Sony addresses PS4’s lack of MP3/CD support

Last Friday, I discussed the PS4’s surprising lack of MP3 and CD support and suggested that the lack of audio-play options was part of a devious plan to to boost Sony’s Music Unlimited service.

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PS4 owners won’t be limited much longer.

Earlier this week Sony President Shuhei Yoshida responded to fans’ threats to cancel their PS4 pre-orders, promising that Sony was already working on implementing MP3 playback. He even directly addressed fans’ suspicion regarding Music Unlimited:

“It’s not like we actively decided ‘let’s not do this [MP3/CD] feature so people will have to subscribe to Music Unlimited.’ The focus has been more on the game features. Some of the features we wanted but we couldn’t get in on day one.”

I can buy that to an extent. Game-related features should rank higher on the totem pole. Can’t blame Sony there. Yet at the same time, let’s not forget that the PS4 Ultimate FAQ originally said that the system would not play CDs or MP3s. Period. Not until consumers backlashed did Yoshida and company scramble for solutions.

Whether or not Sony is greedy or lazy is no longer the issue here. Instead we’re seeing a company that responds to the requests and complaints of its customers–even if took the threat of pre-order cancellations.

Let’s just hope Sony continues to prove responsive with no more pre-orders left to cancel.

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Sony president blames overworked journalists for low PS4 game scores

I never thought I’d miss the days whencompanies would address weak launch lineups by promising that great games were on the way. Waiting is no fun, but it beats listening to excuses like the ones Sony president Shuhei Yoshida made in this Gamesindustry article.

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While addressing the low review scores that have dogged PS4 launch titles, Yoshida insisted that part of the reason behind the disappointing grades is an overworked gaming media:

“[W]ith this launch there are lots of games coming out, so the media must be very busy going through the games quickly, and especially since the online functionality wasn’t ready until in the last couple days. So we have to look at how much time they spend on what aspect of the games and how that may be contributing to some of the lower scores.”

Translation: We wanted to release the PS4 before the holiday season, but we didn’t prepare any killer aps for the system’s launch. Instead of admitting to another disappointing launch lineup, we’ll just blame the gaming media for having opinions.

It gets better. After throwing the gaming media under the bus, Yoshida said:

“I totally enjoyed playing through [KillzoneKnack and Resogun]. I’m now on my second run of Knack and Resogun at a higher difficulty – these games really grow on you when you play more.”

Translation: We can’t offer any standout games at this time. Please play through these launch titles repeatedly until then. Maybe you’ll enjoy these games once you’ve coped with the disappointment.

Now, obviously Yoshida is a company guy, and he’s going to make statements to support his company. That’s fine, but his claims sound thin, and not just because Japan tends to dislike shooters like Killzone. I can’t prove whether or not he enjoyed the aforementioned games as much as he claims, but at the same time I can’t buy the idea of a company president having the time to play through three games, two if them twice. Shouldn’t he be more concerned with… oh, I dunno, the business aspects surrounding the launch of his company’s new landmark product?

The bottom line here is Yoshida making excuses. There’s no need to get defensive of a weak launch lineup–people are going to buy the new next-gen systems regardless of the quality of the launch lineup. What Yoshida should be doing is addressing the issue with a forward-thinking attitude. Emphasize a exciting upcoming title or two. Remind us that we’ll want a PS4 now so we’re prepared to play Metal Gear and Infamous when they release.

But don’t go after reviewers for telling it like it is. C’mon now.

Sony reserves right to monitor and record PSN voice/text content and more

Gotta love how controversial PS4 info keeps pouring out the seams these days.

According to the PS4’s Software Usage Terms, Sony reserves the right to monitor PSN activity, including “your UGM [user-generated media], the content of your voice and text communications, video of your gameplay, the time and location of your activities, and your name, your PSN Online ID and IP address.” And should a situation arise, Sony can send this info to the police or other authorities. Yowza. Better think twice before discussing the week’s mafia activity over a game of Madden.

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Threaten this guy’s family enough times and you may get a knock on your door from the FBI.

Sony has already admitted that they cannot monitor all PSN activity, so the announcement comes off as more of a scare tactic than anything. How “Policing PSN” will affect the trashy behavior online remains to be seen. My guess is that when someone complains to Sony of a verbally abusive user, the PSN police might slap a tag on that user, monitor him/her, catch him/her in the act, and work the legal process from there.

Good news? Bad news? It looks like online conduct could improve at the expense of consumer privacy. I’m no doe-eyed optimist though: chances are our privacy will suffer long before we see an uptick in respect among online gamers. But, hey, at least Sony won’t be delivering customer info to third parties for the sake of marketing… yet.

Risky business: PS4 offers the option of displaying real identities online

I’m old-school and maybe a little old-fashioned, but Sony’s latest announcement about displaying real names online is a rotten idea to me. Here’s the skivvy: PS4’s ID system will allow games to pull their real names from Facebook. From there, gamers can decide whether they want to display their real name to friends, opponents, strangers, and male sex offenders posing as gamergurl91.

Now, I know you’re thinking: “Whoa, if it’s optional, what are you so upset about?”

