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Tencent’s new alternative to PUBG is already topping the revenue chart – TechCrunch



In a move clearly driven by economic interests and an urgency to meet stringent regulations, the world’s largest games publisher Tencent pulled its mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on Wednesday and launched a new title called Game for Peace (the literal translation of its Chinese name 和平精英 is ‘peace elites’) on the same day.

As of this writing, Game for Peace is the most downloaded free game and top-grossing game in Apple’s China App Store, according to data from Sensor Tower data. That’s early evidence that the new title is on course to stimulate Tencent’s softening gaming revenues following a prolonged licensing freeze in China. Indeed, analysts at China Renaissance estimated that Game for Peace could generate up to $1.48 billion in annual revenue for Tencent.

Tencent licensed PUBG from South Korea’s Krafton, previously known as Bluehole, in 2017 and subsequently released a test version of the game for China’s mobile users.

Game for Peace is available only to users above the age of 16, a decision that came amid society’s growing concerns over video games’ impact on children’s mental and physical health. Tencent has recently pledged to do more ‘good’ with its technology, and the new game release appears to be a practice of that.

Tencent told Reuters the two titles are from “very different genres.” Well, many signs attest to the fact that Game for Peace is intended as a substitute for PUBG Mobile, which never received the green light from Beijing to monetize because it’s deemed too gory. Game for Peace received the license to sell in-game items on April 9.

For one, PUBG users were directed to download Game for Peace in a notice announcing its closure. People’s gaming history and achievement were transferred to the new game, and players and industry analysts have pointed out the striking resemblance between the two.

“It’s basically the same game with some tweaks,” said a Guangzhou-based PUBG player who has been playing the title since its launching, adding that the adjustment to tone down violence “doesn’t really harm the gamer experience.”

“Just ignore those details,” suggested the user.

For instance, characters who are shot don’t bleed in Game for Peace. A muzzle flash replaces gore as bloody scenes no longer pass the muster. And when people are dying, they kneel, surrender their loot box, and wave goodbye. Very civil. Very friendly.

“It’s what we call changing skin [for a game],” a Shenzhen-based mobile game studio founder said to TechCrunch. “The gameplay stays largely intact.”

Other PUBG users are less sanguine about the transition. “I don’t think this is the correct decision from the regulators. Getting oversensitive in the approval process will prevent Chinese games from growing big and strong,” wrote one contributor with more than 135 thousand followers on Zhihu, the Chinese equivalent of Quora.

But such compromise is increasingly inevitable as Chinese authorities reinforce rules around what people can consume online, not just in games but also through news readers, video platforms, and even music streaming services. Content creators must be able to decipher regulators’ directives, some of which are straightforward as “the name of the game should not contain words other than simplified Chinese.” Others requirements are more obscure, like “no violation of core socialist’s values,” a set of 12 moral principles — including prosperity, democracy, civility, and harmony — that are propagated by the Chinese Communist Party in recent years.

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Nvidia announces the $399 RTX 3060 Ti—and we’ve tested it



New computer GPUs have launched at a furious pace the past few months, mostly in the $500-and-up sector. This week, we finally see a 2020 GPU arriving at a lower price than a brand-new gaming console: the Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti, priced at $399 and launching tomorrow, December 2.

But once again this year, Nvidia is leaving people in the dark about how many of these cards we can expect to reach stores. We know the company manufactured at least one of them, at any rate, because my review hardware arrived last week. The usual gamut of benchmarks confirms performance on par with last year’s RTX 2080 Super, at nearly half the cost.

Like other RTX-branded GPUs, the Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti features proprietary processing cores on its silicon—namely, its Tensor cores (for AI computation) and its RT cores (to manage all things ray tracing). To get to a $399 price, the 3060 Ti drops specs compared to its higher-ranked siblings in the usual categories, particularly CUDA cores, but it also severely drops its Tensor and RT core counts. Nvidia’s trick here is that those core types have been updated since last year’s model to do more work per core.

If this were a market where you could easily snap up a $499 RTX 3070, some of these RTX 3060 test results would be hard to swallow, considering the price-per-dollar comparison. But there’s no getting around this new card’s ability to match the RTX 2080 Super (original MSRP: $699) in every category that counts.

Like most Ars Technica GPU reviews, we limit our benchmarks to 4K tests, owing to the fact that lower-resolution benchmarks typically become CPU-limited and thus don’t tell the full story of how a GPU will turn out in your particular PC. (If you’re wondering, my testing rig sports an i7-8700K CPU, overclocked to 4.7GHz, plus 32GB DDR4-3000 RAM, an 850W PSU, and a PCI-e 3.0 SSD.)

