Categories
Security

The NRA confirms it was hacked last year

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has confirmed it was the subject of a ransomware attack that took place last October, according to a report from Gizmodo.

In a filing to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the organization’s political action committee (PAC), explains the NRA experienced a ransomware attack on October 20th, 2021 that brought its “network offline for two weeks.” Since the NRA wasn’t “able to access email or network files until the second week of November,” the NRA failed to report nearly $2,500 worth of donations, which was the reason for the filing.

Last year, a Russian cybercriminals group that goes by the name of Grief took credit for allegedly hacking the NRA and posting what appeared to be stolen documents on the dark web. Grief, which is said to be associated with well-known Russia-based hacking group Evil Corp, threatened to release more documents if its payment threshold wasn’t met.

There’s no word on whether the NRA ever paid up. The organization never publicly confirmed the attack at the time, and instead issued a statement on Twitter, saying it “does not discuss matters relating to its physical or electronic security,” and that it “takes extraordinary measures to protect information.”

The NRA didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment. It notes in the filing that it “has implemented additional cybersecurity measures to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.”



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AI

Report: Sustainability is a top 10 priority for CEOs this year

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A recent survey of CEOs and senior executives by Gartner, Inc. revealed significant shifts in their thinking regarding people, purpose, prices and productivity in 2022, specifically on matters of sustainability, workforce issues and inflation.

Among the key findings, artificial intelligence (AI) is now reported as the most impactful new technology among CEOs for the third year in a row. Conversely, 63% of CEOs see the metaverse as either not applicable or very unlikely to be a key technology for their business.

Additionally, for the first time in the history of the survey, CEOs placed environmental sustainability in their top 10 strategic business priorities, coming in at 8th place. Nearly three-quarters of CEOs agreed that increasing environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts attracts investors toward their companies. Sustainability also appears as a competitive differentiator for CEOs in 2022 and 2023, on the same level as brand trust among respondents.

CEOS' Top 10 Strategic Business Priority Areas for 2022-2023. In order: growth; tech-related; workforce; corporate; financial; products and services; customer; environmental sustainability; cost; sales.

Workforce issues, such as talent retention, moved up in priority for CEOs for the second year in a row, only slightly behind technology-related issues such as digitalization and cybersecurity, and significantly ahead of financial issues such as profitability and cash flow.

Regarding inflation, 62% of CEOs see general price inflation as a persistent or long-term issue. Their top response to inflation is to raise prices (51% of respondents), rather than responding with productivity and efficiency (22% of respondents).

Overall, CEO perspectives shifted significantly in 2022, impacted by the ongoing effects of the pandemic and more recently the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, CEOs’ digital business ambition continues to rise, unabated by the pandemic and related crises.

The annual Gartner 2022 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey was conducted between July 2021 through December 2021 among over 400 CEOs and other senior business executives in North America, EMEA and APAC across different industries, revenue and company sizes.

Read the full report by Gartner.

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Game

Staff Picks: Why Metroid Dread is Our Game of the Year

Picking the “game of the year” is never easy. While every Digital Trends writer who helped deliberate is a gamer, their tastes differ wildly. I came out strong as an advocate for medium-defining indie darlings. Others are RPG enthusiasts who felt Tales of Arise deserved the top spot. Depending on who was in the conversation, we could have shuffled the deck a dozen different ways and come out with any number of winners. There’s an alternate universe somewhere where Forza Horizon 5 is our game of the year, I’m sure.

So when we do find common ground on a game, it’s truly special. It means that something has transcended its genre enough to win over a panel of gamers with disparate tastes. It’s always hard to predict what game in a given year will pull off that task. And even then, I was still shocked when Metroid Dread topped our voting sheet.

Long live the queen

Metroid Dread is a long-awaited sequel to Game Boy Advance classic Metroid Fusion. It brings the Metroid series back to its 2D roots while trading the sprite art for modern visuals. For longtime fans of the series (myself included), it was a cathartic release. Announced as a genuine E3 2021 surprise, it was a sequel no one really expected. The Metroid series seemed like it was dead in the water with Metroid Prime 4 currently languishing in development hell. The last thing any fan expected was a return to 2D.

