Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sony Discusses PlayStation Now Refinements, But Won’t Comment on Subscriptions, Discounts, or Much Else

Sony’s streaming games service, PlayStation Now, launches into open beta tomorrow, July 31, on PlayStation 4 in the United States and Canada. If you’re a PS4 owner in either of those countries, you’ll be able to pay to play certain PlayStation 3 games without ever downloading them or putting a physical disc in the system. Even with so many new users about to begin using it in less than a day, there remain numerous questions about Now and how it’ll work–questions Sony continues to avoid providing answers to.

GameSpot recently spoke with PlayStation Now senior director Jack Buser and Gaikai senior VP Robert Stevenson about the service, which they are happy to note is the first of its kind on consoles. Sony says more than 50 publishers have signed on to offer their games through Now, although an exact list of games planned for it has not been made available. (More will be added “all the time,” according to Buser.) The company still won’t give exact numbers for how much data you can expect Now to use–a real issue for those in dorms or with ISPs that have data caps–but Stevenson says, “You can think of it [as] very comparable to movie streaming. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s similar.” We’d previously heard you will need a 5 megabits-per-second connection for a “good experience.”

A closed beta that’s been running since earlier this year has provided Sony with a lot of data to work with–more than 300,000 hours have been streamed so far–that it’s already used to improve Now. “Some areas we’ve really focused on have been in the [user experience], making sure that users really understand the service as we go into open beta,” Stevenson says. The Now beta has been using its own dedicated app, but the PlayStation Store itself will become the home for the service as it enters open beta, which presents new challenges. Sony has changed the messaging it uses and tried to ensure people aren’t confused when they go to rent a game.

Stevenson also highlighted the addition of cloud saves partway through the closed beta, which allow users to save their game and then resume it on another device at a later time. There are also plans for a new $1.99 price option for certain rentals that is $1 less than the lowest price we’ve previously heard about. And Sony will make it clearer when streaming games offer DLC, which is said to be part of the reason why rentals during the closed beta could be more expensive than buying a brand-new physical copy.

These kinds of refinements are to be expected, and are no doubt critical to Now achieving a real degree of success. But just as important are many of the issues gamers have been wondering about since Now was announced in January: How will a subscription option work, and when will see one? Can I get free or discounted access to games that I can verify I already own (reportedly the answer is no)? Who is this for? Unfortunately, neither Buser nor Stevenson were willing to provide us with the kinds of answers we were looking for.

“I think, ultimately, you look to this vision of expanding to a wide number of devices and you can imagine that there is this very rich catalog of PlayStation 3 games available to them.” — Jack Buser

Repeatedly describing the service as being in “early days,” the two shied away from answering questions about the particulars of a subscription option. Sony is aware of the interest in such an option, and Stevenson says it’s “researching exactly how to deliver that. We’ve got some really strong ideas, but nothing to disclose today in terms of timeline or pricing or anything of that sort.”

Fair enough, but how about the way Now will deal with users who own a supported game and would like to stream it to their PS4? “[We have] nothing to discuss at this time,” Buser says. “As I mentioned, we are going into open beta on PS4. It will be a rental offering, you’ll see a variety of different durations, and, again, a variety of different price points. You’ll see durations as short as four hours for an evening of fun–something where maybe you maybe want to come in and just check out a game–you’ll see longer durations, like 30 days, 90 days. And Robert talked a lot about the cloud save feature, where you can try out a game for a short duration, save your game to our cloud servers, decide you want to continue playing, rent for a longer duration, and pick up where you left off.

“You know, this is a beta, we are listening to our customers, and if customers want to see features or functions as part of PlayStation Now, they should feel free to let us know. And we’ll be collecting that feedback as part of this open beta process.”

