Another week – the nights grow longer, the days are colder. Huddle close to your fireplace then, with your favourite warm brew, and let James Paton regal you of time passed. It’s the Weekly News Blast!
Naturally, the news this week has been dominated by Sony and the launch of their new Playstation 4 console, some of it has been positive, whilst some has been… not so. Anyway, press on, dear reader and discover what fate has befallen many a new PS4 owner, and just why I am now obsolete…
It has emerged that the failure rate for the Playstation 4 console sits at roughly 0.4%, which apparently falls within Sony’s own expectations for the machine. Granted, this doesn’t seem particularly high, but given that the company expects to shift 5 million units by April, that does mean that 20,000 PS4 consoles will leave behind as many irate consumers. Speaking to IGN, Sony claim that the “vast majority of PS4 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive”, but this isn’t entirely the whole story. Playstation 4 consoles are beginning to show numerous faults including overheating (indicated by a red flashing light on the console) and issues with the HDMI connection that leaves the console unable to output anything (I believe this is identified with a pulsing blue light). The latter issue being experienced by both IGN and “Play the Future First” competition winner, Arogon (Redddit username). Naturally, there are always problems around the launch of any new device, so whilst Sony claim that the issues are not widespread, we can only wait and see, and hope that the Japanese technology giant is correct in their estimations (the amount of complaints by Amazon.com users, if genuine, would suggest not – concerned Ed), otherwise there may be a lot of unhappy gamers this Christmas.
Unfortunately for Sony, the bad news doesn’t stop with the hardware problems. The Playstation Network is severely struggling under the strain that the new launch has placed on it, leaving gamers across North America struggling to connect to the service, resulting in the entire network being taken offline (though it is now operational again). To make matters worse, EA issued a statement through their own site, claiming that Sony’s day one firmware update for the console was causing widespread stability issues in its games. This statement has since been removed and a spokesman from EA reportedly told Polygon that it was “posted in error”, a flimsy excuse if I have ever heard one!
Now though, some good news for Sony fans everywhere, Naughty Dog’s epic, The Last of Us, is to receive a piece of story related DLC entitled “Left Behind”. This will act as a prequel to the events that take place in the main story, covering a journey that Ellie takes with her friend, Riley. Whilst little is known about it, including the release date, this is still something for PS3 owners to rejoice about, as any additional content for the game can only be good, right?
Meanwhile, the first teaser trailer for Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4 was shown off as part of a launch event with Spike. The trailer gave nothing away except that the narration was provided by actor, Todd Stashwick (and it’s heavily hinted this installment will be a prequel, based on Sir Francis Drake – excited history buff Ed). Also included as part of the event was the announcement that Playstation owners would be the first gamers to take part in the beta testing for Bungie’s upcoming FPS, Destiny. The beta is scheduled to launch sometime during Q1 2014, with access codes to the beta being provided to all those who have pre-ordered the title from participating retailers, so expect Gamestop and Game to be the ideal locations to order your copy if you haven’t already done so.
For Sony, the announcement of new polling data showing that the PS4 is still looking to be the most popular option of the two next-gen consoles will surely be music to their ears. But what Populus’ survey also shows, is that the Xbox One is beginning to close the gap on its rival, placing it in a much stronger position that it was in after the disastrous opening to Microsoft’s campaign. Correspondingly, Harvey Eagle, the man in charge of assembling the Xbox One’s marketing strategy in the UK, told MCV that the company are now in a very good position from which to make their charge. Just days away from the biggest launch that Microsoft have ever attempted, Eagle said, “Where we are now, a few days from launch, is in a good spot. There’s great demand for the console out there and we are wholly focused on launch and excited by that”. Going on to add that “There have been challenges along the way and I think we have done our best to respond to those challenges in what we think has been in the right way for our fans. And we think we have a great launch line-up of games”. Confidence is obviously high in the Xbox camp pre-launch, and with the announcement that Games for Gold would be extended to the new platform next year, it’s easy to understand why, but that’s not to say that Microsoft aren’t experiencing troubles of their own.
Shortages of Xbox One consoles have already led numerous UK indie stores to contact MCV on the subject, forcing Harvey Eagle to ask for stores to be “patient” in the meantime, as the company acknowledges that they are struggling to meet the demand but hope to resolve the situation soon and have free stock available for purchase. This is not an uncommon issue around hardware launches, and this one is no different, with Amazon also no longer guaranteeing Christmas delivery on orders of either the Playstation 4 or Xbox One hardware. With many gamers likely to be left disappointed, they may have to turn to Twitch to experience what the new consoles have to offer this year.
With the flimsy segue in place, I can now tell you what you have all been waiting for, I – and everyone else who writes about video games – am now considered to be obsolete, as gamers turn in their droves to Twitch to see the latest games being played. Stuart Saw, regional director of EMEA at Twitch used the platform of the London Games Conference to decree the end of the written review, by stating “People want live content, not written reviews. They want to get involved,” and if the figures that the company are boasting are anything to go by, he may be right. Twitch is now home to 44 million unique visitors every month, and has pulled in over 55 million users this year alone, showing a quite frightening upturn in the site’s fortunes, and showing me the door!
• US gaming analyst, Michael Pachter, predicts that the PS4 will marginally edge out the Xbox One to be the top-selling next-gen console, adding that, regardless of this, he expects games consoles to irrelevant in ten years anyway due to the ever-growing smartphone and tablet markets.
• It also emerged at LGC 2013 just how prominent an issue piracy is, with Sports Interactive’s Football Manager 2013 seeing a massive 10.1m illegal downloads since only March of this year! This, the team reckons has cost them $3.7 million in revenue, but thanks to a nifty piece of software called “Home” that was slipped into the pirate copies, the team was able to trace where the downloads originated. China were the biggest culprits, accounting for more than 3.2 million downloads, followed by Turkey with over 1 million, whilst making up the rear, one download was found to have come from the Vatican…
• Ubisoft have announced sales figures for a couple of underperforming titles. Splinter Cell: Blacklist managed to shift 2 million copies, whilst Rayman: Legends is fast approaching the 1 million mark, despite high critical performances. Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag is still expected to meet its sales target of 10 million copies by the end of March thanks to the emerging next-gen versions.
• EA have dismissed the importance of declining sales across the majority of the industry’s IPs as something of little concern, believing that the new consoles will make up for the drop as many gamers are simply waiting to get the “new” versions. Of course, they also pointed to the massive hype around Titanfall as an indicator that gamers are now looking for fresh ideas and experiences, which indeed, we are.
• Namco-Bandai are offering limited edition goodies to gamers that pre-order their copies of Dark Souls II. These, naturally, are dependent on which retailer the copy is ordered from though. Game offer a limited edition t-shirt, whilst Gamestop are offering an exclusive poster. Amazon have steel art cards to distribute and Zavvi/The Hut are home to an exclusive 22-page comic book. So order your copy wisely!
• Lastly, Konami has announced that the Playstation versions of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes will feature an exclusive piece of content designed to celebrate the history of the series on Playstation platforms. It will take the form of a single mission known as, “Déjà vu”, which will reference iconic moments from the first Metal Gear Solid game.
Anyway, that’s it for another week, I’ll be back with another news roundup for you soon – unless I jump ship to Twitch that is…
– James Paton @TheBlackPage81