Gamescom 2018: Microsoft games on Steam, new bundle policies, custom controllers, and more

Yesterday Microsoft held their annual presentation at Gamescom in a specially crafted event as part of the main Gamescom event taking place this week, and it was a fairly standard reveal event for the Inside Xbox team. As expected, there were no major reveals and no new hardware to announce, but there were still a few surprises and changes coming to the Xbox platform that you might not have been expecting – including one major change that Microsoft hasn’t talked about in detail yet affecting all console and game launches moving forward.

All announced game bundles come with digital downloads instead of discs

By far the biggest announcement of the week, at least in terms of its impact on Microsoft’s gaming offering, is that all the game bundles announced during the show, including bundles for Forza Horizon 4, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Battlefield 5, would be coming with digital downloads instead of disc releases. This was even stated outright with the Shadow of the Tomb Raider bundle, where Microsoft revealed that it would come with a “full digital download” in the box.

This is an interesting change. It makes Microsoft’s life a hell of a lot easier, for sure, because now they can have the packaging changed and the download codes added into the boxes without needing to wait for the copies of the games to be ready for inclusion in the packaging. That’s a big saving on shipping and distribution costs, and it definitely will factor in to how quickly Microsoft can have these bundles ready and in stores on launch day. Unfortunately, this means that consumers with low internet data caps will get the short end of the stick when it comes to getting the games that came with their console.

Microsoft is selling more games on Steam

During the Inside Xbox presentation, Larry Hyrb announced that five Microsoft Studios games would be coming to the PC platform, but they weren’t going to be sold on the Windows Store – instead, they’re coming to Steam. Microsoft will be bringing ReCore: Definitive Edition, Super Lucky’s Tale, Disneyland Adventures, Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure, and Zoo Tycoon:Ultimate Animal Collection to Steam later this year. This will be the first release on Steam for the company in over a year, seeing as their last game was Killer Instinct.

Microsoft isn’t the one publishing these games, though – they have instead partnered up with THQ Nordic to publish the games on Steam. The weird thing is that it isn’t THQ Nordic’s name going up on the store pages. At least the DRM schemes in use will change, and that’s a welcome bit of news for Linux gamers who haven’t gotten their Zoo Tycoon fix in yet.

Xbox Game Pass app for mobile in preview

Microsoft knows that discoverability is a problem on their platforms, and more so for the Xbox Games Store than anywhere else. To help combat this, and to make it easier for gamers to manage their game libraries that they’ll start building up thanks to the Xbox Game Pass subscription, they’ll be debuting a mobile application to the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms that will help make managing your library of installed games easier, and allow you to do things like download games remotely, review games and apps, and discover new ones through the mobile interface.

Sony has had this for a long time thanks to their suite of PlayStation apps on Android, and Steam has had this integration for a long time as well. It’s nice to see Microsoft coming to the party finally. If you’re interested in joining the preview program for the mobile app you can click this link here if you’re an iOS user. Android users can use this link here to install the current version of the app, but it is not part of the preview program just yet.

Xbox Controllers get new grip options in Xbox Design Lab

It’s probably a good thing that Xbox Design Lab isn’t available in South Africa, because if it was we’d all have much lighter wallets. Microsoft announced that it would be adding new options to the service, including the ability to specify and apply special pearlescent paints with a shadowing effect, new metallic finishes for the directional buttons and triggers, and all-new grip options. It’s now possible to specify rubberised grips for the bottom of the controller, as well as new trigger designs with a grip added to the trigger to catch your finger better. Xbox Design Lab seems to be an actual experiment of sorts as Microsoft might be using it to gauge general customer interest in a new controller design that would include these new grip options. I hope it becomes standard across the board.

Speaking of controllers, Microsoft announced a new controller skin developed with PUBG Corp. This PUBG-inspired controller features a camouflage matte finish, decals on the right trigger and around the directional stick, and it will be a limited run affair. Interestingly, this controller doesn’t feature the new grip options available through Xbox Design Lab.

Halo: Fireteam Raven will hit arcades soon

A surprise announcement came in the form of Halo: Fireteam Raven, which Microsoft says is now shipping to arcades. This is a four-person co-op experience that takes the Halo universe and plops it into the on-the-rails arcade shooter formula that suits an arcade experience. Developed by Play Mechanix, Fireteam Raven is a ground-up new Halo adventure that puts you and three others into the Fireteam Raven squad, assigned to assist Master Chief in several new missions that take place at the same time as the invasion of Alpha Halo by the Covenant, set during the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. Neat!

Now on to the game trailers!

Life is Strange 2 is… stranger?

Devil May Cry 5 looks fantastic

During the Inside Xbox event, Capcom came on stage to discuss the development of Devil May Cry 5, and one of the interesting things mentioned was the need to accommodate players who had been through the whole series over the years who might have developed muscle memory for particular move sets. To accommodate this, Capcom had to redesign old mechanics to fit DMC5 to allow for players who had owned past games in the series to pick up the game and get into it very easily. The Devil Breaker move sets are similar to the old ones in DMC4, but they are different enough to require you to relearn them and their uses.

Still no Vergil though. I am disappoint.

Freeze, and look forward at this Metro Exodus trailer!

I know I tell people not to pre-order, but as a Metro fanboy I’m literally itching to buy this game. 4A Games came on to the stage to talk about Exodus, and a new key feature revealed was how factions in the game respond to Artyom throughout the main campaign. Some factions can be tolerant of you, others will be hostile, and you might be able to turn a few around if you bully them into submission. In previous games, the allegiances of the factions and their relationship to Artyom were clear, especially because everyone hated the Fourth Reich and no-one really liked the Reds either.

In Exodus, flirting with the Nazis or the Communists may get you into places that are otherwise inaccessible, or might require you to kill an enormous amount of enemies to reach. Also, if you weren’t already aware, the outdoors, nature, and everything that survived the bombs and the nuclear fallout is out to kill you. Surviving on the surface is no picnic.

Hitman: World of Assassination

Honestly Agent 47, if you had just whacked the chef on the head and taken his place instead of the waitron, none of the convoluted sneaking around and killing people along the way would be needed. Just poison the man and be done with it. Guns blazing or poison, those should be your two options.

Battlefield 5 shows off Rotterdam map

Look, all I’m saying is that multiplayer is never this clean. Literally never. This looks too nice.

Minor announcements

Before we end off, here are the minor announcements from the Inside Xbox presentation that still deserve some mention:

  • Sea of Thieves: Forsaken Shores will introduce a new game mechanic where cargo stored on your ship has to match the right location in your ship, and will depreciate in value the more you let it spoil.
  • Battlefield 5’s class system promotes long-term play within a class and lets you customise your character to a deep level.
  • Ori and The Will of the Wisps now has a speedrunning mode called Spirit Trials.
  • The Halo Master Chief Collection is coming to Xbox Game Pass.
  • Forza Horizon 4 does have in-game chat, but it’s limited to either emojis and standard phrases that you can pick from in a pop-out menu.
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