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All eyes may be on the Premier League this weekend, but Alternative Software expects to cash in on a rising interest in rugby.
Rugby Challenge 2: The Lions Tour Edition is due for release on Xbox 360 and PS3 on June 13th, halfway through this year’s major rugby tournament.
The game features 110 official teams, 50 stadiums, competition fixtures plus enchanced features based on the 2011 release, Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge.
Alternative MD Roger Hulley predicts the sports’ growing popularity will make the sequel a solid seller this summer.
“With the British and Irish Lions tour about to start, enthusiasm for rubgy is reaching fever pitch,” he told MCV. “We expect to see the sales rocket as the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia peaks and receives the media attention it truly deserves.
“Criticially we expect very good things. Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge received high ratings across the board, and this iteration has only built on the high-quality gameplay that made its predecessor so successful.”
An ad campaign for Rugby Challenge 2 is already underway, with adverts and editorial in mainstream and gaming press, as well as dedicated rugby magazines.
Yes, that's right. A headline with 'Xbox One' 'positive' and 'pre-owned' all at once. Am I crazy?
You may well conclude after reading this that I am.
And certainly, you'll have little cause to expect much sense from the second-hand game storm surrounding Microsoft's ambitious new Xbox One console.
So far, it has swung back and forth between 'messages' as it clarifies or re-clarifies and then de-clarifies what its take on pre-owned games is.
Right now, we know this: A new licensing model around discs and content mean you have to install games and let Microsoft tie them to your user login on Xbox Live, but the device is 'not built to block pre-owned games'.
Make no mistake, the unknown grey area between these statements - Xbox has promised an update further on - has been a right old mess.
But allow me for a moment to play devil's advocate on the situation, give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt by stripping out the confusion about the strategy away from the actual strategy.
Still with me? Thanks for sticking around.
Here's what I'm wondering: assuming that Microsoft knows just how important the pre-owned model is to retail, maybe the real story here is that Microsoft isn't trying to kill pre-owned.
Control it, maybe, but not kill it.
What if it is trying to turn used games into a more profitable business that keeps publishers happy but doesn't alienate retail by converting the model to one where retailers participate in the trade off software licences, not discs? A model which, in turn, could eliminate the stigmas around 'second-hand' games?
We know that Xbox One will require you to install newly purchased games on your machine and register them with the Xbox Live server-brain. You can also take that disc to a friend's house and, provided you log in, you can install and play it with them. The main thing is that the licence is locked to your account, not the disc or the console. So, if you want to sell the game on or trade it in - which lots of users currently do as they can't afford to always by new games - you transfer the licence back to Microsoft, to another user, or to a retailer.
It's still the trade-in model, but with a new digital licence element. The licences would be moved or tracked through software installed at retail level or accessed via the web.
Go a step further: each game disc could even be manufactured with a unique authentication licence serial number attached to it.
That's not entirely unfeasible has Microsoft has already explained that licences can be locked to your account, and also removed from them.
Assume that this is somewhere near how that works and, despite the faff involved, there are three huge shifts.
PRE-OWNED MARGINS GROW?
If retailers are selling a licence, not a disc, they no longer have to price their stock based on its condition. That's the second-hand market's achilles heel: it is used stock, the disc might be scratched, the manual may be missing, the box dented.
But Microsoft has already had the instruction book all but abolished. If you want a nice box or new disc, buy it new, or a collector's edition.
Digital licences aren't about any of that - they are about allowance. The 90p-to-produce disc doesn't matter, its contents are rendered inert without the activation.
So retailers go from selling a thing to selling access. And they probably will be able to, if they want, sell that access for a higher price than they currently do - because the current model relies on condition and functionality. If you're just selling access, where you sell someone the right to download a game, the price changes immediately. (They might actually be forced into this, too - which is the most likely version of this scenario, to be honest.)
Under this theory, retailers would probably be selling less used games as the new model will just deter consumers from pre-owned anyway.
But the ones they do sell might get the change to sell game licences priced close to RRP. The model will be changed irreparably, but the bigger, final result is that the swift price erosion that happens in the physical market because of the mix of new and pre-owned stock goes away.
(Even if the margins don't grow in execution, at the very leas, raising the RRP gives Microsoft the scope to milk the pre-owned model for the money that publishers have so often said second-hand games 'steal' away from them.)
PHYSICAL GOES VIRAL?
But the ideas of trackable discs or trackable software licences gets me wondering further.
Gamer A can take a game to Gamer B's house, either on disc or just by logging in and downloading it. But when Gamer A goes home Gamer B can't play it. So what happens next?
