Ni no Kuni remastered version now available via Xbox Game Pass!

By the time you are reading this, this year’s edition of the annual Tokyo Game Show (TGS) is over and Team Xbox’s announced TGS2022 livestream was held with a mix of game showcases and announcements.

During the Xbox TGS2022 event, I was very surprised and delighted to find out that a remastered version of the acclaimed Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was not only released for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Xbox One, but also it was immediately on Xbox Game Pass (XGP)!

Officially titled as Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered, I went online with my Xbox Series X to download the game via Xbox Game Pass. The entire experience was quiet jarring as the lightning launch of Ni no Kuni on Xbox consoles and XGP was something I never ever anticipated would happen. Regardless, this sudden release is a bonus for Xbox gamers who want to play more JRPGs as well as XGP subscribers who want new content to enjoy.

From one the many battles during my play time with the game on my Xbox Series X.

For the newcomers reading this, Ni no Kuni was a hit game released only on PlayStation 3 (PS3) in 2011-2013, followed by a remastered version in 2019 for PlayStation 4 (PS4), Nintendo Switch and PC. The game was developed by long-time JRPG developer Level-5 (which is often identified with PlayStation and Nintendo platforms) and published by Bandai Namco. Ni no Kuni is also notable for having lots of anime cutscenes produced by animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli as well as music by Joe Hisaishi.

As I’m writing this, I got to play the game and I am having fun discovering its fantasy world, learning how the game functions and the Studio Ghibli-animated scenes really look nice! I’ve got a long way to go before completing the game.

A talk scene during my play time.
This is one of the scenes animated by Studio Ghibli.

As far as Xbox gaming for 2022 is concerned, the sudden addition of the remastered Ni no Kuni into the Xbox ecosystem and XGP is helpful in relation to the lack of big-budget Xbox-exclusive games in the 4th quarter. It should be noted that RPG heavy hitters Starfield and Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes plus the remastered versions of two certain classic JRPGs (note: here’s a hint) are scheduled for release in 2023. When it comes RPG gaming on Xbox, the Level-5-developed game is a very welcome addition given the commercial and critical achievements, fun gameplay and the nice value of having Studio Ghibli-produced animation sequences that helped emphasize the game’s fantasy concepts.

For those of you Xbox and JRPG gamers who wish to buy Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered online, click right here. If you are already an Xbox Game Pass subscriber eager for new experiences or JRPG fun, go download the game now.

In closing this piece, posted below are Xbox-related videos plus a few ones related to Tokyo Game Show 2022 for your viewing pleasure.

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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. If you want to support my website, please consider making a donation. Feel free to contact me with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/and on Instagram athttps://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/.

Sony is clearly behind as technology giants move on with their respective ecosystems

As I am writing this post, the shockwaves caused by the Xbox-Activision-Blizzard deal are still being felt. As many Xbox-haters and PlayStation fanboys online could not help but become uneasy and restless because of the deal’s effects on them, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer had officially talked with Sony’s top executives and described what happened via his Twitter account.

From Phil Spencer himself.

Take note of Spencer’s words “existing agreements” and “our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.” Existing agreements most likely refer to what Activision Blizzard made with Sony which I believe are years-long deals on games with regards to platform releases, marketing, post-release downloadable content, etc. Of course, such agreements can last long but NOT FOREVER. The business benefit for PlayStation from Activision Blizzard will someday come to an end. 

As for Microsoft’s desire for keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation, that clearly means that the corporation of Xbox is technically in-charge of not just the COD franchise but on the decision making, marketing and releasing its games on specific platforms. Sony and its PlayStation team are not in the driver’s seat here anymore. Whatever deals Activision signed with PlayStation before the acquisition will expire and they certainly will not be renewed once Microsoft and its Xbox team takes over. In due time, future COD games as well as other upcoming games and new intellectual properties of Activision Blizzard will become Xbox-exclusive in accordance to what Spencer declared before

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,

This brings me to my next point – Sony as a global business entity is way behind Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon when it comes to establishing ecosystems that result tremendous business growth and reaching billions of customers worldwide respectively. The decades-old console-focused approach by Sony with PlayStation was indeed successful but not great enough to help it grow big time. Not even their Hollywood business nor Spider-Man could lift them up greatly. The weird thing was that Sony in previous decades had established an old ecosystem before PlayStation began.

