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Samsung Gaming Hub goes live today with Twitch, Xbox Game Pass and more

The Samsung Gaming Hub is live now on 2022 Samsung smart TVs and smart monitors, and it’s adding two services from Amazon to its game-streaming lineup: Twitch and Luna. Twitch is available today, while Luna is coming soon. Gamers will also be able to access Xbox Game Pass now, as well as apps for NVIDIA GeForce NOW, Google Stadia and Utomik in the same designated area on their TVs. The company plans to release details about the gaming hub’s rollout to earlier Samsung smart TV models at a later date, a Samsung spokesperson confirmed to Engadget. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the Samsung Gaming Hub, it essentially offers players a way to access major cloud gaming services on their smart TV using only their Bluetooth controller, . Apps for both Spotify and YouTube are also included in the gaming hub.

Samsung says it plans on delivering even more gaming-focused content in the future, including new partnerships. “With expanding partnerships across leading game streaming services and expert curated recommendations, players will be able to easily browse and discover games from the widest selection available, regardless of platform,” said Won-Jin Lee, president of Samsung’s Service Business Team.

Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming service has only been to the general public since March, and is already available on Fire TVs. Its partnership with Samsung could give the nascent gaming service an easy way to reach people who have never used it in their homes. Twitch (which is owned by Amazon) once had an app for Samsung smart TVs, but it was in 2019. The platform’s return to the newest Samsung smart TVs will be happy news for streamers and their fans.

It seems natural for Samsung to further embrace the gaming community, given that smart TVs have become close to a necessity in gaming. Last year Microsoft announced that it would begin working with global TV manufacturers to directly Xbox into smart TVs via an Xbox with Game Pass app. The idea of an “all-in-one” destination for all your cloud-based and console games is certainly convenient to some, and may help gamers avoid the time and hassle of switching between modes.

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Meta’s latest VR headset prototypes could help it pass the ‘Visual Turing test’

Meta wants to make it clear it’s not giving up on high-end VR experiences yet. So, in a rare move, the company is spilling the beans on several VR headset prototypes at once. The goal, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is to eventually craft something that could pass the “visual Turing Test,” or the point where virtual reality is practically indistinguishable from the real world. That’s the Holy Grail for VR enthusiasts, but for Meta’s critics, it’s another troubling sign that the company wants to own reality (even if Zuckerberg says he doesn’t want to completely own the metaverse).

As explained by Zuckerberg and Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist of Meta’s Reality Labs, creating the perfect VR headset involves perfecting four basic concepts. First, they need to reach a high resolution so you can have 20/20 VR vision (with no need for prescription glasses). Additionally, headsets need variable focal depth and eye tracking, so you can easily focus on nearby and far away objects; as well as fix optical distortions inherent in current lenses. (We’ve seen this tech in the Half Dome prototypes.) Finally, Meta needs to bring HDR, or high dynamic range, into headsets to deliver more realistic brightness, shadows and color depth. More so than resolution, HDR is a major reason why modern TVs and computer monitors look better than LCDs from a decade ago.

Meta Reality Labs VR headset prototypes

Meta

And of course, the company needs to wrap all of these concepts into a headset that’s light and easy to wear. In 2020, Facebook Reality Labs showed off a pair of concept VR glasses using holographic lenses , which looked like over-sized sunglasses. Building on that original concept, the company revealed Holocake 2 today (above), its thinnest VR headset yet. It looks more traditional than the original pair, but notably Zuckerberg says it’s a fully functional prototype that can play any VR game while tethered to a PC.

“Displays that match the full capacity of human vision are going to unlock some really important things,” Zuckerberg said in a media briefing. “The first is a realistic sense of presence, and that’s the feeling of being with someone or in some place as if you’re physically there. And given our focus on helping people connect, you can see why this is such a big deal.” He described testing photorealistic avatars in a mixed reality environment, where his VR companion looked like it was standing right beside him. While “presence” may seem like an esoteric term these days, it’s easier to understand once headsets can realistically connect you to remote friends, family and colleagues.

