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Treyarch says Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Doesn't Need a New Engine to Advance Graphics

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 doesn't need a brand new game engine to improve the graphics over previous games in the series, Treyarch has insisted. Black Ops 2 is built using the latest, most advanced version of the engine that Call of Duty developers have used to build the first-person shooter series since 2005's Call of Duty 2: a heavily modified version of the id Tech 3 engine. Some fans have called on Activision to invest in a brand new graphics engine in order to spruce up Call of Duty's visuals. But Treyarch chief Mark Lamia said continuing to upgrade the current engine was enough to meet the development team's design goals. "People always ask me, 'Is this a new engine?' he told One of Swords. "I liken it to people who live in an older house that has been remodelled. Just because you're remodelling the house and it will look new or it will have a new kitchen, you don't tear out the foundation, or break out some of the framing. You might even go as hardcore as replacing the plumbing, and we will do that sort of thing, as an analogy. It's a gross simplification, but it's one way to say that. There's a lot of good still in that foundation that you wouldn't get rid of, and we don't. We look to advance in the areas that support our game design.

"Engines, each time they get touched, they change. The creators alter them; they don't modify what they don't need to, and then they alter what they need to. You can't make a competitive product if you're not upgrading that engine along the way." He added: "I think the whole thing about a new engine... sometimes that's a great buzzword. Well, I have a new graphics engine - is that a new engine? Where does it start and stop? Elements of the code, you can trace back for a very, very long time... but whole parts of the code are entirely new. Two areas we did focus on for this game were the graphics and the lighting - a pretty significant amount of work is going into that."When Activision announced Black Ops 2 earlier this month it promised a "visual overhaul", with graphical upgrades a mix of "tech and technique". In a demo to press played on an Xbox 360 build of the game, an unpopulated level set on Socotra Island in Yemen showed HDR lighting, bounce lighting, self-shadowing and a new texture technique called reveal mapping - all running at 60 frames per second.

Xbox 360 Kinect Dons the Union Jack

To celebrate the 2012 Summer Olympics hosted by London, Microsoft came up with a new limited edition variant of its Xbox 360 Kinect game console, which dons the Union Jack. Officially, it is called the Xbox 360 Special Edition 4 GB Kinect Celebration Pack. The pack includes an Xbox 360 4 GB console, a Kinect sensor, a wireless controller, and two games: Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports. It also includes a 3-month subscription of Xbox Live Gold. The bundle will be priced at £249.99 (US $405.8).

Microsoft Reports Record Third-Quarter Revenue

Microsoft Corp. today announced quarterly revenue of $17.41 billion for the quarter ended Mar. 31, 2012, a 6% increase from the prior year period. Operating income was $6.37 billion, up 12% from the prior year period.

Net income and diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $5.11 billion and $0.60 per share, compared with $5.23 billion and $0.61 per share, respectively, in the prior year period. Prior year net income and diluted earnings per share included a $461 million or $0.05 per share tax benefit primarily related to a tax settlement with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Halo 4 Release Date Revealed

The bets are off, there indeed is a new installment to the Halo franchise in the works, called Halo 4. Its release date was announced to be "Holiday 2012", more specifically 6 November, 2012. Microsoft and 343 Industries confirmed this date on Tuesday. "Set in the aftermath of Halo 3, Master Chief returns to confront his own destiny and face an ancient evil that threatens the fate of the entire universe. Halo 4 marks the start of a new trilogy that begins with its release in 2012," an Overview page on Halo website reads.
A video presentation follows.

Xbox Durango Packs 16-core PowerPC CPU

A report in the the latest issue of Xbox World print magazine suggests that developer kits (devkits) of Durango (next-generation Xbox console), were implementing a "state of the art" 16-core IBM PowerPC CPU, its companion graphics processor is AMD-made, spec'd equivalent to AMD Radeon HD 7000 series, as previously reported. The 16-core CPU is said to have been implemented with a far-sight on the platform's longevity. "It's a ridiculous amount of power for a games machine - too much power, even. But remember, Kinect 2 could chew up four whole cores tracking multiple players right down to their fingertips, so it'll need a lot of power," the Xbox World article commented.

Microsoft Intros Chrome Series Special Edition Xbox 360 Controllers

Microsoft rolled out the Chrome Series special edition Xbox 360 controllers. As the name suggests, these controllers have a chrome finish. The top-side has a metallic/chrome surface, in three color options: red, blue, and silver, while the D-pad has a silver chrome finish on all three variants. Slated for mid-May, these controllers are each priced at US $54.99, availability may be limited, and specific to select markets.

