Category Archives: Gaming

Xbox Will Release One Million Recycled Gamertags



Xbox logoThose of you who thought up the perfect Gamertag, and who were frustrated to learn that someone else had already claimed it, could be in luck. Xbox is about to release nearly one million Gamertags that have gone dormant.

The release of the Gamertags “back into the wild” will begin on Wednesday, May 18th at 2:00 p.m. ET / 11:00 a.m. PT. The Gamertags will be released over a 24-hour period in order to give Xbox fans in various countries an equal chance to get one.

It is worth knowing that the recycled Gamertags aren’t going to be released to all Xbox users. Xbox says that it will release the Gamertags “to our valued Xbox Live Gold members with active subscriptions and at least 1 year of cumulative Xbox Live Gold tenure”.

The Gamertags that Xbox is about to release are from accounts abandoned from the original Xbox era. These accounts never migrated over to Xbox 360 and, as a result, have been inactive for quite some time.  Xbox won’t share the actual list of recycled Gamertags, but they have posted the categories that many of the Gamertags fall into:

* Proper Names

* Pop culture references (Entertainment, sports, gaming)

* Types of Food

* Geography and Travel

* Science and Technology

* Math and Numbers

* Animals

* Some of the greatest inventions of all time

Xbox points out that changing your Gamertag won’t impact your Gamerscore, Achievements, or your Friends list. In other words, you won’t lose anything by attempting to obtain the Gamertag that you’ve always wanted.


Blizzard Will Ban Cheaters in Overwatch



Overwatch logoOverwatch is already an incredibly popular game, despite the fact that it hasn’t even been released yet. The open beta has ended, and there are many players who are anxiously awaiting their opportunity to play Overwatch (after the game is released). Hopefully, they will be smart enough to play the game without cheating, because Blizzard will be banning cheaters in Overwatch.

The open beta for Overwatch recently ended. A total of 9.7 million players participated. The game can be played on XBox One, PS4, or PC. (Overwatch cannot be played on a Mac – which is disappointing, but not unusual when you consider how many video games aren’t Mac compatible). Overwatch will be released on May 24, 2016, and is available for pre-purchase now.

In an official post on the Overwatch website, Community Manager Lylirra (Stephanie Johnson) made it clear that Blizzard will not tolerate cheating in Overwatch.

We’ve always taken cheating in Blizzard games very seriously, and that stance is no different for Overwatch. “Play nice; play fair” is one of our core values as a company, and its something we’ve taken to heart not only when designing the game, but also as we’ve developed our plans to support it and our players after launch.

What does this mean for Overwatch? If a player is found to be cheating – or using hacks, bots, or third-party software that provides any sort of unfair advantage – that player will be permanently banned from the game. Full stop.

The same post gives honest players some ways to report cheaters. Overwatch will have an option “to report players for potential cheating” directly through the game client. In addition, players who believe that another player is cheating, or who have “information pertaining to the use of hacks, bots, or unauthorized third-party software in Overwatch” can contact hacks@blizzard.com and make a report.


Activision Blizzard Launched an ESports Broadcast Network



Activision Blizzard logoActivision Blizzard Media Networks (ABMN) has announced the launch of new content, broadcast experiences, and distribution partners for its MLG.tv streaming platform. It will deliver live eSports tournament coverage both through MLG.tv and also through Facebook.

This announcement was made at the IAB Digital Content NewFronts 2016 event. MLG.tv debuted its Enhanced Viewing Experience (EVE) at the event. EVE is a high-definition video stream with a built-in algorithmic system that provides viewers with match statistics, up-to-the-minute leaderboards, and situational insights based on the competition they are watching.

Activision acquired Major League Gaming, one of the biggest eSports leagues, in January of 2016. The mission of MLG.tv is to promote eSports through premier competition and to deliver premium gaming content to viewers anytime, anywhere, through the MGT.tv global streaming platform.

To start, ABMN will launch eSports content during MLG Anaheim Open, which is a two-day Call of Duty: Black Ops III tournament that will start on June 10, 2016. The event will also be the inaugural event as part of a deeper collaboration between ABMN and Facebook. The collaboration will allow MLG.tv to broadcast live competitions and deliver ESR content to the 1.6 billion people on Facebook.

Activision is the creator of the Call of Duty series of games. Blizzard is the creator of StarCraft, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and the very popular Overwatch (which is currently in beta). All of these games are ideal for eSports.


Disney Discontinues Production of Disney Infinity



Disney Infinity logoThere is something ironic about hearing that a video game system with the word “infinity” in it’s name is about to end. Disney has decided to discontinue production of Disney Infinity. This will likely be sad news for kids (and adults, for that matter) who were having fun playing the games and collecting the figures.

