Tag Archives: sony

The Return of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro?

Andrew House on Crash Bandicoot and Spyro, as quoted by Telegraph:

In concept, it is something we’ve been thinking about and discussing, and this is a shift for us. We’ve started to say that maybe there isn’t anything wrong with going back and looking at characters that people still talk about, that were a big part of their childhood or their youth. I definitely wouldn’t close the door on that.

I’ve mentioned before that Microsoft needs to invest in aged Rare IP such as Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, and Conker (now coming to Project Spark). Blinded by their “success,” I however neglected Sony’s need to do the same.

It goes without saying that Nintendo is on the upswing. The value of their family friendly franchises are at the heart of why you can never count them out of the console race.

Mascots are identity. At the very least, Microsoft can lean on Master Chief but that only scores them a slice of the audience. (Granted a very big slice.) Sony has… Nathan Drake? Kratos? Sackboy and Sly Cooper are nice and all but hardly recognizable outside of Sony diehards. This all became very apparent with the release of Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale.

Nintendo’s franchises, like Disney’s, are approaching timelessness. As the HD Twins continue to struggle in setting themselves apart, Nintendo is only going to gain foothold with releases that focus on familiar faces. Microsoft and Sony need to adopt color and a little family franchise flair.

I’m sad to hear that working with Crash Bandicoot and Spyro would be “a shift” for Sony, but good on House for acknowledging this question. Great on Telegraph for asking.

Update: Prior to the launch of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 ,circa 1992, as excerpted from “Console Wars” by Blake J, Harris:

According to a recent national survey, Sonic was now a more recognizable American icon than Mario, MC Hammer, and even Mickey Mouse.

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Tipping Point

Andrew House, Sony Computer Entertainment president, as quoted by IGN:

Then the third one is virtual reality. There’s just a sense that we have that the technology is again reaching that tipping point, it’s on the cusp of being something that really delivers you true presence, of feeling like you’re in another world. When that’s delivered it’s really magical and I think that how far, how large, how quickly that’s going to become a major part of what we do remains to be seen, but we definitely think the magic of that experience leads you wanting to pursue it.

Admittedly, I have not tried Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus. Call me a naysayer but I just don’t see something as isolating as VR taking off. I don’t think the audience will be as small as to call it niche, but I think the mainstream will find that strapping goggles to one’s face in a group setting is a bit sickening. We are already seeing a slight backlash to smartphone usage in group settings.

This statement comes on the heels of a Samsung’s ‘Gear VR’ headset leak. Three major companies are now investing in VR without a crystal clear vision of the future of this tech. At least not a vision we’ve been shown. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think abundant ’80s dreams of wearables and VR are an indication of “where the puck is headed.” At least not in any capacity advertised thus far.

Update: I should point out that I speak solely from the perspective of gaming; though, I have been reminded that PC gaming is primarily enjoyed in solitary environments. This is likely to be the heaviest hitting market for gaming VR. To add, the implications on accessibly experience (be it gaming, simulation, or otherwise) and real world simulations seem promising. Take a look at Chris Kluwe’s TED Talk on augmented reality and empathy.

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Console Love?

Keith Stuart, The Gaurdian:

Perhaps the newfound respect is a sign that the industry has matured. The average age of a gamer now is 35, and you can’t refuse to talk to the marketing executive at your firm because they own an Xbox One not a PlayStation 4 so they smell. At the same time, consoles are no longer the kings of the gaming block. Smartphones have created a massive new audience of casual players, and the PC has had something of a renaissance thanks to the Steam digital games service and the rise of indie developments like Minecraft. It’s not me v you in consoles anymore, it’s us v them.

In some ways it’s a shame. Great game design, great art even (OK, let’s not go there right now), is born from conflict and chaos, not from cosy chats and shared admiration. Grudging respect is fine, but I half yearn for the days when we spent so long with our consoles of choice that they became part of our identity, and identity is always forged in opposition.

I don’t think we can be so naïve to think that the “console war” discussions of old are not still happening behind closed doors. I believe the PR for both companies are wise to the impact of negative, name-calling campaigns under the magnifying glass of social media. They are also likely to avoid the same negative lambasting mirrored in online communities, a now infamous trait of the video game industry.

Perhaps the biggest reason the battle has turned into “us v them” goes back to the HD Twins conversation. Both consoles are so strikingly similar (especially now, with the removal of DRM and Kinect from Xbox One) that there isn’t much weight behind console v console jabs. If anything, this argument now lives on in the HD Twins v Wii U conversation.

