The Wii U gets a new system update from Nintendo. While details are a bit vague on what all the new system updates actually does, Nintendo says it “improves overall system stability” and also includes minor adjustments “to enhance the user experience”.
The update comes ahead of a planned Nintendo update for the 3DS that is scheduled to arrive next month. The 3DS update will bring the Miiverse to the 3DS as well as adds the ability to combine eShop balances on both the 3DS and Wii U systems. In addition it will add Network IDs to the 3DS to access the eShop. Apparently 3DS owners will not have to take advantage of using a NNID to combine their eShop purchases and will still be allowed to download software from the eShop without a NNID.
Rumors suggest that another system update for the Wii U is just around the corner, but will likely not arrive till early next year, unless Nintendo has a reason to release it sooner. On the software front, the Wii U is still struggling, but the recent sales boost has helped, but Nintendo needs strong sales for the Wii U this holiday season in order to help get published and developers re-engaged in developing for the console. Whispers suggest that Nintendo expects supplies of the Wii U to be plentiful this holiday season and does not foresee shortages like what has plagued the Wii consoles of the past. The problem is however that the lack of software will likely keep many buyers away.
The firm’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang talked up Gamestream at an event titled “The Way It’s Meant to be Played” in Montreal on Friday, announcing that Nvidia will “put the Geforce gaming experience in the palm of your hands”. Essentially, Gamestream combines Geforce GTX graphics card technology with WiFi for smoother, low-latency wireless gaming from a PC.
Nvidia launched Shield in the US this summer. The games console runs Google’s Android mobile operating system and combines a games controller that has a small, touch sensitive screen with a Tegra 4 system-on-chip (SoC) processor. The rollout of Gamestream to the device will support 50 video games when launched, including upcoming 2013 releases Batman: Arkham Origins and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
“Along with the release of GameStream comes expanded streaming support, including: super smooth and fast performance at 60 frames per second,” Hsun said. This will include better quality WiFi support with Gamestream ready routers from network partners such as Asus, Buffalo, D-Link, and Netgear, and improved onscreen navigation and controls.
Although initially, GameStream will only be available for local PC streaming, Nvidia said that in the longer term, it will also support Nvidia’s Grid cloud gaming services.
Gamestream has been in beta testing for some time, so the update is a welcome addition for Shield owners. However, it’s no use for users here in the UK, as Shield is still not available to buy in Blighty. The portable gaming console launched in the US in July, but frustratingly for UK users, we’re still experiencing delays in shipping across the pond.
Along with the announcement of Gamestream, Nvidia also touted a new display technology over the weekend called G-Sync, an innovation that Nvidia touted as “groundbreaking”, and which “casts aside decades-old thinking to create the smoothest, most responsive computer displays ever”.
The technology is supposed to minimize the effects of screen tearing, Vsync input lag, and stutter by synchronizing the monitor to the output of the GPU instead of the GPU to the monitor. This is expected to make games display faster and smoother.
G-Sync requires a GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost or better GPU and an Nvidia G-Sync enabled monitor to work. The technology will be available as a monitor module that you can install yourself, or you’ll be able to buy it pre-installed in monitors as well. There’s no news on European availability yet.
The Delaware Supreme Court has overturned a preliminary injunction preventing Activision Blizzard from buying Vivendi’s stake in the company. In September, the Delaware Court of Chancery blocked the sale due to a lawsuit filed against Activision by shareholder Douglas Hayes. Hayes argues that the sale requires the approval of shareholders to proceed. Vivendi filed an emergency appeal against the ruling in late September, attempting to remove the injunction before the October 15 termination date on the agreement.
The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Activision’s assertion that the sale was a stock repurchase and did not require the approval of minority shareholders.
With the injunction gone, Vivendi and Activision expect the deal to close by October 15. The deal will have ASAC II, an investment group led by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, buying 172 million shares from Vivendi for $2.34 billion and Activision Blizzard buying 429 million shares for $5.83 billion. The two transactions would give Activision control over Vivendi’s 61 percent stake.
Wedbush Securities expects Activision’s stock to outperform once the deal is completed, with a 12-month price target of $22 per share.
“While some investors may have concerns about declines for the company’s core businesses, we remain fans of Activision Blizzard. The company communicates clearly, executes well, and its management appears to truly understand how to make money,” said Wedbush is a recently released note.
King.com Ltd, the British mobile gaming firm best known for its popular puzzle game ‘Candy Crush Saga’, has filed confidentially for an initial public offering (IPO) in the United States, a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday.
