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Report: PC Gaming On The Rise

This may not be a surprise to the PC enthusiast community but, the PC gaming market has never been healthier, according to a report from the not-for-profit consortium PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA). The report claims that in 2011, the industry reached a global record $18.6 billion, a growth of 15 percent over the prior year. The report cites burgeoning foreign markets and social games as large factors in the findings. The results of the PCGA's third annual "Horizons" research report found that China is growing at almost twice the rate of the global market, bringing in $6 billion for a total growth of 27 percent. The US, UK, Korea, Japan, and Germany saw increased revenue of 11%, by comparison. Asian companies, in general, are noted for spurring on sales in their markets.

The report also cites Zynga and Nexon (of MapleStory fame) as frontrunners in the PC space. Zynga in particular doubled its revenue to roughly $1.1 billion, putting it on-par with Nexon. Zynga and the German company Bigpoint were noted for pushing the free-to-play model, already popular in Asian territories, into North America and Europe. The report also notes the movers and shakers of big-budget PC games from the western market, like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Rift, along with multiplatform titles like Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Looking forward, the report speculates that the industry will grow to $25.5 billion (37 percent increase) by 2015, thanks to increased broadband penetration and digital delivery. The report is from a PC gaming coalition with a vested interest in trumpeting the industry's health, but even so, the rumors of PC's death have greatly exaggerated.Source: Shacknews

Assassin's Creed 3 to take place during the American Revolution

After much speculation it has been confirmed that Assassin's Creed 3 will take place during the American revolution. Images with hints of this have been floating around the internet for a few days now but Ubisoft has released the official box-art for Assassin's Creed 3, which confirms that the game will indeed take place during the American Revolution. Prior to this several images were seen on Kotaku, Game Informer, and Shacknews leading to this speculation. No word yet on a release date or if the game will use the intrusive DRM that previous titles did.

Source: Shacknews

BioShock Infinite Release Date Announced

We finally have a concrete release date for BioShock Infinite. Irrational Games has announced that BioShock Infinite will be released on October 16, 2012. “After BioShock, we had a vision for a follow up that dwarfed the original in scope and ambition,” said Ken Levine. “BioShock Infinite has been our sole focus for the last four years, and we can’t wait for fans to get their hands on it.”

BioShock Infinite will be available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows PC with an international release of October 19, 2012.

Source: Irrational Games

iBUYPOWER Chimera 4 Now Available at Tiger Direct, Newegg and Wal-Mart

iBUYPOWER, a leading innovator in gaming PCs, is excited to announce Chimera 4 - the fourth generation of iBUYPOWER's signature gaming line inspired by the mythical fire-breathing beast - is now available for purchase at Newegg, Tiger Direct, and Wal-Mart. The Chimera 4 is sure to turn heads with its fiery case design and performance.

"We are honored for three of the world largest e-tailers to carry our signature line," said Darren Su, Executive Vice President of iBUYPOWER. "Their combined massive reach will expose millions of potential customers to Chimera’s unique case design and power."

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Hits the PC in May

According to Shacknews, PC gamers will be blessed with another incarnation of the Resident Evil franchise this May 18th. In typical Capcom fashion the console versions will be out a few months earlier on March 20th. Those who wait for the PC version will get increased visual fidelity and NVIDIA 3D Vision support, so you can weigh your options accordingly. ORC features a four-player campaign and eight-player online team battles in the middle of the titular city. Capcom has no plans to release a demo of the game. For canon nerds, it does take place between the second and third games, but Capcom is careful not to put too fine a point on that. Producer Masachika Kawata recently called it a "world of what-ifs," so the publisher clearly isn't ready to put this stake in the ground as an official part of Resident Evil's history. No word of a PC benchmark as of yet.

Source: Shacknews

Altec Lansing Introduces the New inAir 5000 Wireless AirPlay Speaker

Today, audio innovator Altec Lansing released the inAir 5000 Wireless AirPlay Speaker (MA5000) that allows users of iTunes, iPad, iPhone and iPod touch to stream music wirelessly over their Wi-Fi network to any room in the house. The inAir 5000 is the first in a new series of AirPlay enabled audio networking products that capitalize on the audio engineering excellence and groundbreaking product design of Altec Lansing.

The new inAir 5000 is the perfect companion for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch as well as computers running iTunes. Whether a user is playing music from a personal iTunes library or streaming content from AirPlay-enabled apps, the inAir 5000 is the simple, elegant way to wireless entertainment with astounding audio clarity.

