Microsoft has just made the Xbox One console a bit more interesting by announcing a new subscription service called the Xbox Game Pass, which will give access to over 100 games for US $9.99 a month, when it launches later this spring.
The Microsoft Xbox Game Pass will include over 100 games, like Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16, and SoulCalibur 2. Unlike other similar subscription based services, Xbox Game Pass will allow users to download available games and buy them with a 20 percent discount if they decide to keep the game. This also means that users won’t have to worry about streaming, bandwidth or other connectivity problems.
Add-ons for those games will be available for purchase with the same exclusive discount for Xbox Game Pass members as well.
While it was initially announced as a service that will only be available on Xbox One and Windows 10 devices, the Windows 10 part was later removed from the official Xbox Game Pass site, but it is still possible that it will be coming to the PC later this spring.
Microsoft announced that some big game publishers have already signed on including 2K, 505 Games, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Capcom, Codemasters, Deep Silver, Focus Home Interactive, Sega, SNK Corporation, THQ Nordic GmbH, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Microsoft Studios.
Currently, the Xbox Game Pass is available in an alpha preview stage with a limited number of games so we are certainly looking forward to what it will look like when it launches this spring.
This confirms what we noticed at CES where there were few people even showing 3D as a feature and one of them was LG.
Speaking to ET News in Korea, an LG representative stated that only its premium sets this year will be 3D capable, slashing the number of supporting TVs by half.
“Although 40 per cent of all TVs last year had 3D functions, only 20 per cent this year will. There are still consumers who enjoy 3D movies and others, so we are going to apply it mainly on premium products.”
Apparently Samsung is going the same way according to a supplier of 3D glasses who was told not to bother making compatible specs this year.
3D in the home has been in decline for the last two to three years, with first the BBC stopping producing its 3D material and Sky started killing off its dedicated channels last June. Sky still offers some 3D movies and content on demand.
It does not mean that 3D video is a dead format. It is still going strong in cinemas and we will probably see films made in that format for years. It is just that it never really worked in the home. Some of that might have been due to content, other reasons is that it tended to be erratic technology whcih was a little too much like hard work to set up. Quality also suffered in comparison some of the HD and UH pictures which were suddenly more realistic.
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.
Software giant Microsoft is killing off Apache at an alarming rate. According to figures from Netcraft Microsoft gained 48 million sites this month, increasing its total by 19 per cent.
Nginx also made a large gain of 14 million sites, whereas Apache fell by 7 million. Unsurprisingly, these changes have had a dramatic effect on the overall market share of each web server vendor, with Microsoft’s share growing by 3.38 percentage points to 32.8 per cent or 302 million sites. Apache’s has fallen by 3.41 to 38.2 per cent or 352 million sites.
Microsoft’s market share is now only 5.4 percentage points lower than Apache’s, which is the closest it has ever been. If recent trends continue, Microsoft could overtake Apache within the next few months, ending Apache’s 17-year reign as the most common web server. Overall, nginx powers 17.5 per cent of the top million sites.
Much of Microsoft’s growth is due to new sites hosted by Nobis Technology it seems that Vole is starting to become more aggressive in flogging its products after losing ground to the Open Sauce Apache in the first place. To be fair Apache still has a huge install base and it could easily become popular again.
It’s ancient history now, but once upon a time, if you wanted to play the most recent and most interesting games, you had to get up, leave the house and make your way to an arcade. Games consoles and home computers lived further down the food chain, their owners waiting for often sub-par versions of glorious arcade hits to be released on home systems. The real experience happened in an arcade.
Even to those who experienced that era, it’s a little hard to believe when you look at the sad remnants of their former glory which remain. Even in supposedly arcade-mad Japan, games generally find themselves wedged ignominiously in between gambling machines occupied by middle-aged chain-smokers and UFO Catcher booths promising, but rarely delivering, stuffed toys and sweets for bored teens on dates. In western countries, sad, lonely fighting game machines are just stuffed in where “arcade” owners ran out of fruit machines to install.
