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Microsoft’s E3 Conference: A Quick Roundup of Events

xbox-one-consoleMicrosoft is one of the videogame sector’s biggest players. It is a giant among minnows. Its videogame division has revenues of £5.5Bn and it is a massive player in both the console and PC gaming environments. Because of Microsoft’s role as console maker, games maker and all-out technology superpower, their E3 conferences are usually a big fan favourite. This year was no different.

First, we need to highlight something. It’s something really, really big. Microsoft at last year’s E3 talked about the Xbox One as an ‘all round entertainment platform’. Yesterday’s announcement was a little less grandiose as the focus of the entire event was on gaming. This is surprising as ‘entertainment’ was no-where to be seen? No Steven Spielberg made TV shows or music or social media apps, just boring old video games? What happened?

Microsoft in the past year has been ‘listening to fans’ and these ‘listening exercises’ resulted in some wholesale changes – not least of all, the boot given to the Kinect sensor. The changes were predicated on fan’s requirements that Microsoft, in a way, goes back to basics. This is what Microsoft’s E3 endeavours were all about.

They started off by ‘dropping’ the One. Not one mention of the Xbox One. It was all ‘Xbox’ and nothing else. The games demoed included Halo 5, Forza Horizon 2 along with Fable Legends. In the ‘active’ camps they announced Dance Central as a somewhat ‘Kinect’ ready title. However, they continued with a nice little exclusive surrounding a new game called Scalebound – a dragon fighting epic.

In usual Microsoft fashion, ‘exclusive’ DLC packs are going to be made available for Call of Duty: Advance Warfare before PS4 and additionally for Tom Clancy’s The Divison which will have special DLC features. Another ‘gem’ from the past was the announcement that Microsoft and Real-Time Worlds are working on a re-boot, of sorts, of the cult classic Crackdown.

These titles showcase a changing attitude from Microsoft, led by Phil Spencer, as they move away from the entertainment-only focus which was a disaster first-time round for the Xbox (One). The core branding is a nod to the disaster of the Xbox One and Kinect launch. They are offering fans a Mea Culpa – an apology – of sorts by offering some great next-gen content. This is the key here, as last year developers were working on multi platforms (i.e. PS3/PS4 and Xbox 360 and Xbox One). This time round they are just working on next-gen – this can be seen in the quality. So thank goodness Microsoft has seen the error in its ways and have found new traction and new motivation to move forwards.

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E3 Expo LIVE on UGP

E3 Expo LIVE right here on UGP!


E3 Expo 2014 was a fantastic event with some really awesome unveils and news coming out of L.A.

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Is Mario Kart 8 the Wii U’s Saving Grace?

nintendo-wii-u-systemThere has been a lot of digital and real world ink spilt recently on the so-called ‘demise’ of Nintendo. Or to be more specific it’s ‘flat-lined’, ‘troubled’ and ‘dead in the water’ Wii U console. EA stated that Nintendo was ‘dead’ after the release of the Wii U. However, a mere five months after all this speculation and fervour, Mario Kart 8 has sold nearly 1.3 million copies in its first three days of release. Now here’s the kicker, Mario Kart 8 is only available on one platform, the Wii U. It’s not available on Xbox One or 360 and it’s not available on Playstation 3 and 4.

Nintendo believes a closed eco-system will save it from obscurity – something its former rival Sega failed to realise. Nintendo’s core titles – your Donkey Kongs, Super Mario Brothers and Zeldas have become cultural symbols of video gaming heritage. The fact gamers from both Generation X and Generation Y (or Rent, depending on your current situation) have grown up with these characters. This pull is strong as the heritage dimension has caricatured video gamer’s responses. Even the hardest of hardcore players who argue about game engines and the graphical nuances of Battlefield versus Call of Duty in HD game engine terms, will stop and play Mario on Wii if given the chance.

Nintendo is clever. Too clever some might argue, in that it knows social gaming is popular. The demise of the Kinect might have dashed social gaming hopes for the next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony, but Nintendo believes multiplayer gaming (with a healthy bias towards offline engagement) has a massive marketplace. This is what made the original Wii so successful. Xbox and PlayStation are defacto solitary gaming devices; you play online against anonymous individuals. However, Wii, and now the Wii U, is based on a different dynamic of video game interplay one which sees the individual sidelined in favour of the multiplayer – not the online multiplayer but the familial multiplayer environment.

Mario Kart 8 according to meta rankings has had some of the franchises highest scores from IGN to Polygon. The diversity of support is telling, considering that five months earlier these same news services believed the console was dead in the water. Nintendo knows that Call of Duty will remain popular but you don’t want to play Call of Duty Multiplayer with your mum and nan – No-one wants to see their Nan getting mauled by Riley do they? So Nintendo’s niche is that ‘fun’ social gaming will always be needed and more importantly will remain popular.

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PC gets Trials Fusion Beta

trials-fusion-2Ubisoft’s announced that it’s highly anticipated Trials Fusion title is going to be available as a closed Beta to people who pre-order the title for Windows PC on Uplay and other selected digital retailers. The Beta kicks off tomorrow on the March 21 and will run right through to launch which is happening on April 24 for Windows PC.

Initially the Trials Fusion Beta will include 14 tracks and 2 skill games, leaderboards and challenges. Each week, Trials Fusion Beta will receive additional content, evolving all the way up to launch. Great news for lovers of the Trials series and Trials Fusion predecessor, Trials Evolution. 

Trials Fusion continues where Trials Evolution left off, building on the highly addictive and a often, maddeningly testing physics-based gameplay of its predecessor and includes a tonne of new features such as the FMX Trickas System. The track editor returns allowing players to create the most imaginative and warped ideas for tracks to test friends and the community.

While Trials Fusion is available on Windows PC on the April 24, it’s coming to Xbox 360, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 a little earlier on April 16.

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Getting Ready To Run

Arcade style RC racers get an upgrade to the PlayStation later this year when Ukraine-based Beatshapers launch Ready To Run for the PS4.   Featuring a unique retro racer feel, the team have modelled many of the aspects of the game on arcade-type games, giving it both a familiar but simultaneously exciting feel to the action.     Beatshapers have invested considerable time in the venture and Ready To Run is the first offering in a proposed series of Radio Controlled car racing and while this will only initially be available for PS4, other systems may be added in future.

The game will feature 15 highly responsive arcade-style RC cars with advanced collision physics making the game both realistic and enjoyable, and a unique retro-futuristic city track that it’s claimed is endlessly configurable to create exciting settings.  In addition, the game will have real-time and asynchronous multi-player modes and will allow filterable scoreboards so that you can list and sort by your own PlayStation Network friends, creating truly competitive gameplay.

Beatshapers are based in Kiev and, while still small, are not new to the game developing world.  With nearly twenty games under their belt including the acclaimed StarDrone Extreme for the PS Vita and the BreakQuest series.

The title will be available to download from the Playstation Store sometime in quarter 2 this year.  We’ll feed out more details on this exciting venture as we get them.

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