Category Archives: Gaming

Xiaomi Launches the POCO X3 NFC



Xiaomi today launched the POCO X3 NFC, the third generation of its POCO sub-brand after the F1 and F2. Aimed at the value-conscious gamer, the X3 has a couple of flagship level features that unquestionably set the X3 NFC apart at this price point. The moniker for the presentation was “Exactly What You Need” and I think they delivered.

Starting with the outside, the the POCO X3 NFC has a large 6.67″ LCD Gorilla Glass 5 display on the front and a lovely curved back which beautifully reflects the Shadow Gray and Cobalt Blue of the two colour options. It’s a polycarbonate back, rather than say, glass, but given the number of smashed backs I’ve seen recently, this is not a bad thing. The quad camera array (with flash) is arranged in a circle at the top, and physically the smartphone is 165.3 x 76.8 x 9.4 mm and weighs in at 215 g. There’s a power button with fingerprint sensor on the side.

Returning to the front, the display is FHD+ meaning 2400 x 1080 pixels, 395 ppi and a 20:9 aspect ratio. It’s described as 2.5D which I think means the display has curved sides, and there’s a tiny 3.8 mm hole for the selfie cam at top centre. Stealing from the flagships, the X3’s display has a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz and can dynamically switch from as 50 Hz though 60 Hz, 90 Hz and on to 120 Hz as circumstances demand. The 120 Hz gives that super smooth screen refresh when needed, but if the screen’s only showing a static picture, the display can fall back to 50 Hz to save on power and extend battery life. That’s pretty clever stuff.

For the edge in gaming, the X3 comes with 240 Hz touch sensitivity – that means it can discriminate between touches down to 0.004s. That’s four thousandths of a second, but when playing games at a high level, it can give an edge over another player who plays on a phone with 120 Hz touch sensitivity.

Inside the X3 NFC is the first appearance of Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G. It’s an enhanced version of the 720G and 730G 4G chipsets, comprising a Kyro 470 octa-core CPU and an Adreno 618 GPU. The Kyro is able to boost a pair of “gold” cores to 2.3 GHz for gaming performance and the Adreno GPU includes Qualcomm’s “Elite Gaming” extensions to minimise jank and stutter for smooth movement. The POCO X3 NFC will be available in two variants, 6GB+64GB and 6GB+128GB, and if that’s not enough storage, the phone can take a microSD card up to 256 GB.

The gaming experience is further enhanced with a powerful z-axis linear motor for haptic feedback with 150 different “feels” available. There are stereo speakers too, which have a cool dust blaster feature than clears the cruft and debris out of the speakers. Worth checking that out in slow-mo.

Heat dissipation is always an issue with gaming phones: if the heat can’t get away from the CPU fast enough, the processor’s going to slow down to reduce heat output. The POCO X3 comes with LiquidCool Technology 1.0 Plus which is a fat heat pipe to spread energy through the X3’s internal frame and aims to keep the phone about 6°C cooler than without it. If that’s not enough, Xiaomi have partnered with Black Shark to offer the FunCooler and FunCooler Pro with the X3. Funky lights!

To keep the X3 NFC speeding along, the phone comes with a 5,160 mAh battery which is expected to give 2 days of battery life for an average user. But who is average? To quantify in more detail the battery life, it’s 10 hours of gaming or 17 hours of video. The phone supports 33 W fast charging and it takes just 65 minutes to go from 0% to 100% with the included charger.

Round the back, the POCO X3 NFC comes with a quad camera configuration. The main lens is a 64 MP unit using the Sony IMX 682 sensor, along with a 13 MP 119° wide-angle shooter. A 2 MP macro unit and a 2 MP depth sensor rounds out the rear. On the front, it’s a 20 MP selfie cam. The X3 comes with some clever filters and effects including “gold vibes” that brings out and enhances the yellows, and a “cyberpunk mode” which enhances blues and pinks – both effects look great. There’s also some clever AI effects to add night-time effects to day-time skies. Stars, auroras…

Although there’s a fairly big clue in the name, the POCO X3 NFC supports NFC for swiping those credit cards at the till. Fan favourites, the X3 includes an IR blaster and retains the 3.5 mm earphone jack. Out of the box, the phone will be running Xiaomi’s MIUI12 flavour of Android and POCO Launcher 2.0 and the company is committing to 3 years of consistent system updates.

What about the price? Impressively, even the 128 GB version comes in under GB£250 – I think that’s a good deal given the features on offer here.

  • 6 GB + 64 GB is £199 / 229 €
  • 6 GB + 128 GB is £249 / 269 €

The X3 will be available from tomorrow globally, but will be coming to the UK from 17th September on both mi.com/uk and Amazon UK. For early birds, there’s £20 off the 128 GB version bringing the price down to just £229. That offer will last until 8th October 2020.

