Tag Archives: PlayStation 4

PlayStation E3 2015 Recap

PlayStation E3 2015

Sony this year came out with some heat. We all thought most of it would just be rumors because—let’s face it—a lot of it sounded absurd. A comeback? A remake? Oh come on. We should know better by now. Go back to your village and take your pipe dreams with you.

But wham, bam, holy shit. We really shouldn’t be calling out “winners” for this sort of thing, but this press conference did actually bring down the Internet. Feel free to read on or rewatch the entire thing.

The Last Guardian

Ummm, what? I guess sometimes vaporware comes back from the dead. After being in and out of development and existence for the past 2007, it was pretty safe to assume the long awaited project was simply dead and buried. After the trauma of numerous rumors, the latest rumblings that we’d see The Last Guardian at this E3 seemed to only freshen up old wounds.

But it’s all true. Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida confirmed it would release for PlayStation 4 in 2016. Coming from Team Ico and director Fumito Ueda, the same combo that brought you Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, its expectations were high. After all these delays, are they just as lofty?

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Guerrilla Games, developer of the Killzone series, is throwing quite the delicious curveball here. Going from a stock FPS to this is rather incredible. Perhaps filling the PlayStation 4’s required space marine quota earned them some laterality.

But Horizon: Zero Dawn has a fascinating premise. Something along the course of humanity’s development caused them to plunge back into a pre-civilization structure except machines are still rampant and necessary. So instead of hunting for food, they hunt for parts. Sure, the gameplay looks fun enough, but that setup is incredible.

Hitman

Even if you don’t care for the Hitman games, this is a well put together trailer. It finely composes the idea that he’s a killer of tactics, brutality, and skill. Also, the backing track that surreptitiously features ragged breathing slowly sinks in and is reinforced by the kill shot.

The trailer itself, however, doesn’t reveal much except that the series still animates people a bit too cartoonishly. I guess Square Enix assumes we already know what to expect from the game, which is kind of a sad notion anyway. Hitman lands on PlayStation 4 and PC on December 8. (Franchise reboots that simply start off with the same name is an organizational nightmare, by the way.)

Dreams

Media Molecule is still very much about games in which you create, if you were wondering. The latest is Dreams, and while the trailer is very obtuse about what you’ll actually be doing, you’ll definitely be creating…something.

It looks like you’ll be using your controller to sculpt out characters inside of scenes. The “dreams” motif comes in where everything is fast and impressionistic rather than details and builds upon a previously known (read: made) lexicon of items. You can then grab your creations and puppeteer them to life. (The short demo preceding the trailer shows more than anyone could ever say with words.)

Destiny: The Taken King

While I found Destiny to be somewhat lacking in its original release, the more that Bungie puts out for the game, the more I want to go back and play it. It seems like they’re solving the two biggest problems simultaneously with each DLC, being the lack of content for a massive world and a refinement of how to use that world in interesting ways.

Coming September 15, The Taken King will cost $39.99 for the regular edition and $79.99 for the collector’s edition, both of which will also include Destiny itself. The expansion will include new Guardian subclasses and super moves.

Final Fantasy VII

Part of the crazy heat Sony threw around yesterday. Even more dubious than The Last Guardian comeback rumors, we heard voices on the wind talk of a Final Fantasy VII remake, something fans have been clamoring for since dinosaurs walked the Earth.

And now it’s happening. This isn’t a tech demo or a PC version or an upgraded PC version for PlayStation 4, but this is a remake. At this point, it’s unclear as to what that means. This could end up just an HD remaster for all we know, but hopefully they’re not just misleading us with the word “remake.”

The bigger question, however, is if anyone still cares. Tetsuya Nomura is coming on as director after guiding the Kingdom Hearts series (and directing Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children) while Yoshinori Kitase, original director of Final Fantasy VII, will be returning to produce. Is that enough to garner interest beyond the 18-year-old fan base?

No Man’s Sky

This is the first lengthy gameplay demo anyone outside of the press has seen from No Man’s Sky. Hello Games co-founder Sean Murray hopefully imparted upon the audience the sheer size of what they’re attempting with this procedurally generated universe simulator. (If you still don’t get it, read this piece over at The New Yorker.)

Still no release date, but we do learn that every world is fully destructible. Plus there are fish!

Shenmue III

And here’s the real surprise of the event. No one was even expecting this, but Yu Suzuki, creator of an immense number of classics like Space Harrier, Out Run, After Burner, and Virtua Fighter, came out on stage to announce that he’d like to revitalize the Shenmue franchise through Kickstarter.

And then everyone lost their god damn minds. Which is the appropriate response, I might add. It brought down Kickstarter itself for a brief time as it rocketed up hundreds of thousands of dollars in a matter of minutes. It’s already hit its $2 million goal in its first day. If you’re not jacked for this, then you’re a fool. Or you were too young to have played the first two.

Call of Duty

Now we know why Call of Duty was mysteriously absent during Microsoft press conference. PlayStation CEO Andrew House announced that Sony will get all of the military shooter’s map packs first. The deal will start up with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, coming to PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One November 6.

Map packs have traditionally gone to Xbox platforms first since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare back in 2007. While not necessarily everyone’s thing, this is a huge move for PlayStation.

Firewatch

Firewatch is pretty much exactly the kind of game I love playing. Or at least it’s the kind of game I love thinking that I would love playing based on the trailer because the trailer sells a very particular kind of game.

The adventure game from Campo Santo and director Jake Rodkin (co-host of the Idle Thumbs podcast) tells the story of a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness in 1989. Numerous mysteries begin to unfold as he goes about his patrols.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

While the return of the Uncharted series still doesn’t seem like the best creative decision, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End still looks pretty incredible. Like, visually, I mean. It seems like it’ll play like the other games, so you probably already know if you’ll be into that or not, but there’s certainly something to be said for a masterful refinement of a craft.

After a little technical hiccup where protagonist Nathan Drake froze in front of a still animating crowd, we go on a classic Uncharted whirlwind ride of shooting bad guys, running from overwhelming odds, shooting more guys, and (as a franchise first) driving a vehicle. Oh, and crackin’ some wise. Don’t forget that.

There are some other odds and ends that came out of the conference (like a new Street Fighter V trailer), but that’s the gist of it. There were several genuine surprises, capping off a rather momentous start to this year’s E3. Look for more coverage as the show continues the rest of the week.

