Zotac Magnus EK71080 Mini PC Review: A Powerful Little Black Box

Zotac is renowned for making powerful mini PCs. Zotac also makes the world’s smallest Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 graphics card. Combine those two things and you’ve got one heck of a powerful small black box.

There are several ways to make a very small gaming PC. One way is to make a gaming laptop without the built-in keyboard or display. That’s essentially how the first Zotac machine I played with back in 2016 was designed. Another approach is to engineer a case that fits full-sized components in as small a space as possible, like Digital Storm’s Bolt line.

Zotac’s Magnus EK71080 does a little bit of both. From the laptop we’ve got SODIMM memory, designed to be small and lay flat. It’s got slots for both an M.2 laptop-style SSD and a normal 2.5 inch SSD or HHD. It’s even got a slot for Intel Optane memory, which can provide significant speed boosts loading games and applications from a slower, higher capacity standard hard drive. It’s powered by the Intel Core i7-7700HQ quad-core 2.8 GHz processor, a processor that’s seen a lot in high-end gaming laptops.

And then it’s got this:

At just 8.3 inches long, the Zotac Geforce GTX 1080 Mini is the smallest Nvidia’s 1080 gets without switching to the smaller, laptop-centric MXM profile. With performance on par or slightly higher than the Founder’s Edition GTX 1080, it’s the best possible graphics card for a very tiny PC. It’s 4K ready. It’s VR ready. And since it’s a desktop card, it’s got enough ports (three DisplayPort and one HDMI) to run four displays at once.

All of this inside a box that’s nine inches wide, eight inches deep and five inches tall. Not bad.

Magnus EK71080 Specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ (quad-core 2.8 GHz, up to 3.8 GHz)
  • Memory Slots: 2 x DDR4-2400/2133 SODIMM Slots (up to 32GB)
  • Graphics: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1080 Mini 8GB GDDR5X 256-bit
  • Storage: M.21 x M.2 NVMe PCIE x4 / SATA SSD slot (22/42,22/60,22/80), 1 x 2.5-inch SATA 6.0 Gbps HDD/SSD bay, Intel Optane Memory Slot
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.1, 4 x USB 3.0
  • Network: Dual Gigabit LAN, 802.11ac/b/g/n Wifi
  • Dimensions: 225mm x 203mm x 128mm (8.86in x 7.99in x 5.04in)
  • Price: $1,500 without memory/storage/OS

Some Assembly Required

While there are models of the EK71080 that come with memory and storage pre-installed, the unit I am reviewing here came barebones. That means no memory, no hard drive and no operating system. So I opened it up and took a peek inside.

Turning the EK71080 upside-down and removing four speed screws reveals all the internals anyone needs to worry about. Clearly labeled areas show exactly where memory, an M.2 drive, an Intel Optane stick and a 2.5 inch SATA drive should go.

For memory I chose a pair of 8GB HyperX Impact DDR4 2133 SODIMMchips. The system can accept faster speeds and up to 32GB of memory, but it’s a good starting place.

For storage, the obvious choice would be a nice-sized M.2 SSD drive. Would be a shame to leave a system with an M.2 slot without an M.2 drive, after all. Intel’s 760p series is relatively affordable in all sizes, from the $70 128GB version on up to the $200 512GB beast seen here.

Note that the Intel SSD is perched on top of a much larger, much slower 2TB Seagate Barracuda laptop hard drive. I could combine the two, putting boot files and other programs I need to access quickly on the M.2, using the 2TB drive as storage. But this system also has an Intel Optane slot.

This little 32GB Optane memory module is the really cool. My 2TB Seagate drive is not a fast drive. After remembering to install the Optane disk management software (yes, there is software to install), my slow-ass drive sped up considerably. Games that took over ten seconds to load started up almost immediately. My browser opened more quickly. Windows loaded faster.

Optane has some very specific hardware requirements (not the least of which is an Optane memory slot), so it’s not for everyone. But on a system like this one, that’s built to use it? Its a great way to have a lot of storage without slowing things down.

There is no reason to have an Optane drive and an Intel SSD installed at the same time, but it made for a nice picture. 

What I Did With It

Once the EK71080 was complete, I played quite a few games on it, including a few I cannot mention I am playing yet. It’s basically taken over gaming duties for my normal gaming desktop during the review process, because the silly little thing is more powerful than my normal gaming desktop. That’s kind of sad.