Advantech Launches the ARK-1120 Atom-Powered Embedded PC

Advantech,a global leader in the embedded computing market, is happy to announce the ARK-1120, an ultra-compact and price-competitive fanless embedded system powered by an Intel Atom N455 processor. Its compact size, affordable price, robust performance and support for both HDD and CompactFlash memory make the ARK-1120 attractive for a range of embedded usages.

This product is well-suited for applications that need a simple but dependable controller. ARK-1120 is ideal for thin client and factory automation applications with space limited or low-power-consumption designs.

Ubisoft DRM Server Downtime Causes A Lockout

If you are trying to play Might and Magic: Heroes VI, The Settlers 7 and Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2 or are trying to activate Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Anno 2070 and or Driver: San Francisco don't bother. Ubisoft has announced a server migration this week that will block all access from players validating their legitimate purchases via Ubisofts DRM "always on" model. The original plan was to allow some of these games to remain playable. However it didn't seem to work. Some DRM schemes are more intrusive then others but the Ubisoft "always on" DRM has come under heavy fire this week from players turned critics via Twitter. One is quoted as saying, “Dear @Ubisoft I am totally unimpressed with your server upgrade strategy."

Ubisoft has yet to give a specified time when the servers will be re-launched and players can regain access to their games.Source: PC Gamer

Hawken Launching As Free-to-Play with Beta

The highly anticipated first person shooter/Mech simulator Hawken is stated to be released on the 12th of December this year. 12-12-12. What makes this an interesting development is the game will be released under the a free-to-play model. Normally a free-to-play model is really just a pay for extended content model. How Adhesive Games the Hawken developer is going to set this up is unknown. What is known is the game looks to be quite beautiful with a slight Quake 3 feel to it. Luckily for the Mech junkies in the PC community we will have access to a beta before we make the plunge in December. If you sign up three friends Adhesive Games will reserve your call sign when the game finally debuts. Open enrollment has already started. You can sign up here.

So what are you waiting for? Get to blasting!

Source: Shacknews

Skyrim PC beta patch 1.4 now on Steam

Today Shacknews is reporting a new beta patch available on Steam. This is what they had to say, "Covering its back and yours, Bethesda recommends that you only install the patch if you're affected by issues fixed in the patch, and that you backed up your saved games before installing the beta. If you're still ploughing ahead with it, here's what to do:

1. Log into Steam
2. Click on Steam in the upper menu
3. Select Settings
4. Under the Account tab, go to the Beta Participation section and select Change.
5. A drop down menu will appear. Select Skyrim Beta.
6. Select OK.

Steam will now restart. After Steam restarts, Skyrim will be updated to the Beta version currently available.

The beta patch adds an option for Skyrim's Steam Workshop, a portal which will allow mod makers to upload their creations directly to Steam, but the Workshop won't work it and the mod Creation Kit actually launch later this month."

A list of changes can be found here.Source: ShackNews

Anno 2070's Draconian DRM: Ubisoft Loosens Restrictions. Slightly

Last week we brought you news of Ubisoft's hard three machine activation limit on Anno 2070 and how it scuppered a review by Guru3D when they swapped out graphics cards. Guru3D's post then went viral on the web and it appears that this has put sufficient pressure or 'heat' on Ubisoft to relax the restrictions just a tiny bit, since they weren't going to use any more Ubisoft games for benchmarks. So what have they done? Allowed an unlimited number of graphics card swaps. That's it, everything else stays the same, so if other components such as the CPU, motherboard etc are changed, then one will still run into this frustrating brick wall and have to get in touch with customer support to reset the activations.

Sapphire HD 7950 3 GB Pictured

Pictures of the Sapphire HD 7950 3 GB graphics card have been leaked on the Guru3D forum by user asder00. No further details or specifications were given other than "Product name: Sapphire HD7950 3G GDDR5 PCI-E HDMI/DVI-I/DUAL MINI DP OC VERSION".

As can be seen by the cooler, this is a non-reference design - at least for the cooler. The cooler is coloured black, has a very modern, sharp, angular and somewhat futuristic look to it and sports two large Sapphire-branded fans. Of course, it has heatpipes and five are visible. The design of this cooler suggests that it should work quietly and cool efficiently. Connectivity is aided and abetted by one DVI port, one full size HDMI port and two mini-DisplayPorts, like on its bigger brother the HD 7970. Moving on to the box, one can see that it has a 384-bit bus and 3 GB GDDR5, again like the HD 7970. The box also shows a logo with "OverClock" written boldly in white on it. The inevitable attractive lady box art in this instance has her wearing a grey top, a partial face mask and a helmet from what looks like the wars of yesteryear, plus she is carrying a rifle over her shoulder.

