PlayStation

Destiny Update 2.2.0.2 Releases on May 3rd, Will Usher in Melee Changes

Come May 3rd, Bungie will be releasing Destiny update 2.2.0.2 which will eventually change how the melee system works. While the update will go live tomorrow, the actual changes won’t go into effect until May 10th. Bungie hopes that in the week that the code is introduced, they can monitor how it affects things before fully implementing changes to the melee system. According to the team at Bungie:

 Changing the Sandbox always runs the risk of wreaking havoc on the fabric of virtual reality. We’re going to roll this out nice and slow. 

The full timeline of the new update is as follows:

  • Update 2.2.0.2 deploys Tuesday, May 3rd starting at about 10AM Pacific
  • We’ll monitor the base update for stability over the weekend
  • New Melee code will be manually activated Tuesday, May 10th at 10AM Pacific
  • We’ll monitor performance and gather feedback on the Sandbox

I have to say, despite being ‘minor’ compared to DLC like The Taken King, the April update has done wonders to making Destiny even more fun to play. As a whole, the game feels much more balanced out with less of a grind. If you’ve put the game aside lately, right now is a pretty good time to jump back in. After the jump, Bungie Sandbox Engineer Jon Cable talks specifics about the new update.

Sony Q1 2016 Earnings – Gaming & Media Up, Electronics Flat, and Components Down

(As always, keep in mind that these charts are fairly wide and created in very high resolution so simply click on them to enlarge)

The more I look at Sony’s Q4 FY15 earnings report which comprises of how they did in Q1 2016, the more hopeful and cautious I am of the company. In short, I find the direction Kaz Hirai is pursuing to be the correct one for Sony at the time. The question which remains is if Sony can execute his vision at a quick enough pace and transition to the next phase which is being a more lean and robust company with hopefully better selling devices on the market. That is outside of PlayStation which continues to do gangbuster numbers. Otherwise for Sony, it’s a tale of lower sales but higher profits, thanks to their more premium lineup which offers better margins.

If you look at the above chart, you’ll notice that excluding entertainment endeavors which in my mind comprises of PlayStation, Sony Pictures, and Sony Music, most of Sony’s electronic businesses were down compared to a year ago’s quarter. I’ve already discussed in length what’s been happening at Sony Mobile which you can read about here. However as the chart below shows, despite a drop in sales, Sony’s prospects on each division is improving, including their troubled mobile division. In fact Sony has posted a 666.5% rise in pretax profit for its full fiscal year.

Across nearly all core electronics business, Sony has seen a rise in operating income, even if they’re still posting negative numbers. The reason Financial Services dipped is mostly due to stock market volatility which has been in full affect the entire year. As Sony put it:

 Increases in the amortization of deferred insurance acquisition costs and the provision of policy reserves, primarily driven by a significant decrease in interest rates and the deterioration in the stock market 

For comparison, Apple each quarter has ‘lost’ more money due to currency volatility than companies like Facebook actually make. Context is king, right? Otherwise, as I said earlier, it seems like most of Sony’s businesses are humming right along the path set out by Kaz. However, let’s not forget about the elephant in the room – that division right in the middle – Devices. As you can see, compared to a year ago’s quarter, Devices is down ¥75.3 billion. It’s as if that division fell off of a cliff. For those unaware, Devices comprises mostly of Sony’s semiconductor business which supplies companies like Apple and Samsung things like batteries and camera sensors. According to Sony, the large negative number is in part due to:

Deterioration in the operating results of the camera module business

Deterioration in the operating results of the battery business

Increases in depreciation and amortization expenses as well as in research and development expenses

I’ve heard from a little birdie that Sony may have lost a major customer which could lend credence to the dramatic drop. Otherwise it’s hard to equate their reasonings and that number but for now, all we have is Sony’s vague statement on the matter. For those wondering what percentage of the company each division of Sony comprises, wonder no more with the chart below.

Way more details on each division from the Sony Q1 2016 earnings report after the jump.

Poll: Are you going to see the Ratchet and Clank movie this weekend?

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It’s finally here! Ratchet and Clank is out in theaters today, and we’ve already got our tickets. Based on the wildly popular Insomniac Games franchise, this movie makes the Ratchet and Clank universe just a little bit bigger. So, will you be kicking some asteroid with two of our favorite galactic heroes? Let us know in our poll after the jump!

