Microsoft

Windows 8 Upgrade to be $40 (UK price TBA)

Richard Cobbett at

It's coming soon with a sleek new look, massively updated apps, Xbox integration, and a surprisingly lower price than expected. While the UK price hasn't been shared yet, though we have to hope it won't be a 1:1 conversion rate, that's not bad for a brand new OS. Lest we forget, a basic Home Premium upgrade is still listed at $100 over on Amazon.com, with Apple's much less ambitious Mountain Lion update due this month and clocking in at $20. If you want the new Windows, you won't need to save up for long.


Microsoft says tablets will outsell PCs next year

Adam Oxford at

Microsoft Surface has pressure sensitive keys, could be perfect for stealth games

Tom Hatfield at

When Microsoft unveiled the Surface, its new tablet PC, one curious detail managed to slip beneath the radar. The tablet's integrated keyboard boasts pressure sensitive keys which, as Ars Technica have pointed out, could finally offer PC gamers the chance to control the speed of their movement.

I love my mouse and keyboard like tiny, mechanical brothers, but there are some things they don't do well. I'm secretly envious of our console playing brethren's ability to walk at whatever speed they choose, all dictated by the nuanced tilt of a game pad's analogue thumb stick. Our mice may be precision pointers of death, and our keyboards may offer us more buttons than a joypad owner's wet dream, but when it comes to movement we either walk very slowly, or run full tilt.


Microsoft launches own brand surface tablet

Adam Oxford at

With just a few days notice, Microsoft called journalists to an impromptu press conference in Hollywood last night to reveal their latest plan for pushing Windows 8. Turns out that they're developing their own brand range of tablets, using their existing name for touch sensitive screens, Surface. That it came as more or less a surprise (barring a lot of speculation over the last two days) is a feat almost as impressive as the announcement itself.

There'll be two tablets initially. The Surface is an ARM-based Win RT model which will compete with existing Android tablets and the iPad. The second device, Surface Pro, is more interesting from our point of view since it will have an Intel Core processor on board and therefore be compatible with some PC games.

The significance, of course, is that Microsoft is going to be making their own brand of PCs for the first time ever. But what does that mean?


PCs do it better: why I don't care about Smartglass

Owen Hill at

Microsoft unveiled their new Smartglass technology at the E3 press event on Monday. Smartglass lets your iOS, Android or Windows phone tablet/smartphone act as a second interactive screen. As mentioned at the E3 presentation, the “magic of smartglass” occurs when “devices work together to immerse you in entertainment."


South Park: The Stick of Truth trailer features machine-gun Jesus, war, flaming farts

Tom Senior at


 
The South Park trailer was a beam of light in an otherwise fairly turgid Microsoft showing at the E3 2012 conference earlier today. Show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone took to the stage to take a playful jab at Microsoft.

“How many times have you been watching an episode of South Park and thought, ‘I’d like to watch this on my television, while hooked into my mobile device, which is being controlled by my tablet device, which is hooked into my oven, all while sitting in the refrigerator,” said Parker. “Well, we’re not doing that. We’re just doing this game. It’s an RPG.”

The pair went on to talk about how Obsidian had managed to nail South Park's "crappy" look. They're right about that. It looks like the show, it feels like the show, it farts like the show. It'll be interesting to see how it actually plays.


Windows 8 Release Preview ready

Adam Oxford at

Love it or loathe it, Microsoft's next operating system is creeping closer and closer. That fact has been marked today by the launch of a new beta called the Release Preview.

Coded 'Build 8400', it's an update from the Consumer Preview that's been available since March, and brings a few new apps and interface tweaks to the now familiar Metro/Desktop look and feel. According to Microsoft, this will be the final version until the Release To Manufacturing is posted to its website – an event suspected to be planned for sometime in the autumn.

Not had your fill of Win 8 betas or want to know what's new? Read on.


