Gaming

4K is the wrong target for Xbox One X and PS4 Pro

The dust has settled on E3, and we now know a lot more about how Microsoft hopes to revive its fortunes with the console formerly known as Scorpio. Like the PlayStation 4 Pro, the Xbox One X is a souped-up system laser-focused on displaying 4K images. You can argue over the degree to which either console produces “true” or “native” 4K, with Microsoft holding the technical edge, but I think such discussions miss the point. 4K is simply the wrong target in the first place.

The Xbox One X and PS4 Pro are unusual devices in that they provide significant power improvements without breaking compatibility with the existing Xbox One or PS4. Previously, console power upgrades were restricted to generational shifts — the PS3 that the PS4 replaced in 2013 ran on the same hardware as the one released in 2006. But the shift away from exotic components to the PC-style x86 architecture found in current consoles means it’s much easier to give them linear upgrades within the same generation.

This could be awesome if done properly — it’d mean you’d always have the option of buying modern hardware, or you could save money by buying the original model. But the way the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have been designed and promoted is anything but inclusive. By focusing on 4K output, their hardware is wasted for a large majority of potential customers. 4K resolution requires a huge amount of power to render in real time, and the benefits are dubious even if you are one of the few with a compatible TV.

Most games on the regular PS4 and Xbox One run at 30 frames per second in 1080p resolution, or close to it. On the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, you’re mostly getting the same thing just rendered with more pixels, regardless of what TV the console is hooked up to. Even if you have a 4K TV and are looking for a way to make use of it, this feels like the wrong way to spend the silicon.

What would be the right way? As it turns out, a platform does exist that both offers more power and lets you choose how to use it: the PC. And if there are any PC gamers out there who attempt to run games at 4K, 30 frames a second, and with Xbox One levels of graphical detail, well, I’m yet to meet them. In my experience, most players on PC consider 60fps table stakes and will tweak settings like texture resolution and shadow quality in order to achieve it — or even higher frame rates.

I’m one of them, and I actually had to make this choice a couple of months ago when shopping for a new monitor. (As an aside, it’s really hard to find good PC monitors!) I’d narrowed it down to two options, seemingly the only 27-inch IPS G-Sync models available in Japan: Asus’ PG279Q and PG27AQ. They are more or less identical products, but the former is 2560×1440 at 144Hz (“overclockable” to 165Hz) and the latter is 4K at 60Hz. My PC is powerful enough to play games at 4K, but I ended up going for the 1440p model.

1440p is still a big resolution upgrade over 1080p, but it doesn’t require nearly as much processing power as 4K. And it comes with benefits of its own: 4K monitors are limited to 60Hz right now, but you can get more than double the frame rate at 1440p. G-Sync is a huge game-changer here — it matches the monitor’s refresh rate to your GPU’s output, meaning that you get smooth, tear-free output while displaying every single frame your PC is capable of processing each second. And it’s honestly transformative — fast-paced games feel almost surreally responsive to the point where it’s very hard to go back. (AMD has similar monitor technology called FreeSync, and Apple made “ProMotion” adaptive refresh rates the headline feature of its new iPad Pro.)

But all this talk of 144Hz is probably in the weeds when the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X aren’t even targeting 60fps most of the time, outliers like racers and fighting games aside. My personal opinion is that 60fps makes a vastly bigger difference to the actual experience of playing games than 4K resolution — just look at Microsoft’s own Halo 5, which appeared to have been entirely designed around this principle — and I would be happy to buy updated PS4 or Xbox One models that focused on this aspect of performance. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’ve got.

And for 1080p TV owners, it’s disingenuous to suggest that these products will deliver a notably better experience, as Microsoft’s Dave McCarthy did last week at E3. “I wouldn’t say from a 1080p TV perspective you’re going to be all that disappointed either, right?” he toldThe Verge. “I mean, you have automatic supersampling from the Xbox One X to your 1080p TV. It’s still going to look pretty damn amazing.” If you’re not familiar with supersampling, it basically means rendering the image at a higher resolution than your screen can display. It can improve picture artifacts like aliasing, but it’s a blunt approach to boosting image quality that makes very little sense for the hardware. It’s not a choice I can imagine many PC gamers with 1080p monitors making when they still have headroom to improve graphical effects or frame rate.

To some degree, Microsoft and Sony have been restricted by their original console designs. Both new systems are still built around low-power Jaguar CPU cores, originally used in mid-range laptops, and while the Pro and X’s boosted GPUs are helpful for rendering higher resolutions, the relatively weedy CPUs are likely to limit the degree to which framerates can be increased. On a TV, you’d have to hit a solid 60fps if you wanted to avoid torn frames above 30Hz, and that may be a stretch for many games even on the Xbox One X. Could Sony and Microsoft have made more fundamental improvements to their CPUs as well? Maybe, but almost certainly not without significant implications for compatibility.

But that’s not to say that 4K is the only way to improve visuals. PC games at 1080p look much better than PS4 and Xbox One games, owing to the better effects made possible by more powerful GPUs. And even if you do have a 4K TV, the biggest difference you’ll see will come from HDR, not resolution — a feature already possible on the cheaper Xbox One S and regular PS4. The PS4 Pro at least has a good reason to push more pixels if you own a PlayStation VR headset, where the extra resolution really can make a tangible difference to image quality, but this E3 Microsoft downplayed the prospects of VR on its console platform.

