Russia’s far-ranging campaign to promote dissension in the United States reportedly included an effort to weaponize Pokémon Go. CNN reported today that in July 2016, a Tumblr page linked to Russia’s now-notorious Internet Research Agency promoted a contest encouraging people sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement to play the game near famous sites of police brutality. Players were told to change their characters’ names to the victims of those incidents — an apparent effort to inflame racial tensions.
The Tumblr page was linked to Do Not Shoot Us, a multi-platform campaign designed to mimic aspects of Black Lives Matter. (As CNN notes, the name plays on “hands up, don’t shoot,” one of the movement’s slogans.) Do Not Shoot Us included a website, donotshoot.us, along with related pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. The Facebook page was one of 470 pages that were removed after the company determined that it was linked to Russian groups attempting to interfere in US politics.
According to CNN, the group’s Tumblr page included a post showing a Pokémon named “Eric Garner,” who died after being put in a chokehold by a officer of the New York Police Department. The post promoted a contest, which promised Amazon gift cards to the winners, according to the report. CNN could not find evidence that anyone actually participated in the contest, it said, or that the page had distributed the gift cards.
The Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts of the group have been suspended, CNN said. Its YouTube and Tumblr pages, though, remain active — though the Tumblr page has shifted to posts about Palestine.
You might think that “Make America Nazi-Free Again,” backed by the “NoMoreNazis” hashtag, would be a fairly uncontroversial position to take, especially for a game like Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. Nazis, after all, are the Universal Bad Guys, and whether it’s at home, or far, far away, kicking their asses is always a good idea. Yet somehow, not everyone saw it that way.
To its credit, Bethesda isn’t trying to soften or backpedal on the message. In fact, Pete Hines, the studio’s vice president of marketing and PR, is doubling down on it. “Wolfenstein has been a decidedly anti-Nazi series since the first release more than 20 years ago. We aren’t going to shy away from what the game is about,” he told GamesIndustry. “We don’t feel it’s a reach for us to say Nazis are bad and un-American, and we’re not worried about being on the right side of history here.”
“[In the game] freeing America is the first step to freeing the world. So the idea of #NoMoreNazis in America is, in fact, what the entire game (and franchise) is about. Our campaign leans into that sentiment, and it unfortunately happens to highlight current events in the real world.”
He clarified that Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus wasn’t developed as a commentary on the current political climate in the US, echoing comments made in August by developer Machinegames. He called it a “pure coincidence” that it’s coming out at a time when Nazis are marching in American streets, but added that it’s “disturbing” that some people find its out-loud anti-Nazi stance to be controversial.
“This is what our game is about. It’s what this franchise has always been about. We aren’t afraid to embrace what BJ stands for and what Wolfenstein represents,” Hines said. “When it comes to Nazis, you can put us down in the ‘against’ column.”
The Wolfenstein series actually debuted way back in 1981 with the top-down stealth game Castle Wolfenstein, and its 1984 follow-up Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. But it became more widely known as an FPS series in 1992 with id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D, a game about killing Nazis, and the prequel Spear of Destiny, which was also about killing Nazis. The series was rebooted in 2001 by Activision with Return to Castle Wolfenstein, a game about killing Nazis, but went dormant again until the release of Wolfenstein, a game about killing Nazis, in 2009. Bethesda acquired the series along with id Software and gave it a powerful character-driven twist in 2014 with Wolfenstein: The New Order, a game about killing Nazis, and then followed up a year later with Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a “standalone expansion” prequel about killing Nazis.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus comes out on October 27. Here’s Machinegames explaining some of the different ways it will enable you to kill Nazis.
Microsoft is no longer selling its original Xbox One in the US. The software giant only offers retail versions of the Xbox One S and Xbox One X at its online store, with just $199 refurbished models of the original Xbox One available. Kotaku UK reports that while the original Xbox One has vanished from the US store, Microsoft’s UK store simply lists the old console as “sold out.”
