Rumor Alert: Microsoft in Talks to Acquire Silent Hills from Konami

Silent HillsRumor has it that Microsoft is in talks with Konami to purchase the cancelled Silent Hills game off of the restructuring publisher. The anonymous industry source comes by way of Rooster Teeth’s The Know program, with reporting done by the Funhaus team.

Lawrence Sonntag, the team’s resident reporter/podcast host, declined to reveal the source’s identity, but cited its past reliability in allowing their team (then Inside Gaming) to report on Microsoft’s plans to sell an Xbox One without the Kinect. The rumor turned out to be true, despite Microsoft trumpeting the Xbox One + Kinect marriage in the months leading up to the release.

As for Silent Hills, Microsoft is hoping to get a deal finalized before E3 so that they can trot it out during their press conference. Microsoft is hungry for exclusives, and rightly so. It is the one area that Microsoft currently has the leg up on against Sony and gaining a storied franchise, especially one with as much drama and clout as Silent Hills, would be a significant gain for the Xbox One. Say what you will about The Master Chief Collection, but the Xbox One’s exclusives have been consistently better and more numerous than Sony’s, which have been marred by mediocrity (The Order: 1886), broken gameplay (Driveclub) and lengthy delays (Uncharted 4).

Even better news is that Silent Hills is rumored to be about 80% complete and would put Microsoft on track to push the game out early in 2016 with a potential March target.

Even further complexing this twisted drama is that the removal of P.T. from the PlayStation store was done as a move of good faith for Konami to Microsoft. By removing the most talked about demo in recent memory from their direct competitor, Microsoft is putting themselves to truly benefit from the acquisition of Silent Hills.

Beyond the rumor, there is no word on how production of Silent Hills will progress moving forward. Whether or not either Guillermo del Toro or Hideo Kojima will be brought on or whether Microsoft will be taking the entire franchise from Konami or just the Silent Hills game. The deal is rumored to be in the billions so odds are that the deal would be for Microsoft to take the entire franchise which is ironic considering the game’s birth on the Sony PlayStation.

If Microsoft does acquire the game from Konami, it will be interesting to see if they are able to convince Kojima to partner up with them for the game’s completion. He is, after all, rumored to be out of a job at the end of the year. It might be a little tight, but he could conceivably be allowed to work as a private contractor if his status at Konami has indeed been changed. Even without Kojima involved, gaining Silent Hills or even the entire franchise would benefit Microsoft significantly. Microsoft is positioning themselves from a software angle to be able to combat Sony’s stronger hardware. It was a strategy that ultimately worked for Sony with the PlayStation 3 lagging behind the Xbox 360.

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Halo 5: Guardians Gets a Pair of Trailers & Release Date. Confusion Ensues.

Halo 5: GuardiansMicrosoft released a pair of trailers for Halo 5: Guardians Sunday featuring two distinctly branching conclusions involving the Master Chief and a new character, Locke. Halo 5: Guardians will be the first official entry on the Xbox One for the Halo series and will debut on October 27, 2015.

The trailers are simple enough, each featuring a voice over by either the Master Chief or by Locke, a wartorn battlefield with one soldier wounded in front of a massive statue. If the tone of the trailer is any indication of the potential of Halo 5, this next entry will be much darker than previous titles and certainly does not paint the Master Chief out to be the hero who sacrificed himself at the end of Halo 3.

For those invested in the storyline surrounding the Master Chief, I hope you’ve kept up with the live action piece Halo: Nightfall. Locke is the central character in that series as an ONI (gotta love the old Bungie references) acquisitions specialist. Locke is being branded as the antagonist in the new trailers, hunting the former hero. It seems like there is a ton of beneath the surface stories that motivate Locke to go against the Chief.

It is a smart series of trailers that certainly gets the conversation started. Now is a great time to get the groundswell spinning with Microsoft hitching their Fall tentpole to one of the most revered franchises in gaming. Especially at a time where Sony’s library is appearing a little weak with the delay of Uncharted and the poor performance of The Order 1886, having Halo 5 capture the attention of the Fall season is crucial for the Xbox brand.

Of course Microsoft is no stranger to the rocky launches as the remastered Halo: The Master Chief collection was plagued with terrible matchmaking systems, rendering the multiplayer component largely unplayable. A solid holiday slate of Halo 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider would certainly put the ball in Microsoft’s course

Whether or not Halo 5 turns out to be the epic it promises to be remains to be seen. Halo 4 was good, but not stellar. If 343 Industries can succeed in injecting some life into what is now seen as a slightly archaic shooter, a solid story would certainly help. The story is, after all, the best part of Halo Reach, my personal favorite in the series.

