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Microsoft Responds To Xbox One ‘Kill Switch’ Reports Related To NDA Violations

Earlier today, we reported that footage had emerged of the rumored Gears of War Ultimate Edition. Throughout the day, more information became available, including a report from the contracted testing company that punitive action had been taken.

Kotaku published a memo reportedly sent from testing company VMC to employees. One item of note is that VMC claims that certain consoles belonging to those found in violation of an NDA were entirely disabled. The company suggests this is part of the Xbox Live End User License Agreement (EULA).

When reached for comment, Microsoft declined to share whether a mechanism that can completely suspend all usability exists. The company provided us with a statement on the situation, however.

“To be clear, if a console is suspended from Xbox Live for a violation of the Terms of Use, it can still be used offline,” a representative told us. “Microsoft enforcement action does not result in a console becoming unusable. Suspensions for both consoles and accounts are determined by looking at a number of factors.  To avoid enforcement action including suspension from the service, users should follow the Xbox Live Terms of Use and Code of Conduct.”

What this statement doesn’t address is whether there were additional strictures in place due to the NDA likely agreed upon by VMC and its employees. It also doesn’t directly address whether Microsoft has the ability to disable other functions, like disc playback and offline gaming. We’ve followed up with Microsoft in hopes of receiving some clarity.

 

Our Take
While it seems the average user is safe from anything worse than an account or console ban (consequences that have existed for years), I am still curious if VMC misspoke or if a “kill switch” exists. Microsoft may very well be incorporating all punitive action in its statement above, though. 

NDA violations are serious, and have the potential (especially with regard to an E3 announcement) to cost significant money. Penalties are severe, and Microsoft may have such a means (and cause) to ensure that its proprietary, unreleased content can’t be extracted from an Xbox One console. I’m not afraid of a potential kill switch being used improperly under normal use, but if one does exist, it is fair to question how it works and if it can be exploited.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

[Update] Google Play Takes Threes! Off Store Because 2048 Was A Search Word, Creator Responds

Update: Threes! creator Asher Vollmer has offered a statement regarding Google's move to remove his game from its store, and is understandably frustrated.

In response to our inquiry, Vollmer wrote the following in an e-mail:

The decision to pull our app was clearly made by a robot and not by a human. I want Google Play to AT LEAST issue warnings before they take these kinds of actions. Hundreds of people will be directed to our clones for the next few days instead of THE ACTUAL GAME. This was a completely tone deaf move.

We reached out to Google for a comment on the error, and will update this story if we receive a response.

Original story:

Threes! has been one of the more addictive puzzle games for mobile devices in the last year or so, but if you didn't get a chance to download it to an Android device before, you won't be able to now. Google has removed the game from its store.

In a recent tweet, Threes! creator Asher Vollmer remarked about how Google pulled the game from its mobile store because it contains the word 2048 in the search keywords. Ironically, 2048 is a clone of Threes! that overshot the original's popularity, and it seems like Vollmer was just trying to capitalize on that success to bring recognition to his own title.

Nintendo Responds To Amiibogeddon With Encouraging Statement On Re-Releases

If you were involved in (or watching) the rush for the next wave of Amiibo figures, you probably saw pieces of the Internet crumble (along with the emotional wellbeing of some collectors). Retailer websites went down and others simply broke as people attempted to add figures to their shopping carts. Nintendo watched in silence, but now the company offers hope.

We just received an updated statement on the situation.

We appreciate the enthusiasm that our fans continue to show toward amiibo. Sales for the product have exceeded our expectations. We understand how frustrating it can be at times if consumers are unable to find certain figures, and we apologize for that.

We’re trying to meet the demands of our fans and consumers by increasing the amount of amiibo we manufacture and ship to retail. We may continue to see consumer demand outpace supply levels for certain characters at times, but we will do our best to prevent that from happening.

As our library of amiibo continues to grow, some figures will be easier to find than others. We are constantly looking for the opportunity to reissue amiibo and are already making plans to bring back some currently out-of-stock amiibo figures. Stay tuned for details.

Nintendo plans to make it easier for consumers to know when new amiibo are on the way, through Nintendo press announcements, timely updates on our social media channels and working closely with retailers.

We remain committed to keeping amiibo affordable and easy to access as a platform to enhance game-play experiences. These plans include Animal Crossing amiibo cards that will become available by the end of 2015, and a free-to-download app for Wii U called amiibo tap: Nintendo’s Greatest Bits that launched on April 30, 2015, that lets consumers enjoy playable scenes from certain NES and Super NES games with amiibo.