The original Xbox One, that resembled a VCR unit, first launched nearly four years ago priced $100 more than Sony’s PlayStation 4. The gap and the fall out from Microsoft’s mixed messaging on the Xbox One led to Sony taking an early lead in the console wars. Microsoft closed the price gap by unbundling the Kinect sensor from the Xbox One, six months after originally launching the console. While the Xbox One has struggled to match the sales pace of the PS4, Microsoft has refocused its efforts on games and better hardware.
Microsoft launched the Xbox One S last year with a slimmed down look in a robot white style, and also stopped manufacturing the Xbox 360. The smaller console was widely praised over the original console’s design, and also included 4K support for Blu-ray discs and apps like Netflix and Amazon Video. Microsoft is now focusing on the Xbox One S for the entry console, and it’s upcoming Xbox One X for hardcore Xbox fans.
After opening preorders last Sunday, Microsoft now says the Xbox One X is the “fastest-selling Xbox pre-order ever.” It’s hard to calculate exactly what that means, as Microsoft hasn’t provided numbers for its “recording-setting” sales. However, Microsoft sold out of Xbox One X units at Amazon in 25 minutes, and it says fans “have pre-ordered more Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition consoles in the first five days than any Xbox ever.” Microsoft is now planning to open Xbox One X standard edition preorders next month.
Crackdown 3, the long-awaited open-world action game that was set to be released alongside the Xbox One X on November 7th, has been delayed until spring of next year. The decision leaves Microsoft without a major Xbox-exclusive title launching day-and-date with its turbo-charged 4K-capable console. Crackdown 3 was first announced more than three years ago at E3 2014.
“We’re very excited about Crackdown 3, and so are many fans, and so it’s a difficult call to move the release date,” Microsoft Studios Publishing general manager Shannon Loftis tellsPolygon. “However, we want to make sure to deliver the right game, with the right quality, and at the right time.” Part of the extra time will be spent to improve the game’s “visual polish,” Loftis says.
The original Crackdown is one of my very favorite games of all time — it’s an expansive shooter with a unique sense of freedom fueled by an addictive mechanic where finding one of hundreds of orbs around the city gives you a very slight mobility boost, letting you access harder to reach orbs, and so on. Crackdown 2 was pretty much the same thing but was ruined by the inexplicable addition of zombies. Crackdown 3 does not have zombies, as far as I know, which makes it by far my most anticipated Xbox game right now.
Describing the Xbox One X launch slate as “one of the greatest lineups of games ever available with a major new console release,” Loftis points to “several new Xbox exclusives such as Forza Motorsport 7, Cuphead, Super Lucky’s Tale, and the console launch exclusive PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.” But Forza 7 is out in October, Cuphead is out in September, and PUBG doesn’t have a console release date. Super Lucky’s Tale is actually coming out on November 7th, but it’s a VR-less port of an unspectacular platformer previously bundled with the Oculus Rift.
This means that if you pick up an Xbox One X on launch day, you’re likely going to be playing spot-the-4K-difference with a bunch of games that have already been released and hopefully updated to work with the more powerful system. Which is probably fine for the hardcore enthusiasts likely to pick the console up on day one, but it’s going to make for a considerably less exciting initial experience for everyone else.
Still, if you do want to pick one up at launch, Xbox chief Phil Spencer indicated on Twitterthat information on preorders is coming tomorrow. And at next week’s big Gamescom trade show in Cologne, Germany, Spencer says the Xbox showing will be “different from what fans expect but I’m excited.”
The new adapter, however, is 66 percent smaller, the company says. It looks no different than your standard modern-day thin USB stick. Like its predecessor, the new adapter supports up to eight controllers simultaneously, as well as four chat headsets or two stereo headsets. (Some Verge staffers report that, with the old adapter, connectivity gets a bit finicky with that a large number of devices hooked up.)
