Friday, November 30, 2012

Intel CPUs, THQ's humble bundle, WiiU guts and Xbox delays

The Midagedgamer report for 11-30-2012

This week: THQ gets a charity bump, Delays on Xbox720, Confirmed! WiiU CPU sucks and Intel CPU sockets in jeopardy!

THQ's seen a slight bump in its share price on Thursday due to an unexpected windfall of 2 million dollars from the success of their Humble bundle program.  The promotion allows the buyer to pay whatever they want for a collection of 7 classic THQ titles including metro 2033 and Company of Heroes.  The buyer can choose how much of the purchase price goes to THQ and charities including Childplay and the American 
Red Cross with the minimum purchase at $1 .  It's a nice influx of cash and the charity tie-in is either brilliant marketing or a new low depending on your sensibilities.  Know this, THQ has already defaulted on loan payments to Wells Fargo and has till January 15th 2013 to settle up.  THQ's share price was $1.45 a share on Friday's close.  If this promotion is successful in pulling THQ out of its financial woes it could mean that THQ may become the bargain bundler of the game industry.

There's a strong rumor, meaning more than just some scribbling on a Chinese website, that the next generation Xbox is due out for Christmas 2013.  Apparently multiple Bloomberg sources close to the next gen console's development say manufacturing problems have pushed back the original September 2013 release date. 

Splash Damage CEO Paul Wedgwood has created a new game publishing house called Warchest to distribute Splash Damage titles.  Their aim is to produce, "free digitally distributed games with high production values for all leading platforms". They've been successful with the strategy on the PC with the classic, "Enemy Territory" and now seek to extend the philosophy across platforms. 
The first hint of what's to come from the publisher is in the form of a teaser trailer for the PC only game, "DirtyBomb" to be followed by "Rad Soldiers" for IOS devices in June of 2013.  "Connectedness" is important to the new publisher so that you can continue your game experience across any device regardless of platform.  Not a bad idea.  It would be nice to play a game on a PC, for example, and pick it up where you left off on an IPAD.

A high profile Wii hacker has published specs on the WiiU on his personal twitter account, @marcan42,  claiming the CPU runs at 1.24 Ghz with the GPU running at 550Mhz.  Those numbers are weak compared to the upcoming next generation Xbox and PS3.  Of course this is a hacker we're talking about but other sources seem to be backing him up.  Last weekend PCPer's Ryan Shrout disassembled his brand new WiiU to peekat its insides as well although the technical specifications weren't as specific.  If you're a Wii fan this information is important to you.

Want to drive a pre-production C7 Corvette?  If you own Gran Turismo 5 you got the car as free DLC on Wednesday.  Funny how the front end looks like an Aston Martin...  Enjoy, PS3 racers!  Sorry Xbox and PC fans, none for you...

If you've managed to avoid the bloodletting that is an Xbox Live Gold account, Microsoft is offering a free weekend to try out the upgraded service.  Much like the pusher giving free samples to kiddies who then continue their habit by stealing mom's rent money...

Well over 100,000 people have petitioned Grand Theft Auto 5 publisher Rockstar games to port the title to the PC.  All I can say is, are you nuts? Since when is a console port ever been a good thing on a PC?  Keep it on the consoles until Rockstar does a dedicated PC version kids.


The proverbial sky may be falling on PC enthusiasts.   A leaked processor roadmap shows that Intel plans to get rid of socketed CPU's in favor of BGA or soldered on mainboard designs after Haswell's successor, Broadwell launches in 2014.  The rumor showed up on a Chinese website and has gained support from motherboard manufacturers since the leak surfaced last week.  Consensus among the pundits ranged from "No big deal" to "not gonna happen."  Of course those who don't think it's a big deal were reporting the news while reading copy from their MacBook Airs. AKA, consumers not enthusiasts.
 It's likely Intel will consolidate its processor lineup and slate the low to middle range processors on the BGA platform.  Mainstream CPU's usually end up in OEM designs anyway so it makes sense to sell assemblies rather than individual components.  The enthusiast market will continue and likely pay whatever Intel wants to charge for the now "niche" discrete CPU offerings on the high end.  With AMD no longer a force and Intel focusing on Broadwell for mobile platforms, expect less choice in your future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Intel's Socket Swan Song?

