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Xbox Live news: Google Assistant and Alexa may be coming to Xbox One

New feature would allow users to control Xbox through their smart speaker

Xbox One logo

Xbox Live is Microsoft’s multiplayer gaming platform, built to support online interaction between Xbox users - whether that's playing video games or one of the many other functions it allows.

Those include enabling players to communicate with their friends, manage their apps, and it also acts as a digital storefront for new games and content.

Xbox Live news

04/06/2018: Google Assistant and Alexa may be coming to Xbox One

The Xbox One will soon be getting support for Alexa and the Google Assistant in addition to Microsoft's own digital assistant Cortana, according to new reports. 

The news comes from Windows Central, who cites a tip from "a reliable source" with knowledge of Amazon and Microsoft's efforts to link their assistants together. According to this person, upcoming builds of the Xbox One's operating system will feature a new section in the settings menu allowing you to enable a digital assistant, including "Cortana, Alexa or Google Assistant".

After enabling the Xbox skill for Alexa or Google Assistant, users will be able to control their Xbox via voice commands issued to their smart speaker. This functionality was previously offered by Cortana, but because users had to use either a headset or Microsoft's Kinect accessory to access it, comparatively few people chose to take advantage of the option.

Supporting Alexa and the Google Assistant - two of the most widely-used digital assistants in the world - will give much more people the ability to use voice commands to control their Xbox. Along with turning the console on and off, users will be able to perform tasks like taking a screenshot, controlling media playback and launching games - assuming that Alexa and Google Assistant mirror Cortana's capabilities.

It's unknown when Microsoft will formally announce the new feature, but it may come as part of E3. The company usually makes a major presentation as part of the games industry trade show, which it uses as an opportunity to announce platform changes, new products and so on.

09/11/2017: Xbox hints at game streaming by 2021

Microsoft's head of gaming, Phil Spencer. has hinted that the company may well support Xbox game streaming in the next three years.

Spencer let slip to Bloomberg that the company wants to shift from a hardware sales focus to concentrate on game sales, subscriptions and additional services.

"Obviously for us, the console is an important part there... but connecting to gamers wherever they are is the vision of Microsoft around what we're doing in gaming," he said.

Although he didn't provide many details at all about what Microsoft's streaming service could look like, he did say that Microsoft "will probably debut a streaming service that doesn’t require a console for some types of content in the next three years”.

He added that trials to develop such a service five years ago proved too costly, so it was now looking for new ways to introduce the technology into its gaming platform.

Advances in Microsoft's Azure cloud services could make it possible to cut out the console, but still enable people to play games, although whether this would be on TV, computer, mobile or otherwise remains to be seen.

Spencer added that pressures from alternative consoles (Sony's Playstation is consistently outselling Xbox) is changing the way the company measures success. It no longer focuses simply on sales of its hardware, but instead gauges its success upon the sales of games, subscriptions and related services, including on mobile devices and PCs.

24/08/2017: Microsoft 'in talks' with Sony over cross-platform play

Microsoft is reportedly in talks with Sony to offer cross-platform play across Xbox Live and Playstation Network, according to a recent interview with Microsoft's marketing boss.

Sony has so far been reluctant to embrace the idea of allowing users to play alongside others on different platforms, an idea that has been embraced by Xbox, PC and even the Nintendo Switch.

It now appears the blockade is lifting, as the company is reportedly speaking to Microsoft about the possibility of shared play in Minecraft, according to a Gamereactor interview with Microsoft head of marketing, Aaron Greenberg.

"We're talking to Sony, we partner with them on Microsoft and of course we would like to enable them to be part of that; one community to unite gamers," said Greenberg.

Currently, Sony only offers limited cross-platform play with PC players on Street Fighter V and Rocket League, but the company has blocked attempts to extend this to other consoles. This is despite the fact that Rocket League developer Psyonix has previously said that it had solved all the technical issues of cross-platform play, and was awaiting the green light from Sony and Microsoft.

Sony has never explicitly given a reason for its stance, which could either be because of technical limitations with its network, or simply an unwillingness to work with Microsoft. It's also unclear whether these talks are likely to achieve anything, but cross-play on even one game would be a step in the right direction.

14/07/2017: Microsoft adds custom Gamerpics to Xbox Live

Microsoft has rolled out an update to users of its Xbox Live service, allowing them to use custom images for their profile pictures and Clubs.

The company has been trialling the feature in early beta tests, but is now ready to push it out to all users. Custom images can be set for Xbox Live Gamerpics, Clubs and Club backgrounds. Users can set their picture through the Xbox app on iOS or Android, Windows 10 or an Xbox console itself.

Prior to this update, users were limited to preset avatars, similar to Nintendo's Miis, or a selection of images. Now, fans will be able to upload images of themselves, although they will have to abide by Xbox Live's code of conduct, as the images are publicly visible.

Other features introduced in the update include the ability to link certain controllers to specific Xbox Live accounts, which will be automatically signed in as soon as the controller is turned on.

Updates have also been brought to Xbox Live's Arena feature, making it easier to start competitive tournaments with friends. Co-streaming has been brought to Xbox's Mixer streaming service as well, allowing multiple people to broadcast the same game session in one multi-view stream.

12/06/2017: Microsoft reveals Xbox One X, arriving 7 November

Microsoft has revealed that its "Project Scorpio" console will officially be called the Xbox One X, claiming that the device will be the most powerful console the world has ever seen.

The device promises to offer immersive 4K gaming supported by six teraflops of processing power and 12GB of graphic memory. Advanced liquid cooling and supercharger-style centrifugal fan keeps the Scorpio Engine cool while it runs at 1172MHz

This puts it far ahead of Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro, which hit the market in 2013 with noticeably lower metrics of 4.2 teraflops, running at 911MHz.

