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Microsoft looking at Xbox Live memberships rather than consoles sales for success metric [Poll]

For consoles today the constant battle in market share is often what most people look to when analyzing which company is doing the best. The current status is pretty clear with Sony’s Playstation 4 taking a decisive lead over the other consoles of this generation — the Xbox One and the WiiU.

But Microsoft is shying away from the physical console sales to determine whether they are successful or not. Instead, the company will look at Xbox Live memberships to decide if they’re continuing to make progress as a major player in the console gaming industry.

The decision to switch to online subscriptions probably won’t affect the general gaming consensus that the PS4 is winning the race, but it seems a tad suspicious that Microsoft is going ahead with the switch just as the overall revenue for Xbox fell at the same time the revenue from Xbox Live went up.

And the news that Xbox Live revenue is on the rise while Xbox console shipments is stagnating is not surprising — especially for a Q3 report in 2015. Xbox 360 consoles are declining as it nears its 10 year birthday and Xbox One sales stagnate for gamers electing to wait for the holiday season for buying a $400 console.

Regardless of the decision, Xbox Live should be the cash cow for Microsoft with digital gaming on the rise. It grew by 6% revenue-wise with a 28% increase in its userbase (now at 39 million). The quality of the platform is what makes the Xbox One at all stand out against the PS4’s superior hardware and measuring the active users gives a more realistic idea of who uses their consoles.

But still with Sony and Nintendo still using shipments as their major success metric it will seem a bit odd when Microsoft shows off users rather the consoles shipped every quarter. It’s unclear whether the company will continue the quarterly reporting of console sales — or how often they’ll report them.

Do you like Microsoft using Xbox Live as a metric for success?

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“The truth” gets closer with new Halo 5 launch trailer

343 Industries and Microsoft have been constructing a masterful ad campaign with “Hunt The Truth” — a collection of various hints and teasers regarding the Halo 5 story leading up to the full release of the game in late October.

Now, “the truth” feels as close as it could be with the latest Halo 5 Launch trailer showing off more of the conflict between Master Chief and the people that previously heralded him as the hero of mankind. The new co-protaganist Spartan Locke and his squad will have a massive role in subduing Chief and Blue Team.

Where most Halo trailer purely stick to the iconic theme music and style that Halo has built up over it’s 14 year long life, 343i changes things up with a song in this Halo 5 trailer. The second half of the video has Muse, Knights of Cydonia playing over an assortment of gameplay clips and other badass moments from the campaign.

Halo 5 releases in two weeks — October 27 — exclusively on Xbox One. Microsoft is also launching a limited edition Xbox One bundle shipping with a 1TB Spartan Locke stylized console, controller, and a Steel Book containing a digital download of Halo 5: Guardians along with some small in-game extras.

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PlayStation 4 is finally $349

Early holiday for gamers

It was only a matter of time before Sony delivered the proverbial slice in its flagship console’s price tag from its debut price of $400 to Microsoft’s competing $349 mark.

John Koller, Vice President of Platforms Marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America, announced the console’s first price cut Thursday on the PlayStation.Blog:

“Since the launch of PS4, we have been thrilled with the amount of gamers jumping into the world of PlayStation for the first time. If you haven’t made the jump yet, and you’re starting early on your holiday wish list, I have good news – we’re dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 system in the U.S. and Canada. Starting tomorrow, October 9, you’ll be able to pick up PS4 starting at the new price of $349.99 USD / $429.99 CAD (MSRP).”

This move is geared toward continuing Sony’s reign atop the consoles sales with a slew of interesting holidays bundles hitting shelves in November, some of which include Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Bundle (10/9), Limited Edition Call of Duty Black Ops III 1 TB Bundle, and of course, the mecca of PS4 bundles, Star Wars Battlefront Bundle.

However, if you want to obtain the limited edition Star Wars bundle, which includes the Darth-Vader themed console and DualShock 4, you will still have to shell out $399. But let’s be honest, do you want to argue with the Sith Lord over prices?

PlayStation 4 dominance

The PS4 is simply on fire, currently holding 50 percent of the console market. It has shipped over 25 million units as of July 31 and outsold Xbox in August for the fourth consecutive month. In fact, the PS4 has sold more than the Xbox and Wii U combined.

Xbox head Phil Spencer admitted in an interview with Videogamer, he’s unsure if Xbox could ever catch the PS4.

“You know, the length of the generation… They have a huge lead and they have a good product. I love the content, the games line-up that we have.”

As of October, PS4 console sales are estimated at 25.4 million, passing the original Xbox which sold 24 million worldwide.

