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Microsoft and Xbox: A Series of Unfortunate Events – Reader’s Feature

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The Xbox’s history has a lot of ups and downs (pic: Microsoft)

A reader looks back at the rise and fall of the Xbox brand and why they’re still optimistic about its prospects in the next generation.

Announced in March 2000, Microsoft’s aim was to stop Sony and PlayStation from getting monopoly on the gaming industry, an admirable cause for a company with a monopoly on the PC market. Released in November 2001 with a slew of top-quality exclusive games like Dead Or Alive 3, Project Gotham Racing, Jet Set Radio Future, and of course the legendary Halo: Combat Evolved, the console was ready to take on its rivals.

But this wouldn’t be an Xbox console without some pratfalls. The original controller, the aptly named ‘Duke’ was so large that eventual first party developer Lionhead stole the Japanese S controllers without the Microsoft’s knowledge. The Xbox could not have felt more American compared to the svelte designs of its Japanese rivals; it was big, powerful, and bombastic – it may be one of the reasons the Japanese have never embraced the Xbox brand.

The internet capabilities of the console were its real unique selling point, it seamlessly incorporated online into the system and Halo 2 provided game-changing matchmaking capabilities that are still used to this day. The original Xbox did a lot right, it was a powerful system with must-play games, excellent third party support, and game-changing online features but it had only modest sales of 24 million. Dethroning the PlayStation 2 was a tall order, especially releasing 18 months later. The launch of the original Xbox is estimated to have lost Microsoft $4 billion and only managed to turn a profit at the end of 2004.

Microsoft went all in on their follow-up, the hugely successful Xbox 360. Releasing in the winter of 2005, the Xbox 360 felt like a much more calculated approach to console gaming than its predecessor. It was a massive leap in graphics over the previous generation, Xbox Live was fully integrated with dedicated friends lists, the design was contemporary and sleek, and the controller was refined – becoming one of the best controllers in gaming.

Releasing a year before the PlayStation 3 and at a much more digestible price, the Xbox 360 enjoyed massive sales and was the market lead for the majority of the generation. Despite the hardware issues that arose from the Red Ring of Death and the lack of a Blu-ray drive, the Xbox 360 still managed to eat away Sony’s huge lead from the previous generation. The release of the Kinect gave Microsoft a small taste of the Wii’s success, however this is also where things started to go south.

Game development shifted dramatically away from traditional console games and despite acquiring Twisted Pixel and Press Play in 2011 and 2012, respectively, Xbox started relying heavily on third party games and partnerships which would cause severe consequences going into the next generation.

Most gamers will remember the shambolic reveal of the Xbox One in May 2013, its DRM policies, mandatory Kinect, lack of power, high price, and emphasis on its television functions did not sit well with the gaming community. After the reversal of much of these criticisms and despite a reasonable launch line-up and the promise of stellar-looking games like Sunset Overdrive, Titanfall, Fable Legends, and Project Spark coming soon the Xbox One looked like it might be OK.

But the mandatory Kinect inflating the price of a less powerful console was a tough pill to swallow and with the memory of the Xbox boss telling gamers to buy an Xbox 360 if they didn’t like it were still very fresh. Add to this, Microsoft Studios was in utter disarray. Bungie (arguably Microsoft’s crown jewel) had already flown the nest during the Xbox 360 generation; Lionhead, Press Play, and Ensemble were shuttered; and Twisted Pixel went back to being independent.

Microsoft had 343 Studios, Rare, The Coalition, and Turn 10 to make games in what was becoming a rather embarrassing exclusive line-up, relying on their solid but increasingly tired franchises. Xbox One sales haven’t been officially revealed, but sales are thought to be near the 50 million mark, by no means the failure some would have you believe, but certainly a fall from grace from the 84 million the Xbox 360 achieved.

Announced at E3 in 2018, Microsoft put their cards on the table as to what their future might look like. They acquired four new studios, including Forza Horizon developer Playground Games and Ninja Theory, developers of the critically-acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, as well as forming a new studio called The Initiative. Later in the year they announced three other acquisitions including Obsidian Entertainment, one of best western role-playing developers in the world. Their decision to bolster their first party output has yet to yield results, but the future certainly looks brighter than it did.

The Xbox Series X was revealed in December 2019 and Microsoft seem to be going all in with their Netflix style service Game Pass, a fairly genius play considering where the film and music markets have ended up – first party games releasing day one could be their trump card if their games are worthy.

