The E3 expo in Los Angeles is the gaming industry's biggest event of the year, and Xbox kicked things off in style by unveiling the world's most powerful console: The Xbox One X.
“It's a monster”, proclaimed Xbox CEO Phil Spencer, and there's no denying that the new machine packs some serious muscle, running at 6 Teraflops and boasting a custom 1172 MHZ GPU engine that kicks out so much heat it requires a vapour chamber liquid cooling system.
If that sounds like a whole heap of jargon and gobbledygook, in layman's terms, this is the equivalent of a high-end, $2000-plus PC crammed into a living-room friendly console.
Formerly known as Project Scorpio, The One X has been designed to deliver true 4K graphics and take advantage of the latest Ultra HD TVs.
While you'll need a high-end screen to truly appreciate its power, Spencer was keen to emphasise that there will be plenty of benefits for gamers using 1080p TVs. A process they're calling “supersampling” and isotropic filtering means that games will look better, run smoother and load faster regardless of resolution.
Released on November 7, global time differences mean that Kiwi gamers will be the first on the planet to get their hands on the new hardware. Microsoft confirmed that it will retail at US$499, and although it's yet to be officially confirmed, an Xbox source suggests we'll probably be looking at a $749 price tag in New Zealand.
Forza Motorsport 7
Not content to simply show us the latest edition of the world's best-selling racing franchise, Xbox also gave us the first ever look at a brand new supercar, the Porsche 911 GT – not just on screen, but on stage.Obviously it features heavily in the game – and on the cover – but combining a car reveal with a driving game launch seems like such an easy win it's surprising it's not been done before.
The game itself looked stunning. Running at a native 4K and 60 frames per second, I don't think I've ever seen a racing game look so smooth. Dynamic weather and some incredible lighting effects made it almost photo-realistic.
Although there was nothing to suggest that this game will push the boundaries in terms of what we'd expect from a Forza title, it was so visually impressive that you'd forgive the lack of innovation. If you've got a 4K monitor, check out the trailer and you'll believe the hype.
Sea of Thieves
Any new game from Rare is guaranteed to make headlines, but this shared world pirate game with an emphasis on exploration looks a little bit special.
As you'd expect from a high-seas adventure there's plenty of treasure hunting and discovering sunken shipwrecks, but the sheer size and scale of the game, as well as its open-ended structure, makes it one to look out for.
The 10-minute gameplay trailer was one of the lengthiest and most extensive game previews we saw at the Xbox briefing. Some of the graphics and animation looked somewhat rough around the edges, suggesting it's very much a work in progress, but if this game delivers half of what it's promising, we'll be in for a treat.
When Microsoft spent US$2.5 billion acquiring the rights for Minecraft from Mojang visionary Markus “Notch” Persson, everyone expected them to have something big in the pipeline for one of the gaming industry's most lucrative franchises. Apart from dispersing it across every platform known to man, that didn't quite happen.
Now it seems that spreading the seed as far and wide as possible was all part of the grand plan. The first big Minecraft reveal was that the whole block-building universe is going to be united. The game will be going completely cross-platform, meaning that Xbox, Switch, PlayStation and PC gamers will all play on one unified global server. For a game that's all about collaboration and co-operation, this is a literal game changer.
This was followed up by the announcement that Minecraft will be receiving a complete overhaul with the “super duper” 4K graphics pack. Upscaling a game which has always been deliberately low-fi may seem like a strange decision, but the new look generated some serious whoops and roars from the Galen Center crowd.
One of the biggest breakout hits of the year and a true PC gaming phenomenon was always destined to come to consoles at some point, but securing it as an exclusive is a major coup for Xbox.
The 100-player, winner-takes-all battle royale has already spawned a devoted online community and topped the Steam charts since its release in March.
Playerunknown himself, Brendan Greene appeared on stage to announce the game and if the footage show on screen is anything to go by, this looks even better than the PC version .
The concept, where players parachute onto an island and scavenge for weapons and items in Hunger Games-style deathmatch is the perfect online multiplayer game and opening it up to console players looks certain to cement its place as one of the games of the year.
At E3 2015, the almost off-hand announcement that Xbox 360 games would be playable on the Xbox one stole the show. This year, they've doubled down on the concept by confirming that original Xbox games will be added to the back-compat library.
A system that launched in 2001 might seem almost antiquated when compared to today's 4K Ultra HD titles, but good game design is timeless and fans have been clamouring for all-inclusive Xbox compatibility for a long time. The only title shown at the briefing was Crimson Skies, but you can count on the fact that more games will be added to the library in the coming months.
The best of the rest
We could spend another 10,000 words on the rest of the games announced at the Xbox briefing, but here's a brief rundown of some of the other big games scheduled for release over the next year or so:
- Metro Exodus
- Crackdown 3
- Assassin's Creed origins.
- Dragonball fighterZ
- The Desert mmorpg
- The Last night.
- The Artful Escape (coming when it's damn ready)
- Super Lucky's Tale
- Life is Strange: Before the storm.
- Middle Earth:Shadow of War