After several years years of hiatus, an official announcement, and the shockingly rapid decline of the music game market, Rock Band suddenly leapt back to life this month. Harmonix Music Systems — the studio responsible for the music game craze, and the studio that created Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Dance Central — announced new tracks heading to the Rock Band online store, which works with both Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Blitz. Why in the world is Harmonix releasing new tracks as paid, downloadable content for games that only exist on previous generation consoles? The official word is full of public relations obfuscation:
“We had an exciting opportunity to add new content to the already-massive Rock Band library with a song from Arctic Monkeys – a band that’s never been in a Rock Band title before! – as well as new music from fan favorites Avenged Sevenfold and Foo Fighters. We couldn’t pass it up. Also, we wanted to see if we could still do it. Turns out we can. It’s sort of like riding a bike.”
Great. That out of the way, what’s really happening? Companies don’t just casually release new content for years old games. That’s not a thing that happens. I’d call it “testing the waters.”
First and foremost, here’s an interesting, not exactly surprising fact: “hundreds of thousands” of people are still playing Rock Band every month. That’s what a Harmonix rep told me, and it refers to folks playing online on “all platforms where DLC is available” (there’s no way of measuring how many folks are playing offline, but let’s wager that it’s not a lot).
For those of you wondering who’s still holding onto all those plastic instruments, the answer is “a surprisingly large group of people.”
As for the rest of us, well, my house is purged of all the fake guitars, wireless microphones, and plastic drum kits that accumulated across the Guitar Hero / Rock Band years. The same goes for most of my friends, and I doubt you’re much different. Beyond the burnout that comes with releasing several junky, obvious cash-in games — Activision flooded the market with constant variations on the Guitar Hero franchise — many of us didn’t want to fill closets/basements/dorm rooms/etc. with clunky gaming peripherals.
Harmonix is actually trying to determine how you feel about those peripherals in a survey sent out via Twitter. More importantly, not only is Harmonix trying to determine if you still own old peripherals — the company is asking very specific questions about which aspects of a Rock Band game (local multiplayer? a robust on-disc song library? etc.) are most important to you. It’s also asking which current-gen game consoles you own.
Smells an awful lot like Harmonix is pretty seriously considering a re-birth of its biggest ever franchise — the franchise that both helped popularize music games and managed to get more than one Beatle on stage during a video game press conference.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the company is being asked about Rock Band all the time. When Forbes‘ Jason Evangelho asked about “Rock Band 4″ back in October 2014 (a theoretical sequel to Rock Band 3), here’s what Harmonix publicist Nick Chester said:
“We love Rock Band, it’s in the company’s DNA. We own the IP. And when the time’s right we will absolutely come back to it. There’s a whole bunch of factors to take into consideration before jumping in that pool again, but there’s a desire for it, absolutely.”
So, given that, and Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos outright stating that Rock Band would return at some point this console generation, the question of Rock Band’s triumphant return isn’t a question of if, but of when.
Console fanboys, get ready to gloat — or mope. Actually, (nearly) everybody can be cheered by the latest data from NPD, which showed console sales up a cool 20 percent from last year to to over $5 billion. Leading the final charge was MIcrosoft’s Xbox One, which topped the charts in December for the second straight month. Its recent success can likely be chalked up to attractive holiday pricing, since Sony’s PS4 was consistently eating its lunch prior to that. Either way, it came at a good time for Microsoft, since the last two months of the year are far and away the strongest for consoles.
The news was more grim on the software side, however, as software sales were down 13 percent from last year to $5.3 billion. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was the top selling game of the year, with Madden NFL 15, Destiny, Grand Theft Auto V and Minecraft rounding out the top 5. Super Smash Bros was Nintendo’s bestseller of 2015 in sixth place overall. Finally, Microsoft had a piece of good news in its latest Xbox Wire report: thanks to a new promotion, the Xbox One will again be on sale for $349 (sans Kinect) starting January 16th. Oh, and screenshots are finally coming “early this year.”
