Microsoft Says Xbox Series S Backward Compatibility Won’t Support Game Improvements


Last week, Microsoft revealed the Xbox Series S, the company’s baby all-digital ninth-generation console. While there is a lot to like about the sibling of the Xbox Series X, such as its $299 price and solid specs, there’s now something to dislike. It has to do with Microsoft’s Backward Compatibility situation.

Specifically, Microsoft says the Xbox Series S won’t be able to enhance older games like the Series X can.

You may remember Microsoft has been promising complete backward compatibility for the ninth generation. One of the cool things about the company’s plan is that games from across Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One will work on the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Thousands of games will be available for back catalogs.

So far, so good. Microsoft also revealed the Xbox Series X can upscale Xbox One games to make them look and perform better. Microsoft is adding HDR reconstruction allowing any game running on the console to have HDR. This essentially means improved visuals beyond what was available when many games were launched. For example, some titles will run at double their original framerates (30fps to 60fps or 60fps to 120fps).

Not Available on Series S

It was widely assumed this functionality would extend to the Xbox Series S. Unfortunately, Microsoft now says that is not the case.

“Xbox Series S was designed to be the most affordable next-generation console and play next-generation games at 1440P at 60fps,” A Microsoft spokesperson told IGN. “To deliver the highest quality backwards compatible experience consistent with the developer’s original intent, the Series S runs the Xbox One S version of backward compatible games while applying improved texture filtering, higher and more consistent frame rates, faster load times and Auto HDR.”

I have been a huge fan of Microsoft’s backward compatibility plans, and I am not quite as devasted by this news as some are. That said, it does remove a nice feature of running older games with better quality from the Xbox One S.

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Leak: Microsoft Xbox Series S (Lockhart) Appears on Xbox One Controller Pamphlet

You know the old adage, there’s no smoke without fire? Well, there’s so much fire around Microsoft’s Project Lockhart console that it’s burning down the house. An all-digital version of the upcoming Xbox Series X, Lockhart will reportedly be called the Xbox Series S and is leaking more than a faulty tap.
Over recent months, rumors have come from all angles regarding the existence of the Xbox Series S. All the while, it is worth remembering Microsoft has no official info on the device. The latest leak for the console comes in the form of official promotional information.
Specifically, materials that come with current new Xbox One controllers. In the Xbox Game Pass documentation that comes with the controllers, reports suggest the Xbox Series S is mentioned.
Project Lockhart and a Journey of Leaks
Microsoft has long been thought to be working on a second iteration of its next-gen consoles. Project Lockhart will sit alongside the Xbox Series X as a more affordable all-digital variant.
Interestingly, the possibility to both devices arriving side-by-side was squashed by Microsoft. The company insists Xbox Series X would launch alone. Certainly, all marketing for the Series X suggests that’s the case. A likely scenario is Microsoft announces Lockhart when it reveals shipping dates for the Series X, with the lesser console arriving sometime next year.
Sony has already announced the PlayStation 5 alongside a PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. Microsoft will be eager to match its rival across two price points.
In August, a next generation Series X controller mysteriously appeared. The documentation for the gamepad also made reference to the Xbox Series S.
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Microsoft Blames Apple App Store Practices following Project xCloud Demise on iOS


Microsoft has fired more shots at Apple over its App Store policies. In recent weeks, Microsoft has been targeting Cupertino for what it believes are monopolizing practices in the iOS app marketplace. Redmond has gone from suggestive criticism to calling Apple out in front of a Congressional committee.

In the latest swipe, Microsoft is blaming Apple for the demise of its Project xCloud – at least for the time being – on iOS. Just yesterday, we reported on Microsoft’s decision to stop testing xCloud on iOS. While the company did not say specifically, App Store limitations that hampered the preview from day one were the reason for the axe.

This was confirmed by Apple. According to the iPhone maker, it will flatly not allow game streaming services to be available on the App Store. That means platforms like Project xCloud and Google Stadia. Speaking to Business Insider, Apple says the following:

“The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.

Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.”

Constant Struggle

Since Project xCloud arrived on iOS, the development of the service was severely hampered by limitations on the platform. Project xCloud initially debuted on iOS in February. The only game supported was Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Furthermore, users couldn’t tap into the Console Streaming feature could not to stream games from your Xbox.

