PS4 Will Play Used Games

There were many rumors and concerns that the PS4 would be a device that would both block used games and require users to always be online. However, Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida shot down both of those rumors in a post-press conference interview.

“That’s the general expectation by consumers,” said Yoshida. “They purchase physical form, they want to use it everywhere, right So that’s my expectation.”

“Yes, you can go offline totally,” added Yoshida. “Social is big for us, but we understand there are some people who are anti-social! So if you don’t want to connect to anyone else, you can do that. You can play offline, but you may want to keep it connected. The system has the low-power mode – I don’t know the official term – that the main system is shut down but the subsystem is awake. Downloading or updating or you can wake it up using either the tablet, smartphone or PS Vita.”

Source: Eurogamer

Matchbox Turns Sixty

Matchbox is celebrating its 60th anniversary.  The tiny cars have a fascinating history, growing from a UK toy line named for packaging that resembled actual matchboxes into a global brand. To mark the anniversary, Mattel enlisted Ayzenberg to create this video, reminding us how the detailed little cars capture the imagination and have touched multiple generations.

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Exclusive: ESRB’s Patricia Vance Talks Expanding To Mobile

For nearly two decades the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has been the primary ratings platform for video game content in North America. Formed as a response to legislators critical of the mature content in video games, the ratings system has become an example of responsibility for the industry, showing that it cares about informing consumers about the content in its products.

Traditionally games are rated by professional testers, but in today’s digital age doing so with every game that releases for mobile platforms would be practically impossible. Thus, the ESRB has launched their own automatic rating tool for developers to submit ratings themselves. We caught up with ESRB president Patricia Vance to find out more.

[a]list: Give me details of the automatic rating tool.

Patricia Vance: ESRB has historically assigned each rating by having a group of at least three trained raters review a game’s “pertinent content,” which basically amounts to anything that has the potential to impact a rating assignment. This includes not only the typical content like violence, language, sexual content, drugs, etc., but also elements like the game’s context, objectives, reward system, degree of player control, graphic realism and other related factors. This process is quite thorough, and continues to serve us well for packaged/boxed games. But it is relatively labor-intensive, and is not scalable enough to handle the exploding volume of digitally delivered games that we now see in the marketplace.

In order to address the digital ecosystem, we realized that we would have to adapt our rating process. So we set out to devise a process that was streamlined but still highly reliable, low-cost and easy for a developer to use. That effort culminated in April 2011 when we began using an innovative “Short Form” to generate automated rating assignments for games that are only going to be made available via console download. The form itself consists of a series of basic questions about a game’s pertinent content, which generates follow-up questions where necessary. For instance, if a developer specifies that their game contains violence, they will then be asked whether the violence is directed at humans or other types of characters, whether it is fantastical or realistic, whether there is blood and gore, and so on. The form ascertains the key factors that impact rating assignments by asking questions in an objective fashion. In other words, we don’t ask developers to assess the degree of violence in their game, since that’s a subjective measure. Instead, we ask objective questions about the factors that we know can have an exacerbating or mitigating effect on rating assignments.

The ESRB’s Short Form rating process uses a questionnaire that drills down into key content areas to determine rating assignments.

Once the developer completes the form, they receive their rating immediately.

The fundamental difference between the traditional Long Form process and this new Short Form is that we’ve shifted our manpower from reviewing content prior to its release to conducting post-release review as a means for confirming that rating assignments are appropriately assigned. The advantage of the digital marketplace is that you can affect a rating change post-release much more quickly and effectively than you can with packaged product sold at retail.

The system performed exceedingly well upon its initial launch for console downloadable games, and later in 2011 we were selected by CTIA, the U.S. trade association for the wireless industry, to administer a comparable system for use with mobile apps. In October 2012 we introduced the next phase in this evolution: our Digital Rating Service, which allows developers of all digital-only games to obtain an ESRB rating using the Short Form without having to pay a fee. Eventually we expect to transition to a global version of this process, whereby developers can utilize a single form to obtain ratings from the authorized rating boards in multiple territories at once. The goal all along has been to evolve our process so it is conducive to the practical realities of the marketplace, and ultimately to foster a consistently-applied rating standard that consumers can rely on regardless of where or how they play.