You’ll notice there was no specific mention of what we asked about, something which happened again when we asked about The Last of Us, which has been shown to be playable using Now but was released this week on PS4 as The Last of Us Remastered. Considering PS4 owners who never owned a PS3 now have a way to play the game, who is Sony targeting with the Now version of a game like this? “We’re entering into open beta on PlayStation 4, so this particular period is all about the beta and hearing about people’s experiences and how things are going,” Buser answers. “I think, ultimately, you look to this vision of expanding to a wide number of devices and you can imagine that there is this very rich catalog of PlayStation 3 games available to them.

“It’s all about giving the PlayStation community options on how they want to access content.” — Jack Buser

“We’re making this available to the PlayStation 4 community. Many of these titles are going to be brand new to these folks, because they’re new to the PlayStation ecosystem, and the PlayStation 4 is maybe their first PlayStation device. And as we expand beyond there, you can imagine an entirely new type of customer who maybe doesn’t even have a game console of any sort, who is going to be experiencing this rich catalog for the very first time, and really understand the thing we, in the industry, have known for so long, which is how wonderful these experiences are. The different types of content will fill different kinds of needs depending upon who that target customer is as we move forward.”

Stevenson reiterated the idea that Now presents PS4 owners who never got to play The Last of Us on PS3 with a way to do so. (He didn’t mention that Remastered does this.) We brought up the fact that Sony is, in a way, competing with itself in a case like this; for a PS4 owner who can choose to pick up Remastered–an improved version of the game–what is the appeal of being able to stream the PS3 version? “Well I think, in general, we’re just interested in providing options for our gamers, just to give them the freedom to discover and play games in ways never before possible,” Buser says. “So I think we look at all these options as existing symbiotically with one another. It’s all about giving the PlayStation community options on how they want to access content. And I think PlayStation Now is really a part of that larger vision for the platform itself.”

This was similar to what Buser tells us when asked about the possibility of new games being released directly onto PlayStation Now. “I couldn’t comment on that concept specifically,” he says. “One thing that’s exciting about PlayStation Now is that you have a whole bunch of people who are new to PlayStation in general who own a PlayStation 4, and they might have missed out on a lot of these great PlayStation 3 titles. I think that’s one of the things that show some of the power of PlayStation Now as a game-streaming service. So both ourselves at PlayStation as well as publishing partners are really exciting about introducing these amazing PlayStation 3 games to customers who own PS4 but are maybe new to PlayStation. I think that’s really exciting.”

Even with the open beta kicking off on PS4 tomorrow, many issues will remain unanswered for the time being; the beta will only offer rentals and Sony can point to the beta label to explain why it has so few answers about the service.

But at least we’ll have options.

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
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GS News – Sony Says EA Access is Bad Value; Xbox One Is $600 In China

The real reason EA Access is Xbox exclusive, China gets its first major console in over a decade, and over 4.6 million people played the Destiny beta!

Call of Duty: Ghosts’ Fourth and Final Expansion Teased in New Video

Activision today released a teaser trailer for Nemesis, the fourth and final expansion for Infinity Ward’s 2013 first-person shooter Call of Duty: Ghosts. The 15-second trailer is a wild montage of images for what appear to be score streaks.

You’ll also notice that at the very end, the “g” and the “s” in the word “Ghosts” come into focus last, which makes the word “host” flash on the screen for a brief moment. How or if this is tied to the Nemesis expansion for Call of Duty: Ghosts remains to be seen.

The Nemesis expansion follows previously released add-ons for Call of Duty: Ghosts, including Onslaught, Devastation, and Invasion. All four expansions are included with the $50 Call of Duty: Ghosts season pass or can be purchased separately for $15 each.

Activision has not announced a release date for Nemesis. When it does arrive, however, it will be exclusive to Xbox platforms for a period of 30 days per Activision’s longstanding arrangement with Microsoft.

