Microsoft Plans to Offer Combined Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live into $14.99-a-month subscription

According to Twitter User Walking Cat and corroborated by , Microsoft will soon announce an enhanced Xbox Game Pass subscription that will combine Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass into a single monthly payment.

According to The Verge, Microsoft will announce the new combined subscription along with the disc-less Xbox One S Digital Edition either shortly before or during E3 2019 in June.

I’ve been wanting to try out Game Pass, but I could never justify paying for both Game Pass and Xbox Live, but it looks like Microsoft is willing to sweeten the pot for

[Source: ]

Microsoft Announces Xbox Game Pass Service

Microsoft has announced today via the official Xbox Blog, a new service called Xbox Game Pass, that will give gamers access to hundreds of titles for $9.99 per month.

At Xbox, we put gamers at the center of everything we do and remain committed to giving you the freedom to play the games you want, with the friends you want, on the devices you want. This year is shaping up to be an exciting one for gamers. As we prepare to launch Project Scorpio this holiday, bringing the most powerful console ever made to the Xbox One family of devices, we continue to make platform improvements to connect the growing community of players on Xbox Live and add to a robust and diverse portfolio of games across Xbox One and Windows 10.

Today, we’re continuing our commitment to give you more options to diversify and expand your library of games with Xbox Game Pass, a new gaming subscription service coming later this spring. Xbox Game Pass gives you unlimited access to over 100 Xbox One and backward compatible Xbox 360 games – all for $9.99 per month.

Sounds like a Microsoft version of EA Access or a gaming version of Netflix, if you will.

An interesting concept, and at one time, this would’ve resonated with me. I love gaming (obviously), but I can’t see myself using this service to its full potential to justify the cost. I also have concerns over the size of library and quality of the library.

Microsoft promises that new games will be added every month and that subscribers will get additional discounts if you want to purchase game add-ons or DLC. You don’t need to be an Xbox Gold subscriber to sign-up for Game Pass, but you won’t be able to play multiplayer games, which is a bit of a bummer.

Xbox Game Pass is slated for launch Spring 2017.

[Source: http://news.xbox.com/2017/02/28/introducing-xbox-game-pass/#8h280JBK6Rbhe3bw.99%5D

[Source: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/xbox-game-pass%5D

Halloween Overwatch Themes Are Out

Still playing Overwatch? I have moved on, but may return just to gawk at these fun looking Halloween skins.

Starting October 11 and running until November 1, all in game loot boxes will be replaced with a glowing Jack-O-Lantern containing the Halloween themed skins.

I’m not normally into Holiday themed skins, but the folks at Blizzard on the Overwatch team has done a good job with these ones. I’m certainly going to give it a look see.

 

Hackers Responsible for Ruining Christmas of 2014 Charged

You may recall that if you got a game or a console back in Christmas of 2014 and wanted to play online either on the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live, you were out of luck. Since many consoles require day one online patches, Christmas morning of 2014 was sad time for gamers.

Justice may soon be served, as two members of hacker group Lizard Squad, which took responsibility for the denial of service attacks, have been charged in Chicago according to a press release by the US Department of Justice.

Lizard Squad drew the attention of U.S. authorities during an investigation into website phonebomber.net, which enabled paying customers to select victims to receive repeated harassing phone calls from spoofed numbers. However, it wasn’t until after the launch of phonebomber.net, where members of Lizard Squad started a denial-of-service attack against online gaming networks and began boasted about them on Twitter.

If found guilty, the accused could receive a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

 

 

Thanks for Ruining My Summer, Video Game Industry

Summer is a time of year that I look forward to.  The long days are perfect for spending time outside being active and on hot days I look forward to taking a ride to the beach, or down the shore, as we say in the Jerz.

Of course, the best thing about summer is grilling large amounts of red meat outside then trying to shove as much of as possible into my face while washing it down with a refreshing cold beer.

Because of all the outdoor activities that become available during the summer months, playing video games usually becomes a low priority. It also helps that video game makers avoid releasing video games during the summer months. It’s as if doing so would make them susceptible to bad humors which will give them the plague.

