TIME e3 2014

Xbox One Just Got Cheaper

The Xbox One is getting its first price cut in the United States Monday. Microsoft’s newest video game console is now selling for $399, a $100 drop from its initial price of $499.

The price drop is the result of Microsoft unbundling Kinect, the motion-sensing camera, from the Xbox One. Microsoft had touted Kinect as an essential part of the Xbox experience, but sluggish sales forced the company to unbundle the device to lower the Xbox One’s price (Kinect is still available on its own for $100). Sony’s PlayStation 4, which also retails for $399, has been handily beating the Xbox One in sales since the start of the year.

The Xbox One already had its price slashed in Europe earlier this year. The latest cut comes as Microsoft is expected to announce a wide range of new titles for the console at this week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.

TIME Video Games

Minecraft Creator’s New Game Is About a Horse and a Ball

Markus Persson

It's either a game about a horse endlessly pushing a ball, or an oblique, existential commentary on life itself.

Markus “Notch” Persson, the fellow most know as the creator of indie cube-building wunderkind Minecraft, has an unassuming new game to show us, and it’s about a horse.

In fact it’s called Cliffhorse, because…well, your guess is as good as mine. There’s a horse. There’s a verdant world of sorts with bumpy, mountainous topography. I suppose you could argue that’s a cliff the eponymous equine’s standing on in the shot above (“standing” — how its managing to be upright at that angle without toppling over you’d have to ask Spider-Man).

The game is Windows-only at this point, and the disclaimer reads that there’s “no guarantee of future updates.” So probably a finger in the wind. Minecraft isn’t the sort of unexpected success you easily follow with another Minecraft — unless your game’s explicitly called Minecraft 2, and then everyone winds up accusing you of being creatively cynical and opportunistic.

Not Notch, who wrote this on Twitter yesterday morning:

Note his use of the word “commercial.” That’s because he’s asking that players purchase “early access” to the game by paying for it with Dogecoin (a form of Bitcoin-like cryptocurrency).

I don’t have a Windows computer with me at the moment — the E3 vortex is just a few blocks away, like those coalescing funnels at the end of Donnie Darko — so I haven’t been able to noodle with Cliffhorse firsthand, but the idea’s that you’re maneuvering a spotted horse around a hilly, occasionally rocky island. The island has a few palm trees. And there’s a ball. A weird, giant-sized, horse-colored ball. You can gallop into the ball and knock it around, then knock it around some more. And that’s…about…it, unless the game’s hiding something, waiting for someone relentlessly thorough and patient enough to find it.

TIME Video Games

Sony Trumps Nintendo in Game-Console Sales

Sony Launches PlayStation 4 In Japan As Console Retakes U.S. Retail Lead Over Microsoft's Xbox One
Kiyoshi Ota—Bloomberg PlayStation 4 boxes sit on display at a Sony store in Tokyo, Japan, on Feb. 22, 2014.

Sony's best-selling PlayStation 4 helped the company overtake Nintendo in the past financial year

Nintendo has had a rough year. The company reported its third consecutive annual loss in May, plans to close its European headquarters in Germany and suffered a customer backlash after flagging thousands of game-play clips uploaded to YouTube.

Now, in yet another blow for the Japanese video-game giant, Sony has overtaken it in terms of game-console sales for the first time in eight years, according to Japanese business news outlet Nikkei.

Sony apparently sold 18.7 million consoles during the past financial year, whereas Nintendo sold just 16.31 million — a 31% drop from the year before.

Sony’s victory was expected following the success of PlayStation 4 and disappointing sales of Nintendo’s newest gaming console, Wii U.

But both Sony and Nintendo have taken hits in revenue over the past few years due in part to the growing prominence of smartphone gaming.

Sony suffered a net loss of $1.1 billion compared with Nintendo’s $229 million loss in the past financial year.

