TIME Video Games

The 5 Best PlayStation 4 Games Right Now

The essential video game checklist for new PlayStation 4 owners

So you just picked up a PlayStation 4, and you’re wondering what to buy. Or maybe you haven’t bought one yet, but you’re leaning in Sony’s general direction. Either way, we think these are hands-down the best games on platform at the moment.

  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

    Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag‘s Caribbean setting is sun-dappled, tropical and thoroughly tattooed, a sultry archipelago of jungle-scapes, cerulean skies and grizzled buccaneers. You’re a pirate neophyte as the game begins, rising through the pirate echelons, rubbing elbows with everyone from Blackbeard to Anne Bonny, working to hammer out a kind of egalitarianism that’s often overlooked in Hollywood’s rush to mythologize pirates as unshowered, bloodthirsty, money-grubbing mercenaries preying on the weak like peg-legged sociopaths.

    Buy this game if… You like pirates, boats, sneaking around and scaling everything in sight, light naval and economic simulations, alternate history tales slathered with cabalistic conspiracies, ginormous open-worlds with gobs of collection-oriented side activities, a literal archipelago of elaborate locales to survey, and a central story you can engage at your own pace, whether chewing through missions one after another, or ignoring them entirely.

    Steer clear if… You don’t like open-ended games or having to travel vast distances to make things happen, have no interest in the particulars of naval combat, find scads of collection quests repetitive, don’t like pirates or early 18th century settings, expect hand-to-hand combat that evolves and challenges, and hate having to slink through the shadows.

    What critics said: “…great fun when you let your impulses guide you” (Game Informer); “…the most generous Assassin’s Creed game to date” (Edge); “…an incredible scope to what you can do” (GameSpot).

    ESRB Rating: Mature

  • Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn

    Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn arrived for PlayStation 3 and Windows last September, and after some early launch problems with glitchy servers, it settled into a kind of groove. It’s been humming along since: a lavish fantasy universe with scads of Final Fantasy-ish things to tangle with, craft and explore. The PlayStation 4 version includes the same content, but with vastly prettier versions of things to look at, and the subscription fee (after the 30-day trail period) remains the same: $12.99 a month, after the cost of the game itself.

    Buy this game if… You don’t mind (or actually like) the idea of playing one with a gamepad, you’re in the mood to pick through a mammoth fantasy sandbox, you enjoy the Final Fantasy games (or just different stylistic takes on Western fantasy tropes), or you want to play the best version of this game on a console (and for that matter, the best MMO on any console).

    Steer clear if… You don’t like MMOs, don’t like fantasy settings, or don’t want to pay a monthly subscription fee.

    What critics said: “My favorite MMO since World of Warcraft” (Destructoid); “…one of the biggest reversals in fortune we’ve seen for a game” (Gameplanet); “the best venue to experience the staggering world” (GameSpot).

    ESRB Rating: Teen

  • Flower

    What would you do if you were the wind? The dream of a potted plant on an urban windowsill? Don’t worry, Flower isn’t a tedious philosophical treatise on the nature of reality, but as you twist the PlayStation 4’s motion-sensing gamepad to maneuver dancing petals through oceans of grass, stone rings, steel girders, windmills, striated caverns and pallid cityscapes, you may find yourself contemplating whether you’re playing a game, or involved in a form of interactive meditation.

    Buy this game if… You want to try something genuinely different, you enjoy environmental puzzles, you love immersing yourself in beautiful and uniquely imagined virtual worlds.

    Steer clear if… You tend to rush through games (in which case Flower may seem brief).

    What critics said: “…has the power to change the way that you look at the outside world” (Push Square); “…like rediscovering an old friend” (USgamer); “…there’s no prettier way to inaugurate your new console” (Hardcore Gamer).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone

  • The Last of Us Remastered

    Developer Naughty Dog’s original PlayStation 3 tale of a horror-numbed survivor escorting a young girl through a broken zombie-filled near-future world won the 2013’s Writers Guild of America award (“Outstanding Achievement in Videogame Writing”), an Annie (“Best Animated Video Game”) and a Game Developer’s Choice Award (“Game of the Year”). The PlayStation 4 version is simply the original version remastered, but with all the additional content.