Durango Implements Always-On DRM, Multi-GPU

Microsoft's next-generation Xbox console, codenamed "Durango", will implement an "always-on" DRM, according to a VG 24/7 report. Always-on is a stringent anti-piracy measure that's already in use with some PC game titles published by Ubisoft, which requires the players to be connected to the Internet when playing. Even as its proponents (read: game publishers only), claim increased sales, it faces strong opposition from the gaming community. The Christmas 2013 (tentative) launch of Durango rides on the assumption that fast, always-on broadband Internet will have proliferated to every living room.

Next up, there's talk of Durango featuring a unique multi-GPU hardware design that doesn't resemble symmetric PC multi-GPU technologies such as NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire, but instead, the two GPUs will be tasked with rendering the same object redundantly. Perhaps Durango features native flicker-free stereoscopic 3D capability, and the two GPUs are merely rendering the two planes? Once again, there's talk that these GPUs will be designed by AMD. The CPU of Durango will feature "four or six" cores. Lastly, Blu-ray disc is back as the storage medium, in these latest rumors.

Main Use of Xbox 360 is Not Gaming: Microsoft

According to Microsoft, gaming is not what Xbox 360 game consoles are being used for, now-a-days. People's primary usage patterns have shifted more towards listening to music, and watching TV through their Xbox 360 consoles. Gaming on it, comes next. "What we're seeing is that people are turning on the Xbox to play games and then keeping it on afterwards to get other types of entertainment," Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi told the LA Times.

Microsoft To Launch $100 Xbox Lite Before Moving to Durango

Shortly before launching its next-generation game console (codenamed "Durango"), Microsoft is said to be working on a new product (SKU, rather), called Xbox Lite. This new console will cost as little as $100. According to a source, Xbox Lite will be ARM-based, and scheduled for "late 2013 which does Arcade-style games & all the current & future media apps with Kinect (with near-mode)." What makes the rumor plausible is that ARM chips advancing faster than ever, and so is the ecosystem of casual games on Xbox Live Arcade, which don't have very high graphical detail (and hence, aren't resource-heavy). Many of these casual games, along with Kinect-enabled games, could make up the ecosystem around Xbox Lite.

Durango Out in 2013, Lacks Optical Drive: Report

Microsoft's next-generation Xbox game console, codenamed "Durango", will arrive in 2013. More importantly, it is said to completely lack an optical disc drive. The lack of a disc drive could mark a milestone in the evolution of console game distribution. Microsoft already has a high-volume digital distribution platform in Xbox Live, its significance in a post-disc console era will only increase.

This is not to say that Microsoft will completely do away with physical media, an interchangeable NAND flash-based media could also take shape, seeing how prices of NAND flash-storage has come drastically down over the past couple of years. It would be a going back to solid-state game cartridges, for home consoles. Some portable consoles use solid-state media even today.

AMD Designing Next-Gen Playstation's GPU

Sony has begun working on its next-generation gaming console under the Playstation brand, and Forbes learned that it's none other than AMD designing its graphics processing unit (GPU). AMD is far from new to the game console GPU business, as its GPUs already drive graphics processing in Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii consoles. If launched anytime soon, the next-gen Playstation will create a rare moment where GPUs of all three major game console makers would be AMD-made. The current Playstation 3 console uses an NVIDIA GPU.

Next-Gen. Xbox Codenamed "Durango" by Microsoft

Microsoft's next-generation Xbox game console, which has been unofficially referred to as "Xbox 720", has been reportedly given a codename by Microsoft so industry partners could use it, instead. It is now codenamed "Durango". The working-name "Xbox 720" has been received negatively by some quarters, that felt it implied 720p (1280 x 720) display resolution, which is not a big departure from the present-generation. 1080p (1920 x 1080) is expected of this console, as it's also reported to feature Blu-ray disc support. Durango will focus on improving human-interface, by creating a combination of Kinect and a newer gamepad with a touchscreen.

Microsoft Store India Hacked

Microsoft Store's Indian site was compromised, by a hacker group that calls itself "Evil Shadow Team". The site's landing page was briefly taken over by the group, which gained access to the user database. The group then replaced the front-page with its signature, that warned that an "unsafe system will be baptized." The outrageous part of this episode is that the group claimed Microsoft was storing the user database in plain text, which contains usernames, email addresses, and passwords. The site is now offline, the company is probably back in control. Microsoft Store was started in India to discourage piracy and offer genuine copies of Windows, Office, Visual Studio, at the lowest possible prices; Xbox consoles and accessories; and Microsoft hardware (peripherals).

