PlayStation (Games)

Young Men Are Working Less. Some Economists Think It's Because They're Home Playing Video Games. (nytimes.com) 283

Video games are instrumental in understanding why younger men are working fewer hours, according to a paper published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. From an article: By 2015, American men 31 to 55 were working about 163 fewer hours a year than that same age group did in 2000. Men 21 to 30 were working 203 fewer hours a year. One puzzle is why the working hours for young men fell so much more than those of their older counterparts. The gap between the two groups grew by about 40 hours a year, or a full workweek on average. Other experts have pointed to a host of reasons -- globalization, technological change, the shift to service work -- that employers may not be hiring young men. Instead of looking at why employers don't want young men, this group of economists considered a different question: Why don't young men want to work? Economists Erik Hurst and his colleagues estimate that, since 2004, video games have been responsible for reducing the amount of work that young men do by 15 to 30 hours over the course of a year (syndicated source). Using the recession as a natural experiment, the authors studied how people who suddenly found themselves with extra time spent their leisure hours, then estimated how increases in video game time affected work. Between 2004 and 2015, young men's leisure time grew by 2.3 hours a week. A majority of that increase -- 60 percent -- was spent playing video games, according to government time use surveys. In contrast, young women's leisure time grew by 1.4 hours a week. A negligible amount of that extra time was spent on video games. Likewise for older men and older women: Neither group reported having spent any meaningful extra free time playing video games.
The Courts

Microsoft Wins Xbox Class-Action Fight at US Supreme Court (reuters.com) 26

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of Microsoft in its bid to fend off class action claims by Xbox 360 owners who said the popular videogame console gouges discs because of a design defect. From a report: The court, in a 8-0 ruling, overturned a 2015 decision by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed console owners to appeal the dismissal of their class action lawsuit by a federal judge in Seattle in 2012. Typically parties cannot appeal a class certification ruling until the entire case has reached a conclusion. But the 9th Circuit allowed the console owners to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit so they could immediately appeal the denial of a class certification. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing on behalf of the court, said such a move was not permitted because a voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit is not a final decision and thus cannot be appealed. The approach sought by the plaintiffs would undermine litigation rules "designed to guard against piecemeal appeals," Ginsburg wrote.
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils The Smallest Xbox Ever -- The Xbox One X (theverge.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: After months of speculation, Microsoft is unveiling its "Project Scorpio" games console today, and it's officially named Xbox One X. Microsoft's Xbox One X naming comes just days after the company trademarked a mysterious S logo, and started dropping Scorpio hints in its E3 teaser videos. Microsoft is planning to launch the Xbox One X on November 7th worldwide. All existing Xbox One accessories will work on the new Xbox One X, alongside all existing Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles and Xbox One games. Microsoft is even planning to use "super sampling" on the One X to make new games look better even on 1080p TVs. [YouTube] The new console will ship with 6 teraflops of graphical power, more than its main competitor, the PS4 Pro, with 4.2 teraflops. Microsoft is using a custom GPU engine on Scorpio that runs at 1172MHz, a big increase over the Xbox One's 853MHz and even Sony's 911MHz found on the PS4 Pro.
Microsoft says the new Xbox One X is the "smallest Xbox ever."
DRM

'Rime' Developer Keeps Promise, Removes Denuvo DRM After Game Gets Cracked (cinemablend.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes CinemaBlend: Tequila Works and Grey Box had previously announced that the DRM for the PC version of Rime would be removed if it were cracked. Well, in just five days the DRM was cracked and a cracked version of the game was made available online. So, now the DRM will be removed...

Five days after the PC launch of Rime, the cracking scene managed to get into the executable and spill all of its guts, removing the DRM and putting the exe back together so it could be distributed across the usual sites. One of the things noted by the cracker was that he found Denuvo executing hundreds of triggers a second, which caused major slowdown in the performance of Rime on PC. This form of digital rights management resulted in every legitimate customer having to deal with a lot of slowdown and performance hiccups... The sad reality was that those who pirated Rime and used the cracked file essentially gained access to a game that had improved performance and frame-rates over those who actually paid for the game.