Beat Age of Empire Online's devs in PvP this afternoon, win entire civilizations

Josh Augustine at

At 2 PM PST today, Age of Empires Online's Balance Team testers are taking all challengers in the PvP arena. Fair warning, these are the guys and gals whose full-time job is knowing every tiny nuance of the game--including how to perfectly counter your Egyptian camel rush tactic--so don't expect an easy fight.


Age of Empires Online: Premium Celtic Civilization review

Josh Augustine at

My half-naked Woad Raiders leap into a formation of Roman archers with axes whirling around them. Meanwhile, in a serene forest far from battle, my Augur sacrifices a sacred fawn to Andrasta, goddess of war. Lightning crashes and my army glows with magical energy as the goddess’ boon charges their devastation of the Roman outpost.

The Celts, the newest civilization added to Age of Empires Online’s free-to-play roster, is the best one released yet, adding several new mechanics that advance the game’s complexity and will appeal to RTS gamers who crave more micromanagement. The first major addition is activated abilities on individual units, like the four different animal sacrifices available to the Augur to buff your army in various ways, that raise the skill ceiling for managing troops in battle.


Microsoft Flight review

Steve Hogarty at

I’ve never been birthed by Enya. I’ve never even gestated inside her womb. But I imagine the experience of floating around inside her amniotic fluid as a foetus is similar to visiting Microsoft Flight’s main menu.

The flight sim wastes no time in serenading you in an echoing, listless wail of lyric-free yawning and aspirational, muffled lady-howls, albeit set against a rolling, majestic cloudscape rather than the Gaelic songstress’s pelvic floor. It’s quite relaxing really, a bit like being dead.


Microsoft "continues to support" Games for Windows Live

Chris Thursten at

As we reported in September, Xbox Live will be a major part of Windows 8. Despite concerns that PC gamers are being pushed to the sidelines in favour of the console service, this has the potential to be a very good thing. After all, well-integrated support for games could do away with the need for Games for Windows Live, whose primary purpose seems to be to inject a strain of Kafka-esque absurdity into our hobby.

NeoGamr recently asked Microsoft whether GfWL would be receiving the axe with the launch of Windows 8, and the answer, emphatically, is no.


My strangest PC gaming problem yet: I've lost Games for Windows Live

Tom Francis at

The year is 2012, and yet somehow Games for Windows Live is still a thing. It's a dark future, to be sure, but even so I never imagined I'd have a problem as weird as this: I need it. And I can't get it. It's hard to stay angry when you're laughing.

I'm trying to play Batman: Arkham City on PC, an excellent game that was unfortunately developed in 1408 AD, the last time anyone alive didn't know Games for Windows Live was universally hated. And it's working - in fact, it's working better than usual. It's working without Games for Windows Live. That part of the game simply never starts - I'm not asked to log in, the Home key won't summon it, the main menu option does nothing, and the game seems to function smoothly without it.


Kinect on PC: more expensive, less useful, still exciting

Tom Senior at

Microsoft unveiled a PC version of their motion-sensing, voice activated, mind-reading Kinect camera at CES recently. It'll be out on February 1, which is exciting. The price tag is a bit problematic, however. It'll retail for $250, $100 more than it does on Xbox.

The main differences between PC Kinect and Xbox Kinect is a close-up mode that'll let it recognise nearby gestures, and an SDK kit to let programmers create applications to actually use the camera. The SDK, however, is already freely available on the Microsoft site. Why, then, is the PC version so expensive? And why should we think about buying one?


Alan Wake devs talk self-publishing and dodgy console ports

Henry Winchester at

2012 looks like it’s going to be the year of the bigger studios self-publishing games on the PC. Rebellion Studios have already told us their plans to omit a publisher for the PC edition of Sniper Elite V2. Now Alan Wake developers Remedy have discussed the intricacies of their self-publishing arrangement for the PC version of the much-vaunted episodic Xbox 360 thriller.

