Xbox Mega Bits: June 2020

By John Wahl

Welcome to another installment of Xbox Mega Bits! You’re monthly deep dive into the world of Microsoft’s Green Gaming Goliath. Each month we take a look at the latest news, rumors, releases, and events in the world of Xbox. As always, we would love to hear your feedback on the show, which you can leave in the comments section, and we you can call our Mega Dads Hotline at 763-308-5099 to leave a question for us to read on a future episode of Mega Bits.

June typically would be a month chalk full of Xbox news with E3 having taken place, but obviously things are different this year, and with Xbox already having shown off their upcoming hardware and their 1st party lineup for the Series X scheduled to debut during the month of July, things are a bit quiet in Xbox land. But we still found plenty of exciting things to talk about this month, so let’s jump in.

Hands On With Grounded

Xbox Insiders got their hands on an early build of the upcoming Obsidian title, Grounded. The limited beta ran from June 16th to the 22nd and gave players their first glimpse of the survival game in action which is coming to the Xbox Preview Program and Steam Early Access on July 28th.

The premise of the game will be familiar territory for children of the 80’s who grew up watching Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and features 4 teens who have been shrunk down to the size of ants in their backyard and must fend off all manner of creature to survive. Players use the resources that they find to build shelter, weapons, and armor to survive as long as possible in the harsh environment.

I got to spend some time with the 30 minute demo and came away cautiously optimistic. The sense of scale that the developers achieve is very impressive. Whether I was taking shelter in an empty soda can, or fighting off spiders in the shadow of a massive baseball, you get a great sense of being in this amazing over-sized world. I’m excited to get more time with the final product when it gets closer to release.

Microsoft To Shut Down Mixer

Microsoft announced this week they would be shutting down their Mixer streaming service as of July 22nd and is offering to move existing partners over to Facebook Gaming. Microsoft purchased the service back in 2016 when it was known as Beam in the hopes of competing with Twitch but has struggled to grow it’s audience despite signing big exclusive deals with streamers such as Ninja.

Speaking to The Verge, Phil Spencer explained that the move was a matter of wanting to launch their upcoming xCloud to as broad of an audience as possible, and it became increasingly clear that Mixer wasn’t going to be that platform. “When we think about xCloud and the opportunity to unlock gameplay for 2 billion players, we know it’s going to be critically important that our services find large audiences and Facebook clearly gives us that opportunity”.

While the partnership with Facebook raised quite a few eyebrows, there’s no denying the incredible global reach that the company has. Only time will tell if partnering with someone like Facebook will ultimately help or hurt Microsoft in the coming years.

Xbox UI To Stay Consistent Between Platforms

According to The Verge’s Tom Warren, The upcoming Xbox Series X will feature the same UI and dashboard as the Xbox One. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Microsoft’s strategy of blurring the lines between console generations and making 1st party game available on both the Series X and the Xbox One. It makes sense to make the experience a universal one across all platforms.

This doesn’t mean that the dashboard you use today will be the one you see on launch day though. Xbox has constantly upgraded and evolved the UI of the Xbox One and I would expect to see further improvements leading up to this fall, but when the Series X does launch they will be the same on both platforms other than some additions for Series X specific features and an improvement in speed and performance.

The dashboard of the Xbox One has been a much maligned feature since the console launched, but I have to say that after years of refinement I find the UI to now be simple and easy to use. I’m totally fine with them not reinventing the wheel just for the sake of a new piece of hardware.

Series X Pricing Rumors

Take this next rumor with an absolute bucketload of salt. According to a post on the Beyond3D forum, the price of the Xbox Series X could be much lower than we’re anticipating. The so called informant states that the Series X will launch at an attractive $400 with the long rumored Lockhart (or Series S), which would be a slightly less powerful all digital model, debuting for a staggering $200.

I’m not familiar with this forum or the source, but apparently he’s been pretty reliable in the past with insider information. Still, this seems like a bit of stretch to me as previous reports claim that both the Series X and the PlayStation 5 are expected to be fairly expensive machines. I personally wouldn’t expect the Series X to come in at under $500, but if Microsoft wanted to make a bold statement and take a big financial risk to rebound after this generation, this would absolutely turn some heads.