If the game was any good, Gamer B might want to buy it. With an Xbox Store sat on their TV with a beckoning buy button, they might just buy the game they hadn't bought there and then, at full price from the Xbox Store direct. (The option to go to a retailer and buy a new disc on offer or a second hand version with a slight reduction will be there too - and will still be relevant to kids without credit cards or those wanting to trade games in for other games - but broadly convenience will likely win out here.)
Plus, trackable licences coupled with the pseudo-always-online functions would be adored by publishers.
Publishers will be punching the air love to see where their discs go and how they are used. To see how social recommendations work and whether it leads to purchases. And find out just how important (or not…) the second-hand market is.
Currently, publishers know how many they have pressed and shipped, and then they have to wait and see how many are being played through Xbox Live logins. In-between they might get some retail figures or download stats. But they don't know if all the discs are being used, they have no accurate numbers. A digitally-supported physical model would change that.
Very little has been said about piracy on Xbox One, even though it is - as most of us know - something that does happen on the current Xbox platform and something Microsoft of course wants to end.
Today, regular system updates and added multiplayer have been a deterrent, at least.
But authenticated licences would promise to totally squash piracy. If you can't install or access a game without authenticating it with the official Xbox mother brain server that's another point in this model's favour.
Plus, short of stealing someone's face and voice, it's clear the new Kinect and Xbox One's home page sign in process is already designed to not just make the experience more personalised for users, it is another way to stop hardware and software access being compromised.
WILL THIS REALLY HAPPEN?
Sure, this pre-owned scenario is a bit of dream-work on my part.
I half-wonder if MS will just be tempted to ignore that possibility and skip straight to the other two elements, which is locking users to their purchases like on a smartphone, but using the portability of discs to drive some trackable virility as described above amongst players who share games.
Certainly, publishers would be delighted with those elements, even though it limits consumer choice and drives a knife into specialist retail perhaps not a mortal wound, but a deep scar that just kills off part of the model as the industry shifts to a more digital centric focus).
But many of us think this would be a mistake. And although Microsoft has insisted there is a solution, it just doesn't want to talk about it yet, so all we have are assumptions and speculation.
FIFA 14 will be released across Europe on September 27, EA Sports has confirmed.There’s a genuinely bewildering array of special packaging, Ultimate Team packs and other in-game incentives for those that pre-order one of three FIFA 14 special editions – Limited Edition, Ultimate Edition and Collector’s Edition.Over 3.4 million games of FIFA Ultimate Team are played daily, and over 17 million footballers are transferred through the transfer market each day, added EA Sports.You can see the first batch of official FIFA 14 shots through the link.
We saw the next gen Xbox, new super-advanced Kinect and a new pad. We learned that Xbox One is built on cloud technology, designed to deliver ‘intelligent, interactive’ TV and we even saw Steven Spielberg, ready to helm a Halo TV series.And yet the majority of the debate around Xbox One right now has little to do with that highfalutin stuff. The games playing public has rather earthier questions: what does the new console do that my 360 doesn’t? Which new games will I be playing on it? Can I play second-hand games? Will it be backwards compatible?Games sites tied themselves in knots reporting on the Xbox One event, because Microsoft fumbled all of the answers. Hours later, when the press had the chance to ask the questions that the games playing public wanted to ask, Microsoft executives’ clammed up. It appeared as if they’d barely even considered these fundamentals – the strength of the reaction around second hand games and always-on in the last few days has surely brought this oversight into sharp focus at Microsoft HQ.The questions Microsoft did answer during its reveal event were obscure, and entirely of its own invention. Can I search for something on the internet and watch a movie on the same screen, at the same time? Can I interact with TV shows through my Xbox? Is switching between inputs with Kinect as fast as using a remote control?Xbox was always intended to be the connected hub at the heart of your home at some point, but the leap Microsoft is attempting to make here is too great. The rhetoric at the Xbox One reveal was so far removed from the principles Xbox 360 is built upon, it feels like Microsoft staged the launch of an entirely different product – as if the Xbox branding was arbitrarily slapped on at the last minute.Simplicity and ease of use were the virtues so vigorously emphasised during our on-stage tour of the UI; next gen Kinect is a technical marvel, but I can’t personally ever envision a time when I will use its gestures and voice commands over the humble remote control. Right now, all-in-one entertainment appears to mean cramming the TV screen with as much stuff as possible, all at once.I don’t want the distraction of running apps alongside a game. I don’t understand why I would want to be interrupted in the middle of Breaking Bad’s various escalating tensions with a Skype call from my mum. I will never want to switch between Grand Designs and Gears Of War in a flash, not least because it’d be a shocking change in tone. As we’ve already noted elsewhere, maybe TV is fine just as it is.