I never understood why publishers don’t release games during the summer months. Students who are in school are either on break or have greatly reduced schedules.  Those who are working can also expect additional time off for holidays, summer Fridays, and folks generally take time off for vacations. For the most part, people have more time in the summer, so one would think that publishers would take advantage of that.

The movie industry certainly takes advantage of this.  Summers are when big blockbusters are released. Big, stupid, action oriented popcorn flicks are a summertime staple as the studios generally save the more serious stuff for the holidays, which makes sense, right?

The gaming industry however, has been stuck in a rut of releasing everything worthwhile in this tiny 4-month window between September and December. Sure, you’ll want to capitalize on holiday gift giving, but all these big releases so close together causes cannibalization among the big budget titles and smaller titles get lost in the shuffle.

You would think that publishers would want to spread out their release calendar a bit. Why not give the consumer a steady stream of titles throughout the year, instead of a glut all at one time? It just makes sense. Who are these amazingly smart executives making the decisions at these big companies anyway?

Okay, that’s not fair, but I can’t help myself.

This year, however, I’ve noticed a shift. There are a decent amount of good games coming out this spring which is going to force me to play throughout the summer.

Uncharted 4, Doom, and Battleborn have already been released and are solid if not exceptional games. However, just over the horizon we have Overwatch coming out in late May, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst in early June, No Man’s Sky in late June, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in late August.  All of these games are AAA titles, which is a rarity for the summer months.

Uncharted 4 is an awesome game that his lived up to all the hype and I’m thoroughly enjoying it right now.  Doom, a game in which many thought was going to be pure shit due to a review embargo has actually turned out to be more than decent and warrants a purchase. Not to mention, Doom and especially Overwatch, are solid multiplayer titles that will have long life spans.

Also, all the hype and general high praise for Overwatch during its beta has piqued my interest, and not just because Tracer has a beautiful rear end. I wonder what my good friend Pacino thinks?

Doom and Overwatch alone would have taken up my entire summer, but I had no idea that No Man’s Sky was scheduled for the summer. This title alone appears to be a total time suck just by the nature of this game’s style alone.

It’s actually a good thing that there are no big trips scheduled this summer and we just have “staycations” planned. Of course, my wife can make an executive decision at any time and pile us all into the car for a leisurely 26-hour road trip to god’s waiting room.

My plan is to lock myself into my game room, crank up the air conditioning and draw the blinds. Who knows, I may even take a break every once in a while to stuff grilled meats into my face and drink cold beer outside.

Cut from the Same Cloth: Gamers, Geeks and Sport Fanatics

One of the best things about big gaming and comic conventions like PAX, E3, Tokyo Game Show, and Comic Con is seeing all the hardcore fans in cosplay showing off what probably took weeks and possibly months of passionate hard word to create.

Some people take more time creating their costumes than others.

Some people take more time creating their costumes than others.

Many people will say that cosplay is unique to gaming and ‘geek’ culture, a term that I don’t care for personally.

Yes, gamers, as well as those who enjoy sci-fi, fantasy, and comic books are a passionate lot, and we get lumped together as being geeks or nerds. We can be very enthusiastic when it comes to our hobby and genres of choice, leading to impassioned conversations, public displays of fandom, and remarkable acts of cosplay.

Non-gamers and non-geeks will casually point out that cosplay, online flame wars, the waiting in line for a midnight launch, and Gamergate as examples of their superiority over the lowly gamer and geek.

Dressing up like idiots, queuing up outside in the cold, having irrational and heating conversations is beneath them. They have too much class for that nerd bullshit.

There is one group in particular, who has a tendency of being very much anti-geek and anti-gamer, and yet, practices the same behavior as many hardcore gamers and nerds, but they would never admit it.

fans

The NFL is the most popular sports league in America and its fans are a passionate and vocal bunch, just like gamers and pop culture enthusiasts.  Dressing up and going to a game looking like a rejected juggalo is okay, because they’re just showing TEAM SPIRIT. They’ll put a block of cheese on their heads and sit in sub-zero temperatures with their fellow fans and enjoy it god damn it. If you have a fucking a problem with that or god forbid, are a fan of the opposing team, you better be prepared to have beer poured on you and being cursed at the entire game.

