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// Microsoft buys Minecraft developer Mojang for $2.5 billion//

Minecraft developer Mojang has been bought by Microsoft for $2.5 billion. The rumor had been circulating for the past week that Microsoft would be acquiring them and finally Monday, Sept. 15, Microsoft’s head, Phil Spencer, confirmed the rumors.

Phil Spencer wrote on the Xbox Newswire, “Today is an incredibly exciting day for our team as Mojang and the Minecraft franchise join Microsoft. Minecraft is one of the most popular video games of all time, with more than 100 million downloads, on PC alone, from players since its launch in 2009. Minecraft inspires millions to create together, connects people across the globe, and is a community that is among the most active and passionate in the world.” He also assured fans of the series, “We plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms — including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC.”

Also, on Mojang’s own official site they shared more details about the acquisition.

"Minecraft has grown from a simple game to a project of monumental significance," it reads. "Though we’re massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never Notch’s intention for it to get this big. He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. Over the past few years he’s made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle."

Notch himself wrote about his decision to move on after the deal is complete on his own personal blog.

"I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter," he wrote. "As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately. In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now. In a much bigger sense, it’s belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change."

With a huge gaming fan base that has toppled 100 million downloads on PC alone, Minecraft has grown to be one of the most successful indie games of all time. Joining with Microsoft should only solidify and help Mojang grow over the long run in both gaming and other areas.

Microsoft is expecting the regulatory approval to acquire Mojang to be received by the end of 2014.

// Review: World-building at its best with new Minecraft//

Originally created by programmer Markus “Notch” Persson and later developed and published by Mojang and 4J Studios (for console versions), the sandbox indie game Minecraft has now been released on the next generation PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

By now most people have at least heard of the hit Minecraft. Gamers construct and build anything they can imagine with textured cubes inside of a 3D generated world. Players of Minecraft can also explore, gather resources, craft items, and even engage in combat. The game offers several gaming modes, “including survival modes where the player must acquire resources to build and maintain their health and hunger and a creative mode where players have unlimited resources to build and the ability to fly.”  

Although simple in graphics and gameplay, as of June 25, 2014, the game has sold over 12 million copies on Xbox 360, 15 million copies on PC and nearly 54 million copies across all platforms.        The new version of the game found on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One offers up some nice advantages compared to the older platforms. The greatest addition is the larger worlds that are now possible with the new hardware. Worlds in Minecraft are now 36 times larger than they were on the old console version. Also, you can export your old creations from the past generation to the new console. As an added bonus for previous generation owners, gamers can buy Minecraft at a discounted price of $4.99. All the skins or textures bought on the previous console can be added for free on the new console version.

Besides the increase in world sizes, the game also runs at 1080p and at a nice 60 frames per second. The 60 fps is solid most of the time, but will drop a bit when things get chaotic on the screen. 4J Studios have also updated the song playlist in the game to add to the one-of-a-kind feel you get only in a game of Minecraft. Players can work independently or team up with others, both split-screen or online multiplayer.

Minecraft offers a deep and captivating creative survival simulation. Like building with LEGO blocks, gamers can build to their hearts’ content within a world of Minecraft while juggling the duties of keeping their health and hunger satisfied in-game as well. With a nice family friendly game, Mojang and 4J Studios have updated their successful title to reach even more homes.

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// Review: Hit the arcade without leaving your couch//

Zen Studios has finally released Pinball FX2 to the Xbox One and rounded out its availability on the Xbox consoles and PC. Pinball FX2 has the same rules of a real pinball machine but in a virtual environment. Players can also choose from dozens of different pinball tables to play on.

As with a traditional pinball machine, players fire a ball onto the table using the plunger. Once the ball is in play, players control flippers to keep the ball on the table while also nudging the machine to guide the path of the ball. The game also supports multiplayer both online and split-screen.

The game itself is free of charge, but players are charged for different tables to play on. A variety of tables are available for purchase, including Star Wars, Marvel, Plants vs. Zombies and many more. Visuals and sounds are superb and add to the functionality of the game. Some of the tables are somewhat challenging, but there are tables easy enough for a newcomer to feel at home.

As with all Xbox games, players can unlock achievements on each table they play on. Also, for each million on your top score across all tables, players create a superscore. This superscore can be pitted against your friends to see who’s the true pinball wizard. A wizard score factors in the superscore along with how many tables you bought and how many of your friends own the game as well.

With realistic ball physics, detailed visuals and plenty of tables to choose from, Pinball FX2 is a great choice. A healthy leaderboard system that pits you against your friends list and great multiplayer options only add to the fun found within this game.

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// Review: Latest ‘Madden’ is more than just a roster update//

It’s football season once again, and for gamers that means a new Madden NFL game. Madden NFL 15, which is developed by EA Tiburon and published by EA Sports, is the annual American football sports video game that brings the action into your home. This year, NFL cornerback Richard Sherman got the ESPN vote to be the cover athlete.

As always, EA has released another solid digital football experience that should be a hit with the fans and first-timers alike. New to this year’s Madden is the huge emphasis on defense. New pass rush options and highlighting on blocking has made QB rushing much more substantial.

Also added and revised are camera angles. At the touch of a button, gamers can now change the camera angle to a preferred view. Another added pleasure is the tackle cone, which adds a bit of excitement and risk while making huge tackles. Players are able to make huge hits that can dislodge the ball for a fumble, or they may miss the tackle altogether and give up a large gain. The AI, as always, has been improved and EA has added a ton of information and analytics for players.

New analytics and information are presented to the player in real time right at the line of scrimmage. Gamers can judge matchups and check out tendencies before snapping the ball, all via the right analog stick. If the gamer is struggling in a certain area, they’ll know it immediately and can make the necessary adjustments to remedy it. Play calling will be observed and the gamer can statistically decide if a new play call will work or not, using this real-time information.

