PlayStation vs. Xbox: A Tale of Two Polarizing Directions

Contributor: Karl Guyton II

 

 
In February of this year, head of Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) Shawn Layden gave an interview with CNET discussing the future of PlayStation (https://www.cnet.com/news/sonys-shawn-layden-wants-fewer-bigger-playstation-games/) Layden discussed the next generation console (likely to be called PlayStation 5), game streaming, E3, as well other topics. One such topic that was particularly interesting was that he wants Playstation studios to focus on fewer, more significant games. Layden stated that “As the exclusive developer for PlayStation, we always have to set the high-water mark, to push the technology further than anyone else.” This is a statement that is overwhelmingly supported by the software sales of Playstation’s first-party exclusives this generation. Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, Spider-Man, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and Days Gone were all commercial blockbusters, and were except for Days Gone all critically acclaimed as well. PlayStation also has a few games that are upcoming that are more than likely going to join those aforementioned games as critical and commercial successes as Death Stranding is set to debut this fall, while Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us: Part II are widely expected to be released in 2020. In addition to their big hitting AAA titles, PlayStation has some highly anticipated AA first games set to release this Fall in Dreams and Concrete Genie. Recently, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan doubled down on Layden’s comments, saying that story driven titles are not a genre that Sony will ever step away from and that the company has “never had greater success” than it currently has with story-driven experiences. It is this attention to detail and focus on quality that has to lead to PS4 running away with this generation’s “console war.”

death-stranding
Photo Credit: Death Stranding. Kojima Productions

On the flip side, Microsoft started off this generation with the Xbox One on the wrong foot. The initial marketing strategy was disastrous, as they touted the new console as the perfect media hub, while oddly ignoring games. This poor start set Xbox back so far that they couldn’t catch up. For the last 2 years specifically, Microsoft has been acquiring new game studios, in anticipation of the upcoming 9th generation. The next generation allows Microsoft and Xbox to start over fresh, and with the current game studio acquisitions, Microsoft now has 14 in house studios to Sony’s 13. One of the critical weaknesses of Xbox’s this generation was the overall lack of quality of first-party exclusives. Xbox die-hards had Halo, Gears, and Forza but that was pretty much it. This is why Microsoft spent so much time and energy acquiring new studios. But now the question is, can Microsoft’s newly acquired studios match the quality output of Sony’s first party studios? At E3, Microsoft unveiled the new game studios that they had acquired and showed off a few of the games currently in development.
Admittedly, what we did see wasn’t much, but I imagine that many of the games are being developed for the next Xbox and it would be wiser for Xbox to reveal those games next year at E3 alongside the actual console. That much doesn’t trouble me at all. What does bother me, however, was Matt Booty’s interview with IGN. https://www.ign.com/articles/2019/06/11/microsoft-aiming-for-a-first-party-xbox-game-about-every-three-months-e3-2019 Booty claimed that they want to pump out a quality game approximately every 3 months. Booty said, “I think about like how long you spend with a game and just sort of the cadence of discovery there,” Booty explained. “So if you can do a game every three months, and if a game takes somewhere between two years and four years, I mean, just think about things that have come out recently, you know, things like Red Dead and God of War need to be getting into five, six years. Right? But let’s just say for the sorts of studios, like a Ninja theory or a double fine that two, three years start to be the cadence, right?
“So, then if you’ve got a game a quarter and you’re taking two to three years.” Booty continued. “You can kind of back into the math and say, well wow, you probably need somewhere between 10 and 12 studios. But… making games is not yet a perfect science, right? There’s no creative endeavor that is. So there’s going to be things that take longer. There’s going to be some things that we start and say, hey, great idea, but it just isn’t, you know, the Jello doesn’t want to set. Right. Um, and so I think we need some, some buffer in there, right? So the first, that’s kind of my basic answers. We’d love to be feeding a high-quality game into game pass about every three months.” The issue here is and quality. Quality games take time to make, and 3 months is like the blink of an eye considering that average game development cycles are closer to 3 years. Granted, Phil Spencer said at E3 that Xbox currently has over 1000 games in development, we can still readily assume that the vast majority of these are not AAA exclusives. Booty noted that the driving mechanism for this timeline was Xbox Game Pass, Xbox’s subscription gaming service. As of now, this is simply speculation and my own opinion, but it seems that Xbox is valuing quantity over quality, while PlayStation is focused on delivering quality games while cutting back to the amount. PlayStation and Xbox are seemingly taking two polarizing directions going into the next generation, and it will be interesting to see which strategy pays off.

Square Cameras Will be Making Their Way to iPhones and the Pixel 4 this Fall Whether you like them or Not.

 
The design language of smartphone components is continuously changing and evolving with the implementation of new technologies. The pressure to be innovative can stem from competitors and the growing boredom and reluctance from customers to upgrade their devices as often as they used to.

