Amazon Blocking Non-Prime Members From Buying Certain Games

Amazon Prime started off as giving you quick one-day delivery options, expanding into the market for Video and music streaming, and with its latest offer of a monthly subscription system, its popularity keeps growing. That may change if you are a fan of big time games, with the latest news revealing that certain games may be locked behind the “prime wall”.

If you go on the Amazon site now and check out games like Grand Theft Auto 5 or Fallout 4, you may find yourself welcomed by a small blue button on the right-hand side. Replacing the welcoming yellow button that said buy now, the blue button instead asks you “join Prime”. Above the buttons it states that the games are “Exclusively for Prime Members”, giving you no option but to either seek them on different sites or use Amazon Prime to order your games from Amazon.

While you will still be able to buy the games through other sellers on Amazon, if you want to buy it directly from Amazon you will need Prime membership. With a yearly membership getting you 20% off pre-orders and new releases, if you like buying big releases when they come out it may be worth checking out the deals they offer.

For gamers and non-gamers alike, do you think its fair to have your ability to buy what you enjoy locked to an exclusive membership group or does the one-day delivery (or even one-hour delivery) tempt you to grab those new games that little bit sooner?

It should be noted that while the block originally seemed to affect both Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com sales, some of the listings on Amazon.co.uk are now unrestricted, suggesting that the initial backlash may already have been enough to sway Amazons opinion on the “prime wall”. Currently, you can see the option featured on Amazon.com’s Grand Theft Auto 5 page.

Image courtesy of Engadget.

Quantum Break is Microsoft’s Fastest Selling Game This Generation

Quantum Break is a third-person action adventure game which incorporates episodes from a live-action television programme. These episodes contain segments which showcase the impact of any decisions you make. This is a revolutionary concept which greatly enhance the narrative’s immersion factor. The game was developed by Remedy Entertainment, the studio behind iconic classics including Max Payne and Alan Wake. It’s not all been good news though because the PC version barely functions and suffers from horrendous optimization.

This is surprising given Remedy’s PC background and love for the platform. Not only that, the PC edition opts for the same form of temporal reconstruction as the Xbox One. Unfortunately, a lot of the problems are to do with the game’s engine and Remedy isn’t confident that they will be able to fix these widespread issues. On a more positive note, Quantum Break has rapidly become Microsoft’s fastest selling exclusive this generation outperforming other giants such as Halo 5, Ori and the Blind Forest and Sunset Overdrive for the opening week period. On another note, the Xbox One version became the UK’s best-selling boxed game and just pipped DIRT Rally. This is great news for Microsoft and Remedy Entertainment.

Annoyingly, this isn’t going to be any consolation for PC gamers struggling to play Quantum Break on high-resolution monitors with extreme hardware. Microsoft might feel the console version has been a resounding success but this isn’t the case on the company’s Universal Windows Platform initiative. Honestly, the evidence is pointing towards the PC version being made at a very late date which was rushed for release.  This is a shame and I would have preferred to see a delayed PC release with improved optimization. Whatever the case, we should applaud Remedy for creating such a successful game, and I really hope the PC version is sorted out in the future.

eSports Events Dramatically Increase Game Purchases

The rise of eSports has been nothing short of revolutionary and transformed talented gamers into household celebrities. Not only that, players in popular games like League of Legends compete in events with huge prize pools watched by millions around the globe. These individuals are under intense pressure and hone their craft for long periods each day. I’ve always been fascinated to see the impact of competitive gaming events on viewer purchasing habits. According to the latest research from NPD, the eSports industry has encouraged large audiences to spend money on game purchases. More specifically, the report suggests nearly 70 percent of people watching have purchased the game in question or some form of DLC.

On another note, the study found that 44 percent of US gamers watched a formal eSports event or enjoyed competitive streaming in the past six months. Furthermore, the average viewing time is pretty substantial at just under three hours. 18 percent of those surveyed watch eSport content on a daily basis while 46 percent watched contests once a week. When it comes to elite play, viewers appear to be more interested in the game and not the level of prize money on offer:

“It’s the game being played that consistently attracts viewers. Watchers are most influenced by the game, followed by the quality of the commentators and the team/players,”

Liam Callahan, industry analyst, The NPD Group explained the results and said:

“eSports may have seemed like a niche phenomenon in the past, but it has clearly taken off with strong activity and engagement with consumers,”

“This is positive for the gaming industry on multiple levels, not only bringing excitement from the events themselves, but also from a marketing standpoint as consumers learn and can then potentially spend on games featured at eSports events.”

Two-thirds of those watching already own the game which isn’t surprising because they simply want to see the best players in the world and improve their strategy.

What is your favourite competitive eSports game?

Amazon Payments Global Partner Program to Take on Paypal

Amazon is a popular platform for many things, with their websites offering everything from the kindle to mass ordering your pets favourite type of food. With recent steps in the video game market, courtesy of Lumberyard and even sharing educational materials for schools, the company look like it will stop anytime soon with the revelation of the new Payments Global Partner Program.

If this sounds familiar it’s because you probably already use PayPal or something similar, but Amazon’s Payments Global Partner Program looks to go head to head by offering you the same security you get with your amazon account when paying for products on hundreds of other sites.

