Welcome to our weekly ICYMI for Xbox news!
We'll still be posting major Xbox announcements in the main feed, but I'll be collecting some of the more nuanced news, rumours and talking points into one handy thread every weekend!
There's been a ton of major announcements this week, so without further ado, here's our latest edition of This Week in Xbox One News.
Kojima v. Konami drama continues, just what exactly is going on?
Donna Burke, the singer for MGS: Peace Walker's incredible "Heaven's Divide" and MGSV's "Sins for the Father" recently inferred that Hideo Kojima had indeed been fired by Konami, which contradicts their previous statements.
The whole ordeal came to light when Konami began scrubbing Kojima's name from various Metal Gear titles on their websites. Statements from anonymous sources then filtered through to Kotaku and other major sites claiming that Kojima Productions was under fire, and that all MGSV staff had been reduced to contractors. The incident forced Kojima and Konami to issue joint statements to assure fans that MGSV: The Phantom Pain was nearing completion, and that Kojima was still 100% on board with the project.
Donna stated on twitter that fans shouldn't boycott MGSV and undo Kojima Productions hard work because "Konami fired a genius", she then elaborated further to concerned fans emphasising that he has indeed been fired by Konami, but was on board to complete the game regardless.
Konami denied the claims to VideoGamer.com, stating that they were 'categorically untrue', but it's clear something very odd is taking place at Konami HQ. As I mentioned in my previous coverage for this story, it doesn't bode well for the future of both Metal Gear and Silent Hill (which has had a reboot spearheaded by Kojima planned). Konami, in my opinion, have displayed staggering inability to handle their IP without Kojima's involvement, so, I think fans have more than enough cause for concern.
Major Nelson rebuffs NeoGAF studio boss for 'bribery' claims
Last year, Major Nelson offered NeoGAF staffers access to E3 as 'Microsoft guests' after E3 declined to accept NeoGAF as media. The NeoGAF staffers snubbed Major Nelson, claiming that it would 'affect their neutrality'. Major Nelson urged that the Microsoft team asked for nothing in return, no pro-Xbox coverage and so on, but regardless, NeoGAF head recently described the offer as a 'bribe' during a Q&A with Kotaku.
In a frank riposte, Major Nelson took to NeoGAF to offer his side of the story:
I'll just say I take issue with your choice of the word "bribe." At no time did I ever imply or otherwise infer that I would expect coverage - let alone dictate the tone or tenor of said coverage. What ever you choose to say or write or otherwise do to cover the event (or not at all) was entirely up to you. I said it then, and I"ll say it again: This was a 100% no strings attached professional courtesy I was extending to another member of the community. No expectations were implied or inferred. I wanted to make sure you could see, in person, the Xbox briefing so you could draw your own conclusions. How or if you shared them was entirely up to you. That was it. No strings attached. Period. Assuming that I would expect anything in return is just flat out wrong and misrepresents my intention. It's also incorrect to assume that I would somehow use this to create an uncomfortable situation when we would meet at E3. I think I have conducted myself in a much more professional and upstanding manner both online and in person that you would have understood that.
There's always two sides to a story, but as someone who has dealt with the Xbox team both as part of Windows Central and smaller independent sites, my experience with them has been nothing but positive. They're very keen to help people out in the community, usually asking for nothing in return. TiC Podcast's interview with Phil Spencer is a pretty prime example of this, the previously obscure YouTube channel had around 300 subs when Phil agreed to dial in and talk games, no strings attached.
I'm not naïve enough to ignore the benefits for Microsoft to communicate with smaller outlets in this way, it creates grassroots approval for a company that hasn't enjoyed a particularly positive public image over the last 10 years, but the Xbox team seem to have far more leeway when it comes to engaging fans, and generally do so in a frank and unfiltered manner. Although, whilst we're discussing communication with Xbox HQ...
Darkside Games points the finger at Microsoft over their failed Phantom Dust reboot
Here's some more industry drama. Phantom Dust was supposed to be the game Xbox One JRPG fans were clamouring for, but we may all be waiting a while, as the project under Darkside Games has been axed by Microsoft for reasons the big ol' Redmond company wouldn't elaborate on.
