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Things to look for at E3 2016

E3 2016 is coming at a time where it seems like calling the Xbox One and the PS4 the “new generation” sounds crazy at this point. Now developers are fully in the swing of this iteration of hardware and though the excitement of the first few years of the new generation is dying down, a new excitement for high quality games is building.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what the gaming giants are coming out with in the next week when E3 starts on June 12.

Microsoft

Most gamers are familiar already with the idea that Microsoft is poised to announce a new “slim” Xbox along with perhaps an Xbox One “Scorpio” — an upgraded version of Xbox with potentially 4x the power of the 2013 Xbox One. These news stories are the biggest bombshells for Microsoft at E3, but beyond this the games that they’ve got in their arsenal are just as exciting.

Gamers have long deserved a quality Pirate game and very few have even attempted to create an original game in this style for over a decade. Rare is back in action looking for redemption and this comeback tour starting with Sea of Thieves is an incredible starting point. An open-world, multiplayer-focused adventure game set on the rugged seas is well deserving of some new information that gamers will certainly be privy to during Microsoft’s conference on June 13.

ReCore is another lesser known title just starting to come to the forefront since being announced at last year’s E3. This action-adventure game comes from some incredible minds — Keiji Inafune, the designer of the first 3 Mega Man games is teaming up with Armature Studio another developer who has plenty of high quality games behind them like Metroid Prime 3 and Batman: Arkham Origins.

recore

ReCore deserves to be brought to the spotlight with such prestigious developers working on it and an incredibly unique concept powering it.

Sony

Just like Microsoft’s next version of the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4.5 is expected to be the highlight of the show with the more powerful version of the console being prepped for more extensive use with the PlayStation VR. VR is certainly the future of gaming at least in some facet. The immmersion created is incomparable to previous gaming experiences and if Sony can capitalize and market their PS4.5 as a way to bring those VR experiences closer to life they’ll find success despite the not-totally-favorable idea of releasing an upgraded console midway in it’s life cycle.

The Last Guardian looks like it will finally come out with a definitive release date as well.

An infinite number of beautifully unique worlds seems impossible. But it's the reality of No Man's Sky.

No Man’s Sky is a bit of a concern with some having expected the game would be here by now, Sony and Hello Games will have to be careful if they intend to show any footage of the game — so as to avoid any bad publicity or resentment fans may have for its late release.

Nintendo

Is Nintendo even a real giant anymore? It’s certainly incredibly successful and has the greatest characters and history in gaming behind it, but with so little excitement being centered around it today it’s tough to imagine them having an overtly “successful” E3.

The Legend of Zelda Wii U 1

Pokemon has taken center stage for the last year and The Legend of Zelda WiiU continues to be the biggest talking point for them. But is that enough to keep fans excited? Or will they actually release a more comprehensive breakdown of what the Nintendo NX is? Most signs point to no, but Nintendo always seems to have a knack for surprising people.


Check out The Platinum Achievement Podcast for a greater breakdown of E3 predictions along with a lot of other nonsense.

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FFVII Remake turns its back on turn-based combat; Square Enix responds to criticisms

The latest Final Fantasy VII trailer has shown a surprising change in the classic RPG — the removal of the turn-based combat system that many fans were expecting to have. Pixelpine’s affiliate podcast, The Platinum Achievement Podcast, initially questioned whether new fans would be supportive of the old gameplay. It seems Square Enix thinks the risk would be too great and have opted for a more contemporary approach.

Fans have had mixed reactions, but the concerns that some have had were addressed by Square Enix in a recent blog post by the game’s original director suggested fans look at FFVII in a new way as the devs are given the opportunity “to go beyond” what they’ve done in the past.

“With FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE, we have the opportunity to go beyond the story, world and experience of FINAL FANTASY VII in ways we’ve always dreamed of – from the depths of Midgar to the skies above the Planet. The multi-part format enables us to expand the original story and turn it into an epic experience for fans and new gamers alike.” – Yoshiniri Kotasi, Square Enix Blog

The latest gameplay video shows a more adventure-game feel to the past one — perhaps that’s just a side-effect of being converted to a newer style. The small glimpse of action looks visually stunning.

The new gameplay isn’t the only thing proven to be disconcerting for some fans. FFVII will be released in an episodic format rather than a full single release. Square Enix went on to respond to this in a way that many could expect — claiming it would have been impossible to include all the content they would have liked to include in a single release. “…we would have to cut various parts and create a condensed version…”

Still, the criticisms from the diehard fans looking for a rejuvenated nostalgic feeling of playing Final Fantasy VII again will have to be considered throughout the development process for Square Enix. It’s clear the developer wants to appeal to a larger audience, but maintaining the core fanbase will be crucial to ensure this high-profile title will be a success.

