According to the announcement made by EA earlier this week, it appears that there won’t be any new Battlefield game for a “couple of years”.
The announcement, which says that there are no plans for a new Battlefield game for another “couple of years”, was made during EA’s Investor Program by EA’s chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen and came as a rather big surprise, especially considering that the latest Battlefield 1 was a big success.
It appears that EA will be rather focusing on Battlefront, the Star Wars themed game, and the next one will be both “much bigger” and “much more exciting”, which was something that was a big drawback of the first Battlefront.
Of course, EA still plans to release those four expansion packs but we do not know any future plans for the franchise.
Hopefully, this also means that EA will have something special in store for future Battlefield titles as they certainly both surprised everyone and made a great hit by using the World War I.
Apple has written to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claiming that was still interested in making self-driving cars.
Jobs’ Mob got a black eye in its self-driving car plans when it found that car makers were not the push over it expected. Jobs’ Mob arrived on the scene expecting car makers to fall over themselves to make Apple their partner. It made a list of demands about the way it was going to turn out and the car makers just laughed.
As a result, Apple appeared to give up on Project Titan, which was supposed to make the car, and reallocated all its staff to other projects or fired them.
Now this letter to the NHTS has Apple claiming to be “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”
The letter is Apple’s official comment on the federal government’s automated vehicle guidelines, released last September, which has already drawn feedback from many companies working on autonomous cars like Google and Ford.
The federal government is continuing to collect feedback from tech companies and car manufacturers on its recently released automated vehicle policy. It would appear that Apple still wants into the program. Although how this will be possible without a product, or staff capable of making such a product is strange.
The letter is signed by Steven Kenner who is the man in charge of what is left of Project Titan.
“Apple agrees that companies should share de-identified scenario and dynamics data from crashes and near-misses. By sharing data, the industry will build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone.”
A cynic would suggest that Apple is hoping that other companies will share data which it can use to create its own product.
Apple also wants the government allow for “regulatory flexibility” to encourage innovation. This means that the government should keep the guidelines voluntary and avoid passing any concrete rules or mandates so Apple can do what it likes.
MediaTek has announced two more Helio X20 series products – a Helio X27 and an X23 and as you can figure out from the names; Helio X27 is faster than the X25 while X23 is a bit slower.
Helio X25 was the fastest deca-core 20nm SoC from MediaTek with three cluster designs and this SoC ended up in quite a few prominent China higher end phones including a few Meizu devices. But it looks like customers wanted a bit faster camera, SoC and GPU performance for its late 2016 early 2017 phones, the ones that will launch before the Helio X30 comes to market.
Jeffrey Ju, Executive Vice President and Co-Chief Operating Officer at MediaTek said: “The MediaTek Helio platform fulfills the diverse needs of device makers. Based on the success of MediaTek Helio X20 and X25, we are introducing the upgraded MediaTek Helio X23 and X27. The new SoCs support premium dual camera photography and provide best in-class performance and power consumption,”
The Helio X25 has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.5 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 2.00 GHz and last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.55GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 850 MHz.
The Helio X20 has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.1 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.85 GHz and last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.4GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 780 MHz.
The newcomer, Helio X27, has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.6 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 2.00 GHz and the last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.6 GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 875 MHz. The rest of the specification is identical to the Helio X25.
The Helio X23 has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.85 GHz and the last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.4GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 780 MHz. As you can see, this is just a slightly faster version of Helio X20 and it sits just below Helio X25 with its specs.
Thanks to MediaTek-engineered advancements in the CPU/GPU heterogeneous computing scheduling algorithm, both products deliver more than a 20 percent overall processing improvement and significant increases in web browsing and application launching speeds. This definitely sounds promising but you should bear in mind that MediaTek had enough time to optimize these designs of the new and updated SoCs.
Phones based on the Helio X27 and X23 will be available soon.
Japan’s Panasonic Corp is holding discussions to acquire European automotive light maker ZKW Group, accelerating its push into the automotive electronics market, a person familiar with the matter said.
The deal could be worth up to $1 billion and the two companies could reach a basic agreement as early as this month, the Nikkei business daily reported Monday.
An acquisition of ZKW would expand Panasonic’s automotive lineup, which currently centers on batteries and navigation systems, as it shifts its focus to corporate clients to escape price competition from lower-margin consumer electronics manufacturers.