I understand it’s completely optional, but the option itself is one that will only cause more harm than good. I hate to sound preachy in a gaming blog, but people who display their real names will be opening themselves up to any number of security issues–and for what? So we can know that “Dave Smith” was the one who sniped our asses in a FPS deathmatch? And since PS4 identities are drawn from Facebook accounts, cyber-thieves will have an easy trail to follow.

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No one is happier with the news than this guy.

I shouldn’t have to point out that you can display your real name easily on PS3 or any other system that permits screen names. “Dave Smith” could roam the PS3 waiting rooms as “Dave_Smith1” if he pleases. What this new PS4 option means is that gamers will be more encouraged to display their identities online. If the option itself isn’t enticing enough, imagine how gamers will cave once online trash talk heats up: “If you’re such a badass, why do you go by your screen name?” 

I’m sure Sony’s intentions are clean. In a perfect world, real name displays could prompt maturity and accountability in online matches: we’d surely see a decline in gradeschool sex jokes and uncalled-for insults. Yet at the same time, the twelve-year-old screaming throughout a Call of Duty match is nothing compared to the silent lurker who for some reason wants to get on your good side…

 

Square Enix: The Factory of Familiarity

Familiarity breeds contempt, as the old saying goes. While the cliche is better suited for rocky marriages than videogames, there’s some merit to the line, especially when it comes to Square Enix. Whether you love or hate what they’ve done since the merger in 2003, it’s hard to excuse the lack of fresh production from their neck of the gaming woods.

This week hit us with the first gameplay video of Kingdom Hearts III, which struck me as fun-looking but underwhelming. One particular part of the video looks riveting: a boss battle where Sora rides a flying train into a Hercules titan that’s oversized enough to have stumbled out of Shadow of the Colossus. But aside from that, everything about the clip left me with feelings of deja vu–AKA the “bad” nostalgia.

Strike one: the visuals. Normally I’m not one to complain about graphics, but KH3 looks like a PS2 game. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying it should look super-realistic or anything like that–but at least lay some detail or overhaul the art style. Have a little self-respect. KH3 is slated to be a PS4/XBONE game and Square Enix should be embarrassed.

Strike two: the hack-n-whack gameplay. At one point we see Sora wielding dual-pistols that squirt fireballs all over the screen. If they work this in as a powerful limit-break technique, I’m excited. If it’s just another move in his arsenal, I couldn’t care less. My biggest gripe with the Kingdom Hearts series (other than Sora being a dreadful lead character) has been the button-mashy combat. Casting magic spells always ruined the flow of battle in my opinion, and unless Square can manage to smoothly incorporate magic and skills, I expect to tap X 83,256 times in a row.

Strike three: the settings and enemies. The Magic Kingdom-inspired level looks promising, but the first location appears to be a retread through the opening area of KH2. I’m fine with revisiting old haunts, but when they look the same as they did back in 2005, it’s inexcusable. And then you have the same old enemies populating the area–the rodent-like Heartless, the fatass, big-bellied Heartless, the same enemies that we’ve hit with a giant key since ’02.

I understand this is early development footage. I understand KH3 is most likely two or three years away from its release date. But what I can’t understand is the excitement expressed by fans all over the internet. They waited eight years and two console generations for a case of deja vu? And somehow they’re stoked?

PS4 launch titles misfiring till 2014

The theme for next-gen news over the past few days has been “next-year.” On Tuesday Ubisoft announced that their stealth-action game Watch Dogs wouldn’t reach gamers till Spring 2014–a huge letdown considering it was among the most hyped PS4 launch titles. Today, the PS4-exclusive racer Driveclub saw its own release pushed back to February.

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Amazon and GameStop had to provide alternatives for those who pre-ordered the PS4 Watch Dogs bundle.

For most, the loss of Watch Dogs is the tragic news, but the biggest losers are the PS4 and Xbox One. Let’s be honest: system launch days have been embarrassing in recent years. Aside from Halo back in 2001, can you name any other launch game that set the world afire? Zelda: Twilight Princess was technically a Gamecube title, so don’t get cute, Wii fans. That leaves you with Perfect Dark Zero for 360, Resistance for PS3, and all of last year’s ports for Wii U. If you want to go portable, take your pick from 3DS’s opening day hodgepodge or Uncharted: Golden Abyss on Vita. Have a favorite yet? Yeah, me neither.

Launch day has become misfire day ever since the glory years when you could pick up Super Mario World or Super Mario 64 on day one. The problem–at least in my view–is that focus has shifted from software to hardware. Gone are the days when you bought a Nintendo system to play the new Mario. Instead, consumers and media members can’t stop talking about PS4 and XBONE–the systems themselves. E3 2013 generated more headlines about used-game policies and online capabilities than anything else. Whether gamers were defending or urinating on Microsoft, their opinions targeted XBONE, not its games. To be fair, homogenized 3rd-party lineups have diminished exclusive software as a selling point, but still–why don’t we care about the games anymore?

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N64 released with only two games, but no one cared since Super Mario 64 was one of them.

No one could blame Sony and Microsoft for releasing their next-gen consoles right before the holidays, but their launch lineups are a bit undignified. I suppose if you crave Killzone or Battlefield, there’s a case for purchasing a PS4, but with all the hot PS3 and 360 titles on the way, waiting is the wise man’s move. That is, if you’re wise enough to value software over hardware.