The announced games Halo Infinite, Hellblade 2: Senua’s Saga, Project: MARA, and Everwild all look incredibly promising. Looking to Xbox’s July event we can truly see if Xbox is back in the game or if they are destined to limp along beside their rivals. I am hopeful they can pull it back. I believe Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft need each other to thrive and to count Xbox out of the game this early would be a mistake.

By reader Jay Johnson

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk and follow us on Twitter.

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Go read this incredible history of the SimCity studio’s forgotten business games division

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Popular “simulation games” like SimCity aren’t literally training players to run something like a city. But what would happen if they did? In the 1990s, SimCity studio Maxis tried to find out.

In an exhaustively researched essay at The Obscuritory, librarian and writer Phil Salvador recounts the fascinating history of Maxis Business Simulations — a short-lived studio that designed simulations of oil refineries, power grids, project management tasks, and other systems for businesses and government agencies. As Salvador puts it:

From 1992 to 1994, a division called Maxis Business Simulations was responsible for making serious professional simulations that looked and played like Maxis games. After Maxis cut the division loose, the company continued to operate independently, taking the simulation game genre in their own direction. Their games found their way into in corporate training rooms and even went as far as the White House.

Almost nothing they developed was ever released to the public. But their software raises questions about the role we want games to play in society.

The division (later spun off under the name Thinking Tools) was run by John Hiles, a simulation designer who had teamed up with Maxis earlier. Hiles had huge ideas for systems that made players question their ideas about the world — like its only widely released title, SimHealth:

He wanted players to have to explicitly state their beliefs about health care – about individual liberty, or the importance of community – then see if they could overhaul the American health care system in a way that matched their ideals. He wanted the player to have to examine their own ideology and understand what that ideology might look like as a real policy.

That was modest compared to the never-developed SimEnergy, which would have simulated the work and consumer choices of a power plant manager, then jumped forward by decades to see how they affected future generations. Or Race for the White House, which was supposed to simulate being a presidential campaign manager but be played like the adventure game Myst. Unfortunately, clients weren’t nearly as interested in these concepts, and Hiles’ studio foundered.

Salvador’s article touches on some of the most interesting parts of the games industry. Maxis Business Solutions’ fate mirrors plenty of studios led by visionary designers who couldn’t necessarily run a business, or who sold their companies only to find themselves taken apart by a predatory buyer. Meanwhile, a lot of these games’ history has been lost because of poor archival practices — exacerbated by bad blood between the studio and its employees, who (literally) burned their work in anger after being unceremoniously laid off.

Above all, though, it’s an in-depth examination of the “serious games” ethos. The team at Maxis was constantly struggling with the fact that almost any simulation rests on assumptions made by the designer, not objective facts about the universe. Their solution, it seems, was to acknowledge those assumptions and make players think through them. As Salvador puts it, “they were all sharing this wild idea together, trying to make games that weren’t just fun approximations of the real world but would actively challenge how we thought about it.”

In a fun postscript, an Ars Technica writeup of the article may have actually surfaced a copy of early Maxis Business Simulations game SimRefinery, previously assumed lost. Salvador’s Twitter feed leaves the story on a cliffhanger: “We’re waiting to see what happens with SimRefinery, so hang tight.”

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Young Sherlock Holmes to star in new PS5 and Xbox Series X game

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A new Sherlock Holmes game has been announced will see you play as slightly younger version of the character.

The next Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes film isn’t due until next year, but fans of the detective can now also look forward to a brand-new game.

Titled Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, the game is being developed by Frogwares, which has been making video games based on the character since 2002, with its last one being 2016’s Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter.

This new title, which will release on both modern and next-gen systems, will star a much younger Holmes, and shows how he becomes the legendary detective we all know him as.

Details are relatively scarce, but the game’s PC listing reveals a number of key features.

The game will be set on an island in the Mediterranean rather than the usual city of London, which you can explore to uncover clues in order to solve the myriad of mysteries Holmes will no doubt be faced with.

The listing seems to suggest that there might be some elements of choice that can change the outcome of scenarios, as it reads ‘It’s up to you to decide whether uncovering the truth will do more harm than good—and how that will shape the man you’ll become.’

It also teases combat, saying that you’ll be able to use the environment itself to defeat enemies and you can ‘Spot enemy vulnerabilities with your brilliant observation skills.’

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Perhaps most interesting of all is the inclusion of a character named Jon. It’s explicitly stated that he’s not the John Watson usually associated with Holmes, and he’s described as Holmes’ ‘best and only friend.’

Given that he seems to suddenly disappear and reappear throughout the announcement trailer, we suspect that he might not be real at all and only exists in Holmes’ head.

Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One will launch in 2021 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Email gamecentral@metro.co.uk, leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter.

