Activision CEO Warns of Slow Next-Gen Console Sales At Launch

Activision’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, warned that the next generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles may suffer slow sales at their launch – much like the Wii U has been experiencing since its launch in November last year. Kotick believes that new competition from Smartphones and Tablets is to blame.

We continue to face the uncertainties of the console transition. There are still many unknown factors, such as pricing, launch dates and quantities, the level of first-party support and, importantly, consumer purchase intent in a world where consoles are no longer just competing with each other, but also with new platforms, such as smartphones and tablets.

In addition, the newest console, the Wii U, has had a very slow start. All of these factors further heighten our concerns heading into the back half of the year, particularly during the very competitive fourth quarter.

He most likely has a very valid point. While smartphones and tablets may only be able to provide a very basic gaming experience, they are still very expensive and eat into consumers’ disposable income. Once you have spent $400 on a new smartphone and $500 on a new tablet there is probably very little left over to then want to go and buy a next generation PlayStation or Xbox as well.

Despite this both Sony and Microsoft remain relatively buoyant and Sony set their targets high by ramping production straight up to 16 million units.

The success of the next generation consoles isn’t something you can easily predict as it is dependent on a number of factors such as the quality of the games, the quality of the consoles, the “attractive-ness” of the pricing for both the console and games and the general economic climate in its main launch markets (the EU, Asia and North America).

What are your thoughts on how well the next generation of consoles will sell?

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Xbox 720 Always Online Rumour Lives On

Rumors are spreading quickly on what features and functions the next generation of Microsofts Xbox will bring us. One of the things that I found, is that Xbox is likely to require the user to provide a constant internet connection to the device. Though we really will not know for sure until Microsoft lets us know on May 21st. If you do not have an internet connection you will likely either not have some of the features that are available, in a worst case scenario, you wouldn’t be able to use your Xbox at all.

Now I know that not everyone has a fast internet connection, and having a device such as an Xbox hooked up could easily hog all of your bandwidth. Though in most places you’re able to get awesome internet speeds, some folks in more rural areas are still stuck with slow internet speeds, at times as low as 768 Kbps.

If you’re a gamer, you likely have not forgotten about Diablo 3 or much more recently EAs SimCity. Both companies decided to force Always-Online and this has prevented thousands of users from being able to play a game that they have purchased. Though the servers are having minimal issues now, if every game was Always-Online we could potentially have this issue every week when new games are released.

Two years ago Lulzsec took out Playstation, forcing Sony to take down all of their servers and preventing access to the Playstation network. Users were not able to use their Playstations for any Online games for over 3 weeks. If something were to happen to Xboxs servers this same issue could happen to their user base, preventing hundreds of thousands of users worldwide from being able to play their games online, perhaps from even using their console at all.

Of course there will probably be some way to jailbreak your system, but risking terminating your warranty, really probably not worth it. Unless you are a die hard Xbox fan, you might want to go with a PS4, a company who knows better than to make users provide a constant internet connection to their gaming device.

Are you planning on purchasing a Xbox? Do you think that Xbox should force users to be Always-Online? 

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Graphics Are 60% Of A Video Game Says Crytek

Whether you care about game graphics or not it is definitely something that you notice when playing a game. How much of a difference that makes probably varies between individuals but Cevat Yerli, chief executive office (CEO) at Crytek, says that the quality of the technical elements of a game, namely the graphics and audio, represent 60% of the overall gaming experience.

It is surely no surprise that Crytek’s CEO takes such a view as the Crysis game series is renowned for its graphical prowess.

Yerli commented “People say that graphics don’t matter, but play Crysis and tell me they don’t matter.”

While graphics cannot substitute intuitive gameplay and a good storyline they are still important.

“Graphics, whether it’s lighting or shadows, puts you in a different emotional context and drives the immersion, and immersion is effectively the number one thing we can use to help you buy into the world.”

Every single title in the Crysis series has had cutting edge graphics although the quality of the storyline is very much debatable. Some Gamers have criticised to Crysis series for lacking substance and just being all about graphics, nothing more than an interactive GPU benchmark, while others have lauded it is a fantastic FPS game which puts excellent graphics to good use.

Whatever your opinion on Crysis, Cevat Yerli’s statement is certainly controversial. Do you agree that 60% of the game is in the technical aspects?

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Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell Says Xbox 720 To Be Stronger Than The PS4

Atari’s founder, Nolan Bushnell, has stated he believes Microsoft’s Xbox 720 will emerge stronger than Sony’s PlayStation 4 when the next generation of consoles arrive. He claims Sony’s PS4 will be held back by lame and difficult to understand software tools.

“I personally believe Microsoft is in a superior position, and the reason is Sony, whenever they change consoles, the software tools that they have are lame,” Bushnell said. “A lot of times in the past they were in Japanese; not well documented and getting the software development community up to speed…they may have been able to do it in Japan, but the American software community just says ‘Oh boy, what a pain.’ And a lot of people don’t realize how strong the software community is at making the hardware platform sing and dance.”

Bushnell’s comments come after a number of high profile developers, such as Gearbox Software’s CEO Randy Pitchford, praised Sony’s PlayStation 4 for its exciting potential. Linus Blombery, Avalanche Studios Co-Founder, even went as far to say that the Sony PS4 would out-power most gaming PCs for years to come.

However, Bushnell’s argument is that the software drives the hardware sales and he believes Microsoft have a better software environment to allow game developers to produce better games and produce them faster.

