Headlines For 7th-13th September

Microsoft is set to shutter the Xbox Live Indie Games service. New submissions to the service were halted on September 9th, and anyone currently working on a title now has less than a year to complete it. The marketplace and XNA developer website will then be fully closed in September 2017 – although any content purchased before that point can still be played and downloaded if previously deleted.

The move is a long time coming; the Indie Games marketplace is largely filled with dross focusing on avatar interaction or shameless Minecraft rip-offs (with only the excellent I Maed A Gam3 W1th Z0mb1es worth a purchase), and has barely been promoted since 2011 when a Xbox 360 dashboard update pushed them out of sight. The Xbox One also launched without the programme, focusing instead on self-publishing indie titles through the much more promising ID@Xbox initiative which has the likes of Cuphead on it’s radar.

The past week marked the now annual conference update from Apple about how people will need to pay a lot more for a slightly better range of gadgets with a higher number attached to them. In addition to a larger iPad with a shockingly expensive stylus and an updated OS for the Apple Watch that no-one really uses as they already have a phone that can do the same things more conveniently, the tech giant has also created a set-top gaming console dubbed the Apple TV.

Apps are the future for TV, according to Apple. Problem is, all those TV apps are on much better gaming consoles already...
Apps are the future for TV, according to Apple. Problem is, all those TV apps are on much better gaming consoles already…

The TV offers access to applications and the Siri virtual search function (taking a leaf out of the Fire TV and Roku book), but can also play games using a motion sensitive waggle controller, that in no way rips off the Nintendo Wii. Due out in October for $149/199, it is highly unlikely that the Apple TV will make a dent on the traditional console market due to its lack of processing power, but it does have the likes of Guitar Hero Live and Disney Infinity 3.0 confirmed, as well as the ability to pick up and play iOS games as well. Expect a bigger capacity model next year.

Having already removed a series staple in the form of split-screen multiplayer, 343 Industries have now confirmed that there will be no voting or vetoing of maps in Halo 5: Guardians; instead maps will simply appear in a straight rotation. This is a change that appears to have gone down slightly better with the fanbase – there was a tendency in older Halo games for a few select maps to be picked while a fairly wide spectrum were ignored. The issue to be contended with now is whether the maps on offer are actually any good.

The Xbox One exclusive Halo 5 is set for release on October 27th, but don’t be too surprised if it gets a bit swamped in the sales charts – compared to the hype for Fallout 4 and Star Wars Battlefront, for the first time that I can remember Halo seems like a bit of an afterthought in this years pecking order.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has proven to be one of the standout titles of the year so far. In addition to confirming that the first story add-on, Hearts Of Stone, will be released on October 13th, CD Projekt RED have also revealed some of the financial details behind the game. The estimated cost of the project was a cool $81 million/306 million zloty (including development and marketing), with the company making a profit of $62.5 million in the first half of 2015. Considering how triple-A game budgets have been slowly creeping up to film budget levels, to craft a game as well polished as The Witcher 3 for that sum is a excellent achievement.

The CEO of CD Projekt, Adam Kicinksi, called making the game ‘a good investment’, earning the award for most obvious statement of the year in the process.

Hideo Kojima’s final entry into the Metal Gear series, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, recorded the best UK launch sales of any game in the series this past week to head straight to the top of the UK Game Sales Charts. Surpassing the record set by Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty by 37%, The Phantom Pain slips in behind Batman: Arkham Knight and The Witcher 3 as the third biggest launch of the year so far.

Avalanche Studio’s game interpretation of Mad Max was second this week, followed by Gears Of War: Ultimate Edition and Until Dawn.

Top Ten For Week Ending 5th September 2014 (from GFK/Chart-Track)

1 – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Kojima Productions)*

2 – Mad Max (Avalanche Studios)*

3 – Gears Of War: Ultimate Edition (The Coalition)

4 – Until Dawn (Supermassive Games)

5 – Disney Infinity 3.0 (Avalanche Software)

6 – Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North)

7 – Lego Jurassic World (Traveller’s Tales)

8 – Minecraft: Playstation Edition (4J Studios)

9 – Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition (4J Studios)

10 – Batman: Arkham Knight (Rocksteady Studios)

Headlines For 31st August – 6th September

The Taxpayer’s Alliance – it doesn’t sound like a barrelful of laughs does it? Well apparently such an organisation exists and they have recently vented their fury at video games; more specifically, the amount of money the UK taxpayer is paying towards the funding of games via a European Commission initiative.

The Alliance claims that £2.4 million was spent by the Commission on its ‘Creative Europe’ programme in 2014 – and using the basis that the UK funds 11.4% of the EU, that would equate to around £270,000 that British taxpayers have provided towards games including Trine 3, SteamWorld Heist and Ship Emergency Simulator. The Chief Executive of the Alliance was clearly livid in his comments on the matter:

Taxpayers will be furious that Brussels bureaucrats seem to have no regard for the value of taxpayers’ money. At a time when there are serious issues across the continent, the EU’s focus should be on solving real-life problems rather than splashing the cash on made-up ones. Those responsible for approving this spending must be held accountable – Jonathan Isaby, insufferable bore

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will be released on March 18th 2016, Naughty Dog have confirmed. A Special and Collector’s Edition have inevitably been confirmed, allowing people to pay a bit more money for a nice statue, a steelbook case, a 48 page artbook and some in game boosters.

Not a bad statue, but it's no Desert Drake. Desert Drake is ace!
Not a bad statue, but it’s no Desert Drake. Desert Drake is ace!

Also of note is the Digital Deluxe version, which will include future access to single-player DLC – a first for the series. This follows on from the success of the Left Behind story DLC for The Last Of Us, which was eventually up for purchase as a standalone game – here’s hoping that its an adventure focusing on a young Sully, cigar in tow….

Remember when Batman: Arkham Knight didn’t work on PC? That time has now (sort of) passed!

An interim patch has been now been released for the high-profile mess of a port, having missed its initial promised August deadline. Even the deployment of the patch itself ran into issues, as Warner Bros removed a first deployment before putting it back on Friday; among the headline improvements are a reduction of the crippling frame rate issues the game suffered, as well as more settings for graphics in-game and optimisations for system memory usage.

The patch is only available for those who chose to keep the game after purchasing it back in June however, as it is currently unavailable to purchase for PC either in digital or physical format.

Having addressed broadcasting capabilities and stylised themes for dashboards as part of its last big update, Sony has turned its attention to storage space for PS4 firmware update 3.00 – specifically, PS Plus users will benefit from an increase in cloud storage of 1GB to 10GB.

An Events hub will be added to allow players to keep track of special events within the games they play the most, and a new Communities page will allow multiple users to gang up for difficult raids and challenges. Finally, clips of up to 10 seconds in length can now be shared to Twitter, while live streaming can be broadcast on YouTube’s new dedicated gaming stream service.

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