Project xCloud is no longer on iOS

On Android, the preview is ending because Microsoft is readying to launch the full Project xCloud experience this fall. On iOS, the preview won’t be extended to next month and it seems development of the service on iOS has been halted.

Speaking to The Verge, a Microsoft spokesperson says Apple’s practices are harmful.

“Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.”

“Our testing period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store,” the spokesperson adds. Microsoft argues Apple is “consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content.”

Apple’s decision and Microsoft’s inability to provide xCloud means the platform may never arrive on iOS. Certainly, that’s not an ending Microsoft is seeking. The company says it is committed to delivering Project xCloud on as many devices as possible, adding work is ongoing to find a solution with Apple.

Recent Monopolizing Accusations

Microsoft has been ramping up pressure on Apple and its App Store practices in recent weeks. 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. At the time, Smith stopped short of directly naming the company.

Microsoft dislikes Apple’s App Store policies

When Smith spoke in front of the United States House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee last month, he was more willing to name names. The Subcommittee is investigating the practices of several major tech companies, including Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Microsoft is not a part of the investigation, but Smith testified to offer “perspective as a big tech company”.

As well as lamenting limitations on the App Store, Microsoft says Apple simply charges developers too much. Cupertino takes a 30% slice of all app revenue. Smith says this causes problems for developers:

“They impose requirements that increasingly say there is only one way to get on to our platform and that is to go through the gate that we ourselves have created. In some cases they create a very high price per toll — in some cases 30% of your revenue has to go to the toll keeper. The time has come – whether we are talking about D.C. or Brussels – for a much more focused conversation about the nature of app stores, the rules that are being put in place, the prices and the tolls that are being extracted and whether there is really a justification in antitrust law for everything that has been created.”

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Xbox Series X Supports All Xbox One Titles Apart from Kinect Games


When Microsoft launches the Xbox Series X this fall, the console will be in stiff competition against Sony’s PlayStation 5. One of the biggest edge’s Microsoft has over its rival is its embrace of backward compatibility. Microsoft has confirmed the Xbox Series X will support all Xbox One titles, with one specific exception.

Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer says the Series X will not support Xbox One games that were built for Kinect. That’s because the new console will not support the Kinect motion sensing accessory in any way.

“It’s our intent for all Xbox One games that do not require Kinect to play on Xbox Series X at the launch of the console,” says Spencer. “And because of the unprecedented power of Xbox Series X, most of your favorite games will load faster and look and perform many times better on the new console.”

Speaking to The Verge, Spencer offered a simple reason why Kinect support is lacking. “There’s no way for Kinect to work,” on the Xbox Series X, Spencer explains. So that’s that, the end of the Xbox Kinect era.

Xbox One Kinect wikipedia e
Standalone Kinect unit for Xbox One.

A Failed Experiment

Of course, it’s no surprise that Microsoft is ditching the device once and for all. You may remember the original Kinect debuted during the Xbox 360 generation. This was when motion controls and family/casual gaming was at an all-time high. Microsoft thought Kinect was the future and bundled it into the Xbox One.

That was a catastrophic mistake. By adding Kinect to the console, the Xbox One cost $100 more than Sony’s PlayStation 4. It’s hard to say if price alone allowed Sony to dominate the Xbox One in terms of sales, but it surely played a part.

Microsoft misjudged the market. The company mistook what was really a time and a place gaming fad, driven by the Nintendo Wii, for a more permanent shift in the gaming landscape. It wasn’t to be, and now we can look back on Kinect as a “what might have been” technology.

Kinect lives on with the Azure Kinect camera

Certainly, Kinect remains an interesting idea and tech to this day. Interesting enough that Microsoft repurposed much of the underpinning technology for its Azure Kinect DK camera. Still, on the gaming front, Kinect support remained throughout the Xbox One generation despite the accessory being forgotten.

For the Xbox Series X, that support will be removed.

Backward Compatibility

Backward compatibility is a big part of the Xbox Series X. Microsoft has been using Backward Compatibility on Xbox One, allowing users to play a wide selection of Xbox 360 games on the console. This feature was shut down last year as Microsoft started working on Backward Compatibility for the Series X.