    Buy this game if… You appreciate finely crafted storytelling, you love tenterhooks survival horror games with light stealth elements and a dash of third-person shooting, or you just want to experience one of the finest explorations of the way a relationship can work in an interactive game.

    Steer clear if… You scare easily.

    What critics said: “..the version of Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic story of survival that the developer always intended us to play” (EGM); “…a fabulous story, riffing on Cormac McCarthy and other bleak post-apocalyptic fiction” (Telegraph); “…the definitive edition of an already outstanding affair” (Push Square).

    ESRB Rating: Mature

  • Resogun

    Imagine a side-scrolling shoot-em-up (shmup), only the levels fold around until the ends touch, turning the game into a cylinder you can vector across either left or right. The object of the game is to free and save tiny retro-stick-figure humans, powering up your ship and executing special attacks that include a kind of battle-ram maneuver that lets you arrow through waves of enemies, annihilating them without destroying yourself.

    Buy this game if… You love shmups (this is one of the best), you love uniquely convoluted shmups with gorgeous retro-particle animations and effects, you want the option to play a shmup on a difficulty setting that’ll be the challenge of your life.

    Steer clear if… Twitchy, punishing shooting games aren’t your thing.

    What critics said: “…an eye-searing blur of a loop” (Destructoid); “…brilliant stuff, always thrilling and constantly rewarding” (Telegraph); “stands as one of the best ways to be introduced to the recently launched PlayStation 4″ (EGM).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+

TIME Video Games

Assassin’s Creed Unity Wants to Bodyslam Your PC

Ubisoft just unveiled the PC minimum and recommended specs for its upcoming open-world stealth game set during the French Revolution.

I noticed a rumor about this on Reddit earlier, and wondered if it might be someone trolling, but no: The minimum requirements to play Assassin’s Creed Unity on a PC are indeed going to cost a lot of PC owners a pile of cash paid in upgrades to play. The full list is below.

It’s mostly the required GPU spec that has heads turning: an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 or AMD Radeon HD 7970. That’s the sort of thing you’d normally see (still, these days) listed as the recommended power level. Last year’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, by comparison, only required a GTX 260 and HD 4870, and even the recommended GPUs were a mere GTX 470 and HD 5850.

To play with everything turned up in Unity, Ubisoft’s recommending a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 or AMD Radeon R9 290X. Those cards aren’t first-timers in the recommended box; it’s the relative narrowness of the gap between minimum and recommended that’s unusual here. Ubisoft says it’s only supporting the GTX 680 or better, GTX 700 series, AMD Radeon HD 7970 or better and the Radeon R9 series. The company notes “Laptop versions of these cards may work but are NOT officially supported.”

I’m not surprised. Ubisoft can’t even get the game running at 1080p on Sony’s PlayStation 4 (it’ll be 900p on both current-gen consoles), so expecting the PC minimum specs to register at current averages was probably wishful thinking.

The upside, if you have the horsepower to make it happen, is that PC owners stand to have the best experience possible, since there’s no resolution ceiling on the PC version of the game.

If you want a reminder why the game’s putting crazy wrestling moves on your hardware (and wallet), here’s the latest “experience” trailer, highlighting Ubisoft’s open-world rendition of 18th century Paris.

Required

  • 64-bit Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8/8.1
  • Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz, AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz or AMD Phenom II x4 940 @ 3.0 GHz
  • 6 GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 or AMD Radeon HD 7970 (2 GB VRAM)
  • DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card with latest drivers
  • 50GB storage space
  • Windows-compatible keyboard and mouse required, optional controller
  • 256 Kbps or faster broadband connection

Recommended

  • Intel Core I7-3770 @ 3.4 GHz or AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz or better
  • 8 GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 or AMD Radeon R9 290X (3 GB VRAM)
TIME Video Games

In the Sunset Overdrive Launch Trailer, It’s Mostly Blue Skies

A corporate soda outfit releases an energy drink that turns its imbibers into mutants, and that's where you come in.