The reasons for this change are fundamentally technological. Arcade machines are big, bulky and expensive to move or replace. Once, that meant that they were vastly more powerful than home systems – but the accelerating pace of technological progress turned the size and expense of arcade machines into a liability rather than an advantage. Cheap, rapidly updated computers and consoles (and eventually even phones) first matched and then far outstripped the processing capabilities of big arcade cabinets. Rapid updates in graphics, processing, storage, networking, controls and screen resolutions were comfortably adopted by the home market, the costs buffered by cheap, cheerful hardware and absorbed by the wallets of millions of consumers. Arcade operators, faced with replacing large numbers of huge, expensive systems in order to keep track of such changes, fell behind completely.
Social factors either exacerbated or softened this blow, but these were highly region dependent. In Japan, where small family living spaces have engendered a culture in which many social activities are carried out external to the home, arcades persisted as date spots, as places to hang out with friends and – perhaps most importantly – as a venue for games too large, too noisy or too intrusive to be played in a small family home. In parts of the West, though, social factors intervened to hasten the decline, with a perception of arcades as “seedy” venues (in the grand tradition of pool halls and their ilk) discouraging many potential players, while regions with legalised gambling were quick to drop videogames in favour of more profitable slot machines.
Over the years, there has been talk of an “arcade renaissance” on several occasions, yet each time has ended in disappointment. Even as living spaces in many Western countries (the UK is a particularly notable example) have shrunk dramatically in terms of average size, Western consumers have demonstrated a continued willingness to engage with loud, bulky games. Rock Band and Guitar Hero were hugely successful as home games in the West, where their Japanese equivalents, Konami’s Guitar Freaks or Drum Mania, have acted as sustaining lifeblood for arcade venues. It’s also notable that even as Japanese arcades have innovated and invested, launching extraordinary new games which leverage all sorts of new technologies, from the company’s ultra high-speed broadband networks through to the possibilities of RFID enabled cards, the arcade sector’s health has still declined – a drop-off in footfall, revenue and floor space that’s been slower than in the West, but still isn’t exactly the rude health you might have come to believe from fawning articles about amazing Japanese arcades in the western media.
As such, it’s important to be cautious about any notion of an arcade recovery. Yet if we were to envisage any potential uplift in the fortunes of the out-of-home gaming sector, we can easily say what one key factor would be – just as in the heyday of the arcade, these venues would need to provide games which you simply cannot experience at home. This won’t come about, this time around, through more powerful graphics or processing – the trends in those areas are focused on miniaturisation and cost-efficiency, targeting the ability to put high-end 3D into phones rather than building pricey, bulky, ultra high-end systems. Instead, the focus would have to be on experiences that don’t work at home for reasons of space, budget, intrusiveness – or preferably, a combination of all of the above.
The reason I raise this issue now is because in the past few weeks, most of us will have seen videos or demonstrations of technologies which, although their creators purport to be focused on the home market, clearly fall into these categories. One is Microsoft’s Illumiroom system, which uses Kinect to map a 3D space and then projects imagery matched to that 3D map. It’s a great piece of technology with extraordinary gaming potential. It’s also abjectly unsuited to an ever-increasing number of living rooms around the world. Kinect alone is an impossibility for many players due to the space and room layout it demands; Illumiroom, demanding similar space if not more and intrusively taking over the entire room such that nobody else will be able to use it concurrently with the game being played, is simply not going to work for most people and most homes. Outside the home, though, in a dedicated venue? The potential of the technology is extraordinary, the experiences it could create serving to create a destination for gamers to experience something that just won’t work at home.
The same thought process applies, to some extent, to the Oculus Rift. It’s not that the superb VR headset hardware won’t work at home – of course it will, and it’ll probably only be a few hardware generations before the compromises presently being made in the name of cost are ironed out by technological progress. However, the “full” VR experience – with a custom controller (a gun, perhaps, or full-body motion sensing suite), a multi- directional treadmill, and so on, is simply going to be too expensive for most users – and even if prices collapsed, it’s too big and unwieldy to live in most people’s apartments. Yet the entertainment potential of such a fully-functional setup, running in parallel with a dozen other such suites so that a group of friends can explore a virtual world together, is enormous – and from a commercial perspective, not even all that space-consuming.
