The Next Console War

It’s Oscar season which means a load of fantastic movies are out in cinemas…In the US. Even something like The Irishman is so being shown in very few cinemas so I will be waiting for it to hit Netflix. The UK’s lack of film’s I care about, Disney Plus being unavailable, and Death Stranding being boring have all lead to me having very little new in the way of new content to dive into. 

I am into the third season of Chuck, a show I know extremely well and the emotional rollercoaster it puts you on is in full swing. I am also jumping between Modern Warfare and FIFA 20 when I have time for games, as The Outer Worlds just didn’t connect with me. I think I will give it another try when I am in more of an RPG playing mood. My news feed is dominated by football, so much so that I had a dream last night that Brendan Rodgers was the new arsenal manager and was in his first press conference saying Aubameyang was a liability. To be honest I would take that at Arsenal at this point.

There was some news doing the rounds last week about PlayStation executive Shuhei Yoshida being shuffled into a new position, meaning that almost all of the people at Sony that are publicly known as being responsible for the wild success that is the PS4 are now in different roles or different companies all together. Shawn Layden is the biggest name on that list, as he left earlier this year and it all seemed a little odd. There was no big thank you from Sony, despite Layden being there for 30 years and overseeing their biggest successes.

Now, the PS5 is a little bit of an unknown quantity, but when discussing it with friends I get a very PS3-ish feeling. After the dominance of the PS2 back in the early 2000s, Sony was completely overconfident and surrendered a huge advantage to Xbox 360 by launching an expensive PS3, without the online features Xbox was boasting. Their overconfidence at that time led to them having to spend the entire generation clawing back the Xbox 360 in sales numbers, and whilst it did eventually outsell its rival, Xbox won that battle.

This generation, Xbox One suffered a terrible launch, going with a message that gamers simply didn’t care for. It’s still a reasonably successful console, selling millions of units, the estimates would but it between 40 and 50 million units sold. That’s impressive, until you compare it to PlayStation over 100 million units. Such dominance in this generation should be a platform for PlayStation to really blow everyone out of the water next gen, but right now I am a lot more interested in the next Xbox than I am the PS5.

I have never actually been much of a fanboy for either console, well that’s a lie, I am a fanboy for them both. Xbox’s multiplayer is great and revolutionised the industry, but PlayStation Exclusive games are some of the best games in history. I am fortunate enough to own both consoles but next gen I will not be indulging in both again. I will be committing to one because I just don’t have the time for them both, and right now I am not sure if I want to back the more intriguing Xbox or the enticing Sony first party games that I will need a PS5 for.

If I can play my Xbox games on any device like it seems they are going for, I will be very intrigued by it, but I can’t sit here and say I won’t be easily swayed by a God of War 2, or a Horizon Zero Dawn 2, or The Last of Us Part 3, or Uncharted 5, Or Spiderman 2, or Death Stran…. never mind. Xbox’s challenge is to develop titles that can compete with those names I just listed, and that is where the next generation will be decided I feel.

The two consoles will be similar in power and graphical ability, and they will both probably offer streaming anywhere ability. They will both be crossplay I imagine, as that is just the direction things seem to be going. The X factor for both consoles will be the games you can only get in one place. It’s the biggest problem for Google Stadia, who are launching first, with a cool service, but they don’t have anything that I can only play on Stadia.

In the next 9-12 months we will hear a lot of news about the next generation, and I am going to predict now that I will end up buying a PS5. When push comes to shove, I can’t risk missing out on those exclusives, and even if Xbox unveils some new games, I like the look of, I am already invested in the stories of all the games I mentioned above. Except Death Stranding. Because Walking isn’t an interesting gameplay mechanic. Seriously I have watched a few videos and that is all you seem to be doing when you’re playing that game.

I am not sure how I managed to blurt out enough to fill a blog post today, but I will do it all again tomorrow. Until then, Happy Monday.

ChAzJS

 

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Nothing But Star Wars

The last trailer for Episode IX is here, the new game’s been previewed by some people, and the first 30 minutes of The Mandalorian have been shown off to some other lucky people. Basically, over the last week Disney has decided to kick the Star Wars marketing machine into overdrive. Between now and December 20th, we will have a new tv show, a new game, and the final movie in the Star Wars Saga. 

First things first though, that trailer. I don’t know if everyone will love it, because it doesn’t fix some people’s problems with The Last Jedi, but I thought the trailer delivered a load of interesting nuggets and some beautiful visuals. Star Wars allows the film makers to put some incredible shots on film, and this trailer is full of them. JJ Abrams has embraced that, and his long-time cinematographer Dan Mindel have really pushed the boat out and gone for some shots to wow you.