Online technology companies are rushing to the stock market on the backs of Twitter Inc’s announcement earlier this month that it plans to go public in the most eagerly anticipated IPO since last year’s flotation ofFacebook Inc.
Emerging growth companies such as King can use a secretive IPO registration process in the U.S. thanks to the Jumpstart Our BusinessStartups (JOBS) Act, which loosened a number of federal securities regulations in hopes of boosting capital raising and thereby increasing job growth.
King has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch Corp, Credit Suisse Group AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co to lead the offering, said the person, confirming an earlier report by the Daily Telegraph and asking not to be identified because the information is confidential.
Representatives for King and the banks either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
King offers 150 games in 14 languages through mobile phones, Facebook and its website. It boasts more than 1 billion gameplays per day from its users.
The company’s games appeal to a growing trend for players to play puzzles with their friends in short bursts, especially as games are increasingly played on the move on phones or tablets to kill spare minutes.
Rival Zynga Inc went public two years ago in a high-profile IPO that raised $1 billion. Since then, Zynga has suffered from sagging morale during several quarters of worsening performance and repeated waves of layoffs.
Founded in 2003, King has been profitable since 2005 and has not had a funding round since September of that year, when it raised 34 million euros ($46.04 million) from investment firms Apax Partners and Index Ventures.
Activision Blizzard’s moves to separate from its parent company Vivendi has been put on hold. The move, which surprised many, angered one shareholder that he sued to prevent this from happening.
Delaware Chancery Court was told that the whole move is a huge waste meant to cover a power grab. But now the court has put the move on hold until it can be argued in court. In order for the separation to continue, either the injunction must be modified on appeal or a majority vote by non-Vivendi stockholders must come down in favor of continuing the process.
Activision Blizzard said it was exploring options to ensure it still takes place. Vivendi has been trying to get rid of Activision Blizzard for nearly a year now in hopes of boosting its shares.
Rovio is packing up Angry Birds and taking it to China where it will be used as a teaching aid.
The game, which involves throwing birds at pigs in revenge for egg theft, sees people sacrificing a bird at a porcine alter. The best players will only sacrifice one of two of their feathered clique.
The game is already in China, but what Rovio is taking over is a learning concept that is based around playgrounds. The firm reckons that it has some expertise, as it says its export is “built on the highly respected Finnish educational expertise”.
“The concept allows children to experience learning in a fun way. It has been scientifically studied and proven in cooperation with the University of Helsinki, Cicero Learning Network – making education both engaging and inspiring”, said Sanna Lukander, VP of Learning and Book Publishing at Rovio.
The idea is that learning should be fun. Angry Birds has fun nailed, but the educational system can be lacking in fun. Rovio wants to change this.
“What if learning was fun? That was the question we asked ourselves when we started to develop this exciting new concept. Having seen the enthusiasm when children and parents spend time with Angry Birds, we wanted to create fun new learning activities for them”, added Peter Vesterbacka, the so-called Mighty Eagle and chief marketing officer at Rovio.
The first playground will open at the 123 Early Childhood Learning Centre in Shanghai. Children will be provided with books, toys, physical games, posters, reference books, card games and a five stringed instrument.
Bethesda’s Pete Hines had some choice words regarding Nintendo’s third-party strategy, suggesting that the time for getting better software support for the Wii U may have already passed.
In an interview with Game Trailers’ Bonus Round, Bethesda’s vice president of PR and marketing underlined the company’s commitment to making its games available on every platform – as long as those platforms don’t require compromise on the original vision.
As far as Bethesda’s games are concerned, that has led to their absence on Nintendo hardware despite their huge popularity. And Hines intimated that the situation is representative of Nintendo’s approach to third-party developers as a whole.
“The time for convincing publishers and developers to support Wii U has long past. The box is out,” Hine said, while sitting on a panel that also included Borderlands 2 lead writer Anthony Burch.
Hines pointed to Sony and Microsoft’s diligent and long-running efforts to communicate with third parties during the hardware design process as a better strategy for most developers.
“It’s not that every time we met with them we got all the answers we wanted, but they involved us very early on, and talking to folks like Bethesda and Gearbox, they say ‘here’s what we’re doing, here’s what we’re planning, here’s how we think it’s going to work’ to hear what we thought – from our tech guys and from an experience standpoint.
“You have to spend an unbelievable amount of time upfront doing that. If you’re just going, ‘we’re going to make a box and this is how it works and you should make games for it.’ Well, no. No is my answer. I’m going to focus on other ones that better support what it is we’re trying to do.”
