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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Sony is making something called a “PlayStation 5”

In news that has stunned and surprised absolutely nobody Sony have unveiled the official name and release window for the next game console they will be releasing. PlayStation 5 is scheduled to release “Holiday 2020” which is almost exactly when everyone expected it. I personally feel ready for a new console, but the real questions are does PlayStation 5 have enough to convince me that a stay at home console is worth my investment in a world where game streaming services seem to be right around the corner. 

There is a slew of technical information out about the Sony’s new flagship console. An article on over on Wired goes into detail on the Ray Tracing hardware that has been confirmed and an explanation of why the SSD hard drive is so superior to the current hard drives in games consoles. Less space is needed, and it can be accessed faster, so it’s all good news. To be honest, the power of games consoles is becoming less and less relevant, and the real selling point for any new console will be what it brings that I haven’t seen before or didn’t expect.

Each new generation is more powerful than the last and allows for games to be played at higher resolution and gives developers the horsepower needed to produce games with the size and scope of a Red Dead Redemption 2. What I need to get me excited is something new, something I didn’t see coming. Sony have realised this too it seems, and the most interesting innovations are not coming from what’s in the box under your TV, but from what’s in your hands.

The new controller, which is not officially called the DualShock 5, but we all expect it to be, features a couple of new features that genuinely sound like they will enhance the immersion for a wide variety of games. The new feedback that can be programmed into the triggers and analogue sticks is something completely new for consoles.

First, the triggers. The new controller will allow the developers to adjust how much resistance is felt when the player pulls on the trigger buttons. This seems like a novel idea but imagine how different it’s going to feel when you fire a sniper and the trigger resists a little before clicking as you shoot, and then it flings back into position. Or when you’re playing a driving game, and the break trigger will be harder to push the harder you break just like the real thing. This little kind of innovation has a lot of potential to make games feel a lot more intuitive and immersive which is where the next generation of consoles must start heading. With VR slowly becoming a bigger component, these types of physical feedback controllers will allow for entirely new ways to play games.

With the analogue sticks, it is even harder to visualise how these are going to work. Basically, it seems like they are going to feel different depending on the surface your character is walking through. So, for instance on Assassins Creed Odyssey, running through grass will feel different to sand, with the sand feeling a bit slower and feeling more resistant, and then on ice it will loosen up and slip about with ease. It sounds novel, but I am not sure how it will work.

Of course, I am not sure exactly how both these systems will combine until I have the controller in my hands but that is miles off. For now, I am just very excited that these kinds of innovations are where Sony is focusing their attention for the next generation. Their biggest problem, as I hinted in the intro, is that I am not convinced I will want to have a box under my TV.

Stadia and Xbox both are looking like they will be offering a streaming option for playing games, and for me that works better than any console. The one barrier to entry with all these streaming services is the quality of the internet and how good of a connection you need to be able to play latency free, HD to 4K games on them. If my internet at home is good enough to play games at that level, I am not so sure I will need a dedicated home console.

The ace up Sony’s sleeve of course is their range of first party exclusive titles. If it means missing out on TLOU3, Sequels to Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War, and other possible exclusives like Infamous or Spiderman, than I will not be sticking with just a streaming option.

Regardless of whatever software and hardware combination the next generation of gaming platforms arrive in, it’s the games that are available on them that will define them.

‘Til tomorrow.

ChAzJS

 

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.