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By Fiza Ali
Google brings Play and Watch bundle for $99.99 with Stadia Controller and Chromecast
by Fiza Ali
Google has combined Stadia Controller and the 2020 Chromecast to form a bundle, naming it the Play and Watch package. In this bundle, users can get both the streaming dongle and controller for $99.99.
The store description for the product reads:
This package also saves users $19 that they would have to spend if they buy both products separately. Along with the package, Google is also recommending the Chromecast Ethernet adapter to get the best out of your Stadia experience. The new Chromecast is available in Sky, Sunrise, and Snow for $49.99, and the Controller is available in Wasabi, Just Black, and Clearly White for $69.
If users buy a Chromecast Ethernet adapter with Play and Watch with Google TV package, they will be saving an additional $10 and getting the recommended accessory for only $9.99. Google is also giving discounts on its Stadia Premiere Edition bundle and making it available for purchase for $79.99 after a $20 price cut. However, the streaming dongle included is not available for sale anymore which suggests that Google is running down inventory.
Google's game streaming service now comes with support for limited Android TV products too. As such, users can enjoy it with their compatible third-party Bluetooth gamepad or Google's Controller.
Source: 9to5Google via The Verge
Microsoft Weekly: Flight Sim on console, Windows updates, and Q4 earnings
by Florin Bodnarescu
As yet another set of seven days has gone by, it’s time we take a look at the news that popped up during this time, including the landing of Flight Simulator on console, a series of updates for Windows, and the Q4 earnings report for Microsoft’s 2021 fiscal year. You’ll find info about those subjects and more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of July 25 – 31.
Flight Sim on console
As promised, on July 27, Microsoft Flight Simulator landed on Game Pass and the Xbox Series X|S. This is the first time the title has made its way to console, with Xbox One users presumably being able to enjoy it via Xbox Cloud Gaming, where possible.
In case simulators are not quite your thing, there’s currently an Xbox Ultimate Game Sale, featuring deals for Assassin’s Creed games, Call of Duty titles, and others, and if you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, Darksiders III and Lost Planet 3 are now free to claim.
In first-party news, Forza Motorsport 7 is set to be removed from storefronts in September (having initially been released in October of 2017). Those who currently own the game will be unaffected though, as they get to (obviously) keep their copies.
And ending with another first-party game, Halo Infinite’s first Insider test is now live, and runs until August 2, at 10AM PT. Do be warned that Microsoft has accidentally leaked Infinite campaign details, so you’ll need to be cautious if you don’t want to have plot points spoiled.
Much like taxes, Windows updates are a given, and this week, there were definitely some interesting such updates.
For one, Microsoft released the first Windows 11 build to the Beta channel, last week’s Dev channel build, 22000.100. As you’d imagine, it contains broadly the same number of fixes as the Dev build, only this one has a couple more known issues added. As is the case with Windows 11 going forward, Teams is quite tightly integrated with the OS, so here’s our hands-on with said Teams experience.
In additional news about changes, Microsoft is set to retire semi-annual Windows Server updates in favor of LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel) releases. The next LTSC variant, set to drop this year, will still be based on Windows 10.
And speaking of, KB5004296 was pushed out by the firm, bumping up the build numbers for Windows 10 versions 2004, 20H2, and 21H1 to 19041.1151, 19042.1151, and 19043.1151. The list of fixes is a little longer than usual, and contains everything from fixes for bugs with WFP (Windows Filtering Platform) to System Integrity memory leaks, and more.
Last but not least, to end the talk about versions and version numbers, Windows 10 21H1 is now on 26% of PCs, with Windows 11 (the Insider flavor) grabbing 0.9% of the market.
Q4 FY21 earnings
It’ll come as no shock to those who follow Microsoft that the Redmond giant has now posted its quarterly earnings for the fourth quarter of its fiscal year 2021, which ended June 30.
Microsoft brought in $46.2B in revenue (up 21% Year-over Year). Operating income landed at $19.1B (up 42%), with net income being $16.5B (up 47%). Diluted earnings per share was $2.17 (up 49%).
Of the three sections that Microsoft’s earnings are split into, Productivity and Business Processes brought in $14.7B (up 25%), Intelligent Cloud contributed the most with $17.4B (up 30%), and More Personal Computing accounted for $14.1B of the total sum, a 9% increase year-over-year.
In the first category, Office Commercial products and cloud services grew 20% in terms of revenue – off the back of a 35% increase in Office 365 Commercial revenue. Consumer Office earnings grew 18%, with Microsoft 365 consumer seats increasing to 51.9 million. Revenue from LinkedIn and Dynamics grew 46% and 33%, respectively.
In the Intelligent Cloud bracket, Azure revenue grew 51%, with revenue from cloud services and server products being up 34% (accounting for $3.9B). The Enterprise Mobility install base grew 19% (to over 190 million seats), and Premier Support – as well as Microsoft Consulting services - grew by a respectable 12%.