The shots can be beautiful without having any substance though, but this trailer, possibly because I am a massive freaking nerd, is full of things I want to know more about. Is that an old-style star destroyer rising out of the sea? Is that Endor at the start? Was that desert Tatooine? Is that throne on the Sith home world Dathomir? Does Kyle hold a Blue lightsaber at one point? Are Mars Delights Ever going to come back?

And of course, is that Big Papa Palpatine chilling on a throne laughing at Rey. Technically, we didn’t see him die. We just saw him thrown down a big old’ hole, and then we saw the Death Star where that hole was exploding into shrapnel.

I am a huge Star Wars fan, and honestly, I love all the movies because they’re Star Wars. Watching it from a critical standpoint is tough because I am so biased, but if I have to say one thing, it’s that this movie seems to have a lot of ground to cover. I do not mind that, because I will see this film at least 3 times before I decide what it all means, but I have a feeling it might be a bit hectic for those uneducated in the Star Wars lore. It’s out on December 20th and I will be buying 2 midnight screening tickets today, so I guess the trailer did its job.

Onto Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the game being developed by Apex Legends creators Respawn. I was a little worried we was getting a shiny new version of the Force Unleashed games from years ago, but it appears my fears have been extinguished. The game is apparently closer to a Souls style game, with some elements of other games like God of War and Uncharted mixed in there. That is some exquisite company, and if, as I have heard from some previews, it’s taking elements of those games and even if it doesn’t do them all quite as well as them, it does them very well.

It’s slower, more deliberate take on lightsaber combat is intentional, as this is a Jedi character, they’re supposed to be defensive and pick their times to strike intelligently. It may be a little odd for those who want to sprint in with their laser sword and batter everyone in sight, but that tactic won’t work. You need to decide how best to approach each combat situation and that sounds really intriguing to me. I have never been into the Souls style games, but you can wrap Star Wars around just about anything and you’ll have me intrigued.

The game isn’t too far off, and I am going media blackout now as the story does seem like it could be an interesting one. The different planets and the customisation options have me very excited to make this character fit into my own style, and by the end of this I will have him wielding a Red lightsaber if all goes to my plan. *insert Palpatine laugh here*

Finally, The Mandalorian had the first half an hour-ish shown off to a select few, and by all the responses I saw on twitter, its exactly what people wanted. It feels like the Original trilogy, and it has some characters and reveals that will get fans excited. I don’t know what they are, I assume Jabba the Hut will appear as well as favourites like IG-88 who we already know about, but beyond that I have no idea.

All I want personally from the Mandalorian is for it to feel like Star Wars, and to be consistent with the look of the films. The TV show budget would normally be a concern, but as this is going directly to Disney + I have a feeling they will have spared no expense when it comes to the production design of the series. They will know the pressure is on, it always is with a fan base as rabid as the Star Wars one.

All in all, Star Wars fans have a lot to be excited about, and I am looking forward to all this delicious content coming in the final months of this year. We’ve already had Endgame this year, and I can’t help but feel there will be comparisons between the end of that franchise and the end of this one. As much as I love Marvel, and honestly their films are better in general, there is nothing quite like Star Wars.

‘Til Tomorrow!

ChAzJS

 

From Skywalkers to Disney Remakes

Been a while! I’ve not been very active on here for a while due to learning how to write a script for a film that nobody will ever see. Anyway, from now on, every weekday there will be a new post. I am not sure what most of them will be about, but I will make it up as I go. Probably just my ramblings about pop culture and whatever is in my head that morning. 

This week Taylor Swift released a new album, and through osmosis on twitter it has slowly worked its way into my Spotify playlist and to my shock I enjoyed listening to it. My music taste is quite eclectic, my 50 song playlist has a mix of Elton John, Bring Me the Horizon and Johnny Cash, but Swifts new albums “Lover” has managed to bury its way into my head and despite the cheesy lyrics I keep finding myself humming parts of the songs.

Pop music aside, I spent quite a long time over the last few days staring at the latest Star Wars footage and wondering why this crazy franchise means so much to me. I didn’t make any progress on that beyond me being a sad case. Now, Spoilers if you don’t want to know anything about episode 9 come back tomorrow! 

