playstation

Rivals in gaming, Microsoft and Sony team up on cloud services

Posted by | Gadgets, game streaming, Gaming, Google, google stadia, Microsoft, playstation, Sony, streaming, streaming games, xbox | No Comments

For the last two decades, Sony and Microsoft’s gaming divisions have been locked in all-out war against one another: on price, on hardware, on franchises, on exclusives… you name it. But it seems they’ve set their enmity aside temporarily that they might better prevent that filthy casual, Google, from joining the fray.

The official team-up, documented in a memorandum of understanding, was announced today, though details are few. But this is clear enough:

The two companies will explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game and content-streaming services. In addition, the two companies will explore the use of current Microsoft Azure datacenter-based solutions for Sony’s game and content-streaming services.

Of course there is no doubt that Sony could have gone with a number of other cloud services for its gaming-on-demand services. It already runs one, PlayStation Now, but the market is expected to expand over the next few years much like cord cutters have driven traditional TV and movie watchers to Netflix and other streaming services. Expansion would surely prove expensive and complicated.

The most salient challenger is likely Google and its new Stadia game streaming service, which of course has a huge advantage in its global presence, brand recognition and unique entry points: search and YouTube. The possibility of searching for a game and being able to play it literally five seconds later is an amazing one, and really only something Google can pull off right now.

That makes Google a threat. And Microsoft and Sony have enough threats already, what with the two of them making every exclusive and chip partnership count, the resurgence of Nintendo with the immensely popular Switch and the complex new PC-and-mobile-focused gaming market making consoles look outdated. Apple Arcade exists, too, but I don’t know that anyone is worried about it, exactly.

Perhaps there was a call made on the special direct line each has to the other, where they just said “truce… until we reduce Google Stadia to rubble and salt the earth. Also Nvidia maybe.”

We don’t actually have to imagine, though. As Sony President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida noted in the announcement: “For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content.”

Sony doesn’t lack technical chops, or the software necessary to pull off a streaming service — but it may simply make more sense to deploy via Microsoft’s Azure than bring its own distribution systems up to par. No doubt Microsoft is happy to welcome a customer as large as Sony to its stable, and any awkwardness from the two competing elsewhere is secondary to that. Google is a more existential competitor in many ways, so it makes sense that Microsoft would favor partnering with a partial rival against it.

Sony has long been in this boat itself. Its image sensors and camera technology can be found in phones and DSLRs that compete with its own products — but the revenue and feedback it has built up as a result have let it maintain its dominance.

Speaking of which, the two companies also plan to collaborate on imaging, combining Sony’s sensor tech with Microsoft’s AI work. This is bound to find its way to applications in robotics and autonomous vehicles, though competition is fierce there, and neither company has a real branded presence. Perhaps they aim to change that… together.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake trailer shows redo of the classic in action

Posted by | final fantasy, final fantasy vii, Gaming, playstation | No Comments

’90s kids will remember this. Final Fantasy VII, the game that busted JPRGs out of their niche and helped make the original PlayStation the must-have console of the generation, is, as we all know, being remade. But until today it wasn’t really clear just what “remade” actually meant.

The teaser trailer put online today is packed full of details, though of course they may change over the course of development. It’s exciting not just for fans of this game, but for those of us who prefer VI and are deeply interested in how that (superior) game might get remade. Or VIII or IX, honestly.

The trailer shows the usual suspects traversing the first main area of the game, Midgar. A mix of cutscenes and gameplay presents a game that looks to be more like Final Fantasy XV than anything else. This may be a bitter pill for some — while I doubt anyone really expected a perfect recreation of the original’s turn-based combat, XV has been roundly criticized for oversimplification of the franchise’s occasionally quite complex systems.

With a single button for “attack,” another for a special, and the rest of the commands relegated to a hidden menu, it looks a lot more like an action RPG than the original. A playable Barret suggests the ability to switch between characters either at will or when the story demands. But there’s nothing to imply the hidden depths of, say, XII’s programmatic combat or even XIII’s convoluted breakage system.