Austria-based ZKW declined to comment. It employed more than 5,900 staff at the end of last year and has plants in Austria, India, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, China, the United States and Mexico, according to its website.
Privately held ZKW supplies light-emitting diode headlights and lighting modules to U.S. and European automakers such as General Motors Co and BMW. It forecasts sales of about 900 million euros ($949.59 million) in 2016.
“ZKW is among various deals that Panasonic is considering,” said the source, who was not authorized to discuss the matter and asked not to be named.
“But no details have been decided and the deal could fall through,” he said.
Panasonic has earmarked 1 trillion yen ($8.80 billion) for strategic investments including mergers and acquisitions for the four years through March 2019. Of that amount, 70 percent has been already completed or allocated for specific deals, the company has said.
The possible acquisition comes at a time when rival electronics makers are also pushing into the automotive industry. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd agreed in November to buy Harman International Industries in an $8 billion deal.
Panasonic is targeting annual sales of 2 trillion yen for its automotive business in the year ending in March 2019, up from 1.3 trillion yen in the last financial year that ended in March.
While waiting for Zen is remarkably like waiting for Godot, we have just been told that AMD will be holding a sneak peek of its high-performance Zen CPU on 13 December.
The preview will be streamed at 1 p.m. PST on December 13. You can sign up at AMD’s website to have a shifty. The host of the event will be the video gamer hack, Geoff Keighley and it will be called “Watch New Horizon.”
According to the email the event will be an “ exclusive advance preview of our new ‘Zen’ CPU ahead of its 2017 Q1 launch”.
“See eSports & Evil Geniuses legend PPD put ‘Zen’ through its paces. There’ll be appearances from special guests and giveaways. This is the first time the public will be able to try it themselves and see its capabilities. If you’re serious about gaming, this is an event you do not want to miss.”
What we are expecting is that AMD will show off the quad-core version of Zen. AMD will have four Zen-based CPUs in the “Summit Ridge” family launching early next year.
The top end will probably include two eight-core chips with Simultaneous Multi-Threading, and an SR5 with six cores, and a quad-core SR3.
What we are curious about is if the pricing rumors are correct. The highest-end 8-core will be $500, while a second, slower eight-core chip could be as low as $350. This will really scare the bejesus out of Intel as it is promising better performance for half the price.
Other rumors say that the six-core SR5 will hit the shops for $250 and the quad-core SR3 will be $150. Intel gear will set you back $320 for its quad-core Core i7-6700K chip, and the cheapest six-core costs $380.
The number of games on Steam continues to rise at a daunting rate. According to new data from Steam Spy, the number of full games released on the store this year rose 40% over 2015.
Steam Spy founder Sergey Galyonkin published a chart on Twitter that indicated a total of 4207 games launched on Steam in 2016, up from 2964 last year. If accurate, that means 38% of all games on Steam were released within the last 12 months – a sobering thought for any developer trading on Valve’s market leading platform.
Of course, the notion that Steam is crowded with product is hardly new, but Steam Spy’s chart – republished above – clearly illustrates the pace at which the trend is playing out.
The only small consolation is that the 40% rise over last year is actually lower than the 67% increase in new games between 2014 and 2015. Galyonkin noted that the chart doesn’t include movies and non-game software, but it also filters out relevant content like DLC packs and “games without owner data.”
Valve is certainly cognisant of the issues that Steam’s teeming inventory has created for both developers and consumers. It has responded with two “Discovery Updates” that gave more control over the experience to both groups, the first in 2014 and the second little more than a month ago.
Following the second Discovery Update, GamesIndustry.biz talked to developers about the “huge impact” of the changes.
As the numbers from Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend continue to trickle in, many analysts are examining how the holiday sales picture is coming together this year. While The NPD Group is not ready to give its full assessment just yet, the firm did note to GamesIndustry.biz that digital promotions on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live were much more aggressive this year and may have impacted the retail channel. Digital aside, the sector that seemed to struggle the most is virtual reality, according to SuperData, which said VR has been the “biggest loser.”
