TIME Video Games

All Three Final Fantasy XIII Games Are Coming to PC

Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII trilogy is coming to Steam and the company's own digital storefront starting in October and concluding next spring.

The Final Fantasy XIII games are better than you’ve heard. They can be quirky, arcane and spasmodic, pacing-wise, and when it comes to storytelling and dialogue-writing, they’re cripplingly un-self-aware.

But they’re also exemplars of what Square Enix does best: obsessively upending the series’ (and JRPGs in general) gameplay formulae. Sometimes that culminates in messy, mechanical fiascos and tedious game segments, but would that most games tried as hard.

And now the trilogy’s coming to PC via Steam and Square Enix’s digital storefront, starting with Final Fantasy XIII on October 9. The first game’s price seems a steal compared to the original $60 for Xbox or PS3: just $16. If you buy the game through Steam (as opposed to Square Enix), you’ll get a slight 10% discount that knocks the price down to just over $14.

But it seems a strange move. I’m not sure Western PC gamers are going to care. How many JRPGs have you played on Steam? How many actually live there? Factor in all the Final Fantasy XIII sequence’s unorthodoxies and deceptively simplistic systems, and…well, maybe that’s exactly what’ll be appealing about them: PC gamers are some of the most idiosyncratic gamers, given the spectrum of game genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres they’re able to access.

On the other hand, these aren’t the first Final Fantasy games to grace Valve’s online store. The PC versions of Final Fantasy VII and VIII have been available on Steam for a year, and Square Enix’s massively multiplayer forays, Final Fantasy XI and XIV, live there as well. I had no idea the reimagined 3D version of Final Fantasy IV was on Steam, but when I checked this morning, there it was, released two days ago.

Another upside to playing on PC, assuming Square Enix supports it (and I don’t see why the company wouldn’t): playing at higher-than-720p resolutions. The Final Fantasy XIII series was visually unparalleled on the PS3 and Xbox 360 at 720p (or thereabouts). Square Enix hasn’t said whether it’ll update the game’s textures, but I’m not sure it’d have to. Just to see the game running at 1920 by 1080 or 2560 by 1600 as-is would be a wonder, and I’d like to think Square Enix supporting those higher resolutions might mean we’ll see the trilogy eventually reemerge on PS4 and Xbox One.

Square Enix says the remaining two games, Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, should be out by next spring.

TIME Video Games

8 Takeaways from Final Fantasy XV’s Wild-Looking Tokyo Game Show Trailer

Square Enix's new Final Fantasy XV trailer is really, really pretty.

Here comes Final Fantasy XV, an action game that was never supposed to be 15th.

It was originally dubbed Final Fantasy Versus XIII and pitched as a sideline to Final Fantasy XIII, a game that was supposed to be acclaimed character designer Tetsuya Nomura’s directorial Final Fantasy debut (he just announced he’s stepping down as director). It was announced over eight years ago and is still without a release timeframe — year or otherwise.

Square Enix just broke years of informational rehash at the Tokyo Game Show with a beautiful new trailer that showcases just how far the game’s come, visually speaking. Here’s what I made of it.

It’s going to be even weirder than usual

The more lifelike and post-anime the Final Fantasy games get, the more uncomfortable I get watching photorealistic characters screech and yip and yowl like cartoon caricatures stripped of their cartoon-ness. It’s sort of endearing if you’re a Final Fantasy buff, but it’s also kind of bizarre.

You can drive a car

Apparently. And check out the limo-like wheelbase on that ride. All that’s missing are outward-canted tailfins and you’d be somewhere in the vicinity of George Barris’ modified 1955 Lincoln Futura (that is, Adam West’s Batmobile).

The game’s pretty much all dudes

The trailer treats the only female shown with at least a modicum of respect (by which I mean she’s not half-naked or being bodily ogled by the cameraman). But the rest of the trailer is a dude-fest.