Amazon states that all the merchants using the new system will be using the same fraud detection technology that Amazon already uses, meaning if you trusted Amazon you can trust them. If this wasn’t enough the temptation, companies are helped by its quick integration and inline basket, meaning no more tedious programming or changing sites to add in your bank details.

It should be noted though that sites using the new system will have access to customers “name and email addresses so you can personalise their on-site experience”, while not a huge issue some people would want reassurances that an easy to opt-in program had some security regarding their details.

Tom Clancy’s The Division Was More Popular Than Black Ops for a Moment

Tom Clancy’s The Division has attracted a lot of attention, with it making a staggering $330 million during release week alone. With such high levels of sales is it really any surprise that the game became the most popular title on Xbox one?

The Division has risen to the most popular title on Xbox One, knocking off Activision’s call of Duty: Black Ops III, a favourite for many games and a series that seems to claim the most popular title every year when the next in the series releases. With no exact numbers, it’s hard to tell how much (or how little) the Division had overtaken Black Ops III but by the time, we managed to grab wind of this, Black Ops III had already regained its title, hinting that the competition is closer than people might expect. Thanks to VG247 for grabbing a shot of the Divisions title, shown below.

The Division doesn’t look to be slowing either, starting with its large opening week momentum, people are keen to see how the game progresses with patches being released regularly to deal with players troubles and issues in the game such as the inability for players in safe zones to even get a quest. You can see the current chart (as of 27th March 2016) below, showing that Call of Duty III is back at the top, but maybe for only a little while.

The Division is grabbing some help with mods, such as the SweetFX Mod responsible for turning the game into a 4K experience within the game. Are you a player of the Division? Is it worth the hype? Have you stopped playing it? Tell us about your experience with the game in the comments.

New Bill Prevents Federal Agencies Purchasing Apple Products

Apple is currently in congress talking to and explaining the impact that removing or bypassing protection on their iPhones would have if they followed a court order to do so for the FBI. In what may seem like a childish move a congressman has now introduced a bill that would forbid federal agencies from purchasing Apple products.

In the statement, Representative David Jolly stated the following:

“Taxpayers should not be subsidizing a company that refuses to cooperate in a terror investigation that left 14 Americans dead on American soil,” he said. “Who did the terrorist talk to? Who did he message with? Did he go to a safe house? Is there information on the phone that might prevent a future attack on US soil? Following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, every citizen and every company was willing to do whatever it took to side with law enforcement and defeat terror. It’s time Apple shows that same conviction to further protect our nation today.”

Currently, though the bill may not get passed with America split down the middle on the issue and, even more, people coming out in support of both sides, although Apple seems to have the majority rule with large companies and even ex-agency heads coming forward in their support.

With a man whose wife was lost in the attacks stating his support for Apple, the discussions seem to change with every passing minute as people go from supporting the company to stating that the phone could have infected (and be used to fix) virus’s that it may or may not have on it.

Tesla Can Sell Direct-To-Consumers With Indiana Bill Amendment

Tesla is probably the world’s most known electric cars, with everything from everyday vehicles to supercars, all powered by electricity without a drop of petrol in their engines. Tesla is unique though in that they sell directly to customers, skipping out middlemen and offering its models and services without any additional costs. This very practice is the backbone of Tesla’s sales, and it has received criticism in some states in the U.S. where dealers have been less than pleased with the model. In a recent battle with the state of Indiana, Tesla once again comes out on top as they can continue to sell direct-to-consumers.

The recent battle focuses on an amendment to a bill that would make it illegal for any manufacturers to sell cars directly to a consumer, an amendment which has now been removed from the bill in question. Tesla stated that rival company GM, who released an elective vehicle that would complete with the Model 3, pushed the bill through the state legislature, a move that would have effectively crippled Tesla’s current model for selling its cars. A spokesman for GM even stated that they supported the amendment and that “All industry participants should operate under the same rules and requirements on fundamental issues that govern how we sell, service, and market our products”.

Tesla is obviously happy about the removal of the amendment saying that their store at Keystone will “remain open indefinitely”. While happy, you have to argue, who does it benefit other than the resellers and dealers when a company can’t provide you with the equipment directly?

Brigador Developer Defends $20 Price Tag

Brigador is an isometric real-time strategy game created by independent studio, Stellar Jockeys released on October 16th 2015 under Valve’s Early Access programme. The overall reception thus far has been extremely positive and the gameplay is reminiscent of the Syndicate series. Despite this, some users have questioned the game’s $19.99/£14.99 price point and believes it offers poor value. This is a common occurrence with indie titles due to the amount of bundles, and huge sales on the Steam store. As a result, consumers expect games to be discounted rather quickly. This is fantastic news for gamers on a budget, or trying to acquire a large library. However, according to Brigador’s developer, higher prices are required to fund development costs and the time investment. In a passionate statement on the Steam forums, the developer said:

“We have spent 5 years making Brigador, if you include when we started building the engine.

5 years.

Much of that has been working full time, 6-7 days a week, 8+ hours a day. Even at a very conservative estimate that’s over 10,000 hours of work per person, and there are 4 of us. We did not do a kickstarter, we do not have a publisher. We have funded this entire project out of pocket.

