Tag Archives: PlayStation

XBOX ONE: Can Microsoft Own the Living Room?

On May 21, Microsoft revealed the next generation of their gaming-cum-entertainment console, Xbox. Dubbed XBOX ONE, officials made it a point to talk up the non-gaming aspects of the new console as much as, if not more than, the gaming aspects. Given that the reveal event was limited to an hour, and that this is a console that has not been updated for years, there were many questions raised than answers provided.

Some of the key questions, at least among the tech media revolve around the gaming aspects of the console, and whether it or the upcoming console from Sony, the Playstation 4 (PS4) would be the better device for gamers. The other aspect that has been questioned a lot is the live TV feature revealed by Microsoft. Eyebrows were raised when everyone realized that the live TV feature would be provided via HDMI input and IR blaster as opposed to TV tuners or cable cards.

This is typical of tech media nowadays. For whatever reason, they make anything that Microsoft does seem silly. Here’s my take on what the Xbox One represents for Microsoft and how some of the things that are in the console may make sense.

First, this was the first of many events where the Xbox team will talk about the various aspects of the console. Naturally, since there is so much information to disseminate, it would be too much to do all at once and in a reasonable amount of time. Remember how the Sony event went on for hours because they went into too much detail at a “launch” event? I think, Microsoft learned the lesson and kept it short and left it simply as a reveal event without going into too much (or any) detail with regard to the developer story, the policy for used games, etc. There are at least two known events in June where they will get a chance to talk about the Xbox One as well as Xbox 360: the E3 expo in early June, and the Microsoft developer conference, BUILD, in late June. The timing of the reveal event absolutely makes sense given that they can follow up on the story within weeks of the reveal.

As for gaming aspects, Microsoft did talk about the specs of the console which are a significant upgrade over the Xbox 360. They also talked about how the three OSes in the console work in a way to make it possible to instantly switch between apps and games without having to wait for the game to reload. Some have rightly pointed out that by pure specs, the Xbox One is inferior to the PS4. However, as we know, there is no point in having a higher spec gadget where the software or content cannot or does not take advantage of the higher spec. For example, the iPad with Retina Display had an issue when it shipped, where many of the popular apps were not Retina-ready and looked worse than they looked on the non-Retina iPads. So, we will have to wait and see how much better the graphics look on the PS4 before concluding that it is “better” than the Xbox One.

As for the games themselves, they showed some of the exclusives that are coming to Xbox One from large development shops like EA. Naturally, E3 is the more appropriate venue to talk more about the games that will be coming to the console when it launches, both from large shops as well as indie developers. Also, BUILD is the best venue to discuss the developer story, especially how Xbox plans to accommodate indie developers especially if the “guts” of the console are based on Windows 8. Can a developer, for example, build an app or a game for Windows 8 tablet and with minor modifications (like maybe Kinect support), publish it to the “Xbox Store”? I am of course making the assumption that there will be an Xbox Store, which has not been confirmed by Microsoft but again, between E3 and BUILD we should know for sure.

Now, regarding live TV and wasted resources (hardware and software) to support it via a combination of HDMI passthrough and IR blaster. The argument made is that these methods are backward and it was tried by Google TV and did not succeed at all. Let me just say that Google TV, among many other flaws, did not support voice like Xbox One is supposed to support. The demo at the reveal event showed how you could simply talk to the Xbox and switch from playing a game to watching a channel or a show just by voice. Google TV had a clunky remote that was really hard to use and perhaps the failure of Google TV was not the IR blaster as maybe the user experience itself.

Coming to the choice they made by not including TV tuners or cable cards, the same pundits complaining about these are also claiming that more and more entertainment is viewed without cable. There is evidence that at least in the US, many households are “cutting the cord” and living without cable. These households have not stopped watching TV, they just use services like Netflix, hulu, etc. to consume their content. If that is the case, and knowing that the Xbox console is built for at least a 7-10 years lifecycle, what is the point in supporting a dying technology? Why should the Xbox have the incremental cost bundled into it now, knowing that in maybe 3 years most of the content won’t be consumed via the cable box? The Xbox One has done the right thing by providing the equivalent of a USB dongle for floppy drives when floppy drives were eliminated from laptops. The HDMI-in and IR blaster will help transition away from the cable box. Even though they have to plan for the future, they still have to support the present and that’s what these ports allow them to do. The only issue I see so far, and we don’t know everything about it in detail yet, is the lack of a DVR in the console itself. That too could be a non-issue if the voice commands could bring up the DVR content from the cable box too.

