A Look Back at Flashback (Super NES)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing Flashback: The Quest for Identity and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

We live in an age in which software exclusivity defines not only the relevance of game consoles but also nature of the entire video game industry right down to the many varied communities of very avid fans (and fanboys).

While the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES or Super NES) and Sega Genesis each had their own exclusive games back in the 1990s, there was one particular game that was made for and released on not just one, not two but rather on more than fifteen different platforms – both consoles and computers – starting with Amiga way back in 1992. That game is none other than Flashback: The Quest for Identity which I first played on our Super NES back in 1994.

The cover of the game box.

For the newcomers reading this, Flashback was a 2D side-scrolling adventure game in the form of a cinematic platformer (note: similar to Prince of Persia and Out of This World) with a strong flavor of science fiction. It was cinematic in the sense that all the in-game animation were rotoscoped resulting unique smoothness combined with hand-drawn backgrounds and the computer-generated cutscenes were used in key parts of the game as the story progressed. Flashback on SNES in America even came with a Marvel Comics-published Flashback comic book and on the rear of the SNES game box were the words “The first CD-ROM game in a cartridge!”

A Flashback remake was released in 2013, followed by a port of the original game released on Sega Dreamcast in 2017, and a remastered version got released for varied platforms in 2018.

I got to play that game at a time when I have not even started playing Final Fantasy II (AKA Final Fantasy IV), Final Fantasy III (AKA Final Fantasy VI) and other great role-playing games (RPGs) of the Super NES. I also remember that Flashback was a nice change of pace for me after playing Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Flashback: The Quest for Identity, released on Super NES in 1993 by U.S. Gold and developed by Delphine Software International.

The start and options screen.

Early story

The story begins with Conrad running away from two armed persons chasing him. He flies away riding a solo vehicle but those chasing him (riding a huge vehicle) managed to get close and blast his vehicle causing to crash into the forest.

Sometime later, he wakes up and accidentally pushes a mechanical cube to fall down. He climbs down to reach it and activates it. The cube displays a holographic video of himself telling him that he recorded it without remembering it. As Conrad watches, he learns that he must contact a friend named Ian who can explain important things to him.

After viewing the message, Conrad sets off to find his way out of the jungle and somehow get to Ian in New Washington…

Game design and quality

You have to pay close attention to what’s going on, what items do you have and what the in-game prompts tell you.

This game is not your typical fast-paced, action-oriented 2D side-scrolling adventure in which you move from left to right to progress. As it is a cinematic platform game by design complete with very specific controls, players will have to be patient, adaptive and strategic in order to learn how exactly you can control your character, what moves will be executed (and when to execute). For one thing, the very fluid 24 frames-per-second animation on your character limits you in terms of control as timing is required.

To do things properly, you have to execute specific controls. To ascend on a lift, you press Up and the Y button. To do a small jump, have your character stand still and then press Up and Y button. To go down on level (on foot, no lift), stand by the edge of a level then press Down and Y button. To run and hang on to a higher floor automatically, have your character stand still, press Right and Y button, press Y button (once your character moves) and watch him pull it off. With controls like these, the usual 2D platforming approach is out of the question. In my experience, these controls are indeed challenging but never impossible to learn and eventually I got proficient with the controls as I played more.

The in-game animation for the characters are very good and there is also a sensation of weight with your character. Falling straight down from a very high place is a big no-no.

Apart from character controls, you don’t just move Conrad from one screen to the next…you also should do key objectives along the way apart from engaging in action scenes (read: shooting). That being said, you must watch out for icons that appear on screen when your character steps on a particular spot that requires interaction. For example, if you stop by a terminal, an icon will appear serving as a prompt to start the interaction. Another example is when your character steps on the same spot as an item located at which you can pick up once prompted.

More on the action on the screen, you will encounter armed enemies as well as high-tech machines (including floating drones). To overcome them, doing straightforward shooting is not recommended as you have to be strategic before firing a shot. You have to learn how each enemy or machine moves, how much physical space is available right there and how you can maximize your limited time and space to overcome them. In fact, you will also be compelled to take advantage of whatever seconds you have while the enemies’ animation (between moves) take place. There will also be times when you need to have your character armed with the gun before jumping to a lower level where an armed enemy is located and on the lookout. Coming down armed gives you an advantage to shoot first at the enemy who

Considering the 24 frames-per-second animation, you will have to time your moves carefully, especially during moments when you face an armed enemy.

Apart from shooting, you can also use grenades which requires opening your inventory to select a grenade and then do your timing and calculation of the distance in order to pull of a successful throw and explosion. You can also throw stones to distract enemies or to apply weight on key platforms in order to open mechanical doors.

With regards to the quality of gameplay, Flashback is enjoyable but only if you get over its rather high learning curve with regards to the controls which themselves serve as the game’s advantage and even as a disadvantage. In addition to being patient and strategic, you will really have to pace yourself, think more and get used to the rather slow pace of the game in relation to its cinematic platformer design. I should state that as you keep progressing, there will be places, or new obstacles or new enemies that will compel you to change your tactics in order to overcome them. Anyone who is used to playing 2D side-scrolling games the fast and easy way might find the high learning curve and pacing of Flashback a turnoff but if they are willing to learn, adjust and pace themselves, only then can this game’s gameplay be really enjoyed.

Cut scenes like this move at a sluggish pace which shows the limitations of the SNES and cartridge technology.

As for the visuals, the obvious highlight here is the 24 FPS animation which is the result of rotoscoping and careful visualizing (note: observe those alien humanoids who morph into moving blobs). The rotoscoped animation, however, would not have been that effective had the quality of the art used for the backgrounds been made of lower quality. I can say that the background artworks here look pretty good even by today’s standards. The standout among them were the background artworks of Morph’s home planet which really looked very alien and creepy at the same time. What hurts this particular version of Flashback is the lackluster (read: choppy) frame rate whenever the computer-generated cinematic cutscenes (obviously they were meant for more powerful PCs) play which, in my experience, took me out of the story. There were also bouts of slowdown during the gameplay, especially when you encounter enough enemies that were animated sophistically.

With regards to narrative, Conrad is literally your avatar to learn, discover and interact with the many elements of the universe he is part of. There is obvious influence that the game makers took from the movie Total Recall as they crafted Conrad to be someone who lost his memory, moves on to regain it and do a lot of things as he realizes his true purpose and what is really at stake. Unlike Total Recall’s protagonist, Conrad himself is not too interesting mainly due to the way the in-game story was structured. Just play as Conrad and do what needs to be done to complete the game.

When it comes to understanding the narrative, you will have to do lots of reading. You will spot and read the short description of the prompts that appear. You’ll also have to read the on-screen text whenever your character talks with someone during the levels of the game. And there are the captions shown during the slow animated cutscenes.

Conclusion

The background artworks during the late stage of the game are great and truly creative with science fiction in mind.

I can clearly say that Flashback: The Quest for Identity on Super NESis fun and engaging mainly to those who are willing to adjust themselves to it. If you don’t have patience, if you are not willing to think while playing, if you cannot pace yourself and if you are not willing to learn all the specific controls of the game, then you should not be playing Flashback. It is a cinematic platformer and that should tell you that you will need to adjust to enjoy it.

Overall, Flashback: The Quest for Identity on SNES is recommended.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

What caught my attention during the Xbox Gamescom 2021 showcase

The Xbox Gamescom 2021 digital event has passed and it turned out to be different from the acclaimed Xbox-Bethesda event. Just before it happened, Team Xbox’s Aaron Greenberg posted on Twitter stating: Running about 90 min & focused on game updates coming this year. So to set expectations, no new reveals or major surprises, but fun stream with our amazing hosts @vicious696 @kateyeager !