While it was always going to be a significant game for fans, it was harder to predict how the general public would embrace it. In truth, Metroid is more of a cult hit for Nintendo, and one that hasn’t been truly great for over a decade. It doesn’t make the same kind of money as Mario or even Animal Crossing — it’s more of a “gamer’s game.” Fans of the industry revere it and the impact it’s had on the industry, but Samus Aran likely wouldn’t be a household name if it weren’t for Super Smash Bros.

Metroid Dread would become a pivotal game. It felt like the fate of the entire series was resting on it. If it failed, like Metroid Other M and Federation Force before it, that could be a nail in the coffin. Developers would continue to draw inspiration from it in the form of indie Metroidvania titles, but Samus’ reign as queen would reach an unsatisfying end.

Thank God that didn’t happen.

Using the Omega Cannon in Metroid Dread.

An instant classic

Rising to meet expectations, Metroid Dread gave the Nintendo Switch another instant classic. An increased emphasis on fast movement proved to be exactly what the series needed, buffing up both its exploration and combat encounters. Mechanical additions like the melee counter widened Samus’ moveset, making her feel more like her Super Smash Bros. counterpart. Battles are legitimately challenging, but always fair. Modernized visuals brought more detail to the 2D world, adding depth to each corridor. Oh, and the E.M.M.I. scared the ever-loving crud out of players, too. It’s the kind of genuine crowd-pleaser that Nintendo excels at.

What makes Dread stand out most, though, is its story. The secret truth about Metroid is that it’s always told one of gaming’s best stories. It’s a space epic where Samus’ history and decisions matter. When she saves the baby Metroid at the end of Metroid 2, it’s not just a stand-alone moment. It plays a major role in the events of Super Metroid, which makes it one of gaming’s most impactful moments.

Metroid Dread carries that narrative strength over by bringing decades worth of plot threads together in a dark crescendo. It’s a game where Samus’ recklessness as a bounty hunter finally catches up to her. We finally get to see the long-term consequences of her decision to eradicate an entire species for money. That plays out in a series of shocking plot twists that reward anyone who’s kept up with Metroid lore over the years. The David Cronenberg-esque conclusion still lingers in my head months later.

Samus melee attacks an enemy in Metroid Dread.

History matters

If you had to boil Metroid Dread down to one thematic takeaway, it’s “history matters.” The snap decisions we make can carry consequences that snowball in unexpected ways. In video games, we’re not usually punished for our actions. Kill 1,000 people in Uncharted and it won’t matter much by the start of Uncharted 2. Metroid Dread rejects the “video game reset” by turning decades’ worth of reckless mercenary work into a nightmare for the usually cool, collected Samus.

Metroid Dread isn’t devoid of hope. It doesn’t leave Samus to die haunted by her ghosts. Redemption is still possible, and the ending leaves the door open for that. By the final moments of Dread, Samus has transformed (in more ways than one). She’s snapped out of an apathetic trance and seems to understand that her power is corruptible. Perhaps she’ll stop accepting missions from a shady Galactic Federation that hires her to do their dirty work and become an actual force for good.

What’s exciting is that we won’t have to wonder for long, hopefully. With Metroid Dread garnering praise from critics and Switch owners alike, it feels like Saums is about to start a new chapter. She’ll continue to evolve, just as Nintendo has with the uneven series itself. History matters, but its repercussions aren’t always negative. Sometimes we learn from the unflattering parts of our past and use it to build a better future. Metroid Dread is a moment of growth and reinvention for the series, coming out of a dark decade of failure with an earned moment of redemption.

Mission accomplished.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Get a Year of Norton Antivirus Protection for Only $30 Today

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As we spend more time online, there’s a growing need for antivirus software that will protect us and our loved ones from cybercriminals, especially since they’ll be taking advantage of the increased internet activity with the holidays coming up. Not all antivirus programs are reliable though, so you should stick to trusted names like Norton. There’s no price for your peace of mind, but Best Buy is currently offering a one-year subscription to Norton 360 Deluxe with LifeLock at a very affordable price of $30, which is a third of its original price of $90 after a $60 discount.

