Movies Anywhere Available on Xbox Consoles

The cloud-based movie library service Movies Anywhere is now accessible on Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.

Xbox users can download the Movies Anywhere app through the Microsoft store to access their movie collection on their console.

Users can playback their movies via their Xbox and purchase more movies from the Microsoft store once their retailer account is connected to their Movies Anywhere account.

Video playback on Xbox via Movies Anywhere supports 4K, HDR 10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

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Movies Anywhere participating studios include Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (including DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, 20th Century Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm) and Warner Bros. Entertainment. Other participating digital retailers include Apple TV, Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play/YouTube, Xfinity, FandangoNow, Verizon Fios TV and DirecTV.

Peacock to Be Available on Microsoft Xbox One Devices

Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, will be available on Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X, when it launches nationally July 15.

Peacock will offer a free tier featuring more than 7,500 hours of movies, shows, and live and on-demand programming across news, sports, reality and late night. Peacock Premium will also  be available for $4.99 per month, featuring more than 15,000 hours of content. Viewers may also upgrade Peacock Premium to ad-free for an additional $5 per month.

“We are pleased to make Peacock available to the millions of customers who access content across Xbox platforms,” Maggie McLean Suniewick, president of business development and partnerships for Peacock, said in a statement. “With streaming entertainment and gaming reaching all-time highs, Xbox will be a great ongoing partner for Peacock.”

When it launches in July, Peacock will be available for Xbox users to download through the Microsoft Store. Customers will be able to sign up for Peacock Free or upgrade to Peacock Premium directly within the Peacock app on Xbox devices using in-app purchase.

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“We look forward to working with Microsoft, bringing Peacock to the Xbox platform and expanding the growing options people have to access our content at national launch,” Matt Bond, chairman, content distribution, NBCUniversal, said in a statement.

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Last month, Peacock’s early preview rolled out to eligible Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex customers at no additional cost. Peacock will also be bundled and included at no additional cost for eligible Cox Contour customers later this year.

Sony PlayStation 5 Video Game Console Launching for 2020 Winter Holidays

Sony Oct. 8 disclosed its next-generation PlayStation video game console will be named PlayStation 5 and debut in time for the winter holidays in 2020.

Sony, which first announced the pending console in April, along with Microsoft’s Xbox, are integral to the success of the video game industry.

The 2020 debut means the gaming industry will likely see continued sluggish sales of hardware and new software as consumers await the updated consoles — both of which will still include disc drives.

Indeed, The NPD Group reported that overall game sales fell 18% in August to $666 million, compared with $812 million in the previous-year period. Through Aug. 31, total game spending for the year is down 6% to $7 billion, from $7.4 billion in 2018.

Regardless, Jim Ryan, CEO, Sony Interactive Entertainment, in a blog post said the PS5 would have several improvements, most notably in the controller.

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“We’re adopting haptic feedback to replace the ‘rumble’ technology found in controllers since the 5th generation of consoles,” Ryan wrote. “With haptics, you truly feel a broader range of feedback, so crashing into a wall in a race car feels much different than making a tackle on the football field. You can even get a sense for a variety of textures when running through fields of grass or plodding through mud.”

Ryan said the second innovation includes “adaptive triggers,”  which he said have been incorporated into the trigger buttons (L2/R2).

Specifically, game developers can program the resistance of the triggers so players feel the tactile sensation of drawing a bow and arrow or accelerating an off-road vehicle through rocky terrain.

“In combination with the haptics, this can produce a powerful experience that better simulates various actions,” Ryan wrote. “Game creators have started to receive early versions of the new controller, and we can’t wait to see where their imagination goes with these new features at their disposal.”

 

Microsoft to Preview Xbox One ‘Console Streaming’ in October

Microsoft jumpstarted the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2019 in Los Angeles with the June 9 announcement of 60 new video games, an upgraded Elite 2 game controller and further mention of the pending Project Scarlett console, which claims to support 8K resolution, framerates up to 120fps and is slated to launch in 2020.

This October Microsoft will preview an Xbox One software upgrade enabling users (including Xbox One S) to stream their games onto portable devices, including a smartphone and tablet.

“It turns your Xbox One into your own personal and free xCloud server,” Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, told E3 attendees. “Whether you’re using a console in our data center or your console at home, this October, you’ll be able to use our hybrid gaming cloud to play your games wherever you go.”

The briefing also marked a new milestone for Project xCloud, with E3 attendees being among the first to play Xbox One games Halo 5: Guardians and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice streaming on smartphones and tablets.

