News from the video game industry for the week of April 5
Every Sunday, MacNN and Electronista take a moment to look at some of the notable stories in the world of gaming. This week, Sony says goodbye to the PlayStation Home virtual world, Blizzard starts up the beta for StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, a report claims the original Xbox could have been given away as a free console, and Microsoft is discontinuing the second-generation Kinect for Windows sensor.
App previews for Music, Video available to download in Windows 10 Technical Preview
Microsoft has released preview versions of two universal apps that will ship along with Windows 10, providing access to the user's media. The new Music and Video apps are available to download from the Windows Store beta within the Windows 10 Technical Preview, with Microsoft notably dropping the Xbox branding from the front of both app names.
Surface accounts for $1.1B in revenues thanks to Surface Pro 3
Microsoft's last quarter saw the company pull in $26.47 billion in revenues, beating the previous quarter and the same quarter last year's figures by $3.27 billion and $1.95 billion respectively. The gross margin is up 1 percent year-on-year to $16.33 billion, though operating income is down 2 percent to $7.78 billion, with the diluted earnings per share at $0.71, down nine percent.
Kim Dotcom bribe halted attacks on gaming company servers
Over Christmas Eve and well into Christmas Day, gaming services Xbox Live and the Playstation Network were under assault from the Lizard Squad group. The attack rendered the services mostly useless, with an assortment of problems including a general inability to connect, and culminating in the login services for both not accepting connections. The assault only ended with Internet personality Kim Dotcom offering the members of the group lifetime memberships to his new file locker Mega Privacy.
Bitcoin payments into Microsoft Account performed by BitPay
Microsoft is embracing Bitcoin, by allowing users of its services to pay using the cryptocurrency. US customers are able to add funds to their Microsoft Account using a Bitcoin wallet, which can then be used to may payments in the Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox stores, as well as paying for subscriptions for Xbox Live and Xbox Music.
Sensui will retain manager position in US, two executives to jointly assume role
The troubles for the Xbox One continue in Japan, not only because of the continuing trend of low sales, but also due to the recent resignation of Head of Xbox Japan Takashi Sensui. Sensui stepped down from his role as general manager of the Xbox division for Microsoft as of November 30, making way for his replacements Yoshinami Takahashi and Nobuyoshi Yokoi.
Year-long subscriptions for Office 365 Home, Skype, Xbox Live, Xbox Music included
Microsoft has created a bundle for customers in the United States, collecting together subscriptions for the company's various online services. The Work & Play Bundle, sold through Microsoft Stores in the United States for a limited time, gives users an entire year of usage for its entertainment and productivity-related services at a discount.
Microsoft releases digital TV tuner for Xbox One in Europe
A digital TV tuner for the Xbox One has gone on sale in Europe through the Microsoft Store. Priced at £25 ($40) in the UK and 30 euros ($38) in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the tuner will allow owners of the Microsoft game console to view free-to-air HD television through the device, complete with Snap Mode video, pausing and rewinding of live TV, and OneGuide program listings.
Kinect costs more than bundle price reduction, will come with Dance Central Spotlight
Since the release of the Xbox One, Microsoft has experienced a rough relationship with consumers due in part to the Kinect. When the company ditched the sensor and dropped the price of the console by $100, sales were said to have doubled with the new the $400 sensor-less console option in place. However, now Microsoft says that it's seeing a demand for the Kinect. On a post on Xbox Wire today, the company said it would begin offering a standalone Kinect unit on October 7.
Surfaced screenshot of Xbox One menu suggests new trial system being tested
Microsoft may be preparing to offer games to play before purchase on the Xbox One. A screenshot has surfaced on Reddit showing some titles under the company's existing Games with Gold program, with some game listings being labeled "Free Play Day with Gold," suggesting that Gold subscribers would soon have the option to trial the game.
KitSound releases new DAB radio alarm clock
KitSound has announced the release of its new radio alarm clock, the Revive. Featuring a dual-alarm function with the option of waking with music or a buzzer, the Revive includes both FM radio and digital stations. The clock can run on battery or connected to a power source, allowing for portability if desired. Available in black or blue, the Revive radio alarm clock is priced at $65.
Date changes, beta launch dates and console exclusive titles outlined during press event
[Updated with Phil Spencer's comments on Rise of the Tomb Raider being a timed exclusive] During the Microsoft press event at Gamescom today, a number of announcements were made regarding some upcoming games and beta programs. While there wasn't much in the way of brand new games, some important date shifts were noted, as was the announcement that a sequel to one of the most successful games of 2013 would be exclusive to Xbox One.
