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NBA 2K15 scans your face, thinks you're beautiful

NBA 2K15 will feature the ability for players to scan their faces into the game and onto the bodies of digital athletes. 2K Sports revealed the feature in a tutorial video, which instructs prospective virtual basketballers to hold the PlayStation Camera six to 12 inches away from their faces. After slowly turning their head both ways, players will find their mapped mugs in the game, at which point they can fine-tune their features. Created players can then be used in MyCareer mode, where they will likely get dunked on by cover star Kevin Durant.

While the tutorial mentioned the PlayStation Camera by name, 2K says the feature uses "first-party camera hardware." The publisher also doesn't specify whether the feature is locked to a given console, indicating that Xbox One players can use the Kinect to scan their faces as well. NBA 2K15 will launch October 7 for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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Rumor: Here's what a Kinect-powered Gears of War looked like

A Kinect-controlled RTS spinoff in Microsoft's Gears of War franchise made it to the prototyping stage on the Xbox 360 before it was quietly canceled, a newly released gameplay video at VGLeaks suggests.

The video demonstrates motion-controlled gameplay presented from an overhead perspective. Players use gesture controls to target enemies as they guide a four-person team through destroyed urban environments, making use of environmental cover throughout.

Given that Kinect 1.0's gesture recognition and response was sporadic even under the best conditions, an action-focused RTS seems like a poor fit for the peripheral. Apparently Microsoft and developer Epic Games agreed, as Gears of War: Tactics was never officially announced. The game's current development status is unknown.

[Image: Microsoft / Epic Games / VGLeaks]

Get an Xbox One Kinect sensor for $150 in October

xbox one kinect
A standalone Kinect sensor for Xbox One will hit retail for $150 on October 7, Microsoft announced this morning. The solo Kinect sensor comes with a copy of Dance Central Spotlight.

In May, Microsoft announced that it would sell Xbox One consoles without the Kinect for $400, a $100 drop in price. Dance Central Spotlight comes from Harmonix, a studio whose games largely rely on Kinect – when news of the dis-Kinected Xbox One unit went live, Harmonix shared its gut reactions on Twitter, along with an official statement re-establishing its commitment to Kinect games such as Fantasia: Music Evolved.

A month after launching the Kinect-less console in June, Xbox One sales doubled in the US, Microsoft reported.
[Image: Microsoft]

Spencer: 'I don't want the Rare brand to mean Kinect Sports'

Xbox head Phil Spencer has some encouraging words to fans of GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie development studio Rare. Speaking to CVG at Gamescom, Spencer said that the company is developing a new game - a new "Rare game."

"I think it's about them thinking about the next game that's going to be the next 'Rare game' and really stand for what they are," Spencer said. "I know they've got some great ideas. I've not been up to Twycross for maybe six months, but I'm planning on getting up there this fall and seeing bits for the new game. But I know they're hard at work and Phil Harrison has been up talking to them."

Rare was under evaluation earlier this year, after Microsoft revealed a Kinect-free Xbox One. Rare was the developer behind the Kinect Sports series, and with no more guaranteed Kinect, the studio's future seemed questionable. However, Spencer assured CVG that Rare was an "important" part of Xbox's future.

"I don't want the Rare brand to mean Kinect Sports," Spencer said. "The Rare brand can be more valuable to them, to us and to gamers than that."

[Image: Microsoft]

Watch the Microsoft Gamescom press conference right here [Update: It's over!]

The Xbox press conference, live from Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, goes live at 2PM CEST (8AM ET, 5AM PT, 1PM UK). In other words, any minute now. Watch the livestream right here and be sure to follow along with our liveblog straight from the press conference.

Update: The stream may be over, but the good times keep on rolling. We have all the announcements from the event on hand, plus an archived version of the stream embedded below.

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Microsoft's Xbox revenue up 14% thanks to console sales

Microsoft reported an increase in revenue for the Xbox platform to the tune of $104 million, or 14 percent, in its fourth quarter results (ending June 30). Xbox One and Xbox 360 sales teamed with the company's Surface sales to boost its Computing and Gaming Hardware category by 23 percent for the quarter to $1.44 billion (an increase of $274 million). In total, Microsoft reported a 17.7 percent leap in revenue, from $19.9 billion to $23.4 billion in the past quarter.

Microsoft says it shipped 1.1 million consoles during the quarter, which compares to one million in the same period of time one year ago. Just last week, the company said sales of its Kinect-less packages doubled Xbox One sales in June. As of April, Microsoft shipped 5 million Xbox One systems to date. Meanwhile, NPD reported a substantial lift in video game hardware sales across the board last week, an increase of 106 percent in June compared to the previous month.
[Image: Microsoft]

UK charts: Watch Dogs stands guard, market melts in heat

Watch Dogs notched its fifth UK number one this week, the most for any game in 2014, and that's all well and good. Frankly, the entire country is just too exhausted from the relentless summer heat to notice. Brits are so used to rain, clouds, rain and more rain, so prolonged heatwaves like this one tend to take their toll.

Maybe the heat's even affected games retail in the country, with nationwide sales enduring a 14 percent drop in revenue from the week before as the heat ramped up. Then again, it really doesn't help when you're having a summer drought of new releases.

Since the UK charts refuse to play - it's another week of tiny changes - we're continuing our run of music below the break. In the words of Avicii, wake us up when it's all over.

