Posts Tagged ‘Sony’

Microsoft has unveiled the Xbox One which will go on sale later this year.

The next-generation console was shown off alongside a new Kinect sensor and a redesigned gamepad.

The US firm described the voice and gesture-controlled machine as an “all-in-one” system offering games, live TV, movies and music.

The firm’s Entertainment and Devices Division accounted for $9.6bn (£6.3bn) worth of sales in Microsoft’s last financial year.

That only represented about 13% of its total revenue for the period – but one analyst said the importance of this launch should not be underestimated.

“Microsoft is very strong in business software and the enterprise cloud business, but its consumer businesses are facing tremendous challenges: PCs are declining rapidly and Windows Phone handsets have only a fraction of the market shares of rivals,” said Jia Wu from consultants Strategy Analytics.
Microsoft has added the ability to watch live TV with channel selection controlled by voice
“Xbox represents Microsoft’s core strategy in the consumer entertainment market, especially after it sold its Mediaroom video distribution business to Ericsson earlier this year.

“This is also the unique asset which Microsoft has that can differentiate itself from Apple, Google and several of the other large tech companies.”

Microsoft’s decision to show off its new hardware in the opening minutes of its presentation sharply contrasted with Sony’s PlayStation 4 press conference in February when the Japanese company decided not to reveal the look of its machine – a move that was mocked by some commentators.

New features
The Xbox One sees Microsoft add a Blu-ray drive and Skype functionality to its console, incorporate vibrating feedback into its gamepad’s triggers, and upgrade the Kinect camera’s sensor to 1080p high definition resolution.

It said the new Kinect would be better at analysing body movements, allowing users to more accurately control games characters and navigate other entertainment options.

“When you’re exercising, it can read your heartbeat,” claimed the firm.

New tools will also allow users to record and edit gameplay so clips can be easily uploaded to the web.

EA Sports was first to announce new titles for the machine revealing Fifa 14, Madden NFL 25, NBA Live 14 and the fighting game UFC would all launch on the platform within the next 12 months using a new games engine called Ignite.

It said the new machine allowed it to carry out four times as many calculations a second as the Xbox 360 and 10 times more “animation depth and detail”.

Microsoft Studios also revealed that Forza Motorsports 5 – the latest in its own racing car franchise – would be available when the console launched.

The division added that it planned to release 15 games within the console’s first year, eight of which would be new franchises.

Activision also provided a first look at the next title in its Call of Duty series – Ghosts. It will use a new games engine to take advantage of the Xbox One’s improved graphics capabilities, offering more detailed textures for human skin and other features. The title will also be released on rival platforms.

French publisher Ubisoft was not part of the launch, but took the opportunity to announce that two games in development – Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag – would be available for the Xbox One before the end of 2013.

The company’s chief executive, Yves Guillemot, said he was excited by the opportunities offered by the machine’s improved specifications.

“We believe it will reinvigorate the industry,” he told the BBC.

“There’s a huge step up in graphics and there’s a big step up in terms of memory as well.

“It will take time to take full advantage of the machines because we’ll have to learn how to best optimise the technology – but even from the beginning you will see a huge difference between a game on the two different generations.”

Entertainment epicentre
Much of the presentation was dedicated to the console’s non-gaming features including its ability to make video calls; trigger live TV and online movies by voice command; and run several progams simultaneously without any apparent drop-off in performance.

Time was also given to promote an upcoming live-action television series based on Microsoft’s Halo games franchise which movie director Steven Spielberg is working on. The firm said tie-in interactive content would be offered exclusively to the Xbox One.

“Where Nintendo’s approach to next-gen gaming seems to ignore the need to share time with television and other forms of entertainment, and Sony’s approach seems willing to share the space, Microsoft’s vision is to so blur the line between different forms of entertainment that switching from game to television or movie watching will be as simply as flipping between television channels,” said Brian Crecente, news editor at games site Polygon.

“More importantly, it is lining up to make its system the one through which all entertainment happens. If it manages to pull it off, the Xbox One could become the one jumping off point for all forms of entertainment.”

News of a five-year deal with the US’s National Football League – which will allow sports fans to call up statistics, video replays and information about what live events mean for their fantasy teams – may also appeal to Microsoft’s domestic audience.

However, it did not discuss whether it was pursuing similar tie-ups for consumers overseas.

Processor change
Microsoft is planning to launch its new console at a time when many video games makers are trying to reduce costs.

Electronic Arts, Square Enix and Activision Blizzard are among firms which have announced layoffs over the past couple of months.

