McFly: Because it is the year the pop culture classic Back to the Future II had Marty jump forward and show us all the awesomeness that was to be expected in 2015 futurists are chiming in on what they got right, things like flat screen TVs and constant communication (and even unexpected things like the self lacing shoe that Nike is releasing later in 2015 and the hoverboard actually being invented last year… though very restricted technical requirements) while other things like flying cars, not so much so. Newsweek’s article is kind of fun and a great way to start the New Year. (Source Newsweek)
Microsoft’s busy week: This week hasn’t been much of a down time for Microsoft, yet another prominent figure (Boyd Multerer the founder of Live and manager of the XNA program) left the company. It doesn’t appear to be a hostile parting, he left thanking the company and saying he was off to do independent work, but that never means much of anything. Smart employees don’t burn their bridges with one of the biggest companies in the world.
On top of that though, Microsoft had several leaks including a leak of its SDK (which was actually good news as it showed that developers would be getting more access to the ESRAM unlocking more of the system’s potential as hardware refinements continue) and the news that IE may have a brother with a new browser to be included with Windows 10.
On top of that Microsoft has announced they will put the blinders on the original Kinect in 2015. The Kinect designed for use with the 360 and ported to the PC has finally been put to an end with no further sales. As part of the wind down of the 360 console it makes sense as this is a low uptake item and the PC uptake has not seen many applications home user applications though there are some in art galleries and museums like the ROM in Toronto that have used it to create great interactive experiences. What does this mean? Well not a lot really since the Kinect 2.0 is a far more flexible device and can easily step in to fill the void though it may mean some software tweaks are needed. (Source Joystiq, Gamespot, ZDNet, MSDN and Polygon here, here and here)
With this reveal we also found out the pricing of the various editions of Halo 5 including the regular $59.99 edition, a “Deluxe” edition with a steel case at $99.99 and a crazy edition including a statue at $250.00! Nothing more is known about the $250.00 version beyond that it will come with the same exclusive armour and steel case as the 99 dollar version but that’s some big cheese to be spending on a game! (Source Joystiq, Gamespot and Polygon here and here)
The Good: The old minders of the Halo franchise Bungie have announced extended hours for Xur in Destiny due to the DDOS spamming over the holidays, many a holiday promotion was undermined by the activities of Lizard Squad and their grinches and companies are trying to make up for it even if it wasn’t their fault. (Source Polygon)
The Bad: Sony has had a terrible start to the year, Microsoft have rebounded from the Lizard Squad attacks thanks to the resilient nature of the Azure Cloud technology while Sony continues to have spotty PSN coverage and sporadic down time a week after the attacks have stopped. This has frustrated some fans so much so that one kid even called 911 regarding the matter. I have to say, if I was that kid’s parents, I’d have a long discussion about priorities. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s department’s response was "No we don't know when they will restore service to Xbox or PlayStation. Please Dial 9-1-1 only for emergencies." This was a lot nicer than what I would have told the kid.
To deal with the outages Sony is issuing a five day extension towards user’s PSN account and a 10% discount on a future purchase of any item from the PlayStation store. Sony have done their best and the attacks have been on a scope the company truly doesn’t really need right now. (Source Betanews, Joystiq and Polygon here, here and here)
The Ugly: The upswing from all this is it doesn’t look like the kids over at Lizard Squad are having that great a start to their new year. The South East Regional Organised Crime Unit in Britain arrested 22 year old Vinnie Omari as a part of a planned Lizard Squad attack on PayPal to compromise Sony and Microsoft transactions tied to the Xbox and PlayStations (so much for their being in it for the lolz and “educating people). A few days later the Finish Bureau of Investigation brought in 17 year old “Ryan” for questioning and charges relating to Lizard Squad activity! With two in custody it’s only a matter of time before they turn on their compatriots. Apparently this is due to the work of FinestSquad (who Anonymous originally lumped in as a front for the group to drum up more attention) and not Anonymous who last week declared war on Lizard Squad immediately before leaking the personal financial information of 13,000 people. (Source Ars Technica, Yahoo, YLE and Polygon here and here)
Have people not heard once burnt twice shy?: Okay, to understand this you are going to first have to understand a bit about the space economic sim and spreadsheet glorification program Eve Online. Eve is a dry experience, the combat is slow and the gameplay is possibly one of the most open world sandbox styles you can get. Essentially it’s 100% emergent gameplay. The game allows users to get their hands on an item called “Plex” basically the gold pressed latinum of the Eve universe. This can in turn be used for specific services including paying for in game time. The thing is, you can buy Plex from CCP games using real world money giving it a monetary value. You can also trade for it in game and some people sell it out of game at discounted rates basically farming it buying it with in game currency and then selling it for real world money. Pretty neat on CCP’s part and has led to the interesting virtual economy that has resulted in in game Ponzi schemes, corporate take overs, and investment fraud. Basically they created their own virtual cesspool.