Norton is a mainstay in Digital Trends’ best antivirus software, and it’s one of the most popular names in the industry as it’s been around for more than 30 years. It’s here to stay with products like Norton 360 Deluxe with LifeLock, which can protect up to five devices at a time from both existing and emerging threats. The software will be able to detect and deal with different types of malware, including spyware, ransomware, and viruses, in real time, with a firewall that monitors all online activity and blocks unauthorized traffic. The software also comes with a secure VPN so you can browse the internet anonymously, and bank-grade encryption that keeps your passwords and credit card details away from cybercriminals.

The antivirus software’s LifeLock feature makes it one of our best identity theft protection options, as Norton will monitor the Dark Web — heavily encrypted websites and networks that the average internet user can’t access — and send you a notification if your personal information is there so that you can initiate the necessary procedures to protect your identity.

Protect your family from computer viruses, malware, and identity theft, among the many other dangers of going online, by availing yourself of Best Buy’s offer for Norton 360 Deluxe with LifeLock. The antivirus software is available from the retailer for just $30 for a one-year subscription, after a $60 discount to its original price of $90. With all the online activity that the Christmas season brings, you’ll need to install proper safeguards as soon as possible, and since there’s no telling how long this deal for Norton 360 Deluxe with LifeLock will last, you should click that Buy Now button immediately.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

Google Stadia is finally available on LG TVs almost one year later

It took the better part of a year, but Google Stadia is available on recent LG TVs. Anyone with an LG set running webOS 5.0 or 6.0 (that is, 2020 or newer) can use the cloud gaming service to play Assassin’s Creed or Madden without requiring a media device or PC as a go-between. You’ll need a compatible gamepad, but that shouldn’t be an issue when the Stadia Controller and common console pads should work either wirelessly or through USB.

Not surprisingly, LG suggests one of its OLED TVs for Stadia thanks to the fast pixel response times, low latency and (for Stadia Pro subscribers) 4K HDR visuals. They’re certainly not required, though, and it’s arguably the lag from game streaming that will make the larger difference.

Stadia is available through the LG Content Store in all 22 countries where the service already exists. You probably won’t buy a TV with Stadia in mind, but this significantly widens the number of sets where native support is an option — you might be more inclined to try it if the barrier to entry is that much lower.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Categories
Game

Early Black Friday gaming deals include one year of PS Plus for $40

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Just ahead of Black Friday, some solid gaming deals are popping up. A 12-month subscription to PlayStation Plus is currently $40 on Amazon. It typically costs $60 and it’s a digital code, so you won’t have to wait for delivery. If you’re already a PS Plus member, it’s still worth checking out this deal, since you can stack additional subscriptions.

Buy PS Plus (1 year) at Amazon – $40

You’ll need a PS Plus membership to play most multiplayer games on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. There are exceptions for some free-to-play games, including Fortnite. In addition, members often get discounts on digital purchases through the PlayStation Store, as well as cloud storage and backups for game save files.

One of the major value adds of PS Plus is that players receive a mystery bag of a few games each month across PS4 and PS5. There are three extra PS VR games this month to mark the headset’s fifth anniversary. You’ll retain access to claimed PS Plus games as long as you maintain your subscription.

PS5 owners can take advantage of the PS Plus Collection too. It’s a selection of first-party and third-party PS4 games, some of which have been patched for better performance on PS5. The lineup includes God of War, Monster Hunter: World, Final Fantasy XV, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Ratchet & Clank, Days Gone, Battlefield 1, Batman: Arkham Knight, The Last Guardian, The Last of Us Remastered, Persona 5 and Resident Evil 7. The same rule applies: if your PS Plus subscription lapses, you won’t be able to play games you claimed through the collection.

Of course, given that this is the biggest shopping season of the year, there are discounts on games as well, and many of the better deals are for physical editions. You can find savings on PlayStation console exclusives like Deathloop ($25 at GameStop if you click ‘New’ and $30 at Amazon, usually $60), the director’s cut of Ghost of Tsushima on PS5 (down from $70 to $50), Demon’s Souls (also reduced by $30 to $40) and, in one of the bigger discounts, Returnal, which has dropped from $70 to $30.

There are good deals on multi-platform titles too, such as Eidos-Montreal’s surprisingly wonderful Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which is half off at $30 on all platforms. Hitman 3 and Resident Evil: Village are both less than half price at the minute at $20. Hades, which is widely regarded as one of the best games of 2020, is also $20 on all platforms.

