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Shacknews - Steve Watts

While the Xbox One turning on with the sound of your voice made for an impressive stage presentation, it didn't take long for the Internet to notice: doesn't that mean it's listening all the time? Today, in a bevy of new information that also included online checks and game licensing, Microsoft attempted to put fears at ease with more detail about the new Kinect's privacy settings.

In a detailed announcement, Microsoft stated that you'll personalize your Kinect during start-up. That will let you pick which settings are on from the start, and you can turn the sensor on, off, or pause it. When the Kinect is off, Microsoft says, it's only listening for the command "Xbox on," but you can disable that feature as well. When the Xbox One is in use, Microsoft is careful to note that it's not recording or uploading any conversation. Finally, you can use other inputs if you just want to turn off or pause the Kinect.

Concerning personal data, Microsoft claims that nothing will leave your Xbox One without explicit, expressed permission. It uses examples like a fitness game measuring heart data or a card game that views your face to determine the strength of a bluff.

This is all much more specific than the information we heard late last month, which simply promised privacy settings without going into detail.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Almost as soon as the Xbox One announcement ended, we started hearing contradictory tales from Microsoft regarding the system's connectivity requirements. The last two weeks have apparently given the company a chance to get its messaging straight, as it finally clarified today just how often the system needs to check in.

As confirmed on the official site the system will require an online check-in every 24 hours on your primary console. If you're accessing your game library on someone else's system, that window gets narrowed to every hour. The page warns: "Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies."

This is similar to what Phil Harrison told Kotaku, which apparently let the cat out of the bag early. Microsoft quickly told Polygon he was merely describing "potential scenarios."

More mundane details include the recommended connection speed (1.5Mbps), and the ability to sign in and install games from your friend's house to play them there. That's certainly convenient, but the one-hour check-in time might make it less welcoming.

Shacknews - Steve Watts
Steam announced a new "Family Sharing" feature today, and is accepting beta applications to test it. When it launches fully, close friends and family will be able to play one another's games, while still earning their own achievements and saving their individual progress through the cloud.
Shacknews - Robert Workman

At one point, it seemed as if Ubisoft was settling on an October release period for its Assassin's Creed games, as if it were trying to get the jump on Activision's Call of Duty franchise, as well as whatever else was coming out in November. This year, however, things are a little different.

Ubisoft posted a new blog today talking about the importance of Unity, talking about the pratfalls of making a new AC game for the next generation, as well as the obstacles that got in its way. However, the team was happy to announce that the game finally has a release date, as it'll arrive for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on November 11th.

That sandwiches the game right between Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (November 4th) and Ubi's own Far Cry 4 (November 18th), assuring that we're going to be quite busy in just a few months' time. The game was originally intended for an October date, but this will make sure that everything is covered in terms of development time and getting things done.

Be sure to check back for more Unity coverage in the weeks ahead!

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Bungie is ready to flush away the summer doldrums, once and for all, when Destiny releases in less than two weeks. The studio recently traveled to Gamescom to show off some more of the game's competitive multiplayer, which gave Shacknews a chance to catch up with community manager Eric Osborne for a chat.

Osborne detailed some of Destiny's multiplayer design, even noting that some Major League Gaming players have been brought in to help ensure that it's a fun and balanced experience. Of course, don't necessarily read into this as a venture into eSports.

"Whether or not eSports players take it up is really up to them," Osborne told Shacknews. "Like any other community endeavor, we look for them to latch on and look for some ownership and so if they do that, we'll support them."

For more on Destiny's competitive multiplayer and the eSports front, check out the video below.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Prior to hitting PAX Prime, the folks at Iron Galaxy took to Twitch to reveal some new details about Killer Instinct and the upcoming second season. Most notably, the crew detailed some of the balance tweaks that will affect all characters, which are set to arrive on September 23.

Iron Galaxy's Adam Keits opened the stream by noting that the changes can be accessed by anyone on this September date, regardless of whether or not they have early access to TJ Combo. The team went on to demonstrate some of the new mechanics set to be introduced, such as the air combo breaker, which was first announced at Evo. All combo breaker mechanics, including shadow combo breakers and counter breakers will likewise work with air combos, as well.

Other changes include damage adjustment for opening and closing hits and various bug fixes. The full change list for the game, as well as each individual character, can be found on Iron Galaxy's forums. You can also watch the archived stream below to watch the individual changes in action, as well as some new gameplay footage for TJ Combo. Season two will kick off on October 15.

Watch live video from IronGalaxy on Twitch

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Microsoft is rolling out the new September update for Xbox One a little bit early, not waiting for the month of August to fully end. The new update is formally adding media support for USB devices. It also focuses on users beyond North America, while improving the Party App and adding some new capabilities to Xbox SmartGlass.

Those using USB 2.0 or 3.0 drives will now be able to plug them into an Xbox One slot and access their music, movies, and pictures, including animated gifs. DLNA support is expected by the end of the year.

Users in the Party App can now designate a party leader, who can add or remove party members at any time. Party members can also better keep an eye on one another to see what everyone's doing. Meanwhile, SmartGlass will get the ability to post messages and share anything from the Activity Feed and Game Clips.

