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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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The Independent Games Developers Association says UK Videogame Industry is ‘Back on Track’

Xbox-One-Controller-HDThe Independent Games Developer Association (TIGA) has issued a press release summarising its Making Games in the UK Today: June 2014 Annual Report. The report outlines that “the UK videogame development sector is back on track, with studio headcounts, wider games industry employment, tax revenue and investment all on the up.” The report continues, “Employment in the UK games development sector has returned to levels last seen in 2008, with a rise of seven per cent in 2013 representing a five-year high. The games development sector also contributes more than £1 billion to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”

The findings illustrate how successful post-recession UK videogame companies have been – from the smallest to the largest. The report stated that nearly 28,000 individuals are employed – directly or indirectly – by the UK videogames sector. The British Government received £419 million from combined direct and indirect taxes generated by the sector as a whole. These numbers are massive and highlight how successful British gaming has become. However, it should be noted that whilst the TIGA assessment rings true, the 2007/08 recession impacted heavily upon the sector and it has taken up until now to plateau at that level. The wider industry has seen a decline in traditional console/PC based gaming with a higher percentage generated from mobile gaming revenue – which back in 2007/08 was still in its infancy.

The success of mobile gaming, whilst brilliant for job creation and tax revenue collection, does augment the argument in a sense that more development is needed to return to pre-2008 levels of console/PC gaming development – the closure of different companies from Blitz to Modus Operandi highlight how tough the sector can be. However, from such closures – smaller companies have, like a phoenix swooping from the ashes, risen from these closures to create smaller and more innovative gaming companies. Perhaps what this report fails to really ‘applaud’ is this new rise of micro developer working in the mainstream?

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Activision’s E3 Expo Lineup

With just over 24 hours till the official opening of this year’s E3 Expo, Activision have revealed what they’ll be wetting our appetites with at the show. Activision will be showcasing what they’re dubbing as “a new era” for the Call of Duty franchise with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the latest in the innovative Skylanders series and the hugely anticipated Destiny will be playable on the show floor, as will Skylander Trap Team.

“This year’s E3 has been years in the making for us,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, Inc. “Each game we are showcasing is the result of our commitment to quality and innovation: our first 3-year development and our first new lead developer on the  Call of Duty franchise in a decade with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Our biggest innovation since we invented the Toys-to-Life category with  Skylanders Trap Team. And the result of over four years of passion, partnership and investment to bring Bungie’s vision for Destiny to life. I think this is the best slate in Activision’s history and I can’t wait for gamers to get a closer look.”

 


Call of Duty Advanced Warfare 1Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

While Sledgehammer Games had a hand in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, they’re now running the show with the development of their first Call of Duty title in the new tri-annual Call of Duty cycle. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare promises to deliver gamers a truly exceptional experience with an immersive and compelling narrative, stunning visuals and all new gameplay which will redefine how Call of Duty is played. With the power of a mechanical exoskeleton, players become an advanced future soldier empowered by an arsenal of never before seen weaponry, new abilities and gameplay mechanics to match. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the first Call of Duty is the first in the franchise to be developed with the now current-gen Xbox One and PS4 consoles as the primary development focus. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare retains its early November slot, this year releasing on the 4th on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and Windows PC.

 

Destiny_31Destiny

From the creators of the infamous Halo, Bungie brings us Destiny. An epic action-packed adventure title set in a mysterious universe that resembles our own. Destiny is trailblazing a whole new way to play first person shooters with a story-driven universe filled with single player, cooperative, competitive, public, and social activities, all seamlessly connected in a vast, persistent universe, creating the world’s first “Shared World Shooter”. Players take the role of Guardians of the last city on Earth, wielding incredible powers and exploring the extremities of our solar system. From September 9th, Destiny will be available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. 

 

 

Skylanders-Trap-Team_Snap-ShotSkylanders Trap Team

After the roaring success of Skylanders, see  our review here, Toys for Bob are hard at work creating Skylanders Trap Team. In the next chapter of the Skylanders journey, kinds will be able to take characters out of the digital world and bring them into the real world. In  Skylanders Trap Team, Portal Masters seek out and defeat the most wanted villains in all of Skylands, taking them out the game by capturing them in Traps. Players can then send the villains back into the game where they become playable characters, fighting for good. Skylanders Trap Team will include the Traptanium Portal, a ring of magical energy that enables kids to not only bring their Skylanders to life, but also capture villains using Traps.  Skylanders Trap Team introduces new heroes known as Trap Masters and will be available on October 5th in North America for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, Nintendo’s Wii and Wii U. A completely unique version will be available on the Nintendo 3DS hand-held system.