Head of Xbox division claims only five percent of gamers play older console games on current gen
Backwards compatibility on new hardware is just plain backwards, says the head of Microsoft's Xbox division Don Mattrick.
One of the more controversial aspects of the freshly unveiled Xbox One and Sony's own PS4 is that neither console provides backwards compatibility for the previous generation of titles.
For Sony, this might be solved through the cloud gaming capabilities of its console, but, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, Mattrick said there isn't a problem to begin with.
“If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards,” he said.
Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson noted that while some consumers might be initially less prone to buy a console without backwards compatibility due to negative sentiment, in the long run the move could help drive sales "as gamers rebuild their entire library for a new console".
Middleware firms show support for Microsoft's next-gen console
A plethora of the game industry's top middleware providers have pledged support for Microsoft's new Xbox One console.
Already backed by powerful hardware that features 8 cores, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and 500GB worth of memory storage, a number of development tools are set to be made available for developers working on the system.
Tools announced as compatible with the new Xbox currently include CryEngine 3, IKinema RunTime, Enlighten and Substance Engine.
We will continue to add new tools and tech as they are announced, so be sure to check back for further additions.
Refusal to offer easier submission process leaves the way clear for Sony to capture innovative indie market, says Jason Perkins
It’s sad to see a lack of dedicated support for indie developers on the Xbox One, says the MD of indie game publisher Curve Studios.
Following the unveiling of its next-gen console, Microsoft has said it will be abolishing the Xbox Live Arcade and indie game sections on Xbox Live in favour of a broad and all-inclusive digital marketplace.
The company’s Redmond Game Studios and Platforms GM Matt Booty has also said that, for the time being at least, there will be no self-publishing for indies on Xbox One.
In response to the news, Curve Studios’ MD Jason Perkins said it was sad to see Microsoft not taking a stronger stance on indies, giving the “trailblazing” success of XBLA.
He added the move would pave the way for Sony to clean up in the indie game sector on the PS4.
Publisher benchmarks video and audio performance of new Xbox at eight-to-10 times higher than current gen
The Xbox One and PS4 are a generation ahead of the highest-end PCs currently available on the market, says EA’s chief technology officer.
Taking to LinkedIn, Rajat Taneja said the design of the hardware, the underlying operating systems and live service layers had created “one of the most compelling platforms to reimagine game mechanics”.
He claimed that the publisher’s benchmark tests rated the audio and video performance of the Xbox One at eight-to-ten times higher than the Xbox 360.
“Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have adopted electronics and an integrated systems-on-a -chip (soc) architecture that unleashes magnitudes more compute and graphics power than the current generation of consoles,” said Taneja.
“These architectures are a generation ahead of the highest end PC on the market and their unique design of the hardware, the underlying operating system and the live service layer create one of the most compelling platforms to reimagine game mechanics. Our benchmarks on just the video and audio performance are 8-10 times superior to the current gen.
If Microsoft had proposed in late 2012, a new Xbox 360 dashboard to homogenize it with those of Windows Phone and
Windows 8, the current rumor launched by the site The Verge, Microsoft wants offers from late June or early July a beta of a new interface to prepare the players for the arrival of the Xbox 3.
The look of the interface, which is close to that of Windows 8.1, would be completely different principle and the user can choose between different themes, dark or otherwise brighter, according to his tastes, also possible, better cooling and the integration of Live Tiles (interactive thumbnail of Windows 8) that would be customizable. It is also assumed that this update will allow communication between the players Xbox 360 and Xbox 720 and the arrival of new services such as TV . It is also with this update that Microsoft Points system could give way to gift cards or use real money, as you there are few details. A first elements of answers will be given at Tuesday, May 21 for the Conference Live # XboxReveal Microsoft. JKilvan Thanks for the information. http://x360.gx-mod.com/modules/news/...p?storyid=4179
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With an Xbox LIVE Gold membership, take your Xbox 360 online to play Kinect and controller games with friends wherever they are. Instantly watch HD movies, TV shows and sports, and with Kinect, your voice is the remote control. Not sure what to play or watch? Quickly find new movies, songs or games with your voice. Even use your phone or tablet as a second screen to control and interact with what you’re watching. Plus, now you can explore the web on your TV with Internet Explorer for Xbox.* Entertainment is more amazing with Xbox.
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Video and music purchased through the Xbox Live Marketplace will transfer to the Xbox One for storage and playback, Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison confirmed to Polygon.