So here’s what I want to ask whoever put the Sunset Overdrive launch trailer together: where’s the sunset?

First it’s nighttime, then it’s daytime, then you get a few seconds of post-sunset skyline while the protagonist gets all motivational-speaky. But the action takes place midday. Look at that cerulean blue sky! Look at all those fat cottony clouds! ELO would approve!

But the overdrive angle…that’s hard to miss. This is a game about the opposite of narrative gravitas. You’re the former employee of a soda-maker that’s released an energy drink that turns people into slavering super-powered mutant bad guys. Your job is to grind around a carnivalesque sandbox and do goofy, epic battle with (flying?) worms, robots, sac-covered troll-things and giant floating dolls.

Sunset Overdrive is one of Microsoft’s two holiday Xbox One-exclusive pillars, the other being that thing about a military cipher who fights tittering aliens still, in 2014, more behaviorally interesting than the ones the studio that created said military fellow more recently introduced.

Studio Insomniac Games has a respectable design track record with this sort of thing. The ups and downs of the later Resistance games aside, the Ratchet & Clank series is terrific. Sunset Overdrive looks like a punk version of the latter, a third-person gonzo playscape: Tony Hawk meets Tank Girl meets Sam Raimi. (Is it me, or does the protagonist look a little like teenage Bruce Campbell?) If you’re a game aficionado, Insomniac’s also name-dropped Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio as inspirations.

Microsoft claims the game “rewrites the rules of traditional shooters.” We’ll see, when the game arrives next Tuesday, October 28.

TIME Video Games

Anyone Claiming There’s a Grand Theft Auto V Beta Is Still Lying

It's not clear when or where the scams are occurring, but they're scams, each and every one.

For once, I’ve learned about a bizarre scam from the object of the scam instead of the scammers: Rockstar would like you to know that if you happen upon a site or person or email claiming there’s a Grand Theft Auto V beta, you risk being duped.

“Please note,” writes Rockstar in an undated web notice, “there is no pre-release ‘beta’ test for Grand Theft Auto V. If you see ads or solicitations to join a beta program, beware as this is likely some type of online phishing scam.”

If that parses a little weirdly to you, it’s because you’re probably thinking, “But Grand Theft Auto V’s already out, isn’t it?” Indeed, the game arrived last September for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This presumably relates to the upcoming PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions due on November 18, followed by a Windows version on January 27, 2015. I’ll say again: presumably.

I’m assuming it’s not some kind of bizarre prerelease viral marketing thing, though it is a little odd-looking, poking around the echo chamber and finding no paper trails. No one seems to have evidence of the scam itself, and sites writing about supposed fake Steam betas and 19GB of virus-choked malware all seem to be linking to a site called Xboxer360, which hasn’t posted a news update in 10 months, and whose story about a Grand Theft Auto V beta scam is over a year old. Search on the phrase “GTA V PC torrent” and you’ll find a variety of links to obvious (well, obvious to me) shysters, but whose fake listings are pretty old.

I’ve asked my contact at Rockstar to verify this beta notice is indeed new. In any event, now that I’ve expended over 300 words writing about it, whether the scams are fresh or you’re a time traveler about to embark in your TARDIS on a trip to visit the nefarious corners of the interwebs circa late 2013, beware Grand Theft Auto V beta claims: they’re phony bologna.

[Update: I knew it. My Rockstar contact just confirmed the link up top is to an old 2013 warning. So consider yourself warned. Again.]

TIME Video Games

Is This Really the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Launch Trailer?

Activision's near-future military adventure starring Kevin Spacey as the head of a rogue private military company arrives in just a few more weeks.

I don’t see a lot of gameplay in this pithy less-than-a-minute trailer, so I’m not sure why Activision’s calling it a “gameplay” trailer. Just excise that word and it works: type “Official Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Launch Trailer” and you’re golden. But by using the designator “gameplay,” I’m betting it’s not the last “launch trailer” we’ll see.

