Xbox Live Gold is doubling in price to push gamers towards Game Pass instead

Xbox Live Gold price increase master chief

Earlier today Microsoft confirmed that it will soon be increasing the price of its membership service. Xbox Live Gold is required on Xbox consoles to play with other online. Up until now it has cost $59.99 for twelve months. But as of right now, this price will double to $119.99 a year with zero added benefits.

The move is being viewed by most as an aggressive attempt to push gamers towards the Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft’s all in one library service costs $14.99 a month, or $179.99 a year. For that price you get a year of Xbox Live Gold and access to over 100 games across Xbox and PC.

History of Xbox Live Gold

Xbox Live Gold price increase promo

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has hiked up the price of its online membership packages. Back in 2019, Xbox Live Gold jumped from £5.99 a month to £6.99 in the UK. A similar price increase was seen in the US and Canada in 2020.

But no previous price increase has been even close to this once. Doubling the price of a service without providing even one tangible improvement is a bizarre decision that makes Microsoft look out of touch. Especially in this COVID climate where many people are struggling financially.

It’s unfortunate as leading up to this announcement Microsoft had actually been performing very well. In comparison to the PlayStation 5’s stock shortages, the American tech giant managed to deliver the Xbox Series X on time. Also, its decision to delay Halo Infinite and give 343 Industries more time was widely praised.

The decision to sharply increase the price of Xbox Live Gold also contrasts Microsoft’s approach up until now. Why bother releasing a budget alternative with the Series S If playing online costs a premium? There’s either been some serious miscommunication or this was its plan all along. Either way, the PS5 now looks to be the better value product.

Ninja Theory announces Project: Mara ‘a new storytelling medium’

Project Mara announcement apartment

Today developer Ninja Theory unveiled Project: Mara. The unexpected announcement was posted on the official Xbox website providing some insight into it. The post was written by Ninja Theory’s studio head, Dom Matthews. Matthews has over 13 years of industry experience at Ninja Theory and Capcom.

The post provides some vague details about what Project: Mara is. Matthews confirms that his studio’s new “experimental title,” will explore new ways of storytelling. He even emphasises that this new project could become “a new storytelling medium.” Effectively hinting that his team are looking to redefine narrative writing.

What is Project: Mara?

Project Mara announcement visuals

Truth be told, this is not the first time we’ve heard about this project. Back in 2018 Xbox Game Studios confirmed the acquisition of Ninja Theory. Microsoft’s purchase of the British development studio was announced alongside the acquisition of four other developers. That list included Forza Horizon developer Playground Games and puzzle game specialists Compulsion Games.

Less than two years after that acquisition, Ninja Theory unveiled the first Project: Mara teaser trailer. Since then, news had gone quiet but this latest post confirms that it is still in the works. Furthermore, given Xbox’s official backing, it might be closer than initially expected.

Unfortunately, this post appears to be a simple marketing stunt more than anything. Whilst it is nice to get reassurance Project: Mara hasn’t been scrapped; it doesn’t provide any meaningful new details. Thankfully, it was released alongside a more useful developer vlog.

The vlog sees Ninja Theory’s chief creative director Takeem Antoniades detailing some of the studio’s goals. The reoccurring theme of Project: Mara is that it is aiming to create as realistic a world as possible. The vlog provides examples of real world versus in-engine visuals, and they look scarily common. Depending on how development goes, this project has the potential to be the best-looking game ever made.

Bungie is removing its original Halo site, deleting 15 years of tracked stats

Halo 3 Bungie master chief feature

For many gamers, few titles were more iconic growing up than Halo. Microsoft’s signature first person shooter franchise is today developed by 343 Industries, but began life under a difference developer. Destiny developer Bungie is credited as being the studio that made Halo so popular. However, in the near future, it will be officially ending that era.

During the developers “This Week at Bungie,” update post, it wasn’t just new details about Destiny it had to discuss. Instead, Bungie confirmed it is going to be closing down the original Halo site in the near future. That means that over sixteen years of tracked stats are set to be deleted on February 9.

Bungie’s legacy

Halo Reach Bungie campaign gameplay 4K

Developer Bungie began work on the Halo franchise way back in 2001. The first game in the series, Combat Evolved, would lay the foundations for what many today consider the most iconic FPS franchise ever made. It has also gone on to become Microsoft’s number one exclusive, spanning multiple generations.

