| Opinion Bad puns and video games since 1999. Sat, 23 Oct 2021 04:55:06 +0100 5 Sat, 23 Oct 2021 04:55:06 +0100 Imagining FIFA Ultimate Team without pay-to-win loot boxes

After I'd wrapped up my interview with EA's Chief Experience Officer Chris Bruzzo on FIFA's loot boxes, I felt like I was clear on one thing: the company is willing to lightly edit the way Ultimate Team's controversial monetisation works, but the fundamentals? It's sticking with those.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. In our interview, Bruzzo makes the case for why EA believes it's perfectly reasonable to sell loot boxes that contain gameplay-affecting items within FIFA, and I challenge him on that. If nothing else, I think it makes for an interesting back and forth - one that gives us a good idea of how EA thinks about its prize cash cow. I finished the interview with a better understanding of where EA's coming from and where it's going with Ultimate Team, but my opinion on it remains unchanged.

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]]> Fri, 08 Oct 2021 10:00:00 +0100 Wesley Yin-Poole
Letter from the Editor: What's with all the good reviews?

Letter from the Editor is a new monthly column from our editor - a bit like the editorial on the first page of a magazine! - that's exclusive to all Eurogamer supporters.

Welcome, and thanks so much for supporting Eurogamer! In 22 years of operation, we've never asked our readers to pay to read us before - and you are one of the first to do us the honour. So, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. It really does mean a lot.

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]]> Tue, 28 Sep 2021 12:12:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
In defence of God of War's Thor

Last night, during Sony's PlayStation Showcase event, we got the debut trailer for the new God of War game - and super cool it looks too.

But after God of War Ragnarok was fully unveiled, we got what was for me an even more interesting reveal: our first look at the game's version of Thor, the Norse god of Thunder.

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]]> Fri, 10 Sep 2021 11:23:00 +0100 Wesley Yin-Poole
Sony just did a better job of convincing me Xbox Game Pass is viable than Microsoft has so far

Microsoft has run up against questions about Xbox Game Pass' financial viability ever since it launched the subscription service.

Is Xbox Game Pass too good to be true? That's the question Eurogamer's Chris Tapsell asked in a recent feature, speaking to developers and Microsoft executives to try to find out the answer.

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]]> Wed, 28 Jul 2021 16:01:00 +0100 Wesley Yin-Poole
Football really could learn from video games, if it bothered to understand them

It's Wednesday afternoon, and someone's decided to blame video games. It's easy to get frustrated but, actually, these days are often some of the most fun. Usually what follows is a circus: wagon-circling on Twitter, misinformed headlines in the mainstream press, maybe someone from a trade body going on This Morning to explain how much money video games make, and how many studies there are about them being unanimously good for your kids, your mental health, and your chances of winning the lottery, probably. It is silly, and inconsequential enough for us to quietly enjoy, but it regularly happens, and it usually comes from ignorance.

This time, however, things are a bit different. Someone has sort of blamed video games, less out of red-faced criticism or engagement-baiting rage, and more from sheer desperation. Video games have been blamed by Andrea Agnelli, the chairman of Italian football giant Juventus and, more pertinently, the vice chairman of the catastrophic new Super League that imploded only last night. The context is important, and kind of bizarre.

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]]> Wed, 21 Apr 2021 13:23:00 +0100 Chris Tapsell
Capcom's convoluted Resident Evil Village demo rollout disrespects our time

I wanted to play the Resident Evil Village demo that launched on PlayStation on Sunday evening. I even pre-downloaded it! But I couldn't - I have a wife and two young children and Sundays are my only family day. After we put the kids to bed, the few precious hours my wife and I had to ourselves before we collapsed in sleep were spent watching something inane on telly while having a chat. My wife is learning Russian. It seems to be going well.

No bother! I'll play the demo tomorrow, I thought. At some point, anyway. So this morning, before the kids woke up for school and nursery, I turned my PlayStation 5 on, pressed X on Resident Evil Village, and...

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]]> Mon, 19 Apr 2021 12:14:00 +0100 Wesley Yin-Poole
PS5 and Xbox present strikingly different visions - and both bring big positives for games

So this is it: the new consoles are here. Well, not here, not both (or all) of them: along with many of you in the UK and Europe, I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of my own PlayStation 5 next Thursday. But look, there on my desk, peeking discreetly out from behind the monitor as I type this: a real, live, retail Xbox Series S. Isn't it lovely?