To be clear, neither Microsoft nor Sony are mandating that developers work on 4K output — studios are free to use the extra power to deliver better 1080p performance if that’s what they want to do. But the design and positioning of these systems makes it a lot easier and more desirable to concentrate on resolution at the expense of all else. It’ll be riskier and probably more time-consuming to work on a pristine 1080p Xbox One X release when Microsoft has pushed the “native 4K” message so strongly, even if ultimately it would make a more noticeable difference to consumers.

It’s getting harder to buy a non-4K TV these days, and it makes marketing sense to cater to people who don’t have much content that can give their new sets a workout. But I worry that the focus on resolution above all else is going to hold back game development overall. Sony clearly overpromised when it made 1080p a selling point for the PS3, and the vast majority of developers ended up targeting 720p on that system and the Xbox 360. This time the resolution bump is far less profound, yet we’re met with hardware seemingly not designed to chase after anything else.

I used to spend the vast majority of my gaming time on consoles, and I would have been very open to picking up more powerful versions. But I just don’t see the value proposition that Microsoft and Sony are putting forward here for most people. I hope one day we see the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two come out with designs that focus on performance, not pixels. Until then, though, I think I’m going to be getting a lot more use out of my PC.

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After Two Months Of Switch At No. 1, PS4 Leads US Hardware Sales In May

The NPD Group has released its monthly sales report for the United States in May, and the PlayStation 4 came out as the month’s top-selling hardware. That puts an end to a brief run by the Nintendo Switch, which had been the top seller in its first two months on the market.

As is the norm, we didn’t get exact sales figures, so it’s unclear exactly how much the PS4 topped Switch by; Switch had sold 280,000 units in the US during April. There was also no mention of the NES Classic Edition’s performance. The system was the No. 2 seller in April behind Switch, but it was also discontinued that month.

No Caption Provided

Overall, hardware sales reached $147 million for the month, an increase of 7%. This is attributed to Switch, which NPD analyst Mat Piscatella described as the “primary catalyst for hardware spending gains.” For the year overall, hardware spending is up 18% according to NPD data. Piscatella noted that spending on consoles has offset a decline in portable sales.

Total sales across the industry in the US were actually down 11% for the month, dropping to $542 million from $610 million a year ago. That’s due to a big drop in software sales, which were down 20% year-over-year to $271 million from $339 million. PC software sales were down 48% to $23 million from $12 million, though keep in mind this–like much of NPD’s data–is not a complete picture, as it doesn’t include Battle.net sales, for one. The decline in software can be attributed at least in part to a difficult comparison with last year’s releases, which included Overwatch and Uncharted 4.

On the accessories side, sales were roughly flat at $112 million (up from $111 million). Controller sales were up 6%, with the Switch Pro Controller being the month’s top seller. In terms of software, the debuting Injustice 2 came out in the top spot, with two Switch games making the top five. You can check out the full May 2017 top 10 here.

Microsoft’s Project Scorpio Is Xbox One X, Arrives Nov. 7

 

Xbox One X

LOS ANGELES—After more than a year of anticipation, Microsoft today unveiled its Project Scorpio Xbox device here at E3 2017. Project Scorpio is now the Xbox One X, the most powerful Xbox One game console yet. At least, that’s what what preliminary analysis seems to indicate and what Microsoft promises it will be when it arrives Nov. 7 for $499.

We already looked at the Xbox One X’s hardware a few months ago, when Digital Foundry performed an extensive teardown of then-Project Scorpio’s hardware. The console’s specs as announced match those numbers, and they’re impressive: a 6-teraflop, 40-core GPU clocked at 1.172GHz with 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and a memory bandwidth of 326Gbps. On paper, it’s significantly more powerful than the Xbox One and Xbox One S.

This doesn’t mean the Xbox One X is a new generation of console, however. It’s part of the “Xbox One family” and is architecturally identical to the Xbox One and Xbox One S. It features full compatibility with all Xbox One games and accessories, with room for graphical improvements when supported. This support will be found in newer games, along with a selection of already released Xbox One games with free patches (a model similar to the PS4 Pro’s improved performance with PlayStation 4 games).

Microsoft is pushing the extra power of the Xbox One X as the system’s most notable aspect. It supports native 4K gaming, with supported games rendering natively at 3,840 by 2,160, with high dynamic range (HDR), and wide color gamut. Microsoft claims the upcoming Forza Motorsport 7 will run in 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, and preliminary research performed by Digital Foundry indicates that it’s very possible.

A handful of Xbox One games will get patches to take advantage of the Xbox One X’s additional power. Among first-party games, Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Killer Instinct, and Minecraft will get 4K updates for free. Another 30 third-party games will also get updates, including Final Fantasy XIV and The Witcher III.

Xbox One X

Microsoft showed off several notable upcoming games for Xbox One, though the extensive compatibility between Xbox One, Xbox One X, and Windows 10 means none are exclusive to the newest system. The press conference highlighted 4K gameplay video from Forza Motorsport 7 and Assassin’s Creed: Origins, both of which were announced at the event.

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Other upcoming Xbox One games include Life is Strange prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and Bioware’s co-op sci-fi action RPG Anthem. The long-awaited animated shooter Cuphead was also highlighted and given the release date of Sept. 29.