Gamescom Xbox One presentation showed larger capacity, white console variants
The Xbox One will soon allow users to stream TV to a mobile device, Microsoft has revealed. Part of a number of updates to the game console unveiled at Gamescom, owners of the recently-launched Xbox One Digital TV tuner will be able to stream live TV from the console to smartphones and tablets running the Xbox SmartGlass app.
Bungie decided to preserve the experience for players, not push each console
Bungie took on the difficult task of developing its latest game Destiny for four different consoles across two generations of technology. While this isn't uncommon near the end-of-life cycles for consoles, Bungie decided to craft the experience for each console according to their vision rather than hardware limitations. However, hardware does keep the game from advancing into cross-platform play territory, an area of play that gaming is moving into.
Amid layoffs Microsoft announces closure of original content wing of Xbox
On top of the 18,000 layoffs and shifting company structure, Microsoft will be closing the Xbox Entertainment Studios in the coming months. The studio was launched to add Microsoft to the original content race on the Internet, with shows based on some hit Xbox franchises such as Halo. Xbox head Phil Spencer issued an internal memo thanking the team for their work, as well as what to expect. Microsoft issued a statement to Joystiq confirming that existing projects would carry on.
Creative Do's Doco Photoshop extension organizes multiple open documents
A new Photoshop extension has been released by Creative Do, offering users the ability to better manage multiple open documents. Doco facilitates viewing and performing some editing functions with thumbnails of open images, with the addition of a Documents panel into the program. Layers can be copied between documents, and multiple images can be rotated and or resized. Available for $20 for a single license and $150 for a 10-user license, Doco is available for Adobe Photoshop CC and Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 for both Windows and Mac.
No hardware announcements in Microsoft E3 press event
In the first E3 keynote since the launch of the Xbox One, Microsoft has opted to spend time promoting upcoming games for the console, instead of introducing new features, hardware, or accessories like it did last year. The company showcased a number of titles for the console at the event, including releases from the Halo, Assassin's Creed, and Call of Duty franchises, as it attempts to prove to the public it should buy the Xbox One instead of the PlayStation 4.
Nadella details the importance, contributions of each division to Microsoft
During Recode's Code Conference in California today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the company has no plans to sell off the Xbox or Bing divisions of the company to competitors. Xbox has long been a piece of contention for investors in the company, because of the competitive console market and financial losses from the division. Bing, which faces large losses in its own division, is up against larger competitors like Google, but has adapted by integrating into other products.
System update in June to include external storage support, real friend names feature
As was speculated on Monday due to a leak on Reddit, Xbox One's June update will include external storage support. According to Microsoft's Major Nelson, the Xbox One system will soon support up to two external hard drives (with 256GB of space or more) simultaneously, to be used to increase game storage capacity.
Xbox Live Gold subscription will not be required to stream movies on Xbox consoles
Microsoft will allow users of its game consoles to watch video streaming services and use a number of other functions without paying for the Xbox Live Gold subscription, the company has announced. At the same time, it is also preparing to sell its Xbox One game console on its own, separate from the bundled Kinect sensor bar, in a bid to increase sales.
All platforms to open up in near future
Group video calls on Skype are now free for users on Windows desktops, OS X, and the Xbox One, according an announcement by the Microsoft-owned service. The company in fact says it intends to make group calls free across all platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and the Windows 8 "Metro" interface. A precise timetable hasn't been revealed.
Xbox One continues to be outsold by PlayStation 4
Microsoft has sold more than five million Xbox One game consoles since its launch, the company has revealed. While Microsoft is celebrating the sales milestone, the game console is still far behind the leading PlayStation 4, with Sony reporting more than 7 million units sold worldwide in a blog post just one day before Microsoft's announcement.
Microsoft rolls out latest update for Xbox One console, adds friend notifications
Microsoft's Xbox One console has received another update, rolling out beginning today. Now including notifications for when friend players arrive online, users will be able to identify friends who are playing multiplayer games. The console's Kinect voice and motion detection has also been improved, reducing false positives on non-hand objects that trigger gesture commands. Other features in the update include improved GameDVR video quality, controller headset adapter firmware updates, silent reboot after system updates and system update on demand, and more.
Intel migrates Thunderbolt peer-to-peer networking on Windows 8
At the National Association of Broadcasters 2014 show, Intel extended its Thunderbolt networking technology to Windows. Previously available on OS X Mavericks, a pair of Thunderbolt-equipped computers can be directly connected with Thunderbolt Networking, giving the pair a full original Thunderbolt 10Gbps speed connection, using existing cables and connectors. The networking uses the TCP/IP protocol, and is fully cross-platform compatible.
Xbox One owners in Europe, Canada, US involved in invite-only preview
Microsoft hopes to make the Xbox One more useful for watching television and media, by outlining updates for the game console and SmartGlass. Changes to the way SmartGlass navigates around the console have been shown off, as well as upcoming changes which will give more viewing options to users on both sides of the Atlantic in the future.