 

[a]list: So, the decision not to charge fees for the mobile ratings was an attempt to make the ratings more universal and accessible?

Patricia Vance: Essentially, yes. But more importantly, it was meant to address the needs of the typical developer of a downloadable game and app. And the storefronts themselves would prefer not to burden developers, especially the smaller, independent ones, with additional costs. It’s also important to note that our ratings are voluntary. Although game consoles and major retailers of boxed games require ESRB ratings on product published on their systems or sold in their stores, this is not the case in the rest of the digital ecosystem. To better facilitate broader adoption of our ratings across all game devices, we sought to eliminate impediments that might discourage getting one. As a result, we decided that the system would not charge individual developers a fee, and at the same time set out to make it as easy and accessible as possible. We strongly believe in the benefits of providing consumers with a consistent and familiar ratings scheme for all games, regardless of where a consumer accesses them. We also think it’s good for developers to have one rating standard for their game across all devices on which it is published. And the Federal Trade Commission agrees, having advocated for utilizing a single standard for apps rather than the current patchwork quilt of ratings in its most recent report to Congress on the marketing of violent entertainment to children.

[a]list: Many features of the ratings are the same, but some are unique to the mobile medium. Were these qualifiers decided by the ESRB or did you consult with game makers? Why do you feel notices about online interactions are important?

Patricia Vance: It was mainly the result of consumer research we have been regularly conducting with parents. We are finding that parents have significant concerns related to their children’s privacy when it comes to playing online and in mobile games, particularly the sharing of personal information or location and the opportunity to interact with players other than friends. They consider it essential that a rating system disclose information up front — not just when using an app — about these interactive elements. In fact, two thirds of them consider this information just as important as content and age-appropriateness. These findings made it clear that we had an opportunity to expand the guidance we provide consumers as it relates to managing their family’s games and apps. So we added new notices, called Interactive Elements, that advise about the sharing of user-provided personal information with third parties (“Shares Info”), the sharing of the user’s location with other users (“Shares Location”), and the potential exposure to user-generated content through online interactions (“Users Interact”). At our inception, we were the first two-part rating system, offering consumers information about both age-appropriateness as well as content. Now, with the advent of Interactive Elements, we are the first three-part rating system offering information that goes beyond age and content.

For digitally delivered games and apps the ESRB uses a three-part rating system that includes new notices about “Interactive Elements.”

[a]list: Detail why you think it is important for the ESRB to evolve to digital releases.

Patricia Vance: Since ESRB was established we’ve enjoyed extremely strong and broad support from the video game industry, and that support has translated into tangible benefits for consumers. It has allowed for consistency in rating assignments as opposed to having conflicting ratings on different platforms. It has enabled game makers to use a single rating system in their advertising and marketing materials, and to display ratings in a standardized way. All of this consistency has helped generate very high levels of consumer awareness, understanding, and use of ESRB ratings, and has simplified a parent’s job when it comes to determining if a game is suitable for their child. Our rationale for wanting broader use of ESRB ratings for digitally delivered games is no different: consumers, developers and platforms are all best served by a consistently applied and trusted standard.

From an industry perspective, the ESRB has helped protect creative freedom through effective self-regulation. By successfully fulfilling its mission to ensure consumers have the information necessary to determine which games are appropriate for their family and that game publishers responsibly market their product, the industry has been able to fend off the prospect of onerous legislation or other threats of regulation. The Brown v. EMA/ESA Supreme Court case is a prime example. Our rating system was recognized in that decision as an effective tool that consumers can use to help manage their children’s games. This made the prospect of a legislative remedy unnecessary because the ESRB represented an existing, less restrictive means than governmental regulation. We’re already beginning to see some regulatory concerns arise for digital marketplaces, especially around privacy issues. So we believe that these digital marketplaces would benefit from utilizing the ESRB ratings, particularly with the addition of Interactive Elements. And we certainly believe that consumers and developers alike would benefit from having a consistent standard.

[a]list: If you could inform developers and publishers of any one thing for the mobile submissions, what would it be?

