Atari has revealed that its new nostalgia-meets-present Ataribox will indeed be a fully-fledged $250 console that runs on Linux and is powered by an AMD chip.
The Ataribox is a very, very risky move. The new console sees Atari trying to marry nostalgic arcade classics with modern video games in a set-top box that does lots of other things including web browsing, social media, apps, and streaming. Today's console gaming market is absolutely dominated by the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and more recently, Nintendo (the latter of which has made an incredibly rags-to-riches leap with its new Switch hardware), and now Atari wants to carve out its own niche in the market with a re-vamped Atari machine. But the industry has changed dramatically since the 70's and 80's where Atari was all the rage--now the billion dollar games industry makes most of its revenue from software, especially on marketplaces wholly owned by the companies that sell the consoles themselves.
The strange thing is that it will play games across multiple PC gaming storefront platforms as long as they support Linux. This apparently means users can play their GoG and Steam games on the box (if the hardware can support them). As such the Ataribox is essentially making it a $250 Steam Machine that comes pre-loaded with classic Atari games. It'll also come with select indie titles baked in, meaning Atari will be teaming up with independent studios. So how will Atari make its money? Via hardware, or its own storefront that sells classic and revamped Atari games? There's lots of questions here.
Hardware-wise the Ataribox will be powered by AMD Radeon graphics--likely an APU similar to those in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One but scaled down--and of course runs on the Linux OS just like Valve's ill-fated Steam Machines. The box is currently in prototype stages so no exact specifications have apparently been locked down, but if I had to guess, I'd say it has 6GB to 8GB of unified RAM and probably a 500GB hard drive.
I recently reported on the success that Divinity: Original Sin 2 is achieving, with 85K concurrent players post launch and even reaching 93K concurrent players yesterday on Steam alone (D:OS2 is also released on GoG). Developer Larian Studios, have recently released their first significant patch (patch 220.127.116.114) for D:OS2 that features a number of bug fixes as well as adding the promised German, French and Russian translations to the game.
Existing save files are compatible, which is expected but not always a sure thing. This patch also features a series of improvements for the game's different endings. Below is a list of improvements and changes.
I think even my grandparents have heard of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, the epic battle-royale shooter from Brendan 'PlayerUnknown' Greene. PUBG has continued its rise to the top with recently surpassing 1.5 million concurrent users.
As you can see from the graph above, PUBG's playerbase is rising at a rapid rate. It took 4 months for Battlegrounds to reach 500K conconcurrent players and build an established playerbase. In the previous 3 months we've seen the playerbase not only double, but triple to 1.5K concurrent players. Twitch viewers has maintained a steady viewing audience of 150-200K throughout PUBG's reign, peaking at 450K during the Gamescom Invitational 2017.
During a recent Reddit AMA, Mr. PlayerUnknown stated that he would "love" to add a single-player campaign to PUBG. Greene said: "I would love to add a single-player campaign to the game," he said. "I think the island we have could be a great location for an interesting story, but unfortunately we just don't have the time or the resources for this at the moment!"
Battlegrounds is one of the most-played PC games right now, with a new peak 1.5 million concurrent gamers playing the game at once. But what about the promised Xbox One beta?
"DOGGAVELI" tweeted out to Xbox Games Marketing boss Aaron Greenberg, asking: "do u know when the Pub beta is coming to @Xbox one", to which Greenberg replied: "We are working on that now, will share more news when we can, but we are all incredibly excited to get some Chicken Dinners on Xbox!"
PUBG has set the PC gaming community on fire, as I'm just as obsessed with it as the next person - but Xbox One gamers are going to love it when it hits consoles. I'm looking forward to seeing what Bluehole can do with the console version of PUBG, where I hope that it still looks great and runs well considering Unreal Engine 4 powers countless console games right now.
Industry veteran Rich Vogel has had a hand in some of the most influential games-as-a-service (GaaS) games in the industry, including Ultima Online, Meridian 59, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Now Mr. Vogel has joined Certain Affinity as Vice President of Technology and Services to lend his expertise on two new service-based games: a new IP and an original game. What if the latter was a cross-platform free-to-play Halo game with microtransactions?
