Yesterday at Gamescom, the annual gaming convention which is currently taking place at the the Koelnmesse in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Microsoft and Sony laid out their cards for the coming fiscal year for their respective gaming platforms. Microsoft kicked off proceedings with a huge an unexpected announcement; that the next game in the Tomb Raider franchise (titled 'Rise of the Tomb Raider') will be an Xbox One exclusive when it launches next year. This is major news, especially considering the Tomb Raider franchise famously began life on the original Sony Playstation. Darrell Gallagher from Crystal Dynamics said they “Believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.” Of course, he doesn't mention how much Microsoft probably paid them off, but that would be rude, right?
Quantum Break – Gamescom Gameplay Trailer
Besides the Tomb Raider news there were few other big surprises from Microsoft, but they did manage to show off footage from upcoming exclusives such as 'The Master Chief Collection', 'Sunset Overdrive' and 'Quantum Break' from Max Payne creators Remedy, which looked genuinely stunning. The announcement that all Xbox diehards were really waiting for, however, was the Halo 5 beta, which will be available this year to anyone who orders the Master Chief Collection. In other Halo news, the franchise is getting its own dedicated channel, which will include game highlights, behind-the-scene videos, gameplay previews and access to the upcoming TV series Halo: Nightfall. New Xbox One bundles were also announced, as well as a new IP from Frontier games called 'Screamride', which appears like a cross between Roller-coaster Tycoon and The Sims with a sadistic twist.
Microsoft kicked off proceedings with a huge an unexpected announcement; that the next game in the Tomb Raider franchise will be an Xbox One exclusive
Sony had a lot of ground to make up after Microsoft's assured display, but they kicked things off with trademark confidence, letting the audience know that the PS4 install base had already reached over 10 million worldwide, dwarfing sales of the Xbox One. As with the Xbox conference, a fair amount of the show consisted of game footage, with new announcements such as Q Games' interesting Minecraft clone (with a soviet Russian slant) 'The Tomorrow Children' and the gorgeous looking 'Hollowpoint' from Ruffian Games leaving the biggest impressions. Also announced was a new game from Ninja Theory called 'Hellblade', which bares more than a passing resemblance to its PS3 title 'Heavenly Sword'. The most interesting game announcement came in the form of the exclusive, open world 'caveman simulator' 'Wild' from Rayman creator Michel Ancel.
Wild – Exclusive Gameplay Trailer
Perhaps the most surprising announcement at Sony's conference, however, arrived in the form of the console's upcoming 2.0 firmware update, which will bring with it a raft of new features. Chief amongst these features is the ingenious 'Share Play' feature, which will effectively allow players to share their games with friends another online, regardless of whether or not their friends actually own a copy of the game. This is not the first time the feature has been explored, as back at E3 in May Sony explained plans to bring Share Play to Far Cry 4, but it was implied that now the feature could technically be used with any game in the PS4's library. According to the official Playstation Blog, the best way to think about the feature is like a “Virtual couch,” that will “Create an online local co-op experience by allowing you to invite a friend to join your game, even when they don’t own a copy of it.”
Share Play will“Create an online local co-op experience by allowing you to invite a friend to join your game, even when they don’t own a copy of it.”
Another ace up Sony's sleeve was the announcement of the Playstation TV, which will launch in North America on the 14th of October and Europe on the 14th of November. The tiny, set-top device will retail for just $100 and €100, and allows players access to Playstation Now, Sony's bespoke streaming service, that will allow gamers to 'rent' classic games from Playstation's past. It can also act as a remote play hub for your PS4 and can also play games released for the Playstation Vita. The Vita itself was almost completely absent from the conference, but then considering the comparative failure of the device, that's hardly surprising.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer, musician and gamer from Kidderminster in the UK, who owns both a PS4 and Xbox One (and a Wii U), so holds no bias. In his opinion Sony won GamesCom, but Microsoft came close. Your move Nintendo.