Today is the first official day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as E3, and the Xbox team was on-stage to deliver plenty of news surrounding Xbox. It would be fair to say that in the past the Xbox team focused too much on the non-gaming aspects of the Xbox One, but today’s media briefing was all about gaming. There was quite a bit announced today, so let’s go over the highlights.

Likely the biggest news of the day was the announcement that Xbox 360 games will be playable on the Xbox One. Microsoft has built an Xbox 360 software emulator which can be launched in order to play titles from their older console. This is not vaporware either; the emulator is available starting today for people in the Xbox preview program. Currently the selection of titles is limited and more will be converted before launch, with the Xbox team targeting a holiday release for this feature. The feature will work with games that have been purchased digitally or on disc, and if you have the disc, you have to insert it, and the system will download the files to the Xbox One. I assume the disc will need to be in the device in order to play as well. So although this is an emulator, clearly Microsoft is doing a lot of work on converting the code to run quickly on the much different hardware in the Xbox One, which is x86 based, as compared to the Xbox 360’s PowerPC architecture. Fans can vote on Xbox Feedback which games they want to see converted first, and more will be added over time.

In addition, the Microsoft has created the Xbox Elite Controller, which offers up a lot more options and customizations than the current Xbox Controller. Players can choose among six thumbsticks, with different shapes, sizes, and heights, to tailor the controller to your own gaming style. The D-Pad is also new, with a unique faceted face which should help in some games, or you can switch to the traditional D-Pad if the title prefers the accuracy of that pad.

There are four slots on the back for interchangeable paddles, giving you access to more commands with more fingers. There are also hair trigger locks which reduce the movement necessary to activate the triggers, which are valuable in a game where the full range of trigger motion is not necessary. It can quickly be deactivated to get the full range back.

There will be an Xbox Accessories App on both the Xbox One and Windows 10 to let you customize the experience and map buttons, and you can save up to 255 controller profiles for custom settings on many games. You can even load two profiles and switch between them on the fly.

The thumbsticks are stainless steel, and there are low-friction reinforced rings around the thumbsticks for a long life. The new controller will retail for $149.99 and has availability in October.

Moving on from the new controller (which it appears I need to get) Microsoft also reiterated its new partnership with Oculus for the Rift launch, but in addition they are also partnering with Valve VR. This is very interesting since Valve seems to have had a cool relationship with Microsoft over the last couple of years, and it is great to see them working together on Virtual Reality. Microsoft also showed off their own Augmented Reality device, the Hololens, with a custom version of Minecraft which players can explore and build with using Microsoft’s own headset.

There was also plenty of software talk today as well, since any piece of hardware needs quality software. Microsoft is adding a new feature to allow players to try out games while they are being developed with the launch of the Xbox Game Preview pilot program. This is a lot like Steam’s Early Access. Microsoft was keen to point out that they have a lot of indie developers on-board.

Last, but certainly not least, is the list of upcoming Xbox titles, some of which are exclusive to Xbox and some of which will have a limited exclusivity window. Exclusive games to Xbox include Ashen, Cuphead, Fable Legends, Forza Motorsport 6, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Gears of War 4, Gigantic, Halo 5: Guardians,  Rare Replay (a collection of old Rare games), ReCore, and Sea Thieves, with Beyond Eyes, Tacoma, and the much anticipated Rise of the Tomb Raider being timed exclusives on the platform.

Microsoft has not had the success with the Xbox One, compared in relative terms at least, to the Xbox 360, and with this briefing being exclusively focused on gaming, and the introduction of a special controller for the enthusiast crowd, Microsoft is trying to win back some mindshare. Only time will tell if they are successful.

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  • PenguinJim - Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - link

    Consumers who want good graphics do not settle for 1080P/30 or lower on PS4. That's just a weapon for the pathetic console fanboy war online.
  • tipoo - Monday, June 29, 2015 - link

    Look up Scuf controllers. Many if not most pros use them. The Elite controllers seems like an even better value in comparison, more customizable, steel build, etc.
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - link

    I'm not sure if that was directed at me or PS fans in particular, but I am not a PS fan. I do not currently own a PS4 or Xbone. I was massively into Xbox and Xbox 360, but then I got back into PC gaming about five years ago and haven't looked back. You couldn't make me switch back even if you handed me a console for free.

