The Tech News Blog

February 14, 2014

Xbox Live Gold Is Free This Weekend

Xbox Live

If your Valentine's Day plans include sitting at home, alone playing video games, we have some good news.

It might not be as enticing as an attractive mate, or even a box of fancy chocolates, but Microsoft is giving gamers a sweet treat of its own this weekend – free access to Xbox Live Gold from now until Sunday, Feb. 16. The deal, however, is only available to Xbox 360 gamers in the U.S. and Canada.

The free Gold weekend started at 12:01 a.m. PT today, and ends at 11:59 PT on Sunday. During the weekend, all Xbox Live entertainment apps and online multiplayer gaming will be available for free.

"All Xbox owners in these regions, regardless of their current Xbox Live subscription status, will have access to online multiplayer gaming, Video Kinect, and our entire catalog of entertainment apps," Microsoft's Larry Hryb wrote in a Thursday post on the Major Nelson blog. "Get your marathon entertainment and gaming fix now and let me know on Monday all the new things you tried."

February 5, 2014

Big Xbox One Update Scheduled for Feb. 11

10 Things You Need to Know About the Xbox OneMicrosoft will roll out an update for Xbox One on Feb. 11, which includes easier storage management and the return of the battery power indicator, among other things.

Like the Xbox 360, Redmond's newest console will receive regular updates. The Feb. 11 release will include "lots of behind-the-scenes updates for developers building apps and games for Xbox One, several new features we believe Xbox fans will love, stability and product updates to improve the customer experience, and continuous improvements to the quality of Kinect voice so commands become more fluid and responsive over time," Microsoft said today.

More details are expected soon, but the Xbox team highlighted three of the changes coming next Tuesday.

For example, players will now be able to see and manage storage space. "With this update, you will find it easy to find how much space your content takes up and better manage your content," Marc Whitten, Xbox chief product officer, said in a statement. "You can also control your install lineup and more easily manage your download queue."

The team also separated My Games and My Apps into different lists so gamers can create separate queues and pick the order in which they want them to load. There will also be a boot progress indicator to better track updates while they load.

January 31, 2014

Report: Microsoft Prepping $399 Xbox One Without Blu-ray

10 Things You Need to Know About the Xbox One

Microsoft is rumored to be preparing an Xbox One without a Blu-ray drive that could be sold for $399 at retail. That would knock $100 off the current Xbox One price of $499 and bring it in line with the $399 rival Sony charges for its PlayStation 4.

The rumor comes from gaming site VG247, which on Friday published a report claiming that an unnamed source had confirmed a detail about a new Xbox One SKU without a physical media player that cropped up in a treasure trove of Xbox rumors appearing this week on gaming forum NeoGaf.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Possibly adding some validity to the NeoGaf rumors and VG247's reporting was a Kotaku post on Friday that claimed yet another unnamed source at Microsoft has said the software giant is "currently trying to track down and identify 'ntkrnl'," the online handle of the NeoGaf leaker.

The Xbox One has sold briskly since its release on Nov. 22, and by some accounts it outsold the PS4 in December. Other market watchers pegged Sony as the early leader in units sold after the first few weeks of the next-gen console wars, with the price difference between the Xbox One and PS4 cited as one factor drawing consumers to the Sony camp.

If Microsoft does release an Xbox One without a Blu-ray drive, it would bring to fruition a persistent rumor hatched before the successor to the Xbox 360 was even released, namely that the new console would abandon physical media for a pure-play cloud distribution scheme for games and media content.

January 30, 2014

Trade In Your Old Console, Get $100 Off Xbox One

Microsoft confirms the Xbox One is not designed to stand verticallyIt's never too early for spring cleaning, especially if you're in the market for a new Xbox One.

Microsoft is offering a $100 in-store credit to trade in "select" gaming consoles, including the Sony PlayStation 3.

Now through March 2, bring your PS3, Xbox 360 S or Xbox 360 E, and get $100 in Microsoft bucks, for use toward a new Xbox One.

But don't forget to read the fine print: The offer is available in select Microsoft retail stores in the U.S. and Canada until March 2, or while supplies last. You cannot make the trade online. Only 31 states, plus three Canadian territories and Puerto Rico, are participating. Check the list online to find the store closest to you. Or calculate whether the cost of gas is worth a trip to the next state just to save $100 on a game console.

And don't try to pawn off a broken machine: Eligible products must power on and be in fully functional, working condition, without damaged or missing parts. Microsoft will not accept devices that are password protected or don't include original chargers and accessories.

Most notably, to receive maximum trade value—$100—consumers must purchase a new Xbox One at the same time. Prior orders or purchases do not count.

January 6, 2014

Microsoft Celebrates 3M Global Xbox One Sales

Microsoft confirms the Xbox One is not designed to stand vertically

Microsoft ended 2013 on a high note: In only 39 days, the company managed to sell more than 3 million Xbox One game consoles in 13 countries.

In a Monday blog post, Microsoft revealed its year-end stats, thanking fans and gamers for what it called "the most epic launch of Xbox by all measures."

"It's been incredible to see Xbox One selling at a record-setting pace for Xbox, and we were honored to see Xbox One become the fastest-selling console in the U.S. during our launch month in November," wrote Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of marketing, strategy, and business for Xbox.

The holiday season certainly offered a boost to the company's sales—Redmond counted 2 million consoles peddled in its first 18 days on the market.

"The reaction from our fans was mind-blowing for our team," Mehdi wrote. "As we see your excitement, your energy and your hours of gameplay, we continue to be inspired to do great work—for you."

