Notebook shipments w/o touchscreens to begin declining over the coming years
Tablet PCs and "mini-notes" continue to catch on in popularity, to the extent where they will finally start eating into notebook PC shipments this year. A report published today by NPD subsidiary DisplaySearch forecasts mobile PC shipments will grow to 762.7 million units by 2017, fueled largely by touch-enabled devices.
The big winner in the coming years will be tablets, which DisplaySearch has included as a mobile PC for the purposes of its report. Tablet shipments will increase by 67 percent to some 256.5 million units this year alone, eventually reaching 579.4 million units by 2017. Notebook shipments meanwhile are expected to decline by up to 10 percent to 183.3 million units around that time, meaning tablets will have outpaced them three times over.
Helping drive adoption of tablets are "white box" manufacturers. According to NPD, these lesser-known brands already accounted for a third of the total tablet shipments last year, a share of the market they are expected to hold as they continue to produce and distribute Android-based devices in emerging markets where notebooks haven't really taken off.
NPD expects touchscreen "ultrabooks" to become increasingly prevalent in the notebook market, forecasting shipments of such devices to grow 48 percent over the coming year for starters. By 2017, these ultrabooks will account for 80 percent of all touchscreen notebooks distributed.
For all the fanfare surrounding its new Metro interface, NPD does not expect Microsoft's Windows 8 OS to be a major factor in driving touchscreen notebook growth due to a lack of OS applications supporting touch and of course, the higher cost of ultrabooks in general.
DICE, Visceral and BioWare working on Star Wars games
The Walt Disney Company and Electronic Arts have just announced a huge, multi-year exclusivity deal for new games based on Star Wars characters and storylines. Barring certain social, mobile, tablet and online game projects which Disney retains the rights to, EA will be the sole licensee of the Star Wars franchise with respect to video games going forward. No financial details, nor the length of the exclusivity agreement, were revealed.
Electronic Arts' Label President Frank Gibeau offered the following statement:
"Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe. Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. DICE and Visceral will produce new games, joining the BioWare team which continues to develop for the Star Wars franchise. The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay."
According to that statement, it appears that Electronic Arts' license is exclusive to their own first party studios. To hear that DICE, Visceral and specifically BioWare are now working on Star Wars properties is, well, to be quite honest -- awesome. To hear that no other Star Wars games will be made other than by EA is, well, to be quite honest -- disappointing.
We already know that BioWare's focus is currently on Star Wars: The Old Republic and its continued development. In the past they also developed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, though I consider it highly doubtful the original RPG franchise will return while the MMO is still running. What DICE and Visceral might be working on is anyone's guess.
There it is, Disney and Electronic Arts have agreed to a multi-year exclusivity deal for all new games based on the Star Wars property, barring a few smaller titles Disney has retained the rights to. If anyone needs me, I'll be in my bunker.
Rumor: Nintendo optimizing the Wii U to run mobile applications, offering developers conversion software
Nintendo searching for ways to sell hardware starting yesterday
According to company sources at the Japan Times, Nintendo is currently working on optimizing the Wii U console to run mobile games. Part of this process includes Nintendo offering developer "professional-use conversion software" for bringing their smartphone games to the console. Sources are saying that this is part of Nintendo's plan going forward to spur console sales after a second consecutive year of operating losses.
Sales in recent months have only been getting worse for the Wii U. With only a few potentially big releases coming in the next few months, it's no surprise to hear Nintendo is exploring new ways to start selling consoles. At this point it wouldn't be surprising of the big third party publishers like EA and Ubisoft were leaving the Wii U behind in favor of the PlayStation 4 and the next-gen Xbox.
Of course, the question now ends up being whether people will pay for a console just for smartphone games? Or more accurately, for smartphone games and Nintendo first party games? The OUYA is certainly building up support for its small console based entirely around Android games, but it also only costs $99. Eh, who are we kidding. If the OUYA also had the next big Mario or Zelda release, they could probably charge $299 and do just fine.
Hopefully we'll here more on this issue soon from official Nintendo sources. No word on when the Next Nintendo Direct will be, but if they're planning one for May it should be announced soon. Nintendo will definitely be doing something big in the next few months, considering they're skipping out on the big E3 press conference this year.
I know there's quite a few folk in the Neo community (looking at you, Lydia) who have been looking forward to the BioShock Infinite Songbird plushie. Irrational Games officially opened preorders for the likely limited-in-quantity plushie just moments ago. It won't be shipped until September, but if a Songbird plushie is something you'd want then a few months wait shouldn't be too terrible. The $55 price tag may be a bit more impeding.
