E3: Microsoft Adds 4K, HDR to Xbox One

Microsoft unveiled a new, slimmer version of its Xbox One console that adds Ultra High-Def (UHD) 4K movie viewing capability and high dynamic range (HDR), while also disclosing that it’s developing a new 4K Xbox One gaming console dubbed “Project Scorpio,” at a media briefing June 13 in Los Angeles. The event was held one day ahead of the official start of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).

“Project Scorpio” will ship next holiday season and offer “true 4K gaming and high-fidelity” virtual reality, said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. It will be “the most powerful console ever built,” with 6 teraflops of power, he said, without disclosing how much it will cost.

Microsoft’s new Xbox One S is a 40% smaller version of its console that will ship in August, starting at $299, Spencer said. The entry-level version features 500 GB of internal hard drive storage and, like the 1 TB $349 Xbox One S, will arrive shortly after the $399 “limited quantity 2 TB launch edition” that will ship in early August in unspecified select markets, Microsoft said.

Each of the Xbox One S consoles can be used to “watch Blu-ray movies and stream video in stunning 4K,” with content from partners including Netflix and Amazon Video, Microsoft said in a news release.

Each Xbox One S also offers HDR support for video and gaming, it said. The Xbox One S will play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies.

The new design of the Xbox One S features a “robot white” color, a built-in power supply, and in response to consumer requests, can be placed horizontally or vertically with an optional $19.99 stand. Microsoft also shifted one of the console’s three USB ports and the pairing button to the front of the Xbox One S, while removing the dedicated Kinect port from the back of the console. The Kinect motion-sensing camera will still be compatible with the Xbox One S via an Xbox Kinect Adapter for USB connection, Microsoft said.

Microsoft also announced a new Xbox Play Anywhere program that allows consumers to buy a game once and play it on both their Windows 10 PCs and Xbox One consoles with shared progress, game saves and achievements.

Electronic Arts (EA), meanwhile, is looking to open video game competitions up to a larger number of players via a series of new eSports initiatives that it announced during a separate news briefing in Los Angeles June 12.

Starting with the first “Madden NFL” video game challenge 14 years ago, EA has been “no stranger to the power of elite competition,” Peter Moore, EVP and chief competition officer for the company’s recently-created EA Competitive Gaming Division, told attendees at EA’s event via video from London. But the “spectacle of eSports barely scratches the surface of competition” that is possible in the video game arena, he said.

To date, it’s only been a “select few that become pro gamers,” he said. “That is why EA is embracing a new approach to competitive gaming,” he said, adding: “We want to make stars of all of our players. With new competitive modes and weekly online contests in our biggest franchises, we’re making competition fun and meaningful for everyone, regardless of their ability.”

To that end, EA introduced three new ways to compete: Challenger, Premier and EA Major events. Challenger events were designed to enable the gaming community to more easily host and run their own tournaments, said Moore. Premier events are large-scale ones hosted by EA with partners inside and outside the game industry, he said. EA Major events are “marquee” live events run by EA “on a global stage” with “the best players competing for the biggest prizes,” he said. The EA Major events kick off in Los Angeles the week of E3 with the “Madden NFL 16” championship. Next year, EA is putting $1 million in total prize money up for grabs as part of the “Madden NFL 17” championship series and more events will be announced soon, Moore said.

EA Sports game competitions including FIFA soccer, meanwhile, will be added to Microsoft’s new Arena on Xbox Live “in the coming years,” Mike Ybarra, partner director of program management for Microsoft’s Xbox and Windows Platform, said at his company’s media briefing. The new Arena feature enables players to create their own tournaments.

EA also introduced a Play To Give initiative that EA CEO Andrew Wilson said combines in-game challenges with charitable donations — a first for the company. EA is supporting charities that “encourage a more diverse and inclusive world for all of us” and those that “inspire and assist future game makers” via science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, he said. EA’s partners on the initiative are the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women’s HeForShe initiative, the National Center for Women & Information Technology,, CODE2040 and SpecialEffect.