The latest footage comes at the end of a weird “trailer” that shows clips from all 8 episodes we’ve had in the last 40 years. With the year Disney has had so far, with Lion King, 3 Marvel films, and Aladdin just off the top of my head, they are already looking at one of the most successful years any Studio has ever had, so to still have an ace up their sleeve in the finale of the Star Wars Saga must make some very rich people very happy at the prospect of getting even richer.

As for the actual trailer itself, it leans heavy on the Skywalkers, which is understandable considering the next film is titled “The Rise of Skywalker”. What’s intriguing to my nerdy brain is that there is nobody with that name in the film, so the meaning of “Skywalker” could well be something different. I have managed to sell myself on the idea of “Skywalker” being the new name for people using the force. No more light or dark side, ruling over the galaxy, no good versus evil, but just a group of people who can use these special powers that all have their own lives and agendas.

That theory was all set-in place in my head right up until that last shot of the trailer where we see Rey with the that sweet sweet double sided lightsaber. It’s one incredibly striking image, and a cool looking weapon design, but quite what it means I am not sure. There are a million theories around, as there always is with Star Wars trailers, but I am now entering the time when I want to stop paying attention. I want to go into this film with no idea of what is going to happen, and this taster was just a little bit too much info for me. So, it’s black out for now, I am going to try and avoid spoilers like the plague as in December I will be seeing a Star Wars Saga film for potentially the last time.

I mean it’s definitely not the last “Episode” film, these things make way too much money and in 10 years’ time they will be rocking up to Daisy Ridley & Co’s doors with a lorry full of cash to get them to get back into the costumes and bring another trilogy. This will be an end of sorts for Star Wars though, with the next few years looking like it will be stories from the universe, but not necessarily connected to the Skywalker story.

All that about Star Wars and cinematic things, but I haven’t been to the cinema for the longest stretch in the last 5 years. It’s been weeks since I saw Lion King and Toy Story 4. I should probably go into a little of my thoughts on those.

Well, first up, the Lion King fell flat with me, and yet I still loved watching it. Lion King suffers from a distinct lack of originality in the film except for one joke made by the films shining stars, Timon and Pumbaa. Perhaps its unwise to hope for something original in a remake of a film I have seen perhaps hundreds of times, but with Disney’s Jungle Book there was just enough different stuff to make me feel like it was a new, worthwhile experience.

Lion King is essentially the exact same film that was released in the nineties but with 4k visuals and less emotions portrayed on the animals faces for the sake of realism. It’s not a bad film, and if you somehow made it this far in life without seeing the original Lion King, it will be a brilliant experience. Unfortunately, most of the world has seen the original film countless times, and a lot of people have seen an excellently put together stage play so this remake felt unremarkable for me.

Onto Toy Story 4, and I find myself repeating some of the same ideas I had about the Lion King. Again, it’s a very well made, perfectly executed movie that felt like it wasn’t really needed, but for different reasons. This is not a remake of the original Toy Story, far from it, and it relies heavily on your knowledge of the previous 3 films to tug on the heartstrings. To give credit where credit is due, there are some nice, cute moments along with sad, gut wrenching ones that do give the film a level of emotional impact that Lion King just didn’t have for me.

The issue I had with Toy Story is while we get plenty of Woody, Bo Peep and the new endearing character Sporky, we get barely any of the old group of toys. The new characters introduced are funny, and I liked all of them, but I wanted them to be introduced to the entire cast I grew up loving, rather than just Woody.

Perhaps these two films were aimed too close at things I loved as a child. The Lion King and Toy Story are films I remember watching hundreds of times on repeat in between repeats of Return of the Jedi. Is that a sad vision into my childhood? Maybe. But it led me to becoming obsessed with films. The other film I remember watching a lot were the original Pink Panther movies, and of course every preteens favourite, Kill Bill. I always wanted to be able to do that Five Point Palm Exploding Heart thing, and dress entirely in Yellow Leather.

So, in summary, my childhood heroes were Luke Skywalker, Woody, and Uma Thurman. Until Tomorrow!

ChAzJS

 

This Week In Gaming – 01.06.19

Finally This Week in Gaming is back and its new day (Saturday rather than Friday) means I can get ALL of the week’s news to you without missing Friday’s stories. This week was a packed one for three huge games, Activision shooter Call of Duty, Crystal Dynamic’s Avengers game and Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding in more detail than ever before. All the information on those three and the usual waffle below.

What I’ve been playing

I spent most of the past month not really playing any games. The lack of new releases that interest around this time of year left me with nothing driving me to any game, and I ended up playing a bit of Football Manager and the odd game of Apex. That was until me and a few friends decided to dive back into Ghost Recon Wildlands.

