Two Hours of Marketing Spin
Sony this week moved to unveil the PS4, and then they stopped. The hardware was not unveiled, the price-point was not unveiled, and not even a firm release date was set for the launch. The most they gave us was confirmation of their Dualshock redesign [which was already largely known], a vague ‘holiday’ 2013 release date, and some very tightly controlled and scripted game demos. The only games which appeared to show legitimate gameplay were Killzone: Shadow Fall, The Witness, and Watch Dogs [which was later revealed to be running on a PC], everything else appeared to be a mix of cutscenes and scripted in-engine footage.
Funnily enough, Square Enix’s presentation at the PS4 event seemed much like a microcosm of the larger conference. They took to the stage, stated that they were working on a new Final Fantasy title [duh], and then said “Prease” look forward to E3. Sony seemingly called this conference to confirm the bleeding obvious, and we will all likely have to wait until E3 to see software of any real substance.
The event [if it can be called that] was not a total wash however, as it did serve to clarify a few unknowns about the system. At this point Killzone: Shadow Fall and Watch Dogs are the only known titles that will be available at launch, though the launch line-up is bound to be broadened throughout the year. A few of the more technical specifications were also discussed, such as the fact that downloads will be managed in the background so that games may be played while they are downloading. It was also revealed that the system will save the state of an individual’s PS4 usage before shutting down, so that play may be resumed immediately from the point they left off.
Probably the biggest announcement of the night was the fact that Sony has only very recently opted to upgrade the PS4′s system RAM from 4GB to 8GB of ultra fast GDDR5 RAM. This move soundly trounces the 8GB of slow GDDR3 RAM that Microsoft are thought to be using in their Durango console, so, unless Microsoft are able to announce some “special-source” measure which proves to be a game-changer, Sony’s PS4 is looking to best its Xbox counterpart on every technical front. Despite a distinct lack of appealing software reveals, it does seem that the PS4 will potentially be the best console to game on of the next generation. That said, one is quite leery of all the Move functionality that Sony has been shoe-horning into their next iteration of the Dualshock, to say nothing of their worrying focus on social media integration.
Ubisoft Want Next Generation of Consoles to Have Short lifespans
For anyone hoping that the announcement of a new generation of consoles might be enough to get Ubisoft to shut up for five minutes, the company’s awful, French CEO seems ill-disposed to oblige. Yves Guillemot has been doing the rounds this week publicly lobbying for Sony’s new machine to be a short-lived bit of kit, because apparently having a stable platform with mature development tools is a surefire way of killing-off creativity, and insuring that we only ever get safe and iterative sequels.
“No we don’t want to wait seven years for the next one. We will have cloud gaming that will improve over time, for sure. And we certainly have enough novelties for a few years. The consoles have taken a long time, we’ve been saying it for a long time. It’s really once those consoles come that we can let creative people more risk, and they feel they can take more risk because new consoles can be more open. They have so many features that they can play with. It’s easier to be a creative person with new consoles, because after four years of people using all the capacity, it’s harder to be innovative. With PS4, we will see new ideas and new ways to approach gamers. And that will excite consumers and excite creators.”
OK, so apparently if Sony and Microsoft had released a new console every year then Ubisoft would not have had to turn in that great succession of iterative and samey Assassin’s Creed cash-ins. So, how then are Ubisoft planning to support the PS4? With their new IP Watch Dogs of course! An IP so new that it is also being ported to the previous generation of consoles, and is basically Assassin’s Creed with cellphones, anyway. One wonders how creative Ubisoft’s developers could be at the best of times, when they demand new hardware releases in order to exercise any degree of creativity. Why have they not been making games for the PC market, which is host to multiple hardware launches every year, and is leagues ahead of the PS4′s technical specifications when it comes to raw power? It all comes back to money of course, Guillemot’s desire to make lots of it and consumers desire not to part with theirs. Sony and Microsoft are not in the position to release a new console every time Guillemot wills it of them, and consumers are not generally going to be enthused about purchasing a new console if it does not represent a tangible leap forward with respect to the hardware that came before it – and even now the eighth generation is shaping up to be the most marginal improvement that we have ever seen over current generation consoles. At any rate, it seems quite churlish of Ubisoft to blame console manufacturers for their own decision to stop being creative after a certain point in a console’s lifespan, as creativity is not a technologically-based proficiency.
Kickstarted Game Gets Picked Up By Publisher
Once the Kickstarter craze began to make waves within the industry, it did not take long for Lusipurr.com to realise the unsavoury implications that such an arrangement would have over the long term. That is to say that high profile gaming personalities can elicit large-scale gamer donations with very little to show for themselves, so publishers will eventually cotton-on to the idea that they can simply have their star developers go out cap in hand in order to fleece free money from a gullible public.
This dire prediction is not quite realised by the development of Serellan LLC’s military shooter, Takedown: Red Sabre, but the situation is not so far removed either. In 2012 Rainbow Six luminary, Christian Allen, took to Kickstarter to source funding for his game, on the basis that publishers are no longer willing to fund tactical shooters. Allen’s Kickstarter was successful, accruing over $220,000 in backer largesse. This week it has come to light that 505 Games has picked up Takedown: Red Sabre for global distribution. One is not entirely sure whether the studio had any other sources of funding, and one cares not whether the developer was up front about their publisher relationships in the Kickstarter – the fundamental point is that consumers should never be placed in a situation where they are made to shoulder one hundred percent of the liability for the endeavours of a corporate entity.
There is possibly still a place in the gaming industry for a service like Kickstarter, but contributions should certainly be capped at $20,000 since it can only be legitimately used by amateur developers who have no other way of getting their project off of the ground [along with funding the multi-billion dollar construction of an acropolis, naturally].