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TMNT: Training Lair snapping at Kinect next week

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair will launch July 22, a source close to the game has informed Joystiq. Achievements for Training Lair along with purported screenshots leaked earlier this week, showing a Kinect-based TMNT spin-off reminiscent of Fruit Ninja Kinect.

The Xbox 360 game is the culmination of a partnership between Paramount Pictures and Microsoft, not related to Activision as originally reported. Training Lair combines the Kinect's motion-capturing abilities with film assets to promote the upcoming film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The game launches roughly two and a half weeks before the movie hits theaters on August 8, and will be free to download.
[Image @lifelower]

MS: Kinect-less debut sees Xbox One monthly sales double in US

It looks like the Kinect-less line of Xbox One helped give the console a boost in June, when sales of the system in the US were "more than double" those of May. Microsoft announced the stat, revealing its internal data is based on its "retail calendar and sold through numbers," meaning they represent sales to consumers rather than shipments to retailers.

The company didn't offer any hard figures in its announcement, including what proportion of sales came from systems without the Kinect motion sensor. We may get a clearer picture of the Xbox One's sales performance on July 22 when Microsoft presents its latest financial earnings release. In April, the company said it had shipped 5 million systems to date, while at the end of last year consumer sales were up to 3 million.

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Disney taps Kinect 2.0 for kid-focused promotional campaign

Alongside its latest Cars spinoff, Planes: Fire & Rescue, Disney plans to unveil a promotional campaign powered by Microsoft's Kinect 3D camera peripheral.

According to Dan Radford, head of digital marketing at Disney's UK office, the campaign will allow two children to control their own animated planes by extending their arms, bending their knees and leaning in various directions. That sounds simple, but similar, previous attempts using the original Kinect forced Radford to pair the peripheral with a high-definition camera capable of capturing real-time video at a quality suitable for big screens. That's no longer an issue, thanks to the high-definition camera found in the Kinect 2.0.

"When you had a four-year-old kid interacting with [the Kinect] there had to be a certain distance [between the camera and the player], but it didn't always pick them up as well as we would have hoped," Radford told the BBC. "With this camera it just feels like the opportunity is there to create a more stable experience."

Planes: Fire & Rescue stars the vocal talents of Dane Cook and Ed Harris, and will be released on July 18. Radford's promotional campaign kicks off "at the end of this week," though Disney has yet to reveal where this campaign will appear.
[Image: Disney]

Report: TMNT - Training Lair has Kinect ninja skills, Pizza Hut boxes

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair features heroes-in-a-half-shell with Kinect power, according to recently published box art and achievements. Xbox Achievements (formerly Xbox 360 Achievements) published the cheevos and Kinect-tabbed box art this week, and it noted the publisher of the motion-controlled Xbox 360 game as Activision.

The company does hold the TMNT games license, but it hasn't announced the game as yet, and there's no sign of it on any official Xbox listings. We've reached out to Activision to see if we can lure more info out of its shell.

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Just Dance is now an eSport

The realm of eSports isn't confined to fighting games, competitive FPSes, and MOBAs anymore. Ubisoft's Just Dance series has joined the Electronic Sports World Cup as the organization's first casual game.

Just Dance competition finalists will be chosen during qualifying rounds taking place globally and online between June 24 and September 21. A group of 20 top players will then compete in a final round at Paris Games Week to determine the world's best money-maker-shaker. Awards will be announced soon.

Players who would rather cavort in the privacy of their own homes can submit entries for the Electronic Sports World Cup through Just Dance's World Dance Floor mode during qualifying sessions on July 13, July 20, July 27, August 3, August 31, September 7, September 14 and September 21.

[Image: Ubisoft]

Get fit this November in Ubisoft's Shape Up

Though Ubisoft creative director Charles Huteau admits that "fitness is boring," Ubisoft has announced Shape Up, an exercise game that promises to "finally" turn your workout into an epic game.

During Ubisoft's E3 conference, Huteau demonstrated a cardio workout that took the form of a mano a mano piano shuffle battle. While rapidly stomping virtual keys alongside a Kinect-spawned doppelganger of himself, Huteau seemingly worked up a minor sweat - crucially, without holding an extra peripheral (as in Ubisoft's Just Dance Now).

Ubisoft offered no specific release date for Shape Up, but the game is slated to appear on the Xbox One during this November.

Xbox E3 2014 Liveblog on Joystiq

Following an awkward introduction over the past year, this is the Xbox One's E3 to shine and find its voice. Microsoft's console will likely focus on "games, games, games" during the E3 press conference, which is scheduled to start at 9:30AM PST. Kinect to our liveblog right here.

Check back at 9:30AM PST to see Microsoft's metamorphosis on display, as we wait to see how much the company has shifted from its sports, TV, sports, TV focus. There's sure to be some Halo in there too.

PSA: Netflix, Hulu among apps now free to use on Xbox Live

Last month, Microsoft announced it will no longer keep entertainment apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Go behind its Xbox Live premium paywall. The change to its Xbox Live service structure is now in effect, allowing non-paying users to use the aforementioned apps in addition to ones like Twitch, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time, YouTube and more.

Microsoft's decision to modify its free and paid Xbox Live service offerings was announced the same day as the $399 Kinect-less Xbox One console, which will be available starting Monday, June 9. Free-to-play and subscription-based games like The Elder Scrolls Online will still require a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription to play online, however.
[Image: Microsoft]

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