Archive for the ‘Game Articles’ Category

Update: Legal notice clamps down on sales of ‘new’ games from ‘unauthorized sellers’

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by Colin Campbell via Polygon

Amazon’s Marketplace who was trying to sell a sealed copy of The Evil Within 2 as new, demanding that they remove their listing. That letter included a phone number for sellers of Bethesda’s games to call, suggesting that the company is sending out such notices to multiple sellers.

Philadelphia-based Ryan Hupp recently contacted Polygon to explain how he’d been forced by Bethesda to stop selling his copy of The Evil Within 2. He bought the game but never unwrapped it, he told us. He’d been expecting to purchase a PlayStation 4, but instead spent his money upgrading a gaming PC. Hupp said he often sells used goods through Amazon Marketplace, which works in much the same way as other online trading sites, such as eBay.

Bethesda’s legal firm Vorys sent Hupp a letter, which he forwarded to Polygon, warning that the game must be taken down and threatening legal action for non-compliance. In its letter, Vorys made the argument that Hupp’s sale was not “by an authorized reseller,” and was therefore “unlawful.” Bethesda also took issue with Hupp’s use of the word “new” in selling the unwrapped game, claiming that this constituted “false advertising.”

Hupp complied with the demand, but in a reply to Vorys, he pointed out that the resale of used copyrighted goods — such as books, video games, DVDs — is protected in U.S. law through the First Sale Doctrine. This allows consumers to sell a game, so long as it’s not significantly altered from its original form.

Bethesda’s letter claims that Hupp’s sale is not protected by the First Sale Doctrine, because he is not selling the game in its original form, which would include a warranty. The letter says this lack of warranty renders the game “materially different from genuine products” that are sold through official channels. In theory, this argument could be used against anyone who sells a game without specific permission from Bethesda.

“Unless you remove all Bethesda products, from your storefront, stop selling any and all Bethesda products immediately and identify all sources of Bethesda products you are selling, we intend to file a lawsuit against you,” the letter reads. It goes on to state that a lawsuit would seek “disgorgement of profits, compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees and investigative and other costs.”

Hupp’s specific listing appears to have been targeted because it was listed as new and unopened. Amazon still list dozens of used and new copies of The Evil Within 2 from Marketplace sellers.

When contacted by Polygon, Bethesda declined to comment on this story. We also asked for clarification on how the company’s warranties work on used and second-hand goods sold through official channels. GameStop, for example, offers a blanket 30-day warranty on used games that do not work, so long as the game has not been broken by the buyers. (GameStop stores also decline sealed games during trade-ins, requesting that the customer open trade-in games if they’re unwrapped.) Bethesda did not reply.

We also contacted Vorys for comment multiple times, but did not receive a reply. Amazon’s publicity department also did not respond to a request for comment.

On its website, Vorys offers advice for companies seeking to eliminate the sale of products via places like eBay in an article titled, “Three-Step Approach to Stopping Unauthorized Online Sales on eBay.” Here’s an excerpt:

Under what is known as the First Sale Doctrine, once a trademark owner (“the company”) sells a product, the buyer ordinarily can resell the product without infringing the owner’s mark. However, the First Sale Doctrine does not apply when a reseller sells a trademarked good that is materially different from the company’s genuine goods.

Case law has established a few important principles relating to material differences. This includes that: 1) the threshold of materiality is considered “low”; 2) only a single material difference is necessary to give rise to a trademark infringement claim; and 3) material differences do not have to be “physical” differences.

This appears to be the basis of Bethesda’s legal claim against Hupp. Bethesda is a notoriously litigious company. It’s not clear how many similar letters have been out to people selling its games online, but Vorys’ voicemail message for Bethesda’s used games cases tells callers to leave details based on “the letter you have received” such as storefront name. It also thanks recipients of the letter if they have already ceased sales of Bethesda’s software.

“I understand the legal arguments Bethesda are relying on, and accept that they have some legitimate interest in determining how their products are sold at retail,” said Hupp in an email to Polygon, “but threatening individual customers with lawsuits for selling games they own is a massive overreach.”

If you’ve come across a game company seeking to stop you from selling a used or second-hand game, please contact Polygon via our tips line.

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by Matt Weinberger via Business Insider

If you’ve been following this stuff for a while, you think of Microsoft and Apple as bitter rivals — before there was iPhone vs. Android, or even Facebook vs. Snapchat, the biggest fight in tech was Mac vs. PC.

