Thursday, September 29, 2011

Update on Xbox-integrated TV

According to a Bloomberg report, Microsoft will be partnering with such providers as Comcast and Verizon Communications for its Xbox-integrated TV experience which will be released sometime in the near future.

Bloomberg reports that users will sign in via the Comcast Xfinity and Verizon FiOS apps on the Xbox 360. Users will be able to use their existing account information. The report states that it is likely that content deals will be contracted with HBO, Sony’s Crackle, the Bravo and SyFy channels, and Amazon’s Lovefilm.

Microsoft first talked about its Live TV plans at this year’s E3 conference. Microsoft kicked off the plans with the release of Sky TV in U.K., Canal Plus in France, and FoxTel in Australia. Earlier this month at Microsoft’s BUILD conference, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer discussed some more details concerning what users in the U.S. can expect.

"It's quite obvious that we need to increase the amount of video and TV content that are available on the Xbox," Ballmer said. "Our goal this year is to dramatically increase the total amount of content, the total entertainment catalog available on the Xbox, particularly by working in partnership with a number of video suppliers."

"The content choices on Xbox will grow dramatically from hundreds of thousands to millions," Ballmer said.

Ballmer went on saying that Microsoft will be incorporating Bing into the Xbox TV experience. They will be offering Bing’s search engine capabilities with voice-activated access.

"You say it, Xbox finds it," Ballmer said. “We all know the frustrations of using guides and menus and controllers, and we think a better way to do all of this is simply to bring Bing and voice to Xbox.”

It might be a little while longer until Xbox-integrated TV is available for the public, but I think that it will be worth the wait. I can’t wait to see everything that Microsoft has to offer with this new feature.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

1.5 Million Pre-Orders for Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3

According to findings reported by Sterne Agee financial services firm, Battlefield 3, the hotly anticipated modern war shooter from developer Dice, has officially reached the milestone of 1.5 million pre-orders.

Arvind Bhatia, an analyst for Sterne Agee, stated that EA revealed the number earlier on in the week and that the publisher is confident that the game will receive huge sales. Well, if the game already has 1.5 million copies sold before it has even been released, then I think it will do ok.

According to a statement released by Bhatia, "Management remains optimistic that the title has potential to exceed sales of its predecessor (which was Battlefield: Bad Company 2, not Battlefield 2) which has sold 9.5 million units life-to-date." In addition to that, Bhatia also says that EA is also optimistic that the game will be able to keep up with its only real contender, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

"The combined marketing dollars for BF3 and Call of Duty: MW 3 could reach $100 million this year," Bhatia added. "The two weeks head start for BF3 versus CoD will facilitate a big launch for BF3. Once CoD launches, there would be a natural slowdown in sales of BF3. Then, at holiday, momentum for BF3 should rebuild. BF3 is expected to have a long tail as more digital content is introduced over time."

One factor that could be fueling the large pre-order sales is the fact that anybody who pre-orders the game is automatically upgraded to the Limited Edition game, which includes a free map pack for online multiplayer. Map Packs generally cost anywhere from $15 to $20, so the inclusion of a free one is definitely a strong incentive to gamers.

This holiday season will be one of the first times a Call of Duty game has an actual opponent in sales. Call of Duty generally dominates the genre of war-simulating first-person shooters, though Battlefield 3 has some very impressive features that could very well dethrone Call of Duty entirely.

I am personally more excited for Battlefield 3 myself. While I am a huge fan of the Modern Warfare series, I was totally blown away by the multiplayer in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The gigantic maps, tactical role-based gameplay and ability to drive vehicles, such as helicopters and tanks, around the battlefield was pure bliss.

Battlefield 3 is taking all of that and introducing things like jets and other types of vehicles to further enhance gameplay. Add completely destructible environments in both single player and multiplayer and you bring something to the table that has rarely ever been done, and even more rarely, ever been done properly. Call of Duty is going to have its hands full in the next couple of months and Activision needs to bring all its guns to the table locked and loaded.

Battlefield 3 hits the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on October 25, 2011.

Source: IGN - Battlefield 3 Reaches 1.5 Million Preorders

Monday, September 19, 2011

Should You Consider the New PSN User Agreement Before Just Clicking Yes?

When you come across a user agreement, do you read the entire agreement or scroll down the agreement, click “I agree” and move right on to your music, video game or website without a second thought? I think that’s what most people tend to do. Who has the time to read through every single user agreement that you encounter? Well, if you are a Sony user and you come across the updated agreement that they are releasing, you may want to take a second to read over it.

The Sony PlayStation Network updated its terms of service on September 15. The update was intended to ban class-action lawsuits against Sony.

