Summer’s just around the corner, and gamers know exactly what that means. E3 is in town, and The Big Three console makers are ready to show off the best they have to offer. For 2016, Microsoft took a big swing by introducing loads of new hardware, including a new Xbox console debuting in August, as well as its next-gen beast due out in 2017. Sony and Nintendo, on the other hand, laser-focused on their respective games library. The PS4 is on the verge of transforming into a virtual reality conduit, and Sony packed quite the punch with its PS VR launch lineup. Nintendo, meanwhile, lifted the veil off the next game in the coveted Legend of Zelda franchise and it looks spectacular. If there’s a theme to be had here, it’s that all three companies are churning out visually splendid and heart-pounding experiences coming to systems this year and beyond. It’s a great time to be a gamer.
For the full scoop from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo at E3, jump after the break.
- The Xbox maker had lots of new hardware on display at its E3 briefing this year. The brand new Xbox One S kicked off the event. Microsoft will tell you that the “S” stands for slim, sleek, and small; the compact console is 40% smaller than the original Xbox One and it packs an integrated power supply and an IR blaster. Besides being smaller, the XB1S supports 4K Ultra HD for Blu-ray movies and 4K content from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. While true 4K gaming is not a feature here (more on that later), this Xbox will provide High Dynamic Range (HDR) support for video and gaming. If you own a HDR-compatible TV set, you’ll experience richer colors; in essence, video and games will look better than ever before. The XB1S starts at $299 for the 500GB model, and $349/1TB and $399/2TB models will be offered as well. Hope you’re a fan of “robot white;” all models are coated in that paint. Preorder today, and they ship in August.
- The Xbox One Wireless Controller is getting a design refresh as well. Gamers will notice a new textured grip, increased range, and a Bluetooth radio so it can communicate with your Xbox and Windows PC without hassle. It comes out in August at $59.99, and it will come bundled with the new Xbox One S. On a related note, Microsoft is also offering a Gears of War themed Xbox Elite Wireless Controller laser-etched claw marks and a battle-weathered design. It’s limited edition and releases in early October for $199.99.
- Looking for the new controller in a color other than white? You can now personalize a controller to your liking, with more than 8 million color variations to customize the controller body, D-pad, thumbsticks, ABXY buttons, and more. You’ll have to chalk up $79.99, and for an extra ten bucks you can even laser engrave your name, Gamertag, or any custom 16 character message. Head over to Xbox Design Lab today to get started. Each controller is handmade to order and is shipped directly to you. Sounds like a fun idea, but I’m afraid it might follow the sorry path taken by those Xbox 360 faceplates.
- And then there’s Project Scorpio. There were rumors leading up to E3 that Microsoft would tease its next-gen console, and this is it. Scorpio is being billed as “the most powerful console ever created” featuring “the most powerful graphics that’s been put into a game console to date.” Hype. Its advanced specs will enable true 4K gaming and high fidelity virtual reality (Fallout 4 was confirmed as a future playable VR title). The console’s system-on-a-chip has six teraflops of computing capability with the ability to render fully uncompressed pixels at 60Hz, “the highest quality pixels that anybody has seen.” It also boasts eight CPU cores with over 320GB/s memory bandwidth. Project Scorpio, which of course is a placeholder codename, is slated to hit shelves Holiday 2017.
- Now, I want to take a bullet point to discuss Microsoft’s plan for all of these Xboxes, and poke some holes in it. The company’s calling Project Scorpio “the next addition to the Xbox One family” and it will sell alongside the original Xbox One and Xbox One S. It’s pushing this mantra, “beyond generations,” a future where video game console refreshes aren’t always about a decade away from the current-gen console’s launch. In addition, that mantra also refers to the compatibility between current and future Xbox One family consoles. Microsoft says all games and accessories will be compatible across all three systems; “no one gets left behind.” Now, the holes. The original Xbox One originally shipped with the Kinect and therefore supports Kinect-enabled games. The upcoming Xbox One S has ditched the Kinect port, and I’ll be surprised if Scorpio doesn’t follow suit. Of course, Microsoft says they’ll sell a USB adapter for those who want to plug in and use Kinect, but still, that’s a harsh hoop for both gamers and developers to jump through. Next, Scorpio will be the only console of the three to support “true 4K” gaming and VR, likely with the Oculus Rift since Microsoft and Oculus have a partnership. Games made in VR will not be playable on the Xbox One S and OG Xbox One, simply because they don’t support it. So there’s that. And when it comes to 4K gaming, are developers really going to go out of their way to create 4K and non-4K downgraded versions of their games to support all three consoles? Perhaps, but things might get messy and confusing for the consumer this way. In sum, choice is good (1080p vs HDR vs 4K+VR), but I have a strong feeling Microsoft’s vision for all games and all accessories working in unison here won’t be as cut and dry as it’s making it out to be.
