While DayZ has the hearts and minds of PC gamers across the world, H1Z1 is an up-and-coming zombie shooter from Sony Online Entertainment which has just entered into its Early Access territory... and it is making huge headlines already, and not the good ones.
SOE has pushed in "paid airdrops" into the Early Access of H1Z1, which lets gamers purchase airdrops of crates that have ammo and guns inside, which is just a different way of having a "pay-to-win" title. It gets better, as keen-eyed gamers have noticed that 8 months ago SOE President John Smedley said on Reddit "We will NOT be selling Guns, Ammo, Food, Water ... i.e. That's kind of the whole game and it would suck in our opinion if we did that". There was an update to that thread, where Smedley added "We are not interested in selling weapons. Weapons are only acquired by crafting or exploring and finding one. We are not selling power".
Considering H1Z1 is a free-to-play, paid airdrops are kind of the reverse of that. More so when the President of SOE comes out and blatantly calls it out months and months ago, saying they would "NOT" be selling guns, ammo, and more in-game items. But don't worry, Smedley understands that you're pissed off, as he said on Twitter that he can't disagree with people that are upset about the changes. He said "here's what I can't disagree with - people that are pissed off at us that we changed our minds about it. fair point".
2014 was a massive year for gamers, but more specifically PC gamers were able to enjoy multiple digital distribution services like Steam, Origin and that inbred cousin we all love to hate: uPlay.
EA has just released some great details on Origin, showing that there were over 1.1 billion hours of games played on its service, which is 7,483 times longer than the average person sleeps in a lifetime. When it comes to their free games through Origin's 'On The House' service, over 25.2 million games were given out for free, or one free game for every seven gamers in the US (of which there are a total of 188 million).
As for gaming sessions, there were 1.7 billion game sessions over the year, and over 1.4 billion logins, too. That's close to one login for every single PC in the world, which is a huge number. But when you have games like Battlefield 4, Titanfall, and more - you can see why these numbers will only continue to grow going into the New Year.
The FBI insists North Korea is responsible for breaching Sony Pictures, while some cybersecurity experts aren't so sure. John McAfee, an eccentric cybersecurity pioneer, says he knows what group is responsible for breaching SPE - and it wasn't the North Koreans.
"I can guarantee they are wrong,"McAfee recently told IBTimes UK, while speaking about the FBI's assertion that North Korea is involved. "It has to do with a group of hackers - I will not name them - who are civil libertarians and who hate the confinement the restrictions the music industry and the movie industry has placed on art and so they are behind it."
McAfee spent much of his career defending users and companies against hackers - but has a mutual respect for hackers today, saying "they want freedom, freedom of expression, freedom to live unobserved."
Students from the University of Surrey used Petri dishes to test how much bacteria really is on our beloved smartphones - the results may shock you a little. Now, before you take a bottle of bleach to everything you own, remember that germs are normal and are contained amongst almost everything in this world.
These studies show that a good deal of bacteria is housed around our phones 'home' buttons, said to range from our own to friends, family and acquaintances germs all rolled into one. There isn't really anything harmful found here, but some disease-carrying bacteria such as the Staphylococcus aureus has been previously discovered in similar studies.
Dr Simon Park is Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology and is the man behind this annual study, he stated that "as part of a course called Practical and Biomedical Bacteriology, an undergraduate module that I run, I get the students to imprint their mobile phones onto bacteriological growth Petri dishes so that we might determine what they might carry. It's unusual but very effective way of engaging our students with the often overlooked microbiology of everyday life." He further went on to comment that our phones store ours and others bacteria, just like they store phone numbers.
Kim Jong-un became "supreme leader" of North Korea at a young age, and has shown political instability since his reign began in 2011. The North Korean government, meanwhile, has steadily invested time and resources into its Bureau 121 hacker division, aiming to compromise political rivals.