Article first published as Intel's Socket Swan Song? on Technorati.

Are you the type that enjoys getting up to your elbows in computer parts and the thought of buying a PC from Dell repulses you?  Well then, there's a new rumor based on a supposedly leaked Intel roadmap that shows Intel may be moving from socketed CPU's to permanently soldered designs.  If true that  would spell the end of CPU upgrades and the end of upgrade paths.

The move is said to be related to an attempt to reduce form factors, a benefit for ultrabooks, as well as to lower the electrical resistance of the CPU to motherboard connection thus reducing TDP on their processors.

The next upcoming processor design from Intel is called Haswell and it's due out in the latter half of 2013.  According to our supposed Intel roadmap, 3 of the 5 Haswell designs are socketed with the remainder being soldered designs. 

According to the leaked chart, after Haswell comes Broadwell in 2014 and all those designs are soldered.  What's interesting to note is the question marks in the final column of the chart.  Reading the TDP (power dissipation) numbers it's obvious that the designs that follow the Haswell enthusiast and value CPU families are still up in the air.

The question marks probably say more about future Intel CPU designs than anything else on the chart.
With the explosion of tablet and smartphone devices there's an obvious trend toward more integrated SoC (System on a chip) configurations.  Since few of us will ever see the inside of our mobile devices let alone upgrade the processors, the roadmap seems viable. That doesn't necessarily mean that Intel is throwing out the baby with the bathwater, however.  

First, this is a rumor and the source is questionable.  Second, To move the entire Intel lineup to a soldered design would have a chilling effect on Intel partners and boutique builders who could no longer differentiate their offerings from OEMs.  With Apple signaling a move away from Intel chips and AMD still in play, Intel can't afford to alienate its partners. 

It's far more likely that the SoC designs are meant to lower the cost for OEM's like Dell and Lenovo whose market segment is less concerned about upgradability than price.  Remember, OEM's make most of their money from business customers who tend to turn over rather than upgrade equipment.  An all in one design is cheaper to produce and support for OEM's since they have fewer part SKU's to worry about.  Standardization on a SoC design can also further reduce warranty costs as OEM's are already used to replacing assemblies instead of individual components.

Few power users or enthusiasts would entertain a commoditized product like an OEM desktop to meet their needs, however.  As such Intel is unlikely to limit their choices any time soon.  With AMD no longer a force in the enthusiast market that also opens the door for Intel to raise prices on the remaining enthusiast parts without consequence.

So is the desktop heading for the big sleep?  The guys marketing tablets and smartphones would like you to think so.  It's probably not wise to jump to conclusions based on a rumor, however.  Unless ultrabooks and tablets can satisfy power users and enthusiasts alike,  the demise of the desktop is as Mark Twain said, "premature".

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Deals, Dice branching out and the WiiU has a horrible CPU

The midagedgamer report for 11-23-2012

Black Friday deals, EA want's DICE to expand its horizons and WiiU has a "horrible" CPU.

Well it's that time of year again where it's completely normal to find non-gamers spending all night camped out in front of a Best Buy.  Yes it's Black Friday and there's deals to be had if you're willing to huddle with soccer moms and frazzled fathers on the hunt for this year's "It" gift.

Joystiq has provided links to the best Black Friday deals on gaming this year.  Instead of rehashing what they have I've posted a link in the blog and in the details section of the video.  Enjoy!

If you're looking for a Steam sale your wish has been granted.  Steam's Autumn sale is going on now through November 26th and includes deals like Arma 2 for $14.99, Sleeping Dogs for $24.99 and Borderlands 2 for $44.99.  Check the link for daily, flash and other deals.

The Microsoft store has even better deals on Borderlands 2, NFS: Most Wanted and Dishonored all $24.99, for the Xbox360 that is, PC prices are still...too high.

Check out your Origin client for similar Black Friday deals.  Only good on Black Friday though!

Black Ops 2 hasn't even been out for 2 weeks and there's already patches for all platforms.  Mostly game tweaks and multiplayer issues are being addressed.  This is what happens when you rush a game for the holidays.

