After several years years of hiatus, an official announcement, and the shockingly rapid decline of the music game market, Rock Band suddenly leapt back to life this month. Harmonix Music Systems — the studio responsible for the music game craze, and the studio that created Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Dance Central — announced new tracks heading to the Rock Band online store, which works with both Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Blitz. Why in the world is Harmonix releasing new tracks as paid, downloadable content for games that only exist on previous generation consoles? The official word is full of public relations obfuscation:
“We had an exciting opportunity to add new content to the already-massive Rock Band library with a song from Arctic Monkeys – a band that’s never been in a Rock Band title before! – as well as new music from fan favorites Avenged Sevenfold and Foo Fighters. We couldn’t pass it up. Also, we wanted to see if we could still do it. Turns out we can. It’s sort of like riding a bike.”
Great. That out of the way, what’s really happening? Companies don’t just casually release new content for years old games. That’s not a thing that happens. I’d call it “testing the waters.”
First and foremost, here’s an interesting, not exactly surprising fact: “hundreds of thousands” of people are still playing Rock Band every month. That’s what a Harmonix rep told me, and it refers to folks playing online on “all platforms where DLC is available” (there’s no way of measuring how many folks are playing offline, but let’s wager that it’s not a lot).
For those of you wondering who’s still holding onto all those plastic instruments, the answer is “a surprisingly large group of people.”
As for the rest of us, well, my house is purged of all the fake guitars, wireless microphones, and plastic drum kits that accumulated across the Guitar Hero / Rock Band years. The same goes for most of my friends, and I doubt you’re much different. Beyond the burnout that comes with releasing several junky, obvious cash-in games — Activision flooded the market with constant variations on the Guitar Hero franchise — many of us didn’t want to fill closets/basements/dorm rooms/etc. with clunky gaming peripherals.
Harmonix is actually trying to determine how you feel about those peripherals in a survey sent out via Twitter. More importantly, not only is Harmonix trying to determine if you still own old peripherals — the company is asking very specific questions about which aspects of a Rock Band game (local multiplayer? a robust on-disc song library? etc.) are most important to you. It’s also asking which current-gen game consoles you own.
Smells an awful lot like Harmonix is pretty seriously considering a re-birth of its biggest ever franchise — the franchise that both helped popularize music games and managed to get more than one Beatle on stage during a video game press conference.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the company is being asked about Rock Band all the time. When Forbes‘ Jason Evangelho asked about “Rock Band 4″ back in October 2014 (a theoretical sequel to Rock Band 3), here’s what Harmonix publicist Nick Chester said:
“We love Rock Band, it’s in the company’s DNA. We own the IP. And when the time’s right we will absolutely come back to it. There’s a whole bunch of factors to take into consideration before jumping in that pool again, but there’s a desire for it, absolutely.”
So, given that, and Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos outright stating that Rock Band would return at some point this console generation, the question of Rock Band’s triumphant return isn’t a question of if, but of when.
Apple’s missing spark, hands-on with HoloLens, the end of Skymall and other stories you might’ve missed this week
Microsoft dives head-first into augmented reality, President Obama addresses the State of the Union — and the internet– and (say it ain’t so!) Skymall files for bankruptcy. Get caught up on these stories and more in this latest edition of Weekends with Engadget.
Apple has made some tiny tweaks and several size adjustments to its arsenal of gadgets lately, but the company is lacking the unique ideas it had in the 2000s. Read why Aaron Souppouris thinks Apple is falling behind among the likes of Microsoft and Google.
Microsoft’s “mixed reality” holographic headset is still a bit rough around the edges, but its potential is pretty amazing. Read what augmented reality buffs have to look forward to when this device hits the market in Ben Gilbert’s hands-on.
What is the HoloLens packing under its hood? Microsoft is keeping its specs pretty vague, but here Tim Seppala sums up what we’ve been able to confirm so far.
Now that Microsoft has all eyes on Project HoloLens, will it be able to launch it without screwing things up? We revisit a list of Microsoft gadgets that sounded great at the time, but didn’t quite live up to the hype.
Net Neutrality made it onto the President’s agenda during his State of the Union address Tuesday. He pledged to not only keep broadband internet “free and open,” but also to make it more accessible to underserved communities.
Virtual reality is coming to Sundance film festival courtesy of filmmaker Shari Frilot. Her New Frontier exhibit will feature 11 movies that blend art and technology in a format that’s already grabbing the attention of big names like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and James Franco.