SOPA/PIPA Internet Protests Go Viral, Hit Home

The protests to the widely condemned SOPA & PIPA "antipiracy" censorship bills have been a resounding success. They have gone viral with many, many websites blacking out and putting up protest pages, with big players taking part such as Wikipedia, Google, EFF, Reddit, Craigslist, Techdirt (greyed out) and many more taking part. Unsurprisingly, the bills' backers have not shown any sign of backing down (yet) but were prompted to make statements "wondering what all the fuss is about" to play down the damage done to their play for power, since they have recently made changes to them, such as removing the DNS blocking provisions - for now. Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) senior vice president of communications Jonathan Lamy called the protests 'stunts': "It's a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation. It's time for the stunts to end and those who claim to care about rogue website theft to back up their rhetoric and work with us on meaningful solutions." This is the same RIAA that sued their own customers with extortionate "settlement" letters remember.

Anno 2070's Draconian DRM: Guru3D's Graphics Card Review Killed Off

Anno 2070's Draconian DRM: Guru3D's Graphics Card Review Killed Off (UPDATED)

Hilbert Hagedoorn of well-known PC tech review site guru3d.com recently bought a copy of Ubisoft's Anno 2070 and wanted to use it in one of his graphics card reviews. However, he became badly unstuck. This game comes on the Steam platform and the store page states: "3rd-party DRM: Solidshield Tages SAS 3 machine activation limit". Unfortunately for Guru3D, they found out exactly what this means, which resulted in just one performance graph, an aborted review, an unplayable game – and bad publicity for Ubisoft once again. They have published an article about their experience, pledging not to use their titles again because of this DRM.

PC market slips 0.2% in Q4 2011, Lenovo gaining on HP

Hit by hard drive shortages and slow economic conditions, the PC market has ended 2011 on a rather low note, with preliminary data from research firm IDC showing that PC sales in Q4 were of 92.7 million units, down 0.2% on-year. Despite the Q4 drop, the PC market still managed a decent result for the whole year, recording a 1.6% increase in shipments compared to 2010.

Back to the Q4 data though, we see HP maintaining its top position with 15.1 million shipped units and a market share of 16.31%. It's worth noting that, while it's still top dog, HP actually experienced a 15.93% drop in shipments compared to the same period of 2010. On second place, inching closer to HP is Lenovo, with a 14.04% share (the company managed a 36% growth over Q4 of 2010) while on third we find Dell securing 12.91% of the market.

That Dodgy Intel Ivy Bridge DX11 'demo' at CES 2012

That Dodgy Intel Ivy Bridge DX11 'demo' at CES 2012 (UPDATED)

Word has been flying round the internet about Intel's dodgy Ivy Bridge DX11 'demo'. Intel's Mooly Eden, VP, PC Client Group was attempting to demonstrate a racing game on a prototype laptop – 'ultrabook' - fitted with an upcoming 22 nm Ivy Bridge processor with a racing wheel attached and allegedly rendering DX11 graphics. However, as is very apparent at the start, it's actually a video, because the control panel for the free VLC video player pops up for a few seconds. Eden then 'drives' a car and after a few seconds puts up one hand and then the other, because as he says "they are driving it from backstage". However, there was no one driving the game "backstage", as it was just a video and Eden doesn't say anything about this at any point in the presentation.

This gives conspiracy theorists lots of ammunition, as perhaps the game was actually played on a high powered desktop PC with NVIDIA or AMD discrete graphics cards? What game was it? Eden doesn't say. "IB can't really do these graphics!" they cry and so on. Sure, man 'didn't' go to the moon, either... However, we believe that while yes, there was a bit of deception going on, it was nothing more than a white(ish) lie. Why? Because Ivy Bridge comes out in April and people aren't going to forget this demo. They will immediately put IBs DX11 graphics to the test with similar games and if it doesn't deliver, Intel will have a lot of egg on its face. Here's what Intel had to say about this demo in an official statement:

Intel and Cavium make WiDi Deal

Cavium, Inc. (NASDAQ: CAVM), a leading provider of semiconductor products that enable intelligent processing for networking, communications, and digital home applications, today announced a technology and marketing collaboration with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) to offer Intel(R) WiDi-based products designed to enable superior wireless display consumer experience. The resulting end-to-end solution will combine Intel(R) WiDi's ease-of-use and innovation with Cavium's super low latency technology and advanced video processing techniques to further enhance Intel(R) WiDi's interactivity and broaden its target applications. As a part of the marketing collaboration, Intel and Cavium will work together to expand and grow the market for wireless display products. A range of OEMs will soon be offering Intel(R) WiDi compatible receivers with Cavium's PureVu(TM) media SoC. Live demonstrations of Cavium's new Intel(R) WiDi receivers are available at Cavium's suite at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, between Jan 10th and 13th.