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In the Periphery

In the Periphery

One more day. One more day and we’ll be fully entrenched in the next generation of video game consoles as Microsoft’s Xbox One comes out, following a week of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and over a year of Nintendo’s Wii U. All three come after the longest console cycle since forever.

Or at least it feels like forever. It’s been eight years since the release of the Xbox 360. Before that, it was seven years, and before that, it was a paltry four years. And each one of those was largely defined by consoles doubling processing capabilities with Nintendo going so far as naming the Nintendo 64 after its CPU word size.

Since then, that little number stopped mattering as much. Not only because as computing power started to factor in parallelism and multiple cores and GPUs and components that used to be considerations only of PC gamers, but also because many realized that didn’t make games egregiously better or worse. Consoles soon became defined by their heavy hitter franchises instead of bowing to the 8-bit or 16-bit era banners.

DualShock 4

That is a hard sell, though, when it comes to new hardware. Games are subjective and ever-changing but when you can pin an upgrade on a bigger number, new generations are easier to pitch to consumers. Controllers, of course, were a consistent solution. They’re a necessary component and they can always be improved from a visual, tangible perspective.

Nintendo, in a way, saw this and put their full stock behind the idea with the Wii. It was a hard swing and got a lot of attention by being so alarmingly different in an objective, fundamental way. The great thing then was that Nintendo backed it up with quality games like Wii Sports, Super Mario Galaxy, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Regardless of Nintendo’s varying success with its continuing tactic of drastic differentiation, it sparked something in Sony and Microsoft. Attaching something bombastic and, more importantly, physical to a console’s marketing works like gangbusters. This introduced the Kinect five years into the Xbox 360’s lifecycle and the Move only one week prior for the PlayStation 3.

Kinect

One of those succeeded and has since lingered with the new generation in the Xbox One with an upgraded Kinect. Sony ditched the Move, kept motion controls in the controller, and aped a great deal of functionality from the Kinect with a new PlayStation Camera. Most impressively, these contribute some of the most meaningful upgrades to the consoles.

The new Kinect functions wonderfully as an input for both audio and visual needs (e.g. Skype, game chat, etc.) but also innovates by enabling battery-saving tactics. The system will track when you set down the controller and then put it in a low power state, so even though there isn’t a rechargeable battery pack option for the new Xbox One controllers, a single pair of AA batteries will last over a week of nonstop gaming.

The PlayStation Camera is a generation behind the Kinect and similarly a generation behind capabilities, but does enable facial recognition log in, albeit at a pace slower than pressing buttons on a controller. But at least now Sony gamers have an excuse to yell at their consoles, too. For the PlayStation 4, much more lies within the controller.

PlayStation Camera

The DualShock 4 is a much better design than the DualShock 3, an iteration on the long-standing design that was the pinnacle of controllers before the Xbox 360’s game pad, as it no longer hurts to hold one for more than 30 minutes at a time. But it also contains a small speaker, for which a very compelling argument was made with Resogun. This means the controller itself has audio processing capabilities, something Sony has tapped into by allowing all system audio to go through a headphone jack in the DualShock 4. Both of these are small but extremely useful and substantial additions.

Speaking of controllers, consider that the Xbox One’s controllers now have localized rumble in each of its triggers. Even in this rather mediocre launch lineup, this strange development has added a new layer of physical feedback to games. At such a nascent stage, the potential is already noticeably high, almost inspiring the same aspirations as when rumble was still relegated to a detached plug-in pack.

These mostly seem like minute, throwaway additions. Who cares if your triggers rumble? Who gives a flip if there’s a camera saving your controller’s battery? The answer should be everybody when you consider that games, for the most part, are hitting an all-time high of cross platform accessibility. Look at your launch titles: Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV, Need for Speed: Rivals, etc.

Xbox One Reveal

And now services are reaching parity as well with subscription-based freebies and multiplayer, robust digital storefronts, and so on. That or the things we were promised aren’t as grand as they were originally pitched. Or they simply don’t exist yet. Streaming? Cloud-based gaming? There’s either going to be a lot of apologies or a lot of patches coming in the next few months.

It’s becoming apparent that the war, as it were, is going to be won with these tiny details. All these minuscule innovations are going to add up and eventually we’ll see something totaling up into a giant step forward. It’s no longer about a single number or some drastic, waggling swing for the motion control fences. It’s about the details. After all, what’s left but details?

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PlayStation 4 Launch Event Recap: Uncharted, The Last of Us, and More

PlayStation 4 Launch Event Recap: Uncharted, The Last of Us, and More

How was your night last night? Go out anywhere? Maybe stand in a big line and get a $400 piece of technology? I didn’t, but I did go check out a couple of midnight launches of the PlayStation 4. For one of the biggest metroplexes in the country, Dallas didn’t really have anything crazy to offer, although a couple of dudes offered me some queso, so there’s that.

UPDATE: just kidding. Apparently I missed Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant buying five lucky line-standers their PlayStation 4s.

Of course, it (and whatever was happening at your closest GameStop) didn’t compare to Sony’s big launch event in New York. It was just a big ol’ celebration for Sony’s step into the next generation, but they still decided to throw some news in there. Geoff Keighley even asked about The Last Guardian! (We’ll get to that in a second.)

New Uncharted for PS4

In perhaps the teaseriest tease of all teases, we see nothing more about the upcoming Uncharted for the PlayStation 4 except that 1) it exists, and 2) it has betrayal. Oh, also, I guess that is has a super high resolution logo?

At least it tells us what Naughty Dog has been up to since putting out Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and The Last of Us. And over on the PlayStation Blog, it has been confirmed that creative director Amy Hennig and game director Justin Richmond are both attached to the rather green project and that Todd Stashwick of Heroes fame provides the excellent voiceover.

The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC

Speaking of Naughty Dog, we see them release their first single-player DLC with Left Behind. The teaser is short and poised for a lot of emotional drama as the franchise is wont to do: Ellie and Riley Abel, her school chum from the Quarantine Zone, happen across a carousel.

Like, nothing happy can come from that, right? But it will hopefully at least be a fantastically sad. It’s based somewhat on the Dark Horse comics The Last of Us: American Dreams (which are pretty great) where it shows Ellie and Riley meeting, but this is Ellie telling Joel what happens after that.

