This Week in Games: July 7, 2012

Sony's cloud starts to form, Microsoft's Phil Spencer says the Wii U is just an Xbox 360 with a fancy controller, EA's Frank Gibeau says NPD's numbers are like viewing "an elephant through a straw," and Randy Pitchford says he wants to see Borderlands 2 on Vita. Also: we totally messed up Quoted for Truth this week, but we did launch a new podcast.

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I was hoping to be able to embed this week's episode of Quoted for Truth, as I usually do, in this week's This Week in Games, but unfortunately we ran into some technical difficulties. We actually recorded a full 40-minute show ready for distribution this weekend, and I have to say it was magnificent. We were insightful, witty, and unusually charming. Even Tom McShea. Unfortunately all of that awesomeness condensed into one episode caused some kind of recording malfunction, and the sound was completely messed up. I could post it here, but it would just be a 40-minute video of Brendan, Tom, and I being handsome with an awful noise blasting over the top of it. I guess it could make for some creatively dubbed videos. We fully intended to try to re-create the magnificence, but the studio wasn't available. So here we are. Quoted for Truth-less. Sorry about that.

By way of compensation, please check out the new news-quiz-themed GameSpot podcast that we released earlier this week, featuring Kevin VanOrd, Chris Watters, Shaun McInnis, Tom McShea, and yours truly. It's a bit different from the Hotspot, which it is replacing, but I hope you like it. You can play it right here in the player embedded below, or you can use this RSS feed to receive new episodes of the show each Wednesday.

Anyway…enough of all that. On to this week's big stories.

That Sony and Gaikai Rumor Finally Came True

Remember that rumor? The one about Sony buying a cloud gaming service that we thought would be announced at E3? One like Gaikai? Yeah? Well, possibly the biggest news of the week came last Sunday when Sony announced that it had acquired Gaikai. According to a statement, the publisher intends to use the acquisition to establish a new cloud service combining Gaikai's resources with its own. "By combining Gaikai's technological strength and engineering talent with SCE's extensive game platform knowledge and experience, SCE will provide users with unparalleled cloud entertainment experiences," president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Andrew House said in a wordy, buzzword-stuffed statement. "SCE will deliver a world-class cloud-streaming service that allows users to instantly enjoy a broad array of content ranging from immersive core games with rich graphics to casual content anytime, anywhere on a variety of Internet-connected devices."

Established in 2008 in Aliso Viejo, California, by David Perry (you may know him as the founder of Shiny Entertainment, among many other projects), Gaikai enables game streaming to a variety of devices, such as tablets, connected-TVs, phones, or your computer through a high-speed Internet connection. Because it's cloud-based, there's no need for much local processing power; all that's needed is a fast enough connection and the ability to process the HD video stream. The platform allows players to demo and purchase games such as Call of Duty or Mass Effect 3 through a browser-based interface built on common technologies like Java and Flash. "We're honored to be able to help SCE rapidly harness the power of the interactive cloud and to continue to grow their ecosystem, to empower developers with new capabilities, to dramatically improve the reach of exciting content and to bring breathtaking new experiences to users worldwide," Perry said.

If Sony does announce a new PS3 model at the German industry event, it will not be the first time the company has done so.

This, however, does not mean the PlayStation house is giving up on retail with future hardware. Speaking to European trade publication MCV, Sony Computer Entertainment UK boss Fergal Gara acknowledged the retail business has declined of late, but said this is a "re-adjustment" period, rather than a total disintegration. "We'd love to see as many of those retailers as possible maintain their interest in servicing the space because clearly down the road many of us are going to be doing our best to give another injection into the market whenever the next cycle starts," he said.

So, knowing this, what do you think the PlayStation 4 will be? Is the future of the platform as a service, rather than a box? Do you even think there will be a PlayStation 4 now? Especially given the fact that a new PlayStation 3 model appears to be waiting in the wings. According to a Federal Communications Commission filing (spotted by Japanese website Pocket News), Sony is preparing a new 4000-series PS3 model, an update over the current 3000 line. The filing does not mention dimensions, but Eurogamer "has heard" that Sony is preparing to announce a slimmer PS3 model at Gamescom 2012 next month. If Sony does announce a new PS3 model at the German industry event, it will not be the first time the company has done so.