Disney Infinityfor those who are unaware, was a video game series that included interactive action figures. The latest version, Disney Infinity 3.0, was a video game disc that was needed for a person to play with all of their 3.0 figures, play sets, power discs, and Toy Box Expansion games. (It also allowed people to use their 1.0 and 2.0 figures and power discs).

In short, Disney Infinity was a video game system that incorporated figures into the game. Players needed to purchase a physical figure so that they could play as that Disney character in the game. It was also possible to buy play sets. Some have referred to this type of video gameplay as “toys-to-life”.

The Disney Interactive website has an update about Disney Infinity. It was written by SPV & GM of Disney Infinity, John Blackburn. The first sentence is probably the most informative: “By now you may have heard the news that we have made the difficult decision to discontinue production of Disney Infinity.”

The update also notes that there are two final retail releases coming, including three new characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass later this month, and the Finding Dory Play Set that will be launched in June.

Game Informer reported that Disney is also shuttering Infinity studio Avalanche, Disney’s internal studio that developed the Disney Infinity game. The implication seems to be that Disney is pulling out of the video game publishing arena.  Ars Technica pointed out that Disney Infinity launched in 2013 to compete with Activision’s Skylanders, which was another toys-to-life video game.

 


Windows 10 Update takes down professional gamer live on Twitch



Microsoft logoA lot has been made about Microsoft’s latest operating system Windows 10. Many people prefer it over the operating system it replaced, though that isn’t necessarily saying much. The big problem people have with this latest platform is how much Microsoft is pushing it, and doing so hard.

The latest problem that Microsoft’s relentless pushing has caused happened to professional gamer Erik Flom, and it was live on the game streaming site Twitch.

This isn’t the first time such an incident has occurred, we recently saw during a TV news broadcast when the weather map was suddenly overlaid by a prompt to upgrade to Windows 10. While that incident was taken good-naturedly by the meteorologist, this one did not meet with the same reaction. There was cursing involved and video of the whole incident has gone viral thanks to Reddit.

In this case, it was not a message prompting the upgrade, Flom already was using the OS. But getting it doesn’t solve the problem of Microsoft inserting itself into people’s lives. Updates to Windows 10 can also be forced. There’s an obvious reason for that — security vulnerabilities.

But as security firm Sophos points out “Unfortunately, cyberattackers don’t need to rely on zero-days, where a security patch isn’t available, because so many users remain unprotected against security bugs with fixes that are available – and have been for weeks, months, or even years”.

While Microsoft pushing these updates can be looked at as a good thing, perhaps there could be a better way, such as doing so when a PC is inactive.


Petition Requests Visas for eSports Players



ESPN logoAre eSports a “legitimate” sport? This question has been argued on social media ever since ESPN began including eSports events on its channel. You can tune in to watch teams of people compete against each other in video games like League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, or Hearthstone on the same channel that brings you baseball, soccer, and other traditional sports.

There is a petition on We The People (the White House’s petition website) that is asking the United States government to recognize all eSports as “legitimate” sports. The goal of the petition is not simply to win the “Twitter war” about whether or not eSports is are valid as basketball. The petition is also asking for international eSports players to be able to get a permit that allows them to compete in the United States.

The petition is called: “The USCIS Should Recognize All Esports As “Legitimate” Sports So International Players Can Come to the US on P1 Visas”. The USCIS the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The petition says:

This petition arises from an ongoing situation regarding one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William “Leffen” Hjelte. In 2015, Mr. Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was sponsored by an American company while using a tourist visa, when he needed a work visa. After applying for a P1 Visa, which is what professional athletes use to come to the US, he was denied due to Super Smash Bros. Melee not being recognized as a “legitimate” sport. Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered “legitimate” sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.

There are two types of P1 visas. I’m going to assume the petitioner is thinking of the P 1A which is for internationally recognized athletes. It is for a person who is “coming to the US temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.”

The petition must get 49,667 signatures before May 29, 2016, in order to receive a response from the White House. A response does not guarantee that the petition will be granted or acted upon. At the time I am writing this blog, the petition has 50,333 signatures.


Nintendo to Release Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem on Smart Devices



Nintendo logoNintendo revealed that it will be releasing its popular Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem games on smart devices. This news was part of a Financial Results Briefing for Fiscal Year ending March 2016.

Nintendo is planning to release both Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem as their next steps in their smart device business. Both are popular games and are anticipated to do well on smart devices.

Fire Emblem is described in the Briefing as “a pioneering role-playing simulation game series, combining the tactical elements of a simulation game with the character customization elements of a role-playing game.”

Fifteen titles have been released in the Fire Emblem series since 1990. Nintendo notes that “the series has many passionate fans, particularly among gamers in their 20s and 30s.”

