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Businesses

How Atari's Nolan Bushnell Pioneered the Tech Incubator In the 1980s (fastcompany.com) 25

harrymcc writes: After Nolan Bushnell founded Atari and Chuck E. Cheese in the 1970s, he had so many ideas for new tech products that he started a tech incubator called Catalyst to spin them off into startups. Catalyst's companies were involved in robotics, online shopping, navigation, electronic game distribution, and other areas that eventually became big businesses -- but they did it with 1980s technology. Over at Fast Company, Benj Edwards tells this remarkable, forgotten story. New submitter deej1097 provides an excerpt from Edwards' report: In the annals of Silicon Valley history, Nolan Bushnell's name conjures up both brilliant success and spectacular failure. His two landmark achievements were founding Atari in 1972 -- laying the groundwork for the entire video game industry -- and starting Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre in 1977. But there's another highlight of Bushnell's bio that has long gone undocumented: pioneer of the high-tech incubator.
XBox (Games)

Microsoft's 'Forza' Video Game Francise Tops $1 Billion in Sales (xbox.com) 35

Here's another area where Microsoft, whose cloud services are doing very well, continues to make a lot of money: video games. Microsoft has minted its fifth billion-dollar video-game franchise. The "Forza" racing series in December topped $1 billion in lifetime sales since the first game's release 12 years ago, Microsoft said. From company's blogpost: As of December, more than 14 million unique players were involved in the Forza community on Xbox One and Windows 10, the award-winning Forza Horizon 3 sold through 2.5 million units, and Forza continued its run as the best-selling racing franchise of this console generation. Additionally, our online racing community expanded significantly: over three million players joined us online each month and we launched the Forza Racing Championship, an eSports league for players of all skill levels to compete for glory and real-world prizes. "Since the beginning, Forza has combined stunning graphics, racing's leading simulation engine, and an emphasis on fun and accessibility," said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. "With the Forza series, Turn 10 Studios has built the world's largest racing community. We couldn't be more proud of their success." Other game franchises in Microsoft's billion-dollar club are "Halo," "Minecraft," "Gears of War", and "Age of Empires".
Businesses

Angry Birds Is the Most-Banned Mobile App By Businesses (fortune.com) 47

Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Corporate IT pros face the unenviable task of trying to protect valuable data from threats that change all the time. One vector of attack is clearly smartphones and tablets that employees use both for work and pleasure. To that end, mobile device management firm MobileIron just came out with its latest tally of the ten most blacklisted apps, based on a survey of 7,800 companies worldwide. Angry Birds tops the list of most-banned apps at companies worldwide, as well as in Australia, the U.S., and government sectors tracked by MobileIron in its twice-yearly Mobile Security and Risk Review. The survey covers the use of Android, iOS, and Windows devices from Oct. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016.
Software

Valve Is Shutting Down Steam's Greenlight Community Voting System (theverge.com) 99

Valve's crowdsourced Greenlight submission program, which let the gaming community select which games get chosen for distribution via Steam, is shutting down after nearly five years. It will be replaced with a new system called Steam Direct that will charge developers a fee for each title they plan to distribute. The Verge reports: Steam Greenlight was launched in 2012 as a way for indie developers to get their games on Steam, even if they weren't working with a big publisher that had a relationship with Valve. Steam users would vote on Greenlight games, and Valve would accept titles with enough support to suggest that they'd sell well. Kroll says that "over 100" Greenlight titles have made $1 million or more. But Greenlight has also had significant problems. Developers could game the system by offering rewards for votes, and worthy projects could get lost amidst a slew of bad proposals. Since Valve ultimately made the call on including games, the process could also seem arbitrary and opaque. The big question is whether what's replacing it is better. To get a game on Steam Direct, developers will need to "complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account." Then, they'll pay an application fee for each game, "which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline" -- a polite way of saying that it will make people think twice before spending money submitting a low-quality game. Steam Direct is supposed to launch in spring of 2017, but the application fee hasn't been decided yet. Developer feedback has apparently suggested anything from $100 -- the current Greenlight submission fee -- and $5,000.
E3

E3 Will 'Officially' Open To The Public this Year (engadget.com) 32

E3 has traditionally been a media-only event -- at least in theory. But starting in 2017, you won't even need a WordPress account to get access to the latest and greatest in gaming. From a report: The Entertainment Software Association, which organizes the event, announced on Wednesday that it is reserving 15,000 tickets for the general public to attend the show. Each pass will cost $250 ($150 if you buy it before next Monday, February 13th) but they'll grant you access to the show floor, panel discussions and other stuff from Tuesday to Thursday of E3. The event organizers are also offering a new class of business passes. Aimed at lawyers, analysts and other stuffed shirt types, these passes will get you into the business lounge and grant priority access to the convention center.
The Almighty Buck

