Archive for the ‘Opinion Piece’ Category

Sony can kill the Xbox One X

Posted: June 13, 2017 in Opinion Piece

 

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The war is going to be over price

by Ben Kuchera via Polygon

Microsoft had a decision to make: Did it want to price the Xbox One X at $499.99 and just say that it had the most powerful console without selling the system in great numbers, or did it want to release the system at $399.99 and get competitive with Sony when it comes to the actual hardware?

The Xbox One X will be $499.99, and that means Sony can go in for the killing blow tonight. That price is a mistake.

The PlayStation 4 Pro is $399.99 at the time of this writing, and Sony can increase the price difference by dropping it to either $349.99 or $299.99, if the company really wants to get nasty. Sony has a history of twisting the knife when Microsoft exposes a vulnerability, and dropping the price of its most powerful console to make the Xbox One X seem even more expensive than it does right now would be an effective strategy.

Sony wants to continue outselling the Xbox, and dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 Pro is an easy way to keep its lead. If there’s a $150 or more difference in price between the Pro and the Xbox One X, the more expensive system doesn’t stand much of a chance to sell in high numbers.

“I think that the price point is too high,” Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter stated. “Consoles have historically failed at this price point, and consumers seem unwilling to accept anything over $399. The X will have even more trouble, because the S is at $249 and so is the PS4. A consumer could buy both the S and the PS4 for the cost of an X, so it makes it a tough decision for anyone who is budget conscious or constrained. I think it will resonate well with the wealthy few who buy it, but I think it’s too expensive.”

You can argue that the Xbox One X is more powerful — and you’d be right! — but it’s tricky to show that difference to players who don’t have a 4K television. There’s no clear, instantly recognizable advantage the Xbox One X provides based on everything we’ve seen so far. Both systems increase the visual fidelity of existing games, and the Xbox One S even delivers a variety of 4K features at a much lower price. Raw power and stats are likely to prove less powerful in the market than price and value, and Microsoft is about to find out the hard way.

 Sony may be comfortable in its lead right now, but dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 Pro would be an amazing dunk on Microsoft.

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destiny-2-header-1

by Erik Kain

Paul Tassi is wrong. Again.

While he makes a compelling case for Destiny 2 on PS4, and while he’s certainly right to ditch the Xbox One, he’s still settling for second best. (Honestly, I’m surprised he didn’t jump the Xbox One ship sooner given the myriad reasons to play the original Destiny on PS4.)

Having played the game on both PS4 and PC, I can honestly say I prefer the latter in just about every single way imaginable. I’m excited to fire up the Blizzard App and see Destiny 2 side-by-side with Overwatch and Diablo III. 

Yes, the PC version of the game might be delayed. We don’t have a firm release date for the port just yet. It could come out the same day as PS4 and Xbox One (September 8th) or it could come out days, weeks or even months later.

That’s the only reason I can see playing on PS4, though, and even then only temporarily for the sake of our jobs as critics. Extra PS4 content is not a good enough reason to confine yourself to a gamepad when mouse and keyboard are so obviously superior in every way, at least for first-person shooters.

I think it’s a real shame that there’s any sort of exclusivity deal at all, to be honest. I’ve gone on at length before about how this is a mistake, and these kinds of deals are bad for games and gamers, but an extra strike and some extra crucible content out early for PS4 is just not enough for me to accept a subpar gamepad over mouse and keyboard.

I’ll likely play the game on PS4, too, right up until the PC version lands. In fact, if the PC version is released only shortly after the PS4 version I may skip consoles altogether. These games are an enormous time investment, and I’m not sure how much time I want to put into a character if I’m just going to jump ship for PC down the road.

So that’s my take. PC is the best place to play just about anything, and that includes Destiny 2.

All of this hinges on Bungie being able to control cheating on PC, of course. If cheating becomes a serious problem, I may have to eat my hat and go back to console. I hope that’s not the case, however. I don’t want filthy, no-good, rotten cheaters ruining the experience for the rest of us.

P.S. I forgot to mention the frame-rate difference. I meant to but I forgot. On PC gamers can expect 60 fps or higher, whereas consoles are locked at 30 fps. This makes a huge difference especially in an action shooter. There’s simply no comparison.

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by Dave Thier via Forbes

We’ll be hearing more about the Xbox Scorpio this week. Rumors were swirling around yesterday, but now we’ve got some confirmation. Microsoft and Digital Foundry will be revealing the more powerful follow-up to the Xbox One on Thursday, where we can expect to get some concrete details on a machine that’s only existed in theory so far. It’s a big moment for Microsoft, which is trying to get out from the shadow of both the PS4 and it’s own early missteps with the Xbox One. Here’s the relevant tweet:

To clear up the speculation: will have an exclusive Xbox Scorpio reveal on this Thursday at 2pm UK / 6am Pacific.

