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Move Over E3, Gaming Takes a Bigger Role at CES 2014

posted Sunday Jul 7, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Move Over E3, Gaming Takes a Bigger Role at CES 2014

A lot of people have defended that fact that I have continuously called out E3 on their lack of organization and relevancy in the gaming space with each growing year. Say what you will, but the facts do not lie. The convention grows more frustrating each year to attend and big names are stepping out and delivering press events on their own, to bigger media attention and coverage. Last year on our show, I even said that eventually we'd see gaming become part of the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) annual event, the International Consumer Electronic Show (CES). Well, either Shapiro heard me talking about it or I am less "out there" than everyone is saying, because the framework for a gaming showcase at CES is taking place starting next year.

The CEA announced that over 40 different companies will show off the latest in gaming technology and hardware at CES 2014 in Vegas this year. Dubbed the CES Gaming Showcase TechZone, this will add to the two handfuls of TechZones already existed in the 1.9 million square feet of showfloor, and will be the prime destination where gaming meets business. Like I've said in the past, business is where gaming matters and it is less important for these companies to cater to the "hardcore gamers" who fill forums across the Internet when literally billions of dollars exchange hands at CES. The CEA will also be giving the Gaming TechZone over 10,000 square feet of space in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center to show off their goods, "from mobile, online and HD gaming, plasma HDTV to surround sound and power conditioning hardware."

Karen Chupka, Senior VP of CES, said in their press statement about this addition,

The Gaming Showcase at the 2014 International CES is a must-stop destination for the latest gaming trends from around the globe. The 2013 International CES saw unmatched innovation in gaming technology with the launch of NVIDIA's Project Shield, the Oculus Rift, the Sifteo and the Razer Edge. We look forward to witnessing the bleeding-edge gaming technologies that will be unveiled at the 2014 CES.

As Chupka has mentioned, we saw the big names at E3 show up six months before the big gaming event, at CES 2013. Now with CES actually incorporating gaming as a highlighted showcase, I'll expect to see more big things come out of the event for gaming. A list of exhibitors include heavy-hitters like AMD, Innex, Intel, Logitech, Nokia, Nvidia, Orbotix, and Sony. We'll also see a huge focus in mobile gaming, naturally, as the CEA said revenues increased in that space by triple-digits in both 2011 and 2012. Plus, with the launch of next-gen happening over the holiday season, there is sure to be a load of new products to go along with the new hardware come January.

When you think about it, this all makes sense. CES is the largest technology event in the world, with media attending from 150 countries across the globe. Having that same group of 35,000+ attend a second event, six months later, that's only about gaming is just not in the cards anymore. Now it's time for a professional organization to take over gaming and make the convention the best it can possibly be. I can't wait for Vegas this year.

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Socl Gets Even More Friendly and Interactive with New Site Overhaul and Additions

posted Sunday Jul 7, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Socl Gets Even More Friendly and Interactive with New Site Overhaul and Additions

It's been two years since Microsoft accidentally introduced So.cl, their take on social interaction with a twist. When I played around with it, I never really got hooked but could definitely see its uses. Share documents, songs, video clips and more, all in a playlist format that you can bring your friends in on. It kind of felt like GoToMeeting, minus the whole professional vibe that would stray college-aged customers from using it. If you aren't familiar with Socl, I think Microsoft could describe it best.

From Microsoft Research's FUSE Labs, Socl create experiences allow you to express your ideas through collages, videos, memes and dynamic media that take seconds to create and are easy to collect, comment upon, and share on Socl and to other social networks such as Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.

Now, the company is taking Socl a little further by introducing "Create Experiences" that will allow you to express yourself, as they say. I have the list of experiences below along with a video after the break.

Blink

Currently available for Windows devices, BLINK apps provide ways to capture, create and share short dynamic media using Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8.

Using BLINK or BLINK Cliplets, you can capture the perfect shot or have fun creating surprising short films to share on Socl and your other favorite social networks.

Picotale

Part "meme-generator," part game, Picotales are little stories made by overlaying text on an image. Something cool, witty, funny, playful... Simply type a message and hit go. Picotale will deliver an image including your text. Hit go again until you find a combination you like. Then post on Socl and your other favorite social networks.

Collage - now with upload!

Collages are comprised of images, links and videos found on the web or uploaded to Socl. Simply type a topic, paste a link or upload images then drag and drop. Your collage will be stylishly assembled for you in an instant to post on Socl and your other favorite social networks.

Video Party

Video Parties are shared video experiences on Socl. Got a favorite band, movie, genre, actor, activity? Simply name your party and click start. Then search for a selection of video clips to create a video playlist. Now you're ready to invite your friends to watch, chat and share the experience, in real time if you like.

