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by Juilian Benson via LAD Bible

Microsoft has emailed Xbox Live Gold members to say that from May 8 the price of a subscription is going to increase by more than 15%.

12-month subscriptions will increase from £39.99 to £49.99, three-month subscriptions will go from £14.99 to £17.99, and monthly prices will rise from £5.99 to £6.99. Six-month subscriptions will remain the same at £29.99.

Microsoft says these increases are being made to “address changing market conditions”. Over the past three years the value of the pound has dropped significantly – against the US dollar, the pound has dropped in value by more than 15% since June 2015. In large part the devaluation of the pound has been due to the uncertainty and confusion linked to Brexit.

The move makes the price of membership more consistent across Europe, too. “This new pricing is aligned to the changes we made in the region in 2016 as we strive to offer our members premium gaming and entertainment services at a fair price,” Microsoft said in a statement.

It also makes Gold Membership similar to PlayStation Plus membership, which also had a price hike back in 2017. No word yet as to if the same hike will happen to our North American counterparts.

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by Tom Hoggins via The Telegraph

PlayStation 4 maker Sony had its first ‘State of Play’ livestream, highlighting the console’s upcoming slate of games. Taking a leaf out of Nintendo’s fuss-free ‘Nintendo Direct’ streams, State of Play was a fast, lean look at what is coming to the PS4 in the next few months.

There was nothing particular revelatory or surprising –no new PS5news or new footage from The Last of Us 2 or Death Stranding– but we did get glimpses of promising titles like Days GoneConcrete Genie, multiplayer dungeon-crawler ReadySet Heroes and NoCode’s fabulous looking sci-fi thriller Observation.

But there was a clear focus on PlayStation VR, Sony’s virtual-reality headset that has proved a considerable success for the company — even if the lack of headlines betray it. Sony announced that as of 3 March 2019, PSVR has sold 4.2m units worldwide. A considerable number bolstered by an impressive 2018 that saw sales of VR headsets jump by 30pc after a slow 2017 for the technology. PSVR lead the way in the last quarter of 2018, with 463,000 PSVR headsets sold, while Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive sold an estimated 300,000 and 230,000 headsets respectively.

VR, then, may not have been the overnight success that some of the hype suggested a few years ago, but headsets are making headway and Sony are clearly keeping the faith. It announced a slew of its ‘next wave’ of virtual reality games in its stream.

First up was Iron Man VR, placing you in Tony Stark’s famous suit. Space sim No Man’s Sky is getting a significant update called No Man’s Sky Beyond, which will drop in VR support on both PS4 and Steam. There was also a VR announcement for grotesque horror favourite Five Nights At Freddy’s and a release date for British crime thriller Blood and Truth.

These were just a few of the VR games announced in the stream (along with the news that Concrete Genie and Observation will have their own VR modes), making the headset an area of focus for Sony. PSVR has never garnered the headlines of more high-profile video games, but with a selection of new titles adding to an impressive 2018 —which included Tetris Effect, Astro Bot and From Software’s Deracine— Sony are looking to keep its quiet momentum going.

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by Jacob Siegal via BGR News

Just days after Google unveiled its “vision for the future of gaming” at GDC 2019, we appear to be getting a glimpse of another company’s future-facing vision. Rumors of the disc-less Xbox One console have been swirling for months, but they all culminated in a report two weeks ago from Windows Central which claimed that the console had a name (Xbox One S All-Digital edition) and a release window (early May).

Two weeks later, the same source reveals that it has received confirmation of the console’s existence in the form of product shots and documents pointing to a specific release date.

According to Windows Central, the image you see at the top of this story is an accurate representation of the product shot that the site received recreated in Photoshop to protect the source. The no-disc variant looks virtually identical to the Xbox One S, save for the lack of a disc drive in the center. There is also a symbol at the bottom of the box with a line through a disc, just to make sure potential buyers understand what they’re purchasing.

