‘Xbox 180’ Microsoft’s DRM Policy Reversal

Microsoft have saved face, and saved themselves losing out on a lot of money by letting people buy pre-owned games and lend them without punishment. Like how things are right now.

It’s pretty clear Microsoft don’t really want to do this, they were so enthusiastic about their money-making policies. Having said that, their reputation isn’t great but it will be salvaged. Both Microsoft and Sony have survived worse: Red Ring Of Death, Network Hacking etc (remember those, they seem so long ago). The next-gen console race is going to get more interesting now PlayStation 4 doesn’t have that massive advantage anymore. The main difference between the consoles now is price, controllers, exclusives and TV features no-one really cares about. Heck, maybe we should all just buy a Wii U

Although I’m admittedly a massive Sony fanboy and it would’ve been great to see them follow up their E3 victory with a clear lead in this (admittedly quite silly) ‘console war’ at the end of the day whichever black box you buy you will be able to do the things you should be able to do with your discs. This isn’t a victory for Microsoft, its a victory for gamers.

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E3 Thoughts

I must say that staying up all night (I really hate regional time differences sometimes) and practically losing all of today as a result was well worth it, because -in a nutshell – E3 was amazing!

Like: right now, nothing else matters in my life amazing.

SONY banished all of my fears about the PS4 being too pricey or having used game restrictions, and did it with utter glee. Just look at Jack Tretton’s face, and the applause.

The PS4 is riding a wave of positivity and goodwill right now, whilst Microsoft are looking like a bit like panto villains. Annoying as having two consoles not THAT different on the market is, and all the arguments between your friends over what’s better, I think the competition between Microsoft and SONY is good for the both of them. It forces them to innovate and not get lax but on their toes. After the negativity surrounding the XBOX One reveal, if SONY weren’t sure of their used game policies, they definitely are now and made sure that we do too.

That’s not to say Microsoft had a bad conference at all. I would say it was one of their strongest, perhaps until the $499 price was mentioned and their trumping by SONY. But they did LOTS right, focusing only on the games once they got the TV and Windows 8 nonsense out the way a few weeks ago.

My Microsoft highlights were:

Horse stealth! Kiefer Sutherland doing a good job! Those weather effects! This is going to be a must have, even though I SUCK at Metal Gear games, the controls just don’t sit well with me. It was clever of Microsoft to open with a franchise closely associated with PlayStation. Having said that, MGS2: Substance was out on Xbox, MGS3 hit the 3DS recently and the HD Collection was out for both 360 and PS3. Speaking of those consoles, its out for current gen as well as next gen consoles, so I wonder whether I will get it for PS3 or 4. Judging by how juicy next gen is looking, if financially viable I may be getting my first ever console at launch (or within the first year).

While Insomniac Games‘ XBOX One exclusive looks pretty fun and humorous (and makes me feel like they’ve betrayed us PlayStation-ers) THIS is the thing that almost makes me feel like I’m missing out by getting a PS4. Giant mechs can lead to sluggish gameplay but this feels slick and… just awesome. Kudos.

Titanfall is developed by EA, another company seen as gaming ‘villain’s. But to be honest, I think they had a LOT of strong material. And unlike Titanfall, a lot of it is going to be on both new consoles (huzzah), such as:

I’m really not a fan of ‘real world shooters’ like Battlefield or Call of Duty but I’ll be damned if that building crashing down wasn’t INCREDIBLY impressive. And the size of the map! Am I going to be converted? Who knows. Once again, this is out for current and next gen but the choice seems pretty obvious.

They also teased us by announcing a new Mirror’s Edge (about time!) and…

About TIME!

I think a recurring theme of this year’s E3 has been about just giving gamers what they want, being a bit (understatement) overdue about it but still there is a feeling of the companies knowing what people are clamouring for and just going… ‘we want to make you happy’. Which leads me nicely onto…

I don’t think I could BE any happier. Like, as soon as I saw this I had that warm gooey feeling I think people in relationships (what are those?) have. Kingdom Hearts II came out in 2006, so this one has been a long time coming. We’ve been kept happy with some very good spin-offs, some not so good ones and the upcoming HD remix but its finally time to get on with it. Although the end of the teaser only said ‘in development’ so we don’t know how long Square Enix intend to take getting on with it. How about the second HD remix next year and KHIII in early 2015?

