Microsoft India Nearly Doubles Price of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for Windows 10

Microsoft India Nearly Doubles Price of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for Windows 10

Microsoft has almost doubled the price of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for Windows 10 PCs. At launch the game was Rs. 729 but now it’s available for Rs. 1,480. The price hike was first spotted by users of local gaming forum IndianVideoGamer.

While we’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update this story if we get a reply. This strikes us as an odd decision to increase the price of the game a couple of weeks after release. However, it isn’t the first time we’ve seen prices of games change on the Windows Store. Rise of the Tomb Raider debuted at an obscene Rs. 3,439 which was rectified after launch to Rs. 889 (dubbed as a pre-launch discount). Right now, it’s at Rs. 1,002.

(Also see: I Played Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Windows 10 So You Don’t Have To)

Considering how easy it is for gamers in other regions to switch to the Windows Store for India, we wouldn’t be surprised if Gears of War: Ultimate Edition’s price hike is a preventive measure. Ostensibly done to stop others from taking advantage of the game’s low price for India. It’s something Electronic Arts has done as well. In 2013, it hiked up the price for SimCity from Rs. 1,499 to Rs. 3,499 to stop gamers in other territories from exploiting the subsidised price for India. Since then India’s been punished with pricing of Rs. 3,499 and above for most of EA’s new games. A year later, EA stopped releasing PC game discs for the region altogether.

Nonetheless, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition performs rather poorly on Windows 10 PCs. It doesn’t help that you’re saddled with using a storefront that pales in comparison to EA’s Origin let alone Steam, making the price hike a moot point. Well, for now at least. It will be interesting to see if this is just the beginning of price hikes for games across the Windows Store, much like we witnessed on the Xbox Store barely a year after the Xbox One was available officially in India.

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Tags: Gears of War, Gears of War PC India Price, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Gears of War Ultimate Edition India Price,Gears PC, IVG, PC Games, PC Gaming, Windows 10, Windows Store

Changing gears at India’s start-ups

The Morgan Stanley markdown brings Flipkart’s valuation down to about $11 billion from the $15.2 billion the company claimed when it raised its last round of funds. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

The Morgan Stanley markdown brings Flipkart’s valuation down to about $11 billion from the $15.2 billion the company claimed when it raised its last round of funds. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

In late October, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Gurley, speaking to The Wall Street Journal about technology start-up valuations, said, “All these private valuations are fake. They’re all on paper.”

Gurley, managing partner at San Francisco-based venture capital firm Benchmark, has been openly critical for a while of the dizzying valuations attributed to technology start-ups in recent years. His criticism is directed in particular at unicorns, the common term for technology start-ups privately valued at $1 billion or more.

Until a couple of months ago, Gurley’s criticism had few takers in India’s start-up ecosystem. In fact, back in October, few venture capitalists and even fewer entrepreneurs would concede to a valuation bubble.

Sure, there had been a few upsets. Zomato, the restaurant discovery platform backed by Info Edge India Ltd and Sequoia Capital, had fired 10% of its staff as part of a cost rationalization drive. Food ordering start-up TinyOwl, backed by Matrix Partners and Sequoia, had laid off more than 100 people and shut down offices in some cities as it battled a cash crunch. Property search and listings platform Commonfloor was on the block as it failed to draw fresh capital despite having investors such as Tiger Global Management and Google Capital on board.

But, unlike elsewhere in the world, where unicorn valuations were being marked down with alarming frequency by mutual funds, India’s unicorns held their mythical valuations. E-commerce bellwether Flipkart was still going strong at $15.2 billion. Rival Snapdeal was cruising along at about $5 billion. Budget stays aggregator and unicorn aspirant OYO Rooms had just snapped up $100 million from Japanese investor SoftBank and others, taking its valuation to a reported $400 million. Even seed-stage start-ups were raking in $1 million rounds. What bubble?

In the past two months, however, some of that exuberance has tempered. People still aren’t talking in bubble terms, but they admit that a correction is underway in India’s start-up funding market. The correction is evident from the numbers for the concluding quarter of 2015. A KPMG report, based on data compiled by research firm CB Insights, shows that venture capital-backed firms in India raised $1.5 billion in October-December 2015, down 46% from the $2.8 billion raised in the July-September quarter. The volume of deals also declined to 114 from 139 in the preceding quarter.

