Sony PlayStation 4 Sells Well During 2015 Holiday Season

Sony announced that more than 5.7 million PlayStation 4 consoles during the 2015 holiday season. This brings the total PS4 consoles to 35.9 million units sold, passing the Nintendo 64 in overall sales to make it the 13th best selling console of all time (the Super Nintendo is the 12th). Continue reading

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Unintended Consequence of the Next Generation

A recent report from the security firm Kaspersky Labs said there was an increase in hacking attempts against the Xbox One and the Playstation 4.  Coupled with every other game system and devices used for gaming, the report claims that approximately 34,000 attacks occur per day worldwide. The claim that I want to focus on is that the increase in hacking is concurrent with the release of the Xbox One and PS4.

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Video game consoles having online play was experimented on as early as the Fourth Generation with adapters for the Super Nintendo. We saw an expansion of that in the Sixth Generation with the Playstation 2  and Xbox having an internet connection. The Seventh Generation further expanded on it, making DLCs easily available on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It was in the Seventh Generation that we saw a hint of the dangers when Sony was hacked and millions of customer’s personal information was stolen.

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We’re now on the cusp of the Eighth Generation of video game consoles. We’re seeing a further expansion of their online capabilities. We’re seeing a lot more options for online play (co-op and pvp)… to the point where the games that tended to not have online play suddenly will have some sort of online option. Microsoft wanted the Xbox One to always be online, a policy they thankfully reversed (though it is not clear how often it has to be online). Sony has the PS4 offer interesting online features like streaming  and/or sharing gameplay.

There is an implicit danger with greater online options. And we are seeing that with the increasing attempts to hack into these newer consoles. To be honest, I was taken off guard when I found out about it. Sure, it makes sense on one hand. The danger of being hacked, dealing with worms and viruses, or whatever else have you is a part of daily life with the internet. That’s why we all purchase software to help minimize the risk.

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If we are forced to have our video game consoles be “always connected” or “always on” like what is being pushed.. let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time… then we have to expect our console to be someday hacked. Having a system be always on and connected has to be an inviting target for any criminal out there.

A preview of the new console war

We’re on the verge of the 8th generation video game console war!

Console-War

Maybe it could be I’ve been paying closer attention to it. But I really think this generation will be a turning point with video games. We are looking at new business models, new ways to interface with the systems, and news ways of thinking about video game systems! We’re seeing companies exploring online distribution models that may replace traditional models of distribution. We’re seeing consoles shifting away from controllers toward motion-capture technologies. Heck, we are seeing consoles position themselves as home entertainment systems rather than a video game system!

Wii-U

Strengths

  • The Nintendo name brand is easily the most recognized throughout the video game industry.
  • There are several big name releases on the horizon which may increase console sales.
  • Nintendo won the last generation’s console war and are dominating the hand-held console market.
  • Nintendo has consistently innovated video game controllers for almost every generation, creating new experiences for the player.

Weaknesses

  • The Wii U has not sold well at all.
    • Barely 3.5 million sold worldwide after being out for 10 months.
    • The Wii has outsold the Wii U for months!
  • There is little 3rd party support.
  • 3rd party companies have gone on the record to say they will not develop for the Wii U unless it starts selling better.
  • Many analysts believe Nintendo should get out of the video game console war and stick to making video games.

Nintendo has taken a beating, there’s no way around that. We’ve already done an article examining Nintendo and asked if it was possible that Nintendo will get out of the console industry. I still stand by that article. I don’t believe Nintendo will stop making consoles, but they will probably not do as well during this generation as I would hope.

Nintendo focuses on making quality games and consoles rather than making a profit. They aren’t trying to innovate their business model, but innovate the way gamers play video games. In my opinion, Nintendo is probably the last company that wants to make video games consoles for the enjoyment of the gamers!

I hate the idea that Sony and Microsoft are claiming they are innovating the video game industry. They aren’t the innovators. They are innovating  business models to try to increase profit. What they are doing could easily be applied to the video industry (streaming videos, downloading videos) or even the music industry. There is nothing about what they are doing that’s video game industry specific like Nintendo is doing.

