Headline Of The Week
Microsoft is looking to lay off 18,000 staff over the next six months; the largest turnaround in workforce the company has seen in 39 years. It is expected that over $800 million will be paid in benefits and severance packages, and although it is expected that many of the cuts will be taken from the recently acquired Nokia branch, the Xbox division will also be affected with Microsoft looking to close down Xbox Entertainment Studios.
XES, which was formed only as recently as February 2013 will continue to produce the Halo: Nightfall series and a document about Atari, having already premiered football documentary Every Street United which coincided with the World Cup. The shutdown of the studio means however that progress on over a dozen series will be cancelled, and heavily calls into question Microsoft’s strategy going forward as original Xbox content was one of the original selling points for the console (existing TV deals with the likes of NFL will continue), alongside the recently jettisoned Kinect peripheral. The move also flies in the face of a recent trend for streaming services providing original content with Netflix proving to be the most successful, and Amazon & Sony amongst others having projects waiting in the wings.
Recent changes do seems to suggest that after a years indecision and u-turns, Microsoft are once again looking to focus the Xbox One on the gaming audience. You can read the internal e-mail sent by Xbox chief Phil Spencer to staff about XES via Game Informer.
In Other News…
Details of id Software’s much anticipated reboot of Doom, which is inventively going to be called…Doom, have been unveiled at Quakecon 2014.
Attendees were shown footage, but reports from the showfloor suggest that the game will launch on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, with features including non-regenerating health, double-jumping and the return of series favourites including double-barrelled shotguns and rocket launchers. It will also be built on id’s new Tech 6 game engine and is promising more of an emphasis on melee combat, with players able to rip off limbs.
Doom is one of the most famous franchises in gaming, with the 1993 original setting the template for multiplayer deathmatches. The new reboot will be the first new game in the series since Doom 3 which was released a decade ago.
An updated version of the UK-developed micro-computer Raspberry Pi has been launched. Called the Raspberry Pi Model B+, it will be available for £20 and adds two USB ports, lower power consumption and improved audio over the standard B model. It runs on the same hardware and still offers 512 MB of RAM.
Despite its basic looks, the Pi is designed to be a cheap and accessible entry to computer programming for all ages and is supported the by educational charity The Raspberry Pi Foundation. In June the company announced that three million Raspberry Pi’s had been shipped since 2012 – I’d be happy to see it reach greater heights still.
In additional hardware news, Nvidia are reportedly set to unveil an Android console which will stream PC games using the Tegra K1 chip I covered a while ago. It would follow up the handheld Shield device, which sold poorly.
A re-mastered collection of the Uncharted series for PlaySation 4 is looking increasingly likely after Naughty Dog’s community strategist Arne Meyer publicly agreed with PlayStation boss Shuhei Yoshida that the action adventure series would be a strong candidate for an update. Speaking to Digital Spy, Meyer admitted that while the studio might not have the time to pull it off, the idea at least sounds promising:
“It would be a good time for us to leverage all the attention behind it and make it look better…It would be really cool to have. Shuhei really likes the Uncharted series quite a bit, and I think it would be a great way to introduce – I wouldn’t say a new generation – but to expand the people that are bound to know Uncharted.”
Naughty Dog is set to release a re-mastered version of The Last Of Us at the end of the month, with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End currently scheduled for 2015. The question is; does Uncharted really need a remaster? Those games still look bloody good today
I couldn’t give a monkeys about ‘E-Sports’, but the current DOTA 2 tournament ‘The International’ has caught my eye for two reasons – first of all, the prize pot for the winner is an astonishing $10 MILLION; which is a ludicrous sum of money to be throwing around video games. Secondly, even television broadcasters are picking up on the genre’s (sadly) increasing appeal as ESPN will be covering matches from the tournament. A preview of the final tomorrow will be broadcast on ESPN2 will analysis from Valve’s Gabe Newell no less.
Watch_Dogs returned to the top of the UK Game Sales Charts this week, ousting Sniper Elite 3 which enjoyed two weeks at Number One. For the second week in a row, there were no new entries in Top 40, although life simulator Tomodachi Life peaks this week at No.9.
Top Ten For Week Ending 12th July 2014 (from GFK/Chart-Track)
1 – Watch_Dogs (Ubisoft Montreal)
2 – Sniper Elite 3 (Rebellion/505 Games)
3 – FIFA 14 (EA Canada)
4 – Wolfenstein: The New Order (MachineGames)
5 – Titanfall (Respawn Entertainment/Bluepoint Games)
6 – Call Of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward)
7 – Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition (4J Studios)
8 – Minecraft: PS3 Edition (4J Studios)
9 – Tomodachi Life (Nintendo)
10 – Battlefield 4 (DICE)
For a guy like me who grew up in a golden age of platformers in the mid-90s, it’s sad to see that the genre has received a lack of attention of the years. Sure, Mario continues to carry platformers along almost single-handedly with the likes of Super Mario Galaxy & Super Mario 3D World, and since his revival a couple of years ago Rayman has been on solid form in both Origins & Legends – but what I really lament is that the two mascot heroes of my childhood, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon, are no longer big stars. While admittedly Spyro was used to launch the wildly successful Skylanders series, he has gradually become less of a focus, and Crash has been tossed aside completely by Activision.
So at this point, I’ll take anything for hope of a comeback tour. At least the boss of Sony Computer Entertainment Andrew House is listening, as he mentioned recently in an interview with the Telegraph that Sony has at least considered a revival:
“This is very dangerous ground…in concept, it is something we’ve been thinking about and discussing, and this is a shift for us. We’ve started to say that maybe there isn’t anything wrong with going back and looking at characters that people still talk about, that were a big part of either their childhood or their youth. I definitely wouldn’t close the door on that.”
While the sensible part of me knows that any chance of a revival will likely be shut down by Activision (who own the rights to both Crash and Spyro), the optimist in me reads that sentence as big comebacks being GARUN-DAMN-TEED!!!!