This week's Game Buzz sees us chat about Microsoft's acquisition of Mojang and Minecraft, and what the future might hold for both the studio and its wildly popular IP under new management. Now that Jon's had a chance to get cracking in Destiny, we also have a natter about Carl's review and the ongoing mix of feelings that Destiny manages to provoke.
Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible, and you should be warned that there may be some instances of strong language.
No, that title is not a typo.
Let's face it, Microsoft didn't really buy Mojang for, well, Mojang... they dropped $2.5 billion for the privilege of owning Minecraft, and it's fairly easy to see why. It's a time of transition for Mojang, of course. What indie culture existed there is changed forever by this, not least because of the departure of several of the studio's founders, Notch included. It's not about the money, apparently, but rather to avoid going insane.
Given how massive Minecraft has become, for a mild-mannered bearded chap who just wants to go about making little games that interest him once again, I can't say that I blame Persson.
Minecraft is huge, it's gone beyond games to the point where it's now used fairly widely as an educational tool. As Notch wrote in his farewell blog post, Minecraft belongs to its millions of fans as well as Microsoft. There's a lot of love for the voxel-based trailblazer, and there were a range of reactions to the confirmation of the buyout on Twitter, even when the buyout was a mere whisper.
— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) September 10, 2014
— Xbox (@Xbox) September 15, 2014
Some were confused by the amount of money that Microsoft had paid...
Click here to read more...
— David Leavitt (@David_Leavitt) September 15, 2014
Microsoft have bought Minecraft. Well, they've bought Mojang, but given that three of the studio's founders are leaving, I reckon we can tell it how it is. For Notch, his creation has grown too big. He is now a man with nearly two million followers on Twitter, an industry figure whose musings on social media have become newsworthy headlines.
And it's all become a little too much.
"I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with. I was confused. I didn’t understand. I tweeted this in frustration. Later on, I watched the This is Phil Fish video on YouTube and started to realize I didn’t have the connection to my fans I thought I had. I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter."
It reminds me of the departure of the two Doctors from BioWare in some ways -- a situation that's understandable and yet tinged with sadness -- but at least Notch is saying that he wants to keep making games. They'll be smaller, much smaller, but there'll be something freeing about developing without a million eyes or so looking over his shoulder (eventually).Click here to read more...
Did you pick up a Kinect-less Xbox One and want to add voice command functionality to the Xbox experience? Fancy trying out auto sign-in and playing the tiny number of Kinect-enabled games the way they were meant to be experienced? Well you'll soon be in luck, because Microsoft are releasing the standalone Kinect sensor for the bargain price of...
This deal is over. Now it's ranting time.DEAL ABORTED. CLICK HERE FOR THE ENSUING RANT >>
Tempted by an Xbox One? Don't much care for Kinect? In which case ASDA will sell you Microsoft's console and one of its biggest games for less than the retail price of the solus machine itself. Just choose a game bundle -- Destiny, Dragon Age Inquisition, Advanced Warfare, GTA V and more are included -- and add the "CONSOLE" voucher code at checkout.
Thanks to Bure11 @ HUKD!
You could see the smile dance across Phil Harrison's face as he uttered the word "exclusive" during the Microsoft Gamescom press conference. Exclusives have traditionally been the weapons used by platform holders to wage war against one another. As Nintendo did unto SEGA, so Sony did unto them, and so Microsoft blah blah this has been going on forever blah.
But lately the waters have become muddied. Time was when companies would slap down cash for studios and IPs, it was all or nothing. Platform holders went big or they went home. But the dawn of digital distribution and product updates allowed companies to deliver bits and pieces of games, and suddenly the rights for those were up for sale. These are the DLC times, and frankly it's difficult to know whether or not you're getting the "complete experience" with certain titles these days.
Then, of course, there are timed exclusives, games with timed exclusive DLC, console exclusives, and a whole host of other ways to otherwise baffle and confuse consumers.
