TIME Video Games

Valve’s Answer to Xbox and PlayStation Isn’t Happening This Year


Steam Machines get pushed back to 2015, and the controller takes the blame.

Valve has delayed its push into the game console business, saying the first Steam Machines won’t arrive until some time next year.

In a forum post spotted by Ars Technica, Valve’s Eric Hope explained that the company needs more time to complete its unique controller, which trades standard thumbsticks for touch sensitive pads. Valve is currently testing the controllers and gathering feedback, Hope wrote, but it’ll be a while before any improvements are in place. Although Valve had originally planned to ship Steam Machines and the controller in 2014, the company is realistically looking at a “release window of 2015,” Hope wrote.

“Obviously we’re just as eager as you are to get a Steam Machine in your hands,” he wrote. “But our number one priority is making sure that when you do, you’ll be getting the best gaming experience possible.”

Valve’s controller has already seen one big change since its announcement last fall: Instead of having a touch screen in-between the two touch pads, it’ll use a more typical a directional pad and four face buttons.

As announced in September, Steam Machines will be able to run games from Valve’s popular Steam PC gaming service, as long as they support Linux. For all other games, players can stream them from another PC elsewhere in the house.

TIME Video Games

Here’s How Much Time People Spend Playing Video Games

The good news is that we’ve finally gotten our priorities in order. According to Nielsen, the average U.S. gamer age 13 or older spent 6.3 hours a week playing video games during 2013. That’s up from 5.6 hours in 2012, which was up from 5.1 hours in 2011. If you like fun, we’re trending in the right direction.

As for which systems were used most often in 2013, seventh-generation consoles (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) beat PCs by a percentage point – 34% to 33% – while mobile phones took a distant third at 10%. Tablets followed at 9%, dedicated gaming handhelds at 6%, eighth-gen consoles at 4% and “other” at 4%.

Also of note is that people who play games on consoles are starting to play games on their phones and tablets more, too. Half of Nielsen’s console respondents for the 2013 study said they also played games on mobile devices; that’s up from 46% in 2012 and 35% in 2011.

TIME Video Games

Here’s 6 Minutes of Conan O’Brien Wrecking Chicago in Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs is out next Tuesday for all the old and new-gen platforms (sans Wii U, which won’t arrive until late this year), and there’s no shortage of video footage on the interwebs if you want to see how its high fidelity rendering of Chicago looks, or how its hacking-angled gameplay works.

But if you just want a glimpse of what the game looks like when someone plays it willy-nilly — you know, the way the rest of us do — take six minutes and give Conan O’Brien’s latest Clueless Gamer segment a watch, wherein he plays the PlayStation 4 version of the game before we can.

There’s ColdPlay, Conan trying to make out with a lady on a boat, a FedEx commercial, a tree massacre, Conan’s crime-solving advice and a debate about the proper hand signs for sex.

TIME Video Games

In the Watch Dogs Launch Trailer, Chicago Looks Ginormous

Ubisoft's sandbox romp through a dystopian version of Chicago as a vengeful hacker able to manipulate the city's computer-hyperlinked surroundings on the fly arrives for consoles and PCs on May 27.

Watch Dogs (or WATCH_DOGS, if we must) is almost upon us. Ubisoft’s open-world hacking game staged in a near-future version of Chicago managed by a creepy-sounding citywide computer operating system and starring you as the brooding hero sounds suspiciously like a season of Person of Interest. That’s probably not a bad thing.

Nor is the official launch trailer hard to watch, though it cuts so quickly between scenes you’ll probably have to scan it more than once to catch everything.

Out of context press blurbs aside (why sully the presentation by aping another medium’s shenanigans?), the launch trailer offers nothing new gameplay-wise, but then it exists to get us revved up. And there’s reason to be: it’s the work of Ubisoft’s Montreal-based studio (Child of Light, Far Cry 3 and 4, all the Assassin’s Creeds), one of the highest esteemed development outfits in gaming.

Watch Dogs was due last year around the time Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One launched, but delayed until this spring to give the team time to give the game a final polish. Our review (minus multiplayer) should be live next Tuesday, the same day the game’s available in stores for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows platforms worldwide.

TIME Video Games

Samsung Reportedly Making Its Own Virtual Reality Headset

Samsung Electronics may reveal its 'gear glass' — a competitor to Google glasses.
Kim Hong-Ji—Reuters

The Samsung headset would join the race to mass produce virtual reality headsets and immerse millions of gamers in incredible worlds

Samsung is reportedly set to announce a virtual reality headset later this year that would compete with the forthcoming Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus.

The Korean consumer electronics giant has already developed early versions of the headset, which wraps around users’ faces, giving users peripheral and forward views, anonymous sources told Engadget. The virtual reality headset would be compatible with Android games.