The removal of the website will be emotional for many who can now use this opportunity to reflect on what Halo means to them. Bungie is also prompting players to “save their stats and files, however they can,” before the website is removed next month. Once its Halo site is taken down, any unsaved images, videos, or stats will be wiped.

Truthfully, this was just a matter of time. Bungie hasn’t worked on the Halo franchise since Reach, released over ten years ago. Also, the stats themselves on Bungie.net stopped getting updated several years ago. They were kept in remembrance but Halo is 343 Industries’ game now.

Of course, Halo Infinite is currently in development and is set for a 2021 release. It was delayed after concerns that the visuals were not up to standards for a premier next-gen title. As for Bungie, it will continue supporting and working on Destiny 2. Presumably, another big project is in the works but no official announcement has been made.

New leak claims GTA 6 will feature the series’ first female protagonist

Grand Theft Auto is one of the most successful video game franchises ever made. But it’s been over seven years since we last got a new instalment. But recent leaks suggest that GTA 6 is coming along well and that it could be making some big changes. Most notably, an inside source has claimed that it will be the first Grand Theft Auto to feature a playable female protagonist.

Specifically, the leak says that you’ll be able to play as both a female and a male. It’s unclear exactly what this means. It could be a system similar to GTA V where you could switch between Frankling, Trevor, and Michael. However, it’s not out of the question that we could see some kind of character creator instead.

What we know about GTA 6

GTA V park screenshot

The source for this leak is surprisingly trustworthy. Tom Henderson is a well-known and respected source known for several Call of Duty and Battlefield leaks. His Black Ops Cold War leaks in particular have been flawlessly accurate over the last few months.

Unfortunately, we don’t know too much else about GTA 6. Publisher Rockstar Games has kept its cards close to its chest with little to no official information being confirmed. It’s expected to take place in Vice City due to the previous pattern established by the franchise. The mainline games have always rotated between San Andreas, Liberty City, and Vice City.

That’s not the only reason Vice City looks likely though. Last year it was reported that Rockstar was poking around asking various synthwave artists for music clearance. Needless to say, nothing quite says the 1980’s like some good old fashion synthwave. Although given varied and large GTA V’s soundtrack was, this hardly confirms GTA 6.

Regardless of when it comes out, the next Grand Theft Auto will be one of gaming’s biggest releases. After all, GTA V is the most grossing video game ever published. Over two years ago it had made Rockstar over $6 billion. With the amount of microtransactions present it’s fair to assume that number has climbed considerably since. And whilst GTA V is still raking in the numbers, I doubt Rockstar will feel any need to rush GTA 6 out.

Pokémon GO has thrived during the pandemic, raking in $2 billion

Pokémon GO promo feature

The pandemic has been troublesome for the games industry. Many development teams have had to adopt a stay-at-home model which can make team project difficult to organize. And in the case of some games like Pokémon GO, their core design just doesn’t work during a pandemic. Given this you’d think Niantic’s signature AR game would be struggling. But that is not the case at all.

According to SuperData, Pokémon GO raked in just short of $2 billion in 2020. For comparison, last year it made just $900 million. It’s 2020 total revenue outclasses several other mobile titans including League of Legends and Candy Crush Saga. Not bad at all for a game that’s reliant on its players going outside.

How Niantic adapted to COVID

Pokémon GO city screenshot

Obviously, Pokémon GO’s design was not going to work during a global pandemic. Not only would it be stupid for Niantic to keep GO the same, it’d be dangerous. A key part of Pokémon GO’s gameplay is that players have to meet up in real life to trade and battle. Encouraging its player base to break the law for a slight benefit in a video game wouldn’t exactly be a good look for Niantic.

So instead, the American developer went back to the drawing board and made some crucial tweaks. Both incense and PokéBalls were discounted considerably to help players not become overly reliant on PokeStops. Also, the walking entry requirement for the GO Battle League was dropped from 3 km to zero.

That’s not all either. Niantic used the opportunity to make some fundamental changes to Pokémon GO’s spawn rates. From August the spawn rates of all Pokémon were increased. This includes legendary raids which are now more common and can be accessed remotely.

