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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

$25 Raspberry Pi Hobby Computer Doubles iPhone 4S GPU Performance And Beats Tegra 2

We have previously reported on the super cheap ARM-based Raspberry Pi hobby computer that's been under development from the Raspberry Pi foundation. However, it's now going into production and is generating a lot of interest, so gamesindustry.biz interviewed its founder, Eben Upton, about it (free registration required).

The computer's primary purpose is as a computer science teaching aid in schools and colleges and also for home brew use by enthusiasts who want to tinker with it and make specialized solutions out of it. However, it seems that enthusiasts will have a nice surprise in that the onboard GPU is surprisingly good. The actual ARM implementation is a Broadcom BCM2835 System on Chip (SoC) containing an ARM 11 CPU and a custom graphics core, which has been designed by the Raspberry Pi team, including Upton. In the interview, Upton claimed that it can double iPhone 4S performance and handily beats NVIDIA's Tegra solution, because of its tile mode architecture.

Origin Expands Games Catalog, DRM-Free Evangelist Joins DRM Scheme

Origin is the fledgling online download account-based DRM service from Electronic Arts launched last June, that is home to Battlefield 3. To compete effectively against other similar services, the industry-leading Steam in particular, it must offer more content. To this end, Origin has added 11 publishers to its portfolio, reports CVG. These are Trion Worlds, Robot Entertainment, Freebird Games, Recoil Games, Autumn Games, 1C Company, inXile entertainment, Paradox Interactive, Core Learning Ltd, N3V Games and CD Projekt RED. That last one is interesting, because CD Projekt RED owns and runs www.gog.com, the website dedicated to selling DRM-free games.

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.

An Open Letter to the Gaming Community from CD Projekt RED

A month ago, we reported that CD Projekt RED, makers of The Witcher 2 had claimed that they could identify '100% of pirates' and had started an RIAA-style 'settlement letter' shakedown (extortion) tactic in Germany. Well, unsurprisingly, this hasn't gone down too well with their customers and the outcry has been loud and strong, especially on gog.com, where their forums have been full of posts from disgruntled customers. Well, it looks like the pressure has gotten too much for them and they have backpedalled furiously on this decision and issued an open letter, published on rockpapershotgun.com. In it, they state that they want people to continue to have faith in them and stressed how they're still totally against 'piracy' of their products and appealed for gamers to refrain from engaging in it:
In early December, an article was published about a law firm acting on behalf of CD Projekt RED, contacting individuals who had downloaded The Witcher 2 illegally and seeking financial compensation for copyright infringement. The news about our decision to combat piracy directly, instead of with DRM, spread quickly and with it came a number of concerns from the community. Repeatedly, gamers just like you have said that our methods might wrongly accuse people who have never violated our copyright and expressed serious concern about our actions.

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.

Now GOG.com Joins Opposition to SOPA and PIPA

The highly controversial SOPA & PIPA bills currently being rushed through Congress by Big Media are encountering ever more opposition from minor and major players alike, such as Google. Now gog.com, owned by parent company CD Projekt RED, has come out against these bills too and are one of many games companies to do so. They address the questions of "will it work?" and "will it stop piracy?" with the answers being sort-of and no.

Intel's Dodgy Ivy Bridge DX11 Demo: That Ultrabook Tested

Yesterday, we reported on Intel's embarrassing gaffe at demonstrating racing game F1 1 2011 running on a prototype ultrabook with an Ivy Bridge processor, where it was really just a video. Since then, AnandTech has seen that game play on an Ivy Bridge notebook just fine, but the best proof has come now, where they got hold of the actual ultrabook at the centre of the controversy and tested it with that game. The result? It works just fine, like we suspected. It looks like Intel just need a little PR makeover, is all. Video proof follows.

