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Here is what has been making news: New Releases, Sony’s Big Announcement, BioShock Infinite, Zelda: Oracle of Ages / Seasons, Watch Dogs, PS4 and Used Games, Wii U’s Doom?, Mass Effect 3 DLC, Arma 3, Next Gen Xbox.
February 24th – March 2nd
Sunday, Feb. 24th
S.D.G.T. will be available for the Xbox 360.
Tuesday, Feb. 26th
Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires will be available for the PS3.
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan will be available for the 3DS.
MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, and PC.
Brutal Legend will be available for the PC.
Towelfight 2 will be available for the Android.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard will be available for the PS3.
Scribblenauts Collection will be available for the NDS.
Kids Learn Animals Bundle will be available for the NDS.
Kids Learn Math and Spelling Bundle will be available for the NDS.
Rayman Legends will be available for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus will be available for the PS Vita.
Borderlands 2 – Add-on Content Pack will be available for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Bit. Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien will be available for the PC.
Thursday, Feb. 28th
Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army will be available for the PC.
Might and Magic Heroes VI: Shades of Darkness will be available for the PC.
Star Wars Pinball will be available for the iPhone and Android.
Masters of the World: Geopolitical Simulator 3 will be available for the PC.
Halo 4: Majestic Map Pack will be available for the Xbox 360.
Expeditions: Conquistador will be available for the PC.
Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD will be available for the PS Vita.
Ragnarok Online: Valkyrie Uprising will be available for the iPhone.
Redneck Revenge: A Zombie Road Trip will be available for the iPhone.
Real Racing 3 will be available for the iPhone.
Oil Rush will be available for the Android.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II – Revolution will be available for the PS3 and PC.
Friday, March 1st
Jewel Link Safari Quest will be available for the NDS.
The PS4 is biggest news this week
Did ya catch it? Sony fever. If so you probably watched the live stream of Andrew House, Sony president and CEO, taking the stage at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York to announce the PS4. House called it Sony’s “most powerful platform ever,” adding that it will permit “worlds to come alive with greater fidelity and intensity than ever before.” Wow!
House stated that “ease of access, regardless of location or device, has been a priority in the system’s development.” Sony has envisioned the future of the system as being “consumer centric and developer inspired.” Sony wants to let developers use “new business models that enable more flexibility, including episodic and free-to-play.”
Following House, Mark Cerny, the lead PS4 system architect, took the stage and said “We wanted to make sure nothing would come between the player, the platform, and play. Our main goal was to architect the system so as to support a breadth of experiences.”
The PS4 boasts 8GB of unified system memory, a “highly enhanced” PC GPU which contains “a unified array of 18 compute units, which collectively generate 1.84 Teraflops of processing power that can freely be applied to graphics, simulation tasks, or some mixture of the two.” Now that is impressive! The system is also “centered around a powerful custom chip that contains eight x86-64 cores, and a state of the art graphics processor.”
After going through all this cool geek talk, Cerny showed off the “DualShock 4″ PS4 controller which includes several of the rumored features. It has enhanced rumble and reduced latency, a touchpad, a headphone jack, and a new Share button that lets you record gameplay or grab screen shots and share them instantly. The new pad was developed along with the PS Eye camera. The PS4 will also support cross-game chat. Cerny stated “Our goal is to make the sharing of video on PS4 as popular as the sharing of screenshots is today.”
Another pleasant surprise for gamers involves the reduction of lag time between you and the content you want to access. The PS4 uses a “suspend mode” that keeps the console in a low power state while at the same time preserving your game session. Cerny explained that “The time it takes today to boot a console and load a saved game will be a thing of the past.”
How would you like to boot up a web browser, or other application, as you are playing your game? PS4 will also let you download or update in the background, or in stand-by mode. Plus, you can start your download of a new game and begin playing the new game even before the full download is complete!
On stage next was the founder of Cloud gaming platform, Gaikai, Dave Perry. Gaikai was acquired by Sony last year for a cool $380 million. Perry announced that “What we’re creating is the fastest, most powerful gaming network in the world. With Gaikai and the PlayStation Store, you’ll be able to instantly experience games for free [and only pay for the full experience if you want to].” The PlayStation cloud services will be rolled out in phases, the primary goal being to give you access to all of your favorite PSone, PS2, and PS3 games.
Have you ever been really stuck in a game, needed help getting through a particularly rough spot and there was no one around to help? Well with the PS4 you will be able to have your friends virtually looking over your shoulder, posting comments directly to your screen, or even taking over your controller (if you let them) to help you past that nasty spot your are stuck in.