Borderlands 2 on the Vita With Cross-Play? Yes Please

Sticking with PlayStation-themed news from this week, it seems that Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford is eager for an outside company to create a PlayStation Vita version of his upcoming shooter Borderlands 2. Speaking at PC and indie game event Rezzed on Friday (attended by Eurogamer), Pitchford explained that he is excited about the potential for cross-platform play with the PlayStation 3 version. "One of the things I wish Sony would do is get behind Borderlands, because I'd love to see a Vita version of the game," he said. "I want to be able to have the character I'm working on with my PS3, and then when I'm on the road with my Vita I can just keep developing that same character because it exists on the cloud somewhere."

Pitchford explained that Gearbox itself is "too busy" to create Borderlands 2 for the PS Vita, but he said the company is willing to have an outside studio work on it. "I know there are a lot of talented developers who could take our code, our source, and our content and perhaps create something like that," he said. "That would be exciting to me."

Would it be exciting to you? We're certainly into the idea.

Wii U Online to Be Free

Nintendo is not planning to charge a subscription fee for the Wii U's online service, company president Satoru Iwata said during a recent shareholders meeting, the English translation of which can be found here. Iwata explained that the decision to make the Nintendo Network (which also operates on the 3DS) free to access was due in part to an effort to accommodate gamers' play habits. "We have a wide variety of consumers, from the ones who enthusiastically play video games to those playing more casually, who are not always interested in them but try to play a game only when it has become a public topic or play it just during certain periods, like a year-end season and summer vacation," he said. "We therefore believe that services which ask our consumers to obtain paid memberships are not always the best."

Microsoft's Phil Spencer Makes a Dig at Wii U

As you know, Nintendo will be the first of the Big Three to release next-generation hardware, but according to Microsoft's Phil Spencer the Wii U is only on par with current-generation consoles, like the Xbox 360. "I think their Pro Controller makes a lot of sense with the platform they've built," he said. They are building a platform that is effectively a 360 when you think of graphical capability." He went on to explain, "Now they are really making an on-ramp for the back catalog of games that are on 360. It is easy for those games to move over to the Wii U. They've moved the buttons around, and they've made a controller that feels familiar for 360 gamers, so I get why they are putting those pieces together," he said. This is not the first time it has been suggested that the Wii U will lag behind future consoles from Microsoft and Sony. Last month, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida said the Wii U was in a generation of its own. And before that, a GameSpot survey found that the next Xbox and PlayStation 4 already have a leg up on the Wii U.

EA's Future Is Digital

Electronic Arts is mapping out a path that will see it transition eventually to a 100 percent digital business, EA Games president Frank Gibeau told Games Industry International in an interview published this week. "It's in the near future. It's coming," he said. "We have a clear line of sight on it and we're excited about it. Retail is a great channel for us. We have great relationships with our partners there. At the same time, the ultimate relationship is the connection that we have with the gamer. If the gamer wants to get the game through a digital download and that's the best way for them to get it, that's what we're going to do. It has a lot of enhancements for our business. It allows us to keep more that we make. It allows us to do some really interesting things from a service level standpoint; we can be a lot more personalized with what we're doing."

"But if customers want to buy a game at retail, they can do that too. We'll continue to deliver games in whatever media formats make sense and as one ebbs and one starts to flow, we'll go in that direction," Gibeau said. "For us, the fastest growing segment of our business is clearly digital and clearly digital services and ultimately Electronic Arts, at some point in the future…we're going to be a 100 percent digital company, period. It's going to be there some day. It's inevitable."

