After releasing a string of AAA console titles to varying levels of commercial success, the UK-based studio is attempting to establish what it describes as a “third way” of making games – one that falls somewhere between what we have traditionally called AAA and Indie. Smaller scale, lower cost, with no sacrifices made in terms of creative risks and quality of execution.
“We’re taking our work on Hellblade as an opportunity to question the way the games industry has always done things,” said product development manager Dominic Matthews in a recent developer diary. “To see if there’s a better way, a more streamlined way. To create amazing quality on a smaller budget.”
As a result, Hellblade has a core team of 12 people, with a single person working in the majority of discipline areas. Ninja Theory is committed to finding affordable or homebrew alternatives to the high-end processes associated with its previous games – the performance capture used in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, for example – but its sales target will remain eminently achievable: between 200,000 and 300,000 units.
“[Hellblade] is about what we feel passionate about, what we’re good at, and what we think our fans and supporters want from a game,” said Tameem Antoniades, Ninja Theory’s co-founder. “But it comes at a price. We have to self-fund this game, and we have to work within the restrictions that that means for us.”
In an interview that Xbox head Phil Spencer gave to IGN, he says that a new IP is in development at one of Microsoft’s development studios. It apparently isn’t a new racing or military space marine title.
Spencer says that the Xbox brand needs “new stories and new characters” which provide a “canvas to try new things.” He went on to add that “Sunset Overdrive is a great example of a game that isn’t like anything else in our portfolio, and he thinks that is great. I want to continue to invest in things which push the boundaries.”
Spencer believes that it has to be a commitment from the first-party publisher to try things that are new and unique. While he would not offer a clue as to which studio might be working on this new IP or what the new IP might be, he does seem to imply that there is at least more than one internal/external studio that is working on unannounced games for Microsoft studios.
In the interview he again says that he wants RARE to be more than the Kinect Sports developer and he is in fact heading out to see them soon to look at a new pitch from the studio.
Kwon Oh-hyun has said he is not worried about a price war in the semiconductor industry next year even though the firm is rapidly expanding its production volume.
“We’ll have to wait and see how things will go next year, but there definitely will not be any game of chicken,” said Oh-hyun, according to Reuters, suggesting the firm will not take chip rivals head on.
Samsung has reported strong profits for 2014 owing to better-than-expected demand for PCs and server chips. Analysts have also forecast similar results for the coming year, so things are definitely looking good for the company.
It emerged last week that Samsung will fork out almost $15bn on a new chip facility in South Korea, representing the firm’s biggest investment in a single plant.
Samsung hopes the investment will bolster profits in its already well-established and successful semiconductor business, and help to maintain its lead in memory chips and grow beyond the declining sales of its smartphones.
According to sources, Samsung expects its chip production capacity to increase by a “low double-digit percentage” after the facility begins production, which almost goes against the CEO’s claims that it is not looking for a price war.
Last month, Samsung was found guilty of involvement in a price fixing racket with a bunch of other chip makers stretching back over a decade, and was fined €138m by European regulators.
An antitrust investigation into chips used in mobile device SIM cards found that Infineon, Philips and Samsung colluded to artificially manipulate the price of SIM card chips.
Microchip Technology has managed to scare Wall Street by warning of an industry downturn. This follows rumours that a number of US semiconductor makers with global operations are reducing demand for chips in regions ranging from Asia to Europe.
Microchip Chief Executive Steve Sanghi warned that the correction will spread more broadly across the industry in the near future. Microchip expects to report sales of $546.2 million for its fiscal second quarter ending in September. The company had earlier forecast revenue in a range of $560 million to $575.9 million. Semiconductor companies’ shares are volatile at the best of times and news like this is the sort of thing that investors do not want to hear.
Trading in Intel, whiich is due to report third quarter results tomorrow, was 2.6 times the usual volume. Micron, which makes dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, was the third-most traded name in the options market. All this seems to suggest that the market is a bit spooked and much will depend on what Chipzilla tells the world tomorrow as to whether it goes into a nosedive.
