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XBox (Games)

Microsoft's 'Forza' Video Game Francise Tops $1 Billion in Sales (xbox.com) 35

Here's another area where Microsoft, whose cloud services are doing very well, continues to make a lot of money: video games. Microsoft has minted its fifth billion-dollar video-game franchise. The "Forza" racing series in December topped $1 billion in lifetime sales since the first game's release 12 years ago, Microsoft said. From company's blogpost: As of December, more than 14 million unique players were involved in the Forza community on Xbox One and Windows 10, the award-winning Forza Horizon 3 sold through 2.5 million units, and Forza continued its run as the best-selling racing franchise of this console generation. Additionally, our online racing community expanded significantly: over three million players joined us online each month and we launched the Forza Racing Championship, an eSports league for players of all skill levels to compete for glory and real-world prizes. "Since the beginning, Forza has combined stunning graphics, racing's leading simulation engine, and an emphasis on fun and accessibility," said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. "With the Forza series, Turn 10 Studios has built the world's largest racing community. We couldn't be more proud of their success." Other game franchises in Microsoft's billion-dollar club are "Halo," "Minecraft," "Gears of War", and "Age of Empires".
Microsoft

Microsoft Teases Windows 10's Upcoming 'Project Neon' Design Language (windowscentral.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windows Central: Microsoft just gave developers a sneak peek at Project Neon, Microsoft's upcoming design language for Windows 10 that aims to add fluidity, animation and blur to apps and the operating system. We exclusively revealed that this was in the works in late 2016, and today Microsoft has given us a first peak at what Project Neon will look like. During the Windows Developer Day livestream, an image of Project Neon was seen the background of one of the PowerPoint slides being shown off on stage. Although not much, it's further confirmation that this is the end goal for Windows 10's UI, and Project Neon will be bringing a fresh coat of paint to apps. Project Neon should benefit all types of Windows 10 devices, including Windows 10 Mobile, HoloLens and even Xbox. We're still several months away from Project Neon being everywhere in Windows 10, and we're expecting to see more at BUILD this coming May. In fact, a lot of the Project Neon APIs are available in the latest Insider Preview builds of Windows 10, meaning developers can already begin taking advantage of these new user interfaces and design language! Animations and transitions are a big deal with Project Neon, with the goal of making the operating system and apps feel like they work together. Peter Bright does a good job summarizing the looks of the screenshot via Ars Technica: "The picture shows a refreshed version of the Groove music app on a Windows desktop. The fundamentals of the app and its layout aren't changed, underscoring that Neon is very much an iteration of the current Metro/Microsoft Design Language (MDL). The window has shed its discrete title bar and one pixel border, with the application content now extending to the very edge of the window. The search text field no longer has a box around it, and the left hand pane has a hint of translucency to it." You can view the screenshot here and judge it for yourself.
Software

Overwatch Director Speaks Out Against Console Mouse/keyboard Adapters (arstechnica.com) 262

Striek quotes a report from Ars Technica: Regardless of where you fall in the long-running debate between keyboard/mouse and analog stick controls, you could historically be relatively sure that everyone on a single platform would be playing with the same control scheme. Recently, though, third-party adapters have started allowing console players to use a mouse and keyboard effectively on dedicated consoles, throwing off the competitive balance in a way that Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan doesn't appreciate. "The Overwatch team objects to the use of mouse and keyboard on console," Kaplan wrote on the Battle.net forums. "We have contacted both first-party console manufacturers and expressed our concern about the use of mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices. We have lobbied and will continue to lobby for first-party console manufacturers to either disallow mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices or openly and easily support mouse and keyboard for all players," he continued. "I encourage you to reach out to the hardware manufacturers and express your concerns (but please do so in a productive and respectful way)." Kaplan is talking about products like the XIM4, a $125 hub that lets certain USB keyboards and mice work natively with some Xbox One and PS4 games (as well as PS3 and Xbox 360 titles). IoGear's $100 Keymander does much the same thing, claiming to be "compatible with all console games." These devices essentially emulate a standard controller through a combination of hardware and software settings, disguising the keyboard and mouse inputs in a way that makes them hard for a developer to detect. This is a problem in competitive online games like Overwatch, where the quickness and precision of mouse aiming can give a decisive advantage over players using a slower and clunkier analog stick.
Piracy