Microsoft Works On Star Wars-Style 3D 360-degree Holographic Interactive Displays

No, you're not dreaming. The flickery 360-degree 3D displays envisaged in the Star Wars movies now exists as a prototype project from Microsoft. Called the Vermeer Interactive Display, the research project combines Microsoft's Kinect motion sensing technology to allow you to directly 'touch' and interact with the virtual image being projected, which Microsoft describes as a '3D volumetric/light field display'. In essence, it works by creating an image between two facing parabolic mirrors, which then creates the optical illusion of a colour 3D image floating above them, which can be viewed all the way round. So, could this technology eventually be applied to PC gaming giving an immersive interactive experience not seen before? What kind of graphics power would be needed to drive it? The video below gives a fascinating demonstration of this new technology.

DRAM Suppliers: Oligopoly The Only Way Back To Profitability?

The random access memory market is a fiercely competitive one. Also, the yearly high PC shipment volume cycles of yesteryear are now history, pushing the various memory manufacturers into the red – and staying there. Well, it seems like Elpida is feeling the pinch more than most, because much of their debt has come from the Japanese government’s recapitalization program and must be repaid by the end of April 2012. It looks like they can’t pay this off so easily and due to this pressing deadline are looking for cash wherever they can get it, so it looks like merging with one of their rivals such as Toshiba or Micron might help them out of this predicament. Ultimately though, everyone in the DRAM market is hurting now, so it looks like fewer players are needed, so that they can work more like an oligopoly to return to profitability.

While great for helping them to survive, this isn't such good news for the end customer, who will end up seeing higher prices for their memory and a much slower decline in prices, if any. There's lots of detailed analysis and facts and figures over at X-bit labs.

The Most Pirated Games of 2011

Today Kotaku is reporting the top 5 games pirated for major platforms this year according to TorrentFreak. As usual the PC platform is the most guilty almost doubling in pirated copies then its competitors.

Some of the titles listed are not surprising but the lack of a certain title filled with dragon slaying is. Why Skyrim didn't make the top five is anyone's guess. Either Steam is in fact the most user friendly DRM or people just love Skyrim. Either way this is just a small glimpse into the world of pirated software.

Top Five Pirated PC Games

1. Crysis 2 (3,920,000) (March 2011)
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (3,650,000) (November 2011)
3. Battlefield 3 (3,510,000) (October 2011)
4. FIFA 12 (3,390,000) (September 2011)
5. Portal 2 (3,240,000) (April 2011)Source: Kotaku

HDD Vendors Want Long-Term Contracts with PC Makers

Well, it seems that the flooding in Thailand has done a lot more than destroy lives, wreck a few factories and cause HDD prices to shoot up. There appears to be a lot of opportunities for changing the terms of business too - to less favourable ones for customers of hard disc drives. First, we had the severe and unwelcome warranty reductions and now we have HDD manufacturers trying to lock branded PC makers into expensive long-term contracts, according to Digitimes. Some PC makers buy hard disk drives on a quarterly basis, at a fixed price, but now that prices have shot up and supplies restricted, HDD manufacturers are trying to coerce them into signing one year contracts at current high prices. However, it looks like it might not be such a good deal for PC makers, because the recovery in supply is continuing, with a full recovery potentially not so far away, which will of course make those prices plummet again. As it is, HDD shipments are projected to be around 140 million units in the first quarter of 2012, while the same quarter last year was 170-180 million units - so the fall isn't really that hugely less than before anyway and should become less severe as 2012 wears on.

One does get the impression that the HDD manufacturers are playing up the difficulty of restoring production volumes in order to give them a better bargaining hand. There's also the fact that recovering from the disaster is hugely expensive for them, so HDD makers will want to charge more to recoup those costs faster, motivating them to use tactics like these.