The quest to have the best smartphone camera has forced smartphone manufacturers to rethink their previous strategy of having small and minimalist cameras on the rears of their handsets. Google and Apple have had a different approach to their camera functionality. Apple has embraced a hardware-based approach featuring dual lenses and proximity sensors. Google, on the other hand, has used a software-based method utilizing artificial intelligence to tweak and enhance the quality of photos shot on their phone. Apple uses AI as well for its camera sensors but not as focused as Google’s model.

At this point, it seems Google has achieved the perfect balance between competent hardware and a heavy emphasis on AI-based photography to produce stunning results when taking pictures on their Pixel phones. While iPhones are certainly no slouch in the photography department, many agree that Google still holds the edge with camera features and photo quality. A prominent example of this is Google’s Night-Sight mode on their newer Pixel phones. The Night-Sight feature uses AI to take well-composed pictures in near black-out environments without the need for a flash.

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Photo Credit: EverythingApplePro

Apple plans to try to even the score or even surpass Google by doubling down on its hardware strategy by adding another camera sensor to its next iPhone. This would give the top tier iPhone a total of three lenses on the rear. However, due to a recent leak and subsequent surprise confirmation by Google, Google also plans on adding another lens to its flagship for a grand total of two cameras on the rear with an unknown sensor.

Because of leaks, we now know that both Apple and Google have significant physical changes coming to their camera sensors. These new camera modules will be relatively large and square in shape. Impressions from the leaks and renders of the phones have been mixed, and sometimes leaning to the negative side of the fence due to differences in design preferences.

The jury is still out on what new advancements these new camera modules will bring, but I have to assume Apple and Google can justify the risk of an unpopular design by providing a significant upgrade to their current camera systems.

Pokémon I’d Be Willing to Cut From Sword & Shield 

During Nintendo’s E3 conference and Pokemon Tree House special, the Pokemon company dropped a devastating bombshell on longtime Pokemon players. Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of Pokémon in existence and the time it takes to reanimate them for the new game engine properly, certain Pokémon will be completely cut for the game. This will mark the first Pokemon game since Pokemon bank was introduced that all Pokemon won’t be available in the game in any capacity. 

This is undoubtedly disheartening news for all players who have been “catching them all” for over two decades only to be told not all of their Pokemon will be allowed in the brand new HD Pokemon games being released this fall.

At this time the Pokemon Company ‘hasn’t released a list of the Pokemon that did make the cut or how many will be available in the game. There is also discussion among players if the rest of the Pokemon will (eventually) be patched into the game. At this time, the Pokemon company has given no indication that this is their plan. For better or worse this is the reality we live in, and we can only hope our favorites make it into the game.

While I don’t speak for the Pokemon company or Game Freak, I do however have (MY OWN) opinions of which Pokemon should be in the game based on (MY OWN) preferences. Below I will prepare a list of all the Pokémon I am ok with being cut and a short reason why for some. (I for obvious reason won’t be including any Pokémon that have been confirmed to be in the game via trailers and officially released content) 

 

1) Beedrill Line

2)Pidgeeot Line

3) Fearrow Line 

4) Wigglytuff line

5) Parasect line 

6) Dugtrio Line 

7) Primape Line

8) Muk Line 

9) Electrode Line 

10) Blissey Line

11) Furret Line

12) Ledian (Does anyone use this Pokemon???)

13) Jumpluff Line

14) Unown (All of them Are Useless)

15) Forretress Line 

16) Dunsparce (Unless it gets an evolution) 

17) GranBull Line

18) Quillfish 

19) Corsola

20) Delibird (Why dies this Pokémon exist)

21) Swellow Line 

22) Exploud Line 

23) Hariyama Line 

24) Volbeat

25) Illumise 

26) Chimeecho

27) Luvdisc

28) Bibarel Line 

29) Kricketune Line 

30)  Wormadam Line and variants 

31) Patchirisu 

32) Chingling 

33) Chatot

34) Drapion

35) Carnivine ( Just a poor design)

36) Rotom (As a playable Pokémon)

37) Phione

38) Manaphy 

39) Shaymin Both forms 

40) Victini

41) Swoobat Line

42) Audino Line 

43) Darmanitan

44) Maractus

45) Garbodor line (its literally trash)

46) Emolga

47) Amoonguss Line

48) Cobalion

49) Terakion 

50) Virizion

51) Meloetta forms 

52) Talonflame line 

53) Furfrou 

54) Slurpuff line

55) Dedenne

56) Carbink (Unless it gets an evolution)

57) Gourgiest Line and all variants 

58) Oricorio variants (They only make sense in the Alolan Region)

59) Ribombee Line 

60) Lurantis Line

61) Silvally Line 

62) Minior (literally forgot this Pokemon exists) 

63) All Tapu Forms 

64) Cosmoem Line (For a company worried about scalability I wonder why they literally created a useless Pokémon)

65) The Ultra Beasts will likely be cut

While I would ideally like all Pokemon to be in the game or at some point be patched in, I do challenge all of you to go through the Pokedex and pick out the Pokemon you personally dislike, don’t use or have entirely forgotten about. I was truly surprised by the sheer number of Pokemon that I was ok with potentially not being in the game. I figure at least some people will have a significant number of Pokemon they honestly wouldn’t miss if they were cut from the game. I personally found this experiment helpful with coping with the changes coming to the new Pokemon games.