Madden veterans can breathe a  sigh of relief as the popular Connected Franchises and Ultimate Teams make a return in this iteration. Slightly improved to better streamline the experience, Ultimate Teams has removed the reserve deck and focuses on your main team.

There are a few annoyances and bugs, however. With all the new information and analytics added, it can sometimes be overload. Users may find all the information a bit much when trying to make play calls and adjustments. Also, the commentary — simply put — sucks this year: It is very bland and boring. Even though the game is next gen and star athletes look spot on, the sideline players and fans look subpar and are repeated every few faces.

Madden NFL 15 feels like a fresh new start for the series that will be a hit with gamers. With an increased importance on defense, return of favorite modes and improved play-calling, this year’s Madden is one of if not the best in the series. The added pieces should reassure gamers that EA is not casually sitting back updating rosters, and is committed to updating the game to bring the closest thing to actually playing on the gridiron.

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// Review: You’ll love getting addicted to ‘Peggle 2’//

Developed by PopCap Games and published by Electronic Arts, Peggle 2 is a puzzle video game that rivals the addictive, entertaining gameplay of other puzzle games like Tetris and Candy Crush. A timed exclusive for the Xbox console, Peggle 2 is all about clearing the pegs on the screen to reach the next level.

In Peggle 2, gamers shoot balls from the top of the screen to clear colored pegs from a board. The player has a limited number of balls to use while they clear the board. Also found on the board are one of the five Masters, who will lend a special power to your balls if you hit the green peg. As gamers clear out the board, a rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” blasts through the speakers as fireworks erupt across the screen and the Master dances along, giving the gamer pure satisfaction.

The game’s physics along with the layout of the pegs make for a very entertaining and addictive gameplay. The game is very strategic but can become very random as well while the ball bounces around. PopCap Games have added a multitude of challenges, trick shots and high scores for gamers to master which only add to the replay value of Peggle 2.

The game is highly accessible; a child could figure it out. Although the game is simple to pick up, it also can be very challenging and deep to give hardcore gamers the challenge they crave. Colorful backdrops and background music add to the already slick gameplay and round out this game into something special.

With hilarious animations and music, Peggle 2 has gripping mechanics to make for the perfect puzzle video game. Adding delightful music, visuals and sound effects with tons of extra content to play through, PopCap Games has developed a totally riveting game that will be an instant classic of fun for your living room.

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// Review: ‘Strike Suit Zero’ a break from the norm//

If space flight combat is your thing, then independent game studio Born Ready Games has the video game for you: Strike Suit Zero. A single-player game where you take the role of a fighter pilot for the United Nations of Earth (U.N.E.), gamers can get their fill of dogfighting and Gundam/mech fighting.

In the year 2299, the player assumes the role of a pilot named Adams who has to help defend Earth’s fleet against the attacking Colonial forces. Using a unique ship called a Strike Suit, players can do traditional space dogfighting or, at the press of a button, transform the ship into a mech (human-controlled robot).

Gamers will be given a variety of missions like defending a friendly ship, attacking the enemy or a combination of the two. The combat is fun and gets very interesting when you are outnumbered by the enemy, but the power of the Strike Suit gives you an upper hand when the numbers aren’t in your favor.

The story is somewhat exciting but players will not form any alliance with non-playable characters or even the main character, as the story is delivered in small cut scenes between each mission. Action is ever present and there is no letdown in the battle or threat to Earth. The game’s visuals and soundtrack are top-notch and compliment the game well. I found the controls easy to master but the targeting system was a bit simplistic, allowing you to cycle between enemies or targets at the click of a button.

However, the game falls short on a few things. I would have liked the story to be deeper and give me a stronger tie to the characters and main protagonist. Also, the missions get kind of repetitive after a few hours of playtime.

Although simple and repetitive, this rapid space simulator can give a welcomed change of pace from a gaming era filled with first-person shooters. Transforming into a huge mech in game to destroy multiple enemies will give players a huge feeling of satisfaction. Strike Suit Zero delivers a fun experience that blends simulation and arcade game play into an enjoyable space flight combat.

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// 'EA Access' subscription good for gamer's wallet//

With gaming going to new regions with the information technology era, Electronic Arts has announced its EA Access subscription service for the Xbox One. It’s exclusive to Microsoft’s console alone, as Sony has gone on the record saying that they do not view it as a good deal for PlayStation 4 owners. EA Access has found its way onto some gamers’ Xbox Ones in the form of a beta, and this gamer was lucky enough to be invited.

Like Netflix, EA Access is a subscription service but for games from the Electronic Arts library. Coming in at two price points, players can select to pay $4.99 per month or $29.99 per year. Once players are subscribed, they will have access to EA’s Vault of games and can play for as long as they want with no extra charge.

Paying $59 for each video game can get expensive throughout the year, especially since most of the games aren’t even played the following year. “EA Access” is a way to alleviate some of that pain in the expenses, and hopefully gamers can expect a grand selection of games within EA’s Vault.

At the moment, EA’s Vault includes “FIFA 14,” “Madden NFL 25,” “Peggle 2” and “Battlefield 4.” The games are downloaded and not streamed. Players are not required to have an Xbox Gold membership to join EA Access, but in order to connect to multiplayer gameplay on the Xbox One platform you will need a subscription.

On top of the games in the Vault, subscribers will receive a 10-percent discount on all EA digital games and content. As an added bonus, gamers will also get to download new EA games five days ahead of everyone else.

Although it is only in beta on Xbox One right now, EA Access is scheduled to release sometime this month.

The subscription service has a lot of potential if the Vault includes the right EA games. Only time will tell if we are on the brink of the future of gaming and other digital purchases.

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(Source: 1jps, via galaxynextdoor)





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