Atari’s new VCS isn’t a console, but it isn’t quite a computer, either


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LOS ANGELES—At E3 meetings this week, Atari finally showed off playable, near-final prototypes of its long-delayedheavily crowdfunded VCS, the company’s modernized homage to the original Atari Video Computer System (aka the 2600). Obviously, there was a lot of discussion of what the system—which starts at $250 in a package without controllers—actually is at this point. But there was just as much focus on what it is not.

First off, representatives wanted to stress that despite outward appearances, this is not just a retro “mini” console along the lines of the NES Classic Edition or the recently announced TurboGrafx-16 Mini (or even the long-running Atari Flashback line). Yes, the VCS will come with a collection of classic games in the “Atari Vault,” and Atari will also sell classic 2600 ROMs that work through

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Stadia’s E3 Doom Eternal demo made me a cloud gaming believer


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LOS ANGELES—Since Google’s Project Stream beta test in October and the company’s March announcement of the full Stadia platform, one question has loomed large over the service: will it actually work well enough for fast-paced, reflex-intensive games? After playing a demo of Doom Eternal for about half an hour Wednesday, I’m ready to say that the answer to that question seems to be yes—at least in Google’s controlled testing conditions.

Google invited me out to its downtown LA YouTube Gaming creator’s space—away from the Internet-congested E3 show floor—to try out the latest build of Stadia. My demo was running locally on a Pixelbook with the Chrome browser, connected to a TV via HDMI, and remotely to data centers more

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Konami announces plug-and-play TurboGrafx-16 Mini


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Konami may well have earned the “most surprising announcement of E3” trophy with Tuesday’ night’s unexpected reveal of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini (known as the PC Engine Mini in Japan and the PC Engine Core Grafx Mini in Europe).

Price and release date were not announced, but Konami did reveal six games for the US and European editions of the plug-and-play HDMI system, with more to be announced in the future:

  • R-Type
  • New Adventure Island
  • Ninja Spirit
  • Ys Book I & II
  • Dungeon Explorer
  • Alien Crush

The Japanese edition has a somewhat distinct list of announced games thus far, including well-remembered classics like Super Star Soldier, PC Kid (a.k.a. Bonk’s Adventure), and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (later ported to the SNES and Dracula X). Versions of these games may be coming for other regions, but they have yet to be announced. Japan and Europe also get

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Switch Zelda sequel, Animal Crossing headline Nintendo’s E3 event


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LOS ANGELES—Nintendo announced that a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is now in development during a Nintendo Direct presentation Tuesday morning. No release date or target window was announced.

A short teaser trailer for the game showed Zelda and Link exploring a dark cave together, lit only by torchlight, in an art style that seemed extremely similar to the Breath of the Wild engine. That suggests the possibility of a two-player mode for the upcoming sequel, though Nintendo offered absolutely nothing in the way of gameplay details. The teaser also included an a zombie-style creature that turned his head with a violent cracking sound, seemingly in response to their presence.

Nintendo also announced a

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Microsoft working to get “every single Xbox One game” working on Scarlett


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LOS ANGELES—When Microsoft announced the first details of its next game console Sunday, it said that “thousands of games across four console generations will look and play best on Project Scarlett.” In a video follow-up focused on backward compatibility posted Monday, the company clarified that its goal is that “every single game you play on Xbox One today [will] work on the Scarlett device.”

That would be a change from previous Xbox console generations, which have only supported a significant subset of previous generations’ titles through software updates. It sounds like getting Xbox One games to run on Project Scarlett will also take some specific software-level effort on the part of Microsoft, rather than being supported directly at the hardware level.

“Ensuring every game that runs on Xbox One is going to run incredibly well on Scarlett will take a ton of commitment and time from our team,”

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UPlay+ subscription lets you play every Ubisoft game on PC and Stadia


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Just a few of the titles and franchises coming to Ubisoft's UPlay+ service.

