Xbox and PlayStation at Gamescom 2014

Gamescom is a video games trade show–like E3, except for the that fact that it takes place in Europe (in Cologne, Germany to be precise) and it attracts a much, much larger crowd of attendees including members of the press and game developers. And just like they did at Los Angeles’ E3 in June, console makers Microsoft and Sony held press events revealing new titles, providing updates on previously announced ones, and showing off new system features. For the latest on the games, I recommend you visit Joystiq. This post will mostly focus on software updates coming to the Xbox One and PS4, as well as new hardware options revealed. For the full scoop, jump after the break.

Xbox One

Microsoft continues to update its latest console on a monthly basis, and in the coming months gamers and media streamers alike will be celebrating with an onslaught of new system features. A new “Friends” section is being added to the UI; it will provide gamers quick and easy access to their Xbox Live friends. In this hub you can discover which games are most popular amongst your friends and a Gamerscore Leaderboard throws in some friendly competition allowing you to compare your achievements in real time with others.

Remember Xbox 360’s Guide? MSFT is sorta bringing it back with something they’re calling Snap Center. When you call it up it, as you’d expect, snaps to the right side of the screen allowing for in-game access to Friends, Achievements, Party, Messages, and Game DVR. Receive a message while you’re playing a game? Call up Snap Center and view the message in a snapped viewer that doesn’t take you completely out of your gaming session. Speaking of Messages, the app will soon support threaded conversations meaning you can view full conversation history with a friend in one space, embedded links to Game DVR clips included.

This next bit is huge for media hogs. A new Media Player app coming soon to the One will allow users to play media files from either an attached USB device or from a network connected home media server that supports DLNA protocols. In addition, Microsoft says the One will eventually support way more file formats than the 360 ever did, including mpeg 2 TS, animated gifs and mkv; click the source link below for a full listing of supported media file formats. Click here to see the Media Player in action.

For those of you who plug your TV feed into your Xbox One, listen up! At long last, Microsoft is concocting a way for you to boot your console straight to TV mode. Also, in time, users will be able to stream their TV across their home network to their smartphones and tablets using the Xbox SmartGlass app. In essence, this means that if your little brother wants to game and you want to watch an episode of Family Guy, you can: gaming session on the TV, Family Guy on FOX streamed to your phone or tablet. Changing channels and accessing the One Guide will not affect what’s happening on the TV; it’s a true, uninterrupted second screen experience. Speaking of the One Guide, MSFT is touting a new live TV “mini guide” that pops up at the bottom of the SmartGlass app allowing you to change channels view the guide without interrupting your TV session. The new stream TV to SmartGlass functionality is coming to European markets first; hopefully the US will follow soon after.

Visualize the new updates coming to Xbox One in this video clip.

Elsewhere at Gamescon, Microsoft unveiled three new Xbox One bundles. A FIFA 15 bundle is coming to Europe on September 25 for 400 euros/£350. A Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare bundle, which includes a COD: AW themed console and controller and 1TB HDD, drops November 3 for $500/500 euros/£430. Additionally, Microsoft is finally outing a white Xbox One console for the fall; the $400/400 euros/£350 quid bundle comes packed with a copy of Sunset Overdrive and a white console and controller and releases October 28. Note that these three bundles do not include a Kinect sensor.

And it wouldn’t be a Microsoft event without some Halo goodness. Two things: The Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta will run over the course of a 2-week period, specifically December 29 through January 18. An access key to the beta will come inside the upcoming compilation title The Master Chief Collection that’s due out November 11. Also announced was the Halo Channel, a new Xbox One destination dedicated to all things Halo, including breaking news surrounding the franchise, Twitch gameplay streams, and it’ll serve to foster community around the digital series Halo: Nightfall. Click here to preview the multiplayer beta and the Halo Channel.

PlayStation 4

System Software Update version 2.00 is coming this fall to PS4 and it comes with a very exciting new capability called Share Play. Sony says Share Play is like a “virtual couch.” One, you’ll be able to invite a friend to join your game even if your friend doesn’t own the game. A co-op session will take place over the Internet as if your friend is sitting next to your on your couch, hence the “virtual couch” metaphor. And two, Share Play can be used to jump into your friend’s game and help them out if he or she is stuck. Sony says it’s like virtually “handing over the controller to a friend on your couch.” And again, you won’t be required to own the game you want to jump in; your friend’s gaming session will be streamed live to your TV set for you to control.

In addition, update v2.00 finally brings a dedicated YouTube app to PS4, as well as the ability for gamers to instantly upload gameplay footage to the service. Also, the What’s New section will offer friend-of-friend suggestions and a real name search function is being added.

And here’s one last fun fact from PlayStation’s presser: Sony has surpassed the milestone of selling over 10 million PS4 units since launch!

[Via Major Nelson; PlayStation Blog]

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