Still, Microsoft has kept a similar price, with the new model going on sale starting August 8th for $24.99. You can preorder it today from Microsoft’s website. Microsoft says on its preorder page that the adapter only works with PCs running Windows 10 — the company’s Xbox functionality support page has conflicting information indicating Windows 7 support — and it’s compatible with any Xbox One controller. The unit does not work with Xbox 360 controllers, Microsoft says.
SNES Classic Edition preorders are set to go live at the end of August.
Still feeling salty about losing your SNES mini pre-order last week? I don’t blame you, but fear not, as Nintendo may still have your back.
In a move that is sure to temper at least some of the recent resentment within the retro gaming community, the legendary video game company took to Facebook earlier today and announced that legitimate store reservations for their insanely anticipated Super Nintendo plug-and-play will open up later this month in the U.S. via “various retailers.” Nintendo also took time to reiterate that there will be plenty of systems available for customers, both on launch day and leading into the remainder of 2017. Whether they follow through on these promises remains to be seen, but at least they’re addressing what is sure to be a stock nightmare with some reassuring lip service.
We appreciate the incredible anticipation that exists for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition system, and can confirm that it will be made available for pre-order by various retailers late this month.
A significant amount of additional systems will be shipped to stores for launch day, and throughout the balance of the calendar year.
To be fair, Nintendo has been singing this song since June, when it stated that it’d be producing many more SNES Classic Editions than its admittedly lacking number of NES mini units. This is all well and good, but today’s pleasant Facebook post comes just days after a rather publicized pre-order snafu at Walmart. In case you’ve been out of the loop, countless SNES enthusiasts were able to secure a confirmed Classic Edition pre-order only to have it canceled en masse barely a week later. Granted, this debacle surely had more to do with a Walmart website error than with anything Nintendo was responsible for, but the console is still two months away and a large number of consumers are already feeling burned.
Thus far, the erroneous Walmart method has been the only way to pre-order a SNES Classic Edition in the U.S., but if Nintendo’s social media post is any indication, other big retailers will have product pages open and operational during the last week of August. As it stands, Nintendo’s self-contained retro throwback is set to launch on Sept. 29 for $79.99 and will include 21 built-in games, including The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Final Fantasy III, Super Mario Kart, Contra III: The Alien Wars (my personal favorite) and the never-before-released Star Fox 2. The unit will also include two wired SNES controllers and HDMI output.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about the SNES mini. On one hand, I think it’s a pandering cash grab, a limited novelty device that isn’t exactly worth all the worry and effort. There are other means of emulation on the market that provide way more options in terms of game selection and expansion for half the price (and half the disappointment). On the other hand, an all-in-one console like this is much more convenient than your average PC emulator and offers an easy way to not only relive some of the best SNES games that were ever released, but also introduce younger gamers to a handful of classics that helped shape today’s AAA juggernauts. There’s a sentiment that I offered to my brother the other day, which was that if these tiny systems were readily available and I could just walk into a store and buy one, all without the crazy hassle and headache, I’d find much more appeal in what Nintendo’s trying to do. Hell, I’d buy one for all my friends and family. I’d fill a giant Mario-shaped pinata with SNES Classics and invite all the neighbors over for a few swings. Come on, Nintendo. Make enough so I can construct my plumber pinata.
So what are your thoughts on this announcement? Do you think Nintendo will be able to produce enough units to meet consumer demand? Are you planning on pre-ordering or braving what are sure to be long, early-morning lines on launch day? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
The end of the 2017 Steam Summer Sale also marked the end of the line for more than 40,000 Steam users who were hit with the Valve Anti-Cheat banhammer. The big swing took place on July 6—the Summer Sale ended on July 5—and is far and away the biggest single-day ban wave in the history of Steam, nearly tripling the previous mark of 15,000 bans that was set on October 12, 2016.