Nothing wrong with a bunch of bratty/broody-sounding fellas taking a road trip, but after Final Fantasy XIII‘s female leads, it’s a little jarring seeing none here.

The game takes place on the Isle of Skye

Or, since we know Final Fantasy XV actually takes place on a planet that’s somehow tied into Square Enix’s arcane Fabula Nova Crystallis mythos (which includes Final Fantasy XIII), call it a lookalike version of one of the prettiest spots in the world.

I spent a week back in 2009 driving around Scotland, including Skye, and I’d swear on a stack of Triple Triad cards that those craggy cliffs and scrubby, boulder-cluttered hills in the trailer were imported direct from the land of Talisker, crofting and the Peatbog Fairies.

World-tech min-maxing!

Check out those creepy hover-ships with electric blue lens flare, or the thing floating around the battlefield at 1:56. Then pay attention at about 1:14. Yep, those are contemporary roadside power lines, and I’m pretty sure that’s the water tower I grew up down the street from at 1:50.

The battle system still looks Kingdom Hearts-like

I’m sure there’s more to it, but in the trailer, it looks like whoever’s controlling the protagonist is pretty much attack-button mashing, though the maneuver at about 0:55 and another at 1:54 seem to involve tag-teaming. I’m not sure what to make of the sequence at 1:58 where your buddies react to your getting walloped by smacking around the offending creature in retaliation; it looks scripted, but maybe it’s in fact a combat feature?

No, you probably can’t go anywhere in that ginormous city

I’d love to see Final Fantasy pull off something on the wander-anywhere scope of a Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto V, but I’d bet my life this thing’s still a bunch of linked areas. The best to hope for, if you’re in the hated-Final-Fantasy-XIII‘s-first-20-hours camp, is that the areas are more open-ended.

It’s not a bait-and-switch for Square Enix’s direct-to-video film The Neverending Story IV

Though that crazy-big thing at the beginning does look a bit like a hulked out version of Morla, no?

TIME Video Games

8 Things Bungie’s Destiny Does Very Well


Destiny is an imperfect game, we know that much now. But it’s still a pretty good one as console shooters go.

Bungie’s quasi-multiplayer sci-fi romp catches more balls than it fumbles, and whatever else you want to say about its hackneyed story or over-easy enemies or worshipful replication of Halo gameplay fundamentals, I keep coming back to play a little more.

It’s like Diablo 3 in that regard: deceptively simplistic and repetitive on your first pass, but borderline compulsive once you’ve reached its much trickier upper echelons and you’re grinding for ever more precious post-20 levels and gear.

Last week I published a list of Destiny grievances, some serious, others superficial. I’ve still only dabbled with Destiny‘s multiplayer modes (the Vanguard, the Crucible and skirmish modes), which now looks to be a third piece.

In the meantime, as counterpoint to that earlier cons list, here’s everything I like about the game so far.

Its elegantly minimalist interface

Destiny is heads-up-display light, tucking all you need to know into just two tiny screen corners and employing a color and transparency scheme that’s never in your way when fighting or just admiring the views. Thank gaming’s migration to high definition displays, allowing Bungie to stick weapon ammo counts, a few item/ability recharge icons and a special ability bar into fractional screen space without the displays ever feeling cramped or visually obscure.

Everything else in the game follows that minimalist aesthetic: the paper doll character interface distilled to a handful of cursor-over choices; the smart condensation of secondary informational screens into online, character equipment and inventory views; and the way you don’t miss a summonable area map overlay because the navigation beacons–rolled out at just the right distance intervals–keep you directionally grounded.

It’s a shooter’s shooter

PC snobs like to throw console shooters under the bus, griping (with some justification) about gamepad speed-accuracy inadequacies when compared to the preciseness of poking your ballistic proboscis around competitive multiplayer maps using keyboard-and-mouse controls. Which is why even the Halo-aloof begrudgingly give plaudits to the game for what it managed to do: a minor miracle of a gamepad-beholden shooter that for the first time felt credibly PC-like.