And here's the thing. Whisper it, because it feels like there has been too much good news already this week, and we're not used to it, it's making us suspicious. I think it's going great. This is the best generational shift in consoles in a long time; not necessarily the most exciting, but the most upbeat. The most optimism-inducing. It's certainly better than last time. PlayStation 4's launch slogan was "for the players", which was an effective rejoinder to Microsoft's ill-begotten Xbox One strategy, but away from that flattering mirror, it never really felt true. The PS4, with its conventional architecture and basic feature set, its overpowered graphics processor and underpowered CPU, its emphasis on the same but more, was a tactical retreat onto safe ground. It was simple, it was sensible, it was effective, but did it really make things better for us? Did it move our gaming lives forward? Barely.

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]]> Sat, 14 Nov 2020 10:00:00 +0000 Oli Welsh
Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda is all about Game Pass

It feels like we've been holding our collective breath for it without realising. Ever since Microsoft set about fixing Xbox's weakness in first-party studios with an acquisition spree that started last year - picking up many mid-sized outfits such as Playground Games, Ninja Theory and Obsidian - we've been waiting for the megaton, the super-acquisition that would snap up some high-profile studio and treasured franchise. Reports circulated recently that talks to buy Bungie had fallen through. Some figured that an even bigger target might be in play, all the way up to and including super-publishers like EA and Activision Blizzard.

It turns out those speculations were not as wild as you might have thought. Microsoft has announced its intention to buy Bethesda parent ZeniMax for an eye-watering $7.5 billion - three times what it paid for Minecraft maker Mojang, and only a billion short of what Disney paid for Marvel and Lucasfilm combined. This brings mega-franchises The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and Doom within the Xbox fold and increases Microsoft's roll-call of first-party developers by no less than eight studios, including such storied names Bethesda Game Studios, id Software and Arkane.

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]]> Mon, 21 Sep 2020 17:04:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
Microsoft still hasn't made the case for Xbox Series X

Let's get the obvious comparison out of the way, now that we can compare the summer's two great trailer showcases - separated this year by six weeks rather than the usual day and a half: Sony edged it.

Neither PlayStation nor Xbox delivered a slam dunk when making the software case for their new hardware launches this year. Stripped of the wheeler-dealing, jostle and theatricality whipped up by the industry's convergence on Los Angeles for E3 in a normal year, there was a sense of hesitancy about both showings, with many exclusive properties and first-party studios not ready to take the virtual stage, and most big third-party publishers declining to lend their weight to either side. We saw a lot of indie games - great for representing the true diversity of the medium, not so good as ammunition in a hype war. We didn't get a decisive megaton announcement from either.

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]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2020 14:16:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
GTA's casino isn't the worst of gambling in games - but it puts it in perspective

This week, the UK's Gambling Commission confirmed to a parliamentary enquiry that loot boxes, FIFA player packs and the like do not constitute gambling under UK law, since there is no official way to cash out your winnings from these blind reward packs. The player, skin or card you might win from a blind pack doesn't have monetary value - officially - so rolling the dice on 'packing' it isn't gambling, even if you paid real money for the privilege.

Also this week, Rockstar opened a casino in Grand Theft Auto Online after a six-year wait. There are no semantics to be unpicked here: it is a straight-up depiction of gambling, and since GTA Online's in-game currency is for sale more-or-less directly in the form of Shark Cards, you can buy in with real money. But once again, you can't cash out - officially. So, at least as far as UK law would have it, it isn't gambling.

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]]> Fri, 26 Jul 2019 15:30:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
Google and Xbox just started the next platform war

Game streaming is coming. It's been coming since before we all laughed at OnLive and ignored PlayStation Now, and those too-little-too-soon gambits did nothing to impede its inevitable arrival. It is the future, in the sense that a credible and widely-used iteration of game streaming technology is around the corner and is something everyone reading this will probably end up using. Whether this future will prove mutually exclusive with other futures - those of games consoles and of digital platforms like Steam - is much more debatable. But it's coming regardless.

The games industry was unequivocal on that fact at E3 this year. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot mentioned it to anyone who would listen, while EA promised its own service tied into EA Access. More consequentially (with the greatest respect to EA), Phil Spencer said Microsoft was planning an Xbox-branded game streaming service. Earlier this week, we heard the first details about what Microsoft is calling Project xCloud, in apparent response to last week's announcement of a long-rumoured game streaming offering from Google. Google's Project Stream is already in testing in the US; xCloud hardware is being installed in data centres, but public testing won't begin until next year.

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]]> Thu, 11 Oct 2018 08:00:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
Nintendo speaks a little too directly to fans at E3

I'm not going to quibble with Nintendo's policy, now long established, of addressing fans directly through a pre-recorded showcase at E3 rather than going through the rigmarole of a live event. Nor am I going to dispute that the Nintendo Direct videos that have proliferated through the gaming year to offer roundups, announcements and deep-dives work well for both Nintendo and its community; nor argue that it is a bad idea to spread these moments around rather than concentrate them in a single info-burst in June. They make Switch feel like the bustling, exciting platform it absolutely is.