Security software maker Symantec Corp is in advanced negotiations to split its business into two entities – one that sells security programs and another that does data storage, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
An announcement may be a few weeks away, according to Bloomberg.
Symantec declined to comment on the report.
Reuters reported in April that Symantec, the biggest U.S. security software maker, was in the process of hiring banks to help advise on strategy and defend against possible activist investors.
Private equity firms were also looking at the possibility of breaking up Symantec into smaller pieces, some of which may also be attractive to industry peers, sources told Reuters at that time.
A breakup may position Symantec’s separated businesses as acquisition targets, given that large companies including EMC Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co are interested in the stand-alone security business or in an independent storage business, Bloomberg reported.
Earlier this year, the company, known for its Norton antivirus software, abruptly fired its CEO as it struggles to revive growth amid eroding PC sales.
Symantec, which also offers data storage products, has seen revenue growth turn negative in recent quarters, unlike the rest of the security software market, which is growing at least 10 percent to 15 percent annually.
The slowdown is partly due to eroding PC sales, affecting demand for its software, which often comes bundled with new computers. It has failed to gain a strong footing in the market for mobile security.
If it goes ahead with the breakup, Symantec would join technology companies that are spinning off operations in an attempt to become more agile and capitalize on faster-growing businesses.
In a recent interview with OXN, Mile Colter who plays Agent Locke in Halo Nightfall claims that his character is the primary character that people will be playing in the Halo 5 game. That is not to say that Master Chief will not have a significant role in Halo 5 as well.
Part of the campaign will apparently be Locke’s search for Master Chief. Still we don’t know if Locke is a friend or not, so it is obvious that the relationship between the two will be a big part of the story in Halo 5 according to our sources.
Hard to say how accurate this all is, but we do know that we don’t have much longer to wait till the Nightfall series starts airing on the Halo Channel starting November 11th.
The code was found by Stanford University computer science student Audrew Aude, who tweeted that he had found – and played with – a payment feature in Facebook Messenger, using the iOS and Mac OS X hacking tool Cycript.
If legitimate, Facebook’s mooted Messenger payments service will allow users to send money between friends as easily as it would be to share a photo.
Aude reported on Twitter that “with FB messenger, you attach money just like you attach a photo or a location. You don’t even have to link a bank account.”
Instead, you will put in your debit card number – with Aude noting that there is no option to add a credit card or bank account, nor is there an option to use PayPal – suggesting that Facebook is looking to rival the online payments firm.
It remains to be seen how many of the social network’s users will feel comfortable handing over their debit card information to Facebook.
Aude added that the service allows only person-to-person transactions, despite previous speculation claiming that Facebook’s payments service would allow social networkers to purchase and pay for online goods, adding that there is also the option to send payments to multiple participants.
According to Aude’s findings, the service is likely to be free to use.
He said: “Based on my understanding of the debit interchange rates, each transaction will cost Facebook roughly $0.40 to $0.50 (Durbin swipe fee + ACH fee).
“The app didn’t mention a fee to send, so it’s probably free, at least initially. Over time they might add a $1 fee.”
Speculation about a Facebook payments service has been whirling around the online rumour mill for some time. This escalated in June when Facebook hired ex-president of PayPal David Marcus to take the reins of Facebook Messenger.
Facebook has yet to comment on the speculation.
To be more specific, that’s a difference of 3 million units, with Advanced Warfare expected to sell around 17 million. Obviously, that’s still a very healthy number, and the sort of success that most publishers rarely experience, but nevertheless it would be ill news for what remains Activision’s most important franchise.
Ghosts was, in itself, markedly less successful than Black Ops II, and a second year of decline will be enough to cause concern within Activision. When pre-orders for Ghosts were lower than expected, Eric Hirshberg attributed it to the transition to a new generation of consoles. With a minimum of 15 million PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones now in the wild, that explanation would not stand up quite as well with Advanced Warfare.