Destiny‘s controls are better still: like Halo‘s taken off the shelf, disassembled, oiled and polished, then reassembled with over decade’s worth of tinkering. Every maneuver feels effortless, whether you’re finessing a triple jump to land on some nearly-out-of-reach precipice or lining up a pinpoint headshot on a strafing enemy (while strafing yourself).

I may be conflating some of that with the detail-distance and clarity-related resolution upticks on the PS4 and Xbox One versions, but whatever the case, Destiny‘s controls feel like the finest yet to grace a console shooter.

Getting around is a snap

Hold a button to jump into orbit from anywhere; launch from orbit down to a planet or moon in a matter of seconds; hold another button to instantly summon a speeder-bike from the ether. Destiny‘s solar system-hopping system is a confederacy of shortcuts, all the tedious stuff snipped away.

Load times between missions are almost unmentionable, and each level takes at most a minute or two to zip through. Whatever you’ve been tasked to do, wherever you are or want to go, you’re rarely more than a moment or two away, which helps prevent the game bogging down in MMO-like distance slogs from one point to another.

The tip-of-the-hat to Guild Wars 2

One of Guild Wars 2‘s triumphs involves its takes on dynamic events, player-triggered challenges that make you feel like you’re part of something grander than a Pony Express simulation jammed into an otherworldly zoo–something that, however fleetingly, has a lasting impact on the world around you.

Destiny‘s “public events” aren’t as cleverly story-integrated, nor do they have lasting effects, but they’re still a blast, crashing to life with all the screen-darkening gravitas of Gandalf getting huffy at the Council of Elrond in the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring.

The way it handles online people-juggling

Destiny‘s levels are lightly populated: a handful of players coexisting at any given moment in a particular instance. The reason that’s so is because Destiny‘s locales presently amount to a handful of levels (and none of those all that big). Letting dozens or hundreds or thousands of people coexist would have been a disaster, players tripping over players to farm spawn points or swarm merchants in the Tower or take out big bads.

Destiny isn’t World of Warcraft or Everquest. It’s not meant to be an experience wherein throngs of people with floaty head-names overwhelm the game’s playgrounds and hub-like shopping corridors with their blinged-out avatars, jumping and juking and generally turning the experience into Romper Room. It’s meant to feel a little empty. That, given how fast you’re rolling through the content (see the next point), is an upside in my book.

With so few bodies to worry about juggling in all these overlapping instances, Bungie’s thus able to drop players into or out of other players’ experiences without you noticing their arrival or disappearance.

The way it speeds your journey from zero to hero

Anyone who’s played World of Warcraft will tell you the same: the real game starts at level 60, or 70, or 80, or whatever the level cap is these days. Except World of Warcraft can take forever to get anywhere near those lofty climes.

Destiny‘s missions, by comparison, are easy to a fault and liberal about their loot and experience point handouts. You’ll hit the base level cap (20) after playing steadily for a day or two, at most.

That’s surely by design. Bungie wants you playing the game it built around the experience we’re meant to be having after we’ve hit level 20. I have yet to personally confirm that any of the post-20 content’s worthwhile, but considering how full the first 20 levels were, I’m grateful Bungie made none of it feel like a slog getting to that point.

Strikes are glorious events

Bungie’s enemy A.I. is tragically dim-bulb in the story missions at whatever difficulty setting, but Strikes–three-player cooperative side activities that involve working through cascading enemies on the way to battle an enemy big bad–manage to almost make up for that deficiency.

They do so by quite simply throwing everything at you and your compadres simultaneously (if you can’t outflank ’em, overwhelm ’em), turning Strike grand finales into crazed bloodbaths where you’re fending off waves of enemies that eventually become waves of every sort of enemy while simultaneously working to take down the boss-thingy as it lobs one-shot kills in your besieged direction.