Thanks to “notably fewer units sold than expected due to a relatively fragmented title line-up and modest marketing effort,” VR headsets are now expected to sell even fewer than previously thought. SuperData’s revised forecast for 2016 calls for under 750k PlayStation VR units sold (their previous estimate was 2.6 million) with Google’s Daydream selling just 261k (down from 450k). Previous estimates for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Gear VR remain unchanged at 450k, 355k and 2.3 million, respectively.
As you can see, expectations for PSVR have seen the most dramatic shift. Stephanie Llamas, director of research and insights at SuperData, explained to us, “PSVR had the best opportunity to benefit from the holidays but their supply inconsistencies and lack of marketing have put them behind their potential. They did not offer any first-party deals this weekend, restock bundles or market the device, pushing instead for the PS 4 Pro. They have also pointed out that VR looks even better on a Pro than a standard or slim PS 4, so the message to most gamers is: Get the Pro now, then the PSVR later. As a result, we won’t see them break 1M shipments until well into the new year.”
Llamas added that Sony may be deliberately limiting PSVR supply until it can do a better job with supporting the platform. “Had Sony pushed the PSVR the way they’ve been pushing their other new hardware, the demand would have certainly fulfilled a supply of over 2 million. However, given its quiet release it’s clear they’re being cautious before fully investing in the tech. Without the ‘killer app’ and the slow, steady release of AAA content, they will release less than 1 million devices until they have content they feel confident will bring in the praise they want. They can afford to take it slow since they have no competition for now, so their supply and sales will rise steadily into 2017 as opposed to riding the seasonal wave,” she said.
As for Oculus, Llamas believes they’ve taken a risk by possibly splitting their own user base. “The Rift’s Touch controllers are an opportunity for Oculus to penetrate, but not many headsets have moved, especially with their round-about deal where purchasers earned $100 Oculus credit rather than just getting $100 off. Oculus’s hardware release strategy has also slowed them down and split their user base, so developers are having to make some choices around whether they should develop for both Touch and non-Touch users. This means development has slowed and is becoming another barrier to growth,” she remarked.
Looking at the non-VR games market, Nintendo may actually prove to be the biggest winner, thanks to updates both to Pokémon GO and selling out of its NES mini. “On mobile we recorded a spike in earnings as players made the most of the Thanksgiving special for Pokémon GO. The game’s ability to stay in the forefront of people’s minds as we approach the release date for Super Mario Run may prove beneficial for Nintendo, which has yet to make a convincing claim on the $38 billion mobile games market,” said Joost van Dreunen.
Overall digital game sales this holiday are down 2% from 2015 so far, but the impact of digital has grown tremendously in just a few years. “In 2012 full game downloads accounted for only 6% of total unit sales around the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. For 2016E that number was four times higher at 24%,” van Dreunen said.
The other big contributor to the slow holiday start has been big discounting, according to Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter. “We saw greater discounting of high-profile new video games this Black Friday compared to last year. Last year’s top sellers, Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III , Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout 4, and EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, saw sticky pricing on Black Friday, with the $60 price point remaining largely intact. While discounting of sports games happens each year, many other titles that maintain pricing on Black Friday were listed at discounts of 40% or more this weekend,” he observed.
“For example, Walmart had EA’s Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 at $27, and Microsoft’s Gears of War 4 and Take-Two’s Mafia III at $35. Walmart also had Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition, which includes Modern Warfare Remastered , for $57, a $23 discount. Discounting of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare began earlier in the week, with widespread discounts of roughly $20 for the different versions of the game. Hardware discounting for the PS4 and Xbox One was largely consistent with 2015, as $50 discounts were commonplace.”
Pachter also agreed that the “pace of the mix shift to digital full game downloads continues to be brisk,” but we probably won’t know whether digital sales fully made up for retail declines until we get the complete NPD report for 2016 sometime in January.
According to industry sources, TSMC is planning to introduce a 12 nanometer half-node process to enhance competition with 28nm and lower process nodes that have been adopted over the past few years.
The chip manufacturer’s 12nm process node will join its existing 16nm process portfolio as a smaller option in order to give it a competitive advantage against Samsung and GlobalFoundries. It is expected to offer improved leakage characteristics at a lower cost than its 16nm lineup. TSMC currently offers three variants of its 16nm FinFET process designed both for high-performance devices, as well as for ultra-low power situations requiring less than 0.6 volts.