Last month, we saw an exception to this testing standard thanks to the 128MB of L3 cache in AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 series, which drives improved 1440p performance. But AMD’s cheapest card as of press time, the $579 RX 6800, isn’t a fair comparison with the RTX 3060 Ti. (In other words: yes, its extra $180 delivers more power in 4K and 1440p modes.) Should AMD ever launch a lower-priced 6000-series card, we’ll be sure to go back and test 1440p modes accordingly.

Otherwise, there’s not a ton to say about RTX 3060 Ti that hasn’t been spelled out with its costlier siblings. DLSS still impresses as a proprietary upsampling and anti-aliasing system, and that, combined with solid ray-tracing tech, continues to make Nvidia cards a tantalizing option—especially when clock speeds and CUDA cores have been reduced to hit the $399 sweet spot while still otherwise looking quite performative.

Meanwhile, if your favorite games don’t tap into DLSS, you should expect to tinker with their settings to maximize their 1440p or 1080p performance levels—and I can’t help but imagine AMD has a response to this exact use case with any future lower-priced RX 6000-series GPUs. But nothing of the sort has been announced yet, so for the time being, Nvidia takes the lead at this price point.

Listing image by Nvidia

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AR Mario Kart anchors Universal’s Super Nintendo World in February



It’s been over five years now since Nintendo first announced plans to collaborate with Universal Studios on a real-world theme park. Now, Universal has announced a February 4, 2021, opening for the Japanese edition of Super Nintendo World in Osaka and is showing off some of the attractions in detail for the first time.

Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge is one of the highlights of the new Nintendo-themed area of Universal Studios Japan. Housed inside an intricate model of Bowser’s castle, the ride puts four attendees in a replica kart, complete with augmented reality glasses to help them be “fully immersed in the game.” While the kart is on rails that prevent free driving around the track, augmented reality glasses should let players actually see shells being thrown to take out opponents.

Universal also announced a Yoshi’s Adventure ride, featuring Captain Toad and a quest for hidden colored eggs. Both attractions last about five minutes.

Attendees at Super Nintendo World can also purchase a “Power-Up Band” for ¥3,200 (about $30) to “keep score” as they punch ?-blocks, collect virtual coins and keys, and “using their entire bodies in dynamic activities throughout the land,” Universal said in a press release. At the end of the quest, Power-Up Band purchasers will face “a dramatic boss battle with Bowser Jr.”

Delays and international launches

Universal Studios Japan originally planned to open Super Nintendo World in the summer of 2020, to coincide with the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Both events were postponed, though, as the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world this year.

Universal Studios Japan is still operating at a reduced capacity due to those pandemic restrictions, with policies that “ensure ample personal space and wait times for popular attractions are comparatively short,” according to the company. Japan had had a relatively low coronavirus death rate across its population through the summer, though confirmed case and death rates have recently been increasing, particularly in the Osaka area.

The first teaser attraction for the Japanese Super Nintendo World, a themed Mario Cafe & Store, opened last month, complete with the requisite exclusive merchandise and themed food items. Construction of a similar Super Nintendo World section for Universal Studios Hollywood began in August, ahead of an opening expected sometime in the next few years. Super Nintendo World will also be part of Universal’s upcoming Epic Universe park in Orlando, Florida, sometime after its planned 2023 opening.

Listing image by Universal Studios Japan

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An extended Blade Runner interview with Westwood co-founder Louis Castle



Edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript.

As 2020 draws to a close, we’ve still got a couple of extended-edition “War Stories” videos to release, and this one’s been a while coming. We had a great time last year talking to Westwood’s Louis Castle—so much so that we actually got two videos out of him instead of one. In addition to discussing the 1997 adventure game genre swan song Blade Runner, we also got him to spill the beans on the wild development ride that was Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun.
Today we’re happy to finally be able to publish the extended edition of Castle’s Blade Runner interview. To recap from the short version, Castle and his team faced a series of very high technological hurdles in bringing the dark and expansive world of future Los Angeles to the small screen. The challenges weren’t limited to storytelling and design issues, either, though those were substantial (the developers had to create a branching narrative where there weren’t just multiple endings, but multiple interpretations of different events in the game, including swapping around who is and isn’t a replicant—writing a story with that many moving parts that remains coherent throughout is hella difficult). No, the biggest challenges were of the engineering type and required creative solutions—like inventing a way to weld together dynamically lit voxel characters with pre-rendered backgrounds or planning out a data storage strategy that made the game’s huge files work with the limited IO bandwidth available to contemporary CD-ROM drives.

If a deep dive into the mechanics of programming a massive adventure game on late-’90s technology (and pulling it off spectacularly!) sounds interesting, then this video was made for you.

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