Weekend Short-Takes: 2/15/13

Next-gen Xbox may feature advanced multitasking and require Kinect to function‏

Simon Wu:
This goes in the same category as the news about the permanently online requirement and no used games we heard about last weekend. Firstly, I am very enthused about the advanced multitasking, where perhaps Microsoft could implement the same sort of tombstoning of apps so that their state is frozen in place but consume little to no resources. This can be achieved if the Xbox shares the same core as Windows, and is powered by the same hardware. That way, if I perhaps hold down the back button, as in Windows Phone, a bunch of cards show up, allowing me to switch between, say, Minecraft, Halo 5, and Netflix seamlessly and without reloading. As much as I don’t like the Kinect requirement, since I will never use it, the same criticism I had last week about the no used games policy applies.

Jonathan Tung:
Seeing that the next generation Xbox will be online only and feature mandatory Kinect support, this could hurt Microsoft in the long run, especially since some of us are starting to get sick of the company shoving Kinect down our throats in just about every single recent video game that came out on their console (such as Dead Space 3 for instance). In addition, I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone bought PS4s instead, especially since the next Xbox aims to eliminate secondhand gaming as we all know it.

Alex Miller:
Once again, I’ll repeat what I said last week when every should think of that “always on internet connection” requirement as bullshit. It does not help Microsoft in anyway so there is logical sense behind its conclusion. However, whereas I called bullshit on that requirement, I could see the Kinect requirement as being an actual thing. As Jonathan says it has become almost an ever present in recent games, but I honestly don’t think it hurts gaming. Voice controls are nice if you want to use them and if you don’t you can disable them. Giving developers extra tools to give them options when making games is only a good thing, and who knows, maybe it will spawn some awesome ideas and ways to use the Kinect.

Photo Credit: bgr.com

Bungie confims Destiny reveal for Feburary

Simon Wu:
I can’t wait to see the fruits of Bungie’s labor since kissing Halo goodbye. Bungie has been a pioneer when it comes to viral marketing, from I Love Bees for Halo 2 to Keep it Clean from Halo 3: ODST. I am absolutely hoping, as Jonathan is, that this is going to help recover some of Activision’s tarnished reputation of force-feeding franchises to gamers until they die.

Jonathan Tung:
From the looks of things, it appears that Bungie is riding on the success of the Halo franchise in order to market Destiny. While I don’t expect anything special for their first multi-platform outing, I believe that they might come up with something that could rival Call of Duty, one of Activision’s other premier titles, in terms of hype that is. Let’s just hope that they don’t screw this up, or worse, let Activision shut them down.

Alex Miller:
I am definitely excited to see what Bungie shows. As Simon says, they have been one of the key innovators in the last two console generations, so to see what they are preparing to (presumably launch) onto the next generations is something that I cannot wait to see. My only concern is that it may too closely resemble Halo, but my hope is that since Bungie has made games, successful ones too, before Halo they can go and make another successful game/series after Halo as well. Lets all see what they reveal on the 17th.

Photo Credit: newgamernation.com

Skylanders surpasses 1 Billion in Sales

Simon Wu:
Back in my day we just had plain old LEGO figures. And we had fun building worlds with them. But now it seems that we have even better and more advanced ways of helping kids force their parents to part ways with hard earned money. While Disney Infinity undoubtedly has far more brand power and market leverage than Skylanders, it is also very clearly a response to the overwhelming success of Skylanders. Now that Star Wars is a Disney property, will they be added to the menagerie of characters? Will Lego games soon allow to switch characters based on what minifigures you have? The fusion of traditional toys with video games is a potent mix for these companies.

Jonathan Tung:
It's amazing how we have gone so far from simple action figures to RFID-tagged collectibles  especially since they have already proven themselves to be a hit with kids. While the success of the Skylanders franchise is already certain, it appears that they might face stiff competition from Disney’s recently-announced Infinity platform, which was unveiled earlier this year. Despite the fact that both toy systems utilize different ways to play (with the Infinity system eschewing the platforming action of Skylanders in favor of a more open-world toy box system similar to the one featured in Toy Story 3), I expect both products to do very well this year.