Harrison noted the cross-platform media compatibility when asked about the Xbox One's reported inability to play Xbox 360 discs and downloaded games. "Actually, to be clear music, movies, television will [transfer]," Harrison said. "All that comes across. Anything that you've acquired from Xbox Video or Xbox Music will move across."
Currently, Xbox Live Marketplace movie, television, and music purchases are playable across an individual user's Xbox 360, PC, and tablet and smartphone devices.
Owners of the original Kinect on Xbox 360 had the ability to unplug the device, but that won't be the case with the ever-vigilant and always-listening Xbox One version, Corporate VP of Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer told Joystiq.
"Kinect has to be connected to Xbox One," Spencer said. "That, from a creator standpoint, I love, because I like to have a common platform that I can target."
Spencer did take the opportunity to note that just because Kinect is always connected now, it doesn't mean Xbox One games are going to integrate physical activity at every opportunity.
"What I'm seeing in the creation process is more subtle uses of Kinect. I think when Kinect first came out on 360 everybody felt if you weren't doing jumping jacks in the middle of the room it wasn't a Kinect game," he said, going on to describe various everyday uses, such as watching television, for the product.
If you have concerns about Microsoft installing an always-on microphone and camera in your living room, better invest in a veil for the camera and some way of muffling Kinect's "ears." Owners of the next-gen console will need to accept Kinect is watching thee and there's little privacy.
As a core gamer, it's difficult not to be frustrated by the manner of yesterday's Xbox reveal. Microsoft set out to champion its innovative platform, its vision for multimedia and a renewed focus on making Kinect relevant again as a convincing alternative to the traditional remote. But we wanted to know about the new generation of gaming and the approach in revealing Xbox One titles via trailers with no single identifiable example of actual live gameplay was an enormous error in judgement. The problem is that next-gen trailers look no different to current-gen trailers - so there was no groundbreaking innovation, no authenticity and therefore no buzz. Even the promising Call of Duty: Ghosts reveal - perhaps the closest thing we had to actual gameplay - was in-engine footage apparently running on Xbox One hardware. Yet there were no assurances that this was actually real-time, or that this would be the actual quality of the game we will be playing in November.There was a similar level of inscrutability about the actual specs of the Xbox One hardware too. In the presentation itself, Microsoft talked in broad strokes about the internals of the box - eight CPU cores, 8GB of (non-descript) RAM, multi-channel 802.11n WiFi, and a Blu-ray drive. But the only new information we had that hadn't previously leaked was the inclusion of a 500GB hard drive and a five billion transistor count for the main processor. Gaming specs like the CPU clock-speed, the type of RAM, the make-up of the graphics core - all the most controversial elements of the leaked information, in other words - were ignored. The cynical may suggest that highlighting this would do Xbox One no favours in comparison to the PlayStation 4, while the Microsoft faithful could perhaps hold out hope that the more disappointing elements of the previous leaks were outright wrong.A follow-up architecture panel hosted by Microsoft's Larry Hyrb soon put paid to the latter, more optimistic appraisal of the situation. Very early on it was established that ESRAM is indeed incorporated into the Xbox One design - essentially a large, very fast cache of embedded memory attached to the GPU and CPU that helps to make up the bandwidth deficit inherent in using slower memory. So even without direct confirmation, we now knew that the 8GB of memory in Xbox One is indeed DDR3 as opposed to the bandwidth-rich GDDR5 found in the PlayStation 4 (and Wired's internal photography of the One confirms 2133MHz DDR3 Micron modules). Xbox One may well have a latency advantage over PS4 and power consumption will probably be lower, but GPU bandwidth - a key element in graphics performance - is indeed more limited on the Microsoft hardware.
"A fine design with a premium finish, our only major reservation about the Xbox One's hardware design is the return of the power brick."
PreviousNextView all 1/5 The One for you? Microsoft's official product gallery for the new console, Kinect and the revised joypad.
