Major payment company: “Fewer and fewer use cases” for bitcoin payments

Stripe is one of the most popular ways for small online organizations to accept credit card payments. And in 2014 it became one of the first major payment processors to support bitcoin payments.

But a lot has changed in the last four years. The bitcoin network has become a lot more widely used, and with popularity comes congestion and high fees. Last month the median daily transaction fee—which had been just pennies prior to 2017—peaked at $34. This figure has declined substantially this month, but is still around $5. That’s a lot if you’re just trying to buy a cup of coffee.

So on Tuesday, Stripe argued that it was ending support for bitcoin.

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Your Bitcoin is no good here—Steam stops accepting cryptocurrency

When Valve first started accepting Bitcoin as an option for Steam purchases last April, the cryptocurrency was trading around $450. Today, with Bitcoin surging past $12,000 per coin, Valve has announced that “Steam will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method on our platform due to high fees and volatility in the value of Bitcoin.”

Transaction fees charged to customers using Bitcoin have surged throughout 2017, Valve says, peaking at $20 last week from a starting of about $0.20 when Steam first started using the currency. With Valve unable to control these blockchain-linked costs (passed on from third-party Bitpay), the company worried that it was leading to “unreasonably high costs for purchasing games when paying with Bitcoin” (though apparently these are costs Bitcoin users as a whole have been willing to shoulder of late).

Bitcoin’s extremely volatile valuation has also gotten in the way of its usefulness for Steam users, Valve said. With Bitcoin values changing so rapidly, the amount of Bitcoin needed to cover a purchase can change significantly between the time a purchase is initiated and when it’s completed. Fixing this situation with a quick refund or a request for additional payment incurs more of those high transaction fees, Valve says.

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Windows Mixed Reality headsets get SteamVR games and apps November 15

As promised back in August, all owners of Windows Mixed Reality headsets who are running Windows 10 will be able to run much of SteamVR’s library of VR software.

This is an expansion of the SteamVR preview program for Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which was previously open to developers but will open up to all users on November 15. Interested users will be able to navigate from Microsoft’s VR hub to Valve’s and select from SteamVR software there.

SteamVR is best known for games like EVE Valkyrie and Project Cars, but several apps are available too. For example, Virtual Desktop allows you to use your computer’s desktop in a VR space, and Google’s Tilt Brush is a VR painting experience. This preview program is a beta test, so not every app or game is expected to work perfectly right now.

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Another Windows VR headset enters the fray with Samsung Odyssey

Microsoft announced today that yet another company is going to build a virtual reality headset for its Windows Mixed Reality platform: Samsung.

The Odyssey headset looks to be a cut above the other headsets from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo: its dual-AMOLED screens are slightly higher resolution, at 1400×1600 rather than 1400×1400, and the field of view is 110 degrees rather than 95. It’s also a little more adjustable, with a flexible interpupillary distance, to match the headset to your eyes.

The device will go on sale on November 6 and cost $499 with a pair of motion controllers.

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Disney brings multiplayer back to classic Star Wars: Battlefront 2

Here at Ars, we often have the sad duty report on online gameplay servers being shut down by publishers once the games themselves have become too old or unprofitable. So it’s nice to be able to write about a game seeing online support reinstated after years in the offline wilderness.

Today, that game is Star Wars: Battlefront 2, the 2005 PC/console third-person shooter that should in no way be confused with Star Wars Battlefront II, the PC/console first/third-person shooter EA is releasing next month. In 2014, the older Battlefront 2‘s online gameplay was one of many victims of the Gamespy server shutdown, which affected dozens of PC titles as well as every game on Nintendo’s Wii and DS consoles. Battlefront 2 players could still connect for online matches through third-party services like GameRanger, but these lacked true integration with the game’s own online infrastructure.

This week, though, has seen joint announcements on GOG and Steam that “the multiplayer function of [Battlefront 2] has now been restored AND with added Crossplay support between GOG Galaxy and Steam to boot.” Up to 64 players can play through player-hosted servers on the newly updated version of the game, which is currently available for just $4 in a GOG sale (or $10 on Steam).

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Steam has a “review bomb” problem—but will today’s new feature fix it?

Steam, the largest digital PC game storefront in the West, continues to struggle with user-contributed game reviews. Valve launched the feature in 2013, and since then, it has seen various updates to deal with issues such as false and gamed reviews.

But none of those updates were much comfort to the game Firewatch last week. Its Steam review page was swarmed with negative reviews after its developer Campo Santo denounced the hateful speech of game streamer PewDiePie and issued DMCA challenges to that streamer’s videos about Firewatch.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that Valve not only announced a new Steam user review feature on Tuesday but also tied it in a huge way to the issue of “review bombing.” Either way, Steam store pages now come with a lot more data in the form of “review histograms.” What are they? How will they affect reviews going forward? And most importantly, is that enough action to deal with a noticeable rise in irrelevant and poisonous use of Steam’s storefront?

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SteamVR games coming to Microsoft’s $299 VR platform

When Microsoft first unveiled the Windows 10 Creators Update last year, a big focus was put on the virtual reality capabilities, with Redmond promising a range of VR headsets with prices starting at just $299. When the Creators Update actually arrived in March this year, however, those VR capabilities were only visible if you enabled developer mode; they were there for developers, but not for the general public. The Fall Creators Update, due to be finalized next month, will remove the developer mode restriction, opening up Microsoft’s 3D platform to all.

In time for this year’s holiday season, there will be $299 headsets and $399 headset-and-motion-controller bundles, using Microsoft’s new motion controllers. Aside from the price, the Windows platform has a few features that make it stand out from SteamVR and the HTC Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift. The first is substantially easier setup, as the Windows platform doesn’t need fixed base stations for position tracking. Instead, it uses “inside out” tracking; it combines acceleration input from accelerometers with visual input from cameras embedded in the headsets to provide motion tracking. This means that it doesn’t need base stations on the walls, nor does it need the laser-based tracking used in the HoloLens headset.

The same tracking system is used for the motion controllers; they include embedded accelerometers, and this data is combined with the camera data (since most of the time your hands will be on the edge of your field of view), and reverse kinematic models (which is to say: since you’re holding the controllers, their movements are limited by human anatomy). The Microsoft controllers are more complex than those used by the HTC Vive, with more buttons and controls on them; they’re also asymmetric, with a dedicated left hand and right hand controller.

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Sexually explicit game returns to Steam after adding “censor” bars

A sexually explicit game that was removed from Steam last week has come back to the popular game distribution service after the developer added forced censorship bars blocking the view of in-game private parts.

Eek Games’ House Party launched on Steam Early Access just over a month ago, attracting over 35,000 sales thanks in part to largely bemused coverage from a number of prominent Twitch and YouTube streamers. But the game also attracted negative attention from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), an anti-pornography lobbying group that took issue with the game for what it called “literally training its users in predatory tactics for sexual assault, and even sex trafficking.”

The goal of House Party is to convince women to have sex with you, and achieving that goal can involve getting those women drunk, blackmailing them over nude photos stolen from their phone, or jamming their phones to isolate them from others at the party. In a letter NCOSE sent to Valve last week, the group complained that the game “not only normalizes but instructs its users as a virtual how-to of sex crimes and misogyny… If anyone were to apply actions form the game in real-life situations, they could inflict immeasurable harm to others and potentially be in violation of state or federal law.”

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