Skype for Business Online ends in 90 days

Skype for Business Online is getting retired on July 31, 2021.

What you need to know

Skype for Business Online gets retired on July 31, 2021.
Your options after July 31 will be Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business Server.
Microsoft will be scheduling Microsoft-assisted upgrades in the coming weeks.

If you’re on Skype for Business Online, you probably already know that the service’s days are numbered. Microsoft has been waving the red flag about this for years, so the company’s latest reminder shouldn’t come as a surprise (via ZDNet). As of today, you have 90 days until Skype for Business Online is retired.

Microsoft’s recent post on the subject clarifies what’s going to happen when the service is retired, what users’ options are, and what the Microsoft-assisted upgrade rollout will look like. The first item mentioned is that customers can transition to either Microsoft Teams or an instance of Skype for Business Server. Then, there’s a list of what will happen on July 31, which states that services that integrate with Skype for Business online won’t be supported anymore, nor will customers be able to move users out of Teams Only mode.

Microsoft isn’t looking to shove anyone out in the cold, though. Its post has multiple sections dedicated to how smooth transitions out of Skype for Business Online can be achieved. The first one details the company’s plans for Microsoft-assisted upgrades to Microsoft Teams. Here’s a snippet of it:

In the coming weeks, we’ll begin scheduling Microsoft-assisted upgrades to Teams for Skype for Business Online customers with cloud-only or hybrid deployments. Assisted upgrades help with last-mile technical steps of the transition to Teams. Customers will be notified through the Teams admin center and the Microsoft 365 Message Center, 90 days prior to the scheduled date of their assisted upgrade. Customers tracking to complete their transitions to Teams Only prior to their scheduled automated upgrade date are encouraged to do so for better control over the timing of their upgrade experience.

You can see the full outline of transition assistance plans and tools via the Microsoft Teams Blog post linked above. And if you’re sad about Skype for Business Online going away, don’t forget that Microsoft Teams is pretty great, too. It’s constantly getting new features such as automatic meeting recording, call merging, improved GitHub integration, and so much more.

Skype for Business Online ends in 90 days

Scavengers: Beginner's tips to help you survive the frozen wastes

These strategies will give you the edge you need on the field.

Midwinter Entertainment’s Scavengers is unlike other battle royale games in that it has a unique PvEvP focus in which players have to worry about environmental threats as well as other squads. You don’t have to be the last team standing to win, either — you just need to board the dropship that comes at the end of the match and be alive on it when it takes off. These factors make Scavengers play much differently than other battle royales, and as a result, longtime fans of the genre will likely struggle to adjust. Don’t worry, though, because we’re here to help with valuable tips and tricks that will help you make it out of the frozen wastelands alive.

Form a balanced team composition

Before the match even starts, it’s important that you and your teammates pick a good mix of characters that cover each other’s weaknesses. For example, Tarik is a powerful sniper character, so pairing him with the close-quarters brawler Valora and a medium range character like Halden or Kali is a good idea. This gives your team effective and optimal ways to fight at all ranges.

You can make specialized team compositions work, too — for example, Valora, Cruz, and Jae would be a deadly close-quarters combat trio — but the risk of going with a setup like this is that you may be stuck trying to fight enemies or players outside of your effective range due to factors such as the location of the dropship or the roaming storms on the map. Therefore, it’s best to be prepared for anything.

Don’t be too aggressive (or passive)

One of the most important things to remember in Scavengers is that being too aggressive or too passive will ultimately make things much harder for you. Being too aggressive and trying to frequently attack other teams or constantly trying to assault AI strongholds for salvage will put a target on your back and make it difficult for you to avoid being overwhelmed by other players. However, if you’re too passive, you may not be able to make it to the dropship in time before it takes off, and even if you do manage to get onboard, you probably won’t have that much salvage.

Therefore, it’s important to strike a delicate balance. If you spend several minutes fighting enemies or players, spend a few minutes lying low and scouting out the map to stay hidden. If you have thermal boosters or access to a good shelter, you can even enter a nearby roaming snowstorm to avoid visual and radar detection. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to try to take down a boss or set up an ambush for other players if you haven’t seen any action for a long time.

Make warming up a priority

While the threat of the cold weather may not seem too dangerous in Scavengers’ early game, it can often result in your team’s death in the later stages of the match as roaming storms become deadlier and approaching points of interest that have fires in them becomes riskier. Therefore, you should make a point to top off your warmth meter every chance you get. If your warmth runs out, the cold will begin to drain your health, so get toasty at every opportunity you can. Warming up doesn’t take very long, so it shouldn’t interfere with your team’s battleplan much.

Additionally, you should always grab any thermal boosters you find while exploring the map. These items give you a temporary immunity to the freezing weather, which can mean the difference between life and death in some situations. Just make sure to save them for instances where you know that you won’t be near a fire for a long time.

