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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What The Hell Is A “Next-Generation” Video Game?

The new consoles from Sony and Microsoft are imminent. Here's what you'll be playing on them.
On Wednesday night, at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, Sony will announce its new PlayStation. Shortly thereafter, Microsoft will announce its new Xbox. Because of a torrent of technical leaks, we already know a lot about the new machines: what's inside them, what powers them, and what doodads will be emblazoned on the box art. The shape of the next-generation game console is becoming clear. And yet, there's one crucial aspect of the new crop of gaming systems about which we know almost nothing. It's their most crucial feature, the reason millions of people pay the hundreds of dollars that have turned big gaming into a world-bestriding behemoth.
Specifically, what the hell is a next-generation video game?

Well, we can start with the obvious, which with new consoles is also the superficial. The basic trajectory of computing tells us that next-generation games will look more impressive. How much more impressive, exactly? The creative director of one of the largest game companies in the world told me that the programmers he works with have estimated the new consoles will allow 10 times as many on-screen "assets" (think: objects in your field of view) as current systems. (It's worth pointing out that high-end gaming graphics appear to be entering a period of diminishing returns — and "10 times" as many assets can mean, say, 10 times as many blades of grass in a field. In other words, expect impressive detail but not as obviously profound a jump as from, say, the Super Nintendo to the Nintendo 64).
It is a rule of development for new consoles that costs rise. So if the new games can harness 10 times the resources as our current games, the creative director said, "you need 10 times as many people working on the game." The most graphically intensive games now cost anywhere between $50 and $100 million to make, and as that figure explodes, developers and publishers will have to consolidate their development budgets on fewer titles. As a result, expect the number of huge budget "event" games — your Call of Dutys and Assassin's Creeds — to plummet.

There is almost no question that this high-end market is going to be controlled by the two or three publishers that have the financial and human resources to "brute force" (as the creative director put it) the megabucks sequels that still have massive profit margins. Fewer publishers mean higher costs, and those costs aren't going to be borne exclusively by game companies. "There is a future for the big cinematic games — Transformers the game — in which they are going to charge you $100," the creative director said. The rising threshold to make these games will drown mid-size publishers and prevent the entry of new ones. That's obviously bad for creativity in big games, encouraging as it does iteration on previously successful products.
But rising costs aren't the only reason the future of mainstream big gaming involves fewer, more expensive, and less creative games. "Those games are made for the most secure audience for video games, and that is 18[-] to 35 [-year-old] males," the creative director said. You could say, without much argument, that this group of gamers has fairly well-understood tastes. Still, what happens if pandering to those tastes becomes less effective, if the most coveted demographic in the industry gets tired of reliving the asymmetrical wars of the 20th century from behind the barrel of a Kalishnikov, and brute-forcing new wargames stops paying out?

Publishers will have to scramble to find a dominant type to replace the first-person shooter. There is a potential future for these consoles, the creative director told me, in which game companies figure out how to make a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena, the genre that is coming to dominate computer gaming and which includes League of Legends, the most popular game in the world) playable in the living room, with a controller. These games cost significantly less to make than resource-hungry first-person shooters, and while publishers couldn't charge nearly the same price for them, they could monetize them in novel, scalable ways ("Go Forth in your own Levis armor ™!"). MOBAs have a close relationship with an ascendant culture of gaming spectatorship, and it's not hard to imagine the advent of in-game commercials, say, between games. It's also easy to picture, given the speculation about video sharing in the new consoles, a game culture in which live video and editor-curated user video content (brought to you by, for instance,Machinima) plays a major role.
But what about the smart, narrative-driven single-player games that made many of us love games in the first place? Ballooning development costs and copycat blockbusters may actually be good for them. In recent years, developers have added multiplayer and cooperative play to story-heavy series such as Mass Effect,Dead Space, and Uncharted in an effort to justify their $60 cost and become more than weekend rentals. The result has been a kind of feature creep that hurts the quality of the single-player game. The future for these games, according to the creative director (and Cliffy B), is probably in digital distribution. At $25 or $30, without the costs of manufacturing and physical distribution (and without the development costs of multiplayer functionality that no one asked for), these games can gross the same amount of money they do today. A mid-size developer, like TellTale Games, which made one of last year's best games (the downloadable, episodic Walking Dead), could conceivably thrive in such a niche.

