News from the video game industry for the week of March 29
Every Sunday, MacNN and Electronista spend some time covering a few of the stories from the wide world of gaming that wasn't mentioned earlier this week. In today's Weekly Game Replay: the next Legend of Zelda has been delayed, a community patch for Half-Life 2 gives the game a visual overhaul, Blackrock Mountain heading to Hearthstone this week, and Microsoft is offering double the games to Xbox Live Gold members.
Is that wizard really from the moon and actually worth spending $60 on?
Let's just cut through the normal crap of a boring introductory paragraph. If you've been alive and a gamer for more than 15 years, you know who Bungie is. More than 25 years, and you've played a Bungie game or two. At more than 40 (and a Mac user), you've played games from the company that shipped on 3.5-inch disk. Bungie is now freed from the clutches of Microsoft, and under the thrall of a new master -- Activision. Destiny is the first title from the thrice-born company, and it's -- different. Is it any good, and more importantly, how is the experience on the seemingly-omnipresent previous generation of console?
New bundle comes with two games, limited to Wal-Mart, Microsoft Store
Consumers looking for a replacement Microsoft Xbox 360 will have another option coming on October 7, just in time for the holiday shopping season. The new version of the almost nine-year-old console is bathed in blue, adding arctic blue accent pieces on both console and controller. Priced at $250, the Xbox 360 Special Edition Blue Bundle comes with a 500GB hard disk in the console, a month of Xbox Live Gold, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
PS3, Xbox 360 buyers get free next-gen copy for limited time, Vita remote play controls refined
With Bungie's Destiny coming out later this week, the company announced an initiative to give players still on last-gen hardware an easier way to transition to next-gen consoles in the near future. Bungie announced that players that purchase a digital copy of Destiny for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 are eligible for a free digital version on either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Sony also announced a control scheme specific to that PlayStation Vita that Bungie developed for those playing the game via remote play.
Newest Assassin's Creed game coming only to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Game maker Ubisoft has decided that it is going to add some life to the consoles of the last generation while giving fans of Assassin's Creed a little more story. Coming to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 is the new Assassin's Creed Rogue, a game that takes place between Assassin's Creed III and Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag in the series timeline. The game features an improved version of the naval combat system seen in Black Flag, but takes place in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Grand Theft Auto V confirmed to be released for next-gen consoles this fall
Rockstar has announced that Grand Theft Auto V will be released for play on PlayStation 4, PC and Xbox One this fall. The upgraded versions will offer improved graphics and technical elements, new gameplay features as well as additional tweaking options. Players who have used GTA Online on the PS3 or Xbox 360 will be able to carry over equivalent progress on the next-generation console versions.
Twitter added to Xbox One, Microsoft reveals further 45 apps incoming
The latest update for the Xbox One, being made available to download globally this week, has introduced support for external hard drives among other features. The game console update comes at the same time as a second Microsoft announcement, revealing more than 45 new apps will be rolling out onto the Xbox One and the Xbox 360 before the end of this year.
Samsung Chromebook 2 now available for pre-sale purchase
Today marks the official pre-sale availability of Samsung's Chromebook 2, as was initially announced last month. The new models are available in 11.6- and 13.3-inch screen sizes, and improve upon the original Chromebook with faster performance and longer battery life. The 13.3-inch model features a Full HD (1920x1080) resolution, and the 11.6-inch model uses a 1366x768 resolution. Pre-sale pricing of the 11.6-inch Chromebook 2 is $320, and the 13-inch model at $400, with shipping beginning at the end of April.
Does the oddly-shaped peripheral help or hinder gameplay?
Online gameplay is becoming more and more competitive, to the point where there an assortment of leagues where "pro gamers" can be found earning a very good wage, if they perform well enough. In the past, some gamers have turned to "modded" controllers, meaning console controllers that have been artificially boosted in some way; but lately, nearly all of these have been banned from organized play. One that has not been banned is the Avenger Controller peripheral -- a snap-on case, extending the reach of buttons on the controller, and allegedly reducing response time and boosting the overall gameplay of the user. Lofty claims -- but do they hold up? Read our review and find out!
Square now offering POS platform in Spanish
Point-of-Sale card payment service Square has released its app Square Register in Spanish today. Square Register, available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, allows businesses to accept card payments in-store. The web-based dashboard as well as its online selling platform, Square Market, now also support Spanish. Square's services are currently available to business owners in US, Canada and Japan.
Titanfall for previous generation Xbox 360 delayed yet again
Critically-acclaimed Xbox One title Titanfall's release date for the Xbox 360 is slipping again. Publisher EA today announced that the new ship date for the title is April 8 in the US and April 11 in Europe. This is the second ship date for the ostentibly-complete title in this calendar year, with the first pushing the date from March 11 to March 25 to "put the finishing touches" on the game. EA is hoping that the latest delay will make the game "even better."