Use your abilities together

The special abilities that each character has are powerful on their own, but they truly shine when you use them in combination with one another. For example, one of the best ways to heal up in a firefight is to have Valora use her Aegis Shield ability to create protection for your team and then have Halden drop his Curative Aura inside of the shield to heal everyone. Another example of a good ability combination is to pair Cruz’ Tailwind speed boost with Jae’s Overshield, turning Jae into a speedy and tanky melee brawler.

It’s important that you time your abilities well, however, as if everyone in the team uses them at a bad time, you may be stuck waiting on a cooldown right when you need your abilities most. Therefore, make sure you communicate to your allies when you want to perform an ability combo and see if they agree.

Don’t rush to the dropship

While you may want to rush to the dropship as soon as it touches down, this is generally a bad idea. Not only will several other teams likely be able to see and shoot you as you head towards it, but being the first team into the dropship means that you need to worry about other players coming in after you from all directions. Even the best players will likely be overwhelmed by so many other people arriving at once.

Instead, I recommend making your way to the dropship slowly and carefully, taking great care to avoid detection as much as you can. Use cover to hide periodically and don’t engage other players unless they spot you. This approach will usually let you reach the dropship undetected, which not only ensures that you’ll be able to get in it, but also gives you an opportunity to catch some of the players inside of the dropship already off-guard. If you manage to take these players down, you’ll likely get a ton of their salvage, which ill in turn boost your placement on the scoreboard. Just make sure that you don’t take too long to reach the dropship, lest you get left behind.

Your thoughts

What do you think of these tips? Do you have any others that you can offer to new Explorers looking to win big? Let me know in the comments. Scavengers just might end up being one of the best multiplayer PC games as well as one of the best Xbox multiplayer games when it eventually releases on the console, so don’t overlook it. It’s out in Steam Early Access now, and is expected to come to Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One consoles, PS5, and PS4 later in 2021. If Scavengers doesn’t sound like a good fit for you, however, make sure you check out our roundup of the best battle royale games for Windows PCs for other awesome alternatives.

Frozen wasteland warfare

Scavengers

See at Steam

Will you make it out alive?

Scavengers is an incredibly unique multiplayer survival game featuring PvE elements, deadly weather, awesome characters with powerful abilities, and more.

Scavengers: Beginner's tips to help you survive the frozen wastes

Jezby Ventures acquires Blade and its cloud PC service Shadow

After filing for bankruptcy, Blade and Shadow have a new owner.

What you need to know

Cloud gaming company Blade filed for bankruptcy in March.
It has now been acquired by Octave Klaba’s investment fund Jezby Ventures.
The acquisition, by extension, gives Klaba ownership of Shadow.

After going through its bankruptcy filing in early March, Blade, the French startup, now has new ownership. Via his investment fund Jezby Ventures, Octave Klaba has acquired the company and its services.

Klaba took to Twitter to announce his new ownership of Blade, giving a big shoutout to the Paris Commercial Court in the process (via Yahoo).

Très heureux d’avoir été retenu par le Tribunal de Commerce de Paris pour le 1UP de @Shadow_France ! L’ambition est simple : bâtir la meilleure offre du Cloud Gaming au Monde ! On a désormais tout dans 1 seule boite: équipe talentieuse, aucun souci de CAPEX, le marché mondial ! pic.twitter.com/Yz3RlV02dy— Octave Klaba (@olesovhcom) April 30, 2021

This means that Klaba now controls Shadow, the cloud PC service provided by Blade. Shadow’s whole premise was that you’d pay to rent a PC in its data center and stream its activities to your devices. So if you wanted a turbo-charged gaming rig to stream its output directly to your phone, or tablet, or weaker PC, that’s when Shadow’s proposition would be useful.

It remains to be seen what Klaba’s intentions are for Blade and Shadow. Everything ranging from Shadow’s current pricing scheme to its overall business model could be revamped, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the cloud service will resemble its former self under the new ownership. Perhaps the new money will be what Blade needs for Shadow to succeed since funding and server capacity were reportedly among the woes that brought about the need to file for bankruptcy in the first place.

Jezby Ventures acquires Blade and its cloud PC service Shadow

Scavengers got so much attention on its first day, the devs ran out of keys

Midwinter have started giving out Epic keys because it’s out of Steam keys.

What you need to know

Scavengers is a new PvPvE battle royale game developed by Midwinter.
The game was released on Early Access on Steam and Epic Games on April 28 and is only accessible via keys dropped on Twitch streams.
It’s proved to be so popular that the developers have burned through their supply of Steam keys on the first day.

Scavengers, the new PvPvE battle royale game that just entered Early Access, has proved so popular that the developers say they’ve used up their supply of Steam game keys. These keys have been largely distributed through Twitch, which has also helped to foster gamer interest.

Scavengers officially launched in Early Access on April 28 for both Steam and Epic Games. At the moment, the game is only available to play on those two stores, though the developers plan to release the game on consoles by the end of 2021. Creative director Josh Holmes published a Steam blog post thanking readers for their interest in the game.