Mobile gaming, as most of us know, is quickly making its way into the gaming industry marketplace. Sony has recognized that with its PS Vita handheld console. Up until this presentation I have had some mixed feelings about the Vita, which itself seemed to be failing in the marketplace. After Sony’s presentation, Sony’s seemingly stubborn resistance to view the Vita as having difficulty made some sense. Vita, as well as iOS and Android devices, will be able to act as second screens for the PS4. The system will let Vita users seamlessly pull their game from their living room television and play it on the portable over Wi-Fi. Additionally, a PlayStation app will let you supplement your console game by, for example, displaying the inventory screen or environment map on a supporting device such as Vita or even your iPhone.
Then it was time for game demos. Hermen Hulst, the managing director at Guerrilla Games, was next to take the stage. Hulst announced the next entry in PlayStation’s flagship first-person-shooters, Killzone Shadowfall. The game will debut on the PS4.
Then Sucker Punch was up on stage showing off its demo of Infamous Second Son, a story of a militarized city whose citizens are monitored closely. The twist is that some people have begun to develop super powers and are revolting against the big brother military system.
Another demo was presented by Johathan Blow. The Witness, an open world puzzle game, is intended to be a PS4 exclusive. Drive Club for PS4 was unveiled by Evolution Studios. This next-gen racer game will focus on team-based, online racing. This is one game that will link to smart phones and tablets using a companion app, letting gamers have “24/7 untethered access to their club.”
Ubisoft’s CEO, Yves Guillemot, gave us a glimpse of Watch Dogs, which is expected to launch later this year. During his presentation he stated that “The power and capability of the PS4 allows the Watch Dogs team to further push the boundaries of what was previously thought possible in interactive entertainment.”
All of the demoed games, as well as a new entry in the Final Fantasy series, will be launching with the PS4 in time for the holiday season this year. Blizzard also announced that Diablo 3 will launch on the PS3 and the PS4. They will reveal more details about this launch in the coming months. CEO and cofounder of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime, stated “Diablo III looks and plays great on the PlayStation. We put a lot of care and thought into the PlayStation version to make sure it would deliver an authentic Diablo gaming experience, and we’re really pleased with the results.”
Another game, Destiny, that will launch on both the PS3 and PS4, was demoed by Bungie. There will apparently be exclusive content just for the PlayStation, although the game will also be available for other consoles.
One of the rumors that didn’t come to pass fully was that Sony would use super-hi-res 4K resolution with game content. Sadly, while the PS4 supports 4K, it does not do so for games. However, we are pleased to announced that another rumor involving always-online connection did not prove to be true. Sony’s boss, Shuhei Yoshida stated that “You can play offline, but you may want to keep it connected.” Later stated in an interview that “Social is big for us, but we understand there are some people who are anti-social! So if you don’t want to connect to anyone else, you can do that.” Yoshida added however, that if you do stay connected there will be a wealth of services available to you.
Now I have to tell you, I’m an Xbox 360 gamer, love my Xbox. However, when it comes to the next-gen consoles, if Microsoft insists upon preventing us from playing rented or used games on their new console, I’ll be moving on to the PS4. This system sounds awesome!
DLC Pass Announced
If you have BioShock Infinite on pre-order, or if you plan on pre-ordering the game, might I suggest you also purchase the Season Pass once it comes available on March 26th. The Season Pass will give you about $30 worth of add-on downloadable content for $20, a 30 percent discount.
2K tells us that Irrational Games is currently working on three add-on packs which will add hours of added game play as they continue your journey in the sky-city of Columbia. There will be new stories, new abilities, new weapons and new characters.
If you have pre-ordered the game, you can also get yourself another add-on pack titled Industrial Revolution, for free. This add-on gives you exclusive access to three in-game gear items that will boost your combat abilities. If you are a BioShock fan, this is definitely worthy must have.
Coming to the 3DS
Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Zelda: Seasons are two unique games that were released simultaneously for the Game Boy Color. They are unique because they weren’t developed by Nintendo, but rather by Capcom.
It was thought that there was some kind of licensing issue which prevented these games from coming to the 3DS. However, this wasn’t really the case, and as a result of the popularity of Zelda, it seems pretty certain that the Oracle games will be released on the US and the European 3DS eShop. As an added perk, once these games are released, no date yet though, every main Zelda game in the series will be playable on current-gen hardware. As a Zelda fan myself, I’m looking forward to this release and will be sure to pass on dates as soon as we have them available.
