Steam faces European investigation for region-locked game keys

European Union antitrust authorities are concerned that some video game publishers aren’t playing by the rules of the EU’s single market, charging customers in different countries different prices for access to what is essentially the same game.origin steam

The European Commission opened investigations into five companies distributing their games online through the Steam network operated by Valve.

The companies—Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax—are suspected of placing geographical restrictions on the use of Steam activation keys so that they can’t be used by buyers in some parts of the EU to play their video games. This could allow them to sell activation keys at a higher price in some countries, and prevent players in those countries from activating the game with cheaper keys purchased elsewhere in the EU.

This may breach competition rules by restricting so-called ‘parallel trade’ within the EU, preventing consumers from buying cheaper games that may be available in other member states, the Commission said Thursday.

“We are looking into whether these companies are breaking EU competition rules by unfairly restricting retail prices or by excluding customers from certain offers because of their nationality or location,” said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Bandai Namco games on Steam include Pac-man 256, Project Cars and Dark Souls, while Capcom’s include Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. Titles from the other publishers targeted by the investigation include The Elder Scrolls Online, Cities XXL, and Railroad X.

The Commission began the investigation on its own initiative, it said, meaning that the companies’ activities had not been the subject of complaints.

It opened two other investigations on Thursday, into online sales of hi-fi equipment and domestic appliances, and online hotel bookings.

The Commission has similar concern about hotel bookings as it does about video games: it suspects tour operators including Kuoni, REWE, Thomas Cook and TUI of working with hoteliers such as Meliá Hotels to show different prices or room availability to customers depending on their nationality or country of residence.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association welcomed the investigations, and said it hoped the Commission would go on to investigate manufacturers that prevented sales of their products through online marketplaces altogether. “These restrictions are equally harmful in that they prevent greater consumer choice and price transparency in day-to-day, mass-market products,” said the CCIA’s European director, Jakob Kucharczyk.

This week in games: Overwatch gets a server browser, Project Cars 2 targets 12K and more

More Kickstarter news this week. Can you believe it? Last week I joked about a renaissance but now I’m pretty sure it’s actually happening.Project Cars 2

That, plus Overwatch gets a server browser, South Park delays a second time, a bevy of launch trailers and announcement trailers and trailer trailers, and Project Cars 2 talks about supporting 12K resolutions. Mmmm, that’s a lot of pixels.

This is gaming news for February 6 through 10.

Another chance for me to talk about Stasis? Excellent. If you don’t know, Stasis is the best horror game you (probably) didn’t play in 2015. An isometric horror game in the vein of the classic Sanitarium, Stasis is some excellent derelict space ship sci-fi.

And now the developers are working on a follow-up, titled Beautiful Desolation. Like PC Gamer, I apparently missed word on this in January, but there’s a Kickstarter campaign and everything. I’m not a huge fan of the name, but I am a huge fan of the art on display so far, and fervently hope it reaches its funding goal.

Let’s keep on the crowdfunding theme for a second and talk about inXile. The studio released details on both the upcomingTorment: Tides of Numenera and the slightly-less-upcoming Bard’s Tale IV this week, with a look at Torment’s story and Bard’s Tale’s combat. Here’s Torment:

And Bard’s Tale:

Halo Wars 2 launches next week, at least for Ultimate Edition buyers. Will it be good? No idea, but it sure does have some beautiful cinematics.

It’s not the sexiest update, but Overwatch is getting a server browser to complement its bevy of matchmaking systems. Want to play a custom game with friends? You can finally—nine months after release—do so.

I’d sort-of forgotten that Slightly Mad Studios has been working on Project Cars 2. Hard to forget, given the stink people made when the sequel was originally announced, coming as it did mere months after the release of the original. But regardless, I’d forgotten.

There’s video now though—gorgeous video. Also, support for 12K resolutions (12K!) and more. Time to upgrade your graphics card, sim racers.