But the updated machines may put the companies under fresh strain.

Games engine developer Epic has warned that if studios want to take full advantage of the advances in graphics power that will be available, then their design costs could be double what they were when the Xbox 360 and PS3 launched.

“The additional rendering capabilities of these consoles will demand larger budgets for the marquee high-end games,” said Lewis Ward, video games analyst at tech research firm IDC.

“That creates a risky proposition for developers.

“But the costs are going to be mitigated to an extent – studios have said it will be easier to make games on next-gen platforms because they’re going to be closer to the development environments that are common on the PC side.”

Mr Ward was referring to the fact that Microsoft has decided to power its machine with an eight-core x86-based CPU (central processing unit) made by AMD rather than continue with IBM‘s PowerPC technology. The move means its console will run off a chip that is similar to those found in most PCs.

Sony has also opted to switch from its proprietary Cell processor tech to the x86 architecture meaning, in theory, it should be easier to port a title across different platforms.

However, the move means neither of the two new consoles will be backwards compatible with the former generation’s catalogue of games.

Both Microsoft and Sony plan follow-up “keynote” announcements at the E3 trade show in Los Angeles on 10 June.

Nintendo launched its next-generation console, the Wii U, last year and has said it will not host a major press conference at the event.

Do you think the Xbox One will be a hit or miss?

 

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Sony has announced its next-generation gaming console – the PlayStation 4 – at an event in New York.

Its new hardware is designed to offer superior graphics as well as new social features including the sharing of recorded gameplay clips.

It will succeed the PlayStation 3, which went on sale in 2006 and has sold about 75 million units.

The PS4 will eventually compete against Microsoft’s still-to-be-unveiled Xbox 360 successor and Nintendo’s Wii U.

Sony also confirmed a range of big-name software for the machine including Bungie’s upcoming “shared-world shooter” Destiny, which will include exclusive content for the PS4.

WatchDogsUbisoft’s WatchDogs was among the titles confirmed for the PlayStation 4

The developer’s previous title, Halo, helped drive sales for the rival Xbox platform.

A successful launch might spur on sales of Sony’s new televisions and other consumer electronics, helping turn around its fortunes.

Sony posted a 456.7bn yen loss ($4.9bn; £3.2bn) in its last financial year, marking the fourth year it ended in deficit.

But the firm has forecast a 20bn yen profit for the current financial year ending in March.

Sony said the console was “coming holiday 2013” suggesting it will go on sale in at least some countries in or around December.

It did not give any indication of its price nor did it show what the console would look like.

There was also no mention of whether the console would support 4K – or ultra-high definition – video. However, Sony told the BBC it would have more to say on this matter “at the appropriate moment”.

DualShock4 controllerThe new controller features a touchpad and a light so its movement can be tracked by a camera

PC-based chip

Sony described the machine as being like a “supercharged” PC.

It runs off an x86-based CPU (central processing unit) – similar architecture to that found in most desktop computers – and an “enhanced” PC GPU (graphics processing unit). Both CPU and GPU are designed by the US firm Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

It comes with the new DualShock 4 controller, which includes a touchpad, a “share button” and a lightbar, which allows a separate camera to track its movement.

“This is a complete controller upgrade with touch, share and better responsiveness,” said Brian Blau, an analyst at the tech consultancy Gartner.

“The new controller is the key to a better PS4 experience. It has the ability to share content easily, and brings in a component of touch that allows even more ways to interact with games.”

The console also includes new hardware dedicated to video compression to make it a more social device.

Users will be able to pause a game, select a few minutes of recorded video of their most recent activity, and instruct the clip to be uploaded to a social network.

This will then occur in the background while they can return to their game. The firm said it wanted to make sharing video clips as common as it is today to share screenshots.

Another new feature is that gamers can let one of their friends connect to their machine and take control of their character to help if they have got stuck, or allow several friends to watch their live progress as spectators. This facility uses technology from Gaikai – a cloud-based service Sony acquired last year for $380m.

Gaikai’s technology is also being used to allow PS4 games to be streamed and played via the PlayStation Vita handheld console, which may boost its sales.

Sony said it was also exploring the possibility of using its Gaikai unit to allow PlayStation 3 games to be played on the new machine as well as other devices.

However, at the moment PS3 games will not run on the new console.

“The decision to not make the PlayStation 4 backwards compatible is disappointing and means the 5.5 million plus people who own a PS3 in the UK will essentially have to start their gaming collection from scratch,” said Alex Simmons, UK editor-in-chief of the gaming site IGN.