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:

Xbox 360 Most Popular Games Of 2011

Microsoft has revealed the top 20 most popular games played on the Xbox 360 in 2011 based on numbers of unique users logged into Xbox LIVE (Silver and Gold members). Note that this gives a different result to the total playtime for a particular game, which has not been disclosed here. Unsurprisingly, the Call of Duty series dominates the chart, but what is sure to irk CoD detractors, but make fans very happy, is that a massive five of those positions are taken up by CoD – that's 25% of the rankings. Even CoD4: Modern Warfare which was released way back in 2007 sits at a very respectable number 14. However, top games Battlefield 3 and Skyrim did very well nonetheless, sitting at five and six respectively, with only Halo beating them at number 4. Can you guess which CoD game hit the top spot before looking at the chart?

Big Dollars Not Enough? SOPA Support Continues To Wither Away

The draconian internet censorship bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) being lobbied for by wealthy big media corporations (mostly fronted by the RIAA/MPAA, News Corporation and the like) and currently being debated in Congress is still losing support wherever one turns. A week ago, we reported that GoDaddy initially supported it, but soon changed its mind as it immediately began to haemorrhage customers. Now, it turns out that many video games companies are also coming out against it and with no pressure against them required.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is the game industry's trade association and stands firmly behind the much-despised bill, which means that the gaming industry as a whole is deemed to support SOPA. However, while some members openly support it, others just won't say so publically and some of its members actively do not support it, having made official statements to this effect. Here are just three of them:

HD 7970 Overclocked to 1.26 GHz: 28 nm Tech Really Stretches Its Legs

Welcome to the first TechPowerUp news post of 2012! Read on for a couple of impressive overclocking feats with the HD 7970 graphics card.

It looks like the new AMD Radeon HD 7970 could be a bit of a dark horse and a lot more potent than its stock specifications would suggest – excellent for creating a competitive graphics card market. The reviews at stock speeds show the flagship HD 7970 to be around 10-15% faster than NVIDIA's flagship GTX 580, which doesn't seem all that impressive since the GTX 580 has been on the market for over a year now. However, what the reviews haven't really shown, is what kind of an overclocking monster the HD 7970 is. It definitely looks like AMD could have easily beaten the GTX 580 by a much bigger margin than they did, had they wanted to and it makes one wonder why they didn't.

VR-Zone have spent the New Year weekend overclocking this beast, having reached a whopping 1.26 GHz core clock speed with their HD 7970 - and decent benchmark improvements to go with it. Also, with the fan at 100%, the card never got above a very comfortable 68 degrees centigrade while running Furmark, which is amazing considering how this test is specifically designed to heat a graphics card to the max - but please see the update at the bottom of the article. The stock cooler may be noisy, but it's certainly very effective: an excellent result which will prolong the working life of the card.

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

GameFly Delivers PC Client with 'Unlimited PC Play'

Following in the footsteps of Valve's Steam and EA's Origin, GameFly is now venturing into the world of the online delivery platform. Only GameFlys client brings it with a twist. If you are a subscriber to the GameFly service you will be able to play certain games for as long as you want without actually having to purchase the game.

Gameflys co-founder Sean Spector said "We are thrilled to finally be able to open up the beta so anyone interested in video games can start using the client, and we are hard at work expanding our catalog of PC titles for our users to play for free in the Unlimited PC Play section"

GameFly currently works as the gaming worlds answer to Netflix. Digital content delivery is the next logical step in its evolution. Currently you can download the beta application and give it a try for yourself. At the end of the day Steam may finally have a true competitor on the PC platform. A client with unlimited gameplay for a annual small cost.

Source: ShackNews

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Hits $1 Billion Milestone in Just 16 Days

Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI), announced today that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 crossed the $1 billion mark in sales since its launch on November 8, 2011, according to Charttrack and retail customer sell-through information. Highlighting the trend of interactive entertainment gaining a greater hold of audiences worldwide, the game achieved this milestone in just 16 days, eclipsing the record set in 2009 by the feature film "Avatar," which reached the $1 billion milestone in 17 days.