[Nikkei]

TIME Video Games

Tetris at 30: An Interview with the Historic Puzzle Game’s Creator

As one of the most popular puzzle video games in the world celebrates its 30th anniversary, we speak with the man who created it and the man who helped sell it to the world.

Thirty years ago today, a little game about dropping geometrically strange thingamajigs — originally clusters of punctuation marks — into neat, lookalike rows kicked off on a wild journey that led it (and it’s Russian creator, Alexey Pajitnov) out of a metamorphosing Soviet Union to the United States, and from “blockbuster” sales of 2 million already by 1988 to over 425 million paid mobile downloads today.

That game, dubbed Tetris by Pajitnov after the Greek word for the number four, is today one of the most popular video games of all time. It’s played by celebrities, been name-checked by shows like The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, appeared (in playable form) on the sides of skyscrapers, found its way into dozens of scientific studies (including one that determined playing the game reduces cravings for food, booze and cigarettes) and appears in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art — a permanent addition to the museum’s exhibit on Applied Design.

moma tetris
Emmanuel Dunand — AFP / Getty ImagesA visitor plays Tetris during an exhibition preview featuring 14 video games acquired by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, March 1, 2013

I caught up with Pajitnov on the eve of the game’s 30th anniversary, as well as his partner Henk Rogers, the entrepreneur who discovered Tetris in the late 1980s and helped turn Pajitnov’s creation into a worldwide phenomenon.

Can you step us through the process whereby Pentominoes — the puzzle-game that inspired Tetris — led you to try your hand at creating something like it on an Electronika 60 computer, and how that evolved into a system for making four punctuation marks disappear if they filled out a row?

Alexey Pajitnov: I was already quite familiar with Pentominoes, as it was a favorite puzzle game of mine. I also had access to a computer, so it made sense to try to translate that game into something that you could play on a computer screen. To put the Pentominoes on the screen, I had to use symbols because of the limitations of the Electronika 60. My thought process was pretty straightforward: drop the pieces down, and when a row was filled, remove it because there was no reason to keep it on the screen, and you needed more room to go.

What challenges did you face, pre-perestroika, toward marketing and monetizing the game? How did the game spread in those early days?

AP: I had a formal arrangement with the Computer Center of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in the 1980s that granted them rights to exploit Tetris around the world for 10 years. It was easier and wiser for me to allow this arrangement than to try to fight for certain personal rights that were almost non-existent during that time. The Computer Center had different dealings with businessmen around the world who were coming to the Soviet Union to acquire the rights. I wasn’t involved very much with that, but of course there was a certain businessman named Henk Rogers who I met in 1988, and that became history and Tetris soon found worldwide appeal. But all the rights came back to me later on.

Back in those days of the Soviet Union, we didn’t have computer stores that you could visit to buy programs, so everything was copied and distributed via floppy disk. I gave my friends copies of the game on a floppy, and before long, it seemed like everyone knew about it, and was playing it. The real challenge was finding a western publisher, and along came Henk Rogers.

Did you face any personal challenges or difficulties bringing the game out of Russia when you moved to the U.S.?

AP: There were some challenges, but with the help of my friend, Henk Rogers, The Tetris Company (TTC) was formed to serve as the exclusive source of all Tetris licenses. Since then, we have licensed the game to numerous publishers all over the world.

What was it like playing Tetris for the first time at CES in 1988?

Henk Rogers: I saw the game and thought it was nothing special. Something like a game that should be part of a box full of puzzle games. But being interested in puzzles, I stood in line for my turn. When I found myself standing in line for the fourth time when I had hundreds of games to try as a game publisher in Japan, I realized I was hooked on the game in a very basic way. I went after the rights to the game and never stopped until I had all of them.

Tetris_NES_play
Elorg / NintendoTetris for the Nintendo Entertainment System

How did you link up with Nintendo and the Famicom in Japan originally? How did you convince Nintendo to make Tetris the pack-in game for the Game Boy?