World of Warcraft Gold Can Now Be Used To Buy Other Blizzard Games (arstechnica.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: It has been almost two years now since Blizzard began letting World of Warcraft players pay for their monthly game-time subscriptions using in-game gold rather than real money. Now, Blizzard is expanding that effort by letting players indirectly trade WoW gold for in-game items in other Blizzard games like Hearthstone and Overwatch. The new feature is really just a slight tweak to the WoW Token, a specialized item that can be purchased for $20 (£15/€20) in real money or for a free-floating, in-game gold price at World of Warcraft auction houses. Those Tokens can still be exchanged for 30 days of World of Warcraft subscription time, but as of this week, they can also be redeemed for $15 in balance on your Battle.net account. (European figures TBC.) That balance can then be spent on packs of Hearthstone cards, Overwatch Loot Boxes, Heroes of the Storm skins, or even downloadable copies of games like StarCraft II and Diablo III. That means that a dedicated WoW player can now fund a multigame Blizzard habit simply by earning enough in-game gold. You'd better be prepared to farm a lot of gold, though. The purchase price for a WoW Token at the auction house can fluctuate wildly -- as of this writing, the tokens have gone for anywhere from 59,833 gold to 108,924 gold in the last 24 hours, according to tracking site WowToken.info. That gives each in-game gold piece a rough value between 1/100th and 2/100th of a cent, when converted to Blizzard.net balance.
Nintendo

Nintendo's Engineers Have Embraced Unreal Engine (engadget.com) 40

Tom Regan, writing for Engadget: If there's one thing that Nintendo has struggled with, it's enticing third-party developers to create games for its consoles. But according to VentureBeat, the company is looking to change that with the advent of the new Switch. At an investor Q&A session, Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that Nintendo engineers have been learning how to use third-party development tools like the Unreal Engine. It's not much of a surprise, given that the Switch, like the Wii U before it, supports the Unreal Engine. But the fact that Miyamoto has opened up on the subject shows that Nintendo may be softening its sometimes frosty stance on third-party developers. That relationship has never been too friendly, with former president Hiroshi Yamauchi saying in 2000 that third-parties are "not helping the industry at all."
Software

Overwatch Director Speaks Out Against Console Mouse/keyboard Adapters (arstechnica.com) 262

Striek quotes a report from Ars Technica: Regardless of where you fall in the long-running debate between keyboard/mouse and analog stick controls, you could historically be relatively sure that everyone on a single platform would be playing with the same control scheme. Recently, though, third-party adapters have started allowing console players to use a mouse and keyboard effectively on dedicated consoles, throwing off the competitive balance in a way that Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan doesn't appreciate. "The Overwatch team objects to the use of mouse and keyboard on console," Kaplan wrote on the Battle.net forums. "We have contacted both first-party console manufacturers and expressed our concern about the use of mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices. We have lobbied and will continue to lobby for first-party console manufacturers to either disallow mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices or openly and easily support mouse and keyboard for all players," he continued. "I encourage you to reach out to the hardware manufacturers and express your concerns (but please do so in a productive and respectful way)." Kaplan is talking about products like the XIM4, a $125 hub that lets certain USB keyboards and mice work natively with some Xbox One and PS4 games (as well as PS3 and Xbox 360 titles). IoGear's $100 Keymander does much the same thing, claiming to be "compatible with all console games." These devices essentially emulate a standard controller through a combination of hardware and software settings, disguising the keyboard and mouse inputs in a way that makes them hard for a developer to detect. This is a problem in competitive online games like Overwatch, where the quickness and precision of mouse aiming can give a decisive advantage over players using a slower and clunkier analog stick.
Classic Games (Games)

Pong's Inventor Unveils Three New VR Arcade Games - Including Pong (technologyreview.com) 27

Pong's creator is now "a grizzled guy in his mid-70s" who believes there's a market for people who'd prefer to try out virtual reality headsets at videogame arcades. An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: In 1972, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell invented Pong, a version of table tennis that, in many ways, launched the video-game industry. Forty-five years later, Bushnell is using that same simple game to test the waters for virtual-reality arcade gaming. Bushnell's latest venture is a company called Modal VR, which is building its own wireless virtual-reality headsets and games that it plans to roll out in places like arcades, malls, and movie theaters in the coming months.
Bushnell's company has built three games -- a fighting game called Mythic Combat and Project Zenith a first-person shooter set in outer space. (More than 16 players can gather in the same virtual space.) Their third game, a VR adaptation of Pong "was originally put together as a joke, in homage to Bushnell's past -- but the company decided to use the simple two-player game anyway to demonstrate what it's working on at the World's Fair Nano technology fair in San Francisco in late January."

