It’s just a few days until Christmas, and plenty of people will probably end up with an Xbox One or PS4 beneath the tree. Naturally, both Sony and Microsoft are offering a raft of game deals for people to load up their new consoles, and it’s worth taking a look whether you’re just getting a new console or have had one for years now.
On the Sony side, there aren’t many deals on brand-new to be had, but some of the best of the last couple years are on sale — including Shadow of Mordor (Game of the Year edition, $10.99), Star Wars Battlefront (Ultimate Edition for $27.99 or the standard edition for $9.99), Overwatch ($39.59) and the full Destiny collection ($39.59). You can also grab Bloodbourne for only $7.99, Grand Theft Auto V for $29.99 and the first season of Hitman $29.99. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are dozens more games on sale. Note that all of these prices only apply if you have a PS Plus subscription — though all these games are also on sale if you don’t have PS Plus, they’ll just cost a little more. Sony’s deals are on through 12/27 at 8AM, though there will be another sale right on the heels of that one.
Microsoft has a similarly expansive sale going on through the 28th. Among the many games on sale are Battlefield 1, BioShock: The Collection, Dishonored 2 and Destiny: The Collection all for $44.99 each. Forza Horizon 3 is on sale for $38.99 and Forza Motorsport 6 is $29.99. If you want to pick up some games on the cheap, Batman: Arkham Knight and Star Wars: Battlefront are only $11.99 each. And if you want to get your hands on the latest from one of Microsoft’s flagship franchises, Gears of War 4 is on sale for $32.99. Microsoft is also having daily deals today through the 31st, and another sale will kick off on the 29th after this current one ends.
If PC games are more your speed, Steam is also holding its big holiday sale right now — it’s a good week to blow some cash on games regardless of what platform you prefer.
Source: Microsoft, Sony
Microsoft is getting its newly-acquired Beam livestreaming service ready for Xbox and Windows with a big new update rolling out today in beta. Beam’s low-latency tech lets you rapidly interact with your favorite streamers, and even play along, compared to the more passive Twitch experience. It’s improved the already-quick latency by five times, increased the max bitrate to 10 Mbps and now supports 60 FPS render speeds at up to 2,560 x 1,440 resolution.
There’s also a new homepage, a refreshed UI language, logo and design, plus “deep chat improvements.” Those include inline emoticon auto completion, an improved polling UI that gives you the ability to see what your friends voted on, and a system that can better handle network errors. To top it off, Beam added an HTML5 player that eliminates Flash and brings more controls, better VOD playback and improved browser support.
As a prelude to Xbox and Windows support, you can now log into beam with your Xbox Live handle, “with plans to eventually make Xbox Live the best (and only) way to sign into Beam,” the company says. If you don’t have a Microsoft account, you can convert your Beam credentials at any time. While that may be “jarring” for long-time users, the login requirement will be “cool for the community” thanks to Microsoft’s scaling, security, marketing and social power, Beam says.
Beam reiterated that Xbox One and Windows support is coming sometime this winter and said it will bring new hybrid applications to mobile in 2017, with technical details to come later. “We’re no longer the scrappy startup we were last year, and with the resources of Microsoft behind us, we’re … evaluating how we can make every aspect of the site more smooth, stable, and epic,” says Beam CEO Matt Salsamendi.
Even with Microsoft’s might behind it, Beam has just 100,000 monthly users as of August, far from Twitch’s 100 million monthly user count. The new update shows, at least, that Microsoft is putting some effort into it. As a reminder, the new features are in beta, and the company is looking for feedback on how everything works.
At the company’s big Surface event earlier this year, Microsoft made a point of highlighting many of the accessibility features baked into its hardware and software. This month, Redmond continued that work, announcing new Windows 10 accessibility features like support for braille and updates to its Narrator text-to-speech program. Today, Microsoft is going one step further and introducing a few new Office updates designed to help users more easily create content that can be accessed and read by anyone.