If Nintendo somehow manages to turn themselves around and duplicates the success they had with the Wii, the NES ,and SNES, they could really shape the future of the industry. It would show that consoles that focus on innovation and video games are what sells best.

xbox-one

Strengths

  • 15 Xbox One exclusive titles!
  • 23 games will be launched the same day as the Xbox One release with several games to follow.
  • 63 games announces so far for the Xbox One.
  • EA has closely aligned themselves with the Xbox One.
  • Positioning themselves as a home entertainment console rather than a video game console.

Weaknesses

  • Xbox One team made several mistakes when they announced the Xbox One, tarnishing the name brand.
  • This console is the most expensive on the market.
  • Xbox Live requires a membership fee.

The Xbox One is easily one of the top two consoles in the video game console war, and they haven’t debuted yet! They’ve had strong pre-orders and word of mouth on them is surprising good, all things considered. Some gamers are still hesitant over purchasing them, and for good reason.  It’s not known if these gamers are the minority or majority, though time will tell on that one.

Xbox One’s missteps and praises was already covered by hundreds of news articles and bloggers, so I don’t see any need to go over them. You probably already know them. Rather, let’s look at what could it mean if Xbox One wins the console war. It would mean the triumph of a new business model that pushes the industry further towards the online market. It wouldn’t be the same as what Valve offers, as there’s no indication Xbox Live’s games will be as inexpensive as they are through Steam. It will also be a validation that consoles aren’t for gamers anymore but are more for general entertainment purposes.

sony-playstation-4-xlStrengths

  • 28 games to launch the same day as the PS4.
  • $100 cheaper compared to the Xbox One.
  • 131 games announced for the PS4.
  • 21 exclusive PS4 games.
  • Over a million pre-orders for the PS4!

Weaknesses

  • Outside of cosmetic differences, the hardware isn’t too different from the Xbox One.
  • PSN is no longer free.

I know I’m going to get flak for that weakness. But really, both Xbox One and PS4 have similar motion sensors. Both use controllers that handle almost the same ways. Both of them have similar games. Strictly focusing on the hardware, there’s not too much difference. And yes, I know that the PS4 is far more powerful than the Xbox One. I think we’ve progressed so far with raw power with consoles that it’s far more impressive if systems had something new to offer rather than just raw power.

Business wise, Sony’s blown Microsoft clear out of the water. They have done everything they could to show themselves as gamer friendly. This has been written about over and over again, so I don’t see any need to revisit this either. Rather, what would it mean if the PS4 won this console war? It would mean that marketing towards gamers rather than the general audience is the way to go. It shows respect towards the gaming community. It also means online networks that are free to access is far more preferable to ones that require a membership fee to access.

As for business models, it isn’t clear how much PSN will push online purchases as Sony didn’t make the same disastrous assertions Microsoft made at the debut of the Xbox One. It’s safe to say that the industry will continue moving towards an online model. Just not as rapidly as we would see with Microsoft.

valve_logoStrengths

  • Cheap, quality games.
  • There will be a variety of Steam Machines consoles: differing in cost, hardware specs, and manufacturers.
  • Established brand among PC gamers.
  • Independent video game developer friendly

Weaknesses

  • Not established among console gamers.

I honestly believe Valve will change the face of the console war. More than Amazon.com making their own console. Valve is using a highly unique approach, inviting people to use their Steam OS to play Steam games on the TV as well as using multiple manufacturers to develop Steam Machines.

Can you imagine it? The gamer will have access to a huge library of games, and they have their choice of console! Gamers will have real choices on how much money they want to spend. They have their choice of low and and high end consoles…. and they will be able to select from the same pool of games! As business models go, this is the most customer friendly of them all. And if the Steam Machine wins the console war, it will be this sort of friendly business model that’ll help shape the industry.

On the downside, it doesn’t sound like Valve will attempt to innovate consoles themselves like Nintendo will. But with Valve innovating the business model… I think that’ll be more than enough!

So…..

I know a lot of this is speculation. We all have our favorites. Mine are, in case you couldn’t tell, the Wii U and the Steam Machine. I’m a believer in real innovation. I want to see video game consoles that will push the boundaries of what can be done with video games. I also want to see business models that are profitable and will offer gamers better services than they had in previous generations. I truly believe Nintendo and Valve can do that.

Will they? I don’t know. But I can hope! And if this console war is as competitive as I’m hoping it will be, maybe that competition will force all the companies to develop friendlier business models for their customers as well as truly innovative console additions. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for that!

But that’s my opinion. What’s yours?

