We detail how Sony crushed Microsoft at E3 2013 and why PS4 is your next console in the new issue of Edge magazine.
Our extended Hype section takes in the biggest and most significant new games to emerge from this year’s E3, including Metal Gear Solid 5, The Division, Titanfall, Battlefield 4, Watch Dogs, Dark Souls II, Final Fantasy XV and many more.
Elsewhere, Goichi Suda tells us what James Bond brings to Killer Is Dead, PlayJam reveals the game plan behind its GameStick console, we delve into The Making Of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and profile the studio behind Thief and Deus Ex, Eidos Montreal.
There’s also insight and opinion from our regular columnists Steven Poole, Leigh Alexander, Brian Howe, Tadhg Kelly, Clint Hocking, Randy Smith and James Leach.
AMD’s Saeid Moshkelani on his company’s next-gen “clean sweep” and high-end PCs driving innovation
AMD owns the next-generation of consoles. In the past, game consoles were more custom and piecemeal: a little IBM here, some AMD there, a tiny bit of Nvidia. With the reveal of the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U, it’s clear that AMD has put significant legwork into locking its PC competition out of the game console market. At E3 2013, GamesIndustry International spoke with AMD corporate vice president and general manager of Semi-Custom Business Saeid Moshkelani about the milestone and AMD’s place in the game industry.
“It is a very, very proud moment,” replied Moshkelani when asked about AMD’s position in the next generation. “They are very complex projects, very complex designs, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It has been a journey of over two years in development to get to today.”
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have semi-custom AMD Jaguar system-on-a-chips (SoC) at their core, while the Nintendo Wii U has an AMD Radeon graphics processor paired with an IBM PowerPC CPU. Moshkelani explained that all the chips we designed in concert with the platform holders, based on “very different visions and philosophies.”
“There were different teams that were dedicated to these projects, working with the customer and collaborating with them to develop these chips,” he said.
Microsoft’s Xbox One, open for all to see.
Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are expected to launch this holiday season. While Microsoft has had a rough time post-E3, Sony has raised sales estimates of the PlayStation 4 and GameTrailers recently reported that Sony has also allowed GameStop to take “unlimited” pre-orders on the PlayStation 4. We asked Moshkelani if AMD was prepared to handle the demand for both consoles on the manufacturing side.
“From a manufacturing perspective, in a year we ship tens of millions of units,” he replied. “So we have a very strong manufacturing base for our APUs and discrete graphics. We leverage the same manufacturing infrastructure to develop for game consoles. So the volumes were not something that actually raised an eyebrow for us, because we’re already in high-volume manufacturing.”
Having a hold on the graphics side of all three consoles puts AMD in a unique position as a bridge between PCs and consoles. Moshkelani and AMD Global Communications Travis Williams both agreed that game development and porting between both platforms can be smoother with AMD’s help.
“We are working with all of the major developers for PC games, as part of our strategy for PC products. It enables the developers to optimize their games on PCs by working with us. And then at some point, they can port those to consoles,” said Moshkalani. “Historically, the consoles were all different architecture. Porting from PC to PowerPC architecture was not as easy. AMD makes it much easier to port games back and forth.”
Sony’s PlayStation 4 could be the primary driver of AMD SoC sales this holiday.
“You look at the PS4 and the Xbox One now being x86-based and you look at where gaming is in the PC industry. So now you have game developers coding for x86, working with the console vendors, working with AMD to optimize their solutions for x86. It helps speed time to market, lowers costs, and now they don’t have to worry about coding for different platforms across console and PC,” added Williams.
Despite the fact that many have repeatedly predicted the death of the PC market with the rise of tablet and smartphone gaming, Moshekelani said that AMD’s discrete GPU division is “thriving and growing.” He and Williams both believe that high-end PC gaming will continue on as a driver of future innovation.
“If you look at what drives innovation, it’s the investment and research in those high-end products,” explained Williams. “That’s what helps fuel products like the SoCs you see in consoles and notebooks. That’s going to continue to be a huge revenue stream for AMD. If you look at what we announced today, it’s a 5GHz CPU. That should answer your question about our commitment to high-end PC gaming.”
“Those are the technology drivers. In 2000 or 2001, we were the first one to announce the 1GHz CPU. Today, we’re the first ones to cross 5GHz,” added Moshkelani. “That trend is going to continue. The demand for more horsepower is always going to be there. What is added to it is battery life. Consumers want all of the horsepower, but they want it to have a 15-hour or 24-hour battery life. That changes the design target to something new, but that technology that you develop [at the high-end] is what gets taken to new markets.”