Sony Profits Up 666% While Revenue Slightly Dips by 1.2%

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It’s earnings time again and as a whole, things are going well for Sony as evident by the:

 666.5% rise in pretax profit for its full fiscal year 

This can be mainly attributed to the strong performance of PS4 and Sony’s ability to cut costs within its mobile division. All of this has led to:

 income before taxes for the year ending March 31 came in at 304.5 billion yen ($2.81 billion), a big rise from the 39.7 billion yen recorded during the same period last year. Operating profit rose 329.2% to 294.2 billion yen, its largest figure since fiscal 2007 

Looking at things more closely, mobile is still a business that’s struggling for Sony but losses did narrow to:

 61.4 billion yen from 217.6 billion in fiscal 2015 

Ultimately that operating loss of ¥61.4 billion ($544 million) was 57.4% bigger than the company predicted a year ago but that’s mainly due to Sony choosing profits over scale which has also led to a revenue dip of 20% compared to the year prior. Kazuo Hirai:

 If it means that we’re selling less number of phones going out the door. We’re fine with that so long as we have a profitable business, and we’re really on our way to being profitable in that regard 

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight is more optimistic about Sony Mobile’s future. While what he has to say isn’t wrong; it’s up to Sony to be able to capitalize on future opportunities, especially now that they’re more lean than years past and the division hasn’t shown the same foresight as PlayStation to garner the benefit of the doubt. Ben Wood:

 Sony Mobile has embarked on some aggressive cost reduction over the last 12 months. This has seen it exit markets such as China, India and the U.S. as well as reducing its headcount. Now the business unit has more stable financial position to build on as it looks to driving a return to growth 

It’s no secret that gaming continues to become a more critical division of Sony and PlayStation did little to disappoint. Operating income for the Games division rose 84.3% to to ¥88.7 billion ($785 million) and an 11.8% improvement in sales. Both software and hardware sales for PS4 were up year-over-year which is helping offset the predictable decline of PS3 sales. PlayStation VR will also go on sale later this year but I’m doubtful first year sales will have a large impact on the bottom line as larger consumer interest in VR has yet to be determined and it’s unclear how profitable each VR headset is for Sony. However, if VR does take off, Sony is well positioned.

More after the jump.

‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’ Could See a Delay

This generation has seen no shortage of delays and the PS4 exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn by Guerrilla Games could be joining that list. Guerrilla Games Co-Founder and former Production Director Arjan Brussee (who left the company in 2012) chiming in on initial reports about the game’s delay:

With E3 right around the bend, we likely won’t have to wait long to hear about the game’s fate. The game was originally set to appear some time in late 2016 but reports are now pegging an early 2017 release date. If true, I’d wager late February or early March. Again it’s worth pointing out that nothing is official at this point but, if true, I’m glad.

Sony has given Naughty Dog plenty of time to refine Uncharted 4 which has seen a few delays of its own and the final product, which is arriving in two weeks’ time, looks nothing short of spectacular. If developers need more time to iron out bugs and enhance the game, I’m all for it. Others have gone as far as to claim the game’s delay has something to do with the rumored PS4K but I don’t think that’s true.

Raychul’s Review of ‘Ratchet and Clank’ Makes Us Want to Save the Universe Again

Raychul_Ratchet_and_Clank_Review

In 2002, Insomniac Games released a little game for PlayStation 2 to great critical acclaim and raving reviews called Ratchet and Clank. Now, two console generations and several successful games later, the duo have made their PS4 debut in a remake that is sure to please fans of the original game. Just ask our good friend Raychul Moore:

 I think it’s one of the best re-releases of a classic game that I originally loved that I’ve ever played. 

According to Raychul, Ratchet and Clank does not fall victim to the curse many other remakes do – it actually has that “special something” that makes the game feel new and modern.

 Ratchet and Clank is one of the first games I would definitely say you can tell they rebuilt this game from the ground up. 

So, whether you’re new to the franchise or are excited to dive back in to the world with an out-of-this-world arsenal, get ready to play the game, based on the movie, based on the game (and go see the movie, out in theaters April 29th)! Ultimately, Raychul concludes with:

 One of the genres I miss the most in today’s gaming is a really well done fun platformer. I’m so glad that Insomniac brought back Ratchet and Clank … It fulfilled all of my needs and wants for a platformer and gave me big crazy fun guns to do it with. 