I do think Nintendo missed an opportunity yesterday, however, with an E3 Direct that will have left everyone but the hardcore followers of a single one of its game series cold.

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]]> Wed, 13 Jun 2018 17:03:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
Steam's content policy is both arrogant and cowardly

Yesterday, in response to a couple of recent controversies, Valve announced that it would abandon its (few, vestigial) efforts to curate the content of games on its ubiquitous PC gaming platform, Steam. "We've decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store," Valve's Erik Johnson said in a blog post, "except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling."

The company's argument was constructed to appear principled: there is no such thing as consensus on what is offensive, Johnson argued, even within Valve itself; it is not Valve's place to be a moral arbiter or to decide what is permissible; players and game creators should enjoy the right to freedom of speech. But the post also betrayed a confusion born of profound arrogance about where a society's rules end and the responsibilities of members of that society - especially influential members such as Valve - begin. And worse, it showed a cowardly unwillingness to tackle the tough questions that any company in Valve's enormously powerful and lucrative position must face.

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]]> Thu, 07 Jun 2018 15:41:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
Nintendo's half-arsed online cripples FIFA 18 on Switch

FIFA 18 just came out on Nintendo Switch, which should be reason for cheer. It's a decent port of this year's game, albeit running on an older engine and understandably without all the bells and whistles of its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One counterparts (and missing a few features such as The Journey mode and small details such as quick substitutions).

I've been personally looking forward to this version of FIFA 18 in the hope it'd fill a hole that's recently opened up in my life. Every month, myself and a group of mates get together for a PES mini-league, giving over a whole Saturday to pizza, beer and football games. It's fairly serious business - we've got a trophy and everything - but one of our number recently upped sticks and moved to Japan. No worries, we thought - we've got a Nintendo Switch each, so surely we'll be covered when FIFA 18 comes out. We'd even happily stomach making the switch from PES to FIFA to make it happen.

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]]> Fri, 29 Sep 2017 10:16:00 +0100 Martin Robinson
Ubisoft storms E3 with a vital reminder that video games are human and fun

Selling video games to people who like video games should not be hard. Often, though, it seems like the hardest thing in the world - especially at E3, where even the greats can stumble on stage. Over the last few years, it seems to have been getting harder and harder, too. Each summer, EA struggles bravely to simulate convincing human behaviour as it trots viewers through the mega-brands. Bethesda scowls through the smoke and gunfire as it conjures Nazis and radioactive horrors. Microsoft opts for T-shirts and leather jackets, and looks less like a new Top Gear presenting team, which would be bad enough, and more like a series of rookie commanders-in-chief, lecturing the troops on the deck of a battleship. And it never really feels like it's anybody's fault. It just feels like glossy conferences are a deeply imperfect means for exploring the joys of this particular industry. They're good at expressing the idea that games are a serious business, that they are expensive undertakings put together by serious professionals, but they're less good at acknowledging that games are fun, that they're amongst the most human of human artefacts, even if underneath it all they're made of light and maths.

Enter Ubisoft. For the last few years it's had an unfair advantage, of course: Aisha Tyler, a sharp and witty presenter who was able to bring even the wonkiest of segues home and speak like a real human being regardless of what psychedelic oddity she was cuing up next. This time around, though, Tyler's nowhere to be seen, and so everyone feared the worst. We should not have feared. Ubisoft smashed it. Not just because of the games, either, although there were some wonderful looking treats on display, along with a couple of genuine dazzlers. Ubisoft smashed it because it remembered that video games are brilliant - and the people who make them are brilliant, too. Other publishers and platform holders try to create epics at E3. Ubisoft's conference felt like WarioWare.

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]]> Tue, 13 Jun 2017 11:00:00 +0100 Christian Donlan
Sony's flat E3 conference shows signs of a mid-generation lull

Like Gatsby, Shawn Layden does not like to talk more than he has to. That's the impression that has emerged over a handful of E3s, anyway, as his dapper presence on the PlayStation stage has generally seen him restricting his comments to a few breezy thoughts here and there. He loves games, and he knows, in his collegiate way, that we all love games too. The future is coming! The future is now. He plays with his cuffs, he checks his pocket square. He does a lovely thing with his hands that makes him look like he is shelling peanuts and tossing the husks to the wind. And then he is gone, into the wings while the games take center stage. He doesn't call us "sport", but it is implied. We all know what this is about. We are all here for the same reason.

