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7:24 PM on 02.20.2013

Possible PS4 U.K price confirmed by ShopTo?

Very shortly after the Future of Playstation even happened just minutes ago, U.K retailer ShopTo have immediately begun to take pre-orders. With the release date of the console set to feature somewhere in the holiday/Christmas period, retailers will certainly be looking at getting as many orders in as possible before launch.

The price set by ShopTo is currently sitting at 399.95 although clicking the order page shows a reduction from 449.95. This seems like a lot to pay although lighter than the PS3 launch price back in 2007 for the U.K.

The link shows a micro-site set up to promote the new hardware despite no actual pictures or footage of the box itself. Those who are brave enough can pre-order now and embrace the next gen, skeptics may want to wait till E3.   read

4:11 PM on 02.20.2013

Resident Evil 6 Pre-order bonuses on Steam

Despite a mixed set of reviews Resident Evil 6, which launched late last year, is on its way to PC. This version of the game has been touted by the developers as the best PC version of a Resident Evil game ever, leaving behind the horrors (no pun intended) of earlier RE games on the platform. The game is launching at a budget price lower than the average retail title with a physical release as well as digital distribution. Pre-ordering the game through Steam however just got a lot more interesting with a serious mound of goodies to get your hands on.

Steam's Pre-purchase rewards have featured alongside select games just before release, offering three tiers of rewards as pre-orders roll in. The more orders, the more rewards.

The first reward tier will net you both a digital soundtrack to the game and Resident Evil 6 Artworks: Creature Design digital art book (Unlocked)

The second reward will get you everything mentioned previously plus a free copy of Resident Evil 5 on Steam. If you already own RE5 you can gift it to a friend, or anyone you feel deserves some free Resident Evil lovin'. (Unlocked)

The final tier will get you everything and a Season pass for all the DLC, including all the multiplayer modes set for release: Survivor, Predator, Onslaught and Siege. Currently there is still a final push to make for this reward level but with the time available it seems likely pre-orders will reach the threshold.

All this plus the main game is going for a rather good 19.99 until release on Steam. If digital isn't your thing U.K retailer ShopTo has the physical retail version for a smaller 13.85 without all the extras. Look out for Resident Evil 6 on PC March 23rd.   read

8:08 AM on 02.02.2013

The Rise of Free-to-Play

Free to play has its ups and downs, It's arguably now the go-to subscription model for MMOs but has existed over a decade with much quieter presence. Recently the free to play space has seen a huge jump in quality with massive titles such as Planetside 2 and League of Legends, these are not only some of the world's most popular games but rank alongside the best of regular priced retail titles.

So, why has this change come about? In previous years free to play games were seen as a bit of a annoyance, small shallow games, out to make some quick cash and usually helmed by the infamous Zynga. Some of these titles and their strategy to make money while unfairly affecting the game were assigned the name "pay-to-win". Gamers really didn't take kindly to a different way to pay at first but slowly started to warm up. Now a lot of developers carefully select how their payment model is structured to offer fair play between those who pay, and those who continue to play free of charge. Nobody likes an unfair advantage, a new player going into a free game can often be like pitting you against a laser-beam wielding T-rex in a fight to the death. Once developers figured this out, things started to get interesting for the market.

Game studios and publishers have been experimenting with the whole concept of free to play frantically over the past few years. Some games offer what would be considered "lengthy demos". In 2011, one of the most popular games of all-time World of Warcraft added the option for players to explore its vast world up to level 20 for free despite the game being a traditional subscription based affair since launch. The news came as suspected retaliation to falling subscriber numbers, however this action along with the acclaimed 2012 expansion Mists of Pandaria helped the long standing MMO gain more players once again. This either proves free to play is a viable option to adapt to, or people love giant clothed bipedal pandas.

MMOs are arguably the biggest genre in the free to play space right now but some are taking a different approach. Guild Wars 2 is one of this year's most successful MMOs with strong sales and a host of great reviews. GW2 has a unique way to combine traditional retail purchasing with a free model, simply pay for the game at a normal retail price and the world is open for you to play free forever more, unshackled by the subscriptions of old. Saying this, GW2 still allows the player to spend extra cash if they so wish on in game items, although a lot of these can be unlocked through normal play.

