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...
Playstation Plus 365 Day Subscription | £29.99 | Currys
Currys are offering PS Plus cards for under £30 right now. You'll have reserve and collect rather than opt for home delivery, but that's still a nice few quid saved. Besides, Sony's Instant Game Collection is fantastic for PS3 and Vita owners, and the service is essential if you want to play multiplayer on PS4.
Well, they've done it again. SCEE have announced the next set of games to enter the Playstation Plus collection for the October update, and they've really out-done themselves this time. In the mix for Playstation 3 are FPS extravaganza Far Cry 3, the expansive Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, and the thoroughly entertaining Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams.
On top of this, PS Vita owners will be getting fighting game mash-up Tekken X Street Fighter, and the utterly bonkers Touch My Katamari. We've got the full list of newcomers and leavers for you below.
Leaving PS Plus:
25th September: Assassin’s Creed 3
25th September: Saints Row the Third
25th September: Payday: The Heist
25th September: Urban Trials
25th September: New Little Kings Story
Entering PS Plus:
25th September: Far Cry 3
25th September: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
25th September: Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen
25th September: Street Fighter X Tekken
25th September: Touch My Katamari
We recently learned that The Elder Scrolls Online will require a £8.99 monthly subscription, but apparently there'll also be a store to fritter away our small change.Click here to read more...
Zenimax Online Studios has confirmed that you'll need to pay a flat monthly fee to play The Elder Scrolls Online, suggesting that a free-to-play approach would have compromised their game beyond all recognition.Click here to read more...
For the past two years Carbine Studios have released a steady stream of information for their upcoming MMO WildStar. We’ve learned about the Paths system, the races and their history, the active combat with telegraphs, and how housing and Warplots will work, amongst other things. However, one of the topics Carbine have stayed silent about is that of the business model. Were we going to see a monthly subscription? Perhaps it would be Buy-to-play like Guild Wars 2? Would we be seeing a Free-To-Play option? The community has theorised over the issue for months, with all sides of the discussion weighing the pros and cons of each possibility.
Today, we put the theory-crafting to rest – we now know what the business model for WildStar will be, and it might surprise a few of you.
We were invited into a conference call alongside other industry journalists to chat with executive producer Jeremy Gaffney about the ways (notice the plural, there) that players can get involved in the upcoming Sci-fi MMO, but before we get into the Q&A let’s get down to the facts. Players will need to buy a copy of WildStar, and it will have a monthly subscription fee in line with most other titles in the genre, but those players who dislike the idea of a subscription have an alternative option. They can purchase something called a C.R.E.D.D. (or a “Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction and Development”) using their in-game gold from another player, which can be used to grant them an extra month of game time. This, in theory, means that if somebody plays the game enough (or has a knack for making huge piles of virtual cash) they can play WildStar for free.
Those of you that know how EVE Online and its PLEX system works will be familiar with this concept. Players will be able to buy C.R.E.D.D. on the official WildStar website, and then take this item and put it on the Commodities Exchange (WildStar’s version of an auction house.) Here, they can set a price of in-game gold pieces and sell it on to somebody else. The idea is that it one player gets a huge amount of gold without the risks of going through dastardly gold farmers, and the other player gets 30 days of game time without paying any real money. “In our findings, people really, more than anything else, more than anyone loves a business model, people tend to hate business models,” Gaffney said as he explained why Carbine went for this model. “They’ve been burned by them before in different games, and it’s kind of true about all models. So for people who don’t like sub games, “oh we don’t think the monthly updates are worth it,” or they just don’t like to pay to play, we provide the C.R.E.D.D. option.”
Click here to read more...
New predictions from tech blogger Paul Thurrott (who was spot-on about the May 21st reveal) suggest that the next-gen Xbox console could feature a two-tier pricing model, with a discount if you sign up to a monthly subscription for two years.Click here to read more...
Square Enix will stalwartly stick to monthly subscriptions for Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn, suggesting that the pricing model had nothing to do with SWTOR and The Secret World's sluggish launches.Click here to read more...
