Archived News:

Thursday, Aug 03, 2017

Activision Blizzard Results

Activision Blizzard offers their second-quarter 2017 financial results, calling these "better-than-expected." Here's how that plays out in numbers: "For the quarter ended June 30, 2017, Activision Blizzard’s net revenues presented in accordance with GAAP were $1.63 billion, as compared with $1.57 billion for the second quarter of 2016, an increase of 4%. GAAP net revenues from digital channels were $1.31 billion, growing 15% year-over-year. GAAP operating margin was 21%. GAAP earnings per diluted share were a Q2 record of $0.32, as compared with $0.20 for the second quarter of 2016, an increase of 60%." Here are the high notes:
Selected Business Highlights:

  • Regular content and feature updates across the portfolio enabled deeper player engagement and therefore player investment.

Audience Reach

  • Activision Blizzard had 407 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs)B in the quarter.
  • Blizzard had the biggest quarterly online player community in its history with a record 46 million MAUsB, up 38% year-over-year. The Overwatch community continued to grow more than a year after launch, setting another all-time MAUB record with the release of two seasonal events in the quarter. Hearthstone® MAUsB grew year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter to an all-time record, driven by its expansion, Journey to Un’Goro™.
  • Activision had 47 million MAUsB in the second quarter, down slightly year-over-year. The launch of Zombies Chronicles led to a MAUB increase quarter-over-quarter in Call of Duty®: Black Ops III. Activision also released Crash Bandicoot™ N. Sane Trilogy for PS4, a collection of remastered Crash Bandicoot™ classic titles. Despite only two days of sales on a single platform, it was the number one console title globally in June based on units.1
  • Activision and its partners at Bungie expect to release Destiny 2 on September 6, 2017 for consoles and on October 24, 2017 for PC. The Destiny 2 console Beta had more total players than the 2014 Destiny Beta, and Destiny 2 pre-orders are now above the first Destiny. Activision expects to release Call of Duty: WWII on November 3, 2017. Momentum on pre-orders and hands-on feedback have been strong.
  • King had 314 million MAUsB for the quarter, down year-over-year, but with better gross bookingsC per paying user. King had two of the top-10 highest-grossing titles in the U.S. mobile app stores for the fifteenth quarter in a row.2

Deep Engagement

  • Blizzard had Q2-record time spent. In April, Blizzard launched Uprising, an Overwatch seasonal event that included a player-versus-environment mode that drew record play time. Overwatch’s Anniversary event in May and June also drove strong engagement with record participation in customization items. Time spent in World of Warcraft® grew year-over-year in the second quarter, and the Legion™ expansion continued to perform ahead of the prior expansion.
  • King’s live operations and new content continue to drive strong engagement with steady time spent at 35 minutes per day and players engaging more frequently.
  • Blizzard announced the first seven team sales for the Overwatch League, the first major global professional esports league with city-based teams, and the league is set to begin its inaugural competitive season later this year.
  • Blizzard announced a live-streaming media rights partnership for esports and in-game content across a number of franchises, but excluding Overwatch League content.
  • Activision’s Call of Duty World League will culminate in its Championships held in Orlando in August.

Player Investment

  • Activision Blizzard delivered nearly $1 billion of in-game revenues in the quarter with record performance in the first half of 2017.
  • King’s gross bookingsC per paying user grew for the 8th quarter in a row to a new record. Strong engagement and player investment led to an increase in mobile gross bookingsC year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s Zombies Chronicles, Activision’s first large content drop in year two after a game launch, not only drove purchases of that specific piece of content, but also led to higher engagement and to add-on revenues for that game.
  • Blizzard’s Overwatch, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and Diablo® III, which debuted new content during the quarter, drove strong in-game participation.

Q.U.B.E. 2 Announced

Independent developer Toxic Games announces Q.U.B.E. 2, saying the puzzle game sequel is due for PC and consoles next year. A teaser trailer offers the first look at what to expect, and the announcement offers some details, and promises more later this month at Gamescom:
Independent developer Toxic Games announced today that Q.U.B.E. 2 is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC in early 2018. Q.U.B.E. 2 puts players in the shoes of British archaeologist, Amelia Cross, on a beautiful yet mysterious alien planet. With the help of fellow survivor, Emma, Amelia must face the challenges of the Q.U.B.E. in the hope of finding a way back home. Q.U.B.E 2 retains the shifting, environmental puzzles of the original but wraps the action around Amelia’s own intimate story and her quest for survival.

