Grab your battle gear and steady your weapons. It’s nearly the end of February and definitely time for another Ask The en. I answer questions about Alexa, PC gaming, Microsoft’s line-up of exclusive games and Xbox Game Pass in this month’s column.
Before we continue, don’t forget to send me any questions you have about video games, television shows, movies or the guy on the oatmeal box. I’ll answer any question, except for where I get my shoes. I’m taking that secret to my grave.
Alexa + Smart Home
Q. What do you really use your Alexa speakers for? Most people aren’t doing anything really cool with them anyway.
I use my first-generation Echo Dot, two first generation Echos, and one second generation Echo to give me the weather, tell me the time, turn on my favorite radio station, control my Xbox One, get news notifications and change the temperature on my thermostat.
People can control their everyday appliances or answer a question with just a voice command. That’s cool ish. Is it the computer we were promised on Star Trek? No, but that’s ok.
Let people use things they think are cool without judgement. Failing to do so is what gives people not obsessed with technology the impression that we’re all snobs. It’s rare that I find a quote from Chris Rock to be a perfect snapshot of a problem, so here it goes: “Leave the people alone, damnit.”
Xbox + Gaming
Xbox + Gaming
Q. Any anticipated new games on your list? Looks like a lot of the heavy hitters are out now.
You’re right, most of the heavy hitters are out now, and I haven’t purchased any of them. I’m waiting for The Division 2. The combat was solid the first time, and I’m very interested to see where they take the story involving The Dollar Bug next. I just hope they offer a little more character customization than they did with the first game.
As for what’s coming in the future, I’ve got my good eye on the new Halo Infinite. That’s the game that Microsoft teased the graphics engine for at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo briefing.
Q. What do you think about Xbox Live coming to Nintendo Switch?
I hope this happens. Xbox Live is the reason people buy an Xbox. I mean, it must be because surely it’s not the exclusives this last year.
Keeping with that theory of why people use Xbox, it would make sense for Microsoft to stick the service on anything that has a screen and can connect to a controller, excluding a smart toaster oven. Sticking it on Switch gives Microsoft a new way to keep people on the service when they aren’t home. It’ll be the first time the service has gotten any exposure on a mobile device since Windows Phone went the way of ballroom dancing and Toys R Us.
Do I expect there to be tons of people complaining about the death of consoles if Xbox Live comes to Nintendo Switch? Absolutely. That’s ok. They were going to complain anyway about project xCloud or whatever Microsoft ends up calling its cloud video game service.
I should also add that Xbox Live coming to Switch would be terrific for Nintendo. Their online experience is very, very barebones.
Q. What are your thoughts on the future of Xbox exclusives now that Microsoft has all these new studios?
At the very least, buying all these studios is a vote of confidence in Xbox Game Pass. I think that’s the real story no one is talking about.
For Xbox Game Pass to be a success, Microsoft needs more big-name games. Folks are keeping the service month after month to enjoy the older titles that are in its library, but it’s clear from the way Microsoft hypes Game Pass that playing Xbox One exclusives on the day they launch is what gets people’s attention.
So, unless they added new studios, Game Pass was going to become unsustainable pretty quickly, in my opinion. Games — the kind that people are willing to spend real money on — take years to develop. More studios equals more regular releases to get people interested in Game Pass, and it solves the perception that you haven’t released a hit single player game since Gears of War 4. Everyone wins.
Q. What games are you playing on your Windows PC now?