In the spirit of Halloween, Gears of War 4 is the latest to get in the holiday spirit and announce that its October Update will include the final two maps for Gears of War 4, along with Xbox One X enhancements. The Halloween event is also set to include new themed characters, weapon skins and special events.
The two new maps are Fuel Depot and Lift Apex. Fuel Depot is a cult-classic from the original Gears of War and Gears of War 2 and is a snipers dream with vasly-open design. "The small windows of visibility offered by the warehouse shutters are still great for harassing your opponents with a Lancer - provided the enemy Sniper doesn't take your head off first!"
Following the widely criticized closure of Visceral Games, and the rise of the games-as-a-service business model prompting doom for singleplayer games, ex-BioWare developer Manveer Heir gives a candid look at EA's thought process in the latest episode of VICE's Waypoint Radio.
Manveer Heir has a storied career in the games industry, and has worked on a number of high-profile games such as 2009's Wolfenstein, Singularity, and is most known for his work at BioWare on Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Heir recently sat down with Waypoint's Austin Walker and Danielle Riendeau to discuss EA, the closure of Visceral, and Mass Effect: Andromeda, leading to some interesting tidbits about the inner workings of the video games industry.
Heir's take on Visceral's shutdown aligns with our own reports that EA is pretty much putting traditional linear singleplayer-only games on the back burner in an effort to bolster its billions with more open-world monetized experiences like Battlefront II, and BioWare's upcoming Anthem. Heir highlights some important beats and rhythms of the games industry's heart, which typically pumps with the liquid gold of players pocketbooks. As games become more and more expensive with $100 million dollar plus budgets, publishers (and investors) want maximum returns on their investments, thus the service games monetization path with all of its engagement, online interactions, and lootboxes rose to power.
"This is definitely a thing inside of EA. They are generally pushing for more open world games, and the reason is you can monetize them better. The words EA use are "have them come back again and again." Why do you care about that, EA? The reason you care about that is because of microtransactions--people buying card packs for the Mass Effect games in multiplayer, etc. That's the same reason why we added multiplayer to Mass Effect 3, right? To get people to keep coming back to a thing to "just" play for 60-100 hours," Heir, who worked at BioWare--a wholly-owned EA studio--for 7 years, said in the Waypoint Radio podcast.
For years, Forbes has been tracking the richest people in the US and their most recent list has included someone we all know and love: our lord and savior, GabeN. Gabe Newell, the boss of Valve, is one of the 100 richest people in the United States with $5.5 billion.
Newell is in a 10-way tie for the 97th richest in the US, with the Valve boss now the 43rd richest tech billionaire in the US, and the 427th richest person in the world. If you thought it was good now, it will be much bigger in the future as Valve's continued success through receiving a cut of every single game sold on Steam, Valve's money flow will only continue to grow. Newell is now richer than even George Lucas (118th), and Steven Spielberg (206th).
Now this is where it gets interesting: Valve is a private company, so Forbes' numbers are just estimates. Newell's personal wealth, along with Valve, could be worth magnitudes more. Forbes' educated guess is that Valve is worth $10 billion, with Newell owning just over half of the company. If you ever want to know why Valve haven't made Half-Life 3 yet, it's because they don't have to... they make more money from providing the largest digital game distribution service in the world.
PUBG has recently made nearly $500 million in sales now, with Valve taking a chunk of that. Think of how many games Valve makes money on every single day, that they've never put a single second into developing. Our Lord and Savior is living the good life, that's for sure.
Did you know: Sharp once made a television set with a Nintendo Entertainment System built right in? Let's take a closer look.
Back in the 1980s, Sharp teamed up with Nintendo to make a nifty invention that will probably be the face of video games in the not-too-distant future: a TV-video game console combo. Behold the My Computer TV C1, an invention that saw a Sharp TV with a built-in NES console to make the ultimate all-in-one entertainment package. The NES TV (sounds a lot better than its actual name!) came out in 1983 in Japan, the same year the Famicom debuted, and came in 19-inch and 14-inch models selling for $1,278 and $819 respectively. In 1989, the nifty package traveled overseas and released in the U.S. as the Sharp Nintendo TV (aka the GameTelevision)
YouTuber Kelsey Lewin highlights this unique Sharp-NES TV's history and talks about how this little slice of history impacted the gaming world. For instance, since the Sharp NES TV had native RGB output, it was the best possible display for NES games at the time, and many gaming publications used it to take screenshots.
HORI's new kid-friendly PS4 controller has a nice idea behind it, but the $30 controller just looks like trouble waiting to happen.
Wireless controllers are great, as I'm sure any parent will agree. Sony's new kid-friendly Mini Wired Gamepad, however, lacks this nice little feature that has undoubtedly protected many an expensive video games console from ruination. Sony's cheap controller, however, could put our collective PS4s in danger once again when, say, a child yanks too hard on his or her mini gamepad and sends the console crashing to the ground. More often than not the USB cord will just yank out and nothing happens...but sometimes you aren't so lucky (I've seen it happen).
Furthermore, the controller looks super uncomfortable, even for children. I'm sure Sony tested the device with R&D and marketing, but the point still stands. Last but not least the peripheral lacks the features of its bigger DualShock 4 sibling: the $30 controller doesn't have a headset jack, a speaker, vibration functionality, motion sensors, or a lightbar--but it does come with a 10 foot cable.
Nintendo's new Switch hybrid console has sold 2 million units in the United States alone, according to the latest figures from analyst firm NPD Group.
