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Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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February 2014

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Microsoft Drops List of Names For ID@Xbox Developers

February 27, 2014

There's good news today as Microsoft just dropped a big list of names on the gaming community. Sadly, it wasn't a huge list of upcoming game releases, but it was news almost as good nonetheless. Yes, with winter seeming to never depart, and cold gripping much of North America, Microsoft dropped a big steamy ball of sunshine right into our midst by offering up a list of names in the ID@Xbox developers' pool, and the list is pretty big in its own right.

We've heard about the ID@Xbox program previously, the means by which independent developers could get in on the Xbox One action, and those who got access to the program would not only receive two Xbox One development kits, but also a special Xbox One-only Unity Pro license and the ability to self-publish games, a development that would likely have been welcomed by Undead Labs back when “State of Decay” was more in a state of limbo than anything else.

But the early going was welcome enough, and some pretty big names in the indie field joined up like Double Fine, Crytek and Vlambeer of “Ridiculous Fishing.” Sounds great...but then the new list came out. A list packing in over 60 separate names, and some of them are even quite recognizable.

Welcome Development For Steam Developers: Name Your Own Discounts

February 26, 2014

The Steam Sale is a popular fixture in the gaming community, with the deepest of discounts making their way to the fore and spurring even the most tight-fisted of gamers to pull out the wallet—or the credit card, PayPal account or what have you—and make some purchases that might not otherwise have been made. While this model is starting to make its way to other systems like the Xbox 360, in a certain sense, Steam has recently added on a new tool for developers that should prove welcome: the ability to set discounts as desired.

Originally the report came from a screenshot of a page on Steam, showing developers a tool that allows for custom discounting, as well as the ability to set specific discounts related to specific time frames, like a Christmas sale or the like. But developers also get the ability to opt into the weekly Steam sales, and get a chance to light a fire under the sales of older games.

The week-long sales can be opted into as far as two months in advance—which allows developers lead time sufficient to engage in their own promotional efforts if said developers so choose—and the self-created sales can get similar lead time, as well as have the ability to run for up to two weeks, giving the developer plenty of control over pricing and discounts.

Naturally, extra control should prove welcome, and allow for things like the ability to tap lesser-known holidays, as well as things like anniversaries and the like. While there are some out there who suggest that the Steam sale concept may ultimately be doing more harm than good—why buy a game at $60 when a few months' wait might see that price cut in half?--the idea that older games could see a new, productive life as bargain fodder makes sense.

Personally, I just saw this.

Is Stephen Elop A Good Fit For Xbox?

February 25, 2014

A bit of a sea change has landed at Microsoft, and it's big news indeed. With Microsoft's new CEO in line as Satya Nadella readies to step in, a new report—subsequently confirmed by Microsoft—is that Xbox's former showrunner Julie Larson-Green, and in her place is a person who has the game world a bit nervous: Stephen Elop, formerly of Nokia.

Larson-Green, meanwhile, is being shuffled over into “My Life & Work,” where she will be “chief experience officer” doing...apparently something...related to the “My Life & Work” field. Larson-Green's tenure was admittedly rather short, taking over for Don Mattrick after he left for Zynga's top slot, giving her basically seven months in the midst of some of Xbox's worst times: the period immediately following E3, which could perhaps uncharitably be described as “a disaster.”

But Elop, meanwhile, will be stepping into the Devices & Studios division, which not only includes Xbox but also games, the Surface, and entertainment along with the mobile devices that Microsoft landed in its deal with Nokia.

The gaming community seems less than enthusiastic about this move, and not without reason. Some point out that Elop's body of relatable experience is, at best, slim.

Xbox One Gets At Least A Short-Term Price Cut With Titanfall Bundle

February 24, 2014

It's a topic that's been hot on the minds of gamers pretty much ever since the Xbox One was announced: when would the first round of price cuts arrive for this popular new system? It wasn't a question that was really out of line, either; after all, the Xbox One was selling at considerably more than its PlayStation 4 counterpart. But the new reports have emerged saying that there's going to be a price cut of sorts sooner than expected, and it's all thanks to a new bundle.