In terms of the GPU hardware, hard information was difficult to come by, but one of the engineers did let slip with a significant stat - 768 operations per clock. We know that both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are based on Radeon GCN architecture and we also know that each compute unit is capable of 64 operations per clock. So, again through a process of extrapolation from the drip-feed of hard facts, the make-up of the One's GPU is confirmed - 12 compute units each capable of 64 ops/clock gives us the 768 total revealed by Microsoft and thus, by extension, the 1.2 teraflop graphics core. So that's another tick on the Durango leaked spec that has been transposed across to the final Xbox One architecture and the proof we need that PlayStation 4's 18 CU graphics core has 50 per cent more raw power than the GPU in the new Microsoft console. Now, bearing in mind that we fully expect PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to launch at similar price-points, how did this disparity come about?The answer to that comes down to a specific gamble Sony made that Microsoft could not - the utilisation of a unified pool of GDDR5 memory. In the early days of PS4 development, only 2GB of this type of memory looked viable for a consumer-level device. As higher density modules became available, this was duly upgraded to 4GB. By the time of the reveal back in February, Sony had confidence that it could secure volume of 512MB modules and surprised everyone (even developers) by announcing that PS4 would ship with 8GB of unified GDDR5 RAM. The design of its surrounding architecture would not need to change throughout this process - one set of 16 GDDR5 chips would simply be swapped out for another.Microsoft never had the luxury of this moving target. With multimedia such a core focus for its hardware, it set out to support 8GB of RAM from day one (at the time giving it a huge advantage over the early PS4 target RAM spec) and with serious volume of next-gen DDR4 unattainable in the time window, it zeroed in on supporting DDR3 and doing whatever was necessary to make that work on a console. The result is a complex architecture - 32MB of ESRAM is added to the processor die, along with "data move engines" to courier information around the system as quickly as possible with bespoke encode/decode hardware to alleviate common bottlenecks. Bottom line: if you're wondering why Xbox One has a weaker GPU than PlayStation 4, it's because both platform holders have similar silicon budgets for the main processor - Sony has used the die-space for additional compute units and ROPs (32 vs. 16 in One), while Microsoft has budgeted for ESRAM and data move engines instead. From the Xbox perspective, it's just unfortunate for Microsoft that Sony's gamble paid off - right up until the wire, it was confident of shipping with twice the amount of RAM as PlayStation 4.
"What we found out yesterday confirms practically all aspects of the leaks we previously reported on - and yes, GPU-wise, PS4 is indeed more powerful than the Xbox One."
Eight AMD cores running at 1.6GHz, x86 architecture
Yes, aside from clock-speed
12 compute units providing a total of 768 threads, 800MHz, 1.2 teraflops
Yes to threads and thus core count, teraflops dependent on clock-speed which is unconfirmed
8GB of DDR3 RAM (68GB/s bandwidth) plus 32MB of ESRAM (102GB/s)
ESRAM and DDR3 confirmed, ESRAM bandwidth unconfirmed but highly likely
Large hard drive, 50GB 6x Blu-ray drive
500GB internal HDD confirmed, Blu-ray drive confirmed (no specifics but again, spec is likely to be accurate)
Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, WiFi Direct
No explicit confirmation on WiFi Direct, but Gigabit LAN and 802.11n WiFi confirmed.
Move engines and Kinect confirmed, hardware video encoder demonstrated
So in what ways will Microsoft's lower-risk approach to the development of the Xbox One architecture pay off? Well, in essence it has swapped one gamble for another - it is relying upon a vision of multimedia convergence in one box to provide a unique selling point that PlayStation 4 or any other competitor simply does not have.Microsoft wants you "to have a relationship" with your TV, and to that end, Xbox One has a new connection that no other console possesses - an HDMI input (supporting 1080p, 3D, even 4K - at least the 30Hz version of it supported in HDMI 1.4a). The idea is that you can daisy-chain your existing set-top box into the new console and seamlessly switch between TV and gameplay, and even run apps in parallel with both of them. So, for example, in theory, you can play Forza 5, switch over to watch the Formula One and take a Skype call simultaneously. Using Kinect voice control, you can also carry out functions usually achieved with a separate remote control - choosing a channel for example. And it's not just TV that's accessible either, movies, music and the internet are also available too, backed by a vision of seamless integration. The system is remarkable in action, made possible via the use of two virtual machines running in parallel, controlled by a hypervisor.It's a fundamental part of the Xbox One proposition and its major point of differentiation with PlayStation 4. Potentially it is also its Achilles Heel, for several reasons. Firstly, Microsoft needs to be able to make this work with any and all set-top boxes in the world. Its solution appears to be the time-honoured IR blaster - a little cable plugs into the rear of the One, its emitter pointing towards the infra-red input on the set-top box. The console essentially emulates the functions of the existing remote control, relying on precise positioning to beam the signal into the IR receptor on the box. Historically it is fraught with inaccuracy, and we do wonder how Microsoft aims to address this. Secondly, the One itself has no DVR functionality, meaning that it is layering its own user interface over the existing one - not exactly a useful set-up.More than that, the system appears to have been designed with a very specific US focus, where cable TV boxes are the norm. What about TVs with built-in decoders, either terrestrial and satellite in nature? Not everyone wants subscription TV, so not everyone has a set-top box - but they're still enjoying a large range of digital channels and a decent amount of HD programming. Perhaps more pertinently, Microsoft appears to have invested a massive amount in accommodating live TV when the overall trend is moving towards time-shifted viewing and streaming media - something it almost completely ignored in its presentation. It's a very curious decision and a massive gamble. It's clear that the firm seeks to bring gaming and other media more closely together than they ever have been but we suspect that the success of this endeavour will come down to the usefulness and desirability of the companion content that was being demonstrated. Other than that, Microsoft seemed to be suggesting that changing inputs was a massive problem for people - something we find rather hard to grasp.