Funcom have abandoned mandatory subscription fees for The Secret World, allowing players to buy the game in its entirety for a one-off fee (£24.99 RRP, less if you find a deal). Money will be recouped from DLC, micro-transactions and an optional premium subscription that includes bonuses and accelerators.
If you buy the game before the end of December, you'll receive the first few DLC packs for free.Click here to read more...
Sony Online Entertainment has slightly changed the Planetside 2 premium membership benefits, removing the increased resource caps that were deemed overpowered by the community. As things stand, you'll be able to play SOE's multiplayer PC shooter for free, but a monthly $14.99 payment will speed up your progression by 25-50% depending on how long you maintain your subscription. We've got more details below.
Planetside 2 is currently in beta and on track to release before year's end.Click here to read more...
EA CEO Peter Moore believes that much of the outcry against DLC and subscriptions comes down to older gamers pining for simpler times.Click here to read more...
Tesco Entertainment’s 15%-Off voucher code provides an excellent saving for those that have yet to be swayed by old republics, secret worlds, and wars amongst guilds. The overall price provides a difference of around £3 over Tesco’s usual price, as well as an £8 saving over the basic £9 monthly subscription.
With Mists of Panderia on the way, now might be a good time to get a final look at the old content, such as punching giant dragons in the face, before heading off onto the back of a giant turtle. That is, of course, if you haven’t been taken by one of the other MMO crazes that has emerged recently. Thanks to eddross @ HUKD!
According to EA Sports' VP Andrew Wilson, the future is bright...and probably filled with subscriptions. Talking to Eurogamer yesterday, Wilson suggested that there will 'absolutely' come a time when consumers will want to follow a subscriptions model, paying fees monthly or annually to 'access' EA Sports content.Not the 'S' word! Click here to see what Wilson had to say...
Torchlight, Runic Games' overtly familiar homage to Diablo, has sold well on both PC and Xbox Live Arcade... but there may be trouble ahead for the sequel. Torchlight 2 is set for release this summer, and Runic's Max Schaefer explains that Blizzard's juggernaut franchises will impact their upcoming title in a number of ways. Mainly because they'll be too busy playing Diablo III to get any development done.Click here for more details...
Pokemon Black & White has finally received an English language trailer ahead of its March US release date... and it's actually a very interesting precedent. Previous videos suggest that the gameplay formula has remained unchanged, but this recent video seems to hint at a "new adventure" and storyline this time around. We've been clamouring for a more interesting premise and context for the poaching/inhumane bloodsports for years- and it seems that this latest iteration may be set to deliver.
On the other hand, all this coronation business is probably just going to release a legendary Pokemon that we'll have to catch before hitting Victory Road. With 150 new critters to catch, we probably wouldn't have time for the extra exposition anyway...
One of 2010's biggest controversies stemmed from Ubisoft's 'evil' DRM. Sick of rampant PC piracy, the active Digital Rights Management system forced Assassin's Creed 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction players (amongst others) to remain constantly connected to the internet... on pain of instant quitting and loss of progress. Despite adding cloud saving functionality and a few other upgrades, this state of affairs was a massive pain in the ass.
Thankfully, Ubi has announced that the DRM no longer requires a constant internet connection to function- just a valid connection during installation. It looks like not ragging on the disenfranchised PC crowd is one of their New Years resolutions... [PC Gamer]
Again with these rumours. Wedbush Morgan is still banging on about the possibility that Activision's set to monetize its Call of Duty multiplayer. This time, they suggest that a premium "second tier" will be imminently added to Call of Duty: Black Ops (adding new features for a higher price) while leaving regular multiplayer free. This would be a sneaky way of getting around their promises to never charge for online multiplayer; akin to EA's Gun Club or BFBC2's VIP membership.