For those that don’t know: Digital Foundry is a vertical on Eurogamer that gets into the nitty gritty of how graphics work across consoles and PC. It’s where writers review new PC hardware, compare graphics and performance across platforms, evaluate patches, and so on. Your average user can usually get the thrust of an article, but it also goes much deeper than your typical game blog. It’s a deeply technical place, with a whole lot of information on offer for those capable of digesting it. I consider myself informed, or at the very least more informed than the average customer about graphics hardware and capabilities, but a given Digital Foundry article might be 50 percent incomprehensible to me.

In short, Digital Foundry is a place for video game gearheads on the Internet, and that makes Microsoft’s choice to reveal there a very clear signal. The company has talked a lot in the past about how this is the most powerful console ever made, how it’s going to be geared to the gamer that wants the best, how it’s meant to run circles around the somewhat underwhelming PS4 Pro, and more. If anyone in the mainstream gaming media is equipped to evaluate that statement, it’s Digital Foundry. We can expect a reveal that’s more or less entirely focused on raw hardware, with a stronger emphasis on games and exclusives to come at E3. There’s a certain degree of confidence implied, as if Microsoft is calling in expert witnesses to evaluate its claims.

It’s a striking difference from the reveal of the Xbox One, which many criticized for paying little more than lip-service to the fact that the machine was, you know, a video game console, choosing instead to focus on entertainment options. We all know how that went: a combination of early messaging missteps, a high price point and underpowered hardware handed the console war to Sony, which continues to dominate with the PS4 line. We’ve always expected the Xbox Scorpio to take a hard turn away from that fateful press conference for the sole reason that Phil Spencer and co. have no interest in making the same mistake twice, but a Digital Foundry reveal gives us a stronger indication of where they’ll be going instead.

I’m still wary of the whole concept in general, just like I am about the PS4 Pro. But we’ll wait for more evaluation until Thursday: stay tuned.

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recore_rerelease-1200x0

by Gabe Gurwin via Digital Trends

Last September, Comcept Games’ ReCore launched on Xbox One and PC to poor reviews. While the game showed promise prior to release, the final game was simply not finished: Its narrative went nowhere, its enemy design was homogenous, and whole sections of the game seem to have been scraped together using whatever art was just lying around, so to speak. One of the robotic companions that protagonist Joule was supposed to befriend was left out of the game, even though he’s clearly visible on the game’s cover art. Though developers Comcept and Armature Studio plan to correct some of these issues via downloadable content later this year, it’s been six months since the game went on sale, and it is still broken.

So I was shocked to find that, though the game is still unfinished, the developer is planning to take another pass at selling the game. According to a German Rating Board, Microsoft plans to publish a “Definitive Edition” of ReCore, presumably later this year. Should it be published, the game will mark an incredible low-point for Microsoft. By elevating of one its worst games in recent memory, Microsoft is publicizing a moment when it failed to meet players’ expectations.

ReCore, which ends with a resounding “thud” and spends its latter half making players backtrack through nearly every area as a means of disguising its lack of meaningful gameplay, doesn’t need to be bolstered. It needs to be overhauled from the ground up. It doesn’t need DLC-style content that gives its story “context,” it needs a story. Its paper-thin narrative included in the game at the moment offers almost no incentive for its hero, Joule, or the player to trudge through its monotony. It doesn’t need a new coat of shiny paint. It needs foundational work to expand on what’s already there, not to mention systemic improvements to eliminate its odd checkpoint bugs and infuriating loading times.

These aren’t “extras” that fans should be paying a premium to receive. They are what we should expect of a video game, especially one with a AAA publisher, Microsoft, and created by legendary talents like Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and Metroid Prime’s Mark Pacini.

Perhaps my anger is unwarranted. It’s rare, but not unheard of, for developers to add meaningful changes in a definitive re-release. Ori and the Blind Forest, another Microsoft-published game, added new areas, new mechanics, and new artwork. Should Microsoft choose to release the additional robot – the T8NK – and the previously unfinished area as free DLC before publishing Recore’s definitive re-release, it could at least show that there’s a commitment to improving the game, rather than merely reselling it.

