Sony Lays the Smackdown!

Yeah, I’m saying it right here and now, Sony wins. This is a fact that is extremely difficult to deny, and one which I will explain. If you want a more dramatic version, check out the Audioboo post I’ve already recorded.

Sony started their conference by discussing the PS3, and where it is right now. They talked about how it was still strong, and they would prove that by showing some of the titles that were still coming out for PS3 by year’s end. They began with the title coming out soonest, The Last of Us, and went on to show games like Grand Tourismo 6, and of course the highly anticipated Beyond: 2 Souls, as well as a few other games.

They then got straight to business on the PS4, letting us all know that the folks working on the games we saw during February’s PS4 reveal have been hard at work on their games. They showed us the progress in the form of 4 new back to back trailers for each game: Infamous Second Son, Driveclub, Nack, and Killzone Shadowfall. They then announced that every one of those titles except for Infamous Second Son will be a pS4 launch title, and that Infamous will come out in the spring of 2014.

There was other footage as well, such as trailers for Diablo 3, and Batman Arkham Origins, which will both contain exclusive content for the Playstation Platforms they can be found on. Batman will contain exclusive DLC and a 1960’s Batman Skin, and Diablo 3 will get special Playstation themed gear, such as an amulet that resembles Nathen Drake’s from Uncharted. Makes it kinda easy to choose your platform when deciding which system to get your multiplatform games on.

In fact, the exclusive content didn’t stop there. Why? Because this is one of the things Sony is very good at. There will also be exclusive content for the PS4 versions of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, and Watchdogs, both of which got live Gameplay demos on stage as well, and both of which were absolutely fantastic. In the case of Watchdogs, the exclusive is a skin, and an entire hour of additional content solely for the PS4. Great stuff!

Sony then spent some time showing us just how dedicated they were to the indi development community. They started with Super Giant Games, the developers of the acclaimed Bastian, and their new game Transistor, which to me is still pretty cryptic. One of those music only trailers. But then, they went on to showcase about 10 indi developers and their games back to back, which was quite special, and more than Microsoft did. On top of that, they announced that indi developers, with the launch of the PS4, would now be able to take advantage of a self-publishing program! I’ll bet they all grinned when they heard that. Sony showed us that they love them, and they’re making their lives a whole lot easier. Congrats.

Now, the super awesomeness starts. Square Enix shows us 2 trailers. The first one is a Japanese language trailer for what used to be Final Fantasy Versus XIII. I say used to be, because apparently they have now decided that the story, the characters, and the gameplay are different enough, even though it takes place in the same universe, that they can call it Final Fantasy XV, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. Really big news, but the second trailer is what had me grinning like a fool and whistling along to a well-known theme. Square Enix has finally, finally announced Kingdom Hearts 3. Yes, at last it’s coming. They skipped an entire console generation, but Kingdom Hearts 3 is now in development. They had extremely, extremely little in the way of actual footage, so don’t expect a release anytime soon. In fact, I’m pretty sure the guy said 2015. That hurts my brain a little, but at least now I have it to long for. I am such a nerd for that series. Oh, and speaking of nerds, Elder Scrolls Online is also coming to PS4. I actually find this funny, because Microsoft was the one talking about how their system could support all these MMO’s with their cloud computing technology and whatnot, yet the PS4 is bringing most of the MMO’s. Final Fantasy XIV, DC Universe, and now Elder Scrolls online. Weird, huh?

OK. I think that covers almost everything save for the last demo, but I’ll get to that momentarily. It’s time to tell you all why Sony really won. It’s time to blow your minds. The best part about this is, they did this entirely blatantly. A virtual slap in the face to Microsoft, and without shame. Jack Trenton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment America, came out and said outright, with an accompanying slide on screen that showed the world his words, the PS4 has no restrictions on used games! You can trade your games in, you can lend them to a friend, you can sell them to a friend… It’s all up to you! Once you buy that Playstation disc, Sony says it’s yours to do with as you see fit. This is absolutely huuuuge news! Along with that, since there are no license restrictions, there are also no connection restrictions! You don’t have to check in every 24 hours to play your PS4 games single player. If you have no internet connection, no matter. You’re good for single player no matter what.

