PS4 Released in the US

Image credit: Getty Images

Last Friday, the 15th November, the highly anticipated PS4 finally arrived on US shores. Lucky fan Joey Chiu of Brooklyn, New York, was the first to be able to purchase the new console, which was sold to him by Sony executives Andy House and Jack Tretton.

Fans who’d braved the cold to line up at stores around America began Tweeting photos of their experience. @FullSail Tweeted ‘How many of you are doing this right now?’ alongside a picture of a large queue outside a Gamestop. @jmsab9 Tweeted ‘It’s here. #GreatnessAwaits #PS4’ as soon as he got his. Another user, even thanked his mother for waiting in line with him.

In fact, thanks to social media excited new PS4 owners were spreading their joy all over the internet. Unboxing videos found their way to Youtube within hours of launch, and Facebook and Twitter were full of photos and messages from fans. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer even took the time to congratulate Sony on their release.

Not all social media response was positive, though. In what can only be called an incredibly expensive episode of trolling, two young men were filmed walking out of a store with a brand new machine, only to take a baseball bat and smash it to bits in the car park, to the dismayed groans of those still waiting in the queue. No reason has been given as far as we know as to why this was done, although it has been posited that these men were Xbox fans, looking to get a rise out of those queuing.

Social media also brought to light problems that soon became apparent with the PS4. The Mirror reported that at 5:27 am, reports were coming in that new PS4 owners finding their machines had broken HDMI ports and several crashing issues, as well as some being just broken out of the box. Sony has promised to investigate these problems, so hopefully they’ll be ironed out before the UK launch later this month.

Despite these issues though, the PS4 release has turned out to be the most successful launch ever for Sony, with more than a million sold in 24 hours. This beats their previous record with the PS2, which sold 980,000 units in Japan in 2000. Sony are also on course to beat Microsoft in sheer sales numbers, mostly due to the Xbox One’s higher price.

UK Sony fans will have to wait till November 29th to get their hands on the PS4, although some celebrities have been given pre release units recently. Illusionist Derren Brown recently tweeted that he’d received one, but was at pains to explain that he had given it to a friend, and was planning to buy his own on launch day. In the run up to launch, Sony have altered the famous OXO tower in London to display the Playstation circle, cross, triangle and square logos instead. This is the first time in the history of the tower that alterations have been made to the display.

When this post goes live, the UK will have seen the UK release of the Xbox One. Hopefully it will go more smoothly than the PS4 launch in the US, but it will be interesting to compare the two launch events after the 29th November.

The Return of the Kings of War Games and Hip-Hop

With less than three months away from its release, “Call of Duty: Ghosts” dropped a trailer last week and the buzz continued to grow around one of this year’s biggest game event.

Two special collector’s editions are available for loyal fans to celebrate its 10th instalment. They include a range of extra digital content and a full HD and head-mountable tactical camera, aside from many other new features being introduced to the game. So it is no surprise that the special editions are substantially more expensive than those from previous releases (£179.99 vs £119.99).

It will be the first game to be available on PS4 and Xbox One, two other upcoming excitements in the industry, although developer Infinity Ward claims it is the PC that will provide players with the best visual and graphic experience.

It will also be the first time the game features a female character in multiplayer. The gesture is more than a technical improvement to the game. It is also a nod to their female players who make up “a huge portion of our fans”, according to Mark Rubin, executive producer at Infinity Ward.

The game trailer also built further hype around the controversial rapper Eminem, by premiering “Survival” from his eighth studio album. Yet to confirm its title and release date, it is already MTV’s most anticipated albums of 2013.

The Grammy-winning Detroit rapper has been on the down-low since 2010’s release “Recovery” which achieved critical and commercial success. The most of what we have seen of him are a few guest appearances on other artists’ albums, including fellow rapper 50 Cent and pop rebel Pink. So you can imagine the eagerness of fans for “Survival” since announcing he has started working on new material over a year ago.