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Fortnite vs GTA 5: Who is the winner of 2020

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Fortnite vs GTA 5: How GTA 5 defeating Fortnite

I have composed untold articles about the ascent of Fortnite as the center point of the Metaverse, the extraordinary, post-web online space that is generally observed as vivid VR in fiction like Snow Crash or Ready Player One, yet by and by, will probably be worked without VR from the outset.

Fortnite is tossing shows, appearing film trailers and doing interminable cross advancement with hero and activity films, making a conceivable adaptation of at any rate the structure squares of the Metaverse, to avoid anything related to Epic’s huge fortune and the Unreal Engine to grow things further. They are without question the fundamental spotlight at whatever point anybody centers around the possibility that the Metaverse is thumping at our entryway, but I think we regularly miss talking about a potential opponent, and to me, what appears to be a missing portion of an entirety.

‘GTA 5’ Is Ahead Of ‘Fortnite’ In A Number Of Ways

GTA 5 is the top of the line computer game in history

GTA 5 is the top of the line computer game in history on the off chance that you ignore lower valued hits like Tetris and Minecraft (the last you could think about another Metaverse contender, as it were), and the explanation being is the constant accomplishment of GTA Online, its virtual, shared world that players have been hustling near and shooting each other in throughout recent years.

GTA Online has something that Fortnite is feeling the loss

GTA Online isn’t doing any of Fortnite’s most in fact noteworthy things. Nobody is playing shows in GTA Online, nobody is appearing their film cuts there. Some portion of that could be that no, it’s not actually the most family agreeable setting, however, in fact, it’s simply unrealistic. Fortnite is on another level with these sorts of occasions that basically no other game can coordinate.

But then, GTA Online has something that Fortnite is feeling the loss of that I would consider a key part of the coming Metaverse: Investment.

What I mean is the way toward putting resources into you, your symbol, in the Metaverse over a significant stretch of time. Fortnite has the live occasions and marking bargains that have Batman and Deadpool strolling far and wide, however there is no obvious “speculation” in you, your character. Predominantly in light of the fact that you are not a character with anything taking after details or a stock or force level. You are basically an assortment of skins and pickaxes and lightweight flyers you have bought or earned, which are all absolutely restorative.

Fortnite can’t actually have some fight royale players

GTA Online is a whole lot extraordinary. On the off chance that you have been playing the game for quite a long time, you have likely incorporated yourself up with a genuine powerhouse wrongdoing master, governing over your city server with an iron clench hand and a tremendous heap of gathered riches. In the event that you have contributed time, years even, into GTA Online, you likely have a gigantic assortment of properties, organizations and houses, a stable of vehicles, cruisers, vessels, planes, even tanks. An immense stockpile of weapons available to you and billions in the bank. What’s more, indeed, you likely have a full wardrobe of beauty care products so you can look as cool as you need while dashing, battling or doing whatever it is you need to do in that virtual world.

There is a feeling of achievement here dependent on this speculation that Fortnite doesn’t have. In all actuality, these are two unique sorts of games, and Fortnite can’t actually have some fight royale players beginning with colossal weapons stores and concentrated vehicles, in case it unbalance that mode. But then you can perceive how these are two parts of one entirety. Fortnite has these insane live occasions that mix the genuine and virtual world, and the marking bargains that bring a tremendous assortment of unique IPs under one rooftop.

GTA Online has a feeling of lastingness

But then GTA Online has a feeling of lastingness, that you have put resources into your symbol to where following quite a while of play you have something beyond a lot of skins, you have genuine force in that world. This is additionally valid for different games from World of Warcraft to The Sims, however GTA Online is presumably the best-introduced bundle, and absolutely, nowadays, the most mainstream. It’s arrived at where to try and make up for lost time to current “legends” in Online, players must be talented their own starter set of properties and vehicles to make sure they don’t feel like an over the top clean contrasted with the individuals who have been playing for a considerable length of time.

What would be the best next step? I don’t have the foggiest idea, precisely, however GTA 6 is still years away, and you know when it arrives, GTA Online 2, or whatever it’s called, will be an enormous piece of it, and on the off chance that I needed to figure, will be considerably more Metaverse-y than any other time in recent memory. Fortnite, in the interim, will keep on developing in its own specific manners, and I think its subsequent stage is to make some degree of symbol speculation past exactly what players can spend making a skin assortment. Possibly it looks increasingly like The Sims with a house and furniture than GTA Online with assault helicopters and RPGs, yet perhaps not. For both these arrangement, the conceivable outcomes are huge.

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