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?
DTZ on the Saturn overview. Happy New Year’s!
Part 3 coming soon…
Also have a very happy festive season!!
Yep it’s that time of year again (that means bundle time) whoo!
I’ve decided to give this particular bundle greater attention because of one of the games it contains. That game is Puzzle Bots.
Now I was once in contact with Erin ‘The Ivy’ Robinson and apart from the fact she’s stunningly beautiful, she creates awesome games. I would seriously urge anyone to give it a shot because it’s a win-win situation – you pay peanuts for awesome games and other bonuses like OSTs, and you get to help some indie developer along the way. In fact you get to help numerous indie developers because each offering is unique.
Puzzle Bots comes from Wadjet Eye Games which is headed by Dave Gilbert, and here’s my review and some information Erin emailed me some time back:
Wadjet Eye have recently injected a cool new element to their growing library of point and click games: Robots!
In case you didn’t know Puzzle Bots is the spiritual successor to Erin ‘The Ivy’ Robinson’s Nanobots; a game she had together with just two others, created as an amateur project.
In fact because of her previous three games – Little Girl in Underland, Spooks and Nanobots (which are free to play), she was finally picked up by Wadjet Eye to work on their brilliant Blackwell ghost series.
In Nanobots players had control of a number of robots – each with their own special ability, whereby players had to solve a series of puzzles in order to stop them being crushed by an evil professor. Sweet.
This newest release follows the same formula but with the added bonus of voice-overs and a larger budget, which is an obvious step-up from its predecessor as you’ll no doubt find out.
While the graphics are fairly basic by today’s standards, you’ll quickly find that it fits nicely with the the overall humor and joyous appeal throughout the game. Who said robots only had to be geeky (no pun intended)?
Starting off with ‘Hero’ (the brains and pickup bot) and Ultrabot (the strongest bot) you have to solve certain problems that the story’s Romeo throws at you, all the while adding more bots to your growing arsenal as you go along.
Romeo by the way is played by an inventor/engineer named Zander who has recently started working for Dr Hugo’s Robot Factory, though unbeknownst to the employees Dr Hugo is busy machinating some nefarious plan!
Don’t fret however as the game makes a point early on that you cannot die, and there are no difficult ‘bosses’ to fight – well, maybe there are but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.
Puzzle Bots also features bonuses in the form of various bits of furnishings that can be used to decorate the robot hideout – which constitutes a small glass dome atop a tower overlooking the forest below (something you get to visit in due time). These bonuses also come in the form of posters and artwork bloopers.
Which brings me onto the game’s art direction which is frankly brilliant. Every so often you come across some artwork that relate to a different source of inspiration, whether that be from Western comics to Japanese manga posters. In actual fact each robot was designed by a different illustrator from Harvey James (Kotaku fame), to Heriberto Martinez (of Shades of Violet). They all fit together so well within the game that you would never think they were culturally or inspirationally a mile apart.
Some of the puzzles are fiendishly designed, though to help the adventurer along the way there’s a ‘Hint’ button on the bottom left corner of the screen – a feature in many Wadjet games but which you”ll probably only use once or twice throughout.
The music too is fitting for the type of game it is, with some happy go-lucky tunes along the way.
If there is but one fault to the game it’s in the fact that you may easily press on the wrong bot if one of them is in front of the other, though this is only a minor gripe as you may instead swap between bots using their icons at the bottom of the screen.
All-in-all Puzzle Bots is a game that has been lovingly put together, something you’ll notice straight away. It’s one of those games that endears you to its characters and designs; something it continues to do to the very end. It’s a game very much about loving co-operation, and is without a doubt another gem in Wadjet Eye’s growing list of must-have IPs.
Though coming soon after the release of the highly acclaimed Machinarium (which I might add is also about robots), Puzzle Bots proves the genre is anything but dead – so long as you have some spare batteries in your rucksack. Botspeed to you my son!
Toops (Erin kindly sent me a copy of the game as well as some screenshots and info):
Email Erin sent with details you may find interesting:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Erin Robinson
Date: Sat, May 1, 2010 at 9:34 PM
Subject: Puzzle Bots for you!
I’m forwarding you our media email. I really hope you enjoy the game!~Erin
I’m Erin Robinson, and I made a retro-style adventure game called Puzzle Bots. You can download it right here (username:
+++ NO CARRIER +++, password: +++ NO CARRIER +++). This is the super-secret advance media copy of the game, which is being released to the masses on May 7. I really hope you enjoy it!
A little history of the project:
I started doing design work for Puzzle Bots when I still had a day job as a lab tech. I spent all my break time drawing pictures of robots on whatever paper I could find, and all my evenings doing concept art for the game. After about four months, the lab supervisor called me into his office and (rather wisely) pointed out that it looked like there was something I’d rather be doing. My eyes went as big as saucers, and I realized he was right. I quit my job right then. It was the best birthday ever.
Wadjet Eye Games, which funded the game, is based in NYC. It’s run by Dave Gilbert, who does most of his work from coffee shops with free wifi. We’ve been collaborating on projects for years, and we’ve met maybe 4 times in real life. And because of the magic of the internet, most of the people who worked on the game we haven’t met at all. It’s a pretty “indie” setup, long before we started using the word. We don’t know how it works, but we make it work. And now, here is the result. 🙂
If you’d like to know anything else about the game, just send me an email. I’m happy to answer questions (or just ramble about game design).
P.S. That download link expires May 14, so ping me if you need one at a later date.
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.
It’s happened guys. Have Sega finally admitted that they were wrong?
Everything has been dropped and my channel is back to what it should have been. I just hope other channels are similarly given the same treatment, and those channels which have been closed because of this similarly reinstated and finally vindicated.