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Project Scorpio: Microsoft’s 4K Ready XBox

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At E3 2016, Microsoft officially announced Project Scorpio, a 4K ready upgrade to the existing Xbox One console. Project Scorpio was rumored to be much more powerful than the existing Xbox One and competes directly with Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro, which is also a more powerful iteration on the PS4. Up until recently, the only real information Microsoft released was that Scorpio would be capable of native 4K gaming (versus the upscaling that PS4 Pro does) and that all Xbox One games would still work on it. In early April, Digital Foundry was given an exclusive look at Scorpio and finally released some major tech specifications and details about the new console. Many people (including Microsoft itself) have speculated that perhaps this is the end of traditional console generations. Traditionally in the console gaming world, a new console has been released every 7-8 years. For example, the original PlayStation was released in 1995, the PS2 was released in 2000, the PS3 was released in 2006, and finally the PS4 was released in 2013. However, with both Xbox One and PS4 switching to generally off the shelf PC components instead of customized chipsets, both consoles seem to be obviating the need for a complete redesign. The trend seems to be leaning towards the PC gaming model where hardware is simply upgraded to more powerful components to run newer games while still being backwards compatible with older games. The ongoing effort by Microsoft to make Xbox 360 games playable on the Xbox One and Sony’s streaming gaming service PlayStation Now show that backwards compatibility is definitely a need. Along with Microsoft’s Xbox Play Anywhere program, Microsoft is clearly trying to use Project Scorpio to leverage the strengths of their Windows platform and the PC gaming community. Here are three things you need to know about Project Scorpio:

forza

It’s Powerful

To say that Project Scorpio is the most powerful gaming console ever is an understatement. First, let’s get all of the techie stuff out of the way. According to Eurogamer (who owns Digital Foundry): The central processor (CPU) has eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz. The graphics processor (GPU) has 40 customized compute units clocked at 1172MHz – a very high clock speed for a console – and it does achieve Microsoft’s stated six-teraflop performance figure. There’s 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, with a memory bandwidth of 326GB/s. There’s a faster 1TB 2.5-inch hard drive, and a UHD Blu-ray drive. Like Xbox One S, it has an integrated power supply, so no external power brick. In terms of input/output ports, it is identical to Xbox One S (so, no Kinect port, but HDMI in is retained). What all that techie jargon means is that Scorpio is about 31% faster than the current gen Xbox One and can most certainly play all or most games at native 4K resolution. Microsoft showed Digital Foundry a stress test on the Scorpio using the Forza Motorsport game engine. The Scorpio was able to breeze through the test. Microsoft then upped the graphics settings to the PC equivalent of “Ultra” settings and it still smashed the test with performance to spare. It even kept a steady 60 frames per second which is the holy grail of performance.

Backwards Compatible

All current and future Xbox One games will be compatible with Scorpio. The increasing library of backwards compatible Xbox 360 games will also work on Scorpio. As mentioned earlier, Microsoft is envisioning the future of Xbox One similar to PC gaming. Any modern gaming PC can play every single game that has ever come out for PC (on Windows at least). Microsoft is aiming for that level of backwards compatibility in the future. Imagine it’s the year 2030 and you really want some old school Gears of War action. Theoretically you should be able to pop in a copy of Gears of War Remastered and play it just fine. Nintendo has shown with the recently discontinued NES Classic that people love playing older games.

Is It Better Than PS4 Pro?

Yes. Yes it is. Now to be fair, the PS4 Pro is a powerful machine in its own right and many games such as Horizon Zero Dawn can take advantage of the more extra power to improve performance or graphics. However, as far as console gaming, the Scorpio is in a league of its own. While the PS4 Pro can *technically* output games at 4K, it uses upscaling techniques such as checkerboard rendering to output games to 4K. The Scorpio is capable of native 4K gaming which is much more impressive. As a point of comparison, native 4K gaming on PC requires a high end graphics card such as the NVIDIA GTX 1080. Therefore, the fact that a console is able to produce this much performance is amazing.