“PlayStation 3 games – and indeed PSone and PS2 games – will be available to download at some point, but most likely at an additional cost, which might turn consumers off.”

Sony Corp will this month host its first major Playstation meeting in two years, sparking a flare-up in online speculation the Japanese consumer electronics giant is preparing to unveil the successor to its 70 million-selling PS3 games console.

Sony declined to say whether it would release a new product at the meeting in New York on February 20. “We will be talking about the Playstation business,” spokesman Masaki Tsukakoshi said on Friday. A Google search for “Sony Feb 20 Playstation” returned more than 7 million hits.

PS4 on the way

The last time Sony held a Playstation event, in January 2011, it presented a protoype of its     handheld Vita console. Before that, it convened a gathering in 2005 two months after it first  demonstrated the PS3 concept. A meeting in 1999 revealed designs for the PS2.

 

It has been more than six years since Sony launched the PS3 home console, a longer gap than between it and its PS2 predecessor, adding to the anticipation that it will soon disclose its next gaming concept.

Since Sony’s last home console launch, the games market has been transformed by the boom in smartphones and tablet computers that have wooed players with free or cheap games.

Sony and other console makers Nintendo Co Ltd and Microsoft Corp now have to contend with competition from hand-held devices made by Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics and others.

Analysts expect that tablets and other mobile devices will match the power and graphics of today’s games consoles within a few years.

Struggling under competitive pressure, Nintendo on Wednesday cut its sales target for the Wii U, successor to its 100 million-selling Wii, to 4 million machines by the end of March from its launch in November, compared with an earlier forecast for 5.5 million.

 

Will Nintendo rule the world?

Next Generation consoles..

While we have a pretty good idea about what the Wii U is and what Nintendo’s strategy is going to be, details about Sony and Microsoft’s next consoles have been very limited. However, based on comments made by these companies, I believe that the next generation of gaming will feature three very different consoles with separate strategies and functionalities.

Now one could say the same thing about this generation to a certain extent. Microsoft has focused on strong online play and multimedia functionality; Sony has released lots first-party exclusives and focused on being the “gamer’s system” with services like PlayStation Plus; and Nintendo has achieved great success by reaching a huge audience with innovative new motion controls and a cheap price tag while sacrificing HD graphics and some of its hardcore audience.

However, I would argue that the PS3 and Xbox 360 are fundamentally similar consoles, thus why so many games were released on both platforms. Both are HD systems with traditional controllers, robust online functions, and are both focused on giant AAA games, especially shooters. Nintendo’s decision to revolutionize how we play games while remaining in SD separated it from the other systems.It’s already apparent that the Wii U will also be unique in its controls and graphical fidelity, but I think people might be surprised by how different the Xbox 720 and PS4 could be.

In an interview with IGN during E3 2012, corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios Phil Spencer couldn’t talk directly about Microsoft’s future plans. However, when asked about what they have up their sleeve for the next-generation, Spencer gave some hints of what’s to come.

“We really start looking at the Xbox as an entertainment product, plugged into the biggest screen in your house, the TV, and a unique display surface in the TV. That’s why I try to focus on SmartGlass, trying to light up other things that are happening in the house, because we understand that it’s a connected-device ecosystem.

It’s a little bit like Kinect when it came out. We got Dance Central 3, the kind of game that didn’t even really exist before Kinect came around. I think now we look at SmartGlass and these other opportunities, and I think the kind of entertainment that we’re building will continue to push forward, multiple devices and opportunities to play anywhere, asynchronous multiplayer gameplay. We’re trying to come up with new terms for these connected experiences. I think you’re going to see just a ton of growth.”

Based on this quote as well as Microsoft’s recent trends, it would appear that the next Xbox will continue to emphasize multimedia connectivity like Netflix, ESPN, and Internet Explorer while connecting with other devices through technology like SmartGlass. Maybe it will even come bundled with some kind of Kinect 2.0 that uses more accurate motion and voice controls to help you navigate the menus and play games.

IGN’s Colin Campbell mentions the likelihood of “new models for buying and playing games and priced, at least as an option, on a smart-phone subscription model, with a low entry price and further payments over a couple years”. This seems like a good possibility given Microsoft’s strategy of selling a 360 for $100 along with a two-year contract for Xbox Live. While they don’t seem to be in any hurry to move to the next generation, we have seen pictures of alleged 720 dev kits and know that some developers have them, so it can’t be too far away. A late 2013 launch time seems likely, but Microsoft could wait until 2014 for launch and announce it at the next E3.