2.5 Million Xbox and PlayStation Gamers' Details Have Been Leaked From Piracy Forums (thenextweb.com) 36

Xbox360ISO.com and PSPISO.com have been hacked by an unknown attacker in late 2015 and the details of the 2.5 million users affected have been leaked online. The leaked information contains email addresses, IP addresses, usernames and passwords. The Next Web reports: It seems that the operator of these sites did nothing to protect the latter, as all passwords were "protected" using the MD5 hashing system, which is trivially easy to overcome. For reference, that's the same hashing system used by LinkedIn. As the names of these sites imply, they were used to share pirated copies of games for Microsoft and Sony's gaming platforms. They also both have a thriving community where people discussed a variety of tech-related topics, including gaming news and software development. If you think you might have had an account on these sites at one point, and want to check if you were affected, you can visit Troy Hunt's Have I Been Pwned. If you have, it's worth emphasizing that anyone who gained access to that site, and anyone who has since downloaded the data dump, will be able to discern your password. If you've used it on another website or platform, you should change it.
PlayStation (Games)

10% Of 'Resident Evil 7' Players Are Wearing VR Headsets (digitaltrends.com) 77

Released five days ago, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard already has over 800,000 players -- and 84,036 of them are using a PlayStation VR headset. An anonymous reader quotes Digital Trends: These numbers show that VR might have some real legs if compelling software is made... The numbers are also being updated live, so expect them to go up in the coming weeks. Earlier this week, numbers were in the 60-thousand range, meaning that positive buzz is driving gamers to pick up the game along with a VR headset. Unfortunately for many gamers, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a PSVR exclusive, meaning PC gamers that own an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift are unable to experience the game in VR... Luckily, patient PC gamers will be able to experience the game in VR next year, when Sony and Capcom's PSVR exclusivity deal expires.
It's the first Resident Evil game using the first-person point-of-view. Are there any Slashdot readers who have already tried gaming with a VR headset?
PlayStation (Games)

Report: PS4 Is Selling Twice As Well As Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 136

The latest numbers released by analysts suggest that the Sony PlayStation 4 is selling twice as many units worldwide as the Xbox One since both systems launched in late 2013. The data comes from a new SuperData report on the Nintendo Switch, which is backed up by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad. SuperData mentions an installed base of 26 million Xbox One units and 55 million PS4 units. Ars Technica reports: Ahmad's chart suggests that Microsoft may have sold slightly more than half of the 53.4 million PS4 units that Sony recently announced it had sold through January 1. Specific numbers aside, though, it's clear Microsoft has done little to close its console sales gap with Sony over the past year -- and may have actually lost ground in that time. The last time we did our own estimate of worldwide console sales, through the end of 2015, we showed the Xbox One with about 57 percent as many systems sold as the PS4 (21.49 million vs. 37.7 million). That lines up broadly with numbers leaked by EA at the time, which suggest the Xbox One had sold about 52.9 percent as well as the PS4 (19 million vs. 35.9 million). One year later, that ratio has dipped to just above or even a bit below 50 percent, according to these reports. The relative sales performance of the Xbox One and PS4 doesn't say anything direct about the health or quality of those platforms, of course. Microsoft doesn't seem to be in any danger of abandoning the Xbox One platform any time soon and has, in fact, recently committed to upgrading it via Project Scorpio later this year. The gap between PS4 and Xbox One sales becomes important only if it becomes so big that publishers start to consider the Xbox One market as a minor afterthought that can be safely ignored for everything but niche games.
Microsoft

Microsoft's New Windows 10 Game Mode Will Maximize Gaming Performance (mspoweruser.com) 129

Microsoft has started officially testing a new Game Mode feature in Windows 10. From a report: Traces of the new option were found back in December, but the most recent test build of Windows 10 (15007) includes Game Mode in the Xbox app. MSPoweruser has supplied some screenshots of how you can enable the option, but Microsoft has not yet officially unveiled Game Mode for everyone to test. Microsoft's description lists the feature as a mode to let a PC make gaming the "top priority to improve your game's quality." It's still not clear exactly how Game Mode will improve gaming performance, but it's likely that Windows 10 will simply suppress system processes and other apps from taking too many CPU, GPU, and RAM resources away from the primary game being played.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Valve Reveals Steam's 2016 Top Earners -- Including 'No Man's Sky' (pcgamer.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes PC Gamer: In a surprise announcement today to kick off 2017, Valve has revealed the 100 best-selling Steam games of 2016... Although the "Top Sellers" section of Steam gives a constant sense of what's selling now, Valve hasn't previously compiled an annual list of which Steam games earned the most money... Rather than ranked in order from 1-100, the list is separated into tiers, from Platinum to Bronze, based on revenue (as opposed to copies sold)... Doom didn't crack the top 12, but it may have gotten close: it's ranked somewhere between 13th and 24th
That second-place Gold tier included more modern throwbacks to classic games, including Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20-Year Celebration. Meanwhile, No Man's Sky, which got off to a rocky start this summer before its massive November update, still turned up in the top "Platinum" tier for revenue earned in 2016. (And it's now discounted 40%.)