Paid-for in-game items are probably the most common form of free to play payment model. It's easy to incorporate into multiple genres be they MMOs, or FPS like Planetside 2. When using this method it must be carefully balanced so there is little or no unfair advantage. Planetside 2 can easily be enjoyed by not paying a penny, the starting weapons for each faction can kick enough ass in the hands of a capable player to go head to head with someone who has put money in. Like GW2 a lot of Planetside's item are visual upgrades, simply better looking armour, emblems and paint. One more thing that struck me about the purchases in-game is how expensive some of these items can be, it can be up to 8/$10 per gun! You could get a few good games for that price, so a lot of players just stick with the default gear or buy items with earned Certs (the game's currency). Coincidently, Planetside 2 has been one of the few free games I have actually gave money to. After I hit about 30 hours played I realised I was having as much fun (if not more) in a free game as I would in a 40/$60 retail title. So when an offer for triple Station cash (paid-for currency) came up I felt like I should give something back to the developers for making such a great game.

Browser-based games have been one of the longest standing free-to-play genres. Giants such as Runescape have been around over a decade and is still successful today. Many other larger corporations have tried to emulate the success of browser games but with often less impressive results. Facebook games have been a big focus for even the biggest of publishers and considered a vital role in their gaming empire, as for gamers the term "browser-based" doesn't exactly ring quality, but could this be changing. Developers of Runescape, Jagex recently scored big with the rights to create and publish a transformers MMO under the name Transformers Universe. Trailers and initial details make this look and sound amazing, the MMO gameplay is certainly there and graphics look polished, you wouldn't believe this is a browser game. It's certainly a big step for in-browser games as a whole, showing what is capable as well as providing maximum accessibility for players.

2013 shows no sign of free-to-play slowing down and the quality keeps on rising, hell, this could seriously help keep my wallet full.   read

11:06 AM on 01.31.2013

The Best Special/Collectors editions of 2012 Part 2: Now with extra Crates!

Last week we took a look at critically acclaimed jungle shooter Far Cry 3 and what came inside the Insane edition, combining parts 2 and 3 this week will feature not one, nor two but three games of 2012 which took the term "Special edition" up a notch.

Borderlands 2: Ultimate Loot Chest limited edition

Borderlands 2 had a lot going for it on release, fans of the previous game wanted more cell shaded goodness and expectations were sky high for this over the top FPS/RPG hybrid. The Ultimate Loot Chest seemed a perfect fit to match the game's fairly bonkers approach.

The game itself is contained in a nice red Steel-book case, with custom art to make it stand out in a stack, alongside that are some borderlands themed Post cards (again with custom art) these are nice touch and are designed to look like an actual post cards promoting Pandora. Next up are Stickers, mostly logos to slap on to anything you feel needs a bit of a Borderlands touch, you may want to place on your Creatures of Pandora chart, a large pullout showing the scale of all the enemies you will face, similar to those dinosaur books you used to have as a kid. Moving on to the larger items is a old style Cloth map of Pandora, hang it up with the rest of your memorabilia or actually use it to navigate the world. If you still can't get enough of the cell-shaded art style in the game, take a peek in the "Inside the Vault" art book for the best of the concept art and character designs. One book not enough? The loot chest also contains a journal of Field notes from Sir Hammerlock, a friendly cyborg NPC you meet early in the game resembling an olden-day big game hunter. The undoubted main attractions in the box are; the Marcus Bobble-head, the arms dealer featured in both games of the franchise, neatly packed in his own Marcus Munitions vending machine style box, and the unmistakable Replica Loot Chest to store all your goodies in, complete with official Certificate of authenticity.

After you've recovered from all of that there are some digital goodies included. A Borderlands 2 comic book download code, Gearbox Gun Pack (yes, more guns!), Golden Key, Vault Hunter's Relic and highly anticipated Mechromancer class DLC.

This special edition has to be one of the best of this generation, any way you look at it you get a lot of bang for your buck, and a lot of "Gear in your Box" (get it?

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 Care Package

Surely one of the world's best selling game franchises had to come out with killer special edition in 2012, and that they did with another crate of goodies.