While Microsoft may have unveiled a new generation of its Xbox console yesterday, some companies are still trying to get a piece of real estate on the current ecosystem. Today, Deezer announced that it's making a debut on Xbox Live, giving (some) users ofthe streaming service access to its extensive music repertoire right from the 360. The app will be available "across Europe" for now, and mum's the word on when, or if, Deezer plans to launch in more markets. For those living in The Old Continent, however, all you'll need is a Premium+ subscription and, as is often the case with similar offerings, a Gold membership on Xbox Live. Jam on.
If you joined us for the Xbox One reveal yesterday, you'll probably know that amidst all the excitement, we learned that a single Xbox Live Gold membership will cover boththe 360 and the next-gen console. Good stuff -- no extra expenditure, subscription sign-ups or other irritations. But, it gets even better, as a couple of Microsoft bigwigs toldPolygon that Live memberships can also used by multiple profiles. That means several accounts can be created on one console, for discrete friends lists, personal Home screensand the like, but they'll all be able to feed off the same subscription. We're not sure how this'll work exactly, but it already sounds better than the Gamertag-specific membership model on the 360, which is responsible for far too many amazing kill stats being lost to the dreaded "Guest" account.
E3 is only three weeks away. That might be important - it might, in fact, be central to Microsoft's thinking. Perhaps the company thought that, with the annual gaming jamboree fast-approaching, it could bundle all of the excruciating corporate newspeak and market positioning nonsense into a brief one-hour press conference and then - with appropriate lip service and homage paid to the twin gods of broadcast TV and American sports - it could rapidly move on to an E3 focused almost exclusively on games, delighting the core audience so much that they'll utterly forget a coming-out party that seemed to imply a jumped-up cable box that merely plays games as an afterthought. "Here is a company which is so arrogantly confident in its dominance of the core gaming space that it believes it no longer has anything to prove"
I sincerely hope that's the case - that Microsoft is keeping its powder dry for E3. It's an odd and probably deeply misguided communications strategy, since the firm completely held the specialist press' attention for the days surrounding its unveiling event and could have used that to set the tone for E3. Instead, whatever wonders it pulls out of the bag at E3 must now act first and foremost as damage control, a job made tougher by sharing the airwaves with what will no doubt be a massive charm offensive on Sony's part. Still, while such a muddled reveal isn't a great start, the firm did tease 15 exclusive launch window titles, eight of them new IPs - an E3 focused with laser precision on that line-up would cover up early stumbles nicely.
That assumes, of course, that Microsoft understands and accepts that what happened this week was a stumble. There's a more pessimistic interpretation, one to which core consumers have been quick to leap - that Microsoft genuinely believes in the way it positioned Xbox One (a daft name, but we got used to "Wii" so I suppose we've proved that daft names aren't much of a stumbling block). That here is a company which is so arrogantly confident in its dominance of the core gaming space that it believes it no longer has anything to prove - that it can take for granted the support of core gamers and early adopters, instead focusing its energies from the outset on television, movies, sports, music and, er, Skype.
If that sounds familiar, it's probably because - like me - you watched the Xbox One reveal with strong flashbacks to exactly the kind of hubris and arrogant assumption which dogged and ultimately crippled Sony's launch of the PlayStation 3. Rather than seeking to enrapture and engage the tens of millions of core gamers upon whose support a successful hardware launch might be built, Sony simply assumed that they would support PS3 no matter what - a line of reasoning which led to a ludicrous price point (they'll get second jobs to afford one, remember?) for a system openly intended as vehicle for the nascent Blu-ray movie standard and both designed and promoted as a home entertainment hub rather than a games device. Core gamers, in the end, demurred in large numbers, preferring Microsoft's upstart Xbox 360. There's always a choice, and having usurped Sony's market dominance only a few scant years ago, you'd think that Microsoft would recall that brand loyalty - quite rightly - doesn't run all that deep. "The tone and content of Microsoft's announcement should also rankle, and deeply concern, shareholders and analysts"
The tone of Microsoft's event rankled gamers, for good reason - the reveal of a game console which focuses so heavily on how good it is at controlling television shows and movies shows basic disregard for the reasons most people watching the reveal online have to actually buy game consoles. Do not, however, fall into the trap of thinking that Microsoft's reveal only slighted gamers in order to delight the business community. In reality, the tone and content of Microsoft's announcement should also rankle, and deeply concern, shareholders and analysts.
