Posts by Chris Morris

  • Ouya's demise: What went wrong?

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 2 days ago

    Ouya? Oh no.

    On Tuesday, we got word that Ouya, the Android-based machine that kicked off the micro-console flood, is in dire financial straits and is desperately seeking a buyer. But take a look at the company's history of missteps, and it's really something of a miracle that it lasted this long.

    Ouya was one of the first real breakouts on Kickstarter, raising $8.6 million from gamers eager for something new. With its $99 price tag, sleek design, and promise of affordable gaming, the system seemed poised to shake up the console hierarchy.

    It didn't take long before things started to go wrong, though. And the mistakes began compounding. In its short history, Ouya has made just about every possible mistake a gaming start-up can make - and invented a few new ones along the way.

    I first met with Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman in March of 2013 to talk about the then-much-anticipated system and learn more about the company's business plan. By the time I walked out of that meeting, alarm bells were shrieking in my head.

    But Uhrman was undaunted, and things kept moving along.


  • Video game designer tops new career options for 'The Game of Life'

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 4 days ago

    Life has changed quite a bit since 1960, the year classic board game The Game of Life first sent players down its twisting path. But despite incremental updates over the past five decades, many of the original game’s career options haven’t changed much at all.

    So in an effort to bring their game up to speed, Hasbro is giving ho-hum vocations like accountant, computer consultant, and salesperson the boot and replacing them with careers that are a bit more relevant to today's kids.

    To determine exactly what those new jobs would be, the toy maker went to the source, polling children between the ages of 8 and 12 about what they want to be when they grew up.

    The top pick? Video game designer.

    Game making was the top vote getter, but kids had plenty of other cool suggestions that made it into the game as well: singer, secret agent, scientist, lawyer, inventor, chef, race car driver, dancer, firefighter and fashion designer.

    Four of the game's classic jobs also made the cut with kids: teacher, veterinarian, doctor, athlete and police officer.

    (The least popular job with the kids was, unsurprisingly, garbage collector.)

  • Make money with Skyrim? Here's how

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 9 days ago

    For the past five years, Team Fortress 2 players have been able to cash in on their in-game creations. Now, fans of Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim are getting their chance.

    Valve is slowly opening up its Steam Workshop to other games - and Skyrim is the first in line. And though it might seem a minor thing, there's big money in virtual swords and other modifications. As of June 2013, Valve has paid over $10 million to people who have created in-game items for Team Fortress 2.

    But does Skyrim, a game that came out some 3 and a half years ago, still have a fervent enough audience to make paid mods a potential windfall? Absolutely.

    The game is a regular among the 10 most played games on Steam. At press time, there were over 31,500 people playing the game, according to Valve.

    As with Team Fortress 2, the introduction of paid mods, items and maps doesn't mean you won't still be able to find free ones. There are over 24,000 free Skyrim mods available today - ranging from quests to soundtracks to graphical improvements.

  • Daniel Radcliffe, Bill Paxton to star in ‘Grand Theft Auto’ drama

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 10 days ago

    Grand Theft Auto is prepping for its close-up, and it's pulling in some serious talent to help tell its tale.

    The BBC has confirmed that Daniel Radcliffe and Bill Paxton have signed on to star in "Game Changer" (working title), an upcoming documdrama that tells the tale of the people who created - and fought against - the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

    The 90-minute drama is being made by the BBC and is based on David Kushner’s 2012 book, Jacked: The Outlaw Story Of Grand Theft Auto. It covers how the violent crime game became an unprecedented commercial success despite tremendous opposition from parents groups and moral crusaders.

    Radcliffe will trade in his scar and invisibility cloak for the dark shades and bearded look of Sam Houser, co-founder of Rockstar Games and the principal creator of the GTA series. Paxton will portray Jack Thompson, the prominent attorney who dogged Rockstar for much of the early 2000s.

    What made Thompson such a memorable character was his hyperbolic, self-written press releases decrying GTA .

  • Could 2015 be the year the Xbox One strikes back?

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 12 days ago

    Fans and critics savaged the system when the initial feature set was announced. Microsoft reversed course so many times, it gave gamers whiplash. By the time the company had settled on a steady course, Sony's PlayStation 4 had developed a commanding lead in the U.S.

    Microsoft has clawed its way back, though, and thanks to a few timely delays, competitive pricing, and some smart maneuvering, 2015 could well be the year that the Xbox One becomes the industry's top-selling console.

    The 2015 holiday season was initially setting up to be a doozie. Sony's PS4 exclusive Uncharted 4: A Thief's End has looked fantastic in previews, and the Nintendo faithful can't wait to get their hands on the long-promised high-definition The Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U.

    But on March 11, Sony revealed that Uncharted wouldn't be coming out this year. Two weeks later, Zelda was delayed into 2016 as well.

  • PlayStation bests Xbox once more in March

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 16 days ago

    Sony refuses to vacate the top of the video game mountain.