So it might be somewhat jarring to visit the recently-revamped Microsoft Visitor Center at its Redmond campus, only to find that the very first Apple Macintosh is proudly displayed, right next to other significant artifacts like Bill Gates’ first business card.

There is, however a very good reason for it: Microsoft as we know it might not exist without Apple’s groundbreaking Macintosh, the first mainstream computer with a graphical user interface (GUI).

In the early ’80s, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were something like frenemies. Jobs flew up to Microsoft’s Washington headquarters for what Gates later called a “weird seduction visit,” in a successful attempt to have the company make Macintosh software.

Gates played a key role in hyping up the Macintosh, and even appeared alongside Jobs in a “Dating Game” parody video that was circulated among developers. In the video, Gates said that the Mac “really captures people’s imagination.”

The Macintosh would eventually come out in 1984, with its arrival announced by its still-infamous “1984” Super Bowl ad. Microsoft followed through on its commitment to the fledgling Mac: The first-ever versions of Excel, PowerPoint, and Mail followed thereafter. Indeed, Microsoft Office 1.0 started on the Mac. Gates once quipped that Microsoft had more people working on the Macintosh than Apple did.

Behind the scenes, though, things started falling apart in 1985, when Microsoft announced that it was getting into the graphical operating system game with Windows 1.0. A furious Jobs accused Gates and Microsoft of ripping off the Macintosh. But Gates didn’t care — he didn’t think Apple had the exclusive rights to the idea.

Besides, Gates and Jobs both got the idea from Xerox PARC, the famous research lab, which had originally pioneered the GUI.

As Jobs accused Microsoft of plagiarism, Gates famously replied: “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

The ongoing battle between Apple and Microsoft, which included at least one lawsuit, only widened the gulf between Jobs and Gates. Over the years, the two would take very public potshots at each other, with Jobs once ripping Microsoft for making “third-rate products” in a PBS documentary.

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Later in life, though, the two came to a kind of reconciliation. One of the very first things that Jobs did as Apple CEO in 1997 was announce that Microsoft had invested to help keep the company afloat after a years-long rough patch. The deal was announced with Gates appearing on a massive screen above Jobs.

By the end of Jobs’ life, tensions between them had cooled significantly. Jobs conceded that he admired Microsoft, and enjoyed working with Gates. For his part, Gates acknowledged Jobs’ taste.

“I respect Steve, we got to work together. We spurred each other on, even as competitors. None of [what he said] bothers me at all,” Gates said after Jobs passed.

In more recent years, Microsoft has mellowed out about competition in general. Under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has released Microsoft Office apps for iPhone and Android, and made several appearances on-stage at Apple events. They still compete, especially as the Microsoft Surface laptops go head-to-head with Apple’s Macs and iPads. But tensions between the two companies seem lower than ever.

So maybe it’s no surprise that Microsoft is bragging about that aspect of its history, which played an important role in the current dominance of Microsoft Office 365. Perhaps it’s a new day at Microsoft, after all.

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by Shawn Knight via TechSpot

The lead-up to Fallout 76 arguably couldn’t be going any better for Bethesda, especially considering the developer hasn’t had to lift a finger as of late to keep fans tuned into the Fallout universe. Fallout 4 fan mod Northern Springs dropped earlier this month and now, we’ve got another land expansion to drool over.

Fallout Miami will send players on a journey to the post-nuclear vacation wasteland of Miami Beach where they’ll take part in the ideological struggle between Order and Freedom. The new game map is said to be a loving recreation of part of southern Miami Beach. A few creative liberties were taken but otherwise, it’s a mostly accurate recreation of the real world location.

The in-game map is said to be slightly larger than Far Harbor and feature a new set of factions that better fit with the unique culture and history of Miami. The pitch sounds a lot like the one made for Northern Springs (not that that’s a bad thing) with a main quest, multiple side quests, new items, companions and a large cast of voiced characters.

“The Sole Survivor journeys to the sunny South, following the promise of a well-paid job, but ends up embroiled in a conflict between various groups, some vying for power, others fighting to uphold their ideals.”

The mod doesn’t yet have a release date but when it does eventually arrive, it won’t be available on consoles due to its size (and Sony’s policy on the use of external assets). It will also require all of the official DLC including Far Harbor and Nuka World.

Fallout 76, meanwhile, launches on November 14 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

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by Taylor Soper via GeekWire

Microsoft already said it is working on the next version of its Xbox console. But now a new report reveals some of the company’s plans for not just one, but two new devices — including a lower-cost option powered by Microsoft’s cloud streaming service.