Career comeback of the king of hip-hop and new launch of the best-selling game series…sounds like a combo for publicity win-win to me!

DRM – Is This the Next Generation?

If you’ve been on Twitter recently or any number of gaming related forums you will most likely of heard of, looked into or at least seen the recently started #PS4noDRM campaign, which uses #Ps4noDRM and #PS4UsedGames to let Sony know, and other gamers know that they don’t want used DRM (Digital Rights Management) to be used on the games they purchase, and that they want the used game market to still allow them to pass on, or sell their games when they are finished with them. This all began after Microsoft announced it will be using features to control the used games market in an attempt to allow themselves, and the Developers of a game to pocket some money from the sale of a used game, and that they have been trying desperately to avoid the topic which has resulted in conflicting reports on how used games will be handled from several people within Microsoft itself. After rumours began circulating that Sony were looking to do something similar, consumers reacted with the above campaign. If you would like to learn more about the campaign please check out this link. There is also a thread on the large gaming site NeoGAF which has information on the campaign, and discussion about it within that thread.

Here at dojit we have been watching this trend carefully, looking at the positives and negatives of used game DRM for us, and what an always online console could mean in terms of combating Piracy, the illegal downloading of games. We have also done a little research into why always online gaming, and used DRM has been thrust into the spotlight recently within the gaming realm.

As a developer, used game DRM would ensure that we still pocket some cash, at least with Microsofts proposed system, and make money from the sale of a game we created. This means we don’t lose out on as much money as we did with the old method of trading in a game, and that we wouldn’t have to use things such as Online Passes (as seen in use by EA in games like FIFA) or charge a fee because the player doesn’t have an activation code. This could possibly mean the original owner makes less money from the games sale itself.

This does also raise a few issues. There have been reports that Microsoft are looking to bump the used game price up drastically, taking them to 90% of the original release price, which would pretty much kill the used game market. Also with Microsofts proposed method, we as consumers, would not be able to lend a game to a friend or family member, and possibly not be able to share games within a household. We have yet to hear about anything that would combat simple, friendly household/friend sharing. Something that has helped guarantee sales for the past 2 decades at least. A little demonstration of what I mean might make things clearer if you don’t understand what I mean.

I purchase a game brand new and think it’s fantastic. I have a friend who is looking for a new game to play, but isn’t sure what he should pick up yet. He sees me, or hears me talking about this great new game I have and asks me to lend it for a few days. He enjoys the game and now knows that the game is a good game which can lead to 2 potential situations.

– He buys the game from a retailer, either new or used depending on how long it has been out, and is able to repeat the above process with any of his friends into gaming.

– He doesn’t have any money yet, but now knows that the game is a quality game and is interested in the series, if it happens to be a part of one. He eventually gets some money to spare and purchases that game, or possibly it’s been a while and the sequel has released. He knows the previous title was good so he buys it new.

With used DRM, we would not be able to do this, and then the potential sales loss would possibly lose developers like ourselves more money than they would have lost if used sales were as they are today. There is also the fact that not all used games sales are lost new sales. Many people who buy used only buy used because of the price. They wouldn’t have bought new unless the price was low enough for them in the first place.

There is also the topic of Piracy. With every disc in Microsofts preposed method having code on it linking it to a single console, it would be near impossible to pirate a game as it would need to be registered by Microsoft as a legitimate copy. This means people who may have been inclined to pirate the game may look into purchasing the game new or used. As a developer this is great news, but we also understand that people who pirate the game are very unlikely to have bought the game new in the first place.

The issue here is that a lot of this information is from a Microsoft that has been very ineffective at communicating and clearing the air about used DRM and the Always Online feature of the Xbox One. All we know is that the Xbox will have to be connected to the internet at least once every 24 hours in order to function. There is a lot of speculation about the reasons for being an always online console, and some believe it’s just a form of DRM. However Microsoft have said this to Polygon about the Always Online Xbox One:

Don Mattrick, president of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, told me that the decision to require internet for the Xbox One was driven by a desire to create a console unleashed from the technical limitations of today’s not-entirely-connected society. Microsoft had a decision to make, he said; either create a console planted in the present or look to the future and create a device built on the concept that one day the internet will be as available as electricity or telephone service.