Or if you’re at a Raiders game, being shanked in the belly with a filed down screwdriver.

Or if you’re at a Raiders game, being shanked in the belly with a filed down screwdriver.

It’s not just American football that has fanatical fan bases.

Random baseball fan.

Random baseball fan.

Random Canadian hockey fans.

Random Canadian hockey fans.

Random Swedish soccer fan.

Random Swedish soccer fan.

There are other parallels as well between gamers and sport fans.  In the case of this blog post however, we’ll stick with football fans, since football season has just started and football fans can be the most obnoxious.

As it was mentioned earlier, gamers and geeks alike can be very vocal online in the comments sections of various blogs, websites, and online forums.  Look at the reactions you see online whenever a highly anticipated game comes out or the game industry is going under some controversy, like Gamergate.

RAGE!

RAGE!

Sports fans and football fans especially can be just as vocal. Go onto a site like ProFootballTalk.com and read some of the comments and you’ll encounter some of the most amazingly fanboyish trolling since the inception of the Internet. It’s almost like someone just took the comments from the Destructoid forums and did a ‘find and replace’ of all mentions of PS4 with the New England Patriots, and Xbox with Dallas Cowboys

Sports talk radio is also incredibly hilarious.  I was up in Boston recently and had the opportunity to hear Patriot apologists, like long time listener first time caller Peter from Quincy Massachusetts who thinks “AHHH, THE NFL COMMISSIONAHH HAS IT OUT FOR BRADY AND THE PATS BECAUSE WE AHHH WINNAHS AND EVERYONE AHHH LOSAHS. YOU THINK BRADY IS THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRSIT? THANKS! I’LL HANG UP AND LISTEN.”

Tomorrow they'll be back at their jobs as neurosurgeon and attorney.

Tomorrow they’ll be back at their jobs as neurosurgeon and attorney.

Hardcore football fans, like Peter from Quincy are worse than console fanboys. Console fanboys are bad, but hardcore Patriots fans and football fans by extension are delusional and highly paranoid group of people.

I freely admit that I used to be a jock. I played football and soccer, ran track, and was a gym rat. I still enjoy going to the gym, passionate about soccer, watch a fair amount of both baseball and football. There are also teams that I follow closely and I am passionate about. I own a few Yankee caps and soccer shirts, I follow the NFL and root for the Giants, and on occasion, still play a bit of soccer and try not to tear my hamstrings or shred the ligaments in my knees.

Then there is the fantasy aspect of the NFL, something that I partake in every year, because I like to combine watching grown men giving each other brain damage with gambling.

football-head-shot-collision

When I first tried Fantasy Football, the Internet was still in its relative infancy.  A group of my jock friends and I met in one of our parent’s basements, and performed our draft.

We elected someone the commissioner of our league, ran a raffle to setup the draft order, and consulted a book that contained the rules and statistics of every player in the NFL that could be drafted. This was the gamification and nerdification of football in its infancy as far as I’m concerned.

Looking back I see that our early NFL Fantasy Draft was essentially D&D for jocks and frat bros. Our commissioner was our Dungeon Master, the official draft book was our Official D&D Player’s Handbook, and the teams we were creating were our avatars, who would battle every week.

zerocharisma

My group of friends and I were now no different than the nerds we made fun of for playing Magic the Gathering at lunch. The only difference being that the nerds debated the tactics of using a Fire Wizard against an Ice Orc (or some shit like that) and the jocks deliberated whether to start Steve Young against the Dallas defense.

Magic the Gathering Players

Because I was not a pure meat-head like many of my jock friends, as I was into sports, but liked to indulge my nerdy side as well, I was able to see how the two pastimes of fantasy sports and fantasy role-playing had plenty in common. However, the jocks, meat-heads, as well as the nerds would never dare to admit that what they were actually were pretty closely related.

I'm like this guy, who went to a Saints football game dressed as FABULOUS Master Chief.

I’m like this guy, who went to a Saints football game dressed as FABULOUS Master Chief.