Now you might think old Jack was done, but you’d be wrong! he also announced that your Playstation Plus membership, if you have one, will be carrying over to the PS4 without any additional charge or anything. If you’re a PS+ member, you’re a PS+ member. And on top of that, (yes, he’s still not done), if you’re a PS+ member when the PS4 launches, you will receive Driveclub, the PS+ edition, for free! Folks, this is a launch title, and you’re getting it for free! Of course, I didn’t miss the fact that it is the PS+ edition, and that probably means it’s a bit chopped down, but there’s probably a way to purchase or unlock the rest of it for a discounted price, and ya know what? That’s still awesome! Again, launch title. So yeah.

The next bit of news didn’t actually come until later, but I want to put it here, in the river of awesome that flowed from the conference. That is the pricepoint. Folks, in case I didn’t mention it, the Xbox One is retailing at $499. The PS4, ladies and gents, is $399. A hundred dollars cheaper in the US, and about the same in other territories as well, though I admit it is still more expensive there than it is here. Still, that is, once again, huge news! These are the blows that Microsoft will struggle to recover from. PS4 is now not just the right choice for those who don’t want any restriction on their games, it’s the economy choice as well! This may make developers take a hard look at the PS4.And if you’re thinking about Titanfall for Xbox One, I heard tell Respawn was considering making it a PS4 game in the future. now, it seems to me they most definitely will.

There was another bit of news about PS4 supporting cross-game chat, but I didn’t feel that was as big as the torrent I just threw at you. And there were other things as well that I didn’t really go over, such as the PS4’s new video services they’ll be launching, their partnership with Redbox, and apparently some other things too, including, apparently, the WWE. Seems you’ll be able to watch Payperview events live via the pS4, and probably the PS3 as well, since they don’t tend to restrict that content. Even the vita might be able to take advantage of that.

There wasn’t a whole lot of information on Sony’s partnership with Gaikai. They did confirm at last that it will indeed provide access to PS3 games via the cloud, but still nothing on whether you’ll be able to redeem your previous purchases and gain access to the games you already bought. That worries me a little. Starting all over for me would be a big deal, as I have, well, I have a lot of PS3 games. Still, there is so much awesomeness here that I’ll wait for more information on that.

I suppose I should mention the Mad Max trailer too, but I don’t honestly know the character. It was a big announcement, and people seemed delighted, but I can’t really speak for it. Still, it was there, and it’s PS4 exclusive, so there ya go.

OK, we’re finally almost done. The last game they showed was Destiny, which we’ve been waiting to see since its announcement. This game sounds pretty sweet. You’ve got guns, some really powerful ones from the sound, some that shoot lightning and whatnot, but then you’ve also got magic. Warlocks and Fireballs and so on. It’s really need, and it’s also a persistent world. Along with doing whatever it is you’ll be trying to do, there are also world events. they showed us this as a big team of players had to take on a huge, huge boss, along with his minions. They took it down, and that’s how it ended. Now, Destiny is a multiplatform game, but Sony assured us they had partnerships with Bunji, its developer, and because of that, the PS4 version was the place to be, as it was going to keep growing and growing beyond the game’s release.

And that was your Sony Press Conference. Again, if you ask me, a huge, undeniable, unquestionable win for the folks at Playstation. Microsoft is in for some serious struggles. The exclusives they showed off were pretty good, as I’ve admitted. There was even Halo 5, which I don’t think I even mentioned before, but it was there. Kind of expected though. Anyway, the exclusives were there for MS, but they might lose those quickly save for those they developed themselves unless they can do something to keep themselves afloat. The policies are better with PS4, there are actually more games, (Microsoft tells us 15 exclusives while Sony says 40), and even the pricepoint is better. Hard times ahead for Xbox One, but good times ahead for us gamers I think. And now I shall retire, having preordered my PS4, and written this fabulous blog. If my combing through footage over the next 3 days reveals anymore news, you can expect some more blogs and or Audioboo posts then. We shall see what happens. Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these, and that my blogs have provided you with some idea as to which console you might choose, or at least which games you might take a look at. Peace!

