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Microsoft Testing Project xCloud with 1080p Resolution

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Microsoft’s Project xCloud (Cloud Gaming for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate) is gathering steam as the beta service evolves. In the latest improvement for the cloud gaming service, Microsoft is boosting the capable resolution of the platform.

While Microsoft is not confirming it, reports point to the company carrying out a migration of Xbox cloud severs during this year. Specifically, the company is moving the servers from Xbox One architecture to Xbox Series X architecture.

Moving from last generation to current generation has benefits. Early signs of the improvement is the ability to run games at 1080p. According to Windows Central, Microsoft is currently only testing 1080p resolution for Project xCloud, but the early signs are good.

Until now, titles on the service have been capped to 720p. This low HD resolution helps to maintain a high bandwidth performance and keep controls responsive. In other words, Microsoft is trading screen resolution for performance quality.

By moving to new server architecture, the company is able to up the resolution without harming the performance. That’s a good development because target devices for Project xCloud (laptops, smartphones, tablets, and TVs) will mostly be at least 1080p  and in many cases higher resolution. For example, playing a 720p games on a large 4K TV may not have been a fun experience.

Coming Soon

It seems reasonable to think as the current Xbox Series X hardware gathers pace, Microsoft will be able to gain more improvements for xCloud. It is expected the new architecture will already bring significant performance improvements, including bettering loading times.

Microsoft has recently confirmed Project xCloud will launch this spring. We expect the improvements currently in testing to be available as soon as the platform leaves its beta phase.

If you’re unfamiliar with Xbox Cloud Gaming, it is a cloud streaming service for Xbox games. It allows Xbox Game Pass Ultimate customers to access Xbox titles from any device that supports the platform. Because all resources are held in the cloud and handled by Microsoft, people on underpowered devices like smartphones can play games.

Because Microsoft Azure handles the resources, these titles can run on mobile phones and even smart TV. We have also seen evidence of the service being compatible with smart home devices, such as a fridge.

Tip of the day:

Windows 10s Power Throttling can net up to 11% more battery savings per charge with little negative impact. In some scenarios you might consider turning Power Throttling off for single apps that you want run with maximum performance. Our tutorial shows you various methods to manage Power Throttling.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Making it Easier for Xbox Developers to Add Accessibility Designs to Games

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Developers will find it easier to get their games evaluated for accessibility features by Microsoft when creating for Xbox and PC. Microsoft has announced and expansion to accessibility on Windows 10 and Xbox. According to the accessibility team, games will now be tested by players with disabilities during the evaluation process.

Microsoft points out the initiative will help games become more accessible to gamers with impairments. Specifically, developers can choose to have a title tested against Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAGs):

“Developers now have the option to send Microsoft their Xbox or PC title and have it analyzed and validated against the recommendations provided in the XAGs,” says an Xbox blog post.

Xbox Accessibility Guidelines is documentations that provides details on how developers can integrate inclusive access into their games. Microsoft says the XAGs have been updated with clearer language and more examples of implementation.

Testing

When a game is tested, Microsoft will issue a feedback report that includes details from gamers with disabilities. Furthermore, the Xbox team will add information about partner nonprofits, accessibility experts, and how to include more accessibility designs.

When a problem is found, Microsoft says the developer will receive “reproduction steps, screenshots, and other information to help the developer understand what aspect of a given experience may be challenging for certain gamers with disabilities.”

This program expands Microsoft’s commitment to accessibility on Xbox and PC Gaming through Windows 10. Previously, the company has added Game Chat Transcription to both platforms. The feature allows players to turn chat speech into text. This allows them to read in-game chats on their screen in real time.

Microsoft also has the Xbox Adaptive Controller. At its core, the Adaptive Controller is specifically for gamers with disabilities.

Tip of the day:

Do you sometimes face issues with Windows 10 search where it doesn’t find files or return results? Check our tutorial to see how to fix Windows 10 search via various methods.

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Microsoft Highlights Bumper Xbox Growth Driven by Console Sales

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While it’s true Microsoft’s amazing success in recent years has been driven by cloud technology, the company’s consumer products continue to show growth. During yesterday’s FY21 Q2 financial results, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella broke down the company’s latest successes, including a massive quarter for Xbox.

As we reported in our wider look at Microsoft’s financial results, Xbox earnings increased by a massive 51 percent. This was part of a $15.1B haul for the overall More Personal Computing category. While Windows and Surface are also in that category, Xbox was the star of the show through last quarter.

Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass saw a 40 percent revenue increase. There were also a couple of records broken through the period; third-party title revenue topped $2 billion for the first time, while gaming revenue overhaul went over $5 billion for the first time.

Of course, much of the growth came from the launch of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. In fact, Microsoft highlights hardware sales growth of 86 percent year-on-year. During the earnings call, Nadella said the console produced “the most devices ever sold in a launch month.”