Based on the product shots, it looks like the All-Digital edition will ship with digital codes for MinecraftSea of Thieves, and Forza Horizon 4. Furthermore, Windows Central’sinformation suggests that the Xbox One S All-Digital will have the lowest MSRP of any Xbox One console, as Microsoft hopes to attract a new wave of customers.

Finally, the documents the site obtained suggest that the Xbox One S All-Digital will arrive on May 7th, 2019. If that is indeed the plan, it’s likely that an official announcement from Microsoft is right around the corner.

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by Pavel Alpeyev and Yuji Nakamura via Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — Sony Corp. and Nintendo Co. shares slid after Alphabet Inc.’s Google outlined a major push into video games with a streaming service called Stadia.

Nintendo dropped as much as 4.6 percent and Sony declined 4.5 percent Wednesday, the biggest intraday drop for both stocks in six weeks. Stadia lets developers put games on a streaming platform that will allow players to access the action through the web, skipping expensive consoles or personal computers, Google announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The game industry’s business model of creating a hardware platform, such as Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s Switch, and then charging publishers for the right to access it has come under pressure in recent years. That’s happened as many casual gamers turn to free-to-play mobile titles.

“There is no doubt this service makes life even more difficult for established platforms,” Amir Anvarzadeh, a market strategist at Asymmetric Advisors Pte, said in a note to clients. “Google will help further fragment the gaming market which is already coming under pressure by big games which have adopted the mobile gaming business model of giving the titles away for free in hope of generating in-game content sales.”

The Japanese companies have responded by creating subscription services and offering content other than games, but Google’s push into the $180 billion industry threatens the longstanding hardware model. The search giant however not only has to provide a smooth lag-free experience, it must also convince publishers to bring their marquee titles.

Sony has already rolled out its own streaming service PlayStation Now, which was released in 2014. But its streaming technology and limited investment in data centers has held back the service, with some users complaining about lag times. Asumi Maeda, a spokeswoman for Sony Interactive Entertainment, said “the game industry heating up is something that should make players happy.” A Nintendo spokesman declined to comment.

“Technology should adapt to people, not the other way around,” Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said at the event. “We are dead serious about making technology accessible for everyone.”

Google wouldn’t say how much it will charge users, or whether it will be funded through advertising like most of its other businesses. The service will launch later this year, the company said, without announcing partnerships with the top-tier game developers.

Stadia runs through the company’s YouTube video-streaming platform and takes advantage of Google’s extensive network of data centers. With its presentation, Google drove home the point that its technical tools alone would make the future of gaming services work. It repeatedly mentioned the advantage of its cloud-computing power and YouTube, suggesting the service is designed to bring more users to those units — two areas where investors are looking for sales growth beyond advertising.

“This is only the start,” said Karol Severin, co-founder of MIDiA Research. “The tech majors Microsoft, Google and Amazon will be the real winners creating synergies with their existing entertainment ecosystems and leveraging cloud infrastructure and high content budgets.”

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by L.W. Barker aka ‘Sarge’, Founder/President, Gamer’s Outpost

BioWare’s ANTHEM is the latest Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) focused game to arrive on the scene. It joins other games of its type: PubG, Fortnite, and Apex Legends, just to name a few. And even though nothing is wrong with this multiplayer approach to gameplay (i.e. I’m enjoying ANTHEM), it is getting to be a bit much. Do you realize that the PlayStation 5 is being built to be multiplayer-focused? Yes, and that came straight from the mouth of PlayStation Boss, Shawn Layden. Wait! What? Why!? What has happened to us as gamers? Why this sudden change from single-player-based fun, to MMO-based chaos? Can anything be done to stop this madness? The below key-points might help.