Of course, technology is just one factor. Technologies such as these (and I’m sure that others exist which also fall into the trap of “amazing, but it won’t work in my house”) can give a compelling reason for people to engage with out-of-home gaming – but the social factors also have to be right if an arcade renaissance is to be possible. Social factors are trickier, in many ways, than getting the hardware and the software right. Losing the seedy, unwelcoming image of the arcade in some regions will be tough; in others, where arcades have died entirely, the marketing of an entirely new social pursuit would present a major challenge. Getting people to try out something like this might be easy; getting them to see a trip to the VR centre with friends as an entertainment option on par with a trip to the cinema is likely to be much harder.
All the same, the entertainment possibilities opened up by technologies of this kind, which are now reaching a mature, usable stage in their development, ought to create an optimism around arcades and out-of-home gaming that hasn’t been seen for some time. Social or commercial aspects could still pull the rug out from any hope of recovery or renaissance – but the potential certainly exists for new kinds of gaming and interactive entertainment to take their place as key social out-of-home experiences in the coming years.
Ubisoft has confirmed that Watch Dogs will arrive on November 19th in North America and November 22nd in Europe. The game is been confirmed for the Xbox 360, Xbox Next, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC, and Wii U. The release date for the PlayStation 4 version is expected to coincide with the release date of the PlayStation 4 console, so depending on its release date, the release of the PS4 version could be adjusted. (This apparently applies to the Xbox Next, as well.)
We are also being told that the PS3 version of the game will include an additional 60 minutes of exclusive game play. We are not sure if this game play will also be available for those that purchase the PS4 version, but we suspect that it will.
Four special edition versions of the game will be offered. It is not yet clear whether or not they will offer each of these special editions for each of the platforms. More details are expected to follow in the days ahead, but these look like some very nice special editions of the game, with some very nice extras being thrown in.
On Monday, Nokia confirmed that the Lumia 510 is shipping with Windows Phone 7.8. However, the company would not confirm or deny reports from the Netherlands saying that the update was also available to Lumia 800 owners.
“At present we have no more information we can give about wider availability of the update for phones running Windows Phone 7.5,” Nokia said in a statement via email.
Windows Phone 7.8 was announced in June, and includes the new start screen Microsoft built for version 8 of its smartphone operating system. It allows users to change the size of the tiles used to access applications.
The update also doubles the number of theme and accent colors to 20 — so users can further personalize their phones — and adds new lock screen features, Microsoft said in a blog post last month.
Microsoft’s blog post also provided some information on availability.
“We know youre eager to get the Windows Phone 7.8 update, and we want you to know that were working closely with our hardware and carrier partners to get it tested, approved, and rolled out to as many devices as possible in early 2013,” it said.
Microsoft has stated that Skype is ‘coming soon’ to Windows Phone 8, after the app failed to show up with the launch of the mobile operating system.
Microsoft has been keen to talk up the Skype app for Windows Phone 8, but we were disappointed to find that the app is yet available in the Windows Store, given the operating system’s support for apps designed for Windows Phone 7.
We’re not the only ones disappointed either, as early Windows Phone 8 adopters have taken to Twitter to bemoan the lack of a Skype app. For example, one user said, “What the..? Skype isn’t available for Windows Phone 8? Microsoft is making it really hard to whole-heartedly love its mobile OS.”
However, Microsoft has told us that the app will arrive in the Windows Store ‘soon,’ although it was unable to give us a date. Skype told us it was unable to comment.
It sounds like it’ll be worth the wait, though. Borrowing styling tips from Microsoft’s Windows 8 desktop operating system, it sports a clean and simple user interface. It also comes with the ability to run in the background, with Skype promising that this won’t drain the battery of your Windows Phone handset, and contacts will now be integrated into the Windows Phone 8 People Hub.
Thanks to Microsoft’s customisable Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system, you’ll be able to resize the Skype Live Tile, opting whether to display it in a small, medium or large format.
Skype explained, “Windows Phone 8 has allowed us to bring new, resizable Live Tiles to Skype, so you have even more choices for making Skype a part of your Start Screen.