In fact, "As an extension of the Winter Sale, all but six of these games are on sale," reports PC Gamer. The other top-earning Steam games were Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Grand Theft Auto V, Civilization VI, and DOTA 2 (which is free to play), as well as Rocket League, XCOM 2, Dark Souls III, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 4, Total War: Warhammer, and Tom Clancy's The Division.
Windows

Windows 10 Getting a Game Mode That Would Improve Game Performance - Report (gamespot.com) 164

Microsoft may have plans to improve gaming experience on Windows 10. The speculation comes after long time watcher @h0x0d found a new "gamemode.dll" in the latest Windows 10 developer build, reports GameSpot. The feature appears to allow Windows 10 to adjust CPU and GPU resources when running a game to allocate more power for the game that's running instead of toward any background apps. From the article: The feature will reportedly launch as part of the Creators update and will be enabled for Windows Insider users soon. What's unclear is exactly which games this is compatible with. It's possible it could be limited to only to those downloaded from the Windows Store, or it might be much more far-reaching. We should know more once Windows Insiders testers get their hands on the feature.
Music

Microsoft Xbox One and Windows 10 Getting Dolby Atmos Surround Sound (betanews.com) 37

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: When people think of the technology behind video games and movies, they often just focus on the visuals. True, when creating an immersive experience, the video is probably the most important aspect from a technological perspective. With that said, audio quality is very important too. Today, Microsoft announces that both Xbox One And Windows 10 will be getting Dolby Atmos support in future updates. If you aren't familiar, it is a surround sound technology with a focus on immersion. Don't have compatible audio hardware? Don't worry -- the Windows-maker is promising a "virtual" Atmos experience too. Larry Hryb, Xbox Live's Major Nelson said in a statement, "Xbox will be the first game console to feature Dolby Atmos and game developers are excited about using the new capabilities to make their games richer and more engaging. Atmos support for the Blu-ray app on Xbox is already available in Preview and will be released to GA soon -- and we're very excited now to offer Atmos support to games on Xbox One and Windows 10."
XBox (Games)

Xbox One Games Arrive On Oculus Rift With New Streaming App (theverge.com) 16

Microsoft has released its Xbox One streaming app to the Oculus Store today, allowing Xbox One owners to stream games to their Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset via a Windows 10 PC. The Verge reports: The app itself looks just like the Windows 10 version of Xbox streaming, with the ability to select different consoles on a network before streams are launched. Microsoft has also added the ability to open the Xbox One guide and control the orientation of games in the virtual environment. If you're interested in streaming Xbox One games to the Oculus Rift then you'll need a Windows PC to take advantage of the streaming, and games will be streamed directly from a console that's powered on and not in use. The Xbox streaming app is available immediately in the Oculus Store. The streaming app is a far cry from full VR gaming, but the app will let you simulate playing games on a large screen in a virtual environment. "Whether you're taking on Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, or any other Xbox One game, you'll be able to play in three different environments from the start -- each titled 'Citadel,' 'Retreat,' and 'Dome,'" reports Windows Central.
Nintendo

Nintendo Legend Miyamoto: Mario Needs To Evolve To Survive (cnet.com) 88

Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's legendary game designer, and his fellow developers were tinkering with a "one-button control scheme" for Mario, where all a player can do is make Mario jump. This dead simple idea became the crux of the company's new Super Mario Run, one of the most anticipated mobile-app games of the year. CNET adds: "We found a great way to make an accessible Mario game and bring it to iPhone and reach a lot of people," Miyamoto said Thursday through his translator. "That's when we decided to make Super Mario Run." Super Mario Run may become a critical next step for Nintendo, which has struggled for years to maintain its relevance in gaming against Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox, as well as a surge of mobile gaming apps. This year, it garnered some attention from Pokemon Go, though it's only partly involved in that game. Now, two more Nintendo mobile gaming apps -- Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem -- are on the way, which could provide the Japanese company with a big boost.
Sony