It was different in terms of tone, upcoming games, and announcements but ultimately it was still fun. In case you missed the Xbox Gamescom 2021 live stream, it is posted below for your viewing pleasure…

What caught my attention

Remember when I first wrote about The Gunk which was originally slated for a September 2021 release exclusively on Xbox? After such a long period of no updates from developer Thunderful, a brand-new trailer of the game was shown during the Gamescom showcase of Microsoft and what is notable was that it turned out to be the first look on its gameplay! Watch and look closely at the new The Gunk trailer below…

According to the Xbox.com article written by Thunderful’s game director Ulf Hartelius, The Gunk will finally be released this coming December (previously targeted for September 2021 release). Read the excerpt below. Some parts in boldface…

We’re extremely happy to have finally revealed our first gameplay trailer during the gamescom 2021 – Xbox Stream.

Early on, we decided to use Unreal Engine 4 to bring this story to life. It not only allows us to rapidly prototype and iterate, but it also offers us incredible flexibility and powerful graphics tools that have made the jump from 2D to 3D extremely smooth for the team. On top of that, we added some of our own super cool tech to do things like give the gunk a life of its own. From the outset, our goal was for the gunk to have this mesmerising quality, something you can just sit and watch bubble away for ages, like a lava lamp.

Partnering with Xbox has been incredible, and we wanted to leverage the power of the Xbox ecosystem to its fullest potential. We’ve made a massive effort to ensure that whatever platform you play on, you will experience our full vision of The Gunk.

As is to be expected, we’re using Smart Delivery to best support all Xbox platforms. On Xbox One, you can expect a stable 30fps experience that offers the beautiful art design and graphical flourishes that you have seen in our trailer. If you’re playing on Xbox Series X|S or a high-end PC, everything is dialled up and we aim to provide you with a smooth 60fps gameplay experience at up to 4K resolution.

Considering the high expectations that Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite are the premier Xbox-exclusive games set for the 4th quarter this year, The Gunk is a welcome Xbox-exclusive addition that gamers can look forward to especially if they are searching for science fiction adventuring laced with exploration. Personally, I am looking forward to The Gunk!

State of Decay 2 was surprising. While I never got to play any State of Decay game, this update for the game (which was first released in 2018) looks like a serious attempt to resonate with dedicated franchise fans as it will deliver the original map of the first game (launched on Xbox 360) which will be presented with an open-world aesthetic. The said update is coming out on September 1, 2021. Watch the trailer below…

More on State of Decay 2, here is an excerpt from the Xbox.com article written by Will Tuttle. Some parts in boldface…

In this new version of the iconic map, players will learn about the latest developments in this area, discovering new characters and storylines and resolving long-running plot threads.

Players can also look forward to six new bases, as well as unique weapons and outfits that can only be found in Trumbull Valley. New missions and new achievements await those who choose to settle on this new map.

In addition, we are proud to announce that State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition has surpassed 10 million players since its launch, a major milestone reflecting the success and popularity of the ultimate survival-sim game.

I never played the original Dying Light game and am not a fan of zombie-related gaming, but Dying Light 2: Stay Human was intriguing and entertaining to watch during the Xbox Gamescom 2021 event with lead game designer Tymon Smektala and animation director Dawid Lubryka of Techland doing the presentation. To see more of the game, watch the video below…

Here’s an excerpt from the Xbox.com article. Some parts in boldface…

The designers at Techland put a lot of attention to parkour animations. There are thousands of them, making navigation feel incredibly smooth. We wanted to make it as close as possible to the real world, while keeping all the moves fun and easy to pull off. But what takes exploration to the next level is your new set of skills—and gear! Oh yes, you don’t have to rely on your body alone. From the new paraglider to the ever-useful grappling hook, you’ll be able to make the most epic runs. They’ll often take place hundreds of meters above the street level. There are also ropes to swing on, rope bridges, trampolines, elevators—you name it. Of course, you’re going to need some practice before you master the navigation.

Survival is not just about moving around, however. Parkour is like yin to creative combat’s yang. Combine the two, and you’ll truly have a chance to see another sunrise! In Dying Light 2: Stay Human, the way you approach enemies can — and should — differ after you consider some factors. First of all, the faction you’ve sided with can impose (or prefer) a certain style of playing. Some like to steamroll through the enemy, others prefer to be more subtle about it. But ultimately, you choose how you play, so another thing to watch out for is who you’re facing. Between the Infected and the various factions surviving in the city, everyone will try to take you down in a different way. Some enemies will act alone. Some will work in a group. It’s good to learn the different behavior patterns and recognize what kind of weapons your enemies are carrying.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human was first announced during the Xbox event of the E3 in 2018 and in January 2020, it was announced that the game would be delayed. The game is set for a December 7, 2021 release for multiple platforms.

Crusader Kings III, which was released on personal computers in 2020, is coming to Xbox Series consoles as well as Xbox Game Pass (XGP) although a clear and specific release date has yet to be announced as of this writing.

I find this one interesting as I enjoyed simulation, strategy and role-playing games on PC before. I also enjoy playing games that allow gamers to make decisions out of the choices offered and show what happened next. Already an assurance has been made that Crusader Kings III has been optimized for Xbox Series consoles. Check out the excerpt from the Xbox.com article below. Some parts in boldface…

The Xbox Series X|S adaptation of Crusader Kings III will take advantage of the many strengths of the system, bringing special benefits. For example, the Xbox Series X|S internal SSD will allow for ultrafast loading times will enable you to easily switch between the game and a playthrough or tutorial you are checking out on YouTube.

The UI has been customized to work with the Xbox Wireless Controller, including the addition of radial menus, ensuring that none of the depth and detail of the Crusader Kings III experience has been lost in translation.

The release date for Crusader Kings III for Xbox Series X|S will be announced soon, but we can already commit to having this title available on Xbox Game Pass on day one. We hope that the Xbox community will grasp the opportunity to play one of the most popular strategy titles in the world.

Last but not least is Forza Horizon 5 which is set for a November 9, 2021 release and it is only looking even better and more promising. Check out the two newest videos below…

Playground Games are really experts in their craft with regards to open-world racing games as you can see in the above videos. The Mexico setting is just waiting to be explored and I am confident there will not only be a lot of locations to visit but also surprises and very exciting races to compete in. Check out the excerpt from the Xbox.com article below. Some parts in boldface…

As you play through Forza Horizon 5 and explore our expansive version of Mexico, you can expect cargo planes, an active volcano, a race to the festival under beautiful Mexican skies, and more. You’ll see exciting sights like the Ford Bronco Badlands atop the active, snow-capped Gran Caldera volcano, the 2020 Corvette Stingray tearing up the asphalt towards a dust storm in the Mexican farmland, and the Porsche 911 Desert Flyer crashing through the dense jungle tree canopy.

And finally, you’ll get to experience the stunning Mercedes-AMG ONE at full speed along Mexico’s sunbaked rocky coast.

Conclusion

The Xbox Gamescom 2021 digital event served its purpose with regards to games coming to the Xbox ecosystem this year (note: Psychonauts 2 got another pre-launch boost) as well as delivering updates for Xbox Game Pass subscribers as well as new stuff for Xbox gamers who rely on cloud services for their gaming needs. The Xbox-exclusives presented (led by Forza Horizon 5) are not as high-caliber as those showcased in the Xbox-Bethesda event of months ago, but still there is something exciting for the Xbox ecosystem and its gamers to look forward to.

In my honest view, Team Xbox and 343 Industries missed an opportunity to give gamers a much-needed update about Halo Infinite which, as of this writing, still has no solid release date and lacks serious updates about the single-player campaign! By now, the positive vibes from the multiplayer previews have faded and the recent reports about Halo Infinite are discouraging. While Japan is having very serious COVID-19 problems, the 2021 edition of the Tokyo Game Show is still on as of this writing. Will we see Team Xbox organize a Tokyo Game Show-related digital event to emphasize Halo Infinite and provide the much-needed updates? We will find out soon. Really, the pressure is now on 343 Industries to ensure Halo Infinite will be great to play.

In ending this piece, here are some Xbox-related videos for your enjoyment.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Secret of the Stars (SNES)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing Secret of the Stars and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back, video game enthusiasts, fans of Japanese role-playing games (RPGs), 1990s arts and culture enthusiasts, fellow geeks and video game collectors!

If you were already a gamer who enjoyed playing games at home with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES or Super NES) back in 1995, chances are you heard about the buzz about the hot RPGs that were released for the console at the time. Square released Chrono Trigger (which is now a classic) and Secret of Evermore while Capcom released Breath of Fire II.

