No I’m not mad, though I do have to admit that it’s almost impossible to be as stupid as Sega were when they released the Saturn (even if they made up for it with their Dreamcast).
Anyway, there seems to be more than a passing resemblance between the situation with the PS4 and Xbox One, and with the Playstation 1 (PSX) and the Saturn.
Here’s my list:
1. E3 1995. Sega announced that they would release a new console on September 2nd 1995 though to the annoyance of both retailers and consumers, secretly shipped the console the night before. In what has become known as one of the greatest stand ups, Sega famously touted the Saturn and its apparent affordability of $399. When Sony took the stage all that was said was something along the lines of “Sony Playstation. $299” to rapturous applause.
Similarities with the PS4 and Xbox One?
PS4 – $399
Xbox One $499
2. The Sega Saturn was notoriously difficult to develop for because late in the development stage having heard about the PSX’s capabilities, they decided to throw in another CPU to try and double its performance output. It turned out that only around 1 in 100 coders had the ability to fully utilise the dual CPU set up, meaning that it was too much bother to develop any games for. Sony’s Playstation on the other hand only had one single chip that was a lot easier to work with.
Similarities with the PS4 and Xbox One?
PS4 – Like the Xbox One, it will feature an x86 84 architecture instruction set, but Sony have learned from their lessons with the PS3 being quite difficult to develop for but giving the PS4 8GB GDDR5 unified memory taking this a step further.
3. Sega began to lose the plot as early as the Mega Drive/Genesis (what with their numerous add-ons).
Similarities with the PS4 and Xbox One?
PS4 concentrates on games, while the Xbox One seems to have a fascination with entertainment and the integration with its Kinect controller. Who cares about entertainment when the main reason we buy these things is to play games? If I wanted anything to do with any other form of entertainment I’d go online, use the smartphone or use my TV and Blu ray player. It’s safe to say Microsoft have lost the plot here. In this sense it actually has more in common with Philips CDi –
multimedia entertainment platform indeed!
4. As previously mentioned, Sega began strapping on as much as they could afford onto the Saturn to match the purported abilities of the PSX.
Similarities with the PS4 and Xbox One?
Microsoft basically cocked up big time when it first announced the Xbox One, leaving many gamers asking questions about the direction Microsoft was taking the Xbox brand. However after this they refused to reveal any more details about the machine until June 2013 (obviously having waited for what Sony would announce at E3 that same year). Following this obvious lack of preparation and thought on Microsoft’s part, they then discreetly started copying Sony’s PS4 overall model, first by denouncing their earlier intention to run hourly checks in order to play any games and the used game fiasco, but then by deciding to make the Xbox One region free. What’s also interesting is that the basic set up is fairly similar (on paper) to the PS4 including the RAM, but it’s pretty obvious Microsoft hadn’t given it as much thought as Sony had.
I wrote an article recently about regional lockouts and how in this internet age (where we can order goods from 1000 miles away) we should be allowed to purchase games from other territories. Well good news. It seems for the first time ever, console manufacturers have decided to allow their consoles to do just that for their major consoles – allow you to play games from other regions. It’s been nearly 30 years coming but they finally got there.
Now I do tell a small lie when I say it’s the first time one of the major consoles has been region free, because the original Xbox did allow gamers to play games from other regions, however it depended on whether the publisher allowed it. In most cases the publisher didn’t though there were a few exceptions like The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind for example.
It’s been a while but I was thinking about something recently.
I recently got hold of a PS One console again and the PS One LCD Screen. Now I still have my original PSX console and used to have the PS One when it first came out, but I cannot remember what happened to it (I was still a kid back then so I probably traded it in).
Anyway the PS One LCD screens are not exactly cheap to buy any more as they came with a limited run, but of course the console by itself is useless without the games right? Luckily I still had lots of PSX games lying about the house, but something else came into my mind – the ability to play games from foreign regions that I hadn’t been able to get before.
Now most of you will know that generally speaking, console manufacturers like Nintendo, Sony, Sega and Microsoft, have traditionally included a regional lock on their machines (either within the circuitry or a physical lock) in the hope of being able to better manage the sales of each particular region (North America, Europe and Japan being the main ones). The difficulty of having a realistic indication as to the sale of particular games within these regions would more or less be exacerbated were gamers from Europe (for example) able to buy games from any of the NTSC regions and vice versa.
I said ‘generally speaking’ because handheld consoles have never really been afflicted by this issue, as someone buying an official UK version of the GameBoy Advance was (and still is) able to buy a Japanese or American game to play on their machine.
It dawned on me however that the PS One – a redesigned PSX that came in a much more compact form) was only released a few months before the release of the PS2, but that its manufacturing run ended 4 years later (December 31st 2004 to be exact). That means that Sony were still manufacturing the original Playstation under its new guise 4 years into the Playstation 2’s run.
I do remember that Sony still managed to shift a hell of a lot of PS Ones as the general public began to warm to its successor, but I now feel that with the PS One they could have gone a little further by disabling the regional lockout.