Far Cry 6 is a third off at $40, and you can save on FIFA 22 as well. The latest edition of EA’s famed soccer series is $40 on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S (it’s a digital code for the latter consoles), and $28 on PS4 and Xbox One.

The PS5 digital edition and Xbox Series S don’t have disc drives, so deals on physical games won’t mean much to owners of those consoles. However, it’s worth checking out the PlayStation and Xbox digital stores for Black Friday deals there too.

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Categories
AI

Darktrace aims to expand into ‘proactive’ security AI by end of year

Darktrace plans to expand its AI-powered security offerings to include attack prevention by the end of 2021, the company told VentureBeat.

On Tuesday, executives from the company described plans for upcoming product updates that will expand the Darktrace portfolio to include proactive security AI capabilities, joining the company’s detection and response technologies.

The upcoming launch of “prevent” capabilities will extend Darktrace “into the offensive area for the first time ever,” said Nicole Eagan, chief strategy officer and AI officer at Darktrace, while speaking at the virtual Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit – Americas conference on Tuesday.

In a statement provided to VentureBeat, Eagan said that “development of this breakthrough innovation known as our ‘prevent’ capability is on track, and we expect this to be released to early adopters by the end of this calendar year.”

Founded in 2013, the Cambridge, U.K.-based firm went public in April and now has a market capitalization of $4.25 billion.

Security AI growth

While Darktrace is a pioneer in the realm of security AI with its self-learning technology for detecting and responding to cyber threats, the company is now part of a fast-growing field of companies that are turning to AI and machine learning to counter increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.

Startups getting major traction in the space include Securiti, Vectra AI and Salt Security, while cybersecurity giants such as Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks and Microsoft have invested heavily into AI-based security. Today, for instance, Palo Alto Networks unveiled a cloud security platform that taps ML and AI to enable many of its new capabilities, such as improved data loss prevention.

Alongside its growth, Darktrace has also demonstrated the potential for AI-powered security with responses to high-profile cyber incidents, such as an incident this summer at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

There, Darktrace identified a malicious Raspberry Pi IoT device that an intruder had planted into the office of a national sporting body directly involved in the Olympics. The company’s technology detected the device port scanning nearby devices, blocked the connections, and supplied human analysts with insights into the scanning activity so they could investigate further.

But even with outcomes like that, there is much more that Darktrace’s security AI technology can do, company executives said during the conference Tuesday.

During “all the time that you aren’t actually under attack,” a customer could be using the Darktrace technology in order to prevent future attacks, Eagan said.

The company’s self-learning AI has “an immense amount of insights” from a customer’s data, she said. “We could use this data to help you move from a reactive state to a proactive, and even an adaptive, state.”

Attack path modeling

Specifically, Darktrace is looking at capabilities that include attack path modeling, which in the past has typically been a “human-centric” capability, said Max Heinemeyer, director of threat hunting at Darktrace, during the conference session.

With the self-learning AI technology, Darktrace knows a customer’s digital estate inside and out, he said. The technology knows what type of data is being accessed, how it’s being accessed, what types of emails are being sent, what variety of internet-facing systems a customer has, and whether there is shadow IT in the environment, Heinemeyer said.
This could provide customers with potential attack paths that they otherwise would never have been able to figure out, he said.

The Darktrace system could proactively tell a customer, “this is your core crown jewel, based on what we see—and it’s actually just two hops from this new [employee] to one your IT administrators to compromise that,” Heinemeyer said. “And that could be one of thousands of possible attack pathways. So we can really have an impact in telling you where your risks lie, and where your most vulnerable paths are, without having to predefine everything and try to tell the system what your environment looks like. That situational awareness, that context, comes with the self-learning AI.”

In this scenario, Darktrace would be able to then feed that knowledge back into the detection and response side of the product, “wrapping a safety blanket around these critical assets,” he said.

Other “prevent” capabilities in development at Darktrace include AI-powered red teaming to automatically test security controls, company executives said.

“Continuous AI loop”

Eventually, the goal is for Darktrace’s expanded security AI offerings to “form a continuous AI loop that’s always improving your overall cyber posture,” Eagan said.

The plan even further down the road is to bring AI-driven recovery capabilities after an attack, she said.

