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Amorphis2k Blog

Sony and Microsoft Next Gen in Jeopardy?

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Following my recent blog on the speculation of the Sony Patent and from the reaction to my blog I've been thinking a lot more on this issue. I've also realised that companies such as Sony and Microsoft should be very careful with their decisions and do the right market research because there is something else that threatens the very existence of these consoles.

The downfall of the console industry is sitting right next to me as I write this. It is none other than a PS3 Sixaxis Dualshock 3 controller.

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Last night I downloaded through Steam a game called "I Am Alive". I proceeded to play this game and thought "this would be much better on a console, then I wouldn't need to use my keyboard and mouse". I've heard before about how people use standardised logitech controllers as well as others on their PC for gaming and I'd never really grasped the concept, until last night.

I went into my lounge room, grabbed the PS3 controller and cable, downloaded the correct driver, plugged my controller in to my PC and started playing "I Am Alive" with my Dualshock. I was in awe that this worked so easily. I then went back onto my Steam account and realised they have a section called "Big Picture" and this is a section completely dedicated to gaming with console controllers. There is already a BIG market for this.

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The gravity of what I had found astonished me. Here was Sony, about to go against the grain of the gaming community with new technology when now I've realised that I don't need Sony at all. Most of the games released onto PS3 have been ported onto PC anyway and now I can play these games in the exact same way but with even better graphics I don't think I'll bother with next gen from Sony or Microsoft.

Steam Box. A hardware system designed to bring the PC to your living room. If the prices of each game are as good as they are currently in the Steam Store (I picked up "I Am Alive for AUD$5.80 whereas the same game on PS3 is almost $60) [EDIT: I have seen it advertised on the internet for close to $60 on one particular website, whether this site is reputable is questionable however it is availble from the PSN store for $20 - Thank you @OB_Shah :)] this is going to be very strong competition against Sony and Microsoft. There will finally be another big player in the market place with a very strong product. Valve have been doing very good things for many years now and it's about to pay dividends.

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Nvidia unveils portable android console. If this is done well, this could also see many more sales taken away from Sony and Microsoft with the next gen. Both Nvidia and Valve have chosen a very good time to start showing off their products to the gaming community because I know for sure how disappointed everyone at E3 was this year as far as hardware announcements went because the only real announcements were from Nintendo.

Next Gen will be upon us before we can even blink and I suspect it won't be dominated by Sony and Microsoft this time which will be a completely refreshing and welcome change.

Sony Patent and a Look Into Online Gaming

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Sony Patent

First things first. I've been very loyal to Sony ever since the PS1, always buying the next gen consoles and games upon release whether they've been used or new. Recently, Sony have submitted a patent for technology that blocks the usage of any "used" games. This means you will only be able to play new games on their consoles if this technology is used.

How does it work? It is actually quite simple: When you load a game into the console it sends your account data and CD ID to a server to verify the "Terms of service". If this is approved your account information is recorded with the CD ID on their servers. If the game is then put into a different console it would find that the game has already been registered against another account and would block the user from playing that particular game.

Before we look at both the pro's and cons of what Sony have developed it is important to note that Sony have not yet confirmed that this technology will at all be used in their next generation consoles or for any of their other products at the time of writing this. The purpose of this is to pose some hypothetical questions/answers as to why this could be a bad or positive move for Sony as a developer. Feel free to contribute in the comments section.

The first issue is that it is assumed you have an internet connection. I understand that most people in this day and age do have access to the internet but there is still a minority that do not. Does this mean that they will not be able to play the new games on the new console that they have purchased? They won't be able to play these games (hypothetically) because each game requires verification from Sony prior to having the ability to play the game to check the "Terms of Service" of that disk, right? This looks like Sony are already discriminating against a section of their current market before their product is even released yet.

What about if a friend wants to borrow a game? Everyone knows that gaming is about community, right? What if I want to take a game over to a friends place to show them a game I'd just purchased? Does this mean I would need to take my console over to my friends house too? There are a couple of ways that this could work out; If you had your friends account on the PSN this could allow your friends to play your games for a certain amount of time or for a small fee. I feel a little bit off about the whole thing though, It just feels like money grabbing. This then leads to my next point...

What if I was taking my console over to my friends house to play a game and I accidently dropped and broke the console? Not even, what if I broke my console at home or the console stops working? Does this mean I need to re-buy licenses for those games I've already purchased? I'm sure Sony wouldn't let this happen and let common sense prevail - The games will most likely be recorded against a users account as opposed to physical console but this is still a valid question to address.