Kotaku have compiled a narrative, complete with quotes from anonymous, but verified sources at Darkside Games, who lay blame firmly at Microsoft. According to Kotaku's sources, Microsoft had unrealistic expectations for the project, which was marred with poor communication, budgetary concerns and wavering focus from Xbox HQ.
"Nobody knew [Ken Lobb] was gonna say that, we were told by people at Microsoft that Ken just does things like that."
Apparently, what Microsoft originally pitched was purely multiplayer in focus, complete with tournament support and spectator features - something the dev compares to Hearthstone and League of Legends. This pitch stands at a stark contradiction to what Microsoft Studios exec Ken Lobb said on the TiC Podcast, that Phantom Dust would carry a 30 hour long single player component - a statement which surprised Darkside Games themselves.
"When it came down to it, the game they wanted could not be done, we could not make them the game they wanted for the budget they had."
The Phantom Dust dev team were also reportedly unaware of the CGI concept trailer that the Xbox team were shipping at E3, which painted a far grander vision than a $5m budgeted game could accomplish. Owing to the change in focus, Darkside Games flew out to Redmond to request a further $3 million to complete the game, Microsoft declined, and then followed up by pulling the plug on the whole project.
It seems odd that Microsoft Studios could mishandle a third party relationship so spectacularly. I've reached out to Microsoft to give their side of the story, but it seems unlikely they'll offer anything other than the typical response that a Phantom Dust reboot is still on the table. Be sure to check out the full story on Kotaku.
Witcher 3 picks up two huge expansions, incredible gameplay trailer
Moving on to something more positive, CD Projekt RED have announced that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will pick up two 'vast' expansions that the dev hopes will represent true value for money.
With the development of Wild Hunt coming to an end, the team has embarked on the creation of two new really big adventures set in The Witcher universe. We remember the time when add-on disks truly expanded games by delivering meaningful content. As gamers, we'd like to bring that back. We've said in the past that if we ever decide to release paid content, it will be vast in size and represent real value for the money. Both our expansions offer more hours of gameplay than quite a few standalone games out there.
Hearts of Stone will take place in the current game world, and land this October, hitting around 10 hours of extra gameplay time. Blood and Wine on the other hand will be released in Q1 2016, and is a 20 hour adventure taking place in an all-new area.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is gunning for the WRPG crown, and if reports that speed runs take 25+ hours, completionist playthroughs 200+ hours, and if the above gameplay trailer is representative, it may just take that title.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided announced, blows minds (literally)
The follow up to Eidos Montreal's Deus Ex: Human Revolution has been announced, and comes with a hype inducing CGI trailer.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a direct follow up to the events of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, in which augmented humans are segregated outcasts in society. Adam Jensen returns, thrown in between an overarching corporate conspiracy and terrorist cells of angry augs hell-bent on revenge. I'd fully expect to see some live gameplay at E3.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 reveal teased, surprises no-one
It's another year, which means another Call of Duty. Whatever your opinion is on the annualized military multiplayer shooter, we all know there's millions (billions?) in profits to be had for parent company Activision. My cynicism towards Call of Duty is based primarily in the fact it hasn't really changed since Modern Warfare 2, and that the franchise really does just come across like an annual £45 map pack.
Still, the press release for Black Ops 3 calls it the 'best Call of Duty yet', 10000th time lucky I guess? Maybe I'm just bitter there's no follow up to World at War yet... Black Ops 3 full gameplay reveal will come at the end of the month.
Steve Papoutsis leaves Visceral Games
Visceral Games, the devs behind the recent Battlefield Hardline and beloved Dead Space series has lost its vice president and general manager, famed Steve Papoutsis. Papoutsis served as the executive director for Dead Space, and has a history with Visceral spanning 15 years. He'll be replaced by Scott Probst, the son of EA chairman Larry Probst. There's no indication as to whether he was sacked or left voluntarily, as neither party has commented beyond EA's canned "We are thankful for Steve's contributions" PR statement.