The One X's black design looks extremely similar to the Xbox One S model. Although it will pack more power than Microsoft's previous consoles, the tech firm said it will be its smallest device yet.

All existing Xbox One games and accessories will be compatible on the new device, but the Xbox One X will hit 60 frames per second and 4K resolution for more than 20 exclusive games that Microsoft also revealed, including Forza Motorsport 7, Super Lucky's Tale and Sea of Thieves. The new Xbox One X Enhanced games are marked with the device's logo.

The Xbox One X is scheduled to go on sale worldwide on 7 November for £449, so shoppers can expect to see it at the top of their favourite gamer's Christmas list this year. For more information, click here.

How does Xbox Live work? 

Microsoft maintains vast server farms in datacentres across the world. They connect online gamers, routing players through their servers to connect to each other.

Xbox Live originally needed a mere 500 servers to support its online gamers, but today the massive global service needs over 300,000 servers. Microsoft’s investment costs for Xbox Live now total more than $1 billion on server farms alone.

The principal benefit of this model is that it allows Microsoft to centrally manage all of the servers. This allows it to both prevent cheating and to ensure that they’re kept in peak condition, thereby maximising player access and enjoyment.

From a player’s perspective, this is primarily measured by the server’s latency and response times, or ‘lag’. Based on the time it takes for a user’s Xbox to send and receive information from Microsoft’s servers, lag is a crucial issue for many gamers.

Lag occurs when excessively long server response times lead to games feeling sluggish, with a noticeable delay between physical input and in-game response. This is especially important for players of fast-paced competitive games like racing sims and first-person shooters, where split-second reactions can be the difference between victory and defeat.

How much does Xbox Live cost?

Xbox Live features a tiered pricing structure. Basic members of Xbox Live can join for free and have access to Microsoft’s digital storefront, game demos, a virtual avatar, and Xbox’s social tools for chatting with friends.

If you want to actually use Xbox Live for multiplayer gaming, however, you’ll have to pony up some cash for a Gold membership. Charged at £5.99 per month, or £39.99 for 12 months, this allows players to access the online multiplayer portions of games like Call of Duty.

Subscriptions can be purchased online here, through an Xbox console, or via physical gift cards in certain retail locations.

Microsoft also sweetens the deal by offering various free and discounted games to Gold members.

Xbox Live popularity

Xbox Live has a huge subscriber base, with Microsoft’s latest financial results putting the total number of monthly active users at 39 million (as of November 2015). This far outstrips sales of its Xbox One console and indicates that consumers are still avidly using the service on the decade-old Xbox 360. 

The phrase ‘is Xbox Live down’ is Googled over 40,000 times a month on average, and any protracted outage usually sees gamers take to social media to bemoan the loss of service.

The rise of online gaming as a part of mainstream popular culture can arguably be largely attributed to Xbox Live. Titles like Halo 2 and Gears of War were early successes for online gaming while Call of Duty has become such a staple of online multiplayer that it is now played professionally with multi-million dollar prize pools.

Xbox Live has grown in popularity to the point where many major games are released with little to no offline component. Games like Titanfall and Destiny are multiplayer-only, meaning that those without Gold memberships are totally unable to play.

Xbox Live in the cloud

As well as dedicated servers, Microsoft also uses Windows Azure resources to augment its Xbox Live services. Dubbed Xbox Live Compute, the resource is free for developers to use and allows developers to quickly and easily integrate cloud technologies into their games.

The servers are automatically scalable, for example, offering more or less bandwidth as required. This is useful for simply keeping the lights on in older games, whose player-bases may have shrunk to a mere handful of dedicated fans. It also minimises the risk of popular releases forcing the service offline through sheer weight of numbers.

Developers can also shunt certain computational tasks over to the cloud, freeing up CPU capacity for other elements. Forza Motorsport 6 uses the cloud to handle the computations that power its ‘Drivatar’ system, which models your fellow drivers’ AIs on the driving styles of your friends.

As it’s not a gameplay mechanic that’s affected by latency, this can safely be handled by the cloud, while the CPU load it frees up can handle the crucial elements of the game that occur in split-second timeframes. For example, Crackdown 3 uses cloud technology to similar effect, keeping track of a persistent, fully-destructible city in real time.

Other online gaming services

Sony offers a similar service for its PlayStation consoles, called PlayStation Plus. Much like Microsoft’s, a monthly fee buys subscribers online play, social tools and a monthly selection of free games through the Playstation store.

It can also be compared to PC distribution service Steam. It acts primarily as a platform for the purchasing and organisation of PC games, but also facilitates online play. The main difference is that Steam doesn’t host multiplayer games on its own servers, other than those made by parent company Valve.

Older news

27/04/2017: Xbox chief wants to create a 'Netflix of video games'

Microsoft's Xbox boss has revealed the company wants to revolutionise the streamed games industry, creating a Netflix-esque service where people can subscribe to stream video games.

This would help developers come up with new ideas, get those games into the hands of users and offer Xbox users the latest content on a subscription-based model.

“Say there’s 10 people in a garage that have an idea for a service-based game – what does it mean for them to build up the infrastructure to go and create that game?" Phil Spencer, Xbox chief, told the Guardian.

"How can we help them? And at the other end, are there things we can do to support a developer who has to move on to their next thing but still wants to support the player base of their previous game? Those things are important to me.”

Xbox could leverage Microsoft's Azure platform to help smaller studios get the infrastructure they need, with scalability to ensure their services never fall down even if their game becomes the hottest new download.

"We’ve talked a lot in the press about the consumer side of Xbox Live with Arena and Clubs, and other things that we’ve done to innovate," Spencer added. There’s a whole developer side of that, which you’re gonna hear more from us.

"I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis [general manager of Microsoft Studios Publishing] and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going?"

01/03/2017: Microsoft to offer Netflix-like 'unlimited' gaming service

Microsoft plans to take the unlimited streaming model made massively popular by services like Netflix and create its own on-demand gaming platform.