This is the most definitive hope we’ve received for re-issuing of hard to find figures. It’s also the first time that Nintendo has addressed the scalping situation, which is driving up prices on the grey market.

 

Our Take
Increased supply and communication will hopefully help bridge the gap between collectors and the latest figures. Especially since some of the compatible titles rely on characters that are impossible to find anywhere, this is a necessary step. 

I’m also pleased to hear that Nintendo is very focused on reissuing figures and not cards for already released characters. That plan wouldn’t have had the same hook for collectors, even if it would have solved the content problem.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Valve’s Gabe Newell Responds To Questions About Mod Sales On Steam

Update: Valve's Gabe Newell is recently engaged in an "ask me anything" session on reddit responding to questions about Valve and Steam's paid mods initiative.

Newell opened the conversations writing, "On Thursday I was flying back from LA. When I landed, I had 3,500 new messages. Hmmm. Looks like we did something to piss off the Internet." after explaining his absence which was related to eye surgery, Newell continued, "So here I am, probably a day late, to make sure that if people are pissed off, they are at least pissed off for the right reasons."

Here are a few of Newell's responses so far. He says he should be able to answer questions for the next hour and a half.

As a baseline, Valve loves MODs (see Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, and DOTA). The open nature of PC gaming is why Valve exists, and is critical to the current and future success of PC gaming.

Our view of Steam is that it's a collection of useful tools for customers and content developers. With the Steam workshop, we've already reached the point where the community is paying their favorite contributors more than they would make if they worked at a traditional game developer. We see this as a really good step. The option of MOD developers getting paid seemed like a good extension of that.

In response to a question from redditor Not_dr_phil asking, "Considering valve is a company that owes many of its early games to mods, do you think that if you had to pay 5 dollars for the original Counter Strike, or Dota mod, would they have ever taken off?" Newell wrote, "No, they wouldn't. Which is one of the reasons that we didn't charge for them after they stopped being MODs (at least part of the time)."

One of the controversies surrounding these paid mods is how much of a cut Valve and the publisher/developer makes from these mods. Timestogo asked, "Isn't the 75% cut seen as a bit high?" Newell replied, "The pay-outs are set by the owner of the game that is being modded," and later reiterated saying, "Each game sets its own share."

Regarding the reports of censorship occurring on Steam's forums about discussions related to paid mods, Newell wrote, "If we are censoring, it's dumb, ineffective, and will stop," and further replied in a different response, "If we are censoring people, that's stupid. I'll get that to stop. On top of it being stupid, it doesn't work (see Top Gear forums on Jeremy Clarkson)."

Another good question came from redditor aiusepsi who asked, "Valve's never, in 10 years, required exclusivity of games or DLC on Steam. Why would they require it for mods?" Newell replied, "Exclusivity is a bad idea for everyone. It's basically a financial leveraging strategy that creates short term market distortion and long term crying."

In a pair of humorous responses, Newell explained why he insists on capitalizing the word mod – "Old habit. Circa 1997." He also replied to the vague complaint from someone who wrote, "This…this whole thing is just a mess," by saying, "I need something more concrete if you want me to improve it."

Finally Newell did say the system will be reviewed, as Valve always does with all of its systems, and said that part of him being there and answering these questions was part of that process.

At around 5:15 p.m. CT, Newell said that he may check back on questions in an hour. For more on Steam allowing its modders to sell mods, head here. To jump into a discussion on the topic, head here.

[Source: Reddit]

 

Our Take
It doesn't seem like Valve, in the near future at least, is planning on reverting or radically changing the process that is currently in place. It's a complicated issue, but I think ultimately putting some money in the hands of the folks who are working hard to create interesting mods is a worthwhile endeavour. I hope Valve can find the middle ground between compensating creators and addressing the long-term fears related to the sale of mods. I would love to see this person, for example, make some money for making me laugh hysterically at a Thomas the Tank Engine dragon.

By the way, the image above is from Gabe's appearance in Powerhoof Games' Crawl, which you can read more about here.

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Nintendo Responds To Fan Request For Robin Williams To Appear In Future Zelda Title

A petition to include some kind of Robin Williams memorial in a future Zelda title has reached over 100,000 signatures, and Nintendo has offered a response.

Much like the petition that encouraged Blizzard to include a Robin Williams NPC in World of Warcraft, this petition asks Nintendo to consider creating a Robin Williams NPC in a future Zelda title. It has reached more than 100,000 signatures and reads, "Robin was an avid player of video games, with a love for all things Nintendo, and a particular love of all things Legend of Zelda. It is well-known that he named his daughter after the series' titular princess."