 

Be Honest, Will you REALLY MISS... THIS THING???
Photo Credit: Pokemon TCG

Questions About iOS We have After WWDC.

During this year’s WWDC, Apple debuted its future for its various operations systems. Highlights included iOS 13, MacOS Catalina, and the debut of Apple’s newest operating system iPad OS. While Apple revealed a great deal about these upcoming software releases, there are still many questions we have about the operating systems themselves, including how they will affect existing devices, and to what degree the new features will be implemented.

iOS 13

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Photo Credit: Apple

My biggest question about iOS 13 is regarding the new Dark Mode. I wonder if Dark Mode will present “true blacks” on OLED devices such as the various iPhone X models except for the XR which uses a liquid retina display which is an LCD. When I say a “true black,” I mean pixels being entirely turned off while using dark mode. If this is the case, I iPhone X(s, Max) could see gains in battery life because fewer pixels have to be illuminated and thus are saving energy. Older iPhones and the XR will of course not be able to achieve true blacks dude to the nature of LCDs, but I’m sure the Dark Mode will still be much easier on the eyes, there however just won’t be any battery savings. 

TvOS 

As a gamer, you can imagine that I was excited at the announcement that the Apple TV would natively support PlayStation and Xbox One controllers. This is fantastic news as I have been highly reluctant to purchase one of the expensive MiFi controllers that were compatible with iOS and TvOS. As I already own multiple PS4 controllers, I now feel empowered to try out more games on my Apple TV. I am, however, more curious about the support Playstation and Xbox controllers will have with iOS, Mac OS, and iPad OS. The Nintendo Switch is one of my favorite gaming consoles due to its very portable nature, other devices I always have with me are my iPad, my MacBook, and my iPhone. I have never liked only having a touch screen for gaming inputs, and I know I could have purchased one of those MiFi controllers, but as I said, I already have enough controllers at home laying around. A few years back, I bought Final Fantasy 7 and Transistor on iOS, but I just didn’t want to play with touch controls or buy a new controller to play them. But now I have the option to play both of these games on my Switch. I historically haven’t had a problem with double dipping on games, when they release on a platform that is more in line with my play-style, and I’ve been on the fence about purchasing these games on Switch. But now my decision will depend on if I can natively use my PS4 controller with my iPad because in that case, I will stick with those games on iOS. 

iPadOS 

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Photo Credit: Apple 

 

Year after year, changes to the software experience on iPad had stolen the show at WWDC, and this year was no different. This time, Apple defined a new pedigree for the software experience on iPad by giving the device its own operating system. iPadOS is the new name of the software that will now power iPad Devices. At this time, iPadOS isn’t a significant departure from the iOS experience on iPad but is different in a few key ways. A notable update is that multitasking is now improved on iPadOS. Multitasking has been improved by allowing better window management and allowing multiple windows of the same app to be displayed. Two of the most desired features that I wanted for iPad (https://iphonetennismatch.com/) are finally making their way to the tablet. The First feature is one that Apple omitted from their presentation, but none the less is present in iPadOS and will for many vastly improve their iPad workflows. That feature is mouse support on the iPad. This feature won’t be immediately apparent as Apple wants you to primarily utilize the iPad’s touch screen to navigate menus and apps. The support for mice and trackpads will be found in the accessibility section of the settings app and can be toggled on or off. It has been confirmed that Apple’s own Magic Mouse and Trackpad will be compatible with iPads on iPadOS. The cursor will be the same found In the assistive touch function found in iOS. Whether or not Apple will add a proper cursor or be more forthcoming on the addition of this feature will remain to be seen.  The Second feature that I anticipated coming to the iPad was the adoption of native support for using an iPad a second display for the Mac. Apple did publicize this feature during its keynote, and they called this feature “Side Car.” It has been confirmed that this feature can be used via USB-C and a wireless Bluetooth connection. There are however questions on whether older iPads that use a lighting cable will be able to utilize the Side Car feature, or if older Macs will be able to interface with newer iPads using this feature as well. According to some sources, All iPads that can support iPadOS will be able to use the Sidecar feature with Macs that can install MacOS Catalina. I do hope that this is the case as it wouldn’t force current Mac and iPad users to upgrade their devices to take advantage of this feature.