"For us, the fastest growing segment of our business is clearly digital and clearly digital services and ultimately Electronic Arts, at some point in the future…we're going to be a 100 percent digital company, period. It's going to be there some day. It's inevitable." - Frank Gibeau, Electronic Arts

In May, EA revealed that its digital business was booming. This particular sector of the publisher's business brought in $1.2 billion for the year between its downloadable games, subscription fees, add-on content, and mobile and social platforms. Additionally, EA said its digital business will grow over the next 12 months. "In the coming year, we break away from the pack, with a very different profile than the traditional game companies and capabilities that none of our new digital competitors can match," EA CEO John Riccitiello said. Elsewhere in the interview, Gibeau spat some harsh words at industry research firm the NPD Group. He said a big problem with the industry today is that it is viewed by people like an "elephant through a straw." This view, he says, leaves out important distribution channels like Facebook, mobile, and free-to-play games. "An occasional bad report from NPD, which measures a sliver of what's actually happening in gaming, gives people an erroneous impression," he said. "My point is it's an irrelevant measure on the industry. It's totally irrelevant. We don't even really look at it internally anymore. We're more focused on our services and how we're connected with consumers. The number of Nucleus accounts we're growing, the amount of engagement time that we have, the amount of services that we're running--those are more important metrics for us than unit sales according to NPD and North America."

Following the publication of this story, NPD Games president David McQuillan issued a statement to GameSpot regarding Gibeau's comments. He admitted digital is a significant component of the industry, and said he was "surprised" to hear what Gibeau had to say. "While digital is a growing part of the industry and something that needs to be addressed for the future, the current games industry is still largely rooted in retail and any industry player involved with AAA content simply can’t take their eye away from the retail environment," McQuillan said. "Successful companies are looking at how their products are performing within all channels, particularly retail."

"For that reason, we were surprised to read the comments by Mr. Gibeau that EA does not look at NPD data internally at all. While we will not comment on the specifics on our long-standing relationship with EA, we can say with confidence that we have daily dealings with all of our major publisher clients. And we know for a fact they’re using the data. According to our latest estimates, new physical software represented 56 percent of the consumer spend on games content in the US in 2011, and 70 percent in Q4, specifically. If a publisher that produced AAA content were in a position where they could not access NPD data to analyze, review, and benchmark against competition and the rest of the market, we would think they would be challenged to effectively manage an important part of their current business and their relationship with the retail community."

Keep Your Eye on Tencent: First League of Legends, Now Call of Duty

Activision and Chinese Internet service provider Tencent announced earlier this week that Call of Duty Online, a new PC free-to-play first-person shooter is set for release in mainland China. According to Activision, the game will be based on Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare universe, and has been in development for almost two years. As part of the multiyear agreement, Tencent will have the exclusive license to operate Call of Duty: Online in China. The free-to-play game will be monetized through the sale of in-game items like weapons, gear, and perks "built specifically for the Chinese market." As for the game itself, Call of Duty: Online features an original story told through a string of special operations missions based on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Tencent, which acquired a majority stake in League of Legends publisher Riot Games last year, and recently acquired a minority stake in Gears of War studio Epic Games, believes Call of Duty: Online has the potential to attract "tens of millions" of gamers, according to president Martin Lau. There's no word yet on a release outside of China, but it seems safe to assume that it's going to happen. Keep your eye on Tencent…they're going to become a more important name in the whole gaming space.

Don't Forget, This Weekend Is EVO!

Fighting game fan? You'll want to check out our coverage of the biggest fighting game event of the year, which is taking place this weekend: EVO 2012. Check it out right here.

Next Week Is Comic-Con Week

A bunch of us are heading down to San Diego for Comic-Con next week, so keep your eye on this page for updates on our coverage from the event. We'll have live programming on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, plus coverage from the show floor, from panels, and game demos. Make sure you're following us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates on what we're up to.

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Discussion

25 comments
Clockout1
Clockout1

"If the gamer wants to get the game through a digital download and that's the best way for them to get it, that's what we're going to do." We don't, EA, we don't.

yetiman27
yetiman27

I really hope they make a vita version of borderlands 2, I would buy both absolutely. I love my Vita, and have always been a big supporter of handheld gaming, And it stresses me out how little it seems Sony cares about the Vita, it is an incredible machine, capable of some really cool things, and I think if a fully realized version of this (hopefully) amazing sequel appeared on the VIta, especially in a bundle pack with the system, that it would be a big boost to the Vita, and not only get more people to buy the system, but get more games in general made for the VIta, which is something I would love to see. 