The new 'Game Pass' service will allow users to access downloadable copies of more than 100 Xbox One and backwards-compatible 360 titles for a $10 (£8) per month fee.

While no official list of games has been released, some titles have appeared on the Xbox blog post to advertise the Game Pass launch, including Mad Max, NBA 2K16, Halo 5 Guardians, and the PC hit Terraria.

Microsoft has stated that it is working with "top industry publishing partners" to provide more than 100 games at launch, covering a range of genres. It also stated that new titles would be added each month, and that users would be able to download as much content as their hard drive can handle. Microsoft confirmed that users will be able to purchase a Game Pass title after their subscription ends at a reduced fee.

Game Pass will be a separate to service to the current Xbox Live Gold, and you will only need a Gold account to access games. Following user feedback, games will only be available as a download to an Xbox device, ruling out the possibility of streaming directly, according to Microsoft.

The current Xbox Live Gold tier (and its rival PlayStation Plus) offers a small selection of free games every month that users can download. But this new service will allow Xbox to take advantage of its significant back catalogue of titles without the bottleneck of a monthly trickle of content.

Game Pass is available today to a select number of Xbox Insider program members through an alpha test, although the majority of users will have to wait until late spring of this year.

16/12/2016: Xbox One update increases download speeds up to 80%

Microsoft just released an update for Xbox One that should speed up download times for games and apps on the Xbox Store.

In a post on Microsoft's Xbox support website, the company said the new update should speed up downloads of content by up to 80% for users with an internet connection of 100Mbps or faster.

Users with a connection slower than 100Mbps should also experience an increase in download speed, but only up to 40%.

Microsoft added that figures could vary according to individual networks and ISP levels.

The update should also include improvements to the wireless controller, better background streaming music performance, and other general stability enhancements.

Xbox One users can update their console by going to the software update section of their settings menu.

13/12/2016: Xbox One users will now be able to access Dropbox files, such as pictures or movies, on their Microsoft gaming console.

The console runs on a universal Windows 10 operating system, hence developing apps for it has become fairly easy.

Through the Dropbox app, users should be able to access slideshows of their pictures and videos, as well as ripped DVDs and all other documents stored in their account.

The app also allows users to import content from USB drives and import screenshots directly.

The Dropbox app is available on Microsoft's Xbox Store, and can be downloaded here.

28/11/2016: Xbox gamers can get a year of Xbox Live Gold membership for just £24.99 on Amazon.

This is more than ten pounds cheaper than anywhere else on the internet, even if Black Friday is over. It also doesn't matter if users already have an active subscription to Xbox Live Gold, as the code starts working after a current subscription finishes.

In the US, the 12-month subscription costs $50 pounds, $10 dollars cheaper than its original price.

In order to take advantage of the offer, users should switch off the 'auto renew' section of their Xbox Live membership (if it's turned on).

Users can only purchase one subscription, so the deal can't be stacked for the next few years, unfortunately.

15/11/2016: Microsoft's original Xbox turns 15 today, marking a decade and a half since Bill Gates first introduced the revolutionary console. Fans and partners have gathered together to celebrate the anniversary, reminiscing on forums and social media.

Though a bitter rivalry continues to exist between Xbox and PlayStation owners, it's hard to argue that Microsoft's debut console was (if you'll pardon the pun) a game-changer. Short for 'DirectX Box', the Xbox was conceived as a way to bring the Windows PC gaming experience into living rooms and make it more accessible to the general public.

The PlayStation 2 was the main rival to the Xbox, and while the PS2 is remembered as the better console - with over six times the total sales - the Xbox nevertheless introduced a couple of groundbreaking innovations.

Chief among these was the inclusion of an ethernet port, allowing gamers to easily connect to the internet. The launch of the company's Xbox Live service, coupled with the overwhelming popularity of Halo 2, quickly cemented online multiplayer as the biggest development in gaming since the medium's creation.

The Xbox was also the first console to include an inbuilt hard drive, rather than relying on cartridge-based memory. This meant that gamers could rip music from CDs, store saved games locally and download extra games and content from Microsoft's digital storefront. The latter development eventually led to an explosion in both DLC for triple-A games and smaller download-only indie titles, totally reshaping the games industry.

Of course, the original Xbox's time in the sun could not last forever; by March 2009, it had been discontinued worldwide, with its place taken by the Xbox 360. This model enjoyed much greater success, and its mainstream appeal paved the way for the modern games market, where titles are marketed to people in all walks of life.

Whether you're a fan of Microsoft's modern consoles or not, though, you have to admit; they're standing on the shoulders of giants.

09/11/2016: Microsoft announced on Monday that it will be overhauling the current Xbox Preview Program, making it available to all Xbox users who opt in.

The Xbox Preview program, originally launched in 2014, will be rebranded as the Xbox Insider Hub and promises to improve the ability for users to provide feedback on content.

More importantly, the new service will be opened up to every Xbox player who chooses to sign up.

"Since the program launched in February 2014, your feature requests, ideas, and millions of votes have helped shape and improve your Xbox experience for the whole community," said Emily Hanson, Xbox Insider Program manager.

"The first change is that the Xbox Preview Program is becoming the Xbox Insider Program. This new name reflects how we are expanding to offer opt-in opportunities to provide feedback on Game and App Previews alongside System Update previews," added Hanson.

The update will also bring a swathe of visual changes for the app itself. Expect to see greater customisation, allowing users to personalise announcements and quests, as well as more opportunities to gain early access to "select games and apps".

The new Hub will also support multiple profiles on one console and provide an "Xbox Insider profile card where your contributions in the program come front and centre".

The update will initially be limited to a select number of Preview users, before a wider rollout to the whole community. Xbox users who are signed up to the old program, and who have "provided the most feedback since the inception of the Preview Program" will be the first to get access to the new Insider Hub.