When I first glimpsed it on Saturday, the trailer had 300+ views. Now it has over 5.3 million. It’ll doubtless double that in another 48 hours. That’s the power of a Call of Duty.

There’s a little more to see here, but it’s not much. The same clips already shown in previous trailers pop in, abridged. The new stuff–and is it all new stuff? I can’t tell–amounts to 1-2 second clips of people in EXO suits doing impossible things, each of which Call of Duty-philes will obsess over.

The game is out November 4 (November 3 for Day Zero edition buyers) for this- and last-gen PlayStation and Xbox systems as well as Windows. It looks terrific in this trailer, a collage of rainbow-plaited tracers and pluming squibs and mo-cap Kevin Spacey smirking in a suit. And I’m still hopeful that, though it’s clearly rooted in the ballistic-power-fantasy school of design, the game has some subversive fictive tricks up its sleeve.

It’s one of these what-games-can-be questions for me (and I include the storytelling angle in my definition of “game” here–it’s a holistic thing). I’m definitely not from the “Who cares about the narrative, does it shoot good?” school of thought. If Beau Willimon and David Fincher can use an actor like Kevin Spacey to tell a politically nuanced tale that slyly comments on current affairs, why can’t a piece of interactive entertainment starring Kevin Spacey do the same?

TIME

Here’s What’s Coming in PlayStation 4 System Software Version 2.0

Sony

Sony lays out a slew of new features in its upcoming overhaul of the PlayStation 4's dashboard.

Companies usually save their big guns for major number turnovers, because that’s what we’ve come to expect after a lot of this-point-that integer creep (unless you’re Apple, anyway, at which point you shift from subsets of the number 10 to big cats to surfer hangouts to national parks).

Sony has a name for its upcoming major PlayStation 4 operating system overhaul. It’s called “Masamune,” after a widely acclaimed Japanese late 13th/early 14th century swordsmith. And yes, that is a little audacious, but then the update sounds fairly ambitious.

Version 2.0 will bring Themes, a dedicated YouTube app and something Sony calls “Share Play”: a way to play local co-op with friends on other systems, which sounds just like ordinary co-op, and is, except that you need only a single copy of the game between the two of you. The idea seems less about saving people money than creating quick-help scenarios, say you’re stuck and need a hand, or want someone to actually take over your controller and drive. Call it “Help Play.”

But we’ve known about that stuff since August. Yesterday, Sony announced a bunch of additional features, one of which involves rejiggering the way your console handles content in the menu, another that shows you “players you may know,” the option to listen to your music while playing a game (off a USB device, with support for MP3, MP4, M4A and 3GP formats), new voice commands, some new live broadcasting channels and filters, and the option to change the dash’s background color (weirdly absent at launch, so more of a catching-up thing ).

Of them all, I’m most intrigued by the content area change. Here’s Sony’s bulleted breakout:

PS4’s Content Area, which shows the latest games and apps a PS4 owner has used, has been redesigned to help make it easier to quickly find and access content. It now shows 15 of a player’s most used apps or games, and additional items will be added to a player’s Library. The Library on PS4 has improved filter and sort functions to help organize contented by type (game / app / TV & video), name (a – z or z – a), recently used, or install date.

That’s the one I’m most excited about, if I’m parsing what Sony’s saying correctly and it’s going to shorten the left-right scroll sprawl. I don’t mind the way content stacks now in one super-long line that grows with each new game you play, but I’d say I’ve visited the tail end of that line maybe a handful of times since the system launched. Not seeing stuff you’re not sure you need, or only rarely use, is roughly analogous to it not being there.

We’re still in the dark on Masamune’s release date, but it’s supposed to drop “later this fall,” technically giving Sony until December 21.

TIME Video Games

8 Takeaways From the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One September Sales

Some of the more interesting points plucked from NPD's September video game sales figures.