The Nintendo Switch continues its sweeping success across the games industry through the month of September, where it reigned over Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One in sales for the third month running--a milestone that the company proudly touts. The figures come from the NPD Group's latest monthly sales charts, which see the Switch selling over 2 million units in the U.S. alone, making up almost half of the Switch's currently reported 4.7 million install base.
The NPD Group also notes that the Switch has topped sales charts for five out of the seven months since its launch in March of 2017. "When combined with the Nintendo 3DS family of systems and the plug-and-play Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition system, Nintendo systems claimed two-thirds of the month's total video game hardware sales," reads an official Nintendo press release that cites NPD's data.
The video games industry's Gaming Video Content (GVC) segment is tremendously lucrative, and according to analyst firm SuperData, it will pull in over $4 billion in 2017.
Gaming Video Content is one of the biggest pillars of the current Games-as-a-Service (GaaS) business model that gaming's biggest publishers--Activision, EA, Take-Two Interactive, and Ubisoft--are currently embracing. Service-based games such as Overwatch are built to monetize engagement, which is continually generated via content creators streaming gameplay on Twitch and YouTube, massive eSports tournaments with big payouts, and a steady stream of new content for players to enjoy. Publishers monetize said engagement in a number of ways, including lootboxes and other microtransactions, and, most importantly, through GVC. As SuperData notes, the main methods of generating revenue through GVC are advertisements, strategic partnerships, subscriptions, donations, and sponsorships--all of which can be monetized via engagement strategies. As more people watch their favorite content creators, the more people play the games, and potentially buy into the monetization path--or simply generate billions in advertisement revenue simply by watching.
SuperData predicts that GVC will pull in an incredible $4.6 billion in revenues in 2017, and attract up to 665 million viewers across the globe. For reference, analyst firm Newzoo predicts the global video games market will pull in $108.9 billion this year. Surprisingly, as the firm notes, "more people watch GVC than HBO, Netflix, ESPN and Hulu combined. Amazon's Twitch is focused on games and has a larger audience (185M) than legacy channels and services like ESPN." Advertising will predictably make up the lion's share of GVC earnings: SuperData has ads making up 62% of earnings, or $2.8 billion. Subscriptions, which are marked under direct revenue streams, will pull in $625 million or 14% of earnings. The firm says "viewers are willing to spend to support the content creators they enjoy. 44% of U.S. watchers pay for donations or subscriptions each month."
Star Wars: Battlefront II is slated to release next month, and will include an interesting looking singleplayer campaign that not only folds into the original trilogy, but tells a unique story from the Empire's point of view. One of my biggest concerns about the campaign is its length--Battlefield 1's War Stories were short-ish--but EA Motive's David Robillard affirms the experience well be somewhat beefy.
Back in April, EA and DICE teased that Battlefront II's campaign, which is told from Empire commander Iden Versio's point of view, would be "emotionally gripping" and deliver a tale of "revenge, betrayal and redemption." The story, which is being penned by Spec Ops: The Line writer Walt Williams alongside ex-IGN editor Mitch Dyer, will bridge the end of the original trilogy to the expanded universe, and touch upon the New Order's rise--all while featuring new and classic characters like Luke Skywalker.
But how long will Star Wars: Battlefront II's campaign actually be? According to EA Motive producer David Robillard, gamers can expect up to 7 hours worth of play. "We thought that around 5-7, maybe 8 hours is probably a good amount of time," Robillard said in a recent interview with Press Start. "[EA Motive] wanted to stay very driven towards the Star Wars fantasy that the players are going to experience and not have it be drawn out."
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a runaway success with 2 million concurrent gamers on Steam, and over 15 million copies that have made South Korean developer Bluehole, nearly $500 million. Insanity.
Battle Royale is now blending with the virtual world with Virtual Battlegrounds, something that was born from a post on Reddit, and then Oneiric Entertainment went to work with it. It looks very basic right now, almost like it was made as a joke - which it kinda was, with a limited 16-player world for now with plans to expand the player count.
Virtual Battlegrounds has free-for-all and squad-based options, with a release in 2018 for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets. If it is to become something better than it is now, it's going to need some serious work, and much more time in the development oven.
Microsoft's Xbox One is shunned like the plague in Japan, which is dominated by mobile games and, in the console space, Sony's PlayStation 4 and Nintendo's new Switch handheld. As a result, Microsoft seems to have trouble attracting key Japanese devs--especially niche games-makers like Nippon Ichi Software. According to NIS America, the North American branch of Nippon Ichi Software, Microsoft isn't really keen on tapping the Japanese games market.
According to NIS America president and CEO Takuro Yamashita, Microsoft isn't keen on niche Japanese games. "Honestly speaking, Microsoft's approach to Japanese games hasn't been very supportive," Yamashita-san told MCV. "Microsoft, you know, for Japanese games, there's still a very niche element to them, no matter what it might be. Microsoft also has a minimum order quantity for their games, and their whole structure isn't really geared toward niche games or smaller games like Japanese titles, so they're not really supportive of Japanese games or developers."
This seems strange as a number of high-profile games from Japanese devs and publishers do release on the Xbox One and the Windows 10 platform, including Final Fantasy XV, but the reality is the system doesn't sell well in the region. Any Japanese games that come to Xbox One are usually big-budget titles that are being localized by massive publisher-led development teams. Sony's PlayStation 4, conversely, is a hotbed of niche and popular Japanese games, from JRPGs and everything in between.