, over 70 unique routes, voice work from Troy Baker and Nolan North, 12-player online multiplayer and four-player local split-screen play. It’s been confirmed for PC, Xbox One, and Series X, and it features Smart Delivery, meaning that if you buy it on Xbox One, you’ll get the Series X upgrade for free.

We also got to see some admittedly more cutscene-oriented gameplay from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which is coming to PC, Xbox One, Series X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Google Stadia this holiday. On PC it’ll only be available via Uplay and the Epic Games Store.

A new look at Ebb Software’s Scorn, a Giger-esque horror game was there too, with the title exclusively coming to PC and Xbox Series X. No current-gen release.

The western release of the latest Yakuza game, namely Yakuza: Like a Dragon has been confirmed to also be coming to PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X, and it supports Smart Delivery with full cross-save compatibility.

Bloober Team, makers of Layers of Fear, Observer, and Blair Witch, unveiled their next-gen psychological horror game called The Medium. Due to launch this holiday on Xbox Series X, Steam and in Game Pass, the game will feature the talents of Akira Yamaoka – famed for his work on Silent Hill – as a co-author of the dual soundtrack.

Another announcement was the cyberpunk-themed ARPG The Ascent, which is coming to PC and Series X later this year, as well as a number of other titles. There’s the action and FPS fusion Bright Memory Infinite with no release date, space-combat shooter CHORUS from Deep Silver, set for release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Google Stadia and of course, Xbox Series X – supporting Smart Delivery – in 2021. A new trailer for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 was also shown (but no release date), as well as world premiere trailers for Call of the Sea, Madden NFL 21, Scarlet Nexus, and finally, Second Extinction.

In other gaming news, Flight Simulator has gotten its latest round of Development Roadmap and Feedback Snapshot updates, and Halo 2 Anniversary has been confirmed to launch on PC on May 12.

In subscription news, Xbox All Access is now available in New Zealand, and the latest set of Game Pass titles has been announced. On console, you’re already able to enjoy DayZ and Red Dead Redemption, with Final Fantasy IX coming May 14 and Fractured Minds landing on May 19. As far as PC is concerned, Halo Master Chief Collection: Halo 2 will be available starting May 12, with Final Fantasy IX and Endless Legend being marked as coming soon. However, there will also be some departures.

As of this writing, you’re no longer able to play GTA V on console Game Pass, and starting May 15, you will have to say goodbye to Black Desert, DOOM, LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game, Mega Man Legacy Collection 2, Metal Gear Survive, The Banner Saga, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. On the same day, Imperator: Rome, Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Banner Saga, West of Loathing, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus will be removed from Xbox Game Pass on PC.

Finally, Microsoft provided some details about the upcoming minor update for consoles, namely Xbox One version 2005, which will bring improvements to the Guide, a facelifted community page, new filters in My Games & Apps and of course, Mixer improvements. It’s currently being tested by Insiders.

New Surfaces

Although with not much of the usual fanfare – given the current world events -, Microsoft did announce a bunch of new Surface devices this week.

First up is the Surface Book 3, which has a pretty much identical design to its predecessor, with the exception of a Surface Connect port in both the base and the tablet, a headphone jack in the tablet portion, and both the USB-A and USB-C ports being transitioned to USB 3.1 Gen 2 (with speeds up to 10Gbps). In terms of CPUs, you can get 10th-gen Ice Lake ones, either a Core i5-1035G7 or Core i7-1065G7 with the latter being the only option on the 15-inch model. The 13.5-inch one comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q Design (4GB GDDR5 VRAM), while the 15-inch has a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q Design (6GB GDDR6 VRAM). Commercial consumers will also be able to opt for an Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 GPU. It starts at $1,599 and it launches May 21.

The Surface Go 2 was also announced with slightly smaller bezels and a bigger 10.5-inch screen, and it’ll be available May 12 starting at $399. The specs and images did however leak ahead of time.

Both the Surface Book 3 and Surface Go 2 are available for pre-order now, but if they’re not quite your thing, Microsoft has just restocked the Surface Book 2 with 7th-gen Intel CPUs and a 256GB SSD. Furthermore, if you’re in India, you can now buy the Surface Pro X, Pro 7, and Laptop 3, though be aware that the latter’s screen may spontaneously crack, for which Microsoft is offering free repairs.

Also announced was the Surface Dock 2 with four USB-C ports and identical port array otherwise to the first generation, priced at $259.99. Then there’s the more compact USB-C Travel Hub priced at $99.99, and the Microsoft Bluetooth Desktop set as well as Microsoft Ergonomic Desktop set priced at $59.99 and $89.99, respectively.

The Surface Headphones 2 were unveiled as well, now in black and with up to 20 hours of battery life, available May 12 for $249, $100 less than the first generation. Finally, there’s the Office 365-enabled Surface Earbuds for $199, also available on May 12. Whenever you get either of them, there’s now a new Surface Audio app to manage these devices.

In case you own a Surface Pro 4, there are firmware and driver updates available, with stability improvements.

Lastly, Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 10X will arrive on single-screen PCs first, and that the Surface Neo is delayed. The Surface Duo emulator has gotten keyboard support and other improvements, you can now obtain the new Surface wallpapers if you so desire, and our own Rich Woods has written an editorial about what Microsoft might be able to learn from Apple’s ARM MacBook plans.

Additional builds

As was to be expected, Microsoft pushed out build 19624 to the Fast ring this past week, a build which is part of the nebulous Windows 10 vNext branch, but isn’t tied to any specific future feature update. Beyond a number of VPN-related improvements, there have also been fixes for unexpected flickering across the Windows shell, WSL access errors when using the File Explorer integration, and even fixes for explorer.exe unreliability. There’s some good news regarding NVDA usage with new Edge as the issue has been resolved with version 2019.3, but the rest of the known issues still remain in this build.

Surprisingly, Microsoft also released its first post-20H1 ISO, this time for build 19619, a build which was released to Insiders the week prior. Server Insiders got to play with their own 19624 build, but as usual, there’s no changelog.

Slow ring Office Insiders on macOS got a bunch of new features in Excel and Outlook thanks to version 16.37, including the ability to add data from an image to spreadsheet in Excel and the ability to use voice dictation to write messages in Outlook. Sticking to the Apple ecosystem, Office apps on iPadOS will allegedly get mouse support by this fall.

There’s now a new phishing attack targeting Teams users, an attack aimed at stealing Office 365 credentials, and the first preview of Microsoft Family Safety is available for Android and iOS.

The Fast ring

Logging off

We round things off for the week with a potential confirmation of version 2004’s GA date, some virtual news, and a quantum breakthrough.

First up is a bit of news regarding the upcoming May 2020 Update or version 2004. According to a previous report via Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft was to potentially start rolling out version 2004 on May 28. Now, thanks to a new post, namely Microsoft’s very own Driver Shiproom Schedule for 2020, we know that May 26, 27, and 28 have been marked as dates reserved for Feature updates. What the Shiproom Schedule is meant to do is to make sure manufacturers don’t release driver updates a day before or after feature updates and Patch Tuesday updates.

In news less accidental, Inspire 2020 has been confirmed to be a free digital-only event, and the agenda for the virtual Build 2020 has finally been revealed.

Last but not least, Microsoft researchers have managed to tackle a pair of 20-year old problems in quantum computing. They discovered the upper limit which improves the speed of algorithms when transitioning from classic to quantum computing.

Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.

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