Alan Wake was published on the Xbox 360 by Microsoft, so it seems a little odd that Remedy are publishing it themselves on the PC. We assumed that Microsoft’s vested interest in PC gaming (after all, they make that Windows thing) would put them at the forefront of publishing it, just as they have with Fable 3.


Skyrim mod adds Kinect controls, includes voice activated dragon shouts

Tom Senior at

[embed width="610" height="340"]http://youtu.be/Z83wzJwrBK0[/embed]

Members of the PC Gamer team have been known to shout FUS RO DAH when activating dragon shouts out of instinct alone, making for a noisy office at lunch times. This man's suite of Kinect controls actually use the dragontongue shout as a vocal cue, letting you blow enemies away with the power of your voice. You also get to attack by flinging your arms at the screen and draw your sword by shouting "LONGSWORD!" See all of this in action in the impressive demonstration video above, spotted by Destructoid. It's easier to see how Kinect interprets his movements and turns them into game actions in KinectFAAST's Morrowind video. If you want to mess with Skyrim's inner workings yourself, check out CVG's Skyrim guide and tips.


Microsoft Flight beta takes off in January

Owen Hill at

The Microsoft Flight beta has started accepting signups. The testing period begins in January. To apply for early access, locate your Windows Live ID and password and click here.

Microsoft Flight was first announced at Gamescom 2010. It looks a lot like classic plane sim, Microsoft Flight Simulator. Click through for the trailer, even though it give absolutely nothing away. Apart from the fact that planes and oceans are going to be involved. Oh, and dreams; childhood dreams will also feature.


Kinect for Windows to go commercial

Adam Oxford at

Microsoft has announced that developers will soon be able to charge for Windows software that uses a Kinect as an input device. A non-commercial beta SDK for Windows development has been available to download from Microsoft Research since April, along with various programming resources. But profiting from desktop development has so far been prohibited.

That restriction should be lifted soon after the new year, apparently.


Xbox Live is coming to Windows 8

Tom Senior at

Gamespot report that Xbox Live will be incorporated into the next edition of Windows. Xbox Live's director of programming Larry Hryb confirmed the announcement, saying "bringing Xbox LIVE to Windows 8 is part of our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy." Hmmm.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC DLC will be delayed, courtesy of Microsoft

Richard Cobbett at

From the frustrating news department, CVG report that Microsoft has signed a timed exclusive with Bethesda for at least the first two pieces of Skyrim DLC. That means only Xbox 360 players will get it originally, with everyone else having to wait 30 days to hand over more money. Exactly what this DLC will consist of remains unknown, though Bethesda has previously mentioned larger expansion packs than most of the Oblivion extras, so it's probably not going to be Horse Armor 2.0. On the plus side, it's not as though the regular edition is going to be desperately short on content when it lands on November 11th.


Seriously, Microsoft? GFW Marketplace moving to Xbox.com

Dan Stapleton at

Remember not too long ago when Microsoft claimed there'd be a new push into PC gaming by the software giant? Well, they're kicking that bold initiative off by relocating the freshly relaunched (and actually respectable) Games for Windows Marketplace PC game store to...wait for it...Xbox.com. Because when you think of PC gaming, the first place you look is Xbox.com. That's quite a slap in the face - how much more out-of-touch with PC gamers could they get? Was the crushing cost of maintaining the domain registration of www.gamesforwindows.com really dragging down Microsoft's bottom line?

The details on the merge listed on the site read as follows:

"Games for Windows Marketplace will fully transition over to Xbox.com. Now you can get all of your gaming needs in one place. It’s convenient, it’s concentrated, and it’s a whole lot of great games."

There are so many things wrong with that statement it's hard to know where to begin. We've reached out to MS for comment.

Update: Microsoft responds with a predictably uninteresting statement. Hit Read More to be underwhelmed. We're pushing further, but 4th of July festivities mean we probably won't hear back until next week.

Update #2: Microsoft has declined our request for an interview on this topic. We are shocked. Shocked.