The finished product is intended to target a lower price, undercutting potential competitors, and could be the first mass market virtual reality headset released. Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2 billion earlier this year and Sony is working on its own Morpheus virtual reality headset, but those devices won’t become available for at least another year.

Samsung did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation..


TIME Video Games

You Can Finally Play Minecraft on PS4, Xbox One and PS Vita in August


Minecraft developer confirms release months for next-gen consoles and PS Vita, as well as new and upgrade pricing, and what you'll be able to transfer from one platform to another.

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners will finally be able to play console-tailored versions of the runaway-popular sandbox game Minecraft in just a few more months — before summer’s end, in fact.

Minecraft developer Mojang revealed this morning that versions of Minecraft for PS4, PS3, PS Vita and Xbox One, which it’s been prepping for some time, will all be available from their respective online stores in August. What’s more, the PS4 and Xbox One versions will arrive with “significantly bigger worlds and a greater draw distance” than the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.

If you want all the details broken down by platform, give Mojang’s post a look here, but in summary: the PS4 and Xbox One editions will include all the features found in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions and cost $20 each, or just $5 if you’re upgrading (Mojang’s giving everyone a one-year period, starting at the release date in August, to take advantage of the upgrade offer). PS3 and Xbox 360 owners will also be able to import worlds created on those platforms, but not vice versa. Cross-platform play will not be supported, and Mojang’s saying some (but not necessarily all) of any downloadable content purchased for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions will be transferable, pending licensing decisions.

Vita owners who picked up the PS3 version of Minecraft will get it free, the PS3 + Vita Edition will run $20 and saves are transferable between the PS3 and Vita edition, so you can play on the PS3, then pick up and play on the go with the Vita if you so choose.

Minecraft across all platforms is the third-bestselling video game of all time (after Tetris and Wii Sports, but before Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart Wii and more recently, Grand Theft Auto V). The game was originally released in 2009, but as word spread and versions arrived for mobile platforms like iOS and Android, it’s gone on to become the most popular indie game ever released.

TIME Video Games

Steam In-Home Streaming Now Available, Lets You Play PC Games on Virtually Any Computer

Anyone with a Steam account can stream games from one PC to another running a completely different operating system, so long as it's on the same network.

Valve put its Steam In-Home Streaming program — a way to play Steam games between two computers on your home network — out for public beta just a few weeks ago, after running a private beta test for months.

Testing presumably went smoothly, because Valve’s announcing today that the feature is now available to anyone with a Steam account:

Players who have multiple computers at home can immediately take advantage of the new feature. When you login to Steam on two computers on the same network, they automatically connect, allowing you to remotely install, launch, and play games as though you were sitting at the remote PC.

The upsides of In-Home Streaming are really twofold: You can either stream content to something like your living room’s mongo-sized TV without dragging your PC around (or building a Steam Machine), or simply use a lower-end laptop running any number of operating systems, from Windows to OS X to SteamOS to Linux.

It’s also not a new concept: My colleague Jared Newman’s been streaming Steam games from his PC via Nvidia’s Shield for a while now. But Valve’s approach is more manifold, letting you mix and match existing or older devices without trading down to something the size of a handheld — a problem for PC games that don’t scale well on five-inch screens.

Valve’s put up an info page on the fledgling service here, with a handy info-graphic and step-by-step. Not that you really need the step-by-step. According to Valve, there’s just three: Log into Steam via Windows, log into another computer on the same network, then hit your library, select a game and fire away.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Video Games

No Surprise Batman Looks Like a Total Boss in New Batman: Arkham Knight Trailer

The first official “gameplay” trailer is up for Batman: Arkham Knight. It’s more like a sizzle reel cobbled together from cutscenes and a smattering of gameplay cutaways, the latter designed to send you down the rabbit hole guessing what any of it means in view of prior Arkham series mechanics.

Arkham Knight will foreground the Batmobile, of course, so that’s mostly what you’ll see in all the money shots here. We already knew Batman had cool multi-segmented armor (check) and that he can jump off high things—even higher here (check). But if the trailer’s not just teasing us — those fast-slow sequences could just as well be non-gameplay “look how cool I am” zingers—and this really is gameplay, you’ll be able to remote-summon the Batmobile, leap up as it’s approaching and land in the driver’s seat. Alright, that’s pretty cool.

You’ll then be able to drive it (check), crash it into stuff (check), do cookies (check), fire missiles from it (check) and—getting back to the actually cool stuff—eject from the driver’s seat on the go, not Adam West-style, to start gliding around Gotham City’s moonlit, only-ever-nighttime streets and byways. My favorite part’s at 1:30, where the Batmobile’s jetting down the insides of a circular pipe-way, swinging up the wall until it’s cruising upside-down (take that, Mario Kart 8!).