Last year, Microsoft marketed the Kinect-less Xbox One for the holiday season as $349 and made the price permanent in January. But although the price change boosted sales for Microsoft, it did not slow down the PS4.

Sony has sold the PS4 for $399 since its launch.

It’s also interesting to note the differences between this generation and last generation.

The Xbox 360 launched with two separate versions — Core ($299) and 20GB model ($399) as well as Sony — $20GB ($499) and 60 GB ($599) — which was a bit pricey.

Xbox proceeded to create Arcade, Pro and Elite versions, each with new price tags. Meanwhile, PlayStation 3 received its first real price cut three in a half years after its launch when Sony introduced the PlayStation 3 Slim 120 GB for $299.

Sony put all its money into its launch and it seems what looked like an interesting race two years ago has turned into a lopsided affair. With the Black Ops III beta being “the most successful beta in the history of the PS4” and an exclusive Star Wars Battlefront bundle being offered only on the PlayStation brand, you can bet PlayStation’s owner base will grow over the holidays.

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Microsoft keeps rolling out Xbox One bundles — this time with Fallout 4

Fallout 4’s upcoming release is as highly anticipated as any game, and Microsoft is looking to cash-in with a new Xbox One bundle offering a 1 TB console, Fallout 4 download code, and a Fallout 3 download code (through backwards compatibility).

Backwards compatibility is making it easier for Microsoft to offer more enticing bundles.
Backwards compatibility is making it easier for Microsoft to offer more enticing bundles.

The bundle will release the same day as Fallout 4 (November 10, 2015) and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Microsoft’s official store, and other retailers.

This console will likely be the last bundles to release with the original Xbox user interface. The new Xbox One experience (NXOE) will be rolling out to all Xbox One owners in November.

The Fallout 4 package deal is the latest in a recent stretch of bundle announcements from Microsoft. Right now there are eight+ varying Xbox One console choices each offering different games, storage sizes, and other peripherals. The Fallout 4 bundle joins the Halo 5, Forza 6, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, FIFA 16, Madden NFL 16, LEGO Movie, and two multiple-game-package consoles currently available at retailers.

Something to take note of is only one of these eight offers includes the kinect. Since Phil Spencer has taken charge at Microsoft the body/head tracking and microphone has rapidly been phased out as the primary advertised choice — and with the $150 difference between the cheapest kinect console and the cheapest kinect-less console it very much makes sense.

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Microsoft Studios making all paid DLC free on Project Spark

After two years under a free-to-play model, Microsoft Studios and Team Dakota have elected to switch their model for Project Spark to a completely open creation system. Project Spark has been a bastion of creativity on the Xbox One and Windows 8.1 (and up) but was stymied by paywalls that restricted the full use of much of the content that the game offered.

In the next update those paywalls will be gone and a greater variety of content will likely stream through, but it looks like the elimination of those paywalls will halt production of content from Team Dakota. Conker’s Big Reunion’s episodic style content releases will be ended. The dev team is hoping fans will step up and complete the story without their help.

“Microsoft will pivot from producing DLC and active feature development to encouraging more user generated content and opening the Project Spark experience.” – Project Spark official

While the big news of the update is the free content coming to players, there are also new assets included as well with 46 packs totaling 2000+ individual assets.

Project Spark is an open-world sandbox game with a heavy focus on user creation and content sharing. Games can vary from something extremely simple like tic-tac-toe to something incredibly complex like full-featured first-person shooters, RPGs, and other games.

The update will be rolling out October 5 to current owners.

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A ten year plan for Destiny? Not so fast says Bungie [Poll]

Destiny released to widely varying criticism with many complaints of a lackluster story and plot since its release in 2013. The title has recently gotten it’s biggest add-on yet — The Taken King. The DLC has not steadied the game’s place at all though with a barrage of complaints accompanying the massive sales numbers.

Up until now, Bungie has suggested that this trend of big DLC updates would continue as the game was expected to last as long as ten years. Bungie’s contract with Activision promised a ten-year span of dedicated work on the game and in multiple interviews Bungie suggested that they were prepared to continue working on the game for those years.

In an interview with the Guardian in 2014 the CO of Destiny, Pete Parsons said “We love to invest in universes. We did Halo for ten years we just didn’t have the benefit of knowing it would happen.”

Well, that plan isn’t quite what Bungie is thinking now according to Erik Osborne, Bungie’s community and marketing relations manager.

“It just became the narrative. I mean, I drive a Honda Civic. I don’t know shit about $500 million. A ten-year plan? It’s a ten-year partnership agreement. It has nothing to do with the development of the game proper. To think that somehow, before Destiny had shipped, we had some ten-year plan written down somewhere? It’s comical. We allowed the narrative to get constructed that Bungie is just a corporate entity and not a bunch of humans, a collection of people who are just trying to make a really great game.”

