Two years after the arrival of the eighth generation of home gaming consoles, the market situation and the endless speculations allow us to identify some firm points next to many uncertainties: Sony PlayStation 4 is still enjoying a seemingly unapproachable success, while Microsoft is trying to come out of its beaten-up boxer corner by playing the card of exclusive features - which in the end aren’t so exclusive, or at least not quite so. The uncertainties? They mostly apply to Nintendo, a company with an outlook that never seemed so frail.
After unveiling the partnership with DeNa for smartphone games and the new console known as NX, Nintendo recently said not to feel like a loser in the home console market: the corporation isn’t “cornered” at all, president Satoru Iwata has stated, even though it is aware of the need to be up to date in a constantly changing world. Nintendo had more than a chance to enter the mobile casual gaming business, so the DeNa partnership comes from a thoughtful choice and not from desperation.
The last time I was talking about surprising news coming for the home consoles, and in these two weeks it was mostly Nintendo that stirred things up with unexpected announcements that (partially) confirm specific analysts’ anticipations and the need to stimulate a merciless market. But let’s start from the beginning: NPD Group numbers about sales of gaming hardware and software reinforce Sony’s lead on February too, at least for the home consoles, and the Japanese corporation’s business grows accordingly.
Who is winning and who is losing, more than a year after the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One debut, the commercial, technological and gaming challenge of the eighth generation home consoles? The market seems to confirm the trend already set the past year, with the Sony console as the leading platform and the Microsoft machine desperately trying to get back on the top. Nintendo, at last, is really this generation’s Cinderella. But the future could be surprising for everyone, even for users thinking they have purchased a hardware device made to be forever unchanged.
Cloud computing is a scam, an endless progression of lies, technically impossible to honor pledges and outages that routinely shut down services the marketing sells as always-on and always available for users and companies’ needs. And yet the Internet herds are still drinking the toxic water of the cloud, and the corporations never get tired of making more and more amazing promises about the mythical features of remote-controlled systems.
After the last November’s lively beginning, the commercial race of the eighth generation home consoles is still nurturing the perpetual machine of controversy over each machine performances, the plans of the three big corporations in the industry (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) for the future and everything. Unlike the recent past, however, controversy and rumors are just the garnish coming with the main dish - ie how many units the new consoles can sell to the customers still willing to invest their money on the gaming business.
The companies involved in that downright organized fraud called cloud computing have always advertised the idea that data, “apps” and services entirely relying on an Internet connection are destined to last indefinitely. It’s the first lie and the original sin of cloud computing, something that simply isn’t true and that every month, every week and every day must face a reality going in the opposite way: the “cloud” servers are dying over and over again like flies bringing down with them data, apps and services of their naive users.
A year and half after its first major release, in the last days PCSX2 got updates again with the release of two new versions in a short timeframe: the only existing (open source) emulator capable of replicating in software the complex hardware of Sony’s PlayStation 2 console reached release 1.2.0 at the beginning of February, followed the day after by release 1.2.1 aimed at correcting some last-hour bugs. PCSX2 is now able to run 2130 games in playable state, a remarkable result considering the about 3900 games making up the total PS2 titles library.
Five years after the last post about the topic, the state of the everlasting commercial and technological war between gaming consoles couldn’t be more different: the machine which seemed to be done (PS3) recovered brilliantly, the Nintendo battleship is living a new difficult moment in its troubled history and the eighth generation of home console has been finally deployed in full with the PS4 and Xbox One debut. But the market is pretty different compared to the past as well, while everyone’s expectations - for publishers, analysts and players - have grown a ton.
The seventh generation of home consoles is about to reach the last stage of its commercial life, a new console war looms on the horizon and the emulation scene delivers the nth project with an “impossible” objective, ie a software replica of the powerful hardware components of the Sony PlayStation 3. The new emulator is called RPCS3, the development team has great ambitions but right now the software isn’t more of a multi-window shell with little to show on the screen.