Whether you're a Call of Duty fan or not this edition came with some pretty special kit. Starting with the game itself contained in Steel-book armour with custom artwork on both sides, alongside the game you receive Two Collectors Coins featuring logos and designs from the game. The bulk of the crate is taken up by the main event, a Replica Dragonfire Drone Quadrocopter which you can actually fly! The drone is a fair size and features the same digital camo design as the in-game Score-Streak, remote and batteries are also bundled so you can get flying right away. Run out of charge and you can place it proudly on show with the included display stand. It's worth noting that the card packaging inside the crate is really well done with a solid technical look that fits with the rest of the design. Everything fits neatly into a Care-Package Replica big enough for functional storage use and sure to get fans of the series excited, just no dropping this one out of helicopters...

On the digital side you get a copy of the Official Soundtrack to the game by Jack Wall and Trent Reznor, Nuketown 2025 map (now replaced by the Bonus playlist in game) Nuketown Zombies map, exclusive weapon camo and exclusive player card backgrounds for bragging rights. Platform specific content such as Xbox Live avatar items and Playstation themes are also included depending on the respective version.

All in all there is a lot of great stuff in the box and surely will appeal to fans, the functional inclusions of the crate and quadrocopter are also great, making this one of the best collectors editions of 2012.

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

Dark Souls certainly grabbed the attention of console players in 2011, leaving the PC crowd wanting. Fortunately a petition was started for a port to be released in 2012. This much talked about event gained the interest of over 90,000 PC gamers and From Software themselves, agreeing to make a port to Windows. True to their word Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition was released August 24th. This is a smaller special edition than the others on the list but still included just for sheer value, only 2 days after launch I managed to pick this up for only 19 rather than the usual 40 price point for new games in the U.K.

Starting off you get The game itself, boxed in new artwork designed for this edition, alongside this you get two more discs of content in the form of a Making of DVD and the Original soundtrack on physical CD. The inclusion of a physical soundtrack is a nice touch as most special editions now just contain a digital copy. Now I hope you like artwork because you get a lot of it, featured on a set of Five exclusive post cards, giant Dark Souls poster and finally a Hardback art book. The art for this game is truly great, it's certainly worth looking through the entire book for all the different environments, armours, weapons, enemies and the famous Dark Souls bosses who'll you grow to hate as you progress.

Digitally you get the previously exclusive Artorias of the Abyss DLC adding new areas, enemies and bosses to fight and get angry at all over again. The PC version was hit with a disappointing port, featuring a lowly 1024x720 resolution and 30FPS limit, not to mention unplayable keyboard and mouse control (really it is that bad), however a user by the name of Durante released a mod which fixed issues and overall improved the game dramatically. The mod allowed the user to go beyond 1080p, adjust the HUD and add or remove more visual effects. Using a controller with the game makes this the definitive version in the end and just shows what the community can do with Dark Souls in their hands.

2013 looks set already to offer some interesting editions with Bioshock infinite's Ultimate Songbird edition and The Last of us with multiple variants of collectibles. Other titles such as GTA V, although no special editions are confirmed, are sure to offer some special goodies.   read

8:51 AM on 01.21.2013

The Best Special/Collectors editions of 2012 Part 1

2012 was a big year for digital distribution, Steam had a surge in users and mobile app stores are full of quality titles now. Retail fought back however, with a slew of special editions packed full of physical and (ironically) digital goodies for gamers to get their mitts on, In three parts I'll be taking a look at the three standout packages of the past year.

Far Cry 3 - Insane Edition

Although a little late to the 2012 party Far Cry 3 didn't disappoint, with its vast open world and freedom, coupled with a fairly dark story focusing on insanity. It seems only right to dub the special edition as "insane" itself.