Don’t worry, I’ll bring the tissues. Look for it in early 2014 for $14.99.

Destiny Beta

Along with the above trailer, Bungie COO Pete Parsons (what a comic book superhero name) announced that the beta for their upcoming online first-person shooter Destiny would be coming first to the PlayStation 4.

“We’re going to give first access to the PlayStation nation, PS4 and PS3 owners,” he said. If you want to get in on it, you’ll have to have preordered before October 1st, though I’m sure there will be other avenues available as it creeps closer.

Classic Snake in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

I guess not everything old made it out when the new stepped in. In a confusingly nostalgic move, Konami will be including Classic Snake as a skin in the Sony-exclusive mission “Déjà Vu” for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. So yay next-gen graphics? Whatever, as long as I get to choke dudes.

Dammit

Geoff Keighley asked Sony’s Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida and Vice President of Publisher Relations Adam Boyes about Team Ico’s mysteriously missing The Last Guardian. God dammit. JUST GIVE IT TO ME.

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An Errant Fealty

An Errant Fealty

I’ve never quite been one for things like school pride. I went to a building, I got a degree, and now I’m done. It’s over. That time of my life is done. Insulting it then or now has no bearing on what I accomplished there or here.

It’s kind of the same reason I don’t buy into sports rivalries that don’t involve individuals. The longstanding Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins rivalry, for instance, doesn’t make sense once you consider that all the original folks involved are either dead or a nonfactor at this point. The rivalry lingers largely because of fans and players that grew up with it and seemingly live and die by “we’ve always done it that way.”

So I may not be the best person to analyze this, but throwing around die-hard allegiances to video game consoles—especially those that don’t even exist for the public yet—is absolute nonsense. It happens, of course, for the current and past generations of consoles as well, but years of filtering feelings through objectivity have clarified many opinions. (The N64, for example, was kind of trashy but hot damn those games.)

Nintendo 64

Being fans of companies is even somewhat understandable on a certain level, though the parallel problems of sports fandom persists here as well; an ever-shifting landscape of management, ownership, and players erodes the logical foundation of athletic loyalty. The people that run console manufacturers come and go, as do those of other companies. Would you still hold Apple’s design aesthetics in such high regard if Jony Ive wasn’t there?

But loving the shit out of the PlayStation 4 before you’ve even put hands on it is absolutely bonkers. Praising the virtues of the Xbox One when you’ve only seen it in streaming press conferences is lunacy. Assumptions can be made, sure, like they will be functional pieces of technology upon purchase and that the list of features are not a list of lies. But as to the quality of both the hardware and software along with developer relations goes unseen.

If you recall, Sony basically mopped the floor with Microsoft with both its announcement event and following press conferences. Their PlayStation 4 had all the features that, on paper, the Xbox One did not have or did not tell us. It didn’t have to be always online, it didn’t block used games, and it was cheaper. Fans rallied around these pillars of superiority and never looked back.

Xbox One Reveal

Now, it seems that Microsoft has somewhat of an upper hand. The Xbox One’s launch lineup seems to be quite a bit stronger (and less diminishing) and most of the things you thought the PlayStation 4 would be able to give you lies behind a day-one—and beyond—patch. At least among those in the industry, favor has shifted to Redmond.

But make no mistake, as this is still a fealty based on assumptions and guesswork. It’s a leap of faith that either of these consoles will do what their PR says they will. (To be fair, though, from what I’ve seen, read, and played, it’s all mostly true.) So those that still strive to turn making mountains from molehills into their day job, they grab onto the slimmest chance of object fact.

This is how you end up with comments on news stories and video reviews of next-gen games that dissect the graphics because that’s all they have at this point. It’s hard proof that these textures on this console are higher resolution than the ones on this console. It’s undeniable that the framerates are better here than they are there.

Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal

And they aren’t wrong. Those are, indeed, facts in some cases, despite the inanity and aggression they are asserted in the face of none of it mattering at all. The differences are often indiscernible to most people that aren’t part of an organization called the Digital Foundry, and yet they cling. Rose and Jack be damned they cling.

No matter how hard they never let go, though, it doesn’t matter. Not this early, anyways. Do you remember how butt ugly PlayStation 2 games were when they first came out? Now do you remember how great Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal Looked when it came out? It’s a lifecycle for a reason; it grows and evolves. (Besides, how are graphics the biggest deciding factor for a game’s quality? Stop thinking that.)

The same goes for services and features. The PlayStation 3 was far and away an inferior product when it came up against the Xbox 360. From its social interactivity to its online store to its appeal to developers, it was worse. At best, you could say PSN was free. But then Sony added chat and trophies and made PlayStation Plus a heck of a deal and cleaned up its act and managed to attract some amazing indie games.

PlayStation 4

Yet those loyalties persist. Those that live and breathe Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo will never give up the noble quest of educating the fools around them. It should be an objective evaluation, a rolling and shifting line of top quality. Arguing in comments over non-final software and hardware and comparing screenshots of different builds is going to get you nowhere. Or at least nowhere that matters.

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Sony Gamescom Recap

Sony Gamescom Recap

Yesterday was pretty interesting. It was basically press conference day, or Day Zero, of Gamescom over in Cologne, Germany, similar to the day before the madness starts in Los Angeles for E3. The difference, however, is that there are far fewer than E3. Yesterday saw EA and Sony take the stage (Microsoft just went for a smaller showcase event) and both highlighted what they have currently going on and what they have to look forward to.

EA was, well, EA. There were no big announcements, though there sure were big trailers, the biggest of which were for Titanfall and Battlefield 4. They also showed off The Sims 4 (with an extremely…odd example of human psychology and emotion), FIFA 14, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Need for Speed: Rivals, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Command & Conquer. Titanfall, if you weren’t aware, looks great and, based on what I’ve gotten my hands on, plays great, and Battlefield 4 looks pretty and, well, that’s about it. Not much to say there besides Levolution. (God damn nonsense marketing.)

But then Sony went up and opened with what can only be called an interactive theater art piece. Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, sat motionless in a giant armchair facing away from the audience. Then he just began to mess around with the PlayStation 4, signing in and streaming Killzone: Shadow Fall before seamlessly jumping into the action himself (and then tweeting a screenshot). It was nearly five whole minutes before a single word was uttered.

Things went less stranger from there, though the camera man was regrettably chaotic. So here are the highlights!