Check out her full video review of Ratchet and Clank after the jump!

Twitch Comes to PS3

Despite nearing its 10th anniversary, Sony is still bringing new functionality to PS3. Specifically, a Twitch app has just been launched on the console.

Twitch lets you instantly watch and follow broadcasts of any game you love. Features include:

+ Live and recorded video of top games, players & esports events
+ Ability to follow channels and games you want to keep tabs on
+ Special section to highlight PlayStation broadcasters

Unlike on PS4, the Twitch app on PS3 is only for viewing content and doesn’t allow you to live stream from the console. Still, for those who enjoy watching live streams, this is a great addition to PS3. After the jump, a few more pictures for you.

PlayStation Network (is Finally) Getting Two-Step Authentication

PSN_Logo_Flair

It’s been five years since a major hack took down PlayStation Network for over a month and two years since the massive Sony Pictures hack and Sony is now finally getting ready for two-step authentication.

 In order to further safeguard our users and their accounts, we are preparing to offer a 2-step verification feature 

Samit Sarkar writing for Polygon:

The spokesperson did not offer a time frame at this point, saying only that “more details will be shared at a later date.” Sony updated the PS3’s firmware to version 4.80 yesterday, and users noticed that if they entered incorrect login information, the system mentioned two-step verification — which isn’t currently available on PlayStation Network accounts. Those accounts are used on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, the web, the PlayStation mobile app and the PlayStation Portable.

It’s crazy that after having gone through so much, Sony is now just getting around to this. I’m not going to pretend that this form of authentication system is easy to enable but there is also no excuse for it to have taken so long. There isn’t a single account that I have which offers two-factor authentication that I don’t take advantage of. For comparison, Microsoft has had this for Xbox since 2013. For those unaware of how such a system works:

Once you sign in with your correct username and password, you must also type in the second code in order to complete the login process. Two-step verification is much more secure than a password alone, since it means that a hacker would also need your phone — a device that is in your possession — in order to access your account.

I hope this is something that Sony plans to incorporate company-wide, including new services like Ultra. As PlayStation moves more and more to the cloud with services like PS Vue and PlayStation Now, consumers needs to feel confident that their data is secure with Sony. With their checkered past, I hope Sony starts to take a more forward thinking and bold approach like Apple has for its customers.

Enter the Matrix – PlayStation 4 Neo Edition (aka PS4k?)

PS4_4K_Neo

It seems like every two weeks, there is some new and big speculation on what the rumored PS4 upgrade will be called and what it will deliver. First dubbed PS4.5, then PS4K, and now PlayStation 4 Neo (internal codename), the new PlayStation is expected to have some modest gains over its predecessor of three years ago. According to Richard Leadbetter:

CPU: The good news is that there will be a CPU upgrade over the lacklustre x86 cores found in PlayStation 4. The bad news is that the cores themselves have not been changed at all – they have simply been overclocked from 1.6GHz to 2.1GHz – a 31 per cent improvement. As with the current PlayStation 4, one core and a time-slice from another is reserved for the operating system.

Memory: We’re still at 8GB of GDDR5, with a 24 per cent boost to bandwidth compared to the original PS4. The current machine uses 5.5gbps memory modules. Basic maths suggests that Sony has pushed this to the same 7.0gbps modules we see on high-end graphics cards like the GTX 980 and GTX 980 Ti. There are some concerns here. The boost to bandwidth isn’t exactly huge, it will still be in contention with CPU utilisation (they both share the same interface), and the bandwidth doesn’t scale particularly well with the mooted GPU boost, which – to be frank – is massive.

GPU: This is the most exciting aspect of the spec. Compute unit count doubles from 18 to 36, and clock-speed increases from 800MHz to 911MHz – a 14 per cent increase. That’s an overall increase of 2.3x in FLOPs. The question is, what technology is being used here? AMD has created both of its current-gen console processors so far by taking older, off-the-shelf components and disabling a couple of compute units. In effect, Xbox One got the Radeon HD 7790, while PlayStation 4 got a more capable, semi-custom Radeon HD 7870. Here’s where things get interesting – the 36 compute unit count cannot comfortably fit any of AMD’s existing GPUs. It suggests that Sony and AMD have pushed the boat out, that they are using the upcoming Polaris technology.