This year, PlayStation's Gatsby has a rather strange idea of what makes a party. This was exemplary stuff in one manner of speaking. The days in which Sony would stop everything for fifteen minutes to fill us in on a swish marketing deal with Coca-Cola, or a cable show they were thinking of making, are long gone. This is games start to finish, and most of them look pretty good - even if more than you might expect are destined for 2018. Big names, small names, PS4, Pro, and PSVR - no Vita, but the way that that PSVR is hived off into its own segment suggests that it might be the new Vita anyway - this was another show of strength. And yet there is something a little odd about it. Sony's 2017 conference did a very nice line in gloomy spectacle, but it had little thematic range. Video games are beautiful, melancholic affairs, if Sony is to be listened to. They are set, more often than not, in the vast, dripping outdoors, and they are populated by angry or subdued loners engaged in grumpy bursts of hyperviolence.

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]]> Tue, 13 Jun 2017 10:11:00 +0100 Christian Donlan
Xbox One X promises a strong and stable line-up

The Xbox One X is going to be a beast. Amazing specs. Amazing look. Amazing tech chatter, a lot of which went over my head. It's built around power, compatibility, and craftsmanship, according to Kareem Choudhry, Xbox Director of Software Engineering, on stage at Microsoft's E3 press briefing, and somehow, it's a magic trick too, because it fits in the smallest box - the smallest Xbox - Microsoft has ever offered. Just look at how powerfully dinky this thing is, like an elephant squeezed into a service elevator. A controller leans insouciantly against one edge of it, and that insouciant controller pretty much towers over the machine. True 4K textures! True 4K assets! Enhanced visual fidelity, isotropic filtering and faster load times on the games you already own! Enough of this blather. Kareem is a man in a hurry. Let's see, he says, what this monster can do.

It can do cars, for one thing. Forza Motorsport 7 looks lovely: sharp and clear, the cars nice and shiny with all of it running at 4K and 60 fps on Xbox One X. But is Forza really the best way to introduce a console that is meant to blow you away? Is Dan Greenawalt banging on about a new Porsche really the strain of hype this behemoth deserves? I was more excited when Choudhry announced the new box had a new power management system so innovative that they named it after the person who designed it. That showed, you know, a bit of character. A bit of quirk. A little bit of humanity glinting from within the silicon.

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]]> Mon, 12 Jun 2017 07:00:00 +0100 Christian Donlan
A resurgent Nintendo still has questions to answer at E3

As a longtime console war correspondent, one of my maxims is "never rule out Nintendo". Another is "it only takes one game". Looking at the strong launch of Nintendo Switch, I feel both vindicated and embarrassed. Vindicated, because Switch is Nintendo's fastest-selling console ever in both the US and Europe, shipping almost three million consoles in a month, and proving that Nintendo's innovative third-way approach to video game hardware design can still work wonders when it turns up something that customers understand and want.

Its success was also inextricably linked to that of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, an undisputed modern classic which I think must be the most critically acclaimed game of my professional lifetime. Through some statistical quirk, its Switch version had an attach rate of over 100% after one month. And they said the era of the killer app was over.

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]]> Fri, 09 Jun 2017 10:00:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
Xbox is close to being a brilliant games platform, but it needs games to get it there

We would say this, but Microsoft's decision to reveal the specs of Scorpio, its Xbox One hardware refresh, exclusively through Digital Foundry was a very smart move. They knew a leak was likely once the machine was presented to developers, so they got in front of it. And they know that this souped-up console needs to win back the hearts and minds of the gaming hardcore who defected to PlayStation three and a half years ago. To convince those guys, you need to convince core-of-the-core communities like NeoGAF, and to convince NeoGAF, you need to convince Digital Foundry.

Naturally, the only reason this strategy could work is that all the right calls had been made in putting this machine together. One was designing it as a purist game console: the most powerful and best-engineered ever, more akin to the original Xbox and Xbox 360 than the original Xbox One's multimedia hub. Another good decision was targeting late 2017 for its launch, when Microsoft knew parts would be available that would enable it to reliably hit native 4K resolutions, just at the same time as 4K TVs become the mass-market industry standard. (It's already happened; try buying anything other than a small, budget 1080p set now.) By contrast, Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro was poorly explained, confusingly conceived and jumped the gun, launching before the chipsets or the customers were quite ready.

