Headline Of The Week
The State Council of China has temporarily removed a 14 year ban on selling video game consoles, sparking a battle for control of one of the most lucrative markets in the world.
Whereas before the likes of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony had been prevented from selling their wares in the country, a report from Reuters suggests that ‘foreign-invested enterprises’ are now allowed to make consoles within Shanghai’s free trade zone and distribute them around the country with the prior approval of the Chinese government. No information has been provided on how long the ban will be lifted for
China is and has been one of the fastest growing markets in the world over the past few years, with a desire to modernize and a massive population to sell to. Whether or not the majority of the native population will be able to afford to buy consoles is an issue to be considered, but the videogame industry has a history of being able to successfully penetrate poorer foreign markets – for example, Sega proved to be very popular in Brazil and other South American countries during the Genesis era. This will be a story to follow with interest.
In Other News…
The Consumers Electronics Show (CES) has been taking place in Las Vegas this week, and I have a trio of major headlines to emerge from the show.
Sony have unveiled an ambitious new online service called Playstation Now, which aims to stream a large library of PS1, PS2 and PS3 games not only for PS4 and the Vita, but also across a range of tablets and even Bravia TV’s. Speaking on Tuesday, the chief executive of Playstation Andrew House claimed that blockbuster games such as The Last Of Us (one of four games alongside Beyond: Two Souls, God Of War: Ascension and Puppeteer which were demoed at the show) will be available to play once the service is setup, and that it will support multiplayer and trophies.
Set to launch in the United States over the summer (dates for Europe have not been announced), Playstation Now customers can either pay for individual games or access a full library of games for a subscription fee (think Netflix, but with games rather than films). It is expected that the service will lean heavily upon the Gaikai streaming service that Sony purchased for $380 million.
At the moment there have been no pricing details, but Sony have confirmed that Playstation Now requires at least a 5 Mb/s connection to ensure a ‘good experience’ and that there will be minor concessions with regards to graphics.
Fourteen new Steam Machines have been officially unveiled, offering a wide spectrum of different specifications and prices to suit all discerning customers. The likes of AlienWare, Origin and CyberPowerPC have each created a machine running on Valve’s SteamOS which aim to bring the Steam experience to the living room.
The cheapest models start at $499 offering 8GB of RAM and 500GB of storage and will look to offer direct competition to the PS4 and Xbox One; the high end models however, such as the customisable Falcon Northwest TIKI with its Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan graphics card and 6TB of storage, will remain for many the stuff of dreams – prices range between an eye-watering $1,799 and $6,000.
For pictures and a full list of specifications, you can consult this handy article put together by CVG.
Finally on the CES front, the future of mobile and tablet gaming may soon not be too dissimilar to the games you are playing right now. Nvidia unveiled its new Tegra K1 chip, which boasts CUDA 192 cores, will be able to support Unreal Engine 4 and will be available in both 32 and 64-bit quad core configurations. Offering more GPU and CPU brawn than the PS3 or Xbox 360 while using only a fraction of the power, Nvidia have tagged the K1 as ‘a console in the palm of your hand’.
As is seemingly customary with CES announcements, there are no details on when the K1 will be available nor how much it will cost. Still, the thought that you could be playing something comparable to the high end games of last year in bed or on the train on a phone should keep you drooling in anticipation in the meantime.
As a result of a US court case, Nintendo are now required to pay royalties for each 3DS they sell. Tomita Technologies International successfully challenged Nintendo for infringing on a patent regarding the use of glasses-free 3D technology, and are now entitled to 1.82% of the wholesale price of every 3DS sold. District Judge Jed Rakoff chose to base the royalty payment on wholesale price, writing:
“If, as Tomita suggests, the ongoing royalty rate were expressed as a flat dollar amount per unit sold, Tomita would capture an increasingly large proportion of each sale as the price falls, even as the technology’s reliance on the infringed patent remains constant…this would result in an unearned windfall for Tomita, and, accordingly, the court prefers an ongoing royalty rate expressed as a percentage of wholesale price”
In other 3DS news, the handheld has reportedly passed the 11.5 million sales mark in the United States, and was the most popular system in the UK in 2013 ahead of the PS4 and Xbox 360.
Remember the WWE? Yeah, it’s that wrestling organization (formerly the WWF before the pandas complained) that a lot of people stopped watching when The Rock left. Well now the company is aiming to make an assault on the console entertainment scene with the WWE Network.
Available on PS3, PS4 and the Xbox 360 (with a Xbox One app soon to follow), the WWE Network will offer an around the clock streaming channel with live shows, an on-demand library featuring full vintage material from the 80s and 90s, and access to all 12 Pay-Per-View events held throughout the year for $9.99 a month; which considering that individual PPV’s such as Wrestlemania can cost up $70 makes the service pretty good value for grappling fans. Sadly, you won’t get a copy of WWF Smackdown! for the PS1 with the deal.
This isn’t the first time that the WWE have tried out the console scene – last April, Wrestlemania 29 was available to watch in the US via Xbox Live.
The lack of new releases last week means there are eight non-movers in the UK Game Sales Charts Top 10; FIFA 14 remains in first place.
Top Ten For Week Ending 4th January 2014 (from GFK/Chart-Track)
1 – FIFA 14 (EA Canada)
2 – Call Of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward)
3 – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft Montreal)
4 – Battlefield 4 (DICE)
5 – Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North)
6 – Need For Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games)
7 – Lego Marvel Superheroes (Traveller’s Tales)
8 – Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition (Mojang)
9 – Just Dance 2014 (Ubisoft)
10 – Gran Turismo 6 (Polyphony Digital)
Team Fortress 2 is pretty good fun; all the more so since it went free-to-play a few years ago. While Valve no longer make money from selling copies of the game on Steam, they have profited nicely from one thing – HATS. Yes you see, in addition to being a top notch first person shooter, TF2 is the self titled ‘world’s #1 war-themed hat simulator’. And if you’ve ever wondered just how many hats there are floating around in cyberspace, then boy have I’ve got the graph for you!
A Reddit user named ‘Josh’ has produced the following handy info-graphic showing when hats have been introduced over time with various updates, and how many are available for each individual class. At the moment, the total figure stands at over 800. That’s a lot of headgear to spread around. Click on the image to see it in full size.