Sony’s Indie Acquisitions

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

After announcing that Borderlands 2 would be making its way to the Vita, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Jim Ryan revealed that Fez, Starbound, and Velocity 2X would all be headed to the Sony portable as well.

We’ve known for a while that Phil Fish was in talks with Sony to get Fez onto the PlayStation Network, but combined, the three acquisitions (with Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games and Wasteland Kings from Vlambeer and and and, talked about later in the event) represent that Sony isn’t just interested in bringing developers into the fold but also getting interesting games along with them. Starbound and Velocity 2X have existed for quite some time before yesterday, and Sony saying that they managed to convince the developers to partner up and port those games over show a commitment to their new philosophy.

Vita Price Drops

PlayStation Vita at Gamescom 2013

As of yesterday during the press conference, all Vita models are $199, down from $249 for the Wi-Fi and $299 for the 3G models. This coincides with a price drop in memory cards, the 4 GB going from $19.99 to $14.99 and the 32 GB going from $99 to $79. Both of these are pretty big news seeing as how price is probably the biggest hurdle for consumers to clear now that Sony has put on display their commitment to making the handheld work. They’ve got new games, they’re porting over popular games, and they’ve got new, lower prices. This could be a big move from the company.

Gran Turismo Date and Movie

While the Gran Turismo has long since stopped getting me all revved up, I do realize that each release into the franchise is a fairly big deal. As such, we can all look forward to Gran Turismo 6 on December 6, 2013, though a new trailer should hold us over until then.

We also got confirmation on those weird movie rumors floating around a few weeks ago: The Social Network and Fifty Shades of Grey film producers Michael de Luca and Dana Brunetti are indeed working on the big screen adaptation of Gran Turismo. Because that makes sense.

More Potshots at Microsoft

Andrew House at Gamescom 2013

Overall, you could say Sony is confident. They’ve got some great exclusives lined up, they’re getting great feedback, and they’re console ostensibly works. I would say they’ve earned some of that swagger. But they also continue to take potshots at Microsoft. Remember when they made that video demonstrating how sharing games works on the PlayStation 4? Well, now they’re eschewing the production values and just going for body blows. Andrew House, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, had this to say as he announced the launch date of their upcoming console:

“While others have shifted their message and changed their story, we were consistent in maintaining policies and a model that is fair and in tune with consumer desires.” (They also tweeted something to the same effect.)

It’s an obvious and pointed jab at the fact that Microsoft did a 180 on pretty much everything people were complaining about. It started out fun and cute, but now it’s becoming, I don’t know, aggressive? Instead of pointing out what they’re doing right, it feels an awful lot like Sony is pointing out now what Microsoft is doing or has done wrong. At what point does it become too much?

Indie Announcements

So we already know Sony is bringing over a few existing, high-profile indie games over to their platforms, but they’ve also got new ones coming, too. The big one that really grabbed people was this horrifically strange and dark game called Murasaki Baby, a side-scrolling touch-control platformer for the Vita from Ovosonico. You play as this girl with an upside-down(?) head and must traverse a terrifying landscape by seemingly breaking through the fourth wall to aid her.

Tequila Works is also developing Rime, a beautiful action adventure game that looks like a cross between Ico and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. You may recognize the studio as the one behind Deadlight, the 2D survival horror game from late last year. It was a promising game full of neat ideas but ultimately failed to execute many of them. Hopefully they can get both halves working together this time because boy is my interest piqued.

The Chinese Room, the developers behind the fantastic and hard-to-explain Dear Esther, is working on Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture for the PlayStation 4. They’ve already got Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs in the works, so it’s obvious they’ve got a thing for atmospheric titles, and this looks extremely that. It’s a first-person adventure game made in CryEngine 3 and, well, that’s all we know.

There’s also a band festival simulator thing called BigFest where you’ll promote events and bands and I don’t know but it looks interesting, thought admittedly we’ve known something named BigFest has existed since January. Helldivers and Resogun, a top-down and a side-scrolling shooter respectively, also look pretty neat.

Launch Date (and Other Things)

PlayStation 4 with controller

Perhaps the biggest piece of news from yesterday is that the PlayStation 4 will officially be launching in North America on November 15th and in Europe and Latin America on November 29th. Pre-orders are already over one million, so jump in now if you so desire. Or don’t, whatever. I’m not your accountant.

In regards to services, Sony has officially partnered with Twitch for streaming and you can now listen to music while you play games via Sony’s Music Unlimited service. Plus there’s this new broadband access plan that sounds pretty gross since it includes tiered access priority, but who knows. It might prove fruitful for those struggling to get consistent Internet access.

Oh, and we also got a new trailer for both Infamous: Second Son and Watch Dogs (with a movie incoming) and a new gameplay demo of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

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Hands-On With Diablo III, Console Version

Hands-on with Diablo III, Console Version

Blizzard, it seems, is really into drinking and gaming. Hanging around outside of one of the Diablo III demo rooms in the private Activision area at E3, one of the game’s marketing team members tells me that this is his favorite way to play the game. He describes it as Gauntlet (Legends, probably) and perfect for sitting down some with buddies and knocking back a cold one while you slay hordes of demons and ambulatory trees. The guy giving the demo also says that relaxing with a brew and playing this would be a great way to spend an afternoon.

I think I’m inclined to agree.

Based on what I saw, the console version of Diablo III is primed to be a distinctly different but still enjoyable take on the game. Heading into this, the biggest question I had was how they would manage to turn a click-heavy PC game into a controller-based console port that people would actually enjoy playing. Well, they did it by simply taking out the clicks and turning an indirect control scheme into a direct one.

Diablo III (PlayStation 3)

Indirect meaning you previously would just click somewhere and your character would go over there and do at thing. What that thing would be, however, is up to the context of the environment. Walk over somewhere, go flip a switch, or just stand there and cast spells. It was about as indirect as games come, but with a controller, Diablo III feels much more like a traditional action game but, you know, Diablo, which is to say it’s pretty great.

You move around with the left stick and you have attacks and abilities mapped to the face and shoulder buttons (somewhat making up for the expansiveness of a keyboard). The most meaningful change, however, is the right stick. It’s dedicated to dodges which means you can roll or flip in any direction to evade attacks. This turns what is normally just a rote routine of spamming attacks and spells into a skillful interplay of movement, positioning, and inflicting damage. That’s not to say that wasn’t there before, but having a stick that can quickly put you somewhere out of or into danger really moves that up to the forefront. One problem, however, is that I found myself constantly wanting to move and attack in different directions, which meant a lot of quick flicks to fire off some potshots before continuing to hove around.

