“I’ll track those answers down”

Sony announced that the PS4 will not be capable of playing your home music collection at launch. No CDs, no MP3s, nothing except their Music Unlimited service.

Weeks away from launch and the Xbox One team doesn’t know if they’re in the same boat.1

I suspect that using game consoles for music streaming isn’t as popular as you may be led to believe. It’s nice to have. I don’t see the sense of removing it, but I rarely use it.

Now video playback…that’s another story.

New Xbox too ‘masculine’?

Jason Johnson posits that the new Xbox may be too “masculine.”

And what class of consumer does the new Xbox appeal to? Carmody’s immediate thought is: professional adult men. “It’s very gendered,” she says, elaborating on how the machine’s retro style, which is a throwback to electronics from the ‘70s and ‘80s, is aimed at a male demographic. It seems the marketing department is out of sync with the Xbox One design team, as the company surely hopes to woo females, given the number of women on stage at the presentation.

It’s a black rectangle.

The new Xbox isn’t for you. It’s for everyone.

Jamin Warren makes the case for why Xbox One has a good chance:

I asked my girlfriend, who does not play games, what she thought about the Xbox One announcement. All of the Kinect bells and whistles and media features were attractive to her and she said they were incredibly appealing as a consumer, but not as a gamer. However, she added, “If I owned an XBox One, I’d probably be more likely to play games.”

If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

That’s a big “if.” If you don’t play games, why would you buy an Xbox One? So you can connect your TV to it? That’s like buying an aftermarket satellite receiver.

The strategy of trying to appeal to a more general audience appears to make sense, but isn’t that what Nintendo tried with the Wii?

Judging from what’s been announced, Xbox One represents everything that I hate about recent dashboard redesigns and Kinect gimmicks. I don’t want to “have a relationship with my TV.” I want to chill out on my couch and play good games on my Xbox.

And for all that other stuff I have an Apple TV.

My PS3 Renaissance

250GB PS31

I haven’t been playing a lot this year, but all it took was me ordering another HDMI cable from Monoprice.

That’s how it started – me using my PS3 about 1000% more in the past week than I have in the past year. I only had two HDMI cables – one dedicated for the 360, another for the PS3. Then I got an AppleTV and used the PS3’s cable for that. I rarely used my PS3 after that.

But then Kevin sent me Uncharted 2 and suggested I get Playstation Plus, Sony’s version of XBOX Live, but you don’t need it to play online. It’s like buying in to Playstation Store sales and getting free games for the length of your subscription. Now I own almost every Resident Evil game. Now I can play Demon’s Souls, which I hear is good. But that stuff is on hold, because I’m still working through a backlog. Point is that I never not have something to play.

I know to many PS3 owners all this stuff is old news. It’s easy to see how much Sony is courting game players compared to Microsoft. Where Microsoft nickel and dimes you (MS points, ads on the dashboard, proprietary HDD), Sony doesn’t.

For example, here’s a quick table I came up with.

Xbox Live vs PSN
Feature Xbox Live Sony PSN
Dashboard covered with ads in yearly subscription Yes No
You can upgrade storage with standard 2.5 HDD No Yes
Free online play (that I never use) No Yes
Indie Game Selection Big Bigger

Sony, I believe, has realized its mistakes with the PS3. That’s why they’re going with X86 architecture with the PS4. That’s why they’re actively courting indie game developers.

But Playstation Plus put it over the top for me. Downloading gigs and gigs of stuff has been the main reason my PS3 has been on almost constantly since subscribing.

I still have a bunch of games I want to play on my 360, but I’m now catching up on the PS3 exclusives I missed. They’re good enough to overlook my complaints about the Dual Shock. And yes, the D-Pad is better on the Dual Shock than it is on the 360.

  1. Photo by pseudogil 

Stupid, Stupid xBox!!

Natbro on the failure of the Xbox ecosystem:

My gripe is that, as usual, Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken.

Microsoft has been trying to shove Kinect down everybody’s throat. Meanwhile, the idea of a Steam Box is very exciting. It shouldn’t have even gotten to that.

Why is Valve the biggest digital retailer of games on Windows? (Because Valve is easier to work with, they welcome the indies, and they don’t charge $10,000 just for the opportunity to develop for their platform.)