Even if they do everything right, though, framing a new version of ReCore as the “definitive” edition suggests that the original game was somehow worthy of a re-release. It suggests that the game even remotely met the lofty expectations of players, who had been waiting years for a successor to the Metroid Prime series. The promise of “more ReCore” isn’t going to get fans excited. It will simply remind them of the game’s failed potential, and the hours they wasted as they dared to hope that the game might improve after launch.

Microsoft would be wise to put ReCore in the rearview mirror. It exemplifies everything the company has done wrong in recent years. It not only failed to match Xbox’s high publishing standards, but paled in comparison to the offerings from both PlayStation and third-party publishers. You can tweak and improve certain aspects of a bad video game after release, but without fundamentally changing how it was designed and removing the filler, it can only be improved so much. It takes more than a few words to make a bad game into something “definitive.”

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by Stephanie Pappas via Live Science

The zombie apocalypse won’t take long.

A new article in a peer-reviewed student journal finds that the zombie hordes would take Earth’s population down to a mere 273 survivors in 100 days.

The paper, published in the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics, was a fanciful use of the so-called SIR model, which is used in epidemiology to simulate how diseases spread over time. It’s not the first time zombies have been used as a public health metaphor. In December 2015, for example, the British medical journal The Lancet published a tongue-in-cheek paper titled “Zombie infections: epidemiology, treatment, and prevention.” And a viral blog post from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged zombie-apocalypse preparations as a a metaphor for real-life disaster preparedness.

In the new analysis, the University of Leicester undergraduates assumed that each zombie would have 90 percent success at finding and infecting one human per day — a rate that would make the zombie virus twice as contagious as the Black Death, the plague that devastated Europe in the 1300s. [Zombie Animals: 5 Real Cases of Body-Snatching]

The researchers further estimated that each zombie could live 20 days without braaaaaains.

Assuming a starting population of 7.5 billion people, approximately the world’s population today, the students calculated that it would take 20 days for a single zombie to start an epidemic of noticeable proportions. At that point, the pandemic would have begun. Assuming no geographic isolation, in fact, the human population would drop to 181 by day 100 of the epidemic, with 190 million zombies roaming around.

With some geographical isolation, the situation would be a tiny bit better for humans. Assuming the zombie virus had to spread through contiguous regions and that zombies were somewhat limited in their ability to travel (not leaving their current region until there were 100,000 zombies roaming there), human survivors would number 273 by day 100, the study found.

A more realistic model might assume that each zombie could find fewer human victims over time, the students wrote, because there would simply be fewer humans to find.

“We have also not included the possibility for the humans to kill the zombies,” they wrote.

But never fear: In a follow-up paper, the students did just that. They extended the zombie life span to one year in order to up the challenge a bit, but also gave each human a 10 percent chance of killing a zombie each day. They also accounted for human reproduction, assuming reproductive-age women would be able to have a baby once every three years.

These assumptions provided some hope for humanity. Under this model, the human population rapidly dropped off to a few hundred again. However, the zombies died off after 1,000 days, under this model; 10,000 days after the beginning of the epidemic, the human population would start to recover again, the students found.

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by Ryan Winslett via CinemaBlend

For those of you wondering when Crackdown 3 will be available on Xbox One, we’ve finally got a launch window for you to add to your calendar. Just be aware that said window is kinda wide.

Crackdown 3 has been a long time coming and, based on the most recent reports, it looks like the game could be as far as a year off before anyone gets to play it. Then again, it might be coming sooner than that. And if that seems kind of nebulous, you can blame it on the development team.

Coming to us from NeoGAF via IGN, Crackdown 3 art director Dave Johnson and executive producer Peter Connelly recently spoke briefly about the game’s launch date during a livestream event for Extra Life. When asked when fans would finally be able to enjoy the over-the-top antics of Crackdown 3, the duo claimed that holiday 2017 was looking like a safe bet, adding that it might actually come earlier.

And this wasn’t one of those sly “or earlier” comments followed by a wink that leads one to believe that the game will be here much sooner than the predicted launch window. It was more like a “Hey, we’re gunning for next holiday season but, if things go well, who knows?”

That leads us to believe one of two things. Either the team really doesn’t have a solid idea of when Crackdown 3 will actually be finished or they actually expect the game to be completed sooner but, due to scheduling, might end up holding off on a launch in order to make it a big holiday get for the Xbox One. You’re welcome to discuss in the comments below which scenario seems more likely.

Announced a few years back at E3, Crackdown 3 is the highly anticipated follow-up to the beloved Xbox 360 series wherein players dish out super-powered justice in a bright and colorful city that would feel right at home in a Saturday morning cartoon intended for adults. Think Saints Row, but without all of the crass humor.

