News from the video game industry for the week of December 28
Every Sunday, Electronista and MacNN offer a look back at some of the big news from the video game world in the previous week. To roll in the New Year for Weekly Game Replay, we take a look at Steam's new concurrent user record, Xbox Live founder Boyd Multerer's departure from Microsoft, the Planetside 2 beta coming to the PlayStation 4 in January, Croteam's trap for video game pirates in The Talos Principle, and the new free games for PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live gold subscribers.
News from the video game industry for the week of December 14
Every Sunday, Electronista and MacNN put together a one-stop article for some of the major news in the video game industry in the past week. In this week's edition of the Weekly Game Replay, we look at Valve's handling of Hatred on Steam Greenlight, Mojang and Telltale Games team up for a narrative-based Minecraft game, a judge gives the go-ahead on a Killzone resolution lawsuit, World of Warcraft is exploring in-game purchasable game time tokens, and Majesco Entertainment's receiving an investor cash infusion.
Real-time simulation/strategy game allows micro-management of resources
War games may have originated from the need to boost military logistics and planning, but they have since become popular with civilian gamers. Risk and Chess are two popular war games most people are familiar with, as are Civilization and Hearts of Iron. How does newcomer Supreme Ruler Ultimate, by Battlegoat Studios, stack up to the classics?
Embark on an epic journey to toast a slice of bread
Bossa Studios hit the market earlier last year with their hit game Surgeon Simulator, which challenged players to successful complete levels by hacking and slashing their way through surgeries. In December, the company released the highly anticipated game I Am Bread to early access on Steam. I Am Bread is the strangely emotionally-charged narrative that follows a slice of bread as it attempts to become toasted.
First episode 'Iron from Ice' launches, game played from five different points of view
Fans of George R.R. Martin's epic A Song of Ice and Fire series and the associated television show on HBO, "Game of Thrones," now have a new way to experience the saga. Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series hit Steam for OS X and PC today, bringing the California-based studio's narrative touch involving choice and consequence to Westeros.
Beta program allows friends to watch gameplay, broadcasting automatically starts, ends
Valve has launched a new feature for its Steam gaming platform today, that aims to make live streaming gameplay a little easier than the widely-used Twitch. Steam Broadcasting is currently available as a beta feature, allowing users to hop into a stream to watch their friends play a quick game, or watch public broadcasts through the community hubs.
Win a copy of Civilization: Beyond Earth
As was mentioned yesterday, Civilization: Beyond Earth was released for purchase and download on Steam, the Mac App Store, and on GameAgent. Also announced yesterday was that we will be running a giveaway. So, without further ado, we are pleased to reveal that we have obtained four redemption codes for this game to give away to our readers.
Charming roguelike dungeon-clearing game brings a touch of Finnish legend to the genre
Because of the accessibility of game design tools, independently-produced games are springing up on every platform. There's certainly no shortage of dungeon crawlers, roguelikes, or turn-based strategy games today. That doesn't mean, though, that Sproggiwood, by Freehold Games, should be overlooked. This turn-based roguelike has the player explore dungeons inspired by Finnish mythology, bringing peace to the land of Sprog.
Match-3 game with RPG elements makes for enjoyable casual game
It's not unusual for games to try and break out of being confined to a single category. More and more, we find games that try very hard to incorporate the best of two or more types of games. We tend to see this in Real Time Strategy games (RTSs) a lot, as they combine rogue-like or RPG elements. But there are other games that are making headway in the cross-genre arena. Gunspell, by Ino-Сo Plus, touts itself as a cross-genre title, combining elements of both RPGs and puzzles.
Pixel graphic rogue-like tower defense hybrid offers steep learning curve
Newcomer roguelike dungeon-defense game, Dungeon of the Endless by Amplitude Studios, was released to Steam in late October. Promising to be a challenging game, we took a look at it to see what it really had to offer. Like most roguelikes, Dungeon of the Endless is a pretty difficult game. Players are essentially told just enough to get them started, and then left to figure out the rest on their own. The whole situation mostly revolves around playing, dying, reworking the strategy, playing again, and probably dying again. That doesn't mean that the game isn't any fun -- there's something to be said for a game that makes a player work for the victory.