Ghost Recon was in the news a few weeks back for the next instalment that was announced for later this year, and that sparked me back into thinking about the countless hours I have spent in the Wildlands world, systematically clearing bases, or at least attempting to before someone drops the ball and we have to fight through it the hard way.

It’s far from a perfect game, but the gameplay is fun with friends, its challenging, and it’s filled a hole in the calendar. With nothing major on the horizon for me I am growing increasingly tempted to dive into the Witcher or God Of War again, with the former never really grabbing me and the latter an absolute masterpiece. Either that or I will just be on football manager screaming at my laptop as my youth team striker misses a chance to put Arsenal top of the league.

Call of Duty comes back to today

Rumours started early in the week that the next instalment in the massively popular Call of Duty franchise was going to be titled “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”. Not to be confused with “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” which is the game we got way back in November 2007. That right, 2007. It has really been that long since that game. To be honest, the name of the game doesn’t really matter, its Call of Duty. It will sell well, but this year the developers have decided to react to the slowly declining sales figures by rebooting the most popular sub-franchise in the CoD stable.

The trailer is intriguing, and seems to show series favourite Captain Price being all Captain Pricey, which I am very happy to see. The trailer did get me interested, and then on Thursday the embargo lifted for E3’s Judges Week, and Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller went through what was shown to the press at the pre-E3 Showcase event. Go and watch the video on YouTube for the full details, but he does go into some spoilers for what was shown that I will leave out here. Greg talked about a change of approach when it comes to the campaign, that right we are getting a full campaign, and he spoke about scenes that sounds like they will be up there with the “No Russian” level from back in the day.

In fact, this new direction is incredibly exciting and it sounds like the touch of some of the Ex-Naughty Dog developers that are working on the game is bearing some tasty looking fruit. The old Call of Duty campaigns were excellent, but over time became a mess and the consistent story told over the first few games eventually meandered into a bland mess.

All of this single player goodness is wonderful, but perhaps the most shocking news is that the game will have no season pass. The developers will be dropping updates for the game for free, with new maps and other gameplay items being added throughout the games life cycle. In an industry that has historically ignored its fans; the recent trend of listening to what people want is really refreshing, led by Epic games and Fortnite. The game releases October 25th, and for the first time in a long time, I am really excited for the next Call of Duty.

Death Stranding: Kojima Unleashed

Hideo Kojima created my favourite gaming franchise. Metal Gear Solid is an unbelievable, crazy, frankly ridiculous world and the stories are almost impossible to comprehend without hours of googling and reading Wikipedia stories. But I have done the hard time, and to me it was an incredible journey that got cut frustratingly short. The Konami/Kojima split was nasty, but Konami’s loss has been Sony’s gain.

They took the madman and let him out of his straight jacket. Death Stranding looks, from the nearly 9 minute long release date trailer, like something only Hideo Kojima could possibly come up with. There are babies in Jars, ghostly apparitions, walking, Ladders that can extend themselves in seconds, more walking, a cool looking bike, and a cast of famous faces that could combine to make one incredible Hollywood blockbuster film. Mads Mikkelsen Norman Reedus and Guillermo Del Toro are the most recognisable faces, and those of you who are big industry fans will know Troy Baker, the man behind a thousand of your favourite video game characters.

I couldn’t begin to tell you what the game is about, or what the gameplay is going to feel like, but I know for sure I am 100% sold on this. I will buy it day one, and let the insane journey commence. It’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Metal Gear Solid, but this new, intriguing world that Kojima has shown us looks like it could be something really incredible. Or it could be a jumbled mess, who knows! It releases on November 8th a lot sooner than I expected.

The Avengers 

There have been rumours about the mysterious “Avengers project” that Square Enix have been working away on for a while now. Well developer Crystal Dynamics (who made the recent Tomb Raider games) have unveiled the official title and a few details about the gameplay have been leaked. The title, rather predictably, is Marvel’s Avengers.

There is no confirmation on gameplay yet, but the leaks suggest a game that is an action adventure game where you can choose an avenger and use them throughout the game and possibly improve their skills. I have seen it described as “Tomb Raider meets Destiny” and that is a really intriguing thought.

