PS4 launches Nov. 15 in North America, Nov. 29 in Europe

Sony confirms 1 million preorders for next-gen system, announces discounts for next-gen upgrades on big games


The PlayStation 4 will launch in North America November 15, with a European bow to follow on November 29. Sony confirmed the release dates today as part of its Gamescom press conference, adding that the system will roll out in a total of 32 countries this holiday season.

Before announcing the dates, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House also touted the company’s success in building anticipation for the system. To date, he said the PS4 has attracted more than 1 million preorders globally.

House also used the event to unveil a new next-gen upgrade program, saying gamers who purchase the PS3 versions of select games will be able to buy digital versions of their next-gen counterparts at “a significantly discounted price.”

Games already confirmed for the program include Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. House said Sony is also working to expand the number of publishers participating in the discount deals.

Similar upgrade incentives have been offered for Xbox One titles lately. Amazon and GameStop both have programs allowing players who purchase an Xbox 360 version of select games to trade that title in toward the purchase of an Xbox One edition, which they can they obtain for $10.



Zynga cuts 520 employees, closes New York and Los Angeles offices

18 percent of global workforce is laid off as Zynga shifts toward mobile

Zynga cuts 520 employees, closes New York and Los Angeles offices

Zynga has announced the layoffs of 520 employees, which is approximately 18 percent of the company’s global workforce. An additional report by AllThingsD also has the company shuttering offices in New York, Los Angeles, Austin, and Dallas. The cuts in staff and infrastructure will lead to cost savings of $70 to $80 million, and the workforce reduction is expected to be complete by August 2013.

In a letter to employees, Zynga chief executive officer Mark Pincus said the company is shifting towards mobile development, instead of the social browser games that led to its rise.

“Today is a hard day for Zynga and an emotional one for every employee of our company. The impact of these layoffs will be felt across every group in the company,” said Pincus in the letter. “The scale that served us so well in building and delivering the leading social gaming service on the Web is now making it hard to successfully lead across mobile and multiplatform, which is where social games are going to be played.”

“These moves, while hard to face today, represent a proactive commitment to our mission of connecting the world through games. Mobile and touch screens are revolutionizing gaming. Our opportunity is to make mobile gaming truly social by offering people new, fun ways to meet, play and connect. By reducing our cost structure today we will offer our teams the runway they need to take risks and develop these breakthrough new social experiences.”

Zynga is projecting net losses for the second quarter of 2013 in the range of $28.5 to $39 million.



Zynga kills PetVille and more to cut costs

Zynga has decided which titles are feeling the axe

Zynga kills PetVille and more to cut costs

Zynga has decided to terminate 11 games in a cost-cutting measure, according to TechCrunch. The closures are a part of the cost-reduction plan put forth by chief executive officer Mark Pincus in November. At the time, Pincus said that a total of 13 titles were on the chopping block, but only Treasure Isle and FishVille were mentioned. The current closure list covers 11 of those 13.

Mafia Wars Shakedown, ForestVille, Mojitomo and Word Scramble Challenge have been pulled from app stores already. Vampire Wars joined Treasure Isle and FishVille as games shut down on December 5. Montopia was closed on December 21, with PetVille and Mafia Wars 2 following on December 30. Finally, Indiana Jones Adventure World has been closed for new players, with a sunset date of January 14.

Zynga has already offered players of PetVille and other titles a free bonus package of virtual items for Castleville, Chefville, Farmville 2, Mafia Wars or Yoville. Players of mobile titles – like Mafia Wars Shakedown – have been told to contact Zynga Customer Support for possible compensation.

Do JRPGs Need To Be Social To Survive?

Do JRPGs Need To Be Social To Survive?

Some people believe that Japanese role-playing games are meant to be single-player experiences, enjoyed alone in the dim blue light of your living room during marathon binge sessions involving little to no contact with other human beings.

Other people believe that the first group of people are totally boring and that the single-player-only model is as obsolete as VHS tapes or paying for music. And also multi-player games make lots and lots of money.

“So who’s right?” you might ask. “The hermits or the money-mongers?”