That same year, Tecmo (the company best known for Dead or Alive video games) tried to score well with RPG enthusiasts and other SNES-owning gamers of North America by releasing Secret of the Stars which itself turned out to be the English-language version of the Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) Aqutallion.

This RPG caught my attention when I read about it in gaming magazines. After completing Final Fantasy II (actual title Final Fantasy IV) and Final Fantasy III (AKA Final Fantasy VI) on the SNES in 1994, there was a period several months when I was not able to play another RPG and had to settle with other types of games (note: I had a lot of fun with Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). In the 4th quarter of 1995, I finally obtained a copy of the Tecmo-published RPG.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Secret of the Stars (or Tecmo Secret of the Stars as presented on the game cover).

The cover of the game.

Early story

The story begins with a young lad named Ray who gets oriented with some people at the house of Mrs. Sonya. By merely asking a question, she reminds him about his personal search for a crest which once belonged to his father. Sonya also revealed that their island has been hit by several earthquakes which caused many wild animals to arrive.

Ray travels to the nearby town talking with the locals who gradually update him about what has been happening. Someone reveals to him that a journeyman arrived and talks about something called Kustera and Aquatallion.

Ray meets with the journeyman named David who is a native of Kustera. After reminding Ray that his father was the great Aqutallion, he emphasized that an evil being called Homncruse is a major threat to everyone and must be stopped. He tells Ray that he must seek out the crest of the stars to become an Aqutallion warrior and be able to defeat Homncruse.

Ray gets urged to go to the mountain to find the crest…

Quality

Imagine yourself arriving in this town for the first time. Which place should you visit?

To put things straight, Secret of the Stars has the basic elements of turn-based role-playing that involves the heavy use of menus for item management, fighting, defense, item use and others. The most unique game design feature here is the ability to switch between parties as the game goes on but what is clear is that the party involving Ray is the default party.

On the creative side of things, the concept about Ray being the chosen one to protect his people, lead a group composed of individuals to not only fight evil beings or monsters and achieve goals on quests (read: this includes going through personal trials at different sites in order to receive additional powers) and take on Homncruse and his evil agents has always been generic and the overall game design reflects that as well. Being the protagonist, Ray is clearly the most developed character but the same cannot be said about Tina, Cody, Leona and Dan who are all uninteresting.

Red slime? More like purple!

The production values of this game are clearly sub-par and the weak Japanese-to-English translation is only the tip of the iceberg. With the exception of the monster and enemy designs, Secret of the Stars looks like an 8-bit game and really stood out among 16-bit RPGs of its time when it comes to field of inferiority and primitiveness. The level designs lack creativity and the location background art lacked variety. When it comes to the story, its concept was interesting at first but there really is not much depth to it nor are the characters worth caring about.

What really defined this game is its slow-pacing in terms of interactivity. Adding even more to the sluggishness of the game are the slow movements of your character (representing your party) on-screen and the rather high rate of random battles. There is also a lot of grinding (defeat enemies in lots of repetitive battles to gain experience points to level up) required and the sad thing is the level-up is not very rewarding especially when you take into consideration the many enemies or monsters who are often strong with high hit points each.

The sluggishness and tedium are so bad, Secret of the Stars really turned out to be more of a chore than an actual fun game to play. It is so bad, the game’s unique feature of allowing players to control the 2nd party (Kusterans) became even more tedious and pointless to do. It is so bad, you will care less about the story of Ray, and you will prefer to ignore the other characters even more. It’s so bad, you won’t care anymore about Ray’s quest and the danger Homncruse has on the people.

Conclusion

Do you know someone named or codenamed Badbad?

Secret of the Stars was a bad RPG for its time and clearly it was a waste of money. On my experience, I ended up being very disappointed not only because of the game’s quality but also because of an absence of fun and the fact that my time playing it became a big waste. For me personally, this JRPG was definitely the worse SNES experience of 1995. It seems like the game developers made this game to literally torture gamers.

Overall, Tecmo’s Secret of the Stars should be avoided!

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Xbox Gamescom 2021 digital event set for August 24

Are you gamers and Xbox fans looking for something exciting? You won’t have to wait too long as it has been announced recently that Team Xbox will be organizing a new digital event in the form of a livestream in connection to Gamescom 2021 (stylized as gamescom 2021) which will take place on August 24, 2021!

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the Xbox.com article written by Xbox DACH Communications Lead Sandro Odak. Some parts in boldface…

August is always a very special time for us at Team Xbox. This time of the year we would normally pack our stuff and meet our fans and community in Cologne, Germany at gamescom. This year, however, gamescom will be a 100% virtual experience that you can tune in to from all over the world. The good news is that Xbox will be at gamescom 2021 and you can join with your very own front-row seat as we share the latest updates and gameplay for some of the biggest games coming soon to Xbox.

Here’s an overview of what you can expect from us at gamescom 2021:

Tune in for all the action at the gamescom 2021 Xbox Stream

To warm you up for gamescom week we’ll be airing the official gamescom 2021 Xbox Stream, hosted by Parris Lilly and Kate Yeager. Join us on August 24 at 10:00am PT/6:00pm BST/7:00pm CEST to learn more about our biggest exclusive games line up ever.

You’ll get in-depth updates from some of our previously announced Xbox Game Studios titles alongside some of our third-party partners, including some of the incredible titles coming to Xbox this holiday, upcoming releases to our monthly subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, and much more.

You can watch the show on YouTubeTwitchFacebook GamingTwitter, and select regional sites like VK.com in Russia and Bilibili in China. To make sure all of our fans around the globe can enjoy the stream, we plan to offer support for 30 languages, along with our English Audio Descriptions and American Sign Language. We hope to provide additional accessibility support for the live broadcast in additional languages.  

Gamescom Opening Night Live and Bethesda MainStream

As many of us gather virtually for the largest annual gaming event in Europe, Geoff Keighley will again be hosting gamescom: Opening Night Live. Tune in on August 25 at 11:00am PT/7pm BST/8:00pm CEST. You can watch gamescom: Opening Night Live on TwitchYouTubeTwitter and Facebook Gaming.

You can also join our friends over at Bethesda Germany in a livestream program over several days, starting August 26. Tune in to Bethesda’s MainStream on Twitch.

Connect with the global Xbox community and special guests

Something that we always loved about the physical event of gamescom was the energy of the gaming community coming together. When we all met in the past, we were able to connect, talk and play together and celebrate one of our greatest passions: videogames. We couldn’t imagine gamescom without this and therefore, we’re happy to announce that we will be hosting a gamescom special edition Xbox FanFest this year – an activity that has had a long tradition during the in person show. We’ll be sharing more details very soon, so keep your eyes open on http://www.xbox.com/fanfest and Xbox social channels, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.

As you can see above, there are no signs that any new Xbox-exclusive games will be announced as the there is focus on first-party games that were announced already. I also do not expect much updates regarding first-party and third-party games coming out in 2022 and beyond. In fact, Team Xbox’s Aaron Greenberg posted on Twitter stating: Our @Xbox stream is focused on game updates coming this year. So to set expectations, no new reveals or major surprises, but team has a fun stream planned with our amazing hosts @vicious696 @kateyeager!

By focusing on what is coming out this year from Team Xbox’s own games, I see that Gamescom 2021 will be the ideal event for the following: promoting Forza Horizon 5 hard and formally announcing the finalized 2021 release date for Halo Infinite.

The one racing game to buy and play this November.

Forza Horizon 5 is all set for a November 9, 2021 release and reviving marketing and publicity of the game with the anticipated millions of gamers tuning into Gamescom 2021 makes a lot of sense for Team Xbox to execute. It is likely that new videos of the game will be released that should keep gamers and potential new customers remembering the open-world racer in the final months heading towards launch day. The event is also an opportunity for any motoring or corporate-related sponsorships to be announced in connection with Forza Horizon 5.

Do you think Halo Infinite will be released this November or December?