At first we all believed this to be PS4 exclusive and one of SONY’s triumphs, but today Square announced this is due for XBOX One as well. Part of the huge fanboy in me is a bit disappointed, although the spin-offs have been on Nintendo handhelds and mobile (in Japan) , the home console entries have always been synonymous with PlayStation. It does take the wind out of my bragging sails a bit but the more people who get to experience the sheer joy of new Kingdom Hearts the better.

ACTUALLY, touching upon the HD Remix. We are FINALLY getting the Final Mix version of the first game, and in Europe the remake of Chain of Memories – things we thought we would NEVER EVER get. Similarly, the gorgeous looking Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is giving us the International + Last Mission version of X-2, which we thought would remain Japan only forever, like KH Final Mix. The fans are being listen to, and their wishes are being granted. Eventually.

But the wish to end all wishes, and confirming what the internet predicted two years ago: FINAL FANTASY Versus XIII XV

Behold its majesty. 

It’s finally coming!!!! At some point. The thing they announced as a PS3 exclusive at E3 2006. At least 8 years later its coming to XBOX One and PlayStation 4!!! Eeeeeee! It’s not surprising its become multi-platform: its now a main-series entry and after all the work put into it they may as well release it to as many people as they can. I do wonder how long its been in development for next-gen consoles for. It started development in 2008 for PS3, so are they just porting the game to next-gen or did they switch to next-gen development at some point – possibly when they stopped and re-started in 2011. If the former is true, why are we not getting a PS3 version? And will it not look as good as games developed for PS3/XBOX One from the ground up? This is Final Fantasy we can’t have that!! Although saying that, graphics aren’t everything and the game still looks incredible, with the wonderfully Japanese gothic art design and crazy physics.

Another thing that crossed my mind is now the game doesn’t bear the XIII isn’t its title anymore, will it have anything to do with that whole mythology? This would make it the first main series FF to be properly related to another (don’t start me on that VII/X Shinra link). Personally, I’d prefer if they re-worked the narrative to make it its own thing, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will tie all that universe up and hopefully do it well – its gotten horribly convoluted so far.

So currently Square Enix seem to be in the good books of all the fans, which is rare for them. I know they are being exceptionally good to us right now but I’d love to hear something on bringing Final Fantasy Type-O outside of Japan. As a Vita title maybe? The handheld is still criminally under represented and as much as I love the PSP, even I don’t want to upgrade just yet. Also, I know they are almost certainly working on it, but I’d love to see an announcement and a few screens of Final Fantasy VI for iOS.  Argh… SEE?!? This is what happens when games companies show us nice things, we get greedy and we want more.

We want it all.

And we want it NOW!

Kudos to everyone for a spectacular E3 though. The thought of owning a PS4 and playing Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts IIIStar Wars Battlefront, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and maybe even trying some of the incredible new online experiences like Battlefield 4 and Destiny (which I didn’t even cover so quickly: makes me less gutted about Titanfall and very cheeky of SONY to counteract MS having MGSV in their conference but having Xbox darlings Bungie show off their game as the main part of the PS4 conference) as well as the host of self-published indie games SONY are rightfully behind.

I thought that this current console generation was going to be my last hardcore one, as life would take over and gaming would become a casual pastime I’d dedicate less and less effort on. Not anymore.

Musings on Microsoft’s XBOX ONE Reveal

I’ve left this post a day because 1) There could have been announcements/reveals after the live event (and there were), 2) I’d have time to process my thoughts and 2) I had a horrendous migraine.  But I’m better now and I’m ready to jot down my (admittedly, still muddled) thoughts on…

THE XBOX ONE

and how it compares to the PS4.

Looks wise, its big and bulky and I’m not surprised. I’ve never liked the look of Microsoft’s consoles (The 360 Slim is OK) so at least they’re keeping consistency. This one reminds me of the BOSE CD tower stacks they always used to advertise on the back of the TV papers in the early noughties. Modern.

I’ve never understood why people adore Xbox controllers. Maybe I just find the Dualshock’s symmetry to be the perfect design – analog  sticks should be next to each other, end of.