For reference, users can currently only access the game if they’ve watched a Twitch streamer play it long enough to receive a “drop.” The drop gives them a key with which to access the game. According to Holmes, “We’re burning through Early Access keys at a crazy rate, and some of you may have noticed that we switched at some point from giving away Scavengers Steam keys to Epic Game Store keys… At this moment, we’ve exhausted our cache of Steam keys, but have been able to secure enough Epic Games Store keys to keep up.”

The developers acknowledge that there have also been problems with the game’s launch. Given it’s an early access online multiplayer title, problems are to be expected, but you still hate to see it. In fact, the server issues appear to be a major reason why the developers aren’t opening access to the game, with the other being that the limited key drops are keeping user interest in the game high.

Holmes says of the major server issue: “The summary is: when our pre-game lobby servers hit a certain player threshold, they crash… We’re chasing down that root cause as fast as we can and will keep you updated throughout the process.” They also add that the game servers themselves are largely stable so far.

Scavengers got so much attention on its first day, the devs ran out of keys

On a tight budget? You'll love each of these affordable laptops.

The best cheap laptops don’t make too many sacrifices when it comes to quality and performance. We’d all have the latest and greatest Ultrabooks if we could afford them, but lots of us can’t — or just don’t want to — hand over thousands of dollars for a computer. Fortunately, there are a lot of choices for the budget-conscious laptop buyer that still provide a great Windows 10 experience. The Surface Go 2 from Microsoft is a versatile, affordable 2-in-1 device that is also one of the best laptops under $500. There are a bunch of other great cheap PCs that we’ve rounded up here.

Best Overall: Surface Go 2

The Surface Go 2 might be tiny, but it’s a rather versatile laptop with enough performance from an optional Core m3 processor (CPU) to get through most productivity work. Baseline models start with an Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y CPU, which is still enough power for casual use. Compared to the original Go, the Go 2 improves Instant On capabilities, it has a thinner bezel, and the display is larger.

This is a typical 10.5-inch Surface display with 3:2 aspect ratio, 1920×1280 resolution, touch functionality, and Surface Pen compatibility. Thanks to the 2-in-1 form, you can use the device as a tablet for drawing and writing. Attaching a Type Cover with touchpad and keyboard turns it into a notebook with rear stand deployed.

You get front- and rear-facing cameras, optional LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi 6, and dual 2W stereo speakers. Ports include USB-C, 3.5mm audio, Surface Connect, and a microSD card reader. This is a fantastic device for anyone who is always on the move, and its starting price of $400 places it well within the cheap range despite a premium build.

Pros:

Premium design with rear stand
Core m3 makes a huge difference
Outstanding display with thinner bezel
Optional 4G LTE

Cons:

Battery life just below 7 hours
Pentium 4425Y model is underpowered

Best Overall

Surface Go 2

From $400 at Microsoft

From $353 at Amazon

From $400 at Best Buy

Surface Go 2 gets a much-improved processor that finally delivers on speed, but without making battery life worse. Thinner bezels and a larger display go a long way to improve usability. With options for 4G LTE and a premium build, there is still nothing like Surface Go. Unfortunately, battery life and a small price bump demonstrate the limits in this category for Windows laptops.

Powered By AMD: HP ENVY x360 13

The HP ENVY x360 13 is so good that it almost beats out the premium HP Spectre x360 lineup in terms of what we’re recommending. But for the case of cheap laptops, it’s an easy inclusion. The ENVY x360 employs a high-quality metal chassis with a lid that can rotate all the way around for tablet mode. The 13.3-inch touch display has a 1920×1080 resolution, and it can be had with up to 1,000 nits brightness. It also supports inking with an included active pen.

AMD Ryzen 5 models are cheaper, but they’re also harder to find. Still, a model with an AMD Ryzen 7 4700U CPU starts at just $750. And you get plenty of extra features, including a fingerprint reader, Bang & Olufsen audio tuning, very good port selection, and comfortable keyboard and touchpad. Ports include USB-C, two USB-A, and a microSD card reader.

Battery life hits somewhere around eight hours, and performance is excellent thanks to the Ryzen 4000 Mobile chips. Overall, this laptop looks and feels great, it offers stellar AMD performance, and it’s priced to sell.

Pros:

Excellent performance
Above-average display
Comfy keyboard and touchpad
Pen is included

Cons:

No Thunderbolt
16:10 or 3:2 display would be better

Powered By AMD

HP ENVY x360 13

From $750 at HP

AMD’s latest Ryzen processors now power HP’s budget-friendly ENVY x360 convertible PC. The low price, excellent performance, and overall premium-feeling design make it easy to recommend as one of the best budget convertibles around.

Premium Notebook: Surface Laptop Go

If you appreciate the design and quality of the Surface Go but don’t want a 2-in-1 device, the Surface Laptop Go might be a better choice. It’s essentially a Surface Laptop that’s been shrunk down and made lighter thanks to a polycarbonate base. And while it might not have a high-res display typical of Surface products, it still nails a bunch of the core features you want.