Video Game News: 9/22/2013

Video-Game-NewsThis is your video game news brief for 9/22/2013:

  1. Grand Theft Auto V has exceeded over $1 billion in sales in only three days. This is the fastest selling video game ever. More impressively, no other entertainment product ever reached this milestone this quickly.
  2. The Xbox One’s disk drive was designed to work horizontally rather than vertically. Albert Panello, senior designer of the Xbox One, warns gamers that putting the Xbox One  vertical is done at their own risk.
  3. Microsoft revealed at a financial meeting that 40% of all Xbox Live users are female.
  4. Hiroshi Yamauchi, the 3rd president of Nintendo, passed away recently. He was 85 years old. He was president from 1949 to May 31st, 2002. He will be missed.
  5. Sony aims to sell 5 million PS4s by Marth 2014. This, on top of the unexpected interest in the PS Vita hints at a bright future for Sony’s brand.
  6. Sega purchased Index Corporation, the parent company of Atlus.
  7.  Elisabeth Hasselbeck recently advocated for a national registry for video games on Fox and Friends. She raised this to counter calls for a national registry for firearms. Though her protest could be taken tongue in cheek, her voice joined a growing consensus among the media that video games are dangerous.

 

Video Game News: 8/1/2013

Video-Game-News

This is your video game news brief for August 1st, 2013

  1. Microsoft’s Games With Gold Games were revealed recently:  Crackdown and Dead Rising 2 (including the DLC Case Zero).
  2. BioShock Infinite has their first DLC: Clash in the Clouds. It is currently available on Steam for $5 and will be available on Xbox Live and the PSN Network later this weel. It is a combat-heavy DLC with new maps for the player to explore.
  3. Legal difficulties for EA Sports continue as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on 7/30/2013 that EA’s use of college football players in their NCAA games is not protected by the 1st amendment. This means the players can take EA to court to receive compensation for using their likeness. EA plans on appealing the decision.
  4. Capcom’s first quarter’s profits fell 37%, only pulling in $8.4 million. The decline in profits is attributed to the company not releasing any AAA games during that quarter.
  5. According to a report from Digital Foundry, game developers for the PS4 can only use 4.5 GB of the 8 GB available. The other 3.5 GB is reserved for system operation.
  6. World of Warcraft lost another 600,000 subscribers last quarter, leaving approximately 7.7 million gamers left.
  7. Zynga is suing the makers of Bang With Friends because of the use of the title “With Friends.” Zynga has a trademarked line of “With Friends” games.
  8. Nintendo’s posted an $87 million profit last quarter thanks to strong sales of their 3DS.

Xbox One: There’s a lot of things wrong

Today, I want to take a closer look at what’s been going on with the Xbox One. A lot of actions and reactions were made by Microsoft and the fanbase that deserves a second look.

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I want you to go back to May 21st, 2013 and think about the debut of the Xbox One. We did not see the debut of a video game console. Microsoft was touting everything else but that feature. We learned Steven Spielberg will be producing a Halo series. We learned that the Xbox One can function as a cable box, becoming an all-in-one entertainment center. We learned the Xbox One has Skype and it can easily be used while the user is watching TV. We learned the Xbox One will be responding to our voice commands.  We also learned it plays sports games, thanks to Microsoft’s partnership with EA.

Their presentation was curious. The Xbox One is not a video game console that also can do a lot of neat stuff. Nope. The Xbox One is an entertainment center that happens to play video games. Though they didn’t play just “any” video games. The video games that they showed were ones that the mainstream audience would believe were cool: sports games.  Hell, Halo was only mentioned in the same breath as Spielberg, as if he would somehow legitimize that video game.

What we saw was the future of the video game industry if gamers aren’t careful. An industry that doesn’t cater to its core audience anymore. Taking that core audience for granted. They seem to assume that there will always be a certain amount of people who will tow the line for them regardless of what they do. You can’t tell me that you haven’t seen hints of all this already in the industry.

And this leads me to one of the most concerning things in modern gaming… something that I’m not sure why nobody considered…

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David Fontenot started a petition to pressure Microsoft to going back to their DRM policy from E3. Microsoft’s been using this survey to justify their original vision, claiming that if people understood what they were trying to do, they wouldn’t be protesting so much. This made me wonder….. did Microsoft pay to bolster that petition? I know fanboys for the Playstation 4 have been signing the petition because they believe Microsoft going back to their DRM policy will destroy the company. I’m sure there are earnest Xbox fans who loved Microsoft’s idea with the DRM. But is it possible that Microsoft hired people to sign the petition to strengthen their case?

