TIME Video Games

5 Reasons to Buy a PlayStation 4 Right Now

Sony Corp. PlayStation 4 As Game Console Goes On Sale In U.S.
Bloomberg—Getty Images A logo sits on the front of a Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) games console, manufactured by Sony Corp., in this arranged photograph taken in London, U.K., on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.

To date, it's the fastest selling game system in history

On the sales front, the PlayStation 4 rules the roost. Sony’s flagship game console pulled off a high octane launch in late 2013, and it’s since beat both Nintendo’s Wii U and Microsoft’s Xbox One in global systems sold.

It also looks nothing like a first-gen console, designed by architect Mark Cerny to resemble the sort of quiet, elegantly slimline revision we’re more likely to see three or four years into a console’s 10-or-so year lifespan. And that’s without trading down, power-wise.

Here’s a roundup of reasons to consider buying the PlayStation 4, mid-2015 edition:

It has the best versions of cross-platform games

This applies more to earlier games than recent ones, but on balance, cross-platform titles tend to look better on Sony’s hardware. That’s because third-party studios struggled out of the gate to optimize for the Xbox One’s architecture, running into performance snafus that forced them to make visual compromises. If you’re a strict videophile who pores over graphics comparisons at pixel-scrutinizing sites like Digital Foundry, the PlayStation 4 brooks little argument here.

Popularity

Everyone not tied down by a massive exclusivity deal wants to be on Sony’s hardware. It’s snowball math: the more people buy a game console, the more studios want to develop for it, the more people buy the game console. Sony’s PlayStation 4 soared past 22 million units sold in March—more than twice the Xbox One’s last reported “shipped” figure—and it’s either close behind or in lockstep with Nintendo’s original Wii for the honorific “fastest selling console of all time.” If you want the near-future-proofed game console, it’s the PlayStation 4 by a country mile.

Bloodborne

One of the finest action roleplaying games ever made lives on Sony’s system and no other. Its outrageous challenges and endless combat loops won’t resonate with everyone, but if you’re an aficionado of studio From Software’s Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls games, the PlayStation 4 is a slam dunk buy for Bloodborne alone.

Share Play

Both Sony and Microsoft let you stream video of what you’re doing through services like Twitch, but only the PlayStation 4 lets you invite viewers (who also have a PlayStation 4) to play games you own but that they don’t. Before you shrug because you and your friends are going to buy the same games, consider the “remote assistance” feature, which, if you’re stuck in whatever game, lets you turn control over to a remote player, either in an instructional capacity or to simply get you over the hump.

PlayStation Now

Sony’s game-streaming technology isn’t the same thing as true backward compatibility, and game streaming can be visually glitchy if your Internet connection hiccups. But since older PlayStation 3 games look diminished on native 1080p resolution TV screens, does it matter? For $20 a month, PlayStation Now gives you unfetteredun access to over 100 PlayStation 3 games, and the list is growing.

TIME China

This Move in China Could Be a Big Boon For Game Console Makers

2014 China Joy Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference In Shanghai
ChinaFotoPress—ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images Visitors experience the Xbox One game during the China Joy event on July 31, 2014 in Shanghai, China.

China is already the world's third biggest gaming market

In a big boon for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, China has finally allowed the production and sale of video game consoles on their shores.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Culture, the move will mean that after 15 years, foreign and domestic companies will be allowed to manufacture and sell consoles anywhere in the country, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Consoles were initially banned in 2000 to protect children and youth from the perceived negative effects of playing video games. This, however, hasn’t stopped traders from illegally importing consoles and selling them to customers at “gray markets”.

In January last year, China relaxed their ban by allowing “foreign-invested enterprises” to manufacture consoles inside Shanghai’s Free Economic Zone. The government, however, emphasized that new rules would be drafted to govern the entry of consoles into the country. “Things that are hostile to China, or not in conformity with the outlook of China’s government, won’t be allowed,” said Cai Wu, the head of the Ministry of Culture, in a report by Bloomberg.

This has opened the gateway for companies to start selling their hardware in a potentially huge market. China is the world’s third-largest market for video games, and could overtake the US as the biggest market with potential revenues of more than $22 billion by 2016, according to a report by Newzoo. As a result of China’s console ban, most of the games sold have been online, with sales of online games in China said to reach around $18 billion in 2014.

Companies have already taken steps to make their consoles available in China. Microsoft started selling their Xbox One in September of last year, and sold more than 100,000 units on the first day alone, marking a better debut in China than in Japan, according to a report by Polygon.