Finally, there are independent games, which are without question the most exciting growth area in the industry. In the past week, Chris Kohler at Wired and Ben Kuchera at the Penny Arcade Report have done some really smart writing about the so-called "Minecraft test," which asks whether any of the next-generation systems will make it sufficiently easy and affordable for small and hobbyist developers to make, update, and distribute games that the next indie supernova could start on a console. That's probably the hardest part of the new gaming experience to foresee, but whether or not gamers can participate in the thriving indie gaming scene on their consoles or if they will have to switch to a living room computer to do so rests on the answer.
And let's hope the answer is yes. Because if the disastrous Wii U launch illustrates anything, it's that gamers, the people who pay extravagantly for these extravagant machines, want more good games. The coming years are going to be a time ofunprecedented choice for gamers. Regardless of their horsepower, and their motion controls, and their media capabilities, the new consoles from Microsoft and Sony have to bring these choices to consumers — or the next-next generation of games won't involve them at all.
 Publyshed by : http://www.buzzfeed.com

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sony acquires Gaikai for $380 million

At the end of May a rumor making the rounds suggested that Sony was trying to acquire either Gaikai or OnLive. In the process it would secure the ability to stream any game from any platform to Sony hardware. The rumor got watered down to the point where Sony was expected to announce Gaikai’s service would be used to stream PS2 and PSOne games on the PS3.
Today, Sony laid all the rumors to rest by announcing it has acquired Gaikai for $380 million.
As part of the announcement Sony confirmed it intends to setup a cloud streaming service using Gaikai’s technology to offer a broad range of entertainment. What has not been confirmed is whether such a service will be limited to Sony-only hardware platforms such as its TVs, tablets, smartphones, and gaming hardware.
The move is one that could really shake up the gaming space for the company, as well as putting its rivals including Microsoft and Nintendo on their back foot. With Gaikai’s game streaming technology under its control, Sony now has the ability to offer a game library well beyond anything its rivals can provide. It can also achieve that on any hardware platform it wishes because everything is streamed.
Looking ahead, the acquisition could help shape what the PlayStation 4 console ends up being. If Sony did decide to ship a machine without physical media, then Gaikai could be used to keep hardware costs to a minimum by streaming all games. I don’t think that’s likely to happen, though. Instead, Sony can leverage Gaikai to offer backwards compatibility on PS4 for PS3, PS2, PSOne, and PSP games. Movies could also be offered via Gaikai–playing instantly in full HD on any hardware that can run the Gaikai app.
What will be interesting to watch now is how Microsoft reacts. The most obvious response is to acquire OnLive, but that’s assuming OnLive is for sale and Microsoft sees the service as a good investment. It’s hard to argue against the fact that controlling a proven cloud streaming service is anything but a big advantage.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

CVG Home / PlayStation / News Posted on Wednesday 29th Jun 2011 at 9:43 AM UTC New PlayStation boss talks PS3 exclusives, PS4

Andrew House on how PS3 allows Valve to reach new gamers

The newly-promoted CEO of PlayStation worldwide, Andrew House, has given CVG his thoughts on why studios should bring content to PS3 - and why we'll be waiting a long time yet for its successor.

PS3 Screenshot
Sony announced this morning that Sony Computer Entertainment Europe bossHouse had been promoted into his new role at Sony Computer Entertainment International.He replaces Kaz Hirai, who takes the role of global president.The changes will take effect on September 1.
Speaking to CVG earlier this month, House discussed why we're seeing traditional PC developers flocking to PlayStation - including Valve and Dust 514 beta studio CCP.
"The two things that I'm hearing [from PC devs] are that, one, as the size of the [Ps3] audience grows, clearly there's potential there in the console space to reach new users... and, secondly, I think it's a testament to the overall power of the device, and the fact that it's capable of delivering the same experience - or an even better experience - but on a big screen TV in a console environment."
On the future of PlayStation consoles, House told us that he "still characterised this as the early period" for PS3, and noted that Sony had "only really just begun to explore what the potential is for 3D".
Check out our video interviews below. Meet the new boss. A bit beardier than the old boss.