Halo and Gears of War were notably absent among first-party game previews, but Crackdown 3—a superhuman police action game that features Terry Crews and screaming—saw some new gameplay footage and a firm release date of Nov. 7 alongside the Xbox One X.

Like the Xbox One S$296.00 at Amazon, the Xbox One X will support 4K media in HDR with wide color gamut, including Ultra HD Blu-ray disc playback and streaming video support. The disc support is a notable advantage we’ve appreciated in the Xbox One S, which Sony left out of the 4K-capable PS4 Pro$399.99 at Best Buy.

The Xbox One X is a notable markup from the Xbox One S, which received a $50 price cut during the announcement and now is available for $249. The Xbox One X is also significantly more expensive than the PlayStation 4 ($299) and PS4 Pro ($399). We’ll determine if the extra power is worth the extra cost when we get the Xbox One X into the lab for testing later this year.

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which 4K Console Reigns Supreme?

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro

At E3 on Sunday, Microsoft finally pulled back the curtain on its secretive Project Scorpio hardware, which is now known as the Xbox One X. At $499, it will be the premium option in the Xbox lineup, delivering more power than any console before it when it launches on Nov. 7.

E3 BugThat includes Sony’s PS4 Pro, the One X’s closest equivalent. Both tout 4K gaming capabilities, but there are some differences in what that means for each console, and how adept the hardware is at pulling it off. In addition, the two are similar in how they’ll treat existing and future games; both aim to be as inclusionary as possible. But the PS4 Pro costs $100 less than the Xbox One X, so what’s causing the discrepancy, and is it worth paying for?

Hardware

In no uncertain terms, the Xbox One X is more powerful than the PS4 Pro across the board. Teraflops (trillion floating point operations per second) are a means of measuring raw graphical power, and the One X boasts 6 TFLOPS compared to the PS4 Pro’s 4.2 TFLOPS.

The One X has a higher bandwidth as well (326GB/s vs. 218GB/s) for transmitting visuals through the memory and onto your display faster. The Xbox also offers 12GB of (newer) memory compared to the PS4 Pro’s 8GB, which is important for outputting the high-resolution textures they’re aiming for at 4K. Its eight-core processor clocks at 2.3GHz, also up over the PS4 Pro’s eight-core 2.1GHz processor, but these two are much closer than the graphics.

PS4 Pro Hands On

Both come with 1TB of storage, but the Xbox One X includes a 4K/HDR Blu-ray player, an omission from the PS4 Pro that bothered some fans paying for a high-end console. The two are fairly similar physically, and the One X is definitely smaller than the relatively colossal first Xbox One. The One X measures 2.4 by 11.8 by 9.4 inches (HWD), while the PS4 Pro comes in at 2.1 by 12.8 by 11.6 inches. Between the superior components and Blu-ray player, you can see where the extra cost comes from.

4K Gaming

The question is, then, what tangible benefits do you get from the increased power and price? If you weren’t sure, neither the standard Xbox One nor PS4 are capable of 4K gaming. The Xbox One X can smoothly play games in 4K—true, native 4K resolution—and Microsoft promises it will be at 60 frames per second (fps). The PS4 Pro touts 4K gaming as well, but with the weaker hardware, there are some technical tricks and caveats to that claim.

Both are also capable of high-dynamic range (HDR), which results in much better brightness and colors—perhaps even more than 4K; HDR really should be seen in person to be believed.

Xbox One X

Some of the PS4 Pro’s titles run at 30fps in 4K, for instance, and support for older titles is inconsistent. Most crucially, it sometimes runs games at a less-than-4K resolution, but uses some clever upscaling techniques (including what’s called checkerboarding) to make almost-4K resolutions look like 4K.

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Microsoft definitely has the leg up in claiming smooth 4K gaming performance, and can say so with no qualifications. This difference is relatively niche in the grand scheme of things and more geared toward tech-heads, but that’s also the target audience for these high-end consoles. They will already need to own (or be prepared to buy) a 4K television, which is another big expense.

Xbox One X

What Microsoft has said on games is promising, though we’ll have to see if that actually comes to fruition. Importantly, all Xbox One games will work on the One X and vice versa, so you won’t be left out by not buying the new console. The same is true of the PS4 and PS4 Pro.

For Xbox, Microsoft said a handful of existing first-party games will receive free patches that bump up the fidelity to 4K, including Forza Horizon 3, Halo Wars 2, Killer Instinct, Gears of War 4, and Minecraft, as well as some third-party games. Upcoming titles (not technically console exclusive, as they’ll be available on Windows) with 4K gameplay include Forza Motorsport 7 and Assassin’s Creed: Origins, both announced at E3. Microsoft also announced backward compatability with the original Xbox, so even your old discs will work in Xbox One consoles.

The Decision

You have to wonder how much most consumers know or care about the minute details between the consoles. The biggest issue is probably price: Microsoft has the uphill battle of selling its version of 4K gaming for $100 more, which is hard to do on a retail box or 30-second sizzle reel.

Still, the Xbox strategy seems more cohesive than the somewhat scattershot PlayStation approach, and if Microsoft can get the message of consistent 4K 60fps across as an advantage over the PS4 Pro, it may sway those on the fence. There are many configurations of console ownership out there, whether you own a PS4 and an Xbox One, have one and want to stick to that platform, or are considering a switch. The Xbox One X is the purest version of this new 4K console experience, but it will cost you.