Visually speaking, the game looks most identical to the PC version. The default camera view is much closer and presents a tighter frame for the action so that the aging PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 can keep up. This does, however, make the assets look a bit softer since you can see things much more clearly.

Diablo III (Xbox 360)

A big change is the UI. Obviously adapted for controllers, your equipment is mapped across a rotary dial on the left half of the screen that you select with a spin of your stick. A high-level overview of your equipment is presented to you on the right that spells out which piece is generally better, though you can still see the nitty-gritty details, too. And when you pick up loot, you can press up on the D-pad to cycle through your recent stuff and see from a glance if something improves your attack or defense and if you want to equip or drop it.

I played shared-screen with another fellow on a PS3; I was a demon hunter and he was a wizard (we swapped after realizing we’d each gotten what the other preferred). Instead of going split-screen, the game will zoom further and further out (the default camera position is much closer than in the PC version) until it hits a maximum range, at which point movement will warp an idle player to the active one. The second player and beyond can log in with his own account or play a guest one with the option to load saves from the cloud or a USB stick, though you can also play online. And while no cross-platform capabilities were discussed, the console versions will be updated with the 1.07 patch.

Diablo III (PlayStation 3)

From what I saw, this may be my new favorite way to play Diablo III as well. It feels much faster and much more gratifying when you successfully kill a large group of enemies with nary a scratch on you. But we also saw just a very small, 15-minute slice of the game, and most of the problems with Diablo III come out in the tail-end. I’m not sure if those will be addressed in any meaningfully different way from the PC version (probably not), but I can at least say that so far, Diablo III for consoles is shaping up quite well. Now where did I put that beer…

Look for Diablo III on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 3rd and PlayStation 4 sometime in 2014.

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What to Expect from E3 2013

What to Expect from E3 2013

I’m filled with dread. And excitement. I’m anxious and paranoid. I’m filled with a glut of emotions that I reserve for times when I’m under prolonged duress, and in this case, it’s because I’ll be in Los Angeles for a week for E3. I feel like a hot little turnip of feelings because for six solid days, I’ll be surrounded by tens of thousands of other people in downtown LA (probably more due to the Kings playoff series once again looks to ravage the bustling, hotel-filled area) and set to meet dozens and dozens of them as I talk about and play almost as many games. And for some reason I do this voluntarily.

And that’s because there will be just so much to see. Outside of the tremendous networking opportunities, there’s just a lot of games to get my hands on and share with all of you. If there’s something in particular you want me to investigate or check out, just let me know in the comments or tweet at me and I’ll do my best. Last year, I tracked down Tokyo Jungle for some folks, an adventure that led me to faking a British accent and landed me square in a room full of European press I didn’t recognize. This year, well, who knows.

But here is what I’m looking forward to most.

Xbox One/PlayStation 4 Drama

PlayStation 4 vs. Xbox One

Word on the street is that the Microsoft press event is going to be…aggressive, which makes sense; they were the last next-gen console to be revealed and now they’re going to be the first out of the gate at E3. By all counts, the initial announcement seemed more aimed to appease partners and shareholders, so let’s so what happens when they have the opportunity to set the tone for an entire week of video game coverage. I’m expecting more games (probably some actual gameplay from Call of Duty: Ghosts this time) and “surprises,” as Geoff Keighley put it. Microsoft did, however, cancel the post-conference press Q&A, so who knows what that means.

As for Sony, well, a lot has happened since the Xbox One announcement. They’ve since been able to cultivate a strategic response to the kerfuffle surrounding used games, always-online requirements, and all that goodness, but they will also have to follow Microsoft (and everyone else seeing as how they’re the last presser to take place) next week. How well will they be able to execute a proper PR message turnaround if something unexpected happens? We’ll probably even see the actual hardware this time, too. This will, undoubtedly, be the most exciting pre-E3 press conferences in recent memory.

Saints Row IV

Deep Silver will be there repping Volition’s Saints Row IV and I have two hours set aside to bask in its glory. I don’t know if I need to say anymore. Just look at that trailer!

Nintendo’s Unusual Tact

Nintendo E3 2012 press conference

Nintendo won’t have their usual press event and is instead opting for a Nintendo Direct streaming thing. This isn’t unusual (big news dropped last year in the following online videos while their event skimped on the goods), but it does beg a lot of questions. Has Nintendo given up on mainstream marketing for the Wii U? Do they have latent plans for taking up the E3 news cycle that no one knows about? Last year they had one of the biggest booths with an entire second floor dedicated to appointments and private demos. The Nintendo Direct is also at the same time as a Square Enix Final Fantasy thing, so, um, yeah.

Plus they’ll have all those games demoed at 100 Best Buy stores across the country, saying they’re “making an E3 for the people.” That’s a smart ploy to put games in more gamers’ hands that won’t be at E3 (which is to say the vast majority of people), but it also feels like a concession in the console battle at a pivotal point where giving an inch anywhere is costly.

Franchises, Franchises

We’ll see more of Call of Duty: Ghosts, for sure, along with Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. There won’t be any sign of Grand Theft Auto V at the show, but there will be Super Smash Bros. Wii U, which obviously has a lot of people excited. Rumors have hit an all-time high for Mirror’s Edge 2 and Rare has been teasing a revival of a “historic” franchise (I’m hoping Viva Piñata, but I’m expecting Perfect Dark or Killer Instinct). We’ll see how Batman: Arkham Origins is shaping up and if Bayonetta 2 is just as ridiculous as the first.

Fresh-Baked Games

And then there’s the new IPs that we hopefully get to learn more about. Watch Dogs will be Ubisoft’s ace, probably, as it will likely take over its mantle for new annual franchise. Harmonix recently dropped the news that they are working on Fantasia and Double Fine will be talking about its latest Kickstarter endeavor Massive Chalice (and might show off Broken Age). Sony will also be showing off Puppeteer, one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in a long time, and we’ll finally see some of Bungie’s Destiny. Of course, there’s much more to E3 than that, but you’ll read about it all next week.