The Xbox 360 has sold 76 million consoles in its lifetime so far, but I am sure Microsoft wants that to expand dramatically. Why wouldn’t they expect to have one in each household? In order to appeal to “non-gaming households”, Microsoft will have to make the console appealing to the casual gamers and non-gamers via their entertainment story as well as the ecosystem story. There is, after all, a potential to see apps written for Windows Phone that may work on Windows 8 and Xbox One (with code modifications to suit each device appropriately, of course). Pure gaming console market is surely on the decline, so targeting just the gamers by simply making the most powerful console on the market would be a waste of R&D resources. Instead, by making it reasonably competitive with the PS4 for gaming, and dramatically improving the other experiences like live TV, snapping two apps, Skype video conferencing in HD, completely overhauled Kinect with wide-angle 1080P camera that can see in the dark, exclusive partnership with the NFL, etc., Microsoft has a shot at becoming a permanent fixture in the living room.

Personally speaking, I am at best a casual gamer. I liked what I have seen so far. I do want to know how they are going to fit the developer pieces together and what are the chances of seeing a spurt in apps as well as the integration within the Windows ecosystem. By the end of June, I will know enough to decide if I am going to buy the console right away or not.

Are you excited about Xbox One? Sound off in the comments!

Sony Shows off PlayStation Vita’s Augmented Reality Capabilities at the CES [Video]

The quad-core driven PS Vita certainly packs a punch as far as hardware is concerned. However, mighty specs are not all that it has in its favor. The American and European versions of the Vita will come with a set of six augmented reality cards that can be used for a fun and unique gaming experience.

PS-Vita

These cards can be laid out on any surface to dynamically create objects within compatible AR games. Earlier today, Sony Santa Monica Sr. Manager Dave Thach demonstrated one of the AR minigames – Table Football (Pocket Soccer in the US), in action. As you can see in the video below, each of these cards can be spread out on any flat surface to create everything from the football field to goal posts and stands. The game itself is simplistic, but is smart enough to adapt itself to the field created by you. Aspects such as velocity of the ball automatically change based on the size of the field. The Vita also remembers where your cards are, so you can simply move your Vita for zooming and panning.

The Vita will launch in North America on February 22.

PS Vita Gets Hacked, Runs Hello World Code

Of course gets hackedis a broad term and generally this means that the handheld can play homebrew games, but considering that the device was released just a couple of days ago, I think this is a brilliant development. Yes, Sony’s new handheld gaming console, the PlayStation Vita has made to run custom code within two days of its release. The handheld features a 5 inch OLED touchscreen display, along with a touchpad behind at the back of the device, to analog stick and a motion sensor along with more-than-capable innards making this a brilliant little gadget. However this hack was performed using the PSP emulation feature of the Vita, with a homebrew jailbreak called the Half-Byte Loader (HBL) being used to run the custom code. helloworldvita Japanese PSP hacker mamosuke put up this post on his blog. The post explains how he used the HBL for firmware 6.31 to run the hello worldscript on his brand new PS Vita. His blog, though, is mostly in Japanese and Google’s translate feature leaves one wanting for something far better. Taken up from his site:-

PSN version save game exploit with other titles, so there are some that may be realized in the start of the PSP Homebrew PS Vita Once you have established how to start the HBL, the saved data is Sony ” Administrative Assistant for PlayStation content “must be transferred to the PS Vita, and further to transfer the state must now transfer the save data folder into the Hello World binaries that only the saved data . Will be transferred into the data folder in the save if the body can then be started with Vita HBL.

