Headline Of The Week

Following a relatively quiet start to the year for the videogame industry, several announcements made at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco have shocked and surprised punters, and suggested what trends the industry may be following in the next two years or so. Of particular interest are the following flashpoints…

  • Valve have revealed the Source 2 game engine, which will be free for third party developers to use (following in the footsteps of both the Unreal 4 and Unity engines). It comes over a decade since the first Source engine was released, which has been responsible for the likes of Counter Strike: Source, Half Life 2, Left 4 Dead & Portal. Jay Stelly from Valve has suggested that the open availability of game engines will help to ‘continue the PC’s dominance as the premiere content authoring platform’.
  • In addition to the Source 2 engine, Valve also unveiled the Steam Link – a device which will allow streaming from any PC or Steam Machine at 1080p which will release in November for $49.99 (the same price as the Steam Controller which will release at the same time). A new hardware tab has also been added to Steam detailing the final prices of the Steam Machines, ranging from $499 to $4999. Yep, FIVE GRAND – although you do get the option to have that particular machine with a granite base for absolutely no reason.
  • Developers will be allowed to create cross-buy & cross-play titles for Windows 10 PC’s and Xbox One when the OS is released in late 2015, Xbox boss Phil Spencer has revealed. Games already confirmed to be using the cross-play functionality include Pinball FX2, #IDARB, Fable Legends and a certain space faring sim that was announced be to coming to Microsoft’s console…
  • And that game is Elite: Dangerous, which developer Frontier have confirmed will have the ‘same overarching narrative and galaxy state’ across PC, Xbox One and Mac systems. The game will enjoy its console debut on Xbox One, with David Braben later confirming on Twitter that the game will eventually be released on PS4 as well.
  • Finally, VR gaming took a good chunk of time at the conference as Sony outlined more details about its Morpheus heasdset, which it aims to have in production for general purchase in 2016. The headset now uses an OLED display running at 120fps, a higher rate than that offered by either the Facebook-funded Oculus Rift headset  or the HTC/Valve produced Vive headset. Playstation executive Shuhei Yoshida has outlined plans for a software update to the Playstation 4 that will allow it to render games at 120fps as well as calling the current version of the Morpheus (now also boasting a 5.7inch screen and quick release buttons) ‘near final’ – expect it to still cost a small fortune.

In Other News

It’s the reunion tour that has been not so subtly suggested over the past few weeks – Rock Band 4 is reigniting the music genre, releasing on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year.

It's been suggested that players will have more flexibility to put their own spin on songs in RB4, taking cues from Fantasia: Music Evolved
It’s been suggested that players will have more flexibility to put their own spin on songs in RB4, taking cues from Fantasia: Music Evolved

The real kicker is that the games will support old peripherals and users will be able to import all downloaded content from the previous games in the series (although this is highly likely to be limited to console families, so PS3>PS4 and 360>X1 rather than 360>PS4 and PS3>X1); two decisions which I reckon are absolutely essential for not alienating past players who shelled out hundreds of quid on songs and plastic instruments. No details have been revealed about how the game will play out, but the devs have said to expect more details at E3 in June.

In addition, Harmonix have released a first gameplay trailer for its crowd-funded reboot of Amplitude, which will include team multiplayer modes – you can check that out here.

EA has closed down Maxis Emeryville, the studio responsible for Spore and SimCity (2013). Explaining its move in a statement delivered to gaming site Kotaku, EA stated the following:

Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to our studios in Redwood Shores, Salt Lake City, Helsinki and Melbourne locations as we close our Emeryville location. Maxis continues to support and develop new experiences for current Sims and SimCity players, while expanding our franchises to new platforms and developing new cross-platform IP.

These changes do not impact our plans for The Sims. Players will continue to see rich new experiences in The Sims 4, with our first expansion pack coming soon along with a full slate of additional updates and content in the pipeline.

All employees impacted by the changes today will be given opportunities to explore other positions within the Maxis studios and throughout EA. For those that are leaving the company, we are working to ensure the best possible transition with separation packages and career assistance

As a result, while the Maxis brand will continue under EA’s sizeable umbrella, the company that made the likes of the excellent Sim City 3000 is dead. One can’t help but think that the woefully disastrous launch of SimCity two years ago was a significant nail in the coffin…

One of the biggest games of 2015, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will get a worldwide release on September 1st on PS3, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360. A Steam version will launch two weeks down the line of 15th September, with Konami declining to comment on the minor delay. For those willing to shell out, a £100 Collector’s Edition of the game will be available to buy for PS4/Xbox One featuring a half scale replica of Snake’s bionic arm and a behind-the-scenes documentary.

The news will come as somewhat of a kick in the nether regions to Avalanche Studios, who confirmed earlier in the week that it’s game based on Mad Max will launch on September 4th – place your bets now as to which game will sell better during that week.

The UK retailer GAME has purchased the gaming events company Multiplay in a deal believed to be worth £20 million. In a report by GamesIndustry, the retailer will stump up £12,600,000 upfront with the remaining total to be paid in cash and shares over the next three years.

Multiplay provides services for e-Sports tournaments and hosts the Insomnia exposition – the purchase is a suggestion that GAME has found its financial footing less than two years after being saved from administration when several stores were shut down across the country.

Finally, Techland’s survival horror Dying Light has claimed top spot on the UK Game Sales Chart this week – although the game has been available since January 28th, physical copies of the game only started selling in the UK this week. New entry Dragonball Xenoverse enjoyed a strong debut in 3rd spot, while last week’s top dog The Order 1886 fell into fourth place after a 56% drop in sales.

Top Ten For Week Ending 28th February 2015 (from GFK/Chart-Track)

1 – Dying Light (Techland)*

2 – Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Sledgehammer Games)

3 – Dragon Ball Xenoverse (Dimps)*

4 – The Order 1886 (Ready At Dawn)

5 – Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North)

6 – FIFA 15 (EA Canada)

7 – Far Cry 4 (Ubisoft Montreal)

8 – Evolve (Turtle Rock Studios)

9 – Minecraft: Xbox Edition (4J Studios)

10 – Minecraft: PlayStation Edition (4J Studios)

(* indicates a new entry)

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