The numbers are down primarily because of a correction in later funding rounds, specifically in the Series B and C stages where valuations were most frothy. A quick survey of deals reported across media shows that after September, there has been a marked decline in Series B and C stage deals, especially in terms of value. Compared with the past, only one deal crossed the $100 million mark—hyperlocal delivery service Grofers raised $120 million in a Series B round led by SoftBank.

The ticket sizes of the remaining 15 deals in those stages were well below the $50 million mark. After Grofers, the three largest deals involved e-commerce company Naaptol ($52 million), PepperTap, another hyperlocal delivery service ($40 million), and ethnic products marketplace Craftsvilla ($34 million).

Apart from the decline in deal ticket sizes, later-stage rounds are also in a somewhat different complexion in terms of the investors involved. Out of the 16 deals reported, six were led by strategic investors such as SoftBank, Paytm, Snapdeal, Amazon, Mitsui, and even a local family office backed by the Murugappa Group. Venture capital firms have been less visible, preferring to divert their resources to younger companies at the seed and Series A stages. Not because their resources are running scarce—India-dedicated venture capital funds raised a little more than $2 billion in fresh capital last year, according to data compiled by the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association.

Most venture capitalists believe that valuations will correct further. In January, Mint reported that practically every leading venture capital fund in the market expects valuations for mid-stage deals to be between 25% and 50% lower than the 2015 levels. That, most reckon, will take another 6-8 months to play out, and they’re willing to wait. They can afford to wait because hedge funds, notably New York-based Tiger Global (which invests in start-ups from a separate venture capital fund), are no longer breathing down their necks. Hedge funds, until recently among the most aggressive dealmakers in India’s start-up market, are on a hiatus due to the recent turmoil in the public markets.

While venture capitalists have started to come to terms with the downturn, entrepreneurs are still holding out. This isn’t unusual. Historically, private valuations have always lagged the public markets by a few months. But, there’s no doubt that they will eventually correct. Entrepreneurs can take cues from the recent markdown of the value of Flipkart shares owned by mutual funds. The latest to do so is Morgan Stanley Institutional Fund Trust, which has written down the value of its minor stake to $58.9 million, as of 31 December, from $80.6 million in June.

The Morgan Stanley markdown brings Flipkart’s valuation down to about $11 billion from the $15.2 billion the company claimed when it raised its last round of funds. That’s a fairly big hit, assuming that the lofty valuations that Flipkart claims aren’t, as Gurley suggests, imaginary.

Flipkart is a bit of a lodestar for the country’s start-up ecosystem.

That makes the markdown the strongest manifestation yet of the correction that is currently underway in India’s start-up funding market.

Winter is here. Make no mistake. But, as anybody who’s lived through a couple of downturns would know, it’s also when the most interesting start-ups are born.

Snigdha Sengupta is the founder of StartupCentral, a digital news and analytics platform focused on venture capital. She also periodically contributes stories on venture capital and private equity to Mint.


Microsoft to End PC Gaming as We Know It: Gears of War Developer

Microsoft to End PC Gaming as We Know It: Gears of War Developer

Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is a programming application for Windows 10 developers that lets them create a single version of software to run across all Windows devices including PCs, smartphones, tablets, and the Xbox One. The company is slated to unveil more UWP details at its Build event this month. However UWP has also gained the ire of Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games, the studio behind the Gears of War and Unreal franchises.

According to Sweeney, UWP is a closed platform. What this means is developers will need Microsoft’s approval to distribute games on Windows 10. This could result in Microsoft controlling the sale of PC games and apps, taking care that only UWP titles would be available on the Windows Store.

(Also see: PC Gaming Is Getting Better, but Publishers Are Getting Worse)

“Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in UWP, and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem,” he wrote in the Guardian. “They’re curtailing users’ freedom to install full-featured PC software, and subverting the rights of developers and publishers to maintain a direct relationship with their customers.”

“The specific problem here is that Microsoft’s shiny new “Universal Windows Platform” is locked down, and by default it’s impossible to download UWP apps from the websites of publishers and developers, to install them, update them, and conduct commerce in them outside of the Windows Store,” his post reads.

Furthermore, the software giant can, at any time, prevent apps from being installed from sources other than the Windows Store.