Don’t get too comfortable though as these changes are not permanent. These quality-of-life improvements are short-term necessary changes for Pokémon GO to live on. Niantic’s vision of its AR game is still very much to encourage players to head outside and exercise. Any COVID related gameplay changes are planned to be removed June 2021, dependent on the state of the pandemic.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 developers have been acquired by Nintendo

It’s not every day that Nintendo announces that it is adding a new team to its family. But earlier today the Japanese tech giant unveiled that it has purchased a 100% stake in Next Level Games. NLG is a Canadian studio best known for its work on Luigi’s Mansion 3.

However, Next Level Games have also worked on several other Nintendo titles over the years. Back in 2009, it was responsible for both ‘Punch-Out!’ reboots. Equally, in 2013 it released Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Some of its earlier games include NHL Hitz Pro and Mario Strikers Charged. Given that NLG hadn’t developed a none Nintendo game since 2011, this move seems sensible enough.

More Luigi’s Mansion to come?

Luigi's Mansion original gameplay

The acquisition itself appears to have been relatively straightforward. Nintendo states that it has purchased a complete share in the Vancouver based developer. The final details will be finalized on March 1 pending satisfaction of all relevant parties.

Nintendo’s handling of its now signature Mario spin-off series has been a mixed bag. The original Luigi’s Mansion was released in 2001 but didn’t receive a sequel until 2013. Although it has aged very well over the years, the original was not received well at launch.

One reason for the initial backlash was that not everyone was happy regarding its development. Despite being a spin-off, Luigi’s Mansion was marketed as the premiere GameCube launch title. A more traditional mainstream Super Mario game wouldn’t come until a year later in Sunshine.

However, those days are officially numbered. With both Dark Moon and Luigi’s Mansion 3 releasing in the 2010s, Nintendo is all in on everyone’s favourite green plumber. The acquisition of Next Level Games supports that idea too. Although it is possible that Nintendo will instead have its new addition work on a brand-new series instead.

FIFA 21 icon Swaps 2 plus Headliners promo are now available

Icon Swaps 2

Continuing on from the first set of Icon Swaps, EA just released the second set of objectives. This second set will allow players to earn the remaining ten tokens. These tokens can be traded in FIFA 21 for various rewards including unique player packs and various legends of the game.

Much like the first set, Icon Swaps 2 features objectives primarily across Squad Battles and Friendlies. However, this time around the sports game’s competitive mode, FUT Champions has also entered the fray.

Icon Swaps 2 nerfs golden goal rule

FIFA 21 icon swaps 2 objectives

The first Icon Swaps was well received in the community thanks to its golden goal rule. Whenever a player scored first, it became tradition that the opponent would leave and forfeit the game. This sped up the grind and allowed players to earn tokens faster.

However, EA has attempted to put a stop to this. For Icon Swaps 2 you are required to finish games in order to complete many of the objectives. One example of this is “Score in 10 separate matches using Premier League players.” If you score a goal and then leave you will not earn progress towards this objective.

Alongside Icon Swaps 2 EA has also released a new promo. Dubbed Headliners, these cards are better versions of the existing one to watch cards. When a player performs well in real life and receives an in-form, their respective Headliner card will also improve. Whilst a One to Watch card simply matches its in-form counterpart, the Headliner card will have slightly better stats.

Also, Headliner cards are selected specifically because the player in question is playing well in real life. This makes it more likely that they’ll receive upgrades in the future. The most expensive of these new cards is a 91 overall Bruno Fernandes which is extinct at 2 million coins on PC. Headliner cards will be in packs for two weeks whilst Icon Swaps 2 ends February 12. So, you’ve got plenty of time to grind out the new objectives. Good luck!

CD Projekt RED is being sued by its own investors for misrepresenting Cyberpunk 2077

CD Projekt RED

After everything it has been through, I doubt getting sued was what developer CD Projekt RED needed right now. But after upsetting its investors, that’s exactly what has happened. As posted by Business Wire, the Rosen Law Firm investor is suing CD Projekt RED for misleading them.

The Rosen Law Firm believe that the Cyberpunk developer failed to disclose vital information regarding the state of its new game. Specifically, it is unhappy at the failure to mention the issues present on current-gen consoles. The law firm believes that the Polish developer withheld this information in order to keep investors interested.

CD Projekt RED: From bad to worse

Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay open worldThe lawsuit references multiple shortcomings on CD Projekt RED’s behalf. Outside of the game’s obvious bugs, Rosen Law Firm were also unhappy with Cyberpunk getting removed from the PlayStation store. Also, the mandatory refunds requested by Sony and Microsoft would have negatively affected investors.