Mobile Socl

Socl's responsive site design will optimize for your device; now you can take Socl on the go with you.

If Socl isn't something you've played with yet, I highly suggest you do so. It's kind of fun if you have a bunch of friends who are willing to mess around with the system along with you. Then, it also becomes useful when you get tired of the mundane status updates and static pictures that are Facebook and Twitter. Remember when Xbox introduced the whole "watch movies with friends" thing? It's kind of like that, except you can now watch the Internet with your friends. Plus, it's kind of cool to just be able to create the exact thing you want, within one experience, without having to load a bunch of side-apps to get the job done. It may seem like something you wouldn't usually do, but it was definitely a refreshing experience for me. Your mileage may vary.

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Microsoft Stays Committed to the 360, Removes Title Update Fee

posted Sunday Jun 30, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Stays Committed to the 360, Removes Title Update Fee

Even after diving into details of the Xbox One at E3, Microsoft has remained committed to the Xbox 360 with new games and a new console. It's obvious that Microsoft still sees value in the eight year old console and will continue to support it even after the launch of the One this holiday season. To continue their committment, the Xbox team also announced that they have stopped putting the $10,000 price tag on developers to update their 360 titles. The only problem is they forgot to tell, well, anyone.

In a story that further makes everyone scratch their head at the lack of explanation coming out of Microsoft lately, apparently they stopped charging fees to update games back in April, however nobody seemed to know about it except for those pushing updates since then. Many third-party developers had no idea that the five-figure charge was done away with, leaving many gamers and developers going through the same motions as they have in the past. A prime example is the developing studio of Fez, Polytron, who did not fix an issue last year that corrupted a small number of gamers' save files because the percentage didn't justify the cost. Had we fast-forwarded a year, the game would've been fixed immediately and everyone would've been happy.

The official statement from Microsoft explains it a step further.

Microsoft eliminated fees for Title Updates on Xbox 360 Arcade games in April 2013. We're constantly evaluating our policies and implementing feedback.

While our development policies are confidential, and will remain so, we're pleased to say that this is just one of many ongoing changes and improvements we've made to ensure Xbox is the best place possible for developers and gamers.

Of course, this is just for the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One may or may not follow suit. If Microsoft really is trying to align themselves to compete against Steam (well, you know, before the whole policy reversal thing), then eliminating or cutting the cost on patch fees would be a great start. As it stands, however, that would seem less likely now that gamers complained about not being able to buy and play used games on a console for next-gen. I definitely do understand the need to include a patch fee for studios, as companies like EA have been known to rush products to market without fixing all of the issues first, so at least they have to pay each time they wish to push an update. Oh, and for those curious, Sony also had an update fee, but has since eliminated it when Microsoft did back in April.

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Yahoo Shuts Down Another Round of Programs

posted Sunday Jun 30, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Yahoo Shuts Down Another Round of Programs

While Yahoo has been spending a considerable amount of time and effort in acquiring Tumblr and fixing up Flickr, other apps and projects have seen less than favorable outcomes. A few months ago, CEO Marissa Mayer said she was going to turn the company around by axing non-profitable endeavors, and she did that with authority. The month of March saw seven projects close up shop, saving Mayer's company a bunch of money. Now, it looks like it's time for round two.

As her efforts are to kill off 80 percent of mobile apps and sites owned by Yahoo, Mayer announced a bunch more closures of things you may not have realized existed, but cost Yahoo a whole lot of resources. Some of them have already shut down this week, but are worth mentioning.

From Yahoo, these projects, in no particular order of notoriety, are:

Yahoo Axis (June 28)

If you installed the browser plug-in, it will no longer work. If you downloaded the app, it will continue to work, but won't be actively maintained. We encourage you to use the Yahoo Search app for iOS and Android.

Yahoo Browser Plus (June 28)

Citizen Sports (June 28)

You can still get all the latest sports news on Yahoo Sports, play fantasy sports like Fantasy Football and stay up-to-date when you're on the go with our new Yahoo Sports app for iOS and Android.

Yahoo WebPlayer (June 30)

If you're a publisher and currently using Yahoo WebPlayer on your site, after June 30 the Yahoo WebPlayer won't load. Your users will continue to be able to play media files using native browser support. You may wish to locate and remove the following line in your code:

FoxyTunes (July 1)

To see the latest in the music world, please visit Yahoo Music.

Yahoo RSS Alerts (July 1)

To continue to get the latest content that you care about, you can subscribe to Keyword News alerts at our Yahoo Alerts and receive them via email.