To add, the 2014 E3 press conferences for both Sony and Microsoft appeared to mirror the other’s message from the previous year. In 2013, Sony was heavy handed on games. In 2014, that message was delivered by Microsoft. Likewise, Microsoft’s 2013 E3 messaging was miscellaneous media services such as all-in-one entertainment and exclusive TV shows. This appeared to be the underlying message in Sony’s 2014 conference.

Lastly, as if I haven’t spoken of it enough, Console Wars by Blake J. Harris is an entertaining read about the Nintendo v Sega console wars during the late ’80s / early ’90s. Worth your while.

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Fanboy Wars

Forbes writer Paul Tassi’s Fanboy Wars focuses on the fifteen-year span between the early 2000s and today’s gaming empire and the intense impact “fanboys” have had. It details the beginning of the Sony and Microsoft living room war to Facebook’s $2 billion Oculus acquisition. This quick 70-odd page read acts as a great refresher for those with interest in the space and a primer for those looking to familiarize themselves with the modern industry while trimming the fat of history.

Following the likes of Jane McGonigal, Tassi needs face-time to preach the power behind fanboyism. His ideas are a realization that today there exists a single community manifesting great power in an unlikely place; a community that can course correct multi-billion dollar companies yet heartless enough to lay waste to its own kind. While only the tip of the iceberg, I fear that the book will only fall on a choir of gaming peace-keepers and business types rolling their eyes at the idealism found in the pages.

My one large critique of Fanboy Wars is Tassi’s neglect to mention the seemingly poisoned and downtrodden heart of the industry: Developers. While he spend much time lamenting over harsh criticism developers receive from fanboys, he skips over the harsh reality developers face in studio turnover. His miss at the potential upside of Xbox One’s DRM for industry devs leaves his argument a bit unbalanced. Whether or not Microsoft’s original DRM strategy would have been a boon against the industry’s continuous and tragic staff up/layoff pattern remains to be seen, but even a brief adage about the potential benefits to a new console experience would have been refreshing. Hopefully this insight will be saved for Tassi’s next piece.

All told, Tassi mustered up a quick, easy-to-digest summary of today’s gaming world. While his grander message is a realization of the incredible power in oft-scorned fanboyism, Fanboy Wars doesn’t offer much depth for those already harboring intense focus on the industry; however, the book works as a great catch-up for new comers to the industry. Here’s to hoping that Fanboy Wars is a prelude to a something greater.

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Tumbleweed

Keith Stuart, The Guardian:

A big announcement at Sony’s press conference was that the PlayStation 4 would be able to easily handle free-to-play games and that dozens are already in development. You could almost see the tumbleweed blowing across the stage. Core gamers don’t want to hear that. Core gamers, weirdly, cry for innovation then cheer loudest for old stuff they recognise. You know, when games were games and you paid once and they were yours forever.

Stuart continues:

It is no wonder Sony and Microsoft are crawling over each other to sign the indies. No wonder they’re looking at the procedurally generated space game No Man’s Sky and Capy Games’ adventure Below with awe and wonder. These are innovations they understand – they’re not about business models, they’re not about new audiences who are hard to predict, they’re about new ideas within the scope of traditional games. Indie developers are nostalgic but they have the freedom to take the mechanics forward and play with them, just as Tim schafer played with the idea of point-and-click adventures in the 1990s.

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Only on Playstation, Bro

Sony has an IP problem. Short of Little Big Planet 3 and Uncharted 4, none of the other titles seemed to grab. While the exclusive experiences are interesting, their application to existing and expected titles feels lackluster. The chunk of time dedicated to the Playstation ecosystem felt like a slow, redundant message from announcements past. Sony needed to display PS4’s ease of development with ready-to-go titles rather than a collection of non-surprises releasing in 2015.

In 2013, Sony promised potential. In 2014, they are having a hard time executing.

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Pipe Dream

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

Mario Kart 8’s sales numbers are amazing. The attach rate between the game and the console is something that every console holder should envy, but the problem is that with so few consoles there is a ceiling to the total number of sales Mario Kart 8 can do. Even assuming the game will cause systems to move, it’s likely to be the worst-selling game in the existence of the series.

On the other hand, Watch Dogs is now the best selling new IP in the history of the video game business. It’s very hard to find any apples to match with these oranges; Ubisoft matched a game that was announced in near-perfect fashion with a huge marketing spend and a release that spanned five consoles. The news would be more interesting if the sales didn’t break records.

These two events tell us much about the opportunities in the video game industry right now.