The Elephant In The Room

Obviously, all of that power means nothing if there aren’t any good games to play on the Scorpio. In fact, the cancellation of several Xbox One exclusive titles such as Scalebound and Fable Legends have hampered Microsoft’s ability to secure exclusive games. Meanwhile, Sony has been killing it with titles such as Horizon Zero Dawn, Nier: Automata, Gravity Rush 2, Uncharted 4, and Nioh. Even with multiplatform franchises such as Call of Duty are releasing downloadable content (DLC) first on PS4. Microsoft is hoping that developers will see the performance potential of Scorpio and develop optimized games for it. Time will tell if the Xbox One will catch up to PS4 in the exclusives but the power of Scorpio combined with Microsoft’s push in the PC gaming scene may be the incentive developers are looking for. Microsoft hasn’t yet released pricing or even the actual name of Project Scorpio. That information will most likely be announced at E3 in June or perhaps an event ahead of E3.

Business

Ways To Drive Traffic To Your Blog

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We’ve all been there before. We hit publish on our latest blog and wait for the avalanche of comments to come in, except they don’t. When this happens we can’t help but ask why. Before you lose your blogging confidence, here are some ways to drive traffic to your blog.

Share More Than Once

Most of us share our blogs across social media a few seconds after we hit publish. While this is sound strategy, there might be some people you missed during the first blast. To avoid too many people from seeping through the cracks, share your blog more than once. In fact, Garret Moon co-Founder and CEO of CoSchedule suggests that companies do not share content nearly as much as they need to. According to him we have a mentality of “share once and forget”.

A better solution is to share the same blog multiple times depending on the platform. For example, you might want to share a blog across all your social media accounts the moment it is published. Two hours later, you can share again on Twitter, the next day on Google+ and Facebook, next week on Tumblr. Some marketers think that this is spammy, but nobody really pays attention what you do online and this is just a way to make sure that nobody misses anything.

Leverage Twitter

Twitter is a great platform to make blogs go viral. Here are some things to do right away:

  • Complete your Twitter profile, avatar and header image.
  • Tweet on a regular basis, at least once a day.
  • Retweet interesting and related tweets from other members.
  • When sharing a post, make sure to include an image. You can use Twitshot to make things easier.
  • Always use a hashtag (#) when tweeting.

Optimize your Tweet text too. The best practice is to put the post title first followed by the URL and your Twitter handle. This optimized Twitter text will encourage users to click on the link and to follow you at the same time.

Get Influencers to Blog For You

Gain credibility and possibly followers by getting social influencers to blog for you. This means reaching out to people in your niche with the biggest followers and then asking them to contribute to your blog. By getting these guys involved, you get exceptional content while accessing a powerful distribution channel in the form of the contributor’s network. Unless your blog is super-prestigious, you might need to pay these influencers, but it is a good way to improve blog readership.

Include Visual Content or Videos

There are many studies suggesting that blogs with videos or images, especially infographic, find better engagement and more shares. Taking time and effort to add them to your blog can greatly impact traffic and readership.

Send Link To Relevant People

Send your blog to people or organizations that might be interested in what you have to say. Messages like “I recently published a blog on the impact of social media on entrepreneurs and thought you might be interested.” Offer to reciprocate so that your offer becomes tempting. Sending out your blog gives you the potential to expand your network while driving traffic to your blog.

These tips are not a substitute for good content but these strategies are simply about squeezing some more so that you end up with even more traffic. So make sure you have great content that has always has SEO in mind to drive more traffic to your blog.

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Business

5 Ways to Attract More Business

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In this competitive era where every business is facing deep competition, it is essential to project a differentiating factor and adopt latest techniques for attracting more business to your business. It is often the failure of planning that leads to collapse and shut down of businesses. You need to have a proper strategy that can build a reputation of your business in the market. To run smooth and successful, have a prior construction of successive plans to target the potential customer base.

Here are 5 techniques to improve your business prospects.

