Report: PS4 can’t make toast.


Or, how consoles grew up and got day jobs.

Since the 1994 debut of the Playstation, Sony releases a new version of their flagship gaming platform roughly once every 6 years. The Playstation 2 was released in 2000, and the blu-ray powered PS3 was released in 2006. The recently unveiled PS4 is due holiday season 2013, about 7 years after the still-relevant PS3. Unlike their cartridge-powered competitors like Nintendo, The Sony Playstation and other disc-delivered home gaming consoles have always done a little bit more than just play games.

Although the original Sony Playstation had horrid in-game load times absent in the cartridge gaming world, it could do something the others could not: play music CDs. For a gaming console this was hardly worth the trade, but this is when gaming consoles first started to develop noteworthy differences in total home entertainment utility. Of course, in 1994 you probably knew more folks with musical doorbells than musical phones, and gaming consoles were still primarily just that: for games.

Leap forward a generation of consoles, and the Sony could also play DVD movies. Marginally useful when a lot of home videos were still VHS, it still showed a growing divide between their console and the competition, a division that was also increasingly evident in the types of game developers attracted to a specific gaming console, and the age of each console’s target audience. Sony commanded a larger portion of the mature gaming audience. Nintendo, for a long time the face of family-safe games and games designed for younger children, steered clear of games with mature content until an awkward, ineffective about-face in 2001 featuring an adult-rated game about a heavy drinking squirrel with strong suggestive content. Eyebrow-raising failures aside, Nintendo survives to maintain its core brand and lead its ahead-of-its-time gameboy innovation to command a lion’s share of the handheld gaming market today.

Around the same time, Microsoft decides to get a piece of the pie with the XBOX gaming console, going from zero to awesome in an instant with genre-defining titles like Halo. By 2006, Sony and Microsoft pull ahead of Nintendo with local hard drives and native High-Definition Video support, each betting on opposing players in the blu-ray vs HD DVD war. Both the XBox 360 and PS3 supported additional features like “why do I need a camera SD slot in a gaming console” or “who would use a game console to surf the internet”, but the features remained and grew to include social media integration, youtube, streaming home video on demand (RIP, Blockbuster) and most importantly, the ability to play with friends over the internet. Yet, these were still just gaming consoles, right?

Nintendo bets against it. Boldly racing away from anything that resembles high-definition video, it debuts the Wii, with balance-board and gyroscope outfitted controllers that turned gaming into personal home fitness, dance-along gaming, and a whole new generation of immersive entertainment. It may have missed the giant demographic bullseye that had become FPS-obsessed, but it succeeded in other ways. In addition to its celebrated, kid-friendly core titles like Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Donkey Kong, the Wii today is also used to help the elderly maintain coordination and as treatment for degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Sony and Microsoft each follow in suit with motion tracking add-on devices for similar gaming experiences, like the Microsoft Kinect, which requires no handheld device at all to play.

Despite growing to be educational and physical therapy tools and home entertainment powerhouses, a recent CNN article suggests “console gaming is dying“, citing a four year decline in the market, emergent mobile gaming, and other economic factors. If true, lead game pioneers aren’t letting us see them sweat. Activision-Blizzard is wagering the opposite, launching their historically PC/Mac-only Diablo series on the PlayStation 3 and 4 later this year. The PS4 supports the new 4K HD video output most homes don’t event have yet, and next-gen blu-ray native support. No word yet on the competing offering from Microsoft, tentatively called the Xbox 720, but both are likely to feature highly social online gaming experiences along with the next generation of on-demand, streaming “cloud” gaming.

