Microsoft made a raft of announcements today ahead of its Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase on Sunday. There are no megatons here, but it's worth rounding up what Microsoft's had to say about what's coming next for Xbox across console, PC and the cloud.
First up, Microsoft announced a plan to roll out the ability for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members to play, from the cloud, select games they already own or have purchased outside the Xbox Game Pass library. That's coming later this year.
Next, from 30th June you'll be able to play cloud-enabled Game Pass Ultimate games without a console via 2022 Samsung smart TVs. Microsoft's plan is to roll this feature out to other tellies over the course of the year.
Microsoft revealed Project Moorcroft, a new program that will bring demos of upcoming games to Xbox Game Pass. Expect it to roll out within the next year.
The desktop version of the Microsoft Edge browser gets new gaming features soon, including some Xbox Cloud Gaming integrations. There's a new gaming homepage, a new clarity boost feature which Microsoft said makes gameplay from the cloud look sharper and clearer when playing in the Edge browser on Windows, and an efficiency mode, which helps improve performance on Windows 10 and 11 by automatically reducing browser resource usage when a PC game is launched.
New updates for Windows 11 include optimisations to improve latency and unlock Auto HDR and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR). There's a new HDR calibration app to help players improve colour accuracy and consistency of their HDR displays, a Game Pass widget, and a controller bar, which lets players jump back into their games or access Xbox Cloud Gaming without the need for a mouse and keyboard.
Moving on to Xbox Design Lab, there are new pastel colours: Soft Pink, Soft Orange, Soft Green, and Soft Purple, and new Camo Top cases with matching side caps: Mineral Camo, Arctic Camo, Forest Camo, Sandglow Camo and Blaze Camo.
Microsoft talked a bit about how Xbox is doing, without giving away sales of the Xbox Series X and S. It focused on how well Xbox Game Pass has done on PC, saying compared to last November, the number of Game Pass members playing on PC has tripled.
As for Xbox Cloud Gaming stats, Microsoft said the addition of Fortnite without a subscription or installation had seen millions of players on iOS, Android and PC, with 20 percent of them being new to Xbox.
This year Microsoft is adding thousands of new custom Xbox Series X server racks around the world, increasing cloud gaming capacity by 125 percent to meet demand.
And finally, Microsoft touched on its first-party video game release plan. It said that during its last fiscal year it launched five new games across console, PC and cloud. "We are on track to meet or exceed that amount in the next fiscal," Microsoft said.
So, what are those games? Microsoft's next fiscal year begins 1st July 2022 and ends 30th June 2023. Arkane's Redfall is due out next year. A new Forza seems like a given. I suspect Microsoft will consider the 1.0 release of Obsidian's Grounded as the launch of a new game. Bethesda's Starfield is currently down for the first half of 2023. What about Ninja Theory's Hellblade 2, and Avowed? Any more for any more?