Meta’s upcoming Cambria headset appears to be a small step towards achieving true VR presence, the brief glimpses we’ve seen at its technology makes it seem like a small upgrade from the Oculus Quest 2. While admitting the perfect headset is far off, Zuckerberg showed off prototypes that demonstrated how much progress Meta’s Reality Labs has made so far.

Meta Reality Labs VR headset prototypes

Meta

There’s “Butterscotch” (above), which can display near retinal resolution, allowing you to read the bottom line of an eye test in VR. To achieve that, the Reality Labs engineers had to cut the Quest 2’s field of view in half, a compromise that definitely wouldn’t work in a finished product. The Starburst HDR prototype looks even wilder: It’s a bundle of wires, fans and other electronics that can produce up to 20,000 nits of brightness. That’s a huge leap from the Quest 2’s 100 nits, and it’s even leagues ahead of super-bright Mini-LED displays we’re seeing today. (My eyes are watering at the thought of putting that much light close to my face.) Starburst is too large and unwieldy to strap onto your head, so researchers have to peer into it like a pair of binoculars.

Meta Mirror Lake VR concept

Meta

While the Holocake 2 appears to be Meta’s most polished prototype yet, it doesn’t include all of the technology the company is currently testing. That’s the goal of the Mirror Lake concept (above), which will offer holographic lenses, HDR, mechanical varifocal lenses and eye tracking. There’s no working model yet, but it’s a decent glimpse at what Meta is aiming for several years down the road. It looks like a pair of high-tech ski goggles, and it’ll be powered by LCD displays with laser backlights. The company is also developing a way to show your eyes and facial expressions to outside observers with an external display on the front.

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‘Valheim’ is heading to Xbox Game Pass in the first half of 2023

The hit Viking survival sim Valheim is heading to Xbox and PC Game Pass, complete with full crossplay support with the Steam version of the game. Valheim will hit PC Game Pass first, landing in fall of 2022. It’ll come to Xbox Series X and S, and hit Xbox Game Pass same-day in early 2023.

Valheim was a breakout hit of 2021, selling nearly 6 million copies in its first five weeks on Steam Early Access and outstripping established titles like Dota 2 in terms of active players. It ended up as one of the top-earning games on Steam in 2021 overall. The original development team at Iron Gate was just five people, but they’ve since hired on some more folks.

“We’re doing our best,” Iron Gate co-founder Henrik Tornqvist told Engadget in March 2021. “It has become pretty hectic around here since launch.”

Valheim offers an expansive, collaborative universe of hunting, crafting, sailing, building and defeating mythical Norse beasts, and its launch on Xbox Game Pass marks its debut outside of the Steam ecosystem. With so many players already on Steam, crossplay support is key.

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Riot Games titles are coming to Xbox Game Pass with all champions included

At today’s Xbox showcase, Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill has revealed that the company is making its titles available to Xbox Game Pass subscribers — with all champions and other bonuses included. Members will be able to play League of Legends on PC with all 160 champions unlocked and get first-day access to future champions. They can also play League of Legends: Wild Rift on mobile with all 80 champions. Plus, similar to LoL on PC, they’ll get first-day access to any future champion Riot releases. 

Game Pass members who play Valorant will get all 18 agents, as well, and be among the first ones to be able to use future agents as they become available. For the strategy card game Legends of Runeterra, subscribers will get the Foundations Set, or the first cards released for the game, at no cost. Finally, a Game Pass membership will unlock a rotation of Tier One Little Legend avatars for Teamfight Tactics on PC and mobile.

In addition to game specific bonuses, players will release extra experience across select titles. It also sounds like Riot has more in store for Xbox players, because Merrill wrote in the company’s announcement that it’ll “share more about the partnership and how members can access the Game Pass content” in the coming months. 

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Xbox Game Pass comes to new Samsung smart TVs on June 30th

Xbox has been talking about bringing the Game Pass Ultimate library to smart TVs for at least a year, and it’s finally happening in 2022. The Xbox app will hit this year’s lineup of Samsung smart TVs and monitors on June 30th, allowing Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to play titles from the cloud with no additional hardware, aside from a Bluetooth-connected gamepad. Even a PlayStation controller will do the trick.