But yeah, as bona fide gameplay trailers go, this one leaves a lot to the imagination, and with five months to go until this thing’s out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows on October 14, that’s probably the point.

TIME Video Games

Can’t Wait for June: Xbox One to Get External Storage, Real Names for Friends

Microsoft's finally tearing down the Xbox One's 500 GB storage wall late this spring or early summer.

Better late than never: Microsoft’s revealed this morning that its next major Xbox One update, due in June, will add support for external storage as well as real names for friends and automatic sign-in for selected accounts.

Since it launched last November, the Xbox One’s approach to storage has gradually been shifting from willfully mysterious to transparent. The console ships with a moderately big hard drive — 500GB — but that space fills up fast, since a majority of the system’s new games are available as disc-less digital downloads.

In the original system software version, users had no obvious way to tell how near they were to maxing out the Xbox One’s hard drive until they’d reached a certain threshold. Microsoft remedied that several months down the road and added the option to remove games and save data.

And in June, it sounds like the company will finally make good on a longstanding promise (or at least I seem to recall it being a promise) to support external storage devices — up to two at one time, 256 GB or larger and USB 3.0 — allowing players substantially more control over, and flexibility with, their downloaded content. By contrast, Nintendo’s Wii U and Sony’s PlayStation 3 support external storage devices, but the PlayStation 4 does not (though you can officially replace the PS4’s internal 500GB hard drive with a larger one, whereas Microsoft doesn’t support Xbox One internal drive replacement). Only the Wii U lets you actually play games from external hard drives, however.

Microsoft notes that you’ll be able to copy or move games, apps and downloadable content to your external device(s), then calls the feature a “great way to take your content to a friend’s house and get straight into a game directly from an external drive.” That seems to be the company acknowledging the benefits, at least in 2014, of lugging your content around locally, perhaps in view of ISP broadband peak usage and/or throttling issues.

My Xbox One friends list is in the low double digits, so this doesn’t matter as much to gamers like me, but if you’re working your way up the system’s towering new up-to-1,000-friends ladder, you’ll probably appreciate the June update’s option to view real names in lieu of gamer tags. Microsoft notes that real names should also make finding people you know, but whose gamer tags you might not, a lot easier. And don’t worry, it’s completely optional: You can share your real name with friends of friends, all friends, select friends or none at all, and Microsoft says it’ll still be your gamer tag that appears in games, not your real name.

If you’re a SmartGlass user, the update adds OneGuide and Universal Remote Control support, as well as SmartGlass-based organization of pinned content into “categories” or “favorites.” The gaming side of SmartGlass looks to be getting a few tweaks as well, including hero stats and activity feeds displayed “front and center” as well as some new ways to run achievement comparisons either through a friend’s profile or in the Xbox One’s activity feed.

The last big Xbox One update landed on May 16 and, among other things, added a long-asked-for setting to allow you to see when new system updates are available and opt for them manually.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Video Games

Xbox One and PS4 Draw Huge Amounts of Power Even When You’re Not Using Them

Both the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One use up to three times as much electricity annually as the previous generation of gaming consoles, a new report from the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warns.

According to the report, the Xbox One uses an average of 300kWh annually (an estimated $65 in NYC; $33 in Texas) and the PlayStation 4 uses 181kWh ($39 in NYC; $20 in Texas). The relatively green Nintendo Wii U console, meanwhile, sips just 37kWh per year ($8 in NYC; $4 in Texas). Electricity estimates are based off of February 1, 2014 data pulled from Wolfram Alpha.

One of the biggest culprits here is the devices’ standby modes – times the consoles are drawing power even when you’re not using them. The Xbox One devotes 44% of its total annual energy consumption to waiting for always-on voice commands. The PlayStation 4 uses 32% of its total in standby, providing power to its USB ports even when no peripheral is connected. The report also criticizes the PS4 and Xbox One for using between 30 and 45 times as much electricity to stream a movie than an Apple TV, Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV device would.

You don’t have to put up with energy vampires in your home to enjoy video gaming, however. The NRDC recommends going into each console’s system settings to make sure the automatic power-down feature is enabled after an hour of inactivity. You should also connect your video game systems and home entertainment center to a reliable surge protector with its own dedicated off switch. Flipping that master switch will stop your electronics from drawing power in standby mode – a good idea for when you leave home or simply go to bed.

You can read the full NRDC video game console report on the organization’s website (PDF). For other ideas to help keep your electric bills low, check out these gadgets that help you save energy.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

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