What’s Great About It

Performance: There is no game out there that will give the EK71080 any trouble at 1080p, and few that give it pause at 2160p. Rise of the Tomb Raider, my current “ow it hurts” game, hovered around 60 frames per second at tweaked “very high” settings at 2160p, so it’s a brave little toaster. 4K gaming is certainly doable, though some of the more demanding games out there will need the bells and whistles dialed back.

A VR Monster: The EK71080 is a perfect virtual reality box. Small and portable, yet powerful enough to do anything asked of it by the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift with nary a stutter. It makes me want to grab an extension cord and take it out into the driveway so I can finally do VR without breaking half of my office.

The Size, Obviously: There is so much stuff on my computer desk. When I initially agreed to look at the EK71080, I was looking to approach it from the point of view of someone looking for a living room PC. I’m sure it would be great for that as well, but damn if it isn’t nice to have a PC the size of half a shoebox on a desk covered with toys, tablets, gadgets, video lights, coffee cups, scented wax burners and various gadgets and gizmos.

What’s Not So Great

Not All That Upgradable: While one can fiddle about with hard drives and memory configurations quite a bit, there’s not much else you can change in the EK71080. If it had just one tiny PCIe slot available, it would be perfect for my purposes (I use an internal video capture card). Considering most people looking for a very small form factor PC take such things into account, this might not be a negative for most. This is just me after looking up the cost of an external PCIe enclosure (several hundred dollars at best).

A Little Bit Loud: When not involved in vigorous gaming, the EK71080 is actually pretty quiet. I have a desk fan that’s louder than it on its lowest setting. Things only get loud when the fans of the 1080 Mini kick into overdrive—Rise of the Tomb Raider did it, as did my 3DMark torture test (to see if the computer explodes—it did not). Something to keep in mind if you’re looking for an unobtrusive gaming system.

Final Thoughts

The Zotac Magnus EK71080 is a small black box that does everything I need and want it to do. Looking at it then looking at my gaudy pink tower PC with its missing drive bay covers and dust-choked acrylic side panel, I can’t help but feel like I’ve made bad choices.

It’s Hard To Go Back To Sub-60 FPS Gaming

On today’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we’re talking about noir games, how to get your husband into The Witcher 3, PC vs. consoles, and much much more.

First, Kirk and I jump into news on Mafia 3‘s developer laying people off, Kentucky’s governor blaming video games for shootings, and the System Shock reboot facing development troubles. Then we answer some listener questions (23:01) on console vs. PC gaming and getting your non-gaming spouse into The Witcher 3. We finish things off (48:05) by chatting about games we’re playing: Assassin’s Creed Origins and A Case of Distrust.

Also, we tease a little something that you should be very, very excited for.

Get the MP3 right here.

And here’s a brief excerpt about why I’m finding it hard to go back to consoles:

Jason: Here’s my position. I have now officially been a PC gamer, or more accurately, I’ve had a hardcore super-high-end gaming PC since the beginning of January. First of all, I love it to death. Second of all, the biggest difference for me has been the framerate of games. I knew this was going to happen, because framerate is the one thing I’ve noticed most over the years—when a game is chugging on consoles, I can always tell. It was tough to play Bloodborne for that very reason.

So jumping into something like Rise of the Tomb Raider, which I just started playing, and Assassin’s Creed Origins, which I just started replaying on PC, these games running at 60 frames-per-second makes such a huge difference. It makes the game feel so much smoother, and so much better than playing it at 30 frames per second or below on a console on your TV.

That to me makes the biggest difference. I’m not playing at 4K, I’m playing on a 1440p monitor. Man, I have to get used to all the jargon.

That framerate thing makes such a big difference that it’s making me want to play mostly on PC when I have the option. But the flip side is, sitting on a couch is more comfortable than sitting at my desk. For me, framerate has been winning out—I have a decent gaming chair, so I’ve been sitting back and playing on my DualShock 4 and I’m just having a blast, cause it’s running at 60 fps. I could not imagine now going back to consoles and playing that game at 30 fps.

‘Onrush’ is a racing game with no finish lines

Normally, a race requires a finish line. In a game like Forza Motorsport or Need for Speed, you’re tasked with hurtling between two points or completing a certain number of laps before your opponents. Not so with Onrush, the next title by racing specialist Codemasters. Instead, you’re fighting for points in a range of bombastic modes centered around a chaotic swarm of drivers. Outrageous crashes occur every second alongside ridiculous speed boosts and a death-defying medley of jumps, flips and barrel rolls. It’s like the peloton in cycling’s brutal Tour de France mixed with Mad Max and a monster truck rally.

