COVID-19: The second wave seems to be running out of steam

Most indicators show that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be running out of steam in Quebec.

Technology US

Valve and five game publishers fined millions for geo-blocking Steam games in EU

Valve and five PC video game publishers have been fined a total of €7.8 million (around $9.5 million) by the European Commission for restricting cross-border game sales in the European Economic Area. The Commission said that the companies geo-blocked around 100 PC video games, preventing them from being activated and played outside certain EU countries. This broke the EU’s Digital Single Market rules which prohibit those types of barriers.

The European Commission says the geo-blocking was to prevent games being activated outside Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Geo-blocking prevents gamers living in EU countries with higher average incomes from being able to save money buying them in EU states where they’re cheaper and then activating them on Steam. Activation keys were geo-blocked between 2010 and 2015, the European Commission said.

“Today’s sanctions against the ‘geo-blocking’ practices of Valve and five PC video game publishers serve as a reminder that under EU competition law, companies are prohibited from contractually restricting cross-border sales,” the European Commission’s head of competition policy said. “Such practices deprive European consumers of the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market and of the opportunity to shop around for the most suitable offer in the EU.”

Five publishers were fined in total. Focus Home was fined almost €2.9 million (around $ 3.5 million), ZeniMax over €1.6 million (around $2 million), Koch Media almost €1 million (around $1.2 million), Capcom €396,000 (around $480,000), and Bandai Namco €340,000 (around $410,000). Because each of these companies cooperated with the investigation, their fines were reduced by between 10 and 15 percent. Valve, however, chose not to cooperate, and was fined over €1.6 million (around $1.9 million).

The European Commission opened its formal investigation into the practice of geo-blocking back in 2017, and formally asked Valve to stop the practice back in 2019. Valve has previously argued that only a small number of games used region-locked activation keys, and argued it shouldn’t be liable for region locks requested by publishers. It said it ended the practice in 2015, with limited exceptions.

Entertainment USA

Jessica Simpson Sizzles in Sexy Snakeskin Swimsuit While In The Snow: ‘Give Me Steam’

Jessica Simpson is turning up the heat in a new photoshoot for her swimwear line. She posed in a snakeskin one-piece while showing off a white parka in the snow.

Jessica Simpson was ski-resort hot tub ready in a new photo for her namesake clothing and accessories brand. The 40-year-old showed off her killer curves in a sexy one-piece snakeskin print swimsuit with a cutout around the mid-section. It included a black band that tied on the right side, along with black shoulder straps. Jess’ long, super toned legs were on display in the photo, looking so great thanks to the 12,000 steps she gets in each day for her fitness routine. You can see the smoldering photo here

Jess captioned the photo “give me steam,” as she stood next to an in-ground hot tub with steam rising from it and a snowy backdrop. But Jess wasn’t about to hop in just yet, as she also modeled her white platform “Brixel” snow boots, which go for $139. The mother of three donned an open white snow parka to cap off her wintry look, but still reminded fans that of swimwear was the focus in her Snake Charmer one piece, which retails for $98 on her site.

Jessica Simpson lost an amazing 100 pounds in six months after giving birth to her third child, daughter Birdie Mae. Photo credit: MEGA.

Jessica’s longtime BFF Cacee Cobb wrote in the comments of the swimwear photo, “How do you stay so hot in all that cold?” Fans also went wild for the snapshot. User @julie.kiehl told Jess, “Girl! I want to look like this at 40! You look amazing!” while @dom_cashmann wrote, “I wish I was this hot.” Fan @starsantoro wrote, “Hello Snow GODDESS” as follower @mootmagee told her “@jessicasimpson you look more beautiful than ever.”

Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson has an even more impressive swimsuit body today at 40 after having three children. Here she’s seen in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on Sept. 9, 2009, three years before the birth of her first child, daughter Maxwell. Photo credit: MEGA.

