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☕ Good morning! I'm back from the countryside and enjoying less pollen!
June 14, 2021
E3: Xbox + GamePass
xbox logo series x 2
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

E3 started on Saturday and continues through tomorrow, with today’s highlights including Take-Two, and the last big even tomorrow, with Nintendo.

With Sony not at the event, yesterday was largely owned by Microsoft and Xbox, as we’ll discuss.

First, to the news:

  • Xbox: The big announcement was Bethesda’s Starfield. The all-new space RPG is launching exclusively on Xbox and PC on November 11th, 2022. It’s a long way off, but it’s a big deal. Previously, Bethesda was an all-platform studio producing games on PlayStation, etc, too. Now, it’s a Microsoft-flavored affair. 
  • For Xbox, add in Halo Infinite, The Outer Worlds 2, Forza Horizon 5, Stalker 2, Back 4 Blood, and Sea of Thieves getting a free update on June 22 with a new storyline based on Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, and it was pretty spectacular.
  • Also, Microsoft said it will hold an Xbox Games Showcase: Extended event on June 17, which sounds like a bunch of chats with people from its first-party studios like Double Fine, Obsidian, Ninja Theory and Rare.
  • Game Pass: What matters here is that of 30 games shown off, 27 will be available via Game Pass, making the subscription service bigger and bolder than ever. 10 other classic Bethesda games will also be added, including Fall Out, Doom, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
  • Square Enix:The five biggest announcements out of Square Enix included announcements and trailers for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, made by the Deus Ex studio, Life is Strange: True Colors, and Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin (Polygon).
  • Ubisoft: The big reveal here was around Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, a first-person, open-world action-adventure game set in Pandora, and coming to all platforms (even including Stadia and Luna). Ubisoft also gave updates on Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, a sequel to the 2017 game Kingdom Battle, new DLC for Far Cry 6, and Riders Republic now has a September 2 release (VGC).

But it was Xbox that caught the attention:

  • Xbox spent years building the future and now it’s the present, writes Polygon, strongly arguing that the “big bets are finally paying off.”
  • From Mojang for $2.5 billion in 2014, to the acquisition of video game publisher Bethesda for a whopping $7.5 billion in late 2020, most of the work going on has been behind the scenes. 
  • That’s while Sony has unveiled platform-defining games like God of War, Spider-Man, and The Last of Us Part 2, and Nintendo has turned the Switch into arguably its most successful console.
  • Xbox, though, now has a mighty launch ramp: “Dozens of new video games, both exclusive and not exclusive, will be available on the Xbox subscription service Game Pass on their day of release. And many of these games … will be playable through Microsoft’s cloud streaming service, which will be available on Android, iOS, and web browsers by the end of the month. Whether or not people can find the latest console will become less and less relevant when a truckload of new games can be streamed at Xbox Series X quality on your phone, your laptop, or your TV.
  • And the core realization here is that everybody may have Xbox in some way, “even if they don’t own an Xbox,” which still leaves Sony and Nintendo well-placed with exclusives and their platform approaches.
  • But…: “[If] we don’t see legitimate competition from [Sony and Nintendo] soon when it comes to studio acquisitions, streaming services, and subscription plans, then Xbox will have a cakewalk to become the Netflix of video games. Where Sony and Nintendo will specialize in the occasional breakout hit, Microsoft will be routinely expanding Game Pass with all sorts of games, from established franchises to games-as-service to quirky indies you can enjoy in a weekend.
  • All of this is still 8-12 months away. It assumes Microsoft and its studios crank out hit after hit, which certainly isn’t a given. A title like Halo Infinite looks super exciting for gamers, but the disastrous trailer from last year’s E3 shows just how bad even a certain sounding game could be.
  • What is most interesting about all this for me is just how accessible Microsoft is making gaming, even while trying to sell two next-gen consoles.
Roundup

📉 Over the weekend, a big story about Samsung struggling to produce the Galaxy S21 FE emerged, with reports that production was suspended. While Samsung told Android Authority that it doesn’t comment on rumor and speculation, Samsung now says it hasn’t decided if it will suspend production (Android Authority).

🤔 OnePlus Nord CE review: A little less Nord for a little less money (Android Authority)

📁 Samsung’s next big hardware splash could happen on August 3: Two new foldables, and two new watches? (Android Authority).

⌚ On that note, more Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 details revealed in FCC listing

👉 Specs leak for Honor 50 Pro, Honor 50, and Honor 50 SE, which are once again back with Google Mobile Services and apps (Android Authority).

👍 Google abandons its bad idea of hiding full URLs in Chrome address bar. Also, Chrome OS moves to a faster update schedule, with a new update every four weeks (Android Authority).

🧊 Microsoft makes the Xbox Series X Mini Fridge meme a reality, will sell it this holiday season (Gizmodo).

📦 Amazon hopes more robots will improve worker safety (Engadget).

🤖 Speaking of: AI ‘dominated scientific output’ in recent years, UNESCO report shows. For example: almost 150,000 articles were published on AI and robotics in 2019. By comparison, 18,000 were published on biotechnology (VentureBeat).

🃏 The business of grading Pokémon cards can be lucrative, time-consuming, and rife with furious, virulent abuse (Wired).

Baseball vs. Balloon in slow-motion (r/interestingasfk)

🦴 Trace fossils, the most inconspicuous bite-sized window into ancient worlds (Ars Technica).

👩‍💻 How software is eating the car: hardware is solved, and now it’s about the experience (IEEE)

🤔 “What is something free from the internet, which everyone should take advantage of?” (r/askreddit).

Monday Meme
password no look

Cheers,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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