The much maligned Kinect is going to be a major part of this console and I’m open in thinking they could make it work well. If the navigation is smooth then it could be a real clever selling point. Then again, I remember how much of  a big thing Siri was for the iPhone, and people I know (me included) rarely use it.

The new Xbox is hopefully going to replace that TiVo or Sky+ under your TV. At least Microsoft hopes. Again, this doesn’t sound too bad. I’m not adverse to having a few things under my TV but if integrated properly with multitasking watching/recording TV with downloading games or whatever then the Xbox One could be the All-in-One device that MS want it to be. Oh, but it runs on something that looks very similar to Windows 8….

I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

The Xbox One also comes with Skype functionality, which actually sounds pretty cool, if not for me. One of the things Xbox fan tell me they love the most is cross-game chat and this sounds like the perfect next step. Personally I’m more of a solo player and when I’m playing a game I like to focus on it and not be distracted by talking to other people. Unless its something mindless like Dynasty Warriors where I have been to known to talk to people on loudspeaker on my phone or Skype on my laptop. But no, can’t really fault this. Its not groundbreaking but its a solid addition.

But now, onto the bad stuff…

  • Its still unclear about the ‘always on’ connection debacle.  This is something Microsoft needs to outline exactly, and soon. Apparently you can watch films and play single player games without being connected to the internet but you need to connect at least once every 24 hours… what?!?
  • Discs are only there to install games to hard drives. The Xbox One comes with a 500GB hard drive (I’m sure there will be more models available with different sizes), a ‘significant portion’ of this is taken up by the operating system. Current gen games take up around and above 5GB of HDD space, with PS3 games like Ni No Kuni and Uncharted require around/over 40 to be downloaded and installed. How many next gen games will you be able to have on your hard drive alongside recorded TV shows before you need an upgrade? Hmmm.
  • The big issue is about pre-owned games. If you take your disc to a friends house you can install the game on their system and play on your account fine (I’m guessing with cloud storage you can pick up your save where you left off at yours, which is cool). But if they want to borrow the game, they have to pay who-knows-how-much-yet to activate usage of it with their account. Even if the cost is as low as a fiver or a tenner, its still a bit of a bummer. This applies to pre-owned games too, its likely when you buy a pre-owned game you’ll need to be connected first time you boot it up so the service can checked if its pre-owned and then charge you if necessary. Paying more to use something you’ve paid for? People aren’t happy about this. Current gen systems like Network Passes are bad enough. This may not be a huge problem in the UK as the price of new games often comes down to about half the original price within a few months anyway, but pre-owned bargain hunting is one of my favourite things about buying games.
  • Whilst your account and gamerscore moves over, your games won’t. Like the PS4, this is due to different computer architecture and is a shame, but understandable. Sony offered a glimmer of hope saying emulation may be available through Cloud streaming, but we’ll see.

This brings us nicely to the selling point of all games consoles: the games. I had an argument with my housemate this morning about the whole reveal and next generation. He is pretty cynical about the whole thing, talking about advertising and features and whatnot and my response was, it all boils down to the games. This current generation has had its misfires, sure but there have been some of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had over the last few years. Uncharted, Heavy Rain, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Journey, Metal Gear Solid 4, LittleBigPlanet: all pushing the boundaries of storytelling, gameplay and what games can really do. The reason I’m a massive Sony fan is because they invest time and money into the keyword: exclusives. Experiences I can’t get on any other console and are unique, artistic, different. Sony’s mission statement for the PS4 was that it was a games machine first and foremost. Whilst the titles they showed looked good, they were still your FPS shooter, cartoony platformer, gritty adventure game etc. I’m hoping at E3 they’ll show us something more left-field and characteristic of Sony’s diverse exclusives range.

Microsoft have positioned their machine is an all around entertainment device, which is , funnily enough, what Sony did with the PS3. They apparently have 15 exclusives for the console, 8 of which are new IPs and potential franchises. We got shown one, alongside a new Forza and an already announced Call of Duty. Both companies haven’t played all their cards yet, and that is understandable, but Microsoft haven’t answered the burning questions everyone wants to know. First impressions are important, and whilst we haven’t got the whole picture from Sony or Microsoft about their new consoles yet, the former has left a much better taste in my mouth by focusing on what gamers love: games.