But dang does it look good. Aerith (not “Aeris” as some would have it) looks sweet, Cloud is stone-faced and genie-panted, and Barret is buff and gruff, all as detailed and realistic we have any right to expect. The city looks wonderfully rendered and clearly they’re not phoning in the effects.

It’s more than a little possible that the process for remaking VII is something that the company is considering for application to other titles (I can see going all the way back to IV), but with this game being the most obvious cash cow and test platform for it.

“More to come in June,” the video concludes.

Will we enter a gaming era rife with remakes preying on our nostalgia, sucking our wallets dry so we can experience a game for the 4th or 5th time, but with particle effects and streamlined menus? I hope so. Watch the full teaser below:

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Sony shares some details about the PlayStation 5

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, playstation, Sony | No Comments

Lead architect for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita Mark Cerny gave a lengthy interview to Wired’s Peter Rubin and shared some details about Sony’s next-gen console — the console that is likely to be called the PlayStation 5.

The next PlayStation will be based on an AMD architecture just like the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro. The custom-made CPU will be based on the third-generation AMD Ryzen CPU line. It’ll feature eight 7nm cores.

As for the GPU, Sony plans to use a custom version of AMD Radeon’s Navi GPUs. While AMD is supposed to unveil this new generation of GPUs in the coming months, Cerny says that the next-gen PlayStation GPU will support ray tracing.

Those chips should also lead to a jump in audio performance. You can expect better 3D audio support if you have a set of speakers or headphones that support this kind of stuff.

The PlayStation 5 will also ship with SSD hard drives by default. This is a key differentiating factor between PC games and console games. Spinning hard drives lead to endless loading screens.

Opting for an SSD changes everything. For instance, Cerny says that fast-travel in Spider-Man running on a PlayStation 4 Pro takes approximately 15 seconds, while it takes less than a second on a next-generation PlayStation devkit.

On the hardware front, Cerny also said that the PlayStation 5 will have a Blu-ray drive to read physical games. And you’ll also be able to play PlayStation 4 games on the new console.

Based on the interview, it’s unclear whether Sony wants to launch a second-generation PlayStation VR headset. But if you already bought a VR headset, it’ll be compatible with the future PlayStation.

Sony is skipping E3 this year, which means that we won’t hear more about the PlayStation 5 for a while. The company most likely will launch the new console in 2020.

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After 5 years, Sony’s PS4 is still killing it

Posted by | Gaming, playstation, PS4, Sony | No Comments

After a successful holiday season, Sony’s PlayStation 4 is nearing some pretty wild milestones.

The company announced Monday that they had sold more than 5.6 million PS4 units over the holiday season worldwide, bringing the total number of current-gen consoles sold to 91.6 million, a number that suggests the popular console is still vibrant even after five years on the market.

Microsoft has been in a losing position throughout the “console wars” and, while it hasn’t released its own numbers recently, it’s estimated that the quantity of Xbox One units sold may make up just about half of what Sony has shipped this generation. Meanwhile, Nintendo has had a banner year following the success of the Switch, which launched in late 2017 and has become the fastest-selling game console ever in the U.S., though the total units sold still drags far behind the much older PS4.

Beyond the hardware, Sony also delivered some statistics on title sales, saying that they sold more than 50 million titles and that they have sold at least 9 million copies of the Spider-Man Sony-exclusive title. A staggering 876 million PS4 games have been sold to date.

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Nintendo Switch forecasted to outsell the PS4 in 2019

Posted by | Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, playstation, Sony | No Comments

The Switch has been a monster hit for Nintendo by nearly every measure. The convertible console is precisely the success the company needed after a few years in the wilderness following the Wii U flop and smartphone foot-dragging.

Strategy Analytics predicts more good things for the platform, predicting that Nintendo will surpass Sony in console sales next year. The margins are admittedly pretty thin, with Nintendo selling 17.3 million Switches to Sony’s 17.1 million PS4/PS4 Pro (Microsoft’s in a distant third here at an even 10 million), but if it holds, it will be an impressive feat nonetheless. 

That number would put Nintendo ahead of the pack for the first time in 10 years, back in the Wii/PS3/Xbox 360 days. The company’s gearing up to release one of the console’s biggest titles yet, with the new Super Smash Bros. due out next week, and rumors have been swirling around update hardware for 2019, which would be pretty standard fare for Nintendo.