Xbox 0.5: An Updated Look at the Xbox One

Microsoft recently made several posts clarifying some aspects of the Xbox One that people had a lot of questions about. This was a good thing, but the content of these posts conirms some good things, and some bad things. Here, I will attempt to summarize the big ones.

Before I do that, though, I want to make one thing clear. I am not apologizing for my first post on the Xbox One. It was right at the time, based on impressions that Microsoft gave us at the time, and I certainly wasn’t the only one that felt that way. We’ll see how much all this new information changes the opinions of gamers.

Firstly, the whole game licensing deal. This has been clarified bigtime, though again, it’s not all good news. Microsoft does allow you to trade in used games, and no fee is charged to the retailer, or the consumer who then purchases your trade-in… Unless the game publisher said so. That’s the big thing to pay attention to here. Yes, Microsoft is now not the evil people saying you have to pay a fee, but such a thing can still potentially exist, as Microsoft has given the publisher powers to block that sort of thing. Secondly, you will be allowed to give your disc-based games to your friends, provided they’ve been your friends for at least 30 days, (and yes i’m talking Xbox Live friends), and, once again, as long as the publisher doesn’t block it. Yep, they can block that too. Also, a game can only be given once even when it is allowed, so if you give your friend a game, they cannot give it back. Currently, you also won’t be able to loan games on a temporary basis, but Microsoft says they’re looking into loaning and game rentals.

Now the next piece of info intrigues me, I admit. Taking games to your friends’ houses is OK, but if I read it right, you don’t have to take your games themselves. According to Microsoft, once your games are installed and licensed to yu, you also gain access to a cloud copy. So you go to your friend’s house, sign into your profile, and then you have access to all your games in the cloud. This may be limited to games installed on your console, but I can’t be sure on that one. To add to this, if you’re on a family plan, everyone on that plan, up to 10 users, will have access to all the games on that plan. So that’s cool, I guess.

Lastly, privacy concerns, which I didn’t talk too much about originally. Microsoft says a couple things about this. First, the Kinect isn’t monitoring in an active sense, so they say. If you’re having a conversation, it is not uploading any data. It will upload communication you have with the Kinect itself, and much of that you have control over. For example, an exercise game can get your heart rate data rom the Kinect, but you can tell the game not to use it. A Poker game can use your facial expression in realtime in the game, but you can say no to that as well. On top of all this, you can apparently pause Kinect functionality altogether, and stick with another input such as your Smartphone via Smartglass, or the controller. This is good news, assuming they’re telling the truth about what gets uploaded and what doesn’t. Remember, none of this changes the fact that you still have to have the Kinect hooked up the whole time while the Xbox One is in use.

Next up, some miscellaneous stuff. First, I’ll go briely back to the whole game licensing thing to address the Always Online concern. No, the Xbox One does not require you to be online at all times, but it does require you to connect to the internet once every 24 hours. If you fail to connect, your Xbox One becomes nothing more than a Blue Ray and DVD player. you can play no games whatsoever. The reason for this is that the Xbox One needs to check and possibly update your licenses. Remember I talked about giving games to your friends, well that’s going to mean a license transfer, and of course you’re not supposed to be playing any game you don’t have the license for, so this little measure is to ensure you can’t cheat the system for more than 24 hours. Cool, huh? No games at all. Awesome. I actually know people who have Xbox 360’s, and don’t have an internet connection. Good to know those folks are screwed.

I’ll be nice and end this on somewhat of a high note. Unlike the 360, and very much like the PS3 of today, all game titles will be available both on disc, and for download day of release. This is a positive step, and a necessary one given all the technologies they’re throwing around now. Games in the Cloud and so on. They can’t be in the Cloud if they’re not digitally available for purchase as well. Or rather they could be, it just wouldn’t make any sense. So uh, yay for that.

So again, some new information on the Xbox One. If you ask me, while this does slightly improve the Xbox One’s score, and I do mean slightly, it still leaves it a cringeworthy system, not to mention all this should’ve been clarified as soon as people started going crazy about it all, not over a week later. Yet even now, I’m willing to say this much. We will see how things develop. If the Xbox One can bring the games at E3, it might be able to stand up on those alone. Time will tell. An speaking of E3, expect much in the way of E3 coverage in the coming days. There will be both blog posts, and Audioboo posts as well. See ya then.