I have no idea what to expect really, but a Destiny style live service game where you play as your favourite Avengers is an incredible idea. If they package that in with a kick ass story we could be onto something special. My worry is that due to the wide range of abilities between the Avengers characters, none of them will feel quite as good as they should. Spiderman felt perfect in Marvels Spiderman last year because they spent so much time getting him right, has that same attention to detail and feel gone into every one of the Avengers characters? Will Thor’s hammer feel as good as Kratos’ Axe? Will Iron Man’s suit feel as mobile as Anthem’s Javelins? Will Hawkeye’s Bow be as fun as Aloy’s from Horizon? The truth is nobody will be playing as Hawkeye so that last one doesn’t matter. But the rest does, and if they don’t get it all right it will struggle to maintain a player base for very long at all.

More will be revealed about all 3 of these games at the upcoming E3 show starting 10th June, all the news and my reaction to it will be posted on here over that week, so keep your eyes peeled!

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Chaz

 

This Week In Gaming – 05.04.2019

This week Jason Schreier, the best journalist in the gaming industry drops a huge story about Anthem, Borderlands 3 gets a release date and the next Assassins Creed may have been leaked in The Division 2. All that plus the usual waffle this week in gaming. 

What I’ve been playing

I’ve had a busy week, so I have only really played more of the same. Apex and The Division 2 continue to dominate my gaming time, although I am getting the hankering for a single player experience. With Days Gone just weeks away I am trying to hold out for that, but some of my old favourites are calling me.

All the Borderlands news has made me tempted to jump into Borderlands 2, but on top of that my all time no.1 favourite game of all time Skyrim is sitting there on my Xbox and PS4 dashboards, tempting me to dive back in and replay through all of the stories I know back to front. I think I can hold out for another few weeks, with the satisfaction of those sweet sweet Apex Legends Wins and the satisfying grind of The Division sustaining me.

I look forward to updating you on my 500th Skyrim play through next week.

Kotaku Anthem Article

If you are reading this you probably have somewhat of an interest in the Gaming industry. If you do, I suggest you follow Jason Schreier on Twitter. He is the top journalist in the gaming industry in my opinion. His latest excellent story comes from Anthem developer BioWare, and 19(!) anonymous sources who detailed the troubled development of EA’s much maligned game.

I encourage you all to go over to Kotaku.com and read the article, but the general story is that the game suffered a very confusing production process, with several decisions not being made until as late as 12 months before the games release. These important creative decisions combined with the problem that EA’s game engine Frostbite brought with it made the game a development nightmare. The issues are plentiful, but not particularly new to the triple A game development world. The story sheds light on the conditions that people are working in within the games industry and that sometimes the heads of these companies need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

BioWare is a studio that has the potential to produce the very best games we see. They created the excellent Mass Effect series as well as the Star Wars epic Knights of the Old Republic. They then saw more success with Dragon Age Inquisition, which insiders cite as the worst thing that could have happened due to the incredible crunch the studio went through to produce the Dragon Age game.

Crunch, if you don’t know, is the name for the big push developers make to finish a game by a deadline. It’s been a part of the games development cycle for years, but over the last few years we have been seeing a swell of discontent towards this process, as it really does have an effect on the mental health and happiness of the people who make the games we love so much. It’s a huge issue, and I personally think games should be given as much time as they need to be complete. If stories like this lead to better decisions from the people in positions of power at the big companies than I am all for it!

Borderlands 3 Release Date & incredible box art unveiled

With last weeks PAX event confirming the existence of Borderlands 3, 4 days later Gearbox have revealed that the game will be in people’s hands on 13th September 2019. Just 5 months away. This is excellent news to me, and I am glad they are going with the unveil and quick release approach being my preferred method, against the “Tease a game for years” method adopted by games like Last of Us 2 and Death Stranding.

They dropped a new trailer online, which showed off the characters and the villains, along with more shots of the environments we will be seeing in the game. Borderlands 3 looks like it’s going  to be by far the biggest one yet, and Guns with Legs certainly does seem cool, but I am not sure we are getting anything really new aside from the planets and the characters. My only question is; Is that Enough?

I love the borderlands games, they’re great fun and at the time were groundbreaking for the Co-op RPG genre. However so far Borderlands 3 seems like they are just giving us another Borderlands 2, but with more guns and more locations. To me, that kind of update is DLC level content not enough for an entire game.

I am assuming there are going to be a lot of small touches that will make the game smoother and more diverse in terms of class choices and gameplay styles, but so far we haven’t seen anything that’s made me really think this is a PS4/Xbox One game rather than a PS3 or 360 one. There is a gameplay demo coming in a few weeks so lets hope we see something then that wows me a little.