Curiously, all current reports lack any mention of upgraded hard drives or 4K Blu-ray player which would be a shame if lacking though it likely comes down to a cost. If such a model is released, don’t think that Sony and developers will leave you in the dust.

 Sony seemingly acknowledges the need to integrate the two models of PlayStation 4 available simultaneously on the market – internally dubbed as ‘Base’ and ‘Neo’. There will be no games exclusive to the Neo model, every title will be available on both, and there’s no suggestion of VR-exclusive Neo modes at this point. Developers are prohibited from creating Neo-exclusive gameplay features, and enhancements are expected to be graphical and performance-based in nature. Gamers on both systems will be tied into the same ecosystem, meaning that users of both models will be competing against one another in online games. The user interface and PSN systems will also be identical. 

It’s worth noting that I’m a huge fan of a mid-upgrade PS4 being released but I’ll share my own thoughts and some more info on the PlayStation 4 Neo in another piece.

PlayStation VR Demo Units Will Be in Stores by June

GameStop_PS4_Demo_Kiosk

When Sony comes to mind, for many of us, unfortunately we tend to think of a very reactionary company. From strategic moves to products, they’re typically chasing the industry or in pursuit of an ill-fated endeavor. Fortunately for them and us, the PlayStation division, especially with PS4, has been on the pulse of the industry and consumers. PlayStation VR is such a product that when it launches in October will not only come at a far more affordable price range than its competitors, but one that will have a variety of games as well. How often have we had hardware launches in the industry with few games to consume?

One of the biggest obstacles VR faces is a lack of prior experience. To truly ‘get it’ and form an opinion, you simply have to put on a headset and see what all the fuss is about. To that end, Sony thinks they can showcase PlayStation VR to at least 500,000 consumers by year’s end. PlayStation VP of Marketing John Koller:

 We have to do this prior to launch, that’s critical. We need to be in stores. 

Just yesterday, it was revealed that GameStop will be a big partner for Sony and will favor PS VR over the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive due to its simplicity. Now we know that, in addition to being a launch partner, PlayStation VR will arrive in June at GameStop stores to help gear up consumer awareness and enthusiasm. While potentially a no brainer, this is actually a big milestone for PS VR as it points to fully-completed hardware by summer (otherwise, Sony wouldn’t want it used in such a public way). In turn, Sony can spend the majority of summer ramping up production, something that currently plagues Oculus, and fine-tuning the software as there will be the inevitable day one patch.

Having PS VR in many stores is also a big strategic win for Sony. Currently Oculus Rift has no big retail partners that house demo units and the HTC Vive is available in 10 scattered locations throughout the US. Koller, like myself, believes that VR must truly be experienced and that a demo unit:

 really sells you on the experience, you’re transported to places physically, actually emotionally feel like you’re in another world 

More after the jump.

PSA: Parts of PSN Will Be Down for 2 Hours Tonight, Gaming Still a Go

PSN_MaintenanceJust a quick heads up for those looking to play some Crucible in Destiny or patrol the city in The Division. PSN will be partially going down tonight for 2 hours, starting at 9:30 PM PST. During the maintenance time, Sony will deploy some “improvements” to PSN. The good news is that:

 Anyone who already has an account can still sign in to their PlayStation Network profile, play games, and use most applications while this maintenance is carried out 

Services that will be down include account management, PlayStation Video, and the PlayStation Store.

From Sony:

 We apologize for any inconvenience. We strive to ensure that PlayStation Network services are available at all times, but occasionally we must take PlayStation Network offline to perform essential maintenance and implement feature enhancements. 

So if you’re already logged into PSN, you shouldn’t be affected by this maintenance and if you’re not logged in, it’s time to fire up your PS4 a bit early if you want to game tonight.

GameStop to Heavily Push PlayStation VR Over Oculus Rift & HTC Vive

Sony is wisely releasing PlayStation VR this October, just in time for the busy holiday shopping season. While launching a few months after Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the extra time will ensure that PS VR won’t see the same type of manufacturing delays that has plagued Oculus while giving developers a few more months to polish their games. With more time to plan, Sony has been busy putting together strategic partners that will also help push PS VR and educate consumers, one of the biggest hurdles that face all VR companies. GameStop CEO Paul Raines:

 We’ve played all the VR that’s come through our office, and the setup time for PlayStation VR is significantly easier and the space required to demo is small, so I expect we’ll have a lot of demos in stores, unlike the Oculus or HTC. 