To put things in perspective, posted below is a long excerpt from a recent Nikkei Asia article. Some parts in boldface…

The 10% drop in Sony’s stock price this week following Microsoft’s announcement that it will buy game content developer Activision Blizzard shows the market has belatedly awakened to an existential flaw in Sony’s kingdom. It lacks an ecosystem.

In terrifying contrast, Microsoft is a formidable ecosystem whose component elements, such as devices, operating system, browser, search engine, applications, content, cloud memory, work hand in glove to suck in captive users and never let them go. The ecosystem effect is all too familiar to owners of PCs that run on the Windows OS, which maddeningly redirects users to Microsoft’s Edge browser and Bing search engine against their will.

It is no accident that five of the world’s seven largest companies by market capitalization — Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet/Google, Amazon and Meta/Facebook — are ecosystems. Every consumer decision to buy a device, be it a PC, smartphone, Kindle reader, or game console, entails a surrender to an interconnected ecosystem. Promiscuity among ecosystems is possible but, by design, not easy. The ecosystems are at war and want to make you their captive.

Ironically, Sony was early to recognize the strategic significance of the ecosystem effect. Its decision to acquire CBS Records and Columbia Pictures in the late 1980s was inspired by the notion that controlling entertainment content could somehow push device sales, such as Betamax VCRs and Sony Walkman.

What Sony overlooked was that it would be self-defeating to make its controlled content exclusively available on Sony devices. Very few consumers would buy a Walkman just because it was the only way to listen to Michael Jackson. And Sony’s refusal to license Michael Jackson to non-Sony device users would perversely shut down third-party royalty revenue from the controlled content. Sony saw, but misunderstood and misapplied, the ecosystem effect between devices and content.

Sony’s next, more costly, wrong turn was its failure to anticipate and keep up with the morphing of portable audio devices like the Walkman launched in 1979 and iPod in 2001 into the iPhone debuted in 2007. The iPhone integrated, in a single handheld device, all of the functions formerly provided by the multiple discrete products in Sony’s consumer electronics lineup: phone, TV, camera, video and audio player and recorder, clock, calculator, and so on.

Sony’s stock price plunged from 30,000 yen ($260) per share in 2000 to 1,668 yen in 2009. Sony and the entire Japanese consumer electronics industry are still in disarray from the iPhone paradigm shift.

Unlike Sony, Apple founder Steve Jobs was a master at creating and orchestrating an ecosystem. In particular, he understood when to link content exclusively to a device and, just as important, when not to. Even now, Apple’s iOS is available only on Apple devices, unlike Microsoft’s device-agnostic Windows OS.
Initially, Apple’s iTunes music store platform was available only on Apple’s own devices. Then, in October 2003, “the day that hell froze over,” Jobs made the strategic decision to make iTunes compatible with and freely downloadable by non-Apple devices.

The result was not only to massively increase the audience and revenues of the iTunes platform. Non-Apple device users discovered how great iTunes was and that it worked even better on an iPod, leading to a surge in new iPod owners conveniently prepped for the coming transfiguration of the iPod into the iPhone.

The same interplay between devices and content is at the center of intense competition in the $180 billion global PC gaming industry. Dedicated gamers have a choice among three game-specific consoles — Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s Switch.

The choice of device, in turn, entails a menu of device-specific exclusive content. Xbox and PlayStation each offer about 2,000 titles, but the bestselling 200-300 games for each tend to be exclusive to one or the other. A gamer’s choice of console implies a decision about preferred content.

But the relationship between game devices and content is evolving rapidly, tracking changes elsewhere in the internet universe. Games today can be played on any device, PCs and smartphones, not just a dedicated game console.

Gaming is now mobile. Game content is increasingly being streamed, just like Netflix and Amazon Prime. You can play games on YouTube. And an Xbox can be used as a PC to surf the Internet and do your homework.

The immediate threat to Sony posed by Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is that Microsoft will make the content it is acquiring — global blockbusters like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft — exclusive to Xbox users and invite defections from PlayStation users who want to keep playing their favorite games.

But this is just one element of the multifaceted ecosystem effects Microsoft can deploy to squeeze Sony. Sony should be nervous, for example, that it has no cloud or streaming capability of its own and relies on Microsoft’s own Azure platform to deliver streaming content to Sony users.

