Electronic Arts

Inside Microsoft’s strategy for the Xbox One X reveal

Microsoft unveiled its Xbox One X video game console on Sunday ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The console debuts worldwide on November 7 for $499.

You can use the same peripherals for the game console as those for the Xbox One and Xbox One S. And it will be able to play original Xbox console games. Microsoft showed off games such as Electronic Arts’ Anthem, 4A’s Metro Exodus, and State of Decay 2. But it didn’t show any Gears of War or Halo titles.

Microsoft’s team went over every detail of the press event for months. And we got a chance to ask one of the company’s leaders why it made certain choices as it prepares for yet another round of the console wars.

I caught up on Monday with Mike Nichols, chief marketing officer at Microsoft’s Xbox, in an interview at the company’s showcase at Galen Center in Los Angeles.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Above: Xbox One X debuts November 7.

Image Credit: Microsoft

GamesBeat: I was curious what your thoughts are on the marketing side, how this compared to your strategy for the Xbox One introduction. You have a certain amount of time. What do you say about this new console?

Mike Nichols: How many of these have you seen from us? All of them? 16 or so? [laughs] We decided this time to focus on two things this year. One was the introduction of the console. The second was—we didn’t want to show a lot of games everybody knows. We decided to show a more eclectic collection of different types of games. We wanted to show a lot of them.

When we were in all the rehearsals, we were thinking, “Well, we’re always around 90 minutes. Do we want to do that again?” But there weren’t any games we wanted to pull.

They’re very valuable. They have a role. I’m personally a fan of a lot of those big popular game franchises. But we ended up focusing elsewhere.

Above: Kareem Choudary unveils the Xbox One X at E3 2017 .

Image Credit: Microsoft

GamesBeat: What’s enough to get people to buy the box? There weren’t as many existing franchises that you could have talked about. You could have shown Halo for 30 seconds, something like that, or Gears of War.

Nichols: We focused mostly on things shipping in the next 12 months, so everyone had a sense of those. We’re definitely working on stuff for Halo, as you might imagine. We’re working on stuff for Gears of War. We have a whole bunch of things up our sleeves, but they’re a bit further out. It was a matter of timing. We think it’s okay to give some of the franchises time to breathe.

Giving people something a bit unexpected—everybody expected we would talk about Project Scorpio, and we did. Every time we come into the briefing, it’s expected that we’ll tell you about Halo, Gears, this, that. It becomes a little rote.

GamesBeat: You would have lost the time for all these smaller games, too.

Nichols: Again, even then, everybody knows Halo 5 is on Xbox One. Everybody knows Gears of War 4 is on Xbox One. It was more like, let’s show some other stuff we think is interesting.

GamesBeat: I remember some more technical things you guys got into. Did you want to get all of that out of the way before you talked about games the machine can play?

Nichols: I felt like it was important to frame things up for everyone, so the show is easy to follow. There was so much anticipation about the hardware announcement in particular. We wanted to come out and say, “Here’s the hardware announcement. The rest of this is about games that are playable across all the different members of the Xbox One family.” The original, the S, and the X.

Frankly, there’s so much engineering that’s gone into the thing. We’re proud of that. That engineering will result in far better experiences. The visual ID itself—I’m biased, but I think it’s beautiful. But the real magic of it is on the inside, and the experience that enables. That’s where we ended up focusing. Let’s talk a bit about the innards and the design decisions we made, and then let’s show what this thing can do up on the big 4K LED screen. It seems like people liked both elements of the presentation, at least based on the early read. Hearing a bit about the hardware decisions and then spending the next 90-plus minutes on games.

GamesBeat: What about VR? Was that decided in some way, whether you wanted to talk about VR or not?

Nichols: Our focus as a company on VR is far more on Windows than it is on Xbox One. We have some headsets launching that we’re very proud of, coming later this year for Windows. It’s called Windows Mixed Reality. We have all the Studios teams working on several titles for those headsets. We’re working with third parties on content for those headsets. But our primary focus is on Windows and PC for mixed reality, for lots of reasons. We decided to focus this show far more on Xbox One and the introduction of this particular console.

Above: Xbox One X has all the same ports as the original or…

Star Wars Battlefront II hands-on: Everyone can be a hero

Electronic Arts debuted gameplay for its much-anticipated Star Wars Battlefront II shooter at an event at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. I was lucky enough to play a couple of rounds of multiplayer in the Assault on Theed.

