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  1. Cyberpunk 2077 discs are $30 today for PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X

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    Image: CD Projekt Red

    If you’ve already nabbed a next-gen PlayStation or Xbox — or are willing to give developer CD Projekt the benefit of the doubt that it’ll eventually work on your current-gen machine — you can now pick up the standard disc edition of Cyberpunk 2077 for half-price at Amazon and Best Buy. It’s $30, instead of $60.

    To be clear, that’s the price for the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, which work on PS5 and Xbox Series X far, far better than they do on current-gen consoles. (There’s no PS5 or Xbox Series X-specific version of the game so far, but the disc will include a free upgrade.) Amazon also has the PC version for $40; compare to its normal price of $60.

    Sony actually took the unprecedented step of removing Cyberpunk 2077from the PlayStation Store, and it still isn’t back, so we wouldn’t blame you if you want to hold off. Five days ago, CD Projekt Red promised the first major update for the game would arrive “within ten days,” but suggested it may still be weeks before additional fixes roll out. Even the PC version of the game is still riddled with bugs and half-baked systems, for that matter, although some of them are quite hilarious.

    A free next-gen console update that’ll turn your disc into a true PS5 and/or Xbox Series X copy of the game will arrive later in 2021, according to CD Projekt Red’s latest roadmap. You can see that, hear the company’s apology, and decide for yourself by watching the video below.

  2. The developers of an acclaimed Skyrim mod just made it to the big leagues

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    In 2016, a team of modders released a game they developed a game in their spare time to nigh-universal acclaim — a mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that they called Enderal, with its own 30+ hour quest with gobs of original dialogue and professional voice acting. “[It’s the most fun I’ve had in an Elder Scrolls game in years,” wrote our sister site Polygon. It’s the top-rated Skyrim mod of all time at ModDB, has nearly 500,000 downloads at NexusMods and its own Steam page filled with glowing reviews.

    Now, its developers are setting off to build a game of their own. On Sunday, the team at SureAI released its final patch for Enderal, explaining that they no longer had as much free time to keep up development — because they’re working on “a new, commercial project which will hopefully be announced this year.”

    They didn’t leave so much as a hint about what kind of game it might be — we checked the team’s social media accounts, Discord, and more — but it’d be surprising if it weren’t based in swords and sorcery seeing how they’ve been modding since Morrowind.

    Whether you’re a fan or not (I’ll admit I’ve never played), it’s always refreshing to see talented game developers hit the big time. As you’re probably aware, some of the world’s most popular games started as mods: Counter-Strike, DOTAand PUBGbegan as overhauls for Half-Life, WarCraft IIIand Arma 2 respectively, as did the likes of Dear Esther, DayZand The Stanley Parable. Developers of popular mods like the Darthmod for Total Warhave also made it into the industry.

    These moves don’t always work out as everyone might hope, though: the developers of Battlefield 1942bought the team behind the Desert Combat mod (my personal favorite) back in 2004 to help work on the thematically similar Battlefield 2, only to shut them down right before the game shipped and refuse to pay $200,000 it owed.

  3. Telegram says it ‘shut down hundreds of public calls for violence’ in US last week

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    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Amid rising political tensions in the United States, Telegram founder Pavel Durov says his chat service has taken down hundreds of public calls for violence, in accordance with the platform’s terms of service.

    In a public Telegram post on Monday, Durov emphasized the service’s commitment to banning speech that actively incites violence. “Telegram welcomes peaceful debate and protest, but our Terms of Service explicitly prohibit distributing public calls to violence,” he wrote. “Сivil movements all over the world rely on Telegram in order to stand up for human rights without resorting to inflicting harm.”

    Notably, the post does not address Telegram’s encrypted chat feature, which protects conversations from outside access and thus is not subject to centralized moderation. Telegram has moderated against violence and terrorism in public rooms, but resisted mounting pressures to make those conversations more accessible to law enforcement. The rise of pro-Trump extremist violence in the United States has rekindled the country’s debate about the value of encryption, and reinvigorated calls to weaken privacy protections for encrypted chat services.

    Durov said that Telegram had seen the same spike in violent threats that other US services have reported during the past month. “In early January, the Telegram moderation team started to receive an increased number of reports about US-related public activity on our platform,” the post reads. “The team acted decisively by clamping down on US channels that advocated violence. Thanks to these efforts, last week our moderators blocked and shut down hundreds of public calls for violence that could’ve otherwise reached tens of thousands of subscribers.”

    Telegram has seen a significant boost in users over the same period, in the wake of a disastrous change to WhatsApp’s privacy policy that led many to flee the service. Signal also gained millions of users during the exodus, putting so much strain on the service’s infrastructure that it became inaccessible for more than 24 hours.

    The sudden risk of political violence in the US has put unprecedented pressure on services that fail to moderate violent threats — most notably Parler, which became inaccessible after abruptly losing its hosting service last week. Amazon Web Services, Parler’s hosting provider at the time, had reported more than a hundred violent threats on the network over the course of weeks, all of which Parler said did not violate its terms of service. In the wake of the Capitol Raid, AWS cut ties with the company, which combined with similar actions from Apple and Google to render the social network entirely inoperable. Parler posted a brief message to users on Sunday, but has yet to fully restore service.

  4. We’re getting closer to a Nintendo Switch-sized gaming PC

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    One year ago at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Alienware made waves with a modular gaming PC that worked like a Nintendo Switch, with a pair of gamepads flanking a powerful Windows 10 tablet. Sadly, Alienware’s UFO was just a concept, as was Lenovo’s take on the idea this year — but two companies are now taking up the torch with a pair of crowdfunded gadgets you might actually see in your lifetime. They look seriously legit.