Yes, it is possible. And that’s the problem. Companies do stuff like this all the time. Video game companies spend money to purchase good reviews. They hire people to write up reviews on Amazon and other sites to make their product look better. They actively attempt to deceive the audience in order to sell their own product. It hit a point to where we honestly cannot look at something positive about a product without wondering to ourselves about its legitimacy.

fanboy-anatomyFanboys are horrible people. Absolutely horrible people. They blindly support products and attack others for daring to disagree with them. Yes, this has been happening for as long as people have been fans of anything. Chicago Cubs fans aren’t happy unless the Chicago White Sox loses. New York Yankee fans aren’t happy. Green Bay Packer fans aren’t truly happy until they see the Bears crumble during another season. There’s just something about being a fan for something that makes us fans against something as well.

This is readily apparent in that petition for Microsoft to bring back the DRM. Sony fanboys want to see the Xbox One get crushed. It’s not enough for them to like their console. They want to see Sony’s competition get destroyed.

Do I think Microsoft was wrong with their DRM policies? Yes. Do I feel they have done a lot of really stupid things and seem to have gone out of their way to shoot themselves in the foot? Hell yes. Do I want them to fail? No.

Fanboys are missing the point. Especially video game fanboys. They are so passionate about their product that they are doing the company’s job for them by trying to attack the competition. They are no longer sitting back and being fans of the product but trying to attack on behalf of the product. That’s not being a fan. That’s being a jerk.

odd_xbox_one_meme_2As we move closer to the release date of the Xbox One and move further away, I think it is important for us to revisit these older topics to see what we can learn from them. Like, I never realized how much I distrust the video game industry as a whole until I looked at the petition to bring back the DRM. Or that the video game industry seems to be taking their core audience for granted more and more.

Just sharing my opinion. Thanks for reading.

 

 

Video Game News: 7/16/2013

Video-Game-News

 

This is your Press Start To Begin news highlights for July 16th, 2013

  1. Microsoft is looking into returning to their DRM policies, citing the petition circulating online as justification for it. They claim that they didn’t do a good enough job explaining it and the people who understood what they were doing with the DRM were the ones signing the survey.
  2. League of Legend players are now recognized as pro-athletes by the U.S. State Department. This will make it far easier for foreign players to obtain visas to play in the United States.
  3. Killer Instinct and the Xbox One was presented at EVO 2013 in an attempt to regain some momentum and hype the product. It was received to a chorus of boos.
  4. Valve announces Valve Pipeline, a website dedicated to answering questions that new developers and those who are interested in becoming developers may have. The site promises to be an experiment to train teenagers to get them ready to flourish in environments like Valve.
  5. Bethesda will announce details on their final DLC for their hit game Dishonored today.

 

My Open Letter to Microsoft

Dear Microsoft

Hey. How’s it going? It’s me, Michael. I thought it was time we had a talk. You’ve had a rough few months. Windows 8’s been struggling. The Xbox One’s had a lackluster debut. As a response to it all, Steve Ballmer announced a restructuring plan. I have to admit, that’s a good start. It’s a shame Ballmer’s job isn’t in danger, but one would expect the CEO to want to direct the restructuring rather than consider himself to be part of the problem that needs ‘restructuring.’

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I’m your friend Microsoft. Really, I am. It takes a friend to tell you that you’re an idiot. And believe me, you are. You’re a multi-billion dollar company… arguably the most successful company in history, and you’re screwing up. Big time. And as your friend, I have to tell you to stop it. Look, I have some friendly suggestions for you. I want you to consider them. Okay?

1.  Customers expect certain things from their products

What do I mean by that? I’m glad you asked.

7862-windows7_start-buttonThe Start Button. Why did you get rid of the Start Button? I love that thing. Love it, love it, love it. Every program so easy to access. And the cool thing… it’s been there for a long time. Hell, I remember using it in Windows 95! That was 18 years ago. Wow. 18 years…. for 18 years, you had this one button. It was close to a trademark. No, wait. It was a trademark. More than that, it was familiar. When I use a Windows product, I expect to see it and use it.