“We feel that we’re very well positioned to be able to actually help in that recovery,” Eagan said. “Our vision is really to be able to help you do the cleanup very quickly—bring the organization back to its normal state of business operations.”

Ultimately, she said, Darktrace sees each of its AI systems “reinforcing the other, minimizing any impacts of any breach or attack in real-time, and allowing the AI to preemptively lower your risk.”

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Categories
Game

Sony reveals PS5’s top 10 games in year one

Don’t look now, but the PlayStation 5 is officially one-year-old today. That milestone may be difficult to believe for many people, as PlayStation 5 consoles seem just as hard to find now as they were on day one. In any case, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan is marking the PS5’s first anniversary by recapping the year and revealing the ten most-played games on the platform.

A busy year for PlayStation

Before getting to the games, Ryan did something of a year-in-review for the PlayStation 5 and Sony as a whole. A big topic, of course, was that of Sony’s acquisitions, as it would have to be. Sony made several acquisitions this year, picking up Returnal developer Housemarque; Bluepoint Games, which remade Demon’s Souls for PS5; and Nixxes, a studio that will likely be helping Sony port more games to PC in the future.

So, from an acquisition standpoint, Sony made some pretty big moves this year. Indeed, earlier this year, the company went on quite the buying spree, but that seems to have calmed down a little bit in recent months.

In addition to these acquisitions, Ryan also covered the PS5 exclusives released this year, namely Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Deathloop. In all, Ryan says that 360 games have been launched on PS5 so far, as well as reiterating that PlayStation Studios’ various development houses have more than 25 games in development at the moment.

PS5’s 10 most-played games for year one

Ryan then revealed the top ten games for PlayStation 5’s first year, ranked by total gameplay hours. It probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that Fortnite took the top spot, followed by Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, FIFA 21, NBA 2K21, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla for the rest of the top five.

Destiny 2 began the latter half of the list, joined by MLB The Show 21, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, and finally NBA 2K22. There are two PlayStation exclusives on the list in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls, though there are three PlayStation Studios games as Sony was also responsible for MLB The Show 21 – a series that made its way to other platforms for the first time this year.

Some key exclusives didn’t make it on the list, with Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart both absent. Their absence is understandable, as Ryan said the top ten were ranked by total gameplay time. Many of the games on the list are live service games that are meant to be played consistently over long periods of time. By comparison, a 20 hour game like Rift Apart probably isn’t going to get as much total gameplay, excellent though it may be.

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Categories
Game

Xbox Series X vs. PS5 One Year Later: Which Console is King?

It’s hard to believe that we’re already one year into the life spans of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Seres X/S — mostly because many players still haven’t been able to buy them.

It’s no stretch to say that this has been one of the most frustrating and unstable console generation launches in the video game industry’s history. Launching a system during a pandemic would already be hard enough on its own. But toss in a chip shortage, and you have a set of consoles that are incredibly difficult to track down and don’t yet have a year’s worth of games to reward that effort due to a slew of delays. Even so, both Sony and Microsoft have created powerful gaming machines that are still worthy of being excited about heading into a stacked 2022.

Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S have their own strengths, with each filling a different role for gamers. But in the spirit of friendly competition, we can’t help but ask: Which console came out on top in their opening year?

Hardware

When discussing pure power, the difference between the PS5 and Xbox Series X is almost negligible. Both systems are about on par with one another, with minor differences. Both systems are capable of outputting 8K visuals and running games at 120 frames per second (fps). At the moment, there’s no huge difference when it comes to playing a game on Series X or PS5, even if Microsoft’s console is running a slightly better CPU and GPU.

The Xbox Series X does have an edge, though it doesn’t have to do with visuals. Its internal hard drive is a bit bigger than the PS5’s. That was more noticeable at launch, when the PS5’s external storage solutions were more limited. Sony has since remedied the problem by adding support for more drives, but the smaller onboard storage does stand out. I’ve found myself deleting games far more often on my PS5 than I have on my Series X. The extra gigabytes really do make a difference when game files are so big.

The Series X gets the edge in this department, but it’s more a technicality than anything. The system is more powerful on paper, but we haven’t seen that manifest in any meaningful way that makes the PS5 look weaker. Storage is really the one aspect that’s made a difference for me in the past year of gaming.