Jessica lost a whopping 100 pounds in six months after she gave birth to her third child, daughter Birdie Mae Johnson in March 2019. She’s kept the pounds off thanks to her dedication to fitness and is down to her weight before she ever had children. On the eve of her 40th birthday on July 10, 2020, she even was able to fit into a pair of jeans she hadn’t been able to get on since 2006. Jess held onto them, hoping to one day be able to rock the True Religion denim once again, but feared she never would after three pregnancies.

But on July 9, Jess finally got her wish when she tried the jeans on and they fit!  She was so proud she took a mirror selfie and showed it to her Instagram followers. “I have kept these throwback True Religion jeans in my closet for 14 yrs (I’m not exaggerating!),” she captioned next to the makeup-free snap. “Figured that since I’m in the final hours of my 30’s I’d give them another try, and hello 40, so nice to meet you.” At 40, Jessica is now the best she’s ever looked. 

Tech News

We Spent a Lot of 2020 Playing Video Games, Steam Data Shows

Steam Year in Review for 2020 shows 21.4 percent more games were purchased compared to 2019 and the total amount of playtime doubled in 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic having forced people to stay inside their homes for most of last year, more and more people gravitated towards video games, be it on their smartphones,l consoles, or PCs. Valve’s Year in Review for Steam shows just that, along with some interesting statistics showing significant increase in engagement on the platform.

The 2020 Year in Review for Steam shows there were 120 million active players on the platform per month in the year. With these many players dedicatedly playing video games, the overall hours invested increased by 50.7 percent compared to 2019. 21.4 percent more games were purchased during 2020 from Steam and there were 2.6 million first time purchases monthly.

Steam saw 62.6 million daily active players in 2020 across the globe with the highest concurrent player count reaching 24.8 million.

There were the usual multiple seasonal sales organised by Steam last year and the major ones – Summer, Autumn, and Winter were “record breaking in terms of revenue generated for developers and publishers,” according to the official blog post. Compared to Winter Sale of 2019, 2020 saw a 36 percent increase in the number of games that grossed more than $100,000 (roughly Rs. 73 lakh). 

To provide opportunities for visibility to games in Steam’s catalogue, the platform organised Steam Game Festival: Spring Edition which saw 559,000 demo activations for a few dozen demos. Then, Steam Game Festival: Summer Edition saw 4 million customers sign up for over 900 demos. Finally, Steam Game Festival: Autumn Edition saw 5.1 million demo activations.

Last year, Steam also launched the Steam Points programme that rewards users for buying games and engaging with the community. Till now, 99 million items including animated backgrounds, avatars, frames, and more have been redeemed by 15.5 million users.

Coming to SteamVR, the platform saw 71 percent more revenue and a 30 percent increase in playtime for VR games. There were 104 million SteamVR sessions with 1.7 million users experiencing SteamVR for the first time.

Valve recently released its list of ‘Best Games of 2020′ on Steam and the top 12 selling games of 2020 in the platinum category include Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, Among Us, Cyberpunk 2077, Doom Eternal, Monster Hunter World, and Red Dead Redemption 2, among others.

What will be the most exciting tech launch of 2021? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.


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Technology US

Steam is getting expanded Xbox controller support

A recent beta update for Steam has added new features for gamers using Xbox controllers. One of the more interesting additions is for Xbox Elite controller users, who can now use Valve’s software to bind the accessory’s rear paddles in controller configurations. The feature gives players more flexibility with how to use the extra inputs on the premium controller.

Other updates for Xbox controllers include the ability to bind the Series X gamepad’s share button in controller configurations, and the ability to use more than four Xbox controllers with Steam at a time. Support for trigger rumble has also been added for games using the Windows.Gaming.Input API.

The Steam beta client also includes a new drop down menu for PS5 controller users, which lets them customize the controller’s LED. It can now be permanently enabled or disabled, or else enabled only when multiple controllers are connected. The update also adds support for the Wooting Two keyboard, which has features like analog key input.