While those sales would propel the company to the front of the pack, Sony’s still got a much larger overall user base, accounting for around half of consoles currently in use — an impressive 84 percent of which are PS4s.

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Sony filed a patent for a touchscreen-equipped PlayStation controller

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, playstation, Sony, TC | No Comments

According to a patent application continuation filed in 2017 and published recently, Sony may have tentative plans to build out a touchscreen-equipped PlayStation controller.

Whether the value added from having a touchscreen right on the controller will be worth the added cost is not yet clear.

Right now, PlayStation controllers have a touch-enabled center button that allows users to navigate through menus and other activities with a touch-based interface. The center button also lets gamers access more information, such as game stats, when clicked.

This patent application also leaves us wondering what type of content might be displayed on the touchscreen. As you can imagine, controller content could include in-game information that is usually shown on a heads-up display on the main screen.

However, it’s far more likely that a touchscreen-equipped PlayStation controller would offer a new interface for console-based information and actions, such as sharing a video broadcast or dealing with incoming invites and friend requests.

Interestingly, Nintendo’s own experiment with a touchscreen-enabled controller failed miserably. Remember the Wii U? Nintendo eventually corrected the mistake with the launch of the Switch, which has found its place among casual gamers as a sort of hybrid console and sold more than 20 million units since launch.

Of course, Sony’s touchscreen controller is nothing more than a patent application for now, so there’s a solid chance that the same controllers we’ve grown to know and love ship alongside the next-gen PlayStation with no update to be seen. But just in case someone at Sony decides to get inventive, the patent is in place for the company to start thinking about touchscreen controllers.

Reports suggest that the next-generation Sony console could arrive as early as 2019 or as late as 2021.

[via DualShockers]

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Sony’s PlayStation Classic uses an open-source emulator to play its games

Posted by | emulators, Gaming, hardware, open source, playstation, playstation classic, Sony | No Comments

The worm has turned, it seems. Emulators, which let people run old console games on their computers, were once the scourge of the gaming industry. Now Sony is using one of the very pieces of software the industry decried as the basis for its PlayStation Classic retro console.

In the licenses list for the console can be found PCSX ReArmed, as Kotaku noticed in its review yesterday. That’s the ARM port of PCSX Reloaded, itself an offshoot of the original PCSX emulator, which ceased development in 2003.

Don’t worry, it’s not a crime or anything: Sony is well within its rights to do this. It’s just ironic, and indicative of the hard work emulator developers have done for over two decades, that a tool most famously (though by no means exclusively) used for piracy is being deployed officially like this. PCSX and its derivatives are open source under GPL.

It’s a huge vindication of these rogue developers, as you might call them, whose software based on reverse-engineering the proprietary systems of major companies has grown to be not just useful but the best option for running these old games — as chosen by Sony itself! Gaming historian Frank Cifaldi has an interesting thread about why this is so mind-blowing for some of us.

It also makes sense to a certain extent: Sony would have had to dedicate a non-trivial amount of resources to building an emulator from scratch, or (even more complex) rebuilding the PlayStation hardware in some fashion. Why not use a high-quality, open-source emulator with years of active development and testing?

Not every company has made that same choice, though: Nintendo, for its NES and SNES Classic mini-consoles, developed its own emulators, as it did before for Virtual Console (and indeed inside Animal Crossing on GameCube). But even then, those devices run on a custom Linux build, which of course uses a similar open-source license. So one way or the other the gaming world is finding itself in bed with the open-source community.

It’s true that the emulators themselves were never really illegal — unless they used some proprietary code or something. It was always the ROMs themselves, copies of games, that companies fought hardest against. But emulators have always lived in a sort of grey area, even if few actions were taken against them. The last few years have seen a resurgence in interest for retro games and a willingness to pay for them, but if emulators hadn’t been letting us do that for free for decades, there’s a good chance that many of these games would have been forgotten.

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There’s a new PS4 Pro and it’s much quieter than the original

Posted by | computing, Gadgets, Gaming, playstation, PlayStation 4, Sony, video gaming | No Comments

There’s a new Sony PS4 Pro and it’s much quieter than the original. Right now, it’s only available in a Red Dead Redemption bundle, but eventually, it will likely be available as a standalone product, too.

