Week In Games - January 29th

Steam gets smartphone app

Valve's popular Steam platform has this week moved one step closer to dominating your gaming life, as Valve released a beta of the app for Android and iOS smartphones. While it doesn't allow you to download any of your purchased games (the store offers only games for PC and Mac), you can nevertheless browse available titles, and purchase them if you wish. For those of you who thought your wallets were safe from the frequent (and brilliant) Steam sales while away from the computer, that's no longer the case. The app also offers chat with friends and access to Valve's syndicated news feed.

The app is still, however, very much lacking, and is only available through sign-up in a closed beta. As a result, it can often be slightly clunky and hard to navigate, which is often the case when popular computer-programs or sites release smartphone apps (the facebook Android app, for example, was a buggy mess through to late 2010, lacking even a chat feature - something Steam does offer). Still, we can look forward to Valve weaseling even more money out of our already straining student budgets as the app develops.

THQ gives up on the Kids, Focuses on the Core

A noticeable chunk part of the games industry is focused on producing games that are tie-ins to recent movie releases, children's films in particular. A lot of these releases tend to be rushed and of low quality, leaving the children they're aimed at unsatified and games reviewers gently weeping.

So it's great news that THQ, a regular publisher of these titles, has announced that they are dropping out of that market, focusing on "core" games, giving Saints Row: The Third as an example; which has sold over 3.8 million copies so far. The DLC for the game, including the recently released expansion GenkiBowl VII have also generated much revenue for the company.

This is great news - with THQ now putting their resources towards more demanding projects, rather than what is arguably film advertisement, it should bring about an increase in quality. Hopefully other publishers will take note.

Nintendo evolve their WiFi Services: Welcome to the Nintendo Network

Last generation, the WiFi functions for the DS and Wii was the 'Nintendo WiFi Connection', which was both a clumsy name and a somewhat clumsy service. This week, Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo had a conference with investors about the WiiU, and revealed the name and some of the functions of Nintendo's new service, the Nintendo Network.

Compatible with both the WiiU and 3DS, it promises a more straightforward system for players to compete online and to download new content. There's also mention of a larger focus on DLC, and the ability for multiple accounts to be registered on a WiiU console, which would definitely bring up the console's functionality to the PS3 and 360.

Next Xbox rumoured to not run used games

We've become increasingly used to games on consoles and PC shipping with an Online Pass, which restricts certain online content to those who have bought the game new, leaving second-hand buyers to pay extra for the privilege. This has long been a dream of games developers, who obviously don't get a cut of the profits from used games, those going straight to either the stores or the people who sell them. However, as of now it is limited to certain games from certain publishers, but Microsoft hopes to change this with its next console.

The next Xbox, set to probably release some time in 2013, is rumoured to contain measures which will either lock out or require payment for second hand games. While it's unclear how it would manage this (and indeed, if the rumour is true), it does nevertheless represent a fairly worrying trend of more control by video-game companies. Reception has been broadly negative, so perhaps if the company is considering it, it might now back off.

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