Anyway, after radio silence for what felt like far too long, it was announced at the most recent E3 that Crackdown 3, which was expected sometime in 2016, would not actually hit store shelves until 2017. It turns out the team needed more time than we imagined, as it looks like it could be another 12 months before we get our hands on the game. Or not. As stated above, the launch window is pretty-damn-vague at this point.

Since Microsoft Studios stated that the delay was due to not wanting to compromise the original vision for the game, this is the kind of delay we can get behind. With the Xbox Scorpio set to launch around holiday 2017 as well, this certainly seems like a strategic plan on Microsoft’s part to have a big new game ready to roll alongside the 4K console.

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pro

by Paul Tassi via Forbes

I’ve had my PS4 Pro for nearly a week now, my old, original PS4 currently tucked away in hibernation, waiting for me to decide who to donate it to. As I mentioned in my full review last week, I like the system, and think it was both the right call for me, someone with a 4K HDR TV, and for Sony.

Sales of the PS4 Pro seem to be going well so far, and it’s a way for Sony to expand their lead over the course of the next year, as Microsoft doesn’t have a similar offering, and it’s anyone’s guess how wildcard Nintendo’s Switch will perform later in the year.

And yet, something I’ve noticed after a few days with the Pro is that…I’m already starting to forget I own one.

This isn’t to say that the PS4 Pro does anything wrong in particular. It’s upconverting games to 4K, making use of HDR and better framerates in some games. But what I am saying is that my brain has “normalized” all this in pretty short order. This was never going to be a fully-fledged new console launch, given the specs and capabilities of the system, and it certainly does not feel like that in practice, that’s for sure.

As I mentioned previously, the largest step forward for me in the past year was buying the 4K TV in the first place, which began to upconvert all my games to 4K to some degree. Now, PS4 Pro does this better and more consistently, but the leap from PS4 on 1080p TV to PS4 on 4K TV was larger than the one from PS4 on 4K TV to PS4 Pro on 4K TV, if that makes sense.

While everything does look better, fundamentally, at least right now, we’re still getting the same games, and while most of them look/run somewhat better on the Pro, you’re not viewing these games as side-by-side comparisons. I played the first half of Dishonored 2 on my PS4, and the second half on my PS4 Pro, and if you had switched out the boxes and didn’t tell me, I am not sure there’s a guarantee I would have noticed a specific difference. Now, all games going forward I will be playing on PS4 Pro only, with nothing else to even compare them to, and I expect I will notice improvements even less when that day comes. This has already happened with Watch Dogs 2, a great looking game on PS4 Pro, but I have no idea what it would have looked like on my PS4, where most games were also great looking.

All of this is to say that while PS4 Pro certainly works as a better performing console, it makes me hope that the Xbox Scorpio, due out a year from now, ends up being substantially more than this. We already know that Microsoft is gunning for even more power than Sony, but the system still isn’t being treated like an entirely new console, indicating that a generational leap forward is still out of reach, four years after the launch of the original Xbox One.

It’s a chance for Microsoft to try to reclaim the upper hand, essentially going “last” out of the three consoles that will be out in the market by that point, with the opportunity to blow them away. Sony is committed to the PS4 Pro for a good long while now, and Nintendo is off in its own little world as it usually is, and barring some sort of miraculous Wii-like success, the Switch will probably not be a significant factor in the PlayStation V. Xbox battle.

But, like I thought when these consoles were just announced, it is a pretty tough sell for these consoles to offering marginal improvements in performance while players have to pay the full $400 cost of an entirely new system.

I know there are many technical-minded people out there who may notice consistent performance improvements on devices like the Pro to a greater extent than I do. But I also think many of these people are the type who own high-performing gaming PCs, where things like 4K and good framerates are more easily and consistently achievable.

Gaming has come a long way in the last few decades, but now we’re reaching a point where things feel like they’re stalling a bit. Where new consoles are not blockbuster new releases that feel like leaps into the future. Instead it feels more like a phone upgrade, your iPhone 6 just became a 6S, and it only cost you a few hundred dollars.

Perhaps after playing the PS4 Pro for a few months, then being forced to switch back to my old PS4, I would easily notice a difference and realizing I was idealizing how games used to run. But I can’t pretend like my brain hasn’t normalized the output of this new system in just a few days, and I hope that with the Scorpio we get something that’s a more significant step forward for the home console industry. Sony hasn’t done anything badly here, but I can’t deny that I just want more.

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