Gamescom is, in my view, a crucial opportunity for Team Xbox and 343 Industries to finally put an end to all the uncertainty by announcing a solid release date for Halo Infinite in the form of a brand-new trailer with an emphasis on the single-player campaign and the plot involving the iconic Master Chief. Showing off brand-new gameplay footage related to the single-player campaign would also be helpful. It’s been some time since the well-received Xbox-Bethesda showcase happened and the lack of a specific release date is disturbing. The positive feedback and excitement about Halo Infinite’s multiplayer feature are pretty helpful in building up anticipation but all of that could just fade away when gamers get fed up waiting for the release date to be finalized not to mention waiting for answers about Master Chief’s next adventure. Literally speaking, the ball is now on the court of Team Xbox and 343 Industries to make their move and Gamescom is the most timely event to pull it off at (note: Tokyo Game Show 2021 will take place more than a month later).

In ending this piece, here are some Xbox-related videos for your enjoyment!

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Xbox-Bethesda Games Showcase delivered the great stuff!

I can start by saying the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase was indeed worth the wait and even though it was not perfect (a few games shown that were not too interesting and a certain 1st party exclusive game had an excessive amount of time of the showcase), Team Xbox, Bethesda and their strategic partners in gaming succeeded in delivering the great stuff. There were so many games, including very promising Xbox-exclusive games and many new additions into Xbox Game Pass (XGP), the people who hated Xbox became silent during the showcase and some time after!

To put things in perspective, those of you who missed out on the livestream – plus the Xbox haters whether they saw it or not – I encourage you to watch the Xbox-Bethesda Games Showcase YouTube video below. Take your time.

So you must be wondering what I think about the showcase.

Other than the fact that it was efficiently organized, nicely paced and the Xbox and Bethesda executives/producers had a nice physical stage that gave the online event a more impressive viewing atmosphere, the amount of games – from the big budget productions to the smaller, indie productions – was incredible! Then again, that should not be a surprise at all! Not only did Phil Spencer and the Xbox core team learned from last year’s standalone games showcase, the integration of Bethesda and its games being mixed with the others (from the 3rd party game makers and other Xbox game developers) resulted a powerful lineup for the whole world of gamers to see! Not only that, there is a huge load of games to be added into Xbox Game Pass which I am confident will attract even more gamers to join in and subscribe!

As for the games and key moments that I found engaging, I should say that starting the showcase with Starfield (with Todd Howard as presenter) in the form of a teaser trailer (which used real-time graphics powered by the Creation 2 engine) was very surprising as I anticipated it to be shown somewhere in the middle of the event. Regardless, I enjoyed it a lot and, in a way, it was like Team Xbox and Bethesda decided to confirm the release date and the Xbox-exclusivity of the game once and for all.

Todd Howard presenting Starfield early in the showcase.

The trailer looked great and it shows what kind of environment and visual style Bethesda is aiming for. It also shows that Howard and his team are aiming for something unique and fresh apart from what they did with The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. The moment I saw the 11-11-22 appear as the trailer played, I quickly realized that, in light of this pandemic, Starfield will be released on November 11, 2022 and I immediately understood that it’s not yet time for them to show gameplay footage. More importantly, Starfield is indeed an Xbox-exclusive title coming to Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Windows PC! That’s right! The Xbox fans who want Starfield but are still stuck with the aging Xbox One, they still have time to upgrade by acquiring an Xbox Series console (which is still hampered by supply constraints) or having a Windows PC that is capable of running the game.

What Microsoft owns, Sony and Nintendo cannot touch! Starfield is exclusive to Xbox!

Given its late 2022 release date, I believe that next year’s edition of the Xbox-Bethesda showcase will show Starfield with gameplay footage! As written in Xbox.com: Starfield is the first new universe in 25 years from Bethesda Game Studios, the award-winning creators of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. In this next generation role-playing game set amongst the stars, create any character you want and explore with unparalleled freedom as you embark on an epic journey to answer humanity’s greatest mystery.

Next is Halo Infinite!

After the stage presentation by Bonnie Ross and Halo franchise veteran Joseph Staten, Halo Infinite was shown with real-time (in-engine) graphics emphasizing more of the in-game environment of the Halo ring and, more notably, the story concept was emphasized more with the iconic Master Chief floating through space (he even took a moment to look at one of his fellow soldiers who died) and meeting a new female AI who eerily resembles Cortana (who was the villainess in Halo 5: Guardians). Then they showed a real-time preview of the multiplayer of the game which was impressive.

Unlike last year, Halo Infinite looks so much better and it was clear that serious adjustments were made to achieve the next-generation look. The signature look of the Halo franchise has been maintained but with much more striking visual details and a really smooth frame rate.

While the multiplayer is very impressive, I find it baffling that they did not show any single-player gameplay footage as I hoped to see them improve over last year’s disappointment. While it is clear they have yet to complete the game in time for the 2021 holiday season (even an Xbox One version has been confirmed) and probably were not prepared to show single-player gameplay footage in the showcase, I speculate that Team Xbox and 343 Industries could be preparing another presentation of Halo Infinite at this year’s Tokyo Game Show (TGS 2021) which will be an online event.

As for the minimal showing of the story concept of Halo Infinite, I am satisfied with that right now and I prefer that 343 Industries and the Xbox marketing team should refrain from spoiling the plot (which is too common in Hollywood blockbusters) and save it for gamers to find out. I am confident right now that this new game has what it takes to exceed Halo 5: Guardians. What Team Xbox needs to do announce a final release date.

When it comes to the smaller, indie productions, the Japanese RPGs (JRPGs) Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes & Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising really surprised me! I never expected these spiritual successors to Suikoden to be part of the showcase at all!

As written in Xbox.com: 505 Games, Rabbit & Bear, and Microsoft are teaming up to bring the next incredible JRPG adventure by legendary game storyteller Yoshitaka Murayama to Xbox! We’re also thrilled to present the first official Eiyuden Chronicle franchise trailer for you today.

Studio Lead Yoshitaka Murayama (Suikoden I & II) and Director Osamu Komuta are joining forces once again to bring us an unforgettable journey through the world of Allraan.

Anyone who played the first two Suikoden games will notice the similarity of aesthetics in this upcoming game.

Wow! Not one but TWO Eiyuden Chronicle games are coming to Xbox consoles and Xbox Game Pass with one in 2022 and the other in 2023! Having been a Suikoden fan as well as having played Japanese RPGs on consoles long ago (note: I was a PlayStation fan along the way), I am very delighted about this latest announcement. The Eiyuden Chronicle games add even more to the build-up of Xbox becoming the premier destination and ecosystem for gamers who love playing role-playing games (RPGs)!

For more on the Eiyuden Chronicle franchise of games, I encourage you to visit them at FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

More on RPGs, I recently expressed I wanted more science fiction RPGs (sci-fi RPGs) from Team Xbox. As Starfield has been confirmed as Xbox-exclusive for 2022 from Bethesda, RPG specialist Obsidian Entertainment made my wish come true with the announcement of The Outer Worlds 2! That was easily one of the highlights of the showcase for me personally as I love Western RPGs and I replayed The Outer Worlds many times! Watch this CGI trailer!

There is so much to love in the 2019 multi-platform RPG The Outer Worlds and in recent times its full vision and concepts – both of which were limited by time and budget – were finalized with the release of the two DLC packs. Now that The Outer Worlds franchise is under the full control of Team Xbox, it is inevitable that Obsidian Entertainment will have tremendously more resources and access to better technologies (note: imagine certain game engines made by Bethesda being utilized by Obsidian) to make their grander concepts and new gameplay features come true in The Outer Worlds 2! This is another Xbox-exclusive RPG to look forward to after Avowed which Obsidian is focusing on right now.

Next that interested me is The Ascent.

Having seen the game a year ago, The Ascent has very nice visuals, a solid art style, a nice presentation of future technologies and most notably a lot of action that are so good to look at. It’s coming out on July 29, 2021 already and I am confident it will be a hit with Xbox Game Pass subscribers. Microsoft made the smart move on approaching the game makers. The Ascent will launch exclusively on Xbox game consoles (including Xbox One) and Windows PC.  

Psychonauts 2 also caught my attention.