Though these comments directly contradict the expectations of Activision’s CEO, Eric Hirshberg when he spoke with Wired magazine in September, 2014.

“I think a lot of franchises get built game-to-game, or month-to-month — the moment really determines the momentum of the franchise… Bungie aren’t just thinking about the content that goes on the first disc; they’re thinking about a ten-year story.”

Do you think Destiny was designed to last for ten years?

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Xbox One’s new user interface will soon be rolling out to preview members

Microsoft’s Xbox One has long been plagued users with slow load times across the user interface, but since June those on the Xbox team have been promising big things with a redesigned user interface designed to match and beat the speed and efficiency of the Xbox 360.

At E3 Microsoft had shown off a bit of their progress and the new interface displayed a massive improvement in time spent on completing simple tasks like accessing a friends list, starting a party, sending a message, and other tasks.

Now that work is finally going to be put into practice for many Xbox One gamers as preview program members are scheduled to begin getting invites to the new UI “next week.”

The interface does away with the prominent home-screen tile system that launched on the Xbox One, and instead offers greater integration with the console’s social features linking to the game hub of whatever the last game you’re playing and listing friends currently playing.

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The original Xbox One interface matching the Windows 8 tiled-layout style.

One of the hallmark features is an improved snap guide that aids in making those basic tasks as fast possible.

The snap guide is designed to rival the functionality of the Xbox 360 guide.

The Xbox division has been building up to this fall since the start of this year with a variety of high-profile titles scheduled to release — including Xbox One‘s exclusive Halo 5.

This “new Xbox experience” is just one major keynote in a second half chock full of announcements for Microsoft.

The new UI will be rolling out in small increments to preview members with the most active members in providing feedback getting the update earliest.

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Borderlands movie being made by Lionsgate with same “in your face attitude”

2k Games’ Borderlands series has had tremendous success on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation and Lionsgate is hoping that success can translate into a role on the big screen. The movie studio announced in a public statement that they’re working on formatting the FPS for a live-action, feature-length film.

The Creative Director at Marvel, Avi Arad and his brother Ari Arad will be leading the project and both had very positive things to say about the Borderlands franchise in a recent public statement.

“Borderlands has a unique story-driven narrative energy and rich multi-dimensional characters that position it to become a singular motion picture event.”

Two chairmen with Lionsgate, Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger expressed their own positivity as well claiming they have “the right partners” and the “ideal creative team” to lead a Borderlands movie to success.

The positivity is warranted with the success that Avi Arad and his brother have had in the past working on the Ironman, Spiderman, and other Marvel movies.

Two of the most definable characterisitics of the Borderlands games are the cell-shaded art-style which compliments the exaggerated personalities. Both will be a challenge for Lionsgate to adapt for a live action film. The correct use of special effects as well as the best actors to portray whatever story they’d like to present will be crucial in representing the Borderlands universe fairly.

No release frame is yet ready, but the movie is likely at least 2 years away from word on a release.

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Wolfenstein: The Old Blood brings back the classic video game feel to the new generation | Review

The Wolfenstein franchise is over 30 years old, and since 2009 has begun being rebooted for contemporary consoles. While the 2009 release didn’t fare particularly well on the Xbox 360 and PS3, this latest installments including Wolfenstein: The Old Blood from MachineGames and Bethesda Softworks is the perfect approach to introducing the old arcadey style from its early days as Wolfenstein 3D to the modern style first-person shooters have today.

Wolfenstein merges the old with the new and does it really damn well.

There's some flashes of beautiful vistas, skyboxes, and ruins amid the death and destruction.
There’s some flashes of beautiful vistas, skyboxes, and ruins amid the death and destruction.

The developers at MachineGames weren’t looking to completely conform to what the prototypical modern first-person shooter is now — and it’s awesome. What they made is truly fun to play. It takes the FPS gameplay trends of the late 90s and reintroduces them to many gamers who have not experienced them. It’s not flashy and it’s not a game riddled with little gimmicks.

Heck, the game can get pretty chaotic at points with that slight touch of the old rapid movement of the first FPS games like Doom, Marathon, and Wolfenstein 3D. But duel wielding shotguns and Ak47s while flying down corridors and the ruins of Castle Wolfenstein make the experience as fun as a game can be.

Even the setting is a tad off-putting for those not familiar with the Wolfenstein franchise. A Nazi-controlled alternate universe set in 1946 with America still fighting despite bleak circumstances.