Back in September, GlobalFoundries was the first to announce a 12nm process using Fully Depleted Silicon-On-Insulator (FD-SOI) planar technology. The foundry claims that 12FDX can deliver “15 percent more performance over current FinFET technologies” with “50 percent lower power consumption,” at a cost lower than existing 16nm FinFET devices.
TSMC currently supplies 16nm chips to a number of American, Chinese and Taiwanese companies including Apple, Nvidia, Xilinx, Spreadtrum and MediaTek, while GlobalFoundries provides chips using 14nm FinFET technology for AMD’s Polaris graphics cards and upcoming Zen processors. Meanwhile, Samsung provides 14nm LPP technology to Qualcomm for its Snapdragon 820 series and for use in its own mobile device lineup.
Although TSMC’s 12nm process was originally planned to be introduced as a fourth-generation 16nm optimization, it will now be introduced as an independent process technology instead. Three of the company’s partners have already received tape-outs on 10nm designs and the process is expected to start generating revenues by early 2017. Apple and MediaTek are likely to be the first with 10nm TSMC-based products, while the 12nm node should become a useful enhancement to fill the competition gap before more partners are capable of building 10nm chips.
DirecTV Now is a flexible pay-as-you-go streaming service that starts at US$35 per month. DirectTV’s conventional satellite service is the foundation, but the content will be streamed over the internet.
Traditionally, users needed a two-year commitment and credit check to get DirecTV, but those requirements are not needed for the new service. The streaming service will work on the Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, as well as mobile devices with Android and iOS and PCs.
There are four pricing bundles, AT&T said at a press event in New York City. Users will be able to get more than 60 channels for $35, more than 80 for $50, more than 100 for $60, and more than 120 for $70. As an introductory promotion, AT&T will offer 100 channels for $35.
The programming lineup includes Disney channels, ESPN, AMC, Turner Broadcasting, NBC Universal, Fox, and many more channels. HBO and Cinemax can be added for $5 each. A deal to add CBS and Showtime is being negotiated.
NFL Sunday Ticket won’t be available with the service, but AT&T is also negotiating to add the service. NFL content will still be available on the games broadcast on NBC, Fox, and ESPN. When CBS is added, its NFL games will be available, too.
AT&T also plans to add a cloud DVR service in the coming years. Subscribers will be able to watch two streams simultaneously on separate devices.
The interface is key to the success of a streaming TV service. DirecTV Now will be able to track the programs users are watching and provide recommendations based on categories. The content is categorized as TV shows, movies, and networks. The interface will list shows people are watching, and users will be able to search content.
DirecTV Now is the third major streaming TV option after Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Dish’s Sling TV. It’s competitive on price with PlayStation Vue, which starts at $40, but not as cheap as Sling, which has fewer channels for $20.
For AT&T, DirecTV Now is a big deal and a new way to deliver programming. It’s also a way to say goodbye to the ubiquitous DirecTV satellite receivers.
“This is the foundation for how we’ll do things in the future,” said John Stankey, CEO of AT&T Entertainment Group.
As we near the end of a pivotal year for virtual reality, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to be done. With the arrival of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, consumers finally have access to the technology that has commanded much of the industry’s attention and excitement for the past four years but only now can we gauge how popular it may become.
That’s according to Aki Järvinen, founder of research and consulting initiative Game Futures, currently working at Sheffield Hallam University. Järvinen will be speaking about trends in virtual reality development at this week’s Develop:VR conference in London. We caught up with him ahead of the event to find out his thoughts on the industry’s next step after this year’s long-awaited hardware launches.
“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice,” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example. How does the isolating, solitary nature of current VR tech affect the frequency of use and thus retention with games? Early data shows that game time spent on VR titles is nowhere close to PC titles in the same genres.
“Kevin Kelly, the former editor of Wired, has talked about how the Internet has proceeded to its current form as streams and flows, from its ‘newspapery’ web origins. I expect something similar to happen with VR games; currently, it’s about imitating existing genres with the added value of VR-enhanced sense of presence, but developers and designers should experiment with other paradigms.
“2016 has been the first proper year for developers to test the waters on if the market is profitable yet and learn about releasing games for the actual retail platforms. Strategic product decisions are being made as we speak, based on these early experiences.”