“It’s true that if you dig far enough into Microsoft’s settings-burying UI, you can find a way to install these apps by enabling “side-loading”. But in turning this off by default, Microsoft is unfairly disadvantaging the competition. Bigger-picture, this is a feature Microsoft can revoke at any time using Windows 10’s forced-update process,” his post continues.

windows_10_family.jpgThis is an embarrassing state of affairs for Microsoft. It just launched Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for Windows 10 – a revamped version of the classic Xbox 360 title, as a signal of its renewed interest in the PC gaming space. Bad enough that the game suffers from a myriad of technical problems (some of which we’ve faced in our playthrough as well), that one of its long time collaborators has decided to voice its concerns publicly.

In response, Xbox boss Phil Spencer tweeted that “Windows has always been an open ecosystem” andmore information will be shared during the company’s Build conference.

(Also see: EA Wants to Win PC Gamers Back, but Its Actions Say Otherwise)

Along with this, Kevin Gallo, Corporate Vice President of Windows at Microsoft, told the Guardian: “The Universal Windows Platform is a fully open ecosystem, available to every developer, that can be supported by any store. We continue to make improvements for developers; for example, in the Windows 10 November Update, we enabled people to easily side-load apps by default, with no UX required.

“We want to make Windows the best development platform regardless of technologies used, and offer tools to help developers with existing code bases of HTML/JavaScript, .NET and Win32, C+ + and Objective-C bring their code to Windows, and integrate UWP capabilities. With Xamarin, UWP developers can not only reach all Windows 10 devices, but they can now use a large percentage of their C# code to deliver a fully native mobile app experiences for iOS and Android. We also posted a blog on our development tools recently.”

win_10_apps.jpg(Also see: I Have Over 300 Games on Steam and I’m Leaving It All Behind for GOG Galaxy)

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has run foul with PC game developers. When Windows 8 was launched, Valve’s Gabe Newell referred to it as “this giant sadness” while its Games for Windows Live service was seen as an aberration by both consumers and game makers alike.

If Sweeney’s allegations are true, it means that PC gaming as we know it, in its current form will cease to exist over time, giving Microsoft a monopoly in terms of digital distribution and commerce much like how the App Store and Google Play operate. This would mean flexibility and choice – two of the biggest reasons for gamers to flock to the PC as a gaming platform, as well user generated content or mods as they’re known would have no place in Microsoft’s scheme of things.

“Microsoft is moving against the entire PC industry – including consumers (and gamers in particular), software developers such as Epic Games, publishers like EA and Activision, and distributors like Valve and Good Old Games,” Sweeney claims.

All of this is perhaps indicative of how troubled the dialogue between the company and its development partners has become. More so when you consider that Xbox One (and potentially Windows 10) exclusive Gears of War 4, which runs on Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, is one of the year’s most anticipated games.

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Tags: Epic Games, Gears of War, Gears of War 4, Microsoft, PC Games, PC Gaming, Tim Sweeney,Universal Windows Platform, UWP, Windows 10, Windows Store

Facebook’s Oculus Unveils New Social, Video Features for Samsung Gear VR

Facebook's Oculus Unveils New Social, Video Features for Samsung Gear VR

Facebook-owned Oculus VR is bringing new social and video capabilities to the world of virtual reality. The company announced an update to its software that will enable Samsung Gear VR users to create a social profile while also leveraging several other features. The update will go live on Thursday. Oculus added that it also plans to introduce a feature to allow users to connect their Gear VR account with their Facebook account. The rollout of this feature, however, is planned for next week.

Oculus announced on Wednesday that its new set of features for Samsung Gear VR, which runs its software, will allow a user to look for friends, make a profile, and also rate different apps on the Oculus Store. The feature is similar to Xbox Live, Microsoft’s gaming network for Xbox One that allows users to interact and play with their friends.

The company has also added the ability to create rooms with friends in Oculus Social. This will enable friends to watch video streams on Twitch or Vimeo. On the sidelines, Oculus also announced Social Trivia, a game that lets users play with up to four friends to test their knowledge. A multiplayer adventure game called Herobound allows users to band together and fight for a common mission.

As previously promised, Facebook is also bringing some video capabilities to Samsung Gear VR. Dubbed Facebook Videos, the feature allows users to connect their Facebook account with Oculus Video. This will enable them to see personalised 360-degree videos to their taste based on the pages and people they follow. Oculus also noted that users will soon be able to like, share, and react to such videos from Samsung Gear VR headset.

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