Players are placed in the shoes of B. J. Blackowicz, a U.S. marine helping to lead the fight back against the Nazi oppression. The main mission for Blazkowicz is to find Helga Von Schabbs, commanding officer of Castle Wolfenstein. Blazkowicz is set forth to find and capture documents that could potentially help win the war for the U.S.

And while that’s absurd itself the game takes a dramatic sci-fi esque turn later in the story.

*Spoiler Alert*

The game initially plays in a somewhat reasonable setting, but as the game progresses through the eight-chapter long campaign the developers take some fantastic creative liberties opening up a world of zombie-apocalypse with flaming — yes, flaming — Nazi zombies raining down from above. Even further down the line, the story’s primary antagonist — Helga von Schabbs unlocks the uncovered demon/monster creature from the dark depths of ancient ruins.

*End of Spoiler*

Any sense of realism in this game can be quickly dismissed.

This is what a pure video game should be.

Exageratted physics, overpowered characters, and the ability to withstand multiple (graphic) stab wounds adds enough ridiculousness that a hint of comedy is in almost everything as well.

wolfenstein the old blood 3

Adding to that is the sometimes cheesy dialogue with an overly badass main character  taunting the enemies around him.

Blazkowicz serves as the primary protagnist for the entirety of the story, and “badass” really isn’t quite a strong enough word. His attitude oozes confidence and stares down the face of those who would like to (and do) stab him in the face repeatedly with no remorse as he mows them down and attacks back with his trusty (and rusty) iron pipe.

The iron pipe is one of the first weapons and tools shown to players and serves a variety of uses from wall climbing like a mountain climber to killing your Nazi/zombie/mech opposition.

While the rusty piece of piping is certainly the most versatile weapon in the game, there are six main weapons — the Handgun 1946, Assault Rifle, Schockhammer Shotgun, Double-Barreled Shotgun, Bombenschuss rifle, and Kampfpistol.

wolfenstein the old blood 6

Each weapon is well balanced with no being too overpowered to be deemed better in every situation over anything else. In addition, each enemy has specific niches that give players the opportunity to think more creatively with how to kill them.

While the combat is great, it is very fast paced and some players that are used to contemporary shooters may find it disorienting at first. The game does allow you to aim down the sites for more precision like contemporary games, but it is definitely much more fun to just go berserk dual-wielding and hip-firing shotguns or other guns.

And fun is what this game is all about.

Which leads to an unfortunate aspect of the game that inhibits how enjoyable it could be with friends — the lack of multiplayer. While a full online multiplayer system complete with lobbies, ranking, classes, and more is understandably not fitting for the game nor likely in the budget with just the $40 price tag, a small local co-op mode would have been extraodinarily well-placed in the challenge mode that is also offered in the game.

Challenge mode lets players rack up points and fight for high scores against an endless onslaught of enemies from every chapter in the game. It’s an excellent addition to add a touch of replayability in a game that doesn’t offer too much more after beating the game the first time.

It’s very surprising to not see multiplayer incorporated into this game mode whether it be online or local.

The lack of multiplayer is about the only drawback of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.

wolfenstein the old blood 5

However, even with the fault of no multiplayer the game is still incredibly enjoyable and well worth it for the campaign alone. Currently available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC Wolfenstein: The Old Blood offers a blast-from-the-past style gameplay reminiscing the classic Wolfenstein 3D game and brings a great level of pure fun, silliness, and insanity that isn’t always prevalent on modern consoles. It’s lack of multiplayer is disheartening, but not dismissing of how enjoyable this campaign is.

8.9/10

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is currently available for Xbox One, PS4, and PC retailing at $19.99.

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Emotional Metal Gear Solid V: The Phatom Pain trailer showcases evolution of series

As the final game in the Metal Gear saga, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will bring everything to a dramatic end following the story that’s spanned nearly two decades in gaming. This trailer is one of the last pieces of work fans will ever get to see from Hideo Kojima with the franchise.

Kojima served as the director, designer, and ultimate creator of the Metal Gear games since his first released in 1987. As the franchise progressed and evolved into the more recognizable Metal Gear Solid games, his influence on the game made ripples throughout the entire gaming industry and this latest trailer showcases just a small bit of the progress the series has made over the years.

Though Kojima and Konami had a distasteful breakup, the quality of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will not take any negative hits. MGSV is bringing “the ultimate thrill,” and “the ultimate story” wrapped up in massive open world to improve the iconic stealth element of the game. With realisitic day/night cycles and weather patterns players can recognize and adapt to their situation to take the best approach to gameplay.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will release on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC on September 1, 2015.