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]]> Thu, 08 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
A call to arms for the UK fighting game community

Deputy Editor's note: A year ago I reported on Hypespotting 5, one of the UK's biggest fighting game tournaments, after it suffered a raft of technical issues and disappointed some fans. After we ran the article I was contacted by a number of people embedded within the UK fighting game community who defended the scene and called for a deeper look. I thought now, with Hypespotting 6 taking place, it was a great time to do just that and investigate the state of the UK fighting game community.

Below is a feature from Ryan Esler, a freelance writer who has been a part of the UK fighting game community since the release of Street Fighter 4 in 2009. He has competed in Scottish tournaments in both Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Tekken and founded the Tekken group W3D. Photos courtesy of Stephanie Lindgren.

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]]> Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0100 Ryan Esler
Steam Greenlight had to go, but its replacement might just work

Steam Greenlight, Valve's process for finding new games to place on the store, will soon be gone. In a few short months Valve will replace it with a much more straightforward system they're calling Steam Direct because, well, it's a more direct method of getting onto Steam. I know, I know, I don't know how they came up with the name either.

For anybody browsing the store, it'll make little to no difference in the long run though I'm sure by this time next week there will be a thousand think pieces, a thousand videos by shouting, visibly angry men and a bucketful of tweets to throw into the ocean never to be seen again which all predict the sky will fall, all the games will be lost in the noise, quality will go down and a plague of locusts will nibble at the toes of your first born.

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]]> Sat, 11 Feb 2017 07:02:00 +0000 Rob Fearon
The importance of games in difficult times

I was halfway through a piece on poetic game mechanics as allegory, but then Trump won the US election, and I just didn't have the heart. So you're excused that until next month, at which point I'll probably do, like, a Christmas Pumpkin Spice column anyway.

This isn't going to be a column about how horrible Trump is, though. That's not new information to most people. Besides, I assume that statistically some readers would have voted Trump if they could (or did! hello in the US!). I'm not going to conceal my opinions, but I don't want to browbeat people on the other side of the political divide. In fact, that's sort of the point. I want to talk about empathy, and games, and happiness.

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]]> Sat, 12 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Alexis Kennedy
The Wii U a failure? Far from it

The time for tearful Wii U eulogies has likely been and gone (it felt like notice was already being served on Nintendo's home console not long after it came out four years ago), but as production winds down now is as good a time as any to take stock of its legacy. Maybe you might look for it in its sales figures, which are notoriously poor - the 13.36m sold as of September fall well short of the 21.74 million GameCubes Nintendo shifted, making it comfortably the company's poorest performing home platform. It's edged ahead of Sega's Dreamcast - itself with a tally of 9.13m sold - but looking at the sales alone the Wii U has been a disaster.

Is that where you find the true worth of a console, though? I'm not an investor or an analyst and, like the majority of people that come to a specialist site like Eurogamer, I'm simply someone who loves video games. I like some better than others, and there are a truly special few that find their way to my heart. I don't judge my favourite films by their box office receipts, just as much as I don't rate my favourite songs by how high they charted. Look beyond the sales, and by the one metric that matters to people like me - the number of games worth playing on any given platform - the Wii U was a resounding success.

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]]> Fri, 04 Nov 2016 14:52:00 +0000 Martin Robinson
Bethesda's anti-consumer review policy comes as no surprise

Last night, Bethesda laid clear its policy on media reviews from Dishonored 2 onwards. In a short statement on its official site from global content lead Gary Steinman - himself a former games journalist - Bethesda announced that you won't see any reviews before the launch of its games because it will continue to send out code to publications a day before release. It's not a particularly surprising statement, even if Bethesda deemed it shocking enough to put behind an age gate.

It is anti-consumer, though, and riddled with inconsistencies. "We want everyone, including those in the media, to experience our games at the same time," reads the statement, knowing as well as we do that final code for Skyrim Remastered is currently in the hands of many 'influencers' and has been for some time. Bethesda claims it wants you to get the game the same time as everyone else, at the same time as announcing a pre-order bonus that lets people play a day early. Where to find the truth in that message?

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]]> Wed, 26 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0100 Martin Robinson
Life after console generations has one big upside

Later today, Sony will reveal the console codenamed PlayStation Neo - a more powerful version of the PlayStation 4 which will, reportedly, run the same games at higher resolutions or otherwise enhanced. Alongside the similarly conceived Xbox Scorpio, due next year, Neo represents a major departure from industry orthodoxy that will change the fundamental business model of games consoles.

This is the end of console generations as we know them: fixed platforms that offer total compatibility of hardware and software and an identical experience from one user to the next. These platforms have tended to live for somewhere between five and ten years, before being replaced by a new machine that is vastly more powerful and might be compatible with your previous games, but probably isn't.

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]]> Wed, 07 Sep 2016 12:00:00 +0100 Oli Welsh