While 2011 box office revenue is on the decline — down 4 percent this year at $9.4 billion, compared with $9.8 billion in 2010 -- the number of people purchasing and participating in gaming is on the rise, with no sign of slowing.(1) With more than 30 million gamers, the Call of Duty community now exceeds the combined populations of the cities of New York, London, Tokyo, Paris and Madrid.

EA: New Online Gaming Content Codes Could Expire Before Even Being Used

If you're buying an Electronic Arts game, be prepared for the Online Pass that came with it to have already expired. This was the recent experience of a NeoGAF member who bought a brand new copy of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit from Amazon, only to find that he got an error message saying that the code was either incorrect or no longer valid. Gaming website Joystick picked up on this and asked an EA advisor about this situation. It turns out that it's EA's corporate policy to have some of these codes expire, but that no one should be faced with this, as a rule. However, if they are, then they can get a new one for free, by either downloading it or getting it from EA directly. Checking the EULA shows that at the moment, there is only one game with this restriction. It's only Dragon Age 2 (packaged) which has a time-limited an Online Pass code and that it expires on March 31, 2012:

Ivy Bridge Official Benchmarks – Markedly Better Performance Than Sandy Bridge

Previous preliminary reports have suggested that the forthcoming Ivy Bridge CPUs will have single threaded performance on par with the existing Sandy Bridge CPUs and will mainly deliver improvements to power consumption and integrated graphics - nothing for PC enthusiasts to get excited about. However, in leaked documents sent to partners, Intel have now revealed official performance figures for IB and they look rather good. They've produced a raft of benchmarks, which reveal improvements such as 56% in ArcSoft Media Expresso, 25% in Excel 2010 and a 199% gain in the 3D Mark Vantage GPU benchmark. Unfortunately, they haven't released any benchmarks based on high performance 3D games, but it's probably safe to say that they will be similarly improved. Now, on to the benchmarks, which compare their new 3.4 GHz i7-3770 (4 cores + HT) with the current 3.4 GHz i7-2600, also with 4 cores + HT:

AMD To Give Up Competing With Intel On x86? CPU Prices Already Shooting Up

It looks like the Bulldozer disaster might have been too much of a setback for AMD to recover from. After 30 years of competing with Intel in the x86 processor market, AMD is about to give up, even with the 2009 1.25bn antitrust settlement they extracted from them. Mike Silverman, AMD company spokesman said, "We're at an inflection point. We will all need to let go of the old 'AMD versus Intel' mind-set, because it won't be about that anymore." He was vague on the exact strategy that AMD intends to pursue from now on, though. However, the company is widely expected to make a concerted effort to break into the smartphones and tablets market. The big problem with this strategy unfortunately, is that this arena is currently dominated by many other competitors. On top of that, their arch enemy Intel is also trying to muscle in on this space, hence AMD could find themselves back at square one, or likely even further back. AMD's graphics cards are doing well at the moment though and are quite competitive, so it looks like their expensive purchase of ATI back in 2006, might yet save the company from extinction. If they become primarily a graphics card company, they will inevitably end up a lot smaller than they are now though and that’s a lot of lost jobs and personal hardship, along with a monopoly x86 market remaining and all of its negative effects on the market.

NVIDIA GeForce 290.36 Beta Drivers Released

The latest beta drivers and the first in the 290 series have been released by NVIDIA today, supporting all graphics cards since the venerable 6-series. Their main new feature are official support for enabling ambient occlusion settings in the control panel separately for specific games and enabling NVIDIA Surround on the new X79 SLI-certified motherboards. Ambient occlusion (AO) is settable for uber-popular games The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. So, what does AO do? We'll let Andrew Burns of NVIDIA explain:
If you're unfamiliar with Ambient Occlusion, it is most easily described as a way to make in-game shadowing more realistic, and therefore better.
What he doesn't say of course, is how it kills your frame rate, especially on lower end hardware. Anyway, there's all the usual goodies in this release: 3D Vision game profiles for games such as MW3, Diablo 3 & LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (yes really). There's a HD audio update and nine fixes too, including one for random flickering of the Windows boot logo as it's loading or fading away and a fix for the mouse cursor flickering and shaking in games such as Crysis 2 & Deus Ex when SLI is enabled when using 3DTV Play. The NVIDIA product release page is here and they have a snazzy-looking driver selector here. The release notes follow.