Square Enix has yet to reveal a release date for Final Fantasy VII.

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Sony to add backwards compatibility; Playstation 2 emulator for PS4

Microsoft made waves announcing Xbox 360 backwards compatibility for the Xbox One at E3 2015, and Sony is showing they have their own, similar plan up their sleeves.

A Playstation 2 emulator has been confirmed by Sony.

The emulator is currently in the works but no exact details are yet available regarding what games — or how many games are going to be included.

While the Xbox One took advantage of the tremendous success of the Xbox 360 with backwards compatibility, the PlayStation 4 is arguably in a better place skipping back two generations. The new generation console will be taking on part of the library of the best-selling console of all time. While many of the titles are outdated, this is certainly a welcoming feature — especially for older gamers who want to experience the nostalgia.

Digital Foundry suggests that the PS2 emulation software is already being utilized by the PS4 console. The latest PS4 Star Wars bundle includes copies of Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Star Wars: Racer Revenge, and Star Wars: Bounty Hunter along with the new Star Wars Battlefront release. Digital Foundry claims that these games all run on the same PS2 emulator that Sony is expected to soon roll out in a larger scale.

More info to come soon. Follow Pixelpine on twitter for updates.

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Microsoft looking at Xbox Live memberships rather than consoles sales for success metric [Poll]

For consoles today the constant battle in market share is often what most people look to when analyzing which company is doing the best. The current status is pretty clear with Sony’s Playstation 4 taking a decisive lead over the other consoles of this generation — the Xbox One and the WiiU.

But Microsoft is shying away from the physical console sales to determine whether they are successful or not. Instead, the company will look at Xbox Live memberships to decide if they’re continuing to make progress as a major player in the console gaming industry.

The decision to switch to online subscriptions probably won’t affect the general gaming consensus that the PS4 is winning the race, but it seems a tad suspicious that Microsoft is going ahead with the switch just as the overall revenue for Xbox fell at the same time the revenue from Xbox Live went up.

And the news that Xbox Live revenue is on the rise while Xbox console shipments is stagnating is not surprising — especially for a Q3 report in 2015. Xbox 360 consoles are declining as it nears its 10 year birthday and Xbox One sales stagnate for gamers electing to wait for the holiday season for buying a $400 console.

Regardless of the decision, Xbox Live should be the cash cow for Microsoft with digital gaming on the rise. It grew by 6% revenue-wise with a 28% increase in its userbase (now at 39 million). The quality of the platform is what makes the Xbox One at all stand out against the PS4’s superior hardware and measuring the active users gives a more realistic idea of who uses their consoles.

But still with Sony and Nintendo still using shipments as their major success metric it will seem a bit odd when Microsoft shows off users rather the consoles shipped every quarter. It’s unclear whether the company will continue the quarterly reporting of console sales — or how often they’ll report them.

Do you like Microsoft using Xbox Live as a metric for success?

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The end of Joel and Ellie? New characters a possibility for The Last of Us 2

The Last of Us has made waves as one of the best modern games to ever release and the developers at Naughty Dog have certainly had the idea of a second game in their head since the first title’s launch on the PS3 back in 2013.

In an interview with PlayStation Magazine Naughty Dog’s creative director, Neil Druckman, revealed that Uncharted 4’s development impeded on his and Bruce Straley’s desire to get to work brainstorming the next The Last of Us.

“…we were brainstorming ideas for The Last Of Us 2 with new characters; ideas for TLOU 2 with Joel and Ellie; ideas for a sci-fi game; ideas for a fantasy game, and building prototypes for each one of those ideas. And just as we were getting close to settling or narrowing that list down, we were asked to work on Uncharted 4.”

With a team as small and concentrated as Naughty Dog it’s understandable that The Last of Us has taken a backseat to Uncharted 4, but that doesn’t mean some things are being brewed by the dev. Nolan North, Joel’s voice actor, confirmed the existence of a TLOU 2 last week at MetroCon.

Apparently Naughty Dog wasn’t quite expecting North to talk about the game at all according to Druckman. “…that was kind of a surprise for us for him to say that. I was like “Oh, he knows more than we know [about] what we’re doing next.’ We joked about it afterwards during shoots and stuff.”

North also announced that he has not been approached (yet) for any other work from Naughty Dog besides’ Uncharted 4.