Sony’s game and network services segment now accounts for 30% of its revenues. It is hard to see how Sony can compete in the long-term in a narrow game-specific segment without credibly competing with the likes of Microsoft, Alphabet/Google and Amazon across the board in all segments of the device-content spectrum.

From a financial point of view, Sony is not only behind the tech giants with ecosystems. Sony simply does not have the major financial muscle needed to pull off massive acquisitions of game publishers (massive meaning more than $5 billion per each acquisition) that each have lots of game developers, intellectual properties and technologies. The Japanese giant does have a business ecosystem but it’s too small and too narrow compared to its Western competitors. This also means Sony reaches much less customers worldwide.

In a possible response to Xbox-Activision-Blizzard deal, Sony can try to acquire its fellow Japanese gaming entities like Capcom, SEGA or Square Enix and integrate the entity(s) into PlayStation, but that will require not just a whole bunch of money but also willingness to not just make big offers the other party cannot turn down, but also the willingness to overcome all the legal obstacles, solve all the complications, absorb all the employees, fund future projects already in development, etc. If the PlayStation team is willing on building up its very own exclusive properties, they could expand the work forces as well as the projects of their very own game studios.

The Xbox-Activision-Blizzard deal is very hard to match not just because of the financial value and organizational weights involved, but also because the said deal covers consoles, Windows PC, mobile devices, cloud gaming, browser gaming and much more. The PlayStation ecosystem is still console-focused and so far team PlayStation released only a few of its games on PC. Is Sony even working to improve PlayStation Now? Are the PlayStation executives realizing that their 3rd party marketing deals won’t lift up their corporation and consumer base anymore? Has it occurred to the PlayStation executives that future games of the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon franchises (both of which are permanently identified with Sony’s gaming brand due to exclusive games released on the first PlayStation console) will be released only on Xbox platforms?

As mentioned in the Nikkei Asia article above, business ecosystems are not perfect and they have their flaws that affect customers in bad ways. As such, the ecosystem powers and organizers should do their work to be more user-friendly and be more consumer-oriented. Still, the ecosystem approach to business has proven to be very effective with regards to reaching the widest number of consumers worldwide as well as driving business growth to new heights, not to mention generating economic benefits for business partners involved (example: credit card companies whose users buy on Amazon, Xbox network, Google, etc.) No amount of sales of Final Fantasy games and Street Fighter games exclusive to PlayStation consoles will ever match that. 

As for the console fanboys who still hate Xbox, they should learn to stop living with fantasy and wake up to reality. Time to grow up.

In ending this piece, posted below are videos related to Xbox and the Activision Blizzard deal…

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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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/

The latest gameplay footage of Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is very impressive!

Just hours after playing the first five hours and thirty-seven minutes of Halo Infinite on my Xbox Series X which I greatly enjoyed, I got to watch YouTube videos of The Game Awards (hosted by Geoff Keighly). And for the 3rd straight year of the said awards, Team Xbox unleashed another visual showcase for Xbox fans and gamers in general to enjoy about the future of gaming. I’m talking about the gameplay reveal of Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, the high-profile Xbox-exclusive game being made by Ninja Theory for Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and Windows PC.

That being said, I urge you all to watch the official gameplay footage below…

Wow! That was a very cinematic and artistic looking gameplay showcase of the Senua’s Saga! When I first saw it, I had this first impression that it was all just a pre-rendered cinematic but when I saw the key moments of gameplay – particularly with Senua carrying the sharp sticks to throw at the monster much like a javelin – I realized it was a game designed to give gamers the cinematic look and interactivity mixed together.

The footage shown had a very cinematic look thanks to the extremely high amount of detail not only on the real-time graphics used but also on the animation and the overall artistic design and work (great job there, Ninja Theory talents!). In addition, the facial expressions, acting and motion-captured action done by Melina Juergens (official Instagram and Twitter) really pushed the immersion even higher!

Very detailed visuals combined with a very unique art style.

For the newcomers reading this, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is the sequel to the acclaimed 2017 multiplatform game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice which was developed and published by Ninja Theory at a time when they were still an independent studio. That particular game was not just a fancy looking action-oriented game…it had a daring concept of tackling psychosis on top of its already intriguing fantasy concept and unique game design.

Going back to Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, what was shown recently was not the first time it was showcased at The Game Awards. The 2019 edition of the said awards saw the official unveiling of Xbox Series X and the sequel which really generated a lot of positive buzz and showed how serious Team Xbox really is when it comes to creating compelling video games going into this current console generation.