What you get for your hard earned pennies ends up being quite a bundle for a relatively low price. The highlight of the box being the Vaas hula bobble-head, standing just under 5 inches tall and featuring the psychopathic villain's head inexplicably placed on a hula girl's body. The concept works and ends up being a nice little collectible with plenty detail. Another stand out feature is the inclusion of the "Face your insanity" guide, a 47 page (not including note pages) booklet of mostly humorous tips and tricks to jungle survival. One page even features a guide to hypnotising a chicken. The book is well made with a faux animal skin texture to the cover and rough pages, the whole book actually comes crumpled and battered out of the box to give it a used and old feeling. The last physical treat you get is the ammo pouch style packaging to hold the game and guide in. The game's logo is stitched onto the front and even the metal buttons to pin the case together have "Far Cry 3" hammered into them. Everything comes neatly placed in a bright, artwork laden box with a nice little trick: The box features Vaas pointing downwards towards the figure in a clear window, but the face is obscured by the packaging. lift up the flap and you'll see Vaas' head on the hula figure for those who weren't expecting it.

Digital content is also generous with five DLC packs included. Monkey Business features four new single player missions with new character Hurk and two multi-player "end of match sequences". The Lost Expeditions is another 2 single player missions titled "Forgotten Experiment" and "Ignition in the Deep" as well as a WW2 flare gun to use in multi-player. The Warrior Pack - two tribal tattoos and a hand crafted dagger for SP and early access to the "tattoo editor" in MP. The Hunter Pack - A fully equipped M-700 hunting rifle with 2 skins, and finally The Predator Pack, a collection of three rare animals to hunt with the predator bow. It's worth noting that there is also a trial key for Shootmaina Storm and some items/cash for Ghost Recon Online.

Everything included makes this a great value special edition, especially on PC with prices significantly lower than console versions. If you haven't yet got your hands on Far Cry 3, this edition is an interesting proposition if available.   read

12:23 PM on 01.18.2013

What is your perfect price point for next gen consoles?

2013 looks set to be the year that more new consoles (following the Wii U) will come along, after a lengthy and diverse generation people are excited for something fresh and new on the hardware front. Nice things cost money... so what is the best price point to put them at?

The main problem that must be tackled is the cost of vital components, powerful hardware costs more but could provide a longer generation and better looking games. This is what should be carefully balanced, price vs spec. A minor improvement over last gen and the adoption of the new console will trickle, Too much of a hardware advance will lead to higher costs and may put off buyers. everyone remembers the moment at E3 when Sony revealed the price of the PS3, jaws hit the floor. However despite this, the PS3 balanced out the price through the years and continues to sell better month on month than any other home console, their high cost gamble paid off in the end.

Another factor to take into consideration is the time we are at now. The Smartphone and tablet market are booming, with hardware refreshes and advancement on a far smaller timescale than home consoles. Mobile hardware is now reaching a levels where the graphics being produced are certainly comparable to that of the Xbox 360 or PS3 despite the games generally costing mere pennies. Consumers will certainly take this on board in 2013 and make this part of their decision to buy next gen or not.

There have been a few leaks and rumours of hardware specs for the consoles but no mention of controllers yet. Sony and Microsoft could be developing a unique controller or control scheme that could factor in for the bulk of the cost of the unit. Nintendo showed this with the Wii U, a big portion of what you paid for the machine covered the expensive gamepad controller, it's certainly a great idea but would you pay a premium to have an innovative control scheme from the other big two?

So, what price would you like to see the next gen hit? is it worth the extra for better machines or should they take a low cost approach on a smaller refresh cycle? get involved and let me know in the comments.   read

5:05 AM on 01.10.2013

What Steambox(s) could mean for PC and consoles

The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas has been big news for technology this week, the largest electronic show in the world is an ideal place for manufacturers and independent tinkerers to show off their newest gadgets. Unfortunately gaming tends to take a back seat at this one with most major news in the form of the newest must have phone of tablet, but for most PC fans attention was focused on one man, Gabe Newell (Spoilers: Still no Half-Life 3 announcement).

Rumours have been circling around about a Steambox for some time but CES is where we actually saw not one, but many prototypes of what the hardware could eventually be. Through this a clear business model also emerged with Valve providing funding to external hardware companies to develop many versions of a small form factor PC.

One of the biggest attention grabbers was the reveal of the Xi3 Piston, A small box looking similar in design to OUYA but with full PC hardware pumping power from its innards. The case is tiny by PC standards but turn the little guy around and you are greeted with a plethora of ports, jacks and connections. Inside, Xi3 will be equipping one of AMD's latest quad core APU chips with a focus on powerful integrated graphics. Other specifications are still not confirmed but $999 (around 620 for the fellow Brits out there) seemed to be the suggested launch price. This seems expensive for a little cube of processing power but is only "one of many" prototypes according to Valve.