“If you look at what drives innovation, it’s the investment and research in high-end products”
AMD Global Communications Travis Williams
AMD’s semi-custom division is a way to help the company diversify its business, according to Moshkelani. During its Q3 2012 earnings release, AMD CEO Rory Read said that the company wanted 40 to 50 percent of its revenue to come from non-PC-related sources. Moshkelani agreed that semi-custom and embedded chips are “going to be a larger portion of the business than they traditionally have been.” He said the shift isn’t as drastic for AMD as many think, with mobile, gaming handhelds, and cloud gaming all being on the roadmap.
“Developing products that are suited for tablets or mobile computing is absolutely something that we are focusing on. It’s not something where we have to do something drastically different. We know how to implement low-power technology. It wasn’t a necessity for us before, but now that we are focusing on tablets and ultra-thin notebooks, absolutely,” he said.
“One of our goals is to be the dominant player in game consoles, handheld, and cloud gaming. The semi-custom initiative is not just about gaming. There are other markets that we’re going after. There are markets where AMD does not currently play. We are using the AMD intellectual property, the AMD know-how in engineering, and being able to provide unique solutions for market segments that are growing,” Moshekelani explained. “But gaming is our DNA. It’s not just this generation of consoles. We had a clean sweep with this generation, but we were in Xbox 360 and Gamecube. Gaming has always been a part of our business. We want to be the dominant player in gaming SoCs.”
E3 is a fading memory, so here’s all you need to know about the PS4 that you might have missed. Below we’ll detail every important fact that there is to know about the PS4 in an easily digestible format, starting off with the basics and then getting into all the nitty gritty as we go down.
What’s it called, and when is it out?
The PlayStation 4, or PS4, is out this holiday season in the US and Europe. No specific date has been revealed, but Sony have promised it will be before Christmas. Japan’s release date has yet to be announced, and could still be this year as well. Here’s a video of the PS4 in action/standing still.
$399 in the US, €399 in Europe, £349 in the UK and AUS$549 in Australia.
Does it come with a camera?
There is going to be a camera inventively called the PlayStation Camera, but it’s sold separately for $59/€49/£44. No games have been announced, but here’s a tech demo of it in action.
What controller does it use?
The DualShock 4. Each PS4 comes with just the one, so if you want to play with friends you’ll have to buy another one for $59.99/€59.99/£54. It has a number of changes over the DualShock 3 – notably the shape, but the controller also includes a clickable touch pad, a Share button to upload gameplay, a glowing bar at the back to interact with the camera, better triggers and more responsive buttons. There’s also a mini-speaker, and a headset jack (a mono headset is included with the PS4 – here’s a pic of it we took at E3). Early previews have been positive.
The PS4 will also support the existing PlayStation Move motion controller, but you’ll need a PS Camera.
What are the PS4′s specs?
Single-chip custom processor
CPU: low power x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon based graphics engine
As for what it means, here’s what matters – the PS4 will be most powerful next generation console, while also being easy to develop for.
Of course, and, at 6x speed, the games will be read faster off the disc than on PS3 meaning less loading and better gaming.
Nothing has been announced, and I wouldn’t count on it. Sorry.
Cross Game Chat?
I have a SDTV…
Damn. You’ll need a HDTV as it only has HDMI out. They’re cheapish nowadays though.
What’s the harddrive space?
500GB, and yes, you can swap it if you wish.
Yup, that means you can import weird Japanese games or, conversely, live in a country where it’s hard to get a PS4 and import the console.
Will it play my PS3 games?
Nope. The PS3 was developed on Cell architecture, while the PS4 uses a more conventional design, making backwards compatibility virtually impossible. However, Sony will be bringing cloud streamed PS3 gaming to PS4 next year in the US with Gaikai – how this will be priced is yet to be revealed.
Will my existing PSN account work on PS4?
Yes. Trophies will transfer over and all.
What’s this about game streaming?
You’ll be able to livestream games to Ustream, as well as upload previous gameplay of the last 5 minutes to Facebook. Interestingly, Sony also detailed a feature where your friends would be able to take over your game to help you out in certain scenarios (and with your consent).
Do I have to pay to play online with PS4?
Yes. To game online on most games, you will need to buy a PlayStation Plus subscription ($50 a year). Social features like having PSN friends, streaming services like Netflix and most Free-to-Play games like PlanetSide 2 will not require you to pay for PS+ however. Other little things like asynchronous online gameplay will be free. You also only need one PS+ account on a PS4 for all the users to play online.