HR: I first linked up with Nintendo by porting a Go game from the Commodore 64 to the Famicom. I had convinced [then Nintendo president Hiroshi] Yamauchi-san to let me build that product for Nintendo. After nine months, I was done and after playing one game, Yamauchi said that the game was too weak for Nintendo to publish. He was expecting his 8-bit computer to be a black belt in Go the very first time around. I asked him if I could publish it. He said okay. I did. Tetris was the third game I published on the Famicom.

After Nintendo released Game Boy in Japan I realized that this was the best platform for Tetris. NCL (Nintendo Company Limited) had no policy of including games with the hardware, but NOA (Nintendo of America) did. I convinced the CEO of NOA, Minoru Arakawa, to include Tetris rather than Mario by saying to him, “If you want little boys to buy your machine include Mario, but if you want everyone to buy your machine, include Tetris.” I guess it worked. People say Tetris made Game Boy and Game Boy made Tetris. Both statements are true.

game boy tetris
David L. Ryan — The Boston Globe / Getty ImagesThe Game Boy version of Tetris

It sounds like things almost got out of control in the beginning, back when Robert Stein and Mirrorsoft and Elorg were involved with the question of who had rights to the game. How did you manage to eventually secure console and handheld — and eventually full worldwide — rights to the game?

HR: I secured the rights to handhelds by going to Moscow (at that time the Soviet Union) and tracking down Elektronorgtechnika (Elorg) in 1989 and negotiating with them an exclusive license for those rights. A month later I was back, this time with Minoru Arakawa and Howard Lincoln [both of Nintendo] to secure the console rights for them.

Alexey Pajitnov had licensed his rights to the Academy of Sciences and through Elorg to the rest of the world for a period of 10 years, which ended in 1995. He asked me to help him secure the rights for him, when the rights reverted to him after the 10 year period had passed, because he knew that Elorg would claim that he never had any rights. I went to bat for Alexey and formed a partnership with Elorg called The Tetris Company. In 2005, I bought Elorg. Now, Alexey and I have total control of the Tetris rights worldwide.

Do you have a favorite version of the game?

AP: My favorite version of the game is Tetris Zone, but I do play Tetris Blitz. I’m also looking forward to Tetris Ultimate, published by Ubisoft. That game will come out this summer for next generation consoles. I’m also still very fond of the Game Boy version from 1989.

Memorable puzzles game mechanics have a kind of timeless immutability, but where might Tetris go next? Does it evolve or stay the same?

AP: The core game mechanics of Tetris will always remain the same, but technology and accessories will evolve, of course, and Tetris will be there like it has been for the past 30 years. There are many variants of Tetris, so you can say that the game has evolved in that way, but if you want to play the standard game – you’ll always be able to find it.

TIME Video Games

This Is How Much It Costs to Be the World’s Biggest Nerd

Michael Thommason is certified as having the world’s largest collection of video games. Guinness confirmed that Thommason had 10,607 games last year, but he’s since acquired a few hundred more, bringing his collection to some 11,000 games. Now, Thommason is putting his collection—and his title—up for auction. Current bid: $50,250.

Thommason built his collection up over the last 25 years and says 2600 of the titles are “factory shrink-wrapped” and “over 8,300″ are complete with box and manual. WHy is he selling now? “I simply have an immediate family and extended family that have needs that need to be addressed,” he said. “While I do not wish to part with these games, I have responsibilities that I have made to others and this action is how I will help meet them.”

[GamePolitics]

TIME Video Games

Tetris Still Taunts: The Game’s Legacy 30 Years Later

While the iconic game has reached recognition worldwide, the man behind Tetris remained relatively unknown for decades

On the 30th anniversary of Tetris’ creation, here’s a look at the Russian mastermind who made the world care about falling blocks.

TIME’s Editor Dan Stewart talks about Tetris’ inventor, Alexey Pajitnov, a Russian computer engineer who created the game in 1984 but struggled for decades to earn royalties from its ubiquitous success.