Some 2022 Samsung smart TV models already support game-streaming services including Google Stadia and NVIDIA’s GeForce Now. Samsung launched a new Gaming Hub for its TVs in January, putting these cloud services front-and-center, and the Xbox app is set to join them. Xbox is one of the biggest forces in cloud gaming, with more than 25 million Game Pass subscribers – though not all of these are at the Ultimate tier, which unlocks streaming capabilities.

The Game Pass Ultimate library has hundreds of games available to stream and Xbox has made it a point to release its big first-party titles on the service on day one. On Samsung devices, the Xbox app will support Bluetooth headsets and gamepads including the Xbox Wireless Controller, and PlayStation’s DualShock 4 and DualSense.

There’s no update for now on the dedicated streaming device that Xbox said it was working on last year alongside the smart TV app.

Xbox Game Pass 2022 updates

Xbox

Xbox has more big plans for Game Pass in the coming months. Later this year, the company plans to add the ability for Ultimate subscribers to stream select games that they purchase outside of the Game Pass library. It’s unclear exactly how this will break down – it likely applies to titles that leave the Game Pass catalog but remain in the Xbox ecosystem, but it could include games from third-party distributors.

In response to a request for clarification, an Xbox spokesperson said, “Later this year, it’s our intent to roll out the ability for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members to play select games from the cloud that you already own or purchase outside the Xbox Game Pass library. We’ll have more to share on the specific games that will be supported via Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) over the next year.”

Xbox is bringing cloud gaming to two new countries, Argentina and New Zealand, on June 9th. This includes access to the Xbox streaming library and Fortnite. Xbox partnered with Epic Games to bring Fortnite to Xbox Cloud Gaming in May, and it’s available to play there for free without a subscription. At the time, Xbox said it was interested in adding other free-to-play titles to its cloud network.

Over the coming year or so, Xbox plans to test out a system that allows for multiple profiles to play at the same time under a single Game Pass subscription. That’ll be tested in Colombia and Ireland, and Xbox executives are positioning it as a “potential addition” to Game Pass.

Xbox Game Pass 2022 updates

Xbox

Finally, game demos are on their way to Game Pass. Within the next year, Xbox will start rolling out curated, bite-sized bits of upcoming games in Game Pass, allowing subscribers to test these titles for free and provide feedback to developers. The program will focus on independent titles at first, and Xbox said developers will be compensated for participating, meaning all the work that goes into building a demo won’t go unfunded. The demo program is called Project Moorcroft. There’s no word on if a Minecraft Project Moorcroft demo will ever drop, but it’s fun to say that regardless.

Time-limited, free game demos are one of the perks of the new PlayStation Plus subscription service, which will be competing directly with Game Pass. The new PS Plus goes live on June 13th and its most expensive tier, Premium, includes access to about 700 games in the PS Now library, plus cloud play for some games from past PlayStation eras. Sony’s subscription plan doesn’t support native streaming on mobile devices, as Xbox’s does, and it won’t include any new, first-party games at launch.

Sony received negative press in April after reports surfaced that the studio was making it mandatory for developers of certain games to build and release two-hour demos for PlayStation Plus Premium, with no apparent plans to compensate them for the work. Xbox, of course, made sure to highlight its plans to pay developers for building demos.

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Huawei App Store Bug Gives Anyone A Free Pass At Paid Apps

Android app developer Dylan Roussel discovered a bug that, while non-trivial to exploit, isn’t impossible either. In a nutshell, Huawei’s AppGallery exposed certain details about an app, including the download link for the Android package (APK). While that may be normal, the bug is that the same link can be used to directly download a paid app without having to pay for it or even having to verify anything.

This bug has two damaging consequences for Huawei’s app marketplace. The first is more obvious in that anyone with a bit of technical know-how can easily bypass restrictions and download paid apps for free. The bigger threat, however, is that the AppGallery makes it too easy to download apps, both paid and free, outside of official channels, which in turn makes it too easy to pirate apps on that platform. This creates a very large deterrent for developers who may not bother putting in the work needed to offer their apps for Huawei’s ecosystem.