Microsoft

Microsoft To Launch Its Netflix-Style Game Pass On June 1; Live Gold Subscribers Get Early Access (polygon.com) 36

Microsoft announced today that Xbox Game Pass, a new subscription service that would allow Xbox One owners to download and play a selection of games for a flat monthly fee, will launch on June 1. From a report: Xbox Live Gold subscribers, however, can access the service starting today, May 24. Microsoft is offering a 14-day free trial of Xbox Game Pass, giving Gold subscribers a chance to preview the service at no cost prior to launch. Xbox Game Pass offers "unlimited access to over one hundred great Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles" for $9.99 per month.
Microsoft

Microsoft Says a Chinese 'Gaming Service' Company Is Hacking Xbox Accounts (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader shares a report: Since 2015, a Chinese gaming website has been hacking Xbox accounts and selling the proceeds on the open market, according to a complaint filed by Microsoft in federal court on Friday. On its website, iGSKY presents itself as a gaming service company, offering players a way to pay for in-game credits and rare items -- but according to Microsoft, many of those credits were coming from someone else's wallet. The complaint alleges that the company made nearly $2 million in purchases through hacked accounts and their associated credit cards, using purchases as a way to launder the resulting cash. On the site, cheap in-game points are also available for the FIFA games, Forza Horizon 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and Pokemon Go, among others.
Microsoft

Microsoft Job Posting Hints At VR MMO (roadtovr.com) 18

sqorbit writes: Microsoft has posted a job opening for a Senior Design Manager for a mixed-reality team. The posting states they are "looking to build a massively social gaming and entertainment experience for both the PC and the console." It looks like they are targeting both PC and Xbox Platforms for a VR socially geared development project. The requirements: "The Xbox Mixed Reality team is looking for an experienced senior design manager with deep expertise and passion around crafting immersive social systems and experiences. [...] Here is an opportunity to join a fun and collaborative team that experiments with the latest toys, works with state of the art tech, and crafts the future of entertainment." Road to VR notes that the company says they're looking for someone who has "Shipped at least 3 AAA consumer entertainment products" and has 7+ years using design tools; bonus points if they've got experience in "NUI, VR, AR, game design, art direction, and video storytelling."
XBox (Games)

Xbox Chief: We Need To Create a Netflix of Video Games (theguardian.com) 142

Phil Spencer, the man who heads up Microsoft's Xbox division, says that if the video game sector is to grow both creatively and economically it needs to start thinking along the lines of a video-games-as-a-service subscription model. From a report: Over the last five years we've seen the emergence of a new concept: the video game as a service. What this means is the developer's support for a new title doesn't stop when it's launched. They run multiplayer servers so that people can compete online; and they release extra downloadable content (DLC) in the form of new items, maps and storylines -- sometimes free, but very often paid for. [...] So being able to build and sustain a community around a single title takes the risk out of development. However, the costs of renting and running server networks and maintaining the matchmaking and lobby infrastructures make the model inaccessible for smaller teams. Should it be? "This is directly in line with what I think the next wave of innovation needs to be for us as a development platform," says Spencer. His solution, it seems, is to make Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform more open to smaller studios, so they get access to a large global network of servers. "They don't have to go buy a bunch of servers on their own and stick them under their desks and hope they get enough players to pay for them," he says. [...] Spencer feels that, from a creative standpoint, we need new types of narrative experience -- but from a business standpoint, it's getting harder and riskier to commit to those games. Is there an answer? Spencer thinks there is -- and it comes from watching the success of original content made and distributed on modern TV services. "I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."
Microsoft

Microsoft To Offer Digital Refunds in Xbox and Windows Stores (polygon.com) 15

Microsoft is finally planning to introduce refunds for digital content purchased from the Xbox Games Store and Windows Store, bringing those storefronts in line with popular digital retailers for PC games. From a report: The refund feature is included in the latest alpha release for the Xbox One Insider program. Refunds apply only for full games and paid apps, not downloadable content or season passes. These "self-service refunds" are designed to "provide a quick, simple way of returning a digital product," according to Microsoft. Microsoft says it has begun testing the feature with select users.
Microsoft

Microsoft Formally Bans Emulators On Xbox, Windows 10 Download Shops (arstechnica.com) 116

Microsoft is officially banning emulators from Windows Store. The company has updated the Windows Store policy to announce the changes. The new rules bar any applications that emulate pre-existing game systems, resulting in the removal of a popular program that supported games from Nintendo and Sega and other consoles. From a report on ArsTechnica: An affected developer was notified of the change on Tuesday when its product, Universal Emulator, was delisted from the Windows Store. While no proof of a letter or notice from Microsoft was published, the developers at NESBox linked to relevant changes in the Windows Store application rules, dated March 29, which now include this line: "Apps that emulate a game system are not allowed on any device family." This list of general Windows Store rules, written for developers, received a massive update to its "Gaming and Xbox" requirements; these used to contain only one sentence, and it referred hopeful Windows Store game developers to the ID@Xbox program. That existing program requires pre-approval by Microsoft, but developers will soon be able to publish their games directly to both Xbox and Windows 10 marketplaces by paying a one-time fee of $100 or less as part of the Xbox Live Creators Program.
Microsoft