Sony Has Sold 50 Million PlayStation 4 Units (gamespot.com) 73

Sony today shared sales figures of the PlayStation 4, saying the gaming console surpassed 50 million units as of this week. The console was launched in November 2013, and hit 40 million sales mark in May this year. In a statement, the company said, via GameSpot: "We're truly delighted that the PS4 community continues to flourish since launch three years ago," Sony Interactive Entertainment boss Andrew House said in a statement. "With tremendous support from our fans and partners across the globe, this year we were able to deliver an unprecedented lineup of hardware, including the new slimmer PS4, PS4 Pro, and PlayStation VR. We will continue to provide the best gaming experiences available through our ground-breaking software lineup and network services, as we focus on accelerating our business and expanding the PS4 ecosystem."According to an estimate Nvidia provided in August, Microsoft's Xbox One has an install base of 29 million.
NES (Games)

Doyodo RetroEngine Sigma Is a Linux-Powered Classic Video Game Emulation Console (betanews.com) 91

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: The Nintendo NES Classic is quite an amazing console. True, it is not as powerful as modern game systems like Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but it comes pre-loaded with many classic NES titles. Unfortunately, its strength is also its weakness -- those pre-loaded titles are the only games you can play. You cannot load other games, so you are stuck with what you got. As an alternative, some folks use software emulation and ROMs on their computers to play countless video game titles. Of course, there are moral concerns here, as you are often downloading the games illegally -- unless you own the physical copy, that is. Even then, it is a gray area. Today, a company called Doyodo launched a new Linux-powered emulation console on Indiegogo. The device not only plays NES games, but Atari, Game Boy, PlayStation 1, Genesis, and more. You play using USB controllers. In addition, it can serve as a media player (with Kodi) or a full-fledged Linux desktop. Some other features include 4K video playback, Wi-Fi networking built in, and a compact and portable design. There's even a deluxe version that ships with Bluetooth, an extra controller and 32GB of storage; the basic configuration includes just one controller and 16GB of storage. You can view the Indiegogo page here.
Security

The 'USB Killer' Has Been Mass Produced -- Available Online For About $50 (arstechnica.com) 243

New submitter npslider writes: The "USB Killer," a USB stick that fries almost everything that it is plugged into, has been mass produced -- available online for about $50. Ars Technica first wrote about this diabolical device that looks like a fairly humdrum memory stick a year ago. From the report: "The USB Killer is shockingly simple in its operation. As soon as you plug it in, a DC-to-DC converter starts drawing power from the host system and storing electricity in its bank of capacitors (the square-shaped components). When the capacitors reach a potential of -220V, the device dumps all of that electricity into the USB data lines, most likely frying whatever is on the other end. If the host doesn't just roll over and die, the USB stick does the charge-discharge process again and again until it sizzles. Since the USB Killer has gone on sale, it has been used to fry laptops (including an old ThinkPad and a brand new MacBook Pro), an Xbox One, the new Google Pixel phone, and some cars (infotainment units, rather than whole cars... for now). Notably, some devices fare better than others, and there's a range of possible outcomes -- the USB Killer doesn't just nuke everything completely." You can watch a video of EverythingApplePro using the USB Killer to fry a variety of electronic devices. It looks like the only real defense from the USB Killer is physically capping your ports.
United States

This Cyber Monday Was the Biggest Online Shopping Day, Ever (zdnet.com) 56

Cyber Monday is likely to have been the biggest online shopping day in history, according to an analysis of visits to US retail websites. Online spending in the US yesterday hit a new record with $3.39bn spent online, a 10.2 percent increase year-over-year -- ahead even of Black Friday, when $3.34bn was spent. ZDNet adds:Cyber Monday is expected to generate slightly less mobile revenue than Black Friday at $1.19bn, but that's still a 48 percent increase on last year, according to the analysis by Adobe. Consumers have spent a total of $39.9bn online so far this month, it said, up 7.4 percent on last November, with 27 out of 28 days seeing online sales of over $1bn. The five best-selling toys in terms of quantity sold on Cyber Monday were Lego, Shopkins, Nerf, Barbie, and Little Live Pets. The five best-selling electronic products were Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox, Samsung 4K TVs, Apple iPads, and Amazon Fire tablets, the company said.
Businesses

Yesterday Saw $3.3 Billion In Online Purchases (cmo.com) 66

Friday humanity set a new record for the most money ever spent online in a single day -- and the most ever purchased on mobile devices. An anonymous reader writes: Online sales reached $3.34 billion yesterday, up 11.3% from the same day last year, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Insights. And most of that traffic came from mobile devices. In fact, yesterday became "the first day to ever generate over a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices," according to their report. Although 64% of online sales came from desktop computers, 55% of the traffic to shopping sites still came from mobile devices -- 45% from smartphones, and 10% from tablets. (Just three years ago, only 20% of Black Friday sales came from mobile devices.)