To accompany opening up preorders for the BioShock Infinite plushie, a number of pictures of the toy have also been released. It looks like Songbird is made from leather, but the official description states it's entirely polyester. Check out the images in the gallery below, and here's the short description:
" 'Songbird, Songbird, see him fly. Drop the children from the sky. When the young ones misbehave, escorts children to their grave.' More than just a mere child’s fable, you can now have your own ruthlessly adorable Songbird plushie. Plushie sits at 7” tall, has an outstretched wingspan of 14”, weighs 180g, and is comprised of metal & wire (55g), PU (25g), and polyester (100g)."
Pre-order your very own BioShock Infinite Songbird plushie today over at the Irrational store. It'll cost $55 and ship in September, but it's absolutely adorable (frightening). It'll be delivered right around that time of the year when a reminder of how great BioShock Infinite is could be useful.
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Who needs all that fancy motion control, 3D technology, tablet controller mumbo jumbo? Some devs at the Exile Game Jam just made a "Guillotine Simulator" for the Oculus Rift. Yes, the headset that brings gamers closer to the action than ever before now has an application that simulates getting your head chopped off by a execution device. Welcome to the future of video games.
In the video below you can see the developers having unsuspecting players lean on top of a chair, no controllers available to them, and simply ask them to look around. They'll see a crowd having gathered around them, but it's not until they look upwards that they truly see what's in store for them. The guillotine drops. The head rolls off. What am I even watching.
Some of the players are legitimately shocked by the events of the game, either from watching the blade dropping towards them or though that you're seeing what it might look like from the view of a disembodied head. Some people are visibly afraid, others smile knowingly -- this, this is what's so brilliant about the Oculus Rift.
No controller, just first-person perspective into an event we'd otherwise never have known.
The Oculus Rift is not yet in full release to the public. Dev kits have been sent out to many backers, though I believe they're still in the process of getting them out to everyone who pre-ordered. Hardware developers go out of their way to remind us that the dev kit is just that, it's meant for developers to build things with, not for consumers. A consumer version of the device will be available in 2014.
Time to listen to the sunflower song all day
It feels like forever and an extra infinity on top since Plants vs. Zombies was released. Then add in an eon or two after Plants vs. Zombies 2 was announced. Now that we're all dead and zombies, it looks like Plants vs. Zombies 2 has an official release date... month. Okay, nothing specific, but PopCap Community Marketing Manager Stephanie Bayer has confirmed PvZ2 will be coming to PC in July.
There's, err, still no other official information on Plants vs. Zombies 2 available. Maybe a press release for the new release window will be put out with some more assets? That would be amazing. Really all we know at this point is that the original Plants vs. Zombies creator was laid off from PopCap quite literally within days of the game's initial reveal. I think we could use some new information just to refocus on the content of the game itself. Really, I want to write about the game and not the controversy here.
Plants vs. Zombies is one of the most important games of the last ten years, proving just how culturally impactful a casual game can be. It's also a terrible measuring stick for the how the industry treats casual games. The initial full release of the game on PC was content complete, but as the game was dispersed to various platforms, content became broken up, with mobiles releases featuring an assortment of microtransations. Needless to say, as much as I love the original title and anticipate the sequel, I am to some extent intrepid about any changes.
Expect more information on Plants vs. Zombies 2 with the coming weeks and months as we approach the game's newly announced July release on PC. Time to watch that Sunflower theme song over and over and over again. Here, I'll embed it for you to listen to.
Kickstarter project Chasm meets $150,000 goal, 2D ARPG with glorious procedurally generated dungeons
Independent studio Discord Games has successfully funded their 2D ARPG platformer Chasm. Just today Chasm passed its $150,000 goal guaranteeing its development will be finished. With five days left in the crowdfunding campaign, everyone's hoping to reach stretch goals like an extended soundtrack or my personal favorite, New Game + at $275,000. Estimated delivery for Chasm on PC is May, 2014.
In case "2D ARPG" is a bit too ambiguous of a description, let's put it this way: Chasm is a 2D, pixelated Diablo with Castelvania-style mechanics. The player will take their character into an deep mine in search of lost miners, only to find secrets deep within. Through their adventure, the player will level-up, acquire gold and items and all of it in beautiful pixel art. In other words, pure indie gold.
Chasm is currently planned for PC, Mac and Linux, with release tentatively scheduled for May 2014. If you're interested in the project, check out their Kickstarter page where a full demo is available to download for free. Depending on the game's success going forward, it could be ported to console platforms -- or hopefully be expanded into a franchise a la Torchlight (my words, not theirs). Oh, and a $30 pledge will get you early access to their beta a couple of months prior to launch. Woohoo! Chasm got funded!