Assassins Creed Ragnarok

What a name that would be. One of my personal favourite games of 2018 was Assassins Creed Odyssey, and I have been toying with going back to the game regularly to see whats ben updated. Ubisoft confirmed there wouldn’t be an immediate follow-up, as they were focused on supporting the world they’d built with that excellent game.

Eagle eyed gamers have spotted posters in The Division 2 picturing a Viking holding a globe like ornament. Nothing in that right? except when you zoom in you can see the ornament is the infamous Apple of Eden from the Assassins Creed franchise. This poster along with concept art leaks with the title “Assassins Creed Ragnarok” attached to them have led to the assumption that the next game in the time hopping series will be set in the norse world of the Vikings.

On paper, it all makes sense. They are some of the most famous sailors in history, so the boat mechanics perfected in the last few AC titles are easily implemented, and the norse mythology is some of the most epic and ripe for storytelling we have available to us. On top of that, they were famously savage fighters, meaning the hack and slash gameplay perfectly suits the style of that time period. Comparisons may be made to the masterpiece that was God of War, but I think they are to wildly different games. AC has evolved into a sprawling, multi layered, branching story role-playing game set in a huge world with a hundred of hours of gameplay there for the audience’s enjoyment. God Of War is a much smaller story and I expect the follow-up to be a similarly intimate in nature.

I really hope this turns out to be true, but time will tell. Ubisoft have a history of hinting at future games in their current releases, so I think this has a pretty good chance of coming true.

Until next week!

 

 

This Week In Gaming – 08.03.2019

This week we have Microsoft cutting out their discs, EA announcing no conference during E3,  and the new PS4 firmware update that allows you to play on your mobile. That and all my usual waffle about what I have been playing this week below. 

What I’ve been playing

This week has been a movie week for me, and therefore games have taken a bit of a back seat. I did however manage to finish off Anthem, and get my first win on Apex Legends. Two games I have written a lot about over the last few weeks. Apex continues to be a game I want to play more of, whilst Anthem is very much the opposite.

Anthem sits in a very weird place for me right now. I do like the game, in fact I like every part of the game. When combined though, something just doesn’t feel right. I am left with the opinion Anthem is a really good BioWare, single player game, with the multiplayer looter shooter components strapped onto the game to make it into a live service. It has great characters, but if you’re playing through the game with friends in your party you will miss the majority of the best moments in the game.

Enough about the games I played, and onto the news this week!

Microsoft leaving their Discs out

Brad Sams at Thurrott.com (full story here) has revealed Microsoft’s plans to release a new Xbox one which will be the first of the major consoles to launch without a disc drive. The new all digital Xbox is being released with the aim to lower the barrier to entry for customers into the Xbox ecosystem. This news is the latest in a number of customer friendly stories that have come out around the Xbox system in the last few weeks, and I for one think the signs are positive, as I have mentioned before.

A digital downloads only console is another sign for me that Xbox is keen to really shock the industry with its next platform. If they are planning for Xbox Scarlett to be available as a service, it will of course not have a disk drive. This new level of Xbox could serve as the gateway drug for a lot of people into this new world, a world without having to get up off my butt and find the case for the game I want to play.

rumours suggest the targeted price for the digital Xbox is less than $200 (Post Brexit that’s just a cool £30,000.00) so it seems the idea is to get this xbox in as many homes as possible and get their foot in the door before the next-gen. The question I have is whether or not this move is a little late in the day. By now, if you are a PS4 only owner you are heavily invested in their system, and unlikely to want to change. The low price point may be enough to provoke one or two impulse buys, but I just cannot see this making a dent in Sony’s stranglehold over Xbox when it comes to active consoles on the market.

That thinking does lead me to believe that once again Microsoft are playing the long game, possibly taking a hit financially here, to gain favor with the public and increase their public image with the next console war on the horizon. They do not have an exclusive game to attract fans like Uncharted or Spiderman, but they have a Game Pass which will give Digital only Xbox owners a huge range of games to play from day one. My guess would be each digital console will come with a few months Game Pass included, just to get people’s toes in the water of the Xbox well.

E3 weekend loses another conference

E3 was the major event of the year in the gaming industry up until just a few years ago. It’s one of those events that I have followed and enjoyed all of the news and content that comes out of the show. Over the last few years the event has seen its guest list of companies throwing press conference has steadily shrunk, down to the point where now E3 is just another event, along with the PAX events and even San Diego Comic Con. It is still the biggest event of its kind, but the gulf has largely disappeared.