The top-grossing products appeared to be iPads and Macbooks, Microsoft's Xbox, and Samsung and LG TVs, while the top-grossing toys were electric scooters, drones, Nerf guns and LEGO sets. The products mostly likely to be "out of stock" yesterday included the new NES Classic and the Nintendo 3DS XL Solgaleo Lunala (black edition), the Playstation VR bundle (and the PS4 "Call of Duty: Black Ops" bundle), and the Xbox One S bundle for Madden NFL 17.

The day after Black Friday is now being touted as "Small Business Saturday," a tradition started in 2010 when American Express partnered with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation (and some civic-minded groups in Boston) to encourage people to shop in their local brick-and-mortar stores. American Express reported a $1.7 billion increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2015, "with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more."
Windows

VLC Media Player Previews 360-degree Video Support (videolan.org) 17

VideoLAN has released a technical preview of VLC Media Player 3.0 with 360-degree video support. The new build handles videos following the Spatial Video format, and photos and panoramas following the Spherical spec (the official test page has sample files). More on this: The files play back just like any other video, but you can now left-click and drag within the screen or use the numeric keypad arrows to look around. VideoLAN says there are multiple display modes -- Zoom, Little Planet and Reverse Little Planet -- although we couldn't immediately see how they were activated. This initial release is only available for Windows and Mac, but eventually 360-degree support will arrive for Android, iOS and Xbox One, with VR headset support likely to arrive in 2017.
PlayStation (Games)

Virtual Reality is Pushing Gaming Into Another 'Golden Age': Xbox Co-founder (cnbc.com) 114

From a CNBC report:The Xbox and PS2 were two of the most popular consoles ever and now gaming is entering "another golden age," according to Otto Berkes (a pioneer of the gaming industry), driven by virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). "One of the aspects of VR that has incredible potential is interaction and communication -- interacting with characters that are both artificial and virtual, being able to blur distance and geography, you can be anywhere and literally in any time," Berkes told CNBC in an interview on Wednesday. "We're entering another golden age of interactive content development."
Windows

Microsoft Solitaire Collection From Windows 10 Now Available For Android and iOS (betanews.com) 50

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Back in the the mid-1990's, everyone thought they needed a computer. After all, Windows 95 made using one particularly easy, and the internet was a very attractive thing. Unfortunately, once some people got their first-ever PC set up in their homes, they didn't really know what to do with it. In the end, it would turn out that some consumers spent thousands of dollars for a machine dedicated to one thing -- playing Solitaire! Yes, this fun Windows game is responsible for much wasted time, but not just at home -- at businesses too. The card game has historically been viewed as a negative for productivity. Fast forward to 2016 and fewer people are sitting in front of large desktop computers at home -- people are increasingly turning to tablets and smartphones for entertainment. Today, just in time for Thanksgiving, Microsoft Solitaire Collection comes to both Android and iOS. "Microsoft Solitaire continues to be one of the most-played games of all time on Windows for more than 25 years. What's more, the version of Solitaire you know and love on Windows 10 and Windows 8 PC and mobile devices, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, has reached more than 119 million unique players in the last four years alone! And now, those on iPhone, iPad and Android devices can play the popular card game for free," says Paul Jensen, Studio Manager of Microsoft Casual Games. "[...] with Xbox Live integration, you can sign in with your Xbox Live gamertag or Microsoft account to earn Xbox Live achievements and Gamerscore, compete with friends, and continue playing on any Windows 10, iPhone, iPad, or Android device while on the go since your progress and game data are saved in the cloud. If you're not an Xbox Live member, signing up for a free membership through the game is easy and totally worth it." It's worth noting that the "freemium" model features advertisements, but players can go "Premium" to remove those ads for $2 per month and receive other perks. You can download Microsoft Solitaire Collection from the App Store, Google Play, and Windows Store.

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