Turn 10 to Release Fast & Furious Collaboration March 27

Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & FuriousIn collaboration news that is both surprising and entirely logical, Microsoft’s Turn 10 Studios announced a promotional collaboration with Universal Partnerships & Licensing that will join Forza Horizon 2 and the upcoming addition to the Fast & Furious movie franchise, Furious 7. Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious will release for the Xbox One on March 27 as a stand alone expansion to last year’s very well received Forza Horizon 2 and will be free to download until April 10.

Players will be recruited by franchise mechanic Tej Parker, voiced by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, to source and test out the vehicles needed for the Fast & Furious crew’s next big heist. Missions will take place in the south of France, much like the region explored in Forza Horizon 2, with a variety of challenges for players to partake in as well as a free roam mode to explore the map.

The expansion will feature more than eleven cars, all modified to Fast & Furious levels, including Dominic Toretto’s iconic Dodge Charger. The cars confirmed so far are:

  • 1970 Dodge Charger R/T
  • 2012 Nissan GT-R
  • 1998 Toyota Supra
  • 2014 Maserati Ghibli S
  • 1970 Plymouth Road Runner
  • 2015 Dodge Charger R/T
  • 1970 Plymouth Cuda
  • 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

It is a fairly healthy list of cars that has a very good variety with exotics, SUVs, imports and especially muscle cars well represented. I hope that the associated liveries to these cars, the Toyota Supra in particular, will be included as well. Mostly so we can be done with the scores of orange Fast & Furious knock off liveries that have been created by users since the original Forza Motorsport.

I’m hoping the expansion adopts at least one special challenge that has players racing a train (complete with a slow-motion jump at the end) or dragging a ridiculously oversized safe through the streets of Miami (not really). There is no word on whether the expansion will add to the library of cars for Forza Horizon 2.

The free availability is in promotion of the theatrical release of Furious 7 on April 3. Furious 7 is notable as it is late star Paul Walker’s last film before his death in 2013. The price for the expansion will be $10 after the free promotional period ends.

Xbox Wire – Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious – At No Charge for a Limited Time!

Xbox One is $50 Off…Again

Xbox One ControllerMicrosoft is bringing the price on the Xbox One by $50 again, a mere 12 days after bringing the price back up to their MSRP. The promotional discount will begin on Friday, January 16 and has no end date specified. Thus far only the base bundle has been confirmed at the price of $349.

In an interview with Polygon, Michael Nichols, the vice president of marketing for Xbox, said, “It was really about positioning ourselves to have a breakout holiday. We were as aggressive as we could be to see how people would react.”

At pricing points of $349.99 and $449.99 for the Kinect bundle, Microsoft saw tremendous performance in their console sales over the period of their previous promotion, which ran between November 2, 2014 and January 3, 2015. Sales performance was so strong for Microsoft that the Xbox One was the top selling console over that period, besting Sony’s PlayStation 4 for the first time this console generation.

“The results were staggering,” Nichols reflected, “it was a terrific response to the changes we made.”

This is the best decision Microsoft can make given the momentum they currently have. I mused that they had performed admirably over the holidays, well enough to erase much of the damage their early missteps created. By continuing to aggressively price their consoles, Microsoft is ensuring that the public community remembers how strong the Xbox is as a brand and it will also ease development concerns for the Xbox One as there will be less of a risk for develops to work directly with the console.

This is especially true at a time where console exclusives have been notably weak. While Microsoft had a decent Fall offering with Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive and the flawed Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Sony saw their exclusive offerings delayed to 2015 and their lone major release was Driveclub, which was largely incomplete and unstable. 2015 looks to be a stronger year for both companies with major tentpole releases of Halo 5: Guardians on Xbox One and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End on PlayStation 4 due out in the fall. Sony’s lineup is also bolstered by exclusives like Bloodborne and The Order: 1886 while Microsoft should see Rise of the Tomb Raider and Forza Motorsport 6. I maintain that the Xbox has better exclusives at the moment, but all bets are off once Bloodborne and Uncharted 4 are on shelves.

The close to 2014 shows just how interesting this generation of consoles is going to be. While Sony still maintains a decent lead on Microsoft, Microsoft’s calculated patience appears to be paying off for them in how they repositioned themselves. Microsoft has shown the ability to adapt in the face of adversity whereas Sony has found ways to become complacent, despite having every advantage early on. What I can hope for is for both companies to ramp up their aggressive campaigns, because in the end, the consumer will win.

Xbox Wire – Xbox One Closes a Record-Breaking Holiday and Looks Ahead to 2015

Forza Motorsport 6 Unveiled Alongside New Ford GT

Forza Motorsport 6

Forza Motorsport 6 was announced today with a reveal trailer put out by Microsoft. As part of Microsoft’s continued partnership with Ford, the newly unveiled production model of the Ford GT will play a prominent role in the seminal racing simulator from Turn 10 Studios. You heard right, the Ford GT is back.