Project xCloud is Microsoft’s answer to Google Stadia – a cloud-base gaming platform that promises to offer users access to third-party games, including Microsoft.

“With Project xCloud, Xbox is investing to ensure players have the choice and freedom to play the games they want, with the friends they want, how and where they want,” Spencer said.

The briefing also disclosed more than 30 PC games, including Microsoft Flight Simulator and Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, premiering with Xbox Game Pass for PC users.

New Xbox One and Windows 10 games unveiled June 9 are available here.

GameStop Posts $488 Million Q3 Loss, Cuts Full-Year Outlook

GameStop Nov. 29 reported a third-quarter (ended Nov. 3) net loss of $488.6 million compared to income of $59.4 million during the previous-year period. Sales increased 4.8% to $2.1 billion from $1.98 billion last year.

The nation’s largest video game retailer attributed the loss to a non-operating, non-cash intangible asset impairment charge of $587.5 million, primarily related to goodwill and triggered by the sustained decline in the company’s share price.

Without the impairment charge, adjusted net income actually increased 24% to $68.3 million, compared to adjusted net income of $55.1 million in the prior-year quarter.

Indeed, pre-holiday comparable store sales increased 3.4% increase in the U.S. New hardware sales increased 12.8%, driven by demand for Xbox One X and Sony PS4. New software sales increased 10.9% driven by the strong slate of titles that launched during the quarter. Accessories sales increased 32.6% on the strength of headset and controller sales. Pre-owned sales declined 13.4%.

Digital sales increased 29.5% to $341.6 million driven primarily by strength in sales of digital currency.

Collectibles sales increased 11.7% to $154.6 million due to continued growth in both our domestic and international collectibles business.

Technology brands operating earnings increased 29.4% to $23.3 million compared to $18 million in the prior-year quarter, despite an 11.9% decline in sales to $171.1 million, primarily due to store closures relative to fiscal 2017.

“Software sales benefited from a compelling title line-up … including Red Dead Redemption 2and Spider-Man, as well as the earlier launch of Call of Duty,” COO/CFO Rob Lloydsaid in a statement. “We are especially pleased with our performance in October, a month where The NPD Group disclosed that the U.S. physical video game industry grew by 46% while our U.S. physical video game revenue outpaced the industry and increased 63% resulting in market share gains.”

That said, Lloyd cautioned about brewing storm clouds as current fourth-quarter sales are being driven by hardware versus higher-margin software.

“While our Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales were strong … the underperformance of certain titles, weakness in pre-owned and recent sales promotions, will result in fourth quarter earnings that are below our previous expectations,” Lloyd said.

The executive reiterated management is evaluating “all aspects of our business,” including store operations, cost structure, strategic and economic partnerships with publishing and platform partners, and relationships with customers and the services to “enhance our business and drive growth and profitability over the long term.”

Indeed, GameStop announced it sold 1,289 branded AT&T wireless stores for $700 million – proceeds it said would be used to pay down debt.

 

 

Video Game Console Ownership Drives SVOD, Pay-TV Subs

Video game consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation have long been catalysts for over-the-top video adoption. Now the proof is in writing.

IHS Markit Oct. 3 disclosed that 89.6% of video game console owners have access to at least one OTT video subscription service, compared with 51% of consumers surveyed without a game console.

Among households with games consoles, 88.6% had one or more pay-TV services, compared to 57% of all survey respondents.

There were 49 million games consoles shipped worldwide in 2017, with North America receiving the largest share (18.4 million units). At the end of 2017, the global number of connected consoles reached 164 million, of which 83% were seventh or eighth-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

The latest finding from the IHS Markit “Connected Devices and Media Consumption” service revealed that 35.6% of households owned a games console. The survey examined device ownership, use and access of subscription and free video services and decision drivers.

While gaming remains the core function, Microsoft and Sony have leveraged their existing online stores to provide digital rental and retail options in their … consoles,” Daniel Sutton, senior analyst, connected devices and media consumption, IHS Markit, wrote in the report.

Sutton said game consoles availing their platforms to third-party apps has allowed major and niche online video services to access television-centered devices, which make viewing on the main screen convenient and enable media content streaming functionality similar to what’s offered by dedicated media streaming devices, like Apple TV and Amazon FireStick.

The high penetration of SVOD/pay-TV services among game console owners is hardly surprising, according to IHS Markit. Games consoles remain premium-priced devices, meaning these households have already shown a propensity toward media spending.