After more than four years since the post with which this blog tried to highlight the dark side of that hollow and meaningless thing hidden behind the “cloud computing” moniker, I think it’s now time to go back on the topic with an annotated list of the most recent and remarkable horrors fallen down from the sky of Internet servers. The “mainframe 3.0″ class services promise a lot, keep very little and don’t give any guarantee on anything. Or to say it with the Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, selling one’s own rights of ownership on software, data and products is the first stone of the road that leads to digital hell.
How much are digital downloads worth within the PC video games market? According to a recent report by NPD Group, in 2009 digital delivery of commercial products would have taken 48% of the overall marketplace in North America. NPD says that the 44.8 million games sold the past year would split in 21.3 millions in digital format and 23.5 millions on optical disks. The market research firm depicts a situation where on-line distribution of videogaming products would be on par with traditional retailers, positioning itself as the only business capable of putting back in shape the PC video games market.
Technology old fogeys can rejoice: even though they have lost the chance to obtain new Windows for Workgroups 3.11 licences by now, the almost-defunct operating systems and storage devices that persist in not wanting to fade away surely aren’t lacking. A recently surfaced couple of news actually highlights as even in information technology, probably the most rapidly evolving technology field, there are users niches that really don’t want (or can’t) abandon an outdated standard to adopt a more modern one.
What do the (relatively) recent exploit of Nintendo’s Wii console, the iPhone popularity and the videogaming velleities of social networks like Facebook share? They all are facts which have contributed to open the video games market to a broader and broader audience, establishing the principle that casual gaming, that kind of ludic activity which does not force you to know the magic sequence “WASD” or the difference between a hack’n slash and a “pure” role playing game, is a growing phenomenon that will eventually shape the entire industry alongside its traditional technological and commercial models.
While I’m still in the throes of digesting a four days Christmas food stuffing, waiting for the will to (re)start to write something meaningful on these pages I yield to the last dessert made up by variously assorted snapshots. In particular they cover PlayStation 2 emulation with PCSX2 and high definitions rips, two of the many things that where forcedly precluded to me before my new laptop fortuitous purchase due to the lack of adequate hardware equipment.
As the yet partial success obtained by PCSX2 with PlayStation 2 emulation demonstrates, adequately recreating the last generations videogaming machines on a PC screen - it doesn’t matter how much powerful and advanced equipped CPUs and GPUs are - isn’t an easy task. For this reason the results recently achieved by GameCube and Wii emulator Dolphin are exceptional to say the least and let foresee a bright future for the Nintendo machines emulation “scene”.
Replying to the speculations of analyst Mike Hickey, which forecasted the marketing of a cheaper PlayStation 3 edition without the costly embedded Blu-ray drive, Sony was resolute in specifying that the simple idea would be absurd and would kill “the backbone” of the console because games are built just upon the BD format. “Blu-ray will always be part of PS3“, Sony says, but the market environment and the slow, too much slow growth of high definition disks sales allow to easily predict the fact that within the years to come such model will be only valid for the videogames of the Japanese console and very little more.
There is some uncertainty on which will be the one, between Sony Optiarc and Lite-On, to market the first drive of such kind, but the fact is that DVD burners will once again exceed the maximum write speed limit going from 22x to 24x. Both companies will release the new optical drives between March and May, and though in practice the speed difference isn’t amazing at all, the new breakthrough shows that firms continue to invest in a technology with a surprisingly long life.
“PS2 emulation is a complex task“, as it can be read on the about page of PCSX2, but it isn’t an impossible task as demonstrated by the advancements achieved during time by the only software currently able to replicate the most successful Sony console (a hit enduring even today) with an accuracy level that is enough to run a good number of commercial games. PCSX2 emulates the PS2 on PC, and the last release of the emulator delivered in these days, version 0.9.6, once again confirms that a group of talented and passionate coders is generally much more capable of achieving such kind of objectives than a multinational investing billions of euros and obtaining in return results embarrassing at least.
Maybe it isn’t correct to use expressions like “the Sony failure”, “the death of PlayStation platform” and others on the same model, but the numbers released by market research experts and by NPD Group in particular surely outline a more and more discouraging situation for the market adventure of PS3, continuously highlight the mistakes and the inability of Sony Computer Entertainment into innovating the videogaming market as in the past years and set off even more the clamorous success of Microsoft and Nintendo branded home consoles.