Launching with PS4
As mentioned in the first story above, Watch Dogs will be available at the same time that the PS4 launches. The ambitious scope of this game assures us that Ubisoft is not down for the count but is again at the forefront of new technology. Ubisoft has given its development team the freedom to create “unprecedented entertainment experiences.” Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft’s CEO, stated that “The power and capability of the PS4 allows the Watch Dogs team to further push the boundaries of what was previously thought possible in interactive entertainment.” The demo presented at Sony’s PS4 presentation certainly did demonstrate what Guillemot has proudly expressed.
Over the past year we have heard and reported on many rumors surrounding the restriction of gamers’ ability to play used and rented games on the next gen consoles. Thankfully, at least as far as the PS4 is concerned, those rumors turned out to be false.
Shuhei Yoshida, the head of Sony Worldwide Studios, put gamers’ concerns to rest when he confirmed that the PS4 will still play used discs and Sony has no intention of using DRM restrictions. He stated that when customers “purchase physical form, they want to use it everywhere, right? So that’s my expectation. Used games can play on PS4.”
Recently a Sony patent was discovered which involved a special kind of Blu-Ray disc that would only allow it to be played on the first console it was used on. Once that patent was discovered, rumors and fears ran ramped. However, Sony states that the patent is for an entirely different device and the technology associated with it will not be used with the PS4.
Thank you Sony! This is great news for gamers everywhere. We are relieved to find that Sony isn’t attempting to kill the used game market, but the question is, will the new Xbox offer us similar news? I hope so, otherwise, I will be moving my next-gen gaming experience to Sony.
Trouble on the horizon for the handheld
There have been a number of industry analysts lately who have been predicting that the Wii U is quickly moving into failure. Michael Pachter, the managing director for Wedbush Securities, recently stated that the Wii U is Nintendo’s big “mistake” that “they probably can’t recover from.”
While Nintendo hasn’t released any sales figures for January yet, the estimate is somewhere around 55,000 units. This is an extremely bad number of sales following an initial launch of a system. Combine the low sales with an increasing lack of third-party support by way of games, and it is looking bad for the handheld. Consider too that developers of some of the most popular upcoming titles like BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V, and Tomb Raider, have already said that they will not be launching their game on the Wii U.
Over all, things just don’t look good for the Wii U, so what would have to happen in order to turn things around? Colin Sebastian, an analyst for Baird, stated that “great games, unique to the platform would be a very good start.” Lewis Ward, research manager for IDC, agreed saying “Games, games, games, and more games. The relationship between key releases – primarily first party titles – and hardware sales is especially clear in Nintendo’s case. The sooner they get titles like Pikmin 3 and Wii Fit U on the console side and Pokemon games and titles like Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the 3DS side on store shelves, the better.”
However, Pachter isn’t convinced this is true, “I think they have made a costly mistake. And their handheld business can’t save them in the face of cannibalization from smartphones and tablets.” In explaining why he appears so cynical toward the Wii U, Pachter, ever the analyst, uses a lot of statistics and sales figures. “Nintendo has historically made money, and a lot of money, on each hardware unit sold. The DS at $99 USD is more profitable for them than the 3DS at $169. The DS sold 23.5 million units in FY [Fiscal Year] ’07, 30.3 million in FY ’08, 31.1 million in FY ’09, and 27.1 million in FY ’10. Nintendo made money, and lots of money, in each of those years.”
Pachter went on to explain “Many of you point out that the 3DS is selling better than the DS at a similar point. That’s true, but the DS was always profitable, and the 3DS is not. Also, the DS saw sales go from 8.8 million units in its first four quarters to 18.0 million its next four, to 20.2 million in its third full year. I’m pretty confident that the 3DS will not get to 20 million units, but even if it did, it would generate little profit from hardware. Keep in mind that the DS redesign to a lite version boosted sales, and there was little competition for 12 year-old and older from smart phones and tablets. Now, parents who can afford it are opting for Kindles, iPads, and smart phones for their teenagers, and the more casual of those are perfectly happy playing Angry Birds and putting their DS or 3DS into a drawer.”
Pachter has received much criticism over his remarks and has been accused of predicting Nintendo’s complete collapse. In response to that criticism he said “My comment about the Wii U being a ‘mistake’ from which the company ‘may not recover’ was intended to say that if Wii U sales don’t materially improve, Nintendo is unlikely to be profitable. They have around $11 billion in cash, so they aren’t in danger of going out of business for decades. However, if they aren’t profitable, they aren’t doing a good job for shareholders.”