Speaking of racing games…well, actually no. The big news this week is that Playground Games, developer of the beloved Forza Horizon series, is working on a new game—and it’s not a racing game. According to GamesIndustry.biz , Playground is opening a second studio and branching out into a new genre, in addition to (presumably) the 2018 Forza Horizon game.

If this mythical second project ends up even half as good as Forza Horizon, we’re in for a treat.

Bad news, South Park fans: Latest game The Fractured But Whole has been delayed yet again, this time to a rather ambiguous “sometime this year.” That’s the second delay for the superhero-themed sequel, which was originally supposed to arrive in December and then was pushed to early 2017. Now? Well, we’ll see.

Cue the Miyamoto quote about a bad game being bad forever, and et cetera.

Ubisoft’s doing just okay with-or-without South Park though, I imagine. Case in point: Rainbow Six Siege is still humming along, still 2015’s best shooter, and just about to start its second season of DLC characters and maps. You’ll get four minutes of that below, with a look at the new “Velvet Shell” operators and Coastline map.

Oh, and Ubisoft also brought back the Rainbow Six Siege Starter Edition. For $15 you get the game and access to four operators, with a whole lot of grinding if you want to unlock the rest—or you try it, enjoy it, and buy the full game (maybe when it goes on sale?) to continue as normal. Your call.

Okay, more Ubisoft news. Ghost Recon: Wildlands is set to release in March. Ubisoft’s continued its tradition of “Silly Live-Action Trailers” for this one—except this time they’ve made a whole live-action movie. There’s a teaser below. Go microwave some popcorn. I’ll wait.

Nintendo Switch Price and Release Date to Be Revealed on January 12

Nintendo Switch Price and Release Date to Be Revealed on January 12

  • The Nintendo Switch price is rumoured to be between $300 and $350
  • Nintendo will use its January 12 event to show off games and launch plans
  • March 2017 is its release month

The Nintendo Switch may have had a brief albeit effective reveal via three minute video from Nintendo, but there’s still many questions left unanswered.

Of these the biggest are its price and release date. Nintendo has confirmed that we will know these details on January 12 at a presentation that will be live streamed.

 

“This will be an event for invited media, financial analysts and trade partners in Tokyo that will be globally livestreamed on Jan. 12, US time. The presentation will include the launch date and pricing for Nintendo Switch, as well as a look at the lineup of games currently in development. The presentation will include the launch date and pricing for Nintendo Switch, as well as a look at the lineup of games currently in development,” a statement from the company reads.

For now, there’s no exact release date save for the reveal video ending with “coming soon March 2017”.Several reports pegged the price of the Switch to be on the higher side compared to the Wii.

 

“A long-in-the-works revamp to the company’s consoles — the NX, with reveal coming next week — is liable to come at a price that will result in a “major” disappointment for volume sales, the firm Macquarie says,” according to a post on investor website Seeking Alpha. “Speculation is putting the price of the new console between $300 and $350, in line with competing consoles, vs. the Wii’s former discount to rival boxes from Sony and Microsoft.”

Steam Dev Days 2016: Steam Link for Samsung TVs, Wireless Vive, and More

Steam Dev Days 2016: Steam Link for Samsung TVs, Wireless Vive, and MoreSteam Dev Days is Valve’s developer convention that takes place in Seattle every two years. While no press was present at Steam Dev Days 2016, that hasn’t stopped information from trickling out.

The headline announcement was Steam Link – which lets you stream Steam games on your PC to your TV, will be integrated into Samsung’s upcoming TVs. A massive coup and a monumental indicator of PC gaming’s importance in the living room.

 

In addition to this, Valve is investing in VR companies, particularly one responsible for 60GHz wireless transfer technology. This could possibly be Quark VR, a company developing a Wireless Vive headset with Valve advising.

 

Furthermore, a new SteamVR controller is in development as are next-gen Lighthouse basestations. The former has no release window while the latter is expected in 2017. The company also reaffirmed Lighthouse tech being planned as open and standardised as Wi-Fi.