Looks like EA wants its #1 development studio to mix it up a bit.  There's currently 3 to 5 new games under development at DICE that have nothing to do with Battlefield.  That's welcome news for two reasons. 
First, Frostbite 2 is too good an engine to limit to just Battlefield games.  A little more variety can push the engine farther and faster.  Second it might stop the annoying, endless tinkering and tweaking of Battlefield 3

It seems the Wii U has a "horrible, slow CPU".  At least according to THQ's development partner 4A on the possibility of an  upcoming port of Metro: Last light to the platform.  THQ needs to have Last Light ready on other platforms including XBOX, PS3 and PC before April due to "assurances made to investors"  making a port to the Nintendo console less of priority in light of THQ's recent financial troubles.  Apparently 4A is a "small studio" and would have issues dedicating another team to a port to the WiiU

Finally,  An amusing image.   I can't help but agree...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Black ops 2, THQ, AMD, & Sinofsky in the news

The Midagedgamer Report for 11-16-2012

This week...

Black ops 2 is here, THQ and AMD's futures uncertain and Windows boss is shown the door.
Black Ops has dropped!  Well, Black Ops 2.  If the gaming press, High Budget commercials or worldwide midnight launch parties on the 13th didn't already alert you then allow me to provide the service.  Black ops 2 brings back Alex Mason and takes you through the 70's and 80's and on to 2025 for futuristic call of Duty action.  I Suppose COD felt the need to put their own twist on BF:2142 in the series.

Black Ops 2 is available now in the U.S. on Xbox, PC and Playstation and for the WiiU November 18th.  It's the 30th in Europe and Japan December 20th.  Of course the price is $59.99 like any other so-called "A-list" title.

You probably heard the news.  Members of Seal Team Six got in  trouble for supposedly divulging "classified" tactics to EA during the development of Medal of Honor: Warfighter.  As bad as the game is it's hard to believe anyone with any tactical training had anything to do with it.  I'm hoping it's all just an administrative foul up.

Seems THQ may not have to worry about the success of their next 3 titles.  The troubled developer's assets are being eyed by Ubisoft.  THQ has already sold the rights to their UFC license to EA earlier this year to raise some capital and last week's stock split didn't help much.  Their stock price continues to hover around the $1 range.  The writing on the wall predicts that THQ is going to be picked over by the buzzards instead of rising from its own ashes.

Are you happy now Windows 8 haters???

You scared little Steven away!

Steven Sinofsky that is...

Not really, Steve Ballmer actually showed him the door and it had nothing to do with Windows 8 sales numbers...

Steven Sinofsky the man responsible for the new look of Windows on PC's and tablets has left the building.  When asked about the reasons for his departure the standard breakup line of "It's me, not them" was offered up. 

"Some might notice a bit of chatter speculating about this decision or timing. I can assure you that none could be true as this was a personal and private choice that in no way reflects any speculation or theories one might read — about me, opportunity, the company or its leadership,"

That "speculation" may have something to do with his reputation of being a divisive force within Microsoft and generally not pleasant to work for if your viewpoint wasn't completely in line with his.  Inside sources claim that Sinofsky's absolute rule of the Windows division pushed aside the tradition of collaboration among other Microsoft groups causing rifts.  That would explain the lack of a unified programming interface across the new Windows variants including phone and RT.

So it appears that you either loathed or loved the guy, with the former being more common.     
Picking up the reigns of Windows engineering is Julie Larson-Green who after joining Microsoft in 1997 was responsible for the much loved (sarcasm there) ribbon interface in office 2007.  I passionately hate the ribbon but others  are equally passionate in their praise of it.  Let's hope her future decisions are less polarizing.  One thing is for certain, she'll need to brush up her keynote skills over what we saw in the Win 8 launch event.

What does this have to do with gaming? 90% of games are played on a Windows platform.  Even if you don't plan an upgrade soon, at some point you'll have to deal with Sinofsky's legacy.

AMD is not, repeat not selling off the company...yet. 

