With one foot planted in the future of gaming platforms, Xbox is going back to basics.
In a video game industry buzzing with virtual reality bells and whistles and free-to-play mobile games untethered to hardware, Microsoft spent the vast majority of its time here at an Electronic Entertainment Exposition presentation touting console games, the traditional heart of the industry.
The Seattle-area company on Monday showcased a slate of exclusive games, including the latest version in its flagship ?Halo? sci-fi shooter series, ?Rise of the Tomb Raider,? and ?Forza Motorsport 6.?
Microsoft also made a bid for gamers to upgrade to the latest version of its hardware, announcing that the Xbox One console will soon be able to play games built for Xbox 360, the prior generation of the console. Previously, Xbox One couldn?t run games for Xbox 360, rendering virtually useless the libraries amassed between that console?s release in 2005 and its successor?s in 2013.
In closing a 90-minute event held in the University of Southern California?s basketball arena, Xbox chief Phil Spencer asked Xbox 360 users who are still be holding out to upgrade to the latest model.
That signals a turnaround for Microsoft, which had spent part of its time here in recent years touting its ambition for Xbox to serve as a living room hub whose reach extends beyond video gaming.
While the console retains many of those capabilities, the company has scaled back those ambitions in an effort to make fans out of more gamers and close the gap with Sony?s better-selling PlayStation 4.
Spencer said exclusive games were ?critical to our platform?s success.? Representatives of other game studios took the stage at Microsoft?s event to announce goodies for Xbox users, including an early look at the new ?The Division? shooter from Ubisoft and a week of access to Electronic Arts? batch of games offered under one subscription.
Microsoft isn?t putting all its efforts into console gaming, though. The company on Monday announced a second deal in as many weeks with a maker of a virtual reality headset.
Microsoft Studios Vice President Kudo Tsunoda described a partnership with Valve to make the company?s new headset work well with computers running Windows. On Thursday, Facebook-owned Oculus had said its own headset would be released with an Xbox controller and that users would be able to stream and play Xbox games through the headset.
Microsoft also showed off its new hardware.
A Microsoft employee wearing a HoloLens holographic headset played a Minecraft game projected onto a wall. Later, with a voice command, he re-created the game virtually on a tabletop and continued playing. A second demonstrator nearby used a tablet to interact with in the same world.
Microsoft has used the wildly popular Minecraft, which it acquired last year in a $2.5 billion deal to buy developer Mojang, as a showcase for the gaming possibilities of HoloLens. Monday?s demonstration was similar to one the company showed journalists and analysts at the unveiling of the device in January.
Also unveiled on Monday: a high-end Xbox controller that comes with more and customizable buttons. The Xbox Elite controller is scheduled for October release and will cost $149.99.