The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X are not essential by any means; they’re aimed at early adopters and performance enthusiasts, so both are luxury buys. An extra $100 for a similar experience might be a bridge too far, even though the games look great. If you don’t own an Xbox, however, and can cope with the price, the One X would be a tremendous way to go all-in on the platform.

The choice may come down to which game library you prefer (and I would say Sony has the better exclusives, for the record). But if I’m already committed to spending at least $400 on a luxury console, I’d probably convince myself to go with the superior Xbox One X over the PS4 Pro. If you’d like a much more affordable entry point to either platform, the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Slimare reasonably priced options without most of the premium features or hardware.

Watch: Sony PS4 Pro Review

Everything Sony Told Us About the Future of PlayStation

http://time.com/4804768/playstation-4-ps4-pro-psvr-sales/

Pull your gaze from Nintendo’s bedazzling Switch for a moment and consider Sony’s now widespread PlayStation 4. Console sales have in general outperformed the most buoyant analyst and pundit prognostications. Not merely because of Nintendo’s overnight dark horse, or its scarce as hen’s teeth NES Classic. Sony’s PlayStation 4 is having some belt-notching moments of its own.

Sony now says its flagship games platform has sold-through—meaning to buyers and not just stores—close to 60 million units worldwide since its launch in November 2013. That, according to Sony global game development boss Shawn Layden, is the fastest pace set by any PlayStation, life-to-date, including the all-time industry record holder PlayStation 2.

“As you’ll recall, last year we performed the daredevil stunt of launching three new pieces of hardware in 60 days. Probably won’t do that again,” quips Layden during a sit-down with TIME. He’s talking about the $399 PlayStation 4 Pro (a souped up PlayStation 4 that outputs way snazzier graphics), PlayStation VR (a $399 virtual reality headset that couples with the PlayStation 4 for wraparound alt-reality experiences) and a slimmer, sleeker $299 version of the baseline PlayStation 4. All three arrived last fall, and Sony says sales have been booming.

PlayStation VR now boasts more than one million units sold worldwide, up from about 900,000 in February 2017. According to Sony, it’s been sold out from day one. “We don’t see it as a fad, it’s a brand new medium, not only for gaming entertainment, but non-gaming entertainment,” says Layden. And of every five PlayStation 4s Sony sells, Layden says one is a PlayStation 4 Pro, a laudable achievement given its $100 price premium, enthusiast target demographic and the nascency of the 4K television market (where it’s real allure lies).

“It is way ahead of our expectations,” adds Sony global sales chief Jim Ryan. “As with PSVR, and I suppose in forecasting these things we haven’t done a very good job, the product is in desperately short supply. So that’s one-in-five under severe constraint.”

“All of the rumors of the demise of the console are very much premature,” says Layden. “In fact if you’re watching [sales tracker] NPD for PS4 and Xbox One sales, you put those together and console gaming has never been as big and vibrant as it is right now. And that’s just here in the States.” Zip across the pond, and the story tilts further in Sony’s favor. “It’s been pleasing that in North America, we’ve been 2-to-1 against Xbox,” says Ryan. “But in Europe, it’s really been fortress PlayStation by at least 3-to-1 in unit sales.”

“It’s also the breadth of type of games,” he continues. “And once you get up in the heady heights of 100 million units, you’re talking of a different audience altogether, where having this range of stuff like Detroit: Become Human and FIFA and Call of Duty and Star Wars, it makes the job a whole lot easier.”

Layden says the Japanese publishers are also coming back, listing off recent games like Resident Evil 7NiohNier: AutomataPersona 5 and Final Fantasy XV as examples. “That’s super important for us,” he says. “I think a lot of Japanese developers lost their way chasing the mobile games yen, if you will, but they’re coming back to console in a major way. And speaking of, we’ll have some big announcements at E3 in that precise vein.”

This notion of mid-console refreshes—an enthusiast-angled limbering act you could argue Nintendo pioneered with its perennial Game Boy, DS and 3DS revamps—has a flip side. The PS4 Pro’s power has been effectively slaved to the baseline PlayStation 4. Games on the PS4 Pro, while graphically sharper and lusher, must be functionally identical to the experience as had on the standard model. It’s a leave-no-consumer-behind mentality that’s so far been echoed by the competition: Microsoft’s revved up PS4 Pro rival, codenamed Project Scorpio and due later this year, will likewise observe gameplay parity with the Xbox One.

“Because the games need to play on both Pro and standard PS4, there can’t be a radical departure between the two experiences,” says Layden. “But I think we’ve hit a happy medium by enriching the visual experience, and developers enjoy having that extra oomph while knowing they’re making games that play well on all 60 million PlayStation 4s. I guess we’re trying to have our cake and eat it too.”

Would Sony back away from that requirement if sales leveled off down the line? “Today, my answer is that we’re going to stay the course,” says Layden. “There’s still a lot of juice to squeeze out of the PlayStation 4 platform, full stop. So ensuring PlayStation 4 games play on both consoles is our winning formula right now.”

Another winning-so-far formula few saw coming is Nintendo’s notion of a games console you can play anywhere you like, shifting from your hands to your TV in seconds. In 2005, Sony began its own foray into handheld gaming with a device it dubbed the PlayStation Portable. The PSP sold in excess of 80 million units, and in 2012, a followup dubbed the PS Vita arrived—a contemporaneously mighty mobile, but one that sold a fraction as many units. In light of what Nintendo seems to be illustrating, that there is appetite for a consumer device that preserves the higher-end console experience on the go, would Sony ever revisit a once formidable bailiwick?