It’s beautiful even as beautiful games go

As the camera panned back over cloud-filled valleys, the rusting hulks of cars, rustling conifers and a snow-caked junkyard at the game’s outset, I was struck by how visually impressive the game wasn’t. Oh, it’s pretty enough, but that preliminary glimpse of future post-apocalyptic planet Earth looked too boringly like any other sci-fi outing.

But then you go crawling around inside, and the game starts to strut its stuff, your tiny polyhedral companion flitting between elaborate gleaming pipework and flipping on lights that dish out more lens flare than a Dean Cundey flick.

TIME Video Games

Conan Shows Us What the Minecraft Creator’s Really Doing with Newfound Billions

Hint: It involves Minecraft

There’s a lot of nonsense masquerading as analysis out there about Microsoft’s $2.5 billion Mojang game studio purchase (and by proxy, Minecraft). So here’s some nonsense by design: Conan’s take on the multi-billion dollar deal.

Microsoft shoveled out a mountain range’s worth of cash for the formerly independent Swedish studio: $2.5 billion. An exorbitant amount, you might say, and half a billion higher than the sum pegged by all the (erroneous) reports that surfaced in the lead-up to the official announcement.

Redmond confirmed the deal in an Xbox Wire video and press release, while Mojang co-founder Markus “Notch” Persson, wrote separately that he was leaving the company along with the studio’s two other founders, Jakob Porsér and Carl Manneh.

In June, Persson wrote (joked?) about selling his 70% stake in the company on Twitter.

And in his Pastebin note, Persson explained his desire to disembark from the Minecraft train: “I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.”

Which is all well and good, but that’s why you need a guy like Conan to come along to give you the real story.

TIME Minecraft

Dear Microsoft: Please Don’t Screw Up Minecraft. Sincerely, Parents

Microsoft To Acquire Maker Of Popular Minecraft Game For 2.5 Billion
Joe Raedle—Getty Images MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 15: Daniel Llevara checks out the XBox 360 Minecraft game at a GameStop store on Sept. 15, 2014 in Miami.

Children of all ages love it, parents love it, and Microsoft should leave it well enough alone. But will they?

Yesterday, news broke that Microsoft was acquiring Mojang, the creator of the “sandbox” game Minecraft for $2.5 billion. The move will bolster Microsoft’s gaming ambitions and further integrate Microsoft’s gaming system, Xbox, with the incredibly popular game.

While the business world was ogling the massive deal for the open-world game, which has an estimated 100 million downloads on PCs alone and brought in $100 million in profit last year, parents were wondering what this means for their Minecraft-addicted children.

Minecraft is the go-to game for parents and children alike, because it’s incredibly easy to learn and fun to play, involving nothing more than clicking and building anything from roller coasters to castles to tree forts. It’s impossible to win or lose and no one dies — it’s just building. There are no rules and no instructions, it’s intuitive and straightforward. Younger children, say, 6 and up, may prefer to play in “creative mode,” which let’s users simply wander the landscape and build whatever they can imagine and the game’s blocky graphics can allow. For older players, there’s the more challenging “survival mode,” filled with zombies, pigs, zombie pig men and a dragon lurking somewhere in the distance. Still, you can’t die in survival mode, you simply “respawn” and go back to what you were doing. It’s gaming lite, which is where the appeal lies for the next generation of gaming fans (just ask my 7-year-old son) and their parents who don’t want to hear cries of frustration over levels and character deaths.

Minecraft’s simplicity is the key to its inter-generational success and for any parent who has done battle with a Microsoft operating system — and with the specters of Windows Vista and Windows 8 and all their software and hardware compatibility issues floating in the air— it’s hard for parents whose children love Minecraft not to be slightly wary about news of the acquisition. Some parents (me) may have groaned loudly thinking about trying to explain the sudden addition of Microsoft Bob to the ranks of Minecraft characters like Herobrine and Steve. Then other questions started percolating: Would Minecraft only be accessible via a Zune? Would you need a Hotmail account to sign up? Would you have to download Internet Explorer? Would Microsoft Word’s ever-present helper Clippy become a creeper? (That’s a local Minecraft hostile, if you don’t play the game.)