Hopefully the change was amicable, although critics' feelings (myself included) on Hardline were mixed, scoring the game below 75% on metacritic, the game has enjoyed the No. 1 spot for many weeks in various charts around the world, even beating Bloodborne on the PS4 specific chart.
The conspiracy theorist in me is leaping to conclude that he left because EA want Visceral to become a Battlefield / Star Wars only studio, and that Dead Space will be forever confined to a cold video game oblivion. Here's hoping that I'm just crazy.
Microsoft defend Xbox One power consumption
Following a report that the Xbox One uses more juice than competing home consoles, the Xbox team took to Xbox Wire to discuss existing and upcoming improvements to the criticised stand-by mode, a feature which generates a reported $250 million extra in energy costs per year in the US, or $6 to $15 per user according to Microsoft themselves.
Microsoft note that being able to update games whilst offline has been a requested feature since the Xbox 360 days, regardless of that fact, the Xbox One can take a good 30+ seconds to boot up when not in standby, and if your internet connection isn't the best, leaving it in stand-by to download games is a must-have feature.
Regardless, Microsoft aren't happy with the power consumption of their consoles, and have pledged to decrease the power consumption without hindering features:
"Since Xbox One launched, we've reduced the power consumed while in Instant-on by a third. At Microsoft, sustainability is core to our business practices—we continue to work to reduce the environmental impact of our products and services, and we are committed to carbon neutrality as a company."
Check out Xbox's full response to energy consumption concerns right here.
Ori and the Blind Forest profitable after one week
Moon Studios CEO Thomas Mahler took to NeoGAF to reveal that Ori and the Blind Forest became profitable after just one week.
Business-wise, Ori was already profitable a week after release and Microsoft is super happy, so we'll see about Ori's future :)
Mahler also confirmed that the studio have been on a hiring spree, and have several small and 'huge' announced projects in the prototypical stage. Moon Studios are hard at work patching Ori and the Blind Forest, to remove a rare save file bug and repair some of the slow down some of the more intensive sequences can cause. I urge any platformer fan to give Ori and the Blind Forest a try, it's truly a gem.
New game releases for the week ending April 12th
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin - Action RPG
From Software's famous Dark Souls series comes to Xbox One, in the form of a remastered Dark Souls II. The game makes the jump from 30 fps to 60 fps, complete with 1080p and overhauled visual effects. Online play has been altered, resulting in easier match making and enemy behaviour has also been altered, meaning Dark Souls II veterans will have to re-learn the game. Prepare to die, a lot.
Tower of Guns - FPS / Roguelike
Tower of Guns is a procedurally generated FPS with bullet-hell elements, launched under the ID@Xbox program. The game touts hundreds of weapons, secrets, unlocked, upgrades and epic boss battles!
And that's a wrap!
Hit the comments and kick off discussions about this week's news. A lot of it seems negative this week, but as we head closer to E3, game announcements and gameplay will likely (hopefully) overshadow a lot of the recent industry drama.
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Benchmarking the new Surface Book 3 15 with GTX 1660 Ti and 10th Gen i7
Although it's too early for a review, here are some initial benchmarks from the new Surface Book 3 15-inch with a Core i7 and NVIDIA GeForce 1660 Ti (Max-Q) and how it compares to Surface Book 2 and other premium laptops. Spoiler: While the CPU is just OK, that 1660 Ti definitely bumps up the Book 3's potential.
Minecraft Dungeons has a major secret Diablo fans will love (spoilers)
Minecraft Dungeons is here, and I can't stop playing it. As we dive deeper into the end game, we keep finding more and more secrets, and one has been found now that Diablo fans will love.
Halo 2's PC launch instability was unacceptable, and Halo 3 can't repeat it
The launch state of Halo 2's multiplayer on PC was simply unacceptable, and the fact that the game was allowed to release in this state raises serious concerns about how future Halo ports, especially Halo 3, will turn out. Here's why this can't happen again if Halo is to be successful on the PC platform.
Our top 10 picks for survival games on Xbox One
There are a wealth of survival games on Xbox One, with gameplay that revolves around hunger, thirst, and oftentimes, finding shelter (or even building your own). These uniquely challenging games are plentiful on Xbox, and here are our favorites.