- With that headache out of the way, let’s transition to Xbox Play Anywhere, a new program initiated by Microsoft that promotes gameplay across its Xbox and Windows PC devices. When you purchase a game digitally on Xbox or Windows and it’s marked with the Xbox Play Anywhere icon, you will instantly have access to that game on both platforms, at no additional cost. Progress, game saves, and achievements are all saved across devices over Xbox Live. Note that XPA is limited to digital titles only; if you buy a game on disc, you’ll be limited to the hardware you buy it for. Also, though some XPA titles will support cross-platform multiplayer (like Gears of War 4), not all will. All in all, XPA saves you money (these are two-for-one deals, essentially) and gives you more ways to play your favorite games.
- A major Xbox One console update coming this summer will bring background music support over Xbox Live, language region independence, and the Cortana digital assistant with voice recognition.
- Coming this fall to Xbox Live: Clubs, Looking for Group, and Arena. The first addition aims to provide a new way to connect with gamers and create private communities with people who have similar play styles, personal interests, and values (think Minecraft creators, The Division agents). The second is described as “a want ad” for multiplayer; it’s a way to seek out players who are available—and qualified— to jump into your multiplayer match right now. And the third is a new online tournaments platform. Sign up for tournaments directly through Xbox and play for prizes. You can compete solo or with friends.
- Last, and certainly not least, the games. Microsoft showcased a bunch of Xbox One + Windows 10 exclusive titles and they included Gears of War 4, Killer Instinct, Forza Horizon 3, ReCore, Scalebound, Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, and Halo Wars 2. Non-exclusive titles making waves include Final Fantasy XV, Battlefield 1, Inside, Tekken 7 (with a story mode!), Dead Rising 4 (Frank’s back and it’s set in a mall again!), and Minecraft. In addition to these triple-A titles, Microsoft continues to push its ID@Xbox brand which focuses on independent developers. You can watch a montage of these titles here, but ones that have gamers most excited include Cuphead (still no release date, unfortunately!), We Happy Few (pictured way up top), and Gwent: The Witcher Card Game.
- The PlayStation maker had no new hardware announcements or updates to its PlayStation Network on deck to present at its E3 briefing this year. The entire event focused on games made for PS4 and PS VR, and boy did they impress.
- The hour focused mostly on PS4 exclusive games including the return of Kratos in God of War (with his kid son in tow), an original zombie survival title Day’s Gone, a quick, fresh look at The Last Guardian (which finally has a release date, October 25), and Guerrilla Games’ RPG Horizon: Zero Dawn. David Cage and his Quantic Dream studio are working on a unique sci-fi game called Detroit Become Human and it’s about a future where androids cause havoc by disobeying their human owners. In it, you get to make decisions and effect the outcomes of the unfolding story; looks like the game inherently has major replay value. Famed developer Hideo Kojima took the stage to introduce his first game since exiting Konami and establishing Kojima Productions as an independent studio. It’s called Death Stranding, and it stars Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), who previously served as the protagonist in Kojima and Guillermo del Toro’s Silent Hills demo P.T. The teaser trailer for the new game is quintessential Kojima, entirely enigmatic and completely captivating. It’s best if you see it for yourself; I’m floored. From Insomniac Games comes a new Spider-Man adventure featuring an adult version of the Webslinger. And if you’re in need of some nostalgia, Sony’s resurrecting its former mascot Crash Bandicoot by fully remastered Crash 1, Crash 2, and Crash Warped for PS4.
