And There Are So Many, Many Hours of Xbox Gameplay
After hailing 2016 as a “milestone” year for Xbox, Microsoft Marketing VP Mike Nichols was happy to celebrate the new year through recognition of the last. “What made 2016 most special,” he began, “was laying out our vision for gaming at E3 2016.” And Nichols wanted to highlight how widely accessible Xbox titles have become since. This was evidenced in the 3.9 billion hours of Xbox Live playtime during the months of November and December, “up 23% compared to the prior Year.” So for logging so many hours of game time, he expressed his heartfelt thanks to fans.
But he also wanted to show Xbox’s success through a comprehensive list of accomplishments. It was an exceptional year for Xbox One exclusives like Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4, but other assets like the Xbox Play anywhere program and backwards compatibility kept many players invested. Moreover, the Xbox One S brought something new to the table via 4K upscaling, HDR, and blu-ray:
- Xbox One owners enjoyed nearly 400 new games to play in 2016, including critically-acclaimed console exclusives likeGears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3.
- Forza Horizon 3became the best-selling, highest-rated racing game in 2016 and the biggest Forza launch to date. The Forza franchise continues to grow and has now seen well over 14 million players on Xbox One and Windows 10.
- Gears of War 4launched to critical acclaim (Game Informer: 9.25/10, IGN: 9.2/10, Polygon: 9/10) and has had a tremendous reception for its campaign, Horde 3.0 and Versus Multiplayer experiences – all of which are delivered in High Dynamic Range (Xbox One S), 4K (Windows 10) and support cross-play as an Xbox Play Anywhere title. We are seeing incredible engagement on Xbox Live with nearly 23 million Versus Multiplayer and Horde matches played since launch, as well as within the eSports world, where the Gears eSports Pro Circuit has marked the franchise’s dramatic return with a more-than-$1,000,000 prize pool.
It also seems Xbox Live remains the most reliable network. According to Nichols, there are plans to expand the network and make it better. A better online network, in conjunction with more AAA exclusives, could possibly augment Microsoft’s success. That would definitely improve upon the next series of milestones:
- The Xbox Play Anywhere program launched, which enables gamers to play a growing list of titles like Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, ReCore, Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition, Everspace and Astroneer on Xbox One and on Windows 10 PC at no additional cost. You can pick up where you left off on either device, bringing all your saves, game add-ons and achievements with you.
- Xbox One owners enjoyed more than 265 million hours playing Xbox 360 games in 2016, including highly-requested titles like Red Dead Redemption, Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Call of Duty: World at War, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Skate 3, via Xbox One Backward Compatibility.
- It was a big year for the Minecraft community with the launch ofMinecraft: Education Edition as well as the release of Minecraft to new platforms such as Gear VR, Oculus Rift and Apple TV. In addition, 150 new features were added to Minecraft from more than two dozen updates.
- With new titles for Windows 10 and growth in Windows 10 devices, gamers played more than 2.5 billion hours just in November 2016, which is a 127 percent increase compared to November 2015.
- Xbox Live was rated the fastest, most reliable gaming network in an independent study by IHS Markit in the U.S. and U.K.
- New system updates on Xbox One and the Xbox app brought Clubs and Looking for Group (LFG) on Xbox Live, as well as Cortana and Background Music. Since the release of Xbox One in 2013, over 200 new features have been added.
- Fans created over 2.4 million personalized Xbox Wireless Controller designs viaXbox Design Lab in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
- Last but not least, we launchedXbox One S, delivering the only console with built-in UHD 4K Blu-ray, 4K video streaming and HDR for gaming and video. New titles with HDR support included Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, NBA 2K17, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Final Fantasy XV, The Elder Scrolls Online and World of Tanks. Xbox One S was among the top-selling consumer products this holiday in many markets, and its launch helped set the engagement records we experienced.
Like Phil Spencer and many Xbox Execs, Nichols is also looking forward to Scorpio. Microsoft marks 2017 as the year for their most powerful console. And during the course, not only will we see some more games like Halo Wars 2, we will see added DLC to GOW 4, Forza Horizon 3, and Dead Rising 4. So keep an eye out for those. On the way there, remember to keep up with COGconnected. Happy gaming.