Here is a list of things that also take about 5 years to do:

  • get a PhD
  • get married and have two children
  • earn $72,000 at the US minimum wage (pre-tax)
  • win the election and serve a term as President of the United States
  • fight World War I
  • develop from an embryo into a person who can speak in complete sentences
  • fail to qualify for the Olympics, twice
  • start drinking too much and gain 20lbs because of stress from starting a company and building a game for 5 years
  • watch all 262 episodes of Two and a Half Men (we do not endorse doing this)

Brigador was made almost entirely from scratch, and when it ships will contain 2 hours of original music (small sample[soundcloud.com]), over 100 different enemy units (spoilers[i.imgur.com]), a story campaign, a free play mode, and a playable landmass of ~2 mi² (split between 20 maps) — roughly the size of downtown Chicago or the urban area in GTA III — hand detailed all the way down to street lamps, trash cans, stop signs, etc. I took some time to render out two of the maps in their entirety at game resolution so that you can look around for yourselves:
(heads up, each image is ~10 mbs)
St. Martim’s Commercial Spaceport[i.imgur.com]
The Sintra Necropolis[i.imgur.com] (had to be slightly downscaled to fit on imgur)

For this we kindly ask that you pay $20.

As a reference point, here is a list of things that cost more than $20:

It’s bad enough there’s a Nickelback poster worth more than the game we’ve spent the last 5 years building, worse still to have people come along and announce that in fact our game is only worth about as much as this other more common Nickelback poster[www.amazon.com]. I hope you can understand the frustration this inspires.

$20 a copy, once you factor in Valve’s take and taxes, gets cut down to about $10 a copy (we live in Illinois which has the highest state income tax rate[wallethub.com] in the US at 5%). Pretending we don’t have to pay contractors or have any other development related expenses, to pay ourselves minimum wage for the time we’ve put in requires selling 25,000 copies of Brigador. Factoring in contractors and any kind of reasonable living and that number jumps up to ~50,000 copies. While not unheard of, that’s already getting into long-shot territory, especially for a new company that has no pre-existing ties to games media or the backing of a publisher. And people’s reticence to pay what amounts to a pint of beer more for the game means adding another 33% or 16,000 copies to see the same results. That increase alone amounts to more units than many independent releases ever sell.

We’re not asking for pity or charity, nor are we saying you should buy a game just because people worked hard on it– it’s possible to struggle valiantly and still make poo. But quality, depth, innovation all require time, and projects of this scope demand full-time work. If Brigador is not worth $20 to you, that’s fine, by all means wait until it goes on sale. But understand that you’re making an already extremely difficult job that much harder. Brigador took so long to make because we wanted to take a risk on building something unique rather than just reskinning an existing game. We wrote an engine from scratch so that we could create fully destructible environments and still have good control over performance. Iterating on design, creating something even only partially new takes a tremendous amount of time, and if people are unwilling to pay a price commensurate with the labor involved in creating games like this then fewer people will take those risks, and many of the ones who do will get starved out the industry.

At the end of the day we all have to eat. So yeah, we think it’s worth $20. Hope that clears things up.”

It’s incredibly difficult to stand out in the current market because there’s so many indie games being released every day. This means, there’s hardly any coverage on Steam, and people can easily miss a game’s release date. I’m pretty torn on this issue because modern life is difficult and the average consumer doesn’t have an endless supply of money to spend on games. However, without proper support, game developers cannot feed their staff or continue to create unique experiences.

Activision Reduces Workforce Due to Poor Guitar Hero And Skylanders Sales

Activision is one of the most profitable video game publishers in the industry and produces a wide range of successful franchises including Call of Duty and Guitar Hero. As a result, the studio can invest large sums of money into projects and usually makes an impressive return. Although, the company doesn’t really take any risks and focuses on sequels which have a long-standing history of being popular.

For example, Activision funds a yearly release cycle for Call of Duty and continues to set record sales targets. Arguably, this has resulted in some fans being disappointed with the series due to a lack of innovation. It’s also a target of mocking as people perceive the franchise as a way of printing money for Activision. Despite the financial success of Activision’s main IPs, there has been some disappointing sales of late. For example, Activision has tried to capture the casual market on mobile devices and bring it to consoles. An Activision spokesperson told Gameinformer

“As announced on our earnings call, our games for core audiences did extremely well, but the casual audience has not yet emerged on next-gen consoles,”

“So we are refocusing to better align with Activision’s long-term priorities because, as always, our strategy evolves to keep us ahead of a rapidly-changing industry. We are working with those impacted by the changes to offer outplacement services and support.”

It’s always sad to see people losing their jobs especially in the games industry where there’s so much competition. Clearly, the console audience is accustomed to an enriching narrative and complex gameplay. Casual games on smartphones work superbly because they offer downtime at any location and provide tactile controls. Barring a few exceptions, I can’t really see puzzle games being that successful on consoles unless there’s a shift in attitudes from players. They are rightfully very wary of the casual business model and distrust publishers’ use of microtransactions.

Image courtesy of Forbes

XCOM 2 Sales Exceed 500,000 During First Week

XCOM is one of the most iconic strategy series ever devised and provides a huge challenge on the IronMan mode. Initially, I was really concerned about the franchise being rebooted and felt XCOM Enemy Unknown by Fireaxis Games wouldn’t really honour the series’ advanced gameplay. Thankfully, the end result was fantastic, and as a strategy nut, I love to spend hours in XCOM Enemy Unknown. Furthermore, the recent sequel, XCOM 2 received favourable reviews and appears to build on the great work from its predecessor. Sadly, I haven’t purchased the game yet, but it’s incredibly tempting after hearing such positive reports.

