Microsoft (MSFT 0.88%) has made strides with its Xbox One gaming system, and the company entered the annual E3 gaming industry convention on a bit of a high note.
The console has not quite caught up to Sony's (SONY 0.89%) PlayStation 4 in sales, but it has recovered from a launch that was a bit of a stumble. The system went from being more expensive than its rival to now having a base model bundled with a game at cheaper price than PS4.
The company came to E3 with a host of new games as well as the surprise delivery of a feature the company's fans have been asking about since the new console was launched. Microsoft unveiled its latest titles and provided some answers on its future in its E3 press conference that was broadcast live on the Internet by Amazon's (AMZN 0.37%) Twitch.
A new flagship is coming
Xbox executive Bonnie Ross took the stage first to introduce a number of new game titles, and she promised blockbusters. Ross delivered by introducing Halo 5: Guardians, "the first Halo game built from the ground up for Xbox One." A video preview of the gameplay was shown and it was -- as would be expected of the company's flagship title -- visually stunning with a storyline that offers an interesting twist for the franchise. The game will be released exclusively on Xbox One for the 2015 holiday season.
"This is the most ambitious Halo gameplay yet," said Microsoft's Josh Holmes, before introducing the game's new enhanced multiplayer feature. Called "Warzone," it allows up to 24 players, AI-controlled enemies, and maps that are four times larger than the ones in previous Halo titles.
Xbox One backward compatibility
Calling it the No. 1 thing fans have asked for, Spencer introduced the ability to play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One. The company pledged to have over 100 games available by the holiday season. Those game were made available immediately to Xbox Insiders. Most importantly, the company won't be charging people to play games they already own.
Games will be cross-compatible between Xbox One and Xbox 360 and can be streamed to Windows 10 devices.
A new controller
The Xbox Elite controller offers customization and added "flipper" triggers underneath the controller handles. Users will also be able to swap out components in the device and optimize it for gameplay with specific titles.
No pricing or release date was announced for the controller.
A number of big titles
Various Microsoft executives and partners took the stage to show off an impressive array of new titles for the system. They include:
- Fallout 4: This sequel offers new weapons (including a very cool-looking crank-powered musket) and a first for the series, a second-screen experience.
- Recore: A new title which stars a female protagonist in a dessert-like world filled with robots.
- Madden NFL 16: EA (EA 1.17%) Access, an Xbox One exclusive, will offer an exclusive pre-release window to members, giving players access to the game on August 20 while the rest of the world will not be able to play until August 26.
- Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2: The game, a sequel to the title that gained popularity on tablets before moving to consoles, will be released in the spring.
- Forza 6: The game is tied to the relaunch of the Ford GT, a classic race car being reintroduced in the game and in real life in 2016. The game will be released September 15.
- Dark Souls III: A video was shown, but very little was said about the title, which comes out in 2016.
- The Division: A new title, this one takes place in apocalyptic New York after a virus has hit the world, wiping out parts of humanity. The title is credited to Tom Clancy, the deceased author. It launches in December.
- Rainbow Six: Siege: Another title based on a Clancy series, when this one is released, it will be bundled with free versions of two previous games in the series that had not been available on Xbox One.
- Rise of the Tomb Raider: Lara Croft is back, and this time she's in snow gear? The iced-based setting shown in the preview actually looks wildly impressive, like a movie, and the facial rendering is stunningly realistic. Rise of the Tomb Raider will be released November 10.
- Sea of Thieves: A shared-world adventure game that features forest and epic ocean settings, along with pirates, as well as graphics reminiscent of a top-tier animated movie.
- Fables Legends: An epic fantasy game that's an Xbox One/Windows 10 exclusive for release this holiday season. It's free to play across Windows 10 and Xbox One.
- Gears of War: Ultimate Edition: A rerelease of the popular title for Xbox One with tons of enhancements, the title comes out August 25.
The company also showed off a number of games from smaller, independent providers in a quick montage to end the games portion of the presentation. Microsoft said more than 1,000 developers will be making Xbox One and Windows 10 games. A number of these titles will be Xbox One/Windows 10 exclusives.
Virtual reality is coming
Microsoft announced a partnership with Valve to develop virtual reality games. This joins an earlier announcement when the company said its controller was going to be bundled with Oculus (which Facebook (META 1.89%) owns), and that its games would be compatible with the company's not-yet-released Rift headset.
The company also showed off its HoloLens virtual reality headset and demonstrated how it will work with Minecraft. That has been demoed before, but at E3, the company officially announced a HoloLens-specific version of the game. Players on the new tech can interact with people playing on other platforms, including Xbox and Windows 10 tablets.
Minecraft -- which was amazingly immersive in the HoloLens demo -- may well be the "killer" app needed to make VR resonate with consumers.