This adds colour to comments Hines made in an earlier interview, where he stated that the Wii U was, “not on [Bethesda's] radar.” Nintendo is now attempting to address the Wii U’s less than admirable position by cutting $50 off its price.
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has attributed slow sales of the Wii U to the available games, rather than the price of the console, in his most recent interview.
“I understand that the real issue is the lack of software, and the only solution is to provide the mass-market with a number of quality software titles,” he told CVG.
“If the price is actually an issue [with Wii U], then there is some contradiction between the current sales balance between the Basic and Premium versions of the Wii U. The basic version should have sold a lot, but the fact of the matter is that people are buying more of the premium version. So the issue is not there.”
Last week a Nintendo representative confirmed that the Wii U console was still being sold at a loss, making it a price cut in the near future unlikely.
Recent financial results also revealed that in the past three months the machine had only sold 160,000 units worldwide.
Nintendo’s battle for Wii U support from third-party publishers isn’t just about the installed user base. It’s also about the system’s horsepower, according to Bethesda Softworks. Speaking with Joystiq at QuakeCon, Bethesda VP of PR and marketing Pete Hines explained the company’s absence from the system.
“It’s largely a hardware thing,” Hines said, adding that Bethesda’s plan is to “make the games that we want to make, on whatever platforms will support them as developed.”
The company’s slate of upcoming games includes The Elder Scrolls Online, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and The Evil Within. While Elder Scrolls Online is only being developed for the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, the other two games are also coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Hines wouldn’t rule out Bethesda eventually working on Nintendo’s console, but it’s clearly not a priority for the company.
“None of the game’s we’ve announced are being developed for the Wii U, so it’s guaranteed that none of those games are coming to Wii U,” Hines said. “Will any future ones come out? I can’t say for sure, in our near-term focus it’s not on our radar.”
Activision Blizzard is to become an independent company as CEO Bobby Kotick leads an investor buyout from Vivendi worth $8.2 billion.
The publisher of World of Warcraft and Call of Duty will buy 439 million shares from Vivendi for $5.83 billion. In addition, an investment group lead by Kotick and co-chairman Brian Kelly, will purchase 172 million shares worth $2.34 billion.
With Vivendi no longer a major stakeholder, Activision Blizzard becomes an independent company led by Kotick and Kelly, whose investment group also includes Chinese operator Tencent, Davis Advisors and Leonard Green & Partners.
“These transactions together represent a tremendous opportunity for Activision Blizzard and all its shareholders, including Vivendi,” said Kotick.
“We should emerge even stronger-an independent company with a best-in-class franchise portfolio and the focus and flexibility to drive long-term shareholder value and expand our leadership position as one of the world’s most important entertainment companies. The transactions announced today will allow us to take advantage of attractive financing markets while still retaining more than $3 billion cash on hand to preserve financial stability.”
Kotick added, “Our successful combination with Blizzard Entertainment five years ago brought together some of the best creative and business talent in the industry and some of the most beloved entertainment franchises in the world, including Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Since that time, we have generated over $5.4 billion in operating cash flow and returned more than $4 billion of that to shareholders via buybacks and dividends. We are grateful for Vivendi’s partnership through this period, and we look forward to their continued support.”
Kotick’s investment group will hold around 24.9 per cent of the company, with Kotick and Kelly investing $100 million combined of their own cash. Vivendi will continue to hold around 12 per cent of shares.
Let’s get this out of the way up front. Yes, you never, ever count Nintendo out of the game.
That’s the go-to response for pretty much anyone in this industry when asked if the company will be able to dig itself out of the hole the Wii U has created – and it’s usually a valid one. (Think back to the GameCube days and things were just as dire as they seem today – but it managed to turn things around.)
But as we head into the Wii U’s second holiday season, the pessimism about the system is starting to crest. And despite Nintendo’s push of first party software coming in the next year, there’s nothing to suggest that a turnaround of any sort is imminent.
Third party partners are, in a word, disappointed with Nintendo. And while you’ll still hear the usual refrain about not giving up on the company at some point, you’re more likely to hear dissatisfaction when you speak with executives.
Yves Guillemot, Chairman and CEO of Ubisoft, is typically one of the biggest proponents of new systems, but betting big on the Wii U didn’t work out well for the company. ZombiU, one of the most popular launch titles for the system with players, was not profitable, he says. Not even close. As such, he says, there are no plans (or even desire) for a sequel.
