TIME Video Games

The Best Thing to Happen to Xbox 360 Owners in Years

Xbox 360
Junko Kimura—Getty Images Visitors play with the XBOX 360 at the Microsoft booth during the Tokyo Game Show 2009 press and business day at Makuhari Messe on September 24, 2009 in Chiba, Japan.

Microsoft is introducing a preview program on Xbox 360

Microsoft is launching a preview program for Xbox 360 owners that allows users to test new features, a move that follows the success of the company’s Xbox One preview program.

Specially selected Xbox 360 owners will be invited to join the program through a message from Xbox Live, allowing them to sign up and enroll into the program. An initial update will add better network connectivity tests, The Verge reports.

Offering updates is a surprising move considering the age of Xbox 360, which was first released a decade ago.

Microsoft is also allowing Xbox 360 owners to build an Xbox One game library from their existing Xbox 360 console, encouraging users to switch to the latest iteration of the gaming system.

[The Verge]

MONEY Leisure

Casino Revenues Surge as Gas Prices Fall

MGM Grand Hotel & Casino Detroit at night, Michigan.
Benjamin Beytekin—dpa/AP Images

Long-struggling regional casinos have been enjoying a surge in gambling revenues, seemingly out of the blue. Could cheap gas have something to do with it?

Regional casinos—the kind that people typically drive to for a night, rather than fly in for the weekend—seem to have been victims of their own success. As casino revenues increased for years, more and more states wanted in on the action and began welcoming casinos and other gaming venues in order to (hopefully) haul in big bucks by taxing all the money streaming through these places. At some point in recent years, however, observers began worrying that many regions had reached a casino saturation point, the marker at which gambling revenues would level off because there simply aren’t enough customers around to keep throwing money at these establishments.

In 2014, many casinos saw revenues go flat, and a handful of casinos went out of business in spots that were once regional gambling magnets, Mississippi and Atlantic City. Yet as 2014 came to a close and 2015 began, the tables seem to have turned for many casinos around the country.

Five of the six casinos in the St. Louis area reported bringing in more revenues in January 2015 than they did the year before. Detroit’s three casinos collectively saw gambling revenues rise 15% last month compared with January 2014. Even in Connecticut, where the casino business has been on the decline for years largely thanks to increased competition, gambling revenues are on the upswing lately.

In Atlantic City, meanwhile, in January the eight casinos still in business took in revenues that were 19% higher than the same month in 2014. Even when the four A.C. casinos that were open in January 2014 but are now closed are factored in, Atlantic City’s overall gambling revenues are up nearly 1% compared with a year ago—and again, that’s with four fewer casinos to work with.

What’s behind the seemingly sudden surge in casino gambling? Many observers point to low gas prices as a key factor. The late 2014 gambling increase just so happened to coincide with ever cheaper gas prices at the pump. To many, this was no coincidence at all. In other words, the idea is that people have been taking the money they’re “saving” on cheaper gas and driving it on over to the slot machines and table games at their nearby casino.

In late January, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that two notable gaming analysts were forecasting rebounds in 2015 for regional casinos, in particular in the South and Midwest. “Several data points have developed which could point to the beginning of a recovery,” said Morgan Stanley gaming analyst Thomas Allen.

According to Allen, regional casinos have noticed that business has picked up especially among lower-income customers—the demographic that’s most likely to feel the impact of cheaper gas prices and, presumably, act on it.

Data cited by the Baltimore Sun, indicating that Maryland casino revenues have declined for two months in a row, might seem to blow a hole in the theory that cheaper gas is playing a major role in increased casino gambling. Yet Maryland’s casino revenues were soaring in late summer and autumn 2014 thanks largely to the opening of the new Horseshoe Casino Baltimore in August. It appears as if the novelty of the new casino has worn off, and indeed, Maryland’s revenues in December ($85.6 million) and January ($84.9 million) were down slightly compared with the all-time high hit in November ($90.2 million). In fact, Maryland’s overall casino revenues in January 2015 are up $18 million, or 28%, compared to the same month a year ago (when there was one fewer casino). So it’s too simple to state that the state’s gambling revenues are on the decline.