December 11, 2013

Microsoft Sells 2 Million Xbox Ones in 18 Days

Xbox One

After selling a cool million Xbox Ones in the first 24 hours of their availability, Microsoft on Wednesday reported that it has now moved more than 2 million units since releasing its next-generation game console on Nov. 22.

Microsoft is averaging more than 111,111 units sold per day—a record-setting pace for the Xbox platform, according to the software giant. New Xbox One owners have logged a whopping 83 million hours on the system since its release, playing games, watching TV, and running apps, Redmond added.

Microsoft's sales pace appears to be matching that of rival Sony and its PlayStation 4, which debuted a week before the Xbox One and also sold 2 million units 18 days after launch.

"We continue to be humbled and overwhelmed by the positive response from our fans. We are thrilled to see sales of Xbox One on a record-setting pace, with over 2 million Xbox One consoles in homes around the world," Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's corporate vice president of strategy and marketing for the Xbox, said in a statement.

"Demand is exceeding supply in our 13 launch markets and Xbox One is sold out at most retailers. We're also particularly excited to see consumers engaging in a wide range of games and entertainment experiences on the platform, with more than 1 million paid transactions on Xbox Live to date," Mehdi said.

Microsoft's retail partners offered testimonials for the high demand for the $499 entertainment system, which is priced $100 higher than the PS4, but includes the Kinect sensor.

November 28, 2013

Like the PS4, Xbox One Being Built At a Loss

Xbox One

Microsoft may be spending slightly more to build and distribute the Xbox One than it's taking in, according to a new report from IHS iSuppli.

The research firm said Wednesday that its preliminary teardown of the new game console and calculation of its bill of materials (BOM) put the cost of components in the Xbox One at $457. Tacking on an estimated $14 for manufacturing puts the system's total estimated cost to build at $471, according to IHS, just $28 less than the $499 Microsoft and its partners are charging for the next-gen console at retail.

IHS earlier calculated Sony's hardware plus manufacturing costs to build its own new console, the PlayStation 4 at $381, which is $18 lower than its price tag in the United States.

That puts Microsoft and Sony in roughly the same boat in the early days of releasing their new game and entertainment systems, the research firm noted. IHS reckoned that distribution outlays would probably push both companies' cost to build one of its new consoles to around the break-even point versus their retail pricing, if not a bit over.

However, structuring cost this way at the beginning of a product cycle can be a sound strategy, said Steve Mather, senior principal analyst for IHS. Microsoft and Sony could both make up for the shortfall on hardware costs over time, he added.

November 25, 2013

Microsoft Acknowledges Xbox One Disc Drive Issue

Xbox One

After months of waiting, gamers on Friday finally got their hands on Microsoft's Xbox One, but not everyone was happy with their new console.

Since the next-generation system went on sale this past Friday, a number of early adopters have reported problems with the disc drive. Some say the drive is making loud noises when they insert a disc, while others say the console isn't reading their discs at all.

Many users have taken to YouTube to document the problem (below). After inserting a disc, you can hear loud, unpleasant grinding and clicking noises, and in one case it appeared the disc wouldn't even go into the system at all.

November 23, 2013

Microsoft Moves More Than 1 Million Xbox Ones on Launch Day

Xbox One Launch Date

Microsoft sold more than one million Xbox One consoles in the first 24 hours of availability for the next-generation game console, the company said Friday.

"We are humbled and grateful for the excitement of Xbox fans around the world," Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of marketing and strategy for Microsoft's Xbox, said in a blog post. "Seeing thousands of excited fans lined up to get their Xbox One and their love for gaming was truly a special moment for everyone on the Xbox team. We are working hard to create more Xbox One consoles and look forward to fulfilling holiday gift wishes this season."

Microsoft called the general release of the Xbox One in 13 worldwide markets the "biggest launch in Xbox history."

The company said the console was sold out "at most retailers," but promised it was "working to replenish stock as fast as possible to meet the unprecedented demand from our customers."

Microsoft also offered some eye-opening stats which gamers have generated in less than 24 hours on some titles available at the launch of the eighth-generation gaming platform, which ties into the company's Xbox Live network:

So far, according to the company, Xbox One users have:

  • Killed more than 60 million zombies in Dead Rising 3
  • Driven more than 3.6 million miles in Forza Motorsport 5
  • Completed more than 7.1 million combos in Killer Instinct
  • Defeated more than 8.5 million enemies in Ryse: Son of Rome
  • Earned more than 43.3 million Fit Points in Xbox Fitness

November 20, 2013

Windows Phone, Xbox One to Share Video Store, Currency

Halo: Spartan Assault Windows Phone 8

The Xbox One is coming, and Windows Phone is getting a little bit of juice from it.

Microsoft announced today that Windows Phones will soon be able to download and play TV shows and movies from the Xbox video store, as well as use Microsoft dollars (the former Microsoft Points) to buy things in the Windows Phone store.

More "three-screen" games will come, too, with Windows Phones getting more Xbox Live-compatible and Xbox-extending games. Call of Duty: Ghosts, for instance, has a companion app that runs on Windows Phone.

"We've already started doing some three-screen games," said Todd Brix, general manager of the Windows Apps and Store at Microsoft. "Skulls of the Shogun was one of them. There will be experiences like Smart Glass to enable the phone to be a mirror [of the Xbox One] and Photobeamer, which sends photos to any device with a screen that's connected to the Internet."

Windows Phone has always had a relationship with Xbox, but they've been more like cousins than siblings. The two systems use the same Microsoft Account login, and Windows Phone supports and adds to Xbox Live avatars and gamer profiles. The Xbox Smart Glass app lets you use your phone as a remote control or secondary screen for an Xbox, but it isn't a Windows Phone exclusive - it's also available on iOS and Android.