    HoloLens looks very cool - but that's a Windows technology first and an optional Xbone peripheral second - there will be far more reason for PC gamers to get HoloLens than Xboners. Oculus Rift on Xbone is pointless since it can only be used on a Windows 10 PC that is streaming a game from Xbone - adding lots of latency to a technology focused on eliminating latency is antithetical. Backward compatibility is a plus for sure, but is definitely something that is too late for most people to care. Custom controllers can be had by the truckload on PC. The Windows integration - so far - looks like little more than playing Xbone games over the network to your W10 PC... Microsoft has been promising cross-platform play for over a decade and failed at every attempt because developers don't want to let people outside of the walled gardens. External HDD support??!?? ZOMG! Just like my old 64DD! If Microsoft allowed internal HDD/SSD upgrades like PS, I would be a lot more impressed.

    The main take-away here is that... PC gamers rejoice!
  • Flunk - Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - link

    Or they'll just get an Xbox One, nothing is stopping you from having both.
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - link

    Backwards compatibility is a killer app, the other two, who knows? Moot point anyway since Sony announced a VR thing years before Microsoft partnered with this. Also, the PS4 has 2x the fill rate so can handle VR better.
  • nikon133 - Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - link

    Don't know. Morpheus looks decent, and is tailored to PS4 hardware. OR was developed for PC in mind, will be interesting to see how it adapts to XBO.

    HoloLens, true... Sony has nothing for AR. I am undecided about this. HoloLens will be great once it develops, but it is not there already; small holo field of view is quite an issue, and it might take a few years until hardware gets performance and power consumption fully suitable for this scenario.

    Backward compatibility. Now we can argue about this... but only once we see how well MS does it. Obviously it is not "emulation" in common way, where you run emulator on your machine, pop any X360 disc in and play. Part of game code must be adapted for XBO. How big this part is? How robust execution is? How different is this from "remastered" games already present on both new systems? Eventually, Sony can make their streaming service free for people who already own specific PS2/PS3 games, or let them download "remastered" game for free if they have original. Considering this, I'd say that XBOs "compatibility" is just an answer to Sony's already set services. It might turn out to be better solution, but we'll have to wait and see.

    PS4 can access external USB storage, but cannot install games there. That, however, is one firmware upgrade away. Will Sony do it, that's another question.

    Elite controller looks nice but is a bit too expensive. The part I don't like is that it will give advantage to people who want/can spend money, something that I previously liked consoles for because they were great equalizers - people were, in general, playing under same conditions. There were 3rd party controllers, but original ones were usually the best choice anyway... and everyone was playing same CPU, GPU... save for screen size. Now those who can will be able to switch weapons, magics, whatever... with additional paddles... compared to people who will have to do that through on-screen menus. It is a pay-to-win, even if in very small way... and I don't like this coming from actual platform manufacturer. Eventually, Sony can do the same - but I hope they will release updated controller with better battery life and not much more.
  • WinterCharm - Saturday, June 27, 2015 - link

    Yup. This is why I waited a while before buying a new console. Got the new Xbox for a lot cheaper than it was on launch day, and now I know I made the right choice :)
  • DesktopMan - Monday, June 29, 2015 - link

    Hololens is barely related to Xbox One as it renders its own graphics. The only thing announced for Xbox One and Oculus Rift so far has been that laughable 2D streaming thing they showcased. I think you're getting ahead of yourself giving Xbox One any credit for either of those two.
  • Samus - Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - link

    It's at least too bad the controller wasn't offered at launch. The Xbox One controller is virtually identical to the Xbox 360. The new demo controller has some considerable improvements that aren't really revolutionary and should have just been added in the first place. The trigger locks are a huge benefit to FPS's...and the D-pad looks interesting.
  • chizow - Monday, June 15, 2015 - link

    Really excited about the elite controller and the PC wireless dongle. Xbox controller has been one of my primary PC peripheral for years as probably the only thing positive that came from GFWL.

    Not that excited for the other Xbox announcements although it is certainly great news for 360 owners. Personally I am more encouraged by Microsoft applying their hardware and services mentality to win10 and bringing it closer to Xbox.

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