TIME movies

Sony Tweaked Adam Sandler Movie Pixels to Avoid Embarrassing China

Executives made changes to assure a good reception, according to leaked emails

Sony altered a scene in its newly released film Pixels in order to avoid running afoul of censors in China, now the second-largest film market after the United States.

Reuters reports, citing emails leaked by Sony hackers, that a scene in the original Pixels script featuring aliens shooting a hole in the Great Wall of China was scrapped because it would “not benefit the China release at all,” according to a Sony executive.

Other changes included removing a mention of China as the potential perpetrator of an attack during the movie and a reference to a cyberattack by a “Communist-conspiracy brother.”

Emails sent in 2013 also showed that a Sony executive wanted to alter the plot of the studio’s action film RoboCop by locating a weapon company in the movie in Southeast Asia rather than China. That change didn’t make it into the final cut of the film.

Movie censorship guidelines in China ban content that disparages the government, endangers national unity or harms public morale. Studios in the past have been known to change their movies specifically to appeal to Chinese audiences. Marvel, for instance, lengthened a scene in Iron Man 3 featuring a Chinese doctor specifically for the Chinese release.

In a statement to Reuters, Sony said that creating content that has wide global appeal but doesn’t compromise creative integrity is a top priority as it develops films.

[Reuters]

 

TIME movies

An Actual Emoji Movie Is in the Works

Hong Kong Rugby Sevens: beer, costumes and, somewhere, a result
Stringer—AP Fans wearing emoji masks watch a Hong Kong Seven rugby match in Hong Kong on March 28, 2015

No word yet on which members of Apple's vast emoji library will be making an appearance

Hollywood is impeccably good at turning a profit on insipid fads. In the five years since Universal Pictures released the animated film Despicable Me, a cultish cottage industry has sprung up around the Minions, the film’s manic yellow lozenges who ultimately proved lucrative enough to earn their own spinoff. They’re globally ubiquitous — you have Minion Tic Tacs, Minion-themed weddings in Britain, a curious Minion-inspired burger at McDonald’s restaurants in Hong Kong — and the producers are laughing all the way to the bank.

It’s not terribly surprising, then, that Sony Pictures Animation will be making a movie about emoji, the delightful little ideograms you use to caption your Instagrams or pepper your messages. The planned project, Deadline reports, comes after a supposedly heated bidding process between Sony, Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures that culminated in a deal in the high six figures. There’s money to be made in twee hieroglyphics.

Or maybe it’s simply low-hanging fruit, given that the emoji library is less a typeface and more a means of illustrating the world at large. Your cast, setting and props are ready to go. The ensemble could be colossal: Apple’s emoji library is populated by 93 individual little yellow people, 15 families of four, 10 happy couples and seven anthropomorphic cats. Santa Claus could make an appearance. The library’s latest iteration offers 42 national flags, so it could be set anywhere — Israel! South Korea!

In any event, the movie won’t be completely revolutionary. The emoji-as-medium approach to filmmaking has earned some mileage as a music video strategy already, the best example thus far coming in Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “Drunk in Love.”

TIME Video Games

The Best Part of Sony’s New 1TB PlayStation 4 Isn’t the Hard Drive

The new PlayStation 4s include notable under the hood (as well as on-the-hood) changes

Answering Microsoft’s recently unveiled 1TB Xbox One with a refresh of its own, Sony has announced a new 1TB “Ultimate Player Edition” PlayStation 4, as well as revised 500GB model.

But the best part about the new PlayStation systems isn’t the extra storage space.

Unlike Microsoft’s Alcatraz-like Xbox 360 and One game systems, both Sony’s PlayStation 3 and 4 game consoles have been user upgradeable from the start, allowing owners to pop in new off-the-shelf hard drives at leisure. Thus if you already own a PlayStation 4, there’s no storage-related reason to buy a completely new console when you can just grab a much less expensive hard drive, then follow Sony’s own official installation instructions.

But the real reason to take note of the new models is that they’ll also be roughly one-tenth lighter and consume slightly less power than the original 500GB PlayStation 4. That, and if you find the current model’s fingerprint-magnetic glossy hard drive cover irritating, the new models—available in either “glacier white” or “jet black”—will come with a “grainy” matte finish across their entire exterior.

No word on prices yet, but Sony PlayStation Europe says the new 1TB model will be available on July 15 in Europe. Sony Japan says that the new 500GB models will be available in Japan by the end of this month, followed in sequence (though without specific timetables) by the rest of the world.