Patricia Vance: I’ve always gotten the sense that, in general, developers view ESRB as a necessary evil, a nuisance to be endured when bringing a game to market. My hope is that this new system will help to change that perception because the Short Form is so simple and fast, and, not to mention, free. No matter what type of game a developer is producing, there’s value in offering consumers ESRB ratings and, frankly, they’ve come to expect it. Our new digital rating process provides a ready-made means for doing that, and it costs the developer very little in time and nothing in money.

Although not the majority by any means, certain developers view the ESRB as a censor, imposing limitations on the content that game creators can include in their game. We feel that effective content labeling can actually foster creativity. Generally speaking, where there is an absence of an established, credible rating standard, retailers, storefronts and platform holders tend to impose their own standards. These aren’t always especially transparent or clear, nor are they consistent. This kind of ambiguity and variance can result in developers self-censoring to avoid problems. Utilizing a credible third party like ESRB for ratings makes the process much clearer for developers and allows them to create their content more freely by providing a uniform, third-party standard that both platforms and developers can support and defer to.

[a]list: What’s the most challenging thing about mobile game ratings Would you say it’s the sheer number of titles released any given day?

Patricia Vance: The volume hasn’t been an issue since the system we’ve put in place is designed to be scalable and manage high volume. Of course, we still need to monitor for accuracy, but we believe we will be able to identify potential issues fairly quickly. I would say the greatest challenge will be gaining broad adoption outside of the traditional game platforms. We’re making progress, but there is certainly more work to be done. Our goal is simple — to make sure that consumers everywhere in the U.S. and Canada have access to ESRB ratings regardless of the device used to play games.

Sony Details PlayStation 4 Hardware, Controller, Extras

Sony announced during an extensive two-hour presentation that their PlayStation 4 (which will be called the PlayStation 4) will release before 2013. The company said that the system will have an architecture friendly to developers with an 8-core x86 processor, “enhanced GPU”, 8 GB of unified GDDR5 memory, hard drive, and a secondary custom chip to handle social features and uploads/downloads.

While the console itself was not shown, they did have the DualShock 4 on display. This newly redesigned DualShock will feature enhanced rumble, reduced controller latency, a touchpad, share button, headphone jack, a speaker, and lightbar to identify players.

The system will also ship with an updated PlayStation Eye that will include two cameras and four microphones. Additionally, there will be complete integration with Gaikai, allowing friends to play remotely with you, PS4 streaming to the PS Vita, and backwards compatibility for PS3 titles (something David Perry says will eventually come to “every device.”)

BioShock Infinite – ‘Lamb Of Columbia’

The crux of BioShock Infinite is Elizabeth, the so-called ‘Lamb of Columbia’ shown off in this trailer highlighted by Blues Saraceno play Save My Soul. The Songbird wants to keep here in Columbia, some mysterious party is willing to pay a high price to Booker DeWitt to steal her away… but why are all these parties to desperate to secure her

 

Mass Effect Themed Risk Game Coming

Electronic Arts took to Facebook to confirm that they are going the route of Metal Gear Solid 4 and launching a Risk version of one of their games. In this case, it’s Mass Effectand it’s based around the scenario of the galaxy being at war from Mass Effect 3.

“Oh yes, it’s real, and it’s coming this Fall!” posted the company on Facebook.
Source: Facebook.com

Google Shows More Of Glass

Google announced that they are launching an “open beta” of sorts for Google Glass. They are taking applications for users to experience the device, which is wearable technology where users can take videos, pictures or perform light web functions with a few short vocal commands.

“We’re looking for bold, creative individuals who want to join us and be a part of shaping the future of Glass,” announced Google. “We’d love to make everyone an Explorer, but we’re starting off a bit smaller. We’re still in the early stages, and while we can’t promise everything will be perfect, we can promise it will be exciting.”

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“The deadline for applications is February 27. If you are chosen, we will reach out to you with an invitation to become a Glass Explorer (please remember to follow us so that we can contact you directly),” Google notes. “Explorers will each need to pre-order a Glass Explorer Edition for $1500 plus tax and attend a special pick-up experience, in person, in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles.”Find out more at Google.com.