Typing is good despite the lack of a backlight, the touchpad tracks smoothly, audio is good, and the display is colorful and bright. It’s sized at 12.4 inches with a 1536×1024 resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio. It’s touch-enabled, but it’s not compatible with the Surface Pen.

You can expect around eight hours or more of battery life from the Laptop Go, which is respectable considering the 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU. This PC will be able to handle some relatively heavy productivity work. Ports include USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm audio, and Surface Connect.

Pros:

Excellent hardware and design
Core i5 gets the job done
Bright, color-accurate display
Good battery life

Cons:

Resolution could be higher
No keyboard backlight

Premium Notebook

Surface Laptop Go

From $550 at Microsoft

From $600 at Amazon

From $550 at Best Buy

Surface Laptop Go is a smaller and more affordable Surface Laptop, and it nails all the fundamentals to deliver a surprisingly delightful computing experience. Most of that is attributable to the Core i5 processor, which results in a responsive OS. With decent battery life and compact size, this lil’ laptop is perfect for the couch, class, or boardroom.

Best Battery Life: Lenovo Yoga C640

The Lenovo Yoga C640 doesn’t offer LTE connectivity after its move away from ARM in the C630, but it’s still a sleek convertible PC with a lot to love. Introductory models start at about $700 and include a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10210U CPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD, and a 13.3-inch touch display. It would be nice if the display got a bit brighter than 300 nits, but it has perfect sRGB color reproduction.

We saw somewhere around 12 to 14 hours of battery life from this laptop, which is excellent if you’re often traveling and can’t sit by while your PC charges. And with up to a Core i7-10510U and 16GB of RAM for $850, you can add performance without going way beyond budget. The laptop is built well with an aluminum lid, and it’s sized perfectly for use as a tablet. Its top-firing speakers that flank the keyboard provide unmuffled audio, though quality could be a bit better.

The keyboard is comfortable, the Precision touchpad makes for easy pointing, and there’s a fingerprint reader for extra security. If you need a high-quality convertible with inking and excellent battery life, consider the Yoga C640.

Pros:

Great typing and pointing experience
Premium look and feel
Good size and weight for tablet mode
Stellar battery life
Strong 10th Gen Intel performance

Cons:

Audio could be better
No Thunderbolt
Display could be brighter

Best Battery Life

Lenovo Yoga C640

From $700 at Lenovo

$800 at Best Buy

The Yoga C640 is a well-built, well-performing convertible laptop that’s available at a very tempting price. It doesn’t offer all the same features as its C630 predecessor (like LTE connectivity and dual USB-C), but it’s still a great alternative to more expensive 13-inch convertibles on the market.

Best Value: Acer Aspire 5

The Aspire 5 A515-56 from Acer is a tempting blend of modern PC hardware and affordable price. Despite the $620 price tag, you get a modern 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU with four cores, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD. The CPU includes Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics that can handle even a bit of light gaming. This is rather premium hardware in a cheap laptop.

The 15.6-inch FHD display has that extra space for easy productivity, and the comfortable keyboard and touchpad won’t hold you back. A fingerprint reader is built into the touchpad for added security through Windows Hello. Wi-Fi 6 is included, and you can expect around eight hours of battery life from a charge. There’s no Thunderbolt, but ports include USB-C 3.2, two USB-A 3.2, USB-A 2.0, and HDMI.

If you’re looking for a well-rounded notebook with modern performance hardware inside, the Acer Aspire 5 offers serious value. This is a lot of PC for the price.

Pros:

Truly bargain pricing
11th Gen Intel Core CPU
Good battery life
15-inch display better for productivity
Fingerprint reader

Cons:

No Thunderbolt
Speakers could be better

Best Value

Acer Aspire 5

$620 at Amazon

$620 at Newegg

Get 11th Gen Intel hardware, 15.6-inch display, and a ton of extra features for a great price. If you want a well-rounded PC within the budget range, this is it.

Bottom line

When shopping around for a cheap laptop, you might be tempted to check some truly inexpensive hardware, like the best laptops under $300. This category is mostly dominated by Chromebooks, with Windows PCs sitting much more comfortably in the category of best laptops under $500. Stepping things up to around $800 or less adds a bunch of great options, including a few of the laptops we’ve rounded up in this collection.

Our overall pick for a cheap laptop is the Surface Go 2 thanks to a combination of premium build quality and design, high-end display with inking capabilities, optional 4G LTE, and the new Intel Core m3 CPU option for better performance. This PC isn’t going to dominate when it comes to performance, but it will put up a fight against productivity work and daily tasks. And thanks to its diminutive size, it’s easy to take with you wherever you go. Considering the price starts at just $400, this is an easy recommendation when it comes to PCs on a budget.