Yes, this is me thinking out loud, and no, I don't have concrete evidence to back this theory up other than my personal analysis of the games industry and a few bits of perspective that may lend some credence to the theory. When I say a "free to play Halo game," I mean on PC and consoles with microtransactions/lootboxes, a plug for streaming, and a set up for eSports action. There's a few reasons why I think this could happen. For starters, Certain Affinity has worked on six Halo projects, three of which were major roles: they co-developed Halo 4 and Halo 5 with 343 Industries, and made Halo: The Master Chief Collection's multiplayer--so it's fair to say they're well-versed in the Halo world. Secondly, Mr. Vogel is keen on aligning Certain Affinity to the billion-dollar market of GaaS, and instantly recognizable properties like Halo would ensure a playerbase. Thirdly, Microsoft is shifting towards a cross-unification platform by making Xbox a service rather than a console; this service bridges Windows 10 PCs and Xbox One consoles, and the company has focused intensively and the popular games-as-a-service format, which has found its way into nearly every major first-party game to date, from Halo 5: Guardians to Gears of War 4 and the most recent Forza 7.
This wouldn't be the first time (nor the last) Microsoft has tried something like this. Remember Halo Online? Back in March 2015 Halo dev 343 Industries announced Halo Online, an experimental free-to-play shooter that, for some reason, was only available in Russia. The game servers shut down in December of the same year, and was confirmed dead in August 2016. This could've been a fleeting test, or it could've been a gateway to something bigger, something that aligns with Microsoft's transformative values and a project that could fill the Halo-shaped void while 343i works on Halo 6 (although Halo 5 is still a money-making juggernaut).
Square Enix says it will create more service-based games, hinting mainline Final Fantasy games will no longer be one-off singleplayer experiences, but sprawling, ever-changing and updated games like Final Fantasy XV.
Not long ago I said that Final Fantasy XV was the new Skyrim. My point was that Final Fantasy XV, like Skyrim, was being ported on every available platform via re-releases. And like Skyrim (thanks to mods), Final Fantasy XV has become a live game of sorts that's continually changing over time with content updates and expansions. The real difference is that its Square Enix, not modders, who are pushing out FFXV's content. In fact, Final Fantasy XV is now an IP within an IP; the publisher has made the Final Fantasy XV Universe, which includes a galaxy of mobile games, the PS4 and Xbox One versions, season pass DLC, a stream of updates, a Switch and PC port, and a number of transmedia releases like an anime and a CGI film.
All of this (and more) is evidence that Square Enix isn't only betting big on games-as-a-service, but it's fully embracing it. This focus goes past the normal service games like Final Fantasy XIV and Dragon Quest MMOs--it's bleeding into once-singleplayer games. Even Final Fantasy XV is getting a built-in MMO-like online multiplayer component. And the publisher is only just getting started.
Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda says that the publisher is fully committed to games-as-a-service (GaaS) and the team will continue developing games designed to be played over a long period of time.
Voice actors agree to end the nearly year-long strike against key video games companies.
In October of 2016, a number of high profile talent that brings video games to audial life went on strike to protest conditions set forth by 11 big industry publishers like EA, Activision, Insomniac Games, WB Games, and Take-Two Interactive. Today, almost a year later, the strike has ended and a number of demands have been met. While not all voice actor's demands were met, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris called the agreement an "important advance" in the industry.
"This is an important advance in this critical industry space. We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members' key concerns," Mrs. Carteris said. "The courage of our members and their fortitude these many months has been admirable and I salute them. We are always stronger together."
To say Shadow of War's lootboxes are a contentious point is a huge understatement. Gamers everywhere are up in arms in protest of WB Games' decision to put paid loot box microtransactions into Middle-earth: Shadow of War, but developer Monolith says the game is fully balanced so that gamers won't have to spend an extra dime. You can either spend time or money to progress in the game.
The landscape of video games has changed. Long are the days when a $59.99 game is shipped 100% complete; now games are inundated with season passes, microtransactions, DLC, and other content that makes the industry billions of dollars. Depending on who you ask, these trends are hurting and helping the industry: games now have much more content than before, and devs are armed with a huge pool of resources and funding to ensure their creations get continually updated to preserve quality and add new things to do. But some games use psychological trickery to marry engagement, MAUs, and other strategies together to push gamers towards buying loot boxes or in-game currency, setting off a Pandora's Box moment that typically ensures these first-time buyers become regular spenders that spin the billion-dollar flywheel.