Those selected for early access should have their Preview app automatically updated, provided the console is set to 'always on' mode. There is no specific date as yet for the full user rollout.

31/10/2016: To celebrate the launch of the new Surface range, Microsoft will be giving away Xbox one S bundles alongside sales of their new Surface range at a select number of UK stores.

Customers buying any model of Surface Book or Surface Pro 4 that is at least 256GB, will get an Xbox One S FIFA 17 bundle thrown in for free.

The deal is currently available on Surface devices bought at John Lewis, Curry's, PC World or the Microsoft Store.

The bundle features the generous 1TB Xbox One S, a copy of FIFA 17, and an additional wireless controller, which would typically set you back around £350. This also includes one free month of EA Access, which provides an early look at some upcoming Xbox games and discounts on selected titles.

Preorders for the new Surface Book are now available, which is expected to launch in the UK shortly after the 2017 US release. Prices start at £1,045 for the smaller 128GB Intel i5 version, though this will not qualify for the deal. Expect to pay at least £1,439 to grab a free Xbox.

For those considering buying a new Surface device, this is certainly a great incentive to do so. But you need to act fast, as the Xbox One S deal will only be available until 8th November.

28/10/2016: Microsoft will be bringing integrated live streaming to Xbox Live and an expansion to Xbox Arena in the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update.

The new streaming service Beam, Microsoft's answer to the hugely popular Twitch, will be making its way to Xbox Live on PC, allowing players to live stream any game on the platform.

Users will be able to host "Xbox Play Anywhere" games, including Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3, to other players by pressing the windows button and then the G key, which will bring up the Windows game bar. From there players can select "Beam" as a streaming option.

As a direct competitor to the massively popular Twitch.tv, Microsoft has made low latency the biggest selling point of the platform. The event showcased an example of a viewer being able to engage in conversation with a player with almost no delay.

Viewers are incentivised to watch others, as they can earn 'experience points' for tuning into live streams to spend on interface customisations and engaging with functions like voting.

It is unclear whether PC users will be able to use Beam to host streams of other non-Xbox games, however the current Windows 10 game bar works with third-party software such as Steam and Origin. If functionality was opened to other gaming clients, this could provide a compelling alternative to Twitch.tv.

The Creators Update will also bring a significant expansion to Xbox Arena, allowing anyone to create tournaments across the library of Xbox games. Originally trialed on games like Killer Instinct, Microsoft hopes to capitalise on the success of eSports at Pro level by making it easier for players to engage with tournament play.

21/10/2016: Revenue from Microsoft's gaming division has declined 5% over the past quarter, according to the company's latest quarterly financial results.

Over the first quarter of the 2017 financial year - which ran up to 30 September this year - the company's games income dipped to $1.9 billion.

Microsoft has pegged this on a reduction on a slow-down in Xbox console sales, but added that growing revenues from games, software and services stopped the slide from being even worse. This decline comes in spite of the launch of the new Xbox One S, which hit shelves in August.

CEO Satya Nadella was not overly optimistic about the trend reversing. Looking ahead, he stated "overall revenue will decline given lower price points and lower overall console units as mix shifts towards Xbox One and Xbox One S," but added that "we expect continued active engagement growth on our gaming platform given the holiday season."

07/10/2016: Reviewers are giving some Xbox Live games fake ratings in order to get more clicks, Microsoft has claimed.

Xbox's chief Phil Spencer told GameSpot that the reason hyped Xbox Live game ReCore didn't get as many positive reviews as expected was because notable review sites weren't being truthful about the gameplay, in the hope a negative review would get more clicks through to their website.

“I wish it reviewed higher, but I don't necessarily look at the reviews as a reflection of the game's importance to us. The game is selling well, which I like. The gamers' response to the game has been positive, which is the most important thing,” Spencer said.

“On the reviews, honestly I thought some of [them] were a little harsh in terms of their view on the game… I think seven, eight, nine [out of 10], like anywhere in there is fine. Three or four … I mean somebody gave Forza Horizon 3 a four. I think there's certain reviews that are written more to get clicked on than they are to actually accurately reflect the quality of the game, and that kind of bums me out.”

He also expressed his disappointment that some users of rival games console Playstation were being negative on social media, saying they were happy reviewers were down-ranking the game.

“I just thought it was such a negative thing for our industry for somebody to be gleeful that somebody gave a game a review that was lower than what the team expected,” he said.

04/10/2016: Arena on Xbox Live has added daily tournaments for Killer Instinct players on Xbox One.

Launching today, US players participating in the Xbox One preview programme can sign up to practice competitions from the Killer Instinct game hub.

While the initial launch includes only US players, Xbox have confirmed plans to open up Arena to players in other regions later in October.

Arena will currently only feature Killer Instinct tournaments, however support for other games will likely be added when the player base is widened, including Microsoft's huge new shooter Gears of War 4.

Writing in a Microsoft blog, Xbox Program Manager Scott Henson described the move as an attempt to "make eSports more accessible for gamers everywhere, regardless of skill-level".

"To start competing, all you have to do is register on the Tournament tab in the Killer Instinct Game Hub."

The launch of Arena follows the addition of 'Clubs' and 'Looking for Group' to the Xbox One Preview platform, allowing players to search for groups already playing specific titles, or list their own sessions.

20/09/2016: Destiny players are being greeted by 'chicken' and 'tapir' errors, after the release of a new expansion flooded the servers with traffic.

The launch of Rise of Iron, a new content update for the popular online title, spurred a surge in users that crashed developer Bungie's servers.

The company has a policy of naming its error codes after various species of animal and fruit, and the volume of complaints from frustrated fans led to 'tapir' trending on Twitter.

The demand on the servers was so bad that some players were reportedly waiting for access in a queue of over 300,000 people. The server errors have now apparently been fixed, however, with the majority of players able to connect with no problems.