For more great PCs, be sure to have a look at our roundup of the overall best Windows laptop options out there today.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, accessory coverage, and the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

Daniel Rubino is the executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.

On a tight budget? You'll love each of these affordable laptops.

Destiny 2: Trials of Osiris map and rewards for April 30 to May 4

Will you be attempting to go flawless?

The competitive PvP mode Trials of Osiris is now live in Destiny 2 from April 30 until May 4, and can be access from the Crucible playlist in the Director menu. In Trials of Osiris, two teams of three players go head-to-head over the course of several rounds. Whoever wins the most rounds wins the match, and whoever wins the match has a win added to their Trials card. Getting three, five, and seven wins during Trials weekend will get you several pieces of Trials gear that you can’t get anywhere else, and if you’re able to win seven games in a row, you’ll go flawless. Going flawless allows you and your teammates to travel to the Lighthouse area, where you will be awarded a unique piece of Adept Trials loot that has better stats compared to non-Adept versions of the gear in question.

Notably, the map that Trials matches take place on changes every week. This week, the map is Widow’s Court, which features a mix of both long sniper sightlines, and close-quarters hotspots. Bring your sniper or shotgun!

The gear that you get from playing well in Trials of Osiris is typically some of the best in the entire game. This week is no different, as the excellent Exile’s Curse fusion rifle is available for only three wins. Additionally, this week is also great for armor collectors as both the Trials of Osiris helmet and leg armors are available as rewards for five and seven wins, respectively. Going flawless will net you an Adept version of the Exile’s Curse, which you should definitely try and chase if you like fusion rifles.

3 Wins: Exile’s Curse (Fusion Rifle)
5 Wins: Helmet (Armor)
7 Wins: Legs (Armor)
Flawless: Exile’s Curse (Adept) (Fusion Rifle)

Are you a big Trials of Osiris fan, or are you new to the gamemode and interested in trying it? Are you planning to play Trials this weekend? Let me know. The latest Destiny 2 expansion, Destiny 2: Beyond Light, is available now for $40 on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC. The base game is free, so if you’re looking to try Destiny 2 out before investing any money, you can do so. If you do decide to try the game, don’t miss my beginner’s guide on how to get into Destiny 2 in 2021. Also, for some weapons and builds that will improve your effectiveness in Trials, check out my list of the 10 best Destiny 2 weapons you need to farm in Season of the Chosen as well as a guide to the best Destiny 2 builds, and how to make your own.

Wield the Darkness

Destiny 2: Beyond Light

$40 at Microsoft
$40 at GMG (Steam)
Also on Xbox Game Pass

Europa awaits

Beyond Light is the next big expansion for Destiny 2, introducing a new element for Guardians to wield, a new area on the Jupiter moon Europa, a new story, and plenty of loot to go around.

Destiny 2: Trials of Osiris map and rewards for April 30 to May 4

Here's how Sensel's radical trackpad tech is beating Apple's

Get ready for the next evolution of the laptop touchpad.

What you need to know

The ThinkPad X1 Titanium is equipped with the first trackpad to utilize Sensel’s Force Touch technology.
Its force-sensing resistor utilizes quantum tunneling chance increases to improve tracking accuracy.
It can accurately track your fingers even if you’re wearing gloves.
Linus Tech Tips did a really good deep-dive into how it all works.

The ThinkPad X1 Titanium is packing the first trackpad to incorporate Sensel’s Force Touch technology. Here are a few of the reasons this trackpad matters: It’s small, thin, and convenient, it includes vastly better tracking accuracy than traditional trackpads, and you don’t need to worry about breakage since parts aren’t moving. And above all of that, it means Windows laptops are finally getting haptics to rival — and possibly surpass — Apple’s.

Not only is Sensel’s trackpad’s longevity a big boon since no one wants to go through the hassle of replacing a broken trackpad, but the new tech also means that you’ll be able to wear gloves while using it and still be tracked with exceptional accuracy. And as for how it beats Apple’s haptics? That all boils down to Sensel’s solution’s size and superior input feedback delivery methodology.

Linus, of Linus Tech Tips fame, does a good job breaking down the minutia about how Sensel’s technology works and what it means for users. Check out his video that breaks down the science behind how Sensel’s force-sensing resistor (FSR) tech works. Here’s a great, out-of-context quote from the video wherein Linus explains how the conductive particles respond to the force a user applies:

As a force is applied to the FSR, the chances of quantum tunneling between these particles increases, which increases the chances of electrons hippity-hopping between the conductive particles, decreasing the resistance of the FSR.

According to the video, the people at Sensel say that experts don’t actually agree on the mechanisms behind FSR. So, the fancy, jargon-laden quote above is more of a postulated theory. And that theory ultimately translates to a physical trackpad you can use with near-perfect performance while wearing gloves.

Here's how Sensel's radical trackpad tech is beating Apple's

Microsoft Store can't beat Steam even if it gives 88% of revenue to devs

The Microsoft Store is going to need more than developer favor to be popular with consumers.