I really enjoyed it. In both rounds, I played as a battle droid on the planet Naboo, where our job was to escort a giant vehicle to the palace and take over the throne room. So, it was battle droids against clone troopers, fighting in the prequel trilogy era.

I was able to play a couple of rounds just by jumping into the game, with no instruction from anyone else. And in both matches, I was able to get more kills than deaths. In that way, it was refreshingly accessible. By contrast, when I went into the Battlefield 1 demo with a bunch of industry “influencers,” I got slaughtered.

Above: I’m carrying a heavy weapon.

Image Credit: EA

But in this match and map, I was able to get my bearings quickly. Our job as droids was to escort the big vehicle to the steps of the palace and make sure that it blasted its way in. It was a big map. I could choose from a regular assault rifle, a heavy weapon, or a light pistol (held by an officer). I chose the heavy weapon every time.

And it paid off. I was able to sneak off to the flanks of the big avenue and take on the clone troopers while they tried to take down the vehicle in a head-on assault. They often got the drop on me, as you can see in the videos. But over time, I got used to it…

EA debuts A Way Out from the creator of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Electronic Arts has once again shared its stage during its media presentation prior to the Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow in Los Angeles with a smaller studio with a unique new game.

Hazelight, a new studio from the creators of Xbox 360 indie hit Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, finally revealed A Way Out in a gameplay preview. It is a co-op game where you have to play splitscreen so you can see your partner at all times. Hazelight boss Josef Fares took the stage to show off his new game in action and to reveal what makes it special. A Way Out is due out in 2018.

In previous years, we’ve seen EA show off games like Unravel from its development partners, and now it has given that spot to Hazelight.

“Josef and his team at Hazelight represent everything that EA Originals stands for,” EA executive vice president Patrick Soderlund said in a statement. “They are a small and very talented group…

EA donates $1 million for anti-bullying charities

Electronic Arts is making a commitment to inclusive gaming with a donation of $1 million to anti-bullying groups.

CEO Andrew Wilson announced today during the company’s EA Play event that the publisher will make a donation to United Nations HeForShe, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Centerm, and Ditch the Label. EA also held an event where players could show their support for the groups last week.

The announcement comes at EA’s event ahead of next week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, one of the most important industry gathering in gaming. It’s where blockbuster games like Battlefield take the spotlight — but not charity.

“All of you…

Star Wars: Battlefront II will get free DLC after November 11 launch

Above: Star Wars: Battlefront II will bring the sequel trilogy into the action.

Star Wars: Battlefront II is one of the most anticipated games of the year. And Electronic Arts figured out how to the shooter even more special by announcing at a Hollywood event today that it will give free content to fans, even after the game launches. EA demoed the first look at multiplayer on stage during the live event.

It’s all part of EA’s strategy shift to providing “live operations” for fans, rather than just launching a game at a single point in time and then moving on to the next one. The free drops (for those who buy the game first) include content with a mix of locations, characters, and rewards. The idea is to “allow players to continue their Star Wars: Battlefront II hero’s journey in a world that is constantly growing.” EA made the announcement at its EA Play event at the Hollywood Palladium. EA’s event is the first ahead of the Tuesday opening of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) gaming trade show.

The first season’s inspiration is the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which debuts in December. Fans who preorder any edition of Battlefront II can get early access to the multiplayer beta this fall and an “Epic Yoda Bonus.”

Above: Janina Gavankar, the star of Star Wars: Battlefront 2.

Image Credit: EA

EA has several studios working the new Battlefront, including Motive, Criterion, and DICE (three of its most important design houses). That tells you how much EA is investing into the franchise.

“With Star Wars Battlefront II, we’ve really taken feedback from our players to heart, and you see that in the base game, which has so much more content than the first game – a new authentic single player campaign, epic multiplayer, starfighter battles, and solo or co-op PvE on console – a huge game across all eras of the Star Wars films,” said Matt Webster, the executive producer for Star Wars Battlefront II. “But just as important is how we support the game after launch. Our live service is built around the…

FIFA 18 for Nintendo Switch: EA confirms Ultimate Team, Joy-Con controls

FIFA is coming back to Nintendo’s platform, and publisher Electronic Arts confirmed onstage today during its Hollywood fan event that this offshoot of its flagship soccer series is getting one of its most popular features.

Ultimate Team will be among the modes available for FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch when it launches September 29. EA announced the news in advance of next week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show.