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.
TellTale release second episode of The Wolf Among Us across devices this week
TellTale Games' The Wolf Among Us is releasing its second instalment, an episodic adventure game for iOS, PC, Mac, PS3 and Xbox 360. Based on the comic book series Fables, players take on the role of Bigby Wolf and affect the storyline of the game by their choices throughout the adventure. PC and Mac versions of The Wolf Among Us, Episode 2 will be released Tuesday, with the PS3 and Xbox versions available Wednesday (in the UK) and the iOS version is set for debut on Friday.
AT&T killing support for U-Verse on Xbox 360 at end of 2013
AT&T will stop supporting the Xbox 360 under its U-Verse service after December 31st of this year. The service, which allowed the game console to act as a secondary set-top box for watching TV, with a representative advising Polygon that it was being pulled due to "low customer demand," and that it will not appear on the Xbox One. An e-mail sent out to a number of subscribers details a $99 credit to cover part of the cost of Xbox Live Gold membership, as well as the required conversion kit.
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.
Xbox marketing officer claims 100 games slated for release for the 360
At the same event that saw news of the Xbox One production unit CPU running faster than previously known, Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer Yusuf Mehdi noted that the Xbox 360 was going to remain viable and supported by Microsoft for three more years. The long life and promised support for the console was attributed to it being "incredibly profitable now in the tail" given its long life, wide support, and large game library.
Next Xbox Live sign-in will greet user with the conversion notification
After nearly a decade of using Microsoft Points on Xbox Live for purchase currency, Microsoft has discontinued the practice. Following a user's next login to the online gaming service, the company is automatically converting the points to a cash equivalent of roughly $0.013 per point, rounded up to the next increment of $0.25.
PS3, Xbox 360 following in near future
Netflix has begun wider deployment of the multi-user profiles that started hitting the Apple TV earlier this week. On top of the Apple TV, the feature is now rolling out to iPhone, iPod, and iPad users "over the next few days," according to Netflix. In the near future, the company is also planning to bring profiles to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and newer-model connected TVs and Blu-ray players. Android and Wii users are only expected to get the option "soon."
Comedy Central, Nickelodeon apps go live on Xbox 360 in US
The Xbox 360 in the United States has received two more entertainment apps offering streaming video. The Comedy Central app provides unlimited access to the CC: Stand-Up library of 6,000 videos, with the Nickelodeon version offering full episodes of shows and animated shorts. Both require a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription, with Nickelodeon also needing a subscription to a relevant TV provider.
Xbox 360 E gives the 360 franchise a new lease of live
E3 2013 was most notable for the launch of the all-new Microsoft Xbox One, which is due in November this year. Microsoft then surprised gamers when it revealed an unexpected second redesign of the original Xbox console, the Xbox 360 E. It’s obvious that the revamped Xbox 360 follows the design cues of the Xbox One, but has anything else changed with its arrival?
Change from Microsoft Points to cash transactions accompanied by higher prices
Microsoft has come under fire for raising the price of games on Xbox Live in the UK, at the same time as introducing local currency transactions. Gamers in the recent dashboard beta test found that downloadable content and Xbox Live Arcade games on the service cost far more than the equivalent cost in the previously-used Microsoft Points.
TWC TV app boasts 300 live TV channel streams, Kinect controls
Microsoft will be providing an app for the Xbox 360 that will allow Time Warner Cable customers in the United States to view live TV. The new TWC TV app, said to launch later this summer for TWC subscribers that also signed up for Xbox Live Gold, will provide up to 300 of the cable company's channel roster to the game console, and builds upon existing versions of the app on other platforms.
Motivation of deposit retention unclear, royalty offer $6.8 million
Following April's court ruling that Microsoft need only pay several millions of dollars, rather than the billions that Motorola Mobility was seeking, Microsoft offered Motorola's counsel a $6.8 million dollar payment for all outstanding licensing debts owed for H.264 standards-essential patents used in Windows 8 and the Xbox 360. Motorola has refused this offer, and is retaining a bond paid by Microsoft -- despite judicial orders not requiring a payment even close to the $100 million bond payment.
Daily mandatory Internet check-in, console game registration removed
Following a lambasting by the gaming press and the general public, Microsoft has elected to drop the 24-hour Internet check-in previously revealed at E3 last week. In a statement, Microsoft announced that the new change will allow users to "trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc-based games just like you do today -- there will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360."
Interview sees Don Mattrick calling Xbox 360 'offline device'
A Microsoft executive has suggested to gamers concerned about the Xbox One's online requirement to instead use the Xbox 360. Don Mattrick, head of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business made the comment in an interview ahead of the company's E3 keynote, and has seemingly done little to help the Xbox One's public relations efforts.
