Don’t become a Sony fanboy just yet

Please Don’t Bring Back The Console Wars:

I mean, come on. Let’s stop pretending Sony is valiant. If they were so committed to the idea of used games, why didn’t they announce this policy in February? Microsoft made a move and Sony reacted; fine, it was the smart thing to do in context.

But did you notice how every time Sony referred to “used games” they made sure to include the modifier “disc-based”? Did you also notice how Sony, much more than Microsoft, has emphasized the game-streaming capabilities of its new console? If you think that Sony is going to let you freely trade digitally-downloaded and streaming games, which are going to be all games in the near future, I have a piece of swampland in You’re a Fucking Moron to sell you. Sony is not some noble underdog. They are the company that won the last console generation by selling SIX TIMES as many PlayStation 2s as Microsoft sold Xboxs, and the one before that by selling three times as many PlayStations as Nintendo sold N64s. (And, less than 24 hours after receiving an internet handjob for his company’s supposedly benevolent used game policy, Tretton is already walking it back.)

I don’t plan on buying a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One. They’re both basically PCs – most games will be available on the PC at or around the same time and with Steam I’ll be able to get them at significant discounts.

The PS4 will be 33 percent faster than the Xbox One

AnandTech:

On the graphics side it’s once again obvious that Microsoft and Sony are shopping at the same store as the Xbox One’s SoC integrates an AMD GCN based GPU. Here’s where things start to get a bit controversial. Sony opted for an 18 Compute Unit GCN configuration, totaling 1152 shader processors/cores/ALUs. Microsoft went for a far smaller configuration: 768 (12 CUs).

Microsoft can’t make up the difference in clock speed alone (AMD’s GCN seems to top out around 1GHz on 28nm), and based on current leaks it looks like both MS and Sony are running their GPUs at the same 800MHz clock. The result is a 33% reduction in compute power, from 1.84 TFLOPs in the PS4 to 1.23 TFLOPs in the Xbox One. We’re still talking about over 5x the peak theoretical shader performance of the Xbox 360, likely even more given increases in efficiency thanks to AMD’s scalar GCN architecture (MS quotes up to 8x better GPU performance) – but there’s no escaping the fact that Microsoft has given the Xbox One less GPU hardware than Sony gave the PlayStation 4. Note that unlike the Xbox 360 vs. PS3 era, Sony’s hardware advantage here won’t need any clever developer work to extract – the architectures are near identical, Sony just has more resources available to use.

This isn’t an advantage that will show up four years down the road when developers have figured out how to program for the PS4. Their architectures are nearly identical – Sony just went with faster parts. 

Sony Removes Mobile Development Fee for Indies

While Nintendo is actively giving developers conversion kits to coax them into bringing their mobile titles to the WiiU, Sony is taking a very different approach by removing the $99 publisher licensing fee necessary to create games for the PS Vita. Word comes from Ars Technica that anyone can now download the SDK and produce games for the Vita, provided their efforts don’t contain any objectionable content.

Some Ars Technica insight:

It’s no surprise that Sony is doing everything it can to attract more developers to its portable. Sony has sold about five million Vita units worldwide, according to analyst estimates, a sales stall that has fallen well below Sony’s expectations. (Not to mention, there are roughly 30 million 3DS units out there.) Opening the system up even further to independent developers could help expand a mobile-phone style long tail market for Vita games while improving the system’s reputation for software selection.

This paragraph perfectly sums up why this is a great move. Do I want to convert my already-existing mobile game to the WiiU, or do I want the ability to craft a totally new exclusive experience and sell it to Sony and make some money right away? This is an excellent chance for small developers to get their games out there, and makes the whole market a lot more accessible. It doesn’t personally convince me to go get a Vita, due to a lack of games, but this is a step in the right direction.