mechmaster525
mechmaster525

Okay so how many people here would actually get a Vita if Borderlands 2 (or some spin-off) came out for the Vita? I don't own a Vita nor have I ever played Borderlands (mainly because it's multiplayer oriented and I'm not a multiplayer kind of guy, plus I heard the single player sucks, correct me if I'm wrong) but Borderlands 2 for the Vita might, and I do mean might, push me to get one. I just can't find anything on the Vita worth buying, not even the Metal Gear HD edition because I still own most of those games for the PS2 and can play them whenever I want anyway...hell I just bought Metal Gear Solid for my PS3 via the Playstation store so I really have no reason yet to buy a Vita. Borderlands could change that me thinks.

cephas90
cephas90

Tencent: Turning every champion in LoL into a 6300 champ.   I can only WONDER what they'll do to an online version of CoD lol

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

"At the same time, the ultimate relationship is the connection that we have with the gamer. If the gamer wants to get the game through a digital download..."

 

We don't, EA. How many times do we have to tell you? We don't. We want a hard copy of our games that we can take over friend's houses. Ultimate relationship with the gamer? More like ultimate relationship with the gamer's wallets.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

This is depressing. All of it!

 

Also, I hate all of this "smack talk". You don't catch Nintendo announcing "my **** is bigger than yours, Sony!"

halo-freak
halo-freak

In the end all consoles will have the exact same controller.

I like the xbox360 controller the most now but i would like to change it a bit.

The  D-pad could be a bit to the left to make it a bit more practical for games where the D-pad matters(such as MK:9).

It can be tricky to make a controller perfect for each and every type of game. You make a controller that is perfect for shooters, racers and management games but it's not that great for platform,high action games and fighting games..I wonder what the final design would look like in like 2035 :P.

bakagami
bakagami

Come on GS, it would be nice if you would pull your head out of MS' ass for a while.  There are only so many ways you can make a traditional controller.  the 360 controller looks a lot like the Gamecube controller if you are going to be honest.  also several logitech models looked like that long before MS was even making game consoles

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

I like Quoted for Truth, but GS GamePlay is also a lot of fun. Plus, I can participate in the quiz format on my own. Perhaps both can be embedded in the future.

salvucci91
salvucci91

When I read Borderlands 2 would have PS Vita/ PS3, I thought: "There's my reason to buy a Vita." I know I'm not the only one has yet to find a single solid reason to push me off (or even get up onto) the fence. Sony would be passing up a lot of that cash they love if they don't pursue this idea.

topeira
topeira

nintendo were the first to spark the beginning of a lot of new gameplay ideas. yes. that's true.... 

 

and personally only i hate each and every one of those ideas. i prefer the old school mundane type of gameplay ideas. i stay away from any type motion controls and touch screen is something i really dont care about. i dount the Wii U will convince me otherwise. i play on my iPhone and i still wish it had shoulder buttons and a joystick somewhere.

 

also i find it funny how pitchford's wishful thinking about a vita borderlands 2 became news. every spit out of a developer mouth becomes news these days. i start feeling like our beloved game news sites are becoming more and more like E! "OMG, randy said he would love a vita version. OMG." who cares?! if it's not going to happen he can just the same say he'd love to make his own batman game. hypothetical talk aren't news to me.

Balo_the_Gamer
Balo_the_Gamer

Fully agreed with everyone ripping off Nintendo. What about the kinect and Move? If it wasn't for Wii those two things wouldn't be out either. So carefully think before you talk.

nate1222
nate1222

Excuse me, Phil Spencer, but EVERYONE has been borrowing ideas from Nintendo for the past, say...20 years!

The d-pad? Nintendo did it first.

Shoulder buttons? Same.

Analog sticks? Remember N64's controller?

 

Phil's, and the rest of M$', problem is that the Wii U is probably gonna edge them out commercially. MS and Sony have had rumors spinning of "no backward compatibility" and "blocking used games". These have probably already been promised to their share holders and investors in an effort to maximize their gains come next gen. But, in the process, they've pissed off their own consumer base. Which has pretty much garunteed Nintendo the #1 spot in the 8th gen.