 

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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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Sony reveals E3 Expo lineup

 

Sony Logo  - Ultimate Gaming ParadiseThe list of games that Sony are going to exhibit at the E3 Expo this year has been revealed and consist of over 50 titles including DestinyDriveClub and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX.

The official Sony PlayStation press conference will be held at 6:00pm PDT on June 9 (that’s 2am Wednesday morning UK time).  From June 10, Sony will hold a 3 day live stream showcasing game demos, developer interviews and new title trailers.

“One more thing: I’m pleased to reveal a selection of fine PlayStation software that will be showing in our E3 booth,” said Sid Shuman via the PlayStation Blog”Obviously, we can’t dish on every game that we’ll be showing at E3, but consider this a conversation starter. See you Monday!”

Here’s the full list of what Sony will be giving us insight to at E3 Expo this year.

  • Aaru’s Awakening (Lumenox, PS3)
  • Akiba’s Trip Undead & Undressed (XSEED, PS Vita)
  • Apotheon (Alientrap, PS4)
  • Assault Android Cactus (Witchbeam Games, PS4)
  • Axiom Verge (Thomas Happ Games, PS4)
  • Big Fest (SCE / On The Metal Ltd., PS Vita)
  • The Binding of Issac: Rebirth (Nicalis, PS4)
  • Chasm (Discord Games, PS4)
  • CounterSpy (SCE/Dynamighty, PS4/PS3/PS Vita)
  • Danganronpa 2 (NIS America, PS Vita)
  • Destiny (Activision/Bungie, PS4)
  • Diablo III: The Ultimate Evil Edition (Activision Blizzard, PS4)
  • Disgaea 4 (NIS America, PS Vita)
  • Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes (Disney Interactive, PS4)
  • DRIVECLUB (SCE/Evolution Studios, PS4)
  • Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn (Bandai Namco Games, PS3)
  • EarthNight (Cleaversoft, PS4)
  • Freedom Wars (SCE/SCE Japan Studios SHIFT and Dimps, PS Vita)
  • GALAK-Z: The Dimensional (17-BIT, PS4)
  • Gravity Crash Ultra (Just Add Water, PS Vita)
  • Guilty Gear Xrd (Aksys Games, PS4)
  • Gunship X (Hidden Elephant, PS Vita)
  • Helldivers (SCE/Arrowhead Game Studios, PS4/PS3)
  • Hohokum (SCE/Honeyslug, PS4/PS3)
  • Home (Benjamin Rivers Inc., PS Vita)
  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (Devolver, PS Vita)
  • Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine, PS Vita)
  • Invizimals: The Alliance (SCE/Novarama, PS Vita)
  • Jamestown Plus (Final Form Games, PS4)
  • Killzone Shadow Fall Intercept (SCE/Guerrilla Games, PS4)
  • Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix (Square Enix, PS3)
  • Legend of Raven (Nicalis, PS Vita)
  • LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (Warner Bros, PS4)
  • MechRunner (Spark Plug Games, PS Vita)
  • Metrico (Digital Dreams, PS Vita)
  • MLB 14 The Show (SCE/San Diego Studio, PS4/PS Vita)
  • Murasaki Baby (SCE/Ovosonico, PS Vita)
  • N++ (Metanet Software, PS4)
  • Nidhogg (Messhof, PS4)
  • Night in the Woods (Finji Games, PS4)
  • Nuclear Throne (Vlambeer, PS4)
  • Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty (Oddworld Inhabitants, Inc, PS4)
  • One Way Trip (Beret Applications, PS Vita)
  • Persona 4: Arena Ultimax (Atlus Games, PS3)
  • PS Vita Pets (Spiral House, PS Vita)
  • PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate (Double 11, PS Vita)
  • Planetside 2 (SOE, PS4)
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (EA, PS4)
  • Project CARS (Slightly Mad, PS4)
  • Race the Sun (Flippfly PS, Vita)
  • Road Not Taken (Spry Fox, PS4)
  • Rogue Legacy (Cellar Door, PS Vita)
  • Samurai Warriors 4 (Tecmo-Koei, PS4)
  • Secret Ponchos (Switchblade Monkeys, PS4)
  • Shadow Warrior (Devolver Digital, PS4)
  • Source (Fenixfire, PS4)
  • Starwhal: Just the Tip (Breakfall, PS3)
  • Super Exploding Zoo (Honeyslug, PS Vita)
  • Switch Galaxy Ultra (Atomicon, PS Vita)
  • Tales of Xillia 2 (Bandai Namco Games, PS3)
  • Teslagrad (Rain Games, PS3)
  • The Crew (Ubisoft, PS4)
  • The Golf Club (HB Studios, PS4)
  • The Order: 1886 SCE / Ready At Dawn, PS4
  • The Swapper (Curve Studios, PS3)
  • To Leave (Freaky Creations, PS Vita)
  • EA Sports UFC (EA Sports, PS4)
  • Valiant Hearts (Ubisoft, PS4)
  • Velocity 2X (FuturLab, PS4)
  • Zen Pinball 2: The Walking Dead Table (Pack Zen Studios, PS3)
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Nintendo closes European HQ