Melina Juergens as Senua is very life-like, right down to the on-screen emotions.

As Ninja Theory is now officially part of Team Xbox as a developer under Xbox Game Studios, it comes to no surprise that Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is an Xbox-exclusive game being made for the Xbox Series consoles and Windows PC. As there is no Xbox One version at all, this shows that the new game is aiming high with the latest console and PC technologies and that many millions of gamers around the world will eventually have unique gameplay experiences as well as new levels of immersion with Senua’s Saga.

As for the people who hate Xbox and the console fanboys who believe that there should be no exclusive games for Xbox, you are all just wasting your lives with your video game prejudice and you are also proving that video game-related bigotry is true. Similar to Xbox-Bethesda, Ninja Theory is NOT obligated to release new games on consoles that are not Xbox-related. Even though Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a multi-platform hit, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is absolutely not coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch (not even the eventual Switch successor). Your emotion-led demands for Senua’s Saga to be released on your non-Xbox console do not count as law.If you really want the sequel but vehemently oppose anything Xbox, there is the Windows PC for you. You have a choice!

As of this writing, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II does not yet have a final release date. That being said, let’s just keep waiting for Ninja Theory to full complete and polish the game first.

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

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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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/

Star Ocean The Divine Force is coming to Xbox consoles and PC (via Steam) in 2022

Star Ocean, the long-running Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) series under Square Enix, has a brand-new RPG coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and PC (via Steam) sometime in 2022 titled Star Ocean The Divine Force. Take note that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Star Ocean game franchise and the new game is being made by tri-Ace.

To start with, watch this official Star Ocean The Divine Force trailer below…

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the official press release issued by Square Enix. Some parts in boldface…

Developed by tri-Ace Inc., STAR OCEAN THE DIVINE FORCE will transport players to an expansive sci-fi fantasy world and take them on an exhilarating journey with fast-paced action combat, rich exploration and an original story. With STAR OCEAN celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, THE DIVINE FORCE builds on that rich history with new features that are sure to delight for many years to come.

To watch the STAR OCEAN THE DIVINE FORCE Debut Trailer, visit: https://youtu.be/jIJe4ZUD0Gc

The Debut Trailer showcases various new and returning elements to the STAR OCEAN franchise that players can look forward to:

  • Super-high-speed action battles
  • No random encounters – players will seamlessly enter battles with enemies that populate the world
  • Players can float in the air, dive at enemies and fly around areas
  • Richer exploration – climb towering mountains, venture into dark, vast valleys and investigate the castles and towns present in the world

Showcasing a diverse cast of playable characters, STAR OCEAN THE DIVINE FORCE will tell a gripping story that seamlessly melds science fiction and fantasy elements and can be enjoyed by newcomers to the series and veterans alike. The game features dual protagonists, which offer different story perspectives and gameplay experiences: Raymond, the captain of the space trading ship, Ydas, and Laeticia, the princess-knight of a kingdom on an underdeveloped planet. Fate will bring Raymond, Laeticia, and several other ally characters together, all designed by renowned artist Akiman (STAR OCEAN: Integrity and Faithlessness, STREET FIGHTER series).

For the newcomers reading this, the very first Star Ocean video game made by tri-Ace and published by Enix was released on July 19, 1996 for the Super Famicom console in Japan. The first Star Ocean game translated into English and released outside of Japan was Star Ocean: The Second Story which I myself played on the original PlayStation console in 1999. In 2003, Enix and Square Co. merged and became Square Enix. In 2008, Square Enix announced Star Ocean: The Last Hope for Xbox 360 and its release in Japan and North America took place in February 2009.

Going back to Star Ocean The Divine Force, which is the sixth main game of the franchise, the trailer shows the ever-present fast-moving action scenes taking place in real-time during battles. As with past games of the franchise, there will be lots of slashing and fantasy inspired elements even though the game has a science fiction concept. At least tri-Ace keeps on striving with making key locations look grand.

Expect to see so much of hack and slash action in this RPG.
What a grand looking place, tri-Ace! How about showing how much exploring and fun gamers can have within it?

The artistic approach on rendering the characters in polygons within the game, however, shows a lack of willingness to evolve on the part of the developer to do better. To begin with, take a look at the character concept artworks below for the game.

Those are interesting character design concept artworks.