Activision remains a top pick, primarily due to the company’s potential to create and monetize a second tier of multiplayer online gaming for its Call of Duty franchise. - Wedbush Morgan January Newsletter
We'll keep you posted. [Kotaku]
Microsoft is set to deliver its Consumer Electronics Show keynote speech on Wednesday night... and a number of rumours are floating around regarding a new Kinect service. Entitled Avatar Kinect, this new software update will reportedly allow avatars to interact on Xbox Live as well as share social experiences such as ESPN. A few leaked presentation slides suggest that these rumours are probably right on the money, but it remains to be seen whether Avatar Kinect will be a single standalone download or part of a sweeping Kinect update.
Microsoft will be streaming their keynote speech live on their Facebook page- and we'll be keeping a close eye on what transpires. [Glimpsedog]
As Matt mused in the 2010 retrospective, the iPad has become a legitimate gaming platform with one major weakness: the hateful virtual thumbstick. This has been a barrier to entry since the earliest days of iPhone gaming, but the new iFling suction cup peripheral is set to change the way we play forever.
You know, by sticking a thumbstick onto your iPad. We still can't quite work out whether it's complete genius or completely pointless, but I can't believe no-one thought of it sooner!
Activision is no stranger to major lawsuits (with the ongoing Infinity Ward royalties debacle still looming over them courtesy of West and Zampella)... but now they've got a slightly more frivolous issue to contend with. Guns 'N Roses singer Axl Rose has reportedly filed a $20 million lawsuit against them over the inclusion of the group's song "Welcome to the Jungle" in Guitar Hero III.
According to the brief, the problem isn't with the song itself. Rather, it's the use of Slash as an in-game avatar that's causing Rose to see red. Apparently it gives a misleading image of their association with the band- despite assurances from Activision that the song "would not be used in any way that would indicate an association between Slash and Guns N' Roses or promote Slash's separate and post-Guns N' Roses interests."
Three years have passed since Guitar Hero III hit the shelves, and it's unclear exactly why Axel has waited this long to levy the suit. You have to wonder exactly how much money he's still making from Chinese Democracy... and whether $20 million might come in useful for paying the bills. [1UP]
Microsoft has announced that the Kinect API will soon be available for use in development Xbox Live Indie Games and apps using the XNA Games studio. Kinect project director Alex Kipman confirmed that XNA support will be added "in the future," and restated their promise that open source PC Kinect hackers/developers won't get into any legal hot water. [Joystiq]
Whilst opening Kinect up to the XNA scene would be a fun and inclusive move, it's worth noting that most of the Indie studios that I regularly correspond with couldn't really care less. Developing for Kinect will likely only be useful for shallow, throwaway avatar apps that will have to sacrifice deep gameplay to remain cost effective in the 80-240 Microsoft Points price bracket.
Just in case you haven't quite got the company line, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg has spoken out once again to assure gamers that online subscriptions for Call of Duty multiplayer is never going to happen (despite plenty of unfounded speculation to the contrary).
Are we going to be charging for multiplayer? The answer is no. The experience you have out of the box, connecting with the online community to play Call of Duty is absolutely integral to the experience... it's not going to be something we'll attempt to monetise; it's part of the package.
At the end of the day, all I'm trying to get across is I can unequivocally say we will never, ever charge for the multiplayer. -Hirshberg to IndustryGamers
Activision community guru Dan Amrich also told us this in person when we chatted to him at this year's Gamescom. So there... for now. Activision has made it very clear that DLC will fuel an ongoing Black Ops revenue stream rather than online subscriptions, though the plan to monetise long cutscenes is sadly still in the pipeline.
The venerable PS2 is 10 years old today, having brought us a decade of some of the best games ever made. The Playstation 2 was a truly inclusive console that proved that a vast games lineup and solid hardware is far more important than hype or glitz... and it's still selling. Many happy returns, old friend.
We'll be bringing you a tribute to Sony's original gaming masterpiece later this week. [Picture- and gateaux- courtesy of The CakeWorks]
Game Buzz is a weekly opinion column designed to take an irreverent look at one of the biggest news stories to break in the past week. Every Friday we’ll be bringing you another slice of reaction to topical gaming news, and inviting you to agree, disagree, shout assent, vent rage, scream and complain to your heart’s delight. This week we take a look at Activision-Blizzard’s ever-popular overlord to see if there really is method to the madness following his various statements in the last seven days.
