Entertainium Extra: Steam family sharing, new Vita model announced, and more

Entertainium Extra is our weekly news round-up highlighting some of the bigger, interesting, or just plain weird stories from the past week.

Valve announces family share plan for Steam
One of the more interesting functions of the Xbox One prior to the DRM reversal was the game sharing. The idea was you could grant a set number of friends access to your entire games library, allowing you to share digital games without handing over your login credentials. It was an interesting idea, one we’ll never see play-out since it was abolished right alongside the DRM. Or, at least on the Xbox, anyway.

Valve announced last week that Steam will be introducing that same plan in the near future. Soon enough, if you’re someone who shares a single computer with your family, you’ll be able to grant them all access to your games library and vice versa. A real boon for folks like me who come from large families. A beta for the program starts this week, a select number of Steam users set to receive invites with more to follow.

2544648-requestingaccessThe feature is designed with shared computers in mind, the official page clearly mentioning such terminals as the target. Though it also says up to 10 devices can be authorized, suggesting that maybe one computer could act as a host for the other devices. If so, then this program carries some major implications for the future of digital software ownership.

Sony inadvertently created such functionality with the PlayStation 3 years ago. At one point, all digital games’ licenses allowed them to be downloaded onto five unique systems. This caused some unscrupulous groups to create dummy accounts with which to buy games from and then distribute between each other. In response, Sony limited the license to only two consoles, thus rendering the whole game sharing deal redundant.

If Steam allows game collections to be shared across multiple devices, they could run into the same issue. Knowing Valve, though, they’ve likely thought about that. I would bet the beta is partially to test the logistics behind such an infrastructure, if so. That or they’ve already got measures in place to prevent such nefarious deeds from occurring.

New Vita model and PS Vita TV announced
Sony held a press conference in Japan this week, during which they made a couple of big announcements for the PlayStation Vita.

First up, a new model. The revised hardware is 20 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter, has 1GB of built-in memory, and will have an additional hour of battery life. In exchange, the new model ditches the OLED screen for a 5-inch LCD display. Also, the proprietary charger for the machine will be dropped for a standard micro-USB plug. So that’s nice. Sony hasn’t yet announced release plans outside Japan for the new Vita, but you can bet it’ll be coming down the pipeline soon enough.

Also unveiled was the PS Vita TV, a set-top box that can play Vita games. Its architecture is based on the Vita’s, which is how it can run games. This could potentially solve the issue of capturing good Vita game footage, as such. It also contains the usual suite of video services and has cross-functionality with the PlayStation 4 (namely, being able to spit video out to another TV if the one the PS4 is connected to is busy; handy!). There’s currently no plans for release outside Japan, although.

Criterion Games’s staff reduced to 16(?) as the company splits off into Ghost Games UK
Criterion Games, creators of the much acclaimed Burnout series and recent Need for Speed games like Hot Pursuit and last year’s Most Wanted, has reduced its staff to just 16 people. The rest of the studio’s employees now makeup Ghost Games UK, the US branch of which Criterion was collaborating with on the forthcoming Need for Speed Rivals.

need_for_speed_rivals_gamescom_7_wm_26879Ghost Games is now taking charge of the Need for Speed series, as confirmed by Need for Speed Rivals producer Marcus Nilsson, Criterion reportedly working on something else – and not a racing game, for that matter. Creative director Alex Ward clarified the situation over Twitter.

“Most of the studio was committed to helping on Rivals,” said Ward. “A small group of chose not to [sic] and began work on something new. It was reported in [January]. We would rather work a small team all focused on gameplay rather than a huge team split by discipline. We didn’t want to take on 50 people when they are not needed. Too many folks too soon dilutes solving gameplay problems. Hence Ghost UK was formed from a load of Criterion folks. But 15 of us retain the Criterion Identity [ed note: he also said 17 in an earlier tweet, so the exact figure is a bit uncertain] and work in a new location.”

Criterion’s a good studio. If they believe a smaller team is what’s best, then so be it. I’m sure they’ll continue to make great games all the same. Far more curious about their new project, though. The last time they diverged from racing games was with 2006’s Black, which was a fun shooter, but definitely lacking in spots.

What I really want to know, however, is what all this means for Burnout. Is Ghost Games going to take on that as well? Or is Criterion still retaining the property and simply taking a long break from it?

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