He went on to explain that “if the Wii U is not generating profits, and if the 3DS is not generating profits, the only thing that will generate profits is software. Nintendo is ensured high sales of its proprietary software, but it makes the most money on its royalty business, collecting fees from third parties for the privilege of letting them put out games on Nintendo platforms. Publishing (software) revenues peaked at 108 billion in FY ’09, and are on track to come in around 38 billion this year; my call is that if hardware sales don’t materially improve above current combined levels, software sales are unlikely to materially grow. If software sales don’t materially improve, losses or break even will become the norm. Nintendo will not “recover” to its formal highly profitable glory.”
Now, if you’re anything like me, all this number mumbo jumbo kind a makes me glaze over, so Pachter finally cut to the bottom line when he stated that “the important point is that if 3DS sales level off at 15 million and Wii U sales level off at 8-10 million, software sales will be much lower than they were in the past. If Nintendo doesn’t make a profit on hardware, they can’t afford to cut prices further. If they do cut price, it will likely occur as their manufacturing costs come down, but I don’t expect big hardware profits in the foreseeable future. They are stuck with software profits, and at current sales levels, they are unlikely to make an overall profit from software.”
While on the surface, I tend to agree, in fact I believe I’ve even made similar (albeit shorter) comments regarding Nintendo in the past. They do have a way of putting out a system long before they have the software to support it. Look how long it took to get a decent game on the 3DS, and actually Nintendo still seems to be struggling to get unique software for the 3DS. However, if you look at Nintendo, give a good hard look at “the house that Mario built,” you will see the possibilities for recovery. The main factor, as usual, is the software that will be available on the Wii U. Nintendo needs to convince developers to port their titles to the Wii U, and not just any titles, their more popular ones. These titles then need have console-specific functionality.
But more than that, Nintendo needs some unique exclusive games for the console. Sure this may be a tall order, convincing third party developers to jump on board the Wii U bandwagon, but more than likely Nintendo is already generating something special for their fans. Pay attention to what happens at this year’s E3, what happens there could make or break the Wii U console. You may recall that last year was a huge disappointment when the Wii U was basically a “no-show” to the convention.
Citadel, the final single and multiplayer DLC
The final downloadable content (DLC) for both the single-player and multiplayer has been announced by BioWare.
Single players can look forward to “Citadel” involving a “sinister conspiracy” targeting Shepard. You are tasked with finding the truth, fighting alongside some of the original cast from Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. Once the adventure is over and truth has been restored, you are free to reconnect with some of your favorite Mass Effect Trilogy characters, try your luck at the Citadel’s Silver Coast Casino, explore and furnish Shepard’s living quarters on the Citadel, and even rekindle some old romances from the past.
According to BioWare, Xbox 360 gamers will find that “the Citadel DLC pack will come as 2 downloads on Xbox Live. ME3 Citadel is larger than our previous DLC packs, so it had to be split into 2 downloads. The first pack is priced at $14.99 and the second pack is tagged as free. Players need to purchase and download pack 1, then download pack 2 at no additional cost. You can download pack 2 without purchasing pack one, but the DLC will not work. You will get an error message in game asking you to download pack 1. It will say ‘This DLC will only work in conjunction with Part 1 of Mass Effect 3: Citadel, which is split across 2 downloadable packages. Please purchase Part 1 prior to downloading Part 2 at no additional cost.’ This will not hurt your saved game but you will not be able to launch Citadel until you have both packs. This only effects Xbox 360 users. Citadel for the PC and PS3 is in one pack.”
Citadel for Single player will release for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on March 5th. Note that for European PS3 gamers the pack will launch on March 6th.
Reckoning is the DLC pack for multiplayers. The pack gives you new characters, including Geth Juggernaut, Female Turian Raptor, Talon Mercenary and Alliance Infiltration Unit. There will also be seven new weapons and some new equipment. Reckoning will release for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on February 26th, again, European PS3 gamers will wait a day longer. BioWare has stated that “There are no plans to bring Citadel or Reckoning to the Wii U at this time.”