Oooooh, that Bobby Kotick.
There, I felt that needed to be a paragraph all by itself. Those that follow the news of the Games Industry will most likely have voiced those four words in one form or another this week (probably with a few additional curse words) into a fully-fleshed paragraph of your own, for better or worse (probably worse), and are sick of the sight of him this week (more than probably.) Robert Kotick (or Bobby as he likes to be known to us little folk), the current CEO of Activision-Blizzard Entertainment, with an annual salary incomprehensibly beyond anything us mere mortals will earn in a lifetime, has for the best part of 18 months provided views on ActiBlizz’s products and on consumer behaviour which have caused, to put it bluntly, outrage in both the media and the voices of the gamers.
In doing so he's managed to elevate the company to the role of “the bad guys” along the way stealing the title “Evil Publisher” from wholesome-by-comparison Electronic Arts' grip. Sometimes you have to wonder if he believes his comments are only broadcast to the business elite or that us common folk don’t have the capacity to hear or understand anything he’s saying (assuming we could tear ourselves away from World of Warfare or Modern Warcraft 2 long enough to take them in, of course. We’re easily entertained minions after all!).
Activision have been dominating the headlines recently- and today has marked a flurry of new announcements from the emergent monopoly. Here's a quick rundown of the three stories that caught my eye today.
We recently informed you that gearbox would soon be announcing a new DLC pack for Borderlands, but it seems that an eagle-eyed forum dweller has discovered some juicy details by trawling through the recent patch files. Here's what he found... spoiler alert?
“Basically the ninja claptrap was created by Hyperion to stop the vault hunters from taking all the guns and treasure etc, but was too clever, he saw other claptraps being ‘enslaved’ and ‘killed’ – he wanted it to stop so he started a claptrap revolution. Now Hyperion have asked the vault hunters to help them stop the claptrap uprising and return things back to normal but the claptraps have gone about re-animating dead people and adding claptrap robot parts to them to fight in their army. Some of the people re-animated include Dr Ned. Commandant Steele and General Knoxx.”
In a surprising twist, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford has actually confirmed these leaked details in broad terms... though he stated that it represents a first draft of the script rather than a finished article. Pitchford also finally came out of his worrying shell of silence by proudly declaring that there'd be plenty of hidden Easter eggs in the DLC that would take us over a "day to find."
We find you worthy, Randy. We accept your challenge.
The weekend's only a few hours away... and what could be better than a healthy dose of power-armoured badasses, hammy voice acting and massive 'splosions to ring in your Friday night. There's a fair bit of gameplay wedged awkwardly between the CGI cutscenes, but Vanquish is shaping up to be an eyepopping and truly exhilarating cinematic experience.
My one worry is that the control scheme will turn out to be clunky, nuanced and counter-intuitive. Japanese developers have a tendency of introducing cumbersome and finnicky controls into their shooters (with a couple of notable exceptions, I know)- and I'd hate for crappy inputs to spoil something that's looking very special indeed. With any luck, my doubts will evaporate upon release.
SEGA has detailed a lot of interesting facts about the armour, canned characters and even robot dogs on the Vanquish blog. Why not check it out?
The question of Activision instigating a subscription-based membership system for the Call of Duty series has been weighing heavily on our worried minds for some time... and the (albeit slightly suspect) MW gameplay video released yesterday did little to ease our burden. However, Activision's Dan Amrich has stepped forward to nip these rumours in the bud.
"No such [subscription] plan exists for this or any other Call of Duty (including the upcoming Black Ops)."
A team of six Dutch gamers have beaten the world record for consecutive gaming by playing Red Dead Redemption for 50 hours straight. That means no breaks... for anything. Whilst this has been technically achieved before (resulting in the death of a Korean World of Warcraft player), the Guinness team were on hand to monitor the proceedings and ensure the safety of everyone involved.
In a stunning and genuinely heartwarming display of gaming solidarity, the six hardcore contenders started out as competitors, but decided to work together in order to win the title as allies.
