Tag Archives: Sony

PSMore

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Real creative name, guys.

The Playstation 4 was finally announced at a Sony presser on Febreuary 20th with a two house marathon of buzzwords, game reveals, and some questionable design choices. Sony’s latest push into the console arena appears to be an effort, before all else, to being the PS brand back into the majority of gaming households. The words “accessible,” “simple,” and “social” were consistently thrown about during the announcement — a sign that Sony recognizes the issues that some had with the technical behemoth that is the PS3.

All of those who had an original Playstation or Playstation 2 (for most of its life) can remember that the PS brand was always significantly different from its competition. It was the undisputed master of the high-end gaming market (Dreamcast doesn’t count, sorry). At the end of the life of the PS2, however, Microsoft created the XBOX and a healthy dose of capitalistic competition was inserted into the mix.

Unfortunately, Sony did not fare well against the ambition that Microsoft pushed out for the XBOX 360. While the PS3 is the more powerful machine, it does not have the same level of consumer infiltration that the XBOX 360 has managed to pull off. The PS3 isn’t as flashy. It didn’t have Halo. The price point was too high when it was released. It was slow to get good console exclusives. These factors, coupled with Microsoft’s aggressive marketing of the 360, left Sony too far behind to ever create a parity with Microsoft.

Now, however, the tables have turned as Sony is primed to release the PS4 before the new XBOX. They have the ability, through the mere fact of being the first to be “next-gen” (and yes, the Wii U also doesn’t count), to dominate the field. How? Take a look at the following list of system features followed by my thoughts on them for some armchair insight:

  • The Dual Shock 4: The latest Sony controller has the same form factor as previous iterations, with one notable exception — the touch pad. Although the Vita has been much maligned in the gaming press (and subsequent sales), it is a fantastic piece of hardware with truly interesting control mechanisms. Having a touch pad on the fore and rear of the Dual Shock 4 will give the standard controller a versatility that has been completely absent from a console experience. Touch pads allow nuance — they allow subtlety. Analog sticks are useful for precise control in a shooter, but what could be more precise than your actual finger?Also, the controller has a “Share” button, which leads me to …

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    A square affair.

  • The Social Angle: We live in an absolutely connected world. Love it or hate it, it is a fact of technological life. You can deny Facebook all you like. You can block it out of your life completely … but that does not change the fact that millions of people use it and will continue to use it. Smart phones are now nothing more than social hubs for your life. Like a photo? You share it to Facebook. Or Instagram. Or Flickr. Or reddit. You share songs, you share quotes, you share statuses, and you share everything in-between (“you,” here, refers to the average internet user. You who take exception to the shared and the sharing should please forgive my second-person assertion).So, in an effort to hop on the social bandwagon, Sony created a social console. You can share any screenshot or video from your time playing a game with a single press of a button on your controller. You can have a profile with your actual name through the revamped PSN. Friends can help your play through games and solve puzzles remotely. Or .. you can be a loner and turn all of that functionality off.

    By creating a social console, however, Sony wishes to create relationship of personal investment between the user and the machine. If your friends are all over your console’s feeds and menus, then (as they reason) you will be more likely to attach to the PS4 over a competitor’s product with lesser personal focus. This will probably work for the beginning of the PS4’s life, though I expect the next XBOX to have very similar social functionality.

  • Content Streaming: Sony also announced that while the PS4 will not be able to play games from previous systems (due to a 180 on technical architecture), they did create a means to get past the thorny issue of backwards-compatibility. Although there are few available details for the game streaming at the moment, the idea is simple: you can play any games you own (or have owned) through the streaming service without having to provide a disk.If this works, it will represent another step toward a physical media-less gaming culture. The questions at this moment, however, are too many for me to make a judgment about the service. How will they know which games you own for the PS3? Will the streaming cost money, perhaps through Playstation Plus? What kind of bandwidth will this consume? What about those of us with relatively poor internet connections? Time will tell.
  • The Software: Software makes systems sell. That’s probably plastered around the cubicles of Microsoft and Sony now, given their technologically-focused histories. Thankfully, the launch titles for the PS4 look promising. Killzone is making yet another beautiful appearance, although they will struggle to make anybody care. A new Infamous game was detailed and previewed, along with a racing game, an action platformer featuring a cute-ish robot, and, of course, Watch_Dogs:

 

What, then, will it take for Sony to succeed? All of the above points will have to work as they’ve advertised them. Sony will have to market the PS4 as not the PS3. There will absolutely have to be good games available with launch. And, ultimately, Microsoft will have to have a lesser offering than the PS4.