Many developers have said that virtual reality tears up the game design rulebook, requiring completely new theories and practices when it comes to game creation. By now, studios have poured years into experimenting with VR games and it would be fair to argue that the early pages of that rulebook have been written – but Järvinen believes the conventions and best practices established so far are largely temporary.
“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice. We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example.”
Aki Järvinen, Game Futures
With more changes expected from the headsets themselves, plus the accessories and controllers supporting them, Järvinen argues that the time span has been “too short for [findings] to stick” and that gameplay design solutions in use now will be almost irrelevant in just a few years.
“If one looks at games like Batman: Arkham VR, for example, the designers have clearly tried to turn the current constraints of the platform – lack of movement in particular – to their advantage, and design gameplay around the constraints,” he says. “They’ve done this with very deliberately crafted, static setpieces that leverage VR’s other strengths, such as experiencing the scope and scale of things in a more startling, life-like way. Yet, once those movement constraints go away, it’s hard to see anyone designing in that paradigm anymore. So it’s an agile rulebook in constant change.”
The future of virtual reality will, therefore, be defined by its hardware rather than its software, and the Game Futures founder predicts significant evolution from the devices people are picking up in stores this Christmas.
“VR has enough momentum now that it will go along the typical development path of similar technologies,” says Järvinen. “Headsets will become smaller, untethered, of higher resolution, trackers invisible, and so on. When these developments are able to coincide with lower production costs to the degree that retail price points become truly affordable, then we are on the cusp of a real breakthrough. Parallel to this, software has to evolve.”
It’s easy to argue that virtual reality software is already quite unevolved. With a handful of more ambitious or high-production projects being the exceptions, the vast majority of launch software for Oculus, Vive and PSVR is limited. Most current virtual reality titles offer a more immersive first-person perspective for long-established gameplay genres, with little more than the novelty of viewing the action through the headset to differentiate it from what has come before. Perhaps the most blatant examples are the waves of shooting gallery-style VR games, where players are restricted to either an on-rails experience, a gun turret or standing on the spot, blasting away at waves of enemies that appear in often scripted patterns.
Järvinen says the prominence of these games so far is “a concern” but believes that as the market evolves, both in terms of hardware and software, “the lesser formulas will wither out”.
He adds: “So far developers have benefited from the rush of early adopters who basically purchase or download everything. This might lead to vanity metrics, such as bloated download figures, or bloated revenue estimates, as there has been lots of free promotions, bundles, and so on. But the VR market cannot be sustained with spikes from early adopters and therefore the more inherently ‘VR’ titles and game design aspects will eventually prevail.
“VR in its current form still has too many disabling contexts in play, such as retail price, PC requirements, and the fact that many people experience nausea. While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”
The cultural challenges that virtual reality faces are by far the most significant. 2016 has seen VR find the audience it was originally intended for and would inevitably appeal to the most (that is, avid consumers of video games and emerging technology) but hopes remain high that the tech will grow to have mainstream appeal. Certainly, that seems to be the intention of Facebook, which acquired Oculus back in 2014 and earlier this year showed off new social communication functions such as virtual chat rooms at September’s Connect event.
“While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”
Aki Järvinen, Game Futures
Järvinen believes the social network has spent enough effort and money on virtual reality that “they’ve gone past the point of abandoning creating its mass-market appeal” but suggests future forms of the hardware will have more impact on the technology’s attractiveness than the companies backing it.
“True mainstream appeal would require technological developments, such as miniaturisation, but also use cases where users see obvious benefits. Facebook seems to bet on the social dimension being the latter. Creating accessible tools for VR content creation could be the home run.”
As such, we can expect to see more companies from beyond the games industry investing in the technology and those developing for it. While it might not reach the headline-grabbing heights of Facebook’s $2bn Oculus acquisition, there is little danger of funding for virtual reality projects drying up any time soon.
“The wow factor with VR is strong enough that, when executed innovatively by a capable team, investors will get on board,” Järvinen says. “Therefore I believe investments will stay steady but perhaps we won’t see news about the more exuberant sums before the market finds its own Supercell.”
Järvinen concludes by stressing that the non-games, even non-entertainment, applications for virtual reality will go a long way to not only broadening the technology’s appeal, but writing more pages of that agile rulebook.