13/09/2016: Xbox Live is faster and more reliable than PlayStation Network, according to an independent study from IHS Markit.

The study, released by Microsoft, tested the two online networks on reliability, speed and overall quality. The tests were carried out on PS4 and Xbox One, both under lab conditions and in the field, and used a metric known as 'Just Noticeable Difference', or JND.

This measurement is based solely on real-world, observable delays, rather than using more scientific methods such as ping testing.

While this is less scientific (and therefore less accurate) than more technical speed-tests, IHS Markit argue it offers "an accurate representation of the consumer gaming experience".

"Because the values of the JND are essentially arbitrary," the study added, "it is more useful to consider the scores as existing on a continuum, where the scores and their confidence intervals are plotted on a single axis."

The report showed that in all three testing categories, Xbox Live was scored higher than PlayStation Network for three of the four metrics.

The result may not come as a surprise to those familiar with Microsoft's pedigree in the cloud industry. The company's legions of Azure datacentres and cloud infrastructure assets mean it has substantial expertise in networking services.

"While it is great to see a third-party acknowledge where Xbox Live delivers for our fans, we recognize it is an ongoing journey that requires considerable investment, feedback and improvement," Microsoft's head of Xbox Operations Dave McCarthy wrote in a blog post.

"Managing and maintaining a network is complex and there is an army of individuals who work tirelessly on Xbox Live, because at the heart of it, they are gamers just like you. Our goal is to try and see bumps in the road before they start, or get through them as smoothly as possible. Just know that we have a team who works 24×7 to optimize your gaming experience."

22/08/2016: EA is "100% behind" Microsoft's plans for the Xbox Scorpio, the company has announced.

The idea of building a scaleable hardware ecosystem is "an interesting, smart approach", Electronic Arts executive vice president Patrick Soderland told Game Informer.

"I got super excited when I saw what they are working on," he said, "and without giving you any information, the same is true of Sony. In general, this is a good thing."

The central idea behind Project Scorpio and its counterpart, the Sony PlayStation 4 Neo, is to provide a mid-generation upgrade with more powerful hardware, but the same basic architecture.

This will offer enhanced performance over the original Xbox One, whilst also remaining backwards-compatible with its games and peripherals.

"We haven't seen this whole idea of upgrading since the Mega CD in 1991 or something," Soderland said. "At the time, that might not have worked, but this is different."

For publishers like EA, said Soderland, this new hardware release model is ideal. "From a technical and developer perspective, it's actually really straightforward for us," he said. "Given that these machines are almost PC architecture inside of them, they are not that difficult for us to develop for."

"Scaling up and down is something we're in a good position for. If you're a developer, when you make games, you always want more capacity. You always want to bring more to the players. We're truly excited about this."

16/08/2016: Two new Xbox One S bundles will be launching in the UK next month, Microsoft has confirmed.

The company has announced that a 500GB and 1TB will hit stores on 22 September, retailing for £249 and £299 respectively.

The new bundles will also include a free digital download code for FIFA 17 and a 30-day trial membership for EA Access, the company's subscription service for on-demand gaming.

The Xbox One S originally debuted as part of a 2TB launch bundle, supplies of which ran out within less than a day.

This is reportedly due to the fact that Microsoft manufactured less than 7,000 units of the console, and reports from MCV claim that no more will be released in that configuration.

Customers who want increased storage space, however, can still pre-order the special edition Gears Of War bundle, which also comes with a 2TB Xbox One S.

12/08/2016: Microsoft has announced that it has acquired gaming form Beam in a bid to compete against rival streaming services Twitch and YouTube.

What makes Beam different from other services is that it allows viewers to influence and interact with the video game being streamed.

“With Beam you don’t just watch your favourite streamer play, you play along with them. You can give them new challenges and make real-time choices that affect their gameplay, from tool selection to quests to movement; all through simple visual controls,” said Chad Gibson, Partner Group program manager at Xbox Live in a blog post.

He added that the firm was “excited about this convergence between playing and watching, and want to provide gamers with the freedom and choice to have great multiplayer experiences across all of Beam’s platforms.”

"This acquisition will help gamers enjoy the games they want, with the people they want, and on the devices they want."

02/08/2016: The Xbox One S, Microsoft's mid-generation upgrade to its flagship console, has sold out mere hours after going on sale.

Officially announced at E3 following substantial leaks, the new console is purportedly 40 per cent smaller than the original Xbox One and includes support for 4K video playback.

Microsoft is selling the console for £349.99 (including VAT), but the company's store page (as well as that of retail partner Game) lists the 2TB Xbox One S as 'out of stock'.

Microsoft has confirmed that the console is currently sold out, which would appear to disprove the negative predictions of those who were sceptical about the company's new console.

The Xbox One S was announced alongside 'Project Scorpio', a much more powerful Xbox capable of native support for 4K resolutions and 60FPS output, which is due out in 2017.

Many were concerned, however, that announcing them both at the same time would cause the majority of consumers to simply wait for the release of the more advanced Scorpio next year.

These fears would seem to be unfounded, and demand for the Xbox One S seems to be high enough to place the company's supply chain under some pressure. The company has not responded to questions regarding when new stock will be made available.

28/07/2016: Xbox Live Gold members will be able to play Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege for free this weekend. The free gaming starts at 9am PT Thursday, July 28 until 11:59pm PT Sunday, July 31, during which time Gold members will be allowed to download and play the first-person tactical shooter.

“The game will also be on sale all week, so if you decide to purchase the game, you will be able to start again right where you left off,” said Xbox Wire's Will Tuttle in a blog post.

Users can download Rainbow Six Siege by clicking on the Gold Member area on the home dashboard or downloading directly from the Xbox store.

25/07/2016: Xbox Live users will now be required to log into the service at least once every five years or else they will lose the Gamertag, according to Microsoft.