Though with the revelation of these type of stories in the same time frame it’s likely that Naughty Dog truly hasn’t gotten too deep into the TLOU 2’s development. It’s a possibility that not even they know if Joel and Ellie’s story will continue in some fashion in the next game.

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Exit Project Morpheus…Enter PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR

Sony shows off PlayStation VR at TGS 2015, hints at price

If history is any indication of future events, then Sony consumers across the globe know all too well the Japan-based video game juggernaut can’t have a feature product without PlayStation in its name.

That is why Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House officially announced the name change of Sony’s flagship foray into virtual reality gaming from Project Morpheus — which sounded like something out of the Terminator franchise — to the clean and simple PlayStation VR.

But that’s not all PlayStation fans were offered at the 2015 Tokyo Game Show this week. House did not specify an exact price for the headset but did confirm it will be priced as a “new gaming platform.” So consumers will have to be really committed to PlayStation VR to consider shelling out another $350 or so dollars for it.

House believes PlayStation VR will be a key part of the PlayStation ecosystem.

“VR rewrites the rule book on how you can create games,” House noted in an interview with Bloomberg. “You’re seeing a large amount of interest and work happening among smaller teams, because it’s possible to create something in VR that is very simple but still very magical.”

Playing catchup?

PlayStation VR has come a long way since its introduction in 2014 at the Game Developers Conference.

Since last year’s prototype, several modifications have been made to improve the Sony piece into the leading VR headset in the industry. In addition to changes, PlayStation VR packs a hell of a punch in terms of its specifications:

  • New 120Hz refresh rate (up from 60Hz), the fastest available across the “Big Three” of VR headsets — PS VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift
  • Additional 90Hz display option to give developers more flexibility
  • 5.7 inch 1920 X RGB X 1080 resolution OLED display, which expands the field of view and enables low persistence, removing motion blur
  • Reduced latency to less than 18ms, about half of what the first PlayStation VR prototype had, helping to deliver a sense of presence and comfort to players

PlayStation VR, which will work in tandem with the supposedly-underpowered PlayStation 4, shocked the VR community when it announced its upgrade to a 120Hz refresh rate, the highest of any VR headset on the market.

Release date

House confirmed earlier reports that PlayStation VR will enter the market in the first half of 2016. Additionally, the Sony executive said it plans to deliver over 10 titles for the device throughout the course of next year.

For now, PlayStation VR seems to have the hot hand. Time will tell if Oculus or HTC can halt Sony’s momentum.

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Digital gaming is on the rise; up 11% in August

Digital gaming is the future — or perhaps digital gaming is the present. As the disc-based, physical model of video games continues to shrink with the new digital-heavy approach of the Xbox One and PS4 it’s no surprise to see each month the market continue to expand.

SuperData‘s recent analysis shows nearly a billion dollars (exactly $979 million) were spent on digital games in the month of August — an 11% increase from where it was just one year ago.

PC gamers have been a steady source of revenue for digital gaming for many years even before the Xbox One and PS4 consoles with online stores like Steam and Origin.

PC gamers and console gamers accounted for $250 million of the $979 million and with many major titles like Fallout 4, Halo 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and more on the way, it’s a fairly safe bet to make this number is only going to go up.

SuperData suggests that this could be the biggest holiday-season yet for the digital gaming industry.

The latest Apple TV also comes into play a bit, and despite the excitement some may have for the additional gaming features in the console the limitations of the platform is far too great for it to take any sizeable chunk of the market.

SuperData explains that “…mobile gamers are just that: they prefer to play on their smartphone or tablet and are ultimately much less likely to switch to a large screen in their living room.”

The expectations for the Apple TV as a gaming console should be set very low. There is a slim-to-none threat of the platform threatening even Nintendo’s WiiU console let alone the major Xbox One, PS4, or PC gaming platforms.

Overall, gaming as a whole is in a fantastic place as a medium with the launch of YouTube Gaming helping popularity stay on it’s skyrocketing pace along with twitch.tv merging the video and interactive media together.

 

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The Sony Empire Strikes Back with Limited Edition PS4 Bundles

On November 17, 2015, the Playstation 4 is getting another limited edition console that features the glorious face of Darth Vader. Announced during the D23 Expo in Anaheim, the Limited Edition Star Wars Battlefront PS4 Bundle will come with:

  • a custom 500GB PS4 of the CUH-1200 series(that’s the re-modeled PS4 with the mechanical buttons and increased power efficiency) with Darth Vader on the top of the console,
  • the Darth Vader Edition Dualshock 4 that’s designed to resemble Darth Vader’s chest plate which makes this the most asymmetrical PS4 controller to date,
  • Star Wars Battlefront Deluxe Edition,
  •  a download voucher for four classic star wars titles – Super Star Wars(SNES), Star Wars: Racer Revenge(PS2), Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter(PS2/Xbox), and Star Wars Bounty Hunter(PS2/GC) – with enhanced graphics and trophy support.