[Image credit: Getty Images]
Source: Xbox Wire
Dragon Age: Inquisition is an immense fantasy epic, a sprawling adventure across the many landscapes of Thedas, unapologetically mature in its exploration of politics and brazen in its combat. Inquisition is also developer BioWare’s redemption song. It’s everything that a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins should have been, and time will slip by as players enjoy the hundred hours of escapades it delivers.
The end of Inquisition‘s spectacular first act gave me chills. The last time I can recall that feeling is when the Normandy was reintroduced in Mass Effect 2. It’s the chill of being at the beginning of a grand story and anticipation for what’s to come.
One year ago today, the PlayStation 4 was released in North America. When we took a look at it in our original review, we lauded the console for its “masculine chassis” that could “compete for visual attention” in your living room, a controller that’s “damn close” to being perfect and a user interface that marks a “massive improvement” over the PlayStation 3’s. But games are the thing that can make or break a system and, while the initial games lineup had a few bright spots, the system had few “satisfying game experiences available at launch.” Regardless, we called the PlayStation 4 “worth your hard-earned money” and said it was off to “a hell of a start.”
Since then, more games have been released and plenty of people have gotten their hands on a PlayStation 4 — more than 10 million people worldwide, in fact. After such a strong start, have things gotten better? Is it still worth the money? To find out, we turned to you, our readers, who have written some great user reviews to let us know how the system performs in the wild and whether it’s living up to its potential one year after release.
In many respects, our users agreed with our review, with MasterX25 loving its “sleek design” and admdrew saying it “fits well into standard entertainment centers.” Reactions to the controller were a little mixed, with admdrew calling it “almost” perfect, save for some odd button placement and the “weird nature of the touchpad.” But REZIN8 finds it “very small for my hands” with “terrible” battery life. The graphics were more well-received, with logicrulez calling them “clear and detailed,” while nug050 says, “The gameplay is smooth at any resolution.”
But with a year under the PlayStation 4’s belt, it’s worth talking about the state of its games library. Though Saltank notes it has “some great exclusives,” many users, like aussiegrossy, were left asking, “Where are the games?” Nug050 says there are “not enough A-List games” and PaulMEdwards also feels there aren’t “a ton of titles available currently,” specifically wishing for “more cooperative 2-player games so my wife … could play with me.” But he also notes that some “really good ones are coming soon.” In fact, many of you were optimistic about future releases, with admdrew “eagerly awaiting GTA V‘s upcoming release.” However, the continued lack of games especially hurts given what Saltank calls a “poor selection of apps,” and MasterX25 says, “I can’t use the PS4 for anything apart from playing games,” while aussiegrossy even feels it’s a bit of “a downgrade.”
Despite this continuing disappointment in the PlayStation 4’s game lineup, reviewers still feel rather magnanimous toward the system as a whole, with ghost616 telling us, “I do not regret buying it.” Meanwhile, in a similar vein, admdrew says, “I haven’t regretted my choice for a second.” With so much on the horizon for the system, year two looks rather promising for those who laid down their hard-earned money, as well as making it a great time for the rest of you to pick up a PlayStation 4.
The re-release of Grand Theft Auto V on PS4 and Xbox One (PC version delayed until 2015) is just days away now. As a result, Rockstar is cranking up the PR campaign by showing and telling why it should get your hard-earned money (again). Yesterday it delivered confirmation of the leaked first-person mode that brings even deeper immersion to your criminal hijinks — according to a comment on CVG’s podcast, you can even watch the cutscenes in first person — along with a video preview of what it’s like (viewable on YouTube here and in higher quality, higher bitrate video at Gamersyde.) Today it has another highlight reel to present, showing the difference between the PS3 and PS4 version across scenes.
The high-res 1080p / 30fps experience is just the start — you can quickly see more detail in the buildings, environments and cars as a dashboard smear suddenly has working dials, a green blur on the ground becomes fully 3D-rendered foliage and more. The team has also talked specifically on its work for the PS4 version, as IGN says the jump to first person is controlled by the DualShock 4’s touchpad, while police lights cause the lightbar to flash red and blue and radio chatter to come out of the controller’s speaker. Peep the reflections on the helicopter and the realistic looking puddles for more evidence of the team’s attention to detail, although there’s some aliasing and pop-in evident in the videos too. Give them a watch and let us know if you’re convinced it’s time to make a return trip to Los Santos.