That’s what Microsoft should have been.

Microsoft’s Ulterior Motive

On how Xbox used to be about games, and now it’s not.

It’s clear that Microsoft doesn’t care about small downloadable titles anymore, when as a gaming platform, XBLA was originally one of the coolest reasons to own a Xbox in the first year. Remember Geometry Wars? Titles like that are being smothered out in favor of pushing multimedia apps like Netflix and Hulu, as well as Microsoft’s own array of useless music streaming services. When you have to navigate through a maze of distracting multimedia functions to find your game library, suddenly it starts to feel like you’re not playing a game console anymore.

The Lazy Tax

Good points on Games on Demand on Xbox Live. Games served on demand always cost more than the physical disc, and installing them requires hard drives that you can’t just buy OEM—all just so you don’t have to move your ass and to prop up retail.

I actually prefer having the physical disc, not just because they’re cheaper but because I have the ability to resell it, lend it out, or get rid of it somehow after I’m done with it.1 All stuff that isn’t in the best interest of Microsoft or game developers.

  1. By the way, I HIGHLY recommend half.com to do this kind of stuff. Before the winter break I picked up Alan Wake and Fallout New Vegas used for $10 each. Each of these came out at $60 last year. As of this writing Fallout New Vegas is $40 on demand and Alan Wake is $30 on demand. I don’t think I’ve played a single game that is worth paying the $60 launch price. 

I Hate The Dual Shock

The original Xbox controller was huge…in size. If you listened to the Xbox Turns 10 Major Nelson show you would hear about how the Xbox team settled on the Duke Xbox controller. Settled is the important word here, because it’s clear that the people who worked on the controller knew that something was off about it.1 Microsoft later shipped the Controller S model for the original Xbox, a smaller Xbox controller made for human hands.

With the Xbox 360 Microsoft proved that they learned their lessons from Duke. In my opinion they surpassed both original Xbox controllers by leaps and bounds with the Xbox 360 controller. I’ve used video game controllers since I was a little kid and out of all the ones I’ve used the Xbox 360 controller is the closest to perfection.

Xbox 360 Grip

The layout and size of the 360 controller feels just right to me. All my fingers have a place to go. My thumbs naturally rest on the analog sticks. My index fingers rest just right on the triggers on top, which is important for Microsoft since Halo set the standard on how first person shooters should work on consoles.

But it goes beyond the layout and how big the buttons are. The remaining three fingers on each hand don’t just dangle around in the air—Microsoft made the Xbox 360 Controller big enough so that all three of those fingers would naturally lay where they could firmly grip the controller. The analog sticks are concave, so your thumbs can stay inside the sticks, rather than merely sitting on top of them. The trigger buttons have an upward slant so that your index fingers can’t stray far from where they should be. The 360 controller weighs 9.35 ounces, so it doesn’t feel like it’s going to go anywhere. All of these design choices let the 360 controller feel secure in your hands.

Since my 360 died I haven’t used this controller much since I got a PS3. But every time I use the PS3 controller I appreciate how good the 360 controller is and for a moment consider sacrificing my principles to go back into the 360 fold.

PS3 Grip - Natural

My biggest criticism of the Dual Shock 3 is that it’s pretty much the same controller as the original Playstation controller, minus the addition of rumble and analog sticks.2 Sony didn’t add analog sticks to their controller until the Dual Shock debuted in November 1997, two years after it launched in North America. In 1999 they released Ape Escape which was the first Playstation title to require a Dual Shock controller.

I mention this only to put the Dual Shock 3 into its proper place in time, because the currently shipping PS3 controller is essentially a controller from 1997. The Dual Shock 3 controller still gives the D-Pad the left thumb sweet spot in the age of Battlefield and Call of Duty. The D-Pad is a priority on the Dual Shock, but how often do games use the D-Pad these days? D-Pads get used for secondary actions like selecting weapons, not for primary actions like moving, which is what analog sticks are used for.

Yet, the analog sticks on the Dual Shock 3 are demoted. It’s apparent which one should get priority. Using an analog stick on a Dual Shock 3, to me, feels awkward because I have to stretch my thumb out to do those common things.