Layden calls the Switch “a great success for Nintendo” and admits that “it’s definitely what that fanbase has been waiting for.” But he sees the system as less a rival than a complementary traveler, claiming that Switch sales have had no discernible impact on the sell-through for PlayStation 4. “When you look at our numbers, I think it shows that a lot of gamers are a two-console family,” he adds. “And quite often those two consoles are PlayStation and Nintendo sitting side-by-side.”

Layden says Sony still views the Vita as a viable development platform: Though new Western releases have slowed to a trickle, he notes games are still being made for it in Japan. But for now, a Vita successor isn’t in the cards. “To be honest, the Vita just didn’t reach critical mass in the U.S. or Western Europe,” he says. “I don’t know if it was that it was more technology people had to carry around, or more things to charge, or whether their phone or tablet were taking care of that. But once the content slowed in that pipeline, it became hard to keep the Vita as a going concern.”

Another concern occasionally raised by PlayStation devotees involves the company’s once-ubiquitous PlayStation 2. While Sony has in recent years devoted resources to bringing a handful of popular older titles to the PlayStation 4, the better part of that library is lost to time. For now, it seems that’s where it’ll remain. “When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much,” says Ryan. “That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”

By contrast, the company says it intends to double down on things people do want to playnamely the explosive eSports phenomenon. “It’s a subject that is occupying us quite a lot these days, and something we’re looking at very carefully,” says Ryan. “We’re trying to find precisely what the role of the platform holder is in that value chain. Seeing how we can actually make the whole eSports thing bigger, better, different and bespoke to PlayStation is something you’re going to be hearing quite a lot about in the next year or two.”

Speaking of broadening its messaging to a growing competitive elite, Sony says it’s aware some have made noises about a boutique version of the company’s acclaimed DualShock 4 controller in the vein of Microsoft’s own Xbox One Elite gamepad. “The idea of a premium interface in exactly the same manner as we now have a premium console has a lot of logic to it, and there are such products already available in the market from third parties,” says Ryan. “But it’s definitely something we continue to look at.”

To questions about where other technologies like PlayStation VR go from here, Layden stresses virtual reality’s non-gaming possibilities. “We have Hollywood luminaries and TV show runners, places like the Smithsonian and [NASA’s] Jet Propulsion Laboratory looking into what the technology can do for them. And recently you may have seen Vince Gilligan, the show runner for Breaking Bad, has leaked some information that we’re working together, which we are, in bringing a Breaking Bad experience to virtual reality.” What exactly is that going to be? “I have no idea, but Vince has shown that he can deliver,” says Layden.

Sony doubtless intends to push its phase one VR ideas as far as the market will bear, but the pressure to iterate is fierce. “Technology cycles are shortening, and there’s no reason to expect VR to be any exception to that,” says Ryan. “If we have aspirations to take this into a mass market space, clearly things will need to happen to the form factor, whether it’s wireless or a lighter headset or all of these things.”

“The key is advancing the technology without stepping off the platform,” adds Layden. “We want to make sure we have a target platform developers can grow against. We’ll find ways to bump it up, whether that’s through the physical design of the product, which needs tweaks, of course, as everything does. But we also want to make sure we’re firmly grounded in PlayStation 4, so people don’t think they need something else to drive the experience.”

As for the experience awaiting PlayStation buffs when the curtain lifts on Sony’s E3 media event, live streaming from the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall (online as well as in select theaters) next Monday, June 12, Layden says to think of it less as a press conference than a software showcase.

“The crowd will only have to suffer I think in aggregate 90 seconds of me,” he jokes. “And in the middle will be all the games.”

Nintendo Is Creating More Questions Than Answers About Switch Online And Virtual Console

 

Last night, Nintendo released new information about the still-unnamed online service for the Switch which some are taking as clarifying.

To me, it all just makes everything even more confusing.

Nintendo confirmed the price that was previously rumored, $20 for yearly service, which is well below its competitors’ rates and a breath of fresh air in the industry, though the paid service is now delayed to sometime in 2018, not this fall like was previously reported. But the main focus has been on what appears to be a change to Nintendo’s “free classic games” access.

The online service’s website simply says “Subscribers will get to download a compilation of classic titles with added online play, such as Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight and Dr. Mario,” which seemed in line with Nintendo’s past statements that online service subscribers would get access to some classic games for X month only, then the games would change and be lost unless bought.

But then on Twitter, Nintendo said this was “ongoing access to a library of classic games you can take anywhere!” which seemed to be a departure from their last stated plan.

Finally, Kotaku pried it out of them. It really is a change from what we hard before:

“Nintendo Switch Online subscribers will have ongoing access to a library of classic games with added online play. Users can play as many of the games as they want, as often as they like, as long as they have an active subscription.”

“Nintendo Switch Online subscribers will be able to play a wide variety of classic games, including Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight and Dr. Mario. More games will be announced at a later date. At launch the classic game library will include NES games. Super NES games continue to be under consideration, but we have nothing further to announce at this time.”

While this is certainly better than the limited-time-only game offerings we were hearing about before, I am seeing a lot of press and many fans nodding their heads this morning as if this is a totally satisfying explanation for Nintendo’s future online plans.