Microsoft has announced that the Microsoft Store will now only take 12% of net revenue from PC game sales, leaving developers with a hefty 88% cut. This is fantastic news for developers who prefer — or are about to prefer — the Microsoft Store, but I get the impression that it’s not going to matter too much to anyone besides them.

If you’ll recall, there’s another PC gaming storefront that tried something similar to lure devs away from Valve’s Steam and its unsavory 70-30 revenue split. That storefront’s name is the Epic Games Store (EGS). It was a big proponent of the “88% to devs, 12% to us” revenue scheme.

To this day, the EGS remains a place for devs to go when they want a greater cut of revenue or, in the case of certain titles like Control, guaranteed income right out the gate. These games developers often choose the EGS at the cost of not coming to Steam until much later, per Epic temporary exclusivity deals. To give examples of this phenomenon: Borderlands 3 was an EGS exclusive for six months, while Untitled Goose Game, Control, Metro Exodus, and many others were EGS exclusives for a full year.

And yet, even when these games do arrive on Steam long, long after their EGS PC debut, they’re swamped with buyers. Why? Because people buy from Steam for the ecosystem, not just for the software.

Microsoft Store: Too EGS, not enough Steam

The Microsoft Store taking a smaller revenue cut is likely a good thing overall and definitely a boon for game devs. Still, it probably isn’t going to lure many actual consumers away from Steam unless Microsoft pulls exclusivity deals like the EGS, and even then, it likely won’t shift the scales. The Microsoft Store actually did try luring in people with PC exclusives like Quantum Break and Killer Instinct back in the day, but eventually, Microsoft gave up and plopped all of its games on Steam. Heck, there’s even a rough port of Forza Horizon 4 on Steam now, which was one of the only remaining Microsoft games not to be on Steam as of the start of 2021.

Barring the black sheep that is Forza Horizon 4, most of Microsoft’s Steam ports are actually polished, meaning there’s no incentive for consumers to choose the Microsoft Store version. After all, with the Steam version, you get forums, communities for sharing videos and pictures, streaming functionality and a built-in audience, built-in mod libraries, family sharing so those closest to you can play your games for free, Steam remote play, Steam’s incredible refund policy — you get what I’m saying? Gamers get features that not only increase fun but also potentially save them money (via family sharing, remote play, and a transparent, generous refund policy) thanks to Steam. In contrast, most of these features and benefits are nonexistent on the Microsoft Store.

It’s the same reason EGS hasn’t managed to shake Steam. Valve’s storefront has so much going for it in the way of consumer benefits that it would take a mass exodus of high-profile devs and publishers permanently abandoning Steam for any other storefront to have a chance at first place in the PC gaming sphere. But the exact opposite is happening: Publishers such as EA who forsook Steam are coming back after having wasted years trying to compete with it via their own storefronts.

Mind you, Microsoft likely isn’t trying to beat Steam; that much was clear the second it handed ports of all its exclusive games over to Valve’s storefront. However, the new revenue split does seem geared to make the store more palatable to devs. I don’t see a point in attracting chefs to a new town when it’s been made clear again and again that the actual paying restaurant-goers prefer the existing neighborhood (for reasons that extend well beyond the force of habit).

Microsoft Store: The point of the 88-12 plan

The one potential Microsoft-facing benefit of the new revenue split model that immediately jumps out at me is that for devs who don’t want to deal with EGS controversy but still want a bigger cut from sales, the Microsoft Store could now be the go-to option. Maybe this is Microsoft’s play to become the runner-up to Steam.

Look at devs such as CD Projekt Red, who, at least pre-Cyberpunk 2077, had hyper-loyal followings that often chose to buy from CDPR’s own PC storefront just so the devs would get the most money possible. Could Microsoft be trying to lure over developers with those sorts of dedicated followings who aren’t interested in the EGS?

Maybe Microsoft’s move to make the Microsoft Store more economically enticing to developers will end up being a non-starter. But perhaps it’s a stealthier strategy to secure second place with those who don’t exclusively subscribe to the Steam store. Whatever the play is, I’m interested to see what happens. More competition is always a good thing, especially if it results in hardworking developers getting to keep a bit more of the fruits of their labor.

Microsoft Store can't beat Steam even if it gives 88% of revenue to devs

Xbox Rumor Report: Elden Ring at E3 2021, "Project Dragon", and more!

Making sense of all the latest speculation.

The Xbox rumor mill just keeps on turning and you know what that means? Another edition of the Xbox Rumor Report. Today, we’ll be talking the latest on Elden Ring at E3, Forza Horizon 5 in Mexico, Starfield’s release date and exclusivity, and a collaboration between IO Interactive and Xbox called “Project Dragon.” Get those bags of salt ready, folks!

What is the Xbox Rumor Report?

