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by Brian Heater via TechCrunch

Honestly, “gaming disorder” sounds like a phrase tossed around by irritated parents and significant others. After much back and forth, however, the term was just granted validity, as the World Health Organization opted to include it in the latest edition of its Internal Classification of Diseases.

The volume, out this week, diagnoses the newly minted disorder with three key telltale signs:

  1. Impaired control over gaming (e.g. onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context)
  2. Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities
  3. Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences

I can hear the collective sound of many of my friends gulping at the sound of eerily familiar symptoms. Of course, the disorder has been criticized from a number of corners, including health professionals who have written it off as being overly broad and subjective. And, of course, the potential impact greatly differs from person to person and game to game.

The effects as specified above share common ground with other similar addictive activities defined by the WHO, including gambling disorder:

“Disorders due to addictive behaviours are recognizable and clinically significant syndromes associated with distress or interference with personal functions that develop as a result of repetitive rewarding behaviours other than the use of dependence-producing substances,” writes the WHO. “Disorders due to addictive behaviors include gambling disorder and gaming disorder, which may involve both online and offline behaviour.”

In spite of what may appear to be universal symptoms, however, the organization is quick to note that the prevalence of gaming disorder, as defined by the WHO, is actually “very low.” WHO member Dr. Vladimir Poznyak tells CNN, “Millions of gamers around the world, even when it comes to the intense gaming, would never qualify as people suffering from gaming disorder.”

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by Dave Smith via Business Insider

The PlayStation 4 is the market leader in terms of game consoles sold this generation, by a long shot. With sales so gargantuan — 79 million PS4s sold, and 80 million monthly active users on the PlayStation Network — you’d think Sony would be confident about the PlayStation 4.

But Sony’s stance on cross-play between the PS4 and rival consoles, like the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One, is not only backward, it’s downright cynical, and it makes the company look more vulnerable than it really is.

This isn’t a new stance on Sony’s part, but as more and more games are made for multiple platforms, like “Fortnite,” it’s become increasingly obvious that keeping players from being able to access their accounts on multiple consoles, or letting people play with their friends on different consoles, only makes Sony look borderline fearful.

In contrast, Nintendo and Microsoft come off looking nice and open when it comes to issues of cross-play. Their actions obviously speak volumes — “Minecraft” players on Xbox can play with their Nintendo Switch brethren, and so forth. But while neither company’s statements have called out Sony by name, it’s quite obvious who they’re talking about.

Just listen to what Xbox chief Phil Spencer told Business Insider correspondent Ben Gilbert this week at E3, when asked about cross-play (emphasis mine):

“Say you’re not into gaming, and it’s your kid’s birthday. You buy them a console. I buy my kid a console. We happen to buy consoles of different colors — you bought the blue one, I bought the green one. Now those kids want to play a game together and they can’t because their parents bought different consoles.

I don’t know who that helps. It doesn’t help the developer. The developer just wants more people to play their game. It doesn’t help the player. The players just want to play with their friends who also play games on console. So, I just get stuck in who this is helping.”

Obviously, if you don’t consider what people actually want and only the sales numbers, you can see why Sony doesn’t want cross-play. Right now, if you want to play games with your friends that own a PlayStation 4, you have to go out and buy a PlayStation 4 yourself. If you could play those same games with your friends on a more affordable console, like a Nintendo Switch or Xbox One, that’s one less reason for people to buy a PS4. So, Microsoft and Nintendo have much to gain from cross-play being a thing, if you look at it that way.

But to only consider console sales — a single metric — is a cynical and short-sighted attitude, especially since Sony’s stance on cross-play doesn’t necessarily make PlayStation 4 owners happy either. I own a PlayStation 4 and a Nintendo Switch, for example, and I was really bummed to learn this week that I couldn’t play “Fortnite” on my Switch unless I created a new account specifically for the Switch.

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Considering how so many of the 2+ million people who downloaded “Fortnite” for Switch in its first 24 hours of availability had the same issues I did, and reacted over social media in kind, Sony was forced to release a statement addressing the cross-play furor on Thursday. But the statement itself was carefully worded so as to not mention the millions of Nintendo Switch and Xbox One customers frustrated by Sony’s decision.

“We offer ‘Fortnite’ cross-play support with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, expanding the opportunity for ‘Fortnite’ fans on PS4 to play with even more gamers on other platforms,” Sony told the BBC.

If Sony were smart, it would at least allow cross-play for certain titles, where it has less to gain from being restrictive. The case of “Fortnite” is less about cross-play and more about letting one access an account on multiple game consoles, but “Fortnite” is a game that millions of people play every day, even on smartphones; cross-play should be allowed there. Similarly, millions of people — especially little kids — play “Minecraft” every single day, and I bet they would be very happy if they could all play together whether they own a PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch or Xbox One.