For now, these new features are only available in Steam’s beta client, which you can opt into by going into the Settings menu, selecting Account, and using the drop-down menu in the Beta participation section. The Xbox controller features will also need to be enabled in the General Controller Setting section of Steam’s settings, and require a driver to be installed.

Tech News

Steam’s Best Games of 2020 List Includes Among Us, Cyberpunk 2077

Valve has released its list of ‘Best Games of 2020′ on Steam which includes games such as Among Us, Cyberpunk 2077, Dota 2, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, Grand Theft Auto V, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The top-performing Steam games are broken down into six lists, although the popular games overlap in some of the lists. The categories are Top Sellers, New Releases, Most Played, Early Access Grads, Best of VR, and Controller Games. Many of these games, and thousand others, are currently available on discounted rates as part of Steam Winter Sale, which will run until January 5.

Steam’s top 12 selling games of 2020 in the platinum category include Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, Among Us, Cyberpunk 2077, Doom Eternal, Monster Hunter World, Red Dead Redemption 2. Rainbow Six: Siege, Destiny 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The last three games on this list have made it to Steam’s platinum category every year since the list’s curation began in 2016, as per Steam.

The total revenue for each game is calculated by looking at game sales, in-game transactions, and DLC sales from January 1, 2020, to December 18, 2020. Steam doesn’t disclose revenue breakdowns for the lists but categorises them into buckets. Platinum – 1 to 12, Gold – 13 to 24, Silver – 25 to 40, Bronze – 41 to 100. The games within each bucket are assigned randomly. You can check Steam’s complete list of Best Games of 2020 here. Top selling games in the gold category include Crusaders Kings III, Warframe, Mount & Blade II, Borderlands 3, Baldur’s Gate, ARK: Winter Wonderland, The Elder Scrolls, Halo, Phasmophobia, Civilization VI, Sea of Thieves, and Dead by Daylight.

The most played games of the year, with the highest peak concurrent players (over 200,000 peak players) includes titles such as Among Us, Dota 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Destiny 2, Terraria, Life is Strange 2, Monster Hunter World, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Grand Theft Auto V.

Steam noted that the peak concurrent numbers were much higher this year as compared to 2019 and that the increase happened across the board. 2020’s top new releases as measured by gross revenue include titles such as Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, Sea of Thieves, Cuberpunk 2077, Star Wars: Squadrons, Grounded, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Fifa 2021: Beckham Editon, Wolcen Bloodtrail, Borderlands 3, Baldur’s Gate 3, Resident Evil 3, Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, Football Manager 2021 and more.

Early access graduates measured by gross revenue have games like Noita, Skater XL, Wolcen Bloodtrail, Torchlight III, Squad, and more, in the platinum list. Steam’s top VR-exclusive games of 2020 include Arizona Sunshine, Pavlov, Pistol Whip, Beat Saber, Half-Life: Alyx in the platinum bucket. Top Controller games, measured by daily active controller players, include Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K20, Cyberpunk 2077, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Monster Hunter: World, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and some more, in the platinum bucket.

Will Xbox Series S, PS5 Digital Edition fail in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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Technology US

Steam’s winter sale is live — here are the best games to get

Steam’s annual winter sale is live. If you’ve been meaning to buy some games, either for yourself or as a gift for upcoming holidays, now’s the time to take a look around. There are thousands of games up for sale in the Steam Store (and you can vote for the 2020 Steam Awards while you’re there).

While you’re browsing, the Epic Games store is also in the midst of its holiday sale. In addition to discounts of up to 75 percent, the sale provides endless $10 coupons — that is, you can apply one to a purchase (on “eligible games” priced at $14.99 and up), apply another to your next purchase, and so on. And the store will be giving away games for free until December 31st. As of this writing, the current freebie is Metro: 2033 Redux (usually $19.99).

Here are some of the best deals you can get from both stores. If you’re looking for more gaming discounts, we’ve rounded up the best deals of the week at Amazon, Best Buy, and other retailers right here.