The game will be playable at E3 2015 and will also feature other marquee Ford vehicles like the Shelby Mustang GT350 and the Shelby tuned Ford F-150 Raptor. If this partnership keeps bearing fruit, we might see some additional vehicles like the North American version of the Ford Focus RS or even Ken Block’s custom Ford Fiesta ST RX43, his Gymkhana Fiesta ST HHV or even his custom AWD 1965 Mustaing ‘Hoonicorn’.

I don’t care that the announcement trailer is just the new Ford GT at the Detroit Auto Show and the in-game model. It’s the Ford GT. The Ford GT is back. Ford GT.

Aside from the obvious cover-boy nature of the Ford GT, there is no real surprise that Forza Motorsport 6 is on its way. The franchise began alternating years with its Motorsport series and the Forza Horizon series beginning in 2011 with Forza Motorsport 4.

Hopefully Turn 10 learned their lesson following the negative feedback Forza 5 received for its aggressive use of microtransactions and in-game currencies. Forza Horizon 2 rectified much of these concerns by following a traditional career growth model which was augmented by additional DLC.

Did I mention the Ford GT is back?

Halo 3: ODST Coming to Xbox One, Free for Existing Master Chief Collection Owners

Halo 3: ODST343 Industries is bringing the Halo 3 spin-off ODST to the Xbox One and it will be free for existing players of the Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The game is being made free as a way of apologizing for problems plaguing The Master Chief Collection’s online matchmaking service. 343 Industries will also be giving players a remastered version of the Relic map from Halo 2  with both scheduled for release in Spring of 2015.

Players need to have played The Master Chief Collection online between the game’s launch on November 11 and this offer’s announcement on December 19 in order to qualify for the offer. In addition to remastered versions of ODST and the Relic map, players will also receive one month of Xbox Live Gold, an in-game nameplate and an avatar item.

Bonnie Ross, 343 Industries’ studio head, issued a lengthy explanation in an apology Friday. “This has been a humbling experience and highlighted how we as a studio can – and need – to do better for Xbox fans around the world,” she wrote on Xbox.com.

Halo 3: ODST is one of the high points in an already stellar game franchise. ODST might have been underrated for its time but it has a fantastically deep campaign with a fully fleshed out multiplayer component that complimented Halo 3’s offerings. With a cast of characters led by Nathan Fillion, ODST had a degree of charm not often found in the numbered entries. Taking the role of a Orbital Drop Shock Trooper the player had to really rethink their approach without the skill set of a Spartan at their disposal. It was a thoughtful shooter in a world where such strategy is rarely rewarded.

Unfortunately, 343 Industries said that they have no immediate plans to remaster ODST’s Firefight mode, which was Halo’s version of Horde mode. I do hope they reconsider, because Firefight is a spectacular mode, unique to ODST.

This is good on 343 Industries especially with all the negative attention games have been getting lately, with many being accused of being incomplete. With major releases like Assassin’s Creed: Unity and DriveClub having rocky launches this year, it is good for 343 and Microsoft to get in front of the issue before it burns too many bridges. Who knows, maybe the avatar item will be a T-shirt that says “My bad.”

Xbox.com – A Thank You to our Fans from Bonnie Ross

Microsoft Wants Halo to Soldier On for At Least More 30 Years

Halo: The Master Chief CollectionHalo as a franchise isn’t going anywhere. That’s the standard set by Microsoft’s Halo-dedicated development studio, 343 Industries. According to 343 Industries general manager Bonnie Ross, it has always been the plan for Halo to remain a mainstay for at least 30 more years. That was the goal set for 343 Industries as Microsoft passed the franchise from Bungie to their in-house start up.

The only caveat to that lofty goal is that 343 Industries was founded in 2007. It is nearly eight years later and 343 Industries has one main-line Halo game to their name, a mediocre twin-stick shooter and a pair of remastered but problematic Xbox Original games. While 343 Industries has shown flashes of their potential, namely in the quality of Halo 4, they are still relatively unproven thanks in part to their uneven quality of work.

Bungie Studios helped greatly in the early work of 343 Industries, allowing the budding studio to assist on the stellar Halo: Reach and much of their staff is comprised of former Bungie developers who chose to stay with the Halo franchise. But with such a long shadow cast by a marquee studio like Bungie, 343 Industries has had trouble establishing themselves. Halo 4 was a fine game, but often looked slow when compared to twitch shooters like Call of Duty. While Halo has never meant to be that type of fast paced shooter, Halo 4 never managed to dethrone Call of Duty on the multiplayer activity charts.

I do believe that Microsoft is right to envision Halo as a tentpole in their game development for decades to come. It certainly worked for other industry headliners like Super Mario. But in order to stay competitive in the already saturated world of first person shooters, 343 Industries needs to learn how to be as good as Bungie was, and faster. Players are always going to give a spectacular franchise like Halo attention, but in order to capture that attention long-term, they need to be more than great, they need to be incredible.

Gamespot – Microsoft Wants Halo to Last Another 30 Years