"In the case of the DPRK, the paranoia is amplified to the extreme," according to a commentary written about North Korea's cyberattack motivations on InformationWeek's Dark Reading. It's true that the North Korean government, which strives to maintain full control of its citizens, is suspicious of all outsiders - and launching cyberattacks to steal information has evolved into a valuable asset.
The FBI continues to say North Korea is behind the major data breach of Sony Pictures - and whether the reclusive government is responsible - foreign governments and cybersecurity companies are paying attention to Pyongyang's rising cyberattack capabilities.
Rockstar Games delayed the launch of Grand Theft Auto V until March 24, and has given gamers incentive to pre-order. Any gamer who preorders a physical versions or digital copy, automatically receives $1 million in-game currency, which is split between GTA Online and Story Mode.
Pre-ordering costs $59.99.
Gamers who preorder the PC version via the Rockstar Warehouse will also receive an additional $300,000 GTA Online cash - and one of the following games for free: Bully, La Noire, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto IV, Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City, Manhunt, Max Payne 2, Max Payne 3, or Midnight Club II.
The US National Security Agency (NSA) and British GCHQ intelligence agencies plan to step up their cybersecurity cooperation, as both governments face increasing numbers of cyberattacks. The agencies plan to launch cyber war games to test the cybersecurity of financial institutions, hoping to defend against the "biggest modern threats that we face."
"We have got hugely capable cyber defenses, we have got the expertise and that is why we should combine as we are going to, set up cyber cells on both sides of the Atlantic to share information," said British Prime Minister David Cameron during a press conference.
Following mass surveillance operations detailed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, critics said the US and UK government should focus on beefing up cybersecurity efforts - instead of spying on citizens, residents, and foreign governments - as cyberespionage campaigns target both countries.
The PC market has taken a beating over the last decade, but the recent stabilization is fueled in part by lower price points. While PC shipments haven't entirely leveled off, they are much better than the 10% decline experienced in 2013. Intel has owned a near-monopoly on desktop processors for several years, and many suspect artificially high CPU prices helped contribute to the decline of the PC. Affordability is a huge consideration for potential buyers, especially when they typically have smartphones that can easily handle most simple online tasks.
Laptops are now available for roughly $200 that can provide enough performance for many more tasks than any tablet or smartphone. Intel actually predicted during their recent investor call that prices will decline slightly over the coming year. Intel reported an 11% increase in laptop CPU sales, but an 3% decline in profits from those sales. The number of desktop CPU's declined by 1%, but the average prices have stabilized. Perhaps some more competition in this space would result in lower PC CPU pricing, which would certainly help fuel a resurgence much like the one seen with laptops.
Microsoft was pushed around by Sony throughout much of 2014, as the PlayStation 4 handily outsold the Xbox One, but that changed to end the year. Microsoft outsold the PS4 in hardware sales and video games in November and December, with a strong focus on carrying the momentum in 2015.
"Bundles were a major driver of hardware sales this December compared to last with 71 percent of hardware unit sales stemming from bundles including software, which compares to 32 percent of hardware sales last December," said Liam Callahan, analyst at The NPD Group, in a press statement.
The PS4 sold 18.5 million PS4 units in 2014 - and Microsoft hasn't updated its numbers since November, after saying it surpassed 10 million units shipped.
The Sony PlayStation 4 dominated the console market in 2014, outselling the Microsoft Xbox One throughout the entire year. The PS4 racked up 18.5 million PS4 sales worldwide, dominating every month except for November and December, The NPD Group said.
"PlayStation 4 was the top-selling console in the US and globally in 2014," a Sony spokesperson told GamesBeat. "And [it is] the fastest selling console in PlayStation history with 18.5 million sold through after just 14 months in the market. We are humbled by this success and want to thank gamers worldwide for helping us achieve holiday sales of more than 4.1 million across 123 countries and regions."
However, Sony has faced increased pressure from the Xbox One to close 2014, as Microsoft has offered competitive price cuts - and gamer bundles - as gamers have a lot to cheer for. Sony will face increased pressure from Microsoft in 2015, so it cannot bask in its 2014 success for too long.