“With Q.U.B.E 2 we want to give the player more story but we also want to give them more choice,” said Dan Da Rocha, Managing Director of Toxic Games. ”We’ve developed the tools players can use to solve puzzles, subverting the linearity of the original in favour of something more open, something that allows players to put their own stamp on solutions.”

To accompany this announcement, Toxic Games have produced a teaser trailer giving players a sneak-peek into how this new story will unfold and the gorgeously evocative environments Amelia must overcome. The team will also be at Gamescom in Cologne from August 22nd- 24th giving an early look at the game. Keep your eyes peeled for that!
Continue here to read the full story.

For Honor Season 3 Details

UbiBlog reveals details about the upcoming season 3 content coming to For Honor on August 15th. Here's a video (including English-to-English subtitles), and here's word:
Season Three of For Honor begins on August 15, and it’s bringing new content and a new way to play. Dubbed “Grudge & Glory,” the new season introduces two new Heroes – the Highlander and the Gladiator – as well as two new maps, new gear, and ranked duel tournaments that challenge players to go toe-to-toe for new rewards. In less than two weeks, Grudge & Glory will introduce numerous changes to the For Honor experience; let’s take a look at some of what’s in store.

The Gladiator and Highlander fight for the Knights and the Vikings, respectively, and each brings a unique form of brutality to the game. Highlanders wield massive claymores, which boast more weight and reach than any other sword, and they can switch between two different fighting styles: defensive, which makes them formidable counter-attackers; and offensive, which enables them to use far deadlier attacks, but prevents them from blocking.

Gladiators, meanwhile, wear little armor and carry a trident and shield into battle. They’re very agile, with a bigger stamina meter and faster cooldown times than other Heroes, and can punch enemies to set them up for stuns and attacks. Both new Heroes will be available at no extra charge for Season Pass holders on August 15, while all other players will be able to unlock them for 15,000 Steel starting August 22.

Season Three’s maps and gameplay updates will be free for all players on August 15, opening up two new battlefields: Sentinel and Viking Village, each of which features a deadly new environmental hazards, including a ballista and barrel, to keep players aware of their surroundings as well as their opponents. There’ll be a whole new legendary gear rarity, too, and the reputation cap for Heroes will be raised to 40, giving players more customization options. Finally, Season Three will debut alongside a new title update for For Honor, which will bring several gameplay tweaks and updates, including fighting mechanic adjustments to create better balance between offensive and defensive styles of play.

More changes have been announced for the near future, including a migration to dedicated servers. You can get an early look at Season Three’s content during the For Honor Season 3 Live Event: Grudge & Glory Reveal on August 12. For Honor is available now for Xbox One, PS4, and PC; for more, check out our previous For Honor coverage.
Continue here to read the full story.

Archangel Released

Skydance Interactive announces Archangel is now available for Rift and Vive VR headsets, following a two-week period of PlayStationVR exclusivity for the mech game. This is available through the Oculus store and Steam, and they add it will soon come to additional territories on PSVR. Here's a trailer, and here's an explanation of what this offers:
Set in a post-apocalyptic America during the year 2089, players will assume the role of Gabby or Gabriel Walker, codename “Guardian,” who is selected by the United States Free Forces to lead the resistance against the tyrannical corporation HUMNX, a private conglomerate that governs what is left of our ravaged nation. Using the Oculus Touch or HTC Vive controllers, players enter the cockpit of a six-story high war machine and use strategy and skill to fire upon enemies with a wide array of high-powered weapons, protect allies from onslaught, and lead their squadmates into a high-stakes VR battle.

“Now that Archangel is available on all major VR platforms, we invite gamers everywhere to fulfill their fantasies of piloting a giant mech and lead the charge for freedom on behalf of their friends and fellow countrymen,” said Peter Akemann, President of Skydance Interactive. “The response from our first two weeks on PSVR has been very encouraging and we are thrilled that today, Vive and Rift owners too can join the resistance and become the Archangel!”
Continue here to read the full story.

