A packed PAX
Because major names like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo dominate E3, GamesCom and the Tokyo Game Show, many smaller firms set their sights on the fan-first PAX event to get big news in front of as many eyes as possible.
The news at PAX runs the gamut from eccentric DLC and indie games to quirky announcements for mainstream titles, and the 2015 edition of PAX was no different.
The show wrapped Monday, and before it becomes too distant in the rearview mirror, let's recap the best announcements from PAX 2015.
The first third-party amiibo
A new amiibo reveal is pretty big news in and of itself. With collectors still going crazy for every new figurine, Nintendo has struggled for months with stocking existing figures while simultaneously sending new ones to store shelves and fanning consumer excitement. The venerable company finally introduced a new method of amiibo production that can greatly increase the market. Beginning with Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games, third-party game creators can now license the figurine technology to produce and distribute their own characters.
While this has the potential to over-saturate the market with amiibo, Nintendo still holds the keys to allowing new licensees. If anything, it may entice indie developers to bring their wares to Wii U in order to take advantage of the potentially lucrative amiibo market.
A powerful new Xbox One bundle
If you're looking for the optimal Xbox One controller and console, Microsoft has a new bundle due this year. Retailing for $500 in the US (sorry, Europe, no news on an Elite system yet), the Xbox One Elite Bundle will include the new professional-grade Elite Controller (which retails for $150/£119 alone) as well as a 1TB hard drive.
In addition to doubling the standard hard drive space, the included storage is a solid state hybrid drive that Microsoft claims will allow the console to boot up "up to 20% faster" than current models. Of course, this being an "Elite" console, the system itself will have a matte finish to showcase the premium nature of the console, too.
Razer Wildcat premium Xbox One controller
Microsoft has touted the high-end features of the Xbox One Elite Controller for some time now; even though it still hasn't landed on store shelves, the improved triggers, new directional pad and customizable thumbsticks have been hyped up so much that it feels like we've had the controller in our hands since E3.
However, come this October, there will be another premium Xbox One controller in the form of the Razer Wildcat. Releasing at the same price point as Microsoft's pad, the Wildcat has high-end features all its own, like four additional buttons (two bumpers and two triggers), as well as the ability to remap any button on the controller to have a different function.
Razer had a bit of a snafu at the EVO fighting game tournament a few months back as its premium fightstick failed during a high-profile match, so hopefully the Wildcat can win back some goodwill as a major-league gaming staple.
A New Hope(fully good headset)
This holiday season is going to be consumed by Star Wars, culminating in the first major motion picture release in the sci-fi franchise due out on December 18.
Before then, however, Star Wars will make a big splash in the gaming realm as Star Wars Battlefront comes to new-gen consoles and PC this November. To complement the major space battles fans will wage online, Turtle Beach is putting out a special edition Sandtrooper headset to match the design of the soldiers in the original Star Wars and will include additional swappable plates on each side of the headset. Due out alongside the game, the headset will sell for $100 in the US, £70 in the UK and $170 in Australia.
Street Fighter V: costumes and collector's edition
With all due respect to fun fighters like Mortal Kombat X and Killer Instinct, the biggest fighting game of the generation (thus far) is just a few months away. To commemorate the occasion, Capcom revealed the contents that will accompany all pre-orders as well as a fanboy-worthy Collector's Edition.
Depending on where you pre-order game, customers will get special "Battle Costumes" for either Ryu, Chun-Li, M. Bison or Cammy. If you choose to pre-purchase a physical version of Capcom's upcoming brawler instead, you might want to consider the Collector's Edition that packs the game disc, a 10-inch Ryu statue, a 48-page hardcover art book, download codes for Street Fighter comics, a soundtrack sampler featuring some of Street Fighter's best songs, and a one-month subscription to Capcom's fighting-focused Twitch channel.
Movies head to the Borderlands
The videogame-to-movie landscape hasn't been pretty between flops like Agent 47 and development-hell mainstays like Peter Jackson's Halo movie. Fortunately, one of the crazier game worlds of late has an actual chance of hitting theaters, thanks to a push from some big names in Hollywood.
Lionsgate Co-chairs Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman announced the acquisition of the Borderlands IP at PAX 2015, and famed superhero movie producer Ari Arad (Iron Man, Spider-Man) has taken on production duties for the film. It's likely to be years before we start to see much of the movie franchise, but with The Hunger Games series wrapping up this year, it's probable that Lionsgate will put a lot of effort into making Borderlands its next future-fantasy (read: potential cash cow) series.
Astro mods modern headsets
What Astro headsets will lack in sci-fi branding this fall they'll make up for with high-end features sure to catch the ear of dedicated online gamers. Astro's new Gaming Mod Kits will add plenty of parts to customize the company's A40 TR headset (and likely many future 'sets) in a variety of ways to match a player's preferences.
The Gaming Mod kit includes a new microphone to isolate the user's voice in noisy environments, ear cushions to block outside noise, speaker tags that enclose the headset and drown out more noise, as well as a leather head strap. Players have long had to decide between closed and open-style headsets, and the new Gaming Mod Kits essentially allow you to switch between the two types with the same headset for about the cost of a new game (though that price is on top of the $150/£119 that the A40 TR commands on its own).
Final Fantasy XV confirmed for '16
It's been a very long wait for Final Fantasy fans who've sought out an all-new single-player epic, but Square Enix assured the world that Final Fantasy XV will come out within the next fifteen months. While the publisher has yet to lock down a date, month or even season for the next mainline Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy XV is confirmed to release at some point in 2016. With Kingdom Hearts 3 and the Final Fantasy VII remake likely to command the attention of Square Enix and RPG fans beyond next year, knowing that the next new Final Fantasy is at least somewhere on the horizon is nice.
XCOM 2 stays in orbit until 2016
With Microsoft and Sony hyping up 2015 exclusives at every opportunity, PC gamers were hopeful PAX wouldn't leave them wanting. Unfortunately, however, what was the most-anticipated PC-only release of the year won't make contact as originally planned.
Previously slated to release in November this year, XCOM 2 was hit with a slight delay to February 5, 2016. While the 2-3 month push isn't the most severe release date change fans have seen, alien-hunting PC gamers will have a long winter ahead of them. Perhaps it's finally time to try that Ironman run in Enemy Within that you've been putting off for months...
Guild Wars 2 makes the battle free-to-play
While Guild Wars 2 has long eschewed a subscription model in place of selling the core game, NCsoft instituted a major change to the MMORPG's business model to mark GW2's third birthday. If you're curious about Guild Wars 2, there's now no financial barrier to entry as you can download and play the game for free. Those who paid can boast the fact that they have more character slots to explore the breadth of the combat options and have unfettered communication, while new users will have to make do with slightly limited chat options. That is, unless they buy the new Heart of Thorns expansion, which costs more than Guild Wars 2 did. The point, however, is that at least the first taste is free now.