There are a number of reasons for this:
1 – The Playstation One was inevitably entering into its final death throes, and thus Sony would have had nothing to lose by expanding its library of games to its fullest extent.
2 – It would have encouraged more gamers to try and get hold of the games they never managed to play due to (in a lot of cases) a particular game never having been released in that region. For instance Parasite Eve 1 was never officially released in Europe (though Parasite Eve 2 was), and so therefore many gamers may have wanted to experience the original before the next generation of games hit the market.
3 – It would encourage sales and renew interest when the market would otherwise have been stagnant and dying thanks to subsequent machines.
There are other reasons, but I think you get the message here. You could turn around and say that this idea is kind of a waste of time when we have virtual machines, emulators, backwards compatibility and things like Playstation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace, but how many of their old games have actually been released? Taking a quick look over at the Playstation Store, I could only see a tiny fraction of the number of games that were released on the PS One (and when it comes to PS2 games don’t even bother going there).
Backwards compatibility has proven to not be in the interests of the console manufacturers for whatever reason as demonstrated for instance when Sony dropped it in the later versions of their PS3 console, but I think there is still a market to be had by selling the games on their intended machines at the end of its life – see Richard Leadbetter’s brief look Silent Hill HD for instance.
It should also be taken into consideration seeing as the new redesigned consoles provide a good opportunity to launch such an incentive, as it saves them having to redesign the original from scratch or asking that those with older models convert them. It encourages them to purchase the new variation because of the prospect of playing the games they always wanted to. What have Sony, Microsoft or even Nintendo got to lose by doing that?
This is from the Official UK Playstation Magazine (PSM) issue 18. It may take a while to load but I will provide a better quality version soon I hope.
Well I wasn’t going to but here it is – the history of Lobotomy Software.
Jason Venter, a self-professed “Nintendo fan” was given the chance to review a Sega game a few days ago. Now you may be thinking that what I am about to say relates to the bickering that took place between Nintendo and Sega all those years ago but you’d be wrong, because a Nintendo fan should know a classic for when they see one. In this case it’s obvious that he’d never touched the game before in his life.
Anyway I draw your attention to the abysmal review of Jet Set Radio on Xbox Live, PSN and PC Digital, in which he awarded the game 4.5 out of 10 simply because it didn’t live up to his modern standards (and while he didn’t say this in so many words you’d have to be blind to miss it).
Jet Set Radio was a revolutionary game first released on the Dreamcast in 2000 because it was the pioneer of cel-shaded computer graphics, which in turn created a massive spurt in the number of games that similarly exhibited it: XIII, Zelda: Wind Waker, Prince of Persia (2008). The list goes on.
In Venter’s review while it is true that JSR found prominence primarily because of its aesthetic design, to believe it won over its many fans on this point alone is foolish to say the very least. I’d go so far as to say it shows a great deal of ignorance on Venter’s part.
I say this because in retrospect it would be like giving Pac-man 4.5 for its “barren” landscapes (never mind that this was due to technical limitations at the time), Defender and Super Metroid (for it’s backtracking) should get 4.5 because “You may overshoot your intended destination, and that often means you must backtrack through hazardous territory so that you can make another attempt.”
Under Venter’s rationale Ikaruga, Darius and every other scrolling shooter for that matter, would similarly deserve 4.5 because “Until you memorize the stage layout in its entirety (along with the route your rivals follow), you don’t stand a chance.” Please note that those in quotation marks have been lifted directly from Venter’s actual review – I kid you not.
So we must ask ourselves: how can we honestly take guys like Jason Venter and the media outlets like GameSpot that they represent seriously? The simple answer is that you can’t, but what you can do instead is to head over to other websites like Eurogamer or perhaps IGN where their reviews aren’t quite so ridiculous as to lose all credibility.
We all like to read about an end of an era (though this largely depends on which side you’re from).
I’m actually talking about the end of the high street videogaming vendor. I don’t know if many of you remember the old days of Electronics Boutique but with recent news that Game is about to go into administration and Electronic Arts’ worrying statement about their views on how Game should proceed, it does appear that videogame vendors will become a thing of the past.
To further compound the situation, Microsoft have recently implied that the next generation of Xbox console will no longer feature an optical disc drive; instead having games downloaded onto some form of portable card.
I have to admit that I have always wondered why the games industry continued to use discs as a format, because they are so easy to break and even easier to scratch. From the Philips CD-i and Sega’s Mega-CD through to the Playstation and so forth, the industry has continued to embrace the format set about by the ‘Compact Disc’. Even Sega’s Dreamcast (which used a proprietary GD-ROM disc format) attempted to create something different, but still nevertheless retained the ‘disc’ as its main format of choice.
The reason why I say this is because I was (and still am) a massive fan of cartridges due mainly to the fact that they had no mechanical nor moving parts, and were merely an extension of the console’s built-in architecture once you slotted them home. Discs were only adopted because they had far greater storage capacity which meant that companies like Squaresoft could populate their worlds with FMV sequences and other lazy drivel. They were also preferred because they were cheaper to produce then cartridges.