Showyou video content app now supports Chromecast
Video streaming app Showyou has released an update featuring Chromecast support for both Android and iOS versions. Featuring thousands of channels, users can browse through customized content guides and categories to find something specific to watch, or view content based on the app's suggestions, generated by what channels one follows.
Exits Microsoft Xbox unit after 14 years, three console launches
Marc Whitten, the long-time chief product officer for Xbox at Microsoft, is leaving the company, the software giant has revealed. Whitten is departing to take on the same role of chief product officer at home audio device manufacturer Sonos, leaving Microsoft executive vice president Terry Myerson to temporarily take over the Xbox position while the company searches for a replacement.
Job posting hints at lightweight Xbox Live framework for mobile developers
Microsoft is planning to push for Xbox Live to be more cross-platform than it already is, by making it easier for developers to include in their apps, according to a rumor. The company is preparing to extend the Live platform to more games, with a recent job posting hinting that it will compete directly with Google Play Games and Apple's Game Center on mobile devices.
Xbox One update due February 11, adds battery life indicator
Microsoft's Xbox One is set to have an update released, addressing issues encountered by users since the console's launch. The update is due February 11th, featuring issue corrections regarding storage management, and the addition of a battery life indicator for the console's controller. Libraries will be split into two separate lists of 'My Games' and 'My Apps', as to simplify file searches. Also expected in the update is the added ability to use a USB keyboard with the console.
Choice of Lumia 520, Lumia 521 when buying Xbox Music Pass subscription
Microsoft is offering a budget Nokia smartphone and anXbox Music Pass subscription from the Microsoft Store for $99, for a limited time. The offer, available in the United States and Puerto Rico, consists of a 12-month subscription to the music service, along with the choice of either a Lumia 520 on AT&T or a Lumia 521 on T-Mobile, as off-contract devices.
Rumor of Xbox One without disc drive denied, others still plausible
Microsoft is not working on a cut-price version of the Xbox One game console without a disc drive, a company executive has seemingly confirmed. When asked about rumors of a $399 Xbox One over Twitter, Microsoft Chief of Staff for Devices and Studios group Aaron Greenberg advised "No, you cannot believe everything you read on the Internet."
Canadian telecom company announces unlimited US data, talk and text
Wind Mobile, a Canadian mobile phone service provider, has announced the launch of its Unlimited US Data, Talk and Text plan add-on. Providing Canadian customers with unlimited phone usage across the border, Wind's add-on will be available for $15 per month. The first Canadian wireless company to provide this feature, smartphone users can utilize their phones while travelling without being subject to per use roaming charges. Wind's Unlimited Data, Talk and Text add-on will become available February 3, 2014.
Microsoft offers $100 store credit towards an Xbox One for those who trade-in their PS3
Augmenting the launching of its Xbox One late last year, Microsoft is now promoting an offer of a $100 credit towards an Xbox One purchase upon trading in of a Sony Playstation 3. The promotion bring the Xbox One pricing down to $400, which is the same as newly-released Playstation 4. The trade-in offer is available through Microsoft's retail stores in the US, and applies to Playstation 3, as well as Xbox 360 S or Xbox 360 E.
Live action Halo, soccer reality show, more coming to Xbox Live
Microsoft's Xbox Live service will receive a new wave of original content in the first half of 2014, it has been revealed. Microsoft digital media head Nancy Tellem told Variety that a range of new programs will debut on the Xbox platform in either the first or second quarter of 2014. Among the content soon to hit Microsoft's gaming devices is a live-action "Halo" project, produced by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg.
Microsoft Xbox One aims to be your all-in-one entertainment box
The Microsoft vision moving forward is that the software giant is to evolve into a fully-fledged devices and services company. The Xbox One is perfect illustration of that vision as it is a device that delivers a wide range of Microsoft and other services. Microsoft services channelled through the Xbox One include Xbox Music, Xbox Video, SkyDrive, Skype and Xbox Live. It also does gaming. In fact, according to Microsoft, the Xbox One is the only device that you really need for your living room as it will also integrate your Pay TV service into the Xbox One interface. So is the Xbox One truly the one device to rule them all? Read on in our full review of the Microsoft Xbox One.
Elop would shift Office tactics as MS CEO
Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, if named as the next Microsoft CEO, would reportedly consider spinning off the company's Xbox and Bing divisions. A report from Bloomberg cites sources familiar with Elop's thinking in claiming that he would strike out in a direction quite different from that of outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer. Under Elop, the report holds, Microsoft would refocus on its popular Office suite, but with the aim of pushing Office onto as many platforms as possible.
