At E3 gaming event, Microsoft teases sci-fi epic Starfield while Ubisoft shows off new Avatar title
The video game industry’s annual trade show went virtual this year, giving publishers a new format to show off upcoming titles.
The E3 gaming expo kicked off on Saturday and runs until Tuesday, when Nintendo is expected to showcase its new releases. Microsoft, Ubisoft and Square Enix were among the big publishers that presented over the weekend.
E3 has lost steam in recent years, with Sony pulling out of the event for the first time in 2019, and long-time host Geoff Keighley skipping the event for the first time in 25 years in 2021.
Still, E3 is often used as a platform for major players to drum up hype for their new blockbusters. And there were several highlights from this year’s event.
Microsoft teases Starfield
The biggest reveal of the weekend was undoubtedly Starfield, an upcoming sci-fi epic from Microsoft’s Bethesda.
Microsoft bought the iconic publisher’s parent company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in an industry-shaking deal announced last year. One of the main outcomes analysts expected from the takeover was Xbox exclusivity for some Bethesda titles.
Microsoft made no delay in bringing out the big guns, and in a joint press conference with Bethesda on Sunday announced that Starfield would launch Nov. 11, 2022, exclusively on the Xbox Series X and S consoles and PC.
Microsoft has long been seen as lagging behind Sony when it comes to exclusives — games that only run on one system. AAA franchises like The Last of Us and God of War were key to the success of Sony’s PlayStation 4, and the company is taking a similar strategy with the PS5.
Here are a few other highlights from Microsoft’s E3 showcase:
- We got a first look at online multiplayer for Halo Infinite, the latest instalment in the Halo series; Microsoft also announced the game will release in the 2021 holiday season, after being delayed last year due to criticism of its graphics.
- There was an official trailer for the Forza Horizon 5 racing tile, as well as a Nov. 9 release date.
- Microsoft unveiled Redfall, a new multiplayer shooter from the developers behind Dishonored and Prey, announcing a summer 2021 release window.
- A few popular titles including Hades and Among Us are coming to Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s Netflix-style subscription service for games; Starfield will be available to play on Game Pass from the day it launches.
- Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life is the successor to the original “Pirates of the Caribbean”-inspired game, and even features the film series’ beloved protagonist Captain Jack Sparrow; the game releases on June 22.
- A new zombie survival co-op shooter from the makers of Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood, drops Oct. 12 this year.
- Age of Empires IV, the fourth entry of the real-time strategy game franchise, comes out on October 28
Ubisoft reveals Avatar game
Ubisoft made a few big announcements at its E3 show on Saturday. The French publisher gave fans a closer look at the story of Far Cry 6, the sixth main instalment of the popular Far Cry series. The game, which features Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame, launches on Oct. 7.
But a big surprise from the Ubisoft showcase was a game based on James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi film “Avatar.” It’s called Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, and features colorful creatures and environments from the Avatar universe.
Ubisoft also showed off Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Extraction, the newest entry in the Rainbow Six tactical shooter series. The game was initially going to be called Rainbow Six: Quarantine, but Ubisoft changed it due to controversy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Extraction debuts on Sept. 16.
Another big reveal was a new mashup of Nintendo’s Mario and Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids, called Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. A sequel to 2017’s Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, the game comes out next year on Nintendo Switch.
Elden Ring and other big reveals
Geoff Keighley may have parted ways with E3, but he’s not done with video game broadcasting just yet.
The presenter hosted his new digital-only Summer Game Fest last week, which ended with a reveal trailer for Elden Ring, the much-anticipated role-playing title made in collaboration with “Game of Thrones” creator George R.R. Martin.
Elden Ring comes out on Jan. 21, 2022. The game’s publisher will be Bandai Namco.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Square Enix revealed a new game based on Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It will be a single-player title, unlike another game based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel’s Avengers, which got a mixed reception when it released in September.
Alibaba to split into 6 units and explore IPOs; shares pop 9%
Alibaba has faced growth challenges amid regulatory tightening on China’s domestic technology sector and a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. But analysts think the e-commerce giant’s growth could pick up through the rest of 2022.
Kuang Da | Jiemian News | VCG | Getty Images
Alibaba said Tuesday it will split its company into six business groups, each with the ability to raise outside funding and go public, in the most significant reorganization in the Chinese e-commerce giant’s history.
Each business group will be managed by its own CEO and board of directors.
Alibaba said in a statement that the move is “designed to unlock shareholder value and foster market competitiveness.”
Alibaba’s shares popped more than 9% in pre-market trade in the U.S.
The move comes after a tough couple of years for Alibaba which has faced slowing economic growth at home and tougher regulation from Beijing, resulting in billions being wiped off its share price. Alibaba has struggled with growth over the past few quarters.
Alibaba is now looking to reinvigorate growth with the reorganization.
The business groups will revolve around its strategic priorities. These are the groups:
- Cloud Intelligence Group: Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang will be head of this business which will house the company’s cloud and artificial intelligence activities.
- Taobao Tmall Commerce Group: This will cover the company’s online shopping platforms including Taobao and Tmall.
- Local Services Group: Yu Yongfu will be CEO and the business will cover Alibaba’s food delivery service Ele.me as well as its mapping.
- Cainiao Smart Logistics: Wan Lin will continue as CEO of this business which houses Alibaba’s logistics service.
- Global Digital Commerce Group: Jiang Fan will serve as CEO. This unit includes Alibaba’s international e-commerce businesses including AliExpress and Lazada.
- Digital Media and Entertainment Group: Fan Luyuan will be CEO of the unit which includes Alibaba’s streaming and movie business.