In a note given to Cinema Blend, Sterne Agee’s Arvind Bhatia gave several reasons for the possibility of ongoing decline, one of which was the number of people who are still waiting to upgrade to new generation hardware, and may not buy any new software until they do. The others were sharply declining sales of Xbox 360 and PS3 software, and the fact that some Call of Duty fans may have been disappointed with Ghosts.
A significant counter to that is the positioning of Battlefield: Hardline, which slipped to March 2015 release and left Activision’s franchise free of its fiercest competitor.
Given its huge investment in Bungie’s Destiny and the relatively cool critical response that greeted the game, Activision will be hoping that Sterne Agee’s research is not an indicator of Call of Duty’s long-term health.
Big public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) players may be on the brink of a crisis and are slashing prices while spending billions on building out and staffing their operations.
Steve Brazier, CEO at Canalys has warned resellers to be careful about the financials of their cloud suppliers because he fears a melt-down. He said that millions of dollars has been spent on building out public cloud infrastructure and yet no one in the world is profitable.
Amazon Web Services lost $2bn in the last four quarters, and the parent is forecasting losses of between $410m and $810m this quarter. Talking to the Channels Forum 2014 he said that the economics of the market is “somewhat like” the classic “pyramid scheme”, with providers launching services, making promises around performance, winning more customers, building more data centres, adding technicians, and cutting prices to beat the competition.
Maintaining that approach was only possible if you are getting new customers to sign up faster than your prices are going down. Rackspace, one of the “early pioneers” of public IaaS is trying to exit the sector and beef up its managed services biz.
SoC designer MediaTek has launched a new push to develop technologies used in wearables and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.
Dubbed MediaTek Labs, the new organisation will offer tools for developers such as software and hardware development kits (SDKs and HDKs), but it will also offer other forms of support, i.e. tech support and marketing.
MediaTek LinkIt dev platform
The MediaTek LinkIt platform promises to offer a full-service approach for developers keen to enter the space. It allows developers familiar with MediaTek’s Arduino implementation to quickly migrate to the new platform
For the time being the platform is limited to the MediaTek Aster MT2502A processor. The company says it is the world’s smallest commercially available SoC. The chip can work with MediaTek’s WiFi and GPS companion chipsets.
The company is calling on developers to join the MediaTek Labs initiative and in case you are interested you can check out the details on the new MediaTek Labs website.
MediaTek Aster spec
Now for some juicy hardware. The Aster MT2502A is an ARM7 EJ-S part clocked at 260MHz. The dev board features 4MB of RAM and 16MB of flash. GPS and WiFi capability can be added using the MT3332 and MT5931 chips. The platform supports microSD, Bluetooth (including BLE), along with GSM and GPRS communications.
The Aster is clearly not an SoC for feature packed wearables with high resolution screens, but it could be used in more down to earth applications such as fitness trackers.
MediaTek says it will offer three platforms based on two wearable solutions. The One Application Use (OAU) platform is for fitness trackers and simple Bluetooth devices. The Simple Application Platform (SAU) is intended for smart watches, wristbands and more elaborate fitness trackers.
SAU is the focus segment for the Aster chipset and it should offer 5 to 7 days of battery life.
MediaTek Rich Application Platform
The Rich Application Platform (RAU) is for Android Wear and it will offer a lot more functionality out of the box, including camera support, 3D graphics, as well as Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS in the same package.
This platform sounds a bit more interesting, but details are sketchy. For some reason many media outlets erroneously described the first Aster chip as MediaTek’s only smartwatch chip, but it is clearly not intended for the Rich Application Platform.