Not Bethesda the developer, this is Bethesda the publisher
Bethesda dropped a teaser image over Twitter this morning which claimed some sort of a reveal would be coming within the hour. An hour later and no big reveal has occurred, but the plot has certainly thickened. Their initial teaser was an image composed of parts of three different images. Since, these three images have been fully revealed on GameSpot. What's with these industrial, robotic images?
Keep in mind, this is a teaser from Bethesda Softworks, the publisher, and not Bethesda Game Studio which is the developer of Skyrim and other delightful games. As such this teaser could be in reference to any number of Bethesda's publishing partnerships -- or even a new one. Obsidian, id, inXile, Arkane, Rebellion, Splash Damage or Human Head -- the list goes on.
For now, we have these three strange images to pour over. The red eye is certainly referential to 2001: A Space Odyssey, though I doubt we're looking at a HAL 9000 video game. The third teaser shows some humanoid shaped shadows in the background, and the second seems to be either bullets or gears or... I have no idea. Take a look and see if you have any better ideas. If I had to lob a guess... it looks Unreal quality. Maybe something for PC?
What is #1960?
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As long it still works as a space heater for my room, I'm in
Ars Technica is reporting that they've acquired an internal email sent around the offices at Microsoft. Coincidentally, this internal email focuses on the next-gen Xbox and the rumors that it's "always-online." Basically, the email confirms that it isn't. The email states that the console will be "tolerant" of modern internet instability, which is dubious language, but in practice will be able to run Blu-Ray discs, run live TV, and play single-player games. I think that covers the bases pretty well.
Here's the full subsection of the email on the next-gen Xbox's, referred to by its codename Durango, online capabilities that Ars Technica published:
"Durango is designed to deliver the future of entertainment while engineered to be tolerant of today's Internet." ... "There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection, and those should 'just work' regardless of their current connection status. Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game."
The statement also seems to corroborate rumors that the next-gen Xbox will feature integration with home television systems -- cable TV. "Live TV" implies that the next-gen Xbox will allow for recording, pausing, and likely other features that users expect from their DVR or other tech.
Really though, to us gaming nerds, it's all about that one line of text at the end. "... and yes playing a single player game," means we can rest easy. The ability to play single player games without being online is the biggest issue that gamers seem to have with the idea of an always-online console.
There are other issues, and still many worries, but if this rumor is true -- and we must bluntly state this is entirely rumor at this point -- then many gamers can now rest easy. For official word on the technical aspects of the next-gen Xbox, codename Durango, we'll have to wait for the console's announcement on May 21.
... and thousands of Sims cry out in terror
Early details are scant, as Electronics Arts is currently holding a conference call with fansites, but the news is still official -- Maxis has announced The Sims 4. Coming to PC and Mac in 2014, The Sims 4 will be an offline single-player experience and, well... that's about all we know right now. Basically, all that's been provided to us is the image in the header. My guess for a title? The Sims 4: Eyebrows.
Expect updates as more information is published by fansites or released by EA. We expect a lot of The Sims 4 news very soon, so check back in a bit.
Update: Word is Electronic Arts is planning an event for fansites in the third week of August to give them a much closer look at the game, as opposed to the announcement conference call today.
Here's a quote from the SimsVIP fansite giving us a brief introduction to what The Sims 4 will be focusing on:
"The Sims 4 encourages players to personalize their world with new and intuitive tools while offering them the ability to effortlessly share their creativity with friends and fans."
Judging from the lack of details on fansites as the news drops, this might be it! What we know is that The Sims 4 will be single-player and offline, it'll be coming to PC and MAc in 2014, and it'll have tool and features to share content with "friends and fans." Stay tunes.
- Nintendo's E3 Nintendo Direct event to go live on June 11 at 7AM PT, prepare your Wii U 
- Dead Island studio Techland announces new shooter 'Dying Light,' published by Warner Bros. 
- Level-5's LIBERATION MAIDEN lands on iOS, just in case the 3DS wasn't portable enough for you 
- Grand Theft Auto V Special and Collector's Editions announced by Rockstar, now available to pre-order 
- Trailer for new BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasm is a treat for the fans and shows off new characters 
- Xbox One HUD image could be teasing half a dozen unannounced games 
- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn relaunches August 27 on PC and PS3, Collector's Edition details 
- Saints Row 4 trailer video series focuses on the completely randomness of Saints Row 
- Microsoft's Next-Generation Xbox Reveal: Liveblog and Discussion 
- Xbox One lacks backwards compatibility, Microsoft will continue selling Xbox 360 games and console 
- Several Pokemon revealed in latest CoroCoro Pokemon X and Y feature, also trainer customization 
- Pokemon X and Y welcomes us to Kalos, trailer showcases quartet of recently announced Pokemon 
- Xbox One officially announced, here are the facts 
- Next-gen Xbox officially set to be revealed on May 21, press invited to event on Microsoft's Redmond campus