This is the EA Vancouver and EA Romania development studios’ take on building a fantasy team in the soccer sim, and it’s one of the most popular features in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions. Bringing it over to FIFA’s first appearance on a Nintendo console since FIFA 15 shows EA could be looking more seriously…

EA E3 2017: Every trailer and announcement

I hope you like Star Wars and BioWare games.

Electronic Arts just kicked off a big week for the gaming industry with its media presentation leading up to the Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow in Los Angeles. E3 is one of the most important gatherings of the game industry, and it focuses a great deal on the blockbuster (or triple-A) publishing and development business, the biggest games in the nearly $100 billion annual market. And if you missed any of the big announcements, we’ve gathered them all up for you.

Click the links or play on the videos below to get all the details:

EA is still holding many of…

We’ve Finally Seen A Campaign Mission From Star Wars: Battlefront II

EA Play’s press conference was packed with thirty minutes of Star Wars: Battlefront II multiplayer but lots of people wanted to see the campaign. We did. After that showcase ended, I sat down to watch a developer-guided runthrough of an early story mission. The 15 minute sequence was full of dogfights, stealth takedowns, and laser blasts. It seems good.

The previous Battlefront did not have a campaign. This one does. Just as 2005’s Battlefront II dropped players in the boots of Imperial stormtroopers, this latest version of the game focuses on the Empire. Players control Iden Versio, leader of an Imperial commando unit called Inferno Squadron. In the demo EA showed today, Iden was recalled to the planet Vardos following the destruction of the second Death Star at the end of Return of the Jedi. She receives orders from her father, an Imperial admiral, to put her squad together for a new mission. A strange envoy of the Emperor relays the late leader’s last commands via a helmet that bears his likeness on a holo-screen: carry out Operation Cinder, a plan to disrupt the Rebels in case of the Emperor’s demise.

“In multiplayer, you get to play as the Empire, and you don’t think of the Rebels as the good guys when you’re in that role,” game director Mark Thompson said of the decision to focus on an Imperial character. “We wanted to try a different voice, so we weren’t just retelling the movies.”

Focusing on the Empire shows them struggling to fight back against the Rebels. As Iden prepares for Operation Cinder, the shipyard she is stationed at is attacked by an overwhelming Rebel force. The first portion of this level took place in the cockpit of a TIE Fighter and tasked…

Battlefield 1 hands-on: Neville Nights map is a crazy battle in the dark

Electronic Arts gave us a first look today at the next expansion pack for Battlefield 1, a Russian campaign dubbed In the Name of the Tsar. And it also showed off the next multiplayer map coming this summer for the World War I shooter game.

In Neville Nights, you fight in the muddy battlefields around Malmaison and Soupir, as French and German artillery prepare to pound each other over hotly contested ground. Only this time, you are fighting in the dark. The map is the first night combat map for Battlefield 1 multiplayer, and I got a hands-on session for an hour today at the EA Play event in Los Angeles. EA showed the first game play today at its event ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) game trade show.

Neville Nights is part of EA’s attempt to hang on to its players year-round, keeping them engaged with the World War I game that has been one of its biggest hits in the history of the Battlefield series. And by keeping them engaged, EA hopes to keep its dedicated fans away from rival games like Call of Duty, The Division, or even Overwatch (yes, even though that’s a team shooter, EA would love to keep Battlefield players from losing interest and giving Activision Blizzard their time and money).

Night fighting is much different. Darkness shrouds most of the battlefield, but plenty of points of light, including the moon, that betray the movement of enemies. Searchlights, ground fires, and artillery light up the skies.

The battlefield is a vast network of trenches with little rolling hills, stone buildings, and various choke points. I played with dozens of other players and was part…

EA Play at E3 2017: start time, live stream, and schedule

For Star Wars fans, Electronic Arts’ E3 press conference is the best place to get a glimpse at the future of the sprawling saga’s video game counterparts. At this year’s show, we can expect EA to show one new Star Wars title at the very least — Battlefront II, the sequel to 2015’s big reboot of the shooter franchise, is slated to come out later this year. There will of course be your standard sports updates, including a new FIFA game for the Switch. EA’s press conference kicks off at 3PM ET / 12PM PT on Saturday, June 10th.

But Star Wars takes center stage. You can be sure EA will have plenty of details and gameplay footage to show off for its next Battlefront. The game, due out on November 17th, will have a big focus on narrative with a new single-player…