Xbox Unboxed: A More General Look at Where Microsoft Went Wrong

As anyone who follows me will know, this isn’t the first blog I’ve posted about the recently announced Xbox One. My first focused on the implications of the console where blind people like myself were concerned. Still, that leaves a lot unmentioned, and I want to take a step back, and offer my opinion on the console overall, minus all that other stuff. Some of the information here will be similar to that in the first blog, but considered from a different angle. I’ll do my best not to stray from this, and we’ll see where that gets us.

The Xbox One, the one device for all your in-home entertainment. Yeah, it sounds pretty good on paper, but it’s also not true. One of the big questions surrounding the console when it was announced was whether or not it would be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games. Microsoft has already given us a flat no on this, saying that they expect people with large Xbox 360 libraries to keep their 360’s. In my opinion, this kind of statement does one two things. Either it throws off a vibe that, following the release of the Xbox One, Microsoft will simply cease to care about its enormous library of previous titles, expecting everyone to move forward to their “one entertainment device” plan, or they do care, and they’re just blatantly making a misstatement because someone in marketing thought the Xbox One sounded like a cool name. It’s not true if you still have 360 games you want to play, is it? You need 2 devices then, totally negating that statement. I understand the hardware is diferent and all that, but even Sony has plans to put their entire backlog into the cloud, so at least consumers would be able to play whichever games they desired. I’ll discuss that more in a later blog.

The Xbox One requires the Kinect to be connected in order to function. I touched on this a bit in my last blog, but even speaking generally, I feel this is a big mistake. Microsoft seems to believe that everyone has these extremely large livingrooms, perfect for some fun activity with the Kinect, which requires you to be about 8 feet back from your TV. That is simply not the case, and it is the very reason many people, definitely not all of course but many, avoied the Kinect when it was originally launched. I will say that it’s a bold move from Microsoft. Clearly they have a lot of faith in this tech, I just feel that faith is misplaced. I’ve heard whispers that the Kinect 2 will work in smaller spaces than the previous one, but so far that’s it. Right now I’m inclined to believe things like that were said to try to calm us down.

The Xbox One’s strictness on used games is another big issue. Even to play your games at someone else’s house, you have to sign into your Xbox live profile. This, of course, means you can’t lend games to your friends unless you also lend them your account information, which, ya know, is kind of a nono. But ya know what? People are probably going to do it if they want to let their friends try some awesome new game for a bit. The alternative is that the friend pays a fee, which is as yet undetermined, though I’ve heard that it may be as much as the price of the game, to get their own license for the game. Effectively, you can lend them a game if they buy it. That doesn’t make much sense to me, and it’s a big blow to the sense of community Xbox live is supposed to be known for. It also does a great deal of harm to the used game market, though Microsoft supposedly has plans, plans which they refuse to detail, on how they intend to keep that market alive.

Speaking of the sense of community, though, Xbox One seems to me to have a very minimal focus on games. Oh sure they’ll be showing some games at E3, but first impressions mean a lot, and the first impression of the Xbox One made it seem as though this device as a gaming console at all is strictly an afterthought. It’s all about the live TV and the integration of Kinect and Smartglass. It’s all about video calling with Skype. All things that, in my mind, should come secondary to what the gamers, the ones who should want this device, really want to hear about, which is games. Added to that the way they have chosen to treat the independent community, not giving them their own section of Xbox live anymore where their products can get the exposure they need to succeed on the platform, and I’m pretty convinced that it’s gaming that’s the afterthought here.

What it comes down to is this. When E3 rolls around in just over 2 weeks, we the consumers, we the gamers, need Microsoft not just to show us games, but to show us very good games. We need reasons to buy this console. We need system sellers. More than that, we also need to be told we’re wrong, and that needs to be proven to us. The Kinect 2 needs to work in small spaces, these plans of theirs for the used game market have to be worthwhile for everyone, and they need to change their attitude towards the independent developers out there. That’s a tall order, and that’s not even everything, but right now that’s what they need to do. If they don’t, this console will fail. I said before to friends that the new tech in this console is neat, but Microsoft, neat is not enough anymore.