Unfortunately, the PS4 2.0 software update came packing more than just SharePlay and a better-organized home screen. For a number of users it introduced some annoying bugs, like the inability to come back from rest mode without unplugging the system. Sony just announced that version 2.01 of the software is on the way “soon,” specifically to address those rest mode issues. There’s no word on whether it will fix any of the other problems that have been reported, but this might be one of the most-anticipated stability updates so far.
PS4 software update v2.01 is coming soon, and will address issues some users have encountered when powering on the system from Rest Mode
– PlayStation (@PlayStation) November 5, 2014
Source: PlayStation (Twitter)
Activision is the most profitable game publisher in existence. The company’s behind the Call of Duty franchise, the Skylanders franchise and many more. You know World of Warcraft? Activision owns the company that makes it, Blizzard Entertainment. The company’s latest big release is Destiny — a $500 million bet that Activision’s making on the studio that previously created the Halo franchise (Bungie Studios). The game launched on September 9th across four platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg says the game was “profitable from day one,” but the company’s yet to release up-to-date sales numbers. Instead, it’s offering a “registered user” statistic: 9.5 million. But what does that actually mean? That’s a good question. Hirshberg offered the following clarification during a quarterly financial call this evening:
“To date we have over 9.5 million registered users — of course there’s a relationship to sell through, it’s not exact. Because some people have more than one identity, but obviously that’s directional.”
There are two ways to interpret Hirshberg’s explanation, and those interpretations hang on one particular bit of language in the statement. “Some people have more than one identity” is the problematic bit — is Hirshberg referencing folks who have more than one Xbox Live/Sony Entertainment Network login? Or is he referencing how many player characters have been created within Destiny?
These two interpretations come with starkly different outcomes. Should he mean the former, the correlation between 9.5 million “registered users” and sales of the game aren’t completely divorced. After all, there are only so many folks who purchase the same game on multiple platforms. We can pretty safely assume the actual unit sales of Destiny wouldn’t be very different from the “registered users” number if this is what Hirshberg is referencing.
But if he means the latter, that 9.5 million number could shrink pretty dramatically in terms of unit sales. Each copy of Destiny enables three character creation slots. It doesn’t cost anything extra to create extra characters (other than time, of course), and part of the appeal of Destiny is trying out different character builds. It also doesn’t help that there’s a relatively low level cap in the game thus far, meaning multiple characters is the way that many are extending their gameplay experience.
Thus, if “registered users” means “all created characters,” the correlation between that 9.5 million number and actual copies of the game sold to human beings is pretty weak. To the extent that the number could be divided by a factor of three, in fact. That’s a huge difference!
We’ve asked Activision for clarification and will update this should we hear more. That said, Activision not outright stating Destiny sales (for the second month in a row) says a lot unto itself.
Call of Duty continues to be a pretty big deal. Despite annualized releases and the occasional stinker (we’re looking at you, Modern Warfare 3!), people still love to wage virtual war on Activision’s battlefields. Hey, we hear this year’s game is pretty good! And when you’ve got a new Xbox One or PlayStation 4 this holiday, there’s a strong possibility you’ll want to check out this year’s entry, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare — statistically speaking, anyway. Should you be one of those folks: beware! Both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of CoD are having issues. The kind of issues that make the game outright unplayable.
Somewhere in Los Angeles, Kevin Spacey is shedding a single tear and he doesn’t know why.
So, what’s going on with Call of Duty? It’s down to platform. First up:
If you pre-loaded the game on PlayStation 4, Sony suggests deleting the file (nearly 40GBs) and pulling down the whole shebang once more. More specifically, it looks like Advanced Warfare issues on PS4 are strictly limited to folks who pre-loaded the game before launch (today). If you took advantage of said functionality, that may be why you’re experiencing issues starting the game.
Here’s what Sony suggest you do, in full:
- “Restore PS4 licences. [Settings] > [PSN] > [Restore License].
If this doesn’t solve the issue continue to [following steps]:
- Go to Library, highlight Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and press Options.