In an amended services agreement, the firm is putting into effect in mid-September, gamers will have to log in otherwise Microsoft will purge their account. The rule appears to be retroactive, so users that haven’t logged in since 2011 may lose their accounts with Gamertags becoming available for others to use.

However, the account is not totally deleted and content purchased via the account will still remain, only the Gamertag go.

"We've also added that if your account is compromised, we may be required to disable access to certain content," Microsoft in an update.

The update, which also covers Microsoft user accounts, also added a ban on posting terrorist content.

21/07/2016: The first Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps have started appearing on Xbox One, giving an idea of how the feature will look when it hits the console.

Users who have signed up to the Xbox preview program are able to download Netflix and MSN Weather, with an updated version of Groove Music listed on the store but unavailable for installation.

Universal Apps are designed to give a seamless, identical user experience across any device, so the interface looks largely identical, except for the increased size.

There will sometimes need to be slight tweaks to adapt to controller-based input rather than mouse and keyboard, but these are likely to be minimal, and will be on an app-by-app basis.

Universal Apps are still very few in number but are expected to feature heavily in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, due to roll out to Xbox One users over the next fortnight.

20/07/2016: Microsoft reported a decrease in its gaming revenues. It blamed lower Xbox hardware revenue, offset in part by higher revenue from Xbox Live.

The firm said that Xbox hardware revenue decreased 33 per cent, mainly due to a decline in consoles sold and lower prices of consoles sold. Xbox Live revenue increased four per cent, driven by higher volume of transactions and revenue per transaction.

But its Xbox Live monthly active users grew 33 per cent year-over-year to 49 million.

18/07/2016: The Microsoft Xbox One S is set to launch on August 2nd in 'select regions,' although it's not yet known whether that includes the UK.

The Xbox One S is a slimmer version of the Xbox One and it'll come in three different capacities - 2TB, which will be the first to launch, then the smaller 1TB and 500GB versions, the availability of which hasn't been announced quite yet.

The Xbox One S can be pre-ordered from Amazon or Microsoft direct. It'll also be available from a number of other electrical retailers as you'd expect from a next-generation console.

In addition to being smaller and lighter than the original Xbox One, the One S adds a whole host of new features into the mix, such as an IR blaster and new controller, which connects via Bluetooth to the console. It will also support 4K and HDR video, providing your TV supports such resolutions too.

August 2nd is set to be a big day for Microsoft, with the launch of Windows 10 Anniversary Edition and its regular-sized Xbox One update.

The 2TB Xbox One S is expected to cost $399 (around £300 at the current exchange rate).

12/07/2016: Microsoft has dropped the price of its Xbox One, and other Microsoft hardware, for today only.

UK and US customers can get savings on a range of the company’s products directly from the Microsoft Store.

There are discounts on the Xbox One console, Surface tablets, and Lumia series handsets, as well as freebies on selected items.

Some of the deals listed will continue after today’s one-day sale.

Customers can pick up an Xbox One bundle, with 1TB of storage and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, for £219.99, save £80 off of the £299.99 RRP.

Other deals include saving £50 on the Xbox One Gears of War: Ultimate Edition bundle and up to £25 off Microsoft-published Xbox One games, such as Halo 5 and Rare Replay. Selected Xbox One accessories have also been reduced.

Saving can also be made on Microsoft’s Surface 3 tablet and Lumia 950 XL.

Also happening today, Amazon is holding another Prime Day sale, and our sister site Expert Reviews has compiled a list of the best console deals.

05/07/2016: Xbox Live will soon be adding avatars for wheelchair users, according to top execs.

The company reinstated the Avatar Store - a popular feature that allowed players to customise their digital representation with clothes and accessories – as part of Xbox Live’s February update.

After game developer Seamus Blackley suggested on Twitter that avatars for disabled gamers might be easy to implement, Xbox chief Phil Spencer confirmed that the feature was “not far off”.

Further details were revealed by Xbox’s director of program management, Mike Ybarra, who tweeted out a “sneak peek” of two wheelchair avatars.

The wheelchairs appear to be customisable, with coloured wheel spokes and flags attached to the back. They also appear to have unique emotes and animations, such as one avatar popping a wheelie.

04/07/2016: Microsoft is finally bringing custom soundtracks to Xbox One next month in its summer update, adding the frequently requested feature almost three years after the console's launch.

Support for custom soundtracks, or background music, chosen by the user to play during games or other operations, will be included as part of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft said.

Little is known about how the custom soundtrack support will work, but if it's anything like on the PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360, then music playback will be restricted in some games.

As well as custom soundtracks, Cortana will also be coming to Xbox One in Microsoft’s summer update, giving users the ability to control their console using their voice.

13/06/2016, 19:24 BST: Microsoft E3 2016 press conference report

Microsoft has confirmed it will release two new Xbox consoles in its effort to take on gaming rivals and remain relevant in the changing entertainment market.

The much-rumoured Project Scorpio is capable of native-4K resolutions and VR-ready, has been set for a holiday 2017 release.

“Project Scorpio is our vision for delivering the future of gaming beyond generations,” Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, said on stage, during the company’s E3 press conference in Los Angeles on Monday.

According to Microsoft, the console will boast eight CPUs, with six teraflops of GPU power, and achieve bandwidths larger than any console before it.

Xbox One S coming in August

The second console, which was also rumoured, is called Xbox One S, and will launch this August for $299. It is 40 per cent smaller than the original Xbox One and sports a matt white finish.

As part of its slim-down, the console now has a built-in power supply – scrapping the bulky power brick its predecessor had.

Under the hood, the console will also support 4K Ultra HD video – including 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray – and HDR capabilities for both video playback and gaming.

The console now has a USB port at the front of the system for quick access, as well as the controller pairing button, and a new built-in IR panel.