Television is in trouble. It may not look like that from some angles, given the immense critical and audience success of shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men or Game of Thrones, but the business model on which television has based itself - especially in the United States - is creaking at the seams. With the decline in the value of advertising (caused by the rapid fragmentation of the audience - only huge events like the Superbowl, which guarantee a large, unified audience, have held their value for advertisers), everything in that industry now boils down to the cable subscription model. If you want to watch a TV show, you end up paying an exorbitant amount of money every month to subscribe to dozens if not hundreds of TV channels you'll never watch.
Consequently, two things have happened. Firstly, a whole generation of consumers has bowed out of the legitimate model entirely. Despite the efforts of media firms to crack down on piracy of TV shows, the tide has not been stemmed in the slightest; TV episodes find their way onto pirate services within minutes of broadcast and are watched in that manner by a vast swathe of consumers. No legal or technical adjustment short of the most insane and wicked invasion of the privacy of every citizen - honest or otherwise - is going to stop that from happening. What has helped, though, is the emergence of a new business model, with companies like Hulu, Lovefilm and the daddy of them all, Netflix, stepping into the breach. Netflix is now, by hours watched, the most popular and successful TV network in North America. It's started making its own high-budget, high-profile TV shows. If every cable network in the US isn't terrified of it, then they've not been paying attention.
It's against this background that Microsoft has seemingly decided that the most important thing about the new Xbox One is how well it plays with your cable box. Of course, it'll play Netflix as well, but so does just about every device you own. The core of Microsoft's strategy to "dominate the living room" seems to be that its box will be good at streaming content from providers to whom you pay a subscription fee entirely independent of Microsoft's ecosystem, and whose content will, incidentally, work perfectly well without an Xbox One in the equation. Without an Xbox One you won't be able to wave your hands to control it, but then again, nobody I know who owns a Samsung Smart TV actually uses the hand-waving control system anyway, other than to show house guests how broken and annoying it is. "A business strategy which in five years time will probably look about as wise as launching a game console that plays VHS tapes"
It's for this - a business strategy which in five years time will probably look about as wise as launching a game console that plays VHS tapes - that Microsoft has chosen to alienate and annoy its core consumer base at what should have been a triumphant coming-out party. Microsoft achieved absolutely remarkable, wonderful things with the Xbox 360; Xbox One should build on all of those things and be a system that gamers simply cannot do without. Perhaps it is that system, and perhaps we'll see that at E3, but we didn't see it during the reveal.
Meanwhile, all the murkiest rumours about Xbox One refuse to be dispelled. It cannot have escaped Microsoft's notice that consumers and press alike are deeply concerned over the system's online requirements and its policies with regard to used software. Yet rather than smiling graciously on stage and saying "of course not!", earning brownie points and clearing the air with a single phrase, or even explaining their approach in clear, humble terms, earning at least some respect, Microsoft executives ignored the issue in their presentation and subsequently equivocated in interviews, ducking and dodging around questions regarding second-hand software (or even the ability to lend games to friends without incurring a charge). We still don't know exactly what the firm has in mind, but it's safe to assume that it's going to be a pretty flagrant violation of consumers' existing rights and behaviours - because if it wasn't, then they wouldn't be dodging the question, would they?
If consumers felt left out in the cold by a party which was supposed to be about games but ended up being all about TV and live sports, then spare a thought for developers. After the developer love-in that was the PS4 announcement, where Sony laid out the red carpet to invite creators of all shapes and sizes to come and play in its garden (formerly walled, now surrounded with something more akin to a picket hedge), you might have expected Microsoft to give some kind of nod in a similar direction. Not so. The only third-party bodies on the stage were from EA (who showed FIFA) and Activision (who dutifully showed up to stun the world by confirming that they're making another Call of Duty game). The broad, thriving community of independent developers and creators who have turned out so many of the great games of the past half-decade didn't even warrant a wink and a nod. Like so many other things, that can be fixed at E3, but the contrast in tone to Sony's invitation will not go unnoticed. (The missed opportunity to have Steve Ballmer run on stage reprising his "developers, developers, developers, developers!" routine is also disappointing, of course.)