The team behind Onrush used to be called Evolution Studios. Under Sony’s stewardship, the British developer made six World Rally Championship games for the PlayStation 2 and four MotorStorm titles for the PlayStation 3 and, in the case of Motorstorm: RC, PlayStation Vita. In 2014, it tried to kickstart the PlayStation 4 with Driveclub, a realistic racer centered around six-person teams, or “clubs.” While the game was praised for its dynamic weather and meticulously recreated cars, a rocky launch — plagued by server problems and a delayed PlayStation Plus version — meant it never gained much momentum. In March 2016, Sony decided to close the studio.

A month later, however, the team was picked up by Codemasters. Yearning for a fresh start, game director Paul Rustchynsky looked at classic arcade racers, such as Burnout, which rewarded players for narrow misses and driving on the wrong side of the road. “We’re huge fans of Burnout 3, in particular,” Rustchynsky said. The game’s mechanics raised the tension and reduced the time in between each nail-biting moment. You didn’t have to wait three turns for a chance to overtake the person in front; you could just veer left, squeeze between some taxis and hit the boost button.

Paul Rustchynsky, Onrush game director (left) and Jamie Brayshaw, assistant game director (right).

The studio wanted to do something new, though. So it looked at co-operative shooters such as Overwatch and Team Fortress 2, which offer different character classes with unique strengths and weaknesses. “We knew we wanted team-based racing,” Rustchynsky said, “that’s something we wanted to bring into the action straight away.” That sort of teamplay, however, was more complicated and ambitious than the simple head-to-head racing of Driveclub. It would require complementary abilities and careful balancing like a roster of Street Fighter characters. Still, the team took to the challenge and began prototyping a six-versus-six arcade racer.

The idea of a swarm or “stampede” that you constantly spawn into came later. One employee was talking about “drop-in, drop-out co-op” as a way of pairing friends up in between races. But then the rest of the team suddenly realized: What if you could literally drop into a game while the action was still underway? The feature is common in first-person shooters such as Battlefield and Call of Duty, but rare in conventional racers. That’s because it wouldn’t be fair to join a Nascar championship on the final turn, after players had spent hours jostling for position.

It required a major rethink. The team’s solution was a gameplay net, nicknamed the stampede, that contains 12 human and 12 computer-controlled drivers. If you crash or fall too far behind, you’re instantly thrown back into the fray with everyone else. It meant changing the nature of the game, however. Instead of a chequered flag, Onrush has a bevy of unusual gameplay modes. One of these, Overdrive, tasks two teams with collecting a set amount of boost. While it’s tempting to race near the front of the pack, the smarter bet is to hang back and look for weaker vehicles that are easier to take down.

“That’s what brings it to life. That multiplayer principle of just launching people right back into the action.”

Countdown, a time attack mode inspired by Out Run and other arcade racers, requires a similar mindset. Each team has a timer that can only be replenished by passing through neon gates. Your first instinct is to hammer the boost button, but it’s better to focus on takedowns and blocking other players. And if you crash into a tree or get taken out by another driver, it doesn’t matter because the respawns are so darn fast. “That’s what brings it to life,” Jamie Brayshaw, assistant game director explained. “That multiplayer principle of just launching people right back into the action when they get taken down. That unlocks ways to embrace the crash, to celebrate the crash and the takedown.”

Activating ‘Rush’ boost.Onrush has a heavy emphasis on team play, too. There are eight vehicles to choose from, each with unique abilities that can affect the flow of a match. Outlaw, for instance, is a boost-stealing motorcycle vulnerable to larger vehicles. Interceptor has an extended Rush — a second-level boost that builds over the course of each game — while the bulky Titan can shield other racers. Understanding the classes and how they should be used in different modes will be pivotal online. While it’s possible to compete solo, high-ranking matches will be won by teams with smart compositions.

Onrush will have a Superstar campaign for players who want to learn the different classes or avoid the hyper-competitive nature of the internet. At a preview event in London, I was able to try out the first 10 or so events. These had a mixture of Overdrive and Countdown objectives, coupled with optional challenges that included barrel roll and takedown quotas. At first I was utterly flummoxed as trucks smashed into my car and nimbly dodged my takedown attempts. But slowly I learned the course and the best spots to attack enemy drivers. Successful shunts gave me a full tank of boost and the speed required to be more offensive and influential in each match.