Good question. I don’t know if there’s an answer.

On one hand, if you ask the business executives behind gaming’s biggest companies, single-player games are on the fast track to extinction. Square Enix Europe CEO Phil Rogers said as much just this week.

“The industry as a whole is realizing that all games, whether they be on console, PC or handheld, need to be social to survive,” he told Gamasutra. “There are, of course, many different aspects to online play, but we see social and collaborative play as something that players of all types are increasingly interested in.”

Square Enix is, of course, the publisher behind mammoth series Dragon Quest andFinal Fantasy and one of the biggest players in the world of JRPGs. So when one of the company’s top executives says that games can’t survive without some sort of social play, it’s worth a listen.

Not that Rogers’ comments are much of a surprise to JRPG fans, who by now have probably noticed that the industry’s most talented designers are focusing on social and mobile projects. The creator of Final Fantasy, who left Square Enix a while back, is now working on a mobile surfing game (that will likely have some sort of social aspect). Other big names that you may or may not have heard of are also working on games in the mobile and social sectors.

If you’re a fan of traditional JRPG experiences, this might all seem nothing short of terrifying.

Even Dragon Quest, a series that for decades has been the Republican Party of JRPGs, is going all MMORPG for its next release, out this summer in Japan.

This is because social games make lots and lots of money. Loads. More money than your average game maker knows what to do with. (This is generally a good reason for a business to chase a trend.)

So if you’re a fan of traditional JRPG experiences, this might all seem nothing short of terrifying. You might hear the word “social” and instantly shudder, your mind filled with dancing Zynga cows and endless pop-ups about sharing things on your news feed. You might envision a world where the only way to play a JRPG is to dish out $15/month for the privilege.

This kind of future is indeed worrying. Even with smaller developers like Falcom and Atlus and tri-Ace pumping out single-player JRPGs on a regular basis, we could see more and more talented designers heading to the social sector in droves.

But social games are making money for a reason. So let’s not condemn them. Let’s be more creative. Why are multiplayer games so appealing to so many people, even when they’re saddled with repetitive, grindy gameplay (“go kill 20 slimes, please”)? What is it about interactive entertainment that makes multi-player components so essential?

I think the answer is simple. We enjoy playing games with our friends because, as a general rule, our friends are more interesting than video game characters. This is because our friends are actual human beings. But it’s also because video game characters tend to be boring.

Have you played Persona 3? It’s a beast of a JRPG, a critically-acclaimed delight that I’ve been grinding through for the past few weeks. I love it to death. And I think it’s just as social as any multiplayer title.

Persona 3 is successful because its characters are just as, if not more interesting than human beings.

Here’s the part where I sound like a mad man. Persona 3 is a social game because it lets you interact with people who feel real. Its cast of characters—genuine, oft-crazy personalities like the goofball Junpei and the sweaty Gourmet King—are Persona would never work as an MMORPG because its inhabitants would be more boring than the characters that have populated the series for years. In other words, Persona 3 is successful because its characters are just as, if not more interesting than human beings.

That takes a lot of skill to pull off, of course. And not all games can do it. In my review for Xenoblade, released last month for Wii, I pointed out that it felt like a single-player MMORPG. I also pointed out that its characters, with the exception of a rogueish Han Solo-type named Dunban, had the personality traits of your average MMORPG player: stuffy and dull. Xenoblade would be the perfect MMORPG because its strengths lie in its world and its environments, not in its characters.

Of course, “make interesting characters” isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the debate over social gaming. There are other solutions. Why not try out an episodic JRPG, released on a regular schedule that almost feels like television, giving fans cliffhangers and story theories to discuss and debate on a weekly basis? Or what about a single-player JRPG that ships with a hefty multiplayer component, like Final Fantasy VIII‘s addictive Triple Triad card mini-game or Final Fantasy X‘s blitzball?

The possibilities here are limitless, and I hope JRPG developers decide to explore them before jumping ship for straight-up MMORPGs or Facebook clickfests. “Social” doesn’t need to be a curse word.


Source: Kotaku