Does PlayStation Plus do anything else?
Yup! It guarantees you at least one free PS4 game a month, starting off with a stripped down version of DriveClub, and followed byDon’t Starve, Outlast and The Secret Ponchos. You also get tons of discounts, free items and, if you own a PS3 or Vita, free games and discounts on those platforms with the same subscription.
Are there any other benefits to owning a PS Vita?
All PS4 games, except those that use the PlayStation Camera, will support remote play, meaning you can stream PS4 titles to your Vita wherever you are (requires an internet connection obviously).
Anything else cool about the online?
The console, if connected, automatically updates all games and the system FW. It supports background downloading. And, you’ll be able to play PSN game as they download. You will not need a PS+ subscription for any of this.
There’s a lot of confusion about Digital Rights Management (DRM) on PS4. Will I have to go online, can I play used games?
The Xbox One requires you to go online every 24 hours to play it, but thankfully the PS4 doesn’t – you can play singleplayer/local multiplayer as long as you want offline. However, confusion arose over used games because most people think Sony said “no DRM” at E3, when they actually said “no new DRM” on top of the existing DRM limitations on PS3. If publishers want, they can put in restrictions to used games online segment (not offline), where you’ll have to pay a fee to play it. However, Sony, EA and Ubisoft have gone on record saying their titles won’t use online passes. So, in essence, it seems like the PS4 will actually have no DRM.
Just like with PS3, you will be able to share your game with friends or trade it in at your local store.
As we don’t know the exact date of the PS4′s launch, we don’t know for some games, but we can make a good guess that they’ll be available at launch/really near it.
Below I’ll list all the games you’ll ever need, with square brackets indicating if it is exclusive, has exclusive content or if it is a console exclusive (as in, it’s on PC/iOS but not Xbox One/Wii U).
…ok. Sony Pictures Entertainment is producing content for the PS4, Music Unlimited, Movies Unlimited Redbox and Flixster will be available at launch, while other PS3 services like Netflix are almost definitely set to be there at launch. There is also some sort of video streaming service called Gateways to Greatness.
And the company says the power becomes “infinite” with cloud technology, which game developers have been “incredibly positive” about
Microsoft may still be reeling from the PR nightmare about Xbox One’s used game policies and always online nature, but that hasn’t stopped the company from espousing the next-gen platform’s big potential. In a closed-door meeting called “Xbox 101” attended by GamesIndustry International, the company stressed that Xbox One has “the computational power of more than 10 Xbox 360 consoles,” and that “the cloud brings infinite additional processing power.”
Those are the words of Xbox One engineering manager Jeff Henshaw, who led a demonstration about how Xbox One’s power has enabled Microsoft to create a demo using real data from NASA to track the orbital velocity of 40,000 asteroids in space. While Henshaw and his team are very proud of the power of Xbox One when it’s offline, the real advantage, he stressed, comes from Microsoft’s special cloud services.
“Microsoft has hundreds of thousands of servers and dozens of data centers geographically distributed all around the planet, and Xbox One has the ability to instantly tap in to that limitless computational horsepower,” Henshaw explained. With that extra cloud power, Microsoft is able “to take the number of asteroids from 40,000 to 330,000, and any device doing the computational math to realistically in real-time chart the orbital velocity of 330,000 asteroids would melt a hole in the ground, but Xbox One is able to do it without even breaking a sweat because it’s pulling in virtualized cloud computing resources.”
“Game developers have given us incredibly positive feedback on the crazy different ways that they can use this incredible new cloud power resource”
Henshaw added that even with all the power being used, Xbox One remains incredibly silent (no doubt an important aspect to note given how loud Xbox 360 hardware has been). “We have about 500,000 updates per second coming from our global computing cloud down to this Xbox One so it can all be managed completely seamlessly. The beautiful thing that’s happening here is we are seamlessly blending Xbox One’s incredible processing power with the limitless processing power of the cloud,” he continued.
So why is Microsoft going out of its way to show us a screen full of thousands of asteroids? Well, the implication is that if Xbox One can track all these asteroids, then it can certainly create massive, highly detailed game worlds for gamers to enjoy.
“Game developers are building games that have bigger levels than ever before. In fact, game developers can now create persistent worlds that encompass tens or hundreds of thousands of players without taxing any individual console, and those worlds that they built can be lusher and more vibrant than ever before because the cloud persists and is always there, always computing,” Henshaw said.