Much of the game’s strategy revolves around the fodder system. If you fall toward the back of the stampede, the AI drivers will spawn in easy to reach locations. They can’t earn boost or takedowns, making them easy targets for motorcycles and other lightweight vehicles. “The fodder were initially going to be competitor-like, so they could drive and take you out and get involved in the action,” Rustchynsky said. “But we found that this didn’t make the game any more fun. Instead, it was more enjoyable to serve up those regular takedown moments for players of different skill levels.”

Every track is unique and will be playable in the day, night, sunshine and rain.

The studio hopes Onrush can blossom into a long-running service like Rocket League and Overwatch. For now, though, the 60-odd team is focused on the base game that will ship on June 5th for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. There will be no monetization “on day one,” though the game does have a crate system for unlocking driver and vehicle cosmetics. “All the abilities and vehicles are going to be controlled by us,” Rustchynsky insisted. “We want it to be like a lineup of heroes in Overwatch. We want to be able to balance them so that they’re perfectly optimized and everyone has an equal opportunity of having fun and success in every single class.”

I enjoyed the game but question its staying power. After an hour, my interest started to wane despite the steady flow of crashes and takedowns. Maybe I was growing desensitized to the action or yearned for the challenge of human-controlled drivers. Regardless, it left me feeling intrigued but skeptical about the project. Rustchynsky stressed, however, that the game is “still in a beta phase” and will be continuously tweaked. That includes everything from takedown strength to vehicle handling. “We want to make sure that every time you take someone down, it feels natural, it feels right,” he said. Those minor adjustments could, after all, be the difference between a breakout hit like PUBG and another Driveclub.

Play the new ‘Overwatch’ battle healer hero Brigitte today

Blizzard

As is custom for Blizzard, last month the company dropped a couple hints on Overwatch‘s Twitter account before announcing a new hero and immediately adding her to the PTR. Today, the front-line battle healer Brigitte has been added to the game across all platforms.

Brigitte is a support character blending offensive and defensive abilities. Her healing boosts are similar to her father Torbjörn’s armor packs and a shield like Reinhardt’s with a charge-stun and distance-whip boop for variety. Finally, her ultimate creates an aura that adds armor to teammates in a radius around her, sort of like an ongoing version of Lucio’s ultra ability.

Brigitte showed up a month before the game was even released in the Overwatch comic Dragon Slayer, featuring the young armorsmith squiring for an aged-yet-valiant Reinhardt. Her reveal trailer showed her young tinkering days as the oldest daughter of turret-daddy Torbjörn. What else could she do but follow in his and her godfather Reinhardt’s footsteps by joining the fight? One hopes that she doesn’t forget her childhood experiments trying to strap her cat onto a jetpack, which is Blizzard’s nod to a wild character concept that fans have (understandably!) clung to for years…

‘Gunhead’ puts an artistic twist on a first-person shooter game

First-person shooter games are dime a dozen, but every now and then there’s one that stands out from the pack. That’s exactly the case with Gunhead, an open world title from Alientrap, the same indie developer that brought you the gorgeous 2D platformer Apotheon. The game, which quietly debuted at SXSW 2018 last week and is here at GDC 2018, features visuals reminiscent of films like A Scanner Darkly, the animated sci-fi thriller from 2006. Gunhead’s artwork feels cartoonish, yet polished, with dark, vibrant colors that pop as you travel between spaceships in your role as a pirate mech with a gun for a head.

Your goal is to loot during your journey and, along the way, take down the monstrous creatures who are trying to stop you. You’ll come across enemies with purple tentacles, others who look like fish made out of steel and bones, and drones that shoot bullets at you mercilessly. Naturally, you are the main character in Gunhead after all, so you have a rocket launcher and an automatic weapon to defend yourself. You also have a jetpack, which lets you jump between platforms while you’re inside each spaceship, trying to take down their core and make them implode.

Gunhead feels like a mix of games such as Borderlands or Fallout, and that says a lot about it because at times you forget that this is an indie. It’s just executed well, both visually and in terms of the overall gameplay. Another nice touch is that if you’re having trouble keeping up with your enemies or getting out of a spaceship, you’ll get some assistance from characters claiming to be engineers or scientists, who will help ensure that you make it past each level. Think: Star Fox-like mini-cutscenes.

