writing about tech

Tag: sony

PS4’s Share Play is, perhaps, the first truly “next-gen” feature

While I’m still waiting for the long-promised Standby/Resume functionality of the PS4, Share Play is coming tomorrow, and I think this could be way bigger deal than people are giving it credit for.

What exactly is Share Play? In Sony’s own words:

As we’ve said before, the best way to think about Share Play is like a “virtual couch.” PlayStation 4 will create an online local co-op experience by allowing you to invite a friend to join your game for up to one hour at a time — even when they don’t own a copy of it.

Those last nine words are where the magic happens.  PS Now, Sony’s game streaming service, has been praised for the technology, but rightfully panned for the pricing.  This takes what is, presumably, that same core functionality, and leverages it in a much more consumer friendly way.

Does your friend own a game that you want to try?  Ask them if you can try it.  Do you own the (incredibly entertaining) indie fencing game Nidhogg, but your friend across the country doesn’t?  Now they can play it with you, without having to download a thing. Thanks in large parts to indie games like Nidhogg, TowerFall, and Sportsfriends, the PS4 is already on the way to becoming a local co-op powerhouse – and now Share Play will take that understated strength and bring a next-gen twist to it.

It’s also an important platform differentiator in a way that I don’t think we’ve yet seen this generation.  Sure, Sony and Microsoft fans can argue back and forth over the relatively minor differences between their consoles – even more minor now that Kinect is basically out of the picture – but thus far, there have been very few, if any, console-defining, gaming-centric features.  Suddenly, we have a piece of functionality with no cross-platform equivalent.  If your most of your friends own PS4s instead of Xbox One’s – and let’s face it, the way sales are going, that’s probably the case – this is just another way you’ll be able to play games with them.  I’ve always said that perhaps the most important factor in choosing a console is to figure out what console your friends are using, and Share Play is Sony doubling down on that aspect of social gaming.

Hell, I just downloaded Nidhogg this weekend, and come tomorrow, I’ll download an update, and suddenly anyone I know with a PS4 and PS Plus will be able to play it with me. That’s pretty damn cool – and, I would argue, the first truly “next gen” feature I’ve seen from either platform.   At the very least, it’s certainly the most gaming-centric one.

Of course, a lot of this hinges on Sony getting the tech right – from my limited experience with PS Now, I’m pretty optimistic, but there’s still certainly a chance for this to fail in a spectacular manner.  Of course, we’re early in this console generation, so there’s plenty of time to get it right, even if they stumble out of the gate.

Perhaps even better, having a differentiating feature like this means Microsoft has to respond in some form, sooner or later – and when they do, it’ll make that platform better, and the cycle of improvements will continue.  I haven’t been this excited about gaming in a long time, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

The power of competition: The Xbox One drops to $349 for the holidays

Going into the holiday season, the Xbox One is going to be $349including a game.  You can also get a game and Kinect for $449. Considering that, just 9 months ago, the Xbox One with Kinect and no game was $499, this is a remarkably solid deal – though it also shows just how much Sony has been beating them over this last year.

As someone who still remembers the early PS3 vs. 360 days – and bought a 360 last time around for the same reason I bought a PS4 this time around – it’s remarkable how much this generation has started off like the last one.  The major difference seems to be that Microsoft is responding to market realities way faster this generation than Sony did last generation. I didn’t get a PS3 until years after release, because the price point and exclusives just weren’t there, and the 360 was already my multi-platform box.

The Xbox One is in the same boat for me at the moment, and I hope Microsoft can win me over. They definitely seem to be on the fast track towards doing so.

No, Sony, PlayStation Move was not “ahead of its time”

Sony, on the PlayStation Move:

“However, what we are realising ourselves is that PS Move was a bit ahead of its time — a precise and accurate 3D input device. We were very excited about the possibility of using 3D positional tracking to make games, but it’s really hard to do so with a regular 2D screen.”

I understand what Sony is trying to say – “We will use Move controllers with Morpheus” – but that bullshit about being “a bit of ahead of time” is unnecessary, inaccurate fluff.

It’s great if they found a way to re-use existing peripherals in a way that consumers might actually value, but don’t pretend Move was anything other than a flop out of the gate, or that it was simply too advanced, and now the gaming world is catching up with it.

I guess “sorry this thing sucked, but don’t get rid of it just yet because we may have found a way to retroactively make it useful” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The next Tomb Raider is an Xbox Exclusive, because Money.

Polygon writes:

Rise of the Tomb Raider, the next game in the reboot of the storied franchise, will be an Xbox exclusive, Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison announced at Gamescom today.

There’s a quote explaining “why” from Crystal Dynamics, but it may as well read: “You know what we like?  Money, sweet, sweet Microsoft money.  Thanks for buying our last game though, suckers!”.