Pajitnov came up with a game so addictive that he once said he couldn’t stop playing long enough to finish programming it. “The program wasn’t complicated,” he said. “There was no scoring, no levels. But I started playing and I couldn’t stop.”

While Pajitnov is still programming games, Tetris remains his magnum opus.

 

TIME Video Games

You Can Finally Plug Your Xbox One Controller Into Your PC

Microsoft

Xbox One gamepad drivers for Windows PCs are available today, with Windows Update integration to follow.

Rejoice, Xbox One owners: You can finally use your controller to play games on your PC.

Why it’s taken a company as vast and PC-centered as Microsoft nearly seven months since the Xbox One debuted last November to make this possible I couldn’t tell you, but the day has finally come.

Starting Thursday, says Microsoft, you can download PC drivers for the Xbox One controller from Microsoft spokesperson Larry (“Major Nelson”) Hryb’s website. The company says it plans to slip the drivers into the Windows Update process down the road, but in the meantime, Major Nelson’s website is your go-to for x86 or x64 driver access.

According to Microsoft, the PC drivers will let you use the Xbox One controller “with any game that featured gamepad support for the Xbox 360 controller.” You need only download and install the drivers, then plug your Xbox One controller into the computer using its micro-USB cable.

TIME Video Games

Temple Run Scampers Past One Billion Downloads

David Williams / DWPPC.com Imangi Studios co-founders Keith Shepherd and Natalia Luckyanova pose in a company photo.

The popular "endless runner" series for smartphones and tablets is now in the same exalted one-billion-downloads club as games like Angry Birds.

Think about the number one billion for a moment: one billion fingers tapping on smartphone and tablet screens, one billion icons indicating data being streamed over radio wave-filled airspace, and one billion instances of an unusually popular game nestling on mobile devices. That’s how many times Imangi Studios’ Temple Run games — both Temple Run and Temple Run 2 — have been downloaded to date, says the company.

Not one billion unique downloads, mind you (I’ve downloaded it at least a dozen times myself, some of those for friends and family) but one billion instances nonetheless. That’s a lot of endless running.

In Temple Run, players swipe their screens in various directions to make a character jump or duck and turn left or right. The character is always running, and stopping indicates defeat. The game generates random twists and turns, head-smacking overhangs and leg-banging impediments, pulling you through a kind of Allan Quartermain (or Indiana Jones) jungle-scape fantasy. Stumble once and you’ll find a gorilla-thing swiping at your heels. You don’t want to stumble twice.

And on it goes, endlessly, with players unlocking points for meeting certain thresholds that they can spend like money (or, of course, spend real money if they’re impatient — and it’s easy to get impatient), racking up high scores shared on worldwide leaderboards. The goal is in essence to get the highest score possible, and plenty of players have maxed the game out. I don’t know what happens when you get to 150 million points in Temple Run 2 — my high score is in the lowly tens of millions — but according to my iPhone’s leaderboard readout, hundreds have hit the 150 million mark so far.

Among other Imangi factoids (trotted out to promote the game, per the milestone), Imangi said players had altogether spent 216,018 years playing the series, that over 32 billion games have been played collectively and that players have run a total of 50 trillion meters in the games to date. Sixty percent of players are female (and 40% male), the top three ways to die are “falling,” “collision” and “monkey,” and players have used the “save me” feature — spend points to continue from your death point — 140 billion times.

The original Temple Run launched in 2011, a few years after Angry Birds (one of the most popular mobile series of all time), so this is Imangi joining Rovio in the billion-downloads club, though Angry Birds, which hit a billion downloads two years ago, is now in the two billion downloads club, a point Rovio said it reached last January.

TIME Video Games

DirectX Creator Says Apple’s Metal Heralds the End of OpenGL

One of DirectX's three co-creators, Alex St. John, explains why Apple's Metal is such a blow to OpenGL, and what it means in the long run.