 

I'm not a Nintendo fanboy at all. I do love the DS and the 3DS is definately on my radar. But the Wii's line up let me down to the point that I only played Gamecube and Virtual Console goodies on it. I was highly pissed at intendo during most of the N64's and Gamecube's lifespans. But, with the GBA and DS, Nintendo has done a damn good job of keeping me around.

 

I'll probably never own a Wii U, though. I'm just plain ol' done with consoles. Too many damn issues with them:

Lack of or half-assed bc

Hardware failures (especially in the 7th gen)

Propietary controllers and periferals won't work with next gen hardware

DLC rackets

 

I'm pretty much a PC and handhelds gamer anymore. Especially with regard to RETRO games for PC (UT2004, the original Deus Ex, etc...) and handhelds now offering the kind of experience I used to like consoles for (GBA = SNES, DS = N64, PSP = PS1). Hell, many of my 5th and 6th gen console favs have PC versions! Beyond Good & Evil, Guilty Gear X2, Prince of Persia... Sega's even bringing their Genesis goodies to PC as cheap downloads. With handhelds the costs ain't too high (yet) and they're pretty self contained. The retro PC scene is flooded with classics I'm just now discovering and for dirt cheap and very modest hardware requirements.

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

 @mechmaster525 I've got to be honest - knowing that there's a possibility of Borderlands 2 on Vita has made me feel more fondly about the device again. It desperately needs this kind of support

tkilla22
tkilla22

 @mechmaster525

 U stupid the vita may not be a good hand-held but borderlands is a great game and the story mode go hard don't say something off of other peoples thoughts.

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

 @bakagami I think you're misreading the point; the illustration was to draw attention to the comment from Phil Spencer equating the Wii U to the Xbox 360, and using the controller to affirm that point. Honestly, I couldn't care less if the controllers look alike - as long as they work for the games

ExplicitMike
ExplicitMike

 @bakagami You are right in all honesty who gives a shit really. I always thought MS putting the bumpers on the 360 controller was a copy of PS L1 R1 buttons. But I didn't care enough to complain. There is no reason to mess with a design that works.

Wild_Card
Wild_Card

 @Balo_the_Gamer

 by your way of thinking id be well with in my rights to say nintendo ripped off atari ect by release a came console that not only hooked up to a TV but used interchangable game carts and a hand held controler.

thekingofirony
thekingofirony

 @Balo_the_Gamer Actually Microsoft ripped off Sega,Sony ripped off Nintendo.Although i think Sony was trying to get revenge on Nintendo.

Gazz64
Gazz64

 @nate1222

 Love the retro goodness :) pretty pleased I'm gen X as I was blessed with growing up with the game scene. Its got to make you wonder why MS and Sony are saying the Wii U is only on par with their current consoles when it has already been showen it is superior! I'ts like listening to politicians sling mud. I'd say get ready for a marketing war, this should be good for consumers :)

bakagami
bakagami

 @ExplicitMike I agree, who cares. GS seems to apparently.  They are the ones making a big deal over the similarity between the Xbox & Wii-U controllers.  as I said before there are only so many ways to set up a controller & as you say, why mess with a design that works?

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

All motion sensor gaming came from Nintendo, originally. The Powerglove was a motion sensor accessory for the NES, back in the 80s.

ggregd
ggregd

 @Gazz64

 MS and Sony have a vested interest in spreading disinformation about the Wii U's capabilities.  Since Nintendo hasn't announced the specs and there are conflicting reports, I tend to believe the statements from people who aren't direct competitors or beholden to direct competitors. 

 

MS and Sony are going to have a hard time convincing people to shell out for a new console.  Even here among the hardcore, many commenters aren't interested.  Better graphics isn't going to do it.  To the untrained eye, they can't get much better than they are now.  (On the other hand the marked improvement of Wii U over Wii will get people to jump.)  In most households, where there is only one game machine, the machine of choice is going to remain Nintendo's.

 

I feel compelled to say I'm not a Nintendo fanboy, I own and enjoy all three (and 3DS and Vita as well).  This is just the way I see things going, based on the evidence I pointed out.

YouScareMe
YouScareMe

 @bakagami agreed. if someone wants to completely change a controller the only step left is to get rid of the controller altogether because the controllers out now are super comfy and they work just fine, if it aint broke dont fix it