A representative from Nintendo responded to inquiry from Polygon about the petition and offered the following statement:

"We appreciate the outpouring of support from the gaming community, and
hear the request of fans to honor him in a future game. We will not be
discussing what might be possible for future games during this difficult
time, but we will hold our memories of Robin close."

Nintendo worked with Robin Williams and his daughter Zelda to help promote the 3DS release of Ocarina of Time with a series of ads, one of which you can see below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

[Source: Polygon]

 

Our Take
I appreciate Nintendo offering a statement regarding the petition. I also understand that it is not prepared to make any promises it won't be able to keep. I would like to see a Robin Williams memorial in a future Zelda title, even if its not an NPC, and I hope it's something Nintendo and Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma are seriously considering.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Users Report Date-Related Thief Save Data Corruption, Square Enix Responds

Starting this morning, we began receiving word from readers that their Thief saves have disappeared or otherwise been corrupted. Given the date, we were skeptical, but after investigating the multitude of complaints on the forums and hearing from Square Enix, we are confident there is a problem.

Players are reporting that manual saves are disappearing, and that older saves have been wiped of some data (mostly side quests). The issues can be fixed on Windows 7 machines by setting the date ahead to April 2, though that reportedly does not work for Windows 8 computers. Users are also reporting problem with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game.

"We're aware of an issue that seems to be affecting some Thief players, preventing them from completing some levels,” a Square Enix representative told us via email. “We're taking this very seriously – as a first step we're reading as many reports of the issue as possible, working to replicate it internally, so that we can understand what's causing it. We're sorry for any disruption to your game today, and we'll update you as soon as we have more information."

We’ll update as we know more. For now, we recommend not booting up the game until April 2. Thanks to the many readers who emailed us about this problem.

 

Our Take
This is probably the oddest story of the day, and we're interested in learning more about how it happened. If you’ve lost your save or have otherwise experienced corrupted data in Thief today, please email us and let us know what you’re experiencing.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

War Thunder skips Xbox One due to cross-play hitch, Microsoft responds

Once it reaches the PS4, combat simulator War Thunder will feature cross-platform multiplayer between that user base and its existing PC audience. Unfortunately, Gaijin Entertainment CEO Anton Yudintsev told GameSpot that that cross-platform element…
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3D Realms responds to Gearbox, claims it owns Duke Nukem trademark

3D Realms isn’t backing down from its most recent legal dispute with Gearbox, after the studio asserted it has the rights to develop its Duke Nukem game, and more than that, it has the sole rights to the Duke Nukem trademark.

Following 3D Realms’…
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Microsoft’s Phil Spencer responds to Games with Gold concerns

Microsoft’s Phil Spencer is getting more involved with what franchises feature in Games with Gold, but the Xbox executive downplayed comparisons with Sony’s PlayStation Plus service. Polygon reports that at his SXSW panel, Spencer reiterated there’s…
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NBA Live 14 Executive Producer Responds To Negative Reception

After three years of absence, the NBA Live series made a return this
year, and it didn't turn out that well. Executive producer for the game,
Sean O’Brien, recently posted a letter online responding to the
criticism, and promising better games in the future.

"I’m not going to lie; it’s been a rough week. As you can imagine, this isn’t exactly the NBA Live comeback story we were hoping for this year," O’Brien says in the beginning of the letter, which you can read here. You can check out our review of the game here, where we gave the game a four out of 10. The game currently sits at a 45 out of 100 on Metacritic.

In the letter O'Brien goes on to say, "We hear loud and clear that some of you are disappointed in various aspects of NBA Live 14, and I’m sorry if the game doesn’t live up to your expectations. Looking at your feedback, we have laid out a plan to make NBA LIVE 14 a better game as quickly as we can." The developers have plans to expand the game's tutorials so it will be easier to learn, as well as host Twitch streams for more education on best play practices. O'Brien also says that you can expect to see updates that will help with the games visuals and animations soon.

O'Brien finishes up the letter saying, "For those of you who have supported us throughout this development cycle and continue to have our backs now, thank you. We’ve got a lot of work to do; I’ve got a lot of work to do."

[Source: EA Sports, via CVG]

 

Our Take
It's always good to hear game developers taking criticism to heart – even if it's not easy. NBA Live has a lot of catching up to do to the 2K series, but it sounds like EA and O'Brien are up for the challenge.

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