Sony is the clear market leader in game consoles this generation, and its future looks bright with so many excellent games coming from Sony-backed studios over the next several years. Those games can only be played on the PlayStation 4, and Sony should be confident in those titles, and the other features that set PlayStation apart. But for customers’ sake, and for the company’s own PR, it should learn that there are occasions where it makes sense to play nice with others.

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by Stefanie Fogel via Variety

Rocksteady Studios, the developer behind the popular “Batman Arkham” series, is apologizing to fans for skipping this week’s E3 event in Los Angeles.

“We know some of you were disappointed we were not at E3 this year,” Rocksteady co-founder and game director Sefton Hill tweeted on Wednesday. “The whole team has been reading your comments, and all of us here at Rocksteady really appreciate your passion for our next project. Knowing how much it means to you keeps us inspired and energized to deliver a game that you will be proud of. We’ll share it with you as soon as it’s ready.”

Rocksteady’s last-known project was a virtual reality adventure game called “Batman Arkham VR.” It launched on PlayStation 4 and PC in 2016. Later that same year, Hill revealed in a Reddit AMA the team is working on something new.

“We’re very hard at work on our next project but we won’t be releasing the details for a while,” he wrote. “When we do you guys will be first to hear as we want to get the community involved heavily in what we do next.”

Since then, fans have wildly speculated about whether or not Rocksteady is creating a new DC superhero-based game (it’s one of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s in-house studios) and which property it could be. Rumor is it’s working on a Superman titlein Unreal Engine 4 that will be three times larger than “Arkham Knight.”

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by Jacob Siegal via BGR News

At its E3 press briefing on Sunday, Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, confirmed that the next generation of Xbox consoles is already being made, suggesting that it won’t be long before we see new hardware from Microsoft. He didn’t share a release date, an image, or offer any specific details, but nearly five years after introducing the Xbox One, Microsoft is finally ready to clear a path for the ninth generation of game consoles in the coming years.

But just because Microsoft wasn’t able to get into specifics doesn’t mean that we have to settle for vague teases. On Tuesday, Brad Sams of Thurrott.com reported that Microsoft is currently planning to release its next Xbox console in 2020. The future of Xbox is codenamed “Scarlett,” but that name actually refers to a family of devices.

Here’s what Spencer said about the next Xbox near the end of the E3 2018 press briefing on Sunday:

The same team that delivered unprecedented performance with Xbox One X is deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles, where we will once again deliver on our commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming.

Jargon aside, the fact that Spencer referred to “the next Xbox consoles” seems significant. Sams doesn’t know if the new hardware will consist of completely new devices or be more in line with the One X, but considering how recently the One X launched, it would be shocking to see Microsoft abandon the platform altogether in 2020. This might point to the Xbox Two (or whatever it’s called) being backwards compatible with the Xbox One. And we also have to take into consideration the “console-quality game streaming network” the company is building.

Be it consoles, phones, games, or anything else, leaks this far out are always worth taking with a grain of salt, even if they come from reliable sources. Microsoft’s plans could change over the course of the next year, and between Spencer’s proclamations and this new report, we know that the Xbox team is getting ready for the future of console gaming.

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by Dave Thier via Forbes

As far as announcements go, it barely qualified. Microsoft’s head of Xbox Phil Spencer was giving his standard end of E3 press conference talk about the state of gaming and the passion of the Xbox teams. The hardware team, he mentioned, was hard at work on the next Xbox. This is something we all assume, of course, just like we assume that their counterparts at Sony are doing the same thing on the PlayStation 5. And yet it’s still uncommon to make any mention of the next generation outside of a tightly choreographed reveal much closer to launch, mostly because it makes people look forward when you want them buying your hardware now. For Spencer, it made sense to mention it now. Just you wait, he seemed to be saying.

You could see the next Xbox make its appearances elsewhere, as well. Those who don’t work in video games probably didn’t pay much attention to the tech giant’s studio acquisitions, but those in the industry saw them as big moves by a company that’s far from given up on exclusive games. No, those announcements didn’t come with shiny trailers or 2019 release dates, but they were the company’s way of signaling that it doesn’t want to be caught in this exclusive drought ever again.

And when a Microsoft engineer told us about how the company was using machine learning to improve Game Pass performance it felt like a strange, technical detail to include as an announcement on an E3 stage. But the message there felt the same: that Xbox is working on developing backend technologies designed to make games load and play quicker, the sort of thing that likely has lots of applications beyond Game Pass. Again, the spotlight seemed to be shining on a not-so-distant future.