“On Windows Phone 8, Skype will show a count of your unread messages on all tile sizes – and with the largest size tile we show you a preview of the last message you received.”
In addition to Skype, we noticed that Spotify was also missing on Windows Phone 8. The music streaming service said it doesn’t yet know when it will launch an app for Windows Phone 8.
Nintendo will be launching Wii U in just a few weeks, and Mario and Co. no doubt would like Wii owners to make the jump to their new platform, but Microsoft sees it playing out differently this holiday. With blockbusters like Halo 4 and a $50 price cut on holiday bundles, Matt Barlow, general manager of product marketing for Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, believes Xbox 360 will have the edge in the HD console battle.
“I think this holiday season is an amazing jump off for all those people who may have been interested in the Wii and now want to be interested in high definition gaming”. “I can’t think of a better console for them to choose than one that has the most games available, the highest rated games available, than the Xbox 360 platform.”
“And when you look at the alternative experiences that we’re going to bring with SmartGlass, the entertainment providers that we’re bringing on board, with sports and music and movies and TV, and then if you think about those preeminent best selling blockbuster games that they’re going to want to play – Halo, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Forza, Nike+ Kinect Fitness – they either play first or they play best on Xbox 360 and nowhere else.”
“We’ve only scratched the surface…Kinect is going to be something that everyone’s going to want to own”
“Like I said, jump off is great and we like the way we’re positioned to pick those customers up. They really should consider an Xbox 360 if they’re looking for the best high definition gaming and entertainment platform.”
Barlow was speaking as part of an interview about how Microsoft is positioning the Xbox 360 business going into yet another holiday season, nearing the end of its lifecycle. He noted that Kinect, which he said has now sold 20 million units, will continue to play a large role and he believes it’s actually beginning to resonate with the core audience.
“When you look at the way core has adapted to Kinect, the things that they’re valuing with it – the voice control stuff is really starting to catch on. When I look at some of the stuff we’ve done with Skyrim, some of the integration we have with Skyrim, some of the work with FIFA…voice integration has been unbelievable. If you look at some of the reviews we have on Mass Effect 3 and some of the people who play through using some of the voice control capabilities as well in that game. We’re starting to strike the right chords in the core audience,” he said.
“There are plenty of uses for this particular technology, whether it’s gesture or speech, and we’ve only scratched the surface. We’ve only been in this thing a couple of years now…Kinect is going to be something that everyone’s going to want to own. Whether you’re core, whether you’re broad.
Here is some news that many are going to find a bit amusing. Minecraft on the Xbox 360 is getting more hours of play than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or FIFA 13. Worldwide activity for the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft is king when it comes to hours played.
With this news, Minecraft for Xbox 360 becomes the first Xbox Live Arcade title to take the top spot. While no one is talking exact numbers, we know that the Xbox 360 version of the game has sold over 4 million copies.
Some of the recent activity is due to the release of the latest patch, which provided an upgrade that has spurred many who had not been playing the game to come back as a result. Those that have returned to the game have found the new upgrade has made its return quite an experience.
Microsoft has a little surprise in store for those using USB Flash drives for storage on their Xbox 360 consoles. With the latest update, Microsoft has doubled the allowed size of USB flash drives from 16GB to 32GB.
The news of the capacity increase came as more users have been getting the latest dashboard update. Previously, even if you had a larger flash drive than 16GB, the Xbox 360 would only allow users to use 16GB of the available storage space.
The storage increase comes as Microsoft confirms that Halo 4 will require 8GB of available storage space. The capacity increase will help those users that have opted not to go with a hard drive, but instead have taken advantage of the cheap prices of USB flash drive storage for handling their storage needs. Some users have reported using multiple USB flash drives and are pleased with the option, as it is still cheaper in most cases than buying a hard drive for use with their Xbox 360.
While the price of 32GB USB flash drives isn’t as cheap as 16GB flash drives yet, 32GB USB flash drives are now under $20, and we see the price going a bit lower as many makers are moving to USB 3.0 drives; which is making for great deals on the older and slower USB 2.0 models. Since the Xbox 360 does not support USB 3.0, there is no gain in buying a USB 3.0 model. With two 32GB drives, users have more storage than the 60GB hard drive that appeared in the Xbox 360 for a short time prior to the company moving away from both the 20GB and 60GB models in favor of the 120GB drive, which became the standard for a long time.