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PlayStation 4 And The Necessary Hardware Divide

PlayStation 4 and the Necessary Hardware Divide

It’s been over a week since the PlayStation 4 announcement/event/meeting/whatever Sony is calling it nowadays, and there’s been a lot of interesting fallout. Tech industry folk were disappointed that they didn’t get to see the actual console, game industry folk were excited at the proposition of new games, and developers loved the thought of an x86 architecture. There’s been a question, though, that’s floating around. It comes and goes in the middle of conversations but it never seems to be the point of any of them, perhaps because it’s an arcane inquisition of parents and People That Don’t Understand.

Why do we need a new console?

Back when we were jumping from 8 bits to 16 bits and 16 bits to 32 bits, the reason for a hardware refresh was obvious and almost immediate. No one really ever questioned the notion of selling a new machine to play new games. The developers did their thing and the consumers got their stuff, so it seemed rather moot to battle this established (albeit relatively fresh) order.

This latest generation of consoles, though, doesn’t provide that same immediate revelation of existence. To most people who don’t care about streaming games or spend an inordinate amount of time demoing and downloading games or even just reading about the industry, the thing that stands out most when comparing consoles is the graphics. It’s definitely an incredibly superficial thing to do, but what else is there to judge beyond the surface when all you know is that Mario is a plumber and Sonic is a hedgehog?

And that PS4 event didn’t show much that those not in the know wouldn’t understand. Knack is interesting because it will ostensibly support thousands of complex objects in any given scene instead of the current few hundred. That Media Molecule thing is cool because of its technical implications for development processes and opening people up to a digital artistic medium. But nothing showed would categorically WOW the muggles.

That’s not to say, however, that it’s limited to people interested in games that don’t understand the hardware cycle. This goes beyond the parents that ask their kids, “What do you mean a new machine? Are you saying you have to buy new discs? But you’ve got dozens already!” Let alone that the concept of backwards compatibility is a somewhat unprecedented concept in the world of consoles (it used to be that you just assumed anything you owned before wouldn’t work with anything you bought later; the fact that the N64 and the SNES both used the same power adapter was HUGE and that the PS2 could play PS1 games was nothing more than a happy accident), the features of a console are as intrinsically tied to the hardware as the hardware itself.

We have Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network, the eShop, and all the social stuff that is tied into that: wallets, trophies, achievements, digital libraries, friends, etc. And all of that, in some ways, is interoperable with the new stuff because they all exist in both spaces; your friends list will undoubtedly transfer over seamlessly.

But what, then, to make of features that don’t match up? The streaming capabilities of the PS4, for example, simply would not be possibly on the PS3. The simultaneous download/play can’t happen either. That is enabled by the hardware, and the hardware is the console. That necessitates the new machine.

You would be surprised, though, that purely software-related aspects have similar clout in that regard. Most of the features of the 360 and the PS3 are nothing more than bolted-on odds and ends that served only fill in cracks that emerged in the dam. Digital downloads were originally intended to be only things in the vein of Geometry Wars—tiny 200MB titles that would works more like Flash games than full retail products. But now the Marketplace and the PlayStation Store both offer full disc-based products, whopping 19GB whales like Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and neither system’s infrastructure or interfaces were made to handle that.

The 360 has cloud saves but don’t seem deeply connected to the system on any significant, fundamental level. The same goes for PlayStation Plus features on the PS3. PSN has poorly integrated social features simply because they were originally designed to be poorly integrated. For all the complaints you have about how Facebook is disorganized and feels disjointed switching between profiles and photos and events et al., the same can be said about the ecosystems of the 360 and the PS3: they’re nothing more than haphazardly stacked debris to meet the incessant demands of innovation, renovation, and fun.

New consoles, however, give manufacturers a chance to start over. More than anything, the PS4 is a blank slate for Sony (and presumably the Durango will serve the same purpose for Microsoft). All the backend architecture of Live and PSN can be rebuilt with little to no regard for the current setup. Servers will run and APIs will work, but it all works as a Band-Aid that only translates old to new. They will build a shiny new monolith that serves to only cast a shadow over the old one, information flowing in and out of its seemingly endless and impenetrable facades.

Which gives rise to the question of what happens when it ends? When the old Live and PSN stuff is finally scuttled and swept under the rug, what happens to your stuff? Well, that ties back to the notion that backwards compatibility is a modern invention. The amount of hardware devices that feature full backwards compatibility is severely outnumbered by those that don’t. Pre-PlayStation consoles, anything ever played on a phone, arcade cabinets, and now most of Nintendo’s handhelds all serve to only play one specific section of gaming history. PCs appear to be the only safe haven for collection and storage of classics and artifacts.

Evolution is a necessity, and these consoles are evolving. The fact that we have new hardware is just a fact of owning consoles. The question of why we need a PS4 and a Durango is largely pointless. What we should be asking instead is are consoles necessary? That ability to evolve does not guarantee existence. Could we be witnesses to the extinction of a breed of hardware?

That’s a question for another time.

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The Overt And The Subtle Of The PlayStation 4

The Overt and the Subtle of the PlayStation 4

Last night was the oddly protracted unveiling of the PlayStation 4, otherwise known as the most recent entry in a long line of poorly kept industry secrets. Over a wide breadth of news outlets and, presumably, an equally varied collection of shady, fedora-donning back alley sources, we knew pretty much everything that was worth knowing about Sony’s new console before they wanted the public to know. New controller? Check. Built-in share functionality? Double-check. A smattering of specs? Checkarooney. We knew everything.

Or did we? In a rather quality press event (seriously, compare it to E3 and you’ll be amazed that companies didn’t collapse last June), some surprises lay in store for everyone watching in person and online. Strangely, though, folks managed to miss out on some of the bigger ones in light of flashier announcements. But these are huge deals! Understandably, without some knowledge on the matter, they’re easy to miss, but these do merit some discussion.

8GB of RAM

PlayStation 4 architecture

Quite frankly, 8GB seems a bit like overkill, but the drastic bump is quite important. Consider the fact that the Xbox 360 had 512MB GDDR3 RAM and the PlayStation 3 capped out at 256MB. Megabytes, not gigabytes. That is totally and utterly absurd. But it also makes sense. If you go back and look at interviews with developers are these next-gen consoles, the number one response is invariably something about more memory. They’re tired of delving into the realm of diminished returns with optimizations and hording like animals.