nintendo-wii-u-systemNintendo has announced that it is closing its European HQ in Großostheim, Germany, laying off 130 employees in the process. The firm’s offices in Frankfurt will be the new home of for the European HQ operations. It is understood Nintendo are also looking at “outsourcing and reorganising some functions” within Europe.

“These intended measures have not been made lightly and have only been arrived at after thorough analysis and careful consideration,” the company said in a statement.

“The intended measures will sadly have a direct effect on some of the employees based in the Großostheim and Frankfurt offices in Germany and would lead to the release of approximately 130 permanent employees.”

Nintendo is going to seek consultation before the closure and lay-offs are finalised and is hoping that in the long term the measures will “better enable the European business to adapt to the rapidly changing business environment.”

Last month, May, Nintendo’s published accounts showed a net annual loss of £135 million while predicting a somewhat measly 3.6 million annual sales for its flagship WiiU console for 2014/15 financial year.

 

Full Statement from Nintendo Europe

Nintendo of Europe has entered into a consultation process on a number of changes it is intending to make to its European business which, in the long term, will better enable the European business to adapt to the rapidly changing business environment.

The measures include the consolidation of the current European headquarters in Großostheim (Germany) to Frankfurt (Germany), the closure of the warehouse and office in Großostheim, as well as outsourcing and reorganising some functions.

These intended measures have not been made lightly and have only been arrived at after thorough analysis and careful consideration. The intended measures will sadly have a direct effect on some of the employees based in the Großostheim and Frankfurt offices in Germany and would lead to the release of approximately 130 permanent employees.

Nintendo of Europe is committed to a fair consultation process with the local Works Council in Germany with the objective of providing clarity and support for all affected employees as soon as possible.

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Xbox One to get 45 new apps

 

With little time to go till the big annual Xbox briefing at E3 Expo, it has been announced that more than 45 new entertainment apps are coming to the Xbox platform. Some of the big names that folks will get excited about are Twitter (a specially designed app for viewing Twitter on a TV with additional functionality), Vine, HBO GO, Showtime Anytime, Comedy Central and Major League Gaming are all scheduled to release by the end of the year, alongside many more apps. With the addition of over 45 new apps, it will bring the total catalogue up to 225 apps around the world, just remember though that that number includes Xbox 360 apps as well!

Xbox say that with over 180 apps currently available on both 360 and One, entertainment usage of the consoles outside of gaming has continued to shoot up. With one of the core visions of Xbox One being a system that allows gamers to switch seamlessly between gaming and TV shows, movies, and apps they love, this announcement is just another step forward in providing that all-in-one entertainment system.

“Xbox fans are spending more time than ever on the console, spending more than five hours a day on Xbox One,” said Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President of Devices and Studios at Microsoft. “Today as we announce new commitments from dozens of our partners, including deep integration with experiences like Twitter and Vine, we hit an important milestone in our journey to deliver unique experiences on Xbox. We’re thrilled to break new ground in social TV experiences like we’re doing with Twitter on Xbox One.”

 

Xbox One Twitter Mini-guideTwitter for Xbox One

A version of the Twitter platform is being designed and built specifically for  Xbox One. However, it’s useless to us in UK as we’ve got zero integration with television services other than the upcoming launch of Now TV, which you shouldn’t bother with incidentally, it’s cheaper to just go and get a Sky subscription and you’re given a better TV experience with more channels. There’s no mention if the Twitter app will integrate with Now TV, assume it won’t!

What the Twitter app will do for those in the USA is thus. Twitter will integrate directly with the Xbox One’s TV viewing system and optimised to run on any size of screen, much bigger than the traditional laptop, desktop, tablet and mobile phone screens Twitter is currently viewed on of course! While watching a programme, viewers will be able to see Tweets relating to the show currently viewed in real time, while watching. Additionally, TV listings will have Twitter integration in the OneGuide where viewers will be able to see what shows are currently “trending” on Twitter so if you care, you can stay up to date with what’s popular…even if it’s utter tripe! During advert breaks in shows, Twitter springs into action and presents to the viewer what is being said about the current show in the Twittersphere.