    The PS4 remained the industry's best selling video game hardware in March, though, as usual, by exactly how much remains a bit of a mystery. The number watchers at The NPD Group does not report specific sales numbers.

    Never one to let the numbers get in the way of a good press release, Microsoft said in a statement it remains pleased with the Xbox One's performance to date, noting that sales for its current system continue to outpace those of the Xbox 360 at this point in its life cycle and that the amount of time Xbox One owners have spent on their systems was up 45 percent compared to a year ago. So, at the very least, people who own Xbox Ones aren't letting them gather dust.

    Nintendo, similiarly, accentuated the positive, pointing out that overall sales of its hardware systems were up 60 percent in the first three months of 2015 versus a year ago. 3DS sales are up 80 percent, while Wii U sales are up 20 percent.

    So what helped the PS4 rule in March? One word: Bloodborne. The PS4 exclusive was the month's second best selling title, trailing EA's Battlefield Hardline, which was released for five systems.



  • Study: Story-based games may help people with autism

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 19 days ago

    While the debate surrounding the impact of violent video games roars on, evidence is piling up that nonviolent games can be incredibly beneficial.

    The latest research comes from the University of Freiburg in Germany, which found that story-based games could be beneficial for people with autism by satisfying their need for socialization.

    Published in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Science , the study had austistic players spend 20 minutes playing one of two games: Against the Wall (best described as an endless climber game) or Gone Home, an award-winning interactive adventure game with a story that unfolds as players explore its world.

    Once finished, they took a test to identify the emotions behind facial expressions and completed a survey describing their level of immersion and need-satisfaction.

    The benefits were short-term - and, as with a lot of video game research, it's still early in the process - but researchers were excited by the results.

  • Lego takes on 'Skylanders' with new collectible toys-to-life game

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 23 days ago

    Add Lego to the list of companies hoping to get a piece of the 'toys-to-life' pie made famous by Skylanders and Disney Infinity .

    Lego and Warner Bros. Interactive have teamed up to create Lego Dimensions , a video game that lets players ‘warp’ real Lego toys into game worlds.

    Due out Sept. 27, the game will take advantage of a wealth of franchises, including The Lord of the Rings, DC Comics, Back to the Future and The Wizard of Oz. It will be playable on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and PS3.

    The Starter pack will cost $100 and ships with a limited number of characters - specifically Gandalf, Batman and Wyldstyle from The Lego Movie - along with the Lego Toy Pad and a Lego Batmobile. Others characters will be available for purchase individually. Unlike other toys-to-life games, Dimensions will support up to seven characters, vehicles, or items on the portal at once. Fans can buy three different kinds of expansion sets: level packs ($29.99), team packs ($24.99) and fun packs ($14.99).

    Lego’s move into the lucractive toys-to-life space had been rumored for a while. Given the company’s success in both the toy and video game markets, it certainly makes sense.

  • Sony buys OnLive cloud gaming service and shuts it down

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 29 days ago

    For a brief, shining moment, OnLive was the leader in cloud-based game streaming. At the end of this month, the service will be but a distant memory.

    Sony has officially purchased the company that effectively put game streaming on the map, taking control of all assets and shutting it down. OnLive will cease operations on April 30.

    Any existing OnLive subscriptions renewed or purchased after March 28 will be refunded. Subscribers who bought games through OnLive will still have access to those titles on Steam.

    This is effectively the second time OnLive has shut down. In 2012, the company underwent a major restructuring, where it abruptly terminated most of its employees after company founder Steve Perlman failed to raise much-needed capital. (Perlman would soon leave the company.) Stories soon emerged that the company had just 1,600 concurrent users.

    OnLive's 2012 problems came right after Sony had bought its chief rival, Gakai, whose technology went on to power Sony's own cloud-based game streaming service, PlayStation Now.

  • Check out the insane techology powering some of the biggest shows in Vegas

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 29 days ago

    As operations production manager of Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson ONE show at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, Dovell oversees 28 different projectors with resolutions ranging from 20K to 35K. They're so crystal sharp, they can convince you you're seeing a ghost dance, sing, and morph.

    Down the Strip at the Wynn hotel, the crew at Le Reve is similarly unimpressed with that new pool you're bragging about to your friends.

    Theirs is 26 feet and six inches deep. It cycles 1.1 million gallons of water four times a day at a rate of 3,000 gallons per minute. In the course of five minutes, the filters at Le Reve could cleanse, heat, and fill your home pool.

    Las Vegas shows are mostly about sizzle: Dancers, divers, and acrobats perform seemingly impossible feats in tune with thumping music. They're mesmerizing affairs that can make you forget about the hum of slot machines and roulette tables just a dozen yards away.

    But at shows like Michael Jackson ONE and Le Reve , what's happening behind the scenes is nearly as exciting.

    With so many elements, the show relies on a highly automated system rather than the manual directions of a production crew.