    The 5.5-inch GPD Win 3 and the 7-inch Aya Neo aren’t going about it in quite the same way; while the Ava tries to closely match Nintendo’s console in shape, size, and with strictly gaming controls on board, the GPD sticks to its palmtop computer roots with a slide-up screen that reveals a tiny backlit keyboard. There’s also a fingerprint sensor, a microSD slot and an optional Thunderbolt 4 dock if you want to use the GPD like a full Windows 10 computer.

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    The GPD Win 3.

    What’s the same: both are genuinely trying to deliver a powerful tablet surrounded by joysticks and buttons for under $1,000 each. With Intel’s latest Tiger Lake chips and AMD’s Ryzen 4500U respectively, each has some of the latest and greatest integrated graphics you can buy, and they claim pretty decent performance as a result — Cyberpunk 2077 can reportedly hit 30fps at the Aya Neo’s 1280x800 resolution at low settings, and GPD offers a long list of examples of recent, demanding games that you can coax well over the 50fps mark with its Intel Xe graphics.

    As you can see in the spec comparo sheet I whipped up below, each features 16GB of DDR4 memory, a speedy NVMe solid state drive, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, a pair of stereo speakers, a genuine headphone jack, and multiple USB ports. Not bad!

    Just know that these systems are going to be chonky compared to an actual Nintendo Switch’s 0.55-inch thick frame and 0.88-pound weight, and battery life will be a big question, with both the Aya Neo and GPD Win 3 allowing you to fine-tune the chip’s TDP wattage to get the most out of their tablet-sized cells. NotebookCheck says you shouldn’t expect to get more than 1.5 hours out of the GPD Win 3 while playing a demanding game, though Taki Udon on YouTube claims you can get 2-3 hours out of an early Aya Neo.

    Speaking of Taki Udon’s video, it looks like a fantastic overview of the handheld, so I recommend checking it out, and this second vid that shows off how well games like Cyberpunk 2077and Sekiroplay on his Founder’s model. It’s not enough to convince me to crowdfund a company I’ve never heard of, but it’s a good start.

    You should also know that not all of these handhelds are going to look and play the same: the transparent Aya you’re seeing in the videos was a limited edition of 15,000 for early pre-orders in China, with final models launching in black and white instead when they ship in April. Aya will be launching its Indiegogo campaign in February with a “super early bird limited price” of $699, with no word on how much the rest of us might pay.

    The GPD Win 3 is already on Indiegogo, where you’ll pay $799 for the Core i5-1135G7 version, with the more powerful i7 chip starting at $899, or $949 for a package with the optional USB, HDMI and Gigabit Ethernet docking station.

    Between these handheld gaming PCs, the cute upcoming Playdate and the gorgeous Analogue Pocket, some of the squeaky clean mods we’ve seen of late, not to mention the popularity of the Switch itself and the march of ever smaller and more powerful chips, it feels like we might be entering a gaming handheld renaissance. Here’s hoping.

  5. It’s okay to let kids play Fortnite during a global pandemic

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    Fortnite

    On Sunday, The New York Times published an article about the risks of sky-rocketing teenage device usage during quarantine — and as you might expect, they went straight for the guilty-parent touchstones. There are maudlin photos of a family ruined by gaming, and the quote “I’ve failed you as a father” comes in the second sentence. There are also curious comparisons to drug addiction (“There will be a period of epic withdrawal” after quarantine, one addiction expert warns) and vague claims about the impressionable nature of young brains.

    Before you rush to cut off junior’s Playstation Plus subscription, it’s worth putting things in perspective. We’re in the middle of a worldwide crisis, and the last ten months have been hard on everyone. We’ve seen historic jumps in depression and substance abuse even among adults, and healthy escapes are increasingly hard to come by. Digital entertainment has gotten a lot of us through the past year in one piece. For many kids, it’s one of the few places to carry on a semi-normal social life, which is why many experts have emphasized a balanced approach rather than an outright cutoff. Digital interaction is an incredibly valuable thing, and dismissing it because of abstract screen panic is irresponsible.

    The article briefly touches on online socializing, but saves it for a kind of ironic afterthought at the end. After cutting her son off from Xbox games for a few weeks, a parent notes, “it makes me feel badly when I try to restrict him. It’s his only socialization.” For a lot of kids, this is the whole point: online spaces like Fortnite are the only way to hang out with their friends. There is actual socializing happening here, and as long as in-person contact is a public health hazard, these are the only places it can happen. It’s important for kids to hang out with other kids, so cutting off screen time is actively isolating, damaging in ways that are far more concrete than screen time. The only reason to dismiss it is the lingering idea that online socializing somehow doesn’t count.

    What we’re seeing has less to do with screen time and more to do with the age-old problems of teen social lives. There are lots of healthy and social things you can do online, just like there are unhealthy and isolating things you can do offline. Whether it happens on a screen just isn’t the primary issue. It’s fine to worry about unhealthy spaces online, whether it’s eating-disorder culture on Instagram or incel sewers on Reddit — but the problem with those spaces is that they’re unhealthy, not that they’re online. Casting the internet as the problem just confuses things, and encourages parents to cut off one of their kids’ few healthy social outlets.

    On some level, I understand the anxiety here. Parents are allowed to be depressed and anxious too! There is a ton to be stressed about in the world right now, and watching your kid play Xbox through it all might make you feel like you’re watching Ed Westwick play holocube in Children of Men. I’m sure it’s alienating to watch your son play Fortnite all day, but if you’re that worried about losing touch, it might be time to pick up a controller and spend some time in their world.