Cyberpunk 2077 Delayed (again)

The highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 from CD Projekt Red has once again been delayed from it’s previous release date of September 17th to November 19th. The developer says that all of the content is in place and finished, but that they want extra time for such a complex game to ensure that there are as few bugs as possible. Saying “ “Ready when it’s done” is not just a phrase we say because it sounds right, it’s something we live by even when we know we’ll take the heat for it.”

This delay means that the game will arrive right around the launch of the next gen consoles, and the developer made sure to point out that versions of the game purchased on the Xbox One or PS4 will be playable on the Series X and PS5 via backwards compatibility. They also stated that a patch would be made available when the next gen consoles launch to take advantage of the more powerful hardware, with a “more robust update” coming later down the road.

PS5 Reveal Shows Exciting New Games Coming To Xbox

The PlayStation 5 had it’s big reveal recently, and while that may not seem like a headline befitting Xbox Mega Bits, there were plenty of announcements that Xbox gamers should be excited for as most of the games shown were 3rd party titles with many of them coming to the Series X as well.

Titles such as Pragmata, Hitman 3, and the highly anticipated Resident Evil 8 are expected to launch on the Series X at the same time as the PS5, while other games including Bugsnax, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Deathloop, and Ghostwire: Tokyo are being described as “timed exclusives”. While being a timed exclusive doesn’t guarantee that a game will make it’s way to the Series X, it’s a pretty safe bet that the majority of them will, whether it’s in 6 weeks or 6 months.

West of Dead

On every episode of Xbox Mega Bits, I’ll be highlighting a game that I’ve recently checked out on Game Pass, and if you have a suggestion for a game I should check out, let me know in the comments!

If you were a fan of 2018’s Dead Cells like I was, or rogue-like games in general, I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy in western/horror game West of Dead from publisher Raw Fury. It’s a twin stick shooter that structurally shares a lot in common with that game in that it’s run based game that has you making your way through caverns and mines, killing all manner of demonic creature, and collecting as much loot as possible.

You play as a man who has recently died and finds himself trapped in the underworld. Who was he before he died? How did he die? Why does he have a flaming skull for a head like Ghostrider? In my time with the game so far I didn’t receive any answers to these questions, but it also doesn’t seem like storytelling is going to be a major focus of the experience. It’s all about killing baddies, and dying, and killing some more, and dying again.

When you die in West of Dead, you start over from the very beginning. The trick is that as you progress through the levels you’ll earn currency called “Sins”. These can be traded in to unlock items such as health upgrades and more powerful weapons that will then be available on future runs. So even if you die, it wasn’t for nothing if you were able to cash out for better gear.

The shooting is satisfying, the visuals have a slick comic book art style, and if your game is narrated by actor Ron Perlman (Hellboy) then you must be doing something right. If you enjoy stylish action and rogue-like mechanics, I think West of Dead will be well worth your time to check out.

One last thing this week, it’s been a hard stretch of days in the gaming industry as numerous allegations have come to light against some prominent figures in the community. Many of the stories being told are of sexual abuse and misconduct, but there have also been accounts of racism, homophobic behavior, and more. All of these stories have been heartbreaking and appalling.

I’m proud of the community that we’ve built around Mega Dads, I would like to think that it is an inclusive and welcoming group of people and I have never witnessed anything that would make me think otherwise, but that doesn’t mean that we can sit back and think that this is someone else’s problem. Those of us who foster online communities have a responsibility to make it crystal clear where we stand. It’s not enough to just say “I believe you”, we need to back that up with action.

We have zero tolerance for sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, or any other form of abuse or intolerance. If you are a part of any type of behavior like this, we do not want you in our community. If you don’t believe that black lives matter, we don’t want you here. If you don’t believe that trans rights are human rights, we don’t want you here. If you take advantage of and disrespect women, we don’t want you here. It’s really that simple. We need to better. All of us.

Thank you so much for checking out Xbox Mega Bits. Don’t forget to send your questions to us at our message line at 763-308-5099, we would love to answer them on an upcoming episode. Also, please hit me up with any feedback or suggestions you might have, and don’t forget to check out all new episodes of PlayStation Mega Bits and Nintendo Mega Bits dropping this week.

We’ll see you next month for another brand new Xbox Mega Bits!

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