“We should not forget applications of VR beyond games and entertainment,” he says. “I believe journalism can use similar aspirations for a heightened feeling of empathy, achieved by leveraging that sense of presence VR can produce. We are already seeing signs of this with 360 video pieces distributed via VR platforms.
“Lots of interesting stuff is also going on in medical applications and research, such as burn victim therapy via VR. Real estate market could benefit in a big way from virtual viewings. So VR will not have one end goal, but many.”
Four SKUs ranging between $150 and $500
A new pricing document originating from China indicates that AMD initially plans to release four Zen desktop SKUs in four, six and eight-core variants. Just like Intel’s high-end desktop lineups, none of these chips will feature integrated graphics.
At the top of the list is the Zen SR7 “Special” featuring eight cores, sixteen threads and priced at $500, followed by a standard Zen SR7 in the same core configuration for $350. In the mid-range segment is the Zen SR5, featuring six cores, twelve threads and priced at $250. In the entry-level segment is the Zen SR3, featuring four cores and eight threads and priced at $150.
Last week in a Maxsun email posted on Baidu, there were indications that high-end Zen chips would be priced up to ¥2,000 ($290), yet the latest leak now says they will go as high as ¥3,999 ($500) for the SR7 Special Edition, while the mid-range SR5 will be priced closer to the initial estimate.
As for specifications, the email also mentioned that Zen chips should have base frequencies between 3.15 to 3.30GHz with 3.5GHz Boost clocks.
Zen SR7 engineering sample runs at 3.2GHz
Now, a new engineering sample of an eight-core Zen SR7 has been spotted by reliable AMD blogger DresdenBoy, who shared that the part number (1D3201A2M88F3_35/32_N) indicates a 3.2GHz chip with 3.5GHz Boost. Back in August, two eight-core Zen engineering samples appeared in a benchmark database with part numbers ending with “32/28_N,” indicating that they were running at 2.8GHz with 3.2GHz Boost.
Performs like Core i7 6950X at half the price
Even taking these price points into consideration, an eight-core Zen SR7 at $500 may still perform similarly to Intel’s eight-core Core i7 5960X at $1,000, given Zen’s more competitively-focused IPC design. The company’s switch back to Simultaneous Multi-Threading (hyperthreading) allows each core to run two threads just like Intel chips, so even the ten-core Core i7 6950X with a 3GHz base and 3.5GHz Turbo is a benchmark to consider.
The folks at Guru3D say Zen chips should have four integer units, two address generation units and four FP units, while decoding four instructions per clock. Compared to Bulldozer, bandwidth for L1 and L2 cache should be almost twice as fast, with each Zen core featuring the same amount of L3 cache per core as Intel.
Zen Summit Ridge series processors are currently expected to launch on January 17th following a CES announcement during the first week.
Online spending by U.S. deal seekers exceeded $1 billion by Thanksgiving evening, according to Adobe Digital Index, surging almost 14 percent from a year ago and reflecting a broader trend away from brick-and-mortar shopping.
At the start of the first holiday shopping season since the U.S. Presidential election on November 8, U.S. consumers loosened their purse strings and spent $1.15 billion online between midnight and 5 pm ET on Thursday, according to Adobe.
Traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, has started the holiday shopping season in the United States with retailers offering steep discounts and turning a profit. But its popularity has been on the wane given the emergence of online shopping and cheap deals through the year from retailers including e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc.
U.S. stores are now opening on Thanksgiving to try and boost in-store sales, while retailers have been offering online deals weeks in advance to cope with lower demand and stiff pricing competition.
“We saw one of our strongest days ever online,” Brian Cornell, chief executive of discount retailer Target, told reporters on Thursday evening. He added that online sales grew by double digits, without giving further details.
The holiday season spanning November and December is crucial for retailers because it can account for as much as 40 percent of annual sales. Retailers try to attract shoppers with deep discounts, sometimes as much as 85 percent.
The National Retail Federation, which has been bullish with projections in the past, expects holiday sales to grow 3.6 percent this year to $655.8 billion.
“Online discounts are earlier and a lot bigger than last year,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal research analyst at Adobe Digital Index.