Advantage: Xbox Series X

Features

When it comes to console features, Sony has a clear advantage. Microsoft took a conservative approach to this console generation and built a straight home console with no real gimmicks. Its biggest marketing push was the promise of Smart Delivery, which allows Xbox One owners to carry games over to Series X when they upgrade. However, that’s started to feel like little more than a clever marketing spin over the past years, akin to Sega’s “Blast Processing.” The PS5 also supports cross-generational purchases for several of its games. It doesn’t have a fancy name, but it’s essentially the same thing.

The PS5 has brought several innovations to the table, though with mixed results. The DualSense controller promised more immersive gaming thanks to haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. In some cases, that’s really worked. Both Returnal and Astro’s Playroom are transformative experiences that really benefit from extra sensations. Other games, like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, hardly use the controller’s gimmick at all. And other titles can be downright painful to play at times. Pulling highly resistant triggers to shoot in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is genuinely unpleasant.

Geoff Keighley holding DualSense.
The Game Awards creator, Geoff Keighley holding the PS5 DualSense controller.

Other promising features have been a mixed bag. The system’s card feels like a revelation when playing games like Deathloop, but developers have been slow to fully adopt it. I’m not finding many games that use cards to give useful time estimates or ways to fast travel to objectives. Sony’s first-party games tend to use it well, but it still hasn’t lived up to its potential. Other initially exciting features, like the ability to look up a guide video on the fly, have barely made a difference. For the most part, I haven’t engaged with many of the PS5’s nuanced features.

Even if the PS5 hasn’t lived up to its ambitions, I still appreciate having more features to play around with. At worst, developers ignore them altogether and it feels like I’m playing a game on any old system. But I’m still having unique experiences on PS5 every so often that change the way I engage with games. The Series X plays it straight by comparison and still feels a little less special for it one year later.

Advantage: PS5

Games

In the past, consoles would be defined by their library of first-party exclusives. The Series X has completely flipped that script and showed that exclusives aren’t as important as they used to be. I’ll get to that shortly, but it’s still worthwhile to look at each system’s “year one” library, as they speak to each company’s strategy.

When it comes to exclusives, it’s a bit one-sided here. Sony had a clear advantage right from launch by releasing Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Astro’s Playroom. Over the next 12 months, it would release a string of critically acclaimed hits in Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Deathloop. By comparison, Microsoft has very few exclusives to its name. Forza Horizon 5 is frankly one of the few “system sellers” to release for the Series X, and it just came out mere days ago. Exclusive games simply aren’t part of Microsoft’s long-term strategy — for now, at least.

Selene Vassos from Returnal.

Granted, Sony made some big launch year promises it couldn’t deliver on. Heavy hitters like Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarok were delayed to 2022, which felt inevitable. There’s still only a handful of “must-have” exclusives on the system, which has made the mad dash to secure one a bit silly. In truth, neither console is really worth buying based on game library alone. Someone who’s still on a PS4 or Xbox One frankly hasn’t missed much other than two or three solid games.

Even so, the PS5 game library has an obvious advantage here. Its few exclusives are all top-notch and show why Sony’s commitment to high-quality exclusives still pays off. The fact that Returnal, a totally new IP from a smaller studio, is one of the PS5’s best games shows that Sony is taking all of its exclusives seriously. Every time it releases one, you know it means business.

Advantage: PS5

Long-term value

In the past, this conversation would have stopped there. Sony has the games, so what more is there to discuss? But Microsoft has ingeniously flipped the script, changing the way we think about a video game console’s function. That’s where Xbox Game Pass comes in.

Game Pass has only become a stronger value in the Xbox Series X generation. For one, all first-party Microsoft games come to it on day one. Encouraged by the strong reviews of Forza Horizon 5, but don’t want to spend $60 on it? You don’t have to if you have Game Pass. The same will be true for Halo Infinite next month, and it’s impossible to overstate how huge that is for Microsoft fans.

Multiple cars race in Mexico in Forza Horizon 5.

It’s not just the exclusives that benefit from Game Pass, though. Microsoft has shown that Game Pass pays off in the long run for those who buy third-party games. Outriders, MLB The Show 21, Scarlet Nexus, and It Takes Two are among some of the top 2021 releases that Game Pass subscribers simply didn’t need to buy. That’s $200 worth of games included with a subscription, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Buying a Series X and subscribing to Game Pass pays off in the long run, making the console a smarter investment.