Ivy Bridge Early Sneak Performance Peek: Any Faster Than Sandy Bridge?

Intel's Ivy Bridge line of processors are not due for release until spring 2012, but it looks like Chinese website Coolaler has scored a sneak peak at the performance level of Intel's 22 nm Ivy Bridge platform by testing an engineering sample of a quad core CPU. The screenshot shows CPU-Z & Task Manager (no HyperThreading) readouts, while the AIDA64 Cache & Memory benchmark has been run. The CPU used is a 2 GHz sample as shown by the photo, which CPU-Z reports as running at its 2.4 GHz turbo boost speed (20% overclock) on a Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD7-B3 motherboard. Rough and ready verdict: about the same speed as the current Sandy Bridge, but with a significantly enhanced northbridge and graphics core. The AIDA64 scores are actually slightly lower than the current SB scores, but this is likely because the CPU is running unsupported and unoptimized due to a mobo BIOS that's not made for it and a benchmark that cannot measure its true performance. Note the memory speeds, which were run fast at 2134 MHz 6-9-6-24 CR2, further indicating lack of optimization, since these timings suggest somewhat better performance than what was measured.

Battlefield 3: Massive PC Only Update Released

It looks like developer DICE has been doing a lot of listening to its customers, as the large number of complaints over in-game glitches has produced an almighty patch, fixing just about everything, including the kitchen sink, while making lots of little tweaks to improve gameplay and the user interface. On top of that, the patch is PC only for now as the console versions are taking "a bit longer due to [the] console certification process".

Bugfixes include such goodies as a "Black Screen" fix for an issue occurring on some PC Configurations; spawn protection improvements; increasing the damage from the 44 Magnum slightly; sharing your profile and stats with new Battlelog functionality; profile integration with Facebook, Google+ and Twitter and lots more. The full list appears below.

AMD 11.11 WHQL Catalyst driver CAP 2 Now Available

AMD has now released the CrossFireX Catalyst Application Profiles 2 for their latest 11.11 WHQL drivers. The improvements apply to just two games:
New profiles added to this release:

- Saints Row 3: Resolves stuttering seen when playing in CrossFireX mode. Also provides Single GPU and CrossFireX performance improvements when running in lower resolution configurations
- Gothic 4 Arcania: Fall of Setarrif: Improves CrossFire performance
There's nothing yet for hit game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in this release, unfortunately. CAP 2 can be downloaded here.

SB-E: Enthusiast Full 8 Core Dual Socket Monsters On The Way Early 2012

The latest Sandy Bridge-E 6 core processors have just been released, to excellent reviews. However, the architecture is designed for 8 cores, so these current i7-3960X & i7-3930K processors actually contain those 8 cores, but with two turned off in order to enable them to fit within a manageable 130 W power envelope. Hence there's quite a bit more potential to be released and soon. Therefore, anyone looking to invest in the premium-priced SB-E platform right now, should note that these processors are at the initial C1 stepping and have the VT-d hardware virtualization issue and PCI-E 3.0 compatibility uncertainty. The VT-d problem will be a real show stopper where hardware acceleration of a virtual machine is a must, so it shouldn't be ignored.

VR-ZONE brings us news that the fully unlocked SB-E 8 core chips will be released as the long awaited Xeon E5 family of processors, which will be built on the C2 stepping, solving the above issues. However, being 8 core, these will be very power hungry indeed, consuming around 150 W at just 3 GHz with all 8 cores active and 20 MB of L3 cache. At 2.5 GHz though, the new processors are expected to fit within the 95 W power envelope.
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