Frustrated developer complaints cause removal of game from sale on Steam
[Update: Mike Maulbeck is stepping down from the company] A game has been pulled from the Steam store, after the developer threatened to kill Valve Software's co-founder, Gabe Newell. Mike Maulbeck, the creator of Paranautical Activity, was frustrated at how his creation was incorrectly labeled in the Steam store as an Early Access game, and during a tirade against Valve and Steam on Twitter, wrote "I am going to kill Gabe Newell. He is going to die."
Rogue-like strategy not made for the faint of heart
Following a year of development in Steam's Early Access program, Steam Marines finally made its way to the general public a few weeks ago. Similar in style to games like Space Hulk and XCOM, Steam Marines is a top-down strategy shooter that requires players to carefully plan out each turn. Available for $15 through Steam, Desura, and the Humble Store, is this 2D retro-styled game worth your time and the unavoidable stress it is bound to cause?
Compensation rules added for Twitch, Steam to add a level of transparency
Valve's Steam platform and the game streaming site Twitch are adding some rules when it comes to the endorsements and recommendations of games. Both companies are now adding transparency for areas of generated content, hoping to bring an end to the blurred line that sits between paid advertisements, endorsements, or reviews.
Malware injected by raffle link sells items in Steam inventory, trades to specific account
Security firm F-Secure was recently alerted to a wave of malware targeting the Twitch game streaming audience as a way to turn a quick buck. The target of the Windows-based malware infection isn't aimed at stealing credit card information or joining into an click-through advertising botnet, but rather selling items of value that are associated with a Steam account.
Digital purchases almost doubled from 2009, firm expects digital downloads to grow
A report from tech site PCR indicates that PC games are now almost entirely purchased through digital channels. Analyst firm DFC Intelligence told the publication that in 2013, digital games made up 92 percent of all computer games sales worldwide. The trend shows that computer gamers are flocking to online services like more
Image shows thumbstick on Steam Controller replacing button group
Valve Software may have made another change to its Steam Controller, the gaming peripheral designed for use with Steam Machine game consoles. An image appearing in files associated with the beta version of the PC Steam client shows a modified version of the last controller design, with four face buttons instead replaced by a thumbstick.
Service hits eight million concurrent peak users, breaking previous record
Valve's Steam platform draws the attention of all sorts of consumers during its seasonal sales, from gamers looking for a large price break to the completists that feel a need to buy everything that goes on sale. With gamers coming out in droves during the most recent Steam summer sale, which concluded earlier this week, a new milestone was reached for the service. On the final day of the sale, over eight million concurrent users showed up for a last shot at the deals.
Complete, royalty free engine available through platform for monthly fee
In March, Crytek announced that it would be introducing the CryEngine as an engine as a service for developers seeking out the game engine. For a price of $10 a month, developers could pay for a subscription to the engine, rather than be faced with high upfront costs or royalties on games sold. This week Crytek put the subscription model live, using Steam as its platform.
Launch date slips in favor of more hardware development
Steam users will potentially have to wait until next year before they will be able to purchase Valve Software's Steam Controller, the company has announced. In a community blog post, Valve advises it is "looking at a release window of 2015, not 2014" for the controller, and in turn could affect the shipment of Steam Machines from the company.
Stream Steam games from a Windows computer to OSX, Linux
Earlier this week, game purveyor Steam opened up the in-home game streaming feature to all users. In a nutshell, the feature allows users of a Windows PC to stream the video of a game to a satellite computer on Windows, OS X, or some flavors of Linux in real-time, with input provided by the satellite computer . All the "heavy lifting" of the game is done by the Windows PC streaming the game, as well as "on the fly" conversion of the video stream to H.264, allowing for the satellite computer with a much lower specification or incompatible operating system to play. How well does this work in real life?