I am a huge fan of Ben Kuchera and his opinions. While I usually agree (at least somewhat), I cannot help but find this one extremely impractical. Though Nintendo is filling a bathtub with buckets rather than a lake with flood-gates, what happened to the argument that software sells hardware?

Global Hardware Totals (in millions) via VGChartz:

Wii U: 6.21
Xbox One: 4.57
Xbox 360: 81.33
PS4: 7.82
PS3: 82.82

To evaluate the total Watch_Dogs market, let’s use the delta between current and prev-gen consoles + countless PCs. That is 151.76+ marketable machines. If this is the case, Ubisoft has successfully sold 4 million units of Watch_Dogs to an install-base of 151.76 million consoles + countless PCs. Nintendo has successfully sold 1.12 millions units of Mario Kart 8 to an install-base of 6.21. That is less-than 2% vs. 18% attach rate.

I actively applaud Ubisoft’s impressive figures but I see the success of Mario Kart 8 greater. Regardless of release date, Wii U unit numbers fall between Xbox One and PS4; Mario Kart 8’s success is only going to grow that number. How quickly that number grows remains to be seen, but early reports are positive.

To add, Ben’s dream of a multi-platform Mario collection release to third-party consoles seems appetizing albeit backwards. We will eventually see the release of the Mario catalog on the Wii U (and possibly 3DS) via the virtual console with added community support with the possibility of updated visuals (don’t cross your fingers). And, assuming Nintendo does not release Mario to third-party consoles, rather than release in a single bulk collection, the fan-base will continue to salivate at the trickling of legacy releases. To be completely forthright, I can’t remember a legacy release that I continued to play after 5-10 hours. Nintendo would be shooting themselves in the foot by releasing an HD legacy collection to Wii U owners let alone third-parties.

Though Nintendo admits they are already looking to the Wii U’s successor, any viable company should have a road map. Giving up the ghost only perpetuates the idea that Nintendo is weak. Instead, Nintendo’s ability to rebound a dire situation” with Mario Kart 8’s abundance of positive press and a phenomenal attach-rate (low install-base aside) should be considered an extremely gargantuan feat, offering a positive outlook on the future of Wii U.

My dream is that Nintendo 180s this dire situation with an impressive uptick in Wii U numbers and continued IP prominence.

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GamesIndustry International: ‘SOE GIRL Scholarship winner announced’

Laura Naviaux, Sony Online Entertainment’s senior VP of global sales and marketing:

SOE has prided itself on being a major catalyst of women’s involvement in our industry. As our company continues to evolve and diversify our portfolio, we’ve found it imperative to refine our approach with game art and development, seeking out varied perspectives from the current and future leading voices in the industry. The market for compelling and original online game experiences is rapidly evolving and as a publisher it is our responsibility to listen and celebrate the spectrum of play styles among our global community, and deliver innovation in art, design and technology.

Congrats to scholarship winner Erin Loelius.

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PS4 Sells Over 2.1 Million Units Globally

PS4 Sells Over 2.1 Million Units Globally
IGN

PS4 sells gangbusters.

Speaking about the global 2.1 million figure, House said, “It’s an impressive and record-setting accomplishment for our company and for our industry, and we couldn’t have done it without you. I want to personally thank PlayStation fans, both old and new, for your vote of confidence.”

– Luke Karmali, IGN

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Could Xbox One and PlayStation 4 actually fail?

Could Xbox One and PlayStation 4 actually fail?
Polygon

Are “Gamers” going mobile?

“The truer test comes next year when the race begins in earnest. “The two big guys desperately want to beat each other,” said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter. “The race is on to be the first through 10 million.”

He said that both companies view early adopters as a rich stream of customers for their online subscription models, that work out at about $5 each per consumer per month. A large community of active players is a selling point as well as a profit center.”

– Polygon

Assuming “gamer” referes to an aficionado of gaming culture:

“I’m just going to lob this out there and say that today’s “gamer” prefers mobile and PC over console. Consoles now seem more fixated on “casual” experiences under the guise of “hardcore” (ie. CoD, GTA), taking advantage of the membership cash-cow and annual guarantee (ie. CoD, Madden).

Assuming indies traditionally begin on mobile and PC platforms and grow to console if successful, they tend to focus ground-breaking and innovative ideas, albeit at the cost of small sales figures. This is similar to the pre-internet console days of yore.

I am going to get eaten alive for this ABSOLUTE generalization but I thought I would entertain the idea.”

– Your’s truly, Polygon Comment

Re-thinking this comment, I don’t understand why I originally thought it was a revelation that MSFT and Sony aren’t after “gamers”. Of course they aren’t. They want the “casual” masses.

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