Sure, we’ve known Microsoft’s new OS was coming since September, but the company still managed to surprise us with news of universal apps, Project Spartan and its move into augmented reality. Read on for the full breakdown of this week’s Windows 10 event.
We got to take a test run of Windows 10 in its more final form on a Dell Venue Pro 11 tablet. Watch the video in this story for a peek at the notification center, the “revamped Photos and Settings apps,” Cortana’s new desktop voice search and more.
In completely unsurprising but strangely disappointing news, Skymall has filed for bankruptcy. The company’s CEO blames in-flight WiFi for its demise, which we assume means passengers are no longer forced to browse this beloved catalog of ridiculous gadgets as their only source of entertainment when they forget to bring a magazine.
C’mon, guys. If you’re using one of these passwords you’re practically begging for someone to hack you. View the full list of the most popular passwords of 2014 to feel a little better about that time yours was abc123.
According to a new report from Digitimes Research, Microsoft’s recently announced unified Windows 10 experience would not have a massive impact on the Chromebooks which is eating its way through the notebook marketshare with each passing month.
Microsoft is using a unification system with Windows 10 which will bring together its mobile, tablets and PCs with the same apps running seamlessly across devices. This can be partially likened to what Apple is doing with iOS and Mac OSX.
However, the steadily increasing Chromebook sales will be hard to contain, according to the report. Chromebooks are affordable and offer seamless integration with Android devices, which pegs the odds in its favor.
While Microsoft will still dominate the notebook segment, it probably won’t see as much success as it is currently expecting. It is being said that Windows tablet sales will see growth in the current year, which is offering some hope for Microsoft.
But as it stands, it seems like Google and Apple will continue to dominate the mobile segment while Chromebooks slowly sneak up on the PC marketshare.
Come comment on this article: Research suggests that Windows 10 will not have a major impact on the Chromebooks
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Welcome back to Google Play Weekly! Here are your app headlines this week and you can watch it above:
- Microsoft is merging their phone, tablet, and desktop OS and may eventually allow Android apps into the mix.
- A new Humble Bundle is out now with six games up for grabs and more coming soon! Check it out by clicking here.
- NBC will be streaming Super Bowl XLIX online through the Sports Live Extra app.
- WhatsApp now has a desktop application (that you can check out here) and it’s also cracking down on 3rd party clients.
- Google has updated and clarified their rules on naming third party apps.
And now here are five Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week!
Next Lock Screen is a lock screen replacement app from Microsoft that received a huge update this last week. The lock screen now has music player controls, MMS support, instant messaging support for Skype, Line, and Google Hangouts, and the usual array of bug fixes and performance improvements. It’s still totally free with no in app purchase if you want to check it out.
[Price: Free / $4.99 per month]
CloudMagic received a bit update this week that has had some mixed reactions. They have started a new subscription service for $4.99 per month that users can get in on to access new features and functionality. For now the feature list is pretty short but the developer says it will get longer as time goes. Also, all the features of the free version remain free but we still remain dubious about spending $60 per year on an email client.
Asana is a task management service aimed at teams of people. You can organize tasks and assign tasks to people on a larger scale. This last week, they released a huge update to their Android app. It is not a native Android app instead of HMTL5 and it comes with Material Design, gesture controls, and more features. It’s still not amazing but it’s definitely a bit step forward.
LibreOffice Viewer Beta is a document viewing app that is now on Android. People have been clamoring for LibreOffice on Android for some time and this seems to be the first step to making that happen. It is in beta and it is rough so we recommend that only those interested in helping test give it a shot. Aside from that, it’s nice to see LibreOffice on Android, even in this limited form for right now.
Last up this week is the Niantic Labs app Field Trip. It’s essentially a guidebook that shows you interesting landmarks and tidbits about the city you’re in. It received a big update this last week with more Material Design, new content, and the boilerplate bug fixes and performance improvements. If you play Ingress or you like exploring, you should have this.
If we missed any great Android apps news, let us know in the comments!
Microsoft showed off a number of new features from its upcoming Windows 10 yesterday. It brings support for things like universal apps, a new and improved web browser, potentially free upgrades, cross-platform gaming and more. One of the more interesting announcements was that Cortana, a voice-controlled virtual assistant similar to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, would be available on your desktop. Many of us spend our days in office environments, where it’s not convenient to talk to our computers (besides, I have other issues with virtual assistants as well). Is this something you’ll find useful on your computer? Head over to the Engadget forums and let us know what you think.