But Middle-earth: Shadow of War doesn't fall into the latter category, at least according to design director Bob Roberts. In an interview with Eurogamer Mr. Roberts affirms that Shadow of War is being finely tuned and balanced so that gamers aren't directed towards the game's loot boxes, and that only those who have really made up their mind to purchase the time-saving boxes will do so. In other words, gamers won't be tempted to buy loot boxes because the game will continually give you enough resources to fuel your experience, but only as long as you play of course (this is also known as "the grind").
"We're working our tails off to make this massive game and as a designer - the design director - I focus on balancing it," Mr. Roberts said in the interview. "We do a ton of playtesting and make sure it is tuned to a setting where people can enjoy it. We kept all of the loot boxes and the economy of real-world money turned off in playtesting so we know we are balancing around an experience which is rewarding without any of that stuff."
The design director goes on to say that, contrary to reports, Shadow of War can be played 100% offline and players can play the full game without putting any extra cash on the line.
"No - absolutely not. 100 per cent not," Mr. Roberts said when asked if the team had any ulterior motives or would push gamers to buy boxes with in-game prompts. "It is important to clarify this as there were a couple of misconceptions. First, the concern about balancing - hopefully when it is out there and people are able to talk about their experiences then the balancing question will be answered, hopefully by people you trust to play through it and see that.
Finally, Mr. Roberts gives his rationale on why loot boxes are even featured in the single-player game at all. Essentially it comes down to a time-saving measure and making Shadow of War accessible to gamers who don't have 100 hours or so to invest into a big, expansive experience like Shadow of War.
"In the game you earn resources at a regular pace and the systems are tuned to that so you don't need another option. At the same time, it's there as a player choice," he said. "It's there, from my perspective, for people who are protective of their spare time and scared when a massive game comes along that they're not getting to see the full experience."
"It's putting more control in people's hands - saying, you know how you play best, you make that choice."
As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding, but Mr. Roberts is confident gamers will find the balancing act which he's labored continuously on to be favorable and not totally skewed towards paid lootboxes like, say, NBA 2K18.
But with Shadow of War there's much more to talk about than microtransactions, and Mr. Roberts hopes gamers will engage the developer about these extra new modes and features rather than loot boxes always stealing the conversation.
"We have announced a load of new content and we're trying to find out what people think about those things but the conversation keeps coming back to that [loot boxes]. It's interesting to see the discussion but we want to get people's opinions on more than just that."
Valve once plotted out loose plan for a four-player co-op fantasy game, and concept art gives a glimpse at what could've been a new fresh investment for the Half-Life developer.
Valve artist Drew Wolf recently put up some concept art for an unreleased, undeveloped four-player co-op adventure game that takes place in an original fantasy universe, showing gamers yet another cancelled game that could've rocketed to success. It's unknown if this co-op game was being concepted before or during DOTA 2, and it's possible that some elements from this art found its way into the MOBA--and maybe it's accompanying new Artifact card game.
"[This is] character development for an internal R&D project. The project was a fantasy adventure game centered around cooperative combat and driven by story," Wolfe said in his blog. The characters bring to mind a distinct Blizzard style, and remind me what Overwatch's roster may have been if the game had a fantasy beat.
Green Man Gaming has partnered with Intel to power its new business-to-business (b2b) marketplace in an effort to change up the PC game key reselling market and inspire confidence from major games publishers.
PC game key reselling can be a contentious point from game publisher's point of view: some of these sites, which sell cheaper keys to consumers, acquire their keys under shady circumstances. But with Intel's new Software Distribution Hub (SDH), publishers can hook up directly with resellers like Green Man Gaming in a more secure, direct environment, thus avoiding (hopefully) shady dealings. In this way publishers and games-makers who sign up to Intel's SDH platform can sell bundled or one-off keys directly to retailers and resellers.
"The Intel Software Distribution Hub offers our Intel Technology Provider Gold and Platinum Partners the unique opportunity to differentiate themselves by providing a wide range of popular game titles, in addition to delivering the excellent performance and exceptional experiences our gaming customers demand," said Ricardo Moreno, vice president of sales and marketing group and general manager of partner sales programs organisation at Intel Corporation, as reported by MCVUK.