Tag Archives: xbox one

Xbox One’s 7th Core

A very interesting read from Richard Leadbetter at Eurogamer:

Up until recently, both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have reserved two entire CPU cores (out of eight available) in order to run the background operating system in parallel with games. Since October, Microsoft has allowed developers access to 50 to 80 per cent of a seventh processing core – which may partly explain why a small amount of multi-platform titles released during Q4 2014 may have possessed performance advantages over their PS4 counterparts in certain scenarios.

However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the additional CPU power comes with conditions and trades attached – however, there is the potential for many games to benefit. Firstly, developers need to give up custom, game-specific voice commands in order to access the seventh core at all, while Kinect’s infra-red and depth functionality is also disabled. Secondly, the amount of CPU time available to developers varies at any given moment – system-related voice commands (“Xbox record that”, “Xbox go to friends”) automatically see CPU usage for the seventh core rise to 50 per cent. At the moment, the operating system does not inform the developer how much CPU time is available, so scheduling tasks will be troublesome. This is quite important – voice commands during gameplay will be few and far between, meaning that 80 per cent of the core should be available most of the time. However, right now, developers won’t know if and when that allocation will drop. It’s a limitation recognised in the documentation, with Microsoft set to address that in a future SDK update.

The concessions Microsoft has been making to the Xbox One (revised DRM model, “dis-Kinect”, price-drop, bundles, and now opening the seventh processing core) are admirable, and considering the recent spike in sales, certainly make for an interesting future for the console war. However, these are just that — concessions. Sony has continued to stay the course with compelling hardware and a simple story. Not to mention this is another hit against Kinect and the original vision of Xbox One.

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Switch to Sony

Eric Johnson, Re/code:

According to data provided to Re/code, an April Nielsen study found that 31 percent of PS4 owners did not own Sony’s previous console, the PlayStation 3, but did own an Xbox 360 or Wii. Seventeen percent did not own any last-generation console.

The people surveyed were Americans, age 7 to 54, and were a subset of a total of 1,200 “active gamers” surveyed by Nielsen between February and April.

However, there’s one big caveat to the survey, which is that it asked only what consumers currently owned at the time of the survey, not what they had owned in the past. So, people who sold their PlayStation 3 in order to buy a PlayStation 4 would’ve been marked down as non-PS3 owners.

Assuming that most people didn’t do that, though, the numbers underscore why launching at a $100 lower price point than the rival Xbox One was so beneficial for Sony.

These numbers are much bigger than I would have thought. I knew the PS4 was out pacing both the Xbox One and (not surprisingly) the Wii U, but 17% adding consoles to their homes is astounding. Sure, they may have had PS2s, Xboxes, and Gamecubes, but 17% after the longest generation cycle, I assume it’s safe to say these are new console owners… if we are assuming of course.

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Mario Kart 8 lifts console sales more than Titanfall or Second Son

Tim Ellis, GeekWire:

According to console sales data fromVGChartz, Nintendo was selling an average of about 29,000 Wii U consoles per week prior to Mario Kart 8′s release. The week Mario Kart 8 hit store shelves, over 130,000 Wii U consoles were sold. Even three weeks after the release, sales were still more than double their pre-Luigi-Death-Stare levels. All-told, Mario Kart 8 has sold an additional 207,000 Wii U consoles in just three weeks.

But it gets even more interesting when you compare the Wii U’s big system-seller with the exclusives that have come out in the first half of 2014 on the other two consoles.

March saw the release of both Titanfall for Xbox One and inFAMOUS: Second Son for Playstation 4. The sales boost from Titanfall only lasted two weeks and moved about 94,000 additional Xbox One consoles. The sales boost from the Seattle-set Second Son lasted three weeks and moved an additional 106,000 PlayStation 4 consoles.

I can’t help myself: Hail Mario.

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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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Microsoft at E3

Keith Stuart, The Guardian:

Broadcast live over the internet to millions of viewers the world over, the message couldn’t be more clear: last year’s emphasis on the strength of the Xbox One as a multimedia and live TV platform was a mistake. This is a games machine that also does other stuff that no one here really wants to hear about.

At the end of a pummeling 90 minutes of game announcements and confirmations, Spencer took to the stage again and said, “thank you for making your voice heard, thank you for helping us shape the future of the new Xbox.” Basically, it’s what Microsoft has been saying for the last six months – we listened, we changed, now eat this.

The 2014 Microsoft sounded a lot like the 2013 Sony. I would have loved for Microsoft to double-down on their original DRM and Kinect strategy, offering up an entertainment ecosystem that could have set Xbox One outside of the HD Twins comparison. Alas, their indie games showcase offered up impressive tiny titles that could end up system sellers, and that says a lot.

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Layoffs hit Rare

Wesley Yin-Poole, Eurogamer:

While Microsoft did not confirm how many people had been let go, Eurogamer understands the number is around 16, a figure one source said was made up of some software staff, but mainly design and project managers. Kinect Sports Rivals was a 150 person project.

A Microsoft spokesperson issued Eurogamer the following statement:

At Xbox, our goal is to constantly create new fun, social and interactive entertainment experiences. As part of Rare’s commitment to this goal, we have made a decision to change our development process and methodology at Rare to best support our future projects, this has led to us reviewing the skills and the makeup of our development teams in our business.

Rare continues to invest in our people and future projects.

This news comes on the heels of Rare re-evaluating their direction after Microsoft’s decision to offer Kinect-less Xbox One units. My thoughts to those let go. Layoffs list updated.

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Rare is evaluating what to do after Kinect, says Phil Spencer

Emily Gera, Polygon:

Xbox head Phil Spencer confirms Microsoft is working closely with U.K. developer Rare to evaluate the studio’s future now that Kinect peripherals are optional for Xbox One systems, OXM reports.

Despite the studio’s history developing GoldenEye 007 and Donkey Kong Country, Rare was retooled as a flagship Kinect studio, releasing its first Kinect project Kinect Sports in 2010. Rare continued with this franchise, releasing Kinect Sports: Season Two and Kinect Sports Rivals.

In May of 2013, following the news that Microsoft will be breathing new life into a ‘historic’ Rare franchise (turned out to be Killer Instinct), I wrote a piece about Microsoft’s need to invest in child-friendly colorful characters and how Rare could pull it off:

Xbox One: Swinging for the Franchise Fences with Rare IP?

Seeing as the price-drop will likely draw more appeal from parents, Microsoft should invest in the children’s market with Rare IP to set itself apart from PS4 and, dare I say it, Wii U.

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GameStop global sales hit $2.11 billion, store sales rise 20.5 percent

GameStop global sales hit $2.11 billion, store sales rise 20.5 percent
Polygon

High hopes for video game retailers?

“New software sales for the quarter increased by 43.1, which the company attributed to the “strong performance” of recently-released games — using Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto 5 as its strongest example example. New hardware sales rose 15.3 percent due to sell-through of the Nintendo 2DS and 3DS handhelds. Conversely, pre-owned sales decreased by two percent.” [sic]

– Polygon

Keep in mind that Nintendo does not offer hardware sales directly through digital retailer Amazon.com. This also does not reflect sales of next-fen consoles Xbox One or PS4.

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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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