Under More Personal Computing, there was strong Search advertising revenue growth, with Windows Commercial products growing 20%, and OEM Pro (as well as non-Pro) revenues dipping 2% and 4% (respectively), which happened due to supply chain constraints. The other effect of said constraints was a 20% fall in revenue for the Surface unit.
Gaming revenue was up 11%, with a 172% increase in hardware revenue (year-over-year). Xbox content and services were down 4%, and Search advertising was up 53%.
Because this is also the end of the fiscal year, Microsoft shared the overall FY21 figures, with revenue landing at $168.1B (up 18%) and net income being $61.3B.
The final Edge Dev 93 build (93.0.961.2) is now out with an improved Settings layout. Outlook on the web now has a ‘My Day’ pane for easy access to Calendar and To Do. New phishing protections are now live in Teams. Teams now has nearly 250 million monthly active users. Logging off
We end the column by highlighting a software transition that took place earlier this week.
As was announced by Microsoft two years ago, Skype for Business Online was retired on July 31, 2021. The replacement is of course Teams, and the company is so confident in its latest chatting endeavor that it’s not extending the EOL date of Skype for Business Online.
For folks who have not moved to Teams completely (or at all), there will be Microsoft-assisted upgrades (starting in August). Until the upgrades are completed, users will be free to continue their chats and calls via Skype for Business Online.
Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.
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By Usama Jawad96
The Ascent on Game Pass for PC is inferior to Steam, but a fix is in the works
by Usama Jawad
Cyberpunk action RPG, The Ascent was unveiled back in May 2020 and finally launched on Steam and Xbox Game Pass across console, PC, and cloud a couple of days ago. Although the title has been fairly positively received so far, many have also noticed that the Game Pass for PC version is inferior compared to its Steam counterpart. However, a fix is in the works.
Multiple gamers across social media platforms have noted that the Game Pass version on PC lacks Nvidia's Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) capability and the graphical option for it is not even present in the configurations. In the same vein, ray-tracing does not work at all. Meanwhile, both of these features exist in working condition on Steam.
In a series of tweets from The Ascent's development studio Neon Giant and signed by co-founder Tor Frick, the company has confirmed that a fix is in the works. Frick responded to multiple tweets saying that:
It is interesting to note that the two build process are different and that the game is not just packaged in the same way for both storefronts, despite being on the same platform - that is PC.
No time frame for a potential fix has been given yet. It is also important to remember that The Ascent does not support ray-tracing at all on Xbox Series X|S, which means that if you do want to take advantage of the feature, the Steam version of the game running on PC hardware is your only option for now.
Source: Neon Giant (1, 2, 3) via Eurogamer
Games with Gold: Darksiders III and Lost Planet 3 are now free
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Microsoft announced the August Games with Gold titles earlier this week, revealing an exciting selection of incoming experiences, and already the first wave is available for claiming. Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members can now grab Darksiders III and Lost Planet 3 as their latest bonus games.
As for who can get what, Darksiders III is available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, while Lost Planet 3 is up for grabs across the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S generations.
The Microsoft Store links listed below can be used to directly add the games to a Gold activated account:
Darksiders III (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S)
Lost Planet 3 (Xbox 360, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One)
For those who missed it, Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break from the last Games with Gold wave still has two weeks left on its counter before it leaves the program. The strategy game will be replaced by Yooka-Laylee on August 16.
As always, games claimed through a Games with Gold promotion are attached to accounts in different ways depending on their launch platforms. Xbox 360 titles will continue being playable even after the Gold subscription is discontinued, but Xbox One games are only playable while the account has an active subscription.
Weekend PC Game Deals: It's raining franchise sales
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Weekend PC Game Deals is where the hottest gaming deals from all over the internet are gathered into one place, every week, for your consumption. So kick back, relax, and hold on to your wallets.
The bundle space expanded this week with Humble's Early Access All-Stars Bundle. As evident by the name, this collection focuses on still in-development games, offering a variety of experiences from the indie side.
The three tier bundle begins with a copy of Retrowave for $1. Going up to the average price tier will currently set you back around $10, and it gets you copies of Golf It and The Infected. Lastly, joining the final tier for $12 adds on the Snowtopia: Ski Resort Tycoon, Warpips, and Luck be a Landlord.
Humble's bundles don't stop there, as there is also an RPG Heroes collection available that offers a copy of Delver for $1, followed by Swords & Souls: Neverseen and Tower of Time in the average price tier, which is currently around 8.70. The final $10 tier has Quest Hunter, Slasher's Keep, and Dreadlands being added to the whole package.
Both bundles will last for about two weeks. Keep in mind this is also the final week of the July Choice selection, with the games, which include Yakuza 3 and Surge 2, refreshing on Tuesday.
Now 200 freebies in, Epic Games is showing no signs of stopping its giveaways. This week, it has brought copies of Mothergunship and Train Sim World 2 for claiming.