The next Call of Duty game is November’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which developer Sledgehammer Games says is “not the same old Call of Duty.” Characters in Advanced Warfare can wear exoskeletons that grant players superabilities. We will get to see how these abilities, like increased dexterity and super-jumping, affect multiplayer when Activision takes the lid off the mode on August 11.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
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Buy a $399 Xbox One at Best Buy, Get a $50 Xbox Gift Card — What Would You Spend it On?

Best Buy has rolled out a special deal on the Xbox One where, if you buy a $399 system, you will automatically receive a $50 Xbox gift card for free. The deal is only valid for the $399, no-Kinect version. There is no indication as to how long the deal will last, so you may want to act quickly.

You’ll need to add the system to your cart to see the free $50 Xbox gift card.

The $499 Xbox One system (with Kinect) comes with a free copy of Forza 5 at Best Buy. And of course, Best Buy–and other retailers–continue to sell the $499 Xbox One Titanfall bundle that comes with a system, Kinect, and a copy of Respawn Entertainment’s shooter.

The Xbox One launched in late November 2013 and sold more than 3 million units by the end of the year. Microsoft has not provided a new official sales number since then, though we do know that the number of units shipped is somewhere north of 5 million units. That’s well behind Sony’s PlayStation 4, which has sold more than 7 million units as of early April.

The $399 Xbox One went on sale on June 9 and immediately flew off the shelves at GameStop. Likely due to the arrival of the new, less expensive Xbox One SKU, Xbox One sales in the United States “more than double[d]” in June, compared to May. However, the PS4 was still the top-selling console for June in the US.

If you’re taking advantage of Best Buy’s Xbox One deal, what do you plan to spend your $50 on? Let us know in the comments!

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
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Halo Cosplay event at Comic-Con

Check out the greatest cosplay event at Comic-Con 2014, the Halo Cosplay meet up!

The Gist – Why The Walking Dead Is So Good At Storytelling

Video games have a lot to show for their epic stories and The Walking Dead is one of the greats. We break down what makes it so fantastic.

Quick Look: Pure Pool

Watch extended gameplay footage from Pure Pool featuring the Giant Bomb crew.

Nintendo Files Three "QOL" Trademarks, Covering "Handheld Game Apparatus with Liquid Crystal Displays"

Nintendo has filed three new trademark applications that give us a hint at what form the company’s mysterious “Quality of Life” initiative may take. On July 25, Nintendo filed three different trademark applications with the United States Patent & Trademark Office for something called “QOL.”

One of the QOL trademarks is for “providing games via communication by handheld game apparatus with liquid crystal displays.” Another covers “controllers and joysticks for consumer video game apparatus.” A third, meanwhile, is for “electronic circuits, optical discs, ROM cards, ROM cartridges, CD-ROMs, and memory cards storing programs for consumer video game apparatus.”

A common thread between the three trademark applications is that they are all tied to “handheld game apparatus with liquid crystal displays.” What does it all mean? We have reached out to a Nintendo representative for comment, but have not heard back as of press time.

In May, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata outlined Nintendo’s vision for its new “Quality of Life” program, but failed to offer anything in the way of specifics about it. One thing that Iwata did make clear, however, is that that Nintendo’s Quality of Life initiative, whatever it is, won’t be like another Nintendo product before it.

“When we use ‘health’ as the keyword, some may inevitably think about Wii Fit. However, we are considering themes that we have not incorporated to games for our existing platforms,” he said at the time. “Including the hardware that will enable such an idea, we will aim to establish a blue ocean.”

Nintendo’s Quality of Life project is described as a “completely new field of business,” and one that will involve some form of “non-wearable” technology. More information about this initiative will be shared later on in 2014 (perhaps soon, if the trademarks are any indication), with a full launch of the product scheduled for sometime during Nintendo’s fiscal year, which begins in April 2015 and runs through March 2016.