Back in the 1990s, I remember enjoying then-Microsoft-bigwig Alex St. John’s intelligent screeds (and occasional rants) back when DirectX was still this wild, unruly, nascent thing and assistive 3D cards in PCs from 3dfx and PowerVR and Rendition were wafting through the industry like ozone after a thunderstorm. He was bold and colorful and controversial and willing to get into public spats with rivals — perhaps most visibly Doom creator John Carmack, a longtime OpenGL evangelist — without apologies. Those were 3D’s halcyon days for early adopters like me.

I haven’t kept up with the guy in years, but he apparently maintains a blog, named after his old handle (“The Saint”), where he’s still doing his thing. Yesterday, he wrote a fascinating reaction piece to Apple’s surprise Metal reveal on Monday. Metal is to iOS as DirectX is to Windows, a way for Apple to get developers closer to the iPhone and iPad’s A7 processor, resulting (claims Apple) in dramatic performance increases. The tradeoff, of course, is that it’s proprietary.

Enter St. John, who delves into the political side of Metal’s raison d’être and what it says about the industry’s trajectory. I’ve tried to sum up his key points:

  • OpenGL drivers are just “a grab bag of broken inconsistent functionality” without standard hardware definitions.
  • Apple’s pretty much responsible for defining OpenGL as it exists in the mobile space today, thanks to the iPhone (and in part because Apple never developed its own DirectX-like API).
  • But by supporting OpenGL, Apple’s made it easier for game developers to switch between iOS and Android, thus a proprietary API like Metal is as much about insulating Apple as it is getting developers closer to the hardware.
  • Today’s GPUs are so fast they’re held back by lagging CPU technology, and “bloated” legacy 3D APIs aren’t helping matters.
  • Most of what we’ve seen to date in the history of 3D gaming involves abstraction, not real-world physics modeling. That abstraction is hurting 3D development, where you have to decouple, then knit back together your trick-physics and “real” physics aspects. Here’s St. John: “The intimate link between light physics and other physics is largely broken in modern games because the graphics pipeline largely abstracts the visual elements of physics simulation from other aspects of physics forcing developers to awkwardly attempt to recouple them in the game by manually stitching them together.”
  • Cloud-based parallelism employed to render virtual worlds may be the future, allowing processing leaps and bounds that won’t occur as rapidly on the client side (indeed, we’ve already seen demonstrations of games in which some of the visual assets are rendered on distant servers, then laid into the client application in real time).
  • The future looks increasingly CUDA-like (giving developers direct access to a GPU’s parallelism). Here’s St. John again: “While the rest of the game community is trying to adopt Mantle, DirectX 12 or Metal, I’ll be re-learning my ray-tracing and quantum physics because I believe those roads all ultimately lead to a more CUDA like API for cloud based game design. It will just take the market a while to realize that.”

So is OpenGL really doomed? Even St. John backpedals on that one halfway in, admitting that DirectX and OpenGL could be “overhauled with time to look much more like Nvidia’s CUDA.” We’ll see.

(If you want a deeper primer on what Metal is and how low-level APIs work, Anandtech’s explainer is the best and most accessible I’ve seen.)

TIME Video Games

11 Things I’m Hoping to See at E3 2014 (and 6 Things We Probably Won’t)

Alex Beckers
Jae C. Hong—AP FILE - In this June 13, 2013 file photo, Alex Beckers watches a presentation on the video game "Destiny" at the Activision Blizzard Booth during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 13, 2013.

E3's really more a present-moment state of the union than "the future revealed," but this one promises a bunch of software-focused surprises. We walk through some of the most -- and least -- likely.

If E3 2013 was about touting new platforms and software promises, E3 2014 is about putting paid to some of those vows. This is the point companies like Sony and Microsoft start to show their 2015 hands — and in Nintendo’s case, its holiday 2014 one — hoping to convince us that they have the coolest-sounding exclusives, or the most compelling upcoming platform features, or insert your buzz-phrase-of-choice here.