Dish Network customers can access Hopper DVR through Playstation 3 app
Dish Network has teamed up with Sony to release a Virtual Joey Playstation 3 app that allows control of Hopper DVRs through the gaming console. Through the app, the Playstation 3 speaks with the Hopper DVR over an Ethernet connection. The application eliminates the need for another set-top box, but can be controlled with the Dualshock 3 controller or a Dish remote.
Over 200,000 copies of game sold before official release, no mention of refund
Troubled indie game Towns has met its end a second time, as its latest developer Florian Frankenberger announced his departure from the project, citing compensation concerns. Frankenberger had taken over the project from SMP after former developer Xani Canal gave notice that he was ending development in February.
Select Nvidia cards to come bundled with Ubisoft's cyber thriller title
Nvidia has announced a new software bundle for customers who purchase select Nvidia GeForce GTX video cards, starting on April 29. While more recent bundles have focused on free-to-play games, the newest bundle offers customers a copy of Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs when it releases on May 27. Consumers that purchase a GTX 780 Ti, 780, 770 or 760 card will be eligible for the promotion.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director's Cut released for OS X
Feral Interactive has announced today that Deus Ex: Human Revolution -- Director's Cut has been released for OS X, available exclusively through Steam. A player performs as an ex-SWAT specialist who has been hired to oversee the security of an experimental biotechnology firm. Adam Jensen discovers there is more to the company than previously thought when a black ops team breaks in and kills scientists.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 'pilot experiment' apparently ends in failure
Microsoft has pulled the plug on its subsidized Xbox 360 program. The program, which offered a $99 Xbox 360 for users that agreed to pay $15 per month for Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming service, emulated similar subsidized programs for cellphones. Microsoft spokesman David Dennis confirmed the program's discontinuation, saying that "this program was intended to be a pilot experiment from the start, and Microsoft routinely adjusts the mix of offers available to its customers and this change was simply standard business practice." The program was never extended to the next-generation Xbox One.
Steam's Family Sharing feature exits beta
Digital game distributor Steam has officially released its Family Sharing feature. Originally released in beta, users can now authorize another user and their device to "borrow" a game from their library. Up to 10 computers can share one library at a time, with up to five different accounts permitted to use any of the aforementioned computers. Steam's Family Library Sharing is now available for all users.
Microsoft offers 100GB OneDrive storage via Bing Rewards scheme
After the success of its 100GB of cloud storage giveaway to 100,000 users as part of the SkyDrive rebrand to OneDrive, Microsoft is offering another way to gain the large block of online storage. The Bing Blog claims users of the Bing Rewards scheme, a program that offers discounts and other incentives for using Bing, will exchange 100 credits for a code, which provides access to the same 100GB allocation for one year, though the promotion will only be offered until June 30th of this year.
Increase in Windows 8.1 usage still not enough to beat Windows 7 on Steam
The adoption of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 by gamers has broken 21 percent for the first time, up from 20.06 percent for December, according to the latest figures from the Steam Hardware & Software Survey. Last month, Windows 8.1 systems made up 10.75 percent, with Windows 8 existing on 10.56 percent of reporting systems, though this is still far behind the older Windows 7.
Small World 2 digital game board launches on Mac via the Steam platform
Small World 2 has launched for Mac, and is available via the Steam platform. Featuring maps accommodating two to five players, the aim is to play fantasy societies with special power combos for the purpose of conquering as much of the 'land' as possible. Originally only in physical form, Small World's digital version offers players to challenge fiends to a real-time game across iPad, Android tablets, and PCs via Steam or Days of Wonder Online.
New controller eschews touchpad, adds D-Pad and ABXY diamond
Valve is in the middle of its annual Steam Dev Days developer conference, and it has revealed the addition of 10 million new users in just the last three months. Additionally, the forthcoming Steam controller will no longer have a touchscreen, and will see other modifications for backwards compatibility with legacy applications and other industry-standard controllers.