This vulnerability was discovered and reported back in February 2022, but it took Huawei 90 days to send a response. The company did apologize for the miscommunication and delay, citing logistics problems in fixing AppGallery across different regions since it apparently works very differently, too. A fix is promised to arrive by May 25, but the bug’s existence still raises concerns about similar issues that may be lurking in the shadows still undiscovered.

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Sony reportedly plans to launch its answer to Xbox Game Pass this spring

Xbox Game Pass has been a hit for Microsoft, and it seems Sony is preparing to respond with its own version of an all-in-one game subscription service. The company is planning to merge PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now into a new offering, which is expected to debut this spring, according to Bloomberg.

The service, which is codenamed Spartacus, would likely be available on PS4 and PS5 for a monthly fee. It’s unclear whether players would be able to access it on other devices, though the report notes Sony is putting more resources into cloud gaming. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate allows players to delve into more than 100 Xbox titles via the cloud on , PC, phones and tablets. Microsoft plans to for TVs too.

It seems Sony will kill off PlayStation Now, but keep the PlayStation Plus branding. Sony may not yet have finalized how Spartacus will work, but there could be three tiers to the service. According to documents viewed by Bloomberg, the lowest tier would effectively be PlayStation Plus as it is now. The second level would add a “large catalog” of PS4 titles, with PS5 games joining later. The third and highest tier would include cloud gaming, expanded demos and, akin to , a bunch of older PS1, PS2, PS3 and even PSP games. However, those plans may not be set in stone.

It’s not clear whether Sony plans to bring its first-party exclusives to the service on their release date, as Microsoft does on Game Pass. Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan that the company wouldn’t “go down the road of putting new release titles into a subscription model. These games cost many millions of dollars, well over $100 million, to develop. We just don’t see that as sustainable.”

But the landscape has shifted since Ryan’s remarks. For one thing, Microsoft bought Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media this year. All of Bethesda’s games (save for a couple of timed PS5 console exclusives like ) are on Game Pass, and future Bethesda titles like might not come to PlayStation at all.

Although Game Pass would likely be Sony’s biggest competitor in the game subscription market, it’ll be up against several other major companies. and have subscription services, Amazon launched last year and to its existing plans. As for cloud gaming (a category Luna also falls into), there’s NVIDIA’s GeForce Now and Google Stadia, and even .

PlayStation Now was one of the earliest major game subscription services when it debuted in 2015, but it had a fairly tepid response. Players were only able to access PS Now games via the cloud until 2018, when they were able to to their console.

One of the biggest complaints we had about the service when was the lack of notable games. Since then, Sony has brought some big games like for a limited time.

By the end of Sony’s 2020 financial year, there were . Microsoft in January that it had 18 million Game Pass members. For that reason and many others, it’s a smart idea for Sony to go back to the drawing board and create a more robust subscription service. 

Much like Microsoft, Sony has started looking beyond PlayStation consoles to bring its games to new audiences. Over the last year or so, it released Horizon Zero Dawn and Days Gone on PC. A bundle of Uncharted 4 and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is coming to PC in early 2022, as is the 2018 reboot of God of War.

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A real Sony PlayStation challenger for Xbox Game Pass could be released shockingly soon

We’ve heard whispers of a potential PlayStation competitor to Xbox Game Pass in the past, but today we’re learning additional details about what such a service could look like. Sony, of course, already offers a game streaming service called PlayStation Now, but a new report suggests that Sony may roll that into a larger, multi-tiered service that offers more beyond just game streaming.

Sony’s answer to Game Pass may be right around the corner

Bloomberg reports today that Sony is working on a new Xbox Game Pass competitor code-named Spartacus. According to unnamed sources familiar with Sony’s plans, this new subscription service will be available on both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

Leaked data suggests that when this streaming service launches, Sony plans to phase out the PlayStation Now brand. That doesn’t mean that game streaming will be going away, but that it’ll be offered by Sony through one of the subscription tiers for its new service. Sources familiar with the plans suggested that the first tier will simply include what’s already provided via PlayStation Plus – online multiplayer, a selection of free games each month, and discounts on certain games offered through the PlayStation Store.

