Mike Nichols, CMO for Gaming at Microsoft, shares some details about Xbox and the road to E3.

The passionate community of gamers on Xbox are our inspiration. As we get ready to share a fantastic lineup of new games for Xbox players at E3 2018, we want to take a moment to thank them for a record-setting start to the year.

Today, we’re witnessing a record-setting number of players, playing at record levels, and engaging in new ways. Xbox Live players are up 13 percent and Xbox One sales are up 15 percent over the same period last year, but that’s not all. We’ve seen more than 600,000 friendships forged with the Looking For Group feature and there are now more than 1.2 million Clubs on Xbox Live.

We’re seeing tremendous engagement of mega-hits like Fortnite and Far Cry 5, both of which play best in 4K Ultra HD on Xbox One X, joining the more than 200 games that now feature Xbox One X enhancements. But we’re also seeing fantastic engagement with Xbox One console exclusives like Sea of Thieves, the fastest-selling Microsoft Studios new IP of this console generation, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, whose new desert-themed map is now available to play on a dedicated test server ahead of its launch in Xbox Game Preview later in May. We also reached a couple milestones recently with players having enjoyed over 4 billion hours on games released through our ID@Xbox program and nearly 1 billion hours on games in our Xbox One Backward Compatibility library.

Xbox Game Pass has been a great contributor to growth in players and engagement. With over 100 great games available for one low monthly price and new games added every month, including new games from Microsoft Studios the same day as their global release, Xbox Game Pass is all about introducing you to new genres, franchises, and games. It’s been incredible to see the growth in the service and the growth of engagement in franchises made available in Xbox Game Pass. We’re next looking forward to bringing State of Decay 2 to Xbox Game Pass members on May 22nd, the same day as its global release, as we continue to work to deliver the ultimate gaming membership for our fans.

It’s also been amazing to see what the passionate Mixer community has achieved in such a short period of time. Late last year, Mixer exceeded more than 10 million active users in a month for the first time – a milestone we’ve since eclipsed, and then some, each month to start 2018. HypeZone channels for Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds are now among the most popular on Mixer, introducing you to a range of streamers in the midst of the most intense Battle Royale moments. Creative new channels have been started for game developers sharing their work-in-progress games, as well as cooking, music, and art, as just a few examples. Mixer will continue to grow thanks to you all, staying true to remaining a positive and fun space for gamers, streamers, and viewers.

It’s a great time to be a gamer and to be a part of Team Xbox. We’re hard at work on exciting plans for E3, from what will be a great briefing filled with new games to the fan experience at the Microsoft Theater. This is our biggest E3 yet, and we look forward to a great week for gamers. Again, thank you to the amazing Xbox community.

 

Earlier today, we aired episode two of Inside Xbox, as we continue to pull back the curtain on Team Xbox to celebrates our games, our features, and our fans. This episode was jam-packed full of everything you could want from a show like this, including the latest on our Xbox Backward Compatibility offerings, exciting news about Xbox FanFest at E3 2018, the debut of new console features, and an appearance from a very special guest. So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest news coming out of this month’s episode of Inside Xbox. Watch the whole show in the player above or on our YouTube channel.

Xbox Backward Compatibility

Bill Stillwell came on the show to reveal our next big batch of original Xbox backward compatible games, including beloved titles like The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Jade Empire, Star Wars: Battlefront, Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, and many more. He also unveiled some brand-new Xbox One X Enhanced Xbox 360 titles, including Gears of War 2, Darksiders, Portal 2, and more. For complete details, check out our full blog post on today’s Xbox One Backward Compatibility announcement.

Xbox FanFest at E3 2018

Xbox FanFest guy Chris Munson appeared on today’s show to offer the first details on Xbox FanFest at E3, including details on how tickets will be handled and a sneak peek at some of the great swag that awaits attendees. We’ve got a full post breaking down all of the details on Xbox FanFest at E3 2018, so check it out if you’re interested in joining us.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands Season 2

Yesterday, in a blog post from Ubisoft, we highlighted the first big content update for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands Season 2. On today’s show, we had an appearance from a very special guest: Sam Fisher himself, actor Michael Ironside!

PUBG Interview

Developer Brendan Greene and musician Deadmau5 appeared on the show to talk about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on Xbox One, sharing that there will be a free trial of the game during Xbox Live Gold’s Free Play Days beginning Thursday, April 19. Fans will be able to play the full Xbox Game Preview version of the game, including all modes. There’s also some new DLC for the game, giving players some exclusive new clothes to customize their character. For more information on both the upcoming free play weekend and the all-new DLC, give today’s PUBG blog post a read.

Robocraft Infinity

Robocraft Infinity will launch day and date on Xbox Game Pass on April 11 and the team traveled to England to talk to the developer about the game and why they chose to launch into Xbox Game Pass. You can check out the full video on the Xbox YouTube channel.

Xbox Spring Update Walkthrough

The Xbox Spring Update is arriving in the coming weeks, with features including Freesync support, Share to Twitter, 1440p support, Share Controller on Mixer and more, so the team walked through some of the features. For more details, take a look at our recap from episode one of Inside Xbox, or our blog post on the Xbox Spring Update rolling out to Xbox Insiders.

Overkill’s The Walking Dead

Today’s episode featured the debut of a brand-new trailer from Overkill’s The Walking Dead, as well as a chat with the executive producer about what fans can expect in the upcoming cooperative FPS. To check out the trailer for yourself, head on over to the Xbox YouTube channel.