We presume he meant for the Xbox brand because the PlayStation 5 has arguably sold more units than the Xbox Series consoles.

Growth

Either way, Nadella says the consoles have driven a surge in activity for connected services. For example, Xbox Live surpassed 100 million monthly active users during the last quarter. Xbox Game Pass continues to be successful and now has over 18 million subscribers.

All-in-all, it seems Microsoft’s Xbox brand is in excellent shape as it moves into the newest generation. In fact, the success of the new consoles and ongoing growth of Xbox services means it becomes unimportant what rival Sony achieves. It seems it is room in the market for all major consoles to be successful.

Tip of the day:

Worried about your privacy in Windows 10 or want to keep different PCs linked to your Microsoft account strictly separate? We show you how to adjust your Windows 10 sync settings , including the clipboard, activity history/timeline, and themes.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Reverses Decision to Double Xbox Live Gold Subscription Prices

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On Friday, Microsoft stunned Xbox Live Gold members by announcing a sharp price increase for the online gaming platform. However, after strong and immediate backlash amongst users, the company quickly did a U-turn and reversed the decision. Alongside that quick change of mind, Microsoft issued a groveling apology saying it “messed up”.

At first, Microsoft said Xbox Live Gold subscriptions will increase in price by $1 to $10.99 to customers paying monthly. For those on the three-month renewal plan, the company said the increase would be $5 to $29.99.

There were also price increases for the longer six-month plan. Specifically, a six-month subscription would cost $59.99, which is the same as Sony charges for its one-year PlayStation Plus subscription. That would mean Xbox Live Gold would cost the $120 for a full year membership.

“Periodically, we assess the value and pricing of our services to reflect changes in regional marketplaces and to continue to invest in the Xbox community; we’ll be making price adjustments for Xbox Live Gold in select markets,” the company said last week.

Perhaps the most controversial change was Microsoft says customers must have a subscription to get free multiplayer games. Currently, users must have a subscription to Xbox Live Gold to play online but can access free-to-play titles (such as Fortnite) without paying. Microsoft planned to change this allowance in an effort to push more people into the subscription.

That plan quickly backfired. Customers and commentators were aghast at Microsoft’s decision, noting the terrible timing considering the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are feeling an economic pinch and Microsoft’s Xbox division is currently thriving amid the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S.

Backtracking

Amid the growing backlash, Microsoft relented and said it would reverse its decision:

“We messed up today and you were right to let us know,” the company confirmed in an updated blog post.

“Connecting and playing with friends is a vital part of gaming and we failed to meet the expectations of players who count on it every day. As a result, we have decided not to change Xbox Live Gold pricing.”

This is the correct decision from Microsoft and it’s definitely good that the company listens to customers. However, it’s also more evidence that Microsoft struggles as a consumer brand and gauging what it’s customers want. Furthermore, the statement dresses up this decision as Microsoft understanding how important online gaming is to people during this time.

Clearly that’s not the case. If Microsoft understood the social thread online gaming provides during the pandemic, it would not have thought about increasing prices in the first place. Luckily for the company, this episode is now only a PR disaster and not the customer-losing decision it would have been.

Tip of the day:

Did you know that you can assign keyboard shortcuts for starting applications quickly in Windows 10? This is a great way to have your most used programs always at your fingertips. In our tutorials we show you how to set those hotkeys for your favorite apps.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Brings New Parental Controls to Xbox, Including Account Blocks for Kids

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Children and teens have so many options for entertainment that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for parents to get their kids to focus on tasks, such as homework. Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles, as well as the existing contribute to that haze of digital “things to do”.

Microsoft wants to help parents wrestle back control of when their child needs to focus on school and when they can game. The company is releasing new purchasing controls and screen time options for its Xbox UI.

The idea is parents will have more options for managing when their kids can play games. Xbox consoles already allow parents to set the amount of time a kid can play. With new tools, they can now also use the Pause Screen Time feature. As the name suggests, this puts a temporary block on an Xbox account.

In other words, a child’s account will be locked, and they won’t be able to play. Parents have full control, so they can remove the pause at any time from a smartphone app. If the block is not manually reset, Xbox consoles will automatically remove the pause at the end of a day.

Parents receive a notification is someone (those pesky kids) tries to play on a currently paused account.

Ask to Buy Expansion

In terms of purchases from the Microsoft Store, the company is adding more controls. Specifically, the “Ask to Buy” feature is now turned on by default in the Xbox Family Settings app. This choice was previously limited to control via a console or PC. It means any purchase from the Xbox Marketplace needs approval before it can go ahead.

It is worth noting gift card purchases and buys from an existing balance are not part of the Ask to Buy feature.