Of course, all 8GB is moot without something that can utilize it, but hopefully the PS4 can deliver on that, too. An 8-core, 64-bit CPU and a GPU capable of 1.84 teraFLOPS just might do it. The jury is still somewhat out on what the Cell architecture is fully capable of, but consider that the PS3’s RSX GPU was doing 400.4 gigaFLOPS. Giga to tera, mega to giga. I think we’re in for something big.

You should also know that the 8GB contradicts earlier leaks reporting 4GB. This is a non-trivial change and probably explains why we didn’t see a console; they’re still working on putting all the stuff in it.

Simultaneous Play/Download

PlayStation 4's second chip

This, on the surface, isn’t that big of a deal. OnLive solved streaming (as much as they could, anyways) and Gaikai improved on all the stuff surrounding it. As much as it can be, streaming a game while downloading it is largely a trivial problem at this point (though, I should point out that “trivial” in this case is very much a relative term to figuring it all out from scratch; it’s still a huge obstacle). This is nothing like what some people thought it was—core engine stuff was downloaded first and then you could play as sequential assets were downloaded—but consider this: in tandem with fast suspend/resume capabilities, is it possible that you could play a streaming game and immediately jump into your local version?

If a whole-cloth dump of memory could be shuttled across Gaikai, could it be possible for the PS4 to fast-load it and launch your local game right where you left off online? This completely eradicates the barrier of traditional demos. Before, those little slices would begin and end and you would have nothing to show for it except 15 or so minutes of boredom once you play the retail version. If this is the case (or even if it’s not since I guess you could just keep streaming and achieve the same thing, but if you can get better quality, you’ll want the better quality), it becomes an impulse purchase. Buying and downloading a full game after its trial becomes as easy as picking up a pack of gum in the grocery store checkout.

It also goes without saying that the second chip that makes this possible as incredible potential beyond this simultaneous play/download trick. Like, huge.

Media Molecule

Media Molecule at the PlayStation 4 reveal

A lot of people hemmed and hawed at Media Molecule’s demonstration yesterday. It was predictably cute but it was also unequivocally a tech demo. Untitled and utilizing something that even Sony seems to have forgotten about—the Move—it was pretty unclear as to what Media Molecule was doing besides showing off how much fun it is to work at Media Molecule.

But if you’ve ever done any 3D digital modeling, you’ll immediately understand the possibilities of what they showed. It’s ZBrush but with a real world sculpting analog. Instead of manually adding basic shapes and nudging things around, you can now immediately sculpt a rough mesh of your final design and then delve into it afterwards for finer tweaks. This eliminates hours of work out of the 3D sculpting process.

And then all the puppetry stuff seems like something Media Molecule (and possibly only Media Molecule) could turn into a game. Charming, whimsical, and fun. Is there any other way to describe them? Well, besides “the new Nintendo.”

Just kidding!

For now.

No Price, No Date

PlayStation 4 release window

Not showing a console isn’t that big of a deal. I imagine the people that wanted to see it are the same people that don’t fully understand that since the start of this generation with the Xbox 360, service now trumps hardware. Every single time. It wasn’t just that the 360 was cheaper, launched first, and had the first indie star of the generation in Geometry Wars, but it also had Xbox Live. It was a paid service, sure, but it also was better than the PlayStation Network in almost every way.

That’s not to say, however, that hardware doesn’t matter. If Sony dicked around on stage for two hours last night and didn’t reveal any specs, the fans and press would be lambasting them across the board. However, they did, but they held back two key points: price and date. Why? Because Microsoft.

Microsoft has yet to announce its new console. Very little is known and the only thing we’ve got so far is some unconfirmed rumors outside of the Sony event last night about something in April. Who knows, but now Sony has the upper hand. It’s a very small, slight advantage, but I’m guessing they’ll take it where they can get it.

Getting out of the gate isn’t as important this time around as it was last time (last launch was still very much a Wild West sort of milieu with impulses and curiosity largely driving consumer decisions; this time will be much more measured), but I can pretty much guarantee you that the PS4 will launch in November before Black Friday. But if Sony decides that they need the edge, they can maneuver the PS4’s release date according to what they see from Redmond.

As for the price, well, it’s pretty much guaranteed Sony will be taking a loss on the PS4. Like, a big loss. The only question is how big. If Microsoft announces something high, Sony can go slightly higher without much recourse and stop some of the bleeding. Otherwise, they’ll have to match Microsoft and hope they can recoup on software during the holidays. This event was definitely a power play, but it was also not without its safety nets.

Watch_Dogs Security Camera

Watch_Dogs at the PlayStation 4 reveal

I’m not sure if you noticed at the very end of the Watch_Dogs demo, but when the game zoomed in on the security camera as the player was escaping on top of the train, a word popped up over it. No, not a world: a name. It is the gaming handle of Frag Doll Edelita Valdez, otherwise known as PixxelFD. Apparently that camera was controlled by another player in realtime, even as the player was walking around down in the streets doing his protagonist thing. Um…WHAT.

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a PS4-exclusive thing (at least, I don’t think it is), but it is a really interesting thing to keep in mind the next time they show off Watch_Dogs.

Wrap-up

Those were some of the less discussed aspects of last night that I found really interesting. The big stuff like the share button and Ustream partnership, Bungie’s Destiny, and Mark Cerny’s both soothing and unsettling voice are all the talk around the water cooler, but some of this small stuff is too good to let slide under the rug.

Of course, it wasn’t all puppies in top hats and rainbow ice cream last night (see: Square Enix, Blizzard, and remarkably unremarkable first party offerings), but there’s so much time between now and launch. PAX East will undoubtedly house some more announcements either to continue the buzz or subvert Microsoft and E3 will almost definitely have some big news. Of course, remain skeptical since nothing has been put in our hands like with the Wii U announcement, but so far the PS4 seems promising.

That is unless you’re John Teti.

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Arriving First And Finishing Last

Arriving First and Finishing Last

We are standing on a bridge. This bridge connects two things that are both familiar to us and altogether alien, simultaneously in the way you’d expect and not expect. The first is the seventh generation of video game consoles: the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the Wii. It has changed so much since the 360’s launch in November of 2005 that it’s hardly recognizable anymore. The Dashboard no longer has blades, PSN is actually providing value now, and the Wii has come down from its sales pedestal. The entire breadth of that generation is several journeys put side by side and end to end.