We have yet to see what sort of silicon MediaTek can conjure up for high-end wearables, but this is what it has in mind. The platform is designed for high-end smartwatches and glasses. It will feature multicore processors clocked at 1GHz or more. The platform also includes Bluetooth, GSM/GPRS, GPS, WiFi, sensors and a proper TFT screen. Battery life is described as short, two to three days, which sounds a bit better than what the current generation of smartwatches can deliver.
When Titan first came to light in 2007, most people assumed it would be Blizzard’s next big thing, ultimately taking the place of World of Warcraft which was likely to see further declines in the years ahead. Fast forward seven years, WoW clearly has been fading (down to 6.8 million subs as of June 30) but Blizzard has no MMO lined up to replace it, and that fact was really hammered home today with the surprise cancellation of Titan. In fact, the developer stressed that it didn’t want to be known as an MMO company and one may not be in its future. Cancelling the project this late in the game may have cost Blizzard several tens of millions of dollars, analysts told GamesIndustry.biz.
“Development costs for Titan may have amounted to tens of millions, perhaps $50 million or more. This is not an unusual event, however. Blizzard has cancelled several games in various stages of development in the past. Costs for unreleased games can be significant, but launching substandard games can harm the reputation of a successful publisher such as Blizzard. Expenses for development can be considered R&D, and benefits can include invaluable training, IP and technology that can be applied to other games,” explained independent analyst Billy Pidgeon.
Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter estimated an even higher amount lost: “My guess is 100 – 200 people at $100,000 per year, so $70 – 140 million sunk cost. It’s pretty sad that it took so long to figure out how bad the game was. I expect them to go back to the drawing board.”
Indeed, the market has changed considerably in the last seven years, and while MMOs like EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic struggle to find a large audience, free-to-play games and tablet games like Blizzard’s own Hearthstone are finding success. Blizzard has no doubt been keenly aware of the market realities too.
“As far back as 2013, they had already stated Titan was not likely to be a subscription-based MMORPG. This is consistent with a market that is increasingly dominated by multiplayer games that are either free to play or are an expected feature included with triple-A games such as Call of Duty. Titanfall and Destiny sold as standalone games supplemented by paid downloadable add-ons. Blizzard maintains very high standards of quality, so expectations will be steep for new franchises as well as for sequels,” Pidgeon continued.
DFC Intelligence’s David Cole agreed, noting that after seven years of development in an industry where trends and technologies change at a rapid pace, Blizzard simply had to pull the plug on Titan.
“They realized that unless a big MMO is out-of-this-world unbelievable it won’t work in today’s market where it competes against a bunch of low cost options. If they felt that it just wasn’t getting to that point it makes sense to cut your losses,” he noted. “Also, you see games like League of Legends and their own Hearthstone which are doing very well on a much lower budget.”
“For Blizzard, I am expecting to see them continue to focus on high quality products but also focus on products with shorter development cycles and less cost. The market is just not in a place where you can have games with 7+ year development. It is changing too fast.”
For most developers, junking a seven-year long project would instantly spell turmoil, but thankfully for Blizzard, it’s part of the Activision Blizzard behemoth, which has a market cap of over $15 billion and, as of June 30, cash and cash equivalents of over $4 billion on hand. It’s a nice luxury to have.
For much of the year we were under the impression that the second generation Maxwell will end up as a 20nm chip.
First-generation Maxwell ended up being branded as Geforce GTX 750 and GTX 750 TI and the second generation Maxwell launched a few days ago as the GTX 980 and Geforce GTX 970, with both cards based on the 28nm GM204 GPU.
This is actually quite good news as it turns out that Nvidia managed to optimize power and performance of the chip and make it one of the most efficient chips manufactured in 28nm.
Nvidia 20nm chips coming in 2015
Still, people keep asking about the transition to 20nm and it turns out that the first 20nm chip from Nvidia in 20nm will be a mobile SoC.
The first Nvidia 20nm chip will be a mobile part, most likely Erista a successor of Parker (Tegra K1).
Our sources didn’t mention the exact codename, but it turns out that Nvidia wants to launch a mobile chip first and then it plans to expand into 20nm with graphics.