Even though I never got to play the original Psychonauts from a long time ago, the sequel still impressed me and sparked my interest with regards to platform action, adventuring and the visual concepts from the mind of Tim Schafer. It should be noted that Microsoft acquired Double Fine and purchased the publishing rights from the previous owner. Psychonauts 2 is set for an August 25, 2021 release. 

Contraband is a future project exclusive to Xbox Series consoles and PC.

The CGI trailer was pretty cryptic and at best only showed visual concepts that should be realized in the form of gameplay in the future. Very clearly, this is an Xbox Game Studios project in partnership with Avalanche Studios (Mad Max, Just Cause games). As written in Xbox.com: Contraband is a co-op smuggler’s paradise set in the fictional world of 1970s Bayan, and our most ambitious and spectacular game to date. We’re taking everything that we’ve learned from 18 years of being at the forefront of creating beautiful, vast open game worlds filled with stunning vistas and incredible emergent gameplay moments.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl was really eye-catching.

I can confidently say that this game is very atmospheric, gritty and even horrifying. It’s a first-person shooter designed to grab the player and pull him/her deeply into its ravaged in-game setting. I can speculate that this game could push players to come up with the courage to not only endure its challenge but also overcome the horror elements along the way. This one’s heading to Xbox Series consoles and PC on April 28, 2022.

As for Team Xbox’s newest exclusive racing game, Forza Horizon 5 turned out to be real and the same goes with its Mexico setting. This one’s coming to all Xbox consoles and Windows PC on November 9, 2021!

Forza Horizon 5 is a stunner on Xbox Series X! The photo-realism is so high (from the specific parts of the car right up to the many elements comprising the vast open world) this new game made by Playground Games could easily convince people they were looking at real-life, physical objects and places.

As written on Xbox.com: Forza Horizon 5 showcases powerful, all-new graphical features. Experience sweeping vistas and scan the distance to see the adventure that lies ahead. Encounter the smallest of details throughout the world which is rendered with striking realism, down to the smallest details like the light that glows through each needle on a Cholla cactus. Our Mexican HDR sky captures illuminate the world to the point that you will feel as if you are right there. And thanks to Xbox Series X|S, ray tracing is utilized in Forzavista to make the cars look even more true to real life.

I am looking forward to playing Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox Series X!

To my surprise, Xbox chief Phil Spencer appeared near the end of the Xbox-Bethesda showcase and gave the remarks. He did say that they had one new thing to show and it’s another exclusive thanks to Bethesda’s developer Arkane Austin…Redfall! Watch this CGI trailer and just imagine how they turn its visual concepts into actual gameplay in the near future. I find this intriguing and unique.

As written in Xbox.com: Redfall is coming exclusively to Xbox X|S and PC in Summer 2022 and will be available with Game Pass on day one.

Conclusion

The Xbox-Bethesda showcase is not only great…it also shows that with the full-backing of Microsoft, the integration with Bethesda, the 23 active Xbox game studios, and strong business relationships with game makers/publishers going on, Team Xbox is stronger than ever and Phil Spencer’s leadership is something worth emulating. They have what it takes to make video gaming more exciting and more enjoyable than even the Xbox 360 console generation. 30 games showcased (with a great majority of them heading to Xbox Game Pass) and with many Xbox-exclusives among them, the years-old belief that Xbox has no games is dead and those who keep on moving with that belief are just wasting their lives and spreading their poisonous thoughts through social media.

As for Xbox fans and all others who love video games, the Xbox-Bethesda showcase is more than just a grand presentation of gaming…it is a celebration of the love and enjoyment of video games as well as the benefits capitalism makes for consumers! As seen in the showcase, there is definitely something for most gamers and their tastes. Now is a good time for newcomers in gaming to join the Xbox community and ecosystem.

Gaming on Xbox is more exciting and more promising than ever! In due time, gamers from around the world will be able to enjoy games on Xbox consoles and Windows PC!

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: Did the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase live up to your expectations? On a scale 1 to 10 (lowest to highest), how would you rate the showcase? What was the biggest surprise among the major games and the small, indie games? Was the inclusion of the Eiyuden Chronicle games in the showcase surprising to you?

What do you think about Forza Horizon 5 and its Mexico setting? Does the announcement of The Outer Worlds 2 make you excited about playing RPGs only on Xbox consoles and Windows PC? Was the confirmation of the Xbox-exclusivity of Starfield surprising to you? Do you look forward to playing Redfall and/or S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl in 2022?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.

In closing this article, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Xbox strategies taking shape with Microsoft’s full support and strong dedication!

We are just days away from the highly anticipated Xbox-Bethesda games showcase! Very recently, Team Xbox emphasized further its overall strategy of delivering interactive entertainment that goes way beyond the traditional model of selling consoles and games, and behind it all they have the full support of Microsoft itself!

Let’s start with the special presentation involving both Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Xbox chief Phil Spencer. Watch the video and listen very closely.

“Gaming is fundamentally aligned and woven in our mission as a company,” Satya Nadella said. “When you talk about Xbox’s mission to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet, which I absolutely love, this is precisely what I think of when we think about Microsoft’s mission, which is to empower every person, every organization on the planet to achieve more. As a company, Microsoft’s all-in on gaming.”

Microsoft’s CEO confirmed that the corporation has indeed gone all in for Team Xbox and this is clearly a radical change compared to what happened in the previous console generation when the team was not a true priority for the corporation.

When it was a non-priority within the corporation’s hierarchy, Team Xbox was severely limited in producing first-party exclusives, severely limited in making big-time partnerships with other game developers/publishers, and designed a very flawed console with Xbox One. The result was a doomed 8th console generation (or the 3rd Xbox console generation) and the Xbox One sold much less than Xbox 360 worldwide and could not match the high number of exclusive games on Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4). Phil Spencer did what he could since taking over as Team Xbox chief.

That is all in the past now! With the full support of Microsoft and with Phil Spencer and his team now a clear priority for the corporation, Team Xbox has a lot of momentum moving forward in this 9th console generation. Mega publisher Bethesda has been integrated into Team Xbox and there will be Bethesda-produced exclusive games that gamers with Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Windows PC can look forward to. With 23 game developers under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, several 1st party exclusives are already being produced like Avowed (plus the expected The Outer Worlds franchise) from Obsidian Entertainment, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II from Ninja Theory, the next-generation Forza Motorsport game from Turn 10 Studios and Perfect Dark from The Initiative to name a few. When it comes to paid subscription services, it was reported that Xbox Game Pass (XGP) subscribers reached 18,000,000+ and right now Sony and Nintendo have no serious services of their own to compete with it. I should also mention Team Xbox is continuing with plans of acquisitions of game developers.

With the forward momentum clear, we can now take a look at the strategies as published in Xbox.com written by Xbox Wire Editor-in-Chief Will Tuttle. Some parts in boldface…

Xbox Game Pass is Changing the Way We Discover, Connect, and Play

  • Xbox Game Pass members play 30% more genres and play 40% more games. And more than 90% of members said they played a game that they would not have tried without Game Pass.
  • On average across the Game Pass library, partners see engagement go up by more than 8x when they enter Game Pass.
  • Whether it’s purchasing games inside or outside of what’s available in the library, or purchasing additional content for the games they like, members spend 50% more than non-members.
  • Xbox Game Pass has become a true discovery engine, a platform for connection and community, and is driving game sales. New insights we’re sharing today include:
    • Since we started our partnership with EA Play in Game Pass Ultimate, our players have been engaging with EA’s subscription service in a significant way. Compared to before the integration, EA Play has seen record usage on Microsoft platforms, driving hours played on these platforms up by more than 200%. As a result, EA’s incredible portfolio of games has reached and gained millions of new fans on the Xbox platform.
    • The new Square Enix game Outriders is in Game Pass and was also the #1 selling digital game on Xbox during its launch week and a top 10 selling digital game on Xbox in the month of April. Game Pass helped introduce millions of players to the game.
    • During launch week, MLB: The Show 21 was the biggest sports game of the past year on Xbox and the second biggest sports game of all time on Xbox. Game Pass added millions of new fans and grew Major League Baseball’s player base significantly. MLB: The Show 21 was also the #1 selling paid game on Xbox for the month of April. 