TIME Video Games

The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter Campaign Soared Past $2m Goal in Less Than a Day

Sony Holds Press Event At E3 Gaming Conference Unveiling New Products For Its Playstation Game Unit
Christian Petersen — Getty Images Game designer Yu Suzuki and Sony Computer Entertainment America vice president of publisher and developer relations, Adam Boyes discus "Shenmue 3" during the Sony E3 press conference at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena on June 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

"I wanted to make it with the fans,” said developer Yu Suzuki

If there were any doubts whether gamers across the globe wanted another installment of the Sega adventure game Shenmue, fans of the franchise needed just a few hours to make their voices heard.

At Sony’s E3 press conference on Monday, the game’s developer Yu Suzuki announced that a Kickstarter campaign had been launched to collect $2 million to fund the development of Shenmue 3. Hours later the goal had been shattered.

As of the time of publication, the crowdfunding drive has raised more than $2.8 million thanks to donations from 36,000 backers. And this appears to be exactly what Suzuki envisaged for the project.

“If Shenmue 3 was going to get made, I wanted to make it with the fans,” wrote Suzuki on the campaign’s website. “Through Kickstarter, I knew that could happen. Together, with Shenmue fans everywhere, I knew we could build the game that the series deserves.”

TIME e3 2015

One of the Best Games of All Time Is Getting a Remake

Not re-released. Not re-mastered. Remade from the ground up

Square Enix’s classic role-playing game Final Fantasy 7 is getting a remake for the current-generation PlayStation 4. Sony announced the game during its E3 2015 press conference June 15. Final Fantasy 7, originally released for the first Playstation, is widely considered one of the greatest RPGs of all time, and remains a critics’ pick.

In an announcement trailer, Square Enix named some of the staff working on the iteration of Final Fantasy 7, including Yoshinori Kitase, who is producing, and Tetsuya Nomura, who will direct. The game will come out on Playstation 4, though it may eventually come to other platforms as well.

Porting or upscaling old games and re-releasing them as “ultimate” or “high-definition” editions has become common practice in the games industry. Last year, Square Enix released a version of Final Fantasy 7 for Playstation 4 that was an upgraded port of the PC version.

This Final Fantasy appears to differ significantly as it is a “remake.” Fans of the Japanese series have longed wanted Square Enix to make such a move, ever since the firm showed a technology demonstration featuring characters from the game running on a PlayStation 3.

No release date was announced.

TIME e3 2015

Here’s Everything Sony Revealed During Its Blockbuster E3 Keynote

Sony outed three of the most anticipated games, maybe ever, at its E3 2015 showcase

Rounding out Monday’s barrage of E3 gaming pressers, Sony’s midyear celebration of all things PlayStation got off to a rousing start with one of the industry’s most anticipated—and repeatedly delayed—games on any system.

That’s right, The Last Guardian is still a thing, and as the show’s surprise opener, it was every bit as weird and gorgeous as I’m sure Sony intended, at once highlighting the dreamlike artfulness of creative lead Fumito Ueda’s peculiar mental-scape, as well as the game’s partner-focused environmental puzzles.

Over the course of the demo, a boy (controlled by you) and his giant sphinx-like companion worked their way through vast, precipitous, architectonically elegant backdrops. I guess that’s the thing that still stands out for me as much now as it did when I first saw the game in action years ago: the way the game manages to convey just how massive the creature is, capable of bridging a chasm, say, but with almost ungainly, lumbering movements.

As in The Last Guardian‘s predecessor, Ueda’s Shadow of the Colossus, you can cling to all aspects of the creature, tip to tail, clambering around its feathered bulk, and the connective tissue between ICO and Shadow of the Colossus was visible throughout. We have, in that sense, seen all of this before, but then we’ve seen so few games, indie or otherwise, that match Ueda’s gift for all but telepathically conveying sophisticated gameplay concepts using subtle and ingenious design cues.

MORE: Here’s Microsoft’s Crazy New Xbox Controller

“You don’t know how long I have waited to introduce The Last Guardian, with the first ever gameplay footage on PlayStation 4,” said Sony CEO Shuhei Yoshida at the demo’s close. And we finally have, if not a release date, at least a release window: Sony says we can expect The Last Guardian to hit PlayStation 4 sometime next year.