EA left the official show a few years ago, and launched their EA Play weekend to coincide with the week of E3. Each of these events to date has featured a key press conference, with game announcements, trailers and unveilings presented in the same manner Sony and Microsoft have done for years. They have now decided to pivot to streaming events for different games, a move which I think only EA could pull off.

EA as a publisher boast one of the widest ranges of games on its roster. Alongside franchises like Battlefield, Anthem and Apex Legends, they have the entire flock of EA Sports titles like FIFA and Madden. This huge range means a more focused stream approach should allow viewers to just tune in and watch a good showcase of the games they are most interested in. At present, fans of battlefield have to sit through a whole EA sports section, which could be featuring games they have no interest in.

It opens up the old debate of “Does the industry still need E3?” and for me the answer is a resounding Yes. The show is a focal point for news announcements as well as a place we can see the full diverse range of video games. Here’s hoping nobody else pulls out of the show.

PS4 Firmware Update might hint at their plans

Now this story is almost entirely speculation on my part, but I had a lot of fun last week with the Xbox predictions, so here is my thoughts on the direction Sony might be heading with their next console. The most recent firmware update to the PS4 allowed for access from iOS devices. Now this has been possible for a number of years on Sony’s own mobile devices, but this is the first time we’ve seen PS4 games accessible outside of their own ecosystem as far as I know.

What’s interesting about this to me is the fact that some people at Sony are still working on mobile integration even this close to the announcement of the next console. Could Sony’s next console be able to be played remotely from anywhere? I doubt it, but why on earth are people there still working away on this type of unrequested feature if the technology behind it wasn’t going to aid with their next console. I have never seen much fanfare around playing games via mobile. As our phones become more and more like small PCs, the possibility of me actually enjoying a big blockbuster game via a mobile is increasingly likely.

There are absolutely no details of the PS5, and Sony has no reason to rush it out. I am, as you may have been able to tell, absorbed by the mind games both companies are playing. Right now Xbox has all the work to do, and they seem determined to do it. Sony is in the dangerous position of being on top of the mountain, with everything to lose. The next round of consoles may be the last we ever see, with a digital only world fast approaching, so the winner of this final bout between Xbox and PlayStation may find themselves as the leader of the pack for a long time.

And of course, Nintendo will always Nintendo.

This Week in Gaming – 01.03.2019

This week I go over what games I’ve been playing in the last 7 days, discuss the Pokemon 8th generation announcement, take a quick look at the anthem release and the big story this week for me is Xbox Game Pass potentially showing us a glimpse of the future of Microsoft’s gaming platform. 

What I’ve been playing

This week started with Anthem. It’s a fun enough game, and as my review last monday mentioned, I think it is a good basis for what could become a good, possibly great game. I have to say though, it has not kept me on the hook and wanting more. The last few times I have logged in, I have played Anthem because it’s what i feel i should do, rather than what I necessarily want to play. For me personally, that is a very bad sign.

I did eventually find myself dusting off my PS4 controller, and jumping back onto Fifa 19 for the first time in months. Perhaps it’s my beloved Arsenal’s recent form, but I had a scratch only Pro Clubs could scratch. For those who don’t know, Pro Clubs is the game mode on fifa where you control one player on the pitch, and have to play your position. Ultimate Team is where the money lies, and the career mode is where a lot of hours are clocked up, but for me Pro Clubs is where the best football minds on fifa go to show their skills.

I am not an excellent gamer, I don’t claim to be the best at COD or Fortnite or Apex, I am decent, and can have a great game now and then, but I know my limits. When it comes to Pro Clubs on fifa, I am confident in being one of the best players I know of, and in my position (Box to Box Central midfielder) I am the best I know of. Humble brag. Anyway, that’s what I did this week, played five games with some of my old fifa team mates online, and we won all five. Now enough of my bragging, onto this weeks news.

Pokey Mans

Detective Pikachu’s trailers have made me excited for a Pokemon film, more than I would have ever imagined. The first games Pokemon games I have played a few times through, and I have some great memories with them. Since Gen 1, i have fallen out of the franchise completely, and I could not name more than 3 of the Pokemon from Gen 2 onwards.