Enlarge / Just a few of the titles and franchises coming to Ubisoft’s UPlay+ service. (credit: Ubisoft)

LOS ANGELES—At its E3 press conference today, Ubisoft announced a new subscription service called UPlay+. For $14.99 a month, subscribers will be able to access every title in Ubisoft’s catalog—over 100 games—as a PC download (starting September 3) and through Google’s Stadia streaming service (starting in 2020).

That list of available games includes:

  • Upcoming releases: Watch Dogs: Legion, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, Rainbow Six Quarantine, Gods & Monsters
  • Recent games: Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Far Cry 5, Anno 1800
  • Classic Ubisoft Titles: Titles from the Far Cry and Rayman franchises, Prince of Persia, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Beyond Good & Evil
  • Beloved PC Franchises: Heroes of Might and Magic, Silent Hunter, The Settlers, Anno

A

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Project xCloud demo of Halo 5 nearly indistinguishable from local play


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Project xCloud running <em>Gears of War 4</em> at an E3 Microsoft Theater demonstration.

Enlarge / Project xCloud running Gears of War 4 at an E3 Microsoft Theater demonstration.

After Microsoft’s pre-E3 press conference yesterday, we got our first chance to try out Project xCloud, the cloud-based streaming gaming service the company will be launching in October. Video analysis of those hands-on tests shows response times via Wi-Fi that are practically indistinguishable from local gameplay—at least for a streaming version of Halo 5. For something as sensitive to latency as a first-person shooter, seeing is believing.

We tried out Project xCloud on a Samsung Galaxy S8, mounted to an Xbox One controller connected via USB. The game was running on the Microsoft Theater’s Wi-Fi connection, but a Microsoft representative couldn’t comment on the bandwidth or other details of that connection.

Playing Halo 5 on that setup felt responsive to my fingers, running at an apparent 60fps. We didn’t have a high-end, custom-built latency testing

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Bethesda says its Orion tech can make all cloud gaming better, faster


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LOS ANGELES—Bethesda Softworks announced Sunday that it is getting involved in the increasingly competitive field of cloud gaming. But rather than announcing a service to compete with the likes of Google Stadia or Microsoft’s Project Xcloud, Bethesda’s Orion system is focused on improving streaming performance on the platforms that already exist.

While most cloud gaming efforts try to improve performance by throwing hardware at the problem—often in the form of prime data center locations loaded with high-end servers—Bethesda says Orion is instead incorporated “at the game engine level.” The result of what Bethesda calls “years of research and development,” the company says its group of patented Orion technologies can optimize frame rendering time by approximately 20 percent per frame. Improved compression also leads to streams that require 40 percent lower bandwidth for the same quality,

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Fallout 76 updates promise turnaround after “well-deserved criticism”


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LOS ANGELES—After what Bethesda’s Todd Howard admitted on stage was some “well-deserved criticism” at the launch of Fallout 76, Bethesda rolled out the first phase of its turnaround plan for the game at its E3 press conference tonight.

That plan starts with Nuclear Winter, a 52-player Battle Royale mode that sees players fighting for the role of “overseer” using Fallout‘s usual lineup of guns, power armor, and some “exclusive perks” to upgrade your own abilities. That mode will be available as a “sneak peek” during a free trial of the full game starting June 10 and running through June 17.

Then, in the fall, a free update being called “Wastelanders” will introduce new elements including a full quest line, new rewards, full dialogue trees, and the much-requested return of human non-player characters. Players will also be able to choose between siding with two different factions: Settlers and Raiders.

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Double Fine Productions is Microsoft’s latest Xbox acquisition


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Tim Schafer introduces himself as part of Microsoft for the first time.

LOS ANGELES—”For the last 19 years, we’ve been independent. Then Microsoft came to us and said, ‘What if we gave you a bunch of money.’ And I said ‘OK, yeah,'”

That was the half-kidding way Double Fine Productions (Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, Broken Age) Founder and President Tim Schafer introduced the company’s newly announced acquisition by Microsoft Game Studios. Schafer appeared on stage at Microsoft’s pre-show conference, ready to joke about the new partnership with Head of Microsoft Studios Matt Booty.