Xbox and Xbox Game Pass are Coming to More Screens

  • Xbox is working with global TV manufacturers to embed the Xbox experience directly into internet-connected televisions with no extra hardware required except a controller.
  • Xbox is exploring new subscription offerings for Xbox Game Pass so more players around the world can experience the most immersive and fun games across devices, geographies, and financial realities.
  • Xbox is working with telecommunications providers on new purchasing models like Xbox All Access, which allows consumers to buy both a console and Game Pass for a low monthly price, rather than spending money up front.
  • Xbox is building its own streaming devices for cloud gaming to reach gamers on any TV or monitor without the need for a console at all.
  • Cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will launch in Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan later this year.
  • In the next few weeks, cloud gaming on the browser will open to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members. With Edge, Chrome, and Safari support, players will be a click away from gaming on almost any device. 
  • We’re in the final stages of updating our Microsoft datacenters around the world with our latest generation of hardware, the Xbox Series X. This means gamers will see faster load times, improved frame rates, and experience Xbox Series X|S optimized games.
  • Later this year, we’ll add cloud gaming directly into the Xbox app on PC and integrate it into our console experience to light up scenarios like try before you download

An Incredible Pipeline of Games

  • With more than 23 studios worldwide creating games for Xbox, our goal is to release at least one new, first party game into Game Pass every quarter. Role playing games, shooters, strategy titles, adventure games, and more are all being built by our first party teams to ensure that there is a steady stream of compelling exclusive content to explore.
  • Our independent developer program ID@Xbox has earned developers over $2B dollars since the program’s inception, with over 2000 titles launched and many more on the way. This model is now being used for ID@Azure, allowing independent devs to build cloud-based experiences. These programs bring new voices from diverse backgrounds into the world of game development.
Xbox Game Pass is leading the way when it comes to paid subscription services on video games and it will be made more available to gamers around the world, including those who cannot afford an Xbox console.

Whew! That was an overload of details above! As the Xbox-Bethesda event on June 13 is focused on games (and possible studio acquisition announcements), it makes sense for Team Xbox to make clear what their strategies are and what developments are happening.

To examine the above information, Microsoft is taking Xbox and Xbox Game Pass to newer heights that the traditional model of selling consoles (hardware) and games cannot reach. The Xbox-Windows connectivity has been re-emphasized and it has indeed been working for XGP users who are paying $15 a month. Moving forward, Xbox will be integrated into smart TVs/HDTVs (connected to the Internet) and the only hardware needed is the Xbox controller. Once Microsoft’s deals with telecommunication firms have been finalized, consumers can buy a console (most likely Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X for gamers who want high-end experiences) and XGP through Xbox All Access and pay it all on a monthly basis (this will spare consumers from the trouble of paying so much for a new Xbox console at retail). This also shows the benefits of subscribing over doing over-the-counter retail transactions. Furthermore, the Xbox ecosystem will eventually become more accessible to many millions more gamers (who cannot afford consoles) through their Internet-connected HDTVs/smart TVs using streaming devices with cloud functionality.

Think about all those highly ambitious strategies and how they can eventually positive impact interactive entertainment and even expand video gaming as we know it. Nintendo and the PlayStation team at Sony (hey Jim Ryan, are you still learning yet?) did not anticipate this latest barrage by Team Xbox, nor have they formulated new ways to enhance the gaming experience and attracting many more consumers who cannot afford game consoles.

Whether you like it or not, Team Xbox is clearly pushing hard with its plan to reach many millions more consumers around the world without being limited by the traditional console business model. Consumers will be offered a lot of choices as to how they want to play games via Xbox and how they want to enter the Xbox ecosystem based on their respective financial standings and purchasing power. Consumers also love being offered multiple options which Nintendo and Sony seem to ignore. It seems the Japanese traditions of doing video game business set Nintendo and Sony back.

The consumer can become the center of gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate!

Let me ask you readers: Are the new strategies by Team Xbox look exciting or complicated to you? Are you a gamer who wants to enjoy high-definition gaming at home without the hassle of buying a new console? Do you prefer to acquire an Xbox Series X through a subscription with your telecommunication provider? If you are running a retailing joint selling video game hardware and software, what do you think about the newest Xbox strategies announced?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.

To watch the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase on June 13, posted below are the links for your reference.

In closing this article, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Xbox-Bethesda excitement intensifies as Phil Spencer emphasizes exclusive games plus key Bethesda games got added to Xbox Game Pass (XGP)

There is no denying that the completion of the most significant video gaming business deal of this modern age of and the integration of Bethesda into Team Xbox are leading to a brighter future in electronic entertainment not only for Xbox fans and PC gamers but also for all other people who can afford gaming.

Yesterday, the fusion between Bethesda and Team Xbox was emphasized even further as top executives from both sides took part in a roundtable meeting titled Bethesda joins Xbox which was shown worldwide online. The YouTube video has been posted below for your convenience and viewing pleasure.

Here are a few notable parts of the roundtable event. Firstly, and most notably, Xbox chief Phil Spencer cautiously spoke about the plans regarding exclusive games that Xbox fans have been eagerly wanting to find out (note: key portions in bold).

“We have games that exist on other platforms, and we’re going to support those games on the platforms they’re on. There are communities of players. We love those communities and will continue to invest in them. And even in the future, there might be things that have either contractual things, or legacy on different platforms, that we’ll go do. But if you’re an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists, and that’s our goal, that’s why we are doing this,” Spencer said.

Even as Microsoft-controlled Bethesda has games and fan communities on other platforms that will be supported, Xbox customers are still priorities for them and Xbox Game Pass is a key factor as it has many millions of subscribers around the world who use Xbox One consoles, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and Windows 10 PC.

While no titles were mentioned by Spencer, I am confident that Bethesda’s upcoming games like Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI will be released for Xbox Series consoles and Windows 10 PCs and be made available via Xbox Game Pass in the near future.

In my view, and in response to the whining of the PlayStation fanboys (who are agonizing over the Xbox-Bethesda deal) and of the people who hate Xbox spotted on social media, it does not make business sense for new Bethesda games (especially those made with big budgets for at least 3 years) to be released on PlayStation and Nintendo platforms since they are not connected with Xbox Game Pass.  If you look at Team Xbox closely, they are working hard to sell not only gaming hardware, software and DLCs, but also subscription services. In this case, Xbox Game Pass is essential and with 18 million subscribers already counted, the said subscription service is generating billions of Dollars of revenue for Team Xbox per year. Will Sony and Nintendo be willing to have Xbox Game Pass offered to their respective customers for the sake of availing new Bethesda hot new games? Unless something drastic happens, such a scenario won’t happen.

Going back to Spencer’s confirmation of exclusive games for Xbox customers, the integration of Bethesda into Team Xbox easily ensures that Xbox fans will not only have a lot of exclusive titles coming from the well-established publisher (and its many studios), they will also have a wide variety of the types of games from ALL the 23 Xbox Game Studios. The first-person shooter (FPS) genre exclusives to look forward to are Halo Infinite, the next Doom, the next Wolfenstein, the next Rage, the next Prey and so on. RPGs? Try Starfield, Elder Scrolls VI, Avowed, Fable, the next Fallout and the next The Outer Worlds.

Rest assured, Xbox fans have a whole lot of exclusive games to look forward to from Bethesda’s studios and the other Xbox Game Studios in the near future. These assured exclusive games should convince gamers to buy Xbox Series S or Xbox Series X, and then sign up immediately for Xbox Game Pass.

Going back to the media event, Todd Howard took note of the marvel of backward compatibility (itself a great, pro-gamer feature on Xbox) and described how awesome it is that old creations such as the RPG Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is not only playable (on current Xbox technology) but also nicely presented in 4K resolution showing how much life it still has all these years. In relation to that, Aaron Greenberg announced that Team Xbox is already working on providing FPS Boost (enhanced frame rates) on backward compatible games of Bethesda.

And then there is the other big announcement made during the roundtable event…Bethesda adding twenty games into Xbox Game Pass for subscribers to enjoy!

