Next Generation News: Microsoft
Earlier this year Lusipurr.com reported on a rumour which suggested that the APU powering Microsoft’s Xbone console had both yield and overheating problems. Rhetorically speaking, one certainly hopes that these rumours were false, as this week Microsoft have announced that the Xbone CPU has been overclocked by 150MHZ, a boost of 9.375 percent – this comes on top of their August announcement that the system’s GPU will also be overclocked by 53MHZ. If the system were already struggling with overheating issues, then this could easily see a return to the hardware mortality rate which has plagued the Xbox 360’s time at retail. This need not necessarily be the case however, owing to the Xbone featuring a fan that is abnormally large by console standards. The oversized fan was originally chosen for the fact that it was able to run much slower than the PS4’s fan, achieving whisper quiet operation. It is wholly possible that in recent weeks the Xbox division has simply said ‘fuck the noise’ and have ratcheted up fan-speed in order to facilitate performance gains in the hope of narrowing the performance gap between the Xbone and the PS4. It is anyone’s guess whether this CPU performance gain will prove to be more potent than the PS4’s GPGPU features that were facilitated by its support of hUMA technology, but this may be the Xbone’s first narrow technical victory over the PS4.
Should consumers happen to suffer from a burned-out Xbone at launch however, then they appear to be in luck according to Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, as there will allegedly be more than enough Xbone units available at launch for them to simply walk into a store and buy another one. Apparently good guy Microsoft is deliberately holding back preorders so that uninformed and unprepared consumers will be able to walk into their local retailer on day bone and find one sitting on a shelf:
“You want people to be able to walk in the store and buy one on day one, so you’re trying to manage the inventory that isn’t pre-sold. It’s not a yield problem, it’s us trying to manage the hardware side. I want parents who don’t think about pre-ordering electronics to be able to walk in and have a chance to find a box. There might be a line, but I don’t want it to be that if you didn’t pre-order in September, you can’t get one. That doesn’t feel like a great consumer experience.”
Of course what this really means is that the PS4 is currently outselling the Xbone by an estimated factor of between 3:1 and 4:1 throughout North America, so there is bound to be plenty of unclaimed Xbones on day one.
This week also saw the announcement of the Xbone’s launch date – the 22nd of November – releasing precisely one week after the PS4’s American release on the 15th, and precisely one week before the PS4’s European release on the 29th. In celebration of this happy Xbone news, Microsoft have released their first legitimate Xbone advert , and it will surprise precisely nobody to find that it did not feature anything even tangentially related to the pursuit of gaming – just a bunch of American football being consumed by an assortment of goblins hailing from every shade of the focus-tested PC rainbow. After the Xbone’s initial calamitous unveiling it pleased Microsoft to pretend [through a succession of flip-flops] that their high-handed dismissal of gamers was an aberration, and they were very nearly convincing, yet at their first major test of loyalty they have opted to return to form, and in so doing have made it clear that the Xbone is only intended for people who treat gaming as an afterthought.
Next Generation News: Sony
This week Raptr CEO, Dennis Fong, has come out and slammed Sony for being “closed, almost to the point of ignorance“, while praising Microsoft for being “progressive and open” with regard to the policies of their next generation consoles:
“It seems like it would be a no-brainer, but you just never know with big companies, especially big companies that are going through massive upheaval, which I think both PlayStation and Xbox to some extent are going through that right now.
I think overall Xbox has been way more progressive and open, just in general.
PlayStation on the other hand, has been very, very closed, almost to the point of ignorance, in terms of trying to control every little thing that goes through PlayStation and what their users see, so getting them to release any kind of data, user profile data and such, has been a lot like pulling teeth.”
These cutting words might have been quite damning for Sony were they uttered by a party whose services were not entirely noxious. Raptr is a service which aggregates user data across XBL, PSN, and Steam – allowing users to pollute social media like Twitter and Facebook with their ‘achievement’ spam, along with creating gamer-score cards that they are able to embed in forum posts. If Sony sees fit to spare the internet from even a small portion of unnecessary and obnoxious epeen masturbation, then one is entirely amenable to their position.
In other news, Sony has this week announced two headline-grabbing ‘me too’ features set to make their way to the PS4. The first feature is the ability for the PS4 camera to process voice commands, essentially pilfering the Xbone Kinect gimmick that very few gamers seem to actually want. The second feature is Sony’s plans for the PS4 to support VR headsets. As of now Sony has their own functioning headset prototypes which they plan to produce for retail. It is currently unknown whether the console will also support Oculus Rift, and it is anyone’s guess as to whether Sony will be able to manufacture the headsets at a price deemed affordable by the mass consumer market. In order to come out ahead of the curve companies have to necessarily put their eggs in many baskets, yet one fully expects PS4 voice commands to be worse than useless, and for VR to catch on in the same way as 3D did for Nintendo [read: not at all].
Schafer Doubles Down on Poor Management
When Tim Schafer announced back in July that his Kickstarted adventure game Broken Age had run out of funds long ago, and that to remedy this misfortune Broken Age was set to become Broken Game by being snapped in half and sold piecemeal on Steam Early Access, one thought at the time that there was no further incompetence that Tim Schafer could visit upon the world of gaming that had the capacity to offer any further shock or surprise – how truly naive. This week Schafer has revealed that the reason that Double Fine blew through the 3.3 million dollars so quickly was because they hired Hollywood star, Jack Black, and Jennifer ‘FemShep’ Hale to provide the game with character voiceovers!
Let that sink in. This is the same jackass who had the gall to publicly shame a backer on Twitter for wanting to be reimbursed on the grounds of mismanagement of funds. To an insufferable Schafer such a move amounted to trolling, as the game was certainly entitled to Hollywood acting talent, and it was not his fault if the money ran out [backers should have been more generous]. To the real world however, such a move speaks to gross incompetence. Once again Double Fine blunders highlight the folly of launching a Kickstarter before even drafting the most rudimentary of design documents. If a budget had been prepared for Broken Game, then perhaps Schafer may have realised that 3.3 million dollars was not enough money for him to hire multimillion dollar Hollywood voice talent!