I can understand why some people feel betrayed, as I think there’s a difference between securing a brand-new IP like Sunset Overdrive, and making the sequel of a successful multi-platform game (a game which, apparently, sold better on the PlayStation) available exclusively on the Xbox. At the end of that day, though, that’s business, and Crystal Dynamics must have been written a pretty huge check to both make the game exclusive and potentially alienate any number of fans.  It’s a gamble and it’ll be interesting to see if it pays off in the long run.

It seems like an especially weird business decision, given that the last Tomb Raider game sold better on PlayStation systems, but I guess Microsoft can write some pretty huge checks.  Either way, I guess Winter 2015 is going to boil down to Uncharted vs. Tomb Raider, and I know who gets my money in that equation.

Next-gen gaming is becoming a service-based industry

Today, Polygon announced:

Hotline Miami on PS4 is cross-buy compatible with is PS3 and PS Vita versions — if you own one of these versions already, then you can download Hotline Miami on PS4 at no extra charge.

This relatively small bit of news today served to highlight something that I think has become more and more obvious in the past few months:

Next gen gaming isn’t about hardware, it’s about software services.

“Software services” don’t sound terribly sexy on the surface, but let me explain.  A couple weeks ago, I went out of town, and that trip happened to line up perfectly with the release of Rogue Legacy on the VitaRogue Legacy (a fantastic game, by the way) supports both cross-buy and cross-save, meaning that when I bought the Vita version, I also got a copy for my PS4.  Not “for an additional fee” – the same game, available on all my Sony platforms, at one price.  While I’ve known of this feature for awhile, I’ve rarely had a chance to leverage it.

Gaming, at its core, is about delighting the user, and let me say – being able to seamlessly resume my game of Rogue Legacy on my PS4 when I got back from the trip was delightful. I’ve used the Kinect, I’ve used the Wii U gamepad, and I’ve used a 3DS, but none of those hardware gimmicks impressed me as much as that.  It feels “next-gen” in a way that those haven’t.

The beautiful thing is, games like Rogue Legacy are becoming more of the rule than the exception.  I purchased Hotline Miami on the Vita a couple years ago, and now I get it on PS4 for free.  Just like that.  When I bought my PS4, there was a copy of Flower waiting for me, because I’d bought it on PS3 five years ago.  Just.  Like.  That.  Every time I see another game announced as cross-buy, it makes me feel, every so briefly, like a company is treating me like a human being, and not just a potential dollar sign.  It’s a fleeting feeling, to be sure, and I know it’s just fiction – but it’s a nice one.

It stands out in stark contrast to Nintendo’s strategy; Shovel Knight, another great game, was released for both the 3DS and the Wii U…but you’ll pay full price if you want to play on both platforms, and there’s no benefit to owning both.  Currently, owning a 3DS gives me no real reason to own a Wii U – and that’s a damn shame, because a few tweaks behind the scenes and Nintendo could easily change that.

Also in stark contrast, unfortunately, are the way AAA games are handling cross-generation titles.  The Last of UsGrand Theft Auto 5, and Sleeping Dogs are all expecting you to double-dip for the privilege of playing them on a new system, leaving it up to retailers themselves to offer you some sort of “upgrade deal”.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to see this changing in the immediate future – but one can hope.

I think the industry has hardware figured out; we know the equation to make a great console, and the PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U are all the result of that equation – now it’s time for the battlefield to move to software and services.  Already we’re seeing that, with PlayStation Plus and Games with Gold both offering great games for free every month, and now EA Access joining the fray.  If Nintendo can work out a similar deal with their own back catalogue, well, then we’d have a real interesting fight on our hands, as I think it’s a largely untapped resource that no other gaming company can truly match.

While I am certainly excited for the potential hardware advances, especially in the world of VR, I am undoubtedly more excited by the potential of software services, at least with regard to its broad impact on the industry.  This generation has the potential to be the most interesting – and, perhaps most important, the most gamer-centric – one yet.

Life (or Sony) finds a way

Rogue Legacy is finally coming to the Vita!  Polygon writes:

Rogue Legacy will arrive July 29 on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, original developer Cellar Door Games designer Teddy Lee announced today on the PlayStation Blog.

I’ve been wanting to play Rogue Legacy since I first heard about it, but I’ve been holding off for the Vita version since I feel like it’s the ideal platform for that sort of game.  The timing is perfect – it’s coming out the day before I leave my friends’ wedding.  Guess I know what I’m playing on the flight…and in the hotel room…and during the wedding

Daily Drivers Update, 6/22/2014

As part of this blog, I am going to keep an up-to-date list of all the devices I currently use as daily drivers.  That list can be found here. Devices added:

  • Nexus 5
  • Nexus 7
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Late 2013)
  • Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II
  • FitBit One, Pebble Smartwatch

Devices removed: None.

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