Specifically the games added into the said subscription service are: Dishonored Definitive Edition, Dishonored 2, Doom (1993), Doom II, Doom 3, Doom 64, Doom Eternal, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Elder Scrolls Online, The Evil Within, Fallout 4, Fallout 76, Fallout: New Vegas, Prey, Rage 2, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, and Wolfenstein: Youngblood.

Those mentioned games are available on Xbox Game Pass now.

In ending this, posted below for your viewing pleasure are varied gaming-related videos…including one video about the March 17, 2021 release of the next DLC expansion for The Outer Worlds (developed by Obsidian Entertainment which itself worked on Fallout: New Vegas for Bethesda long ago).

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Bethesda finally integrated into Team Xbox!

Welcome back fellow gamers, geeks and Xbox fans!

Finally, it has been accomplished and it is something truly worth celebrating and become more optimistic about the future of video games! Very recently, Microsoft announced that it has officially completed the $7.5 acquisition of ZeniMax media which effectively integrated Bethesda Softworks and its eight game studios (Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios) and their respective communities into Team Xbox! The completion was realized after getting approved by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the regulators of the European Union (EU). Bethesda themselves posted a fine video about their legacy in gaming and the confirmation of becoming part of Team Xbox. Watch it below…

Bethesda and Xbox is a formidable combination!

To put things in perspective, below is an excerpt (note: key parts in bold) from the completion announcement written by Xbox chief Phil Spencer over at Xbox.com. Pay close attention…

Now that everything is official, we can begin working together to deliver more great games to everyone. At every step building toward this moment, I’ve been inspired and motivated by the creativity, insight, and community-first approach of the talented people at Bethesda. Our goal is to give these teams the best foundation for doing their greatest work and to learn from them as we continue to build Xbox into an inclusive platform for all players.

This is the next step in building an industry-leading first party studios team, a commitment we have to our Xbox community. With the addition of the Bethesda creative teams, gamers should know that Xbox consoles, PC, and Game Pass will be the best place to experience new Bethesda games, including some new titles in the future that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players.

As seen above, Phil Spencer led the welcoming of Bethesda into Team Xbox. This is clearly not a simple acquisition because Bethesda is a very big company complete with eight game developers (lots of very talented employees) and very well-established franchises of games such as The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Dishonored, Doom and more.

Speaking of Bethesda’s new games, Spencer made clear that the Xbox ecosystem is not just the definitive destination for the said games, it is indeed the best. Xbox consoles clearly includes the many millions of Xbox One consoles still in use as well as the growing number of Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X consoles. PC refers to Windows 10 while Game Pass refers to Xbox Game Pass (XGP) which is a highly successful paid subscription service which has reached 18 million subscribers worldwide. No surprise, PlayStation and Nintendo consoles were excluded. Microsoft, after all, has a stake in Bethesda while Sony and Nintendo do not.

As for Spencer’s line – some new titles in the future that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players – I believe he was referring to upcoming games divided between those that can be made only for the Xbox ecosystem (Xbox console owners and PC users), those that can be released on other platforms (note: Spencer mentioned before the case-by-case aspect) and those that are legally bound to be released on a different platform (note: Bethesda has two timed-exclusive games for PlayStation 5).

The way I see it, future games like Starfield and sequels such as The Elder Scrolls VI, Fallout 5, future Doom, future Dishonored and the like will be made Xbox-exclusive (geared more towards the Xbox Series consoles and PC) which makes business sense because Xbox consoles and Windows 10 PCs are what Xbox Game Pass subscribers use. The addition of Bethesda games into XGP will help the service attract even more subscribers from around the world! I also believe that games made with strong single-player gaming experiences in mind will be designated for Xbox and PC gamers.

Future Bethesda games that will cater more on multiplayer and on being a service (technically) can be made for multiple platforms, including the PlayStation and Nintendo consoles.

As such, Phil Spencer’s use of the words “some new titles” makes sense. In due time, I believe, Microsoft and Bethesda will make clear that the Xbox ecosystem is top priority for them and this means eventually locking out Sony and Nintendo consoles when it comes to most new Bethesda games. It should happen in the years to come.

The integration of Bethesda into Team Xbox does not necessarily mean that Microsoft will change the culture of the company to conform to its own. The tech giant will provide Bethesda funds and lots of technical support while respecting their culture. Pay close attention to Phil Spencer’s words in the excerpt below…

As we shared previously, it’s vitally important that Bethesda continues making games the way it always has. We look forward to empowering Bethesda’s creative teams to reach even more players around the world, helping make future Bethesda titles the biggest and most popular games in their history. Xbox and Bethesda have long shared a common vision for the future of gaming. Both as fans and as creators, Bethesda understands the potential of Xbox Game Pass.

The head of Xbox also took the opportunity to lead the honoring of the late Robert A. Altman, who founded Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media. Read on below…

We would also like to honor the life and memory of my close friend Robert A. Altman, founder of ZeniMax Media. Robert believed deeply in the power of gaming and we are privileged to be able to continue his work by joining forces with the teams he built and led for many years.  I will miss the opportunity to work directly with him on the future of our combined teams but I know that his spirit will live on in the shared work we do and motivate us to make this partnership all he envisioned.

With the completion of the $7.5 billion deal, Team Xbox and Bethesda have officially started a brand-new chapter in the history of gaming. To say the least, Team Xbox’s years-old problem of lacking high-profile exclusive games has clearly been solved and Bethesda’s integration adds a ton of value as well as very rich intellectual properties into the Xbox Game Studios group whose other game developers include 343 Industries (Halo), Obsidian Entertainment (The Outer Worlds), The Coalition (Gears of War), Compulsion Games (We Happy Few), Double Fine Productions (Psychonauts), The Initiative (Perfect Dark), inXile Entertainment (Wasteland 3), Mojang Studios (Minecraft), Ninja Theory (Hellblade) and others. Each and every one of those game developers have new games in development and will be released exclusively on the Xbox ecosystem in the years to come. In effect, this makes Xbox Series consoles even more attractive for gamers and consumers in general. This also makes Team Xbox more competitive and even intimidating towards PlayStation and Nintendo when it comes to producing console-exclusive games.

Just what will PlayStation and Nintendo do to counter the Xbox Game Studios juggernaut now that Bethesda is part of it? Buy out Sega? Sony paying Square Enix a lot more money to secure their future games as PS5-exclusive? Sony reviving their White Knight Chronicles RPG franchise to combat Xbox RPGs from Bethesda, inXile and Obsidian? Will the troubled Sony fanboys demand PlayStation’s Jim Ryan to raise money so that the company will buy as many game studios as possible to beef up PS5 1st party games? Time will tell.

In ending this, posted below for your viewing pleasure are varied gaming-related videos including some video reviews of past Bethesda games for some fun nostalgia.  

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Frame-rate boost for backward compatible games on Xbox Series consoles has begun with five initial games!

Playing previous generation video games on your Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S console is becoming a smoother experience as Team Xbox officially rolled out the FPS Boost enhancement for backward compatible games which gamers playing any of the five initial games – Far Cry 4, New Super Lucky’s Tale, Sniper Elite 4, UFC 4, and Watch Dogs 2 – can benefit from.

On Xbox.com, Senior Program Manager Paul Eng made the official announcement dated February 17, 2021. Below is an excerpt from the said article…

As we detailed in October, with the increased CPU, GPU and memory from our new consoles, all of your existing games look and play better. With certain titles, we can make the experience even better, all with no work required by the developer, and no update needed by the gamer. To that end, the backward compatibility team has developed FPS Boost, which employs a variety of new methods for nearly doubling (and in a few instances, quadrupling) the original framerate on select titles. Higher, steadier framerates make games visually smoother, resulting in more immersive gameplay. We partnered closely with developers to enhance the experience while maintaining the game’s original intent. And while not applicable to all games, these new techniques can push game engines to render more quickly for a buttery smooth experience beyond what the original game might have delivered due to the capabilities of the hardware at the time.