This week, Nintendo called a Pokemon Direct, where they unveiled the newest additions to the Pokemon franchise, Pokemon Sword and Shield. In what is apparently a UK inspired setting, we see a more detailed, 3D world, and some new features that I am sure excited the hardcore Pokemon fans. For me though, Pokemon needed to do something drastically different. By now, everyone knows what Pokemon games are, every kid has their pokemon game. Mine was years ago, and when I look at this new game, it seems like things have not changed beyond the graphics. The idea is still seemingly to take one of your 3 starter pokemon, slowly gather more, and then eventually beat the evil corporation and become the best trainer in the region.

I sincerely hope that these games are exactly what their audience want, but to get someone like me to be interested, I needed something closer to Breath of the Wild. I didn’t get into that game because Zelda’s world doesn’t appeal to me, the Pokemon world does. A full RPG game, with the Pokemon creatures out in the wild to be engaged with in a new way would have made me severely regret departing with my Switch. As it is, I am comfortable that I made the right decision for me.

Anthem out of tune?

I have written a lot about Anthem in the last week, and by now I am sure you are sick of reading it, if you are one of the few who reads this regularly. Thanks for the support if so! Anthem’s launch has been rough, and apparently the sales figures haven’t exactly blown anyones minds either. The headlines read particularly gloomy, with a fraction of Mass Effect Andromeda’s sales figures being touted as the number. In reality I think the number is a bit higher, but there is no doubt it has not caught the imagination quite like EA wanted, and perhaps expected it to.

Apex Legends launched just a week before Anthem, and seems to have done exactly what Anthem was expected to do. Apex has become a phenomenon, with people I wouldn’t expect asking me about that new game they’ve seen people on twitter or Facebook talking about. Anthem by comparison, has been a barely visible ripple in the pop culture pool. As I’ve stated a few times, I quite like the game, but something is missing when it comes to that buzz you normally get from a big  game launch. BioWare need to keep the support up, and deliver regular updates straight away to keep people coming back to the game. Something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Game Pass, present and future? 

My apologies for the terrible pun sub-title.

This week it was found that Microsoft has begun to push elements of its Xbox infrastructure onto the Windows platform PC users are familiar with. I won’t pretend to understand the details, but there is a tonne of detail in the story linked here in a story on Thurrott.com by Brad Sams. Long story short, Microsoft seem to be getting rid of the differences between how xbox and PC games are run, and bringing them together so that Xbox games could potentially be run on a PC. What does all this potentially mean?

Earlier this month, we saw an announcement about xbox live coming to Nintendo Switch. This led to stories that Microsoft could bring Game Pass, the best deal in the games industry, onto the Nintendo platform. This would mean that Nintendo players could play Xbox games, possibly including exclusive titles like Halo, on their Switch. Now of course we know the Switch doesn’t have the power under the hood to run games requiring the power that a Xbox One can provide, let alone a Xbox One X.

How would they get around this lack of processing power? Potentially with their own games streaming service. I speculated last week that Google may be dipping into the market and being the first games streaming available for the public. Microsoft have already announced they are working on a similar project, and that more will be unveiled in the coming months. Could the Project Scarlett we have been told about be a completely new type of console. Is it possible Xbox will become a service? So on top of being a console you can buy, there is also a dongle you can plug into anything, and an app on your TV or devices, and even an app on Microsoft’s rivals consoles.

PlayStation is so far out in front of Xbox that Microsoft are having to make calls that are risky, perhaps not cost efficient, and they seem to be approaching it with the consumers desires at the forefront of their minds. Is their plan is to make their games, their brand, available anywhere. Imagine if Microsoft announce that they are making the vast library of Xbox games available to everyone, regardless of the console they can afford. All you need is a subscription to Xbox Live, or whatever name they give the service, and you are free to browse the library of games and buy what you want.

It is no secret that the console making companies lose money on their Hardware sales. They make their profits through the cut of the money they take from the sales of every game on the platform. With this kind of service, they will still need to build the hardware, but can save a lot on packaging all the complex components in a nice, living room friendly shell, and shipping them around the world. Instead they can install the centres they mentioned in their last E3 conference around the world, allow anyone to connect to it via the internet with a relatively low-cost subscription, and voila, everyone is buying and playing games on their platform. Cloud processing has been a reality for a while, and google proved with their Assassins Creed test last year that it works. Microsoft have something Google doesn’t the Xbox brand. A well-known name in the world, one that immediately makes anyone think of video games.

Could Xbox be ready to change gaming, and bring it to the entire world? I could be completely wrong, but who knows, maybe Game Pass on switch is just the beginning.

For more speculation, ramblings and opinions on games, movies and TV, follow Screenbunka on Instagram, Facebook and twitter. Thanks for reading!