It gets particularly interesting when we get into the details of the more expensive tiers that may include PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games. The third and presumably most expensive tier would offer all of that on top of extended demos and game streaming along with a selection of PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP games.

While the details concerning those different tiers immediately make us wonder how much each one will cost, insider sources have not yet revealed a pricing structure. We can assume that the bottom tier will cost $10 a month or $60 a year since that’s what PS Plus subscriptions run now, but that only gives us a pricing floor and can’t inform us on the potential cost of higher tiers.

Spartacus borrows ideas from more than just Game Pass

While Spartacus and Xbox Game Pass seem relatively similar in structure, Sony is also borrowing ideas from other publishers. For example, the extended demos that are said to be included in the third tier could be similar to what EA offers to EA Play members. A basic EA Play membership, which runs $4.99 a month or $30 a year, allows subscribers to play new releases for up to 10 hours in the days before they launch.

On the other hand, an EA Play Pro subscription ($14.99 per month) allows unlimited early access to the Premium Editions of certain new releases days ahead of release. When we hear that Spartacus will offer extended demos, EA Play is where our minds immediately jump.

Spartacus could be a big win for PlayStation. Sony certainly has the first-party library to drive subscriptions to the service, and support for PS1, PS2, and PS3 games could hook the people who have upgraded to PS5 but want an easy way to play older titles. Microsoft offers a variety of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games through Xbox Game Pass, which may have prompted Sony to do the same with old PlayStation games.

Insider sources speaking with Bloomberg (as noted above) suggest that Spartacus could launch as early as spring 2022, so it may not be much longer before we have official details. Given the popularity of Xbox Game Pass, one has to imagine that Sony is working on developing its own streaming service, so perhaps a Spartacus reveal is more a question of “when?” than “if?” We’ll let you know when Sony reveals any concrete details, if it does at all.

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Xbox Game Pass December 2021 adds Halo Infinite, Stardew Valley, Among Us

Today we kick off the final month of 2021, and with the arrival of December comes news of more additions to Xbox Game Pass. December is shaping up to be a big month for Microsoft’s subscription service, thanks in no small part to the arrival of Halo Infinite. The latest game in Microsoft’s flagship franchise will be joined by some beloved indie classics as well.

Xbox Game Pass games, early December 2021

The new additions start with a bang tomorrow, December 2nd, with the arrival of a bunch of games: Anvil (console and PC), Archvale (cloud, console, and PC), Final Fantasy XIII-2 (console and PC), Lawn Mowing Simulator (cloud, console, and PC), Rubber Bandits (cloud, console, and PC), Stardew Valley (cloud, console, and PC), and Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector (cloud, console, and PC). (via Xbox Wire)

There’s one clear standout in this initial drop of games, and that’s Stardew Valley. We learned that Stardew Valley was destined for Xbox Game Pass earlier this year, and now the big day has finally come. If you’ve never played Stardew Valley before, it’s essentially a love letter to all things Harvest Moon, so if the simple life of small-town farming calls to you, you’ll soon have the chance to play it through Xbox Game Pass.

READ MORE: Halo Infinite multiplayer first impressions

The new additions continue on December 7th with Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator (cloud, console, and PC). That game will be followed on December 8th by the month’s heavy hitter: Halo Infinite, which will be available across the cloud, console, and PC versions of Xbox Game Pass. Keep in mind that this is the campaign for Halo Infinite, with the multiplayer already available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, the Microsoft Store, and PC.

Xbox Game Pass wraps up the first half of December with One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 (cloud, console, and PC) on December 9th and then both Aliens: Fireteam Elite (cloud, console, and PC) and Among Us (console) on December 14th.

Xbox Game Pass perks and upcoming departures

As always, there are several perks for free-to-play games that Xbox Game Pass subscribers can claim this month. It should come as little surprise that one of the perks is for Halo Infinite, granting a “Pass Tense” coating for the MA40 Assault Rifle, four double XP boosts, and four challenge swaps.

