Microsoft plans to hold an event on July 23 at 9 a.m. PT / noon ET / 5 p.m. BST / 2 a.m. AEST during which it will show off many of the new games it’s planning to release for its new Xbox Series X video game console, which is due this fall.
The game maker will be holding its Xbox Games Showcase, as the event is called, over a livestream from its Xbox website and YouTube, much as it has for previous announcements this year. Companies around the world from Apple to Sony to Microsoft have relied on internet streams to announce their newest products as governments around the world struggle to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that’s infected more than 11 million people and killed more than half a million since late 2019.
Microsoft debuts game footage of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla…
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Microsoft’s event will be headlined by Halo Infinite, a new installment in the company’s blockbuster space war franchise. The Halo franchise, which tells the story of a superhuman soldier fighting all manner of threats from across the universe, has been one of the most important games on the Xbox since its launch in 2001.
The Xbox event comes as the video game industry prepares for two of its biggest new product launches in nearly a decade. Sony’s PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X are slated to be released in time for the holiday shopping season, promising sharper and more intricate visuals, faster gameplay and new titles such as Microsoft’s Halo and Sony’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, itself a followup to the hit 2018 superhero game.
Unlike in 2013, when Microsoft and Sony released their Xbox One and PlayStation 4 current-generation devices, these new game consoles will be offered to fans in an uncertain economic environment that’s driven by one of the worst health crises in history. In the past half year since COVID-19 was first detected, governments around the world have pushed citizens to shelter in place, slowing economic activity and shuttering businesses. As a result, more than 40 million people in the US filed unemployment claims at some point, and the country faces one of the worst economic crashes in a century.
Both companies say they’re aware that selling new devices will be harder amid the uncertain economic environment.
Microsoft plans to announce more details about Halo Infinite on July 23.
Microsoft/Screenshot by CNET
Microsoft’s Xbox event follows an event the company held on May 7, during which it showed off upcoming games by its some of its biggest partners. Among them was French game maker Ubisoft, which shared a trailer for its new historical fiction adventure game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
But the event wasn’t well received by all Xbox fans. Some fans criticized Microsoft for showing trailers instead of what it’ll be like to play the games, leading Microsoft to apologize.
“Clearly we set some wrong expectations & that’s on us,” tweeted Aaron Greenberg, a general manager of Xbox games marketing, shortly after the event.
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Microsoft changed its approach during its Build developers conference later that month, increasing production quality and retooling the length of individual announcements.
“This is interactive television,” said Microsoft’s Bob Bejan in an interview last month. As the corporate vice president who heads Microsoft’s events, he’s overseen the company’s approach.
Online events need to think in television terms, he said, including keeping presentations at 22 minutes or 44 minutes like a regular episode, and keeping demos much shorter. It has to look different too, with more interaction between the presenter and the camera, instead of trying to do a stage presentation meant for thousands on a livestream instead. “It’s in the human connection,” he said.
Sony’s June event included a surprise reveal of the new PS5 design.
Sony appeared to have learned some of those lessons for its PlayStation event on June 11, showing off new games as well as a surprise reveal of the design for its coming PlayStation 5, also coming this fall. PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan kicked off the 74-minute-long presentation with a 58-second speech, which he finished by saying, “Enough from me. We’re going to have the games do our talking.”
By the end, Sony’s event had been a steady stream of trailers for more than two dozen games, separated by short intermissions with artistic animations and dramatic music. The event lit up social media as fans ate up the news.
Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 22 followed a similar model, keeping announcements and demonstrations short. Fans appeared pleased.
“Could Apple, whose slickly staged events have set a high bar for product unveilings, pull off a virtual keynote with the flourish and flair of its in-person extravaganzas and without the clapping crowds?” CNET Editor in Chief Connie Guglielmo wrote after the event. “The answer, judging by the reaction I’ve heard from developers, industry analysts, users and even many of us journalists who’ve also rushed for seats: Yep. And the virtual event may be the start of more to come.”
Now Microsoft will have another chance to speak to its Xbox fans on July 23. Along with our sister site GameSpot, CNET’s global team will cover Microsoft’s event, as well as other conferences that have shifted online. And our coverage will include the real-time updates, commentary and analysis you can only get here.
See also: How to extend the life of your PS4 and Xbox One