At a certain point, Spencer and co. must have realized that there was no “winning” this console generation, certainly not in terms of sales. Xbox One got off on the wrong foot and never recovered, PlayStation 4 rocketed out of the gate and only accelerated from there. You didn’t need Microsft’s internal analytics to see that. And so Spencer smartly pivoted to building out services like backwards compatibility, cross-play, cross-buy and Game Pass, things that were unlikely to shift the tide in the current generation but could set up the next machine for genuine differentiation from the competition while repairing the company’s tattered reputation with gamers.

The next console generation may well be the last, as Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot predicted the other day: Spencer made another mention of the sort of streaming services that we’ve been talking about for years but could still render local game computing irrelevant at some point in the distant future. For right now, however, it’s clear that Microsoft is biding its time and gathering its resources to avoid losing the next generation the way it lost this one.

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by Dave Thier via Forbes

You’ve got to feel for Bethesda Game Studios. It’s a big developer that’s only growing, with a clear ambition to make new, interesting experiences both in the genres and worlds that have defined it in the past and outside of them. It’s got plans for the future that we’re going to start seeing more of this year at E3. And yet fans are basically here shouting “Freebird!” from the back of the venue, Freebird in this instance being The Elder Scrolls 6. Such is the way when you’re in the studio that makes Elder Scrolls games. Though I suppose the studio sort of brings it on itself by releasing Skyrim for every platform known to man.

In previous years, Bethesda has gone out of its way to get us to stop asking about The Elder Scrolls 6, and I don’t expect things to be that different at E3 this year. Last year, the line was that Bethesda Game Studios was working on two big AAA scale games to announce before it would even start thinking about The Elder Scrolls 6, and at least one of those games is clearly Fallout 76, currently headlining Bethesda’s E3 this year. I’m not sure if Rage 2 counts because it’s being developed by Id and Avalanche, but there are also rumors about this project Starfield, a Bethesda-style open world RPG in an entirely new setting. Regardless, the message in the past few years has been clear: there are other projects coming up before The Elder Scrolls 6, and we’ll be excited to talk about those.

That being said, The Elder Scrolls 6 is somewhat confirmed, in the sense that Bethesda tends to talk about it as an inevitability, albeit an inevitability that the studio expects to be informed by the work it’s doing on more proximal titles. I still don’t expect it to show up at the show this year.

Is it possible that we’ll see some sort of official confirmation of The Elder Scrolls 6, with maybe with a setting? Sure, it’s possible. We have no clue if Bethesda is far along enough to even have a confirmed location, but again, not impossible. It’s a longshot, however.

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by Dave Thier via Forbes

Microsoft is on the back foot as far as E3 is concerned, or as far as console gaming, in general, is concerned. E3 is all about showing off new games, but the company has struggled with its exclusive library for a few years even as Sony has entered a kind of golden age and as Nintendo has come roaring back onto the scene with the Switch. Microsoft hasn’t had much to show off in recent years, and this year at E3 it’s expecting to bring some of its biggest names in an effort to pull attention and re-assert itself. And Microsoft has no bigger exclusive than Halo. Halo 6 is still unconfirmed, but there are rumors that we may be getting our first glimpse of the game at Microsoft’s showcase on Sunday, June 10.

Spoilers for Halo 5

Halo 6 is expected to be a direct sequel to Halo 5, and so we can expect it to pick up where the older game left off. Cortana has reasserted herself as the new villain of the series, leading an AI rebellion in an attempt to reclaim the galaxy from the clutches of unreliable biological life. Halo 6 can be expected to be the final game in a trilogy that began with Halo 4, so hopefully we’ll get something a little more satisfying then the cliffhanger ending from the last game. If we’re being honest, however, Halo hasn’t been doing great on story recently.

The Halo franchise isn’t in a great spot, overall. Neither Halo 4 nor Halo 5 were universally well-received, and the overall perception is that the series has struggled under 343 industries and it hasn’t commanded primacy in the shooter world for years. The current battle royale trend doesn’t really help that: there was a time when Halo was the game that dominated the online multiplayer conversation, but that was a long time ago. Halo 6 has its work cut out for it, but that doesn’t mean it won’t succeed. Microsoft needs a win on this one.

I wouldn’t expect to see Halo 6 this year, but 2019 isn’t out of the question. When it does arrive it will release on both PC and Game Pass, like all other Xbox exclusives going forward. This will mark the first mainline Halo game on PC since Halo 2. I’d also hope to see the return of split-screen multiplayer, the absence of which was heavily criticized with Halo 5.

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