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.

Top 5 Tuesday: PS3 Exclusives

It’s not time to embalm the PS3, but let’s face it: we’re three days away from PS3 passing the torch to a new generation of console gaming. But no need for tears and tissues: PS3 ain’t going anywhere, and there are still some rockin’ games in its future (Lords of Shadow 2, anyone?). So rather than celebrating the end, I’m celebrating the era and checking the rearview mirror for my five favorite games that were exclusive to PS3.

This is an awkward list because a lot of my favorite PS3 games are multi-platform. Arkham City and Fallou 3 would probably top a non-exclusive list… Just goes to show how picking the right console these days is more about the console itself than exclusive games.

5. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)

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Derailed train? Or largest ladder in the history of gaming? You decide.

You could make an argument about the various game franchises that defined PS1 and PS2, and your answers would boil down to Final Fantasy or Resident Evil for PS1 and either Grand Theft Auto or Metal Gear for Sony’s sequel system. But nothing defined PS3 like the Uncharted series, which initially seemed to come out of nowhere. The first game in the series was fun but raw, then Among Thieves took everything top shelf with a movie-like presentation, immersive action and climbing, and a witty cast of characters.

Uncharted for me has always felt like Resident Evil 4 on three cups of coffee. The third person shooting happens faster, and all the jumping and rolling picks up the pace. It also helps that the storytelling moves at a frantic pace and the game doesn’t get bogged down in weapon assembly/customization like a lot of shooters do these days.

Favorite moment: The snowy train ride, particularly the part where you have to shoot out the logs from beneath a burly, invulnerable soldier. That eureka moment when you realize you can shoot the strap is gold.

4. Tales of Graces f (2012)

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Graces is at its best when you’re slaying beasts. Now if only you could slay half the main cast…

Cliched storylines and cheesy characters are forgivable when you have one of the best JRPG battle systems at your disposal. Graces did the unthinkable and one-upped Symphonia’s masterful combat by incorporating a snappy block-and-dodge system and combo chains for extra strategy. Graces’ combat is so exhilarating that I’m not going to write two exhaustive paragraphs criticizing the obnoxiously obnoxious female cast or the overbeaten theme of friendship.

I swear. Watch. I’m moving on to #3…

3. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011)

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Things get shifty early on in Uncharted 3. Then it explodes off into gunplay and outrageous climbing puzzles.

Take Uncharted 2, improve the bland melee combat, provide another gripping storyline, juice up the multiplayer, and you have Drake’s Deception. Though the level design and plot get utterly ridiculous at times, it’s the most fun game in the series. The postmodern intro with Nate and Sully faking their deaths outside a bar remains one of my favorite intro scenes in recent memory. From there Naughty Dog lumped on 12 more hours of action and enough Nate/Sully banter to keep me grinning for days.

2. Ninja Gaiden Sigma (2007)

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Sure, it looks like Ryu’s kicking ass, but there are about two dozen Game Overs waiting to happen.

I’m cheating a little. Ninja Gaiden appeared twice on the original Xbox, but last I checked Sigma is a PS3 exclusive. Don’t like having a remake of a remake on this list? Fine, scroll back up to the top and ask for a refund.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma earns a high ranking for its poetic combat feel and brutal difficulty. Whereas Devil May Cry feels too clunky and God of War feels too chaotic, Ninja Gaiden nails combat with a blend of offense and defense that requires timing, memorization, and strategy. Oddly enough, I love playing defense in Ninja Gaiden almost as much as slicing and dicing. Hold down L1 and move the control stick to roll away from danger and set up anything from a flying decapitation to a wall jump combo. Relentless fun.

1. Valkyria Chronicles (2008)

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Though you can slip around a tank in most Strategy RPGs, VC will make you pay in it’s real-time segments.

I can’t name a more original JRPG from the past generation. Valkyria Chronicles somehow combines real-time strategy with turn-based strategy and manages to execute compelling, challenging gameplay with only four different character classes. The fusion of simplicity and complexity proves mindblowing, and the storyline contains one of the most genuinely gutwrenching moments of any RPG I’ve played. Oh, and the characters are likable–from the main cast all the way down to the army recruits who are loaded with as much personality as ammo.

If you own a PS3 and haven’t touched this one yet, do so. It’s like $15 on Amazon.

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.

PS4 won’t play audio CDs or MP3s… but Sony would like you to check out their monthly music service

Don’t be disappointed next week when your brand new PS4 fails to play your hottest Kevin Federline CD. That’s just one of a few eye-opening limitation listed in the North American FAQ. In addition to not supporting audio CDs, PS4 won’t allow MP3 playback or media streamed from a PC. In fact, it appears the only way you’ll hear tunes on your PS4 is through Sony’s Music Unlimited service (and one would assume Youtube via PS4’s web browser).

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Good thing you held onto your PS1, right?

Give Sony credit for being upfront about this (the FAQ even states that they’re looking for solutions to the MP3 problem), but it’s startling to see such a powerful new device that can’t read an audio CD. Maybe even a little fishy. Obviously, the CD format is on the way out, but there’s still a store in every mall that sells them.

The cynic’s take on this centers on the Music Unlimited (MU) service. No CDs or MP3s means an influx of MU users. Whether or not Sony curtailed audio playback to keep the PS4’s price tag low or to twist ears toward MU is anyone’s guess, but check out this article. Apparently, Sony’s offering a free month trial of Music Unlimited to early PS4 adopters. How generous of them–or should I say, what a shrewd way to get your audience hooked on a monthly media service.

Sony consoles have historically drawn casual eyes due to their multi-media offerings: PS1 gave you an extra CD player; PS2 saved gamers from buying a standalone DVD player; and PS3 was the cheapest Blu-Ray player on the market for years. It’ll be interesting to see how fans respond to the PS4’s audio playback limitations and how Sony handles those responses. The FAQ already has a not stating “*We appreciate your feedback and are exploring possibilities” in regard to the MP3 issue. The question is: are they exploring possibilities or just planning to?

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…

 

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.