Community Inc Launches

Steam now offers Community Inc, a new Windows and macOS building simulation that probably would have been called a god game back when we called things that. This launch trailer shows the game in action, and here's word on what it's all about:
As a new Manager, build a happy community and trade with other races... for profit. Yes, that's right, we need their happiness so we can power up our portals. The Lings, your workers, will obey you and help you with your village. But beware, they can cause a lot of problems too. If this is not enough, there are other creatures that will try to do the same, they can trade, fight or help you. Oh, don't forget about the weather and some unexpected events.

  • Village Building
    Build your own village with many types of buildings, you need to decide what kind of objects, items or workbench you want inside. There are more than 150 items to craft. Every item and object has a reason. For example, craft a Wood Cabinet and put it inside the houses to increase your storage space. Roads can make them walk faster... and more.
  • Your workers
    The Lings works for you. You need to provide basic salary, food, clothes and a "healthy" environment. It's up to you to decide how they work and where. Beware, they can start conflicts with each other and even set your village on fire. See them talking and eyes open for their status. Each one has unique traits and also attributes that you can control.
  • Discover
    Sandbox maps with random generated nature based on your initial profile. Custom maps that you can build yourself. Talk, trade or fight with other races. Collect treasures and sell it or use it on your community. Random events that can turn your whole village into a nightmare from day to night. See how weather impacts your food and workers.
  • And More!
    Rain and snow will change not only the visuals, but how you will handle your village. Craft better clothes or they can get sick. Craft better weapons and armors to face evil creatures or random thieves. Accept contracts and make enough Surplus (our currency) to make your community bigger. And, if everything goes wrong (or bad for you), you can just sell the village!

Continue here to read the full story.

Geordi La Forge Joining Star Trek Online

Perfect World Entertainment announces details about the upcoming Season 14 of Star Trek Online, their MMORPG based on the sci-fi franchise. Here is a Season 14 – Emergence official announce trailer highlighting some of what this will offer, including the participation of LeVar Burton, who returns to his role as Geordi La Forge, who has been promoted to captain somewhere along the way. This post has all the details, and here's an excerpt:
First and foremost, we are so happy to announce that LeVar Burton, who played Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, is coming to Star Trek Online very soon. In fact, on September 12th, we’ll be releasing a brand new episode on PC (and soon after on console), “Beyond the Nexus,” that allows your captain to team up with Captain La Forge. You’ll investigate a distress call from a Galaxy-class ship whose crew is being controlled by a mysterious energy source.

Not only that, but that adventure will take place in a brand new, fully remodeled Galaxy interior. Our environment artists have lovingly recreated the home of the cast from The Next Generation, and we can’t wait for you to see it. We’ll also have server-wide giveaways of the TNG Skant Uniform and the Type 7 Shuttle to celebrate the anniversary of this landmark television show.

Settle in, because the journey with Captain La Forge is not over. He’ll return in Season 14: Emergence in October, and star in our brand new featured episode, “Melting Pot.” Kipleigh Brown returns to STO as Captain Kuumaarke, and she and Geordi will accompany your captain to a new colony world. The Lukari and the Kentari are attempting something new, living together in harmony as one people, and Geordi is integral to the development of this new colony world. You'll arrive just in time, and what starts as a simple tour will evolve into a pitched battle for the colony's very survival.

Want to see the trailer for that? We thought you might:
Continue here to read the full story.

Door Kickers: Action Squad Teased

KillHouse Games announces Action Squad, an old-school platformer spin-off of the Door Kickers franchise. There aren't many details for now, they just say they are co-developing this with Pixelshard, and it will include single-player and cooperative multiplayer when it comes to Steam Early Access in Q3 of this year. They also offer a short teaser trailer to show off the concept. Continue here to read the full story.