Mothergunship is a bullet-hell FPS touting an intricate gun customization system with nutty combinations, massive boss battles, and cooperative play. On the other side of the platform is Train Sim World 2, offering authentic locomotives and routes to experience while tackling problems such as rush hours and harsh cargo schedules.
This double giveaway is slated to last until August 5, and it's a big week coming up, with A Plague Tale: Innocence and Speed Brawl arriving as the next freebies.
The free events of this weekend will pull you in a whole lot of directions, from superhero duties and being ant-sized to managing loony hospitals.
Starting things off, you can try out Marvel's Avengers this weekend, with the complete action hero experience, including campaign and multiplayer modes, available for free as Crystal Dynamics celebrates recent updates and the upcoming arrival of Black Panther.
Obsidian Entertainment also has a game available to try out this weekend: its miniaturized survival game set in the back yard Grounded. Two Point Hospital, the humorous hospital management title that now features Sonic, as well as the multiplayer arcade golfing title Golf with Your Friends are the final two games with free events running at this moment.
Franchise sales are the main highlight of this weekend as you'll witness when browsing the below highlights list, with multiple series like Grand Theft Auto, Mass Effect, Borderlands, Need for Speed, Sonic, and others getting hefty cuts to their prices:
Mass Effect Legendary Edition – $44.99 on Steam Outriders – $38.99 on Steam Grounded - Early Access – $29.99 on Steam DayZ – $26.99 on Steam Marvel's Avengers – $23.99 on Steam Planet Zoo – $20.24 on Steam Halo: The Master Chief Collection – $19.99 on Microsoft Store Borderlands 3 – $19.79 on Steam Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered – $19.49 on Steam Need for Speed Heat Deluxe Edition – $17.49 on Steam Death Stranding – $17.28 on GreenManGaming Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey – $15.99 on Steam Outer Wilds – $14.99 on Steam Grand Theft Auto V: Premium Edition – $14.8 on Steam Streets of Rogue – $13.99 on Steam Manifold Garden – $13.99 on Steam Wingspan – $13.39 on Steam Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – $13.05 on Steam The Deus Ex Collection – $10.60 on Steam ABZU – $9.99 on Steam Due Process - Early Access – $9.99 on Steam Forza Motorsport 7 – $9.99 on Microsoft Store Untitled Goose Game – $9.99 on Steam Quantum Break – $9.99 on Microsoft Store ARK: Survival Evolved – $9.89 on Steam FINAL FANTASY – $9.59 on Steam Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – $8.99 on Steam Röki – $7.99 on Steam Clustertruck – $7.49 on Steam Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice – $7.49 on Microsoft Store Journey – $7.49 on Epic Store Burnout Paradise Remastered – $6.99 on Steam Need for Speed Payback - Deluxe Edition – $6.89 on Steam Call of Juarez: Gunslinger – $5.99 on Steam Grand Theft Auto IV: The Complete Edition – $5.99 on Steam A Short Hike – $5.19 on Steam SpeedRunners – $4.99 on Steam DiRT Rally 2.0 – $4.99 on Steam Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed Collection – $4.99 on Steam Sonic Generations Collection – $4.99 on Steam Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition – $2.99 on Steam Islanders – $2.49 on Steam Sonic Mania – $1.99 on Steam Sonic Adventure 2 – $1.49 on Steam Mountain – $0.49 on Steam Train Sim World 2 – $0 on Epic Store Mothergunship – $0 on Epic Store DRM-free Goodness
GOG is also in a freebie mood this weekend, so you can claim a copy of Wanderlust: Transsiberian from the front page until August 2. There are quite a few DRM-free games on sale this weekend, including a villain-focused deals range. Find our highlights below:
Carto - $13.99 on GOG Warcraft I & II Bundle - $12.74 on GOG Void Bastards - $11.99 on GOG Crying Suns - $11.24 on GOG Mafia - $10.04 on GOG Forager - $8.99 on GOG Diablo + Hellfire - $8.49 on GOG Blade Runner - $6.69 on GOG Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition - $5.99 on GOG S.W.I.N.E. HD Remaster - $4.99 on GOG Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition - $3.99 on GOG King of Dragon Pass - $3.59 on GOG King's Bounty: Dark Side - $3.24 on GOG Myst Masterpiece Edition - $2.99 on GOG Overlord + Raising Hell - $2.49 on GOG System Shock 2 - $2.49 on GOG Dungeon Keeper 2 - $1.49 on GOG Wing Commander 1+2 - $1.49 on GOG Zombie Night Terror - $1.29 on GOG POSTAL 2 - $0.99 on GOG Deus Ex GOTY Edition - $0.97 on GOG Wanderlust: Transsiberian - $0 on GOG Keep in mind that availability and pricing for some deals could vary depending on the region.
That's it for our pick of this weekend's PC game deals, and hopefully, some of you have enough self-restraint not to keep adding to your ever-growing backlogs. As always, there's an enormous number of other deals ready and waiting all over the interwebs as well as in services you may already subscribe to if you comb through them, so keep your eyes open for those, and have a great weekend.