Nintendo reported earnings today for the quarter ended June 30, and the results were not great. Despite strong Mario Kart 8 sales and an uptick in Wii U hardware units sold, Nintendo still posted a $97 million loss for the period.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
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Destiny’s Endgame Raids Only Playable With Friends, Don’t Tell You Where to Go

Last week, we had the opportunity to play the Destiny beta test and check out some of the content that will be available in the game. Story missions, a Strike mission, and competitive multiplayer were all playable. But what we didn’t get a glimpse of is what the game has in store for high-level players after they complete the story. What will developer Bungie do to keep these players coming back to its game?

Bungie has big plans for its endgame, and these include raids. Similar to MMO raids, these events in Destiny will be challenging and demand you to strategize and cooperate to complete them. They are for high-level players, and there will be very large rewards if you manage to complete them.

They are so difficult and complex, in fact, that Bungie isn’t building matchmaking into raids. Talking to IGN, Bungie’s Luke Smith explained that the developer wants players to form teams that have a desire to work together. It’s hoping to accomplish this by taking the dangerous step of forcing players to team up with their friends, without matchmaking. “It’s a bit of a risk,” Smith said, “because the activity requires you to have a group of five other friends to play with. [But] if the worst thing that happens is you get your group together and you all have a great time? Wow, that’s going to be awesome. I bet you’ll want to come back. Hopefully the gear makes you want to come back.”

“We don’t adhere to any of the standard rules for the rest of the game.”

But what exactly are these raids? Bungie’s keeping the exact details a mystery, but the developer promises that they’ll be unique. “We don’t adhere to any of the standard rules for the rest of the game,” Smith described. “Like, raids don’t have waypoints, they don’t tell you where to go, they don’t tell you what to do.”

The enemies will be different from other games, as well. He explains, “They’re still big monsters, much like what you’re going to see, they’re still scary, but they have a bunch of abilities that are unlike anything you’ve really experienced in a shooter before.”

Recently, Bungie revealed that 4.6 million people had played the Destiny beta, making it the biggest beta for a new IP on consoles in history. Destiny launches on September 9 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3.

What do you think about Destiny’s raids? Let us know in the comments.

Alex Newhouse is an editorial intern at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @alexbnewhouse
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Former Silicon Knights Dev Sentenced in Child Porn Case

Kenneth McCulloch

The former Silicon Knights director and founder of Precursor Games, arrested in June 2013 on child pornography charges, has been sentenced. According to a report from Welland Tribune (via Polygon), Kenneth McCulloch, 43, appeared in Ontario court Tuesday and pleaded guilty to making child pornorgaphy available. He was sentenced to time served–12 months. He had been in jail for the entire year since his arrest.

But that’s not all. According to the report, Niagara Regional Police also charged McCulloch with sexual assault, forcible confinement, and sexual interference. As a result, he remains in custody and is scheduled to return to court on August 26 to face those charges.

Upon his arrest, Niagara Regional Police found “videos and images of young prepubescent boys engaged in sexual activity with adult women,” attorney Richard Monette said at the hearing. A judge ordered McCulloch to stay clear from anyone under the age of 16 and to not come near any schools, parks, recreation centers, or public schools for a period of ten years. McCulloch’s name will also be featured on the local sex offender registry for the next two decades.

During McCulloch’s sentencing, judge Joseph Nadel told him, “You have a penchant or an attraction to looking at young persons and children in perverted circumstances. You are potentially a danger to young persons and children.”

Immediately following McCulloch’s arrest in June 2013, his then-employer–Precursor Games–was quick to distance itself from him. “Having just learned of these disturbing charges today and based on the serious nature of them, Ken McCulloch is no longer affiliated in any way with Precursor Games,” CEO Paul Caporicci said at the time.

McCulloch was a founding member of Precursor Games and, prior to his arrest, was listed on the company’s website as “Lore-keeper. World-Builder. Dream-merchant.”

A crowdfunding campaign for Shadow of the Eternals, a spiritual successor to GameCube game Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, ended unsuccessfully last year. The game has since been put on hold, but Precursor Games says it has not given up on the project.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
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