Brad Sams at Thurrott.com reported Monday that in addition to a traditional new Xbox, Microsoft will sell a cheaper “streaming box” designed to work with its previously-announced streaming service.

Sams said the streaming box, codenamed “Scarlett Cloud,” would run games both locally and in its Azure cloud — also known as slice or splice. This would apparently help reduce poor latency that gamers experience with cloud-based services.

Sams notes that Microsoft makes a bulk of its gaming revenue on subscriptions and game sales, versus hardware. “If Microsoft can create a next-gen console that requires lower up-front payment and longer subscription payments (remember, all games will run in the cloud, so you will need to pay ‘something’ to access them), this is a huge win for Xbox and Microsoft,” he wrote.

Microsoft has been investing in AI and cloud resources related to gaming technologies. Speaking at E3 last month, Xbox chief Phil Spencer said the company is building a “game streaming network to unlock console-quality gaming on any device.”

“We are dedicated to perfecting your experience everywhere you want to play: on your Xbox, your PC, or your phone,” Spencer noted.

As the gaming industry moves toward cloud-based infrastructure, it may reduce the need for a high-powered console. Other gaming giants like Sony, EA, and Nvidia are also building cloud-based game streaming services.

Microsoft’s cloud division continues to be one of the primary architects of its comeback in recent years. The Intelligent Cloud division posted revenue of $9.6 billion during the three-month period ending June 30th.

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by Matt Weinberger via Business Insider

If you’re under 18 or know somebody who is, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Roblox, a massively popular online gaming platform with 64 million players that also turned three teens into millionaires last year.

This weekend, Roblox is hosting its annual Roblox Developers Conference in Burlingame, California, very close to San Francisco. At the event, the company is expected to tell the 4 million developers building games for its platform that it’s on track to pay them a collective $70 million this year, up from more than $30 million last year.

“There’s enormous upside in the size of our opportunity here,” Roblox CEO David Baszucki told Business Insider.

Some of that upside is for the company itself. Earlier this year, Roblox announced it was cash flow positive for the first time, with “hundreds of millions” of dollars in bookings in 2017. More recently, Recode reported, citing a company filing, that Roblox was fundraising at a valuation of up to $2.4 billion. Baszucki declined to comment.

Unlike “Fortnite” or most other smash-hit video games, Roblox is created entirely by its users. All 40 million Roblox games, including popular ones like “Meep City” and “Jailbreak,” were made by its base of mostly younger independent developers. If a player chooses to spend the premium virtual Robux currency — which costs real money — in a game, the developer gets a cut.

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“Meep City” is the most popular game on Roblox. Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

That has meant big opportunity for Roblox developers. Last year, one top creator cleared $3 million in earnings, while two more claimed $2 million. Others are paying for their college educations or even starting their own companies to make more Roblox games.

Now, Baszucki says, as the platform grows so too has the opportunity for developers. While not every Roblox creator can make millions, “the long tail of developers who are making a living has grown exponentially” over the past year or so, he said.

To keep the momentum going, Roblox has hired the former Activision exec Enrico D’Angelo as vice president of product for the developer platform. The goal is to keep building the behind-the-scenes tools that developers use to build their games, in pursuit of what Baszucki says is the ultimate, ambitious goal of the Roblox platform.

“We have an enormous vision for a new category for human interaction and, ultimately, immersive entertainment,” Baszucki said.

To that end, Baszucki also highlighted the company’s educational efforts: This summer, Roblox has planned more than 500 coding camps and other introductory classes, using its platform as a learning tool.

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“Jailbreak” is another massively popular Roblox game. Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

Importantly, those classes are both in the United States and abroad in countries including Canada, Brazil, and the United Kingdom — highlighting what Baszucki sees as a major opportunity to bring the platform to international audiences.

For more established developers, Baszucki says Roblox is working on ways to engage with them and help them be more successful. For instance, the company has begun inviting developers to come to its Silicon Valley offices for two- or three-month residences, giving them direct access to the people who make the platform.

“We’re developing a lot of resources for developers to build their knowledge,” Baszucki said.

Finally, Baszucki says that if Roblox is going to reinvent entertainment as he believes it will, it must continue doubling down on finding other ways for developers to monetize that goes beyond their games. The company recently got into the action-figure and apparel businesses, licensing popular characters from top Roblox games. And Baszucki says there’s no reason Roblox games couldn’t inspire movies, TV shows, or a web series either.