The only real reservation I have about XCOM 2 revolves around optimization and the hardware required to achieve a smooth framerate at maximum settings. This is especially the case at higher resolutions where some users have experienced problems with a Titan X or similar. Despite this, XCOM 2 is selling extraordinarily well and amassed over 500,000 units sold within its first week. This is even better than Rise of the Tomb Raider and exemplifies the impressive nature of these sales numbers. I remember a few years ago hearing arguments about the strategy genre being extremely niche and having little appeal to modern audiences. As you can see, the genre is very much alive and well on the PC platform and it’s great to see it evoke such strong sales figures.

Perhaps, this will encourage more developers to produce strategy games. For example Grey Goo is a fantastic strategy title which adopts an old school formula. Sadly, it’s often overlooked and I highly recommend checking it out. XCOM is certainly a franchise which continues to impress and the only aspect which needs improvement is optimization. If the studio manages to resolve this, then it might help new players to give XCOM a go on more modest hardware.

Piracy Group Suspends New Cracks to Gauge Sales Impact

There’s always a heated discussion regarding the reason why people illegally download content. Some argue it’s simply down to wanting the latest film/games/album without paying, while other figures like Gabe Newell have suggested piracy is a “service problem”. Whatever the case, it’s evidently clear that there are quite a lot of people downloading torrents, or files directly from hosting sites. Obviously, when it comes to games, pirates rely on cracking groups to circumvent various forms of DRM including Steamworks. One particular group, is based in China and goes by the name of 3DM. This is one of the most popular organizations especially when you consider the high piracy rate in China. Not so long ago, pirates eagerly awaited the group to create a crack for Just Cause 3. However, the group’s leader, ‘Bird Sister’ claimed the game was incredibly challenging to crack and suggested advanced anti-piracy technologies such as Denuvo could eliminate pirated games within the next two years.

Recently, ‘Bird Sister’ made a shocking announcement and said the piracy group will no longer provide any new cracks for at least a year:

“We just had an internal meeting. Starting at the Chinese New Year, 3DM will not crack any single-player games,”

“Cracks by overseas warez groups will still get posted on the [3DM] forum, and we will actively deal with these,”

“We’ll take a look at the situation in a year’s time to see if genuine sales have grown,”

It will be interesting to see if the lack of new cracks will have an impact on sales figures. However, this will be very difficult to judge unless the figures are taken from very successful new releases. Plus, surely it won’t have an impact if another cracking group comes out with a cracked version. Perhaps, this is just an excuse to forgo the difficult encryption from Denuvo. This is a cynical viewpoint, but there’s some merit to it.

The Witness is on Track to Sell More in a Week Than Braid Sold in Its First Year

Jonathan Blow is one of the most well-known figures in the independent development scene and created the hit puzzle game, Braid. Arguably, Braid showcased the kind of creativity and visual flair many indie studios had the potential to create. Prior to the release of Braid, it was still quite uncommon for consumers to financially support indie titles as they were a fairly new concept. Braid was a huge success, and managed to receive superb critical acclaim from professional reviewers and the gaming community. Moving forward to 2016, it’s clear to see how revolutionary the indie movement has been and Steam is awash with a massive selection of obscure, innovative titles. Eventually, Jonathan Blow began to work on a brand new puzzle game entitled, The Witness.

The Witness adopts an absolutely gorgeous art style and features of over 500 tricky puzzles. As a result, the experience is quite long and bound to keep your interest over time. Despite receiving absolutely fantastic reviews, the game has come under some criticism for its $39.99/£29.99 price point. Even though releases from huge publishers like Ubisoft and EA can cost £44.99/$59.99, it seems some consumers are unwilling to spend so much on an indie puzzler. When compared to other indie titles, it is a costly endeavour. However, value always depends on the individual in question and their wage.

On another note, The Witness has been heavily pirated and already attained the most downloaded title on a very popular torrent site. Perhaps, this is down to the price point, or simply people wanting to play the game for free. Whatever the case, it’s disappointing to see someone’s hard work being pirated on such a large-scale. Despite this, The Witness is doing remarkably well and according to Jonathan Blow, on track to sell more in a week than Braid managed in a year:

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/693668210499977216

I’m not sure if this refers to units sold, or gross profit. However, I do find this astonishing because the indie scene is very competitive these days, and Braid’s enormous success seemed so difficult to beat.

ASUS Controlled 40% of The Gaming Monitor Market in 2015

The gaming monitor market incorporates a huge array of display technologies, screen sizes, and a host of other unique selling points. This allows the end-user to select a product which suits their specific requirements and most importantly, their budget. Whether you’re opting for a 16:9 144Hz TN 1920×1080 panel, or 21:9 60Hz IPS 3440×1440 monitor, there’s something to suit everyone’s taste. ASUS’ Republic of Gamers range has proved to be a popular choice due to the unique styling and large choice of models. For example, the original ROG Swift opted for a TN panel with 144Hz refresh rate to offer impeccable response times. As a result, professional gamers found it to be the perfect balance between visual quality and responsiveness. Since then, ASUS has released an IPS model, and a more budget-friendly FreeSync edition.

