The Xbox team from Microsoft has filled the news feeds this week with multiple announcements around gaming, services, and hardware. Included among the announcements is the new Windows 10 Game Bar enhancements I wrote about a few days ago, a new combined monthly subscription to Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass, plus an all-digital edition of the Xbox One S.
Here is a quick rundown of all of those tidbits.
Xbox One April 2019 Update
After testing by its cadre of Xbox Insiders over the last four or five months, Microsoft released the latest console operating system update to Xbox One console owners. This update corresponds with the 19H1 update for Windows 10 devices and has a handful of new features:
- Streamlined Xbox Game Pass Quests
- Mini Virtual Keyboard
- Restart Option Added to Power Center
- Improved Game and App Uninstall
- Programmable OneGuide Button on Xbox Media Remote
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
This is apparently the subscription users have been asking for according to Microsoft. It combines the monthly cost of Xbox Live Gold access with the monthly cost of Xbox Game Pass and its entire library of games into a single subscription.
The monthly subscription cost is $14.99 which is $5 less than what each option would cost individually. Paying monthly for this subscription would cost $179.88. In comparison, an annual Xbox Live Gold subscription it is discounted by 50% for an annual cost of $59.99 and that when added to Xbox Game Pass, which is $119.88 and not discounted, your total is the same. Granted there are almost always further discounts for Xbox Live Gold that are available but the combined subscription streamlines things for those who choose to subscribe on a month to month basis.
Personally, I would have liked to see this have a slightly better discount, maybe a $12.99 price, just to make it a little more enticing over buying Xbox Live Gold annually. That would have made it a better deal compared to some of the discounts that are out there at times. Still, many gamers will opt to combine the two into one package for the convenience of the monthly subscription approach.
As part of the unveiling of this new subscription package, some Xbox Insiders are being invited to help Microsoft test it out. If you are an Xbox Insider just check the Xbox Insider app on your console to see if you are part of that group. For testers, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will cost just $1 per month during the testing phase. If you have existing separate Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, they will be converted at a rate of 1 month to 1 month for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. After I signed up, my two separate subscriptions were turned into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate with an expiration date of April 2022.
Considering the new subscription is expected later this year, testers could end up getting a few months access for just $1 per month which is a good deal.
Microsoft Xbox Briefing at E3 2019
We learned that the big gaming briefing from Microsoft at E3 will happen on Sunday, June 9th at 1 PM Pacific Daylight Time. It will be streamed live over Mixer either on your console or Windows 10. They will announce other live stream options and viewing events in the near future.
Expect to hear about gaming on Xbox One itself, Windows 10, and on mobile devices such as iOS and Android.
The Xbox E3 briefing is the annual vehicle used by Microsoft and its partners to unveil new games, services, and other related products.
Unique this year is that Microsoft is the big attraction compared to past events because one of the company’s biggest competitors, Sony, and its PlayStation family, will not be at the show. While Nintendo will be in attendance and holding their own presser, it is significant that Sony is skipping this year in its entirety.
Among all of the announcements from Microsoft, I expect we will hear about the coming public preview for the company’s new game streaming service called Project xCloud. With both Microsoft and Google are working on a cloud-based game streaming solution, it would seem Microsoft has a more solid footing in the industry and its partner network than Google does so this announcement and further details will be interesting to catch.
In conjunction with the E3 news, they also shared details about this year’s Xbox Fanfest activities at E3 and other locations. This will be the fifth year they have held this event and it sounded like it was going to be bigger and better across the board.
Xbox One S All-Digital Edition
Rumors have been flying around about this new version of the Xbox One S console and this week those rumors were confirmed.
I don’t know about you all, but I have basically been all digital on my own Xbox One S for a few years now. Rarely do I use the Blueray disc player that is part of the Xbox One S for physical games or movies anymore. Plus, 100% of my purchases are digital as well.
The disc-less console is now available for pre-order and will hit retail shelves on May 7th, 2019 at a $249 price point. Microsoft points out that this price point is $50 lower than the disc-based Xbox One S and they intend to keep that kind of pricing separation between the consoles moving forward.
Although I initially balked at the price point, it seemed high to me, when you consider that the all-digital version comes with a 1 TB hard drive as standard plus three bundled games (Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, and Forza Horizon 3), it might just have enough extra value to justify that pricing. I guess that will be dependent on your own game library as well to see if the included games add benefit for your purchase.
In fact, the Xbox One S All-Digital edition is not targeting current Xbox One S owners but looking to bring in new console based gamers. I guess it would make an attractive option for a second console for those already in the Xbox One ecosystem.
For more details on these and other related announcements from Microsoft’s Xbox team visit the Xbox Wire website.