Both services unavailable for a period of time during holiday sales
Shortly after the arrival of the new year, online gaming powerhouses Electronic Arts plus Valve's Steam suffered from an array of denial of service (DoS) attacks. For a period of time, EA's Origin service was completely inaccessible, preventing players from playing EA games or accessing the storefront. Steam's authentication server and store also went down for an hour in the middle of its now-complete holiday sale. Both services are now fully restored.
Valve makes Left 4 Dead 2 free on Steam until 10am PST on December 26th
Valve Software treated customers of its Steam game store to an unexpected holiday gift, by making Left 4 Dead 2 free to play. The team-based first-person-shooter for PC and Mac, which sees a group of survivors attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse, is free to claim through the online store until 10am PST on December 26th, according to PC Gamer, after which it will revert to its usual price.
Steam Holiday sale begins, new titles for sale daily
Game purveyor Steam has commenced its annual Holiday sale, with deep discounts on games, many playable on both OS X and Windows. Titles on sale change every day -- today's Steamplay highlights include comedic heist title Monaco for $3 (80 percent off); dystopian shooter Bioshock Infinite for $10, 75 percent off; and '80s sci-fi board game translation Space Hulk for $10, a 66 percent discount. Other titles cycle through steep discounts in eight-hour intervals. Steam claims that more than 2000 games are or will be on sale for this event.
Steam Machines arriving at beta tester households
The first units of Valve's Steam Machine gaming devices have begun arriving on the doorsteps of beta testers. Engadget on Sunday pointed to reports from a number of sites showing that beta units have begun showing up at a few households of the 300 beta testers Valve has signed up to try out its new device. The units are arriving in a wooden crate, which opens to reveal a padded interior with the gaming device and its novel gamepad tucked inside.
Linux-based SteamOS at the core of slated testing
Digital game purveyor Steam has revealed that 300 beta "Steam Machine" gaming hardware suites will commence shipping to selected participants on Friday, December 13. The 300 recipients will be informed today at about 2PM PST (5PM EST) that they are the recipient of the hardware, as well as a collection of games that run natively on SteamOS. All other factors ignored, qualified users have less than a 0.07 percent chance of being selected for the trial.
Rdio opens service to another 20 countries, covers a total of 51
Rdio has expanded its reach to include 20 more markets, bringing its total coverage to 51 territories across six continents. The areas the streaming audio service now operates in include Argentina, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Panama, South Africa, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Hungary. It is not clear if Rdio will be offering a free account option alongside the subscription version in these countries, something users in the United States, Canada, and Australia already enjoy.
Steam hits another record for most users at one time
Popular gaming service Steam logged a record number of concurrent users on Sunday, besting its previous high of 6.6 million users. Figures on the service's site indicate that Steam hit 7,190,578 concurrent users mid-morning Eastern Time on December 1. The figure is indicative of the service's growing popularity, and may bode well for the company's impending Steam Box gaming devices.
Linux-based game console includes AMD processor, Radeon R9 270 graphics
One hardware manufacturer has confirmed it is preparing to offer its own take on Valve Software's Steam Machine game console. iBuyPower has unveiled a prototype Steam Machine device that it hopes to launch sometime in 2014, one that for all intents and purposes is a high-specification home theater PC in a consumer-friendly case.
Google launches Connected Classrooms initiative
Google has introduced a new initiative, Connected Classrooms, that aims to enable "virtual field trips" via Google+ Hangouts. Upcoming events include sessions from the Seattle Aquarium and the Minnesota Zoo, along with a program "from the cockpit of a solar plane."
Service offers OS X, Linux, Windows games for download
Digital game online storefront Steam today announced 30 percent growth in active accounts during the last 12 months, bringing the company's total to 65 million. The increase in users puts the cross-platform game distribution service ahead of Microsoft's Xbox Live user base, which totals 48 million active users.