Yahoo Neighbors Beta (July 8)

You can visit Yahoo Local Search to find out what's going on in your neighborhood.

AltaVista (July 8)

Please visit Yahoo Search for all of your searching needs.

Yahoo Stars India (July 25)

To stay up on all your favorite celebrity news, check out Yahoo India OMG!

Yahoo Downloads Beta (July 31)

Yahoo Downloads will no longer support third-party downloads. It will continue to offer downloads of Yahoo products like Yahoo Toolbar or Yahoo Messenger.

Yahoo Local API (Sept. 28)

As part of this shutdown, all Yahoo Local API documentation will also be removed from the Yahoo Developer Network portal.

Yahoo Term Extraction API (Sept. 28)

We are eliminating direct access to the Yahoo Term Extraction API and as of Sept. 28 will require developers to go through YQL. We encourage all existing users of the Term Extraction Legacy API to migrate to YQL requests by September 28. You can use the YQL forums for any questions you might have about migrating to YQL. If you are already using the Term Extraction API via YQL, you don't need to take any action.

So, are you saddened by any of these? Let us know in the comments section below. It is a little upsetting to the retro side of me that we are seeing the closure of AltaVista. I know I was using that before I knew MetaCrawler was a thing. I'll never forget you, AltaVista, in all of your messy, hyperlink-heavy, white background radio buttons glory. If you forgot about AltaVista, it's okay, just hit the break.

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NVIDIA SHIELD Delayed Until Next Month

posted Sunday Jun 30, 2013 by Scott Ertz

NVIDIA SHIELD Delayed Until Next Month

NVIDIA announced this week that their gaming handheld, SHIELD, has been delayed. Now, this is significant for a few reasons. First, this will be NVIDIA's debut into the handheld market, with a device that showcases a unique usage of Android and, of course, showcasing the company's own Tegra 4 processor. Because of this, the company has said that the delay is to ensure the launch is perfect. With such an important debut, it makes sense to want it to be perfect.

A NVIDIA spokesperson said,

During our final QA process, we discovered a mechanical issue that relates to a 3rd party component. We want every SHIELD to be perfect, so we have elected to shift the launch date to July. We'll update you as soon as we have an exact date.

It is definitely difficult to have a perfect launch under those conditions.

It is also significant in that the delay came within hours of the original launch date. Moving the date so last minute suggests to me that they either thought they could fix the problem quicker than reality, or that they considered ignoring the problem and launching anyway. I will continue to hope that the company tried to resolve the problem and didn't hit their mark and not that there was a discussion about releasing with a known defect.

Hopefully for NVIDIA the late July timeframe will not damage the sales of the device. The recent price drop from $349 to the sweet spot of $299 might help, but any product release delay can hurt. If you need evidence, ask Ouya how it is working for them.

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Xbox 360 Gets Time Warner Cable Line-Up

posted Saturday Jun 29, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Xbox 360 Gets Time Warner Cable Line-Up

If there was one thing that Microsoft emphasized at their Xbox Reveal media event was that Xbox One is focused on media. At the E3 press event, the company emphasized their commitment to Xbox 360, even announcing a redesigned console to match the Xbox One design. The question that was left behind was if these two facts would have any overlap.

That question was answered this week when Microsoft announced that Time Warner Cable's lineup of over 200 cable stations would be coming to the Xbox 360. Time Warner's channels are currently available through a couple of Internet-connected platforms, including iOS and Roku, but this will be its first experience on a gaming console. It also marks the first time that Time Warner's experience will be enhanced with voice controls, through Kinect.

Blair Westlake, VP of Microsoft's Media & Entertainment Group, said,

TWC TV is a significant addition to Xbox 360, bringing our customers their favorite entertainment in one place-enhanced TV experience, games, movies, music, sports and entertainment apps. Our partnership with TWC enhances all that is available on Xbox 360 today, which will we continue expand. We're thrilled to offer TWC TV to U.S. Xbox Live members and Time Warner Cable subscribers.

Obviously this isn't the first cable provider to be available on the Xbox 360, with AT&T U-Verse, Comcast Xfinity and Verizon FiOS already available. It does, however, suggest that Microsoft is trying to beef up their overall media offerings in preparation for the Xbox One launch. There has been a lot of conjecture that the $499 price point might be something most people won't see, as agreements with cable providers to offer the Xbox One cheaper if you subscribe to their service.

If your cable company were to offer you an Xbox One for, say, $199 with your cable subscription, would you take advantage of the deal? Let us know in the comments section.

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