The following isn’t a comprehensive E3 rumor list, it’s just a collection of what we’re most likely to bump into (as well as not encounter), with a bit of context seasoned by my own biases.

11 things I’m hoping/expecting we’ll see:

Halos 1 through 4 in a single high-definition collection…

Engadget started this rumor last month, citing “sources” that claim Microsoft is planning a Halo 1-4 roundup, dubbed “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” and remastered in high definition to carry Xbox One fans through 2014 until Halo 5 arrives next year. I have no idea how reliable Engadget’s sources are, but the idea of replaying those first four installments back to back on Legendary difficulty, if only to reevaluate their craftsmanship, sits fine with me.

…or Halo 2 alone remastered

Halo 2‘s 10-year anniversary is this November, and Microsoft gave the original Halo: Combat Evolved the anniversary-edition treatment back in November 2011.

Halo 5: Guardians

The game was just announced, and even though it’s a 2015 release, it stands to reason we might get our first peek at actual gameplay next week.

Nintendo’s NFC figurines

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata confirmed in May that the company was hopping into the NFC (near field communications) figurine business already staked out by Skylanders and Disney Infinity, adding that the figurines would be “compatible with video games starting from this year-end sales season.” So the chances these won’t show up at E3 in one form or another — hi there Super Smash Bros. for Wii U! — are probably nil.

Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars

The next Star Wars: Battlefront game we know about, so expect that. But Star Wars Episode VII (the J.J. Abrams-directed upcoming film) is underway now and due out December 2015. EA has exclusive license to make Star Wars-related games for the next 10 years, but the clock’s ticking, so it’d make sense to at least tease some of the other stuff that’s doubtless in the pipeline for 2015’s bona fide Star Wars-related freakout.

A glimpse of the next Mass Effect

I didn’t care much for any of the first three, and plenty of you cared even less for the trilogy’s finale, but I’m wide open to whatever’s next. BioWare Montreal director Yanick Roy confirmed the next Mass Effect was underway (and still untitled) early last month…

…so it’s not off the wall to hope we’ll get a peek at the game next week, though Roy later tweeted this:

Uncharted 4

Why not? It’s already been announced (not with the “4,” but Sony confirmed Naughty Dog’s working on a PS4 Uncharted game ages ago). And with all the news about Naughty Dog staffers — including creative lead Amy Hennig — leaving the studio, Naughty Dog could use this E3 to mitigate worries that the next game is still a ways off (Uncharted 3 shipped back in 2011), or developmentally impacted by all those high-profile departures.

Resident Evil 7

So sayeth a Japanese business newspaper, anyway. The timing makes sense: Capcom’s Resident Evil 6 was released in 2012, and Bethesda’s going to be showing off Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s new survival horror game, The Evil Within, so there’s arguably incentive for Capcom to ante up with its next-in-series zombie-masher.

Our first look at a proper Zelda game for the Wii U

Hyrule Warriors, which stars The Legend of Zelda‘s iconic protagonist in a Dynasty Warriors riff, sounds interesting enough, and I’m guessing we’ll have a chance to give it a whirl at this year’s E3. But the game that players who love Nintendo and tune into trade shows like E3 most want to see is a proper new mainline Zelda action/adventure. Say what you will about Nintendo tilling plowed ground, it’s arguably incumbent on the company at this point and in light of Wii U sales to hand fans their first aperitif.

There’s also this cryptic tweet from Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Williams — named for the series — wherein she says she’ll be doing “something extra special” at this year’s E3:

Though she then followed that up with this smokescreen-like tease:

Mortal Kombat X

This one’s no longer a rumor, and therefore a shoe-in.