The article describes players who "donned a prototype bulky black headset and played Pong in virtual reality, running from side to side to control the game's simple white paddles -- which a smiling Bushnell said was fitting because "we're at the Pong stage of VR."
Nintendo

Nintendo Halts Wii U Production In Anticipation of Switch Launch (theguardian.com) 59

New submitter Shane_Optima writes: The Guardian reports that Nintendo has ceased production of the Wii U after a little more than four years. From the report: "In late January it was announced that Nintendo had ceased production of the Wii U console. The follow-up machine to the hugely successful Wii had sold fewer than 15 million units worldwide since its launch in 2012. PlayStation 4 sold more in a year. Wii sold more than 100m in its lifetime. What happened? How did Nintendo, one of the oldest and most respected companies in the video game industry, get it so wrong? And did anything good come out of the Wii U era? How will the machine be remembered, if at all?" Perhaps it could have something to do with the fact that the Wii U bundle didn't include a Wii remote-type controller, and the much-hyped secondary screen was most commonly used for solo gaming -- the exact opposite of the Wii's emphasis on a social experience and is an area where they have to compete with cell phones, tablets and their very own DS line. Nintendo still seems hellbent on selling a console-tablet hybrid, but at least this time it sounds like an interesting controller will be included.
Sony

Sony PlayStation 4 Is Finally Adding Support For External Hard Drive (playstation.com) 45

The Sony PlayStation 4's next system update, out now for beta testers, will allow users to connect an external USB hard drive. From company's blog post: It's easy to upgrade the HDD that came with your PS4, but if you're still looking for more storage space on the console, we've got you covered. With this update, you have the option to store content to an external HDD. Just plug a USB 3.0 HDD into your PS4, and voila, you now have more space on the console.
Graphics

Nvidia Stops Promotional Game Resales By Tying Codes To Hardware (arstechnica.com) 120

Nvidia is putting a stop to the resale of bundled promotional game keys by tying them to a specific graphics card purchase, according to Ars Technica. Users will now have to redeem codes via the GeForce Experience (GFE) app, which is directly linked to third-party services like Steam and Uplay. Users must also ensure that the requisite graphics card is "installed before redemption." GFE then performs "a hardware verification step to ensure the coupon code is redeemed on the system with the qualifying GPU." From the report: Previously, retailers sent promotional game codes to customers that purchased a qualifying product. Those codes could then be redeemed on Nvidia's website, which spit out the relevant Steam, Uplay, Origin, or Microsoft Store key. Since the promotional game codes were not tied to a specific account, many users took to either gifting spare keys to friends or selling them on eBay in order to offset the cost of the graphics card purchase. [Ars Technica has updated their report with additional information:] Nvidia has confirmed that while GFE checks to ensure a user has installed a qualifying graphics card like a GTX 1070 or GTX 1080, the game itself is not permanently linked to the hardware. GFE's hardware check is based only on the wider product range, and not on a specific serial number. The company has also confirmed that the redemption process permanently adds the game to the appropriate third-party service. For example, if users redeems a promotional game key through to Steam, that game will be useable on any other device, just like normal Steam games. Users can also opt to uninstall GFE, or install a different graphics card, once the promotional code has been redeemed and still retain full ownership of the game. A full set of instructions for redeeming codes is now available on Nvidia's website.
Businesses

Valve and Game Publishers Face EU Probe For Geo-Blocking; ASUS Faces Probe For Online Price-Fixing (betanews.com) 74

Valve, the company behind games distribution platform Steam, is being investigated by EU antitrust regulators. Agreements in place between Valve and five game publishers that implement geo-blocking in titles could breach European competition rules. From a BetaNews report: Valve, alongside Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax, is under investigation to determine whether the practice of restricting access to games and prices based on location is legal. At the same time the European Commission is launching an investigation into ASUS, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer for price manipulation. The investigation into the four electronics manufacturers centers around the fact that the companies restricted the ability of online retailers to set their own pricing for goods.
Piracy

2.5 Million Xbox and PlayStation Gamers' Details Have Been Leaked From Piracy Forums (thenextweb.com) 36

Xbox360ISO.com and PSPISO.com have been hacked by an unknown attacker in late 2015 and the details of the 2.5 million users affected have been leaked online. The leaked information contains email addresses, IP addresses, usernames and passwords. The Next Web reports: It seems that the operator of these sites did nothing to protect the latter, as all passwords were "protected" using the MD5 hashing system, which is trivially easy to overcome. For reference, that's the same hashing system used by LinkedIn. As the names of these sites imply, they were used to share pirated copies of games for Microsoft and Sony's gaming platforms. They also both have a thriving community where people discussed a variety of tech-related topics, including gaming news and software development. If you think you might have had an account on these sites at one point, and want to check if you were affected, you can visit Troy Hunt's Have I Been Pwned. If you have, it's worth emphasizing that anyone who gained access to that site, and anyone who has since downloaded the data dump, will be able to discern your password. If you've used it on another website or platform, you should change it.
Japan

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medals To Be Made From Recycled Phones (silicon.co.uk) 56

Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: The medals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be made from recycled mobile phones in an effort to engage the Japanese nation and meet sustainability criteria. The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee has called on the Japanese public to donate their "discarded or obsolete electronic devices" to provide the eight tonnes of metal required for the production of the medals. The production process will reduce this eight tonnes down to around two, enough to produce 5,000 Olympic and Paralympic medals. Collection boxes will be installed in the stores of partner organizations NTT DOCOMO and the Japan Environmental Sanitation Center (JESC) from April, with the collection ending when the eight-tonne target is reached.

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