One of the key advantages that Sony has with PlayStation VR is how the unit is sold. Have a PS4 already? Then all you need is PS VR standalone package or the bundle which is pictured below. Starting from scratch? That’s also not a problem – here is a PS4 and PS VR bundle. This is direct contrast to Rift and Vive which require a PC. How does GameStop determine the PC you have at home is good enough to run VR beyond giving you the minimum specs required?

Even if the shopper happens to know their PC’s exact specs, a number of external factors can dramatically change how either VR headset performs once at home. And if they don’t have a PC or capable PC at home, does GameStop now get into the PC selling business? On the other hand, Sony makes it simple. You just need a PS4. John Koller, vice president of marketing at Sony Interactive Entertainment:

 We want to create a large footprint in high-visibility stores to have front-window demo experiences 

And it looks like they’re going to get that in a major way from GameStop. Here is their COO Tony Bartel:

 We’re clearly going to be the key launch partner. We’ll be selling Sony PlayStation VR hardware, bundles, and games in stores. 

For Sony, their first year target is PlayStation’s most hardcore users. According to Koller:

 They’re active, buying a lot of games and really enjoy PS4. That’s going to be the early active PlayStation VR consumer. 

From there, experience and word of mouth is going to be the key driver of PlayStation VR – or its demise. Unlike a new PlayStation, which is easy to explain (generally it’s more powerful with better visuals), VR is an entirely new medium that needs to be experienced. Once again, Koller:

 Trial drives the conversion to purchase. You have to be able to go into a GameStop to try this. We’ll have a fantastic technology, but you need to get your hands on it. 

And VR is expected to do big business. More on that after the jump.

Final Fantasy XV is Square’s Biggest “Final Fantasy Production Ever Made”

File this under duh. Justin Gaffney, Square Enix General Manager for PAL Europe:

 Final Fantasy XV is a mainline entry in the series. It has been many years in the making and is the biggest Final Fantasy production ever made. I think the Uncovered event in LA shows our intent, belief and ambition for the brand, and for Final Fantasy XV in particular. 

Uncovered event or not (which by the way I attended and was genuinely delighted during it), if your game has been in development for 10 years, it’s likely to be the biggest production ever. We can file this under other amazing quotes that I’m sure somebody has said somewhere like “PS4 is even more powerful than PS3!” Let’s just hope that Uncovered wasn’t an anomaly and that FF15 is truly shaping up to be spectacular because up until that event, I had lost all hope in the series. Post Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV, I’ve been excited again by Final Fantasy, something I didn’t think the post Square Enix (FF14 aside) could do.

Destiny April Update 2.2.0 Now Live, Brings a Ton of New Content for Free

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Time to get hyped, Guardians. The long-talked-about Destiny April update 2.2.0 is now live and available for your device of choice. The free update, which adds a plethora of content, is decently large in size, coming in at:

  • PS4 – 1.71GB
  • PS3 – 1.04GB
  • Xbox One – 1.74GB
  • Xbox 360 – 793MB

 Oryx may have been defeated but many Taken remain and the denizens of the Reef are seeking revenge for their loss. Travel to Vestian Outpost in the Reef to speak with Variks about rumors of a new Taken threat. Test yourself against new challenges within the Prison of Elders. 

After the jump, a detailed look at what’s changed. For those with a few minutes, a video preview also awaits you which shows you everything that’s new. It’s also worth noting that later this year, likely in the fall, a major paid DLC will be launched with Destiny 2 expected to arrive sometime in 2017.

PlayStation Vita & PlayStation TV System Update 3.60 Now Available

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Not to be outdone by the PS4 and its recent system update 3.5, Sony’s portable console is receiving an update of its own, as is PlayStation TV. Because Sony’s naming scheme has never been confusing:

 The PlayStation®TV system is sold as PlayStation®Vita TV system in some countries and regions. Systems with either name are referred to as PlayStation®TV or “PS TV” on this page. 

So what does this update get us? A ton – or nothing. At this point, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see any meaningful update for either platform as PlayStation TV is more or less dead and Vita is only alive because of indie developers. In fact the only reason PlayStation TV is even getting an update is because it’s made from the exact same hardware/software of the Vita. If it wasn’t for that, it likely wouldn’t have even received this update.

 This system software update improves system performance 

Ironically, the disclaimers about the update are nearly 15x longer. Those after the jump.