On the topic of VR, Valve claims 1,000 new VR users are on Steam every day. Which is odd considering both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift haven’t exactly sold as well as anticipated. Nonetheless, while Valve has no content announcements for Steam Dev Days, it claims to be working on something that should keep everyone happy.

 

“Although we’re not going to treat dev days this year as the place or the time to make big product announcements related to the content we have in development at Valve for virtual reality I do think that once it comes time to do that next year that nobody in this room is going to be disappointed about what we have in the works,” stated Valve’s Greg Coomer on a Periscope video. Could he possibly be alluding to the Half-Life VR game HTC’s leadership revealed and quickly apologised for?

Other points of note include Asia being the third largest market for Steam, growing almost 500 percent. Prior to the event, Valve noted in a prepared statement that Steam is home to over 10,000 games across Windows PC, Linux, Mac, and multiple VR systems.

 

VR appears to be the focal point for Steam Dev Days this year. While an admirable notion, it will be of interest to see if it ever reaches mainstream adoption given that the we’re just witnessing lower price points in terms of tech required. Whether the content is tailored for the platform or not could very well make or break Valve’s ambitions.

No Man’s Sky to Get New Content

No Man's Sky to Get New Content

  • No Man’s Sky’s first content patch is in the works
  • This was confirmed by the game’s audio chief Paul Weir
  • There’s been no official announcement on what to expect from Hello Games

Hotly anticipated sci-fi game No Man’s Sky ended up being one of the year’s biggest disappointments. The most obvious and glaring reason for this was the lack of features and content that were promised by Hello Games founder Sean Murray but did not make it into the game when it shipped.

While developer Hello Games has maintained radio silence since launch, it appears to be working on the game’s first content patch if tweets from the personal account of Paul Weir, Audio Director at the studio are to be believed.

“@PeacefulGamer Nope, no audio changes yet. There will be for our first content update,” Weirtweeted in reply to a fan query if new music was to be expected for the game.

For many, No Man’s Sky was nowhere close to what Hello Games founder Sean Murray promised it would be. More so with a massive Reddit post detailing missing features (which was deleted later) albeit archived on other sites such as the aptly named One Man’s Lie.

Despite Sony’s efforts at marketing the game, it couldn’t stop consumers trying to refund it en-masse. Safe to say, the game was a public relations nightmare. And Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida agrees. Speaking to Eurogamer, the President of Sony Worldwide Studios had this to say:

“I understand some of the criticisms especially Sean Murray is getting, because he sounded like he was promising more features in the game from day one.

“It wasn’t a great PR strategy, because he didn’t have a PR person helping him, and in the end he is an indie developer. But he says their plan is to continue to develop No Man’s Sky features and such, and I’m looking forward to continuing to play the game.”

New content just might what No Man’s Sky needs to woo fans back. Although with the game being out for more than a month, and number of people playing it on Steam rapidly dwindling, it may just be a case of too little, too late.

We found No Man’s Sky to be a repetitive, superficial experience. You can check out our full reviewhere. Or you can listen to our podcast about the game via iTunes or Feedburner or just hit the play button below.

Blizzard Won’t Be Calling Its Online-Multiplayer Platform Battle.net Any More

Blizzard Won't Be Calling Its Online-Multiplayer Platform Battle.net Any More

  • Blizzard’s online-multiplayer platform has lost its iconic name
  • There will be no other changes to the platform or its functioning
  • The company has hinted at some other name changes in future

Blizzard Entertainment has decided to do away with the name ‘Battle.net’ for its online-multiplayer platform as the company wants to associate its services with the same name as itself-Blizzard. The company says that the platform will now be referred to as Blizzard’s online-gaming technology from Wednesday onwards.

The company has clarified that the platform will continue to serve in the same manner as before and will remain the “central nervous system for Blizzard games.”

It has hinted at some more name changes in future by saying, “We’ll just be referring to our various products and services using the

 

PS4 to Get One PS4 Pro Feature With Free HDR Update

PS4 to Get One PS4 Pro Feature With Free HDR Update
The original PS4 and PS4 Slim will receive an HDR update next week
This will allow improved colour accuracy in games
How much of a visible improvement this would make remains to be seen
While it took Microsoft an entire new console in the Xbox One S to offer HDR support, Sony has decided to support the PS4 with HDR via a firmware update due next week.