With E3 inching closer and closer every day, the number of gaming rumors circulating on social media steadily multiplies. It can honestly be pretty tough keeping up with all the latest stories and speculation, but thankfully when it comes to Xbox rumblings, we’ve got you covered. We’ll be breaking down some of the biggest potential leaks currently making the rounds and sharing my thoughts on how likely or unlikely they are. I’ll also be sharing some additional details on the rumored collaboration between IO Interactive and Xbox. Now take my hand as we dive down the rabbit hole. You can check out our previous Xbox Rumor Report while you’re at it.

Elden Ring at E3 2021

The first rumor we’ll be discussing today comes by way of an Elden Ring image “leak” from 4chan. Now before you say it, I know what you’re thinking — eww, no. Why? And I’m right there with you, but despite the fact that I don’t believe this particular image is legitimate, there are some interesting details included that have a legit possibility of being accurate.

A few nights ago an image with the Elden Ring logo and text that simply read “Worldwide Reveal – 6.14.21” exploded on Twitter, Reddit, and 4chan. Many speculated that this would be the date for the big Elden Ring gameplay reveal at E3. As a huge From Software fan, this would be some incredibly exciting news, but, coincidentally, this image just so happened to pop up the same day that Bandai Namco confirmed it would be attending E3 2021.

With image leaks being so easy to fake and E3 dates being easy to predict, it’s quite likely this graphic wasn’t generated by any official channels. That being said, I’m still personally expecting the first Elden Ring gameplay reveal on an Xbox stage, so this date might not be too far off given Microsoft’s usual E3 conference schedule.

It’s also been brought to my attention that some Gamestop locations have recently received new Elden Ring promotional materials eerily similar to those shipped when the game was first revealed. While this isn’t necessarily confirmation of anything, this could possibly mean it’s gearing up for preorders following an upcoming gameplay reveal. Regardless of whether or not this particular rumor ends up being true, one thing’s for sure: Elden Ring is real and we will be seeing it sometime very soon.

Forza Horizon 5 in Mexico

Our next Xbox rumor involves the potential location of Forza Horizon 5. Last week, my cheeky teammate Jez Corden sent out a fairly inconspicuous tweet that read “I really want to visit Mexico some day.” with a Mexican flag emoji and Car emoji. While many folks on Twitter just seemed generally confused by Jez’s travel interests, others like Jeff Grubb immediately jumped on the tease and added more fuel to the speculation fire.

I really want to visit Mexico some day. ?? ?— Jez ??? (@JezCorden) April 24, 2021

While I won’t necessarily be confirming that Forza Horizon 5 is set in Mexico, it’s certainly sounding like there’s a strong possibility that Mexico and not Japan will be the next location for the franchise. There’s also a chance that fans will be able to get their hands on Forza Horizon 5 much sooner than they expected, with a potential reveal at E3 2021 and a potential launch in Fall 2021.

I think Mexico would be a fantastic setting for a Forza Horizon game. With a diverse collection of landscapes ranging from gorgeous beaches to ancient Mayan ruins, there’s so much to explore here. I can already picture myself bombing down the shores of Cancun in my Warthog and getting some major air off the Pyramid of the Sun with my Baja Beetle. The more I think about it, the more I’m ready to take that virtual trip to Mexico.

Starfield release date and Xbox exclusivity

Since its reveal at E3 2018, fans have been hungry for more details on Bethesda’s highly-anticipated new IP Starfield. This excitement has led to a ravenous host of conversations surrounding its release date and exclusivity. The biggest questions among fans right now are if Starfield be dropping in 2021 and will this be Bethesda’s first big Xbox exclusive. Some trusted members of the Xbox community seem to think so.

Let’s start with what we know. Toward the end of January 2021, ZeniMax Media updated its trademark for Starfield, which was first filed back in December of 2017 ahead of the E3 reveal. This trademark has consistently been updated over the course of the last several years, so while these changes theoretically don’t mean much at all, many speculate that this implies a 2021 release date for Starfield is imminent.

For comparison, Fallout 4, DOOM Eternal, and Dishonored 2 all had their proper release years in the same section. I’d say it’s safe to expect Starfield’s reveal this year at minimum. pic.twitter.com/bij4wF1tpz— Matty (@G27Status) April 23, 2021

In a rather compelling comparison, Mr. Matty Plays pointed out that Fallout 4, DOOM Eternal, and Dishonored 2 all had their proper release years listed in the same section as the one recently updated for Starfield. Additionally, we’ve heard from several other sources that discussions early on this year were targeting a Fall 2021 release window. Obviously, COVID-19 keeps throwing a bit of a wrench into video game release date plans, but there’s a legit possibility that this is the current schedule for Starfield.

But what about Xbox exclusivity? There are definitely some vocal members of the community confident that Starfield will only release on Xbox platforms. In a recent episode of Xbox Two, Rand al Thor 19 re-emphasized his belief in Starfield’s Xbox exclusivity. Rand certainly isn’t the only trusted member of the community adamant in this idea, but unfortunately, I don’t have the information to confirm or deny this. However, with Xbox’s focus on using Bethesda’s catalog to leverage Xbox Game Pass growth, I think this is an incredibly likely scenario.