First up, Microsoft’s Office VP Kirk Koenigsbauer notes that his team has moved the new Accessibility Checker front and center in every major Office app from Word, Excel and PowerPoint to OneNote, Outlook and Visio. The feature, which is found under the Review tab, analyzes your document and will recommend changes or fixes that will “ensure your content can be consumed without barriers by people with varying levels of vision, hearing, cognition and mobility.” Aside from making sure anyone can read your documents, the idea is to help users get better at creating widely accessible documents over time.
Outlook will also be taking advantage of the Accessibility Checker by adding a MailTip that will alert your coworkers to any accessibility preferences you might have when they start composing an email to you. The MailTip will remind your coworkers to run the Checker before sending in order to make sure everything will be readable by everyone on the team.
And finally, Word and PowerPoint will also soon offer intelligently generated alternate text for images in documents and presentations. Using Microsoft’s in-house Computer Vision Cognitive Service, Word and PowerPoint will analyze your images and save users time by proposing text-based descriptions for users with visual impairments.
While the Accessibility Checker is available now on Windows machines and several Office for Mac apps, the intelligent alt-text suggestions are still “coming soon,” according to Microsoft. Meanwhile, the company is also adding more easily accessible hyperlinks for recently accessed documents, new cloud storage options for Office on Android and Visio is launching on the web and iOS.
Source: Microsoft Office Blog
Sure, the Xbox One Elite gamepad is tailored to however you want to use it. But if you’d rather have a controller that wasn’t the standard black and grey, you’d have to opt for the hideous Gears of War 4 edition’s stylings. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. Over a year later, Microsoft and Scuf (hardware partner and purveyors of pro-level gamepads) are offering the controllers in a bevy of colors and patterns.
You can’t go full Xbox Design Lab, but there are plenty of cosmetic options to choose from. Want a carbon fiber pattern for the body, blue and purple trim rings around the thumbstick pods, white face buttons and hot pink profile slider button? Have at it. You can get custom-designed thumbsticks, D-pads and lever setups as well.
Speaking of which, if you shelled out $150 for the gamepad before now, those control levers, thumbsticks and D-pads will be available for sale as well. You can even swap out the Elite’s default sidewall grips, too. The controllers themselves start at $149, and the accessory packs range from $30 to $40 and will be available “soon.”
Via: Xbox WIre
Source: Scuf Gaming
A big part of Mincraft’s success is how the game is available on basically every platform you can think of. Today, that list got one longer: Minecraft is now available on the Apple TV. As usual, it’s the Minecraft experience you know and perhaps love, but with a few things missing. Namely, the multiplayer Minecraft Realms and Xbox Live support, though the developers say those features will be added in the “near future.” The $19.99 entry price gets you the game as well as seven DLC packs: the Holiday 2015, Town Folk and City Folk skin packs as well as the Plastic, Natural, Cartoon, and Festive 2016 “mash-ups.”
Minecraft was first announced for Apple TV by Tim Cook at Apple’s October MacBook Pro refresh event, though details on how the game would play were slim. But the game sounds like it’ll be pretty up-to-date, aside from those missing multiplayer features. The Apple TV edition will include the just-announced “Ender update,” which brings a whole bunch of new single-player content to the experience. If you want to check it all out, you can go grab the app on Apple TV now.
Microsoft is getting a little bit more than it bargained for now that its acquisition of LinkedIn is official. LinkedIn’s training site Lynda.com is notifying users of a database breach that includes the passwords of just under 55,000 accounts. All those passwords were “cryptographically salted and hashed” to prevent access the site says, but it’s resetting the logins just in case. Lynda.com is also alerting 9.5 million customers “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the email it’s sending to users.
This new breach pales in comparison to the 2012 LinkedIn password hack, which compromised roughly 117 million accounts. There’s also no indication that the two incidents are connected. All the same, it’s not going to be completely comforting to Microsoft — the tech giant likely didn’t want to start the LinkedIn era grappling with security issues, even if there’s no real damage to users.