“I am a team player,” Schafer said on stage. “Whatever you need from Double Fine we’ll make for you. Halo stuff, Forza stuff, Excel stuff. Whatever you want, we are there.”

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Microsoft reveals first details on “Project Scarlett” game console for 2020


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LOS ANGELES—After an extremely brief tease at last year’s E3 presentation, Microsoft revealed the first details of the successor to the Xbox One today, called “Project Scarlett” for now. The hardware will launch in the 2020 holiday season, the company said.

Much like the Playstation 4 successor first discussed earlier this year, reduced loading times are a major focus for Microsoft’s next console hardware. The company said the system will sport high-bandwidth GDDR6 RAM, and a “new generation of SSD” will act as “virtual RAM,” leading to “more than 40 times performance increases over the current generation” when it comes to data bus bandwidth. That means being able to “move through worlds without waiting for screnes to load,” and the end of those long “fake elevator” scenes that hide loading on previous platforms.

Microsoft didn’t go into too much detail

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Baldur’s Gate III is finally official, coming to PC and Stadia


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After the game’s existence was hinted at months ago and all but confirmed via website source scouring last week, Larian Studios officially announced it is working on Baldur’s Gate III today, nearly 19 years after the release of BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate II.

If you recognize the Belgian Larian Studios name, it’s probably because of the Divinity series of computer RPGs, reborn in recent years as the critically and commercially successful Divinity: Original Sin series.

The Larian team is also working “in close collaboration with the Dungeons & Dragons team at Wizards of the Coast,” according to a press release.

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Despite “revolutionary” promises, Stadia’s biz model is pure establishment


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"Play Now"... but first, do you want to pay full price to buy the full version of the game?

Enlarge / “Play Now”… but first, do you want to pay full price to buy the full version of the game?

In announcing Stadia this March, Google executives sold their streamed-gaming ambitions as a way to revolutionize the gaming business and the community surrounding it. With today’s announcement of Stadia’s pricing and business model, though, the company seems to be stuck in a decidedly old-fashioned mode that doesn’t really exploit streaming’s biggest benefits.

It starts with the initial hardware purchase requirements. A big part of Google’s sales pitch for Stadia was the fact that the service would work on any computer with a Web browser, as well as generic mobile phones and tablets, using non-proprietary USB controllers. Requiring early adopters to purchase $129 worth of Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller hardware cuts against that “open to anyone” messaging. In a world where an Xbox One with a bundled

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Google Stadia requires $130 upfront, $10 per month at November launch


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Players will have to pay $129.99 up front and $9.99 a month, on top of individual game purchase costs, when Google’s previously announced Stadia game-streaming service launches in November. A free tier will be available some time in 2020, as will a paid subscription tier that doesn’t require the upfront purchase.

The Stadia Founder’s Edition and its contingent Stadia Pro subscription will be the only way to get access to the Stadia service when it launches, Google announced today. That $129.99 package, available for pre-order on the Google Store right now, will include:

  • A Stadia controller in “limited-edition night blue”
  • A Chromecast Ultra
  • Three months of Stadia Pro service and a three-month “buddy pass” to give to a friend
  • First dibs on claiming a “Stadia Name”

After the first three months, Stadia Pro users

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Did Fallout 76 launch too early or just in time to be saved?


This post is by Kyle Orland from Ars Technica


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There’s a famous quote around the game industry often attributed to legendary Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” That may have been true when he said it, but it seems a little outdated in today’s “launch now and patch it later” game industry.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since listening to an IGN interview with Bethesda’s Todd Howard yesterday about what he admits was a “bumpy” rollout for Fallout 76 last year. In the interview, Howard acknowledges it was a “very difficult development on that game to get it where it was,” noting that “any time you’re going to do something new like that you know you’re going to have your bumps.”

Fallout 76 was savaged

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Tesla’s next big feature is… a port of Cuphead?


This post is by Kyle Orland from Ars Technica


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Screenshot from a video game that looks like a drunken hallucination.