Steam Halloween sale offers up to 75 percent off 195 titles
Digital game purveyor Steam has unveiled its Halloween 2013 sale, where users can "save big on creepy titles." Some notable OS X and Windows cross-platform "Steamplay" titles at 75 percent off are the survival shooter two-pack Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2; classic horror title The 7th Guest; hybrid brawler and real-time strategy rock adventure Brutal Legend; tower defense/shooter game Dungeon Defenders, and the collector pack of the Penumbra adventure series. All told, 195 Windows-compatible games are on sale. The sale runs through November 1.
New 'console' will run custom branch of Linux
Digital game distribution service Steam has revealed some information about its prototype Steam Machine that it will ship to 300 Steam users for free. The prototype machines are high-end, high-performance boxes, built out of off-the-shelf PC parts. They are fully upgradable, allowing any user to swap out the GPU, hard drive, CPU, and motherboard in a custom enclosure, which will have source CAD files available for people willing to replicate the device in its entirety.
Trackpads, clickable touchscreen feature on Steam Machine controller
Valve Software has completed a trilogy of announcements, by revealing a new game controller. The Steam Controller, said to be designed to work on SteamOS and with all games on Steam, uses a pair of clickable circular trackpads instead of the dual joystick configuration used on other controllers, which Valve says provides a "far higher fidelity input" than in other versions.
Hardware beta test ahead of expected 2014 Steam Box launch
Valve Software will be providing a number of Steam users a free hardware prototype of the fabled Steam Box, dubbed Steam Machines. The second of an expected trilogy announcements, the game developer has also revealed that it is working with multiple hardware partners to bring a number of Steam devices to market next year, all of which will run the previously-announced Linux-based operating system, SteamOS.
SteamOS to offer Steam-based gaming, licenseable by device manufacturers
Valve Software has announced it will be making its own operating system available to download in the future. SteamOS, the first of an expected trilogy of Steam Box-related items to be revealed this week, is an operating system based on Linux that is designed to run on a computer located in the living room, with a heavy focus on gaming.
Valve teases possible Steam Box launch with countdown timer
Valve Software is hinting at a new launch for helping gamers play in the living room. A countdown timer that will end on Monday could potentially be the launch of the rumored Steam Box, a Linux-based game console that founder and game developer Gabe Newell strongly hinted at during a presentation at the New Orleans LinuxCon earlier this week.
New service allows loaning users to earn achievements, save progress
Online cross-platform game seller Steam has unveiled Steam Family Sharing, a new service feature that allows close friends and family members to share their libraries of games. The feature will become available next week, in limited beta. Up to 10 devices may be authorized per Steam account, and the sharing is not limited to the confines of a single house or geographic locality, but only one user can be logged into the account at any time -- with priority given to the account owner.
Will also be available on Aspyr's GameAgent store
The third and latest game in the BioShock franchise, BioShock Infinite will debut on the Mac App Store, Steam and Mac publisher Aspyr's GameAgent store on August 29, with options for pre-ordering, bonuses and extra downloadable content -- as well as a way to save money on the game's $60 price. The game, which originally debuted on Windows, PlayStation and Xbox 360 in March, has won wide praise for its state-of-the-art graphics, artwork and story, though it is rated "M" for violence. The Mac version is likely to have steep graphics and horsepower requirements.
Digital titles could be shared by library owner with other users
Valve Software may be planning to add game sharing to its digital game marketplace, according to a rumor. Code allegedly found in the beta version of the Steam game client and store appears to show the software developer is working on a way to allow users to share their games with other Steam players, a system similar to what could have appeared on the Xbox One.
Beta in progress, users can sign up for future invitation
Digital game marketplace Steam has added a new feature -- in-game Steam Trading Cards. Steam Trading Cards are virtual cards earned by playing games on Steam. Sets of cards can be turned into game badges and tradable Steam community items, including discounts on titles or downloadable content, profile graphics, and custom game-related emoticons.