Let's look at the facts: Microsoft did not buy a studio and invest in their talent. They did not secure the rights to an exciting new IP or charge a talented outfit to deliver something fresh. They dropped a fat bundle of cash in Square Enix's pocket for a limited period of exclusivity for a sequel to a game that eventually broke even, but needed a generation-jump retooling to do that.
That's pretty much all we know at this point.Click here to read more...
Well, we thought this might be the case, what with the very specific wording of the announcement and the lack of clarification from any of Microsoft's senior management. But after a day of mulling it over, no doubt, Phil Spencer has finally come out and admitted that Rise of the Tomb Raider's exclusivity on Xbox One "has a duration".Click here to read more...
Dealspwn are once again in Cologne for this year's Gamescom, having sent Carl & Jon to check out the upcoming titles that have been brought along to the three-day-long event... but before we get to that, our dynamic duo give their thoughts on how Sony & Microsoft did with their press conferences. We also get to hear their impressions on the upcoming build of Disney Infinity.
Stay tuned for their first proper day of highlights in our postcard tomorrow!
Well, the first of today's two big press conferences from Gamescom 2014 is done and dusted. Did Microsoft set the bar high as they did earlier in the year at E3? They certainly came out once again with a resolute focus on the games, and they didn't half drop a bombshell halfway through the show. Here's what we made of it:
The first big surprise of Gamescom has landed, and it comes in the form of Microsoft flexing their financial muscles. Rise of the Tomb Raider will be an Xbox One exclusive when it launches next Holiday season, setting up a tantalising Lara vs. Drake Christmas that is going to be extraordinary fun to watch (and play).
To be honest, much of the rest of the presser has faded into a blur since Microsoft dropped that bomb, and in retrospect, Phil Harrison could barely contain himself. Is it an anti-consumer move? It is a bit. Microsoft paid large sums of money to stop Crystal Dynamics reaching more than half of their potential audience, though I'm more pissed off about it not coming to PC rather than missing out on it on PS4.
Elsewhere, it was another solid showing from Phil Spencer's side. The Chris Charla creative indie carousel was outstanding, as Microsoft attempted to out-Sony Sony. There are some absolutely cracking games coming to Xbox One via ID@Xbox, and it was good to see a few longer spotlight pieces on one or two highlights. I've been banging on about SuperHot since the flash game first appeared, and The Escapists looks like cartoon Shawshank crossed with Prison Architect.
It's a Microsoft presser, so of course FIFA and Call of Duty got their moments in the sun. Prepare for Titancall! That's unfair, Advanced Warfare looks both incredibly different yet also hilariously familiar. The exosuit's abilities certainly look like they'll create more opportunities to take advantage of verticality, but it all seemed a bit static rather than the fluidity we've seen from Titanfall and even Brink. Not sure about that custom Xbox One either -- it looks like it's been dipped in cement.Click here to read more...
Happy for Halo? Craving some Crackdown? Stoked for Sunset Overdrive? Fawning over Forza? That's right, folks, it's time for the Microsoft Gamescom Press Conference. Hit the jump for the Twitch embed and for the site Twitter stream where I'll be merrily live Tweeting reactions and commentary for this year's show.
Jon's fashioned a list of expectations and predictions, and you can find that right here.Click here to read more...
Press Conference Starts: 13:00 BST, Tuesday August 12th
Watch Live: Xbox.com
Following months of cleaning house and a surprisingly strong showing at E3, Spencer and co. need to build on their momentum with a cracking Gamescom lineup. As always they're set to kick off an afternoon of press conferences and reveals, so will need to go big from the start or go back to Redmond with tails firmly between legs. So what should we expect from the conference?
Well, that official banner at the top of this article gives us a fairly decent idea! Let's review.Click here to read more...
The trend of having a warm-up act is well established. Timing is everything, right? You put on a gig, you want to make sure that the audience is at peak excitement, that their energy and focus levels are high, that they're engaged.