Xbox One Backward Compatibility Xbox

In fact, the company is taking the concept even further. It is expected every (non-Kinect) Xbox One game will be supported on the new console. Moreover, Backward Compatibility will also extend to Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles.

“Our backward compatibility engineers have spent years devising innovative ways for modern, next-gen technology to make the games library you’re building today even better, at no additional cost and with no work from developers,” says Spencer.

Spencer says Microsoft will not be pushing customers into upgrading to the new console. He says “Xbox Game Studios titles we release in the next couple of years — like Halo Infinite — will be available and play great on Xbox Series X and Xbox One,” says Spencer. “We won’t force you to upgrade to Xbox Series X at launch to play Xbox exclusives.”

Redmond is aware many consumers won’t be upgrading to the Series X immediately, even if many will. For those staying on the Xbox One for the time being, a feature called Smart Delivery will help when buying games.

Games will ship for both Xbox Series X and Xbox One. Smart Delivery means customers buying for Xbox One don’t have to worry about losing the game when they upgrade to the Series X. When the console upgrade is made, the available game will be the corresponding Series X version.

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Microsoft’s Xbox Live Chief Steps Down After 15 Years


Microsoft is heading into a new era of Xbox gaming, but will be doing it with Dan McCulloch, who has headed Xbox Live for 15 years. In a Twitter post, McCulloch announced he will no longer be leading the online foundation of the Xbox platform.

“After 15 years at XBOX, I announced today that I would be leaving,” his tweet reads. “I made so many friends, learned so much and truly had a blast! I’m extremely excited about the next opportunity in my career and I will be announcing that very soon, you all will be pumped! 😉 Thank you!!!”

At the moment, details around the decision are vague. For example, Microsoft has not announced who will head up Xbox Live. This is an important time in the history of Xbox. Microsoft is preparing to launch the Xbox Series X in the fall and once again Xbox Live will play a vital role in the console.

Furthermore, McCulloch has not said whether he has left Microsoft or is transitioning to another division in the company. He does, however, point out he will have more details about his future very soon.

Xbox Live is the underpinning of Microsoft’s online gaming experience on Xbox. It is simply the platform that connects gamers around the world. When it launched alongside the Xbox in 2002, it was a trail-blazing introduction to online gaming in the console world. Over the years, Xbox Live has always seemed more fleshed out than Sony’s PlayStation Network.

Over 65 million people use Xbox Live. It will be interesting to see what direction a new leader takes the service in. McCulloch has done a fine job growing and steering Live over the last decade and a half.

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Does Sony’s PlayStation 5 Digital Edition Put Microsoft On the Back Foot?


Sony has unveiled the PlayStation 5, its ninth-generation console that will compete with Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox Series X. One of the biggest pieces of information is that there is not one PS5, but two versions of the console. Sony surprised many be revealing there is also an all-digital version of the device.

We already know Microsoft has had plans in the all-digital realm, but Sony has largely kept its own ideas under wraps. Now we know there is a PlayStation 5 Digital Edition coming, it presents an interesting situation for the coming console generation.

Specifically, it seems consumers will be able to choose between four consoles. Two full console machines (PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X) and two digital editions (PlayStation 5 Digital Edition and whatever digital console Microsoft delivers).

Just earlier this week, Microsoft was leading in terms of an all-digital console. The company’s Xbox One S All-Digital Edition was the only all-digital console. Now Microsoft is potentially facing the possibility of Sony having it’s next-gen digital console on the market before a digital Xbox Series X is released.

In fact, it remains uncertain whether Microsoft is working on an all-digital Series X. The idea of two consoles being launched this year was squashed by Microsoft. The company insisted Xbox Series X would launch alone.

The company was developing an all-digital variant under the Xbox Lockhart codename. The trail went cold for a few months but we reported this week it seems Lockhart is still part of Microsoft’s plans. However, it certainly won’t launch this year.

PS5 Details

As for the wider details of the PlayStation 5, everything is pointing to a powerful console. Sure, the design will be decisive with its faux-sci-fi looks compared to the elegant lines of the Xbox Series X. However, the aesthetic of the PS5 suggests Sony is once again going all out to target gamers and not general users. It’s a tactic that worked with the PS4.

Sony is once again bringing a 4K Blu-ray disc drive to hits flagship console. When it ships later this year, the PS5 will have an eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU and a custom AMD RDNA 2-based GPU. That configuration will give the console 10.28 teraflops of power.