Gamers want the best experiences possible — and they want a future-proof system,” he told Polygon.

Now, with Xbox One, we’re stretching the canvas again so creators can design for the cloud with every game they make,” he said. “In the next decade, every great game will tap the power of the cloud to deliver richer, more immersive worlds. We have a great offline game system in Xbox 360 that gets better when it’s connected. We could have made another offline console, but then offline would have been the lowest common denominator design point for developers. We chose to take the progressive path.”

This pretty much states that the Xbox One is looking to be always connected to the cloud so it can offload computing processes to it which should deliver better games, and smoother gameplay because there will be more power available to Developers such as ourselves. This statement seems to have been delivered because of the recent issues with cloud based gaming such as the Sim City Fiasco and Diablo III. Both games that required you always be online, and Sim City supposedly offloaded processes to ease the power you system would need to run it. The issues were that both games would kick you out of them when you lost connection, so a random disconnect for 5 seconds would throw you into a menu and you would no longer be able to play, at least in Diablo III. Sim City gave you a 20 minute window to get reconnected or you would lost all progress since your last save, which is on the cloud as well. There was also the massive server issues with both games on release, where players couldn’t play the games they payed for because servers were down, or full.

People got severely annoyed by the always online requirement and server issues, so they decided to dig into why they were needed. People tore apart Sim City to discover that it never really needed to be online all the time. It offloaded fairly small processes and it could all be done on your own computer. They also found out that there was a code within the game that forced you to quit after 20 minutes, even though you could really keep on playing for as long as you wanted. The only issue with that is that you couldn’t save.

The thing that worries gamers is that if these servers go down for a period longer than 24 hours, they will not be able to play the console and the games they bought for it. They will also have to be connected to the internet to check the licenses for games on the consoles HDD to make sure they aren’t playing illegal copies/copies they have traded in the license for which isn’t always a possibility as not every has the Internet in their homes yet.

We here at dojit feel that these measures are very anti consumer, and do a lot of damage to sales in the long run. We don’t see Microsoft having lots of sales on Xbox Live to counter this huge hike up in price like Steam have done (very well might I add) and the consumer will end up paying the price for Microsofts campaign against retail stores such as GameStop.

Do you feel like Microsoft has taken good steps here, or have they gone a few steps too far?

 

An Indie Future. The Next Generation.

7 years. That’s how long the current console cycle has lasted. It ended with the release of the Wii U by Nintendo on 18th November, 2012. As far as current console releases go, November seems to be the month that will be locked down by Sony and Microsoft. Even Nintendo, with the Wii and the Wii U, have targeted and achieved a November release. This is great news for everyone, as we all get to experience the latest and greatest Game Developers such as ourselves have to offer the gamers of the world.

As an Indie Developer, we here at dojit haven’t just been discussing the games that we know are releasing and the features that come with them. We have also been discussing what console would be a top of the list if we ever decided to develop games for a console as an Indie Developer. We’ve been looking at the hardware, and the processes that we would have to tackle in order to push a game on either device and we have come across some great news not only for us, but for all Indie developers. We have discovered that Sony have been reaching out to many Indie developers, and offering them aid in developing for the PS3 and the PS4. Sony have been concentrating massively on making sure they have a great and simple process for you to get your game on to their store.

We did discover something a bit saddening about Microsofts stance on Indie developers. A lot of developers are reporting that Microsoft are not reaching out to them, and are actively declining places on the Xbox Live Arcade simply because they will not allow an Indie developer to have a game published on the Xbox Live Arcade without a Publisher (such as EA, Activision being the most recognisable examples of Publishers in the games industry.) I personally wanted to find out more and decided to dig further to see what Microsoft are doing within the Indie Dev scene, and what Sony are doing within the scene.