This looks like a very compelling offering for the value-conscious gamer and I’m sure it’ll get plenty of attention.

The launch event is available on YouTube below. Skip through to about 35 minutes in.


Epic Games Asks Judge to Return Fortnite to Apple’s App Store



There is a battle brewing between Epic Games and Apple. It started when Epic Games created a direct payment option in which Epic Games lowered the prices for consumers who used it. In short, the direct payment option could be seen as a way for Epic Games to get around the 30% payment the company collects from consumer payments made in apps like Fortnite.

Apple responded by terminating the Epic Games account on the App Store, The Verge reported. If you had Fortnite or Infinity Blade on your iPhone or iPad… well, you don’t have them anymore.

On September 5, 2020, the Epic Games Newsroom Twitter account tweeted:

Today we asked the Court to stop Apple’s retaliation against Epic for daring to challenge its unlawful restrictions while our antitrust case proceeds. This is a necessary step to free consumers and developers from Apple’s costly, anti-competitive control.

The tweet included a link of a PDF of Epic’s most recent legal request.

Previously, Epic filed a lawsuit against Apple. Bloomberg reported that U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Apple did not have to immediately reinstate Fortnite on its App Store. She also granted a temporary order blocking Apple from limiting game developer’s ability to access the Epic Games Unreal Engine.

The judge ruled that Epic’s problem is “entirely self-inflicted”, and that the sensible way to proceed would be for Epic Games to comply with the App Store guidelines and continue to operate as the case proceeds.

There is a difference between Epic’s new request and the previous one. The Verge reported that Epic claims that “Daily active users on iOS have declined by over 60% since Fortnite’s removal from the App Store”. Epic also said that iOS is the biggest platform for Fortnite, and that 63% of Fortnite users on iOS access the game only on iOS.

It remains to be seen what happens next. One thing is for certain. This back-and-forth between Apple and Epic Games is unlikely to come to a resolution that makes both companies happy. I think what it comes down to is whether a judge sees Epic’s loss of customers on iOS as self inflicted or as something caused by Apple.


Xbox Series X Launches This November



Microsoft announced that Xbox Series X will launch in November of this year. No specific date was given, but its more information than we had before. In December of 2019, all we knew was it would available “holiday 2020”. That’s the good news.

The bad news, for Halo fans, is that the release of Halo Infinite has been shifted to 2021. Studio Head of Halo Infinite, Chris Lee, posted information on the Halo website.

The decision to shift our release is the result of multiple factors that have contributed to development challenges, including the ongoing COVID-related impacts affecting us all this year. I want to acknowledge the hard work from our team at 343 Industries, who have remained committed to making a great game and finding solutions to development challenges. However, it is not sustainable for the well-being of our team or the overall success of the game to ship it this holiday.

Microsoft points out that when Xbox Series X launches in November, it will have thousands of games to play, spanning four generations. It will also have 100 optimized for Xbox Series X titles. On day one, it will have:

  • More than 50 games planned for this year across generations and optimized for Xbox Series X, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Dirt 5, Gears Tactics, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
  • New games developed for Xbox Series X and launching with Xbox Game Pass, including The Medium, Scorn, Tetris Effect: Connected, and more.
  • More than 40 popular games newly optimized to take full advantage of Xbox Series X, such as Destiny 2, Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Madden NFL 21, and more.
  • A shared library of great games through Xbox Games Pass.

It is reasonable that those who were really looking forward to the release of Halo Infinite will be disappointed that it is being delayed. They might be able to find something fun to play while they wait. If nothing else, the delay gives them something to look forward to in a world where COVID-19 has made things very stressful.


Ubisoft Announced Staff Departures After Internal Investigation



Ubisoft released a statement (PDF) announcing departures of staff and a reaffirmation of its commitment to implementing significant change in its workplace culture. This comes after Ubisoft conducted an internal investigation in June.

“Ubisoft has fallen short in its obligation to guarantee a safe and inclusive workplace environment for its employees. This is unacceptable, as toxic behaviors are in direct contrast to values on which I have never compromised – and never will. I am committed to implementing profound changes across the Company to improve and strengthen our workplace culture,” said Yves Guillemot, CEO and Co-Founder of Ubisoft. “Moving forward, as we collectively embark on a path leading to a better Ubisoft, it is my expectation that leaders across the Company manage their teams with the utmost respect. I also expect them to work to drive the change we need, always thinking of what is best for Ubisoft and all its employees.”

According to Ubisoft, Serge Hascoët “has chosen to resign from his position as Chief Creative Officer, effective immediately”. He will be replaced by Yves Guillemot, CEO and Co-Founder of Ubisoft in the interim.