Enlarge / Access to playable scenes like this are why I bought a Tesla and not a PS4. (credit: Studio MDHR)

After March’s announcement that the hard-as-nails, retro-stylized platformer Cuphead was coming to the Nintendo Switch, we wondered what platform might be the next to see a port. Anything from iOS or PS4 to Linux or Google’s upcoming Stadia seemed at least plausible.

We did not, however, think of the Tesla car line as the next Cuphead port platform. And yet here we are, listening as Elon Musk announced during a podcast interview this week that Cuphead is “working” on the car’s central-console touchscreen.

Maja Moldenhauer from Cuphead developer Studio MDHR confirmed the work on the limited port to IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey, saying Tesla only required that the game “play super, super clean” on the car’s internal hardware. For this reason, the game will only work by

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Apple expands tvOS gaming with PS4, Xbox One S controller support


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Controller not shown to scale.

Enlarge / Controller not shown to scale.

At the 2019 WWDC keynote today, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company is expanding Apple TV controller support to include “two of the best and most popular game controllers available, Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4” with the next tvOS update. Note that this expansion does not include original Xbox One control pads that shipped with the 2013 version of the system—only the Bluetooth-equipped controller update that premiered alongside Microsoft’s One S update in 2016 will work with Apple TV.

The announcement, which drew large and sustained applause in the presentation hall, comes nearly four years after Apple’s second-generation Apple TV became the company’s first foray into TV-based gaming since the ill-fated Pippin. At launch, Apple TV games were required to support the hardware’s touchpad-focused, tilt-sensitive remote, and those games could optionally support any number of MFi controllers

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MAME for the masses? “Legends” arcade cabinet could thread that needle


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For gamers of a certain age, a real, playable arcade cabinet is one of the ultimate nostalgic conversation pieces/status symbols that you can have in your home. AtGames’ newly announced Legends Ultimate cabinet—which promises hundreds of built-in games and more available via download—sounds like it could be the ideal blend of authenticity, expandability, affordability, and convenience for that specific breed of nostalgic arcade fan.

The Legends Ultimate is far from the first “multicade” cabinet to hit the market or aim for home users. But this “all-in-one” cabinet, with pre-orders planned to start in July, differentiates itself in part with a console-level suggested retail price: $599 for a the full-sized 66″ cabinet, or $399 for a “compact” 44″ tall version. That’s a huge step down in cost from existing

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Xbox Game Pass is coming to Windows 10, but many questions remain


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Well, there you have it.

Enlarge / Well, there you have it.

In one of the less-detailed announcements of the pre-E3 season, Microsoft this morning officially confirmed it is bringing its “all-you-can-play” Game Pass subscription service to the PC. The new expansion of the Xbox Game Pass (which launched just over two years ago) “will give players unlimited access to a curated library of over 100 high-quality PC games on Windows 10, from well-known PC game developers and publishers such as Bethesda, Deep Silver, Devolver Digital, Paradox Interactive, SEGA and more,” according to an announcement from Microsoft.

Games from Microsoft’s own studios, including recent acquisitions Obsidian and inXile, will be available on Xbox Game Pass for PC on the day they’re released, just as they are on Xbox One. Game Pass members will also receive discounts of up to 20% on Windows Store games and up to 10% off of DLC and add-on

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In praise of ultra-short games


This post is by Kyle Orland from Ars Technica


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Is falling in this hole going to take long? I have a meeting at 2...

Enlarge / Is falling in this hole going to take long? I have a meeting at 2…

These days, the game industry at large seems to be focused on games that can keep players playing, and paying, indefinitely. This overarching genre of “forever” games encompasses esports like Hearthstone and Overwatch, social hangouts like World of Warcraft and Fortnite, and endlessly repetitive grinds like Destiny 2 and even Candy Crush Saga. The idea in each case is to create an experience that can engage a critical mass of players for hundreds or even thousands of hours over a span of years.

There’s something to be said for these kinds of endless experiences. These days, though, I’m frequently more fascinated by games at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This class of “lunch break” games—single-serving, single-player narrative experiences designed to be played once, in about an hour or less—will

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