Now take a look at how the above two characters looked like in polygons within the game below…

She looks too cartoonish and even plastic-looking than her concept art version.
Could someone please tell me who at tri-Ace is responsible for this kind of polygonal character work?

When compared to other Japanese RPG franchises, Star Ocean’s unique approach on action, battles and the presentation of locations still stands out and that’s pretty incredible considering the 25-year history of the franchise and all those other JRPGs that came out along the way. The new game’s story and overall concept will have to live up to gamers’ impression and expectations and we will find out how the game will turn out next year. When it comes to the growing number of upcoming RPGs – from both East and West – on the Xbox ecosystem, Star Ocean The Divine Force adds variety to say the least. I believe that the tri-Ace-made game, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes and Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising will easily capture the interest of Xbox gamers who love JRPGs. Don’t forget that many other future RPGs exclusive to Xbox are coming such as Starfield, Avowed, Fable, The Elder Scrolls VI, The Outer Worlds 2 and more. Truly the Xbox ecosystem is becoming the premier place for gamers who love RPGs which is something Sony and Nintendo CANNOT stop as those two competitors don’t have their own wide range of RPGs to make. As for Square Enix and other RPG makers in Japan, they should be seriously considering releasing more games on Xbox and Windows PC because Team Xbox’s heavy investments on RPGs will eventually achieve tremendous sales in the near future.

How many of you Xbox fans are looking forward to Star Ocean The Divine Force?

In closing this piece, posted below are Xbox-related videos as well as a few videos related to past Star Ocean games for your viewing pleasure.

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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

Psychonauts 2 coming to Xbox and other platforms on August 25, 2021

Before I start this, I should state that I completely missed out on the original Psychonauts video game as I did not own an original Xbox console nor a PlayStation 2 console back in 2005. I learned about that old game through online articles and video game magazines of the time. By the time I bought my Xbox 360 in 2006, I have forgotten about Psychonauts.

A few years ago, the brand of Psychonauts returned with online buzz as Microsoft acquired Double Fine and established it as an Xbox game studio. During Team Xbox’s E3 2019 conference, Double Fine founder Tim Schafer made an appearance and delivered his remarks. Schafer went on to clarify that their studio’s culture and independence won’t be affected under Xbox Game Studios. The sequel Psychonauts 2, which was first announced in 2015, was first revealed visually with a trailer in late 2018.

This past June, Psychonauts 2 was shown worldwide during the successful Xbox-Bethesda games showcase. I personally was pretty impressed with the video prepared for the showcase.

In recent times, Psychonauts 2 gained a lot of buzz not simply because its August 25, 2021 release (for Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux, PlayStation 4 with compatibility with PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S plus the Xbox Game Pass subscription service) date is nearing but rather some members of the gaming media got to play it. For you enjoyment, check out these most recent videos of Psychonauts 2.

So what exactly is Psychonauts 2 about other than being a sequel? Based on what has been shown so far, it is a 3rd person-view platform game with elements of action, adventuring, exploration puzzle solving and cinematic storytelling.

Players will get to play as Razputin “Raz” Aquato who could leap through the air, run around, do acrobatic moves and, most notably, use psychic abilities (which includes levitation, telekinesis and pyrokinesis). As the game progresses, players will explore cleverly designed levels and meet with several NPCs (non-playable characters), and learn new details related to the plot.

The one on the foreground is Raz.

At its official page at Xbox.com, this upcoming game has been described as follows: Psychonauts 2 serves up danger, excitement and laughs in equal measure as players guide Raz on a journey through the minds of friends and foes on a quest to defeat a murderous psychic villain.

Other than being a game meant for fun, Psychonauts 2 touches on themes of mental health, respect and empathy. On the mental health issue, check out the excerpt from the Washington Post’s Psychonauts 2 article quoting Tim Schafer below…

For the second game, Schafer said he made sure each level has a unique setting, reflective of a character’s mental state, a specific art style and an additional gameplay challenge such as having to move through relative gravity or bubbles. Double Fine enlisted mental health experts to review the game, and to suggest ways to improve the game.

“They’re just small changes, sometimes to language [to make it less] stigmatizing, or depictions of characters, often just very simple changes can make the game less harmful to more people. More inclusive and more people able to enjoy the game because you’re more sensitive to what people are going through,” Schafer said.

Best on Xbox Series consoles?