Xbox Project Scorpio's Full Specs Revealed (eurogamer.net) 135

Microsoft unveiled last year that it will be launching a super-specced Xbox One variant -- codenamed Project Scorpio -- soon. Now the company has shared what those hardware modules look like. According to a report on Eurogamer, which visited Microsoft campus at the company's invitation, the specs of Project Scorpio are:

1. Project Scorpio has 12GB of DDR5 RAM, clocked at 6.8GHz with 326 GB/s bandwidth.
2. Scorpio will be powered by eight CPU cores. It's a custom design sporting 2.3GHz, with a 4MB L2 cache.
3. Project Scorpio will feature an internal PSU (245W) and a compact design, leveraging the advanced cooling techniques pioneered by Microsoft's leading industrial design team.
4. Project Scorpio will achieve six-teraflops of GPU power using a customized design, with 1.172 GHz, 40 compute units, leveraging features from AMD's Polaris architecture.
5. Scorpio will retain the Xbox One S 4K UHD Blu-ray drive.
6. Scorpio will have both HDMI-in and out, 3x USB 3.0, a SPDIF digital audio port, an IR receiver/blaster, and will support Kinect with a USB adapter.

From the report: We saw a Forza Motorsport demo running on the machine at native 4K and Xbox One equivalent settings, and it hit 60 frames per second with a substantial performance overhead -- suggesting Scorpio will hit its native 4K target across a range of content, with power to spare to spend on other visual improvements. And while 4K is the target, Microsoft is paying attention to 1080p users, promising that all modes will be available to them.
Microsoft

Xbox One's Faster, Simpler Interface is Now Available To Everyone (engadget.com) 15

Microsoft today announced it is releasing a major update to the Xbox One gaming console. The much-awaited update comes with a few new features and improvements such as Beam, the company's livestreaming client that does similar things as Twitch; and a faster and simpler interface. From a report on Engadget: The March update centers around a redesigned interface that's designed for speed above all else. It's quicker to perform more than a few tasks, such as finding a group to join. The revamped Guide should be much quicker, too -- it promises faster access to recent apps, background music controls and game recording. A few tweaks are designed with multitasking in mind, such as a brand new achievement tracker and a Cortana rework that puts the voice assistant into an overlay that won't disrupt what you're doing.
XBox (Games)

Four Years Later, Xbox Exec Admits How Microsoft Screwed Up Disc Resale Plan (arstechnica.com) 115

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We're now approaching the four-year anniversary of Microsoft's rollout (and subsequent reversal) of a controversial plan to let game publishers limit resale of used, disc-based games. Looking back on that time recently, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Windows and Devices Yusuf Mehdi acknowledged how that rollout fell flat and discussed how hard it was for the firm to change course even in light of fan complaints at the time. In a blog post on LinkedIn posted last weekend, Mehdi writes: "With our initial announcement of Xbox One and our desire to deliver breakthroughs in gaming and entertainment, the team made a few key decisions regarding connectivity requirements and how games would be purchased that didn't land well with fans. While the intent was good -- we imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing and new ways to try and buy games, we didn't deliver what our fans wanted. We heard their feedback, and while it required great technical work, we changed Xbox One to work the same way as Xbox 360 for how our customers could play, share, lend, and resell games. This experience was such a powerful reminder that we must always do the right thing for our customers, and since we've made that commitment to our Xbox fans, we've never looked back." It's an interesting reflection in light of an interview Mehdi gave to Ars Technica at E3 2013, when the executive defended Microsoft's announced plans for Xbox One game licensing. Mehdi, then serving as Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer, stressed at the time that "this is a big change, consumers don't always love change, and there's a lot of education we have to provide to make sure that people understand... We're trying to do something pretty big in terms of moving the industry forward for console gaming into the digital world. We believe the digital world is the future, and we believe digital is better."
Microsoft

Microsoft Outlook, Skype, OneDrive Hit By Another Authentication Issue (zdnet.com) 48

Two weeks after a widespread authentication issue hit Outlook, Skype, OneDrive, Xbox and other Microsoft services, it's happening again. From a report: On March 21, users across the world began reporting via Twitter that they couldn't sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive and Skype, (and possibly more). I, myself, am unable to sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive or Skype at 2:30 pm ET today, but my Office 365 Mail account is working fine. (Knock wood.) I believe the issue started about an hour ago, or 1:30 p.m. ET or so. MSA is Microsoft's single sign-on service which authenticates users so they can log into their various Microsoft services. As happened two weeks ago, Skype Heartbeat site, has posted a message noting that users may be experiencing problems sending messages and signing in.
XBox (Games)

Microsoft's Project Scorpio Will Pack Internal PSU, 4K Game DVR Capture (windowscentral.com) 44