Developers’ vision “goes beyond creating gameplay,” he said. “There’s enormous value in their stories, avatars, and situations.”

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by Tom Chapman via Screen Rant

Another faithful recreation kicks the bucket as Konami shuts down a fan-made Silent Hills playtest. The joint venture between Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro promised to be something big for the studio, and although P.T. was pulled from the PlayStation store in 2015, it lives/lived on in various forms like this latest PC port using the Unreal Engine 4.

Since 1999, Silent Hill has had gamers hiding behind their pillows as they venture into the survival horror and take on the monsters that await them in the nightmarish series. From highs like Silent Hill 2 to lows like Silent Hill: Book of Memories, fans have seen it all from the terrifying town. There were once hopes that Silent Hills could reinvent the series, but after a demo was made available following Sony’s 2014 presentation at Gamescom, the title slipped into development hell.

Considering the playable Silent Hills was downloaded over 1,000,000 times, it is easy to see why there is still a fanbase out there. Hoping to recapture the fear factor from Konami’s P.T., a 17-year-old uberfan known as Qimsar ported the playtest for PC. Qimsar’s work proved popular and Silent Hill Reddit mod MarcellusDrum decided to leave it on the site for gamers to enjoy. But now, the fun’s all over. According to a statement by Qimsar (via Game Jolt), the Silent Hills port has been permanently removed. While the staff at Konami were apparently impressed, the legalities mean that P.T. had to be removed. In his post, Qimsar thanked people for their support and credited Konami for being “extremely cool about things.”

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Qimsar reminds fans that there are dozens of P.T. remakes out there and questioned why his was the one removed. That being said, if Konami has started clamping down on unauthorized content, it could be a case of download them while you can. As it stands, 2012’s distinctly average Silent Hill: Downpour is currently the last console game, while the future of the franchise still remains uncertain.

There was some good news though as Qismar revealed he was given some merchandise and has been offered an internship with the gaming giant. As for Silent Hills, the game has returned to fiery depths of the town that it came from as Konami continues to plow its efforts into the long-awaited Death Stranding. 

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by Jeremy Horwitz via Venture Beat

Following its release of the first-person criminal underworld experience The London Heist for PlayStation VR in 2016, Sony’s London Studio has been working on the highly anticipated shooter Blood & Truth. But its lead designer believes even bigger VR advances are on the horizon. Speaking at the Develop: Brighton conference (via MCV), Michael Hampden offered predictions for the next 5, 10, and 25 years, saying that VR will soon become more compelling — and then ubiquitous.

Over the next five years, Hampden said to expect a handful of developments, most notably that “one new genre of game will be born, one that will only be possible in VR.” Many VR titles today are ports of non-VR titles, but Hampden suggests that new games should be designed from the ground up for VR. He advised developers to start by understanding why they selected VR as a medium and then differentiate their experiences using VR “presence,” surround audio, distinctive input methods, and head tracking.

Part of the five-year process will include creating both consistent and user-customizable interfaces for VR games. Hampden expects that a consistent design language will be established for VR, and that developers will learn how to use customization — including controller and movement options — to reduce motion sickness and improve experiences for sensitive players. As a result, the next five years will see VR gain true killer apps, and become more popular in both the mobile and medical sectors.

By the 10-year mark, Hampden expects that haptic feedback will be part of the VR experience — and “a game changer” as users will be able to feel objects down to the texture level. This will make VR experiences more immersive, and enable further “new genres of VR games to emerge.” Then, 25 years down the line, he expects that “VR should be as ubiquitous as smartphones are today.”

Interestingly, Hampden also reinforced a point that has been made by other tech companies recently: Despite the decline of brick-and-mortar retail, physical stores are becoming critically important in winning over customers. “It’s really hard to get across how the VR experience is actually going to feel with the headset on,” Hampden said. “It’s not as simple as putting a video out there and then you know exactly what our game is like in VR. It’s a very different thing to see it and to actually feel it and to have that presence in VR and be inside that experience.”

He said that the solution is demo stations at retail shops. “If you can actually play a demo of something, it can actually give you that sense of understanding the game and you’re going to buy it.”

Unfortunately, VR demo stations remain very hard to find throughout the United States. But Hampden noted that arcade-style VR destinations are on the upswing as developers pivot from room-scale home experiences to location-based VR, resulting in “powerful” games like Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire that people love and will pay to play. “We have a limited number of these experiences out there so far, but I think this trend is here to stay, and we’ll see more and more location-based VR coming in the future.”

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