Con­sole kings bat­tling with grand games, vir­tual worlds


Con­sole kings Mi­crosoft and Sony bat­tled for play­ers’ hearts with block­buster games and the lure of vir­tual worlds as the Elec­tronic En­ter­tain­ment Expo was poised be­gin in Los An­ge­les on Tues­day.

The com­pa­nies be­hind Xbox One and PlayS­ta­tion 4 (PS4) con­soles staged flashy media events where they showed off dizzy­ing ac­tion games and spot­lighted ex­clu­sive con­tent.

Mi­crosoft grabbed the spotlight early Mon­day with word that peo­ple will be able to play beloved old video games on new-gen­er­a­tion Xbox One con­soles. Gamers have long-de­sired such “back­ward com­pat­i­bil­ity” for ti­tles, which typ­i­cally re­tail for about US$60.

Mi­crosoft touted “ex­clu­sive” block­buster con­tent, in­clud­ing “Halo 5 Guardians,” from in-house teams and early avail­abil­ity of hotly an­tic­i­pated video games such as “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” set for re­lease late this year by out­side stu­dios.

“If you have been wait­ing to move from your Xbox 360 to Xbox One, now is the time,” Xbox di­vi­sion head Phil Spencer said.

Sony PlayS­ta­tion 4 con­soles trounced Xbox One af­ter the new gen­er­a­tion con­soles hit the mar­ket in late 2013.

Mi­crosoft since low­ered the price and in­creased the fo­cus on game play, rather than fea­tures such as stream­ing films, and has be­gun nar­row­ing the sales gap.

The abil­ity to re-play pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Xbox games promised to be a hit with gamers who have lamented that up­grad­ing to new hard­ware, his­tor­i­cally, has come with leav­ing be­hind old ti­tles that don’t work on new con­soles.

“Xbox One back­ward ca­pa­bil­ity al­lows you to play the games you have al­ready in­vested in,” Spencer said, elic­it­ing rau­cous cheers from an au­di­ence of gamers, part­ners and the press.

Xbox ex­ec­u­tive Mike Ybarra promised that more than 100 ti­tles would be avail­able by year’s end in a li­brary of games with back­ward com­pat­i­bil­ity, crow­ing that a per­sonal fa­vorite, “Mass Ef­fect,” will be among them.

Ex­clu­sives and In­de­pen­dents

Xbox and PlayS­ta­tion are both in­vest­ing in new fran­chises, along with cul­ti­vat­ing cre­ative orig­i­nal con­tent from small in­de­pen­dent stu­dios.

Mi­crosoft stu­dios an­nounced a part­ner­ship with famed Ja­panese game de­signer Keiji Inafune, Mark Pacini and teams at Com­cept and Ar­ma­ture Stu­dio to de­but an all-new Xbox One ex­clu­sive ti­tled “ReCore.”

In­de­pen­dent games in the works for Xbox One in­cluded “Be­yond Eyes,” in which the main char­ac­ter is blind and en­gages her world us­ing other senses, and a “Cup­head” game with the in­ten­tional vintage look of a 1930s era car­toon.

Mi­crosoft played up the work done to har­mo­nize play across Xbox One and com­put­ers pow­ered by Win­dows 10 op­er­at­ing soft­ware due for re­lease later this year.

Sony fired back Mon­day evening, pro­claim­ing a “new era” of PlayS­ta­tion gam­ing com­plete with big­name games and the dawn of vir­tual re­al­ity on its pow­er­ful PlayS­ta­tion 4 con­soles.

The Ja­panese en­ter­tain­ment ti­tan boasted an ar­ray of beloved games for ex­clu­sive play on PlayS­ta­tion 4, along with demon­stra­tions of ti­tles tai­lored to im­merse play­ers in fan­tasy worlds us­ing Sony’s Pro­ject Mor­pheus vir­tual re­al­ity head gear.

“We are wit­ness­ing an his­toric evo­lu­tion in gam­ing,” said Sony Com­puter En­ter­tain­ment Amer­ica chief Shawn Lay­den.

PlayS­ta­tion is the “new home” for block­buster “Call of Duty” fran­chise due to an al­liance with video game pub­lisher Ac­tivi­sion, ac­cord­ing to Sony Com­puter En­ter­tain­ment pres­i­dent An­drew House.

Sony Stu­dios is also ex­pand­ing the hu­mon­gous science fic­tion shooter world of its suc­cess­ful new “Des­tiny” video game cen­tered on seem­ingly lim­it­less online play.

Block­buster ti­tles promised PS4 lovers in­cluded “Un­charted 4: A Thief’s End,” due out early next year.

Vir­tual Re­al­ity Games

Mi­crosoft an­nounced a part­ner­ship with Valve VR to make Win­dows 10 a plat­form for play us­ing vir­tual re­al­ity head gear.

Face­book-owned Ocu­lus last week said its Rift vir­tual re­al­ity head gear will come with an Xbox con­troller due to an al­liance with con­sole maker Mi­crosoft.

Vir­tual re­al­ity “ex­pe­ri­ences” will be built on top of Win­dows and that Xbox games will be playable on Rift, ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft.

Mi­crosoft used the Xbox One event at E3 to show off a ver­sion of pop­u­lar Minecraft game make for play us­ing the HoloLens aug­ment­e­dreal­ity vi­sors, which have yet to hit the mar­ket.

Sony’s House boasted that de­vel­op­ers were em­brac­ing craft­ing games that give play­ers 360-de­gree per­spec­tives in worlds vis­ited us­ing Mor­pheus vir­tual re­al­ity head gear Sony is ready­ing for mar­ket.

He showed off a “Rigs” arena bat­tle game and teased other ti­tles that visi­tors to the PlayS­ta­tion booth at E3 will get to play.

“Pro­ject Mor­pheus is real, evolv­ing, and con­tin­ues to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of de­vel­op­ers,” House said.


1. Asad Qizil­bash, head of soft­ware mar­ket­ing for Sony Com­puter En­ter­tain­ment Amer­ica, walks out on­stage as graph­ics from the video game “Dreams” are dis­played dur­ing the Sony Plays­ta­tion at E3 2015 news con­fer­ence at the Los An­ge­les Sports Arena on Mon­day, June 15. 2. Phil Spencer, head of Mi­crosoft’s Xbox di­vi­sion and Mi­crosoft Stu­dios, opens the Xbox E3 2015 brief­ing ahead of the Elec­tronic En­ter­tain­ment Expo at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Galen Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les on Mon­day. 3. Ubisoft Mon­treal Cre­ative Di­rec­tor Jason Van­den­berghe dis­cusses the video game “For Honor” at Ubisoft’s E3 2015 Con­fer­ence at the Or­pheum Theatre in Los An­ge­les on Mon­day.

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