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Fortnite to Be Brought Back to Apple Devices by Nvidia, Epic Games in ‘Near Future’

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By Reuters | Updated: 20 November 2020

Nvidia and Epic Games on Thursday said they are working together to put video game Fortnite back on Apple’s iPhone handsets in the “near future” as part of Nvidia’s streaming game service.

The popular game has been blocked on Apple’s devices since August, when Epic introduced its own billing system. Apple said that Epic violated its App Store rules and removed Fortnite from the store, igniting a legal and public relations battle in which Epic has sued Apple and alleged its App Store rules and fees amount to anticompetitive conduct.

But Nvidia and Epic said Fortnite will return to iPhone models through the device’s Safari web browser, which is not subject to Apple’s billing requirements or rules. Nvidia, the biggest supplier of chips that speed up video games, is expanding GeForce NOW, a cloud-based gaming service where PC games run inside its data centers and are streamed to devices.

The chip firm said Thursday that it is rolling out a test version of GeForce NOW to Apple’s iPhone devices and iPad models. The initial version of the service will require an accessory called a game pad that attaches to an iPhone to give it buttons and directional pad similar to a console or PC game controller.

Nvidia said in a blog post that the game pad will allow the service’s 5 million members to play titles such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on iPhone devices.

Nvidia said it was working with Epic to bring a version of Fortnite to the Safari browser on iPhones that would not require a controller.

“We’re working to enable a touch-friendly version of Fortnite, which will delay availability of the game,” Phil Eisler, head of Nvidia’s cloud gaming service, wrote in a blog post.

Nvidia said its cloud gaming service costs $4.99 (roughly Rs. 400) per month or $24.95 (roughly Rs. 1,800) for a six-month membership.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Tamil Nadu Bans Online Gaming Involving Betting; Rs. 5,000 Fine, Imprisonment for Violators

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 21 November 2020

An ordinance to “ban online gaming” involving betting, has been promulgated by the Tamil Nadu government in the backdrop of suicides by gamers who allegedly lost money, and any violation would attract both fine and imprisonment, ranging up to two years.

The ordinance was promulgated by Governor Banwarilal Purohit on Friday based on a proposal from the state government, days after Chief Minister K Palaniswami promised action in this connection.

Incidentally, Andhra Pradesh had recently banned online gaming, besides betting and gambling, while neighbouring Union Territory Puducherry wrote to the Centre seeking a similar action on such activities following the alleged suicide of a man who lost money in it.

The ordinance promulgated by Purohit provides for provisions including “banning the persons who are wagering or betting in cyber space using computers or any communication device or resource,” a Raj Bhavan release here said.

Palaniswami had recently said the government was taking steps to ban online games following demands from several quarters and complaints about suicides of people who lost money in such activities in the state.

The Madras High Court Madurai Bench is also hearing a case against online gaming.

Three people had allegedly died of suicide in Coimbatore this month due to heavy financial loss in the online rummy game.

“Due to online gaming, innocent people, mainly youngsters are being cheated and some people have committed suicide. In order to avoid such incidents of suicide and protect the innocent people from the evils of online gaming,” the Government submitted the proposal, seeking amending relevant police acts, the release said.

Other provisions of the ordinance include punishing those found “gaming” with Rs. 5,000 fine and and six months imprisonment, two years jail and Rs. 10,000 fine for people who operate common gaming houses.

The ordinance also banned “electronic transfer of funds” used for wagering or betting, distributing the winnings, prize money and punishing those running the company which conducts online gaming by wagering and betting.

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PlayStation 5 Hits Market Ready for Battle With Xbox Series S/X

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 12 November 2020

Sony’s PlayStation 5 went on sale Thursday, just two days after rival Microsoft released its newest Xbox, with the next-generation consoles vying for holiday season dominance as the pandemic boosts gaming demand.

With pre-orders pointing to a record launch, market leader Sony is counting on big-ticket exclusive games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales to keep the edge over its US challenger.

With coronavirus cases rising in many countries, launch events are off the table, and crowds of eager customers out of the question.

While the new Xbox hit shelves worldwide on Tuesday, the PS5 is available from Thursday in Australia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, North America and South Korea, but gamers elsewhere will have to wait until November 19. Sony hasn’t announced any release date for the PS5 in India.

In Sydney, just a handful of customers were collecting their pre-ordered consoles on Thursday morning.

“It’s COVID, so I guess not many people want to rush to a launch,” said Theo Pasialis as he collected his PlayStation.

Jonathan De Botton, one customer, said the atmosphere was a world away from the PS4 launch, when lines of customers stretched into a shopping mall food court.

Today was “completely different,” he told AFP.

“It was a midnight launch… It was a good time,” he added.

Today, by comparison, it was “a bit of a ghost town”.