In the last year, we have seen Microsoft’s Windows 8 desktop and tablet OS evolve to look more like gesture-friendly home gaming consoles – almost exactly like the Xbox 360 – instead of the other way around. We’ve also seen tighter integration between our smartphones and tablets with the home gaming consoles. For systems like the Xbox 360 that are already more powerful than most cable “tivo” boxes for movies and tv, I’d say the PS4 and Xbox 720 are poised to take more (not less) of the non-gaming streaming content, potentially biting into the immovable broadcast giants themselves. Oh wait, I’ve watched all of my pay-per-view cable events on Xbox Live… not to mention the Mars Rover landing. If my internet provider were on the list, I could get ESPN Sports on it too. Microsoft points out that 40% or more of Xbox Live traffic is non-gaming today.

They may not brew coffee, do dishes, fetch beer or make very good toast (I strongly recommend against it, no matter how hot your unit gets), but they certainly do way more than just games and have risen to be the hardest working component of our home TV, movie and entertainment setups.

I believe the reports of console gaming’s death are greatly exaggerated.

Below are some clips from the PS4 announcement trailer showing off the next gen graphics.

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Dead Space 3 – Suit Up!

image credit

Lights out, surround sound on. I am Isaac Clarke. Visceral Games spares no detail in its latest masterpiece of immersion, wonder and horror. Enter the dark future of Dead Space 3, a science fiction dream come to life that is easily one of the most visually stunning in the genre, surpassed only by how awesome it sounds. With every step, whether it’s peeking around an unlit corner, scrambling for cover, rocketing through space or stumbling blind through a storm, we are listening with dread. By weaving deliciously eerie environments with a symphony of ambient sounds and audible clues, Visceral Games delivers highly engaging gameplay that stands apart from other popular space shooter titles.

Just as Dead Space 2 was a brave leap forward from the first title, which is widely held to be more or less flawless in terms of gameplay and presentation, Dead Space 3 is a giant step for the series – a move that has garnered a lot of criticism. From the moment we are reunited with our troubled hero it is clear that Dead Space 3 is anything but more of the same dark corridors, a risky move for the franchise. Gone is the centerpiece of the focal experience – Isaac, hallucinating, alone in the dark, going mad from horror all whilst fending off hordes of undead necromorphs in vast, gloomy, derelict spacecraft. Dead Space 3 pushes the envelope further with new co-operative gameplay, featuring a second main character, Carver. Players discover his background during multiplayer-only challenges throughout the story. Isaac, still flawed and unredeemed, is no longer alone in the dark. With this the presentation evolves, leaving the corridors of the USG Ishimura behind.

The risk pays off. Multiplayer mode is genius. During the heat of the battle players can help one another using voice commands to trade ammo or health without clicking a button. Many challenges are a race to coordinate both technical puzzles, swarms of enemies and the ability to react to the unexpected. Some challenges cannot be attempted in single player mode at all. Also new is weapon crafting, universal ammunition, and resource gathering. Craft your own gun, make a blue print for it and trade it to your partner. Players manage supplies and medic kits with the help of scavenger bots that can be outfitted with optional AI routines for personality and style.

Of the complaints I have read, the most common is that Dead Space 3 isn’t scary. It’s not horror. True, some scenes weren’t, but I thought the same of Dead Space 2 compared to the original. Actually, except for two very specific, terrifying encounters in Dead Space 2, I though it was only moderately creepy compared to part one. Dead Space 3 in turn finds new ways to get your blood pumping, relying less on monster pops in the dark to create fright and suspense. From a race against freezing temperatures in a blinding snow storm, or rappelling in oh-so hazardous conditions, to navigating space wreckage while counting the seconds till your air runs out, heart pounding thrills abound. And yes, some scenes are downright scary.

Bottom line, Dead Space 3 is a huge success. With a solid story, fantastic multiplayer, numerous achievements, easter eggs, unlockable game modes and more downloadable content in the pipes, there is a whole lot to like. So nevermind the critics – suit up and get stomping!

Auvio – best portable speaker under 20 clams

Judge me by my size, do you?

I was in the market for relatively inexpensive external speakers for my laptop when I happened across this hot, ultra portable speaker from Auvio. Coming home for under 20$, it’s too good not to share.