For the past few years, it could be argued that Microsoft have been the warm-up act to Sony when it comes to press conferences. But are the times a-changing this year?
We stated back in June that Microsoft's showing at E3 was the best we'd seen in years -- not that such praise is really saying much, they'd been dire the previous couple of years. But with a renewed focus upon games, with new head honcho Phil Spencer having spent the first couple of months of his tenure aggressively cleaning house and tidying up the muck that Mattrick left behind, Microsoft came out swinging and, admirably, let their games do most of the talking.
That'll stand Microsoft in good stead at a show whose motto is "celebrate the games".Click here to read more...
Xbox One + Titanfall + 12 Months LIVE Gold | £361.85 | Amazon
Shopping around for an Xbox One? Well, we might have just the deal for you as Amazon are currently giving away the console with Titanfall packed in along with 12 months of Xbox LIVE Gold membership for £361.85. Titanfall is probably at its best on Xbox One (check out Jon's review here), designed as it is with the console's controller in mind, and you'll need that Gold subscription if you want to play online, or indeed do pretty much anything with your XO.
But it'll come in damn handy when the Master Chief Collection and Halo 5: Guardians beta arrives this winter. Mmmmm. Tastty Halo goodness. Mmmmmm.
Regardless of whether or not the sales figures for the last financial quarter are of consoles sold or shipped, regardless of the extent to which the PlayStation and Xbox numbers were muddied by last-gen console statistics, one thing is clear: Microsoft are lagging behind. By an alarming factor of three-to-one.
It's early days, of course, in terms of Phil Spencer's tenure at the top. For much of 2014, he's been dealing in damage control, and trying to turn the omnishambles that Mattrick left behind into something identifiable, something relatable, something to do with games rather than every other facet of entertainment.
It's clear that communication has hurt the Xbox One significantly. I posited in my recent article about Destiny that Sony have done a fantastic job in selling the idea "better on PS4". We've said since the two consoles launched that Microsoft have had the better exclusives thus far. We've suggested that they have the better exclusive lineup this Christmas, what with the Master Chief Collection, Sunset Overdrive, and Forza Horizon 2 edging LittleBigPlanet 3, Driveclub, and (if it's even still on track for this year) PlanetSide 2. But as Nintendo have found out to their cost, you can have some of the finest first-party exclusives around, but third-party games matter. A lot.
Last year we also stressed the importance of communication. Sony's message has been clear from day on: the PS4 is #fortheplayers. It's a games console designed to play games, be easy to develop for,squeeze out as much power as possible for as low a price as can be had, while maintaining the standard of quality that we've come to expect from PlayStation devices. By contrast, the Xbox One was first unveiled as being all about entertainment, TV, and sports. Then it was an all-in-one console -- "Xbox One. Input One". Now it's had Kinect chopped off, and Microsoft's in-house entertainment production unit is closing its doors.Click here to read more...
We knew this was coming.
We've seen it across the other major entertainment mediums -- subscription services designed to offer consumers value, choice, and convenience. It was only a matter of time before a publisher followed in the footsteps of PlayStation Plus and PS Now, and it's happening sooner than we perhaps thought it might.
Not only that, it seems that the pioneer in this regard is EA.
EA Access has launched in beta over on Xbox One in partnership with Microsoft. The service went live earlier this week, giving a limited number of players access to four of EA's biggest titles: FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4. Here's the official blurb for good measure:
EA Access membership unlocks The Vault, a collection of EA’s biggest games on Xbox One ready for you to download and play. During the beta, gamers will have unlimited access to four great EA games: FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4™, with more titles being added soon. That’s over $100 worth of games for $4.99 a month. You can play these EA favorites as much as you want with the click of a button.
Here in the UK, you can sign up already for £3.99 a month. Stateside, there's a pretty damn generous $29.99 annual subscription option, but that's not been made available yet over here. Twelve months at £3.99 a month would run you £47.88.Click here to read more...