The consoles go on sale with the pandemic creating a massive spike in demand for gaming from people stuck at home and looking for a distraction or a way to pass the time.

Just how long that boom will last remains unclear, with news this week of progress on a virus vaccine prompting a gaming sector sell-off on stock markets, as investors anticipated a return to normal life.

Lion’s share

For Sony, the stakes with its new console are significantly higher than for Microsoft, as gaming generates the lion’s share of the Japanese firm’s profits and about a third of its sales.

Gaming accounts for just 10 percent of Microsoft’s sales, by comparison.

But Sony’s margin on the PS5 will be slim, possibly even loss-making, analysts say, with the company counting on sales of games, services and online subscriptions to turn a profit.

Sony expects to sell 7.6 million PS5 consoles by the end of March, beating the performance of the PS4.

And it will be relying heavily on the US market to achieve that, with Japan’s video game market more focused on mobile and still dominated by Nintendo, said Serkan Toto, an analyst at Kantan Games.

“You’re talking about a relatively small market in Japan… driving Sony to centralise the PlayStation business in one area, and that area is the United States,” he told AFP.

Toto said he expected the PS5 to outperform the PS4.

“I think that the PlayStation 4 was so successful that Sony has cultivated a much bigger fan base for PlayStation content,” he said.

PlayStation 5 is priced at Rs. 49,990 in India, while the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition carries a price tag of Rs. 39,990. In comparison, the US pricing of the PlayStation 5 is set at $499.99 (roughly Rs. 36,700) and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition at $399.99 (roughly Rs. 29,400).

That is more than the $300 (roughly Rs. 22,300 crores) price tag for Microsoft’s less powerful Xbox Series S, which also has no disk reader.

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Xbox Series S/X Hits Stores, Kicking Off Holiday Season Console War Against PlayStation 5

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 10 November 2020

Microsoft’s new Xbox console hit stores worldwide Tuesday, kicking off a holiday season battle with Sony’s latest PlayStation model, as the coronavirus pandemic creates unprecedented gaming demand around the world.

The Xbox Series X launches just two days before Sony’s next generation PlayStation 5, in a head-to-head likely to dominate the gaming sector this shopping season.

The launches are well-placed to capitalise on a massive spike in demand for gaming. Rising numbers of people around the world are seeking distraction during a pandemic that has killed 1.25 million people and left at least 3 billion more in some form of lockdown since the virus appeared in late December.

But while lockdowns and restrictions may have boosted sales, they have also forced companies to move their launch events online.

Xbox, famous for games such as Halo, Gears of War and Forza Horizon, held an online countdown to midnight for Australia and New Zealand.

Phil Spencer, executive vice-president of gaming at Microsoft, told gamers on a Facebook live event that they were taking “the first step into the next generation of gaming.”

“And you will be the first in the world to experience it.”

The pandemic also means no long lines of customers camped outside stores, with the pre-orders snapped up online instead more likely to be delivered to gamers’ homes.

But demand has been brisk, and is expected to stay that way, Morris Garrard, analyst at specialist financial consultancy FutureSource, told AFP ahead of the launch.

“As soon as any stock is available, it is going to be bought out, within a few minutes even,” he said.

He said some of that activity would be people attempting to buy up stock for resale, but that he expects “a high level of excess demand for these consoles, at least in the short term.”

“So talking sort of three to six months, I think we’ll see that a lot of people who want to get a console are unable to get a console.”

Swan song for physical consoles?

Microsoft is hoping its next-generation offering will help close the gap with Sony, whose PlayStation 4 sold twice as well as the Xbox One since they both were released in 2013.

Unlike the PlayStation 5, whose release will be staggered in different countries from Thursday, the Xbox Series X hit the shelves worldwide on Tuesday.

Both Sony and Microsoft have lined up a roster of eagerly awaited games, headlined by the latest edition of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, an open-world Viking epic, to launch with the consoles, which will offer much more powerful central and graphics processors than their predecessors.

In a competitive industry where focus is shifting to online play, this could be a swan song for physical consoles, with both firms betting on cloud servers to do the heavy processing lifting in the future.

But for now, the Xbox design team boasts that their product, which looks much like a PC, is “the fastest most powerful ever” console.

The kit, which has potential 8K video capabilities, has a faster graphics processor than the PS5, and superior data-crunching power.

The “premium” Xbox Series X costs $499 (roughly Rs. 36,900), the same price as the PlayStation 5, but both companies are also offering cheaper, digital-only “mini” versions of the new machines. On these smaller consoles, gamers will be able to play titles as downloads only, not on disk.

Microsoft’s slimmed-down console, the Xbox Series S, costs $299 (roughly Rs. 22,100), $100 (roughly Rs. 7,400) less than the digital-only PlayStation, a move analysts say Sony can afford as the market leader.