PlayStation 4: Analysts React

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter has come out and said that he believes that the PS4 console will release at a price between $399 or $449. He also thinks that the smaller jump in hardware power from the last generation means that developer budgets will only increase modestly.

“We remain confident that the new console will have a lower initial MSRP than the PS3, which had a lofty starting price of $599 that we believe negatively impacted its longterm popularity,” wrote Pachter.

“The smaller jump in graphics this cycle, coupled with a PC-based architecture, should result in a smaller incremental increase in game development spending by the publishers than in prior console cycles,” Pachter added. “Although the PS4 will likely be able to play games at higher frame rates than its predecessors, we believe publishers will be reluctant to significantly increase their development budgets to maximize game frame rates, as the improvement will be largely unnoticed by many gamers.”

Meanwhile, EEDAR vice president Jesse Divnich thinks that Sony was right to take the wraps off their next console months before E3 at their own private event. “It was wise of Sony to announce the hardware and key features early in the year,” he said. “By announcing early and at an isolated event, it allows Sony to capture 100 percent of the attention of gamers, technology enthusiasts, and industry insiders; whereas historical hardware announcements would occur at E3, which often created a mind-share battle between others announcing new technology. Sony’s announcement now gives publishers plenty of time to prepare for E3 and it shifts the focus of the show to the software, which ultimately is what gamers look forward to the most.”

“There are pros and cons to both announcing early and potentially being the first market, but what it comes down to is the current sentiment in the market,” added Divnich. “If the market is vibrant, thriving, and innovation is still occurring, you generally want to abstain from being first to market with a new technology. In our current climate, console sales have stagnated. We’ve squeezed nearly every bit of innovation out of the current platforms and consumer interest in high-definition gaming is waning. Sony’s timing was perfect.”

While many details were revealed, there was no form factor for the PS4 and no precise launch date or price was given. Still, the console is coming this year, and there’s plenty of time and opportunities (like E3) to reveal things like the look and price of the console.

“Sony’s best chance at changing momentum is being first to market,” said Divnich, before adding, “For competitive reasons, I am not surprised that pricing was not discussed. I think Sony learned a valuable lesson with the launch of the PlayStation 3 and I wouldn’t expect the same mistakes to be made next generation. We wouldn’t expect pricing announcements until closer to launch.”

Source: GamesIndustry International

Anodyne Developers Reap Rewards From Pirate Bay Promotion

Developers of Anodyne announced success for their $7 advert on the Pirate Bay and subsequent sale. The image on the Pirate Bay’s front page directed people to the Anodyne website where there was a sale that allowed them to pay $1 (or more) for the game, where they sold 4511 copies on the Humble Store, 450 through Fastspring, 30 from Desura during the 72 hours of the promotion, while around 100 copies of the soundtrack were purchased by fans.

“Does the promo work? Yes! I think everything is much better off now – revenue, people playing, fans, etc, than we were before the promo,” said Anodyne developer Sean Hogan. “I definitely encourage trying something similar with The Promo Bay if you’re able to.”

“The Promo Bay far exceeded what our sales cycle would have been if we just went on as normal – sales were dying down around the start of the promo. We made twice as much revenue as we did in the past 10 days (plus the pre-orders), many more visitors, votes, etc.” he continued. “Our take was about $12k for the promo, split between Jon and I evenly. A nice amount for the work we’ve put into Anodyne. We also have a lot more publicity and fans now (go look around YouTube! Many many Let’s Plays). So things are looking up!”

Source: SeaGaia.com

BlizzCon Returns For 2013

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that BlizzCon will return in 2013, taking place Friday, November 8 and Saturday, November 9 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. The seventh BlizzCon will have plenty of panels, eSports events, play time with games, community contests and more.

“BlizzCon gives us a chance to connect with our players and share our latest projects in a very personal way,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment. “Members from all of our gaming communities have helped make this event bigger and better every time, and we look forward to meeting up and celebrating with them in November.”

Further details about BlizzCon 2013, including ticket availability and pricing, will be announced on the official BlizzCon website.