Leak: The Intel Medfield Files

VR-Zone have been having a little chat with Intel 'sources', who have leaked some juicy tidbits for us to enjoy in the form performance and power news. The upcoming next generation Medfield platform is Intel's first true System on a Chip (SoC) and is designed to compete with various low power ARM offerings in the tablet space. To help achieve this, they've gone through an internal restructure, merging four business units into just one: Ultra-Mobility, Mobile Wireless, Mobile Communications and Netbook & Tablet PC. The business unit is now simply known as Mobile and Communications. It's being run by Mike Bell and Hermann Eul and the first product to emerge from it will be is the 32 nm Medfield SoC solution.

VR-Zone explained that the competition will be "Apple's A-Series, NVIDIA Tegra, Qualcomm Snapdragon, Samsung Exynos, Texas Instruments OMAP and the likes. Out of all the chips mentioned above, only Samsung's Exynos is currently manufactured in 32nm process, just like Medfield."

Christmas Special: The PC Technology of 2011

Welcome to the TechPowerUp 2011 PC technology Christmas special. We hope that you will enjoy reading it while tucking into your turkey, Christmas presents and a little too much wine... In this article, we go through the technology of 2011 that has had the most significance, the most impact and was generally the most talked about. It's not necessarily the best tech of 2011 which is the most significant though, since lemons can be just as significant as the ground-breakers in how they fail to deliver - and the backlash that goes with it.

January: Intel Sandy Bridge i5 & i7

Released on January 9th, the new Intel Core i5 & i7 processors were based on Intel's second generation Core architecture built on a 32 nm production process (HEXUS review). They included an IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) physically on the same piece of silicon along with HyperThreading. These new dual and quad core processors soundly beat all previous generations of Intel processors in terms of processing performance, heat, power use, features and left AMD in the dust. Therefore, Intel badly needed some competition from AMD and unless you have been living under a rock, you will know how that turned out in October with the launch of Bulldozer. Sandy Bridge was a sound win and is generally considered to be the only architecture worth considering at this point. The i5-2500K is currently at the sweet spot of price/performance. It comes at a stock speed of 3.3 GHz, but typically overclocks to an amazing 4.5 - 5 GHz with a decent air cooler and without too much difficulty in getting there. Models in the budget i3 range were released at various times later. See this Wikipedia article for details.

U.S. Army Attacks the CryEngine

The U.S. Army might be financing one of the most epic videos games ever made that very few people may ever play. The "game" is called Dismounted Soldier Training System and was commissioned by the U.S. government back in May for a staggering cost of 57 million dollars. The contract was awarded to RealTime Immersive Inc. All of this according to PC Gamer. Everything about this simulator is said to be cutting edge but the hardware it runs on. In a GamePro interview with the director of strategic programs at Intelligent Decisions, Floyd West is said to have stated, "With CryEngine 3 being used for Crysis 2 and the capabilities that game engine provides, it allows us to make the most realistic simulation possible. We’re able to transport soldiers to accurately recreated locales like Afghanistan and Iraq, where we can simulate everything from visuals to 360-degree sound."

The virtual reality headsets the trainees wear will run from a backpack unit similar to a top of the range gaming laptop, called the 'Man Wearable Unit'. "While the man wearable units aren’t running on an off-the-shelf Alienware, the internal components themselves are commercial off-the-shelf CPUs and GPUs like NVIDIA graphic cards and whatnot."

As this is an internal military training simulator we the public may never play it. However that doesn't mean we cannot watch the trailers in awe and wonder if our own rigs could render thousands of kilometers in such massive detail.

Trailer 1 | Trailer 2

Source: PC Gamer

Self-Repairing Circuits On The Horizon, Skynet, Here We Come

Engineers at the University of Illinois have developed what they claim to be "self-repairing electronic circuits", which have the ability to restore broken circuits, and restore the functionality of whatever uses them. The technology works at the level of the PCB design, countless microscopic capsules filled with liquid metal are placed along with everything else, as the circuit board is being made. When the circuit is broken at a point, those micro-capsules break, and the secreted liquid metal gets channeled into the path of the broken portion of circuit, closing it back up (restoring it). This happens at a very small and localized scale, and dramatically increases MTBF (mean time before failure), if done right.

The researchers behind this technology call it an excellent solution for electronics that are supposed to be fail-safe, such as avionics, electronics running commercial aircraft, so broken circuits could fix themselves mid-air, and become operational within microseconds. Terms like "self healing electronics" and "liquid metal" instantly bring back pop-culture references to Hollywood epics such as the Terminator, and its dystopian future brought about when one of those self-healing circuits is also made "self-aware". And no, those are just surface-mounted capacitors in the picture.

Sources: The Verge, Wiley Online Library
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