Tag Archives: Gaming

Call of Cthulhu. The Dark Corners at Sony

It’s no mystery that Sony is currently in dire straits. The company, expected to reveal their latest financials and forward earnings estimates in March, is set to reveal how they’ve been doing for the last year.

One can safely predict that it will not be pretty. Sony expects to make an headline loss of nearly $2 Billion for the year, and this is mainly due to their mobile division (which is responsible for gems like the Xperia smartphones and tablets) and the failing TV division which I believe they are looking into selling off.

Yesterday as a shock to everyone, Sony announced that they sold off Sony Online Entertainment, the game studio responsible for games such as the highly successful Everquest and the currently hotly anticipated H1Z1 games. The studio now dubbed Daybreak Studios will port all their existing franchises over to Xbox One.

But what does this say about what is happening over at Sony. Clearly they’re scrambling to raise cash to ensure that their earnings don’t cause a major sell-off in the stock market. I wouldn’t be surprised if more first party studios got the axe, or that more PlayStation specific projects were stopped. The CEO of Sony already made his disdain for first party AAA exclusives known when he said they were hellishly expensive and that he would rather focus on indie games. Will this spell the end for AAA exclusives from Sony as their financial future tumbles down the hill of their imposing ego?

So what can Sony do to get back on the horse? Well they’ve already done a few things that makes sense. PlayStation Now left the PS4 and will be running on Samsung TV’s making Sony hardware pointless, Music and Video Unlimited will be rebranded Xbox style to PlayStation Music and Video. The Vita is getting the axe. And they pulled the Xperia Z4.

But this alone won’t make any difference. In my opinion they should spin off or sell their loss making mobile division. Spin off or sell their TV division. Stop supporting first party development studios, let them do their own thing. Focus on PlayStation and its services and ride their imaging technologies (currently used in iPhones) and kill off that awfully misguided Walkman.

Doing this will help them raise much needed cash, remove the dead weight from their bottom line and helps them focus on one product and service. Sony needs focus as they just seem to be a headless chicken running around trying to make all their balls fall into line. It won’t happen, Samsung is struggling in the Android market, what makes anyone think that Sony with a bottom line that will make anyone eyes water can succeed?

The problem is that Sony firmly believes that they’re the Apple of Android, and in some ways they are. But when you can just go and buy an Apple iPhone instead of a Xperia for the same price, why would you buy a Xperia?

Sony, get your s**t together. Stop trying to do everything, and mobile is not the answer.

Microsoft is killing off Xbox?

With the launch of Windows 10, Phil Spencer went onstage and revealed that they will be bringing Xbox One features and Fable Legends to PC. The world abruptly burst into flames when they also stated that PC will get cross platform games from Xbox like Forza and others where it makes sense.

Microsoft has had several attempts in the past to try and lure PC gamers to the Xbox world and to chip away at the dominance that Steam holds over PC. This is normal as Microsoft is the biggest platform for PC. But with Games for Windows being such a huge failure, how would they do this?

Simple, get gamers excited for new franchises and games coming to PC by offering them games usually only available on console. Fable was the first carrot Microsoft is dangling in front of PC gamers and soon they’ll push harder by offering games such as Tomb Raider and maybe even Sunset Overdrive to them (after some timed exclusive stuff ends). Hopefully they have more than cross play and a few games up their sleeves. Xbox on PC should become a unified experience where you can buy games as well. But that remains to be seen.

But what about that box everyone and their mother pretends to hate because it’s popular? Is Microsoft shunning their massive Xbox fanbase? Will Xbox dwindle and fall by the wayside as Microsoft start pushing PC gaming to the next level?

Don’t be ridiculous.

The Xbox brand is as central to Microsoft as Windows is. Xbox is a gateway to their services and brings in billions for Microsoft annually. It is by far their most popular product, and Satya reiterated that they will remain committed to the platform. Will the platform change? Of course. Will it become more cloud based, of course. Will we see a dramatic shift away from TV based hardware in 2 years? No.

XBox and PlayStation will continue to evolve (see PS Now and XBox Cloud Compute) that will improve gaming and entertainment. You will always need a box that connects to the internet and the Xbox One 2 or whatever they call it in the future might just be an internet connected device that will link you to Microsoft services. And the same goes for the PlayStation.

