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Apple said to be spending more than $500M on Arcade gaming subscription effort – TechCrunch



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Apple’s new gaming subscription service Apple Arcade may have been a bit of a footnote at its Services event earlier this month compared to the stage time given to more prime time-ready efforts like Apple TV+ and Apple News+, but the company is throwing some major funding behind its effort to get people paying a monthly fee for exclusive titles.

The company has already set aside a budget of more than $500 million for its Arcade service, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The service, arriving in the fall, will let users play exclusive gaming titles across their Apple devices ad-free and offline. The titles will be free of micro-transactions, unlike many of the popular gaming titles on the App Store.

While the company has already reportedly spent more than $1 billion on its TV+ content service, the gaming subscription world marks another uncharted territory for Apple as it will put the tech giant in the position of curating with its cash by directly funding titles for exclusive launches on Apple Arcade. At its event, the company detailed that it will have more than 100 new and exclusive gaming titles launching as part of its service.

The report states that in order to receive funding from Apple, developers will have to eschew releases on the Google Play Store and refrain from taking part in other gaming subscription services. After a “few months” of exclusivity, developers will be able to release their games on non-mobile platforms such as PCs and gaming consoles. The company is focusing its efforts on funding indie titles as opposed to bankrolling AAA studios to create an exclusive epic.

As with Apple TV+, we’re still waiting on exact details regarding price and availability.

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Is Counter-Strike 2’s new match-abandonment penalty too harsh?



Enlarge / Mark my words, if any of you jerks abandon the unit, there’ll be hell to pay…


Anyone who has played a bit of Counter-Strike probably knows the frustration of having a teammate bail on a match early on, leaving your team at a 4-on-5 disadvantage. The recently launched Counter-Strike 2 is trying to limit this problem by imposing a harsh new penalty for players who leave a match before it’s over. But that system is already drawing angry reactions from players who feel they’ve been punished unfairly for unintentional match departures.

In CS: GO, abandoning a competitive match early resulted in a “cooldown” period before you could join a new match. Those periods started at 30 minutes for the first offense and rose to a full week for a fourth offense (one offense was also expunged from the count every seven days).

That punishment system carried forward to the closed CS2 beta in recent months but was reportedly ineffective at slowing down extremely high match abandonment rates. A series of popular posts on the CS:GO subreddit last month asked for stronger punishments, complaining that “almost every single match now has one leaver… I get it, you haven’t played CS in years and you’re butthurt that you’re losing but you’re just wasting everyone else’s time if you leave.”

With the full public launch of C2 last week, Valve seems to have taken that complaint to heart. Leaving a match early now also gets a player a 1,000-point drop in the ELO rating used for competitive matchmaking. That’s a pretty significant penalty, considering players only gain about 100 points for winning a match (against similarly ranked opponents). Under the current system, it could take hours of play to rebuild the ranking loss resulting from a single abandoned match.

Unintended consequences?

That kind of penalty might be an appropriate deterrent for players who would intentionally hurt their teammates’ experience by abandoning tough matches early. But some players are complaining that the ELO penalty also applies to matches abandoned for unintentional reasons, including the kind of game crashes that can be relatively common in a newly launched online game.

Solo players can also receive the ELO penalty if their random teammates vote to kick them for any reason—or even no reason at all. “[This system] gives way too much power to groups of trolls,” one Reddit commenter said of the ability for four committed players to dock a stranger teammate’s rating. “I just lost 1,000 [ELO points] because a teammate randomly decided to [team kill] me and start a vote kick,” another Redditor added. “They were just unhappy to be losing with bad matchmaking. Worked my ass off to get up to 9k+ and got tossed down to 7999.”

Then there are situations where players decide to leave because of bad behavior by their teammates. “Last match I was in, there was a duo on my team that decided to troll and grief our entire team just because I’m a girl. I abandoned because they were just holding us hostage at that point,” one Reddit user wrote. This player complained that there was no warning that an extra ELO penalty would be tacked on for this match abandonment. “I gladly accepted the 30 minute cooldown but even in casual or deathmatch you get warned that you lose XP points if you abandon, in premier you don’t and I’m not sure why,” the player wrote.

There may be other unintended consequences to the new penalty system, as some players are already contemplating using ELO penalties to easily create a “smurf account” with an artificially low ranking to get matched up with less-skilled players. Meanwhile, some CS2 players also report that remaining players in a 4-on-5 game aren’t allowed to vote to surrender even when the player disadvantage makes the match seem hopeless.

We’re still early in what will no doubt be a long life for competitive Counter-Strike 2, so Valve could definitely continue to adjust these penalties as time goes on. For now, though, the new system highlights the tough balancing act the company faces in trying to enforce good sportsmanship for randomly grouped teams in their online shooter.

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Is the Meta Quest a Wii U-sized flop? Software numbers suggest it might be



Enlarge / Meta’s estimated Quest software sales are worryingly close to those for the Wii U at a similar point in its life.