One of the features that have been removed is the Kinect sensor port. Those that want to hook up a Kinect for voice controls will need a separate USB adaptor. Microsoft said it will offer a programme to provider the adaptors for free to existing Xbox One owners who decide to upgrade.

The Xbox One S will launch in selected regions, including the UK, Europe and the US, in early August as a special, limited edition with a 2TB hard drive for £349 ($399).

Two standard versions will be made available soon after: a 500GB edition for £249 ($299), and 1TB for £299 ($349).

With the Xbox One family now features three separate versions, Microsoft has been quick to claim fears off inoperability between games and consoles.

The company said all Xbox one games and accessories will play across on all three consoles.

Xbox and Windows 10 unified through the cloud

Microsoft also had a number of significant cloud gaming announcements during its E3 press conference.

Its new Xbox Play Anywhere programme lets players cross-buy, cross-play, and cross-save their Xbox and Windows 10 games.

The cloud-powered service will be available for all Microsoft Studios titles coming to the system in future.

In tandem with this announcement, many of Microsoft’s previously announced first-party Xbox One exclusives will now also come to Windows 10. Those include Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Sea of Thieves and Scalebound, and the newly-revealed Forza Horizon 3.

New Xbox Live features

Along with this cross-play initiative, Microsoft also announced new community features for Xbox Live.

Clubs and groups will offer players new ways to connect with each other, and help them find friends to play a particular title with. And a dedicated online tournament platform, called Arena on Xbox Live, will serve as a proving ground for players looking to break into Xbox’s competitive gaming scene.

As previously announced, Cortana, the virtual assistant found on Windows 10 will also be coming to Xbox Live, initially in the US and the UK.

While other countries will have to wait, Microsoft said it does intend to make language region settings independent, meaning users can now play games in a language other than their chosen primary without adjusting their location in the system settings.

13/06/2016, 10:00 BST: Xbox One S leaks ahead of Microsoft E3 briefing

Rumours of a slimmer Xbox One look to have been confirmed by a leaked images of the hardware, ahead of Microsoft’s E3 press conference.

Images of the console surfaced on gaming forum NeoGAF, and appear to have come from a Xbox webpage.

The new console, known as Xbox One S, is 40 per cent smaller than original hulk. It reportedly measures 33.3 x 27.4 x 7.9cm, and weights 3kg, making it a fair shade lighter, too.

Previous rumours had suggested that the console would be more of a cut-price version of the existing Xbox, possibly offering less features than the 2013 original. However, the slimmer box is believed to offer some advancements over the original, which include a 2TB internal hard drive, and be capable of 4K video – a feature also touted by Sony’s forthcoming PS4 Neo.

The exact playback capabilities of the console’s 4K digital video output – say Xbox Video, Netflix or other video services – is still to be confirmed. And it is not they known if it will be able to upscale Xbox One games to 4K, which would be a considered strain on its processor.

A second, more advanced Xbox, codenamed ‘Scorpio’, it is also thought to be in development.

New Xbox apps for iOS and Android

In addition to its new slim console, Microsoft has also updated its Xbox gaming apps for iOS and Android.

Both apps were previously known as ‘Xbox SmartGlass’, but have now been renamed to ‘Xbox’.

A new suite of features have been included as part of the updates – version 3.1606 for iOS, and 3.1606.0610 for Android.

Those include an updated home page with the Activity Feed of a user’s Xbox Live network. Microsoft also said it has made a more “personalised” activity feed, added trending content, the ability to find Facebook friends who are also on Xbox and real name sharing.

Xbox game hubs can now be viewed directly from the app. And it is possible to update the Xbox One navigation and media control of your console, as well as your profile, from the app.

The new Xbox app can be downloaded from the App Store for iOS and the Google Play Store for Android.

More details should follow later today at the Microsoft E3 conference, which takes place in Los Angeles, today at 17:30 BST. You can watch Microsoft’s press conference at Xbox Wire.

10/06/2016: Microsoft shoots down hopes of Halo 5 for PC

Microsoft has admitted it will not be bringing Halo 5: Guardians to Windows 10, or any PCs for that matter.

Dashing hopes the game would come to computers, a Microsoft spokesperson told PC Gamer: “Our approach is to deliver epic Halo experiences designed for PC gamers and Windows 10, such as Halo Wars 2 and the recently announced Halo 5: Forge. There are no plans to port Halo 5: Guardians to PC.”

The fifth main game in Microsoft’s iconic first-person shooter series was released on Xbox One last October. At the time, Halo franchise director Frank O'Connor said: “there is plenty of chance that Halo 5 could appear on the PC”.

In the months since then, speculation rose that the game many come to the PC, especially in the wake of Microsoft announcing Quantum Break for Windows 10.

Things were looking even more likely with the announcement of real-time strategy game, Halo Wars 2, and the series custom level creator for Windows 10, titled Halo 5: Forge.

Microsoft has been throwing its weight behind Windows 10 as a gaming platform. It has been incentivising players with exclusives for its Windows Store, such as Forza Motorsport 6: Apex, and recently announced that a cross-platform store will soon incorporate both PC and Xbox apps.

Expect Microsoft to share plans for what’s next for Halo at its E3 press conference on Monday, 13 June.

09/06/2016: Xbox announces free multiplayer weekend for non-Gold members

Microsoft has announced that Xbox Live's online multiplayer will be free for non-Gold members this weekend.

Xbox Live's Larry 'Major Nelson' Hryb - director of programming and the public face of the service - made the announcement on his personal website.

"For the first time ever all Xbox Live members without a Gold membership can play online with friends for FREE during Free Multiplayer Weekend on BOTH Xbox One and Xbox 360," he wrote.

Ordinarily, access to Xbox games' online multiplayer functionality is only available to players with a paid Xbox Live Gold membership. This promotion marks the first time that the feature has been made freely available.