“Microsoft, because of their strong software tools, will end up with much better products sooner [and] easier, in my estimation,” Bushnell said. “And with that, I think will be an advantage. And also don’t forget, Microsoft actually has so much money to defend this. Plus, they have a good infrastructure with the [Xbox Live Arcade], with their online world.”

Even though he makes a strong point, I am still skeptical. Most game developers would want to synchronize their PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 releases at the same time so I am not sure his vision will ever come into force.

Bushnell’s final dig at Sony was a criticism of what he calls their “God awful” online infrastructure and that he thinks they really need to get their act together.

Microsoft’s Xbox 720 is expected to be announce in May and arrive this holiday season. Sony’s PlayStation 4 has already been announced and is also expected to arrive this holiday season.

What do you think of Bushnell’s comments? Does he have a point or is he acting like a fanboy?

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Microsoft Apologises For Next-Gen Xbox Rants From Employee

Microsoft employee, Adam Orth, has been causing a bit of a stir recently on Twitter. If you do not use Twitter then it is quite possible that you have missed this interesting development. The controversy started when Adam Orth posted the following tweet, which you can see below.

Following this, Adam’s view was challenged by others stating that the internet does go out and having a console that is always-on would not account for this. Diablo III and SimCity were used as examples of where always-on styles are not successful. Adam Orth replied to this by stating that electricity goes out too, although clearly he doesn’t understand that internet is significantly more prone to going offline than electricity is in most places. Adam was again challenged by someone who stated that people living in rural areas will suffer as a result of this, locations like Janesville WI and Blacksburg VA were cited as examples of these. Clearly stumped of an informed answer Adam replied to this criticism with “why on earth would I live there?”.

Shortly after this brief tirade Adam Orth’s account was set to private and a lot of people were angry about Adam Orth’s comments, concerned about a few important things:

  • Will the next generation of Xbox console have always on DRM/ functionality required to use it?
  • Is Adam Orth’s view on always-on connectivity reflective of Microsoft as a whole?

Whatever you think about always on connectivity, Microsoft’s employee Adam Orth was disrespectful and unprofessional, showing a total lack of consideration for any viewpoint other than that of his own. While in itself there is nothing wrong with having a strong opinion and defending it, the fact he is implicated in developing a console for millions to use and won’t even consider feedback from the consumer, well it is worrying stuff indeed.

Microsoft were quick to act on his outburst releasing a statement of apology to anyone angered by the incident:

We apologize for the inappropriate comments made by an employee on Twitter yesterday. This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views do not reflect the customer-centric approach we take to our products or how we would communicate directly with our loyal consumers. We are very sorry if this offended anyone, however we have not made any announcements about our product road map, and have no further comment on this matter.

What do you think about the Next-Gen Xbox having always on DRM/protection? What do you think of Adam Orth’s conduct? Do you think he was making valid points? Or do you think it could be unfair for people with erratic internet?

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Xbox 720 To Have Less GPU Performance Than The PS4?

Nvidia’s presentation at a GDC (Gamers Developer Conference) 2013 keynote speech showed some interesting things in terms of console vs PC graphics. The graph Nvidia produced tracks the history of PC and Console GPU performance through time. The graph shows that the first Xbox console was twice as powerful as the best GeForce 3 Series graphics card on the market. This was rapidly corrected within about two years. Five years later and the Xbox 360 is released which again leapfrogs slightly over the GeForce 7800 series of graphics cards. However, it takes just less than a year this time for the PC Graphics market to overtake. Fast forward again another 8 years and the PS4 and Xbox 720 come onto the scene. The Nvidia GTX Titan is now 3 times more powerful than the consoles.

What this shows is a couple of things. First is that the PC market is accelerating away from the console market in terms of performance. We can see that the console is no longer leapfrogging the PC platform. However, the most important thing that this graph shows, is that the PlayStation 4 is reportedly better than the Xbox 720 in terms of graphics performance. We don’t actually know the specific details of this, or where Nvidia got their data from but if this is true it is an interesting development to say the least. It has been speculated that the Xbox 720 has been put just below because they don’t actually know the specifications of the Xbox 720 so it is a conservative estimate if you like. The only indications we have so far in terms of comparative performance between the two is of Jon Peddie Research who said the next generation Xbox will be a little closer to the casual in terms of gaming performance when compared to the PS4.

What are your thoughts on the PS4 being faster than the next-gen Xbox? Do you think it is realistic? Let us know your thoughts.

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Microsoft to Unveil Next-Generation Xbox in April?

With the semi-launch of the PS4 just a few days ago, there is already talks about Microsoft showing their hand when it comes to the next generation Xbox and April seems to be the favoured month for it to happen.

Rumours are rumours but this information is coming from a lot of sources including game developers, Sony employees and other professionals within the industry.

A senior Sony official said that the PS4 launch event that was held in New York recently, “caught Microsoft off-guard”. He continued to say that “We definitely ruffled some feathers” and of course wishes to remain nameless.

Rumours continue to say that Microsoft will launch the console at an event for the media in early April, though March 25th till the 29th will see the Game Developers Conference potentially be a focal point for information on the upcoming console.

Naturally Microsoft have declined to comment on these rumours and have done for the past 2 years since first talks of the next-generation Xbox come about but several domains have been registered as of late including XboxEvent.com by Microsoft partner Ustechs.

2013 is certainly going to be an interesting year for both Sony and Microsoft and a Christmas battle is definitely on the books, as we all expected. Lets just hope that Sony actually have a console finished and that Microsoft can utilise the Sony launch event by fine-tweaking their product to offer more to the consumer.