What the next generation of video games needs to succeed

playstation 4 controller

Clifford Unchained – 4th and Inches for Sony

My biggest thing about this “Next Next Gen” is that the biggest winner will be the one who has several things going for them:

  • The games. It’s all about the games.
  • The ecosystem. Apple knows that Itunes and the App store are a HUGE factor in their success.
  • The ability to remain adaptable in a fast moving world. Fast title updates from developers. The “Minecraft test.” If the hardware is great and the system sound then the biggest deciding factor will be how much each console creator allows the community to take over in an organic fashion. It sounds like the Sharing feature is a great step. The next one? Indie games, mods, user levels…you know, the things that the PC is so darned good at.

This is exactly how the next generation console war will be won. Consoles can no longer rely solely on their first and third party games to “win the war.” Robust game libraries are a must, of course, but they must be combined with robust media ecosystems and more PC-like interaction models. Sony is certainly attempting to do this with the PlayStation 4.

Take the Xbox 360, which has remained the best selling console on a month-to-month basis for well over a year now. The Xbox is more than just a game console. It is a brand associated with media, from music to movies to games. Games and the operating system are updated on a frequent basis, in a fashion not so dissimilar from the PC updates consumers have come to expect. As a result of this evolution of the Xbox, Microsoft stands on a much stronger foundation than its competitors moving into the next generation.

What if the next Xbox is subsidized?

xbox 360 console controller

Chris Kohler:

With all this in mind, there should be no question that Microsoft’s pitch for its eventual new console, right from the off, will be: This plays games, but it’s not for gamers any more than an iPad is just for gamers. Everybody watches TV, so everybody wants an Xbox to give them a heightened experience. If someday you find yourself caught in a downpour and duck into the nearest doorway and thereby accidentally enter a Microsoft store, you would be able to buy an Xbox on a cell-phone style plan, paying $99 for the box if you subscribe to two years of the Xbox Live service. That’s today. What if that’s the whole pitch for the next Xbox? What if Sony’s machine is $500 and Microsoft’s is $100? That would be the Bambi vs. Godzilla of console wars.

The fact that Xbox Live has been a paid service for so long makes this a viable option for Microsoft. People are already used to the idea of paying to play online, and most consumers are fine with paying more in the long run to pay less upfront for the actual device (see: smartphones).

Best games of E3: The Last of Us

This is the post-apocalyptic game we’ve been waiting for.

If it wasn’t clear already, Naughty Dog can take any genre of video game and set a new standard for other companies to live up to. Platforming? Yup. Action-adventure? Done that. With The Last of Us, they’re taking the survival action-adventure formula and turning it on its head. 

The footage shown has everything we have wanted from the genre. There’s the sidekick who reacts realistically to player actions and actually helps out in a fight when needed and stays out of the way when she isn’t. There’s scavenging for materials and an item system that forces the player to make quick decisions. And then, there’s the combat.

If you haven’t seen the trailer I linked to, it’s brutal. Joel (the protagonist) smashes enemies faces into nearby surfaces, wrestles weapons out of their hands, and sets them on fire with Molotov cocktails. Hell, I cringed at the end when he shot the downed enemy in the face at point-blank range. This isn’t like your average first-person shooter, where players mow down waves of enemies with little emotional impact. These deaths are all dramatic, and carry weight to them, as they should. 

What Naughty Dog is expressing is the survival-of-the-fittest nature of the end of the world. There wouldn’t be enough guns and ammunition laying around for every conflict to go down as a major firefight. Instead, conflicts would be one-on-one as survivors compete for resources. And according to IGN, they didn’t just stop there when it comes to showing off the reality of the situation: players will have to scavenge supplies from those who couldn’t find it in them to make it through such a tragic scenario. That’s deep for an action game. 

I do have a few thoughts on the gameplay. First, according to that IGN article I linked to above, there will in fact be multiple ways to approach any given encounter. This is excellent news, as gamers who prefer stealth and distraction will feel just as at home with the game as those who like to run-and-gun. Second, I have to wonder whether the physical encounters with enemies are quick-time events or fought using contextually-aware buttons. I’m hoping it’s the latter, as the trailer doesn’t make it clear. Given the freedom suggested by the IGN article, it seems that players will be controlling the fighting, which makes the trailer all the more impressive.