Microsoft aren't messing about when it comes to Xbox One exclusives, and they've got an early foot in the door. Following a strong start last Christmas, they've secured a fearsome suite of big games from shooters to racers, platformers, dancing games, Kinect showcases, insane open worlds and even a radical new editing suite powered by user-generated content.
Though we'll have to wait and see whether they actually live up to the hype, here are the hottest exclusives slated for 2014 along with the European release dates for your calendar.
"Gone are the artificial walls and fences of the first game, with barriers placed far more realistically this time around. If you want to fashion yourself a shortcut in a race, the chances are that you can. If you want to veer off the beaten track and tear up a vineyard, you absolutely can. Wooden fences are there to be smashed in the name of curiosity, the European countryside a canvas on which you can paint a petrol masterpiece. But the roads themselves real natural rather than purposefully crafted , and it's clear that Playground have done their research." - Forza Horizon 2 hands-on previewClick here to read more...
With Jon posting his hottest upcoming PS4 titles piece yesterday, something has become abundantly clear: Sony are rather on the slim side when it comes to exclusives this autumn and winter. LittleBigPlanet 3 is a game that the PS4 is crying out for, but it's being developed outside of the walls of Media Molecule's offices. PlanetSide 2 offers the expansive-yet-accessible F2P FPS that the new-gen platform has been crying out for, but why the hell has it taken so long, and will anyone care given that the game has been free and awesome on PC for years? We've struggled collectively as a team to muster even a smidgen of enthusiasm for Driveclub after a PR omnishambles and countless delays, especially given that the racing genre is packed to the gills this year and Evolution are facing staunch competition from the likes of Forza Horizon 2 and The Crew.
And I'm going to punch the next person who crows about The Last of Us Remastered like it's the sodding Second Coming.
Wightmad suggested that the Wii U is getting better exclusives than this. Looking at Bayonetta 2 and Smash Bros, I'm inclined to agree.
But, as we've suggested before, Sony are playing a long game indeed, and they're using the same weapons Microsoft employed with the Xbox 360 to do so: third-party partnerships. We could discuss the ethics of this until everyone involved is blue in the face, but the fact remains that both companies are investing heavily in cultivating third-party partnerships and bringing exclusive snippets of big-name games back from the haggling table. It could be as simple as running exclusive ads with your console appearing at the end, or something as brazen as securing a massive chunk of gameplay.
Microsoft have already done this with FIFA, essentially making Ultimate Team an exclusive piece of DLC. That's a big audience, football is massive, and people will jump ship for that. But Sony are doing something even more daring. They're going after Halo fans.
They're going after me.Click here to read more...
Xbox boss Phil Spencer has spent the last few months reforming the Xbox One's image through a series of high-profile U-turns. Or, to put it another way, scraping the last slimy traces of Don Mattrick off the Redmond office walls. Kinect became optional, Xbox Live Gold dropped its entertainment paywall and the focus shifted from nebulous entertainment content to being "all about the games."
Today brings us the news that this cycle is almost complete as Microsoft plans to shut down Xbox Entertainment Studios, sadly as part of the largest round of layoffs in company history.Click here to read more...
A decade ago I'd have laughed in your face if you suggested that thousands of gamers would willingly pay to play unfinished games, but here we are. Alpha funding is now a big deal and a very good thing too in the main, allowing small studios to get investment, community and publicity while letting us into the development cycle first-hand. Huge advantages for everyone involved, despite the increasingly hefty drawbacks of a system that enables unscrupulous liars to make bank and buries quality Steam software under a mountain of utter crap.
It's clear that Early Access (alpha funding by any other name) is still undergoing some growing pains on PC, but developers and hardware manufacturers are now calling for a similar system to be implemented on home consoles. To be perfectly honest, I'm not convinced they're entirely ready yet.Click here to read more...
Because this is actually happening.Click here to read more...