According to an exclusive report from Windows Central, Microsoft's upcoming "Project Scorpio" gaming console will feature an internal power supply unit (PSU), similar to the Xbox One S, and 4K game DVR and streaming at 60 frames-per-second (FPS). From the report: In Microsoft's efforts to make Project Scorpio a true 4K system, it will also feature HEVC and VP9 codecs for decoding 4K streams for things such Netflix, just like the Xbox One S. It will also leverage HEVC for encoding 2160p, 60 frame-per-second (FPS) video for Game DVR and streaming. Microsoft's Beam streaming service has been running public 4K stream tests for some time, and it's now fair to assume it will not only be PC streamers who will benefit. Project Scorpio's Game DVR will allow you to stream and record clips in 4K resolution with 60FPS, according to our sources, which is a massive, massive step up from the 720p, 30FPS you get on the current Xbox One. With every bit of information we receive about Project Scorpio, the theme of native 4K keeps appearing -- not only for games, but also console features. We now believe Scorpio will sport 4K Game DVR, 4K Blu-ray playback, and 4K streaming apps, but the real showstopper will be the 4K games Microsoft will likely flaunt at E3 2017.
Microsoft

Project Scorpio Next-Generation Xbox Gaming Console Debuts In Microsoft Store (betanews.com) 65

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Microsoft's next generation of video game console is currently called "Project Scorpio." This will be a truly new console, although it will be backwards compatible with all Xbox One games -- nice. In fact, you will even be able to use your Xbox One controllers and other accessories. While we do not have a definitive date of when it will go on sale, today the next Xbox console makes its debut in the Microsoft Store. We even get a slightly better idea of when it will be in stores. Microsoft reaffirms its prior stance that the console will launch in time for the 2017 Holiday season, giving us more confidence that it will launch then. Beyond that, we are none the wiser regarding a date. Heck, we don't even know definitively if it will use the "Xbox" branding (although it probably will). One thing is for sure, though -- simply putting the game system in the Microsoft Store is an important step leading up to the ability to pre-order. You can view Project Scorpio's Microsoft Store page here.
Microsoft

Microsoft Says It Is Working On Fix After Users Report Skype, Outlook, Xbox Live Outages (foxnews.com) 23

An anonymous reader shares a report: A huge outage hit Microsoft services Tuesday morning, with users across the globe experiencing problems accessing Outlook, Xbox and Skype. Users were unable to log onto the Outlook email client via mobile devices and received an error message when trying to access the desktop version of the service. Users also reportedly experienced problems with Microsoft's Xbox and Skype services. Microsoft acknowledged the Xbox issues in a statement posted to its Xbox Live status page. "Another issue has been identified that is causing problems for some members signing in to Xbox Live. The team is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thanks for your patience," it said.
XBox (Games)

GameStop Stock Price Tanks After Microsoft Announces New Digital-Gaming Service (venturebeat.com) 90

After Microsoft announced Xbox Game Pass earlier this week -- a monthly service coming this spring that will give you a selection of games you can download and play on your Xbox One for $9.99 a month, GameStop's stock price dropped nearly 8 percent. The news likely worries investors who view Xbox's instant game library a potential threat to GameStop's sales. VentureBeat reports: The brick-and-mortar retailer makes quite a lot of its money from secondhand sales where it resells products that consumers have traded in. If more people are playing digital games, that takes product out of the supply chain that could end up on GameStop store shelves. Additionally, Game Pass looks like it will primarily traffic in older games that people would typically would purchase used. Older releases like Mad Max, Saints Row IV, and Halo 5 are some of the big options that Microsoft is highlighting. Of course, GameStop isn't completely removed from the digital-gaming ecosystem. The retailer sells a lot of currency cards for the Xbox Store, the PlayStation Store, the Steam PC-gaming portal, and it's possible that people who don't like using a credit card will purchase cards to buy their subscription to Game Pass through GameStop. But that will likely not make up for a dearth of used-game sales or trade-ins if a lot of people adopt a Game Pass subscription.
Microsoft

Microsoft Announces Xbox Game Pass, Netflix-Style Gaming For the Xbox One (polygon.com) 33

Microsoft today announced it is moving into the world of Netflix-style game subscriptions with Xbox Game Pass, a monthly service coming this spring that will give you a selection of games you can download and play on your Xbox One for $9.99 a month. From a report on Polygon: The service will include "over 100 games," including Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16 and SoulCalibur II. "One of the best things about Xbox Game Pass is that you can discover and download the full titles directly on your Xbox One," the official post states. Any game you buy through the service will be sold to you at a 20 percent discount. An alpha preview of the program begins today with "a very limited" number of games, and Xbox Live Gold subscribers will get first crack at the program this spring. It also sounds as if the service may be available, at least in part, on the PC.
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".

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