"Any dispute resolution proceedings, whether in arbitration or court, will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class or representative action or as a named or unnamed member in a class, consolidated, representative, or private attorney general action unless you and [Sony] agree to do so in writing," states the updated terms.

Users have the ability to opt out of these new terms of service if they wish to, but they must do so in writing within 30 days of the day that they accepted the agreement. Users that wish to opt out of the agreement must send in their name, address, PSN account number, and a statement that clearly lets Sony know that they do not wish to resolve any issues with Sony via arbitration. All of this information must be sent to 6080 Center Dr., 10th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

Some Sony users will not even realize that they are clicking away their right to a class-action suit. Maybe some users don’t care, but it is definitely something that PSN users should be aware of.

According to TechDirt, these agreements where users agree to not sue a company are pretty darn common, but the blog says that “it is debatable how enforceable some of these clauses are.” The blog goes on to say that “the terms also bar participating in class action lawsuits, which seems much more questionable.”

"Where Sony gets ridiculous is in claiming that this change 'is designed to benefit both the consumer and the company by ensuring that there is adequate time and procedures to resolve disputes.' That makes me think of a two syllable word whose first four letters are bull," TechDirt wrote. "Come on. At this point, everyone knows that binding arbitration between a company and a consumer wildly favors companies."

Gamasutra, however, argued that the update "really seems to be more a case of the collective gaming public getting riled up over something that has little, if any, consequence for them."

These new terms are a result of several class-action suits that Sony is currently dealing with concerning the breach of the PlayStation Network earlier this year. In April there was a suit filed that claimed Sony failed to protect, encrypt and secure its customer information. The suit is looking for compensation for the data loss and the time that the PlayStation Network was down.

Lesson to be learned: before you just click okay on the next user agreement that you come across, it might be a good idea to at least scan the document and see what it is that you are agreeing to.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Steam's Trading Service Goes Live

Steam Trading

Are you a member of Steam? You should be because Steam is one of the most incredible things to hit the PC gaming market ever. Steam is game company Valve's online digital download gaming service that allows you to purchase full-fledged PC games online and download them directly onto your PC instantly! No more going to the store and letting that evil monster called the sun touch your skin again!

If you haven't joined Steam yet, go do it right now and come back and finish reading this article. For those of you that are members of Steam, I have good news: the service just got better.

Valve launched the beta test for a new service known as Steam Trading last month which allowed Steam users to trade a plethora of owned content. This content included everything from in-game content to actual games themselves. The good news is that the beta testing is officially over and the Steam Trading service has officially gone live.

Since it is still in its infancy, the only supported content includes items from Team Fortress 2 and Spiral Knights and any gifts a user has purchased on Steam. The FAQ on the service has already noted that Valve is currently working with developers in order to get more content and games involved in the service. Portal 2 is said to be coming "reasonably soon" with additional third-party games coming "in the next few months" according to the FAQ.

If you are wondering what I meant earlier when I said gifts, then Valve has an answer. The company defines Steam Gifts as "any game you've purchased from the store as a gift, or received as an Extra Copy." A new checkout option is now available that allows you to save gift purchases for trading later on. However, there is a catch. Gifts not purchased from a trusted account (i.e. accounts that are more than 90 days past their first purchase) require a "90-day cool down" before they can be traded.

I, for one, think that this service will do exceptionally well once more content is added. I can see lots of gamers trading games they don't play anymore for content on new games that they play more often. As long as Valve rolls out a substantial array of content, Steam Trading should have no problems getting off the ground.

Source: G4TV - Steam Trading Moves From Beta To Beautiful Utopian Reality

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Special Edition Gold Wii Remote to Be Released

On Monday August 29, Nintendo announced that it will be releasing a special edition gold Wii remote. The remote will be included in the limited edition Zelda bundle that also includes the first run of Zelda: Skyward Sword and a CD featuring different arrangements of the Zelda theme songs that can be found in the Zelda games that have been released over the past 25 years. The package will be released on Sunday, November 20 and will cost $69.99.

If you don’t want to spend $70, Nintendo is offering just the game and the CD for $49.99, but if you’re already going to spend that, you might as well spend an extra $20 to get the special edition shiny, gold controller.

The controller was first introduced to the public at the E3 conference in June, but they didn’t give out any information about a release date or pricing. The remote was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, a prominent developer at Nintendo, and it features the Zelda 25th Anniversary logo.

Across the Internet there have been mixed emotions about the news concerning the limited edition package.

"Never mind that the Wii is on its last legs and people probably won't play any other games on it after this, they'll still hook people in with a new controller for the Wii even though the Wii-U is announced," wrote a commenter at GameSpot.

"This is a MUST BUY. All is forgiven NINTENDO," wrote a user at My Nintendo News. is news of, for and by SMBs! The Small & Medium Business Magazine!