Weekend Short-Takes: 9/21/12

Microsoft announces new entertainment and game studio focused on Windows 8 tablet development

Simon:

Credit where credit is due. Microsoft said they were going to go big with tablets, and they are busy getting all their ducks in a row for launch. Given that games are such a huge focus for the tablet market, and that Windows 8 has a serious deficiency in app count (which I personally don’t think is a good measure for an ecosystem’s value, but most do), you can bet that this team is going to be working triple overtime to get top apps from iOS and Android and creating mobile experiences from Microsoft’s portfolio of Xbox exclusives.

John Tarr:

Apple continues to pretend gaming is not a HUGE factor in tablet sales, and Microsoft is investing in new games and porting lots of old ones. It’s a step in the right direction, but if Microsoft’s App Store isn’t better than Apple’s App Store, they will not get enough third party support to make their tablet a worthwhile gaming purchase.

John Fenix: 

Like with so many of their gaming divisions, Microsoft is going internal. Like John Tarr mentioned, while this will be good for support, Microsoft’s success will depend on how well they will be able to provide third-party developers.

Alex Miller:

In the past Microsoft’s gaming division has generally relied on outside sources for their content (with a few exceptions), creating the platform (xbox, xbox 360) and the means for others to use said platform. However, as they are arriving in a meaningful way to the Tablet party a bit late, they can’t rely on this time consuming method and frankly risky method. Microsoft needs to guarantee a steady stream of quality titles to draw people to and keep them with the Surface. I think they are and therefore Microsoft is taking the right steps to give this tablet a fighting chance in the already oversaturated and apple controlled tablet market. In that market, while the surface is obviously not meant solely for games and gaming, having a solid gaming capability just gives the surface more functionality, improving its chances of overall market success.

BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk retire, to exit the game industry‏

Simon:

Whoa. Talk about something coming out of left field. I can understand why these guys are getting out of the business: it’s nowhere near the same industry as when they started about 20 years ago. Also, readers might recall their vacillating response to the initial tidal wave of criticism over the Mass Effect 3 ending, which might have hastened their departure, given that a giant corporation now owns Bioware. One thing that remains to be seen is how much input and creative vision the duo imparted on such iconic titles as KoToR and Baldur’s Gate. Will we see little signs like the lanyard hook on the new iPod Touch, signs that clearly show the original flame is out?

John Tarr: 

I am really interested to see what insane projects these two brilliant minds start working on next. Will they follow their childhood dreams of becoming astronauts and go to space like Richard Garriott? Or build rockets like John Carmack? What kind of projects would you work on if you never had to think about money again?

John Fenix:

I must admit that I don’t believe I have played a BioWare game. Yet, their foundational work and what the studio has done, especially with series like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, one cannot deny their impact. I wish both of them well on their future pursuits.

Alex Miller:

Similarly to Simon, I am left speechless. Whoa indeed. When I look back and think about the fact that games like KoToR are what genuinely pulled me into gaming, made me fall in love with characters and a world that was not made any less real because it took place on a screen. Whereas other games I’d played before that had done that to a degree, the tight writing and execution of Bioware pulled me in and did not let go. I hope in their 20 years they have managed to train others to create and imagine in the same way they did, because if not I will be said to see another giant of gaming fade away in insignificance.

Photo Credit: pcmag.com

Sony announces a slimmer PlayStation 3, 250GB bundle launches September 25th for $269‏

Simon:

I’m somewhat confused by Sony. Just a year or so out from the announcement of the PS4, why would they do this now. I’m pretty confident that Microsoft isn’t about to put out the even slimmer Xbox 360. I see that this new SKU is trying to more closely match the price of the current 250GB 360, which is available new on Amazon for $249. Also, a ½ terabyte model? Is that a sign of bigger things to come? I can only wonder whether Sony is delaying the PS4 because they are facing production problems, design problems, software issues, or if they are just expecting a lifecycle even longer than we anticipated, and that concerns me greatly. Is the new Xbox going to beat the PS4 to the market, because we already have empirical evidence of what the results are when that happens.

John Fenix:

Things like this are not unheard of, but still it seems a bit odd to release it now, with most gamers getting ready for the next generation. Maybe this is more for international (especially Japanese) gamers, since Xbox has never done well in Japan. Still, those gamers could be getting ready for next generation as well. What are you up to, Sony?

Alex Miller:

Ah Sony, you never fail to surprise. Yet that is not always a good thing. As Simon and I discussed on the latest Com-cast Sony may know the right move, but they do not always take it. In this specific scenario, I think they have once again refused the logical path and instead forged their own Sony path to who-knows-whereland. To spend the time and money designing and marketing this new PS3 less than a year from the anticipated announcement of the next Xbox and (until now) the anticipated announcement of the PS4 feels like a delaying tactic to me. I wonder if all is not well in the Sony design room in regards to the PS4. One thing I know is that Xbox sure won’t wait for the next Playstation to be ready, and as Simon said, we all know what happens when Xbox gets the jump on Playstation.

Photo Credit: venturebeat.com 

Microsoft hires former CBS executive to develop original content for Xbox‏

Simon:

This blending of traditional and new media is a trend that is going to be accelerating in the coming months, as the old lines that separate them blur considerably. However, this marks a brand new initiative for Microsoft and Xbox. We all know that the Xbox already has almost every content service known to man, but that’s where the line has been drawn. They’ve been passing along content. Now, it appears that they are ready to consider producing their own content. And don’t forget Xbox is soon going to be more than just the console; it now stands for Microsoft’s entire unified entertainment service, across the console, tablet, PC, and phone.

John Fenix:

Hulu doing original content? Expected. Netflix? Not surprised. Xbox? You mean besides games? I did see that coming. Yet, this seems to be obvious step for Microsoft as it moves toward Windows 8 and its cross-platformability. Still, will all this focus on broadening the use of the Xbox become so cluttered that it’s start to become impractical. Probably not, but it is a possibility.

Alex Miller:

As I said before in regards to the tablet, Microsoft has generally been a content provider, not a content creator. Yet in the overall scheme of finding the Xbox’s place in the household, this makes perfect sense. As Simon and I have said time and again, the Xbox is no longer simply a gaming device, it is a home media center, a content accessor and again, like the Surface, the more content it has, the more variety and choices, the likelier it is to draw in a wider audience and hold them. Smart move Microsoft, hopefully some quality projects come out of this.

Photo Credit: tv.yahoo.com 

John Tarr's picture

@ Microsoft hires former CBS executive to develop original content for Xbox‏

Easiest job in the world. Buyout Rooster Teeth, make all of their content exclusive to the Xbox, HUGE Christmas bonus.

darthskeletor's picture

I'm really sad to see the guys from Bioware go, because almost all of their games were huge parts of my life growing up, and I would still play KoToR if it weren't incompatible with Windows 7.

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