The main concern for parents though, is that Microsoft will somehow change the game, making it more complex, allow in-app purchases, or require parental supervision (the horror!). While the game has only been around since 2009, it has grown to become one of the most popular computer games of all time, with over 16 million copies sold for computer use. Parents trust it to be safe, fun and ostensibly educational, operating both as a gateway to the world of computer science and helping to develop spatial recognition skills. Children of all ages love it, parents love it, and Microsoft should leave it well enough alone. But will they?

One likely possibility is that Microsoft may push more unique features towards its own Xbox platform. Currently, Minecraft can be played on several platforms, including desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, with PCs having the most functionality and advanced controls. Xbox has long been a popular way for kids to access the cubist landscape of Minecraft and it has the same functions as playing on a desktop. According to a Microsoft press release, Minecraft is the top online game on Xbox Live, with over two billion hours played on Xbox 360 in the last two years. Minecraft on Xbox also gained popularity thanks in no small part to YouTube users like Stampy Longhead, whose wildly popular videos feature the player touring through Minecraft worlds, narrating his findings in his excited British accent and feeding bones to digital dogs. (While parents may find the allure of these videos elusive, calling Stampy “wildly popular” is perhaps an understatement. Stampy was the fourth biggest YouTube channel in July with 199.6 million video views, the majority of which were undoubtedly racked up by my kid watching during lulls in summer activities while I tried to work.)

Stampy plays exclusively on Xbox and only visits worlds connected to the Xbox network, at least according to my son. The kid has been making a hard sell for weeks trying to convince me that he needs an Xbox for Minecraft use. If Microsoft expands its Xbox Minecraft network to its tablets or smartphones, it could transform millions of children around the world into walking, whining Microsoft acolytes (which may be part of Microsoft’s business plan), begging mom, dad and Santa to fill their stocking with Microsoft products. It’s probably not something that happens very often aside from the Xbox, as the company is still best-known for making corporate hardware and software bundles.

While parents may have fears of Microsoft corrupting Minecraft — or at least being bullied into buying Microsoft products for their clamoring underage Minecraft fans — some young players are concerned, as well. “I am worried that they might change Minecraft in a bad way,” said tech savvy 11-year old Zoel Boublil, who is an expert in all things Minecraft. “For example, what if they fire Notch, the CEO of Mojang? Notch, Jeb [Bergensten, the lead developer of Minecraft] and Dinnerbone [a game developer on Minecraft] all put in a lot of creativity and I hope Microsoft doesn’t just make it into some ‘normal’ game and what if they put Microsoft advertising on everything? That would not be cool.” This fear of rendering something once cool, corporate, is often fans’ biggest fear; adults who used to use MySpace or Flickr are familiar with this kind of thing. That said, Yahoo! hasn’t managed to change Tumblr culture too much yet, and it probably doesn’t want to.

The reality is that no one knows what will happen in the deal that Microsoft claims will close by the end of the year. Hopefully, Microsoft is business savvy enough to know not to mess with something that has universal, inter-generational appeal. And if they do? Well, there’s a zombie pigman that could take out Clippy, if necessary.


TIME Video Games

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Dev ‘Not Worried’ About Titanfall ‘Ripoff’ Claims

Advanced Warfare will "speak for itself" when people play it, says Sledgehammer cofounder Michael Condrey.

“Ripoff.” You’ve seen it said of gazillions of books, films, songs and video games. You’ve probably said it yourself about something at one point or another.

So what about Activision’s upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare? Is it just a Titanfall clone?

Don’t laugh: some people think so. Enough people that outlets like GameSpot and Game Informer made space, crazily, to write about it.

And check out what Advanced Warfare developer (and studio Sledgehammer cofounder) Michael Condrey just said about the matter on Twitter.

(It’s a wonder Condrey bothered to respond at all.)