 

“Positive change to Nintendo Switch paid online – now free til 2018, Netflix-style Virtual Console catalogue with multiplayer. $20/year after,” says Eurogamer’s Tom Phillips.

“Good price overall. Netflix like VC service is great. Should be well received among the early adopter crowd,” says Niko Partners’ Daniel “ZhugeEX” Ahmad.

But while these are some of the better journalists/analysts in gaming, I’m not quite sure how they’re arriving at this conclusion about how Nintendo is introducing a “Netflix-like” Virtual Console. When pressed specifically on Virtual Console, even in the wake of this news, Nintendo reverts to their usual “We have nothing to announce on this topic.”

Certainly, if Nintendo was fully integrating Virtual Console access into this $20 a year service, that would be a great deal and beloved by all. But I don’t think an “ongoing selection of classic games” is the same thing. Virtual Console is an expansive library with games from many of Nintendo’s old systems, and fans were hoping to see more from N64, Gamecube and even the Wii when the Virtual Console returned and found a home on the Switch. All Nintendo is saying here is that these “classic game selections” will include NES games, and maybe some SNES titles in the future. This does not sound like something that’s replacing Virtual Console to me, and Nintendo is still refusing to even say the words “Virtual Console” out loud despite that A) the Switch has been released for months now and B) they’re supposed to be detailing their online plans which should include the VC itself. Whatever this “game selection” idea is, it does not seem to be that.

And if it’s not? Things are starting to get very weird with Nintendo’s retro catalog. Nintendo has physical consoles that play old NES and SNES games (though they still have not confirmed the SNES exists), they have this online service “selection” containing NES and SNES games, and presumably they still have Virtual Console itself on the horizon, with all those games and others (which they are also not talking about). Do we really need this many paths to these games in this day and age? This is why I’m actually hoping Virtual Console is integrated into the Switch’s online service, but nothing Nintendo put forth yesterday seems to indicate that’s what’s happening from what I can tell. If this is how Virtual Console is going to work going forward, why is Nintendo not saying that outright and painting this as a rollout for the much-anticipated return of the service?

 

And while this VC/not VC issue is the most noticeable, there are still many other questions as well. Why was this service delayed from a specific point in time in 2017 (fall) to an unspecified point in time in 2018? Why does it take so long to put together an online service when Xbox Live launched in 2002?

Also, yesterday, the big “Nintendo online” story of the day before all this other stuff broke was this seemingly ridiculous HORI device that appeared to be the first look at how the Switch will integrate voice chat with its coming phone app, a comic collection of wires and ports that look like several technological steps backward from current consoles with that functionality. When I asked Nintendo if their own official voice chat peripherals would look anything like this, I once again got the old “We have nothing to announce on this topic.” But as of last night, it’s clear Nintendo is still determined to use this phone app idea, so it’s hard to see how it would not look something like this.

I am glad the Switch online service will cost almost nothing and they’ve ditched the idea of time-limited free games. But Nintendo is still being incredibly vague about their plans for Virtual Console and some of the key components of their online service, all the while delaying its rollout past what already seemed like a strange delay initially. Once again, I find I have more questions than answers about Nintendo’s online plans, and I have no idea when that’s going to change. Sometime in 2018, it looks like. Maybe.

Update: Hate to say I told you so but…

“Classic Games Selection (tentative name) is different from the [Virtual Console],” a spokesperson told the Japanese magazine Famitsu. And they said Nintendo’s plans for Virtual Console on Switch are “still undecided.”

So, at least Nintendo is being more clear about their lack of clarity, and hopefully this stops these claims about how Nintendo just revealed some sort of Netflix-like Virtual Console when really it’s just a few free games in a totally separate system. Again, I think it would be good if Nintendo’s online service was integrated with the Virtual Console, but clearly they’re not so sure at this point.

 Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Pick up my sci-fi novel series, The Earthborn Trilogy, which is now in print, online and on audiobook.

Nintendo Switch’s Online Service Will Be $20/Year, Includes Classic Games

Nintendo Switch’s online service will cost $20/year and will launch at some point in 2018, the publisher said today. Playing Switch games online will be free until the service launches.

You can also get a one-month subscription for $4 and a three-month subscription for $8.

As Nintendo previously said, voice chat and online lobby features won’t be available on the Switch itself. Instead, you’ll have to use them through a smartphone app that Nintendo says will be launch this summer. “Our new dedicated smart device app will connect to Nintendo Switch and let you invite friends to play online, set play appointments, and chat with friends during online matches in compatible games─all from your smart device,” the company says. “A free, limited version of this app will be available for download in summer 2017.”

Nintendo adds that subscribers will get free versions of classic games with added online features, citing Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight and Dr. Marioas examples. Previously, Nintendo had said that subscribers will get access to a different game each month, but that plan appears to have changed:

 

UPDATE (9:50pm): Nintendo confirmed that this monthly plan has indeed changed, telling Kotaku: “Nintendo Switch Online subscribers will have ongoing access to a library of classic games with added online play. Users can play as many of the games as they want, as often as they like, as long as they have an active subscription.”

Nintendo adds: “Nintendo Switch Online subscribers will be able to play a wide variety of classic games, including Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fightand Dr. Mario. More games will be announced at a later date. At launch the classic game library will include NES games. Super NES games continue to be under consideration, but we have nothing further to announce at this time.”