Announced at the PlayStation Meeting, Sony’s Andrew House announced that HDR or high dynamic range – which allows for more accurate and vivid colours and contrast, is integral to the PS4 experience regardless of the PS4 or PS4 Pro. Interestingly though, not many TVs under 4K support HDR, so this could very well be a meaningless addition for many.

In addition to this, the PS4 Slim which was leaked a couple of week’s prior is simply called PS4. It will be available from September 15 onwards. It will be available for $299 internationally (around Rs. 19,870). India does not have a release date or a price yet. Suffice to say it would depend on BIS certification processes that have been a bugbear for the company in the past.

While there’s no clarity on how much the PS4 Slim will cost in India, it’s likely to be more expensive due to customs, duties, and taxes. The original PS4 is officially available for Rs. 32,990 in India, and it’s regularly discounted both online and at retail by a few thousand rupees. If there’s a price drop, at all, don’t expect it to go below Rs. 28,000.

PlayStation Meeting 2016 Recap: PS4 Pro, PS4 Slim, and Everything Else That Happened

PlayStation Meeting 2016 Recap: PS4 Pro, PS4 Slim, and Everything Else That Happened
PS4 slim version releases September 15 and costs $299
PS4 Pro will be available November 10 for $399
Game footage shown for Mass Effect Andromeda
Two new PlayStation 4 consoles were expected at today’s PlayStation event, and that’s exactly what we got. Andrew House, president and global CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, kicked off the event by announcing a slimmer version that will be available in a week’s time on September 15 for $299 (approx. Rs. 19,870).

The mid-cycle upgrade, now officially known as PS4 Pro, will cost $399 (approx. Rs. 26,500) and will hit stores on November 10. It will come with 1TB HDD, with all other specifications as leaked earlier. PS4 Pro allows developers to push the fidelity while maintaining performance, House said. The reason Sony decided to introduce a newer version earlier than usual in the cycle is because they have already maxed out what’s possible with 1080p.

While Sony didn’t get into exact specifications, which had already been leaked, it did confirm that PS4 Pro would have double the GPU power of original PS4, and boost clock rate to provide “unprecedented level of detail”. And despite what it may seem like, Sony maintained that the “PS4 Pro is not intended to blur the lines between console generations”.

 

Games that will support PS4 Pro, shown at the event, include Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Days Gone, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, FIFA 17, For Honor, Horizon Zero Dawn, Mass Effect Andromeda, Rise of the Tomb Raider, the untitled Spider-Man, and Watch Dogs 2. All these games were shown via 4K gameplay videos during the event, except Battlefield 1 and FIFA 17.

Sony admitted that not everyone would wish to upgrade to PS4 Pro, and hence it’s bringing HDR capability to the existing market of 40 million PS4 owners, to be available via a firmware update next week. And should you decide to upgrade and fork down money on the PS4 Pro, part of your existing game library will work the new console in what Sony termed “forward compatability”.

Sony also talked about 4K and HDR content with PS4 Pro, going so far to say that “at launch, PS4 Pro will become the number one provider of HDR content”. This includes new apps for both Netflix and YouTube. Netflix will offer 600 hours of footage by the end of this year, Sony said, with the recently released second season of Narcos and upcoming first season of Marvel’s Luke Cage part of that.

For our full coverage, head to our hub for the PlayStation event.

Square Enix Ruined Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Square Enix Ruined Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: ReportIt appears that the development of sci-fi shooter Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was rockier than it appeared to be. Developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Final Fantasy hitmaker Square Enix, it is one of our favourite games of the year.