Console ownership and SVOD subscription varies by country:

In the U.S., the largest market in terms of games console sales and connected consoles, more than one-third (38.2%) of respondents indicated they had access to one or more games consoles. Nearly 98% of console-owning households subscribed to at least one pay-TV or SVOD service.

The majority of Brazil’s console-owning demo subscribes to multiple video services, including traditional pay-TV and OTT video services. About 80% of console owners in Brazil had a household subscription to Netflix, which is 13% higher than the national average. More than 5% of console owners who subscribed to Netflix said that their console was their preferred way to access the service.

In Germany, there were 7.6 million connected games consoles at the end of 2017. The PlayStation 4 was the most common device, with five million connected consoles. Nearly 24% of PlayStation 4 households in Germany also owned a PlayStation 3, and 14% owned an Xbox One.

Just 22% of Japanese console owners subscribe to online video service Netflix, while 14% subscribe to pay-TV. Almost 31% of PlayStation 4 owners in Japan indicated that access to content – either for themselves or other household members – was their primary driver when purchasing the device.

About 40% of U.K. survey respondents indicated that their household owned one or more games consoles. As was uniformly the case across the all markets surveyed, the PlayStation 4 was the most popular console. Netflix is the largest online video operator in the U.K. with 31% of respondents saying they had access to Netflix, rising to 48% when looking specifically at console owners.

Sega Out with ‘Valkyria Chronicles 4’

Sega on Sept. 25 announced the release of Valkyria Chronicles 4, 10 years after the launch of the original Valkyria Chronicles, the innovative turn-based strategy role-playing game (RPG).

The game lets players experience the other side of the Second European War and its most brutal campaign, Operation Northern Cross. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place in the same timeframe as the original Valkyria Chronicles, but focuses on a whole new cast of main characters: the eager young Commander Claude Wallace, engineer/heavy weapons extraordinaire Riley Miller, hotheaded Darcsen Raz, ace sniper Kai Schulen, and others.

The next-generation “BLiTZ” battle system boasts several new features, including an explosive new class called the Grenadier, numerous offensive/defensive battleship support options, chances for a unit to have a “Last Stand” action before death, and more..

CANVAS Aesthetics, the franchise’s signature hand-drawn visual style, has been overhauled for the newest generation. “Inspired by watercolor compositions, the CANVAS Graphics Engine blends visual elements of reality and imagination to create an expressive world filled with colorful emotions,” Sega says.

Also back is composer Hitoshi Sakimoto, with a new orchestral score for Valkyria Chronicles 4.

GameStop Shares Fall Despite Strong Winter Holiday Sales

GameStop Jan. 12 saw shares fall more than 11% in midday trading after the nation’s largest video game retailer warned of a $300 million to $400 million impairment charge in the fourth quarter, ending March 31.

The company related the charge to its technology brands business, which includes selling third-party cell phones.

GameStop said consumers are waiting longer to upgrade existing phones, in addition to AT&T changing its compensation structure, among other issues. The charges will not affect company cash flows or liquidity.

Technology brands sales, which are not included in comparable store sales, decreased 18.6%, driven by limited availability of the iPhone X.

“Tech brands continues to lag, with holiday underperformance largely tied to iPhone inventory constraints and the ongoing impact of AT&T’s compensation structure changes,” Baird research analysts wrote in a note.

Meanwhile, total global sales for the nine-week winter holiday period (ended Dec. 31, 2017) were $2.77 billion, up 10.6% compared to the 2016 holiday period. Total comparable store sales increased 11.8%, growing, 13.7% in the U.S. and 7.9% internationally. Worldwide omni-channel sales increased 21.5%.

New hardware sales increased 38.3%, driven by Nintendo Switch and the launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One X. New video game software sales increased 7.3%, largely due to the success of Activision’s Call of Duty: WWII and continued strength in Nintendo Switch titles.

Pre-owned sales declined 8.1%, as customers shifted spending to new titles and collectibles products. Indeed, collectibles sales increased 19.4% to $211.3 million, driven by strong performance across apparel and toys.

Video game accessories sales grew 33.7%, primarily related to demand for Nintendo Switch accessories.

Digital sales and non-GAAP digital receipts increased 36.7% and 6.7%, respectively, excluding the 2016 holiday period revenues from “Kongregate,” which was divested in July 2017. On a reported basis, digital sales increased 4.6%, while non-GAAP digital receipts increased 2.2%.