Among the other additions are a bandwidth usage display, which will reveal how much bandwidth is being used. This is being added to help anyone whose ISPs are imposing bandwidth caps on them. Users will also be able to boot directly to TV, while Xbox One owners in Australia, French Canada, Italy, Spain, and Mexico can now take advantage of Kinect voice commands to boot the console.

For the full list of changes, check out Major Nelson's site and watch the video below.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Payday 2 has largely been well-received by people that love robbing banks with their friends. However, as our interview with Overkill Software has indicated, there is a sector of players that are unsatisfied with the XP and reward allocation system. The developers are now ready to address this with a new open beta.

The 134mb open beta was detailed on Steam earlier today. The beta will focus on network stability, while also looking to try out a refined money/XP allocation system. Overkill will be taking player feedback before issuing a larger update to the public.

For more on the update, check out the game's Steam announcements page.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The new generation has been an unquestionable success. PlayStation 4 is selling at a faster rate than either the PS2 or PS3 at this point in their lifecycles, and Xbox One isn't too far behind. Given this success, why are publishers so reluctant to embrace it?

The release calendar tells the tale. More than anything, this is a year of hedging bets. Much has been made of the flurry of delays, and by looking at both the delayed games and the ones that remained in this year, a pattern starts to emerge. Pop quiz: What do Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3, The Division, and Evolve have in common? All of these high-profile delays are new-gen exclusives.

Cross-generation games, by contast, are consistently staying in this year's calendar cycle. Almost every third-party game still on-tap for this calendar year will be on both the current and last generation of consoles. The notable exception is Assassin's Creed Unity, which today received a slight delay but remained within this year. Still, Ubisoft has gone out of its way to make sure a last-gen game is coming too with Assassin's Creed Rogue.

Given the pattern, it's hard to shake the distinct feeling that publishers are simply uneasy about this generation. An extra holiday season would give them the opportunity to launch into a marketplace with higher install bases.

But why should they be nervous, when the new consoles are doing so well? 

The unprecedented longevity of the last generation may play a role. Generations of consoles had always lasted roughly 4-5 years before being replaced. PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 went almost twice that long. Through a combination of longevity and general growth in the games industry, publishers were able to enjoy a period of greater success and profits than ever before. Each console counted its number in the tens of millions of units. Capturing even a tiny fraction of those could put a game into the black.

Enter the new generation. Development costs are on the rise, and the most successful new console has sold a comparatively paltry 10 million units. While before a game could easily recoup by capturing only a small fragment of console owners, these hurdles mean a new-gen exclusive needs to get into a much higher percentage of console owners' homes to turn a profit. It's no wonder third-parties are hedging.

It's notable that first-party games aren't falling into the same trap. Games like Driveclub and Sunset Overdrive are still on-track, specifically because they're tied to the fate of the new consoles. Instead of publishers avoiding a release in an uncertain market, these are being funded to help sell more consoles and, by extension, make the marketplace safer and more inviting for third-parties. Microsoft has also started to shore up third-parties, with the announcement that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be exclusive to its platforms. When a first-party game is delayed, like The Order: 1886, it's likely for the generally standard rationale of finishing or improving the game. 

While that's fine for the short term, third-parties will need to take a bolder approach, and preferably soon. Holding on to the safe, reassuring glow of the last generation is bound to stifle creativity and progression in the medium. The new generation was already overdue with games starting to spin their wheels, and a leap forward in technology will help ambitious developers create new experiences. As long as publishers are playing it safe with cross-gen titles, the new-gen versions will just be prettier versions of the games we've already been playing for years. That hurts everyone involved.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Another week, another batch of downloadable games for the 3DS and Wii U through Nintendo's eShop. This week looks particularly busy, so let's get started.

On Wii U, players can get their hands on the strategy action game SteamWorld Dig ($9.99), which features superb animation and a huge exploration theme, as you dig your way through levels to find hidden goodies. Also available is the mysterious space game The Fall ($9.99), with a retro-style 2D exploration theme and plenty of chills.

If you prefer Virtual Console games, there are two to choose from. The usually rare Donkey Kong Jr. Math ($4.99) is a good "edutainment" game that teaches you the basics with everyone's favorite ape, while Mega Man X3 ($7.99) brings the Blue Bomber back, in a game that would otherwise cost you a couple of hundred to own in physical form.

In addition, Zen Pinball 2 has four new tables available, including The Walking Dead, Doctor Strange, Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy, and various games have been marked down for discount, including Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist, which will be $19.99 after September 1st, as well as various Capcom titles, like DuckTales: Remastered and Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara.

On the 3DS, there are plenty of games to choose from. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney ($29.99) is now available, mixing the two characters' game universes in fine form. Keiji Inafune's latest effort, Azure Striker Gunvolt ($14.99) is also ready to download, bringing side-scrolling shooting to nostalgic 8-bit fans.

Other games include Outback Pet Rescue 3D ($19.99) and Thorium Wars: Attack of the Skyfighter ($7.99), as well as discounts on Capcom titles like Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition and Resident Evil games.


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