There was a whole ton of Sony news this week, which is fitting given the "official" launch of the Vita on Wednesday and the ensuing conversation around the subject. First, though, we have some next-generation PlayStation news. Bet you didn't expect that after last week, right?
The Sony Block
Despite SCEA boss Jack Tretton grumbling that "I don't want to be thinking about trying to launch new technology anytime soon," it was revealed this week that Sony will likely be switching its internal clever bits from Nvidia to AMD for the PlayStation 4. This would mean that both Sony and Microsoft are looking to the world's second largest semiconductor supplier for its technical prowess to power the next generation of games hardware. There's still no word on when we might expect to see these new consoles, but rumors suggest that both companies are already in the process of courting development studios with fancy tech demos.
Arguably one of the most important announcements of the year for the system was the confirmation that a Call of Duty variant will hit this fall.
It was Vita week this week, and fittingly, there were a number of notable stories, with the least surprising being Sony's insistence that it's pre-launch campaign was a roaring success. Senior vice president of PlayStation brand marketing Guy Longworth told us, "We sold out our prelaunch bundles, so we're excited about that." Um. Really?
Regardless of whether you believe Sony's hype (or the conspicuous availability of launch bundles on sites like Amazon), proof of the Vita's real success will become evident in the next few weeks. Poor performance of the device in Japan, presumably due to the lack of a Monster Hunter game at launch, has many observers feeling cynical about the handheld's chances. Research firm Strategy Analytics released a note on Thursday projecting that the PS Vita will sell 12.4 million units worldwide in 2012, "assuming a price cut sometime this year." Representatives from the firm suggested that $180 would be optimum. "Despite the solid design and strong processing power, it is challenging to convince consumers to buy a dedicated game console above the $200 price range in today's economic environment as Nintendo has learnt," the firm said. "Sales of 3G models will be a particular challenge as it demands a $50 premium and additional data plan charges and in the long run is likely to represent only a small portion of total PlayStation Vita sales."
In Vita game-specific news, we saw some cautious optimism about the platform from game developers, along with some key announcements this week. Of particular note, and arguably one of the most important announcements of the year for the system, was the confirmation that a Call of Duty variant will hit this fall. Activision has yet to specify what form this will take--presumably either something system specific, or possibly a port of the shhhh-its-supposed-to-be-a-secret Treyarch-developed Black Ops 2--but it is a huge shot in the arm for Vita regardless. Something that wasn't so positive was word from Naughty Dog studio community manager Arne Meyer on Tuesday that the developer is not working on anything for the PS Vita and is waiting for "the right handheld" before it takes its first step into the portable gaming market. Meyer's post was in response to statements made by Guy Longworth (yep, him again) who had indicated that "all" of the company's studios were working on something for the Vita. Uncharted: Golden Abyss shipped for the PS Vita last week, but development on the project was handled by Sony Bend, not Naughty Dog. When pressed later in the week by GameSpot, Longworth stated "I think I was slightly misquoted. I was asked the question which studios will be making games for Vita, and my answer to that question was, 'A lot of our studios.' I might have said 'all' by mistake--that's not impossible."
Sony also confirmed that the crossplay-tastic Motorstorm RC (that's the one where you get both versions together when you buy it) would be arriving on both the Vita and PlayStation 3 a couple of weeks from now. This came at about the same time that the company finally decided to tackle the whole PSP UMD to Vita transfer debacle. In an interview with Wired this week, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida said there are two main reasons for the lack of such a program. First, he said there was little demand for such a program outside of Japan, where the PSP still has plenty of new games being released on a regular basis. Second, he said downloadable PSP games in the US and Europe are cheap enough that offering the conversion program (with its $5 to $10 fee per game converted) didn't make as much sense outside of Japan. "You can buy Final Fantasy Tactics for $10," he said. "That's a great price. There are many, many games that are sold at an affordable price. When you compare that to the price of games here, PSP games in Japan are sold at a much higher price, so people see the value in spending the $5 to $10 to get the digital copy." What do you think about that? Is he right? Let us know in the comments below.
Have you been wishing for the past few years that Sony would hurry-the-heck up and get The Last Guardian finished? You have? Well, it's finally doing something about it.
But wait! We're not quite done with Sony-related news. Let's blast through the last few really quickly here.