- Delete Game Content.
- While still in the Library highlight Call of Duty: AW and press X to re-download the content.
Please ensure you download all available updates for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and your system is running the latest system software.”
Activision has yet to acknowledge the issues publicly, and we’ve not heard back from reps.
We’ve got firsthand experience with this one, and the issue is a little more prevalent than PlayStation’s equivalent. If you buy Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on disc, beware not to allow the game’s update to download when you first insert the disc into your Xbox One. We said yes, and the game was unable to install from the disc. It ends up looping between “Installing” and “Queued,” occasionally spinning up the disc, then quitting, then spinning again, then quitting again, ad infinitum. In the business, we call that “pretty whack.” If you end up in this situation, we’ve got a tested solution — and it works, at least on my Xbox One — care of Crave Online:
- Remove the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare from the Xbox One disc tray.
- Navigate to My Games & Apps, then select the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and hit the Xbox One gamepad’s Menu button.
- Select “Uninstall game” and hit A
- Re-insert your Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare game disc
- When asked whether you want to install the game’s update, select “Update later”
- The game will install like normal! Hooray!
Again, Activision has yet to acknowledge the issues publicly. We’ve asked. The company has forum threads set up to address issues with digital versions of the game, and an overall setup/installation page (which warns against playing the game before it completely installs, despite current-gen consoles allowing you to start before installation is finished). There’s even a page dedicated to Xbox One installation issues, but nothing regarding the installing/queued loop that some folks are experiencing with disc versions of the game on Xbox One.
We’ll update this piece as we hear more, but for now: Beware!
Another year, another Call of Duty. That’s the sentiment, right? It’s a series that’s become as staid and expected as the turning of the seasons, and is consistently a “safe” bet if you’re looking for a few hours of mindless fun in a tightly-scripted shooting gallery masked as an interactive narrative. And then of course you have adversarial multiplayer that’s left an indelible mark on gaming as a whole. Does it carry over to freshman studio Sledgehammer Games’ turn at the franchise with Advanced Warfare? Well, that’s a complex question. For starters, there are lasers in this one. And jump-packs. And robotic exoskeletons. And a whole lot of Kevin Spacey. So there are quite a few new aspects to the franchise. And naturally, we’re going to give you a grand tour starting at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific, via Twitch on PlayStation 4.
[For the record, I’m playing Call of Duty: Advanced Warefare on a PlayStation 4, using a retail copy (disc) provided by Activision. I’m streaming the game over wired internet using the PlayStation 4 Twitch app. All that to say, “This game will likely look prettier and run more smoothly on your home equipment. Streaming conditions vary!”]
Own a PlayStation 4? Today’s your day: the console’s big 2.0 update is finally live. Sony’s been teasing the update for weeks, lauding the console’s new ability to play music from a USB drive, the availability of system menu themes and promising new voice commands, party options and a less crowded home-screen. The update also gives the console’s unique “share” button a little more power: the ability to upload video clips directly to YouTube and, most notably, remotely stream your games to a friend over the internet. Sony invited me to try some of these features ahead of today’s launch and, yes, they all seem to work just fine — at least in a controlled environment.
Sony walked me through the update in its Palo Alto, CA office last week, showing me the new themes, party options and even a few updated voice commands. The most interesting demo, of course, was SharePlay — the console’s new ability to stream PlayStation 4 games from one console to another over the internet. Think of it as a localized PlayStation Now between your console and a friends. This worked too, but left me with some concern: even in Sony’s controlled demo environment, I noticed a perceptible amount of lag between the monitor displaying the host console and the guest. It wasn’t enough to effect gameplay in Infamous Second Son, but a flightier residential connection could easily render the game unplayable.
The demo left me with a little doubt, but even more optimism — the feature is brimming with potential: it not only gives players the ability to test out their friends’ libraries remotely, but even join them in local multiplayer sessions in games that don’t have online multiplayer! Will SharePlay live up to its potential for the average user? Well, now’s your chance to find out: SharePlay and the PS4 System Software v2.0 is available for download today. Let us know how it works for you in the comments below.