- Now let’s talk PlayStation VR. The virtual reality headset has been available to preorder for months, but now we can mark our calendars. PS VR hits the US market on October 13. Sony says that more than 50 games will be available from launch until the end of this year. A handful of PS VR experiences were unveiled at Sony’s briefing and kicking them off was something special. First person perspective, a phone call, floor creeks, a creepy, dark, dilapidated, shadowy environment, a sink, roaches. No, this isn’t P.T.-turned-Silent Hills in VR, but it’s damn likely the closest thing we’ll ever get to that. This is Resident Evil 7 biohazard, the latest survival horror game in Capcom’s beloved franchise. When the game releases in January, the entire game will be playable from start to finish in VR, as well as in non-VR if you don’t own the headset. Itching to try it out? A non-VR demo is out now for all PS Plus subscribers. Looks incredibly terrifying and all kinds of fun, if that’s you’re thing. There’s also space adventure Farpoint from indie studio Impulse Gear which’ll take advantage of this PS VR Aim Controller; EA’s Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission; Batman: Arkham VR from RockSteady; and a Final Fantasy XV.
- Non-PS4 exclusive games also touted include Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, Skylanders Imaginators, and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
- Cannot end without a shout out to composer Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactica) who led a live orchestra throughout Sony’s presentation. The live instruments and vocals created a sense of awe and urgency as they roared behind a number of game trailers and demos. Well done!
- The Mario maker promised that it would be putting focus on a single game for this year’s E3 and it wasn’t lying! With Ninty’s next-generation video game console codenamed NX remaining behind the curtain for now, E3 2016 shines a big light on the next game in the long-running Zelda franchise. Let’s dive in!
- As we inch closer to the release of the next Zelda, which was first announced at E3 in 2014, more details emerge. No better place to start than with the title (drum roll, please). The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild pits you in Hyrule like you’ve never seen it before. This is a truly open-world experience, with beautifully expansive landscapes for you to discover and explore. It’s “easily one of the biggest experiences ever created by Nintendo,” says the company, and “the boundaries of all previous Zelda titles are being broken [here].” The animation style is a distinct mix of cell-shading from Wind Waker with an air of maturity plucked from more recent installments like Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. Physically, Link can do so much more here, including climb walls, trees, and cliffs, customize his wardrobe, cook, and for the first time since 1989, Link can jump! The plot and characters are still being kept under wraps for now, but glean what you can from the official game trailer that dropped this week. Nintendo’s YouTube page is hosting loads of gameplay demonstrations, including this half-hour introduction to the title, so check that out. Breath of the Wild will release on Wii U and NX sometime in 2017, and you can preorder it today.
- It wouldn’t be a Nintendo celebration without new amiibo figures! While we’re on the subject of Zelda, Ninty’s showcasing three brand new amiibo made special for Breath of the Wild. There’s Archer Link with his bow and arrow, there’s Rider Link on horseback, and there’s tentacled baddie Guardian, all set to releasing alongside the game next year. Already own the Wolf Link amiibo? He can also be placed in the new game by attacking enemies on his own and help you find items you’re searching for. Besides Zelda characters, other new amiibo joining the fray include Super Mario characters like Wario, Waluigi, Daisy, Rosalina, Boo, Donkey Kong, and Diddy Kong (all available November 4), as well as Kirby friends like Kirby, Meta Knight, Waddle Dee, and King Dedede (all available now). Click here to check ’em out.
- It’s true: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the only playable game at Nintendo’s E3 booth this year, but that doesn’t mean the company can’t unveil some new ones online! Making splashes so far this week include Mario Party Star Rush and original RPG Ever Oasis on the Nintendo 3DS, as well as the new Paper Mario: Color Splash for Wii U. And here’s a demonstration of the latest Pokemon adventures, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon.
- There’s a file sale! To keep the E3 festivities going after the trade show is over, Nintendo is extending special deals where you can save up to 40 percent on select digital games including popular Zelda, Pokemon, and Mario titles across Wii U and 3DS. And, if you link your Nintendo Network ID with your Nintendo Account, you’ll be eligible for an additional 10 percent discount. I mean, why not! The sale ends June 21.
- Rather than hold a media briefing like Microsoft and Sony do annually, Nintendo beats to the rhythm of their own drum. That being said, you’d be wise to stick it here for the ever-growing list of new titles from Nintendo across Wii U and 3DS announced at E3.