The rest of the show was a medley of unexpected and predictable revelations, the latter including a Black Ops 3 debut multiplayer trailer, a new Destiny expansion dubbed “The Taken King” where you battle some giant batwinged creature, an Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate callout to the game’s alternate female lead and a very pretty but ultimately kind of boring Uncharted 4 closer.

We saw a bit of gameplay from a new Guerrilla Games (the Killzone series) post-post-apocalyptic action-adventure titled Horizon: Zero Dawn, which with its cast of robo-dinosaurs and low-tech, archery-adept heroine had me thinking Transformers: Beast Wars meets Vikings. Square Enix teased its new long-in-development Hitman installment, followed by Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway) unveiling something unusually artsy (for a mainstream game, anyway) that it’s calling Dreams, which it pitched as “using the PS4 controller to collaboratively create moving paintings,” adding “Now you can literally create anything you can dream of, a game, a play, a performance, all from scratch.”

Firewatch, a game about a volunteer fire lookout officer circa the Yellowstone fires of 1988 that’s been turning heads for its singular visual style, got a surprise nod. And Sean Murray of developer Hello Games ran through a gameplay demo of No Man’s Sky, the literally infinite space exploration whatchamacallit Sony’s been hyping for two years. Though I’m sure the latter demo triggered skipped heartbeats, it did nothing to allay my growing fear that the whole affair is going to be this incredibly gorgeous, unfathomably sweeping, but in the end ultimate patina of a game that scratches away too soon (let the record state that I want nothing more than to be dead wrong about that).

But the show’s biggest two reveals were sandwiched unceremoniously in the middle: a bona fide Final Fantasy VII remake is coming, as is a Yu Suzuki-led Shenmue 3, assuming the latter clears its $2 million Kickstarter goal (which, by the time you read this, will probably have happened).

About Final Fantasy VII, we know next to nothing, save that the teaser trailer suggests a remake that’s more of a spiritual reimagining than the sort of tediously literal remake (of a now ancient combat system, and in hindsight often juvenile story) that I trust no one really wants.

As for Shenmue 3, which Suzuki says will be a sequel to the first two games and “the story you’ve been waiting for” if it achieves its funding goal, I have mixed feelings about the revelation venue. Is it kosher to launch your Kickstarter at one of the most watched video game conferences in the world? Visibility is paramount to any crowdfunding project. Say what you will about Sony’s unwillingness to fund the project outright, then think of all the other arguably as or more worthy game projects that’ll never have access to a platform as spectacular as the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena under Sony’s floodlit and meticulously choreographed spell.

TIME Video Games

This Ratchet & Clank Trailer May Finally Have Pixar Beat

Imagine a playable CGI-caliber world as visually grand as anything out of Emeryville

Our first gameplay glimpse of Sony’s Ratchet & Clank for PlayStation 4 just hit, and developer Insomniac’s partner-platforming reboot looks pretty dang amazing.

Sure, you’re saying, “But ‘Pixar beat’? Come on!” I don’t just mean visually. Graphically speaking, “equalled” may be fairer (itself no mean feat). But how many CGI-animated film-caliber worlds can you zip around and live inside and basically direct yourself? Pixar, we still love you, but we can’t play you — except maybe that’s about to change when this thing hits next spring.

Bear in mind you’re looking at scenes from the upcoming 2016 Ratchet & Clank CGI-animated film intermingled with gameplay clips. Having trouble distinguishing the latter from the former? Me too.

TIME Video Games

Sony Is About to Dramatically Improve the Playstation 4

Sony Corp. PlayStation 4 As Game Console Goes On Sale In U.S.
Bloomberg—Getty Images A logo sits on the front of a Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) games console, manufactured by Sony Corp., in this arranged photograph taken in London, U.K., on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.

It could solve one of gamers' biggest gripes

A better version of the Playstation 4 may be on the way. A new FCC filing appears to reveal two new versions of Sony’s popular PS4. One of the new models would be the first to come with a 1-terabyte hard drive inside. That’s twice the size of the current drive.

With users increasingly opting to purchase software digitally, built-in drives can fill up quickly. A triple-AAA title can easily reach 30 gigabytes to 40 gigabytes.

Forum users have noticed that the new Playstations are different in several other ways, as well. They are slightly lighter and use less power than the most recent PS4 revisions. That is likely the result of a more efficient design. But the systems appear to lack support for 5 gigahertz WiFi, something gamers have been clamoring for.

MORE: Nintendo Just Revealed a Ton of New Games

The revamped consoles are likely to be revealed on June 15 at Sony’s E3 2015 event.

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