Now you have an idea of what Plex can do what you also need to understand is it is a physical thing, so if you don’t want to sell it where you are you need to move it from point a to point b in your ship. Most people don’t do this because it’s like driving around a hatch back with stacks of cash and the back left open. That didn’t deter the player Ozuwara Ozuwara from deciding to move his stash though. Loading up his ship with 84 pieces of Plex (in game street value of 70 Billion ISK the in game currency or real world $1500) he set out and was promptly blow up by player Diorden and when I say promptly I mean promptly. Ozuwara Ozuwara didn’t even make it out of “High Security Space” (the in game equivalent of a safety zone patrolled by space cops). So this was essentially like getting your purse snatched as soon as you step out of the bank with the security guard looking right at you. Suckiest part is the Plex was destroyed in the part but the crazy thing, this isn’t the first (or worst) time this has happened. That goes to Goonswarm an in game corporation which lost a ship carrying 106 billion ISK worth of Plex (that’s $2,100 real world dollars of value). You think people would learn. (Source MMOFallout and Massively)
Not good: Square Enix have three MMOs on the books, two Final Fantasy titles and Dragon Quest 10, while Final Fantasy XI is very long in the tooth both Final Fantasy XIV and Dragon Quest 10 are fairly new titles both only a couple of years old. To say Final Fantasy XIV’s launch was rough would be an understatement. The title was so bad it was actually pulled, rebuilt from the ground up, and re-released. That said, the re-released Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is considered a solid game and has found its fair share of fans and positive critical response while Dragon Age 10 is primarily a Nintendo property for the Wii, WiiU and 3DS but does have a Windows and Android version. A Japanese title there’s no date on an American release.
Square Enix released their 2014 earnings report this past week and discussed the membership numbers of their three titles. Combined, all three come in at less than one million users, this is not good. They claim stability but use some weird language regarding the future of the titles and their future as a company. To put this in to perspective, Star Wars The Old Republic which released around the same time as Final Fantasy XIV reported 1 million active paying memberships in 2014. This is a game that has been panned by many and has slipped to a free to play model in order to bring in players. This could mean a lot of shakeups (including the mention of Free to Play modeling during the report) for the titles in the near future. (Source Polygon)
All signs point to: It is not only Square Enix who is suffering with their MMO entries, Bathesda’s The Elder Scrolls Online (again a title that was pretty well received critically and has its fair share of supporters) removed the six month subscription offer from their website saying it was based on “purchase trends”. The problem is when this has happened in the past it has pretty much invariably been tied to a switch to a free to play model within a year (or even an outright shut down as seen with titles like the Transformers MMO). While I doubt we’ll be seeing a shutdown of the servers, we may see a shift to a model similar to Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World (a Buy to Play aka B2P) or maybe even a Free to Play (F2P) model on the horizon! How this will effect the upcoming console releases is unknown. (Source Massively)
Well enough alone: Here’s the thing with the interview, if people didn’t want it to succeed they should have just let it be. This past week Sony reported 15 million in digital sales atop the 4.9 million in box office in very limited release. They are about half way to the break-even point already and given the collapse of the threats Sony has been emboldened to push for distribution in foreign markets with Canada listing several theatres across the country and a wider push domestically to get the film out to the public. Further, Apple has finally gotten around to listing it on the Apple Store so people can now select from pretty much any distribution channel they want (save Sony’s PlayStation store… funny that they want to get it out but the only console you can play their own property on is the Xbox … and people wonder why Sony is struggling). (Source Hollywood Reporter, CBC and CNET)
