Welcome to this week's Etch Play Roundup! We've got new hardware from Valve, some games for good news, and pinball inspired fun. Enjoy...
The gameosphere was abuzz yesterday with an announcement from Valve unveiling their new Steam Deck handheld gaming PC.
The device offers 3 flavours mostly differing in storage capacity with prices at £349, £459 and £569. The proposition looks very good and with the intention that your existing steam library will "just work" on the Steam Deck, this is perhaps the first new gaming device with zero launch line-up concerns.
A less fan-fared, but commercially interesting, point is that Valve are relying on hardware partners for this, staying true to form and keeping the hardware element an abstraction from their core focus. They have also affirmed that their SteamOS and Proton (which enables PC games better support on Linux hardware) stack is completely free for other manufacturers to use in their own hardware. So this could be seen as an attempt to carve out a new device category (handheld PC gaming machines) without the intention of dominating but rather benefiting from widespread adoption.
I can feel my wallet quietly weeping already...
We heard news this week that Netflix have hired former Facebook and EA exec, Mike Verdu as their Vice President of Game Development. Speculation is that the streaming giant will be offering games on the platform within the next year.
Netflix has over 200 million subscribers to it's core service, which if games become a part of offers an attractive proposition to games businesses to get in front of. They have also been vocal on the fact they are more concerned with competition from Fortnite than of their look-a-like competitors such as HBO or Disney+.
Whilst in recent years, tech giants haven't had much luck with trying to buy their way into the games space (with arguably underwhelming results for Amazon, Facebook and Google), Netflix are well positioned with an existing finely-tuned balance of third and first-party content and a heavily engaged audience. We've no details yet on what the service might look like in terms of interaction and whether or not this will be included in the existing service or something new, but we'll be keeping our eyes peeled between binge watching Brooklyn 99 for the seventeenth time.
Yeah, there's a new handheld console from Steam. Yeah, Netflix are getting into games. But hey, have you seen this free-to-play mobile game from Japan? World Flipper was released there in 2019 and is now finally getting an English-language worldwide release.
The game combines pinball mechanics with the trappings of a JRPG, and I am a complete sucker for pinball mechanics, so I'm looking forward to checking it out. You can pre-register now, and it's expected to release in August.
Elsewhere, the team behind Forza Horizon 5 have been talking this week about how the game uses ray-tracing for better audio. The idea is that all audio in the game will emanate out from the point of origin, bouncing off other cars and various surfaces in the game world just like it would in real life. Check out the clip below to hear what it sounds like, and get a load of those gorgeous visuals.
This week was the Games for Change Festival, which was set up a number of years ago to celebrate games "that exemplify the ever-expanding world of social impact gaming". During the festival a number of awards are given out, and this year's top winner was Alba, by ustwo games, taking home the title of Game of the Year.
I've previously spoken about this game and how relaxing, enjoyable and addictive it is. In the game you play as Alba, a young girl on a quest to preserve the wildlife of an island she visits on holiday. The game also took home the Most Significant Impact award from the festival, as off the back of the game over 700,000 tress have been planted, with ustwo aiming to plant one million trees. A tree is planted for every copy of the game that is downloaded or sold.
Whilst I'm talking "games for good" stories, I mentioned this on the live show yesterday, but I also wanted to give another shout out to the folks at Games Done Quick, who last week ran the Summer Games Done Quick event, which raised over $2.9 million for Doctors without borders. An outstanding achievement, and congrats to everyone involved!
Even in standby mode, our gaming consoles could be consuming up to 25 times the minimum energy that they need. Idle power drain is less environmentally friendly and could be silently inflating your energy bills. According to the Natural Resources Defence Council, Xbox owners in particular could be collectively paying an extra $500m in energy bills due to the default console power mode settings.
This Life Hacker article looks at how much power our consoles consume, and what settings we can change to reduce that.
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