Sony has yet to announce the price of either the PlayStation 5 or PlayStation 5 Digital Edition.

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Leak: Microsoft’s Project Mercury Xbox Store Embraces Fluent Design


Microsoft is preparing to launch the Xbox Series X console at the end of this year. The device will come with a new UI that is different to the current Xbox One. Among the new-look services will be a new store. Microsoft is developing the new store under the codename Project Mercury Xbox Store.

In a leak/exclusive, Windows Central has gotten its hands on the Project Mercury Xbox Store and given a brief tour of the UI. First things first, it is clear the store is heavily centered on Microsoft’s Fluent Design.

If you’re unfamiliar with Fluent Design, it is Microsoft’s universal aesthetic that is used across services and platforms. It is an evolving UI design that will play a big role in the look of the front end on the Xbox Series X. It is also worth noting any new UI for the Series X will also roll out on the Xbox One consoles.

Because the Mercury Xbox Store is based on Fluent Design, it has the hallmarks of the aesthetic. For example, acrylic blur, a clearer font, and rounded corners. Most aspects of the interface are animated to make navigation and the user experience more dynamic.

How it Works

Of course, Microsoft has kept all the core features and functionality in the Xbox Store. So, you’ll still find the ability to search for content, and features like trailers, app info, including reviews, screenshots, and more.

Users can also tap into Microsoft Movies & TV store and the Xbox app store.

It is worth noting Microsoft has not confirmed when Project Mercury will be ready. However, it seems likely that the new experience will be ready by the time the Xbox Series X launches during the year-end holiday season.

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Microsoft Thrives in A COVID-19 World: Redmond Announces Bumper $35 Billion Third Quarter


In February, Microsoft said it expected to see a decline in Windows revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, CEO Satya Nadella suggested despite that prediction, the company would emerge “pretty strong” from the virus outbreak. It seems Nadella was correct, and Microsoft continues to thrive in a COVID-19 world.

For its third quarter earnings, Microsoft announced revenue of $35 billion and income of $10.8 billion. Revenue jumped 15% year-on-year and once again bested Wall Street predictions, which pointed to $33.66 billion in revenue.

It is worth noting the results are until March 30, so how Microsoft does in its fiscal fourth quarter may provide a better understanding of how the company manages during COVID-19. However, it seems Nadella’s prediction Microsoft was well placed to ride out the virus seems true.

Commercial cloud was the big winner again, but Xbox has also enjoyed substantial growth. Microsoft’s position as a services provider on the cloud has allowed it to maintain customers and gain new users during the pandemic. Nadella pointed this out in the earnings call.

He said Microsoft has “seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months” and admitted the affects of COVID-19 “may not be fully reflected in the financial results until future periods.”

“As COVID-19 impacts every aspect of our work and life, we have seen 2 years’ worth of digital transformation in 2 months. From remote teamwork and to sales and customer service to critical cloud infrastructure and security, we are working alongside customers every day to help them stay open for business in a world of remote everything.”

Commercial Cloud Growth

Looking at commercial cloud, Microsoft saw a 39% increase from last year, adding up to $13.3 billion revenue. Nadella gave an update on Microsoft Teams continued growth. In early March, the service saw its user base increase from around 20 million daily users to 44 million. Now, Microsoft Teams has 75 million active daily users and the needle continues to point upwards.

Office 365 is seeing a similar growth in adoption. Nadella pointed to 258 million paid seats. Furthermore, Microsoft saw a three-fold gain in Windows virtual desktop use during the last quarter.

Product Line Results

  • Microsoft Dynamics grew 17% YoY and the Product and Business Processes division increased 15% with revenue of $11.7 billion.
  • Azure revenue jumped 59% as part of the wider Intelligent Cloud division’s $12.3 billion revenue (+27%)
  • The increase in Office 365 use allows revenue to grow 25%.
  • More Personal Computing, which include Windows, was up 35% with $11 billion revenue.
  • Microsoft’s Surface division was a mixed bag. The company says demand was strong, but Chinese supply contstraints in the COVID-19 lockdown limited growth to 1%.