IO Interactive, Xbox, and “Project Dragon”

In our last episode of the Xbox Rumor Report, we discussed that Xbox was potentially partnering with four AAA third-party studios to develop and prototype Xbox exclusives under the Xbox Game Studios Publishing banner. Outside of the cyclone tease though, we didn’t really drop much in the way of specifics. However, some newly uncovered information points to a possible collaboration between IO Interactive, Xbox, and Dragons?

In a recent interview with GamesIndustry.biz, IO Interactive CEO Hakan Abrak shared some exciting details about the future plans for this developer and confirmed that outside of the 007 Project, a separate team is busy working on a new “love child” IP with veteran staff.

When I was on Game On Daily Live a few weeks ago, I mentioned that one these potential AAA third-party Xbox partnerships was something that many wouldn’t expect from this particular developer. Before this, the master of teases Jez Corden began talking quite a bit about dragons on Twitter and when asked about these partnerships on last week’s episode of Xbox Two he told folks to “keep an eye on IO Interactive.”

So what exactly does all this mean for IO Interactive’s unannounced new IP? Well, from the information we’ve received about this title, it sounds like the team will be ditching Agent 47 and his modern gadgets for a more fantastical setting. It’s worth reiterating that “Project Dragon” is rumored to be in the very early stages of protoyping and is likely several years away. As we mentioned in our last Xbox Rumor Report, it’s not uncommon for games in this phase to be completely retooled or even scrapped as development progresses. So, while we have good information on what this title could potentially be and that Microsoft could be the ones to publish it, it’s still very important to keep expectations in check.

Share your thoughts!

What are your thoughts on the latest Xbox rumors? Do you think we’ll see Elden Ring on the Xbox stage at E3? Or do you think Starfield will be dropping as an Xbox exclusive this year? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Xbox Rumor Report: Elden Ring at E3 2021, "Project Dragon", and more!

Cloud infrastructure market keeps rolling in Q1 with almost $40B in revenue

Conventional wisdom over the last year has suggested that the pandemic has driven companies to the cloud much faster than they ever would have gone without that forcing event, with some suggesting it has compressed years of transformation into months. This quarter’s cloud infrastructure revenue numbers appear to be proving that thesis correct.
With The Big Three — Amazon, Microsoft and Google — all reporting this week, the market generated almost $40 billion in revenue, according to Synergy Research data. That’s up $2 billion from last quarter and up 37% over the same period last year. Canalys’s numbers were slightly higher at $42 billion.
As you might expect if you follow this market, AWS led the way with $13.5 billion for the quarter, up 32% year over year. That’s a run rate of $54 billion. While that is an eye-popping number, what’s really remarkable is the yearly revenue growth, especially for a company the size and maturity of Amazon. The law of large numbers would suggest this isn’t sustainable, but the pie keeps growing and Amazon continues to take a substantial chunk.
Overall AWS held steady with 32% market share. While the revenue numbers keep going up, Amazon’s market share has remained firm for years at around this number. It’s the other companies down market that are gaining share over time, most notably Microsoft, which is now at around 20% share — good for about $7.8 billion this quarter.
Google continues to show signs of promise under Thomas Kurian, hitting $3.5 billion, good for 9% as it makes a steady march toward double digits. Even IBM had a positive quarter, led by Red Hat and cloud revenue, good for 5% or about $2 billion overall.
Image Credits: Synergy Research
John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy, says that even though AWS and Microsoft have firm control of the market, that doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be made by the companies playing behind them.
“These two don’t have to spend too much time looking in their rearview mirrors and worrying about the competition. However, that is not to say that there aren’t some excellent opportunities for other players. Taking Amazon and Microsoft out of the picture, the remaining market is generating over $18 billion in quarterly revenues and growing at over 30% per year. Cloud providers that focus on specific regions, services or user groups can target several years of strong growth,” Dinsdale said in a statement.
Canalys, another firm that watches the same market as Synergy, had similar findings with slight variations, certainly close enough to confirm one another’s findings. They have AWS with 32%, Microsoft 19% and Google with 7%.
Image Credits: Canalys
Canalys analyst Blake Murray says that there is still plenty of room for growth, and we will likely continue to see big numbers in this market for several years. “Though 2020 saw large-scale cloud infrastructure spending, most enterprise workloads have not yet transitioned to the cloud. Migration and cloud spend will continue as customer confidence rises during 2021. Large projects that were postponed last year will resurface, while new use cases will expand the addressable market,” he said.
The numbers we see are hardly a surprise anymore, and as companies push more workloads into the cloud, the numbers will continue to impress. The only question now is if Microsoft can continue to close the market share gap with Amazon.

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Cloud infrastructure market keeps rolling in Q1 with almost B in revenue