In any event, if there is some credence to the concept that low gas prices are giving local casinos a bump in business, these gambling havens may not be the beneficiaries of cheap fuel bills for long. If you haven’t noticed, gas prices have been climbing swiftly in February, although they’re still plenty cheap enough to justify a quick road trip. Now, where might you go?

TIME Video Games

Katy Perry Is About to Get Her Own Mobile Game Like Kim Kardashian

Katy Perry at the Pepsi Super Bowl XLIV Halftime Show Press Conference in Phoenix on January 29, 2015
Mike Lawrie—Getty Images Katy Perry at the Pepsi Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show Press Conference in Phoenix on Jan. 29, 2015

It'll be free to play for everyone with an iOS or Android device

This week, Katy Perry signed an exclusive, five-year partnership to create a free mobile game with Glu Mobile Inc, the mobile developers that created Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. The game will launch on iOS and Android platforms at the end of the year.

Details remain murky about the game’s content, but Glu says it will “introduce players to a digital playground of global success and talent,” according to a press release. With Perry selling over ten million albums and attracting over 60 million followers on Twitter, the 30-year-old’s game is already expected to be a hit like Kardashian’s.

“Katy is arguably the most recognized musician in America following her Super Bowl XLIX Halftime performance this past Sunday,” said Glu CEO Niccolo de Masi. “She is a cultural icon and we expect to translate key elements of her success into an innovative, highly entertaining mobile experience.”

Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show performance was broadcast to over 118 million people, drawing the highest number of viewers in the event’s history.

TIME Music

Sony and Spotify Unveil New Music Service for PlayStation

JAPAN-SONY-GAMES
Yoshikazu Tsuno—AFP/Getty Images The PlayStation 4 20th anniversary edition is displayed at Sony's showroom in Tokyo on Dec. 4, 2014

But Sony's Music Unlimited will shut down

Spotify and Sony Network Entertainment International (SNEI) are launching this spring a premium music service called PlayStation Music, offering over 30 million songs as background music to PlayStation games.

The service will initially only be accessible on Sony game consoles and Xperia devices worldwide, reaching 64 million players logged into the PlayStation Network (PSN).

“This partnership represents the best in music and the best in gaming coming together,” Sony president Andrew House said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to make Spotify the foundation of our strategy with PlayStation Music.”

PlayStation Music will replace Sony’s Music Unlimited service, which will close in 19 countries March 2015. However, Music Unlimited subscribers will benefit from a month of free access to PlayStation Music until March 29, 2015. And Sony, which posted lackluster sales targets recently, is pushing for better integration into PlayStation brands by converting Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited into PS Music and PS Video.

“As a gamer and PlayStation 4 user myself, I’m super excited to be able to soundtrack my FIFA 15 Arsenal matches later this spring,” said Spotify founder Daniel Ek.

TIME Video Games

Nintendo to Shut Down Club Nintendo Rewards Program

Mario , Luigi
Jeff Daly—Invision for Nintendo Mario and Luigi take the field at Sun Life Stadium before the face-off between Florida State and University of Miami on Nov. 15, 2014.

But members will be treated to more downloadable content in coming months

Nintendo announced plans Tuesday to shut down its rewards program, Club Nintendo, after six years of operation in North America.

The scheme allowed members to earn free items — such as downloadable games, posters or character figures — in exchange for loyalty “coins” collected by registering products or completing surveys.

The company plans to release new downloadable content until the official end date on June 30, including their Flipnote Studio 3D software, which allows users to create and share three dimensional animations.

“We want to make this time of transition as easy as possible for our loyal Club Nintendo members, so we are going to add dozens of new rewards and downloadable games to help members clear out their Coin balances,” said Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America’s executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Nintendo says it will announce a new customer loyalty program at a later date.

TIME Video Games

PlayStation Offers Deals in Apology for Holiday Outages

Sony PlayStation
Chesnot—Getty Images Gamers play video games with the PS4 consoles of Playstation during the International Games Week on October 29, 2014 in Paris, France.