Boots on the ground: Planetside 2 has been a quite popular free to play shooter for Sony Online Entertainment on the PC and given SOE have brought other properties to the PlayStation platform it would only make sense that they would bring their most popular item to the PS4. Already delayed from the estimated 2014 beta window SOE president John Smedley has outed on twitter that the first betas will start in January on the PS4. Look forward to that in the new year PlayStation users! (Source Game Informer and Joystiq)
Chicken Little Market Analyst: A couple of years ago it was the PC market in collapse and that would never rebound (except last year it rebounded after years of decline with amazing numbers), then it was the cell phone market with users abandoning new hardware (then a new Apple phone launched and people went bananas), now it’s the Tablet. Tablets (or Slates depending on to which flag you swear allegiance) is a developing market, for the last few years there has been furious growth as users get new tablets and adoption of the format has grown. There has been a lot of repeat purchase as the first several years of the format have seen technical improvements year over year with lately extremely thin iPad and Android devices and Windows devices that are fully functioning Windows 8.1 machines in the form of a slate. The sales numbers have started to slow mainly due to the fact that a tablet you see this year is not all that different from a tablet from last year or even the year before.
The driving need to toss out technology that is not yet out of warranty has disappeared. This is the same epidemic that PCs and Mobile Phones have hit, the hardware is at a point where there’s not a lot to differentiate between the generations and without a real driving need people will simply hold on to what they have, especially during the current economy. Once there is a pressing reason (for example with PCs it was the dial down of XP and the new console generation) people will start buying again but of course analysts predict the collapse of the market due to flagging sales numbers. (Source Slashdot)
Want/Need: Okay, this is a fine piece of kit, LG have released a new ultra-wide monitor for gamers. The 34 inch wide 21:9 aspect ratio monitor includes technology to eliminate screen tearing. The weird thing though is it comes with a stand that allows for stacking of monitors which I guess is a good thing for LG who probably realize the days of the monitor for gamers may be getting fewer with the oncoming storm of VR headsets. (Source Polygon)
Merry Christmas from Walmart: Denver man Igor Baksht in his attempt to be the cool uncle this Christmas got more than he bargained for. Buying his niece a PS4 from Walmart when he opened the box to make sure everything was in order he found it full of rocks! At first Walmart wouldn’t give him his money back and even KMGH-TV who reported on it were skeptical but eventually Walmart relented especially since this isn’t the first time this has happened in their stores. (Source Polygon and KMGH)
Steamy Goodness: Steam has had a good year, all controversies and server problems aside they have closed out the year with only a few minor server hiccups during their end of year steam sale. Analytics from Steam’s own servers indicate a peak concurrent user spike of 8.5 million simultaneous users. Not a bad way to end out the year, and as an added gift they announced with the latest steam beta client update the addition of the long requested Framerate counter. It appears the millions of dollars we are spending on Steam Sales are finally amounting to something. (Source Polygon here and here)
Citizens rejoice: The week wouldn’t be complete without an update from RSI regarding Star Citzens, Chris Roberts took the time to thank the fans for their support through 2014 and congratulate the team on the successes of the last year including the release of the Arena Commander module and its finally hitting 1.0 as well as showing off the FPS module. He also took a moment to highlight what fans have to look forward to including a planetside social module, the FPS and the release of Squadron 42 both to alpha some time in 2015! Now if I could just get the flight mechanics to play nicely with my G13 I’d be a happy camper. (Source RSI)
Eerily cool: One of the more interesting engineering games is hacking devices to play video games, the latest entry in this new trend was Pekka Väänänen’s modification of an Oscilloscope to play Quake. Watching the gameplay it’s really quite awesome not just as a feat of electrical engineering but also visually! (Source Polygon)
| || |