Filed under: Desktops
Source: Engadget forums
Twitter’s great for connecting its users to people from around the world, but what about when they don’t speak the same language? After testing out a solution in fits and starts, Twitter has officially introduced Bing-powered translations right in the feed. Of course, if you’ve ever relied on machine-translation (and if you’ve worked the late shift on a tech site, you definitely have) you know the results can vary in quality, but it’s usually enough to get the gist of what’s being said. It’s definitely easier than copying characters back and forth, so until you actually crack open that copy of Rosetta Stone, just look for the globe icon and “translate this” button. (If it’s not there, make sure “Show Tweet translations” box is checked in your account settings).
– Twitter (@twitter) January 22, 2015
Source: Twitter Support
Finally, we can stop asking Microsoft’s Xbox lead Phil Spencer about virtual reality headsets. “For us I think this is the area,” Spencer told a group of interviewers at yesterday’s Windows 10 event. He was responding to whether or not there’s also a virtual reality headset in the works at Microsoft, just an hour after the company unveiled HoloLens: a “mixed reality” headset that enables the wearer to see holograms in real life.
For Spencer, HoloLens is both Microsoft’s alternate answer to the recent virtual reality explosion and a potential answer to Sony’s Project Morpheus headset — a VR peripheral that works with the PlayStation 4, where HoloLens could work with the Xbox One. “It’s very cool. To me there’s not a successful consumer electronics device on the planet where gaming is not a primary form of app category on the thing,” Spencer said. There’s even a “Minecraft-inspired” demo — which answers that question — for HoloLens that shows the implications of gaming with holograms. But no demo showed the headset working with the Xbox One in any capacity. Spencer instead talked around that possibility:
“I think gaming will be important. Specific scenarios with the Xbox, we’re thinking hard about. People could ask about streaming solutions. Could I use it as a display for my Xbox? We don’t have answers to any of those things, but know it’s all part of the same organization.”
And that’s why I say HoloLens both is and isn’t an answer to Sony’s Project Morpheus, or the Oculus Rift, or even Samsung’s Gear VR. It’s similarly impressive, and head-mounted, and even delivers some similar experiences, but it’s not virtual reality and it’s not a head-mounted display. It’s…something else.
The fact that HoloLens runs as a standalone device, untethered, is the first major differentiator.
Gaming with HoloLens and Xbox One wouldn’t involve a wire the same way the PlayStation 4 does with Morpheus. Regardless of the fact that it runs standalone, HoloLens could aim to offer a companion experience — a living “second-screen experience,” if you will. Sounds a lot better than connecting our tablets and smartphones!
Or imagine a horror game where HoloLens introduced more and more visual chaos into your life as you lost your mind in-game? That sounds goddamn terrifying!
The other major differentiator right now is that HoloLens has its own processing power on board, capable of running Windows 10. Well, since it runs Windows 10, then you can stream your Xbox One games to it, right? Maybe instead of playing Xbox One games on my TV, I play them on my ceiling while lying on my back, with the game projected directly into my vision so only I can see it. Sounds like a pretty solid solution for playing violent (“adult”) games with kids in the house.
As for whether HoloLens will take advantage of the Xbox One’s horsepower through tethering, that’s “clearly on the roadmap” according to Spencer. But I don’t know, the possible use cases without even heading into tethering are incredibly broad and, bizarrely, maybe even more fascinating.
It’s very early days for HoloLens — so much so that its potential far outclasses its delivery at the moment. What is there is full of promise, and it’s exciting to see a juggernaut like Microsoft pushing innovation in a completely different direction from the competition. What it will become is another question, but so far Microsoft’s made a truly original push into an arena crowded by folks all trying to deliver the same device.
As Spencer put it: “I’ve always applauded Oculus for what they’ve created. I think this is something different.” That, Mr. Spencer, it is.
When we published our list of Engadget’s lowest-scored gadgets last month, quite a few readers took issue with the inclusion of the Microsoft Band on that list. In our original review, we dinged it for its poor battery life and for being incredibly uncomfortable, knocking the Band down to a score of 65 and placing it near the bottom of products we evaluated in 2014. But in the end, our review is really just one experience with Microsoft’s new fitness tracker. Now we’d like to hear what you, our readers, thought of the Microsoft Band. Was it comfortable on your wrist? Do you love the plethora of sensors offered in the device? How do you feel about the Microsoft Health service? Leave your thoughts in a review on the product page for the Microsoft Band, and we’ll feature the most interesting and insightful comments in a future post.