Alex Miller:
Its amazing to think about this less covered part of the gaming world, where games meant for kids can generate over $1 Billion dollars in sales but whose consumer base is almost certainly not anyone who is following gaming or reading gaming news, as they are probably still in elementary school. Action figures and toy figures have always been big sources of revenue (just think how Lucas made a lot of his money from Star Wars: keeping the marketing rights for all accessories and toys) but to see it on this scale is impressive. Will be interesting to see how the Launch of Disney Infinity cuts into these sales figures and how the ensuing battle for parents’ dollars goes.

Valve fires Jeri Ellsworth, who was developing Steam Box game controllers
Valve reportedly fires more employees as part of 'great cleansing'‏

Simon Wu:
What the Newell giveth, the Newell taketh away. Even though Valve this week delivered the promised port of Steam to Linux, it looks like the company is going through a big reset as it makes this pivot towards hardware. Most notably, it looks like the man who was responsible for making Steam the success it is today has also left, if one is fond of symbolism. Ellsworth, who was working on the controllers, was also let go, however. She was behind a lot of innovative ideas, most notably, trying to reconcile a PC console and a living room couch. Hopefully this does not result in a more hardline shift to either side, unless compromise proved impossible in the end.

Jonathan Tung:
Despite the recent announcement of Steam on Ubuntu, I still find myself a little worried that something may be amiss at the house that Gabe built. With new rumors claiming that the Steam box may be no more, I highly doubt that the recent layoffs signify trouble brewing. Then again, it could be for something even better, such as a company-wide acquisition.

Alex Miller:
Jonathan’s last point is an interesting one. There doesn't seem to be much of a pattern to the firings, other than the fact that their were a lot of them. They were in areas like hardware development, business development, and Android platform development. Now it would be strange if this was just a cull with no further actions taken, but if Valve are looking to purchase other companies that more fully specialise in one of these roles the firings could have been done as part of redundancy elimination. Strange that it would take place before a potential purchase was announced, but who knows. Just a thought.

Steam Client officially hits Ubuntu Software Center, all games discounted 50-75% for a limited time‏

Simon Wu:
And here is the good news for this week from Valve. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the exact reason for the shakeup; those unfortunate employees finished the project and thereby ended their usefulness to the company. This also leads me to believe that the controller scheme must be solidified and set if they tossed their head controller designer. Once again, Valve’s brutal efficiency of getting things done is commendable, and we’ll be seeing the Steambox pretty soon. But, I wonder what happens when they have to make the Steambox 2...

Jonathan Tung:
While I don’t use Ubuntu or any other form of Linux, the fact that Steam is spreading to just about every single open source OS out there proves that Gabe Newell was serious when he said that he wanted to expand to the living rooms, one which is currently dominated by Apple. However, with news that Sony and Microsoft are aiming to make their next gen consoles true media hubs, it looks like Valve might be in the fight of their lives.

Alex Miller:
While this has been a long time coming, it's good to hear for Linux users that they too are now invited to the Steam Party. The sale, in true Steam tradition, is a nice way to welcome new users to the service but as of yet there are really only Valve titles and some smaller or indie games that make up the initial Linux catalogue of a hundred games. Hopefully that expands soon and we see ports of more games making the jump to Linux, but as it stands Steam is on Linux, but its not doing much. 

Photo Credit: unixmen.com

Whiplash's picture

I hope you discuss Destiny on a future podcast, seeing as the details have already spilled on the world. From what I've seen from Destiny, it looks incredible. Everything they've said about the world interaction and the mythos of the game universe makes me want to preorder right now.

EDIT. Apparently several major retailers are already taking preorders for Destiny.

darthskeletor's picture

When Valve actually got rid of all these people, I think that's actually incredibly positive... with the obvious exception of the people that lost their job at a really cool company. I don't think Valve is ridiculously irrational like that. There was a very good reason for this.

disgruntledavians's picture

Having posted this comment after the PS4 announcement, I can see now that PS4 actually did quite well in saying that they were NOT everything that is bad in rumors thus far about the next Xbox. Whether or not the next Xbox is actually any of these things is irrelevant: PS4 has complete control of the message right now as MS continues their strict radio silence until E3.

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