Recently, data regarding resolution and frame rates plus HDR support and VRR support of the game per platform was published. GamesRadar.com noticed that Psychonauts 2 performs better on Xbox Series S than on PS5 as Sony’s new console runs the game via backward compatibility with the PS4 version.

Xbox Series X console owners looking forward to the new game can expect the following technical details of Psychonauts 2 – 3840 x 2160 resolution at 60FPS and the 1440p/120Hz mode is also available. Those who own last-generation Xbox consoles can expect the game to run at 1920 x 1080 resolution at 30FPS on the basic Xbox One, and 3840 x 1080 at 30FPS on Xbox One X.

Conclusion

The in-game environments look enticing for exploration!

The way I see it, it would be best to buy and play Psychonauts 2 on Xbox Series X to enjoy the game at its best technical performance and most lively presentation made possible with the best gaming console hardware available. Of course, the gamers and Psychonauts franchise fans who don’t have an Xbox can avail of the new game on other platforms. What is clear is that Psychonauts 2 looks very promising and we will soon find out how much of an impact it will make on gamers and game critics. Remember, this is a labor of love of Tim Schafer and his team, and at the same time it is exceptional that a sequel was made at all! Watch out for Psychonauts 2 on August 25, 2021.

In ending this piece, here are some Psychonauts 2 and 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

The Xbox-exclusive game Contraband

Until now, there is still a lot of positive reactions and discussions about the huge impact the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase of June 13 left on gamers. While not perfect, it was a great showcase with lots of Xbox-exclusive games coming and among the newly announced exclusives was Contraband, a new game being developed by Avalanche Studios (Just Cause game franchise) in cooperation with Xbox Game Studios. It is being developed specifically for Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and Windows 10 PC and it will be added to Xbox Game Pass (XGP).

Here again is the video…

On June 14, Xbox Games Marketing General Manager Aaron Greenberg wrote on Twitter: Excited to announce big new AAA Xbox Games Studios exclusive game we are making in partnership w/ the talented team at Avalanche Studios (team behind games like Just Cause). Contraband, a co-op smuggler’s paradise set in the fictional world of 1970s Bayan.

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the Xbox.com article written by Contraband game director Omar Shakir. Some parts in boldface…

Three years ago, we started talking with our partners at Xbox Game Studios about what a co-op smuggler’s paradise would look like and how we could bring it to life together. Today, at the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase, we finally announced what our team has been working on, Contraband.

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.

To fully deliver on our vision for Contraband, we have an amazing team at Avalanche Studios that are pushing the boundaries with the next generation of our Apex Engine, the technology behind all our games, including the Just Cause series. We built the engine to unlock the creativity of our developers and we’re excited to take full advantage of the unique capabilities of Xbox Series X|S.

What caught my attention was the name Bayan as the fictional setting of the Xbox-exclusive game and it could be a veiled reference to my native Philippines. For us Filipinos, “Bayan” or “bayan” is a common term in reference to a nation or to a local region/province and down to a local community. In the Filipino culture, when someone meets a different person who comes from the same province he/she originated from, that said person is referred to as “kabayan” or “kababayan”.

And there is something I noticed in the captured screenshot below. Please pay close attention to the captions I wrote.

The interior design and furniture in the background were pretty common here in the Philippines in previous decades.

Going back to the general description of Contraband, it will have an open-world environment (which Avalanche Studio specializes on) with co-op play and with an emphasis on smuggling. What is not clear is whether or not it will share key technical aspects with the Just Cause games and the 2015 Mad Max video game such as having a 3rd-person perspective with an option to switch to 1st-person view in key sequences in the game. How much realism can we expect from the developers? Will they be able to come up with new action sequences and brand new gameplay features that they have yet to do?

Even without gameplay footage shown during the Xbox-Bethesda game showcase, I can say that I am very interested on Contraband and I look forward to the eventual release of new information and gameplay footage in the months to come. I am also happy that even though Team Xbox has 23 game studios, they still pushed through with making deals with 3rd party game developers to produce exclusive titles. Remember, Team Xbox today has the full support and financial backing of Microsoft which itself continues to be very profitable as a corporation! For the future, I don’t expect Team Xbox to slow down on making exclusive-game deals with 3rd party game studios.

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: Are you excited about the Xbox-exclusive Contraband knowing that the same team behind the Just Cause games are developing it? What is your favorite of all the video games made by Avalanche Studios?

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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