Now, fantasy sports have gone online and massively multiplayer with sites like FanDuel and DraftKings, much like video games in general with the proliferation of eSports, Xbox Live, and PSN. On top of all this, there is substantial money that can be made in both fantasy sports and eSports as well. The only difference is that the media and public perception is that fantasy football is cool and manly; while eSports is for geeks and freaks that live out of their parent’s basements and is generally a fringe pastime.

It does look like we’re starting to see a pivot however. ESPN, the self-professed worldwide leader in sports has taken an interest in televising and covering eSports.  This is a substantial shift in my opinion.  Perhaps they see that the demographic is merging, and that there is no longer a clear distinction between the fans of sports, eSports, and gaming. I mean, I like sports and gaming, and the fact that ESPN is now covering both is something that resonates with me personally.

"I too enjoy combining sports and gaming" - FABULOUS Master Chief.

“I too enjoy combining sports and gaming” – FABULOUS Master Chief.

Even DraftKings, purveyor of horrible advertising and weekly Fantasy Football betting is tipping its toe into eSports gambling. Their goal is to tap into eSports Gambling in Asia first and then slowly expand globally.  So our friends in Asia can look forward to being constantly bombarded by shitty ads featuring grinning screaming/morons like the ones below.


So in the end, the sports nut, the gamer, and the sci-fi/fantasy geek have more in common than not.  We’re all kindred spirits who should be united in our fanaticism. We should rid ourselves of juvenile terms coined in the halls of high schools such as nerd, jock, geek, meat-head, and freak. In solidarity, we should wear diary products on our heads like a hat, dress up as Bilbo Baggins, cover our bodies in grease paint while stand out in the cold. We shall continue to berate and verbally assault people online who may disagree with you, whether it’s an obnoxious Pats fan our PC Master Racers.

We are all the same. Except for wrestling fans. Those people are weird.

SmugFan

Social Media Integration in Games Makes it Harder to Lie to the Boss

Who doesn’t love playing hooky every now and then? There’s nothing better than waking up one morning and saying fuck work/school today, I’m staying home and doing whatever I want because I’ve earned it. Sometimes you just need an unscheduled break to stay home, sleep in and to do whatever your heart desires.

I find that playing hooky requires a fair bit of planning and a bit of theatrics in my honest opinion. Sometimes, I like to plant the seed a day or two earlier at work, pre planning a hooky day, if you will, because I’m twisted. Maybe I’ll start complaining of a sore throat or have a coughing fit every now and then. That gets my coworkers thinking that I’m starting to get sick and they begin hoping that they won’t get sick, eventually leading to WHY IS HE HERE IF HIS SICK? HE’S GOING TO GET EVERYONE ELSE SICK! THAT ASSHOLE! This works surprisingly well during cold a flu season.

182464-284943-homersickjpg-620x

Planting the seed helps build a certain amount of sympathy from your coworkers so that when the day comes when you strike and call-in sick, they’ll all go, “yeah, he’s been battling something all week, I hope he feels better.” This ultimately makes me feel better about calling out, because people feeling sorry and having sympathy for you is great and I’m a horrible person

However, there are days when you simply want to call out and you have not pre-planned or planted any seeds of illness prior. This is when I go into my old bag of tricks that works like a charm every time. What you need to do is get up ridiculously early, which for me is at the ass crack of dawn, and e-mail your boss/coworker/professor at an ungodly early hour and say that you ate something nasty and you been puking and pissing out of your ass all night long and you’ve only been able to settle down to bed just now. Then go right ahead and sleep for a few more hours, you’ve earned it.

182464-284943-CATONTOILET011328776873jpg-620x

They will buy it, due to the profane hour you’ve sent the e-mail and how remarkably gross the situation is. No one questions diarrhea. You can even follow it up with a phone call later, just make sure that you’re giving an Oscar winning performance so that you sound sick. I like to call as soon as I reawaken. I think it helps make me sound out of it. I’M GIVING YOU GOLD PEOPLE, THIS NEVER FAILS!

Nothing feels better than getting everything straightened out with work/school and having the day for yourself. Really, you can do whatever you want, but I like to stay home or relatively local. I’m incredibly paranoid of getting busted, so I rarely venture far and regardless, hooky days are meant for relaxation and nothing is more relaxing than staying home all day, sitting around in the clothes you slept in and being a lazy shit.