As noted by Dot Esports, the timing almost certainly isn’t coincidental. It’s no great trick for a banned Steam user to set up a new account, but the cost of re-purchasing lost games can add up pretty quickly. The obvious solution is to wait for a big Steam sale and grab them up on the cheap, but doing so seems to have the unintended side effect of turning these recalcitrant ne’er-do-wells into big, bright targets for a re-ban.
Another 5,000 in-game bans were meted out on July 6, on top of the VAC bans, and according to vac-ban.com, the total value of the CS:GO weapon skins lost as a result of these bans was nearly $9,600. The VAC ban rate has since settled back to a more reasonable rate: On July 7, the day after the big spike, 954 VAC bans were handed out, while another 735 were delivered yesterday.
The dust has settled on E3, and we now know a lot more about how Microsoft hopes to revive its fortunes with the console formerly known as Scorpio. Like the PlayStation 4 Pro, the Xbox One X is a souped-up system laser-focused on displaying 4K images. You can argue over the degree to which either console produces “true” or “native” 4K, with Microsoft holding the technical edge, but I think such discussions miss the point. 4K is simply the wrong target in the first place.
The Xbox One X and PS4 Pro are unusual devices in that they provide significant power improvements without breaking compatibility with the existing Xbox One or PS4. Previously, console power upgrades were restricted to generational shifts — the PS3 that the PS4 replaced in 2013 ran on the same hardware as the one released in 2006. But the shift away from exotic components to the PC-style x86 architecture found in current consoles means it’s much easier to give them linear upgrades within the same generation.
This could be awesome if done properly — it’d mean you’d always have the option of buying modern hardware, or you could save money by buying the original model. But the way the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have been designed and promoted is anything but inclusive. By focusing on 4K output, their hardware is wasted for a large majority of potential customers. 4K resolution requires a huge amount of power to render in real time, and the benefits are dubious even if you are one of the few with a compatible TV.
Most games on the regular PS4 and Xbox One run at 30 frames per second in 1080p resolution, or close to it. On the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, you’re mostly getting the same thing just rendered with more pixels, regardless of what TV the console is hooked up to. Even if you have a 4K TV and are looking for a way to make use of it, this feels like the wrong way to spend the silicon.
What would be the right way? As it turns out, a platform does exist that both offers more power and lets you choose how to use it: the PC. And if there are any PC gamers out there who attempt to run games at 4K, 30 frames a second, and with Xbox One levels of graphical detail, well, I’m yet to meet them. In my experience, most players on PC consider 60fps table stakes and will tweak settings like texture resolution and shadow quality in order to achieve it — or even higher frame rates.
I’m one of them, and I actually had to make this choice a couple of months ago when shopping for a new monitor. (As an aside, it’s really hard to find good PC monitors!) I’d narrowed it down to two options, seemingly the only 27-inch IPS G-Sync models available in Japan: Asus’ PG279Q and PG27AQ. They are more or less identical products, but the former is 2560×1440 at 144Hz (“overclockable” to 165Hz) and the latter is 4K at 60Hz. My PC is powerful enough to play games at 4K, but I ended up going for the 1440p model.
1440p is still a big resolution upgrade over 1080p, but it doesn’t require nearly as much processing power as 4K. And it comes with benefits of its own: 4K monitors are limited to 60Hz right now, but you can get more than double the frame rate at 1440p. G-Sync is a huge game-changer here — it matches the monitor’s refresh rate to your GPU’s output, meaning that you get smooth, tear-free output while displaying every single frame your PC is capable of processing each second. And it’s honestly transformative — fast-paced games feel almost surreally responsive to the point where it’s very hard to go back. (AMD has similar monitor technology called FreeSync, and Apple made “ProMotion” adaptive refresh rates the headline feature of its new iPad Pro.)
But all this talk of 144Hz is probably in the weeds when the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X aren’t even targeting 60fps most of the time, outliers like racers and fighting games aside. My personal opinion is that 60fps makes a vastly bigger difference to the actual experience of playing games than 4K resolution — just look at Microsoft’s own Halo 5, which appeared to have been entirely designed around this principle — and I would be happy to buy updated PS4 or Xbox One models that focused on this aspect of performance. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’ve got.