E3 2011: SCE boss Andrew House on the PS3... de ComputerAndVideoGames

 Read more at : http://www.computerandvideogames.com

Friday, August 10, 2012

What to Expect From the Next Generation of Game Consoles

Here's what we're anticipating in the next Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles.

 Nintendo already unveiled its next-generation game console, the Wii U, earlier this year. But what about Microsoft and Sony? We asked PCWorld's four biggest gaming geeks to make predictions on what the next Xbox and PlayStation systems will look like.

Hardware Specs: Smarter and Speedier

What to Expect From the Next Generation of Game ConsolesJason Cross (laptops editor): The sort of hardware we can expect in next-gen consoles will be very much determined by their release date. As the years roll on, silicon manufacturing processes become finer, which results in more transistors in a given area. That means cheaper, lower-power chips (or, conversely, more performance within the same area, power, and cost).
The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 originally came to market with CPUs and GPUs created in 90-nanometer manufacturing processes. If the next-gen systems ship in 2012, their chips will come from relatively cost-effective 32nm manufacturing; that means about eight times the computing power and cache in the same-size chip. Should the systems arrive late in 2013, there’s a chance that the chip makers will use a 22nm process, delivering 16 times the transistors per square millimeter as in the original Xbox 360 or PS3 chips. Of course, the Xbox 360 and PS3 had issues with cost and reliability at launch, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see both Microsoft and Sony back off a little on the size and power draw of the chips in their next systems.
So what does all this mean? It’s easy to speculate about exact CPU architectures and the like, but that's mostly irrelevant if you’re not a developer. Expect an honest fourfold increase in CPU performance from the new machines. The graphics will probably be eight times as powerful, if not more. Compared with current consoles, which use graphics chips essentially meant for DirectX 9-level graphics, the next consoles will utilize chips that meet the spec for DirectX 11.1. The key benefits, beyond fancier shaders and such, will be that the graphics chips will be flexible enough for a lot of general computation jobs. You can expect many of the next-gen console game engines to compute physics, AI, and even things like audio DSP on the graphics core.
What to Expect From the Next Generation of Game ConsolesMemory is always a tough issue. You can never have enough, but it’s difficult to sell a game system for $399--and drop the price rapidly--when you load it up with RAM. I can’t imagine either Microsoft or Sony being so stingy that they wouldn’t put 2GB of RAM in the box, but we should really hope for 4GB or more. Over the life span of a system, it would make a major difference in what game developers can create.
The real question will be the mass-storage medium. Whether game makers distribute their titles only as downloads or in physical form in stores, players will still have plenty of stuff to download--other games, themes, add-on packs and downloadable content, avatar clothing items, and more. It would be great for consoles to ship with solid-state drives. If developers could rely on caching their game data to a really fast solid-state drive, the I/O throughput would be so much higher that it would change the way games are made. But with downloadable games, demos, and content growing larger, I’m not sure the cost of SSDs will be low enough. A large standard hard drive will probably have to suffice, but with any luck we’ll see some sort of flash-cache optimized hybrid product.

Game Distribution: Discs or No Discs?

What to Expect From the Next Generation of Game ConsolesPatrick Miller (how-to editor): The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 introduced the console gaming world to large-scale digital distribution. Although you can complain all you like about having to download patches or being nickel-and-dimed for DLC (I certainly do), Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network have given gamers everywhere a chance to play games that wouldn't cut it on a retail shelf, such as offerings from independent developers, older big-budget games that don't show up in stores anymore, and remakes of classics that probably wouldn't happen if the publishers needed to pay for packaging and production. And since we're all PC gamers here, we're fervently hoping that the next generation of consoles takes a page out of Steam's book and goes for a download-only distribution model.

