Microsoft Will Refund Some Xbox Owners’ Xbox Live Gold Fees

Xbox One Media Apps

If you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription only to access media apps such as Netflix and Hulu, Microsoft’s recent decision to remove the digital requirement may have left you feeling short-changed. After all, many consumers buy an upfront 12-month subscription to get a discount on the standard monthly fee. To make amends, Microsoft is promising to refund Xbox Live Gold subscribers who will no longer need their membership from June, when the changes come into effect. Payments will be made on a pro-rata basis, calculated from the day of cancellation to when their membership would have normally ended. “Cancellation and pro-rata refund requests must be made by August 31, 2014 and require six to eight weeks for processing,” the company said.

Read the full story at The Next Web.

Titanfall’s Launch on Xbox One Marred by Xbox Live Outage

Titanfall

Now is the absolute worst time for Xbox Live to be down. Tuesday marked the debut of Titanfall, the game that could make or break the Xbox One game console. It’s a masterpiece of mechanical manslaughter, and Microsoft pulled out all the stops for its release, delivering new system updates, new peripherals and even a “fix” for the Xbox One game controller ahead of its launch on Tuesday. But now, as prospective US players return home from work to play the Xbox One’s killer app, many are finding themselves unable to sign into their consoles and actually play the game. With some games, that might not be a gigantic problem. You could simply play a single-player mode. But Titanfall is a multiplayer-only game that’s joined at the hip to Xbox Live, dependant on the service for everything from dedicated servers to AI calculations. You can’t even play the tutorial without a connection.

A later update said the situation was fixed: “The official Xbox Support Twitter account claims that Xbox Live is “good to go,” though the status page still lists service as “limited.”

Read the full story at The Verge.

Xbox 360 Dashboard update pictures and hands-on

Bing search, Metro-styling and more…

Microsoft is set to release its most ambitious Xbox 360 Dashboard update in the six-year-old console’s life to date, and Pocket-lint was invited to a swanky location in the heart of London to test the new features.

Available for download globally from 6 December (tomorrow), the new update is a complete refresh for the user interface and brings the experience in line with the styling of the company’s Windows Phone 7 operating system, and the front end of the forthcoming Windows 8.

It adopts the new Metro-style interface, offering a tiled aesthetic, and splits content categories into tabs that run across the top of the screen. There’s some that are familiar, some not so, and all have been simplified.

Video and Games are still present, obviously, but new to this update are entire categories for Social, Apps, TV and, possibly the standout new feature, Bing. The latter brings about a new way to search for content, whether it be a movie, game, music video or such-like, and it can be accessed or controlled via the joypad or, as we experienced, Kinect – using the microphone and our voice.

In essence, the new Bing search functionality comes across a bit like Apple’s Siri software found on the iPhone 4S, and has already been advertised on UK TV. However, the feature is much more impressive in the flesh. It’s not a fully functioning version of the Bing in-browser search engine, and technically can only find content that’s available to play, download or stream on or to your Xbox 360, but it is revolutionary in the way that you can access it all through speech.

If you have a Kinect plugged into your console, all you have to do is say “Xbox. Bing. Search…” and choose a term. In our demonstration, we performed several searches, including “Xbox. Bing. Search Batman” and “Search Christian Bale”, and both of which came up with plenty of entertainment suggestions. “Batman”, in fact, came up with the game Lego Batman, some of the full length cartoon series and Batman Begins, both available to rent. Additionally, some of the new content partners that come with the update also have content that will be displayed after a Bing search, as well as those that are Microsoft-hosted. And, as more join up, the results will become farther reaching still.

You can search for common titles, actors names and directors, and, like with Siri, half the fun is finding out what works and what doesn’t. The Kinect certainly recognises a hell of a lot of vocal commands, and can now be used throughout the new Dashboard experience too (not just in-game or in a Kinect-specific menu). The same is true for motion control.

The other major non-cosmetic additions to this update come in the form of the aforementioned new content partners. Along with new zones and an easier to understand menu structure, come video apps for Lovefilm, 4OD, blinkbox, Demand 5 (Channel Five’s VOD service), YouTube, Dailymotion and MSN. And, unlike on rival platforms, Microsoft has made a clever move in getting them to ditch their own front ends and user interfaces in favour of the Metro approach. On the PS3, for example, the Lovefilm app looks nothing like Sony’s XrossMediaBar – it uses the same UI as found on Samsung Smart TVs, et al. Not so here.

Instead, while it is the same streamed movie content found on all other Lovefilm streaming platforms, it is a seamless experience, looking like the Xbox’s own new Dashboard with minor colour changes. You’ll still need a streaming-enabled subscription, but you won’t feel like you are leaving the Xbox arena at any time.

The same is true with all of the other content partners, including music service Muzu.tv. Even 4OD shows are offered through a Metro-style interface, although the font has been changed to Channel 4 s.

Remarkably, Pocket-lint was also told that, when it arrives, the BBC iPlayer application will sport the same Metro aesthetic. Seeing as how much the Beeb is protective over its branding and styling, this comes as a massive shock, and much kudos to Microsoft if it manages to pull of such a coup. We were also told that, because of this, and contrary to former rumours, iPlayer will not be available on the Xbox 360 until 2012. The same is true of ITV Player.