PS3 Grip - Stretch

The placement of the analog sticks is the most immediate flaw on the Dual Shock, but after that it’s death by a thousand cuts. The shape of the analog sticks are convex, not concave, so your thumbs don’t get a sense of security when using the analog sticks. A small PS button is placed awkwardly in the center of the controller. Pressing that brings up the PS3 cross media bar, similar to how pressing the Xbox button brings up the Xbox Guide, but the Xbox guide button is at the top out of the way, whereas the PS button is dwarfed by the analog sticks.

The trigger and bumper buttons are little bumps at the top. The curves that are on the 360 controller’s triggers aren’t present here. The Dual Shock triggers haven’t changed at all since 1997, before the deluge of FPS games that came out for consoles after Halo proved it could be done without feeling weird. Dual Shock 3 weighs less than the Xbox 360 controller, which makes it feel cheap. And the three fingers that had a sense of place on the Xbox 360 controller? They just dangle from your hands because they have no place to go.

The result is a control experience that makes it easy to mistake one button for another. I always feel like the controller is going to slip out of my hands.

I’m hopeful that Sony creates something new for the PS4, but it appears that they’re going to try milking Dual Shock for all it’s worth.

  1. They even tested Duke with focus groups against the other controllers of the time. Duke was an excellent controller on paper. Also see Meeting the Original Xbox Controller

  2. With the PS3 they added Sixaxis motion control. Killzone 3 used this feature and it felt like a gimmick for turning valves that I didn’t understand until I was almost finished with the campaign. 

Meeting the Original Xbox Controller


Albert Penello talks about working at Microsoft on the Xbox project, from Major Nelson Show 420 – Xbox turns 10. The he here is an unnamed project director at Microsoft.

I go and I look at the controller and I just couldn’t stop myself. I pick it up, and he goes “Well, what do you think?” and I go “…it’s big.” And he looked at me—just deadpan—he goes “all you need to know is it’s done.”

Skryim buggy on the PS3

And David Houghton blames the players for excusing Bethesda and letting it slide:

They’ve been getting away with it for years, and that’s why as much as I’m loving Skyrim (on my 360), I can never truly support Beth as a company. Name one Bethesda-developed game in recent memory that has been released in an acceptable technical state. You can’t, because there aren’t any.

Development on PS3 is sometimes noted as difficult1 compared to the Xbox. The reason it’s called Xbox is because it’s a box that runs DirectX, Microsoft’s development platform for games. If you’re going to release on PC and consoles, like Bethesda does, it makes more sense to do it the Microsoft way.2

That’s not a legitimate excuse for neglecting PS3 development, but I think it’s at least some insight for why cross-platform games on the PS3 aren’t as good as they could be.

  1. Sony executives say that’s on purpose to weed out the amateurs. That sounds like nonsense. 

  2. I think a case could be made that this is the reason why there’s a high-level of platform agnosticism nowadays. The same games are everywhere because Microsoft has made inroads with their development tools, but if you’re going to release on consoles you might as well make a PS3 version. The choice between 360 and PS3 becomes less about games and more about console features. 

“The Making of the Xbox” by Dean Takahashi

When Peter Moore, former president of Sega of America, arrived as a top Xbox executive, he sat in a meeting with CEO Steve Ballmer, who went into one of his classic shouting routines. Noting that Xbox Live was Microsoft’s ace, he shouted, “Xbox Live!” and pounded the table. He did it over and over. “Xbox Live! Xbox Live! Xbox Live!” Then he slammed into the Polycom conference phone with his fist, breaking it. He looked sheepish. Ed Fries turned to the astonished Moore and said, “Welcome to Microsoft.”

It’s a two parter that I’ve still got to read.

Takahashi is also the author of The Xbox 360 Uncloaked, but I assume this story on Venturebeat has the juiciest bits.

“Next generation to arrive in 2012” by Nathan Brown

Next Generation Edge Magazine reports that devs are already working on games for the next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft. Sounds about right.

I’ve been thinking about buying a new 360 (stop looking at the knife) because I like the controller better and all my friends are on Xbox Live. With this news I’ll probably wait it out.