Xbox Success

Microsoft’s Xbox division has been one of the big winners for the company during the COVID-19 pandemic. So-much-so, Microsoft broke a recent tradition of not offering a detailed breakdown of the division to discuss its success last quarter.

Nadella confirmed Xbox Live subscriptions grew to almost 90 million during Q3. It seems COVID-19 has allowed more people to sign up for the service. Back in FY19 Q4, it was predicted Xbox Live had 65 million users. If true, the service has added 25 million users in 9 months. It would seem a majority of those new users joined in the last 2 months.

Of course, the Xbox One generation is coming to an end and the Xbox Series X will launch this year. With that in mind, hardware console sales are not growing, and the Xbox division is being propped up by services.

For example, Xbox Game Pass now has over 10 million subscribers. This is the first confirmation Microsoft has offered on Game Pass users, suggesting growth has surged in recent weeks. Despite the lack of console sales, it seems the Xbox content and services division increased 2% in the last quarter.

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Microsoft Launches Bleeding Edge on Xbox Play Anywhere and Steam


Microsoft has released a new game called Bleeding Edge. Billed a team brawler, the title is now available on Xbox One, Windows 10, Xbox Game Pass, and Steam.

Announced by Major Nelson on his official blog, Bleeding Edge is an Xbox Game Studios exclusive. Like other titles under the umbrella, the studio services as the publisher of the game. In terms of Bleeding Edge, the game is developed by Ninja Theory.

You may recognize the name as the company behind Devil May Cry and Hell blade II. This marks the first time the developer has released a game under Xbox Game Studios.

Major Nelson says Bleeding Edge is a 4 vs. 4 brawler, with an online multiplayer element where players compete in a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). Players can choose different classes, such as Tanks, Fighters and Support.


Because Bleeding Edge is an Xbox Play Anywhere game, it is a one-time purchase. Xbox Play Anywhere allows gamers to have one copy of a game and play it across Windows 10 PC and Xbox. This play anywhere ability extends to in-game progress, DLC, add-ones, achievements, and unlocks across devices.

In terms of Bleeding Edge, customers pay $29.99 for the game and receive a download to play on Xbox One and Windows 10. Xbox Game Pass subscribers will see the game in the catalog on the service. Game Pass costs $9.99 per months and gives users access to hundreds of games, including all Microsoft exclusives.

The Play Anywhere service does not extend to Steam, where the game also costs $29.99.

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Microsoft Project Acoustics Details Point to New Era of Audio on Xbox Series X


Last month, Microsoft discussed its audio ray-tracing solution for the Xbox Series X. Called Project Acoustics, the software “models wave effects like occlusion, obstruction, portaling and reverberation effects in complex scenes without requiring manual zone markup or CPU intensive raytracing.”

In a blog post last year, Microsoft said the solution is similar to static lighting meshes that are integrated, allowing shadows and light sources to be calculated beforehand. Now, the solution is available in the Unity engine for developers to access.

“Ray-based acoustics methods can check for occlusion using a single source-to-listener ray cast, or drive reverb by estimating local scene volume with a few rays. But these techniques can be unreliable because a pebble occludes as much as a boulder. Rays don’t account for the way sound bends around objects, a phenomenon known as diffraction. Project Acoustics’ simulation captures these effects using a wave-based simulation. The acoustics are more predictable, accurate and seamless.”
Last month, Microsoft confirmed some core specs of its upcoming Xbox Series X console. During the announcement, the company said audio raytracing delivered by Project Acoustics was already part of the Unity game engine.

It is available on Unity as a drag-and-drop middleware. Developers can leverage the software into Unity’s audio source audio through a C# controls component on each audio object.


On its page, Microsoft details the workflow for Project Acoustics:

Pre-bake: Start with setting up the bake by selecting which geometry responds to acoustics, by, for example, ignoring light shafts. Then edit automatic material assignments and selecting navigation areas to guide listener sampling. There’s no manual markup for reverb/portal/room zones.

Bake: An analysis step is run locally, which does voxelization and other geometric analysis on the scene based on selections above. Results are visualized in editor to verify scene setup. On bake submission, voxel data is sent off to Azure and you get back an acoustics game asset.

Runtime: Load the asset into your level, and you’re ready to listen to acoustics in your level. Design the acoustics live in editor using granular per-source controls. The controls can also be driven from level scripting.”

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