It’s no surprise that according to sources close to DigiTimes, ASUS accounted for 40% of gaming monitor sales in 2015:

“The sources estimate that worldwide gaming monitor shipments will reach at least 800,000 units in 2015 with Asustek accounting for 40% of the volume thanks to strong sales in Europe, North American and Taiwan.”

Traditionally, ASUS has focused on producing high-end 16:9 displays, but this changed with the PG348Q. This particular monitor utilizes a 3440×1440 IPS panel and adopts a very unusual aesthetic design. Unlike many 3440×1440 screens, the monitor supports G-Sync and a 100Hz refresh rate. As you might expect, this unbelievable display costs in the UK just shy of £1000 and designed for very expensive systems. Personally, I love the 21:9 aspect ratio and feel this is the perfect monitor especially with the curved display. Sadly, It’s slightly out of my price range and I’m perfectly happy with a non-curved 60Hz 3440×1440 monitor. Hopefully, the success of ASUS’ monitor range will reduce prices and enable the company to make cheaper options. One area they do need to keep working hard on is the RMA process which requires greater Quality Control.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen Sales Surpass 180K During First Week on Steam

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is an enthralling action packed RPG set in a thrilling open world environment. Furthermore, the game was directed by Hideaki Itsuno, and spearheaded by other leading staff members who worked on classic franchises including Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and Breath of Fire. The end result is magical although the definitive edition only arrived on the previous generation consoles in 2013. Thankfully, Capcom decided to eventually launch the game on PC and cater to RPG aficionados dreams. The PC version was completed by QLOC and is for the most part fairly competent barring some issues with 21:9 UI scaling. This developer worked on a number of Polish localizations which includes Resident Evil 5, Mafia II and other mainstream releases.

According to data from SteamSpy, the game has sold over 180,000 copies within a single week. This is marvellous news and exemplifies how successful games can be on the PC platform. Even though the visuals look rather outdated, this doesn’t detract from the core experience and I’m sure the modding community will help add some polish. SteamSpy’s data is reliable and provides a true indication of a game’s active community, unit sales and buying behaviour. Here we can see, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen managed a steady increase in sales numbers over the first week. Perhaps this is helped by the very respectable $29.99 launch price which makes it affordable for a large number of people.

Hopefully, the success of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen encourages more Japanese publishers to give the platform serious consideration. Thankfully, this is already happening and more JRPGs are coming to PC all the time! There’s never been a better time to play on PC given the huge library, cheap games, and affordable hardware. Clearly, this is helping the platform to grow at a fantastic pace and make it more profitable.

Only 99 Xbox One Units Were Sold in Japan Last Week

Microsoft has been trying to infiltrate the Japanese gaming market for some time and made an ambitious push with the Xbox One to attract a new audience. However, since the start of this endeavour, console sales figures can only be described as abysmal and even resulted in Xbox Japan’s CEO, Takashi Sensui’s resignation. The figures released for last week by Media Create are embarrassing and illustrates why Microsoft has almost given up on appealing to Japanese gamers.

In the period between January 11th to 17th, Microsoft only sold a measly 99 units! This is the first instance of the company’s sales slipping into double digits. To put these numbers into some context, the PlayStation 4 sold 25,292 units in the same period, and the Wii U managed 15,398 sales. This is astonishing when you consider the Wii U’s worldwide performance is terrible and there’s a huge amount of speculation regarding Nintendo’s upcoming NX console.

Here we can see the top 8 system sales in full:

1. New Nintendo 3DS XL: 30,172 units

2. PlayStation 4: 25,592

3. PlayStation Vita: 18,202

4. Wii U: 15,398

5. New Nintendo 3DS: 6,241

6. Nintendo 3DS: 4,797

7. PlayStation 3: 1,939

8. Nintendo 3DS XL: 1,162

Notice how even the PlayStation 3 is outselling Microsoft’s latest console by a significant margin. Furthermore, the rise of mobile gaming in Japan cannot be underestimated as portable puzzle games prove to be a very popular pastime. It seems Microsoft is realizing the scale of their problem and major difficulties in trying to encourage Japanese citizens to move away from long-standing Japanese brands. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything Microsoft can do to change their reputation, and they’ve probably already given up on the Japan project. This is a shame, because it’s always beneficial for the consumer to have more choice and experience different games. Personally, I often feel Microsoft focuses too much on certain territories and needs to appeal more to smaller markets.

Image courtesy of JapanTimes.

2015 Saw Biggest Ever Decline in PC Sales

PC sales in 2015 were the lowest since 2008 – shipping below 300 million units – and the on-year decline of 10.6% is the largest decline ever experienced, beating a previous drop of 9.8% in 2013, IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker announced in a press release on DigiTimes.

“The PC market continued to face persistent challenges from longer-PC lifecycles and competition from mobile phones and tablets, despite the slowing growth in those markets,” IDC reports. “However, economic issues like falling commodity prices and weak international currencies, as well as social disruptions in EMEA and Asia Pacific that disrupted foreign markets were a larger factor for 2015.”

The industry is confident that, despite a steady decline over the last few years, the PC market is set to level out in the coming years.