  Read more at : http://www.pcworld.com

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Perry: Gaikai should be added to current generation of Sony consoles and PlayStation 4


"You can't just make the same console as last time. You have to build something that's revolutionary."
Cloud gaming tech Gaikai should be added to the current generation of Sony consoles and PlayStation 4, David Perry has told Eurogamer.
Perry, who has just sold Gaikai to Sony for $380 million, now works for the console maker, and he intends to have as much influence on the PS4 as possible.
"It's a given it should go across the current and next-generation hardware," Perry said in an interview at the Develop conference in Brighton.
"But it's a case of, we have to let them decide what they want to do. I don't want to put words in their mouth.
"We've been experimenting with every single platform. Set top boxes, TVs, mobile devices, tablets, everything. Will it work on consoles? The answer is: absolutely. We've done tests. It definitely works."
Sony is rumoured to be preparing to launch PS4 in late 2013, with an announcement pegged for some time next year. Now Perry is on board, he is uniquely placed to play a crucial role in the development of the hardware.
"I'm going to get to see a console launch from the inside," he said. "I'm excited about that. I've never done that before."
The PlayStation 4 is "very important", Perry said. "There's so much happening right now in the industry. The consoles, if done right, become the anchor. But they need to embrace all the changes in technologies that have been happening, and business models.
They have to evolve. You can't just make the same console as last time. You have to build something that's revolutionary. That's what I will be pushing towards.
"They have to evolve. You can't just make the same console as last time. You have to build something that's revolutionary. That's what I will be pushing towards."
Perry stressed that he will as best he can push Sony to make PS4 a game machine first and foremost - despite the current trend for consoles to feature more and more non-gaming applications.
"I'm certainly going to remind them what I feel about PlayStation. What I feel about PlayStation is, when I'm thinking of buying a game - I don't know how they've done it but the branding has somehow got me there - if I'm trying to find where the best version is, I just automatically go, well that would be the PlayStation version, right? I don't know, the branding worked on me.
"The amount of energy and money and branding and whatever they've done to get me there, don't lose that. That's so valuable. Don't lose that. Let's double down on that."
But what influence will Perry have on the major decision makers within Sony?
"The thing that's great with Sony is we're not way down the stack in some little sub sub sub of a sub sub company. PlayStation is insanely important to Sony and we're dealing with the top people in Sony for gaming.
"We'll be heard. It doesn't mean they're going to do what I say. Don't get me wrong. But I can at least be heard and I hope they like what I've got to say."
With the ink still fresh on the contract between Gaikai and Sony Computer Entertainment, Perry is yet to discuss in detail how the gargantuan Japanese company intends to make use of its fancy new tech. In fact, after he's done with the Develop conference this week, Perry will work on a presentation he will then deliver to the top gaming executives at Sony detailing his ideas for Gaikai.
"Now the deal is done, only now are we going to start having those conversations on what Sony wants to do. What is their strategy? It's their company now so they have to decide what exactly they want to do. There are a lot of pieces to Sony. It's a big company. There is consumer electronics, DVD players and TVs. All of them can be impacted by this.
"So there are going to be a lot of discussions and a lot of meetings."
Reports suggest Sony will use Gaikai to power backwards compatibility on PS3, enabling access to the huge back catalogue of PSone and PS2 games through streaming.
Perry was unable to confirm details, but he did say he was excited about the impact of Gaikai on PlayStation. "I've been saying for quite some time now, how people plan their days around moving data around, like, I'm going to start five games downloading and I'll come back tomorrow.
"It's a really big boon for gamers because they'll be able to play pretty much everything that comes out with no effort."
Given issues with latency and image quality associated with cloud gaming, one concern is that Gaikai will, in its current form, be unable to truly offer a PlayStation-level experience.
Perry rejected this suggestion. "Can the games look ridiculously awesome? No question about it," he insisted. "To do it really really well, you need to stay on the track we were on, and our track was to make special hardware, like working with Nvidia and people like that."
 Read more at : http://www.eurogamer.net