While the Nintendo Switch continues to build an impressive library of video games, the previous generation Nintendo devices are slowly beginning to lose access to their streaming services.
Official art for Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. (Obsidian press kit) This weekend marked Microsoft’s, the fourth-annual showcase for the Xbox family of products, held in Mexico City. A lot was announced, including an upcoming expansion for Forza Horizon 4, but the biggest story of the show was that . Both studios are legendary within the video game industry for making big, immersive, and popular role-playing games like Wasteland 2, The Bard’s Tale, Fallout: New Vegas, and Pillars of Eternity. On Microsoft’s side, this puts two veteran studios in the company’s portfolio, which offers the prospect that the next couple of big computer role-playing games (CRPGs) will be exclusive to Microsoft platforms. This is especially useful as talk has recently begun to spin up concerning the next , with rumors of a new Xbox coming in 2020. If both Obsidian and InXile make new Microsoft-exclusive CRPGs, it would be a big feather in the company’s cap going forward, particularly in the enthusiast market and press. For Obsidian and InXile, both studios have recently been reliant on in order to make their games, and crowdfunding tends to be driven by the nostalgia market. Access to Microsoft’s funding would allow both companies to explore new intellectual properties, take their time with new projects, and work with more flexible budgets. (You could draw a parallel between Obsidian/InXile and the Seattle-based Harebrained Studios, which was in a similar boat until .) was founded in 2003 in Irvine, California by veterans of the then-recently-shuttered Black Isle Entertainment, a division of Interplay. While working at Black Isle, the Obsidian team was responsible for some of the most popular CRPGs of the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Fallout, Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, and Neverwinter Nights. As an independent developer, Obsidian’s first big project was 2004’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. Since then, the company has done work-for-hire in several major franchises, such as South Park, Sonic The Hedgehog, and Fallout, before becoming one of the first big crowdfunding successes in gaming with its throwback series Pillars of Eternity. was founded in 2002 by Brian Fargo, one of Interplay’s co-founders, after his departure from the company; InXile’s name is taken from about being Interplay’s “leader in exile.” The new company’s first title was 2004’s The Bard’s Tale, an action-RPG that gently mocked the conventions of the genre and starred Cary Elwes as the voice of its main character. After making Hunted: The Demon’s Forge for Bethesda, InXile got back on the industry’s radar by revisiting the old post-apocalyptic Wasteland franchise, using money from a successful Kickstarter to make 2014’s Wasteland 2, which was recently ported to the Nintendo Switch. InXile currently maintains studios in Newport Beach, Calif. and New Orleans, La., and is currently working on Wasteland III. Other big announcements that came out of X018 include: “Fortune Island,” the new expansion for the Microsoft-exclusive racing game , which brings players to the stormy northern British Isles on December 13th; All Microsoft Game Pass holders receiving a copy of the smash hit PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on November 12th; New content packs coming for State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves; and, The official debut of Void Bastards (no, really, that’s the actual title), a bizarre strategy-based first-person shooter from one of the co-founders of the late Irrational Games, makers of the BioShock series.