182464-284943-homerizlazyazzcouchpotatogif-620x

Gaming and playing hooky go hand in hand really. There is not a better feeling in the world than just sitting at home and playing a game while everyone else is breaking their asses. I have fond memories of my childhood, staying home from school and gaming all day long.  There is, however, a major difference between playing hooky and gaming back then and doing the same today. That difference is the integration of social media.

We live in an age where everything you do is broadcast to everyone. You can thank social media for that. Some people bring this upon themselves and willfully divulge every detail of their lives, giving a play by play on Facebook, checking in on FourSquare, or taking pictures of their food and posting it to Instagram, the later being the most loathsome, and there is a special place in hell devoted to the people who do that.

182464-284943-foodphoto4png-620x

This brings me to my point. Social Media integration is so intertwined with everything that we do today, that sometimes we broadcast what we’re doing and do not even realize it or ignorantly wave our rights so that businesses post to our feeds in our behalf.

Case and point, a few months ago, I played a bit of hooky from work to spend some quality time with my PS4 and the Last of Us Remastered. This is a damn fine game and was well worth taking a sick day to devote my time to it.

I was just about to start playing the Left Behind DLC, when an interesting note popped up on screen, asking me if I wanted the game to post to my Facebook account on my behalf. Not thinking, I was just about to give it permission to do so when I realized what a horribly stupid idea this was, because then everyone will know that I’m playing video games instead of working. My entire story that I gave to my boss will be blown. He thinks I’m sleeping in the bathroom to be near the toilet when the inevitable explosive bodily function takes hold.

182464-284943-drunkgirljpg-620x

Even if you’re not Facebook friends with the boss, all it takes is one slip up from a friend at work and my cover is blown! I imagine the conversation would go something like this:

Co-worker:  Where’s Spieler Dad?

Boss:  Oh he’s home, he ate some bad sushi from a gas station and now he’s pissing diarrhea out of his ass.

Co-worker: Really? Because I can see that he’s tearing up The Last of Us on Facebook.

Boss: Really? Where did I put that number for Human Resources? Gas station sushi my ass!

It’s bad enough now that Xbox Live and PSN is fully integrated. If you are friends with someone, they can see when you’re online or through SmartGlass.

When the next –gen was first announced, everyone freaked out how the need to be always online was a horrible idea, because if the internet goes out, you’ll be shit out of luck. However, there is an even bigger reason why always being online is a horrible idea. What if someone wants to just stay home from work, call in sick, and play video games in their underwear while two fisting a bag of Doritos? I guess you didn’t think through entirely Mr. Smartass Marketing Product Manager.

182464-284943-boardroomjpg-620x

And yes, I know that there is a way to disable how your presence is shown online, but Sony and Microsoft bury that shit in the settings. They need to make it easier to disable right from the top.

Case and point, last week, one of my co-workers was “working from home,” which means, he’s watching The Price is Right on TV while tapping the track pad his work laptop every so often so that your status says “available” on Instant Messenger.  A few hours later, one of my other co-workers said out loud, in front of his manager, of all fucking people, I wonder how much work said employee is getting done while playing Battlefield 4.

That’s a real scumbag move right there, blowing up his spot like that.  Not sure what came out about that, but the manager did not look pleased. Seriously, fuck that dude. That’s like asking your buddy if his rash has cleared up while he’s macking with a hot little number at the bar.

182464-284943-valtrexjpg-620x

It doesn’t help that many games are now going in the direction of needing to be online in order to play them as the developers intended them to be played. Titanfall and Destiny are perfect examples. These games wouldn’t function properly or at all in the case of Titanfall if you simply disconnect from the network.

Like an old man, waving his cane at the kids running through his yard, I do yearn for the simplicity of years gone by from time to time. That is why I propose to the marketing execs at Sony and Microsoft to build a hooky function into their consoles.

It will just make everyone’s life much easier to lie. I don’t want to make an even bigger spectacle out of calling out sick to play video games. I’m already being a lazy shit by staying home to play video games when I should be, you know, actually working.  All I want is to sit in my underwear for nine hours straight and game without having to jump through hoops. Is that too much to ask?