“It seems like a box that’s out of sync with the future of EA – which is one that gives a real social feel to our games. The Wii U feels like an offline experience right now”
It was, in fact, because of that game’s performance that Ubisoft decided to make Rayman Legends a multiplatform game.
“We must find a way to ensure the creativity of those games could have a big enough audience,” he says. “We hope it will take off. At the moment, we’ve said ‘let’s do through Christmas and see where we are from there.’”
Activision, also, was a notable launch partner for the Wii U, but like Ubisoft, the results haven’t been strong enough to justify a notable further investment in the system.
“We came to the table with a robust slate,” says Eric Hirshberg, president and CEO of Activision Publishing, at E3. “But we have no announcements now.”
No one, however, is more direct than EA’s Peter Moore. EA, at present, has no games in development for the Wii U – and its AAA game engine isn’t compatible with the system.
“We were there with four games for them [at launch],” he says. “It’s been a disappointment when you look at sell-through and, as a company, we have to be very judicious where we deploy our resources.”
For EA, at least, it’s the system’s lack of a rich multiplayer environment that’s one of the big concerns – especially for sports titles. (That’s part of the reason Madden won’t appear on the system this year.)
“The lack of online engagement that we see on Wii U [is troubling],” says Moore. “It’s so integral to what we do. They’re so small it’s hardly worth running the servers. It seems like a box that’s out of sync with the future of EA – which is one that gives a real social feel to our games. The Wii U feels like an offline experience right now.”
Nintendo systems have always been led by the rich slate of first party titles, but the company isn’t an island – and knows it can’t remain competitive without the cooperation of third party publishers. And while some, like Capcom, are sticking with the Wii U, even Nintendo admits it needs to woo back its publishing partners by boosting sales.
Rather than focusing on the negativity surrounding the platform, Nintendo itself says it’s making software development its primary focus. With no price cuts on the horizon (something global CEO Satoru Iwata has been very insistent about), it realizes that the only way to boost hardware sales is to come up with a must-have game. And while the company is counting on Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. to do their part, it realizes that those alone won’t convince people to invest in the system.
“We have been unsuccessful in coming up with one single software with which people can understand ‘OK, this is really different’ and I can understand the real value of that as soon as I saw that,” says Iwata. “Because there’s no software that’s simple and obvious for people as ‘Wii Sports’ for the Wii, potential consumers do not even feel like trying to touch the Wii U. Our challenge today is with the software lineup we are introducing now; we have to encourage them to want to experience the Wii U in the first place.”
The problem is: That game’s not coming out this holiday, based on what the company showed at E3. And if the Wii U tanks for a second holiday in a row, it’s going to be that much harder to get publishers back on board.
Yahoo announced on Wednesday that it bought Qwiki for an undisclosed sum, as the firm’s spending spree continues.
Qwiki started out as a video focused search engine in 2011, before making its way into the iTunes Store as an app that turns images and videos into digital story boards.
Yahoo announced its acquisition of Qwiki on Wednesday, although it kept quiet about what it plans to do with the company and how much it spent. However, according to Allthingsd, Yahoo spent approximately $50m to further expand its digital offerings.
What’s more, while it’s unclear what Yahoo’s plans are at present, it’s likely that the firm is looking to challenge Vine and Instagram in the social video market.
Yahoo announced the news, naturally, on Tumblr. It said, “We’re excited to announce that Yahoo acquired Qwiki – a company that uses awesome technology to bring together pictures, music and video to capture the art of storytelling.
“We will continue to support the Qwiki app, and the team will join Yahoo in our New York city office to reimagine Yahoo’s storytelling experience. Stay tuned … there’s much more to come!”
Qwiki also had something to say, posting on its website, “Thank you for being a part of our story – one which is far from over. The Qwiki app will live on as a standalone entity inside Yahoo, where we will grow our thriving community and where our team will continue to work to help you share life’s best experiences.
“We are proud of the work we’ve done, and humbled by unwavering support from the NY tech community. New York is such a big part of who we are, and what we will become.”
Yahoo’s buyout of Qwiki is the latest in a series of acquisitions by the firm. Recently the firm announced that it bought Tumblr for a cool $1.1bn, with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer promising “not to screw it up”.
Samsung announced the Android Jelly Bean-based tablets globally earlier this month. The company said today that U.S. pre-orders will begin on Tuesday on its website and on the websites of 10 U.S. retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon and WalMart.