The eight generation is just beginning, but it’s a culmination of feelings we’ve long become jaded to. In all, we’re just looking forward to three console launches and we’ve already been through one, and that single event was as lackluster as opening your birthday present to find a countdown to your next one. The console itself is decent enough, but multiple times a year now we are subject to this gnawing sense of been there, done that. Every year we have one or more big Apple product to buy. In 2011 we got the Nintendo 3DS and just last year we got the PlayStation Vita. We are numb.

And now that we’re supposed to also anticipate Valve’s onslaught of hardware offerings and a plethora of specialized Android devices, it all kind of feels like being caught in a blizzard rather than enjoying some fresh powder.

The old trio has grown long in the tooth, though. We’re tired of what the 360 and PS3 has to offer. The Wii has long been collecting dust in the corner. The services and the hardware are more tiring than endearing at this point. We’ve gone through multiple rounds of new controllers and full-on console replacements. We are worn.

So to look forward past the bridge and greet things like leaked Orbis and Durango specs with cynicism is strange. We are tired of where we’re leaving and nervous about where we’re headed. The bridge is our limbo, an imprisonment of our own design. What do we have left when we hate where we’re going and loathe where we’ve been when we should only be looking forward with unfettered optimism?

Perhaps, my fellow travelers, we’re looking at this all wrong. Perhaps we’re trying to get excited about the wrong things. Our mindset is one of the hardware age, and that seems to be all but done. Up until the beginning of the PS2 era, video game experiences were intrinsically tied to the platform. There’s a reason why such vivid imagery pops into your mind at the mere mention of 8-bit and 16-bit gaming when I have said nothing about any particular game or year. This tethered concept began to wither away with the PlayStation and the N64 and never seemed to come back after.

Yet we still have such strong mental images and emotional ties to the current set of consoles. Some games, sure, but it’s mostly and ethereal sense of personal investment. It’s hard to put your finger on it because you’ve rarely had to articular just why things fallout the way they do beyond yelling in YouTube comments about fanboys and haters.

What you’re associating your experiences with is the software innate to the platform, such as firmware and services. Internet irrationality aside, when you boot up a 360, a certain feeling comes over you, a sensation of corporate structure and rigor. It’s comforting, in a way, to know that every movement of yours is guided and purposeful, if overtly monetized and scrutinized. It’s changed, though, since the launch with the blades. Those sliding slabs felt more utilitarian, more like you were there for business and not pleasure. Now it’s a mix of both.

The PS3 boot-up has gone largely unchanged as the XMB has gone largely unchanged. It still opens to a congealing orchestra warm-up and fades into soothing shapes and colors. The association with the console at first glance is elegance. But once you start using it, the connection changes to futility. System updates, game patches, an impossible-to-navigate store, etc. All these things fight against your desire to elevate this to a classy affair.

That is until recently when PlayStation Plus made a compelling argument for a better pay service over Xbox Live and the PlayStation Store got a redesign to finally look and function as nice as you’d always hoped it would. Over the past six years, Sony has been working hard to turn around its PS3 image and the public opinion, and it’s been paying off. It’s no longer “that one with the Ratchet games” but now it’s just the PS3.

As far as the Wii goes, it’s almost perfectly analogous to a salad; light, bright, and healthy. Also, incredibly boring if you’re not a Food Network chef. Eventually you grow tired of it. You know that it’s good for you to play (the sprightly gameplay, easygoing facade) but it so rarely changes to something exciting that you eventually put it down. Maybe for a week, maybe for a month, but eventually you put it down for good. Or at least until someone comes along and tells you to add raisins or chicken and then you’re ready to go again.

Notice that for the most part, none of what you associate with these consoles has anything to do with the hardware. The closest you get is with the Wii, but it still stands that the intrinsic association with the console is elsewhere. Different from the days of Atari and Commodore and the NES, the mental ties you make are largely comprised of the things surrounding what you played instead of those within the realm of how you played. That’s because at this point, service is king. Or rather, the services offered.

The very simple reason that the 360 beat out the PS3 this generation is because Xbox Live was far and away the superior online service from the beginning. The playing field has been leveled since then, but even PSN’s $0.00 price tag couldn’t compete with Live’s cross-game chat, achievements, and a coherent ecosystem. And on the console, the mere fact that you could sign into multiple accounts in multiplayer games didn’t even make it a fair fight. The one-year head start was an advantage, sure, but no amount of time could give such an insurmountable plus as being a better software service.

The Wii had a compounded problem of not offering a wide enough range of games or enough high quality games while being a conduit to a service that would have better fit in 10 to 15 years ago. Friend codes were an absolute swing and a miss, and to even say that Nintendo went up to bat is a generous concession. Worse yet, it seems as though they haven’t learned their lesson and now Wii U accounts are basically tied to the console they’re created on. And they have restricted M-rated games to “adult hours.” And so on and so on. Nintendo has already shown its hand in its eighth generation services, and it seems content to once again be in a distant third place.

According to the leaked Orbis specs, though, it seems as though Sony is learning. The highlight is that users can now sign into multiple accounts at once just as you can on the 360 and everyone can individually earn trophies, a major coup in terms of reappropriating the weapons that defeated you before. Sony had previous underestimated the social aspect of modern gaming and seems to be adjusting (it has a Share button, for goodness sake, and I doubt that it’s for the Share Care Bear).

If you examine the leaked docs, you’ll notice that the specs are nearly identical, something that can’t be said for this generation’s 360 and PS3. The hardware is secondary to the experience; Microsoft and Sony have realized that it’s the software wars that matter now. And it’s not just for the consumers. The developers matter, too, as they will choose what is easiest to develop for second and most profitable first. Or maybe not, but it doesn’t really matter because one follows the other. The next generation must court users with services and developers with users, but users will also be drawn to what developers put out there, so if a console is easy to develop for and not full of Cell processors that are hard to wrangle, then it’s a double win.

We are past the concerns of hardware. Past a minimum line and we don’t care; all that matters is that it’s good enough. The more tangible product is the software, the stuff you interact with which interacts with the hardware. The abstraction has become the game and now we’re going to see who plays it better. This is not a bridge from the PS3 to PS4 or the 360 to the 720; this is a bridge from hardware to software, and I’m not sure everyone is going to make it across.

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