“The participants entered as foes and left as worldrecord-holding friends.” - Gaz Deaves, Guinness World Records official
Brothers, we salute you. [Video Games Blogger]
There's no doubt that casual and application games are clawing their way into the games market... but social networking-based games are tipped to become The social network gaming market earned a whopping $639 million dollars last year (exploding from $76 million in 2008)- and according to a new report by the Screen Digest analyst firm, this figure is set to top $1bn by 2012. I can believe it- after all, Zynga (the developers behind the insidious mind control software fantastically-successful Farmville series) is already netting over 100 million dollars! Screen Digest predict that this will start putting the squeeze on the casual and indie scene.
"There is no doubt that the traditional PC casual markets of ‘try and buy’ and subscriptions have come under pressure from the success of games on social networks,"
"As users of social networks have increased and the volume of social games content has expanded rapidly, casual games portals have had to work harder to compete." - Piers Harding Rolls, Screen Digest
So what does this mean for the mainstream games industry? In my opinion, not necessarily that much. Busy people with only a few minutes a day to log on to Facebook or an iPhone app are a very different (and entirely new) consumer base than hardcore gamers... though we can expect big publishers to take a growing interest in the social market. In fact, they already are... [Gamesindustry]
How often do you play social networking-based games? Are they a threat to the games market as a whole... or just a much-need evolution of our beloved medium? Have your say in the comments!
Stuart Black, the developer behind Black and the foulmouthed spokesman for upcoming beautifully-vulgar FPS Bodycount will be leaving the Codemasters team.
“Having created a great vision and direction for Bodycount, Stuart has decided to move on after three years with us.”
“He will see out his design role until October and, through the transition period, will continue to work with the talented development team that will take the game through to completion.”- Codemasters studio manager Adrian Bolton
No specific reason has been given for Black's decision to quit- but we're genuinely surprised to see it confirmed. Stuart has been a mainstay of the FPS headlines in recent months; issuing a constant stream of expletives, hyperbole and updates about Bodycount's development cycle. Considering his undeniable passion and position as as official Bodycount mascot, we can only assume that the dev team shouted down one of his ridiculous (or brilliant, or both) design decisions. Maybe a Lady Gaga-themed level? [via VG247]
Bioware has dropped the bomb on a massive patch for Dragon Age Origins that fixes a huge number of glitches, bugs and flagrant little coding issues across the board. Rogues will have special reason to rejoice, since daggers will now actually grant them the dexterity damage modifier they deserve. Oh, and memory leaks and corrupted save games should hopefully be a thing of the past.
Check out the full (and significantly long) list of tweaks and updates here. The patch will hit for the PC later today, though the console versions are currently awaiting testing and accreditation. [Bioware Forums]
Uh-oh. Bobby Kotick's been breathlessly fantasizing about instigating a membership subscription system for playing Call of Duty online for some time... and if a recent gameplay video is to be believed, the software and platform to do so may have already sneaked into Modern Warfare 2. For your delectation:
Hmm. Even if this video isn't doctored (considering it would be fairly easy to overlay a grey screen onto MW2 gameplay footage), there are any number of things that this video could be. Note, however, the Modern Warfare 2 Membersh... title hanging ominously over the menu like the sword of Damocles.
Personally I'd be very surprised if Activision is trying to sneak subscriptions into Modern Warfare 2 (considering that Black Ops is just around the corner)- but I'd be interested to see what you all make of it. I'd personally file this one under "Unlikely but plausible." [via TheSixthAxis]
Popcap fans and gardening aficionados will be delighted to hear that Plants vs Zombies will be dropping onto XBLA in September. According to leaked achievements discovered over the weekend, it will also contain a couple of new modes including multiplayer bowling.
According to the press release, this new version of Plants vs Zombies will boast "seven game modes, including two all-new multiplayer modes, 12 unique achievements and 21 mini-games," enhanced resolution and a quirky leaderboard system that involves creating a virtual clubhouse for your friends to visit! It will retail for 1200 Microsoft Points.