is continuing to invest in a broad spectrum of developers for its Xbox gaming ecosystem with the acquisition of Obsidian and InXile, makers of complex RPGs primarily aimed at PC users. The two studios will join four others snatched up in June, significantly bolstering Xbox’s first-party development resources. The company announced the acquisitions (rumored for some time) at its XO18 event alongside numerous other interesting developments for the Xbox One and Windows gaming platforms. Xbox Director of Programming Larry Hyrb, better known by his pseudonym Major Nelson, welcomed them to the Microsoft Studios team of owned but independent devs: So happy to welcome and to the Xbox family. Look forward to working with you and your teams on future projects! — Larry Hryb @ X018 (@majornelson) Of the two studios Obsidian is probably the best known; Fallout: New Vegas is a modern classic of the open world genre, while Pillars of Eternity and its enormous sequel are a welcome revival of the classic isometric PC RPG. InXile is a bit more niche, though also successful: the Wasteland, Torment, and Bard’s Tale games are similarly appreciated by RPG lovers. The studios will, like the others in Microsoft’s stable, be given significant operational independence, not folded into some internal unit. Microsoft announced the acquisition of Compulsion, Undead Labs, Ninja Theory, and Playground Games in June. But what’s clear from the more recent gets, that the earlier ones didn’t necessarily indicate, is a big focus on core PC gamers. Microsoft has had a rather mixed mission in that it wants to ensure the success of its Xbox One (and future) consoles, but also wants to bring the huge population of PC gamers into the fold somehow. It would help offset the significant but yet necessarily decisive lead Sony has in the ongoing console wars. Numerous efforts over the years have failed to impress them and some are in fact still ridiculed. But the collection of some seriously PC-first developers commanding a hardcore audience may help bring some PC gaming wisdom to the Xbox world. Although console exclusives are not as appreciated as they once were — gamers value cross-platform play far more — it doesn’t help to have a couple to sway undecided buyers or even tempt consumers to buy both. These acquisitions suggest an investment in Microsoft’s first-party development platform that could help close the gap, or prepare a real blitz for the next generation of consoles. The studios issued videos talking about their take on the development, which you can watch below: And now, a very special announcement from us here at Obsidian on becoming a part of the Microsoft family! — Obsidian (@Obsidian) Some big news for Entertainment today! Here to talk about it is inXile CEO . We’re excited about the future and our ability to continue to bring you great role playing games! — InXile Entertainment (@Inxile_Ent)
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The worm has turned, it seems. Emulators, which let people run old console games on their computers, were once the scourge of the gaming industry. Now is using one of the very pieces of software the industry decried as the basis for its retro console. In the licenses list for the console can be found PCSX ReArmed, . That’s the ARM port of PCSX Reloaded, itself an offshoot of the original PCSX emulator, which ceased development in 2003. Don’t worry, it’s not a crime or anything: Sony is well within its rights to do this. It’s just ironic, and indicative of the hard work emulator developers have done for over two decades, that a tool most famously (though by no means exclusively) used for piracy is being deployed officially like this. PCSX and its derivatives are open source under GPL. It’s a huge vindication of these rogue developers, as you might call them, whose software based on reverse-engineering the proprietary systems of major companies has grown to be not just useful but the best option for running these old games — as chosen by Sony itself! has an interesting thread about why this is so mind-blowing for some of us. It also makes sense to a certain extent: Sony would have had to dedicate a non-trivial amount of resources to building an emulator from scratch, or (even more complex) rebuilding the PlayStation hardware in some fashion. Why not use a high-quality, open-source emulator with years of active development and testing? Not every company has made that same choice, though: Nintendo, for its NES and SNES Classic mini-consoles, developed its own emulators, as it did before for Virtual Console (and indeed inside Animal Crossing on GameCube). But even then, those devices run on a custom Linux build, which of course uses a similar open-source license. So one way or the other the gaming world is finding itself in bed with the open-source community. It’s true that the emulators themselves were never really illegal — unless they used some proprietary code or something. It was always the ROMs themselves, copies of games, that companies fought hardest against. But emulators have always lived in a sort of grey area, even if few actions were taken against them. The last few years have seen a resurgence in interest for retro games and a willingness to pay for them, but if emulators hadn’t been letting us do that for free for decades, there’s a good chance that many of these games would have been forgotten.
A Utah man has pleaded guilty to computer hacking charges, after admitting to knocking several gaming services offline five years ago. Austin Thompson, 23, launched several denial-of-service attacks against EA’s Origin, Sony Playstation and Valve’s Steam gaming services during the December holiday season in 2013. At the time, those denial-of-service attacks made it near-impossible for some gamers to play — many of which had bought new consoles or games in the run-up to Christmas, including League of Legends and Dota 2, because they required access to the network. Specifics of Thompson’s plea deal were not publicly available at the time of writing, but prosecutors said Thompson — aged 18 at the time of the attacks — flooded the gaming giants’ networks “with enough internet traffic to take them offline.” Thompson would take to his Twitter account, to announce his targets ahead of time, and posted screenshots of downed services in the aftermath of his attacks. Thompson’s attacks caused upwards of $95,000 in damages, prosecutors said. “The attacks took down game servers and related computers around the world, often for hours at a time,” said Adam Braverman, district attorney for Southern California, in a statement. “Denial-of-service attacks cost businesses millions of dollars annually,” said Braverman. “We are committed to finding and prosecuting those who disrupt businesses, often for nothing more than ego.” Thompson faces up to ten years in prison, is set to be scheduled to be sentenced in March.