Lee Vermeulen, Alientrap’s programmer and co-founder, says the idea with Gunhead is to make it be a true open world game, where you can travel into space in your own spaceship and loot as many items as possible before facing six or seven bosses. “My goal is to make something that’s good moment-to-moment action,” he said, noting that he wants players to not just think about running and gunning, but also about strategizing how they want to attack their enemies and how to get the most out of each level.

The demo I played was on a PC, but Vermeulen said that he hopes to bring it to either the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One in six or seven months. He also said he hopes to bring it to the Switch, though that’ll depend on if Nintendo’s console can run Gunhead as it was intended.

‘Apocalypse Cow’ is a platform game inspired by ‘Wreck-It Ralph’

One of the best things about attending GDC is that, more often than not, you come across some of the best-looking independent titles. Today, that honor goes to Apocalypse Cow, a cinematic adventure game that draws inspiration from animated films like Wreck-It Ralph and genre-classics such as Super Mario. This 2D platformer, developed by an indie studio called Monsters, features the story of a character named Penny who tries to figure out what caused a glitch in a digital universe made up of video game worlds — hence the homage to Wreck-It Ralph.

Throughout Penny’s journey, you’ll see levels with visuals, items and enemies that are reminiscent of those in a Super Mario game, like the iconic green pipes and deadly gray blocks that are looking to stomp you. The latter are basically Thwomps on steroids, with spinning blue blades that will slice you into tiny pieces. That’s what’s great about Apocalypse Cow, it isn’t just a quirky, colorful platform game — it can also get pretty gory as you make your way past levels.

Altogether there are three different worlds that Penny can travel between, each made up of different missions that lead you to your ultimate goal: discovering the root cause of the glitch that’s ravaging everything around you. And if you’re wondering where the name for Apocalypse Cow came from, well, it actually has very little do with cows. The game’s developer told Engadget that the team couldn’t find a title until someone said, “Why don’t we just call it Apocalypse Cow?” After that, the next step was to actually bring some cow elements to the game, so Monsters decided to make the big boss an angry robotic bovine.

We won’t spoil the entire game for you, but at least now you know you should expect to come across a robotic heifer at some point. As for the controls, we were playing on an Xbox One dev kit and things are fairly simple here: left stick to move, right trigger to use your weapons and the A button to jump. The dev said it was important to ensure that gamers didn’t feel like they had to think when playing; the fewer buttons they could use, the better.

Monsters said Apocalypse Cow has been in the works for five years, noting that if the story wasn’t so deep it probably would’ve been done three years ago. In fact, Monster has rewritten the story completely three times. What we played at GDC 2018 is almost the final version, which you’ll see launch on Steam and the Xbox later this year. There’s no set MSRP for the game yet, but we’re told the goal is to make it available for around $15.

 

Humans pretended to be monsters for Monster Hunter World’s motion capture

Capcom’s Monster Hunter World features incredibly realistic fantastical beasts, as the developers were able to take advantage of new, more powerful technologies compared to past games. One of those technologies was motion capture — but in place of actual monsters to capture, humans had to play pretend.

You can see a brief snippet of this process in action in a new making-of video from Monster Hunter’s YouTube channel (as spotted by Naughty Dog animator Jonathan Cooper). From the looks of it, the team really got into the spirit. In the video, one very angry-looking man in a mo-cap suit acts out the part of a Great Jargas, moving around on all fours while taking a bite out of another man. His face definitely has the look of a predator. (The motion capture section starts at around the one-minute mark.)

World launched in late January, and it shifts the long-running series in a more forward-facing direction, with a more open and dynamic world to explore. Much of that was due to its launch on modern consoles for the first time (previously, the series was primarily available on portable devices), which Kaname Fujioka, executive director and art director on the game, says greatly influenced what the team was able to create. “The hardware allowed us to explore [new] types of visual design options,” he told The Verge.

The result is arguably the best game in the series to date, one that’s shaping up to be a big hit. Just remember: whenever you swing your huge axe at a dinosaur, a human had to pretend to be hurt.