Do I sound unimpressed? Well, I was seriously unimpressed. It's only the first hour of Xbox One, but it suggested a company that's curiously both mired in arrogance and somewhat directionless. I don't know who the Xbox One reveal was meant to appeal to, other than the TV executives whose egos it massaged. Worse; I'm not sure that Microsoft knows who they're meant to be appealing to. The company is desperate to head off Apple in the consumer space, and Xbox One right now feels less like a competitor to Sony's heavily games-focused PS4 and more like a pre-emptive shot at a hypothetical future version of the Apple TV. "Xbox One feels less like a competitor to Sony's heavily games-focused PS4 and more like a pre-emptive shot at a hypothetical future version of the Apple TV"
That's unfortunate, because it brings to mind something rather uncomfortable. Xbox 360 was a fantastic system - probably the best thing Microsoft has ever done in the consumer space, and unquestionably one of the best games consoles ever created. Xbox One should remind us of that, but instead it's hard not to think of other products Microsoft has created since the 360 - products like Zune, Surface, Windows Phone and latterly, Windows 8. Products which have, even when they've been rather good (as Windows Phone is), completely failed to ignite interest from consumers. In fact, in terms of consumer entertainment products, Microsoft has had one hit - Xbox 360 - in the midst of a litany of failure (it's fair to note, though, that Sony has its fair share of dodos as well, Vita being only the most recent). Xbox One needs to replicate the factors that made Xbox 360 into a success. This week, we saw none of that; we saw a console that felt less like an Xbox and more like a Microsoft Product, with all the baggage that brings. We can only cross our fingers and hope that with the dull rubbish out of the way, Microsoft is now preparing an E3 showing that will really light the touchpaper for the next console war.
Xbox product planning boss Albert Penello tells us all about the evolution of Xbox, and how MS wasn't even thinking about Xbox One until late 2010
When it comes to the Xbox business, Albert Penello has seen it all. Following six years in product marketing at Electronic Arts, Penello joined Microsoft's (at the time) new Xbox division in 2000, helping with marketing and product planning on the very first Xbox as well as newer iterations and critically important accessories like the Kinect (which will now be a standard for every Xbox One). Penello, therefore, has a certain perspective on the continual evolution of the Xbox platform that others simply don't have. Following the Xbox One unveiling event this week, GamesIndustry International sat down with Penello at the Redmond campus to take a deep dive into the mindset Microsoft had going into the development of Xbox One. We were surprised to hear that Microsoft really wasn't even thinking about a successor to the Xbox 360 until five years into the system's lifecycle (quite unusual in a console business), and Penello explained that Microsoft's engineers and designers were truly looking at the Xbox One as a fresh slate. How could Microsoft continue to innovate and grab new consumers while also pleasing its existing audience? How would designers know how much of the Microsoft imprint to include in the design of the system? These questions and more are addressed in this interesting behind-the-scenes look at Microsoft's product planning. Q: What does your title -- Senior Director of Product Planning -- entail, exactly?
The way I describe it is, I am like the Rosetta Stone between the developers and the customers and marketing team. Think about my team as trying to put all the pieces together with different features, trying to be out there early in the incubation phases of the project trying to put it all together. Who's the customer? What's the value proposition? What features are going to resonate? Q: In terms of Xbox One, what is your role, then?
I was the planner. I was probably one of the 12 people in the very beginning, when we decided to do a next-gen console. When we finally said, "Okay, it's time," I was one of the people that got everybody together. "Okay, now we have to start writing stuff down. What are we going to do? What do we want this to be? What do we think the future is? Who's the customer?" Just got a lot of people together and kicked the project off. http://www.gamesindustry.biz/article...soft-thrown-in
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EA's flagship shooter will be released this November for current-gen consoles, with Xbox One and PS4 versions to follow.
Battlefield 4 will arrive on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on November 1st, while EA has said the game will "also be available" for Sony and Microsoft's next gen consoles. There's no confirmation, but it's a safe bet that means "launch title" as and when those formats get dated.
The release date puts it just four days ahead of rival FPS Call of Duty: Ghosts, which is due on November 5th.
Any Battlefield fans that pre-order this year's outing will receive the China Rising premium DLC for free. This includes four multiplayer maps, with exclusive weapons and vehicles.
Meanwhile, if they pre-order the Battlefield 4 Digital Deluxe on EA's download store Origin, they will receive China Rising, bonus in-game items and access to the BF4 multiplayer beta.
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