Steam Winter Sale deals

Halo: The Master Chief Collection is on sale for $23.99, 40 percent off its original price of $39.99. This collection includes six classics including Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo 4.

Also discounted is Disco Elysium, a top-down roleplaying game where you play a grizzled detective. Polygon’s Laura Dale wrote that the game has “enough charm to make just about everything else on the market look boring.” The game is normally $39.99, but is down to $23.99 through January 5th.

Disco Elysium

Prices taken at time of publishing.

ZA/UM’s Disco Elysium is a unique roleplaying game where you work to solve a murder mystery. It’s 40 percent off.

Control Ultimate Edition is a whopping 50 percent off through January 5th. Normally $39.99, this package includes the main game and all previously released expansions, and is currently $19.99.

Control Ultimate Edition

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Normally $39.99, this package includes Control and all of its expansions.

Below is a smattering of the other games you can get at a discount from Steam this month. Whether you’re looking for new award-winners like Hades or franchise blockbusters like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, you should be able to find something that strikes your fancy. Remember, these sales are active through January 5th.

Epic Games Store Holiday Sale

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is one of the popular games on sale in the Epic Games Store through January 7th at 11am ET. The Standard Edition is $49.79 (17 percent off), and the Gold Edition (which includes Season Pass) is $79.99 (20 percent off).

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla puts you in the role of Eivor, a Viking from Norway, as they lead their people to establish a new settlement.

This year’s modernized remake of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 is another deal to snag. Among other changes, the title brings new visuals and updated characters to the skateboarding classics. Chad Muska’s and Rodney Mullen’s characters are now middle-aged, for example, but you can also play as younger skaters like Aori Nishimura and Tyshawn Jones.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 updates the core elements of the original Tony Hawk games.

Below are a few other games that are worth checking out before Epic’s deals expire, in addition to the freebies that will rotate through the month. If you were disappointed by Cyberpunk 2077 and would rather play a finished CD Projekt Red game, The Witcher 3 is heavily discounted this year.

Tech News

Cyberpunk 2077 Players Getting Refunds Due to Bug-Infested Gameplay: Report

Cyberpunk 2077 players are reportedly getting refunds for digital copies on PlayStation, Xbox, and Steam platforms. Launched globally on December 10, Cyberpunk 2077 was one of the most-awaited game releases this year, thanks to developer CD Projekt Red’s stellar record with the critically acclaimed 2015 action-RPG, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. However, upon game launch, players were plagued with disappointing bugs that severely undermined the graphics and gameplay across all platforms. Now, players have taken to Reddit to share that PlayStation is issuing refunds for the game’s digital copies following complaints.

According to a report by VGC, a Reddit user shared details of receiving full refunds for his PlayStation 4 copy of Cyberpunk 2077. The user pointed out that the game was played for over 10 hours, well exceeding the typical two-hour playtime window that is usually enforced for a successful refund. It should be kept in mind that Sony doesn’t have a set return policy for games. However, given the increasing uproar from fans regarding the game, Sony doesn’t appear to hold back to keep its customers satisfied.

In the Reddit post, the user said that he had to get on a support chat with PlayStation via the company’s US customer care line. So, it could be possible that the refunds are only made available by Sony in the United States. According to a report by GameSpot, customers can avail a refund from Microsoft for the Xbox digital editions, as well as Steam for PC editions.

To vent their frustration around the multitudes of bugs in the game, gamers took to Twitter to post several instances of annoying, and at times hilarious, bugs using #CyberBug2077. While some posts showed immensely poor graphics quality on consoles, others showed cases where NPCs walked through walls and floors, or where the player simply got stuck in the middle of the game.

Despite the reported bugs and Twitter uproar, CD Projekt recently announced that the company would take full responsibility of the release and that employees will get full bonuses no matter how the game is reviewed. “We initially had a bonus system that was focused on the game’s ratings and the release date, but after consideration, we believe that measure is simply not fair under the circumstances,” wrote Adam Badowski, studio head and creative director for Cyberpunk 2077, in an email to staff. “We underestimated the lengths and complexity involved to make this a reality, and still you did everything you could to deliver an ambitious, special game.”