Ars / Kyle Orland

During Wednesday’s Meta Connect keynote presentation, the company announced a new milestone for its line of standalone Quest headsets: $2 billion in lifetime revenue from Quest apps and software since the platform launched back in 2019. On first glance, that’s a pretty big number that suggests the formation of a pretty healthy VR software ecosystem.

But looked at in context, Ars’ analysis suggests the Quest software market is roughly the same size as that for the Wii U at a similar point in its short life cycle. That’s not a great comparison for Meta to be facing, since the Wii U was rightly considered an embarrassing flop by the standards of the video game market.

Comparing apples to… VR apples

In making that comparison, Ars compared Wii U software unit sales numbers from Nintendo’s own quarterly reports to estimated software sales numbers based on Meta’s sporadic public announcements of Quest revenue milestones. To convert revenue numbers to unit sales estimates for the Quest, Ars divided total Quest revenue by the median sale price for best-selling Quest software ($19.99) and the mean sale price for that same software ($17.60).

These unit estimates are necessarily rough and don’t directly account for revenue made from Quest DLC, such as Beat Saber‘s popular music packs. They also don’t capture sideloaded Quest software purchased on platforms like Sidequest or, which are not included in Meta’s own numbers.

Quest software revenue picked up significantly after the late 2020 release of the Quest 2 headset.
Enlarge / Quest software revenue picked up significantly after the late 2020 release of the Quest 2 headset.

Ars Technica / Kyle Orland

Even accounting for those adjustments, though, the software markets for the Wii U and Quest (at similar points in their life cycles) would seem to be in similar neighborhoods. The Wii U’s sales of nearly 99 million software units in its first 1,594 days on the market is just behind the roughly 100 to 114 million pieces of Quest software Meta has sold in 1,559 days, according to Ars’ estimates.

To be fair to the Quest, software sales for the headset have shown a distinct upward trajectory since the launch of the Quest 2 in October 2020. If you disregard the 16 months of Quest 1 software sales that preceded the Quest 2 launch, the headset has been selling software at a significantly faster rate than the Wii U. Meta also deserves credit for building the Quest’s software library from what was essentially a standing start into a robust storefront with over 500 apps. Comparing a new VR platform to a Nintendo console that could lean on ultra-popular first-party franchises developed over decades isn’t completely fair to the newcomer.

At the same time, many of the Wii U’s most popular first-party games consistently sold for $59.99, with exceedingly rare official discounts. That means Nintendo’s console likely generated much more overall software revenue than the cheaper software on the Quest. The Wii U was also selling its software to just 13.57 million Wii U owners (as of March 2017), compared to reports of over 20 million Quest headset sales so far. This suggests that the average Quest owner is spending a lot less on software than the average Wii U owner did.

A report from earlier this year suggested that only 6 million Quest owners were still using their headsets at least once a month as of last October. That could help explain why relatively healthy Quest hardware sales haven’t translated to Quest software sales on the same level.

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PlayStation sci-fi epic Horizon Forbidden West makes its way to PC



Sony has announced that the sprawling open-world sci-fi epic Horizon Forbidden West will make its way to PCs “in early 2024,” almost two years after it debuted on the PlayStation 4 and 5 and four years after its predecessor Horizon Zero Dawn reached PC gamers.

Titled Horizon Forbidden West: Complete Edition, the PC release will include both the base game and the recently released Burning Shores DLC, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic Southern California. The complete edition will also launch on PlayStation 5, but a bit earlier, on October 6 of this year.

The PC port will be handled by Nixxes, which previously did a mostly bang-up job porting Sony studio Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales to PC. Sony hasn’t announced any details about PC-specific features for the game, but some recent ports of first-party PlayStation games have included features like ultrawide monitor support, DLSS AI upscaling, and more. The Spider-Man games prominently featured ray tracing, but ray tracing was part of the PS5 feature set for those games already. Horizon Forbidden West does not have ray tracing on PS5, so its inclusion in the PC version is less likely.

Despite the lack of ray tracing, few would argue that Horizon Forbidden West wasn’t a showstopper in the graphics department on PS5. High-quality assets densely populate its (frankly excessively) large open-world environment.

The PS5 trailer for <em>Horizon Forbidden West: Complete Edition</em>.

Horizon Forbidden West is set in a post-apocalyptic future where tribal societies with medieval technology (or even those less advanced) struggle to make progress hundreds of years after a catastrophe that ended our current civilization and forged in its place a world dominated by colossal mechanical menaces. It follows Aloy, an intelligent and driven hunter, as she treks across the region that was once the western United States to uncover the mysteries behind a malevolent AI that threatens to hit the reset button on human civilization once again. Like its predecessor, it includes a large ensemble of characters, multiple fictional societies, and a number of twists, turns, and surprises in the story.

The action RPG was well-received by fans of the popular open-world game formula, even though it doesn’t shake that formula up as much as critical darlings like Elden Ring or The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom do. The sequel drew praise for its expansiveness, story and characters, and production values, but it also received some criticism for its long run time and over-designed game systems compared to its more straightforward predecessor. Still, it’s widely regarded as a good game, especially for fans of science fiction.

The game will be available on both the Epic Game Store and Steam, with product pages already launched on both.

Listing image by Sony

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