The big M won’t end there either. It told us, in our one-to-one briefing, that it plans to release around 15 applications before the end of 2011, and has a healthy roadmap for the introduction of many more throughout the coming year, month-by-month.

Some of those will be social too, although there’s no word at present on Skype integration (considering Microsoft now owns it), but Twitter and Facebook are already present (as before). There will also be new features for social gaming, such as leaving a beacon for friends who are not online. As soon as they log in, that beacon will ask them to join you in a game. Plus, as Gamertag information will be stored in the cloud from now on, rather than locally, you can even log into your account from a different Xbox 360, and play as yourself rather than a guest, with all your achievements and information being accessible.

At this juncture, it’s worth pointing out that some of these new services are only available to Xbox Live Gold members. Silver members still get the new look, the search functionality, and voice and gesture control through a Kinect (if they have one), but will not be able to access a vast amount of the content.

We haven’t been told of an exact time for the Dashboard’s release in the UK, but it is totally on track for this Tuesday. And, given our initial viewing, we reckon it’ll blow your socks off.

No BBC iPlayer for Xbox 360 Dashboard update

Delayed until 2012

The Xbox 360 Dashboard update hits tomorrow (6 December), but while it comes with plenty of new features and applications for content providers, including 4OD and Demand 5, the much-touted BBC iPlayer won’t be one of them. Yet.

Pocket-lint has been told, in a one-to-one briefing, that the iPlayer app is unlikely to be available on the platform this year, with a 2012 release date much more likely. This is because both parties, Microsoft and the BBC, want the functionality and look of the service to be as good as it possibly can be, and to feature complete integration with the new features offered by the refreshed Metro-style interface:

“We are working with them to deliver their application, probably in 2012,” said Pav Bhardwaj, Xbox Live UK product manager. “We are working to make sure that the app that we deliver for the BBC is the best app that we could possibly deliver. That it is seamless. That it is a great consumer experience. That’s what both the BBC and Microsoft want to deliver.”

However, at least this means that the iPlayer app for Xbox 360 will feature search through voice control, for example:

“That’s what’s most important. Rather than rushing it through, we’re going to make sure it’s a quality app,” he added.

“What’s important about the BBC is that they have such rich content. They’ve got so much content that’s it’s really important that we bring the whole Bing experience, the whole Kinect experience, and the whole search and gesture control functionality correctly to that application. And that it works seamlessly.”

Additionally, the company is working with the other major UK terrestrial broadcaster ITV to bring its ITV Player service to the platform in 2012 too:

“They are one of the partners we’re looking to work with,” Bhardwaj said.

PS4 Details Will Possibly Emerge This Month

Rumors are abound that Sony is set to reveal more details about the much-anticipated PS4. It was widely believed that they would use E3 to finalize details or at least give us more info but now speculation is that Sony will make an announcement as early as this month. Sony likely wants to keep the hype train rolling in their favor after the not so surprising PS4 announcement this past February.

My own personal opinion is that Sony wants to have all details available and perhaps even start taking pre-orders before Microsoft announces their next console. In January Microsoft posted a countdown to E3 on its blog which most people assumed was to be taken as a countdown to the NextBox. However there’s still a chance Microsoft will also preempt E3 with their own standalone announcement. Both consoles could possibly release by the end of 2013.

Eventually I will own both consoles but my first choice and the console I will pre-order in hopes of getting my hands on at launch will be the PS4. I think a lot of gamers have similarly made up their minds regardless of announcements. So geeks, what’s your thoughts on the impending next console generation? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what will undoubtedly be a competition that in the end can only end in a win for us gamers.

Maybe that next Xbox won’t require a constant net connection!

Xbox_720-570x380

It’s been a mess of rumors and angry gamers since the first hint of the next Xbox, code-named Durango, would require a constant internet connection. A connection not only for online multiplayer, not only for updates but also to play games. Of course the cynic in us felt it was also a way to block used games, the “always on” component either way has been an irritating thorn in all our sides.

Thanks to recent reports at The Verge and VGLeaks, we’re now hearing that the constant connection will be only for the push of media content. Durango will still play games offline, without the need for the internet. It also seems the likelihood of Microsoft using this as a means to slit the used games market’s throat is pretty low.

The origin of the rumors seem to stem from the already out there dev units needing the connection. There was some mention of a possible second Xbox device needing a full-on connection. Of course we don’t know anything for certain as Microsoft won’t respond to rumors. We just have to wait until the alleged unveiling in May.

Sacred Citadel Available Now For Multi-Platforms

Sacred Citadel the side scrolling hack and slash action game is now available for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Sacred Citadel offers all of the comforts of the action brawler but kicks it up a notch by incorporating RPG elements. As if that weren’t enough, gameplay includes dual wielding of weapons, combos galore and some pretty stunning graphics.

Play solo or bring a friend or two, as Sacred Citadel offers fun co-op gameplay for up to 3 people.

Download Sacred Citadel on the platform of your choice for the low price of $14.99 on PSN and Steam or 1200 Microsoft points on XBLA. You can also add the DLC pack, Jungle Hunt for $4.99 / 400 Microsoft points.

Sacred Citadel was developed by Southend Studios and is being published by Deep Silver.

Look for my full review of Sacred Citadel coming soon to Don’t Hate The Geek. Check out the launch trailer below.

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