An indie gaming cavalcade

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Anamnesis, Celestia, Elegy for a Dead World, Paparazzi, StoryPops and tons more (check out 29 showing as part of IndieCade’s E3 showcase here). Microsoft says it’ll show off two indie games each day between Tuesday and Thursday (via the Xbox Twitch channel), and I’m assuming Sony and Nintendo will devote time during their respective media blasts to highlight new and upcoming titles.

And 6 things we won’t see:

A new Nintendo games console

You can argue Nintendo should have made the Wii U GamePad an optional accessory, that the Wii U should have instead been architected to anticipate Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One (and PCs and Steam Machines and so forth), that Nintendo should have thrown more energy into wooing third-party developers and that its console should have launched with a game like Mario Kart 8 instead of Super Mario Bros. U or Nintendo Land. You can argue all kinds of things, but they won’t change reality.

And that reality won’t include the Wii U’s successor at E3 2014. The Wii U’s in trouble, but even if we assume it’s going to have a shorter lifespan, it’s smack in the middle of its first-party software cycle, a cycle from which we’re still anticipating next-gen riffs on Mario, Zelda and Metroid. Introducing a new Nintendo console this early along would be madness — a Wii U sales-killer. Who’d pay $300 for Nintendo’s beleaguered Wii U today, with its still-smallish library of new games, if Nintendo publicly formalized plans to surpass it in a year or two? This one’s just common sense. That, and the Wii U’s story isn’t over: Nintendo’s brand power is undiminished, and finishing third doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you finish profitably.

Half-Life 3

Bear in mind that the Steam (and soon, mayhap, Steam Machines) magnate has never formally (or informally) announced, talked about or even much alluded to a third Half-Life. It’s taken for granted that the series doesn’t end with Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and an “Episode Three” was at one point on the books to be the final part of a once-confirmed trilogy (to conclude by Christmas 2007). But when the latter didn’t happen, and in view of Valve’s reticence about further sequels, wishful thinking’s led to a lot of speculative nonsense.

The latest involves a former Valve employee who, in an otherwise unrelated recent Twitch interview, said something that if you’re not paying close attention might be misconstrued as confirmation that work on a new Half-Life game is underway. But if you parse what the ex-employee actually said, you realize nothing was really said at all, and thus there’s no reason to think any more about the series’ existentially indeterminate status than before those words were uttered.

As for what might occur at E3, anything’s possible, but Valve’s not on lists of confirmed show vendors, and since they tend to do whatever they want, whenever they want, independent of conferences and trade shows, it’s more likely that we’d see a new Half-Life unveiled (if those stars and planets ever align) at a Valve-led media event.

Rockstar announcing Red Dead Redemption 2, or Grand Theft Auto V for PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Rockstar doesn’t generally do E3, so like Valve, any new game announcements — say a sequel to Red Dead Redemption, or souped-up versions of Grand Theft Auto V — are almost certain to happen outside the show (if those two in particular happen at all).

Parent Take-Two said in a mid-May earnings call that Rockstar would debut a new game in its current fiscal year (which ends March 2015), but that’s all anyone knows.

Fallout 4

Bethesda PR poobah Pete Hines said no (in so many words), so that’s that:

Virtual reality product-makers proving VR’s more than an enthusiast toy at this stage

Oculus VR’s Rift, Sony’s Project Morpheus and others are sure to try their level best to prove that VR’s more than hype, or for more than enthusiasts willing to cavort with bulky hardware on their heads, or not just a time-stream-hopping novelty echoing a fad that wasn’t ready for mass consumption in the 1980s and may still fall short of that hope — multibillions backers or no — today.

A slimmer PlayStation 4

Come on, Reddit, you want something smaller than the current model? What for? The PS4’s already a PS4 slim. But if we’re shooting the moon, I’d be a trifle happier with a version that didn’t have those two inscrutable pieces of plastic on the underside, the ones that make the system sit unevenly on a flat surface if you position it horizontally in lieu of using the vertical stand. (That, or give me the same case with cooler internal processors and/or a quieter cooling fan.)

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