Thanks to everyone who tuned in! We hope you enjoyed the show and we can’t wait to tell you all about next month’s episode in a few weeks.

If you didn’t get to watch the debut of Inside Xbox, or maybe you want to see it all again – Will Tuttle, Editor in Chief of Xbox Wire, has put together a great recap.

Earlier today, we launched our new monthly series Inside Xbox. This was the next step on a path we’ve been traveling for many years, one that pulls back the curtain on Team Xbox and celebrates our games, our features, and our fans like never before. The inaugural episode was jam-packed full of everything you could want from a show like this, including the latest on highly-anticipated games like Sea of Thieves and Far Cry 5, exciting news from our friends on the Xbox Game Pass team, the debut of new console features, and much more. So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest news coming out of this month’s episode of Inside Xbox.

Xbox Update News

The Xbox Engineering and marketing teams were on-hand to debut several brand-new features coming to Xbox later this Spring. Highlights of this segment included:

*Antal Tungler from AMD announced that Xbox One S and Xbox One X will support variable refresh rate on AMD Radeon FreeSync displays. Freesync technology helps get rid of tearing and stuttering while gaming, enabling the display and Xbox One to work together to create a smooth and seamless gaming experience. Freesync allows for a supported TV or monitor to synchronize its refresh rate with your console.

*‘Share to Twitter’ will allow you to share clips and screenshots that will be viewable in-line, directly on your Twitter feed. This new feature will also automatically place that screenshot or video into your Twitter media library, as well as suggest hashtags, such as the game title.

*Xbox One will also begin supporting Auto Low Latency Mode on supported TVs later in 2018, including select models from Samsung. Auto Low Latency Mode will recognize when a game is being played and automatically switch your TV to a low-latency mode. This will enable you to continue using some of your TVs video processing options while you’re watching a movie or Mixer stream, but be comfortable that any post-processing will automatically be turned off when you switch back over to a game.

*The Microsoft Edge browser is also getting an update on Xbox One. The browser now looks and feels more like Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. You can also download and upload files, including pictures and videos, directly to your Xbox One or attached storage device. For example, if you find a great picture online that you’d like to use as your Xbox One background, you can download the image with Microsoft Edge and set it as your custom background.

*Share Controller on Mixer was announced. Mixer streamers on Xbox One will be able to share their controller directly with viewers on Mixer.com. Once shared, a viewer on their PC can help control the experience with either an on-screen virtual controller or with a physical controller connected to the PC. This is available now for testing on the Xbox Insider Alpha ring.

Sea of Thieves

Executive Producer Joe Neate confirmed two updates for Sea of Thieves based on fan feedback from the Closed Beta and Scale Tests.

*The respawn system has been updated based on player feedback. Now, if you perish after your ship is sunk you will respawn on a new ship, away from the scene of your watery demise.

*You can now favorite Pirate characters when selecting your pirate from the character carousel. This will allow you to refresh your options during character selection and still retain the option of choosing the Favorites character from before.

Larry Hryb and Lydia Ellery had the chance to talk with Rare Studio Head Craig Duncan and Sea of Thieves Executive Producer Joe Neate about the original inspiration for Sea of Thieves, how that has manifested itself in the final game, and how that purpose has bonded players together.

Sea of ThievesLarry and Lydia also spoke with lead designer Shelley Preston and art director Ryan Stevenson about the game’s design philosophy. The team went in-depth on the importance of natural design and the sense of discovery that permeates the game.

The Quest

The end of the episode marked a curious entry, with the forging golden bananas and mysterious URL. Adventure awaits on web and land, calling to all Sea of Thieves fans to band together to tackle the mysteries and challenges ahead. One thing is certain. Someone is going to walk away with that gold banana bunch.

PixArk Release Date

Navin Supphapholsiri from Studio Wildcard was on-hand to not only show off the vibrant, friendly and procedurally generated survival game PixArk, but also revealed the release date from the much-anticipated survival title. PixArk will be available on March 27.

Based on Studio Wildcard’s popular Ark: Survival Evolved, PixArk takes a more colorful, accessible approach to the survival genre, allowing you to not only harvest resources, hunt dinosaurs, and craft gear, but also build outlandishly creative bases. This includes a Creative Mode, which allows you to build freely, without restraint or worrying about the survival-based-gameplay.

Games, Games, and More Games

Jeff Rubenstein and Larry Hryb talked to Nico Bihary from Microsoft Studios for a full update on all things PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, including a recent major update to the game, where it’s going from here, and why Chicken Dinners are so darn tasty.

At a recent event for Far Cry 5, Larry got the chance to chat with Drew Holmes, the game’s lead writer, and actor Greg Byrke about bringing the franchise’s latest unsettling antagonist to life.

Xbox Game Pass

The team also revealed that Xbox Game Pass will bringing eight new games into the fold in April, including the critically acclaimed Cities: Skylines. This city-creation simulation puts the fate of your own dream metropolis in your hands, letting you manage the cities infrastructure, various districts, utilities, healthcare, emergency responders and much more. This is first of eight Xbox Game Pass reveals for April, so stay tuned to Xbox Wire for more info as it becomes available.

Thanks to everyone who tuned in! We hope you enjoyed the show and we can’t wait to tell you all about next month’s episode in a few weeks.