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a military-minded first-person shooter about exoskeletal augmented soldiers set in the near future. Titanfall is a first-person shooter set somewhere outside our solar system on the bleeding perimeter of space exploration. Titanfall has you running around in multiplayer arenas occasionally piloting robots of the sort FASA popularized decades ago. Advanced Warfare has you running around in both solo or multiplayer modes wearing a form-fitting contraption a bit like the thingamajig Matt Damon claps around his body in Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium.

Here’s Advanced Warfare‘s multiplayer trailer again. It looks like any other multiplayer first-person shooter trailer: a little nuttier, a little more vertical, sure, but we’re talking FPS principles here. If futuristic run-and-gunning’s a crime, string all the copycat perps up — but you’re going to need a pretty long rope.

Put a squirt gun to my head, and I’d admit I do see several crude similarities between some of Advanced Warfare‘s gameplay principles and those pioneered by a certain other game. Military-inspired combat body suits? Predator-style camouflage? Strength augmentation and the ability to make crazy-high jumps? Titanfall schmitenfall, that sounds like Crytek’s Crysis to me.

TIME Video Games

Minecraft Is Now Part of Microsoft, and It Only Cost $2.5 Billion

The once indie sandbox-builder is now officially part of one of the largest companies on the planet.

Minecraft, the beloved indie sandbox-builder that went on to become the third-bestselling video game in history, is now officially part of Microsoft.

Microsoft confirmed the deal — rumored to be in play for upwards of $2 billion — with an Xbox Wire video and press release this morning. The studio’s few-dozen employees are now employed by one of the largest corporations in the world, save Mojang co-founder Markus “Notch” Persson, who confirmed that he’s leaving the company, along with the studio’s two other founders, Jakob Porsér and Carl Manneh.

In the statement, Microsoft says it will in fact pay $2.5 billion for Stockholm-based Mojang and the studio’s Minecraft franchise. Microsoft says it expects the purchase to “break-even” in the company’s 2015 fiscal year, and that the purchase should be completed by the close of 2014.

Don’t worry — yet: Microsoft says it plans to continue to make Minecraft available on all the platforms to which it’s beholden now. Here’s Microsoft Xbox honcho Phil Spencer:

‘Minecraft’ is one of the most popular franchises of all time. We are going to maintain ‘Minecraft’ and its community in all the ways people love today, with a commitment to nurture and grow it long into the future.

But parse that language conservatively and you’ll note the company’s explicitly not committing to carrying forward hypothetical sequels or expansion content for the existing version (much less alternative Mojang projects down the road).

That doesn’t mean we couldn’t see “Minecraft 2″ on PlayStation 4, iOS or Android (or whatever might have been: as tech journo Benj Edwards notes, Minecraft is really an ever-evolving sequel unto itself), but those once-certainties are now off the table. And even if we do, it seems unlikely that they’d appear before first gracing Microsoft’s Windows Phone handsets, Surface tablets, Xbox consoles or Windows PCs.

Curiously, recently-crowned Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — presumed early on to be mulling an Xbox division selloff — is front and center in Microsoft’s press statement, calling gaming “a top activity spanning devices, from PCs and consoles to tablets and mobile, with billions of hours spent each year.”

For a detailed look at Minecraft‘s inception, check out Harry McCracken’s The Making of ‘The Mystery of Minecraft’.

TIME Video Games

August PS4 and Xbox One Sales Continue to Break Records

Sony says the PlayStation 4 was August's bestselling console for the eighth month in a row.

It’s been a trick for a while now, talking about monthly video game software sales in any capacity, because of digital’s silent encroachment on retail.

Each month when NPD rolls out its retail sales reports and charts, it’s like someone handing you half (or one-third? or three-fifths? or seven-tenths?) of the ballots from a voting station. Last summer, games-biz site Gamasutra stopped bothering with NPD’s monthly data at all. I’ve continued to follow the reports because I find some data more interesting than no data, and have done my best to share the figures in context.

