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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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by Brian Crecente via Variety

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by Don Reisinger via Tech Media Network (Tom’s Guide)

According to the report, Anaconda will deliver a design that’s similar to the current Xbox One X. However, on the inside, the device will ship with faster processors and better graphics cards from AMD. Microsoft is also deciding whether to bundle solid-state drives in the device, which would allow for the console to access and start playing games more quickly.

The second model, called Lockhart, will apparently be a cheaper version of Anaconda, similar to the Xbox One S. Not much is known about Lockhart just yet, but look for it to offer lesser specs and power, but still come with support for all the same games. Windows Central says that both consoles will be shipping with backward compatibility with games built for the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Not surprisingly, the consoles will also incorporate Microsoft’s xCloud game-streaming service, according to the report. Microsoft has already said that it wants to make a big push in cloud-based gaming and distribution and there appears to be a good chance that that will happen in the next generation of Microsoft hardware.

According to the report, Microsoft’s hardware will ship in 2020. But in an effort to generate some revenue in 2019, Microsoft is also apparently considering launching a disc-less version of its Xbox One S next year. The device, which could be announced as early as January, would likely launch in the Spring, according to the report.

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by Ciara Linnane via Market Watch

GameStop Corp. is “lost at sea” with a leadership that remains unjustifiably optimistic in the face of declining new and used software sales, a shift toward lower margin hardware sales, continued discounting and a “Hail Mary” effort to sell the rest of the company.

That’s the view of Benchmark analyst Mike Hickey, who said the company’s weak financials are an impediment to attracting a bid, dampening the takeover hopes that have been one of few catalysts for the stock this year. The videogame retailerGME, +0.34% is in the midst of a strategic review as it struggles to sell physical games to customers who can simply download them at home, and has said it is open to a sale of the company.

GameStop “has become irrelevant in the videogame market, as consumers accelerate the migration towards digital purchases, and as games adopt live service models that greatly extend the average play experience and where platform/publishers work towards future subscription/streaming models,” Hickey wrote in a note Friday.

What’s more, the management team “lacks investor credibility” and there are no signs of a turnaround. “We believe GME has zero terminal value, and we see financial performance and valuation suffering over the long term,” said Hickey. The analyst is sticking with his sell rating on the stock and lowered his price target to $9 from $10, or 32% below its current trading level.

GameStop shares were trading down 9% Friday after the company slashed forecasts for the year as it reported third-quarter earnings after market close on Thursday. Hickey’s assessment was harsher than most, but analysts were generally concerned that the company is unable to slow the decline in its core videogame business and fight its way out of its doldrums.

GameStop posted net losses of $488.6 million, or $4.78 a share, after net income of $59.4 million, or 59 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Adjusted for items such as goodwill and asset impairments due to the company’s sustained stock decline, earnings were 67 cents a share, ahead of the FactSet consensus of 57 cents.

Revenue rose to $2.08 billion from $1.99 billion in the year-ago period, also ahead of the FactSet consensus of $2.03 billion. But the company said it expects adjusted earnings of $2.55 to $2.75 a share for fiscal 2018 and for sales to decline by 2% to 6%. Analysts were expecting fiscal 2018 adjusted earnings of $3.04 a share.

The company’s pre-owned business fell 13.4% in the quarter, partly due to new digital access to older titles. GameStop’s used-game business is a major profit center as sales of physical disks decline.

On the company’s earnings call, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Robert Alan Lloyd said that trend had picked up.

“We are seeing more of the impact of that in recent months and it does have to do with how customers can get some of those older titles, the very inexpensive titles that you can get through either subscription memberships or online in a pretty heavily discounted mode,” he told analysts on the call, according to a FactSet transcript.

The pace of digital downloads in lieu of physical purchases appears to have sped up in the quarter, said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter. The company blamed the trend on a weaker-than-expected performance by Activision Blizzard’sATVI, -0.02%  “Call of Duty” and sports titles, but Pachter said it was more likely due to attractively priced offerings from gaming companies such as “season passes” for downloadable products.

“With EPS declining more rapidly than we expected ($3.34 last year and an estimated $2.75 this year) before taking into account the proposed Spring Mobile sale, GameStop clearly deserves to trade at a compressed multiple,” he wrote in a note.

Wedbush cut its price target to $18 from $19, but said it is sticking with an outperform rating because it believes a sale to private equity is imminent. The recent announcement that the company is selling its Spring Mobile business, or Tech Brands, a network of AT&T Wireless stores, for $700 million, “increases the potential for GameStop to ultimately be acquired,” said the analyst.

At Jefferies, analyst Stephanie Wissink agreed that the sale removes a deal hurdle, as reselling and franchise rights agreements come with some tricky change of control provisions.

“Without the Tech Brands, GME is a much more attractive takeout candidate and has greater LBO capacity,” she wrote in a note.

Assuming the $700 million payment is used to reduce debt, it could save the company $48 million in interest payments, which is more than the estimated free cash flow from the tech brand division, she said.

Wissink still sees value in the model if the company can reduce dependence on software and focus on advantages in hardware and peripherals, content and community and collectives. Still, she said, “fundamental push-outs don’t help.”

Credit Suisse analysts noted that the company highlighted strong trends over the Black Friday, Cyber Monday holiday weekend. But those were also supported by promotions and discounting, which along with the shift to lower margin categories, will squeeze margins.

“We remain on the sidelines as we balance risks of declining cash flow of the core business with upside risk/ optionality from further strategic alternatives (that process is still ongoing) and very low current valuation,” they wrote in a note.

Credit Suisse rates the stock as neutral and lowered its price target to $13.50 from $15.00.

GameStop shares have fallen 23% in 2018, underperforming the S&P 500’sSPX, -1.02%  2.6% gain and the Nasdaq’s COMP, -0.31%  5.6% gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.42%  has gained 2.4% in the year so far.

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by Chris Smith via BGR News

We’ve known for a while that Microsoft is working on an Xbox console that will not have a physical optical drive, but a new report says the console will come bundled with Microsoft gaming subscriptions at launch that would let gamers get into the action as soon as they plug in the device. The same source, Thurrott, which revealed details about Microsoft’s future Xbox consoles in the past, is out with a new report about the affordable console.

The cheaper Xbox will arrive in early 2019, and the console will be bundled with subscriptions right out of the box. When ordering, customers will have the option of purchasing both the console as well as Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass subscriptions at once.

That way, the console will be ready to play games right out of the box. Gamers won’t have to buy physical copies of games, and they’ll have access to more than 100 titles directly from Microsoft. The report also says the next-gen high-end Xbox console, the “Scarlett,” may be bundled with subscription services when it arrives as well:

Imagine you go on Microsoft.com, select the disc-less console, then pick two years of Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass, pay the fee, and when the console arrives, it’s all set up with the service ready to go. This functionality should arrive next year and also be part of the Scarlett business model as well.

In the future, the cheap console will also work with the xCloud game streaming servicethat will let gamers play high-end titles on a variety of devices. Microsoft’s cloud will handle all the heavy lifting for xCloud gaming, allowing full games to be streamed to smartphones, PCs, and Xbox consoles. Xbox fans looking to buy high-end games without breaking the bank may be interested in pairing the cheap console with the future xCloud service.

That said, the report doesn’t mention any prices for the upcoming cheap Xbox console, the various bundles that might launch alongside the new hardware, or the forthcoming xCloud gaming service.

Right now, Microsoft offers gamers an Xbox All Access program that includes an Xbox One S or X console, a year of Xbox Live Gold and the new Xbox Game Pass. The program makes the Xbox even more affordable, as gamers end up paying a monthly fee for 24 months rather than buying the console outright.

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