Some release details announced
Bohemia Interactive recently stated that Arma 3, its new military sandbox game, will launch exclusively on Valve’s Steam platform. This was necessary if the game was to meet its 2013 launch target, according to Joris-Jan van ‘t Land, the project lead. ”A long four months ago, I took over as Project Lead for Arma 3, having previously worked on the game as Lead Playable Content. As a team we were facing two quite serious situations: we were not happy with how the project was going, and on top of that two of our colleagues were suddenly arrested for alleged espionage in Greece. The first two months on the job were all about taking an inventory of the project and team, seeing what was going well, what was not, and coming up with plans to fix it all. The mission set by our CEO, Marek Spanel, was clear: do all we can to release Arma 3 in 2013.”
Putting Arma 3 on Valve’s platform meant it would be easier to add patches if necessary, it was easier for the team to use Steamworks, and to govern over piracy. “Think of it what you want, but piracy is affecting us as a business. However, Bohemia Interactive has tried to grow with the evolution of the Internet, rather than to fight it. We have removed intrusive Digital Rights Management (DRM) from our games several months after release, but cannot afford to launch without such technologies. We strongly believe the best anti-piracy comes from offering valuable online services that people are willing to invest in. Supporting that philosophy: we saw we could not deliver in-house solutions on time, but could take Steam’s and expand upon them. It will be possible to run Steam in Offline mode, and still play the game (with the exception of online services obviously, including multiplayer itself).”
Arma 3 will require Steam to play, however, Bohemia Interactive does plan on distributing boxed retail copies. There hasn’t been an exact release date given at this time.
Can it compete with the PS4?
Durango is the code name for the next-gen Xbox. Much of the rumor surrounding Durango has been its always online requirement, meaning you must have an internet connection to even use the system. One of the purposes of this is to block the use of used and rented games, no more borrowing your friend’s copy of a game to play. There has been a lot written about this “rumor,” enough in fact to suppose that this is exactly what Microsoft has planned for Durango.
Given Sony’s recent reveal of its new PS4 and the fact that Sony refuses to put such restrictions on its customers, it’s likely that Microsoft will change its mind on implementing this feature, at least at launch. I have no doubt that the feature will still be part of the system, it just won’t be “activated” just yet.
When we speak of rumors regarding Durango, we need to report a recent bit of information out there that suggests Kinect, or a new iteration of it, will be included on every Durango sold. That sounds really cool, until you find out that in order to even use the console, you must have Kinect actually connected and set up for the console to be useable.
This isn’t going to come cheap, Microsoft isn’t going to just “throw in” the Kinect, this is likely going to raise the cost of the system. The good news is for developers who will be able to use it without limiting the potential audience for the game or feature in question. For gamers, the news isn’t all good, after all, there is no guarantee Durango gamers will even have the space, much less the desire, to use Kinect. It will make navigating the dashboard or Netflix more convenient using voice commands however.
Another mandatory requirement that Microsoft appears to be forcing on gamers involves game installations. Each and every game will require you to install them to play. The system is said to come with a 500GB hard drive, believe me, it won’t take long to fill that up if you are forced to install every game you play. Do you suppose Microsoft will continue to charge a major premium for upgrading hard drive capacity? I have no doubt they will, which will be another added burden to their customers.
Like the PS4, the Durango will include the ability to multitask. For example, if you get stuck in a game and want to find some walkthrough help, you no longer have to either close the game to get online and search, or you walk away from the paused game and use your PC to search for help. Now you can suspend your game, go online, and return to your game fairly seamlessly, without having to re-open the game. You can even have two games up at the same time, suspending one while playing the other and jumping back and forth without having to shut one down first.
This suspend feature just makes so much sense to me, and I’ve often wondered why Microsoft, with all of its technical knowledge, hasn’t done this from the start. Hopefully, Twitter and Facebook apps will be brought back, making them much more useful. Its currently not clear if their suspend feature would work like the PS4′s feature where you can suspend the console and come back to your game at the very spot you ended without having to shut the game down. This also means boot up time would be greatly reduced.
While this is all speculation and rumor until Microsoft makes their official announcement like Sony did this past week, the multitasking feature would be greatly appreciated. I’m not sure it would be enough to keep Durango competitive with the PS4 however. Microsoft appears to be digging itself into a hole, especially if they insist upon implementing all of the “you musts” that appear to be planned. You must be connected to the internet to use the console, you must buy your games new, you must plug in Kinect, you must pay to play online, none of these are requirements of the PS4.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of getting kicked around by Microsoft’s “you musts.” I’m forced into abandon instant messaging for Skype and must change my Hotmail account to Outlook .. frankly, I prefer my entertainment not to dictate to me what I must and must not do. In my humble opinion, Microsoft is getting a bit too big for their britches, as my Daddy would say. If they start dictating my game time, I’ll switch to Sony.