So what could this mean for PC as a whole? Could these small, uncomplicated boxes tempt the console crowd? Valve's recent actions certainly make it seem like that's the goal here. With the introduction of Big Picture Mode to lure the controller wielding players and Steam for Linux now operational, the company is certainly wanting a piece of everything. 2012 was a great year to be a PC gamer with some fantastic indie exclusives and some graphics pushing AAA titles, Steam user numbers soared up and publishers even put out some good quality ports, with options a plenty for the hardcore crowd.

So PC is now doing well on the software front, but how will hardware change with the introduction of small easy to function Steam boxes? Processor manufacturers are certainly creating a trend when it comes to graphical grunt, cut out middle man and place capable graphics right on the chip. Intel's newest "Ivy Bridge" line only showed a 15% increase in processing power but a big jump in integrated graphics performance, with the new 2013 chips (codename Haswell) set to raise that bar even further. The other big silicon player; AMD, are also making a big push on their APU line with the same prospects as Intel. Concerns are among PC vets of what this means for dedicated cards like the Nvidia GTX 680. What Valve also had hidden away at CES was a private booth, set up to meet with new hardware partners over the Steambox plan. Residing with-in the room were a few small prototypes of possible new hardware and an existing Alienware X51. This Alienware PC was one of the smaller products the Dell owned company had launched with a form factor similar to that of an Xbox 360 but with up to i7 internals to make it perform like the big boys. Around the product's launch there was talk of the X51 becoming the new Steambox and later became acknowledged by Valve as Steambox hardware, pointing to a wide range of PC types to fall under this new brand. This can give some confidence back to the power hardware fanatics, showing that plans are still to include high end machines with dedicated graphics under the same line.

With a wider PC adoption and amazing software distribution Valve could be a danger to the already well established console companies with future plans but how will this change the existing PC market, only time will tell as new news surfaces.   read

3:08 PM on 12.23.2012

Always-online DRM is not the answer to piracy

In a recent Reddit AMA, Maxis; long running studio behind The Sims franchise were subject to questions on the upcoming re-boot of SimCity. Although most of the details showed promising new ideas for the series, a fact arose that the game will be tied down with always-online DRM.

As most of you have heard expressed, gamers aren't exactly pleased with the idea of this anti-piracy scheme, making it almost impossible for them to play their fully paid for game offline. Maxis responded stating that keeping data running to the EA servers is an integral part of the game. The idea of playing Multiplayer was also heavily promoted by the dev team, maybe as a way to make the online component seem a little more necessary.

Needless to say the response on Reddit and various other gaming publications has been a big negative, with many users revoking pre-orders and claiming not to purchase any EA product ever again.

Is this the way to combat piracy? To lose potential customers who are now more likely to go and pirate the publisher's games. Enter, the indie game market. Indie games are growing year on year and their public profile has reached an all time high in 2012. They prove with a unique idea and an open mind on distribution, a small game can be a great success.

The best example of this is the Humble Indie Bundles. A pay what you please affair for a generally fantastic line-up of games. All DRM free, Available on all computer hardware and more often than not a free soundtrack. These bundles generate millions every time and showcase the great indie talent out there.

Edmund Mcmillen's The Binding of Isaac has seen huge sales with no major publisher and appeared in a few indie bundles itself. This game is a huge hit and a star in indie gaming. Due to it's success, Isaac is set to appear on as many consoles as possible in 2012, including hand-helds, with a new visual style and no doubt filled with new content.

So, can big publishers learn from independent games? THQ recently had a shock moment when they teamed with the Humble Indie bundle guys for their own special collection of games. This is the first time a big publisher has done this kind of deal before and seems very strange for such a huge name to seek help like that. Granted THQ are in big financial trouble right now but this could happen to other big brands soon. Across the world there seems to be a growing sense of annoyance against big publishers and their actions, be it DRM, On-disc DLC or a number of other questionable issues.

Will 2012 be the year of the indies? Is there a more effective way against piracy? Or is it just all down to pricing? let me know what you think Dtoid.   read

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