Genuine Value

Be specific about the services or products that you offer so customers are not misguided. By going through the information that you provide, the targeted clientele must be able to understand the quality of your product or service offerings. Having a differentiating factor and projecting it effectively is essential to grab those choosy eyeballs of potential customers. Setting clear expectations and delivering the best within the deadline is the best way to retain customers and grow your business.

Business Website

The most important step to take when you start your business is to build your website. The website is your online identity and your biggest marketing weapon as far as the digital space is concerned. Make sure that the website is interactive, informative, and guides the visitors in the best possible way. It should be user-friendly and have the power to convert casual visitors into customers. Remember, a great website projects a great brand image.

Effective Communication

Be precise and dynamic when you communicate with potential patrons. Regularly updating your blog and listing the information related to your work will build a strong relationship between the reader and your business. Replying to queries and comments within a short time frame is very important and depicts that you value the interest which someone has in your business. Healthy communication will help frame a positive image of your business.

Socially Active

Socialization is very important in today’s world. With billions of people on social media, these platforms have become effective marketing channels and one of the best source of generating prospective clients for your business. Having well-defined social media marketing strategies and getting your business highlighted on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others has become essential. People these days have a tendency to refer to social media when they need any product or service and have a strong affinity for brands. The return on investment in case of social media marketing is also very high if the business adopts the right strategies.

Search Engine Optimization

This is the digital marketing technique that can help your business be listed on the top search pages of Google, Yahoo, and Bing. With a comprehensive list of well-researched keywords defining the nature of your business, SEO experts will target your business with informative content on the top search engine pages and improve your page ranking. Off-page SEO techniques have also become very important due to the cut throat competition in the SEO space.

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Retain Your Employees Through Company Culture

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Strong company culture is one of the best strategies to building a good solid team. No company can survive without good talent behind it. When employees want to bring their talent elsewhere the considerations are usually company culture and work environment. To address these problems, employers need to create a culture that nips these issues in the bud. Employees that feel more deeply for their employers are more committed to the company.

Communication

All employees want to think that they are being heard by the higher ups. By fostering a culture of great communication, employers can address any dissatisfaction. Taking feedback, maintaining open lines of communication, and holding regular meetings can shed light on possible reasons why employees consider leaving. By interviewing dissatisfied employees, companies can improve problematic areas or address issues. Taking time to listen builds a culture of loyalty which can reduce the risk of turnovers.

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is not simply about keeping employees content. It is also about relationships, particularly between managers or supervisors. Companies should not only focus on rewards and motivation because it will cause them to miss relationships that are going sour. Businesses should always monitor internal temperature to avoid losing top talent.

Work-Life Balance not Work-Life Integration

Forget about work-life integration and focus on work-life balance. Thanks to technology, work has shifted from the usual 9-5 routine to the “always connected” schedule. Employers must change this to keep employees happy. Creating an environment where employers trust their employees to allow them to have flexible schedule shows that the company fosters a culture of mutual respect.

Hire Slow Fire Fast

One of the best ways to destroy company culture is by hiring the wrong kind of people and letting them stay long. Luckily, it is clear early on when somebody is a wrong fit for the team. Managers can always “fire fast” when this becomes obvious. However, it is always more important to spend time on hiring people who are the best fit for the team rather than firing them. This ensures that the culture your company has cultivated is a good fit to the new team member.

Trust and Ownership

Once employees feel that they are trusted, they begin to exhibit ownership behavior. Displaying proper levels of “hands-off management” will create opportunities for your employees to become more engaged and exhibit leadership behavior. Employees who feel this way work harder and exhibit your company culture better.

Reinforce Culture

The best way to retain employees is to constantly reinforce culture. This has to be driven by top management and reinforced by the way employees behave, communicate and interact. It is not enough that you have culture because employees are not stupid and know when something is just for window dressing. If your company values open communication then this should be reinforced and implemented so that employees can see and benefit from it.

Strong culture is the best way to build a strong team. Part of building a strong company culture is understanding how employees work on a daily basis, learning from them, and understanding their needs and attitudes.

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