AT&T deploys LTE network in 13 more cities
AT&T has continued its ongoing LTE deployment, bringing the 4G service to 14 new markets across the US. The expansion includes Fairbanks Metropolitan Area, Arkansas; Galesburg, Macomb and Peoria, Illinois; Des Moines, Iowa; Maysville and Madisonville, Kentucky; Cumberland, Maryland; St. Cloud, Minnesota; St. Joseph, Missouri; Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Big Spring, Texas and Winchester, Virginia.
Apps can be snapped to side of screen by verbal commands
Microsoft has shown off how its Xbox One game console will work for multitasking between games and apps. A short video demonstrating quick switching and actions by voice commands through Kinect also shows how game players will be able to use multiple apps at the same time, as well as sharing content with other users.
Xbox One page mentions possible cross-platform apps
Microsoft may allow apps made for Windows 8 to run on the Xbox One after launch, according to one manufacturer. Dell's online store makes the claim that the upcoming Microsoft game console will be able to run the apps created for the desktop operating system, something that Microsoft has yet to publicly confirm itself.
Nokia offers free Netflix to Vodafone UK Lumia customers
Nokia is offering a free subscription to Netflix to customers buying certain Lumia devices on Vodafone in the United Kingdom. Originally reported by the Financial Times and later confirmed on the Vodafone website, the purchase of the Lumia 625 or Lumia 925 will provide six months of Netflix, while the Lumia 1020 includes a free full year subscription to the video streaming service.
Samsung launches free Pen.Up drawing app for Galaxy Note 3, II
Samsung has introduced a new drawing app with social sharing made for the Galaxy Note 3. Pen.Up is billed as a "community" for Note users to view S Pen drawings by other users, along with the option to submit their own to the gallery for community viewing. Preloaded onto the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung is also making it available as a free download to Galaxy Note II users through Google Play.
Hundreds of ideas under consideration
Microsoft is reportedly preparing a wide range of original television programming for its Xbox streaming video service. In an interview with Reuters, Microsoft Studios VP Phil Spencer said the company is "very close" to announcing details of the new projects, which will include content that is not directly related to games.
New Xbox supports eight controllers
Microsoft has confirmed that its upcoming Xbox One console will support simultaneous input from up to eight controllers. The move effectively doubles the potential player count, as the Xbox 360 is only configured to handle four controllers in any game, though game developers have yet to demonstrate how they might include so many players in a game experience geared for a single display.
Comedy Central, Nickelodeon apps go live on Xbox 360 in US
The Xbox 360 in the United States has received two more entertainment apps offering streaming video. The Comedy Central app provides unlimited access to the CC: Stand-Up library of 6,000 videos, with the Nickelodeon version offering full episodes of shows and animated shorts. Both require a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription, with Nickelodeon also needing a subscription to a relevant TV provider.
Web version uses similar design to Windows 8.1 version
Xbox Music has now got a web-based version of its media player, available for use by its subscribers. The browser version of the Microsoft-owned music service will play back music from its catalog of "millions" of tracks, and will synchronize playlists between the browser, Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox 360 apps.
Interview sees Don Mattrick calling Xbox 360 'offline device'
A Microsoft executive has suggested to gamers concerned about the Xbox One's online requirement to instead use the Xbox 360. Don Mattrick, head of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business made the comment in an interview ahead of the company's E3 keynote, and has seemingly done little to help the Xbox One's public relations efforts.
Xbox Live Gold subscribers to get free games until end of 2013
Microsoft revealed launch details for its upcoming game console, as well as an update for its current version, at its E3 keynote event earlier today. Aside from outlining upcoming games, the Xbox One is now slated to appear on store shelves in November this year, the Xbox 360 has been redesigned, and current Xbox Live subscribers will also receive some extra benefits.
Xbox One must connect to Internet daily for offline games to function
Microsoft has clarified its stance on a number of controversial features of the upcoming Xbox One. The company confirmed that the game console will need a connection to the Internet every 24 hours in order to play games, as well as advising on used game sales, game rentals, and the privacy concerns for the improved Kinect sensor.
Could merge TWC TV app into Apple TV
Time Warner Cable is in talks with Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft for streaming video deals similar to the one it has with set-top maker Roku, CEO Glenn Britt hinted at today's Bank of America/Merill Lynch Global Telecom and Media Conference. "You should assume we're talking to everyone who makes devices like this, whether it's Samsung smart TVs, Apple, Microsoft," said Britt. Time Warner brought a TWC TV app to Roku boxes in March, letting people watch live TV without a separate dedicated cable box.
Latency-insensitive computation work passed to the cloud from console
Microsoft will be using its new 300,000-server cloud system to help the Xbox One with game calculations. The cloud architecture will be performing "latency-insensitive computation" on behalf of the console, with it being used as an incentive for users to keep their game consoles connected to the Internet while they play games.