It remains to be seen whether this classic service will replace Nintendo’s traditional Virtual Console, which allowed fans to buy old games on 3DS, Wii, and Wii U. When asked about the Virtual Console’s future, Nintendo offered: “We have nothing to announce on this topic.”

Nintendo Finally Says Goodbye To 3D

Few video game systems have had as strange a journey as Nintendo’s 3DS. The spunky portable console flopped, got a massive price cut, gradually built up a spectacular library of games, and received several bizarre (and confusing) hardware models throughout its six years on store shelves. And now, it’s ditching its biggest selling point. Farewell, 3D.

Last night, Nintendo announced the New 2DS XL, a sleek $150 piece of hardware that is essentially a New 3DS XL without 3D. This is an iteration on 2013’s 2DS, a cheaper model that also ditched the 3D but felt uncomfortable and lacked the convenient clamshell design of other models. With the button configurations of the New 3DS XL and the price cut gained by killing the autostereoscopic display, the New 2DS XL is the best of both worlds. Though it won’t replace the New 3DS XL on the market, it will be the better and undoubtedly more popular version.

It’s also a final goodbye to glasses-free 3D, a feature that was once the 3DS’s crown jewel but has long been rendered irrelevant. We’ve come a long way from March 2011, where I watched Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime lead a small crowd of loyal fans in grabbing 3D glasses and tossing them up in the air during a launch event on the streets of Manhattan. “The era of 3D glasses ends right here and right now,” Fils-Aime proclaimed.

What he didn’t know was that the era of glasses-free 3D was never going to start. It took less than a year before the 3DS’s sluggish sales forced Nintendo to slash its price from $250 to $170, a bona fide fire sale, in part because nobody cared enough about 3D to buy it. By mid-2012, Nintendo had removed all mentions of 3D from its marketing materials, choosing wisely to focus on what people actually wanted—good video games—and bolstering the system’s library with great Marios, Zeldas, and much more.

There’s no way to tell how many people use the 3DS’s 3D slider—Fils-Aime admitted in an interview today that the company doesn’t have usage data—but Nintendo stopped talking about it circa 2012. Watch a Nintendo event from the past five years and you’re as likely to find mentions of 3D as you are Wii U sales numbers.

There are certainly those who liked, and still like, playing Nintendo 3DS games with the 3D slider turned up. Kotaku staffers like Stephen Totilo and Mike Fahey vouch for 3D, and who am I to tell them that they’re wrong, even if I’ve always seen it as a headache-inducing distraction? (Yeah, they’re wrong.) But in six years, whether by choice or inability, Nintendo never developed a single video game that required or was even enhanced by 3D. The closest it came was with 2012’s great Super Mario 3D Land, which was ostensibly designed so that you’d have an easier time spotting secrets with the 3D turned on, but in reality offered no such thing, much to the relief of those who get nauseous when the slider is on. (Super Mario 3D Land’s depth was just as visible without the 3D.)

Some games have ditched 3D entirely. Hyrule Warrior Legends takes massive performance hits when you put on 3D, and the 3DS port of Mario Maker doesn’t even bother giving you the option. Of this year’s upcoming games, Nintendo tells me that Fire Emblem: Echoes, Ever Oasis, and Miitopiaall use 3D in some way, but Hey Pikmin won’t, and it won’t be a surprise to see future 3DS games follow Captain Olimar’s trend.

Meanwhile, the New 2DS XL appears to be the premier choice for anyone in the market for a 3DS, assuming you can get past the baffling nomenclature. Here’s a little trick: 3DS minus 3D equals 2DS. Further, 3DS minus 3D equals a better, cheaper system—one without a gimmick that was obsolete before it even launched.

I’ve Slowly Discovered The Tragic Curse Of The Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch

I’m on vacation, which means naturally, I’m still writing as I haven’t taken a day off since uh, 2011. But this trip actually inspired a story all on its own, as it’s allowed me to experience the full appeal of the Nintendo Switch for the very first time.

I’ve spoken previously about how much I was surprised to find I liked handheld mode, and while I’ve taken my Switch here and there so far, this was my first international trip where I got to literally take a home game console along for the ride.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the plane. Mario Kart at the hotel. It’s been an almost surreal experience that Nintendo actually made this work. While a portable/handheld merge always sounded good in theory, having it work in practice is a whole different story, and from the blinding initial success of the Switch, it’s clear Nintendo got a lot right.

The problem? This trip has made me realize what the curse of the Nintendo Switch really is.

I want to play all the games like this. ALL the games.

And that’s simply never going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, playing the Switch’s games line-up in addition to stuff like Virtual Console and eventually whatever comes over from the 3DS will be great, and that alone may be enough to make this a hugely successful system for Nintendo in the long term.

But I find myself wanting to play so much more than that in this portable format. I want to start up Nier: Automata on this trip. I want to finish a few lingering side-quests in Mass Effect: Andromeda. I want to give Ghost Recon: Wildlands another shot.

‘Ghost Recon: Wildlands’

But I can’t. I can’t do any of that, and I am probably not ever going to be able to.

Some of this is obvious. It seems exceedingly unlikely that Sony will resurrect a Vita-like device that also plays PlayStation 4 games perfectly, so those exclusives are certainly out. If Microsoft tried something like this, it would probably be some ottoman-sized brick you’re expected to carry around like it contains the nation’s nuclear codes.

