Microsoft’s new Netflix-like game service is set to launch on June 1. The Xbox Game Pass has been in beta testing or several weeks now and Xbox Live Gold members can get access to a 14-day trial right now, with the program going to launch for all users on the release date.
Microsoft has just released a new update for Xbox One owners that will begin rolling out from today. The latest download brings a host of new changes and upgrades, including a faster dashboard and the implementation of Beam streaming.
Could the Switch, Nintendo’s upcoming gaming console, be the company’s next big step toward a downloadable-games-only future? Nintendo has been methodically expanding sales of digital games since 2012, slowly adjusting player expectations as it increases capabilities to support those sales. It’s also a company that seems to increasingly struggle with the process of delivering acceptable levels of physically manufactured goods.
And it stands to reason that one day, gaming consoles won’t be systems that use physical media. That’s where music, television and movies are all headed. If anything, it’s a little surprising that games won’t get there first. It’s clear why Nintendo hasn’t done this yet. While the company pushes hard on increasing download sales, it is also hampered by a lineage of poorly conceived approaches to online gaming and digital rights management. Downloaded games are still tied to the physical hardware on which you purchased them — something that other companies, like Valve with Steam, have moved past with resounding success.
Just playing with friends can be a challenge on a Nintendo console, though that seems to be slowly improving with each new system. That may sound like an argument against the Switch moving toward a download-only future, but this console could also be an opportunity for Nintendo to clear the deck of its mistakes and start with a new, responsible approach to online interactions and digital rights management. Nintendo plans to further detail its new console at an event in Tokyo on Thursday, followed by a press event in New York on Friday. But right now, most of what we know is based on a high-touch promo video that doesn’t actually explain anything. Instead, it shows a bunch of examples of how the system can be used, and allows viewers to jump to their own conclusions.
The company did follow up with some basic details in a press release, and then answered a few questions sent via email. Notably, while Nintendo did confirm that the system will use “GameCards,” the company, through a third-party PR person, declined to say what the specifications of the card are. It also declined to comment on whether games would be sold only via download in some cases, saying that the company would “discuss the specs of Nintendo Switch at a later date.” Nintendo did confirm that the Switch won’t support two other sorts of physical media: Nintendo 3DS cards and Wii U discs. In fact, there does not appear to be a disc slot anywhere on the Switch unit or its docking station.
Back in 2012, then-president Satoru Iwata announced that Nintendo would soon start selling all of its games both in stores and online. That was followed up by Nintendo telling Polygon that it was aiming to “significantly expand its digital business,” starting that summer with the launch of New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS. “From that perspective,” Iwata said at the time, “for our digital business to grow drastically, it is imperative for us to expand the exposure of the digital download products to potential consumers.” Nintendo has even played around with download-only game sales for titles like Picross 3D Round 2.
These aren’t moves to ditch physical retail sales, but to prepare for a future when perhaps those sales begin to slump. Recently, Nintendo has taken to outlining the growth of its online sales, breaking it out as a specific note in comments to investors. Last April, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima pointed out the company’s increasing download sales trends, noting that “we have focused on expanding the digital business, both to keep up with changes in the industry and as a new business opportunity.”
In October, Kimishima said that “as a result of our continuing efforts, the ratio of consumers who purchased software digitally when a packaged version is also available has increased year-on-year.” Microsoft tried to go online only with its Xbox One, leaning heavily into downloadable games as well. But it was a disastrous unveiling that likely caused a number of companies to reassess their own approaches to the eventual death of physical media. I’m not suggesting that on Thursday, Nintendo will declare the Switch a cart- and disc-free system. We know it uses GameCards. But I do think Nintendo has built into the Switch the ability to make this particular system one that can easily vault the transition from physical to digital when that moment comes.
To do that, Nintendo will have to, on some level, reinvent itself as a more online, digitally progressive company. It will also have to ensure that the hardware can support that sort of content, with substantial built-in storage and perhaps an affordable way to upgrade storage. Both approaches are part of the PS4 and Xbox One systems.
Netflix have now added an offline viewing mode to their online streaming service for the very first time, allowing viewers to download content onto their devices so that they can watch them later without an internet connection.
Fans of the cult classic action-adventure game Beyond Good & Evil are in luck. Ubisoft are offering the title for free, all players have to have is a PC capable of running the game and a Ubisoft Club account – though the account is free to create. You can grab the game directly from the publisher’s site right here.
Microsoft’s Major Nelson has once again given Xbox Live Gold members the news of what games they will be able to download for free over the next month. The Games With Gold service, which is available to anyone with a paid subscription, will give players the chance to grab four games in August as a combined value of $120.
The open beta for Gears of War 4 is now available exclusively on the Xbox one for Xbox Live gold members. The download gives players the chance to try out the multiplayer on the latest title and experience the new weapons on two distinctive maps. It will be available until 1 May
The brand new and highly anticipated update for the Xbox One is rolling out today. Users can download it by heading over to the settings sections and checking for updates, prompting the console to download the 1.15GB patch.
Right now you can get a standard copy of Battlefield 3 completely free on EA’s digital distribution platform Origin. According to the game’s listing on Origin, the cost is at a 100% discount off the regular $19.99.
Ubisoft has today confirmed via its UbiBlog that the highly-rated downloadable RPG Child of Light will be coming to PlayStation Vita on 1 July 2014. Child of Light was released to high critical response at the end of April on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC, achieving an impressive Metacritic score of 89 on PlayStation 3. There’s no word at present as to whether the boxed-with-download-code collector’s edition will be released for the Vita as it was on the other platforms.
I first heard of Ubisoft‘s I Am Alive while browsing the Playstation Network (PSN) and was hesitantly impressed by the stills provided. A quick browse of both youtube and other review sites, gave me justification to throw down cash for this downloadable game. The idea of an post apocalyptic world to explore, minus the FPS aspects had me following the status bar eagerly. Thoughts of Corman McCarthy’s “The Road” flooded my mind, a world of inevitable decay. Ruins of buildings slowly falling further into disrepair, tough people scrabbling for survival.
It’s a long summer without hockey, especially if your favourite team doesn’t make the playoffs. However, fear not hockey fans, EA Sports has the little taste of hockey that you’ve been waiting for.