Each of these units can pursue independent fundraising and a public listing when they’re ready, Zhang said.
The exception is the Taobao Tmall Commerce Group, which will remain wholly-owned by Alibaba.
$600 billion wipeout
Around $600 billion of value has been wiped out since Alibaba’s share price peak in October 2020. Since then, the Chinese government has cracked down on private technology businesses, introducing a slew of regulation and increasing scrutiny on the practices of domestic giants.
Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Group was forced by regulators to cancel its mega public listing in November 2020. And in 2021, Alibaba was fined $2.6 billion as part of an antitrust probe.
Alibaba is now looking to reinvigorate growth. The company has grown into a giant that encompasses businesses from e-commerce to cloud computing to streaming and logistics.
The company sees the creation of the six businesses as a way to be nimbler.
“This transformation will empower all our businesses to become more agile, enhance decision-making, and enable faster responses to market changes,” Zhang said in a statement.
The reorganization also comes at a time when there are signs that Beijing is warming back up to technology businesses, as the government seeks to revive economic growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
Jack Ma, Alibaba’s outspoken and charismatic founder who was out of the public eye and travelling abroad for several months, has returned to China, in a move perceived as an olive branch from Beijing.
4G internet is set to arrive on the moon later this year
Nokia hopes to install a data network on the moon sometime in 2023, an executive told reporters.
Thomas Coex | AFP via Getty Images
Nokia is preparing to launch a 4G mobile network on the moon later this year, in the hopes of enhancing lunar discoveries — and eventually paving the path for human presence on the satellite planet.
The Finnish telecommunications group plans to launch the network on a SpaceX rocket over the coming months, Luis Maestro Ruiz De Temino, Nokia’s principal engineer, told reporters earlier this month at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.
The network will be powered by an antenna-equipped base station stored in a Nova-C lunar lander designed by U.S. space firm Intuitive Machines, as well as by an accompanying solar-powered rover.
An LTE connection will be established between the lander and the rover.
The infrastructure will land on the Shackleton crater, which lies along the southern limb of the moon.
Nokia says the technology is designed to withstand the extreme conditions of space.
The network will be used within Nasa’s Artemis 1 mission, which aims to send the first human astronauts to walk on the moon’s surface since 1972.
The aim is to show that terrestrial networks can meet the communications needs for future space missions, Nokia said, adding that its network will allow astronauts to communicate with each other and with mission control, as well as to control the rover remotely and stream real-time video and telemetry data back to Earth.
The lander will launch via a SpaceX rocket, according to Maestro Ruiz De Temino. He explained that the rocket won’t take the lander all the way to the moon’s surface — it has a propulsion system in place to complete the journey.
Anshel Sag, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said that 2023 was an “optimistic target” for the launch of Nokia’s equipment.
“If the hardware is ready and validated as it seems to be, there is a good chance they could launch in 2023 as long as their launch partner of choice doesn’t have any setbacks or delays,” Sag told CNBC via email.
Nokia previously said that its lunar network will “provide critical communication capabilities for many different data transmission applications, including vital command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high definition video.”
One of the things Nokia is hoping to achieve with its lunar network is finding ice on the moon. Much of the moon’s surface is now dry, but recent unmanned missions to the moon have yielded discoveries of ice remnants trapped in sheltered craters around the poles.
Such water could be treated and used for drinking, broken up into hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket fuel, or separated to provide breathable oxygen to astronauts.
“I could see this being used by future expeditions to continue to explore the moon since this really seems like a major test of the capabilities before starting to use it commercially for additional exploration and potential future mining operations,” Sag told CNBC.
“Mining requires a lot of infrastructure to be in place and having the right data about where certain resources are located.
We’ll need more than just internet connectivity, if we’re ever to live on the moon. Engineering giant Rolls-Royce, for example, is working on a nuclear reactor to provide power to future lunar inhabitants and explorers.
WATCH: Three decades after inventing the web, Tim Bernersr-Lee has some ideas on how to fix it
Elon Musk says only verified users will show up in Twitter’s recommendation feed in further shake-up
Elon Musk Twitter account seen on Mobile with Elon Musk in the background on screen, seen in this photo illustration. On 19 February 2023 in Brussels, Belgium.
Jonathan Raa | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Elon Musk said that only verified accounts will appear in Twitter’s recommendation feed, as the billionaire further shakes up the social media platform.
Twitter’s “For You” tab shows users tweets from people they don’t follow, but that are recommended to them by the social media firm’s algorithm. To date, this has showed accounts from any Twitter users, whether they are verified or not.
But Musk announced in a tweet late Monday that, going forward, only verified accounts will show up in the “For You” section of the site.
Musk claims the move “is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over.”
Musk also said that only verified users will be able to vote in polls.
Since buying Twitter last year, Musk has sought to shake up the way the company does verification. Before Musk’s acquisition, Twitter used to verify users with a blue check mark as a way to identify the account matches the person or company it says it is. This process was free and applied to celebrities, journalists, government officials and organizations.
Musk introduced a subscription service last year called Twitter Blue that allows a user to pay $8 per month to be verified and obtain the blue check mark.
Twitter said last week that it would begin to wind down its “legacy verified program” and remove “legacy verified” check marks on Apr. 1. The company is prompting people with the legacy checkmarks to sign up for the Twitter Blue subscription service.
Musk has been trying to find ways to generate new revenue streams at Twitter, with paid verification being a flagship policy. But the company has reportedly lost a huge amount of value.
Musk told employees last week that Twitter is now valued at $20 billion, according to an email sent to employees and seen by the New York Times. That is down more than 50% from the $44 billion Musk paid for company last year.
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