That’s not to mean your new idea, you know… your iPod/iPad/Smartphone apps ripoff isn’t cool. It is. I’ve gotten used to how to navigate and, well… in some ways, it is better. I can pull up a calculator really quickly. Not to mention when I use Netflix, I can lock it on the left part of the screen while working freely on most of the screen. It’s pretty dang cool.

But really? Learn your customers. It’s not always about innovation. It’s giving customers what they want. Want to know what they want? That’s easy to figure out. Ask them. Take surveys. Reach out to them. It’s easy to do.

2.  Take your head out of your backsides

So, the fans revolted against what you were planning for the Xbox One. They looked at it and saw that it sucked. You may have had the best of intentions with your product, but your dedicated and loyal fans saw what you were planning as a betrayal of trust. Rather than listen to your fans or state you were taking their feedback into account immediately, you seemed to dismiss it.  I mean, seriously? As a friend, let me tell you… that wasn’t a good idea. It’s commendable that you are dedicated to your vision. It really is.

But seriously? Your ideas were terrible. I don’t care how “forward thinking” you think you were with your DRM policies designed to favor video game developers at the expense of gamers (seriously? You couldn’t ensure discounts for the games since you’re removing the middle man? Do you seriously think I wouldn’t have noticed that? Come on Microsoft. We’re friends. Stop being a dick) and having your Kinect microphone on always on, it wasn’t meant to be.

So you backed down and removed most of it (kept that Kinect thing though, eh). After that you went all ostrich on me.

head_up_your_ass2I mean, really? Really? When Mark Whitten, the product chief of the Xbox One, says something like this: “The thing that’s really gratifying is that people are excited about the types of features that are possible, and it’s sort of shame on us that we haven’t done as good of a job as we can to make people feel like that’s where we’re headed.”

You see, after Microsoft backpedaled (rightfully so), they started playing the victim. Claiming that they had a wonderful vision and they worked so hard on it. If only the fanboys would stop hating and learn to appreciate their geniusosity…..that’s when Microsoft noticed a petition asking them to go back to what they presented at E3.

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There are some people who are serious and want to see Microsoft go back because they like the idea. But there are other who want to see Microsoft go back because they believe it will kill the Xbox One.

Microsoft, my dear… sweet….idiotic friend. Take another look at this survey. Heck, take a look at what you are trying to do. You want to emulate Steam, but keep the prices extremely high. Steam works because they have phenomenal sales! That’s the key to their success. Chances are, you won’t be able to emulate Steam. If you were planning awesome sales through your unique distribution or promises of lower prices because you are cutting out the middle man, then that could have worked! But did you? Nope. You didn’t.

You are missing what makes Steam so good. And instead, you’re keeping your collective heads up your rectums.

As a friend… please listen. I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, but it looks like you’re existing in a bubble. Do yourself a favor and take some surveys. Get feedback from your customer base. Find out what they want…

3. Don’t forget: you’re making a video game system

When you first debuted the Xbox One, you seemed to have forgotten that your system is there to play video games. That’s the function of a video game console. Sure, it has a lot of fun little things here and there… but at heart, it’s all about playing video games. Somewhere down the line, you forgot that. You pushed your dude-bro sports stuff and talked about your fantasy leagues. You talked about all the sport games that we can watch and how we all can change channels. You tried to make it look important and fancy, touting your close relationship with EA.

But really? You sorta came off as a douche.

Yes, you want to be young and stylish. I get that. We all get that. You want to be cool. But here’s the thing…. you won’t come off as cool when you’re using some 30-something yuppie looking jerkwad.

It’s about the video games. You should have stuck with that, then introduced all the nice little things after that. Show off a sport’s game. Let someone in the audience play Lebron James in NBA Live. Play Brian Urlacher in Madden. Make it interactive! That way, the gamers will feel the video game will let them be as close to the action as they can be.

We didn’t get that. We got the jerkwads talking at the Xbox to show that it listens to us. Showing us it is a good television, great at skyping, and sports! Lots of sports.

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Well Microsoft, I went a bit off topic a few times. Sorry about that. But I focused on a certain theme. Find out what your customer wants. Listen to them. Collect data. Yes, you have a nice vision. But if your customers reject your vision, then it’s not a matter of you not explaining it right… it’s a matter of you not making sure you are making products your customer wants.

I hope nothing but the best for you Microsoft.

I really do.

Signed,

Michael