Now let's take a moment to think about the younger demographic - I remember as a kid I wasn't generally able to buy new games due to the price as I didn't have a full time job. I would purchase a used game, play it and then trade it in again for another game. This technology is going to kill the trade in market which means gamers cannot get a better deal on new games or consoles by trading in and this has gamers on forums furious. This could mean Sony faithful defect to another platform as most games released these days are ported onto various platforms (assuming that other platforms don't also adopt this same technology).

This technology will see the end of the used games market as we know it. This is going to have a negative affect on the retail industry because many stores rely quite heavily on renting and/or trading video games. If you don't think that this will have a negative impact on the retail industry it already has: GameStop shares tumble following Sony patent application.

Perhaps this all could have been avoided if new games were competitively priced? Perhaps then gamers would have purchased new games instead of used ones. Unfortunately I don't think so - Retail stores have much more of an overhead than online stores do and a lot of content is digital these days too so I feel that if Sony do use this technology the days for the bricks and mortar retail stores are numbered because consumers will resort to purchasing online to get a better deal.

Whilst there are many negatives about this technology there is also some positive aspects for the gaming community as well. With this technology it means that developers are getting back what is rightfully theres. Used game sales mean that developers are not making any money on their own titles whereas the retail stores do. By not making money from the sale of used games, developers are losing money from potential customers that were going to buy their game anyway, that they the developer, have spent a lot of time and money to develop. Developers will have higher profits which means more money can be spent on new IP's that are polished and are of a much better quality which is only a good thing for the gaming community.

This could also mean that developers could hypothetically release all of the Downloadable Content with the release of their title with free updates because they no longer need to gouge consumers with DLC in order to recooperate costs.

There are some pro's, there are some cons but do the pro's outweigh the cons? Will Sony actually implement this technology within their next generation if the patent goes through? I guess we will have to wait and see.

A Look into Online Gaming

Another "hot topic" of contention this week is EA's decision to shut down online only services for 12 games. This may be a strategic decision to save costs due to the fact that EA seem to be going through some financial trouble as they were recently delisted from the NASDAQ-100. EA's financial position is not my topic of discussion, it is the longevity and prevalence of online gaming and it's rise and place within the gaming community.

Online games are a great thing for developers. Online content that can be purchased and downloaded from home means consumers can purchase and play games at any time of the day or night. Consumers are no longer restricted to a bricks and mortar retail environment which creates a global market, not just a local one. This is particularly important for indie developers that are trying to get their titles out there.

The fact that so many games and DLC is online can also be a problem in it's own right. The DLC and/or games will only be online if the servers are kept up to hold the data. Recently Star Wars: Galaxies shut down all of their servers after nine years. This was very hard for some fans but it made way for Star Wars: The Old Republic which is a newer and fresher MMORPG. What about nostalgia? Many of the old consoles like NES, SNES, Sega Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, ETC, I like to pull out and game with on occasion and when I finally have kids they will be able to appreciate what it was like for me gaming when I was a child. With the prevelance of online gaming it doesn't look like many of the great titles we have around currently will be around for others to enjoy into the future.

This has cause for concern. If these online based games shut down after complete success the digital world of DLC would surely be on the chopping block as well. Imagine not being able to download certain content for a game because the server this content was available from has shut down.

There is also the fact that games like COD: Black Ops, Battlefield, ETC play much better via online multi-player as humans are much smarter than the NPC's in most FPS games. Imagine if the servers for multi-play were shut down for these titles? You've then lost half of the game. You won't need to imagine because this will be a reality.

Enjoy all of the online games and DLC that you can now because I doubt very much that it will be here into the future. Sad but true.

It's a numbers game...

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Last weekend I was at an engagement party with a whole bunch of "non-gamers", IE) Friends that don't generally game on a regular basis and also friends that don't even own a gaming console. I was on a table of about ten and I started talking about the gaming industry and discussing with them some of the statistics involved with the gaming industry as a whole.

Many of my friends are in some type of industry whether it be insurance, engineering, sales, teaching, hospitality and all know how tough it is economically in Australia at the moment - People just aren't spending their money.

I was trying to explain and stress to them how big the gaming industry really is and how much money goes into it. Big corporations are sponsoring events like Minecon and every day on twitch.tv there is some tournament going on with polished commentators sitting in uber expensive studios but many people don't realise the figures involved in the gaming industry.

Recently, whenever I have read a news post on Gamespot that talks about any kind of gaming number or statistic I have written it down and I have come up with some numbers that not only astonished my friends but even had me in awe; I've hyperlinked each numbered stat so you can view the original article.

