Saturday, January 11, 2014

Weekly Roundup - 2014 Week 2

2014 is only a couple weeks in and we are already getting some pretty big news. This week was headlined by the Consumer Electronics Show and news of the PlayStation Now service and Steam Machine specs. Also this week, China sanctions sales of next-gen hardware, DayZ beta access breaks a million sales, and Shaq Fu 2 might be a thing.

Consumer Electronics Show 2014
The yearly tech show held in Vegas isn't as game focused as E3 but generally hosts announcements from the major hardware manufacturers and is a great way to start off the year. This year's show was dominated (at least from a gaming perspective) by news on the PlayStation Now streaming service and a ton of details on Steam Machines.

PlayStation Now is Sony's foray into the streaming market at is expected to launch this summer. The service will allow for users to play games through the cloud without a need for the physical hardware. It represents the fruition of Sony's acquisition of Gaikai in 2012 and the demos on display seem to be playable if not quite as good as actually having a local console present. I'm not entirely sold on the notion of game streaming services on their own but see a lot of potential for Sony to offer the service through the PlayStation 4 as a method to play older generation titles - just don't expect smooth multiplayer.

Steam Machines are Valve's push to tap the home console market and are being developed in tandem with the Linux based Steam-OS and the recent push for 'Big Picture' mode integration in Steam hosted games. CES saw the announcements of several manufacturers and the specs of their respective hardware. Pricing ranges from $500 to $2000 depending on what's under the hood. Valve has stated that they are specifically targeting existing Steam users with these machines and, quite frankly, I'm not sold. The hardware pricing is equivalent to a new PC and not compelling enough to shift my mouse/keyboard habits to a controller in the living room. I think Valve would do better to try establish market share for the existing console market.

China Lifts on Ban on Console Sales for Next-Gen
Not a massive news story but China has officially sanctioned the sale of next generation consoles. It's important to note that hacked next-gen machines were already widely available in China and this appears to be more a case of the government wanting a cut of the market over anything else. I think the most interesting aspect of this news is the potential for it to signal a reform in China's lax stance towards piracy. If developers start seeing some of the money that has been previously lost to the black-hole of piracy, it's a win for the industry.

DayZ Beta Breaks 1 Million Sales
Early beta access for the retail version of the popular zombie apocalypse mod for Arma2 has broken a million sales since its launch in mid-December. Already garnering an active streaming community, fans have been praising the game as a faithful stand-alone rendition of the mod. While I think that the huge support is great for the development team, I want to give people a shake for continuing the practice of paying for beta. Yes, DayZ is actually giving value for money at this stage of its development, but this isn't the case for many other pay-for-beta titles and sets a trend that the market is willing to pay for incomplete products.

Shaq Fu 2?
As reported on ScrewAttack, one observant G1 noticed this recent interview with Shaq where he seems to confirm development for a sequel to the 16-bit fighter Shaq Fu. The original game is often cited as one of the worst fighting games of all time and stands as a monument of Shaq's awkward attempt to break into mainstream entertainment. It's unclear whether Shaq is actually serious or just blowing smoke but I kind of hope it's true just for the sheer lunacy of the whole thing.