On Sale

Take-Two Interactive Results

Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. Reports Strong Results for Fiscal First Quarter 2018, calling these numbers "strong." Word is: "Net revenue grew 34% to $418.2 million, as compared to $311.6 million in last year’s fiscal first quarter. The largest contributors to net revenue in fiscal first quarter 2018 were NBA® 2K17, Grand Theft Auto V® and Grand Theft Auto Online, WWE® 2K17 and WWE SuperCard, and Mafia III." There is also a note from the company's post-earnings conference call on The Escapist (which has financial connections to Take-Two), where they say the company refuses to confirm PC plans for Red Dead Redemption 2.

Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn Announced

Paradox Interactive announces Synthetic Dawn, a "story pack" coming later this year to Stellaris, their 4X space strategy game. This trailer provides a look at what to expect, and here's the announcement:
Paradox Interactive, a publisher and developer of digital entertainment for organic minds, today announced a new Story Pack for Stellaris, the sci-fi grand strategy game from Paradox Development Studio. The new content, titled “Synthetic Dawn,” will add new ways for players to experience Stellaris, focused primarily on synthetic life forms. Robot workers and citizens can now form entirely mechanical societies at the start of the game and seek greatness among the stars – including the ability to rise up and conquer those squishy organics. Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn will be released for Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs later this year.

Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn provides an all-new way for players to establish their empire across the stars, starting the game as a Machine Empire -- a society made up entirely of robots. Unique game features and event chains will allow the machines to expand as a robotic consciousness, and create an AI-led network that grows to galactic dominance.

Features:

  • You, Robot: Play Stellaris as a customized robotic civilization, complete with a series of robotic portraits for science robots, worker robots, and more
  • AI, eh? Aye!: Follow new event chains and story features to lead your robot race to greatness as an intergalactic AI empire; pursue mechanical perfection in the stars
  • Rise of the Machines: Oppressed synths may rebel against their masters and form new empires -- or you may even discover a fallen synthetic civilization deep in space
  • Digital Enhancements: New synthetic race portraits, and expanded voice packs for VIR

Continue here to read the full story.

Cossacks 3: The Golden Age Announced

GSC Game World announces The Golden Age will be the next DLC pack for Cossacks 3, saying this will come to the RTS game on August 24th. This will add a multiplayer game mode called "Historical Battle," new single-player scenarios, a new campaign, early access to two new nations and five new units, and two new tracks soundtrack themes (this trailer has the new original soundtrack for Switzerland. Here's a complete rundown:
Cossacks 3: The Golden Age would impress you with a bunch of exciting content - its a whole new thrilling multiplayer gamemode "Historical Battle", intriguing single player scenarios, amazing campaign, early access to 2 new anticipated nations and 5 new units, and of course 2 new amazing tracks!

Main features:

  • "Historical battle" – new multiplayer gamemode, which allows up to 8 players to participate. 8 fascinating and widescale battles are waiting for warlords, who are ready to challenge fate and rewrite the history.
  • "Oranien boven" – new historical campaign. Lead the Dutch Republic through the darkest and brightest days alike, participating in major conflicts of XVII century.
  • Singleplayer scenarios – four new singleplayer missions: Siege of Dunkirk, War over Brazil, Caribbean War and Portuguese Restoration War.
  • Switzerland and Piedmont: new strong and beautiful nations are ready to battle in single and multiplayer game modes both, as players fiercly fight for the top places in ranked.
  • New unique units: 5 new units will increase amount of your game's strategies even further. Switzerland would have 17th century Pikeman, Jaegar and Mounted Jaeger (unique hussar). Padre and 18th century Dragoon would join Piedmonte.
  • Soundtrack – 2 brand new soundtracks, dedicated to Switzerland and Piedmonte. Lead your armies to victory, while listening epic and picturesque execution of national motives.

Digital Deluxe edition or DLC owners would have 2 weeks of exclusive access to Piedmonte and Switzerland. After this initial period, all players would be able to play with these nations.

This DLC is the final part of the Deluxe Edition.