1. Playstation 3 sells over 70MILL units worldwide. Think about that number for a minute... Thats A LOT of PS3. XBOX had already sold that by October 2012 and Nintendo have reported selling over 97.12MILL units of the Wii worldwide as of September so Sony is only playing "catch ups".

2. Wii U sells 400,000 units in first week. Thats 57,142.86 units PER DAY. Some people are saying "Really? Only 400,000 units?" - Keep in mind that they sold 1.2MILL consoles in total during that same week.

3. Average age of US gamer is 30. This is one that really intrigued my friends. They all thought gaming was for kids, they didn't realise that it can be a great outlet after a day of hard work for adults. I love gaming moreso now than when I was a kid because I can buy all the good stuff that I couldn't as a kid!

4. Over 1.1MILL have finished Halo 4 campaign in first 5 days. Halo 4 also sold $220MILL in the first 24 hours and only 6% finished the game on "Legendary" in those first 5 days. You think that is impressive?

5. Black Ops II nets $500MILL in first 24 hours. Even friends of mine that aren't habitual gamers lined up for a midnight opening of the local EB Games store.

6. US digital sales, add-on content, subscriptions, mobile games ETC total consumer spend over $2.87BILL in Q3. Thats A LOT of money for the quarter - Imagine globally what this figure would escalate to. 2011 alone saw total sales in the US over $25BILL.

7. Australian goverment pledges over $20MILL in home grown game development. When you look at the US in comparison to the amount of game releases it makes me think it's about time that my own country joined the party. There's a lot of talent in this country and whilst we're now releasing some of the best movies in the world and not some B grade crap like we used to we now have the ability to make a splash in the global gaming industry too.

8. Steam hits 6MILL concurrent users. This is A LOT of users. Whilst many of them probably have Steam in their startup and are always running Steam in the background it is still a very impressive number.

9. Australian Gamer played Black Ops II for nearly 136 straight hours. Granted he was allowed a 10min break every hour this is still quite a feat. What amuses me about this stat, and in particular the article (Click the "9." at the start of this stat) was the fact his employer allowed him to game for 5 days on company time.

10. Microsoft sold over 750,000 XBOX consoles in the USA during the "Black Friday" period. Nintendo sold 1.2MILL hardware units during the same week.

11. Grand Theft Auto series shipments reach 125MILL. I think this will double once GTA:V is released.

As you can see there are so many stats about the gaming industry that impress and shake your head. Even though console and game sales are through the roof there are many gaming studios closing and firing staff because they can't move enough units. The gaming industry is quite cut throat and ultimately it comes down to what gamers are buying. This keeps the industry fresh and progressive. If you know of anymore stats, post them below.

Gaming Censorship in Australia

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A recent article on the Gamespot website has prompted me to write this blog. EA are not going to appeal a decision by the Australian Censorship Board to prevent them from banning a game called "Syndicate" in Australia. However, our cousins over the ditch (New Zealand) will be receiving it.

The Censorship board feel that the game is too violent with localised damage to combatants and too much realistic detail. This is what they said about the movie "Childs Play" back in the day and look at the horror movies that have been released since then!

To me this is way over the top. I don't appreciate some suit telling me what I can and cannot stick into my console or download on my PC. This isn't China, we shouldn't have the same censorship laws here. I agree that a child or person under the age of 18 should be restricted in having access to a game like this but after watching the trailer the game doesn't even look that bad.

I remember when I played "The Warriors" on PS2. I had the ability in the gaming environment to grab a woman and smash her head into a brick wall until she was dead. So that is acceptable but "locational damage" is not? I listen to a lot of talk back radio as I am a sales rep out on the road and all I hear on the radio is how we shouldn't eat this or should be more responsible of that.

Australia and Melbourne in particularhas become a "Nanny state" where we all must comply with whatever the government tells us to. I do not appreciate having what games I can play being dictated to me by some uptight censorship office. I am old enough to tell the difference between fiction and reality and guess what - having an outlet such as a "violent" game may actually stop some nutter going out there and doing what Martin Bryant did at Port Arthur.

There may be people out there that this game has a negative effect on and they might go out and lose it but these people were going to do that anyway. We all have access to violent movies and violent games, in fact:

"several major studies by groups such as The Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health, The Journal of Adolescent Health, and The British Medical Journal have shown no conclusive link between video game usage and violent activity."

People know right from wrong and can work out a fictional world from real life. Australians do not need to be told what games they should be able to play and those of us that want these games will find other means of buying them. In the end it is the retailers that miss out, not us.