The bundle in question is set around the release of the new Xbox One title “Titanfall,” a development that has plenty of gamers quite fired up. The bundle in question not only includes the Xbox One, but also throws in a copy of “Titanfall” and a free month of Xbox Live Gold access for $500.

Gambling On Games: Capcom & Virgin Gaming Bring Betting To Games

February 20, 2014

Think you're a real champ at “Super Street Fighter 4”? How about “Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition”? Well, if you've got the chops to take on the greats, you too can put your money where your mouth is thanks to a new partnership between Capcom and Virgin Gaming that will allow for cash-backed matches to take place.

The reports indicate that console gamers get the brunt of this effect, with both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions having the online money match capability, and there's no word as yet as to when the PC gaming crowd will be able to get in on the action. Players will be able to either fight it out one-on-one or set up complete fighting leagues of as many as 32 players.

Can Mobile Games Help Stop Cyberbullying?

February 19, 2014

Bullying is an all too real fact of life for many out there, whether it's real-time bullying or its online equivalent known as cyberbullying. But there may be some hope out there for those who find themselves on the receiving end, and it's going to be hope that, for those getting bullied, may come from a familiar source: mobile gaming.

It's not quite so clear-cut as it once was, but not so long ago, many gamers were also bullied for their involvement in gaming. While the increasingly mainstream nature of gaming has changed this fact somewhat, it's still sadly often the case that those who enjoy video games find themselves attacked by their more physically developed peers. And one developer, Pixelberry, may have the means to stop it well in hand.

Pixelberry developed “High School Story,” a game that essentially allows players to set up and run a high school of their own.

How Microsoft Can Save The Next Generation

February 18, 2014

The numbers have been coming out, and frankly, it's not looking good for Microsoft. While it's posting some decent numbers--word direct from Microsoft says that the company brought out 3.9 million as of December 31, with an unknown quantity since--the word from Sony sounds like it at least rhymes with "Microsoft got its collective hat handed to it. But how to recover from this less than advantageous position? That's a good question, and one that needs answered.

First, some background: Sony is counting 5.3 million PlayStation 4 units sold, and that's before the console even makes its debut in Japan, where it's almost certain to destroy Microsoft in much the same fashion it has in the past.

Another Part of the VR Movement Takes Shape With PrioVR

February 17, 2014

The move into the virtual reality market has been substantial by most any measure, but one thing's for sure: there are certain points which must be achieved in order to get this off the ground to its fullest. We've been doing pretty well with the displays, thanks to the Oculus Rift and even the Glyph system. We've got a bit of control thanks to the Virtuix Omni treadmill system. But what about the finer details, like the lift the gun and fire sort of details that no game can truly be played without?

What's Driving the Comparative Dearth Of Horror For Consoles?

February 13, 2014

One of the great things about this time of year--yes, even given how dark and horrendously cold it's been lately--is that it's a great time of year for horror movies. Turn off the house lights, fire up some popcorn, and stretch out with plenty of things that go bump in the night. "30 Days of Night" made it plain that the longer the night, the scarier the whole day is, and the real world is no exception on this front. But it's odd--and something I noticed recently--but horror gaming for consoles seems to be constantly behind its PC brethren.

While on YouTube the other day, I got a look at some "let's play" style videos, mostly from a guy going under the handle of Markiplier.

How Far Is Too Far In Banning Cheaters?

February 12, 2014

Cheaters tend to make a lot of problems when it comes to online gaming. No one wants to play in an environment where one loose cannon is running around unkillable with every weapon in the book; it ruins the whole point of the game. And while some companies have addressed cheaters with cleverness and a bit of skill, some have been a bit more brusque about the idea of cheaters. Facepunch Studios, meanwhile, is not taking the subtle approach in its surprisingly popular game “Rust.”