Rather, what this always comes back to is third-party support for the Switch, which seems more urgent than ever, yet also seems more distant as PS4 Pro, Scorpio and PC are pushing games to be more technically impressive and complex than ever before.

The problem is that the reason Nintendo needs third-party support has changed from one that didn’t really hold water (no one really needed waggle/gamepad-infested, visually lackluster ports of big games on Wii/WiiU) to one that’s actually something most people would love (the ability to play huge AAA console games on the go). While it would have been nice for consoles like the Wii and Wii U to have greater third-party support, and it might have helped them in some ways, there’s more of a sense of urgency with the Switch. Now that we’ve seen this can happen, that huge console games like Zelda can go from home to mobile instantly and easily, it’s impossible not to want to that for everything.

But the curse is likely to remain in place indefinitely, regardless. The Nintendo Switch is just not capable of running most of these games at acceptable settings. I do not say that to mock the system, as what is possible on the Switch is still impressive. But again, we are seeing only cartoony Nintendo games or at best, something like a port of the five-year-old Skyrim. Every recent big new game released has not come to the Switch, and almost no big future titles have committed to the console either. Everyone is saying some version of “welllll, we’re not ruling it out,” but some are putting it pretty plainly like Overwatch’s Jeff Kaplan who says the Switch simply can’t give them the output their comfortable with, even if the game could technically run on the system. There’s also the additional complicating factor of Nintendo’s more or less unlaunched online service, when online is such a huge component of most of these games.

Overwatch: Uprising

Overwatch: Uprising

It’s just a bittersweet situation. There’s not much Nintendo can even do at this point as the Switch is what it is and these AAA games are what they are. Maybe a few can cross over, but the majority won’t, and the Switch will almost certainly be 95% The Nintendo Show, as usual. That’s fine and could definitely work out for both them and Switch owners, but that nagging longing is still there that either Sony and Microsoft should be doing this too, or that somehow these games should be able to brute force their way to Switch, even if in reality it’s nowhere near feasible.

I guess I never realized how much I would like the flexibility of the Switch, and how it would turn me into a handheld gamer when I frankly haven’t been one since my last Game Boy Color. Blending console and handheld was no small feat, and the Switch’s biggest flaw for me right now is that I simply cannot experience this with more games. Maybe that will change in time, but some elements of this do seem mostly set in stone.

Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Pick up my sci-fi series, The Earthborn Trilogy, which is now in print, online and on audiobook.

Call Of Duty: WW2 – Everything We Know So Far

https://www.gamespot.com/articles/call-of-duty-ww2-everything-we-know-so-far/1100-6449606/

 

After a long series of rumors and more recent leaks, Call of Duty: WWII has been confirmed. We’ve compiled everything we know so far, including what rumors have been confirmed. Below you can find all the important information, from single-player details to multiplayer changes and even co-op teases.

This is developer Sledgehammer Games’ next endeavor following Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. It includes a single-player campaign, multiplayer, and co-op all centered around WWII. Call of Duty: WWII launches on November 3 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

The Reveal Trailer

https://www.gamespot.com/videos/embed/6438400/

Activision debuted the first trailer for Call of Duty: WWII during a worldwide livesteam that followed a teaser announcement. It shows scenes from Normandy, Hurtgen Forest, and more, as well as Josh Duhamel’s character, Technical Sergeant William Pierson. The trailer was revealed alongside several screenshots.

Call of Duty: WWII FAQ

When does the game come out?

Call of Duty: WWII launches on November 3 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. There will also be a preorder beta ahead of the release, but Activision has not yet confirmed dates.

Were the leaks true?

Most of the details that leaked days before the official reveal were later confirmed, including the release date, single-player story details, and beta.

What’s the campaign about?

The single-player story follows the US 1st Infantry Division as they fight their way through the European theater of the war. Missions include the D-Day invasion of Normandy and Battle of the Bulge. Although you primarily play as the young, inexperienced Private Red Daniels, there will also be a mission that casts you as a woman fighting in the French resistance.

What’s multiplayer going to be like?

A full multiplayer reveal is coming at E3 in June, where it will also be playable on the show floor. However, we do know a few pieces of information.

One brand-new addition for the franchise is Headquarters, a place to socialize that will feature “recognition and awards.” It’s not clear what exactly those rewards will be, but it sounds like a base of operations outside of multiplayer lobbies.

Multiplayer introduces a new War Mode, which places you in “iconic World War II battles” with objective-focused, Axis-versus-Allies team gameplay. It also lets you choose class-like Divisions, “including Infantry and Armored Divisions.”

What about co-op?

Sledgehammer has been very quiet about co-op, but they did tease that it has something to do with zombies. The developer said the mode, which appears to be the latest iteration of the fan-favorite Zombies gametype, is “an entirely new story and a pretty horrifying experience,” and it will tell “the story of the Third Reich’s desperate attempt to create an army in the final stages of the war.”

What’s included with a preorder/in the different editions?

No Caption Provided

All preorders include access to the private beta, which is available first on PS4. The game comes in the following editions:

  • Base Edition – digital or physical, $59
  • Digital Deluxe Edition – season pass and more, $100
  • Pro Edition – season pass, collectible steelbook, and more, $100

The Pro Edition is exclusive to GameStop. Any preorders of the game at GameStop will also include a limited edition hat.

Our Impressions So Far

https://www.gamespot.com/videos/embed/6438396/

For more on Call of Duty: WWII, check out our full list of written and video coverage.

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