“Those worlds can live on in between game sessions. If one player drops out, that world will continue on and can experience the effects of time, like wear from weather damage, so that when a player comes back into the universe it’s actually a slightly evolved place in the same way that our real world evolves a little bit from the time we go to sleep to the time we wake up. Game developers have given us incredibly positive feedback on the crazy different ways that they can use this incredible new cloud power resource.”
It all seems a bit theoretical, but if the cloud can be as valuable a resource for developers as Microsoft says, perhaps consumers won’t mind the Xbox One being always online when they play.
Will PS4 hardware be profitable on day one? It’s a bigger issue than that, says Sony’s UK MD Fergal Gara
Sony has emphasised that the PlayStation division has to be profitable this financial year, as it prepares to launch a major new console before the end of December.
This week it unveiled the retail price for the PlayStation 4, and confirmed that the home console will definitely be released in the US and Europe for Christmas holidays – although the company can’t commit to month or date.
“It’s been a considered effort for seven years, not a knee jerk decision in the last days and weeks”
Fergal Gara on the PS4 price
“Quite simply we don’t want to over promise and under deliver,” Gara told GamesIndustry International. “We’re not in mass manufacture right now so it’s impossible to be absolutely precise. I’m confident we’ll have very significant stocks for the UK and absolutely delighted we’re going to launch before Christmas. ”
Consumers and press have reacted favourably to the price of the system, which will retail for $399 in the US and £349 in the UK. But some are questioning those figures and whether the company will take a loss on sales of the hardware at launch.
“There’s no point in looking at the console in isolation,” Gara said. “Is PlayStation going to be a profitable business? It needs to be and it intends to be a profitable business over the next year.
“The balance of everything we do, whether that’s the console, the software, the accessories or the digital business, it all needs to be profitable and we expect it to be profitable in the short term and the medium term.”
Last year Sony’s PlayStation business recorded a slide in sales of more than 12 per cent, with profits dropping from $310 million to $18 million. The company warned in May that it had reduced expected profit margins from 8 per cent to 2 per cent.
This week rival console manufacturer Microsoft revealed that its new Xbox One console would retail for $499, putting it at a price disadvantage with Sony. But Gara explained that Sony had a $399 price in mind at the beginning of development for the system, after the company launched the PlayStation 3 at $499 and $599 to much criticism and slow initial sales.
“The reference point was PlayStation 3,” he said. “It wasn’t the competition because up until very late we had no idea what their price was going to be. Getting to a price point doesn’t happen in the final days and weeks, it happens years in advance as you plan for a target price point alongside your engineering, design and architecture of the system.
“You have to hit that combination of price and performance in power. I’m delighted in the horsepower per pound that we’ve delivered, it genuinely is one very high powered machine. It’s uncompromisingly built for one purpose above all other. Gaming, and performance around gaming, is front and centre. It’s been a considered effort for seven years, not a knee jerk decision in the last days and weeks.
It’s not just on price where Sony is winning in a new round of console wars. Microsoft is under fire for a number of online and sales initiatives that consumers feel are unfair and exploitative.
Sony used its pre-E3 conference this week to directly attack Microsoft, raising the roof from a supportive crowd and playing to an online community hungry for conflict.
“Expect premium games to carry a fairly premium price tag”
“Of course there was a little bit of play to the audience with the script and underlining the points of difference that we knew would be loved,” admits Gara. “We chose to do that, who wouldn’t? It’s a competitive market.” But he also makes it clear that there was never any other intention for Sony to copy Microsoft’s unpopular stance on used games or it’s insistence of an online connection “We knew what our message was, we’d decided on that some time ago. There were some small adjustments and refinements going on closer to the time but the fact is the message we have has gone down very well.”
But it’s still early days for both console manufacturers, and there’s time for both to either claw back public support or slip up in the months ahead.
One contentious issue may be the price of games. While smaller indie and downloadable titles can sell for reasonable prices, blockbuster games such as The Last of Us and Uncharted command high retail prices. When asked if there’s the possibility that triple-A games may rise further to help cover the cost of increasingly expensive development, Gara was more vague.
“We haven’t announced our pricing yet, we’re still looking at it. We’ll make our minds up to as exactly where that will sit. Expect premium games to carry a fairly premium price tag. But expect a lot more in between. We’ll have the full breadth of games both in terms of content and price,” he said.
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