So why are they working with J.P. Morgan to figure out the value of their assets.  AMD hasn't been doing as well in the mobile and desktop processor space as it's competition over the last half decade.   With limited mobile products and lackluster processor offerings that long ago ceded the market to Intel.  The only bright spot is their graphics division which is the only division that's remained profitable. 

It's hard to understand how a company that pioneered the now ubiquitous ideas of multiple CPU cores, and on CPU graphics could have fallen on such hard times.  AMD was largely responsible for bringing 64 bit computing and workstation level performance to the mainstream user.  That kind of innovation almost toppled the giant that is Intel who was caught resting on its laurels with more power hungry and less efficient designs.

AMD's been through too many management changes in the years since it lost the processor wars with Intel and decided to be the "value" option.  The trouble with that strategy is that Intel has been able to crush AMD's engineered "value" offerings by simply releasing gimped versions of their high end products into the channel at competitive prices and competitive if not better performance.    

Last year AMD officially ceded the performance and most of the mainstream processor market to Intel.  In essence, they just gave up on performance and decided to try to change the market instead.  It was the safer bet but in such a competitive space the safe  doesn't translate to a dominant market position. 

AMD is looking at possibly selling off patents and IP (Intellectual Property) to try to stay afloat.  Perhaps they need to go all in instead of treading water as they have been doing.  If AMD leaves the chip market entirely expect prices and innovation to further stagnate.  Worse, expect to pay whatever Intel and Nvidia want to charge you for the parts in your next game rig.

Hey what a surprise! Somebody's going to make a movie based on a popular videogame!

The next installment in our, "Hollywood is bereft of an original idea" series is an upcoming movie based on Deus Ex: Human Revolution.   Hot on the heels of that news is the announcement that it will have a director.  His name is Scott Derrickson whose credits include "Sinister" whatever that was. 

It's not really a surprise with so much crossover between the gaming industry and Hollywood.  It would just be nice to see more movies like StarGate or WarGames that don't have a game or comic book as their basis.

The real question is at what point will seeing a movie be superfluous because everyone already played the game it's based on?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Free Battlefield, THQ troubles, Blizzard in the bux

The midagedgamer report for 11-9-2012

This week...Battlefield is Free and it's not that goofy Flash game either, Game publishers make too much money for crappy games, THQ delays 3 games in hopes of stopping their circle around the drain and more!

Free Battlefield!  1942 that is,

On Tuesday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Battlefield series of games EA began offering the original Battlefield that started them all for free on Origin.   Battlefield 1942 will take 1.6 gigabytes of space and includes the most recent updates.  A word of warning.  The game is 10 years old and  was originally designed for Windows XP and a Pentium 3 CPU.  Also know that the game doesn't appear to support widescreen resolutions natively but will run on Windows 7.  Not a bad deal for a free game and there are plenty of multiplayer servers available.  Enjoy a little nostalgia and see where it all started.

Are you the type that just likes to watch? Well Origin might just be able to satisfy your voyeuristic tendencies.  EA has partnered with online game streamer TWITCH to allow live viewing of your gaming from  EA's Origin service.  You can bet there's going to be a spike in YouTube game videos from EA titles.  Guess the publisher better loosen up its copyright!

World of Warcraft claims its subscriber base has grown to 10 million after it's Mist of Pandaria release.  Guess the fantasy RPG world has fallen in love with furry samurai pandas..

Diablo 3 has passed 10 million sales and an expansion is coming.  In related news Activision/Blizzard says it made 100 million more than its third quarter revenue forecast of 740 million coming in at 841 million.  They also report that they have 3.4 billion in cash and investments and no debt.  Unlike their customers who continue to get fleeced. 

Halo 4 came out on Election day (November 6th) and so far it's getting good reviews.  The XBOX360 exclusive taken over by new developer 343 Industries appears to be carrying on the tradition started by Bungie.  $59.99 gets you back on board with Master Chief.

THQ publisher of the upcoming Company of Heroes 2 and Metro :Last Light as well as South Park: The Stick of Truth has decided to delay release of the titles till spring of 2013.  THQ is betting the farm on these releases and needs a hit if it wants to stay in business.  Jason Rubin, President of THQ says the reason for the delay is,

"without extra time for polish in the current environment, would lead to underperformance that could in turn lead to future additional capital shortfalls".

