Microsoft announces 2 new Xbox One consoles at E3 press conference

Microsoft announced a new, slimmer version of its Xbox One console, calling it the Xbox One S, to open its press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) on Monday.

Slimmer Xbox One S launches in August, while more powerful Project Scorpio scheduled for 2017

Microsoft announced a slimmer version of the Xbox One console, the Xbox One S, at its E3 press conference Monday. (Microsoft)

Microsoft announced two new versions of its Xbox One video game console at its E3 press conference on Monday, each hitting opposite ends of the market: a slimmer, cheaper version called the Xbox One S, and a more powerful version, code named Project Scorpio.

The Xbox One S was shown to be 40 per cent smaller than the original Xbox One and will support 4K video. A new redesigned controller will also launch with the Xbox One S, which will boast increased wireless range.

It's listed for pre-order on Amazon with an August 31 release date. Prices range from $399 for a model with a 500GB hard drive, $449 for a 1TB hard drive, and $499 with a 2TB hard drive.

Xbox head Phil Spencer also introduced a new, more powerful version of the console with the working title Project Scorpio that will support "true 4K gaming and high fidelity virtual reality."

"Our vision for the future of gaming is beyond generations," Spencer said. "When it ships next year, we believe it will be the most powerful console ever built."

Microsoft showed off Minecraft Realms, a service that allows people to play the wildly popular game across multiple platforms. (Microsoft)

He stressed that all Xbox One games and accessories will be compatible with the current console, the Xbox One S and the upcoming Project Scorpio.

The announcements confirmed rumours about new versions of the current video game consoles that have been circulating in the last few months. Sony confirmed last week that it was working on a more powerful version of the PlayStation 4, but said it won't appear at E3.

Microsoft showed off a cavalcade of games, some brand new and others gamers have seen before, in rapid-fire succession over the course of its two-hour event. Highlights included a new Forza Horizon racing game, a sequel to the Halo Wars strategy game and Sea of Thieves which tasks players to form teams as members of a pirate ship crew.

As part of a showcase on independent games, Guillaume Provost, studio head at Montreal-based Compulsion games, showed off new scenes from We Happy Few, their upcoming game that was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign last year.

Ubisoft shows Watch Dogs 2, Star Trek VR

A few hours after Microsoft's show, Ubisoft began its press conference with a colourful circus troupe performance to announce the next Just Dance rhythm music game. Event host Aisha Tyler then made a dedication to the memory of the people killed in Sunday's deadly shooting in Orlando.

Games featured at the event included Watch Dogs 2, an open-world game starring a group of Anonymous-like vigilante hackers; the latest South Park game, subtitled The Fractured But Whole; and Steep, a new open-world winter sports game featuring multiplayer skiing, snowboarding and wingsuit flying.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew was a promising VR game, with up to four players — each donning an expensive Oculus Rift headset — taking the role of a crew member on a starship. The promotional video showed Trek actors LeVar Burton, Jeri Ryan and Karl Urban convincingly slipping back into their characters' role, and Burton briefly joined Tyler on stage to promote the game.

'It's great to be back, uh, near E3'

E3's slate of press conferences started Sunday with Electronic Arts, even though the major games publisher technically isn't a part of the show floor this year.

At their own event EA Play, held at the Novo Theater just down the street, company CEO Andrew Wilson unveiled several new games, including futuristic multiplayer shooter Titanfall 2 and the latest instalments in the Madden and FIFA sports franchises.

"It's great to be back, uh, near E3," joked Respawn Entertainment's Vince Zampanella before showing impressive gameplay from Titanfall 2, as soldiers fought using giant Gundam-like mechanical suits to blow each other into oblivion.

They also teased three forthcoming games set in the Star Wars universe, including a new edition of Star Wars Battlefront (inspired by the recent films) from DICE and Montreal-based Motive Studios, an action-adventure game with an original story from Visceral Games and a third-person action game from Respawn.

Aaryn Flynn from Edmonton-based Bioware also showed an extended teaser of Mass Effect: Andromeda, the latest game in its expansive Star Trek-like sci fi games series. Short clips of gameplay from Andromeda showed few surprises: the series' trademark sci-fi shooting is mixed with exploration with the Mako mobile tank.

Bethesda resurrect Quake, Prey

Bethesda relied mainly on longtime fan-favourite franchises for its press conference, announcing new content for the latest game in the hellish shooter Doom and a revival of their classic online shooter game Quake.

There were several announcements for the Elder Scrolls fantasy franchise, including a stand-alone card game Elder Scrolls Legends and a remastered version of the popular Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Bethesda also announced that Doom and Fallout 4 will be adapted for virtual reality on the HTC Vive.

But the publisher's most impressive game was Dishonored 2, which got an extended preview at the end of the conference. Developer Arkane Studios showed off the game's world: a visually impressive, Victorian steampunk city called Karnaca.  

Snoop Dogg, Jose Mourinho make appearances

Of course, E3 wouldn't be the same without an occasional awkward onstage moment and this year already delivered a few good ones.

Following an unusual, rambling onstage interview with Pele last year, EA's chief competition officer Peter Moore invited Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho onto the stage. His appearance was supposed to play up the addition of some of football's best-known managers in this year's FIFA game.

Instead, Mourinho answered Moore's excited questions with characteristic nonchalance, complaining about his son's tendency to make noise playing games at night.

Meanwhile, Bethesda gathered some professional gamers to show off a live match of Battlefield 1, the upcoming First World War-based multiplayer game. But much of the stream focused on the long list of celebrity guests who were also invited to play, including actors Zac Efron and Jamie Foxx, and rappers Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa.

Snoop mentioned having a "secret weapon" to ensure victory for the match and the livestream cameras got a glimpse of what he was likely talking about.


Jonathan Ore

Senior Writer

Jonathan Ore is the Senior Writer for CBC Radio Digital in Toronto. He's also covered arts & entertainment, technology and the video game industry for CBC News. You can find him on Twitter @Jon_Ore.

with files from The Associated Press