Weekend Short-Takes: 2/7/14

Xbox One's first major update split in two, launching in February and March


Simon Wu: 

First this week, a slight downer because apparently the Titanfall Limited Edition Console was axed due to manufacturing costs. So my wait for the Xbox One continues. However, people that have the console now will get a set of key updates. These features honestly should have shipped with the console, in my opinion. Why? Because they were features on the 360 that were then removed from the original shipping version of the One: hard drive space breakdown, which is critical given that only 350-odd GB is usable, making pruning for big catalogs essential. Secondly, even if the controller received dozens of improvements, text entry has not improved, and I've advocated multiple times on the podcast that a cheap USB keyboard is a solid addition to an Xbox. 

Alex Miller: 

While I agree that it sucks when all of your favorite features don’t make the jump to a new OS, when you think about the fact that this new Dashboard was built from the ground up you can understand how some things might not have made it in initially. That said, I'm happy to see many of these features arriving, better late then never, though the lack of hard drive management at this point has not been as big a concern for me as it has for Simon since the catalogue of Xbox One games is not exactly the largest. The feature I am excited about, however, is an update to the party system. The Xbox Live party system was one of the reasons for Xbox Live's incredible success, and getting it right with the Xbox One will be critical. They haven't quite done so yet, so hopefully this update sees it done. 


Nintendo discusses unified architecture for next portable, console systems


Simon Wu: 

Nintendo practically wrote the book on how not to create and advertise a console with the WiiU. At least it is not so stubborn it refuses to acknowledge this, and is already moving on to figure out how to recover. If Nintendo is particularly canny, it could make a big splash by making controllers optional. A traditional dedicated gamepad could be an option, but they could make smartphones the new controllers. It would be a controller that more or less everyone already has, and could double as a second screen experience. It's not too farfetched: many more graphically intensive mobile games use different areas of the touchscreen as buttons and digital joysticks. That would shave starting costs tremendously, and might even be considered innovative. 

Alex Miller: 

Nintendo is well and truly sunk as far as this generation goes. Despite being in the market for a year longer than anyone else, the WiiU has failed to dazzle in anywhere near the same way its monosyllabic older brother did a cycle ago. The fact that they are discussing plans for the next generation shows they recognize this. What I find interesting about the plans mentioned is that there seems to be an emphasis on boosting the power of their portable platforms rather then improving their console. Perhaps Nintendo are ceding the console wars and deciding to focus further on handhelds? It wouldn't surprise me, though I would think they would stubbornly hang it out a bit longer. 


Michael Pachter: PlayStation Now Is 'A Joke'


Jackson Sinnenberg: 

I will not go as far as to call PlayStation Now "a joke," but I admit it is not the best idea. This seems to be Sony rewarding, or at least just appealing to, the people who are already of the cult of Sony. Look at it, you can only use the service if you have a bona fide Sony device. Apple is at least kind enough to allow iTunes onto PCs instead of just Macs. I also doubt the claims made by the author that this could "fundamentally change the way we think about video games." 1. I do not think not enough people will be able to use in order for any sort of "game-changing sweep" and 2. Because PS Now seems to be dealing more with the older titles than new ones, it will not do much to update the way we think about the cutting edge of game distribution. That being said, the idea is not bad. If one already has a Sony TV and does not want to shell out for a PS4 but still wants to game, this could be a great alternative. There is good potential here, just not an overwhelming amount. 

Alex Miller: 

I have to agree with Jackson that, while definitely not a heavy hitting game changer, this could be a nice extra feature for those who already own a Sony device. How successful it is will really depend on how well they can compress the streaming game itself, as poor internet infrastructure has always been the downfall of these services. Streaming a 1080p 60 fps game is going to take a lot of bandwidth, unless of course Sony have figured out something particularly clever here, and I can't wait to see if they have. 


Call of Duty series switches to three-year development cycle


Simon Wu: 

Apparently I'm the only one with particularly strong viewpoint on this, but I don't exactly see this as a positive. Rather, Call of Duty's split personality disorder is about to get worse. I have attempted to keep up as best I can with each new installment in the series, and I've noticed a recurring trend. I'll be playing the newest game in the series and be irked that it has a problem that I noticed three games ago. The discernible difference between a 'Treyarch' version and an 'Infinity Ward' version is going to be even more complicated now. When I first saw the headline, I thought it might have been to give a version of Destiny the ability to slot in every third year between two CoDs, which actually made excellent sense. Moreover, there is a noticeable diminishing marginal return on the multiplayer, which has become so bespoke to those who have been playing since at least Modern Warfare 2 that the barrier of entry is beyond many.

Alex Miller:

I'm not sure I can agree with Simon here, at least not entirely. While yes, this won't help the fragmentation that already exists within the series, I'm not sure that necessarily the main problem that needs to be addressed. For many, CoD has become the epitome of a rushed, yearly cash cow with little thought or innovation. Will an additional year in development fix this? Probably not, though it certainly won't hurt it either. I saw an interesting point online recently that CoD is simply a sports game wrapped in guns. Given the competitive multiplayer and jock culture that surrounds it, this makes sense. Maybe more time developing, preparing, innovating(?) will lend itself to an improvement in what has become one of the major e-sports besides Starcraft and League of Legends. All I know is that it certainly couldn't hurt.

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