Destiny and Overwatch don’t have a lock on over-the-top holiday gaming modes. Gears of War 4 just got a 99-cent Gearsmas Pack that adds some cheer to a mostly grim and dark game. The centerpiece is a special multiplayer event, Snowball Fight, where you have to fling snowballs at rivals using a custom Snowshot weapon. Akin to a real fight, you can’t just reload — you have to scoop up more snow ammo once you’ve run out of what little you have. There are also three ugly sweater-clad characters (JD, Kait and a Swarm Drone) and 24 holiday-themed weapon skins. Gearsmas lasts until January 4th, so you’ll want to act soon if you’re going to show off.
Microsoft and The Coalition are sweetening the pot, too. They’re currently running a sale on GoW4 that slashes 35 percent off the game ($39 in the US) through December 28th, and there’s a UIR Gear Pack coming later in the month. You should see an Easter Egg in the game on Christmas Day, as well. This isn’t as thorough as what you get in a title like Overwatch (where there’s a snowball fight and 100-plus cosmetic add-ons), but it’s bound to make the game feel festive.
Source: Xbox Wire, Microsoft Store
A big part of current-gen gaming we just have to live with is spending time we could be playing waiting for things to download. Microsoft is looking to ease that burden with an update to Xbox One. With the latest version of the console’s operating system, the company says it increased download speeds 80 percent if you’re internet connection is faster than 100Mbps. If you’re on a slower connection that’s less than 100Mbps, the update should still boost game and app downloads by 40 percent.
Of course, Microsoft warns that exact figures will vary based on your home configuration and your ISP. Download speeds will also be slower when you’re playing a game as Xbox One prioritizes that action over any background activity. Speaking of background downloads, this update optimizes that process to withstand any intermittent connection issues.
Additional updates include a firmware refresh for the Xbox One wireless controller and tweaks that should make streaming music in the background more reliable across different apps. There are also the usual “general performance and stability improvements” where further details aren’t provided. To grab the update, head to Settings on the console and select “Console info & updates” from the System menu.
Source: Xbox Support
Here’s an easy holiday gift for all the Xbox One owners itching to relive the nostalgic days of classic Xbox 360 titles: From now until December 31st, digital copies of Hironobu Sakaguchi and Mistwalker Studios’ legendary Japanese RPG Lost Odyssey are free for download on Xbox One’s backward compatibility.
If you missed it the first go-round, Lost Odyssey follows the journey of Kaim “a mysterious immortal warrior” on a mission of self-discovery. The freebie is “our small way of saying thank you for being a fan of Xbox” Mike Nelson wrote on the Xbox Wire today, but it’s also a celebration of Xbox hitting a 300-title milestone on Backwards Compatibility. While you’ll still have to pony up $19.99 to bring back other classics like Bioshock or Call of Duty: World at War, Lost Odyssey originally spanned four dual-layer DVDs when it was released in 2008, so players will definitely have enough free content to get through a long holiday season and well into 2017.
Source: Xbox News, Major Nelson
Not content with just stuffing Cortana into your home appliances, Microsoft now wants you to have real conversations with needy Skype bots. In a bid to make those awkward chatbot encounters feel more natural, next year will see the company granting third parties access to its Skype calling API. With this, Microsoft partners like StubHub and Expedia will be able to give their bots a voice, offering users an alternative to text chat.
Aside from being more engaging conversationalists, these talking bots will also be able to use video, audio and GIFs in Skype chat windows.
While Microsoft’s push to make scripted interactions less painful is certainly admirable, and makes sense given the trend towards more natural voice controls, these Skype chatbots will have something to prove. In an age where all we want is to achieve our daily tasks as quickly as possible, the last thing we want to do is actually talk to anyone — and for many, that still includes relatively helpful robots.
Source: Skype Blog