This new development also has the ominous effect of Sony noticing and crushing this exploit pathway sooner or later. For a company that has been dealing with leaks for so long, I guess it becomes second nature. So, will you be buying the new Sony PS Vita? Tell us in the comments!

PS3 Firmware Update 4.00 Removes Support for the PSP. Oh Dear.

I have this theory that in the Tokyo headquarters of Sony Entertainment Corporation, a Gríma Wormtongue-like figure ominously whispers and fills in the ears of Kaz Hirai, who is reclining like King Theoden. (If you do not understand what I am talking about, then you really must read The Lord of the Rings. Please do so immediately!) Otherwise there is no explanation as to why some of the best features of the PlayStation 3 (PS3) console have been serially diluted over the years. The original PS3 was a brilliant console with backwards compatibility and hardware emulation for PS2 and older consoles, along with the ability to install a custom OS (Linux, to be precise) and connect a PlayStation Portable (PSP) and transfer compatible games to it. In the next sub-iteration of the PS3, called the PS3 Slim, the hardware emulation was replaced by software, and eventually a firmware update permanently removed the ability to install Linux on the system.

PS3

Now, it seems that firmware update 4.00 adds support for the PS Vita (due to be released on December 17th in Japan and parts of Asia) and, surprisingly, removes support for the legacy PSP.

Shacknews reports that the glitch(we are giving Sony the benefit of doubt here) removes the Copy function of every compatible game from the Xross Media Bar (XMB, the UI of the PS3 and the PSP) on the PS3’s screen, effectively disallowing the copying of a legally downloaded game on to a legally allowed secondary platform.

We await more news on this, but I really hope for Sony’s sake that it’s a glitch and not a feature.

Sony Hacked Again

Hard to believe, but Sony has been hacked again!

SonyAccording to a report in the Wall Street Journal, an intruder broke into So-net Entertainment Corp, a Japanese ISP owned by Sony, and stole customers’ redeemable gift points worth about $1,225.

An official statement on the site (in Japanese) explains “What we’ve done is stopped the So-Net points exchanges and told customers to change their passwords,”

Personal information of some 100 million Sony user accounts was stolen last month when its online gaming systems,  PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment were hacked.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Priced at Rs 32,000 in India; To be Launched in April

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is one of the most exciting Android smartphone to slated to be launched this year. It should be available soon, but thanks to Flipkart, we can pre-order it in India now.

It is priced at Rs 32,000 ($710) and will start shipping from the 2nd week of April. The pricing is a bit lower than the earlier suggested pricing of Rs 34,000, but it’s still quite steep.

It was announced at MWC in February and will support a library of exclusive PSP games created for the Xperia Play. It looks quite similar to the PSP Go, but sports much better hardware.

It comes with a 4 inch touchscreen display and a sliding gamepad. It has a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels and comes with Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It is powered by a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB RAM and an Adreno 205 GPU. It also has a 5 MP camera with LED flash and will launch with more than 50 gaming titles.

Go ahead and book your Xperia Play right away. Game on!

Book Xperia Play at Flipkart

Xperia Play

Sony PlayStation Suite Coming To Tegra 2 Based Devices

At MWC this year, Sony Ericsson announced the PlayStation Suite along with a bunch of Xperia branded handsets. At that time, Sony Ericsson announced that more PS certified handsets will launch as the year goes by.

Today, Nvidia announced via their Tegra Zone app that Sony will be bringing the PlayStation Suite to Nvidia Tegra 2 based handsets and tablets.   They also revealed that PS Suite will bring not only PlayStation 1 based games to Android handsets and tablets, but popular PlayStation 2 games as well.

Sony_PS_Suite

As of now, Sony has not mentioned which all game titles are coming to PS Suite except for Wild Arms, Cool Boarders 2 and Syphon Filter.

However, readers should keep in mind that it may be possible that not all Tegra 2 based handsets and tablets will be certified as PS certified. Up until now, there is only one PlayStation certified phone – the Xperia Play.