MMOs lack substance 

Have you been in an online multiplayer game where you seem to be repeating the same things over and over again as if you are trapped in some type of Groundhog Day curse? That’s what lacking substance is all about. Unlike single player-centric games such as the instant classic, Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2), there is just no chance of any type of storyline, plot, or deep character development to be found in MMOs to keep you entertained for long. And yes, you WILL eventually lose interest and move on to the next “big game” on the market.

MMOs never end 

Do you really want to play a game that never ends? Hold that thought! Here’s a better question. Would you want to watch a movie that never ends? A film that goes on forever? Of course not! I would rather play a game from between 6 to 80 hours knowing full well that it will end rather than play an unending MMO. So the moral here is single player games end! And this is one of the reasons why they are worth their weight in gold!

Graphics are downgraded in Online Multiplayer 

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So look at RDR2’s single player campaign. Look at it very carefully, and make sure you take in all the intricate details of the scenery, the characters, animals and so forth. Now, switch over to RDR2 Online and do the same thing. See the difference? I do. Rockstar Games made some sacrifices to ensure the success of multiplayer, and it shows! Now the graphics still look good mind you, but if you really look and compare both modes, they are like night and day.

MMOs are not alone

However, this online multiplayer phenomena is fueled by our Industry’s embrace of it. So we, as a community need to just let it go! It’s not that simple though because a lot of gamers have found enjoyment in it. But at what cost? Well, the popularity of MMOs coupled with the rise of Downloadable Content (DLC), and higher prices for special edition games all contribute to the slow and painful death of the single-player campaign. And if single-player dies, so does our quality gaming days of old!

The forgotten Multiplayer

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I remember a time when I could play a game with a friend or family member in the comfort of my living room. And no, I don’t mean playing with them online! This memory is all about ‘Couch Co-op’ baby! I remember playing Contra with my brother on the NES, and how it felt as we raced across that screen to save the World. And how could I forget the outstanding Co-op mode in the SNES classic, Goldeneye? And don’t let me get started on Halo! Co-op has been largely forgotten in this age of online multiplayer games. This is sad! I wish more of today’s games had the Co-op feature so I could enjoy them with my gaming family. Now, PlayStation’s Shawn Layden did allude to some kind of multiplayer Co-op for the PS5, which would be a great move for Sony’s new console. I’m all for it, if true.

Our Once and Future…Gamers?

But why is online multiplayer so popular? Could it be that the so-called “old school” gamers have spawned a new generation of gamers who are so lacking in social skills that multiplayer games are the only remedy for their affliction? Maybe. Today’s “new” gamers are shadows of what the “old school” still are – legends! But is it really too late? No its not. Knowledge is power, and the more articles like this are written, information will spread, and the “heirs” of gaming (i.e. Millennials and younger) will eventually wake up and embrace their legendary birthright!

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The company predicts more cameras in smartphones means a higher demand for sensors.

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by Jamie Rigg via Engadget

The most interesting part of cracking open a fresh financial report from Sony is seeing whether the momentum behind the PlayStation 4 shows any signs of slowing down. Sony kinda spoilt that for us just after the new year, though, announcing that the PS4 was closing in on the 100 million milestone with 91.6 million consoles sold as of December 31st. The holiday season was appropriately busy for the PlayStation division. From October through December, aka the third quarter of Sony’s fiscal year, 8.1 million PS4s found loving homes, compared with 9 million the previous year. Not bad considering the slowdown in sales that’s a natural part of a console’s lifecycle has been prophesied for some time now.

Sales figures attached to Sony’s gaming arm, as is tradition, eclipsed that of other parts of the business. The quarter as a whole ended with Sony making roughly $3.5 billion profit (JP¥377 billion) from $22 billion in total sales (JP¥2.4 trillion). Of that, the PlayStation division accounted for around $670 million (JP¥73 billion) in profit from circa $7.3 billion total revenue (JP¥790 billion). Console sales were strong, but remember many were purchased at a discount thanks to holiday price cuts; an over 25 percent increase in game sales compared with the same three months last year helped neutralize that. PS Plus is more popular than ever, too, with 36.3 million subscribers on the books at the turn of the new year. No specifics on how well the PlayStation Classic was received, though.