Next-Gen. Xbox Controller Similar to WiiU's

An article in the latest issue of print magazine Xbox World claims that the controller of next-generation Xbox console will be similar to that of Nintendo's WiiU, in that it will feature a high-resolution touchscreen as an added layer of interaction. The article states that the new console "will be a matt-black media hub with a mission to bring games to life in your living room with augmented reality, directional sound, and a four-player, finger-tracking Kinect."

The article goes on to describe the controller as having "an HD screen surrounded by the traditional 360 buttons and sticks." It continues, "That touchcreen will be second only to Kinect in how you operate your console, it could be a remote control when you're watching TV, a browser when you're on the internet, extra buttons and information when you're playing a game or a portable display when you want to take your game with you."

Xbox 360 Kinect Star Wars Arriving in April

Microsoft is ready with a new limited edition Xbox 360 Kinect system bundle for all you Star Wars fans out there. The bundle includes a copy of Star Wars Kinect, which lets you take advantage of Kinect to slash your lightsaber away. The hardware itself is themed around two of the most lovable characters of the franchise, the console is R2-D2 themed, and the main controller C-3P0. The Kinect module is white colored. The system packs 320 GB of local storage. The special bundle is listed on Amazon for US $449, and is up for pre-orders. It will start shipping on April 3.

Next-Gen Xbox Features Blu-ray, Will Not Play Used Games

We've got a good news and a bad news. The good news first: Microsoft will finally embrace the capacious Blu-ray disc format as its media of choice with its next-generation Xbox console. A double-layer Blu-ray disc provides 50 GB of space, letting developers load higher-resolution elements (such as textures), and more importantly, load entire games into a single disc. The 8 GB DVD9 used with Xbox 360 is posing limitations with some titles, forcing publishers to ship games in multiple discs. The new console should also double up as a nice Blu-ray home-video player, complete with multi-channel lossless audio and 1080p playback.

Now on to the bad news: Remember the good old days when you could share your game cartridges and discs with your friends, or resell them? Those are about to be numbered, at least in the case of the Xbox platform. Microsoft is designing its next-generation Xbox console in a way that restricts people from playing "used" games. We would imagine Microsoft doing this by binding each purchased game's activation to a Xbox Live account à la Steam, Origin, and G4WL. This is terrible news to services such as GameStop, which deal in used games and consoles.

Microsoft Reports Record Revenue of $20.9 Billion in Second Quarter

Microsoft Corp. today announced quarterly revenue of $20.89 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2011, a 5% increase from the prior year period. Operating income, net income, and diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $7.99 billion, $6.62 billion, and $0.78 per share, compared with $8.17 billion, $6.63 billion and $0.77 per share, respectively, in the prior year period. Prior year results include recognition of $224 million of deferred revenue related to the Office 2010 technology guarantee program.

"We delivered solid financial results, even as we prepare for a launch year that will accelerate many of our key products and services," said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer at Microsoft. "Coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, we're seeing very positive reviews for our new phones and PCs, and a strong response to our new Metro style design that will unify consumer experiences across our phones, PCs, tablets, and television in 2012."

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?

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.

Microsoft Working On Not One, But Two New Xbox Product Lines

Finally, next generation gaming consoles are around the corner. It will have an uplifting effect on the entire gaming industry as it will raise the bar for visual and technical detail in games. Many of today's games are designed keeping consoles in mind, and so their PC platform versions don't look much more than what has come to be known as "console-ports". There are a few exceptions to this, but it would be refreshing to see most game developers move on to creating games that take advantage of today's insanely powerful PC platform, because the console platform will have caught up technologically.

Rumors have it, that Microsoft will be developing not one, but two product lines that succeed the Xbox 360, and we're not talking about product variants here, but two distinct lines. The first of the two will be an entry-level console designed more like a set-top box, designed around the Kinect controller (perhaps something to compete against Nintendo Wii U). The second product line will be the one that will be supercharged with the latest technologies that will raise the bar in graphics. It will compete with whatever succeeds the Playstation 3. There is talk that it will pack a 6 core processor, an AMD-made GPU, and 2 GB of fast DDR3 memory. This console could be unveiled to the world (although not launched), at the CES event held in January. Meanwhile, Microsoft is allowing TSMC some time to refine its 28 nm bulk process.

