Saturday, November 23, 2013

Weekly Roundup - November 17-23, 2013

This week was capped by the north-American launch of the Xbox One with global distribution scheduled for next week. By all accounts, Sony and Microsoft's respective launches have been massive successes with both companies moving over a million units in the first 24 hours. Also this week, some reports of next-gen hardware failures surfaced, Ryse falls short of expectations, Team Fortress 2 gets another free update, and Reaper of Souls makes it to beta stages.

Xbox One Launch
This week, it was Microsoft's turn to officially enter the next generation as the Xbox One launched. By most accounts, the launch was successful with over a million units sold in the first 24 hours. This pretty much mirrors the PlayStation 4 and, as expected, getting your hands on a console without a pre-order is next to impossible with retail stocks being depleted faster than they can be shelved. Many analysts have been predicting that we won't be able to see a clear differentiation in sales between the two machines until after the holiday hype and that it will likely be the end of 2014 before any real assertion of market share can be made. Whatever side you are backing, its a good time to be a gamer.

In a case of reciprocity, Sony sent out a series of tweets and messages congratulating Microsoft on their successful launch. However, Sony also managed to put a since removed dig up on Facebook touting the PS4's native 1080p capabilities as being superior to the Xbone. As I thought with Microsoft's messages to Sony last week, I don't expect that these communications are going to change anyone's mind and are certainly concealing ulterior motives (although nothing malicious).

Next-Gen Hardware Issues
Both Sony and Microsoft have had scattered reports of hardware issues since launch but nothing seems to indicate anything on a scale  of the infamous red-ring-of-death that marred the Xbox 360 launch. It is unclear exactly what is causing the hardware failures on the Sony side but Microsoft has identified a few issues with some Xbone power bricks leading to complications. Many projections are showing that the amount of affected machines is only a small fraction of total consoles on the market. I think that these stories were inevitable, you have millions of boxes hitting the streets and it's a virtual guarantee that a handful won't work; that's just the odds when dealing with technology. Still, it must suck to see your shiny new box become a glorified paper-weight over night. Fortunately, both Microsoft and Sony are doing the right thing and prioritizing replacements and offering expedited shipping.

Ryse Sucks
I was more excited for Ryse than any other next-gen launch title and I really believed Crytek could deliver the goods. Alas, most reviews are negative suggesting that monotonous combat can't be forgiven no matter how gorgeous the graphics look. While I had already pretty much decided on picking up a PlayStation 4, this is the final nail in the coffin for me as the Xbone simply isn't offering anything compelling at launch (again, personal opinion, flames off please). Also, the other big upcoming Xbone "exclusive", Titanfall, is also coming out on the PC. I'm disappointed that the game blows but can't say that I'm surprised, console launch titles have a reputation for falling short of expectations (primarily due to rushed development).

TF2 Update
If you aren't lucky enough to be picking up a next-gen box this week, you can at least take solace in the latest Team Fortress 2 update. New maps, new visual effects, and new crates! The legendary support for this game continues and seven years after launch the community is still getting regular free content updates. I don't think I have had more bang for my buck with any other entertainment purchase I have made ever. That may seem like hyperbole but it's the truth.

Reaper of Souls Closed Beta
Rounding things out, the closed beta for the upcoming Diablo 3 expansion  has started. While early stages, this beta has distinguished itself from previous Blizzard closed betas by actually enlisting members of the public. 3000 active Diablo 3 players have received invites to test the new content and their feedback will undoubtedly be listened to. Blizzard is going all-out to make Diablo 3 the game it should have been in the first place and restore the shine to their once flawless reputation and this is a solid step in the right direction. No news on a release date but I am more than happy with "when it's done" here.