The new CUH-7200 version reportedly dropped the console’s noise from 50 decibels to 44 decibels, though, as EuroGamer notes, it can still top out at 48 decibels. The noise reduction is reportedly thanks to improved cooling, which in turn, reduces the strain on the cooling system within the PS4 Pro. The original PlayStation Pro came out two years ago, and at times, it can roar like a jet engine.

The revised model looks the same as the original, so check the model number on the box to ensure you’re getting the quieter option.

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Here are the 20 games shipping with the PlayStation Classic

Posted by | Gaming, playstation, Sony | No Comments

The PlayStation Classic already has a release date (December 3) and price ($100), but before today, Sony’s neglected to announce one key bit of information: games. The electronics giant has finally seen fit to reveal the full list of 20 titles for its answer to the wildly popular NES Classic edition.

It’s a pretty solid list, all told, including some of the console’s truly classic titles and representing a wide range of genres, from fighting to racing to RPG to, well, carjacking. The miniature console is available for preorder now, hitting the U.S. and Canada on December 3. The system also ships with two controllers.

Here’s the full list of titles.

  • Battle Arena Toshinden
  • Cool Boarders 2
  • Destruction Derby
  • Final Fantasy VII
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Intelligent Qube
  • Jumping Flash
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Mr Driller
  • Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
  • Rayman
  • Resident Evil Director’s Cut
  • Revelations: Persona
  • Ridge Racer Type 4
  • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
  • Syphon Filter
  • Tekken 3
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  • Twisted Metal
  • Wild Arms

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Sony announces the PlayStation Classic, its own mini retro console

Posted by | computing, Gaming, Nintendo, playstation, Sony Computer Entertainment, TC, video gaming | No Comments

If you’re the kind of person who has two beers and regularly launches into the same 20 minute-long ode to the original PlayStation for playing a seminal role in the maturation of gaming as an art form, well, do we have some news for you. Sony just announced its intentions to give the PlayStation the (winning) Nintendo Classic treatment with a tiny to-scale version of the PS1 called the PlayStation Classic. The teeniest new console is scheduled to hit shelves on December 3, retailing for $99.99.

Like Nintendo’s wildly popular SNES and NES Classics that paved the way, Sony’s PlayStation Classic will come pre-loaded with a cache of well-loved games. The PlayStation Classic’s lineup will feature 20 classic games, including Final Fantasy VII [editor’s note: hell yeah], Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms. 

“Almost 25 years ago, the original PlayStation was introduced to the world. Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment, it was the first home console in video game history to ship 100 million units worldwide, offering consumers a chance to play games with real-time 3D rendered graphics in their homes for the first time,” Sony said, waxing nostalgic in a blog post announcing the console. We’re here for it.

“Long-time fans will appreciate the nostalgia that comes with rediscovering the games they know and love, while gamers who might be new to the platform can enjoy the groundbreaking PlayStation console experience that started it all.”

According to Sony, the new mini PlayStation will be 45% smaller than a real PlayStation, complete with smaller controllers that also mimic their forebears. Each unit will ship with an HDMI and USB cable and two controllers for couch multiplayer. The consoles will be available to pre-order at some retailers in Canada and the U.S and more details (including the 15 other games) so keep an eye out — Sony will be sharing more details in the next month or two. All games “will be playable in their original format” so expect them to look and feel just like they did in the dark ages, when things were simple and good.

Most of us can agree that this particular nostalgia baiting tactic is awesome, take our money, but have you seen this thing? It’s extra cute. Maybe it’s because the PS1 had those iconic circular buttons that echoed its game discs and round things are cute like Kirby is cute (Toad, on the other hand, is over).

If you spent significant time marveling over the PS1 when it made waves in 1995, you too likely retain a proprioceptive kind of intimacy with its then cutting-edge form. Do you remember precisely how much give the buttons had when you depressed them, how the disc hood yawned open gracefully, almost suspensefully? Of course you do.

Sure we gave five years of our actual lives to this thing — what’s a few months more?

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