The PlayStation Network is offering members a bonus after mass outages

Frustrated gamers who were unable to access the PlayStation Network on Christmas Day are getting reprieve from Sony.

The company is offering PlayStation Plus members a five-day membership extension, as long as users had a membership or free trial on December 25. Those bonus five days will be automatically applied to users’ accounts, so gamers won’t have to fiddle with special requests or forms.

Sony will also offer a 10% discount off a total cart purchase in the PlayStation Store to all PlayStation Network members throughout January. That includes blockbuster new releases, indie games and add-ons, as well as TV shows and movies.

The PlayStation Network was plagued by outages over the Christmas weekend that have been attributed to a hacking collective called Lizard Squad.

MONEY gambling

Spain’s Lottery Awards $3 Billion in Time for Christmas

Winning El Gordo, the grand prize in Spain's 200-year-old annual nationwide lottery, can turn small towns wealthy overnight.

TIME deals

New York Gambles on Full-Size Casinos to Boost Cash-Strapped Communities

New York Casinos
Patrick Dodson—AP The Proctors Theater marquee displays a celebratory message after a New York State board announced earlier on Dec. 17, 2014, that the former Alco site in Schenectady, N.Y., would be recommended for a casino

The recommendations favor gaming complexes situated in struggling upstate towns

A state board has recommended the approval of three full-size, Las Vegas–style casinos in New York State.

The three gaming complexes are slated for Schenectady (near the state capital, Albany), Tyre (near the Finger Lakes) and Sullivan County Catskills (north of New York City), the New York Times reports. They will be the first of their kind in the state.

The recommendations cap a competitive campaign by 16 casino developers for the right to set up shop in New York State, many of them hoping to tap New York City for customers.

Yet the board in the end rejected all six proposals for casinos immediately kitty-corner to the Big Apple, favoring instead developers with plans to give northward communities, still mourning the loss of a teeming manufacturing sector, a heady injection of jobs and cash.

Critics of New York State’s effort to expand gambling have doubted that casinos will renew hard-up towns and cities, citing a saturated regional gaming market, as well as predicting that casinos might hurt, not help, such places by sowing crime and spooking property values.

[NYT]

TIME celebrities

Lindsay Lohan Just Released an App Called ‘The Price of Fame’

Look out, Kim Kardashian!

Lindsay Lohan has teamed up with Space Inch game developers to get her own piece of Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood by releasing her own app, Lindsay Lohan’s Price of Fame.

According to a press release, the game is “designed as a parody on celebrity culture and paparazzi,” which reveals that La Lohan is now self-aware enough to poke fun at her own place in pop culture. Much like Kardashian’s wildly successful celebrity culture app, Lindsay Lohan’s Price of Fame lets players act like world famous professional celebrities by creating an avatar that can purchase outfits, accessories, toys and even pets.

“I love this game and am happy to be part of it. It’s so much fun!” said Lohan, who recently filed a lawsuit against the makers of Grand Theft Auto for allegedly incorporating her likeness into the game. She will undoubtedly love Lindsay Lohan’s Price of Fame even more if the game earns even a fraction of what Kardashian’s app has brought in. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is estimated to bring in $200 million annually, with $85 million of that reportedly going to Ms. Kardashian herself.

TIME Gaming

Blood-Sucking Video Game Pulled From Kickstarter

The game would have extracted blood when you lose a point

A video game that sucks players’ blood has been pulled from Kickstarter for unspecified reasons.

“Blood Sport” is a project designed to “raise the stakes” of gaming, so that whenever a player gets hit in the video game, they lose blood in real life. Instead of the normal “rumble” that indicates an avatar has suffered a blow, Blood Sport players would be hooked up intravenously to their consul, so that blood could be taken out of their arteries.

“All we’re doing is hacking a pre-existing blood collection machine to take your gaming experience to the next level,” the creators wrote on their Kickstarter page. The technology is equipped with a feature that determines how much blood a player can lose without passing out.

The gaming technology could be used to stage “blood donation gaming events,” they said.

The Kickstarter was suspended Monday, for unspecified reasons. It had already raised almost $4,000 of its $250,000 goal.

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