“Rust”, for those not familiar, is akin to one part “Minecraft” and one part “Dawn of the Dead.” Users set out to build a life for themselves in the midst of a partially irradiated wonderland which used to include zombies.

Just Say No To Smurfberries: Governments Take Aim on Virtual Goods

February 11, 2014

The free to play gaming market has made some pretty substantial strides of late, with game makers discovering there's a lot of money to be had in offering up the game for free, but later offering components of the game for a fee. Game players seem to enjoy the possibility inherent in playing a game at no charge but later supporting that game—should the game prove supportable—by means of making payments later on. But there are abuses to the system—as is commonly the case with most any system—and that's got lawmakers turning attention to the virtual goods market.

Every so often, stories crop up about how kids get involved with free to play games, and then proceed to run up massive bills—often on their parents' dime—with the paid portion of the games in question. The parents believe the game free when they turn over the reins to the children, and the children really don't make the connection between “press this button to get more missiles / berries / credits / what have you” and “pressing this button activates our billing mechanisms and at the end of the month demands a fat check from mommy and daddy who must work hard to make that money.” This disconnect often leads to problems, like a recent story in which a young man went donut-crazy in “The Simpsons: Tapped Out”, buying around $1,650 worth of in-game donuts.

Ubisoft's Quarterly Numbers Show The Bad Side Of A New Console Generation

February 10, 2014

A new generation of consoles is usually a pretty welcome thing. New opportunities to be amazed by great games, new graphics, new plots, new possibilities in general, not to mention a chance to ramp up all the old greats with new and more powerful sequels. For crying out loud, “Dead Rising” went from one mall to like four malls with casinos attached to the better part of an entire town. That makes me happy in ways I can barely describe.

Watching Games A Bigger Draw Than Expected

February 6, 2014

Recently, Deepfield brought out a study on peak Internet traffic. Some fairly major names appeared on the list of places people often go online, and many of the expected names led the way. But where things got very interesting was one of the top five biggest names on the list, and just who came immediately after that particular entry. It turns out that Twitch—a site largely devoted to video game streaming video—managed to pull the fourth largest amount of traffic on the Internet last week.

Indeed, the commonly expected names when looking at top traffic in a week were all in force.

Making Smarter Games: The Secret To Truly Mainstream Gaming?

February 5, 2014

Are games too much like porn? That's a strange question; leave aside the occasional “hot coffee” incident and games really aren't much like porn at all. There's little sex, no nudity to speak of, and content is so carefully regulated that a game with the “Adults Only” ranking is almost never actually seen. But that's the question that EA's founder Trip Hawkins was asking, and may well have a way around with a new project.

Said project is called “If You Can,” and it looks to make gaming more accessible to users by taking a lot of that social stigma off it and making the entire concept a lot more useful, as well as fun.

Is Nintendo The Canary In Gaming's Coal Mine?

February 4, 2014

While Nintendo's fortunes of late haven't exactly been good, the idea that the company's woes might be reflective of the wider industry's woes haven't much been considered lately. But the head of PlayStation in the United Kingdom, Fergal Gara, recently took an interview and noted that, indeed, Nintendo's troubles may well mean troubles for the broader industry before too much longer has passed.

Gara noted that Nintendo's losses in the market may well be detrimental to the market as a whole. Why? Because, according to Gara, Nintendo does a fine job of serving the younger consumer group, while the PlayStation and Xbox lines—not to mention the PC gaming market—doesn't quite do so well on that front.

Nintendo May Be On To Something

February 3, 2014

Admittedly, this generation of the console wars has not been kind to Nintendo. The Wii U has been regularly underperforming. Put against the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, the Wii U is barely even in the same sport, let alone the same ballpark. But there may be some hope for the Nintendo brand, and it's looking to the next generation of consoles to save the well as the next generation of handhelds.

That right there should spark a little interest in the gaming community.

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