THQ has had some serious financial issues lately that began with a reverse stock split a few months ago.  THQ was forced into the move to avoid getting delisted on the NASDAQ for falling below $1 a share in value.  So far THQ's financial woes continue and  most recently have culminated in a 50% loss in share value on November 6th.  Hope it works out for them but of the 3 titles Metro: Last Light is the only prospect that has mass market appeal.

Oh yay, more SkyRim DLC from Bethesda.  When is this game going to go away already.  Anyway the new "DragonBorn" DLC is set for release on the XBOX360 on December 4th.  PS3 and PC release dates are unknown.  Why don't they just start a subscription model already.  It takes Bethesda years to make Elder Scrolls sequels so they might as well milk the franchise like everyone else.

In a statement obvious to any PC gamer Chris Roberts was quoted this week in an interview with ARS Technica as saying,

"You can do most of it on a next generation console, but I can promise you a top-end PC now is already more powerful than what a next generation console is going to be."

In response to whether  his new release Star Citizen would be available on a console..
I certainly hope so, Chris.  I'm tired of games being dumbed down for console compatibility..

Fall has come to Caledonia and the lush green hills have been replaced with golden landscapes.  Ok, for the uninitiated Caledonia is the setting for Lord of Ultima and they've deployed seasonal textures to the maps.  Nice look and a break from all that green!

If you're a fan of Star Wars and MMO's you may want to listen up.  Bioware has announced that Star Wars: The old Republic will go to a Free to Play model on November 15th.  Not quite a giveaway, however, as they're only unlocking 50 levels and will keep a paid subscription model in place.  Pay to play gets more options, features and game content.  If they follow the Star Trek online model it would be a welcome addition to current Free MMO's.  If pay for play lets you mop the floor with the free to play players it'll fail.  The nice thing about a good F2P MMO like Star Trek Online is that you can enjoy the game without having to buy upgrades just to survive.  In the end most people pony up the cash, willingly.  We'll see if EA (Bioware's parent) can stifle their greed.

Yay! more Grand Theft Auto 5 details released....I've posted a link because I don't really care...

Getting a little tired of the scenery of Skyrim?  Well Bethesda is working on a new MMO called Elder Scrolls Online.  It's due out in 2013 on both the PC and the Mac.  This explains why they didn't bother to do a co-op or multiplayer option in Skyrim.  Just what we need another overpriced subscription based MMO.

Finally a suggestion.

This may seem obvious but to older gamers there may be some resistance to what I'm about to propose.  I know I was resistant to the idea at first.  Should you find yourself frequenting a particular podcast or forum and there's any chance of joining an online multiplayer game with like minded fans, just do it.  Older gamers may not be into the whole "social" thing so spending time with strange people even online may be uncomfortable.  Get over it.  Multiplayer gaming is exponentially more satisfying when you're playing with people you share a common interest with outside of the game.  It's one of the reasons I enjoy co-op games with my friends and why I don't pay much attention to online FPS games unless I can play with someone I know.

That's it for this week and don't forget to check out the links below.  Click the "Show More" below the video to see them...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Battlefield 3 - Employee Benefits

Roaming around on my own in an empty Firestorm DM map I got bored and decided to take a look around. Imagine my surprise when I saw the DICE employee benefits plan on a billboard.

An idle FPS gamer is a dangerous thing..


Friday, November 2, 2012

Schilling Sued, Warfighter Sucks and NFS most UNwanted

The Midaged Gamer Report 11-2-2012

This week: Curt Schilling's getting sued, EA admits that Medal of Honor Warfighter sucks and Most Wanted is great, except for that crashing in the cities thing...

Portal 2 for PS3 is getting some new DLC next week.  "In Motion" is the new DLC is coming out November 6th from Sixense and has 20 levels designed for the Playstation Move controller.  The DLC is priced at $9.99 with a discount of 30% for Playstation Plus subscription holders.

Hey, want a free copy of Crysis?  Then go get yourself hooked up with the  Crysis 3 pre-order and EA will graciously let you download the first Crysis for free.  Due out February of 2013, the pre-order will provide you with a code to download the game.  PC players can use EA's Origin client, PS3 can use PSN and Xbox live for Xbox players.