Will Xbox Series S, PS5 Digital Edition fail in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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Technology US

Persona 5 Strikers will arrive on the Switch, PS4, and Steam in February

Persona 5 Strikers, an action RPG follow-up to Persona 5, will head to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam on February 23rd. The game will be available four days early, on February 19th, for those who preorder the digital deluxe version. Developer Atlus confirmed the news today, just days after its release was leaked via YouTube trailer.

Persona 5 launched worldwide in 2017; an enhanced version, Persona 5 Royal, had its wide release earlier this year. Unlike the original game, which features turn-based combat, Persona 5 Strikers is an action-oriented take on the series from Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force. Strikers takes place after the events of the original story when the Phantom Thieves find their vacation interrupted by a new threat. Where Persona 5 took place strictly in Tokyo, Strikers will also take players to six different cities. In addition to early access, the digital deluxe edition of the game includes a digital artbook, soundtrack, and behind-the-scenes video.

Persona 5 Strikers is already available in Japan (where it’s known as Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers).

Tech News

The Best Steam Black Friday Deals on PC Games

Steam Black Friday sale — officially known as Steam Autumn Sale — is now live. The biggest storefront for PC games includes big discounts on some of the biggest recent games, including FIFA 21, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Marvel’s Avengers, Death Stranding, and Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Alongside, beloved older games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Red Dead Redemption 2, XCOM 2, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are (again) available at their lowest prices. And as is tradition, Steam is also running The Steam Awards where you can vote for your favourite games and win badges. Steam Autumn Sale ends December 1 at 11:30pm IST (10am PT).

Steam Black Friday deals

Most played
Among Us at Rs. 159 — 20 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 49)

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) at Rs. 499 — 50 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) at Rs. 1,049 — 50 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 969)

Payday 2 at Rs. 174 — 50 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 34)

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege at Rs. 494 — 67 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 20)

ARK: Survival Evolved at Rs. 219 — 80 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Rust at Rs. 602 — 33 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 189)

Past year
FIFA 21 at Rs. 2,319 — 42 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

eFootball PES 2021 at Rs. 536 — 33 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order at Rs. 1,399 — 60 percent off (NEW LOW)

Marvel’s Avengers at Rs. 1,499 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

Death Stranding at Rs. 1,999 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

Star Wars: Squadrons at Rs. 1,499 — 40 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Halo: The Master Chief Collection at Rs. 584 — 35 percent off (NEW LOW)

Ride 4 at Rs. 769 — 30 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout at Rs. 423 — 20 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Ori and the Will of the Wisps at Rs. 349 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

Borderlands 3 at Rs. 986 — 67 percent off (NEW LOW)

Control Ultimate Edition at Rs. 1,499 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

Desperados III at Rs. 1,043 — 40 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Crusader Kings III at Rs. 879 — 20 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Torchlight III at Rs. 864 — 40 percent off (NEW LOW)

Resident Evil 3 at Rs. 1,154 — 67 percent off (NEW LOW)

Doom Eternal at Rs. 1,319 — 67 percent off (NEW LOW)

Observation at Rs. 227 — 60 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Tell Me Why at Rs. 468 — 33 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

PGA Tour 2K21 at Rs. 1,499 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

AO Tennis 2 at Rs. 584 — 55 percent off (NEW LOW)

2 years old
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at Rs. 899 — 70 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Metro Exodus at Rs. 399 — 60 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Red Dead Redemption 2 at Rs. 2,143 — 33 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Batman: Arkham Collection at Rs. 269 — 80 percent off

3 years old
Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition at Rs. 395 — 60 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

4 years old
Civilization VI at Rs. 624 — 75 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

5 years old
XCOM 2 at Rs. 749 — 75 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Don’t Starve Together at Rs. 156 — 66 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

6 years old
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt at Rs. 240 — 70 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

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