“We are currently developing an application for smart devices based on Fire Emblem. We expect that many consumers will experience Fire Emblem for the first time on their smart device, so this application will offer a more accessible style of gameplay compared to the titles for dedicated video game systems. At the same time, we still aim to provide a fully engaging experience as a role-playing simulation game.”

Animal Crossing debuted in 2001 and is described in the Briefing as one of Nintendo’s “evergreen titles”. In the Animal Crossing series “your avatar is the main character and you can live as you please, experiencing life in real time and enjoying events across all four seasons with delightful animal companions.” Nintendo notes that Animal Crossing is popular with female and young consumers in particular.

“We are currently developing a new application for smart devices based on the characters and world of Animal Crossing. As I mentioned before, the Animal Crossing series for dedicated video game systems is well-loved for its long-term playability, so we want to offer a connection between the smart device application and the world of Animal Crossing on dedicated video game systems. This will make it even more fun to play both ways, while offering a new style of play for smart devices.”

In the Financial Results Briefing, Nintendo said it plans to release both of these applications in the fall of 2016.


VRGO Moves in VR at Gadget Show Live



VRGO logoAR and VR are lining up to be the next big thing and the headset space is filling out with plenty of competitors from Oculus Rift to Google Cardboard. Less obvious in the space are the motion controllers and other gadgets helping to make VR an immersive experience. Into this category falls the VRGO Chair, a hands-free motion controller that takes advantage of what we humans often do all too well – sitting down. Joe from VRGO gave me a demo of the VRGO Chair.

Originally a Kickstarter campaign, the VRGO was successfully funded back in December 2015, and won the second prize in the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live. Looking not too dissimilar to a flat-topped Weeble, the idea is that the VR player sits on the VRGO and controls their movement in the VR world by tilting or rotating the VRGO. It’s pretty cool and totally intuitive after only a few seconds.

VRGO Chair

The VRGO chair uses low latency Bluetooth to communicate with VR headsets, PCs, tablets and smartphones. The VRGO can mimic both analogue (joypad) and digital (keyboard) controllers, and simplistically the further you tilt, the faster you move. Sitting on the chair leaves the player’s hands free for other controllers.

The VRGO will be delivered to Kickstarter backers within the next month or so before going on sale at around GB£250. A lower cost version is in the works, aiming for a price of about £100.


GameStop Launches Game Trust Publishing Division



Game Trust logoGameStop has launched a full video game publishing division called Game Trust. Some see this move as a way for GameStop to improve its bottom line, as the companies that create video games shift from physical discs to downloadable digital releases. Anyone who has ever shopped at GameStop knows that the company relies on its sales of physical discs of new and used games.

GameSpot posted on their blog about Game Trust. The new publishing division has already signed new games from independent studies, including Ready at Dawn (maker of The Order: 1886), Tequila Works (maker of Deadline and Rime), and Frozenbyte (maker of Trine).

In March of this year, GameStop announced that it was working with Insomniac, the company that made Ratchet and Clank, on a new game. That new game is called Song of the Deep, and will be coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC on July 12, 2016. MCV reports that Game Trust is in discussion with 20 other developers.

The GameStop Corp. verified Twitter account (@gamestopcorp) posted some information about Game Trust. They describe it as: “a new way for indie devs to create and introduce IP to a broad gaming audience and for gamers to discover new video games.”

The above tweet is a succinct example of how Game Trust is different from many other game publishing divisions. It isn’t creating brand new video games on its own. Instead, it is acting more like a games label. The indie developers who work with Game Trust will retain full rights to their properties, and GameStop has no involvement in the creative side of the game’s development.


The Art of Atari Book is Coming in October



Atari logoReady for some some nostalgia? Those of us who look back fondly on the artwork and design style that accompanied Atari games have something to look forward to. The Art of Atari is coming! The book will be released in October of this year.

The Art of Atari was announced at Emerald City Comic Con by Dynamite Entertainment, the publisher of the book. The hardcover edition has a total of 352 pages and is being sold on Amazon for $30.56. It is available for pre-order.

The book was written by Robert V. Conte and Tim Lapetino. Conte is a pop culture historian with a vast memorabilia collection. (His author page on Amazon shows him standing next to a table filled with old boxes of Atari games). Lapetino is the Executive Director of MOVA, the Museum of Video Game Art. The book also has a forward by Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One.

The Art of Atari includes art that was featured on the boxes Atari video games were sold in, as well as the original artwork that was specially commissioned to enhance the Atari experience (and entice people to buy the games).

The Art of Atari is the first official collection of this artwork, which spans 40 years of Atari’s unique illustrations used in packaging, advertisements, catalogs, and more. The artwork in the book was sourced from private collections around the world. You can see some of the artwork on The Art of Atari official website.