Truth be told, they may have a point. It’s difficult to believe that the Cyberpunk developers weren’t fully aware of the RPG’s issues. And even if it didn’t expect a backlash this strong, hiding those issues is still both legally and morally questionable.

Some may give CD Projekt RED the benefit of the doubt but it’s likely this was deliberate. After all, it also refused to provide console review codes ahead of Cyberpunk’s launch. Instead, only offering critics the chance to cover the superior PC version. It wasn’t just aware of the issues, but dedicated to do everything possible to hide them.

Regardless of mistakes made, CD Projekt RED is not taking this lawsuit without a fight. The Polish developer claims it made no effort to mislead investors or cause them to “incur losses.” It also points out that Cyberpunk 2077 still sold over 13 million copies in a week and has scored a strong 86% on Metacritic.

Halo Infinite has not been cancelled on Xbox One contrary to recent rumors

Halo Infinite

Earlier this week a rumor started to circulate that Halo Infinite would not be coming to Xbox One. The game’s user interface designer, Chad Mirshak, changed his LinkedIn page to only list PC and Xbox Series X/S. This led franchise fans to start panicking that Microsoft had abandoned its old platform to avoid holding Infinite’s visuals back.

But base Xbox One owners will be glad to hear that this isn’t the case. Halo community manager John Junyszek gave a clear answer in response to these rumors On Twitter. When asked, Junyszek made it clear that Infinite is still coming to Xbox One and that he’d like to be left to “enjoy the holidays.”

Halo Infinite is still coming to Xbox One

Cyberpunk 2077 unfinishedAlthough this rumor was mostly baseless, the concerns aren’t completely unreasonable. After all, the recent disaster that was Cyberpunk 2077 has put people on edge regarding the treatment of old hardware.

Developer CD Projekt Red released Cyberpunk 2077 in a nearly unplayable state on both PS4 and Xbox One. It was clear that it hadn’t put in the necessary time to optimize for those systems. A similar fate falling upon Halo Infinite is less likely but not out of the question. After all, no one saw it coming with Cyberpunk either.

But there’s little reason to be concerned at least for the time being. Microsoft has shown no signs that it is looking to abandon the Xbox One in the near future. Both Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass are still fully supported on both its old and new platforms. Also, to this day even the Xbox 360 servers are still alive and kicking.

Microsoft has a good track record of supporting its old products. And I doubt the American tech giant wants to split off its fan-base with Halo Infinite. Even if it has been delayed, I suspect the wait will be worthwhile. The new Halo has the potential to become the defining game for next-gen consoles.

Valkyrae leaked her YouTube earning by accident and they’re insane

Valkyrae social media profile picture

It’s no secret that being a big-time internet star pays well. Be it YouTube, Twitch or even Facebook Gaming, having a large following is going to earn you some serious money. And that fact has once again been proven true by Valkyrae.

Rachell Hofstetter, better known as Valkyrae, rose to prominence recently thanks to her Among Us videos. Back in October it was revealed that she was the fastest growing streamer in the world. At the start of this year, she was at an already impressive 880,000 subscribers. Over the course of just 12 months this number has grown to a staggering 2.6 million. The craziest part? The bulk of that growth has occurred over just the last five months.

How much does Valkyrae earn?

Valkyrae income leakWhilst her growth is impressive, it’s not why you’re here. On a recent stream Valkyrae accidently leaked her monthly earnings. Whilst searching through her analytics tab, she scrolled down too far and revealed the tracked revenue.

Apparently, 36.4 million monthly views and over 8 million hours of watch time will net you $172,000 a month. Her annual income can’t be figured out as it’s not as simple as just multiplying this number by twelve. YouTube views fluctuate far too often for that method to work. But what’s for sure is that Valkyrae is likely earning in excess of a million dollars a year via streaming alone.

Truth be told, these numbers aren’t actually that surprising. For comparison, there was a study that calculated a reasonable prediction of Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg’s annual income. As the largest independent YouTuber on the planet, the study estimated he is earning over $70 million a year.

Clearly, it pays to be a big content creator. There’s no easy path to get there but who knows. With a bit of luck and a good idea anyone can make it. Both Valkyrae and PewDiePie started out as humble, independent content creators. So why not give it a try?