Tip of the day

If your system drive is constantly full and you need to free some space, you might want to try Windows 10 Disk Cleanup in extended mode. Our tutorial also shows you how to create a desktop shortcut to run this advanced method right from the desktop.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Acquires eSports Company Smash.gg To Further Xbox Division Push

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While the tech acquisition landscape this week is dominated by Salesforce snapping up Slack in a move to rival Microsoft Teams, Microsoft is continuing to beef up its gaming division. The latest move to bolster Microsoft Game Studios sees the company purchase esports company Smash.gg.

Smash.gg is a platform that organizes esports events. Unfortunately, not much is known about this deal because details are short. The company simply says Microsoft’s acquisition will help “strengthen our existing relationships and explore new opportunities”.

It seems Microsoft will continue to allow Smash.gg to operate independently. On the platform, users can setup their own custom esports tournaments and other game-related events.

This is not a major purchase for Microsoft, evidenced by the single tweet to confirm the deal on the MSN Esports Twitter page. Still, it continues Microsoft’s all-out push to acquire new companies to add to the Xbox and wider gaming brand.

 

Success and Failure

For example, the recent $4.5 billion deal to acquire ZeniMax Media, the company behind Bethesda. However, it is arguable Microsoft is better at buying game studios and making them successful than it is platforms.

Game studio purchases typically turn out well for the company, with Minecraft behind the obvious example. Since buying Minecraft, Microsoft has turned the title into the most popular game of all time.

However, service purchases have been more mixed, such as Beam which eventually became Microsoft Mixer. Despite throwing money at Mixer, the game streaming service has since been folded. In terms of the Smash.gg acquisition, there seems to be less risk for Microsoft because the deal was likely much smaller.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft’S Xbox Will Suffer If Epic Games Wins Lawsuit against Apple

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One of the most interesting tech stories of the year has been major developers rounding on Apple and criticizing the company’s App Store policies on iOS. Some of the biggest tech giants are involved, most notably Microsoft and Epic Games. In fact, Apple and Epic Games are currently locked in a legal battle over the matter.

Microsoft has sided with Epic on the matter and been a vocal critic of Apple’s practices. However, the Redmond company may find itself brought into any ruling against the App Store because of policies on its own Xbox platform.

Apple is threatening to stop Epic accessing its iOS and macOS developer features, including its Unreal Engine SDK. The company’s stance comes from the popular Fortnite game violating the terms of the App Store.

Those terms state all developers must give Apple 30% of all revenue they make. As long as the freemium Fortnite was on the store, it was paying this revenue. However, Epic also provides users a way to play the game through their own website. This violates Apple’s terms, with the Cupertino giant stopping dev’s from offering alternatives.

Lawsuit

Apple reacted by banning Fortnite from the store because of the alternative route to play the game. Epic hit back by suing the company for antitrust monopoly practices. Microsoft took the side of Epic Games following its own complaints against Apple.

The company says it sides with Epic Games in the legal battle through an official legal statement. Kevin Gammill, General Manager of Gaming Developer Experiences at Microsoft, says the removal of the Unreal Engine harms all developers.

Microsoft has been a long term critic of Apple and its App Store practices during 2020. In June, Microsoft President and Chief Counsel Brad Smith suggested Apple was creating a monopoly by charging developers 30% of their revenue on the App Store.

What About Xbox?

In an ironic twist, Microsoft’s own Xbox practices could be affected by any ruling against Apple. Like the App Store, the Xbox platform similarly locks in developers with a revenue fee. Like Apple’s services, dev’s are not allowed to bypass this requirement with their own access to purchase.

Yvonne Gonzales Rogers of the District Court for the Northern District of California says Epic Games’ lawsuit against Apple could have “serious ramification” for gaming giants Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, saying:

Indeed, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft all operate similar walled gardens or closed platform models as Apple, whereby the hardware, operating system, digital marketplace, and IAPs are all exclusive to the platform owner.

Epic Games’ avers that the iOS platform is unique from other gaming devices. Specifically, Epic Games argues that gaming consoles and computers require electrical outlets and separate screens and thus lack capacity for mobile play, which demands portable, battery operated, and cellularly connected devices with built-in screens.

Yet, Epic Games repeatedly ignored discussion of gaming laptops, tablets, and the Nintendo Switch, all of which can be played in a mobile fashion. These devices could have significant overlap with the iOS platform in terms of the ultimate consumer.

Microsoft Responds

Naturally, not the role is reversed Microsoft completely disagrees. Speaking to The Verge, Xbox chief Phil Spencer argues Microsoft’s practices are different to Apple’s:

If you just look at the scale, there are a billion mobile phones on the planet. Those are general compute platforms. A game console does one thing really; it plays video games. It’s sold, for us, at a loss. Then you make money back by selling content and services on top. The model is just very, very different from something the scale of Windows, or iOS, or Android.