Not only that, Disney Infinity has their own Star Wars bundle that’s coming out in November.

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The Limited Edition Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars PS4 Bundle will also include the 500GB custom Darth Vader Playstation 4(CUH-1200 series), Darth Vader Edition Dualshock 4, the download voucher for the four classic Star Wars games, as well as the Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars Edition PlayStation Exclusive Hardware Bundle Kit. The kit includes:

  • a physical copy of Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition
  • the Disney Infinity Base
  • the Rise Against the Empire Play Set Pack (featuring Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa figures, as well the Rise Against the Empire Play Set piece)
  • the Boba Fett figure, exclusive to PlayStation through this holiday

A standard edition bundle will also be available with the standard Playstation 4(CUH-1200 series) and Dualshock 4 with Star Wars Battlefront Deluxe Edition and the four classic Star Wars games.

2015 seems to be the year of the special edition consoles for Sony, starting with the Batman LE console in June; the Japan, Europe, and Australia exclusive Metal Gear Solid V LE console in September, a new Destiny LE console also in September, and now a Star Wars LE console in November. Perhaps another limited edition console will appear in December during the Playstation Experience.

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Shenmue 3 progress: $2 million goal nearly doubled; more stretch goals added

Shenmue 3, the continuation of the series that served as an incredible piece of advancing the gaming industry back in 1999 (and in 2001), is benefiting from the die-hard fans and love for the former games with the title shattering the record for fastest crowd-funding of a game.

Roughly two weeks after the KickStarter fund’s announcement at Sony’s E3 2015 conference the title has accumulated $3.75 million — nearly double that of the $2 million that Yu Suzuki and his team initially looked to acquire.

This success has prompted the addition of 13 new stretch goals ranging from more expansive language options to other general improvements to gameplay and area sizes.

As excitement continues to build, Yu Suzuki spoke to fans personally on twitch.tv and shared some more details on the stretch goals and on the current direction of Shenmue 3.

What are the Baisha Stretch Goals?

The $5 million Srtetch Goal will focus on the area, Baisha. This will be something new and fun I would like to include for Shenmue 3. It will include siege and infiltration events based off the Warring Kingdoms period in Chinese history. The events will be very Shenmue-like and will fit into the game naturally and will not be difficult to grasp. There is also the Character Perspective System. It is a character change system, but in Shenmue, it will work a little differently. It will allow you to play as Shenhua or Ren, besides Ryo. The choices that Shenhua or Ren would make would be different from those of Ryo’s because their personalities are different. It will bring out their individual character and add another element of enjoyment to the game. There are Stretch Goals up to $11 million, and I would like to explain those next week!

How will Shenmue 3 be different at $3 million, $5 and $10 million?

At the $3 million level, Shenmue 3 will be more story oriented. Going to $5 million, there will be features not present in 1 & 2, features that I really want to see in Shenmue 3 like the Warring Kingdom scenarios. At the $10 million level, the area Choubu will get a big expansion, and be like Dobuita in Yokosuka where you will have a lot of options to explore and have fun. I hope we can shoot for that goal and make Shenmue 3 more open world like.

An exact release date for Shenmue 3 is not yet available, but Suzuki does expect a trial version to release some time in 2017.

Suzuki has also reiterated time and time again the appreciation he has for Sony and how close they are as a partner. While a release on another console besides the PS4 has not been denied, the likelihood that it does appear on any non-Sony platform is very unlikely.


 

Check out some of the design work from Kenji Miyawaki for Shenmue below:

 

Ryo Hazuki as designed by Kenji Miyawaki for Shenmue

shenmue 3 artwork 2

shenmue 3 artwork 3

shenmue 3 artwork 4

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Final Fantasy VII Remake Announced

Sony’s E3 press conference revealed a visually stunning remake of Final Fantasy VII, incurred by sheer force of will from popular fan demand. The remake will be directed by Tetsuya Nomura and is aptly dubbed Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Whether or not the game will appear outside PS4 was not confirmed, but Square Enix said in their showing that gamers can “Play if first on PlayStation” which would imply that the game will release on other platforms.

Whether or not Microsoft, the main competitor to Sony, will be host to this nostalgia filled recreation of the Final Fantasy VII world is still to be seen.

More details will be announced in the near future.