We’ll see.

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E3 — Not For Me

As I play video games and write a blog, it is required by the laws of the universe that I write a blog post describing my reaction to the E3 Expo that is taking place over the next few days. By this point, all of the three major companies (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo) have delivered their keynote speeches, and the internets are abuzz with frothing cynicism.

Microsoft: This was a problematic presentation. Halo 4 opened the show with footage of Halo-like happenings. There were glowy monsters and armored soldiers. Bullets. Shiny guns. Boring.

While I am sure that it will be a competent game, it is nothing new. On that note, the entire conference from Microsoft was a catalog of dullness and repetition. People do not care about Kinect. No amount of shouting or arm-waving will ever make so-called hardcore gamers embrace Kinect. It is the definition of peripheral … and it is ultimately pointless.

Eventually, after Microsoft finished showcasing games for the Xbox that are also coming to the PS3 and the PC (and possibly the WiiU), Usher started to dance on stage. I generally enjoy Usher. He appears to have a good attitude about life — and, let’s face it, the man can dance. He does not, however, have anything to do with gaming. The game that he was “promoting,” titled Just Dance 4 (or something, it doesn’t really matter), is just another iterative release designed to pad developer pockets while taking advantage of the “casual” market.

This stunt, however, just shows how incredibly out of touch the creators of the Microsoft presser are with their audience. We do not wish to see dancing. We do not care about Kinect. We want actual innovation (through actual technological advance, not through “SmartGlass,” which is just a pathetically transparent attempt to take some steam out of Nintendo’s WiiU sails) and we want new IPs.

For shame, Microsoft.

Sony: This conference was the best of the lot, though that is not saying much, as they were all failures to some extent. Sony’s strength lies in its extremely talented in-house game designers who continue, every year, to push out new and exciting content. The Last of Us? Looks fantastic. Ellen Page featured in a Heavy Rain-esque thriller? Sounds good. Unfortunately, however, those were the only two standouts.

Sony also needed to push the Vita much harder than they did within the conference. It garnered a few mentions from the various individuals on stage, and two significant games were announced for it (Assassin’s Creed and Black Ops), but there was no price drop mentioned, nor was there any attempt made by Sony to push the handheld as a “must-have” item.

Once the presentation moved into the requisite Playstation Move portion of the conference, Sony fell into the same trap as Microsoft. Nobody cares. The longer these companies try to force gimmicks upon their consumers, the greater chance they have at becoming gimmicks themselves. Wonderbook? While the Rowling endorsement is a financial coup (potentially), I find it hard to rationalize how Sony can declare this meta-reading technology as any sort of innovation whatsoever. Gimmick.

Nintendo:  This presser was easily the worst. Mario, again? Again? And again? Three new Mario games do not inspire confidence that the company can move beyond the “casual” moniker that has been applied to it. The WiiU is a waste of time and money for everybody involved. While there was much talk of detached gaming experiences and “new ways to play,” the WiiU is nothing more than a slightly upgraded Wii with a touch-screen controller. It is silly.

Do we really want NintendoLand? A theme park “game” that hammers the iconic Nintendo character lineup into casual niches is the true measure of the company at this point. There was absolutely no attempt made by Nintendo to distance themselves from the tried and true formula. After all, WiiU is just an extension of the Wii.

Ubisoft presented third-party offerings that could elevate the new console into more mature hands, but while they were heartily endorsed by Nintendo, Nintendo themselves offered nothing truly new. Sure, there is a new Pikmin offering, but Pikmin is an established franchise. Is the tablet controller really an innovation? I doubt it.

WiiU will fail.

In Summation: The pressers are simply out of touch. E3 is problematic in general, as the companies must try to appease the great masses of the gaming world, and those masses are incredibly diverse. Business decisions must be made alongside more practical decisions. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all know what their vocal fans want, but they do not particularly seem to care, with the possible exception of Sony.

The casual peripherals sell well. Dancing and singing games fly off of the shelves. Workout games? Gold mine. In their lust for an assured paycheck, though, the big three companies have forsaken their true core audiences for passing fancy. How many of the Wii balance boards saw use after a few weeks? How many times to people actually “just dance”?

The next generation of consoles must draw a line between the casual and the regular. Ideally, the large companies could create separate devices (branded under their respective names) that work, stand-alone, as exercise or musical entertainment. To lump them into the same console as Halo and Uncharted, on the other hand, diminishes the focus of what the devices were designed to do in the first place — play games. As a result of this dilution, these pressers become focused around the casual and unnecessary, instead of the core and innovative.

Bah.

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