In addition to offering the 7-in. Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 for $199, Samsung will offer an 8-in. model, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, for $299 and a 10.1-in. version, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, for $399. The tablets come in either white or “gold brown.” All three come Wi-Fi-ready, with internal storage ranging from 16GB to 32GB, with storage expansion of up to 64GB with a microSD card.
All three also come with built-in infrared (IR) for using the tablets as universal remote control devices that can activate Samsung’s WatchOn service for recommendations on TV content. Samsung said that Nielsen research indicates that 85% of tablet users watch TV while using a tablet, with 41% doing so daily.
The Tab 3 8.0 will be the only one of the three to support Samsung’s Multi-Window functionality, seen previously in the Galaxy Note line of smartphone/tablets. With Multi-Window, people can use two apps side by side, with support for up to 20 apps, including Google Chrome and Facebook.
Android also gives users access to more than 750,000 apps in the Google Play store. Samsung is also offering Galaxy Perks content, other preloaded content and a $10 voucher for buying books, movies and music.
One unusual element is that the Tab 10.1 is powered by a 1.6GHz Intel dual-core processor, while the other two run on ARM processors — which is a more common architecture for tablets. Samsung is also using Intel chips for its ATIV line of tablets that run Windows 8.
Samsung noted that its decision to offer a lineup of tablets of various sizes is supported by emerging market research that shows that people use tablets for a variety of purposes, including reading e-books, using social networks, playing games and watching movies.
Ouya’s $99 Android videogame console goes on sale on Tuesday, the latest attempt by a growing number of niche hardware trying to make an dent in a market dominated by Sony Corp, Microsoft Corp and Nintendo Co Ltd.
Ouya hopes its cheaper cube-shaped console will prevail over the long-established gaming triumvirate’s pricier hardware. The new device has more than 150 free-to-try games, media features such as Flixster and radio service TuneIn, and an open ecosystem built on Google’s Android operating system.
Founded by Julie Uhrman, a former executive at entertainment website IGN, the hackable, or customizable, device will go up this Christmas season against the $399 PlayStation 4 and $499 Xbox One. Both are packed with exclusive blockbuster titles from top developers, cloud gaming and other social features .
Ouya is going after core console gamers, as well as the mass market of college students, young adults and families that plays mobile games and is price-conscious, Uhrman said.
“Ouya is not an ‘either-or’ decision,” Uhrman said. “It stands on its own and it’s something that gamers are going to want in addition to whatever device plays the game that they’ve been playing for the last five years.”
Ouya and other hardware companies, big and small, are hoping to claw their way into a global video games market expected to touch $66 billion in software and hardware sales this year, up from $63 billion in 2012, according to research firm DFC Intelligence.
The 2013 holiday season is shaping up to be the most hotly contested in years, with Microsoft launching its Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4 coming to market.
Saratoga, California-based BlueStacks, will launch a $129 cube called GamePop that is expected to available this holiday season. Alternatively, gamers can pay $6.99 monthly for access to over 500 games and get the console and controller for free.
Next week, graphics giant Nvidia Corp will release its handheld Shield device, which runs games available on Android tablets and smartphones and streams titles from computers.
Demand for the new gadgets is unclear. Ouya has begun taking pre-orders, but is mum about figures. Just this week, Nvidia cut the price of the Shield, which starts sales on June 27, to $299 from $349, responding to what it called feedback from gamers.
“For a new product, we’re satisfied with the reservation,” Paul Raines, CEO of the world’s largest games retail chain, GameStop, said about the Ouya.
But he added: “To really grow to billions of dollars, you’ve got have great IP that people want to play. People often talk about open platform gaming, but there’s only one device that plays ‘Halo’ and that will be Xbox One, there’s one device that plays ‘Uncharted’ and that will be the PlayStation 4, so the importance of the IP cannot be overstated.”
IO Interactive made the surprising announcement that they have cancelled all other projects that the developer had in development. The studio will be only focused on Hitman going forward, and because of this the developer has cut its staff in half.
The developer claims the decision was necessary for the studio to focus on the next version of Hitman in a changing market space. To that , IO has also taken the very bold and difficult step to cancel all other projects that the studio had in development; but other than a new Kane & Lynch title, it isn’t yet clear what else they were working on.
The studio is going to try to relocate staff if possible to other studios within the group. It isn’t clear how much of a role Square Enix played in this decision, but it is possible that IO’s IP could end up with another developer down the road; but in the meantime at least work on Hitman will continue. No official word yet on when we might expect the new Hitman title to be released.