This is your chance to take advantage of yet another milked franchise in EA's dairy farm. 

Former baseball great Curt Schilling's game development studio, 38 Studios recently went under, that we knew.  This week the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation has filed suit against the principals of the failed company including Schilling seeking to get their $75 million investment back.  Their claim is that the company was mismanaged and that the state's investment was" squandered."

 The part they left out was that nobody thought to do an assessment of the game developer before loaning them the money.  At the time the 38 Studios was working on Project Copernicus.

Liquidation of 38 Studio's assets have only netted the state $830,000 so they've decided to go after the management.  Good luck with that.  It's called Bankruptcy protection for a reason.  Want to blame someone for losing 75 million?  How about the state officials that let the deal happen.  Governor Lincoln Chaffee stated,

"I know you work hard for your paychecks and for your tax dollars to be squandered is unacceptable.  The board's legal action was taken to rectify a grave injustice put upon the people of Rhode Island"
Really?  Where was all that concern when your state made the loan?  Sounds like straw man to me.

I'm sure they'll blame it on Obama somehow...

I love PS4 news.  It gives me a chance to say..."Orbis" and do the funny hand thing...
Apparently game studios have begun receiving new PS4 development kits based on AMD's A10 APU series which includes a built in GPU.  While impressive, the A10 APU's integrated graphics can best Intel's integrated offerings but don't say much more than that for the platform without a performance GPU.  Although they are saying they'll support 1080P (not 4K) gaming which isn't exactly stressful for even midrange GPU's these days unless you're playing Crysis.  Look for the announcement at next June's E3 conference.

Halo 4 is coming out November 6th and so far reviewers like it.  I don't know anything about it but if you do at least you can say I told you about it.  Looks to be around $55 for the Xbox 360.

Borderlands 2 has sold 5 million copies to date says 2K parent Take 2.  Guess there's no economic downturn after all with $60 pre-orders and the $30 season pass that gets you access to all the upcoming  DLC.  Oh yeah and Borderlands: Legends is out for IOS now.

Poor EA, First they announce that their lackluster upcoming release of Medal of Honor: Warfighter and canceled NBA game, NBA Live 13 would cause a soft quarter then a day later blame the loss on disappointing "packaged" (boxed) sales.

New CEO Blake Jorgensen may be learning the lesson his predecessor didn't. Specifically that EA can't get away with premium prices for substandard products.   The official numbers for quarter 2 show EA lost a net 381 million.  They blame it on declining packaged sales but state digital sales were up.  A loss is a loss EA, learn your lesson and don't push overpriced garbage on your customers.

At least EA can be proud of their 30 million Origin subscribers.  Although that isn't saying much considering PC gamers with EA titles in their collection are stuck with it if they want to play their games.  It's the same kind of worthless statistic as the number of driver's licenses issued.  Not like you have a choice if you want to take that Prius out for a spin.

Whoopee! Battlefield 3 premium subscriptions topped 2 million this month.  Somebody got a hold of mom's credit card..

Ok, I can care less about Assassin's Creed 3 but some people do.   So I found it amusing that players of the newly released game on the Xbox and PS3 (PC version coming in late December) already had a patch waiting for them on launch day.  Nice that Ubisoft is on top of the issues but how did this get by the QA department?  There are a lot of fixes in that patch!  What, 3 years since the last major release wasn't enough time?

Been waiting to rekindle those warm fuzzies of rising through the ranks of the criminal underworld by offing the competition and murdering prostitutes?  Well your wait is almost over with the announcement of Grand theft Auto 5 releasing in the Spring of 2013.  Apparently this iteration will be a sun and sand affair with bikini clad victims to match the decor.  Pre-orders begin November 5th for PS3 and Xbox 360.

Finally, it seems EA's new Need For Speed Most Wanted is a great looking arcade racer with an open world layout that is both liberating and annoying.  Apparently there's been reports of a number of game crashes when trying to speed through cities and roads to nowhere due to flaws in the open world design.  Might be worth a look when it goes on sale and maybe a few patches.  By the way I mean sale as in discount not full retail.

That's it for this week.