Sony have been praised, as far as I have dug at least, for their efforts in courting Indie Developers in the hopes of seeing those developers release games on devices like the PSP, PSVita, PS3 and in the near future, the PS4. Multiple Indie Devs have let the media know that Sony have treated them well, and made it easy for them to get the games they develop on the Playstation Store. It has even been likened to “a chat in a coffee shop” which shows that Sony have been nothing but friendly to Indie Developers. With such hits as Minecraft and Journey, we can see why Sony are looking to help Indie Developers grow. If they are able to get an incredible Indie title on their devices, and make it exclusive and see it rake in millions, we could see Sony become a shining beacon in the land of Indie Development. Just take a look at this bit of information from Brian Provinciano who is the creator of the old-school parody game Retro City Rampage.

Sony’s been incredibly supportive and promoted the game very well,” said Provinciano. “It’s received a generous amount of promotion at no cost to me, from advertisements on the PS Store to events such as E3 and even having it playable on kiosks at every Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, Target and Future Shop across North America.” You would agree that this is fantastic news for Indie Developers.

Brian Provinciano also said, “Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected this to happen,” .

Now we travel into darker waters. Here the inhabitants aren’t all that friendly and are looking to make your Indie release a nightmare. Welcome to the Microsoft Publishing Process. It wasn’t always this way though. In fact it was Microsoft that brought Indie Developers to the front. They decided to create a playground for them, where they could publish games to us Xbox users and reap the rewards of a large user base  Microsoft helped by constantly advertising these great, fun, little games that cost a quarter or and eighth of the price of your average game sold at retail. It became so popular that Microsoft ran sales and even dedicated a season to the Xbox Live Arcade titles called Summer of Arcade.

Fast forward to the current day Microsoft. The Microsoft that, as told by Brian Provinciano, is a nightmare for Indie Devs to work with. He says that Microsoft cut his game off at the last hurdle after he voiced his opinion about the process and how inefficient it was. He was then forced to resubmit his game which involved going through a long approvals process and go through an extra six months of talks and negotiations which required him to have to submit the game through an outside publisher, or he wouldn’t see his game released. To top it all off, Microsoft then accidentally priced the game at $10 instead of the $15 Brian Provinciano had asked for. He lost out on 1/3rd of the money from the mistake, which we do not know if Microsoft reimbursed him.

You will notice that I have included two talks from Brian. Look at his opinion on Sony and its process, then look at his opinion on Microsofts process. We can see the clear winner here. As a small developer ourselves, we would be looking to see which console could provide us with the ease of development and the ability to publish a game without jumping through numerous hoops. Not only do Sony allow us both of these things, but they go the extra mile to bag themselves an Indie Developer.

There’s also Nintendo with the Wii U. We know that they have been struggling with sales, and to try and counter this they have been courting Indies in the same way Sony have. Nintendo, who were once very hard to work with, are now lessening the strictness of the rules they usually place down when working with Indie Developers. A well known one is that the Indie Developer had to have an office space, but now garage developers who work from the living room are finding their footing when developing for the Wii U. They also offer Indie developers freedom over pricing, release dates and content approval, just like Sony is. We may not see a hit like Minecraft or Journey, but we might definitely see a wave of Indie titles hit the shores of the Wii U very soon.

It would appear that Microsoft have yet to realise that they are no longer the easiest route, or the most illustrious place for Indies to publish. Sony have capitalised on Microsofts failure to keeps Indies happy and now look to be a dominant force when it comes to smaller titles in the next generation. It seems to be a role reversal between Sony and Microsoft, with Nintendo now showing that the doors are open for Indies as well.

I think I can safely say that if we at dojit were ever looking to break into the console market and release games like Home Bear or Soccer Zillionaire, we would chose Sony as the console we would publish on. Nintendo still have some cover more ground to catch up to Sony. Microsoft need to step up their game, and try to recapture what they had only a few years ago. I leave you with a question.

Which console would you publish your game on and why?