August 13, 2014, 6:05 AM —
Both Microsoft and Sony held press conferences at Gamescom 2014 yesterday and I wanted to recap what we learned.
We'll start with Microsoft's biggest (arguably) bombshell: they've managed to secure some kind of exclusivity for 2015's Rise of a Tomb Raider. The Tomb Raider franchise has always been multi-platform so this is kind of a big deal. Of course "exclusive" is always a tricky word in the gaming world. Sometimes it ends up meaning "timed exclusive" (in other words, it comes out on one platform first) and sometimes in means "console exclusive" (meaning it'll come out on PC as well as whatever console claims the exclusive). For now developer Crystal Dynamics is just calling it an "Xbox exclusive."
Microsoft also announced several new bundles, including the $500 "Xbox One Limited Edition Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Bundle" which includes a Call of Duty-themed Xbox One, a digital copy of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, a chat headset, some in-game items and a 1 TB drive (instead of the usual 500 GBs). This bundle arrives on November 3rd.
There's also a $400 Sunset Overdrive bundle that features a white Xbox One, a digital copy of the game and some in-game items, (launches October 28th) and a $400 FIFA bundle that includes a standard Xbox One, a chat headset, digital copy of the game and an Ultimate Team Legends Gold Pack (launches September 25th).
That Call of Duty bundle would've been a lot more interesting before Microsoft started supporting external hard drives. Bumping the price up $100 over the other bundles and adding 500 GB of drive space means you're paying a premium for that extra space. It's also worth pointing out that none of these bundles include Kinect. You can learn more at Xbox Wire.
In terms of new game announcements, Microsoft talked up their ID@Xbox initiative and showed a montage of indie games coming to the platform:
Some of these are new, some of them we already knew about. Going from memory I believe Superhot, Goat Simulator and Space Engineers are all brand new to the Xbox One platform.
Also announced was Screamride which looked like a cross between Rollercoaster Tychoon and Kerbal Space Program. And the Xbox One is getting "the Halo Channel" which looks like an app to keep you connected to all things Halo.
In terms of improvements to the Xbox One itself, Microsoft announced that pre-ordering and pre-downloading digital games is finally coming. Forza Horizons 2 will be the first game that supports this new feature. Good work on catching up the PS4 on that front.
Prior to the press conference Microsoft also announced some other new features coming to Xbox One. Finally we're getting a "Media Center" app through which we'll be able to watch our own media, though initially only from USB drives (though DLNA support is still coming). In regions where the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner is available, you'll be able to stream TV from your Xbox to a device running SmartGlass. Hopefully we'll get that functionality here in North American soon, too. You can now set up your Xbox One to boot right into the TV app, which will be a welcome addition for those of us who have family members who just want to watch TV and feel a little resentful about having to fiddle with the Xbox One to do it. There are a few more interesting features plus a full list of media formats supported over at the Major Nelson blog.
So that finishes up Microsoft. It felt pretty light on game announcements to me, though we saw lots of footage of games we already knew were in the pipeline.
Sony didn't have any bundles to talk about but I guess they don't feel like they need them. At their press conference the company announced that it has sold (to end consumers) 10 million Playstation 4 consoles. That's a pretty impressive launch year so far.
In terms of new games, the ones I caught were DayZ (the zombie survival game so popular on PC), Alienation (a twin-stick shooter from Housemarque), Tearaway Unfolded from Media Molecule, Hellblade from NinjaTheory, The Tomorrow Children from Q-Games, HollowPoint from Ruffian Games, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter from The Astronauts, P.T., a horror game from 7780s Studio, Volume from Mike Bithell, and to cap the show, Wild from Michel Ancel's Wild Sheep Studios.
Sony also talked about System Update 2.0, scheduled to arrive this fall. It brings with it Share Play, a system that lets you "pass the controller" to a friend online. (Remember this from the initial Playstation 4 reveal? The gimmick was one player couldn't get through a tough section of a game so he got his friend online to take over the game for him and beat that section.) You can also play mulitplayer with a friend the same way. The one caveat is that you and your friend have to be Playstation Plus members, but counter-balancing that condition is the fact that your friend doesn't have to own the game.
There are a lot of details that we don't know. Biggest question I have is what the bandwidth requirements are because it seems to me you must have to do some kind of streaming to your friend (otherwise he'd have to download the whole game before he could join you). If it works it'll be a pretty incredible feature, though.
In addition to Share Play, Update 2.0 will (finally!) let you upload video directly to YouTube, and give you a dedicated YouTube app as well. You can learn more about Share Play and Update 2.0 on the Playstation blog.
I was hoping to hear Sony counter Microsoft's Media App announcement with one of their own, but no such luck.
And that was about it. My take-away was that the Microsoft Press Conference was focused on selling Xbox Ones and hammering home the strength of their existing lineup, while the Sony Press Conference was more about re-assuring existing customers that there's a huge lineup of games in the pipeline.
If you watched the conferences, what did you think?
Here're some trailers:
Screamride (Xbox One)
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.