But it’s looking pretty weird at this point, watching the monthly tallies with so many PC gamers having long since migrated to digital sales (mostly via Steam), the thunderous absence of smartphone and tablet software sales in these reports, and console gamers turning increasingly to digital purchases as Sony and Microsoft commit to offering most (if not all) new software digitally, day-one.

The most reliable thing NPD can say about August’s video game retail sales figures, then, since no one’s yet buying PS4s or Xbox Ones using Star Trek-ian matter replicators, is that sales of the PS4 and Xbox One, 10 months along and combined, are “greater by over 70 percent compared to their predecessors.” And Sony, in a side email, says the PS4 was the bestselling console for the eighth month in a row, for those keeping score.

Check the box under “another bumper month” for anyone invested in the set-top model of gaming. Doomsayers are going to doomsay, and who knows where we’ll be in two years, or four, or 10, but for now, everything on the hardware side of console-dom is coming up roses.

But “new physical retail software,” as NPD’s taken to calling new games still bought on disc, fell from $293 million to $232 million, year-on-year: a decline of 21%.

Looking backward, in July, retail software sales fell 15% year-on-year, while hardware sales surged 100%. In June, software was down 3% while hardware was up 106%. In May, software was actually up 57% (as was hardware, by 95%), but May is when Mario Kart 8 hit, and my guess is that most of that anomalous upturn was people buying retail copies of Nintendo’s racer.

The software-down, hardware-up trend continues from there: in April, retail software was down 10% while hardware was up 76%; in March, software was down 27%, hardware up 78%; in February, software was down 9%, hardware up 42%; and I’ll stop at January, with software down 25% and hardware up 17%.

You see the conundrum. Console sales have been soaring as physical software sales have plummeted. Whither digital sales in any of this?

No one knows, since the relevant companies won’t divulge sales figures (the shift from physical to digital has simultaneously been a shift from transparency to secrecy). NPD’s attempts to reconcile digital and retail, working with some of these companies in the background, tend to happen infrequently. And even then, the figures are reported in the most general terms.

TIME Video Games

Remastered Grand Theft Auto V Release Date Locked In: Consoles Go First

The remastered version of the fastest selling product in entertainment history will arrive in November for PS4 and Xbox One.

The remastered version of Grand Theft Auto V, teased since this summer for PS4 and Xbox One, will finally be available on November 18. But if you were hoping to play it on PC, you’ll have to wait until 2015.

Early 2015, thank goodness: January 27, says Rockstar. But it’s a shame PC owners have to wait through the holidays to play the game. Rockstar’s also released a new trailer for the game, titled “A Picket Fence and a Dog Named Skip.”

I’d guess Rockstar expects to sell a lot more, or at least a lot more immediately, on the console side. The original version, released on September 17, 2013 for PS3 and Xbox 360, became the fastest selling entertainment product (not just video game, but across the spectrum) in history. It’s since been sold-in (to retailers) to the tune of more than 34 million copies. According to this chart, it’s the sixth bestselling game in history, and compared to the five it’s currently listed behind, far and away the fastest selling. It’s bound to fly past Mario Kart Wii and Super Mario Bros., and once the PC version hits the mix next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if it gives Minecraft a run.

The remastered version isn’t just prettier. Rockstar says it’ll include new things to do, additional weapons and vehicles (including aerial ones), more wildlife and traffic, a new foliage system (I assume they mean animation-wise), overhauled radio selections (100 new songs and DJ mixes), additional challenges (Rockstar mentions the shooting range mini-game) and “enhanced damage and weather effects.”

Those who preorder will receive a million bucks of in-game cash to spend in both Grand Theft Auto V and the game’s online mode, Grand Theft Auto Online, says Rockstar. Grand Theft Auto Online will itself see upgrades, including more simultaneous players (up to 30), and comes with all the content released previously for PS3 and Xbox 360. Rockstar says existing characters and progress will transfer to the new consoles.



Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com