The PS5 still has long-term potential thanks to its consistent library of exclusives, but the ecosystem isn’t as strong. Subscribing to PS Plus gives access to a few free games a month and the PS Plus Collection, but you’ll still pay for the biggest games individually. That’s not a problem; it’s how consoles have always worked. But Microsoft’s strength is that it’s reimagined that process and turned Xbox into a full service that’s worth buying into.

Advantage: Xbox Series X

Which console is king in 2021?

It sounds backwards considering Microsoft’s lack of console-selling exclusives, but the Xbox Series X is the most appealing console at the moment.

Microsoft’s goal over the past 12 months was to prove that the Xbox ecosystem is worth buying into, even after Halo Infinite was delayed outside of its launch year. It wasn’t an easy task, but every move the company has made with Game Pass has been effective. I can’t begin to describe how few games I’ve needed to buy this year. Interested in playing an indie like Unpacking or Moonglow Bay? It’s in my library already. Curious about Outriders, but not $60 curious? I didn’t need to spend an extra dime to play it. I bought Scarlet Nexus at launch for full price and ended up putting it down after six hours. I was kicking myself months later when it was added to Game Pass.

Xbox Series X sitting against a wall.
Microsoft

Granted, if you don’t want to buy into Game Pass, the Series X becomes much less appealing. Its power advantage over the PS5 is negligible and it lacks some of the bells and whistles that make Sony’s console so fun. A Series X is a long-term financial commitment that not every player will be comfortable making. In that sense, the PS5 has made a stronger case for being a system you don’t need to keep pumping money into.

I’m pitting these two systems against one another here for fun, but make no mistake: Sony and Microsoft aren’t really in competition with one another. Or at least, not in the same way that we’re used to. Both companies are taking a page out of Nintendo’s book by charting their own niche in the gaming space. Sony wants to double down on huge, cinematic action games that feel like Hollywood movies. Microsoft wants to hook players into its subscription service and make it as essential as a Netflix account. Those are entirely different goals.

The truth is that both Sony and Microsoft have proved what they wanted to prove in the last year. There’s no winner or loser; it’s just a matter of which approach better suits your gaming habits. But, hey, for the sake of seeing this matchup through, I have to declare a victor, right?

Winner: Xbox Series X

Editors’ Choice




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Tomb Raider heads to Switch next year with two Lara Croft ports

The Tomb Raider franchise turns 25 years old this month, and Square Enix just made a bunch of announcements in celebration of that milestone. Arguably the biggest announcements of the day are for the Nintendo Switch, which is getting two Tomb Raider games next year. In addition, Square Enix also announced plans to give away Rise of the Tomb Raider on PC through Prime Gaming, though that promotion won’t kick-off for a few more days.

The two games coming to Nintendo Switch are Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris. While not traditional Tomb Raider games, they do seem like they’d be a pretty good fit for the Switch, and they happen to be the very first Tomb Raider games on the platform. For these releases, it sounds like Feral Interactive will be handling the porting duties.

Perhaps this means we’ll see other Tomb Raider games ported to the Switch in the future? While we may not see the most recent Tomb Raider trilogy make its way to the Switch, the platform does seem like a good option for ports of the original Tomb Raider games from the ’90s. Time will tell, but for now, all that’s confirmed are the two Lara Croft games, which will be landing sometime next year.

In addition to that announcement, Square Enix has also put Tomb Raider games on sale across pretty much every digital game store. Steam, Humble, Green Man Gaming, GOG, the Square Enix Store, the Xbox Store, and the PlayStation Store are all offering discounted Tomb Raider games at the moment. A quick look at Steam shows us that the sale includes not only the modern Tomb Raider trilogy but also the classic Tomb Raider games, many of which are down to less than a dollar.

If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll want to wait on buying Rise of the Tomb Raider, as that will be offered for free to Prime Gaming subscribers beginning on November 1st. The promotion will run through November 14th, giving you two weeks to claim the game from Prime Gaming and add it to your library. We’ll let you know when the two Lara Croft games get release dates for Nintendo Switch, so stay tuned for more.

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