However we now seem to have come back full circle for as cheap and as affordable as discs now are to produce, not only do they not have the storage capacity for future generations of game console (Xbox 720 or PS4), but are just too unwieldy and cumbersome for today’s gamers. Strange thing here is that the cards that the next Xbox console will purportedly use will have more than a passing resemblance to the cartridges of old (I’ll let you think about what I mean by that).
Anyway back to the subject. Game vendors. I remember the old days of going to Electronics Boutique and the day they eventually bought and took over Game – one of their main rivals. Some time later, the owners decided to do away with the EB corporate branding and instead adopted Game as their brand identity. To my knowledge it had something to do with licensing the name of EB (which was a separate U.S company) over here in the UK which had eventually run its course (though correct me if I’m wrong here but I can’t be arsed to search on Wikipedia for the details).
When the original Xbox was released, Microsoft once made a claim that all games would be downloaded thereby making the purchase of discs from high street vendors obsolete. I remember hearing Nintendo’s reaction to this as being one of absurdity, however it seems now like the cogs have already been set in motion. Nintendo already came around to the idea of downloadable content with the Wii, though you’d never hear them admit that Microsoft was correct in its prediction. You have to remember that it was Sega’s Dreamcast that got Microsoft thinking in this way, for the DC was the first mainstream console to have internet connectivity from the word ‘Go’.
Anyway I have to admit that I will not be sad when Game finally gives up the ghost, for they have been a thorn in the side of many developers and publishers over the years. I talk mainly about the fact that vendors like Game would often buy back games from their customers at a fraction of the price, but would sell them on second-hand for much higher. The issue here of course was that none of the money they obtained from the sale of second-hand goods would ever go back to the guys and girls who developed the game, instead going into Game’s coffers. Well that’s Karma for you I guess.
Game in dire straights: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-03-09-game-has-two-weeks-to-turn-its-fortunes-around
Next Xbox will not have a disc drive: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-03-09-next-xbox-wont-have-a-disc-drive-report
EA’s statement on Game on Feb 2nd 2012: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/gaming/news/a363470/ea-concerned-about-financial-state-of-game.html
My first Bethesda Softworks game was The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind which remains one of my favourite games of all time. However having said that, it was filled with bugs. In fact here’s my youtube retrospective on it:
One infuriating bug was when the game would suddenly have a message appear that seemed to lay blame on the player having a dirty disc. Well sorry Bethesda, but I always keep my discs in immaculate condition so it’s not the disc nor the machine at fault (as all my other games ran perfectly fine).
There was another bug within the game whereby you could create spells that would increase your stats – permanently, as well as creating items that were god-like in status thanks to a bug relating to the use of soul gems (in which you could capture the souls of creatures within a gem to enchant an item). Plus the game would often freeze for no reason whatsoever.
There are many more to add to this but I think you get the point.
Because I hadn’t played any of the others within the series, I asked a friend of mine about his experience with Bethesda’s games and the first thing that came from his mouth was “terribly buggy”. He went on to describe how his experience with the series will always be remembered because of the buggy code and the fact that “they were ambitious in their ideas but their coding was truly awful”.
It seems that my friend is not the only one who thinks of the word ‘bugs’ when talking about Bethesda because on USEP one person implies that their games are ‘accompanied’ by them: “Unfortunately, since the release of Daggerfall there have been a plethora of bugs that accompany it.” (Source).
Well fast forward to 2011 and we find that nothing much has changed. Skyrim for the PS3 has massive frame rate issues which deem the game unplayable (as demonstrated by examples on youtube):
Even after a recent patch it seems that there are still many players who experience the problem:
What’s even more worrying is the notion that this won’t be an issue that’s easy to fix, as it could be something relating to the ‘divided memory pool’ of the PS3 which doesn’t affect the Xbox360 and PC versions – which by the way have no issues.
Strange thing is that Bethesda have again laid blame on something else other than their ability to code games properly. In a recent statement Bethesda seemed to lay blame on the PS3 architecture, though we need to remember that the PS3 is a ‘fixed’ format; users do not have to forego spending extras on upgrading the hardware like PC users do. How then can they do this when it’s easier to create a game for a fixed format than it is for a format that has hundreds of different setups? It doesn’t make sense. Well, it does make sense and I’m back down to earth now – Bethesda’s coding is what makes sense here for it’s crap. Pure and simple.
Before Skyrim was released I asked that same friend whether he would be purchasing the game upon release and at first he again told me that he expected the game to be buggy. However I championed the cause and believed that Bethesda had truly left behind those days where their games were released with bugs and all. Plus you have to remember that for all of Morrowind’s misgivings, it was still one of my favourite games of all time.
I asked him again just before launch if he would buy it and surprisingly, he had had a change of heart and said he was going to buy the game. I’m just glad he purchased it on the 360 for if he’d bought the PS3 version he would probably never talk to me again!
This will probably be the last Elder Scrolls game that I ever buy, but I’m left with the lingering question: Bethesda, when will you learn??