Conan Exiles The Frozen North Expansion Details

Funcom announces The Frozen North is the title of the previously announced free expansion for Conan Exiles, which is still expected on August 16th. They also offer a new video with a look at the add-on for the survival game, and includes details about what it will include, and there's also a new dedicated minisite for the project. Here's the pitch:
The Frozen North, which will be completely free to all players on PC and Xbox One, adds a whole new landmass and makes the world of Conan Exiles 70% bigger. It also brings the game out of the desert and into the snowy north, introducing an entirely new climate and a weather system that will require players to dress according to the temperature – or face certain death. The Frozen North also introduces entirely new gameplay mechanics such as fish traps, beekeeping, and cooking. Brewing, a new crafting system, will allow players to make alcohol which will also keep them warm in cold environments. Players will also get to dedicate themselves to a new religion, giving them the ability to summon the avatar of Ymir, the Lord of Storm and War, and wreak havoc on enemy players and crush their cities under his feet.

“This expansion update does not just mean more content and more features,” says Creative Director Joel Bylos. “The team has also worked extremely hard to make sure this release brings with it significant improvements to core aspects of the game such as combat, artificial intelligence, and more. These improvements, in addition to the twenty-eight updates we have already introduced to the game over its six months in PC Early Access, mean this version of Conan Exiles is bigger, and even more importantly, better than ever before.”
Continue here to read the full story.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel Launches

XSEED Games announces the release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel for Windows, a PC port of this RPG first released for consoles in 2013. There's a new update on the port on the XSEED Games website, and you can get a look at the goings-on in the PC launch trailer. Here's word on the game:
XSEED Games, the independent-minded console publishing brand of Marvelous USA, Inc., today announced that The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, the start of a new story arc in developer Nihon Falcom’s acclaimed series of role-playing games, is now available on Windows PC via Steam, GOG.com, and the Humble Store by Humble Bundle with a launch week discount of 10% off the regular price of $39.99, €39.99, and £29.99. To further celebrate the occasion, a variety of DLC packs to help players get a head-start containing bonus sepith, accessories, monster ingredients, healing items, and Zeram powders and capsules will be free for the first 2 weeks after launch. Originally released in North America to wide acclaim in 2015 for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel makes its debut on Windows PC with visual enhancements and over 5,000 new lines of English voiceover dialogue (approximately a 50% increase).

“On behalf of our talented team at XSEED Games, I’m pleased to introduce another remarkable Nihon Falcom JRPG to PC gamers,” said Ken Berry, Executive Vice President at Marvelous USA. “Fans will be happy to know that we’re hard at work to bring more Japanese gems to PC, including Trails of Cold Steel II. In addition, it’s been a pleasure to work with an esteemed member of the PC community on this title to ensure a top quality experience.”

“When XSEED approached me about contributing to their in-progress The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel port, I was immediately excited about the prospect,” said Peter “Durante” Thoman. “The Trails in the Sky series features some of my favorite JRPGs on PC, so I looked forward to making this later game in the franchise the best it can be on PC.”

Popular PC community modder Peter “Durante” Thoman has helped optimize the game for its PC release, and fans can read what kind of technical hurdles he encountered in the third and final of his multiple guest blog posts detailing this game’s journey on XSEED’s blog at http://xseedgames.tumblr.com/.
Continue here to read the full story.

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

Thank you again for indulging my evening off yesterday. The occasion was my annual chance to reconnect with my old summer camp comrades at the canoe regatta that's still held every year in the area. We got to see the current generation of campers compete, a demonstration of youthful wholesomeness that helps restore one's faith in the future. There were also a few adult beverages involved, and of course, tales of the "good old days." I had a terrific time, and hope to continue to attend in the future, though after years of living just a half-hour from the site, by next year my trip will be more like two hours in each direction. At least I think so... at this rate we may still be packing up to move a year from now.

Campy Links: Thanks Ant and Acleacius.
Play: Top Speed Muscle Car.
Stories: The ghostly radio station that no one claims to run. Thanks A51Abductee.
Earthquake Shakes Central Oklahoma, One Of 7 In 28 Hours.
Science: Lyme Disease’s Worst Enemy: It Might Be Foxes. Thanks j.c.f.
Global blindness set to 'triple by 2050'.
Media: Jet Boat Firefighting.
2yo Kid Greets Everyone on his Flight with Tiny Fist Bump.
Georgian Dancers Push Their Physical Limits for Tradition.
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