Xbox Game Pass subscribers will also get a New Year’s Bundle for Dauntless that includes new cosmetics, a 14-day Slayer’s Club membership, and 25 Patrol Keys. In addition, Apex Legends players can snag the RIG Helmet Weapon charm, while World of Warships: Legends players will get the Hero’s Companion bundle featuring the Medea – a Tier II British warship – along with boosters and credits.

All of these perks will be available in the Perks gallery on Xbox consoles, the Xbox app on PC, and the Xbox Game Pass app on mobile beginning December 2nd, save for the Halo Infinite perks which will go live alongside the campaign on December 8th.

Finally, we’ve got another round of departures heading our way. On Wednesday, December 15th, six games will be leaving Xbox Game Pass: Beholder (cloud and console), The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan (console and PC), Guacamelee! 2 (cloud, console, and PC), Wilmot’s Warehouse (cloud, console, and PC), Unto The End (cloud, console, and PC), and Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (cloud, console, and PC). If you’re currently playing any of those, you’ve got exactly two weeks to finish them up, so be sure to earmark some game time in the coming days.

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Xbox Game Pass closes out November 2021 with a ton of indies

Amid all the hubbub of launching Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer early yesterday, Microsoft has also revealed the titles coming to Xbox Game Pass in the second half of November. Admittedly, November’s second batch of games is a bit more reserved than the first, but then, it’s hard to top a content drop that added titles like Forza Horizon 5, One Step From Eden, and It Takes Two in the span of just two weeks. In any case, there are still some games worth checking out with this next round of additions.

New games for the second half of November 2021

In this case, the additions have already gotten underway, as both Dead Space and Dragon Age: Origins are now available on Xbox Cloud Gaming through EA Play. These are two undeniable classics, and now you can play them on your phone without having to download them first. Just keep in mind that in order to access Xbox Cloud Gaming, you’ll need to have an active subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, as it isn’t included in the standard console and PC subscriptions.

Tomorrow, we’ll see Next Space Rebels join the cloud, console, and PC versions of Xbox Game Pass, but the biggest day for new additions is definitely November 18th. On that day, Exo One, Fae Tactics, My Friend Pedro, and Undungeon will all be joining Xbox Game Pass, and all of them will be available across cloud, console, and PC. It’s worth noting that all of these games were published through the ID@Xbox program, with Undungeon even being a day-one release for the service.

On November 23rd, we’ll see Deeeer Simulator and Mortal Shell join, while Evil Genius 2 will close out the month on November 30th. Once again, all of these games will be available through the cloud, console, and PC versions of Xbox Game Pass, and all of them were published via the ID@Xbox program for indie developers. Outside of Dead Space and Dragon Age: Origins, we’re getting a constant stream of indie games to close out the month.

Xbox Touch Controls come to more games

In addition to these new releases, Microsoft also announced that 17 new games are getting Xbox Touch Controls. As the name suggests, Xbox Touch Controls allow players to control cloud games with their smartphone’s touchscreen instead of pairing a controller.

The 17 games getting Xbox Touch Controls with this update include Aragami 2, The Artful Escape, Dandy Ace, Echo Generation, Flynn: Son of Crimson, Football Manager 2022: Xbox Edition, Frostpunk, The Good Life, Lost Words: Beyond the Page, Might Goose, Moonglow Bay, Phoenix Point, The Procession to Calvary, Skatebird, Superliminal, Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, and Yakuza 5 Remastered.

There are, of course, a collection of games leaving the service this month as well. At the end of November, eight games will be leaving the Xbox Game Pass: Call of the Sea (cloud, console, and PC), FIFA 19 (console and PC), Football Manager 2021 (PC), Football Manager 2021 Xbox Edition (console and PC), Haven (cloud, console, and PC), Hello Neighbor (cloud, console, and PC), Morkredd (cloud, console, and PC), Va-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action (PC).

On December 8th, Destiny 2: Beyond Light will be departing the cloud and console versions, too, so Microsoft is warning us about that one early. Needless to say, if you’re currently playing any of the games listed above, you should probably finish them as soon as possible because they won’t be around much longer.

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