Last week, over three and a half years after its initial release, Digital Extremes’ free-to-play shooter Warframe broke its concurrent player record with expansion The War Within, hitting Steam’s top three on the weekend of release, recording a maximum of 68,530 players online at once and logging an incredible 1.2 million hours of playtime in a single day. Across PC and the more recent Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game, over 1 million of the 26 million players who have registered since the game’s 2013 launch had played by November’s halfway point, beating all previous monthly unique records with a fortnight to go.
Those are impressive numbers, especially for a game at a point in its lifecycle where it could certainly be forgiven for slowing down – and it’s no anomalous bump. Instead, a quick glance at SteamSpy’s graphs for the game show a steadily increasing number of players for the game, as well as a very healthy schedule of updates, patches and big content drops. Rather than leeching users to other games as it ages, Warframe is going from strength to strength.
Meridith Braun, VP Publishing at Digital Extremes, says that it’s been a tight compromise of strategies – resulting in a success which far exceeds the expectations of a game which was initially seen as something of a make or break exercise. Key to that, she says, has been a careful acquisition process, but not one which has come at the cost of long term curation and engagement of existing players.
“It’s definitely a balancing act between catering development to new players and veterans of the game,” Braun explains, “but after 3.5 years, the core of the game has grown so much that for new players there are literally hundreds of hours of missions, quests, customising and exploring game systems before they catch up to where veteran players are.
“Whilst many of our updates focus on adding new content and improving game systems that our veterans are most interested in, earlier this year we took a fresh look at the new player experience and released an update that refined some of the tutorials, updated the UI, tied quests together to help the lore flow better, and revamped the market for easier functionality. It was not our most played update, like The Second Dream or The War Within, but it served a long-tail purpose of making Warframe more inviting and easier to understand for new players. It helps them navigate to the really intricate depths of the game with the intent to retain them long-term.”
“We spend very little compared to other free-to-play games that focus a large amount of their budgets on acquisition”
Polishing the tip of the spear is a tried and tested acquisition technique, but it’s not usually a way of sidestepping the vast costs which many companies associate with gathering new players. Warframe’s marketing, though, was forged in a crucible of necessity, at a time when budgets were almost non-existent. As a result, the studio has learned to maximise the gain from channels which deliver users without draining revenue, although the financial success of the game has also enabled them to operate in areas previously well beyond their price range.
“We spend very little compared to other free-to-play games that focus a large amount of their budgets on acquisition,” says Braun. “Warframe was a passion project – the studio’s ‘Hail Mary’ pass, if you will. There was barely budget to buy an account server for the game, let alone to spend on marketing at the time. We turned to viral everything to get the word out: live streaming, social media, Reddit, forums, PR, knocking on partner’s doors for promotional opportunities. Once we launched in open beta and more players got a taste of the game, it was clear we had something unique on our hands. Since then our acquisition strategy has focused primarily on our update schedule and community involvement.
“We discovered early on that frequent significant updates – updates that added dramatic gameplay changes, enhancements and content, and transparency with our community, brought in droves of new players. Now that we have more wiggle room in our coffers, we work the usual acquisition channels – online CPA-focused advertising, social media, streaming, etc. – but nothing beats age old word-of-mouth between players telling their friends to join in on a game that only gets better and better over time.”
What’s perhaps even more unusual about the current high that Warframe finds itself riding upon is that it comes at a time when the AAA shooter market is crowded with a wide spread of very high quality competitors – many of which are under-performing at retail. The game’s peak numbers come at a point when there are brand new Battlefield and Call of Duty games at market, as well as extremely well reviewed releases like the Titanfall and Dishonored sequels.
“Warframe was a passion project – the studio’s ‘Hail Mary’ pass, if you will. There was barely budget to buy an account server for the game, let alone to spend on marketing at the time”
Braun very much sees free-to-play as playing a significant part in the difficulties which Warframe’s boxed rivals are experiencing.
“I think we’re seeing the F2P model disrupting the standard retail model for larger budget games,” she says. “The continued rise of AAA-quality, free-to-play games coming to market – and their ability to fill the long gaps between large IP releases – is taking a bite out of the big game market. Just this year it was great to see F2P titles like Paragon and Paladins launch to great fanfare and numbers, I’m sure they both had some effect on the big budget FPS games alongside Warframe.