“The PC market remains competitive and the economic environment weakened further with the recent drop in the China stock market,” Loren Loverde, Vice President of IDC, said. “However, PC replacements should pick up again in 2016, particularly later in the year. Commercial adoption of Windows 10 is expected to accelerate, and consumer buying should also stabilize by the second half of the year. Most PC users have delayed an upgrade, but can only maintain this for so long before facing security and performance issues. We continue to believe that a majority of these users will purchase another PC, motivated by new products and attractive pricing.”

“Changes in the OS market also had a significant impact with the end of support for Windows XP and promotions of low-cost PCs driving a surge in replacements in 2014 that combined with the launch of Windows 10 and a free upgrade program to delay new system purchases in 2015,” the IDC press release continues.

“Lastly, while some very attractive new PCs have been launched, the market is taking some time to respond to new OS and hardware configurations – deciding when to upgrade and evaluating slim, convertible, detachable, and touch variations versus more traditional PCs. Nevertheless, many of these products have received positive reviews and there’s potential for a faster commercial transition to Windows 10 in 2016 than we saw for prior versions of Windows.”

The market saw substantial growth with detachable tablets, which are counted as separate to PCs, with sales up 3% in 2015.

Image courtesy of PC Advisor.

Amazon Accounts For 39.3 Percent of E-commerce Spending in The USA During November

Online retail giant, Amazon is a popular choice for consumers wanting to purchase goods at reasonable prices while relying on a proven track record in customer service. When compared to other stores, Amazon’s buying power is difficult to match and provides a huge array of items from electrical products to digital novels. According to research firm, Slice Intelligence, Amazon made up 39.3 percent of sales between November 1st and December 6th in the US market. This marks a significant increase from the 37.9 percent share last year during the same period.  Ken Cassar, Vice President of analytics solutions at Slice provided an explanation for this success and said:

“Jeff Bezos was beaten up for a long time about the infrastructure investments he made and the drain on profitability it caused,”

“He is seeing the payoff on those investments.”

The chart shows Amazon’s astounding sales figures in the US market, and showcases how far behind many of the competing stores are. Amazon’s investment into infrastructure and their recognizable brand helps to encourage shoppers to spend money while remaining a loyal customers. Obviously, this is during the Thanksgiving and Christmas period so the data might favour Amazon at this time compared to other months. Whatever the case, this is an extraordinary achievement and emphasizes how important Amazon is as an etailer in the USA.

Apple TV Game Sales Are Woeful

Apple described the Apple TV 2015 edition during a press conference as “the future of television” and reports suggested the company was going to have a renewed focus on the gaming sector. Unfortunately, this never came to fruition and only a few games were demoed on the show floor. While Apple did increase their efforts to cater towards the gaming audience, it was much less than we anticipated. Part of the problem revolves around the remote control which offers a poor level of precision in various genres. According to TouchArcade editor-in-chief Eli Hodapp, who published an editorial, this is having a major impact on sales:

“I’ve been talking to many different developers who have released games or apps on the device, and the general vibe is that if things don’t turn around following Christmas, Apple is going to have a real problem on their hands,”  

“‘Successful’ apps are making $100 a day on a good day, with revenue continuing to trail off since launch.”

It’s absolutely absurd to see apps making $100 per day being described as “successful” and Apple has to rethink their strategy. Perhaps a controller add-on, or revamped interface with the remote control will encourage more people to purchase games via the Apple TV. Up to this point, it seems most people are using the Apple TV 2015 for media streaming and not gaming purposes. This makes it a fairly useless platform for developers considering the huge amount of alternatives including Android devices, PC, and consoles.

Star Wars Battlefront Sold an Estimated 4.66M Retail Copies During First Week

Star Wars: Battlefront’s combination of unbelievable graphical fidelity and dramatic trailers made it one of the most anticipated titles in recent memory. While the experience is fun for brief periods, it’s difficult to look past the lack of maps, rubbish character customization and repetitive gameplay. Furthermore, success doesn’t really depend on skill level and the spawn system is completely broken. Nevertheless, according to VGChartz Global Weekly Chart, ending the 21st November, Star Wars: Battlefront managed to ship a total of 4,658,169 units during the first trading week. Please note, this only includes retail sales.

In terms of sales per platform, the PlayStation 4 came out on top with 2,939,473 units sold (63%), compared to 1,547,019 units sold on the Xbox One (33%). Windows PC retail sales are always a very niche sector as the majority of PC gamers use digital CD key resellers. As a result, Windows sales only accounted for 4% and reached a total of 171,677.

VGChartz also provided information about the game’s popularity throughout the world. As you might expect, the US reported the best sales numbers with 2,141,423 units sold (46%), compared to 1,561,240 units sold in Europe (34%), and 126,723 units in Japan (3%). In contrast to this, Star Wars: Battlefront recorded 412,930 units in the UK, 291,882 units in Germany, and 256,497 units in France.

What do you think of Star Wars: Battlefront?

315,000 Game Consoles Were Sold in The UK During Black Friday

The UK’s Black Friday shopping spree resulted in a number of fairly decent promotions with the current generation consoles being a popular choice for Christmas presents. According to veteran games industry website MCV, retailers revealed a total of 315,000 units were sold during the Black Friday period. Please note, the term Black Friday doesn’t actually refer to one date, and sales began way in advance. Nevertheless, this is a very impressive number and showcases the popularity of console gaming in 2015. Additionally, the PlayStation 4 was the best-selling console during Black Friday with approximately 139,000 units sold while the Xbox One shifted almost 134,000 units. This is a pretty good result for Microsoft considering their terrible Xbox One reveal and large number of customers defecting to Sony.