Continuing a long upward-downward trend that’s defined much of 2014, combined sales of video game hardware like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were up significantly year-on-year for September, while physical software sales were down, reports NPD.

Let’s step through the pullouts.

The Xbox One didn’t outsell the PlayStation 4 after all

Did anyone think it would? They did: Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter predicted earlier this week that the Xbox One would outsell the PlayStation 4 in September.

“We expect Xbox One sales to exceed those of the PS4 for only the second month since launch,” Pachter said, according to VentureBeat.

And yet Sony claims the PS4 “won the month of September, nearly tripling August sales” (it credits the limited-edition white Destiny PS4 bundle as a major factor).

Remember that we don’t know by how much the PS4 outsold the Xbox One (perhaps it was photo finish), and to be fair, analyst predictions are never guarantees.

New physical software sales are plummeting…

New physical software sales took another dive in September, dropping 36%, says NPD.

Save for May, which was basically “Mario Kart 8 month,” new physical software sales have been slightly to dramatically down every month through September. Bear in mind that NPD’s figures don’t take into account used retail game sales or digital software sales, and focus strictly on classic video game demographics (that is, not smartphones, tablets, other mobile devices or microconsoles and so forth).

…but new hardware sales have skyrocketed

Hardware sales were up 136% for September, year-on-year, says NPD. The lowest year-on-year month for hardware was January, just 17%, which makes sense because January 2013 was a five-week reporting period (whereas this year was just four), plus January’s the sales hangover after the holiday splurge.

Generally speaking, year-on-year hardware sales percent increases have been in the high double and occasionally low triple figures. Considered against the declining new physical software figure, and given that you can buy just about anything on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One digitally, well, let’s hope someone reputable’s conducting insightful surveys, so we can get a better sense for what the correlations are, and whether software sales are in fact up.

Destiny broke at least one record

Destiny was the top-selling video game for September, whether considered as a standalone SKU or against other multi-SKU competitors. NPD calls it “the most successful launch of the year so far,” then adds that “an even more prestigious feat was the fact that Destiny had the best launch month of all-time for any new IP in video game software.”

Traditional sports games ruled the roost

While Destiny took the top sales slot, Madden NFL 15, FIFA 15 and NHL 15 (all thee with cross-generation versions) each placed in the top 10. On current-gen consoles, Sony says those three game sold the most on the PS4.

Super Smash Bros. can still do big business for Nintendo

September was all about the 3DS, from Nintendo’s vantage anyway. Even if the game was only available for the last two days of the month, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS easily placed in the top 10, competing with multi-platform SKUs to snatch the fourth slot, beating Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, NHL 15, Minecraft, The Sims 4, Disney Infinity 2.0 and Diablo III.

Nintendo’s pocket-brawler sold 705,000 units in all, with over 135,000 of those as digital downloads. The game bolstered 3DS sales, too, helping Nintendo to 140,000 units, a 55% increase over August sales.

Where’s the Wii U in all of this?

Up 50% in unit sales over August, says Nintendo, helped along by sales of it Zelda brawler Hyrule Warriors (190,000 units), and sustained sales of racer Mario Kart 8 (60,000 units, for a lifetime total of nearly 1.2 million units).

Pay no attention to the noise

Sony’s September sales breakdown has a bunch of stuff in it that you might call “infometrics,” not to be confused with the science of informetrics (note the “r”). Infometrics is a buzzword I used to hear a decade or so ago from “data intelligence” companies trying to up-sell their analysis services. It’s basically a fancy neologistic way of saying “look, some numbers!”

So we have Sony’s claim, for instance, about “social sharing” amounting to 450,000 hours of live gameplay. Trouble is, we have no idea what that number actually means or what to stack it against in the press release. It sounds impressive–nearly half a million hours of stream sharing!–but consider that game streamer Twitch alone does something like 15 billion minutes a month, or 250 million hours, total.

On the other hand, this is interesting and tangible: Sony says Destiny is the most-played PS4 game, with “total gameplay hours” five times higher than the next-most-played game.