Since it launched in May, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition has sat comfortably atop Microsoft’s Xbox Live sales charts. That continued success adds up, as developer 4J Studios confirmed on Twitter this weekend that its console adaptation of Mojang’s blockbuster hit has tallied more than 4 million sales.
The game hit its first million sold within five days of appearing on Xbox Live Arcade, and became the service’s best-selling title of all time with 2 million sold in under a month. Despite that success, the Xbox 360 Edition of Minecraft still has a ways to go to catch up to its PC progenitor. In August, Mojang said the original edition of the game had surpassed sales of 7 million.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition sells for 1,600 Microsoft points ($20). The console edition of the game was developed by 4J Studios, which has made a name for itself bringing other games to Microsoft’s download service. Previously, the studio handled the Xbox Live Arcade ports for Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, and Perfect Dark.
Microsoft’s new ‘Beauty of the Web’ advert featuring Alex Clare’s Too Close track will allow customers to interact with it using their mobile phones. With the advert set to appear on The X Factor on Saturday, viewers will be able to use their Shazam mobile app to view live performances with the Alex Clare and enter a competition to see him live.
Alex Clare owes a lot to the Shazam app. Following his song’s airing on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer promo material it received 1,792,594 Shazam tags globally and shot to number four in the UK charts.
Paul Davies, Microsoft head of consumer marketing said, “We’re confident that by leveraging Shazam’s reach of more than 11 million people in the UK we will continue to strengthen Internet Explorer’s position as the browser that truly enables people to experience the web in all its beauty.
“The campaign will build on the growing success of the Internet Explorer brand and show users that Internet Explorer is the best way to experience their favourite sites.”
This isn’t Shazam’s first expansion into the television market. The company inked a deal with American Idol in April, before landing a deal with British broadcaster ITV.
If you fancy getting involved, the Shazam app is available to download for free on Android, Blackberry, IOS and Windows Phone.
Struggling mobile phone maker Nokia has cut prices of its older smartphone models using Microsoft Windows software, industry sources said on Thursday, a day after investors gave its latest Lumia phones a rapid thumbs-down.
Two industry sources told Reuters that the Finnish group, which is fighting to recapture ground lost to its rivals, cut the price of its mid-range Lumia 800 Windows Phone by around 15 percent this week and made smaller reductions on other Windows models.
Nokia shares continued falling on Thursday after slumping 13 percent on Wednesday as the firm unveiled two new Windows Phone models in what may be the last major shot at reclaiming market share lost to Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Google Inc.
Nokia did not disclose the price or roll-out dates of the new models – which with their rounded edges and colourful covers look similar to their predecessors – and its share fell a further 4.6 percent to 1.9 euros by 1320 GMT on Thursday.
Research firm CCS Insight, which tracks market prices, confirmed the cuts and said they were necessary to keep momentum behind current Lumia 800 and 900 devices now when new products have been announced using the updated Windows Phone 8 software.
Robert Boyd, one half of Penny Arcade’s On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness 3 developer Zeboyd Games, has told Edge that Microsoft should merge Xbox Live’s Arcade and Indie Games categories.
“I’d like to see [XBLIG] kind of merge into XBLA,” Boyd commented. “Keep Indie Games free to everyone but if you have a really good game, you could submit it to Microsoft for it to be upgraded to an XBLA title. Right now, becoming an XBLA developer is fairly difficult for a small team, so reducing the barrier of entry to XBLA could only help Microsoft, I think.”
Boyd finds that Xbox Live Indie Games has serious discoverability issues because of the low barrier to entry. Some developers could use a route to Xbox Live Arcade, a route previously provided by Microsoft’s Dream Build Play indie development contest.
“Early on, several winnders and nominees got on, but after Dust won, I can’t think of anything else. Most of the winners ended up just being released on XBLIG,” Boyd said.
“Far more indie games are released on Steam than XBLA, and yet Steam is tremendously successful. I think opening up XBLA a bit – but not completely – would only help.”