And for 1080p TV owners, it’s disingenuous to suggest that these products will deliver a notably better experience, as Microsoft’s Dave McCarthy did last week at E3. “I wouldn’t say from a 1080p TV perspective you’re going to be all that disappointed either, right?” he toldThe Verge. “I mean, you have automatic supersampling from the Xbox One X to your 1080p TV. It’s still going to look pretty damn amazing.” If you’re not familiar with supersampling, it basically means rendering the image at a higher resolution than your screen can display. It can improve picture artifacts like aliasing, but it’s a blunt approach to boosting image quality that makes very little sense for the hardware. It’s not a choice I can imagine many PC gamers with 1080p monitors making when they still have headroom to improve graphical effects or frame rate.
To some degree, Microsoft and Sony have been restricted by their original console designs. Both new systems are still built around low-power Jaguar CPU cores, originally used in mid-range laptops, and while the Pro and X’s boosted GPUs are helpful for rendering higher resolutions, the relatively weedy CPUs are likely to limit the degree to which framerates can be increased. On a TV, you’d have to hit a solid 60fps if you wanted to avoid torn frames above 30Hz, and that may be a stretch for many games even on the Xbox One X. Could Sony and Microsoft have made more fundamental improvements to their CPUs as well? Maybe, but almost certainly not without significant implications for compatibility.
But that’s not to say that 4K is the only way to improve visuals. PC games at 1080p look much better than PS4 and Xbox One games, owing to the better effects made possible by more powerful GPUs. And even if you do have a 4K TV, the biggest difference you’ll see will come from HDR, not resolution — a feature already possible on the cheaper Xbox One S and regular PS4. The PS4 Pro at least has a good reason to push more pixels if you own a PlayStation VR headset, where the extra resolution really can make a tangible difference to image quality, but this E3 Microsoft downplayed the prospects of VR on its console platform.
To be clear, neither Microsoft nor Sony are mandating that developers work on 4K output — studios are free to use the extra power to deliver better 1080p performance if that’s what they want to do. But the design and positioning of these systems makes it a lot easier and more desirable to concentrate on resolution at the expense of all else. It’ll be riskier and probably more time-consuming to work on a pristine 1080p Xbox One X release when Microsoft has pushed the “native 4K” message so strongly, even if ultimately it would make a more noticeable difference to consumers.
It’s getting harder to buy a non-4K TV these days, and it makes marketing sense to cater to people who don’t have much content that can give their new sets a workout. But I worry that the focus on resolution above all else is going to hold back game development overall. Sony clearly overpromised when it made 1080p a selling point for the PS3, and the vast majority of developers ended up targeting 720p on that system and the Xbox 360. This time the resolution bump is far less profound, yet we’re met with hardware seemingly not designed to chase after anything else.
I used to spend the vast majority of my gaming time on consoles, and I would have been very open to picking up more powerful versions. But I just don’t see the value proposition that Microsoft and Sony are putting forward here for most people. I hope one day we see the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two come out with designs that focus on performance, not pixels. Until then, though, I think I’m going to be getting a lot more use out of my PC.
As is the norm, we didn’t get exact sales figures, so it’s unclear exactly how much the PS4 topped Switch by; Switch had sold 280,000 units in the US during April. There was also no mention of the NES Classic Edition’s performance. The system was the No. 2 seller in April behind Switch, but it was also discontinued that month.
Overall, hardware sales reached $147 million for the month, an increase of 7%. This is attributed to Switch, which NPD analyst Mat Piscatella described as the “primary catalyst for hardware spending gains.” For the year overall, hardware spending is up 18% according to NPD data. Piscatella noted that spending on consoles has offset a decline in portable sales.