TIME Video Games

Fixing What’s Wrong With Gamergate Starts With You

Whatever you think about games, game journalism or recent critiques of the way video games treat women, you have an obligation to be respectful in debates, and it's a shame we still have to say that.

This is how far we have to go: the Entertainment Software Association, a U.S. video game trade association and sometime D.C. lobbyist group, is now having to remind us that threatening to do violent harm to someone is the opposite of okay.

“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong,” an ESA spokesperson told the Washington Post Wednesday. “They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community—or our society—for personal attacks and threats.”

Read those words again, slowly, because they are a measure of the distance that remains between right here and now, and the point at which our species practices general civility in all its forms of communication, where human beings can depend on each other not to be cruel, condescending, vicious and in some instances even homicidally hostile over cultural disagreements. It should be as shocking as some of these threats that in 2014, someone has to utter the words “harassment is wrong.”

And yet at least three women who work in the games industry have had to temporarily leave their homes after being threatened with horrific acts of violence, simply because they said something someone else found disagreeable. Critic Anita Sarkeesian, known for her video series deconstructing female tropes in video games, just canceled her appearance at Utah State University after someone threatened “the deadliest shooting in American history” if she was allowed to speak. (The university deemed the presentation safe to proceed after consulting with local law enforcement, but can you blame anyone so threatened?)

The locus of all this animus in recent months is a so-called movement known as “Gamergate,” another neologistic slogan born of the infamous 1970s political scandal whose tendrils have circumnavigated space-time to motivate people to lazily append and then rally behind an egress descriptor glommed onto a vague reference label. Like the Tea Party, Gamergate may have been forged with something like an original central purpose: in its case, ostensibly reforming perceived corruption in “games journalism.” But as some of its supporters began violently threatening women who wrote about the topic, it quickly snowballed into something far messier and treacherous, a perplexing mass of conflicting idea-vectors, vitriol-filled social media assaults and online forum-filled cascades of general thuggery.

In a recent Salon article celebrating Richard Dawkins’ slight backpedaling on religion, the site references an interview with the evolutionary biologist, in which Dawkins says “There is a kind of pseudo-tribalism which uses religion as a label.” He’s talking about The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), reacting to a question about what could motivate a group to acts of utter barbarism like the beheadings for which ISIS is now infamous.

“Pseudo-tribalism” summarizes nicely. Swap “religion” for “Gamergate,” specifically for those using the term to denigrate and terrorize women, and you have the analogue. That well-meaning proponents of Gamergate have utterly failed to wrangle the slogan back from these bomb-throwers means it’s time to abandon it, to find a better way to prosecute concerns about journalistic corruption, and to wade civilly into the intellectual debate about female tropes in games.

Whatever you think of Sarkeesian’s thoughts on games and those tropes—and it should go without saying that there is room for civil debate about any critic’s thoughts on anything—there’s no room in such a debate for harassment, libel, slander, rape threats, death threats, posting intimate photos of someone without consent, outing their geographic location to intimidate them and so forth. Harassment is not debate. Harassment ends debates. It’s antithetical to dialogue, and, assuming you’re not so aberrant or sociopathic that you can’t tell the difference, isn’t meaningful dialogue what you’re after?

This is how you change the debate, and it has to happen before dialogue starts, before you even get to the level of worrying about semantic contentiousness over whether the label “gamer” is forever or forever stultified. In logic debates, there’s a thing known as the ad hominem fallacy. Ad hominem is Latin for “to the person.” It means to attack someone personally–and irrelevantly–instead of debating the actual idea or claim or argument. The litmus test is this: after you’ve typed out your comment or message board post or social media screed, does it violate this fallacy? If so, that’s what the delete button’s for.

If you don’t care about respecting someone else’s right to disagree with you, if all you want is to cause harm for some twisted sense of catharsis, what can I say but that you’re doing something that’s the opposite of noble, the opposite of productive, the opposite of moving the ball down the field in whatever direction you think is important–and when you escalate harassment to the level of violence, it’s the very definition of psychopathic.