“It’s hard to compete with free. Sure, we want people to eventually pay for the entertainment they’re receiving – but when you have the ability to try out a game for free for as long as you want, a game with equally great production value, and then decide if it’s a game that deserves your money, that’s pretty stiff competition. The larger games also aren’t built to be as agile and reactive to the market after they ship. Free games at their core are made to continually update and improve, offering incredible value and entertainment over a longer period of time.”
Blizzard probably has a few things to say about the notion that free-to-play games offer the best long-term player engagement and responsive improvement, and Braun freely admits that games like Overwatch share that strategy of player curation. Warframe, she says, also offers something else, though. Because it wasn’t a Blizzard game, born almost fully-fledged and slickly functional, early adopters have had the joy of watching it smooth out its rougher edges.
“When Warframe first launched it was a shell of the size of game it has become, and our players have stayed with our growth throughout its life-span. They enjoy taking the ride with us, being a part of the evolution, experiencing game development from the front seat. If you’re not thinking about long-term engagement and game service at the heart of your game design as a good part of the future of gaming, you may have yet to come to grips with the dwindling projections of one-and-done games.”
Samsung Electronics is still the number one global seller of smartphones in spite of the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco.
According to bean counters at the Gartner Group, Samsung sold over 71 million smartphones in the July-September period worldwide, accounting for 19.2 percent of the market.
It did lose market share (23.6 percent) from a year before and sales dropped 14.2 percent year-on-year. It is the company’s worst performance since its 12.3 percent drop in smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Gartner research director Anshul Gupta said:
“The decision to withdraw the Galaxy Note 7 was correct, but the damage to Samsung’s brand will make it harder for the company to increase its smartphone sales in the short term. For Samsung, it is crucial that the Galaxy S8 launches successfully, so partners and customers regain trust in its brand.”
However Apple did not benefit from Samsung’s hardships and its iPhone 7 did not pick up extra sales. Despite the launch of its iPhone 7 Plus, Apple sold 43 million smartphones, a 6.6 percent drop year-on-year.
Its market share declined from 13 percent to 11.5 percent, the lowest since the first quarter of 2009. The company’s sales fell by 8.5 percent in the U.S. and by 31 percent in China.
Gartner research director Roberta Cozza said that the withdrawal of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 may benefit sales of Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus only slightly, as Note 7 users are likely to stay with Samsung or at least with Android.
Google’s Android has captured market shares from Apple’s iOS, dominating nearly 88 percent of the total market in the smartphone operating system market.
The winners have been Chinese smartphone vendors posted significant growth, closing the gap with them.
Three Chinese vendors ? Huawei, Oppo and BBK Communication Equipment ? combined to carve out 21 percent of the global smartphone market. The trio reached 32 million, 24 million and 19 million orders, respectively.
Gartner said only the three among the global top five increased their sales and market shares during the quarter.
Meanwhile, global sales of smartphones tallied 373 million units in the third quarter this year, a 5.4 percent rise from a year earlier, according to Gartner.
AMD has released the latest version of its ROCm software tools which make it easier to write and compile parallel programs for its new Zen GPUs and CPUs.
The software is designed to help put Zen under the bonnet of high-performing servers to turn GPUs and CPU combos into servers. If it all pays off AMD could be back in the server market after losing it totally to Intel.
ROCm provides a base for the company to build GPUs for large-scale servers. It is a low-level programming framework like Nvidia’s CUDA. But it’s open source and can work with a wide range of CPU architectures like ARM, Power, and x86.
According to PC World the ROCm platform is targeted at the large-scale server installations and for multiple GPUs in a cluster of racks.
It’ll work with AMD’s latest Radeon Pro GPUs and current consumer GPUs based on the Polaris architecture. It can be used to run neural networking clusters or for scientific computing.
AMD has not revealed any of its supercomputing GPU plans but said ROCm will play a big role as the company goes after the HPC space.
ROCm is based around the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) spec which is supposed to link the computing power of CPU, GPU, and other processors in a system. AMD thinks HSA specifications could replace OpenCL, which is widely used today for parallel programming.
But what is more interesting about it is that AMD is chasing open-source standards, contrary to Intel which still wants people to use its proprietary standards. This open saucy approach might be the novelty which helps AMD succeeds. The Open Source does well in the HPC area where stuff is a little more collaborative. It might be that AMD has hit on a system that works and can get its foot in the door.