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Fortnite to Return to iPhone, iPad via Nvidia GeForce Now Cloud Gaming Service: Report

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By Reuters | Updated: 6 November 2020

Users of Apple’s iPhone and iPad could soon be able to play Epic Games’s Fortnite game again via Nvidia’s cloud gaming service, the BBC reported on Thursday.

Nvidia has developed a version of its GeForce cloud gaming service that runs in the mobile web browser Safari, the report said.

Apple did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, while Epic declined to comment.

Nvidia said it would not comment on any new clients coming to the service, or on the availability of any game on unannounced or unreleased platforms.

The company is expected to announce updates to its GeForce Now service later this month with support to Apple’s iOS.

Apple’s rules require cloud gaming companies to submit each game title in the catalogue as a separate app for Apple to review, and the master catalogue app would then provide links to the individual titles. That requirement puts a hurdle to the seamless experience cloud gaming companies intend to provide their users.

Microsoft, which has a game-streaming feature in its premium Xbox Game Pass subscription, has previously criticised Apple for such rules.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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‘Death Threats Unacceptable’: Game Developer on Backlash Over Cyberpunk 2077 Delay

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 28 October 2020

Polish games developer CD Projekt faced a backlash on Wednesday after announcing it would be delaying the release of hotly-anticipated PC and console game Cyberpunk 2077 for a third time.

The company’s share price was down 5.25 percent by 1000 GMT on the Warsaw Stock Exchange after Tuesday’s statement that it could not meet the November 19 deadline and would have to postpone until December 10.

Gamers also vented their frustration online, with some saying they had booked time off work to be able to play the game as soon as it came out and one user joking: “What if they kept delaying it until 2077?”

An account in the name of Andrzej Zawadzki, a senior games designer at CD Projekt, responded to the negative comments saying: “I understand you’re feeling angry, disappointed and want to voice your opinion about it.

“However, sending death threats to the developers is absolutely unacceptable and just wrong. We are people, just like you,” he wrote.

I want to address one thing in regards of the @CyberpunkGame delay.
I understand you’re feeling angry, disappointed and want to voice your opinion about it.
However, sending death threats to the developers is absolutely unacceptable and just wrong. We are people, just like you.
— Andrzej Zawadzki (@ZawAndy) October 27, 2020

In September, the company reportedly instituted a six-day working week to meet the November deadline, saying employees would be paid more for the extra effort.

Delays are becoming increasingly frequent in the gaming industry as games get bigger, more expensive and with more people involved.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic has complicated things further, with many studios forced to operate with developers working from home.

Two other big delays in 2020 have been Final Fantasy VII Remake by Square Enix and Sony’s The Last of Us Part II.

Set to immerse players in a dystopian futuristic world, Cyberpunk 2077 is based on tabletop role-playing game Cyberpunk 2020.

It was first announced in 2012 but CD Projekt kept it on the back burner while developing the latest instalment of the popular The Witcher series, which has sold tens of millions of copies and seen a Netflix series released based on the same Polish fantasy novels.

Keanu Reeves, star of Hollywood blockbusters The Matrix and John Wick, has lent his voice and likeness to one of the main characters in Cyberpunk 2077.

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Sony Posts Strong Second-Quarter Profit on Gaming Business, Booming PlayStation 5 Pre-Orders

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By Reuters | Updated: 28 October 2020

Sony on Wednesday raised its annual profit outlook after reporting a surprise second-quarter profit increase, as its gaming business continued to capture “nesting” demand driven by COVID-19 lockdown measures.

July-September profit reached JPY 317.76 billion (roughly Rs. 22,500 crores), up 13.9 percent from JPY 278.96 billion (roughly Rs. 19,700 crores) in the same period a year prior, the entertainment and electronics firm said in a statement.

The result compared with the JPY 197.55 billion (roughly Rs. 14,000 crores) average of 11 analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv. Sony raised its annual profit forecast to JPY 700 billion (roughly Rs. 49,600 crores) from an earlier estimate of JPY 620 billion (roughly Rs. 43,900 crores). That compared with the JPY 672.33 billion (roughly Rs. 47,600 crores) consensus of 24 analysts.

The firm now forecasts its gaming division to post annual profit of JPY 300 billion (roughly Rs. 21,200 crores), from the previously estimated JPY 240 billion (roughly Rs. 17,000 crores).

Consumers’ shift to gaming software downloads and online subscription services during lockdown boosted profit despite the PlayStation 4 console coming to the end of its lifecycle.

Such high-margin online revenue is likely to help Sony’s gaming business stay profitable this year, outweighing massive marketing and production costs associated with the launch of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) console next month.

Sony pre-sold as many PS5 consoles in the first 12 hours in the United States as in the first 12 weeks for its predecessor PlayStation 4 device, Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, said in an interview.

“The demand as expressed by the level of pre-order has been very, very considerable,” Ryan told Reuters.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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