What I find most depressing about any of this isn’t the state of journalism (it’s hardly just “games journalism,” folks) or what men think about women and women about men. It’s that as human beings in 2014, we still think it’s okay to pick up a keyboard or tablet or phone, venture to someone else’s online space, pull out our weaponized words, and open fire.

TIME Video Games

World of Warcraft Enjoys Over Half a Million Subscriber Bounce

Blizzard's indefatigable fantasy MMO picks up players as both its 10th anniversary and next expansion loom.

World of Warcraft‘s next expansion, Warlords of Draenor, trundles onstage November 13. And so Blizzard’s tireless fantasy MMO, slow-bleeding subscriptions for years, is experiencing a kind of bounce — to the tune of about 600,000 subscriptions. The new worldwide subscriber tally: in the vicinity of 7.4 million.

Blizzard hasn’t announced or confirmed the 600,000 figure; it’s the implicit takeaway subtracting one press release from another.

In early August, Activision Blizzard revealed World of Warcraft‘s subscription base had fallen to 6.8 million, down 800,000 from the prior quarter, when it stood at 7.6 million. The last time the game’s base was that low, the housing bubble hadn’t popped, The Sopranos was still on the air and the Governator was only midway through his California reign.

Yesterday, Blizzard slipped the 7.4 million figure into a press release about a Warlords of Draenor prelaunch patch. That number is current as of September 30, 2014.

At its height, World of Warcraft commanded 12 million subscribers. That was October 2010. Someone’s been plotting all these press release points on a Statista chart if you want to see the broad sweeps. The actual chart probably looks more like one of those chaotically scribbled volume-trading maps, with subscriber activity trending gradually down, marked by periods of noisy, frenetic re-acclimation.

A subscription surge was inevitable. It’s happened every time the company releases an expansion. Warlords of Draenor, which follows Mists of Pandaria‘s release two years ago, is Blizzard’s fifth expansion for the game. Its raises the level cap from 90 to 100, shines up the graphics, plugs in the customary new dungeons and raids, and for its new feature trick, gloms on user-created garrisons whereby players can recruit in-game characters to automate loot-gathering busywork.

World of Warcraft celebrates its 10th anniversary on November 23 (brace for the glut of press paeans). It’s one of the longest-running MMOs of all time, and it’s the most broadly played subscription-based MMO by any measure. Plenty of MMOs have lived longer–I believe Furcadia, which launched in 1996, currently holds the record–but the nearest rivals (like EVE Online, which launched in 2003) have only fractional populations.

TIME Video Games

Don’t Blink: Assassin’s Creed Rogue Is Coming for PC

Ubisoft confirms its ice-pirate tale of an arctic Assassin gone rogue is coming to Windows PCs early next year.

The best place to play the Assassin’s Creed series remains a Windows PC, if you don’t mind waiting.

This isn’t a subjective thing: If you want the games to run at your monitor’s native resolution, for the older ones to look as good as they’re ever going to, and now to play the highest-fidelity version of Ubisoft’s upcoming ice-thronged conclusion to the Kenway saga, you’ll want a box that runs Windows. The catch: you have to wait for that last perk until next year.

Ubisoft just confirmed Assassin’s Creed Rogue will hit PC in “early 2015.” It did so in a slightly sneaky way, too: at the close of a brand new story trailer.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue lets you play as Shay Patrick Cormac, an Assassin who’s thrown in with the rival Templar faction. You’ll spend much of your time skippering arctic waters in a ship capable of river travel and parkouring across frozen ice-scapes, which is another way of saying “Assassin’s Creed IV with snow.”

The no-longer-exclusive PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game arrive on November 11 this year, the same day Ubisoft’s franchise rethink Assassin’s Creed Unity arrives for PlayStation 4, Windows and Xbox One. But where the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions top out at 720p (1280 by 720), the Windows PC versions of these games have included subtle visual enhancements, and best of all, they run at whatever resolution your system’s capable of.

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