Total sales across the industry in the US were actually down 11% for the month, dropping to $542 million from $610 million a year ago. That’s due to a big drop in software sales, which were down 20% year-over-year to $271 million from $339 million. PC software sales were down 48% to $23 million from $12 million, though keep in mind this–like much of NPD’s data–is not a complete picture, as it doesn’t include Battle.net sales, for one. The decline in software can be attributed at least in part to a difficult comparison with last year’s releases, which included Overwatch and Uncharted 4.
On the accessories side, sales were roughly flat at $112 million (up from $111 million). Controller sales were up 6%, with the Switch Pro Controller being the month’s top seller. In terms of software, the debuting Injustice 2 came out in the top spot, with two Switch games making the top five. You can check out the full May 2017 top 10 here.
LOS ANGELES—After more than a year of anticipation, Microsoft today unveiled its Project Scorpio Xbox device here at E3 2017. Project Scorpio is now the Xbox One X, the most powerful Xbox One game console yet. At least, that’s what what preliminary analysis seems to indicate and what Microsoft promises it will be when it arrives Nov. 7 for $499.
We already looked at the Xbox One X’s hardware a few months ago, when Digital Foundry performed an extensive teardown of then-Project Scorpio’s hardware. The console’s specs as announced match those numbers, and they’re impressive: a 6-teraflop, 40-core GPU clocked at 1.172GHz with 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and a memory bandwidth of 326Gbps. On paper, it’s significantly more powerful than the Xbox One and Xbox One S.
This doesn’t mean the Xbox One X is a new generation of console, however. It’s part of the “Xbox One family” and is architecturally identical to the Xbox One and Xbox One S. It features full compatibility with all Xbox One games and accessories, with room for graphical improvements when supported. This support will be found in newer games, along with a selection of already released Xbox One games with free patches (a model similar to the PS4 Pro’s improved performance with PlayStation 4 games).
Microsoft is pushing the extra power of the Xbox One X as the system’s most notable aspect. It supports native 4K gaming, with supported games rendering natively at 3,840 by 2,160, with high dynamic range (HDR), and wide color gamut. Microsoft claims the upcoming Forza Motorsport 7 will run in 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, and preliminary research performed by Digital Foundry indicates that it’s very possible.
A handful of Xbox One games will get patches to take advantage of the Xbox One X’s additional power. Among first-party games, Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Killer Instinct, and Minecraft will get 4K updates for free. Another 30 third-party games will also get updates, including Final Fantasy XIV and The Witcher III.
Microsoft showed off several notable upcoming games for Xbox One, though the extensive compatibility between Xbox One, Xbox One X, and Windows 10 means none are exclusive to the newest system. The press conference highlighted 4K gameplay video from Forza Motorsport 7 and Assassin’s Creed: Origins, both of which were announced at the event.
Get Early Access to Top Brand Name Tech up to 50% off
Join the PCMag Tech Deals list delivered straight to your inbox
Unlock the deals now
Other upcoming Xbox One games include Life is Strange prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and Bioware’s co-op sci-fi action RPG Anthem. The long-awaited animated shooter Cuphead was also highlighted and given the release date of Sept. 29.
Halo and Gears of War were notably absent among first-party game previews, but Crackdown 3—a superhuman police action game that features Terry Crews and screaming—saw some new gameplay footage and a firm release date of Nov. 7 alongside the Xbox One X.
Like the Xbox One S$296.00 at Amazon, the Xbox One X will support 4K media in HDR with wide color gamut, including Ultra HD Blu-ray disc playback and streaming video support. The disc support is a notable advantage we’ve appreciated in the Xbox One S, which Sony left out of the 4K-capable PS4 Pro$399.99 at Best Buy.
The Xbox One X is a notable markup from the Xbox One S, which received a $50 price cut during the announcement and now is available for $249. The Xbox One X is also significantly more expensive than the PlayStation 4 ($299) and PS4 Pro ($399). We’ll determine if the extra power is worth the extra cost when we get the Xbox One X into the lab for testing later this year.