Xbox Live Gold subscribers to get free games until end of 2013
Microsoft revealed launch details for its upcoming game console, as well as an update for its current version, at its E3 keynote event earlier today. Aside from outlining upcoming games, the Xbox One is now slated to appear on store shelves in November this year, the Xbox 360 has been redesigned, and current Xbox Live subscribers will also receive some extra benefits.
A New Generation Revealed
Microsoft is set to begin its Xbox event in Redmond, Washington. "A New Generation Revealed" is the theme for the gathering, suggesting the company will finally show its next-generation gaming console. Check out our live page at 10am Pacific, 1pm Eastern, for images and updates from the event.
Prototypes said to have Kinect-style motion controls
Microsoft is looking to create a set-top box for media playback, according to one report. Continuing previous rumors, the software giant is working on a device that will allow users to sign onto Xbox Live and use its apps to view streaming video, effectively cloning the non-gaming aspects of the Xbox 360 game console into a relatively-cheap product.
Next Microsoft game console expected to be revealed
Invitations sent to media for a product reveal at Microsoft's Xbox campus suggest that the company is close to unveiling its new game console. The invitation, headed with the Xbox logo, alluding to "A new generation revealed" and using the hashtag #XboxReveal, strongly hints that the event will show off the much-rumored successor to the Xbox 360.
Service might still be tied to Internet service
HBO may be relenting on its position towards allowing HBO outside of cable TV subscription packages, Reuters reports. CEO Richard Plepler says that the company is considering allowing access to HBO GO, its digital streaming option, via bundles with broadband Internet subscriptions. That would likely add about $10 to $15 to a person's Internet bill. "We would have to make the math work," says Plepler.
Streaming service still expected in first quarter of 2013
According to a blog post by Larry Hyrb, the Xbox Live director of programming, Verizon's Redbox Instant movie streaming service is coming to the Xbox 360 as a console launch exclusive. Xbox Live subscribers currently involved in the Redbox Instant beta program will be receiving emails with unique codes to access the app on the Xbox 360 in "the coming days." Both an Xbox Live Gold account, and a Redbox Instant account are required for the service.
Canada receives French-language video channel on console
Microsoft has added more apps to the Xbox 360 game console's already sizeable catalog, with an update that covers North America and parts of Europe. The key app additions this time lie in the US, where gamers will be able to watch original content from Blip.TV, as well as access the wide catalog available to Rhapsody users.
Custom consoles to longest subscribers, free game to all
Microsoft is celebrating the tenth anniversary of Xbox Live by giving some of its longest subscribers a free console. While a gift of hardware will not be made to all users of the service, Microsoft is also offering a free Xbox Live Arcade game to download, as well as allowing US-based members entry into a sweepstake for various prizes.
Walmart and T-Mobile team offer Halo promotion to PAYG customers
In conjunction with Microsoft's Halo 4 launch on the Xbox 360, Walmart and T-Mobile are offering fans of the game an exclusive promotional offer. Between November 6 and December 31, customers who purchase a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go unlimited talk and text plan valued at $30 per month or more will receive an exclusive in-game Halo 4 Spartan emblem. The T-Mobile Walmart portal has more information on the promotion.
Tritton Pro gaming headset brings virtual surround sound to PS3, Xbox 360
Mad Catz has began offering its Tritton Pro True 5.1 Surround Sound Headset in five countries on Friday, including the Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the US. The headset is compatible with Sony's PS3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 in North America but can also be used with PCs and Macs in Europe, though what the difference is and why they can't also be used on computers in North America isn't clear. It does offer virtual 5.1-channel surround sound no matter where they're purchased, however, making them especially valuable to hard-core first-person shooters where they may be able to hear enemies coming before they see them.
iOS SmartGlass app still unavailable
Microsoft has released an Android version of its SmartGlass app for interacting with the Xbox 360 console. The new app is available as a free download in the Google Play Store. It allows users to control their Xbox 360 consoles with an Android device, as well as to access additional content on games, music, and video content. An iOS version of the app has not yet been released, though Microsoft has assured iOS device owners that a version would be on its way.
Only remaining patents held against the Xbox 360 are H.264
For reasons known only to itself, Motorola Mobility has dropped two Wi-Fi-related patents from its ITC complaint against Microsoft's XBox 360 gaming console. Only two H.264 patents remain in the complaint. As listed in the court filing, no agreement between the two parties are in place, so the reason for the withdrawal is unknown. The ITC should complete the investigation and initial remand hearing by the summer of 2013.
Microsoft offers 250GB Xbox for $99, with Kinect for $150 with Xbox LIVE subscription
Microsoft is expanding its subsidy for the Xbox 360 console that started with the 4GB model back in May. Now, there are three choices, with potential buyers capable of picking the 4GB console with Kinect or a 250GB console without for the same $99. The third option adds Kinect to the 250GB console but bumps the price of entry to $149.