On the other hand, the Xbox One was discounted by a fairly decent margin with some excellent bundle deals. For example, one particular bundle includes a 500GB console, Ori and the Blind Forest’ & ‘Rare Replay’ downloads for £229.99. This is still cheaper than a basic PS4 console on its own. Clearly, Microsoft needs to try to shift units through cheaper deals, while the PlayStation 4 doesn’t really need help to report good sales figures. Overall, there was a huge increase in console sales compared to last year’s Black Friday event. MCV reported:

“PS4 sales are up 28.6 per cent over last year’s Black Friday, while Xbox One sales are up 23.3 per cent.”

Personally, I was very disappointed with the Black Friday sale and retailers didn’t really offer anything spectacular. Strangely enough, the best deals came from Amazon France, and Amazon Germany. Importing a console from these regions while exploiting the current currency conversion allowed for some breathtaking deals! Also, due to EU law, there’s no import duty, for anything sold throughout EU territories.

Black Friday is in Full Swing with MSI Notebooks

There’s so many technology deals worth mentioning today that some can get washed out. MSI Notebooks are some of the best on the planet and very rarely go on offer. This year, however, multiple retailers have different models on offer with savings of up to £200! Here is a quick Top 5 round-up:

1. MSI GE72 Apache from AmazonUK for £1099. This is available with Amazon Prime for next day delivery also.

  • Processor: Intel Core i7 6700HQ
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
  • RAM: 12GB DDR4 Memory – 2133Mhz
  • Storage: 1TB HDD + 128GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 17.3” Full HD – 1920 x 1080
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10

2. MSI GT72S Dominator Pro from OverclockersUK for £1,679.99.

  • Processor: Intel Core i7 6700HQ
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4 Memory – 2133Mhz
  • Storage: 1TB HDD + 256GB NVMe PCI-E Gen3 SSD
  • Screen Size: 17.3” PLS G-Sync Full HD – 1920 x 1080
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10

3. MSI GP62 and GP 72 Leopart from CCLonline for £629.99 and £649.99 respectively.

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4210H
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 940M
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3 Memory – 1600Mhz
  • Storage: 1TB HDD
  • Screen Size: 15.6”/17.3” Full HD – 1920 x 1080
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10

4. MSI GP72 Leopard Pro from Scan Computers for just £679.99.

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4210H
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
  • RAM: 12GB DDR3 Memory – 1600Mhz
  • Storage: 1TB HDD
  • Screen Size: 17.3” Full HD – 1920 x 1080
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10

5. MSI GE62 Apache from Save on Laptops for £899.97.

  • Processor: Intel Core i7 5700HQ
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3 Memory – 1600Mhz
  • Storage: 1TB HDD
  • Screen Size: 15.6” Full HD – 1920 x 1080
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10

SCAN Launches Black Friday Extravaganza!

Black Friday is finally upon us and retailers have started to slash prices on a number of items just before the holiday period. SCAN is the latest company to offer heavy discounts on computer hardware, and it’s certainly one of the best sales I’ve seen in recent memory! Some of the highlights include a Corsair K65 RGB keyboard for £79.99, EVGA GTX 980Ti Hybrid costing £499.99 with game voucher and huge selection of CPUs at cheap prices! Another bargain is the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset for £39.99 which features exceptional audio and rivals products twice the price.

The EVGA GTX 980Ti FTW is also £100 off and on sale for £449.99. This makes it the cheapest 980Ti to date and it’s a factor overclocked model with a sturdy backplate. If you’re looking for a high-end GPU, I doubt any deal is going to come close to this. On another note, the Corsair H110i GT is another unbelievable deal and on sale for £69.98. The closed-loop-cooler comes with a 5 year warranty, luxurious tubing finish and superb temperatures. It’s one of my favourite products from Corsair in the past few years and a wonderful hassle-free choice for overclocking purposes. It also looks incredible and features an RGB LED block.

The PlayStation 4 Has Now Sold More Than 30.2 Million Units Worldwide

Microsoft’s original pitch regarding the Xbox One was incredibly flawed and created a great deal of animosity among console players. The TV focus, always-online DRM, lack of second hand games, and mandatory Kinect made a huge amount of their loyal customer base defect to Sony. As a result, the PlayStation 4 is already an extraordinary success story and outselling the Xbox One by almost 2:1. According to Sony’s latest press release, PlayStation 4 sales have now exceeded 30.2 million units worldwide:

“Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) today announced that the PlayStation®4 (PS4) computer entertainment system has cumulatively sold through more than 30.2 million units worldwide as of November 22.  PS4 continues to demonstrate the fastest and strongest growth in PlayStation® hardware history.”

In comparison to this, the latest Xbox One shipments are approximately between 15 and 18 million. Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn’t publicly revealed the exact numbers and this is probably due to the embarrassment factor. Evidently, Sony is absolutely destroying Microsoft in terms of console sales and this trend appears to be continuing. While Phil Spencer is doing an excellent job focusing on the games, the Xbox One’s lack of horsepower cannot be changed with new management. In many cases, the PlayStation 4 performs significantly better with multi-platform releases and encourages people to purchase the console which runs games at a higher resolution.