With the Nvidia Tegra Zone, and now the PS Suite, the gaming scene of the Android ecosystem has definitely improved by leaps and bounds compared to last year.

Sony Raids Prominent PS3 Hacker’s House

The Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) hacker scene got a shock recently when prominent German PS3 hacker graf_chokolo had his house raided by German Police due to a complaint made by Sony. The raid ended up with the confiscation of all his accounts, so to speak, and peripherals that might have been related to hacking the Sony home console. This harsh step up from Sony follows many put-downs of hackers and security researchers who have openly exploited the PS3’s security flaws.

PS3Versions

However, graf_chokolo had a ready last line of defense against Sony. The hacker had once claimed that he had quite a lot of knowledge about the PS3’s hypervisor (a virtualization technique), and that if Sony does annoy him, he will release it to the world. He made good on the promise as well by releasing the Hypervisor Bible (HV Bible) to the entire world. Using the HV Bible, other users can reverse engineer the PS3’s internal mechanisms to further open the console to the world:-

Guys, i don’t joke, it’s serious.
And to prove it, i kept my word and uploaded all my HV reversing stuff.
Upload it everywhere so SONY couldn’t remove it easily. Grab it guys, it contains lots of knowledge about HV and HV procs.

It is kind of sad that Sony is doing all of this if only they knew that piracy is not the main reason why these people work on Sony’s hardware; the homebrew scene is where most of their energy is focused. Let’s all hope this drama reaches a peaceful conclusion.

Sony S1, Android Honeycomb Tablet with PlayStation Certification, Leaked

As expected, Sony Ericsson unveiled a number of suitably eye-catching Android handsets, including the PlayStation branded Xperia Play, at the MWC. However, there was a glaring omission in its lineup. In a year in which every other company is busy announcing new tablets (mostly powered by Android), Sony didn’t even mention the T-word. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have something cooking for us tablet aficionados.

Engadget has learnt that Sony is busy customizing Android Honeycomb’s interface for a tablet that is being internally called the S1. According to its sources, the S1 might very well be the best looking thing Sony has ever produced. Unlike other tablets in the market, the S1 will feature a “wrap” design that mimics an open paperback book. Sony hopes that this design innovation will make the tablet more personal besides making typing on the keyboard and consuming multimedia content easier.

Sony-S1

The S1 is expected to feature a 9.4″ display with a resolution of 1280×800 px, and will be powered by nVidia’s Tegra 2 chip. Engadget has also confirmed that it will be PlayStation certified. Besides that it will include a Bravia media remote, an IR port, and come preloaded with PSX (PlayStation One) games. The tablet will also heavily leverage Sony’s Qriocity, which is a streaming music, games, e-books and video on demand service.

While nothing is set in stone yet, Engadget believes that the Wi-Fi version of the tablet will cost $599, and is expected to ship in September.

Sony Xperia Play Announced; Is a PlayStation Certified Phone

After the numerous leaks in the last one month, Sony Ericsson announced the Xperia Play along with a bunch of other Xperia branded handsets at their on-going event in MWC, Barcelona. The handset is powered by a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor with the Adreno 205 GPU core handling the graphics department.

The handset sports a 4-inch LCD with a resolution of 854×480. The Xperia Play is a PlayStation Certified’ handset and runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Sony’s custom UI on top of it.

Sony_Ericsson_Xperia_Play

As evident from the picture above, the Play will sport a slide-out gamepad to fulfill all your on-the-move gaming needs. The Xperia Play will come pre-loaded with one legendary PlayStation game. The name of the game was not mentioned by Sony, so this remains a mystery for now.

The back of the handset will feature a 5MP camera. The Xperia Play will start shipping from next month i.e. March. The handset will hit the Verizon network in the states in early spring.

Here is a video of the Xperia Play in action -:

Along with the Xperia Play, Sony Ericsson also announced the PlayStation Suite. All handsets which will be PlayStation Certified’ will be able to access the PlayStation store which will be launched by Sony, later this year.

The PlayStation Store will launch with more than 50 titles on-board. Some existing gaming titles will also be optimized for the PlayStation Certified platform.