I think there are 200 million game consoles that are sold in a generation across all of our platforms. That’s less than a year of phone sales. It’s just not even close. People say, well, the scale shouldn’t matter. It actually does. When you start looking at how we look at open platforms and access, those things do matter. From a legal perspective, they matter.

It seems Spencer’s entire argument rests on the fact Xbox is not as popular as iOS. As this is not a popularity contest, I think his argument won’t wash. Has the gaming industry shot itself in the foot by going after Apple?

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Project xCloud Could Land on TVs Within 12 Months

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Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming (Project xCloud) has been available since September. However, it is not quite yet the cross-platform Xbox streaming service Microsoft envisions. At the moment the service is only available on Android because Microsoft pulled the platform from Apple’s iOS.

In the future, Microsoft wants Project xCloud to extend to all types of connected devices, including Windows 10 PC and TV. On the latter front, we recently discussed the company plans to develop a TV stick for Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Speaking to The Verge, Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer has reconfirmed plans for a TV compatible version of xCloud. According to Spencer, smart TV support could come within the next 12 months.

“I think you’re going to see that in the next 12 months. I don’t think anything is going to stop us from doing that.”

Changing the Landscape

Project xCloud has the potential to change much in the gaming realm. High-end gaming on PC has traditionally been off limits for most users, unless they are prepared to spend big on a decent gaming PC. For people with a normal laptop, they have needed to purchase a console to get quality gaming.

Microsoft’s streaming service could change gaming and open console quality gaming to all PC users. That’s because xCloud is based entirely on Microsoft’s own Azure servers. This essentially means the company handles all the heavy lifting, so users won’t need a laptop with cutting edge gaming hardware.

Despite the potential of xCloud, Spencer says it is unlikely Microsoft will abandon console hardware just yet. The company has just launched the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Spencer envisions more Xbox devices in the future.

“I don’t think these will be the last big pieces of hardware that we ship,” says Spencer.

“When we think about xCloud, which is our version of Stadia or Luna, I think what it needs to evolve to are games that actually run between a hybrid environment of the cloud and the local compute capability,” he adds. “It’s really a hybrid between both of those.”

Source Winbuzzer

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Minecraft Realms Finally Arrives on PlayStation

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Minecraft is a complete cross-platform game these days. Microsoft’s ever-popular games is available on mobile, PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo. One of the benefits of Cross Play is that updates, such as the Nether Update roll out on all devices at the same time. However, Sony’s PlayStation 4 never got Minecraft Realms.

That is now changing because Microsoft-owned Minecraft Realms is coming to the PS4 and eventually the new PS5. In some ways Minecraft is playing catch up on PlayStation since Sony messed around so much in allowing Cross-Play in the first place.

With the addition of Minecraft Realms, PlayStation users will finally have the ability to rent servers for up to 10 players.

A new trailer for Minecraft Realms for PlayStation has dropped today. Users on the PS4 and PS5 will be getting Realms backed by Microsoft Azure after it recently transitioned from Amazon Web Services.

Importance of Azure Base

In a recent interview with GameIndustry, Microsoft Studios chief Matt Booty highlighted the process to switch Minecraft to Azure:

“It would be easy for a large organization to come in and say: ‘Hey, we’re going to show you how it’s done. We’re going to get you off this Java code. We’re going to get things moved over to C. We’re going to get you off Amazon Web Services and over to Azure. But it’s important to realize that the conditions that created Minecraft, how it came to be, are likely to be things that are difficult to recreate within a more corporate structure.”

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft: Don’t Blow Vape Smoke into Xbox Series X Consoles

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Remember folks, there’s no smoke without fire. Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X console is now available to customers, and early projections suggest it will be a big seller. Today, Microsoft is moving to hopefully kill off an early trend where vapers are blowing smoke into the Series X.

Yes, it makes no sense and is as stupid in practice and it appears in words. It’s a social media trend picking up pace and (obviously) the vape smoke is causing the Xbox Series X console to overheat.

For some reasons, customers are using the smoke coming out of the device to pretend the Xbox Series X has an overheating problem. It is unclear why this is happening, or why users want to attempt to discredit the console.

Why didn’t Microsoft make the Xbox Series X hot smoke-proof?

 

Don’t Do It

As you may expect, Microsoft has responded to this trend by telling customers to simply stop doing it. In a tweet on the Xbox channel, the company warns owners against blowing vape smoke into their Xbox Series X.

 

While it would be easy to think Microsoft should keep quiet and just let stupid people destroy their consoles, the company took the right step by responding. Firstly, it cuts any negativity about the console, it stops future customers from trying to do the same, and it also shows that the console does not have an overheating problem.

If you really want a cool console, perhaps the best way is with the Xbox Series X fridge Microsoft created last month.

Source Winbuzzer

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