Hot Wheels is bringing Rocket League to life with remote control cars

Rocket League and Hot Wheels cars have always felt like a match made in heaven. Last year, the two brands teamed up to put Hot Wheels cars into the popular vehicular soccer game, and this fall will see the logical conclusion of that partnership, with Hot Wheels releasing a real-life version of Rocket League with remote controlled toy cars. The set was first spotted by Kotaku earlier this week.

The set will cost $179.99, and comes with a stadium, two cars (designed after the digital Rocket League’s Octane and Dominus racers), and a ball equipped with IR signals to keep accurate score. The cars themselves are controlled via Bluetooth from a connected smartphone, similar to things like Anki Drive.

Sadly, while Hot Wheels’ IRL Rocket League may look like the original, given the limitations of actual toys (and physics), you’ll probably have to save your high-flying goals, jet-boosted cars, and exploding nets for the digital version. But the set will come with codes for DLC for the digital game, so you’ll at least be able to recreate some of the RC magic over on your PC, too.

New PlayStation boss reassures fans on Twitter (UPDATE: it was a faker!)

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Correction: Sony reached out to tell us that the Twitter account allegedly belonging to SIE CEO John Kodera in this story was actually an elaborate hoax. I apologize deeply for the oversight!

Original story: The new boss of Sony’s PlayStation division took charge late last year and he made one thing clear at the start of this one: the change in leadership does not mean a change in direction for the company’s biggest games. Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO John Kodera made the pronouncement in a humbly-worded Twitter response to a PlayStation fan’s concerns.

 

A clarification of terms: “games as a service” is a broad concept encapsulating games that keep you playing for months or even years with regular content updates (as opposed to a set campaign or multiplayer experience). It’s the difference between the original Halo and Destiny; they’re both built on similar shooty-shoot play experiences, but Destiny added stuff for years after launch to keep players coming back. Also to keep players spending money on DLC expansions and microtransactions, which is the part that tends to rankle.

While PS4 is home to many such games as a service, the big titles Sony publishes tend to keep that element secondary or not use it at all: Horizon: Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4, and Bloodborne are just a few examples. Looking ahead to God of War, Days Gone, Spider-Man, and Ghost of Tsushima, the same seems to be true of Sony’s currently announced slate of games. And judging by Kodera’s tweet, we can expect similar plans far further into the company’s future, even as former CEO Andrew House’s press conference voice becomes a distant (but still pleasantly Welsh) memory.

Taking a step past the “good guy Sony” interpretation, this approach makes business sense even as games as a service become more and more profitable for other publishers. When console manufacturers make their own games, they’re not just trying to sell those games. They’re trying to make their platforms as desirable as possible.

Horizon: Zero Dawn probably would have made more money if it sold you crafting materials in loot boxes, but it also may have eroded some of the good feelings players have about it and the system as a whole. By emphasizing traditionally crowd-pleasing games in its own portfolio, Sony keeps fans happy, sells more PS4s, and cultivates a thriving platform for all kinds of titles. That includes games as a service, from which Sony happily collects a portion of the microtransaction purchases. Such is the unique, hard-earned joy of being a platform holder!

Report says loot boxes for Xbox One’s new Avatars could be coming soon – but it’s not as bad as it sounds

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The way Xbox One players earn and show off their achievements (and Achievements) could change soon with the rumored addition of a new “Career” feature. According to a report from Windows Central, there are documents and features which refer to this new system, including levels, prestige ranks, and loot crates for the upcoming Avatar revamp.

So, what is Career? First off, it’s nothing announced or official, so treat anything in this article with a healthy dose of skepticism. It could simply be a test run, or it could evolve into something else by the time it’s unveiled. For now, it appears to be a new system that would exist alongside Gamerscore as a way of representing time and effort players sunk into their games.

Xbox platform chief Mike Ybarra told Windows Central in an August 2017 interview that Microsoft was looking into ways it could extend its recognition of player dedication beyond a simple number. “We are working towards a bigger, more meaningful change about somebody’s gaming accomplishments in history, as a gamer on Xbox. We can do a lot more to reflect and let people show their gaming history and their status,” Ybarra said. “Somebody who only plays multiplayer in Halo 5 at a professional level, maybe they only have 2,000 Gamerscore, you want to be able to celebrate that person.”

This Career mode would seem to be what Ybarra was alluding to, as it includes multiple ways to “level up” your profile, which would earn you loot boxes containing cosmetic flair for you and your Avatar. It should be noted that per Windows Central’s report, said loot boxes do not appear to be purchasable with real world money.