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E3 2018

Does Microsoft Really Need To Develop A New Xbox?

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Xbox

Microsoft, at least for single-players, had a positive E3 this year, focusing on long-term projects, studio acquisitions, and non-reactionary business decisions—at least, until the conference closed with Phil Spencer stoking the old console war flame with a simple comment: “[Microsoft] is deep into architecturing the next Xbox consoles.” The Xbox One X is currently the most powerful console on the market; it succeeds in Microsoft’s goal of creating an entertainment hub; it is a hardware success story. That being the case, why does the company need to announce a new console? The answer lies with its rival, Sony, and the rumours surrounding the development of the PlayStation 5. Effectively, the constant back-and-forth in terms of hardware has ended up in decisions, for both companies, that have been anti-consumer and made little sense. After a positive E3, Microsoft reverts to its business Achilles heel: reactionism.

The next Xbox, according to insider Brad Sams, is codenamed Project Scarlett, with a tentative release window of 2020. Sams, who writes for Thurrott, has been breaking news about Microsoft for over a decade, with his information usually being accurate in terms of rumours. That date, 2020, in business terms, is not far away at all. On paper, the Xbox One X has everything Microsoft needs right now. A new console announcement is merely pre-empting the PlayStation 5, which, in some ways, is bad for consumers, the company, and Microsoft long-term. The whole industry culture of having to one-up, improve upon, and constantly better close rivals should, in capitalist theory, drive innovation; ordinarily, however, it leads to undercooked consoles with a poor set of games. Going back to the previous generation—to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3—both consoles, in retrospect, were not ready for the market. The Xbox 360 suffered countless hardware difficulties, whereas the PlayStation 3 endured the opposite, which was a complete lack of competent exclusives and software in its early days. Similarly, the Xbox One released without any real long-term plan of studio exclusivity, with Microsoft shoving the console out of the door a week after the PlayStation 4’s release. Why, then, is Microsoft repeating its mistakes?

Much of the issue comes down to the current culture of gaming, which thrives not on co-operation, but infantile divisions and competition. A console war, after all, is the ultimate fuel for marketers, so, by igniting a consistent, albeit disingenuous, battle between two companies, both brands stand to benefit. By persuading gamers to ally themselves with a brand, which only really succeeds if both consoles release in a similar time frame, Microsoft and Sony can safeguard a significant amount of money, relying on internet forum-bred conflict and lofty notions of brand loyalty to part gamers from their money. This whole practice, though, is not good for gamers as consumers. A poorer product is ordinarily launched and the whole contrived “console war” pushes forward a community that fragments itself. Nintendo, by opting for a separate business model, has somewhat emancipated itself from this destructive cycle for the better. Microsoft, with the stronger console, has the benefit of going for a different, more measured approach to the new generation, but has disappointedly decided to define itself through reactionism.

The current exclusive line-up can run fine on the Xbox One X, with the console not quite fulfilling its total potential yet. The PlayStation 5 releasing a significant time before the Xbox One X would not immediately sound the death knell for Microsoft. The Xbox One X would remain more affordable, boast a better catalogue of games, and the company would have more, less-deadline-focused time to produce a better long-term plan for its hardware. Generations tend to be undersold by reacting to competitors; the One X could run for many years yet, but may be cut short by Microsoft’s own impatient hand.

Of course, all of the above can be taken down with a simple conclusion: that simply is not how business works. The gaming market is still a volatile beast, and innovation needs to be constant. Any moment of reflection or pause will be read as stagnation, as the multi-billion dollar business is proven to be as cut throat as it is prosperous. However, a reaction to that reality is that the situation does not have to be this way. Why must gamers face consistent brand-motivated division in their community? Why must consumers settle for a poorer product? Why do the engineers, artists, and innovators for these consoles have to face ridiculous working hours and deadlines? The decision lays with Microsoft—and Sony—to take a step back, have a breather, and focus on their customers instead of each other; if that happens, then it will do much to heal the industry’s rot.  

E3 2018

Konami Willing to Make More Remasters

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Zone of the Enders Konami

Konami has said that it is willing to remaster more games if fans ask for them.

During an IGN interview at E3 about Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner Mars, Konami brand manager Benjamin Kinney expressed the company’s willingness to produce more remasters:

“Eventually if you’re loud enough and you speak with one voice, anything is possible.”

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner Mars is a remastered version of the PlayStation 2 game featuring a new VR mode, coming to PC and PlayStation 4. The title was initially announced at Sony’s Tokyo Games Show in 2017.

The remaster will come native at 4K with recreated textures, updated particle effects, and new control schemes to name just a few of the many improvements across the game. The title also includes a new Very Easy mode so players can experience the story.

The most notable addition is VR support. Playing Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner Mars in VR will put the gamer in the cockpit of Jehuty, the character’s giant mecha. Konami has recreated the cut scenes and assets to contribute to an immersive situation. The developers have worked with first-party VR companies such as PlayStation VR and HTC Vive to refine the game, making it as smooth as possible to reduce any chance of motion sickness.

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner Mars has a gallery mode with VR where users can tumble and look at various models in game. The game will sport “next-gen audio,” supporting Dolby Atmos and Dolby 7.1 surround sound.

The first game has not been remastered for the PlayStation 4 nor VR, but if the fans ask for it, Konami may listen.

4K and VR demos are available on the PlayStation Store to download.

To keep up with all the latest from the game, be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

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