Yannis Mallat, Managing Director of Ubisoft’s Canadian studios, will be stepping down from his role and will leave the company, effective immediately. The press release described the reason as: “The most recent allegations that have come to light in Canada against multiple employees make it impossible for him to continue in this position.”

Cécile Cornet has decided to step down from his role and a new Global Head of HR will be appointed to replace him.

If you are wondering what those allegations are, you may want to read an article on Kotaku which provides some details about the misconduct that allegedly took place.

It is good that Ubisoft is “cleaning house” and implementing changes that are intended to stop the toxic behaviors of some employees from negatively affecting the experience of other employees. This gives Ubisoft the opportunity to hire or promote good people who can help make Ubisoft a safe and inclusive workplace.


E3 Goes Online



It’s a big weekend for gamers as E3 goes online because of Covid-19 with Sony launching the PS5, the Gaming Show 2020 and the latest games from EA and Ubisoft.

Sony revealed the PS5 last night, and while the jury’s still out on the design, the games line-up looks pretty solid with a ton of games trailers – GTA V, GT7, Ratchet & Clank, Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Sony’s The Future of Gaming Show video is here and it starts with the upcoming games roster. For the hardware, jump forwards to about 69 minutes to see the new PS5 consoles which will be coming in two variants; the standard PlayStation 5 that will take 4K Blu-Ray disks and a slimmer diskless Digital Edition. It looks like a powerful console but the white design so reminds me of stormtrooper armour. It’s a noticeable departure from the largely black box of the PS2 through PS4. At this stage, availability is “holiday 2020” and there’s no news on price.

Also part of E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) online event, the PC Gaming Show will give everyone a chance to see the latest gaming news with over 50 games trailers over a promised two hours. It kicks off at 2pm EDT on a variety of social media platforms. I’ll be keeping an eye on the PC Gamer YouTube channel to see what’s coming to PCs over the next few months.

EA will be demoing their latest and greatest on 18 June and Ubisoft will be showing off their wares later in July. If you’re a gamer, there’s plenty to keep you busy over the next few days.


Fortnite Teams Up With OnePlus 8



Battle Royale remains a tremendously popular segment of mobile gaming but these fast-paced action games need speedy systems to make them shine. Consequently, it’s no great surprise that OnePlus has partnered with Epic Games to create a new mobile experience for owners of the OnePlus 8 series of phones when it comes to playing Fortnite.

With the rollout currently underway, OnePlus 8 series devices are the first smartphones able to run Fortnite on the Unreal Engine at 90 fps, which is the fastest frame rate ever available for Fortnite on a smartphone and faster than some consoles can manage.

OnePlus and Epic Games have created one of the best Fortnite experiences ever on a smartphone. The OnePlus 8 Series delivers a smooth, high framerate Fortnite gameplay experience – that even current generation console game systems can’t match,” said Pete Lau, Founder & CEO of OnePlus. “OnePlus creates the best devices for mobile gaming through our industry leading display, speedy performance, and overall user experience designed with power-users in mind.

And this isn’t just about making the app “run a bit faster”. It took months of development to bring 90 fps to the OnePlus 8 phones even with the Snapdragon 865 and FluidDisplay. To make life easier for users, Fortnite will be made available through OnePlus’ “Game Space” application for a one-touch easy installation of the Epic Games app.

The rollout is starting in India with world-wide availability soon.

Owners of previous generation OnePlus 7 and 7T series phones will still be able to play Fortnite but sadly only at 60 fps. My personal experience is that even at 60 fps, the OnePlus phones play these games pretty well.


Fortnite has More than 350 Million Players



Fortnite, which is made by Epic Games, announced in a tweet that the game now has over 350 million registered players. The tweet continues to point out when the next Fortnite Party Royale will happen, and who it will feature.

Fortnite’s popularity is, in part, because the game provides an interesting challenge for players. Each player needs to quickly figure out what to do in order to be the last survivor. The game is free-to-play, which tends to make parents happy. In addition, the cartoony visuals, and sometimes goofy costumes, make the game fun. But, the biggest draw, for tweens and teens, is that Fortnite is a place where they can easily socialize with their friends.

The Verge reported that the last Fortnite player count stat that was released by Epic Games was in March in 2019. At that time, the game had 250 million players.

One of the things that is very likely attracting players is Fortnite’s Party Royale. It is described as “a new, experimental and evolving space” Unlike in the regular Fortnite, Party Royale is a violence free area. There are no weapons and no buildings. I think this less stressful area in Fortnite would be attractive for tweens and teens who just want a space to hang out with their friends in-game.

Recently, Party Royale has been hosting live shows with a variety of players and artists. These are live events that take place at a specific time. Those who miss it can catch the rebroadcast the next day. It is easy to see how this kind of online, in-game, concert atmosphere would attracted new players to Fortnite.