There's a new co-op Survival mode coming to Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Sounds awesome, right? Equally awesome is the news that a free-to-play version of Killzone 3 multiplayer will be available to download from the PlayStation Store next week. All of the game's maps (including downloadable content maps) will be included with the download, as well as the game modes Operations, Guerrilla Warfare, and Warzone. Players will be allowed only to reach the level of Sergeant 1 with this free version, however. The "full experience" will be available for $15, and that grants you a 24-hour double XP bonus, free unlock points, the ability to create clans and custom games, and access to the Botzone mode.
Have you been wishing for the past few years that Sony would hurry-the-heck up and get The Last Guardian finished? You have? Well, it's finally doing something about it. The company revealed this week that the team at Sony Santa Monica (God of War) will now be helping out.
Fez is Finished, Yay!
Speaking of getting things finished, Polytron's multidimensional platformer and indie darling Fez is finally finished. A tweet from Polytron revealed that the game has finally been submitted to Microsoft for certification, one of the last steps required before the game can be released. A featured title in the documentary film Indie Game: The Movie, Fez is a platformer built entirely using Microsoft's XNA tools. It takes the form of a 2D platformer but adds a third dimension and the ability to rotate the gameworld around playable character Gomez. The game also has a unique retro 8-bit pixel art style, along with a suitably retro soundtrack.
Mass Effect 3 on the PSN Day One
Are we still allowed to call it the PSN? Regardless, EA revealed this week that the much-anticipated conclusion to the Mass Effect saga will be downloadable from the Sony Entertainment Network, or whatever the hell it's called now, day-and-date with the retail release. Sony also revealed anyone who preorders the digital version of the game will receive the M55 Argus rifle, a close-range weapon that uses bursts of fire to ensure ammunition conservation, as well as a special Mass Effect 3 PlayStation 3 theme, which will only be available for digital preorders. Don't forget though: According to Sony's new terms of service, digital preorders can't be canceled, so you're not allowed to change your mind before March 6.
On the subject of Mass Effect 3; there will be DLC for the game on day one, which is something that elicited collective groans from gamers across the Internet. BioWare revealed on its official forums that the pack, called "From Ashes" includes a Prothean squadmate, a mission on Eden Prime, a new weapon, and an alternate appearance option for every team member. It is included with the Mass Effect 3 Collector's Edition and will be available for separate purchase on March 6.
Medal of Honor Gunshooter
The sequel to 2010's Medal of Honor reboot will be with us this October, and it's dubbed Medal of Honor Warfighter. That name presumably beat out equally appropriate alternatives: Medal of Honor Gunshooter, Medal of Honor Explosionmaker, and Medal of Honor Beardwearer. Developed by the original game's Danger Close studio, Warfighter will run on EA DICE's Frostbite 2.0 engine, which powered Battlefield 3. EA DICE will not be involved in the development of this title, however.
That name presumably beat out equally appropriate alternatives: Medal of Honor Gunshooter, Medal of Honor Explosionmaker, and Medal of Honor Beardwearer.
Here's some Nintendo-related goodness for you all. First, Xenoblade Chronicles will finally get a US release in April. Better late than never. Pretty much anyone fascinated by this exquisite role-playing game for the Wii has already worked out some way of playing it, so what better time for Nintendo to finally grant it an "official" release? We loved the game when it was released everywhere else in the world last year and gave it a well-deserved 9.0.
Presumably learning (somewhat) from its missteps with Xenoblade, Nintendo confirmed that the latest game from Mistwalker and longtime Final Fantasy developer Hironobu Sakaguchi The Last Story would be released in the US this summer through a publishing partnership with Xseed Games. In June last year, Nintendo (following a now established pattern) said that it had "no plans" to bring the game to North America. However, the game's move west began in November, when the company announced that The Last Story would arrive in Europe on February 24.
Microsoft has spent the past year insisting on referring to the Xbox 360 as an "entertainment" device rather than a games console, and it seems that we're to see a similar strategy from Nintendo with the Wii U (or whatever they end up calling it…rumor has it that name may change.) AdWeek reported this past week that Nintendo has entered into negotiations with "major media companies" in an effort to possibly bring their content to the new console. This is presumably (hopefully) more than just a Netflix app.
One Last Quickie
It's not a release date, and it's not a confirmation, but Diablo III game director Jay Wilson took to Blizzard's forums Friday to say that a release date for the title can be expected in the "near future." We expect this date to be somewhere in the April to June 2012 window. "The latest full build we've been testing here in the office is in great shape," Wilson wrote in his letter to the community. "We get a lot of sympathy from the other teams because of the long hours of crunch our design team is putting in, but the secret is that playing through the game as we do final tuning, bug fixes, and optimizations is a real joy."