Citing a developer who worked on the game at Square Enix-owned Eidos Montreal, industry journalist and YouTuber Jim Sterling explained some of the games stranger design choices. One of these include its microtransactions. The decision to include in-game purchases such as Praxis kits and credits (to buy items in Mankind Divided) were made two weeks prior to submitting the game for approval. Eidos Montreal did not plan for microtransactions and had to add them as per Square Enix’s demands at the last moment. These went live the moment the game was available for sale, after reviews were published. Neither reviewers (including Gadgets 360) nor consumers were not made aware of these elements before release. It’s one of the reasons why the game is reviewing poorly with users on Steam.

In addition to this, Sterling’s source sheds light on the game’s almost Big Brother-like tracking mechanism. Almost everything you do is sent to the company’s servers.
“Mankind Divided is designed to track your every move if your console or PC is online. Every time you shoot, every item you pick up, your dialogue choices, your system settings, even every time you jump, it’s all sent back to Square Enix servers for analysis,” says Sterling.
If this wasn’t enough, despite having an obscene CAD 70 million budget (around Rs. 360 crores) and a five and half year development cycle, there was no internal beta with the developer stating that the publisher was not interested in games. Nonetheless, Mankind Divided has a lofty sales goal of three million units.

“As for Mankind Divided, cross your fingers that it sells over three million, that’s the minimum it needs to break even,” remarked Sterling.

Attrition at the studio was high as well, he states. Despite high costs, Eidos Montreal’s interns are the lowest paid in the city, with Sterling claiming the majority of the expenses put towards poor marketing stunts and unnecessary game modes such as Breach – the game’s arcade-styled time trial. It was shoehorned in at the behest of Square Enix.

“It [Breach Mode] was included for the fear of the main campaign getting too stale for players,” said Sterling.

In a previous episode, Sterling stated that Mankind Divided would be the first of trilogy. Internally it had the codename DXNG (short for Deus Ex Next Gen). One team was working on DXNG while another team was simultaneously working on DXNG2 since 2015. However to meet the game’s intended February 2016 release, a large chunk of staff was moved over to Mankind Divided. The game was finally made available on August 23 this year.

This report from Sterling highlights some of the many managerial reasons why most games don’t quite turn out as well as they were intended. You can check out the full video below:

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour for PS4, Windows PC, and Xbox One Announced

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour for PS4, Windows PC, and Xbox One AnnouncedEarlier in the week it was leaked that popular 90s shooter franchise, Duke Nukem was making a comeback in the form of Duke Nukem 3D: World Tour with Nerve Software developing the game. Now the game has been revealed along with its official name – Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour at PAX West 2016.

 

The game brings classic Duke Nukem 3D along with a new fifth episode spanning eight levels made by the original designers. Other inclusions are new music, and the original 1996 source code along with the “2.5D” engine re-mastered in True 3D for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Windows. Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is coming to the PS4, Xbox One, and Windows PC on October 11.

According to Steam, the game will be published by Borderlands creator Gearbox Software. It was declared the full owner of the Duke Nukem franchise after settling a lawsuit with 3D Realms. Specifications of the game are as follows:

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour minimum PC requirements:
OS: Windows Vista/7/8/8.1/10 x64
Processor: Intel Pentium Dual Core E2220 (2*2400) or equivalent AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ (2*2600) or equivalent
Memory: 2048 MB RAM
Graphics: GeForce 8600 GT (512 MB) or equivalent Radeon HD 4670 (512 MB) or equivalent
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 1200 MB available space
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour recommended PC requirements:

OS: Windows Vista/7/8/8.1/10 x64
Processor: Intel Core i3-530 (2*2930) or equivalent AMD Phenom x4 9850 (4*2500) or equivalent
Memory: 2048 MB RAM
Graphics: GeForce GT 610 (1024 MB) or equivalent Radeon HD 6850 (1024 MB) or equivalent
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 1200 MB available space

The last entry was Duke Nukem Forever that released after nearly a decade in development hell and it was critically panned. With Doom proving that old school shooters are still relevant, it will be interesting to see if Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is a litmus test for something bigger.

Would you play a new Duke Nukem game? Or does Doom do enough to scratch the itch for old school gaming goodness? Let us know in the comments.