From “Project Scarlett” to Keanu Reeves, here are the announcements that really stole the show at the Xbox E3 2019 press conference.
Well, that’s it, folks. The Microsoft Xbox E3 2019 press conference is over, and it was quite the ride. We’re currently bathed in a warm green glow in the Microsoft Theather, but we’ve not just been clapping and cheering along with the influencers: we’ve been hard at work.
Thank you for following the event with us live on Twitter, and on our ever-growing guide to everything Phil Spencer, the Xbox team, and their ever-growing army of first-party studios had to show. It’s all newsworthy stuff, of course, but here are the 9 biggest announcements, the moments from the Xbox E3 2019 press conference that we think made the biggest waves.
Keanu Reeves (Cyberpunk 2077)
Microsoft clearly knows its audience. Just when we thought the biggest cheer of the night was going to be the start of the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer, it turns out, it came at the end. When Keanu Reeves rocked up as a character in Cyberpunk 2077.
Then that cheer was bested about five seconds later when a door at the side of the stage opened, and Keanu walked out onto the stage wreathed in smoke. It was such a big cheer that even Keanu then giving us the release date for Cyberpunk 2077 at the end of his little speech didn’t get as big a cheer as the man himself.
He’s also just a very lovely and personable bloke. Can we get Keanu to do all the press conferences from now on?
The Outer Worlds
This is one we’re really excited for. It’s basically space Fallout, and the more we see of The Outer Worlds, the better it looks. Which is good, because we’ve got a demo with Obsidian later in the week. The key takeaway here was the release date reveal: The Outer Worlds will release on October 25, 2019.
Xbox Game Pass PC/Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
We already knew about Xbox Game Pass on PC, and earlier today, the pricing was revealed. But during the Xbox E3 2019 press conference, we learned that some very PC-specific titles, like Football Manager 2019, will also join the roster. Oh, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, too, on PC for the first time. No big deal.
Oh, and that it launches into public beta today.
But there’s more: Microsoft also announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which combines Xbox Game Pass on Xbox One, Xbox Live Gold, and Xbox Live for PC into one bundle. For $14.99 a month. Which is quite the bundle already, but as an added incentive, you can get your first month for $1.
Microsoft acquires Double Fine Productions
Continuing on from last year’s Xbox press conference, where Microsoft announced it acquired a whole bunch of third-party studios and brought them in-house under the Xbox Game Studios banner, there was just one such announcement this year. But it was a big one: Double Fine Productions.
This means that Psychonauts 2, which is currently in development, will become an Xbox Game Studios title. But better than that, it means Double Fine will hopefully get bigger budgets to staff up and continue making weird, scrappy games.
And we got to see a bit of banter with Tim Schafer on stage. He’s such a nice bloke.
Rod Fergusson popped onto the stage to talk to us about Gears 5.
First, he announced that the Gears 5 release date will be September 10, 2019. Then, he casually mentioned there’d be an online technical test of its new “Arcade” multiplayer mode in July, followed by a hands-on build of its “Horde” mode at Gamescom in August.
Then, erm, the stage exploded in pyrotechnics a bit for some reason? We think it’s to show off a new mode called “Escape” but there’s no gameplay on show here, just a pre-recorded trailer? Bit odd. Seemed like a bit of a letdown after the release date reveal, but the game will be playable at select Microsoft stores over the next two games if you want to get your hands dirty. Finally, what looked like a really cool Terminator game just turned out to be some pre-order tat for Gears 5, which was quite the letdown.
Though nothing went down quite as poorly as the audible groan from the audience when the Gears of War/Funko Pop cross-over popped up on screen.
There were so many games revealed in the [email protected] segment – all of which are also going into Xbox Game Pass – that we struggled to keep up with them all. It’s great to see Microsoft renewing its commitment to indie games, though, and particular highlights from the segment were Dead Static Drive, Afterparty, Felix the Reaper, Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, and the beautiful Way to the Woods.
Project xCloud and console streaming
“Two months ago, we connected all Xbox developers to Project xCloud,” says Phil Spencer. There are two ways to do it, he says. You can either use your console at home to stream your games to wherever you like, or you can stream from Microsoft’s xCloud data centre hardware. And that’s all he said about that, because he then said, “Let’s talk about our next console.”
We must confess, we were a little surprised to see Microsoft still referring to this as “Project Scarlett” and not more of a… final-sounding name. But the talking heads of developers, discussing the aims of the project, the capabilities of the machine, and yes, some of the specifics of the hardware, was very encouraging. One of the points they kept coming back to was loading times. They are very much going to war on loading times.
We don’t have all of the exact details, but we made some quick notes as we went along:
- Custom AMD Zen2/Navi architecture
- GDDR6 memory
- Frame rates up to 120 frames per second
- Real-time ray tracing
- A custom-built SSD (to eat up those load times) but can also be used as virtual memory to boost performance (sounds suspiciously like a Windows page file, but if the SSD is architected with this feature in mind, it should work well)
And then Phil popped back out on stage to announce that “Project Scarlett” will be launched in “Holiday 2020” with a very special launch game…
We were treated to what looks like the opening cinematic for Halo Infinite. It. Looks. Epic.
Assorted other musings
Here are a few other things that we thought were cool or memorable, but we couldn’t really cover them all in that much detail:
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps is coming February 11, 2020, and it looks spectacular. The level of polish on that game is incredible.
- Jedi: Fallen Order will release on November 15, 2019. There was a bit where the Jedi kills a big spider with his blue lightsaber, which looked a lot like the Shelob bit from Lord of the Rings.
- There’s a new co-op Minecraft dungeon crawling game, appropriately called Minecraft Dungeons. It’s coming in Spring 2020, and reminds us of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures.
- There’s a new Microsoft Flight Simulator, “powered by Azure AI and satellite data,” apparently. As if those games weren’t punishingly realistic enough before.
- Wasteland 3 looks rather nice.
- We got a release window for Dying Light 2: it’s spring 2020.
- Forza Horizon 4 is getting a Lego expansion, and it releases on June 13.
- Phantasy Star Online 2 is coming to Xbox One.
- So is CrossfireX, as a console exclusive, but we’re none the wiser what that is yet. Maybe that’s why it reminded us of Metal Gear Solid a bit?
- Oh, and there’s a Blair Witch game. It looks horrific, which is… good?
Don’t forget to check out the full list of everything announced.