Unfortunately we don’t have any specifics to report.
AMD 20nm SoC in 2015
AMD is doing the same thing as its first 20nm chip, codenamed Nolan, is an entry level APU targeting tablet and detachable markets.
There is a strong possibility that Apple and Qualcomm simply bought a lot of 20nm capacity for their mobile modem chips and what was left was simply too expensive to make economic sense for big GPUs.
20nm will drive the voltage down while it will allow higher clocks, more transistors per square millimeter and it will overall enable better chips.
Just remember Nvidia world’s first quad-core Tegra 3 in 40nm was rather hot and making a quad core in 28nm enabled higher performance and significantly better battery life. The same was true of other mobile chips of the era.
We expect similar leap from going down to 20nm in 2015 and Erista might be the first chip to make it to 20nm. A Maxwell derived architecture 20nm will deliver even more efficiency. Needless to say AMD plans to launch 20nm GPUs next year as well.
It looks like Nvidia’s 16nm FinFET Parker processor, based on the Denver CPU architecture and Maxwell graphics won’t appear before 2016.
Michael Dell, founder of Dell, has said the company may use ARM for its mainstream servers. Speaking at the Dell Solutions Summit in Brussels, Dell said: “If ARM works, really works, and costs less, we will use ARM.”
This is a bit of a poke in the eye for the company’s relationship with Intel. The company has just released the 13th generation of its PowerEdge server suite, based on Intel’s newest Xeon chip, the E5 2600 v3. Dell said that as ARM moved to 64-bit architecture; it became more interesting to him. But at the moment Intel is absolutely the best and that’s what customers want.”
Dell said the company has a long-standing partnership with companies such as Intel because the capital required to build the next generation of semiconductors is significant.
“We are co-dependent on each other. If you look at Intel’s revenue reports, you will find that Dell represents 15% of Intel’s ‘other’ revenue,” he said. “If you look at the enterprise customers, their infrastructures have a long tail of legacy IT, which have to be tested and certified, so they are not exactly jumping on the ARM bandwagon.”
EA is considering developing games for wearables. The company already has two teams on the job, looking for ways to make wearable games. Their efforts are focused on the Apple Watch for now.
EA told CNET that the company has quite a relationship with Apple and Frank Gibeau, head of EA’s mobile gaming arm, said he is impressed with the new Apple A8 SoC. Gibeau added that Apple’s decision to include 128GB storage in flagship models is more good news for gamers, as it raises the bar for developers and gives them more room to play around with.
Gibeau said EA’s mobile division is “intrigued” by the prospect of gaming on wearables. He said wearables are eventually going to offer more performance and capability, thus enabling new gaming experiences. However, he cautioned that “it’s very early days” for wearable gaming.
“In fact, we have two teams prototyping wearable experiences that are not only standalone, but also some ideas where you can actually use the fitness component in the watch that can unlock capabilities in the game that might be on your iPhone. Or you could do crafting or some other auction trading on your watch that goes back into your tablet game that you might check out later when you get home,” he told CNET.
Finally, Ubisoft has a release date for the Wii U version of Watch Dogs. While we don’t know if that many people are waiting for the Wii U version, when it does release it could very well end up being one of the last M rated titles for the Wii U console.
The release date for the Wii U version of Watch Dogs appears to be November 18th in North America and November 21st in Europe. This ends the original release delay that Ubisoft announced for the Wii U version as resources were moved to prepare the other versions of the game for release.
Ubisoft has been one of the strongest supports of software for the Wii U, but recently it announced that it was done producing titles like Assassins Creed and Watch Dogs for the Wii U because the sales of these M rated titles are just not there on the Wii U platform. It did indicate that it would focus on some of its other Wii U titles that continue to be popular on the console.
The news is good that they are getting Watch Dogs, but it looks like we will not see many more games like this on the Wii U.