We’re excited to announce the first assortment of backward compatible titles that will support FPS Boost – available beginning today –  are Far Cry 4, New Super Lucky’s Tale, Sniper Elite 4, UFC 4, and Watch Dogs 2. We chose this initial collection of titles not only because they are popular among fans, but to highlight several different ways that FPS Boost can improve your experience. For example, New Super Lucky’s Tale can now run up to 120 frames per second (fps) and UFC 4 delivers improved framerate performance specifically on Xbox Series S and can now run at 60fps.

This is just the beginning. We will announce and release more titles featuring FPS Boost soon, as well roll out new menu icons and system settings in an upcoming system update. Starting this Spring, you can go into the “Manage Game” section for any title, where you’ll be presented with a new “Compatibility Options” button that will allow you to toggle FPS Boost (as well as Auto HDR) on or off. There will also be a new indicator informing you when a game is running with FPS Boost whenever you hit the Xbox Button on your controller. You decide how you want to play your favorite games, whether in its original form or with FPS Boost.

And FPS Boost doesn’t only benefit gamers who own these titles – you’ll be happy to hear that many of these upcoming FPS Boost games will be available in Xbox Game Pass.

As you can see in the above content, Team Xbox and its backward compatibility team are continuing to not only make as many past generation games playable on the Xbox Series consoles, but make the gameplay experience even better by means of improving the frame rates. With FPS Boost, the wholesome platform game New Super Lucky’s Tale can be played on Xbox Series S at more than three times higher than the frame rate of its Xbox One version. More than three times meaning up to 120 frames-per-second (120FPS) on the newer console!

And then there is another game from the initial five…Watch Dogs 2 from Ubisoft. I played and finished Watch Dogs 2 on my Xbox One back in early 2017 and while it was not great, it proved to be fun and satisfying enough. For the newcomers reading this, Watch Dogs 2 is an open-world game with San Francisco as its environment. To have that game upgraded to 60FPS is pretty impressive even though its resolution was not upgraded. Regardless of resolution, to have an open-world game run at sixty frames-per-second is a big achievement in itself. By today’s standards, 30FPS is no longer satisfying for me especially when it comes to open-world games.

As mentioned in the Xbox.com article, FPS Boost is just beginning and Team Xbox will reveal and release more games that will run with FPS Boost in the near future. I personally hope to see a variety of previous generation games run on Xbox Series consoles at 60FPS such as Lost Odyssey (the Final Fantasy game without the name), Saints Row 2 and Saints Row The Third to name a few.

It is great to see that Team Xbox continues to work hard to not only make backward compatible gaming even more accessible, but also justify all the investments gamers made with their collection of video games released on all Xbox console generations. That reminds me, this year 2021 will mark the 20th anniversary of Xbox itself.

In ending this, here are some selected YouTube videos related to FPS Boost for your learning and enjoyment. Colteastwood’s interview with Jason Ronald is a must-watch! Meanwhile, Zalker 87’s video is about a different yet highly relevant topic of discussion.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Looking good on the way to Xbox Series consoles launch, Part 8

Welcome back fellow Xbox fans, geeks and gamers! The 9th console generation is about to begin with the twin-launch of the premium Xbox Series X and the budget-friendly Xbox Series S next-generation consoles! Team Xbox also announced that they will be organizing a launch-related celebration on November 10 which will be international in scope. At this stage, there have been no scandals, no controversies and no negative vibes towards Microsoft’s next-generation consoles and this is truly a major improvement over the debacle of 2013 that doomed Xbox One before it even launched.

Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.

So what is the latest? Things are look really good as several journalists, bloggers and YouTubers officially published their respective reviews of Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, the units of which they already have and recently they were granted a week of time to test the machines, play games and observe it all for reviewing.

CNET.com’s Dan Ackerman described Xbox Series X as “a reductive evolution, fine-tuning and perfecting what worked so well in the Xbox One line.”

For his part, Geoff Keighley posted: “Xbox has nailed a fast, fluid, powerful console experience. it is a dream to use; the most player-friendly Xbox yet. Everything from the UI to the experience makes play more seamless.  I love the snap-in storage + quick resume.”

“Xbox has built a great foundation for developers to build on. The launch lineup is not great. I find myself mostly playing existing Xbox One titles that load faster and have some graphical tweaks,” Keighley added. “That said it’s incredible this console is launching in a pandemic.”

Over at The Verge, Tom Warren wrote: “Microsoft’s intention with this new generation is to bring a PC-like experience to a console. You can feel it throughout the Series X and even the smaller Series S. If you upgraded from a GTX 1060 gaming PC to an RTX 3080 PC right now, you’d get the same Windows 10 you know and access to the same games you’ve been playing for years. Everything would just feel faster and look better, and you’d be ready for the latest and greatest games.”

Now check out the Xbox Series console reviews in the form of videos below.

If you are having trouble understanding what the Xbox Series consoles feature and what makes them different from each other, check out the official FAQ.

As seen above, pre-launch hardware reviews of Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are strongly positive and not even the lack of a launch killer-app (note: red hot video game). Super smooth gameplay, lesser latency, backward compatibility, much shorter load times, quick resume, 60FPS (60-frames-per-second) frame rate being the new normal for the next generation, and much more will define the next-generation experience with Xbox.

When it comes to exclusive video games, there is Gears Tactics to enjoy at launch although its appeal will most likely be limited to strategy game fans (note: those who enjoyed XCOM games of recent years) and Gears of War fans. For the foreseeable future, the exclusive games supporting the Xbox Series consoles (plus Windows 10 PCs and smartphones within the Xbox ecosystem) will come in due time. As there are almost twenty-five game studios working under the Xbox Game Studios group (which already includes the Bethesda studios), production of exclusive games is already underway and once they are ready, expect around five exclusive games released per year starting next year.

And then there is the 3rd party game support which is strong for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Launching along with the two mentioned consoles is the cross-generation game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla which should really shine running on next-generation technology.

In an article on Xbox.com, Xbox Wire Editor-in-Chief Will Tuttle wrote: “the visually stunning Valhalla is the perfect way to kick off the next generation of gaming on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. I’ve been playing the game on Xbox Series X and have been blown away by just how good it looks and feels. On Xbox Series X, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla runs in glorious 4K at a buttery 60 frames per second and truly feels like a next-gen title. Upon completing a brief prologue, I found myself in the English countryside, surrounded by verdant fields and trees adorned with vibrant fall foliage. This was where the power of the Xbox Series X really became evident.”

“Standing next to a stream, I marveled at the way light shimmered and reflected off of the surface. When I walked through a stand of trees, I looked up to see rays of light streaming through the leaves above me, while the tall grass at my feet swayed in the breeze. Riding my horse to the top of a nearby mountain, I was blown away by the sweeping vistas that greeted me, all bathed in the orange glow of the setting sun,” Wittle added. “Ubisoft has always created immersive worlds to explore in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Not only does Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on Xbox Series X continue that tradition, it pushes it to the next level by creating a world that feels like it’s more alive than any I’ve ever seen before. Even as I played the game, I found myself pausing to soak in the atmosphere or just sit quietly in a forest, enjoying the sound of birds chirping and wind rustling through the leaves.”

As Watch Dogs: Legion (available already) has already been confirmed to run on the next-generation Xbox consoles with ray-tracing,  the other upcoming game that owners of the mentioned new consoles should look forward to is the much-delayed Cyberpunk 2077 which will be enhanced on new technology.  Sure the game looks great already on the aging Xbox One but it will look and flow even better on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series X. As for the delay, the video below has key details about Cyberpunk 2077 that will give you insight as to why it was delayed in the first place. The game is set for a December 10, 2020 release.

In ending this, here are more gaming-related videos for your viewing pleasure. Before proceeding, I want to thank all of you and the others who read my many previous Xbox-related articles leading up to the launch of Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. I can confirm that many of you readers helped my website achieve big milestones with regards to online hits (page views). This past October, this website reached more than 29,000 hits worldwide and its lifetime hits (since January 4, 2019) is slowly reaching 250,000 hits worldwide. Once again, I thank you for your viewership and come back here soon for more Xbox-related updates and other geek stuff!

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more Xbox-related stuff, check out the Xbox Series Philippines Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/XboxOnePH