PC gaming is going the same way. Gone will be the days where you’ll have to upgrade your graphics card at $500 a year to stay current. You’ll be able to utilize the cloud to supplement your power for games. The future is bright for consoles and PC gaming and Microsoft is just moving towards that future. We might even see PS Now on the Xbox as a service. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

Will PC gaming die when Microsoft allows you to stream PC games to Xbox? No.

So before you declare something dead because one exclusive happens to go to PC (which seems to be the popular thing to do these days) think of the future and what that holds.

Will there be exclusive games in the future? Sure, service specific exclusives.

DirectX 12. Something we all should be excited about.

The console war is heating up with fans on both sides getting increasingly frustrated that the other platform refuses to die. We all know that will never happen. Recently Microsoft hosted the Windows 10 consumer event and showed several cool new features that will be coming this fall. Windows 10 will be launching on PC, Tablet, Phone and Xbox to some extent.

One of the most heated topics that is being discussed to death by both sides of the fence is the Direct X 12 update. Pundits have called it something of a misnomer, to outright calling it a gimmick that will do nothing for PC gaming or the Xbox. Other developers have publicly stated (outside of the NDA agreements) that what they’ve seen and experienced it completely revolutionary. Phil Spencer famously misquoted by some said that the Xbox One will see some benefit but the hardware will not change.

Let’s take all of this into perspective. Whether or not you’re a fan of the ‘other’ console brand be it Nintendo or Sony, or you’re a PC hardcore gaming enthusiast you should be happy that the evolution of programming API’s and tools are accelerating. I find it personally bizarre how people will publicly condemn anyone who feels excited about this.

DirectX 12 will improve efficiency for CPU bound games and will improve access to the GPU by allowing more than one core to communicate with the CPU/GPU. Previously only one core managed to communicate at a time and DirectX 11 was quite power hungry based on Intel’s presentation? I myself prefer that power consumption be brought down in all consoles. As per example, one can take a very graphically intensive game on the PS4 and you will hear the console fans spinning profusely to cool the system down and I hope they find a way to improve the cooling system or any API improvements Sony brings to the PS4 will be severely hampered by the lack of proper cooling in the system.

Microsoft on the other hand have taken a beating over the design of the Xbox because they took cooling to the extreme and built a larger cooling system in making the device bigger. I’m not pretending that they could have made a better design other than the minimalist box design they have now, but choosing to ensure the device stays cool at all times is of upmost importance. Taking AC Unity on the Xbox One and leaving it running for hours while thousands of NPC’s are running around the device does not sound any louder than what it does while in the menu for example.

DirectX 12 will improve upon the power consumption and access to the multi-core system for developers will improve. Will it impact games dramatically? No, I don’t think we will see graphics that outshines a PC with about $4000 worth of components in there. Phil famously said there will be no dramatic change, and I agree. Will games look better, of course? Will lighting and framerates improve? Of course they will. But to pretend that there will be no change because Phil said ‘no dramatic change’ is an oxymoron.

PC gaming however will have a smaller benefit than that of the Xbox. Why? Because historically developers have not optimized games to run as good on the lowest common denominator as on the best. Game performance and graphics have always been up to the player. Do you want better graphics at a lower framerate? Or do you want a higher framerate with lower resolution? These are the options open to gamers on PC and DirectX 12 will not change that. Yes the PC will use less power, but the onus lies with the player to decide what type of experience they want out of their PC. With console devices the experience and optimization lies solely with the developer and they need to ensure that the game runs at optimal capacity. Unless you’re Konami.

At the Windows 10 event Phil Spencer showed a FutureMark benchmark tool running both DirectX12 and DirectX11 on screen with complexity increasing. DirectX12 showed massive improvements in framerates while the difficulty kept increasing over time. That is what DirectX does, it allows the system to efficiently improve framerates while doing double the work (50%). Of course it depends on your hardware. A Core i7 will be able to do more than an APU. This is on CPU bound games and it clearly proves that DirectX12 is not a pipe dream. Xbox One users will see improvement on the complexity of games and framerates depending on how well the game was optimized for the Xbox.

GPU bound games is the next chapter for gaming and we will see more on that in the future at GDC this year. Both PS4 and Xbox One will benefit dramatically from the shift away from CPU bound to GPU bound games and both console platforms should be excited for this shift. Nobody will be left behind in this race and we should expect Sony to reveal (or not) their answer to the future of gaming. Hopefully they will ensure that the console does not sound like a plane taking off while doing it.