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.

MW3 Console Players Have Crashtastic Time Of It

While the Modern Warfare 3 launch has got off pretty smoothly overall with few technical glitches and made Activision a shed-load of money, it seems that some XBOX 360 players are not so lucky. g4tv.com reports that there is a "A 14-page thread on Xbox.com points to multiple XBOX 360 gamers getting similar disc read errors from the game." The general symptoms seem to be that the console will either not read the disc at all, or starts, but then falls over flat on its face with an ungainly crash a little while later. While many posters have suggested solutions, there doesn't appear to be a definitive fix. Therefore, the best course of action for this problem is to return the disc to the retailer and ask for a replacement.

Finally, If you're a console gamer, then this of course serves you right for not being a PC gamer and enjoying the benefit of superior hardware. It should also be noted that the PC version comes as a download on the Steam online network. This eliminates any DVD read issues as there's no DVD (the installation disc in the retail version can be ignored) and also greatly improves loading times both at the start and during level changes, since it loads from the hard disc.

Valve Announces Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO)

Valve, creators of best-selling game franchises (such as Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and Team Fortress) and leading technologies (such as Steam and Source), today announced Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO).

Targeted for release via Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and Steam (for PC and Mac) in early 2012, CS: GO will expand upon the team-based action gameplay that it pioneered when it was launched exactly 12 years ago (CS beta 1, August 1999).

MSI Unveils All-in-One PCs with LED Super Color Displays

MSI, the global leading brand in All-in-One PC, will be showcasing its new range of All-in-One PCs - which feature vivid color and emphasize environmentally-friendly "green" business capabilities and "smart" digital lifestyle enhancement - at the Computex Taipei 2011 exhibition. Impressed by the energy-saving, lightweight, environmentally-friendly potential of LED panel, MSI is leading the way by incorporating LED-backlit LCD display technology into its All-in-One PCs, together with multi-touch touch-screen function and full-HD resolution, marking the beginning of a new era in PC visual performance and ease of use.

MSI's new LED All-in-One PCs - the Wind Top AE2211G, AE2211 and AP2011 - feature enhanced energy-saving characteristics, rich colors and impressive brightness that are sure to make them a major focus of attention at this year's Computex show. As part of its efforts to facilitate easy synchronization for today's digital lifestyles, MSI is now incorporating personal cloud concept applications - Smart Media Link and Smart Sync - into its products. The cloud computing enabled All-in-One PCs that MSI will be showcasing at Computex 2011 make it possible for consumers to share audiovisual entertainment content conveniently over the Internet using touch-screen control. MSI's Wind Top AE2410 and AE2070 All-in-One PCs (which are equipped with the ultra-powerful second-generation Intel Core i3/i5 processor), as well as the AE2230, which employs AMD's latest Sabine platform, all use MSI's unique Wind Touch 4 touch-screen user interface software, which will also be a big draw at this year's Computex.

VisionTek Launches The CandyBoard Wireless Mini Keyboard

VisionTek Products, LLC today announced the North American launch of the CandyBoard their wireless mini keyboard with integrated touch pad, with plug & play 2.4GHz frequency USB dongle. The keyboard is slightly bigger than the classic American candy bar and complements your collection of typical home remote controls. It features 69 keys and a "capacitive-sensing" touchpad that's comparable to a real notebook touchpad, which eliminates the need for a separate mouse. The media center PC is becoming the in-home library for movie storage and play back, creating a need for smaller and more efficient remote navigation. The VisionTek CandyBoard features backlit LEDs keys to use in low-light environments, making it a perfect complement to any home theater PC or family room game console.

The VisionTek CandyBoard is the perfect HTPC accessory and offers full Windows Media compatibility. "The integration between your home computer and your television entertainment system creates a need for more mobile and user-friendly peripherals." Stated, Mark Bilson, VP of Sales. "Web based content has ballooned in the last year and only promises to explode in the next decade. I can honestly envision a CandyBoard in every family room across America." In addition to compatibility with the PC, the VisionTek CandyBoard is fully compatible with Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. The need for text and search capabilities in the console environment is magnified, as more web based content becomes readily available via these platforms. Compatibility doesn't stop with the PC and console, the CandyBoard is also compatible with Mac systems and Linux based environments too.
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