Tablet-based control for Windows 8, RT from 26th, iOS to come
Microsoft has confirmed that its Xbox SmartGlass app will launch at the same time as Windows 8. Built within the Games part of Windows 8 and Windows RT, the app will allow users to navigate through the console, as well as act like a second support screen for certain games and applications.
Fall update will force gamers to use built-in browser
Microsoft has seemingly retired the Facebook and Twitter apps for the Xbox 360. The apps will be removed from the console when users are forced to run the mandatory Dashboard update, which is currently in the process of being deployed around the world. Users will no longer be able to read or update their status through the console directly, once they have been removed.
Cross-platform music service starts on Xbox 360
Microsoft is launching its Xbox Music service far earlier than anticipated. The cross-platform music service will roll out onto Xbox 360 consoles from tomorrow, with Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8 receiving it on the 26th. Despite the multi-platform nature of the service, it will not appear on Windows 7 or handsets running earlier versions of Windows Phone.
Suing company specializes in biometric identification
Virginia-based Intelligent Verfication Systems. LLC is suing Microsoft over its Kinect Xbox 360 peripheral. The company believes Microsoft and software developer Majesco Entertainment stand in violation of a 2006 patent involving "Animated Toy Utilizing Artificial Intelligence and Facial Image Recognition." The Virginia company claims to have contacted Microsoft in June 2011 to inform them of the infringement, but no response to the complaint was received.
Court claims authority as complaint 'between two US corporations'
A three-judge panel from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that Google's Motorola Mobility cannot enforce a German patent injunction ruling against Microsoft. The original ruling granted Microsoft's request for a temporary restraining order against a sales injunction, which was ordered against Microsoft's Xbox 360 console in Germany, and the lower court order has now been upheld.
Zune store replacement to have subscription, free options
Images of the oncoming Xbox Music Pass, originally revealed in June and considered to be the spiritual successor to the Zune marketplace, have leaked online. The service, according to images received by Engadget, will allow music to be downloaded and synchronized across the Xbox, Windows, and Windows Phone platforms, and appears to offer various subscription options.
Live programming, daily polls, voter registration on channel
Microsoft is adding a new hub to Xbox Live for the upcoming presidential race. Election Hub 2012 will offer US-based Xbox 360 owners the chance to view live feeds from the Republican and Democratic national conventions, watch the three presidential debates, and receive news updates about the candidates and their respective political parties.
Kinect gets a $40 price drop in the US, similar cuts coming to most other markets
The Kinect motion-sensing accessory for the Xbox 360 has received a $40 price drop in the US, with prices now set at $110. Other markets are due to get a similar though unspecified price drop as well, including North America, Latin America, Asia, and Pacific regions. Australians and New Zealanders won't get a price drop until October 4, however.
Thrustmaster reveals latest Ferrari-themed controllers for Xbox 360
Thrustmaster has used Gamescom as the stage for its latest official Ferrari-themed Xbox 360 controllers. The headliner is the Ferrari Vibration GT Cockpit 458 Italia Edition, which features an 11.2-inch replica of the Ferrari 458 Italia's steering wheel. It has also added the GPX LightBack Ferrari F1 Edition gamepad, which incorporates two rows of LEDs to indicate speed and braking force for gamers into hardcore racing games.
Spotify-style streaming service to roll out later this year
Microsoft is currently negotiating with the major music labels in order to bring their tunes to its own Xbox music service. Sources familiar with the negotiations tell Bloomberg that the Redmond company is in talks with Vivend, UMG, Warner Music Group, Sony, and EMI in order to secure the rights to their music for a streaming service with download and online-storage functions. Microsoft reportedly hopes to roll out the service later this year.
Toyota, Unilever, Samsung among first to participate in NUads
Microsoft later this year will roll out a new ad platform for video streaming services on its Xbox 360 console, presenting users with interactive experiences instead of the static ads seen on television. According to the Los Angeles Times, the new platform—dubbed NUads—will initially feature partnerships with Toyota, Unilever, and Samsung Mobile. The ad move is viewed as part of a larger Microsoft strategy to steal viewers from television networks and establish the 360 as the center of the living room experience.
First half-hearted support arrives, most against embargo
Members of Congress have written to the International Trade Commission (ITC) to publicly rebuke a potential ITC-enforced Xbox 360 ban. Microsoft faces an import ban on its gaming console over Motorola's standards-essential H.264 playback patent, which Microsoft has been accused of violating. Motorola, in turn, has been accused of not negotiating for a license on the patent in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) basis. Motorola's sole support for the ban from both industry and governmental channels lies in the single letter from representatives from the state of Illinois, the home of the United States branch of Motorola.