The PlayStation 4 is far from perfect though, it’s fairly weak by today’s standards, the online service is poor and PlayStation Plus’ game library could be improved. Nevertheless, Sony’s console is selling extremely well, due to the technical improvements and the company’s history at producing innovative exclusives.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Has Already Grossed $50 Million in Pre-Sales

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is predicted to smash box office records and has already amassed $50 million in advance ticket sales. Furthermore, Fandango told Variety that The Force Awakens is the biggest pre-seller in the company’s history. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film’s pre-release sales are twice the amount of the previous record-holder, The Dark Knight Rises. Additionally, MovieTickets.com, reported that advance sales for Star Wars are the highest on record. As you can see, tickets are selling incredibly fast as Star Wars fans desperately try to attend the film’s launch.

Cinemas are even considering to offer more seats and judge how much room they can allocate to avoid disappointment. As the first Star Wars film by Disney, there is a great deal of pressure to produce a film which lives up to the original trilogy. As a result, it’s quite easy to leave people disappointed as meeting their extremely high expectations is a difficult task. Nevertheless, Star Wars: The Force Awakens looks fantastic from the official trailer and I cannot wait to see how well it’s received by the public.

Are you planning to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on release? I’m tempted, but usually prefer to watch films from the comfort of my living room.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Only Sold 63,000 Copies on Launch

Microsoft’s timed exclusivity deal with Rise of the Tomb Raider was shrouded in controversy and caused a great deal of anger from fans. Historically, Tomb Raider is perceived as a Sony property, despite being a multi-platform release and releasing on competing systems like the SEGA Saturn. Many critics didn’t understand why an agreement was reached given the high development costs of the Tomb Raider reboot and sales required to break even. Clearly, Microsoft must have offered a huge amount of funds up front to help with the game’s development.

Despite having the financial support of Microsoft, Rise of the Tomb Raider is performing quite poorly and only sold 63,000 units on launch. In comparison to this, the previous game shipped 183,000 units in the same period. The Xbox One’s limited user-base was undoubtedly going to result in lower sales but this is well below Microsoft and Square Enix’s expectations. This begs the question, why are the sales so poor?

The answer is very simple, and revolves around Fallout 4’s hugely successful release. Microsoft underestimated the enthusiasm for Fallout 4 and stupidly launched Rise of the Tomb Raider on the same date. As a result, Fallout 4 received all the major headlines and trended on social media. This is a crying shame, and I cannot comprehend why the game’s release date wasn’t changed. Fallout 4 is probably the most anticipated game since the Witcher 3, and it’s incredibly foolish to try to compete.

Who knows what the future holds for the Tomb Raider franchise, but the sales figures are awful at this time. The numbers will improve as people move on from Fallout 4, and it launches on other platforms. However, the exclusivity deal look to have categorically failed in shifting a large number of units.

NVIDIA Dominating Market but AMD Making Gains According to Q3 2015 Figures

Market share figures for the third-quarter of 2015 show that NVDIA, as always, is dominating GPU sales, but AMD has started to gain back some ground, though nowhere near its ratio from last year. According to figures released by graphic and multimedia consultants Jon Peddie Research (JPR), NVIDIA’s market share for the last quarter is 81.1%, with AMD taking just 18.8% of sales. However, compared to the figures from the second quarter of 2015, AMD has forced a 0.8% shift from NVIDIA, demonstrated by comparing Q2 figures of 18% and 81.9%, respectively.

“JPR’s AIB Report tracks PC add-in graphics boards (AIBs), which carry discrete graphics chips,” the report on the JPR website reads. “AIBs are used in desktop PCs, workstations, servers, and other devices such as scientific instruments. They are sold directly to customers as aftermarket products, or are factory installed. In all cases, AIBs represent the higher end of the graphics industry using discrete chips and private high-speed memory, compared to the integrated GPUs in CPUs that share slower system memory.”

AMD’s gains coincide with the release of its Radeon AIB graphics cards, the Fiji-powered Fury line, though NVIDIA may see a similar shift following the release of its Pascal GPUs next year. AMD has recently said that it is “confident” that the company’s fortunes will turn, and if it “invest[s] heavily” it can “[win] the graphics war.”

Mobile Gaming Revenue Will Exceed $25 Billion by The End of 2015

The rise of mobile gaming has been pretty dramatic in the last few years and attracted a casual audience to the industry. As a result, free-to-play mobile games like Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds have become a huge commercial success. This stems from the business model which entices micro-payments through regular gameplay. According to the research firm, EEDAR, the mobile gaming market is on track to reach a total revenue in excess of $25 billion by the end of this year.

Here we can see financial success and market size by geographical region. Mobile gaming is already massive in China, and Japan. There’s been a revolution in the Japanese gaming sector as the general population spends a huge amount of time playing mobile puzzle games. On another note, the USA just reaches the top revenue figure and this illustrates how mainstream mobile gaming is worldwide.

Other statistics provide information about the type of devices used. As expected, Android is way ahead in the Chinese market, where ultra-cheap handsets are required. Although, iOS continues to make up a substantial part of the gaming market in Japan. If you want to read the report in full, please visit this link to download the research. Please note, accessing the report requires you to set up a free account.