“People turn to Twitter every day to enjoy and engage in the real-time conversations about their favorite TV shows,” says Jana Messerschmidt, VP Business Development and Platform at Twitter. “We’re enhancing that experience on the Xbox One with a unique Watch with Twitter integration. It will now be easier to discover what shows are trending in real-time on Twitter, tune-in and follow the conversation right from within the Xbox One interface. We are excited to work with the Xbox One team and continue to deliver unique entertainment experiences.”

 

More partners come to Xbox

Twitter integration is just one example of how we’re expanding the world of entertainment on Xbox this year.” says the Xbox Wire blog. 

The blog post goes on to say that Major League Gaming is building an app for Xbox One after the success of their Xbox 360 app and Vine is getting in on the action with an app of their own also.

Here is the full list of new apps being released on the Xbox platform throughout 2014. The list shows app, console and what countries the app is to launch in.

  • Antena 3. Xbox One: ES
  • ChiliTV. Xbox One: IT
  • Comedy Central. Xbox One: US
  • Crunchyroll. Xbox One: AU, AT, BR, CA, DE, ES, FR, IE, IT, MX, NZ, UK, US
  • ENCORE Play. Xbox One: US
  • EPIX. Xbox One: US
  • Filmbox Live. Xbox 360: AR, AU, AT, BE, BR, CA, CL, CO, CZ, DK, FI, FR, DE, GR, HK, HU, IN, IE, IL, IT, JP, MX, NL, NZ, NO, PL, PT, RU, SA, SG, SK, ZA, KR, ES, SE, CH, TW, TR, AE, UK, US
  • Fox Play. Xbox One: MX, BR. Xbox 360: MX, BR, AR, CO, CL
  • Frightflix. Xbox One: US
  • FXNOW. Xbox 360: US
  • Gol TV. Xbox One: ES
  • GoPro. Xbox One: US, CA, MX, UK, FR, DE, IT, ES, AU, BR, AT, NZ, IR
  • HBO GO. Xbox One: US: Xbox 360: MX, BR, AR, CO, CL
  • iHeartRadio. Xbox One: US
  • Infinity. Xbox One: IT
  • IVI. Xbox 360: RU
  • KDrama. Xbox One: AU, AT, BR, CA, DE, ES, FR, IE, IT, MX, NZ, UK, US. Xbox 360: AR, AU, AT, BE, BR, CA, CL, CO, CZ, DK, FI, FR, DE, GR, HK, HU, IN, IE, IL, IT, MX, NL, NZ, NO, PL, PT, RU, SA, SG, SK, ZA, ES, SE, CH, TW, TR, AE, UK, US
  • maxdome. Xbox One: AT, DE
  • MLG. Xbox One: US, UK, CA, AU
  • MOVIEPLEX Play. Xbox One: US
  • MTV. Xbox One: US
  • NBA. Xbox One: AT, AU, BR, CA, FR, DE, IE, IT, MX, ES, NZ, UK, US
  • NHL. Xbox One: US, CA, MX, UK, FR, DE, IT, ES, AU, BR, AT, NZ, IR. Xbox 360: US, CA, MX, UK, FR, DE, IT, ES, JP, AU, BR, NL, SE, RU, TW, PL, IN, HK, TR, BE, AT, NZ, SA, AR, NO, CH, SG, ZA, IR, DK, CO, CL, FI, CZ, HU, IL, GR, PT, SK
  • Now TV. Xbox One: UK
  • Picturebox. Xbox 360: UK
  • Popcornflix. Xbox One: US
  • Showtime Anytime. Xbox 360: US
  • Sky News. Xbox One: UK, IE, US, CA. Xbox 360: UK, IE, US, CA
  • Sky Online. Xbox One: IT
  • STARZ Play. Xbox One: US
  • STV. Xbox 360: UK
  • Syfy Now. Xbox One: US
  • Target Ticket. Xbox One: US
  • TuneIn. Xbox One: US, CA, MX, UK, FR, DE, IT, ES, AU, BR, AT, NZ, IR
  • TV2. Xbox 360: DK
  • Twitter. Xbox One: US
  • USA Now. Xbox One: US
  • VEO. Xbox One: MX. Xbox 360: MX
  • Vevo. Xbox One: CA, US, AU, FR, DE, IR, BR,ES, IT, UK, NZ
  • VH1. Xbox One: US
  • Vine. Xbox One: US
  • WATCH ABC. Xbox 360: US
  • WATCH Disney Channel. Xbox 360: US
  • WATCH Disney Junior. Xbox 360: US
  • WATCH Disney XD. Xbox 360: US
  • Watchever. Xbox One: DE
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