Comments have been turned off for this post. Head to our database to write your review! If you don’t have a forum/database account, sign up here!
Microsoft made a few huge announcements yesterday, primary of which was the introduction of Windows 10. One huge feature stood out for us, the fact that Windows 10 will work across all of your available platforms, from the PC to your tablet, and even on your phone.
Microsoft has been struggling a bit in playing catch up with the leading mobile hardware and software vendors around the globe. Windows 8 began down the road to mobile friendly functionality, it was certainly built with touchscreen input in mind, but it somehow felt like an incomplete operating system to many, with a UI that made sense for a tablet experience, but lacked in old school Windows functionality on the desktop.
While Windows 8 is still the prevalent desktop OS, Microsoft has had to rely on a separate OS altogether for mobile. Windows Phone 8.1 is the current iteration, found mostly on the Microsoft owned Nokia devices, plus a small selection of HTC and other handsets.
Windows 10 is a new approach, the same OS is capable of installing on the various devices, where it offers a differing UI for each form factor. From what Microsoft showed off in their announcement, the phone UI brings with it the typical functionality we have all come to expect from our mobile devices. Home screens, settings menus, a phone book, a web browser and more.
Windows 10 will rock a new web browser, code named Project Spartan. Cortana is a huge element to the new OS. Universal Apps make for a consistent experience across devices. Action Center eases settings control and syncs data and notifications across devices. Expanded Xbox integration goes beyond sharing game clips, streaming full games to your Windows 10 PC or tablet.
Looking at the new Universal Apps approach, there will be a few limitations as developers work around the x86 vs ARM architectures, but the goal is for one app to work on all of your gear. In addition to the app itself, there has been a focus on services.
Users familiar with the advanced photo functionality of Google+ should be comfortable with most of the Windows 10 Photo capabilities.
Your photos will show together in the Photos app, they will be automatically organized into sections and albums. Small touch-ups will happen automatically as well, such as red eye reduction. Best of all, photos will be a part of the new synchronization technology available on your Windows 10 phone in the Action Center. As is true for Google+ users, you’ll be able to get to your full photo collection regardless the device you are using.
A new messaging app seamlessly jumps between your SMS and IM communications, with Skype integration bringing video to the mix.
There is even a floating on-screen keyboard in Windows 10. Just swipe with your finger to re-locate it wherever you need it.
Should Android and other mobile be worried?
This is a tough one to answer. When it comes to walking into a cell phone store, one usually has to go looking for the Windows Phones hidden on the back shelf. Android and iOS devices have all but monopolized the industry. In these spaces, Microsoft has a long road ahead of them.
When viewing Windows 10 as a service, as many business and educational institutions may do, Windows phones and tablets take on a new appeal. If outfitting a large group of your employees or students with Windows PCs, a matching Windows tablet or phone is an easy sale.
Android, for many, is a powerful OS because it integrates so well with the Google ecosystem of apps and services. Microsoft has a growing user base of OneDrive and Outlook.com users that may become very interested in a phone that directly ties into those services.
As Microsoft expands their services, Windows 10 becomes a larger threat to Android. As a side note, with all of that said, Samsung has worked hard to build their own ecosystem, a roughly mirror image of Google’s own Android apps and mobile related services. Yet, Samsung’s Tizen OS has struggled to take off, so far.
Perhaps one move that Microsoft has done right with Windows 10, is adjust their pricing structure to be more in-line with other Mobile OSs. That’s right, as you have probably already read, for a wide selection of upgrade paths, Windows 10 is free. We are eager to learn what the price will be for those not upgrading. Android remains free, and open, Microsoft will have to keep that in mind as they try to compete.
If the going success of Windows Phone and the once-great Nokia are to be considered when measuring future threat to Android, we might just say that Android’s market share has nothing to worry about. However, Microsoft has had time to watch and learn, by all accounts, it appears that they are doing things right with Windows 10. We’ll have to wait and see if that translates into smartphone sales.
What do you say, is Windows 10 a viable threat to Android market share, or is this just another Microsoft OS, doomed to be mocked and kept to your PC?