The event will run from today to 12 June, and in addition to free multiplayer access, gamers will also be able to play smash hit RC football game Rocket League for free.

The event comes immediately ahead of Microsoft's press conference at 2016's E3 conference, which takes place on 13 June. The company is expected to release an updated version of the Xbox One, as well as announcing deeper integrations between the Xbox platform and PC gaming.

07/06/2016: Microsoft will introduce its virtual assistant, Cortana, to Xbox Live this summer, and plans to begin unifying its console with its Windows 10 platform.

Aligning its console with its current PC operating system will open up greater cross-platform gaming potential, and give the company new clout when addressing the development community.

On Xbox One, Microsoft is calling Cortana a “personal gaming assistant”. As on the desktop and smartphone versions, the virtual assistant is able to learn players’ likes and entertainment patterns. Microsoft said Cortana can be used to find news titles, see what Xbox Live friends are up to, start a party, as well as navigate to desired apps on the Xbox dashboard.

Information requested from Cortana will be displayed on a panel at the side of the screen. Cortana will work with both headsets and Kinect.

A preview of Cortana for Xbox One is coming first to the US, UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, with other countries to follow there after.

More significant, however, will be Microsoft’s plan to converge its console with Windows 10, and ultimately its cross-platform apps initiative, Universal Windows Apps (UWP).

As part of the company’s new plan, Microsoft is introducing a digital store that will serve both Xbox and Windows 10 PCs. PC games will also be given their own hubs on Xbox One, and players will be able to see their PC achievements, and those of their friends, on console.

At a March press event, Xbox head Phil Spencer said bringing its two platforms closer together was central to the company’s strategy.

UWPs will not be supported as yet, but a Microsoft spokesperson told the Guardian that “the groundwork is now there”.

In additional to these changes, Xbox One is also receiving updates to its Twitter and Facebook apps. Its video steaming and game DVR features have been overhaul to allow players to manage content more easily and record at 60 frames per second (fps).

You can read more about Xbox Live summer update here, and expect to hear more about Xbox’ plans at E3 next week.

06/06/2016: Microsoft has added a fresh set of titles to the Games with Gold selection on Xbox One and Xbox 360 for June.  

Each month, Xbox Live Gold members are able to download four new free games – two on Xbox One and two on Xbox 360. These games are typically available for a period of two weeks.  

The May collection, which included Defense Grid 2 and Peggle, can no longer be downloaded. An exception to this is Costume Quest 2, which will remain available until 15 June. 

Instead, Xbox One Gold members can now download Goat Simulator for free, while Xbox 360 fans will have the opportunity to get Super Meat Boy.  

Goat Simulator is available for download until 30 June on Xbox One, and The Crew will be available from 16 June until 15 July.

On Xbox 360, Super Meat Boy is available until 15 June, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown, is available until 30 June.

02/06/2016: Microsoft is working on two new Xbox consoles, one of which will be four times as powerful as its current system and support 4K video, according to new reports.

Rumours have been circulating about a slimmer Xbox One following comments by Xbox head Phil Spencer in March. Now news sites Kotaku and Polygon claim Microsoft is likely to reveal details on it console at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this month.

The slim Xbox One will reportedly be 40 per cent smaller than the current model, and support 4K for video content only.

This slimmer, lighter Xbox will likely be announce at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, or hours before. It could launch as early as August, Polygon claims. A final price is has not been suggested, but considering Microsoft cut the price of Xbox One this week, in the UK and US, to £279.99 ($299), that’s good indicator of where the slim Xbox One could start at.

As for the second console, codenamed ‘Scorpio’, reports suggest it won’t see a release until late 2017. Specifications has not been unearthed, but Microsoft is apparently targeting six teraflops for Scorpio. This would make its raw speed approximately four times as fast as its predecessor, and a third faster than the Neo’s rumoured 4.14 teraflops.

Microsoft has reportedly accelerated the timeline for its Xbox One revision in response to leaks about Sony’s plans to release an upgraded PS4 – known as ‘Neo’. Both of these consoles represent a shift in business for the console makers as they shift towards an iterative upgrade cycle, which is closer to that of traditional PCs or current smartphones.

For more on Xbox Scorpio, take a look at our sister site, Alphr.

And though new machines will undoubtedly give some reason to hold off purchasing, for those that want to take advange of Microsoft’s new price cut, Alphr has a guide to the best Xbox One bargains.

16/05/2016: Microsoft adds backward compatibility for multi-disc 360 games

Microsoft has added backward compatibility support for multi-disc Xbox 360 games on Xbox One.

Xbox community manager, Larry Hryb, better known by the pseudonym Major Nelson, made the following comment on Reddit: “I can confirm that the BC (backward compatability) team has done work to support multi disc scenarios. Be sure to thank the BC engineers.”

That was followed by an official statement from Microsoft explaining that Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Directors’ Cut was the first multi-disc 360 game to be added to the backward compatibility programme. Microsoft said it is planning to add more multi-disc games to its library in future.

Support for multi-disc games means popular 360 titles, such as Final Fantasy XIII, Grand Theft Auto IV and the Mass Effect trilogy, could be possible top play in future.

Multi-discs games became something of a regular sight on Xbox 360 versions of multi-format games in the last console generation. The 360’s DVD format meant there was less storage space available for developers, compared to the Blu-ray-based PS3 discs.

The total number of 360 games that can be played on Xbox One currently stands at 182.

05/05/2016: An update to the Xbox One's user interface is in the works and will shortly be arriving, according to programme director Mike Ybarra.

The Xbox dashboard has long been criticised for the slightly clunky way it lists apps and games in a long, scrolling list.

In response to one Xbox user's frustrations with the system, Ybarra cryptically tweeted "soon", spurring speculation that a major refit could be on the way.

The rest of the Xbox UI received a major overhaul earlier last year, a change that was well received by console owners.

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