On the investor call, the only risks Sony could come up that may impact its gaming branch were a glut of free-to-play titles that won’t drive much revenue, and a distant future when consoles are no longer the money maker and game streaming services become the new model. Providing that service, à la PlayStation Now, presents something of an opportunity, however.

Perhaps more interesting than PlayStation’s continued success is the fact Sony’s gaming division was far from its highest earner this quarter. The music business boomed for Sony, pulling in just over double the profit of those losers in the PlayStation team. But how, when music revenue was mostly flat year-over-year? Some kind of accounting trickery, we suspect, though Sony blames finalizing its acquisition of EMI in November for this little piece of outlying data.

It’s business as usual over at Sony’s mobile arm, which is to say it recorded a loss of $142 million (JP¥15.5 billion) during the last three months of 2018. Sales were at least better than they have been over the previous two quarters, but needless to say the Xperia XZ3 hasn’t kickstarted a comeback for Sony’s most troubled division. Sony Pictures also had a relatively predictable third quarter. Venom pulled in by far the biggest box office numbers — $855 million worldwide, in fact — and Sony’s official figures for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse show it had a strong start with $225 million taken at the box office in just 18 days (up to December 31st).

Sony’s camera business had by far the best quarter it’s had in some time, which the company credits its solid product range for, and the home entertainment and sound division turned a slightly higher profit year-over-year, even squeezing that out of a lower sales figure. The biggest disappointment for Sony was in its financial services business (the boring bit we rarely talk about). Profits did not meet expectations, mainly because of the poorly performing investments of insurance subsidiary Sony Life.

Sony’s semiconductor division, the one that makes the smartphone camera sensors many manufacturers use, turned a healthy profit this quarter, but was significantly down year-on-year. Sony says there was a notable dip in demand over the last three months of 2018, but expects it to be just a temporary blip. After all, Sony mentioned on the investor’s call, the trend of manufacturers towards adding more and more lenses to smartphones these days means the only way demand can go is up.

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by Lauren Feiner

GameStop said Tuesday it has abandoned its attempt to sell the company, sending the stock plunging by 28 percent.

The stock decline amounted to a loss of more than $440 million in market capitalization. Tuesday afternoon’s stock price of about $11.13 marked a new 52 week low.

The company said the board determined there was not enough available financing on terms that would be acceptable to a prospective buyer.

Gamestop previously sold its Spring Mobile business in a deal that was completed this month for about $735 million in immediate cash proceeds. The company said while its board is still evaluating the best way to spend the proceeds, it may use the money to pay down debt, fund share repurchases and/or reinvest in core businesses including video games and collectibles.

GameStop said it is working with an executive search firm to find a permanent CEO.

Here’s GameStop’s full statement:

GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME) today announced that its Board of Directors has concluded its previously announced efforts to pursue a sale of the company in conjunction with its broader review of strategic and financial alternatives.

In June 2018, GameStop’s Board, together with outside financial and legal advisors, commenced a review of a wide range of alternatives to enhance shareholder value. The Board undertook a comprehensive review process, including discussions with third parties regarding a potential sale of the company. GameStop’s Board has now terminated efforts to pursue a sale of the company due to the lack of available financing on terms that would be commercially acceptable to a prospective acquiror.

As part of the Board’s review process, as previously announced, the company sold its Spring Mobile business. This transaction was completed on January 16, 2019 and generated approximately $735 million in immediate cash proceeds. The Board continues to evaluate the optimal use of these proceeds, which could include reducing the company’s outstanding debt, funding share repurchases, reinvesting in core video game and collectibles businesses to drive growth, or a combination of these options.

Furthermore, the Board is continuing its search process to appoint a highly qualified, permanent CEO and is working with a leading executive search firm.

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