Angry Robot

Notes on the End of the Console Wars

The games industry is stranger these days than I’ve ever seen it. At the root is technological change, as always: the kind of tech needed to present a passable modern game experience is now so cheap it shows up in phones, TVs, watches. The game console makers have tried to branch out and present their machines as “everything boxes” which mostly means they help you watch things. But the technology needed to watch things is even cheaper than that needed for games: witness the sub-$100 Roku and of course so-called smart TVs, which come with streaming and social apps built in.

I would bet that this generation, the machines we have thought of as consoles (dedicated games hardware costing $300+) will be essentially core gamer boxes. Only the hardcore will spend money on something that plays games, when everything else already plays games. The casual players that fueled success in the previous generation will have no need to buy consoles this time around, and even the hardcore themselves will start to question their utility. As the years pass, the game abilities of non-consoles (multi-purpose devices like tablets, phones, TVs, streaming boxes, clothes? who knows!) will only grow, while the consoles stay the same for five to eight years at a time.

How do the major players stand now?

Nintendo is not doing well. I expect the 3DS will chug along, but the Wii U is confusing to non-gamers and unappealing to core gamers – sales will get even worse. Nintendo is like Keith Richards: they may last a bit longer, but it’s not gonna be pretty.

With the Xbox One’s price, used games fiasco, and creepy always-snitching Kinect, Microsoft basically chugged poison, tripped, fell into a hole filled with spikes, and set themselves on fire. The used games issue will scare away hardcore gamers, while the $500 price makes it pointless for casual or non-gamers, despite the heavy TV pitch.

Sony will do well. They kept the PS4 price down, made the thing easy to develop for, and lured indies as well as the AAA publishers. Plus – amazing that this is a bragging point and grounds to “win” E3 – you can play used games on it.

But as time passes the new players will make things even more interesting.

As I have written before, Apple could disrupt the games industry by doing barely anything: opening the AppleTV to third party apps, and maybe making a dedicated controller / new remote. Interestingly, word out of WWDC (probably muted because of non-disclosure agreements) is that they are working on a spec for game controllers. May be nothing, but it may be a huge deal.

The Ouya, an open $100 Android-based system, is already out, although it will probably struggle to attract developers. I know little of the Android games ecosystem, but from what I read on Pocket Tactics, it doesn’t sound that robust – and it presumably takes at least some extra work to make a stock touch-based Android game work a system with a tiny install base.

Valve’s still-mostly-theoretical Steam Box is another big question mark. It’s as open as the Ouya but would have access to everything in the Steam store, which means basically all PC games. The idea of playing PC games comfortably from my couch is very enticing to me. But the only example of one so far – there may be many different models made by different manufacturers – costs $1000, which isn’t going to set any markets on fire.

Another interesting idea? Sony touted new cloud gaming features coming to PS4, PS3 and Vita. But that technology isn’t limited by the capabilities of the hardware, since the processing is happening on a server, and only the video and user input is happening on the device. This means that Sony could equally bring cloud gaming to their line of TVs that isn’t doing that well. It’s probably unlikely unless they’re really backed against a wall, but it’s an interesting thought.

Priced out of Paris

“Our great, global cities are turning into vast gated citadels where the elite reproduces itself” (via)

Weekend reading.

Read a couple great articles this weekend. In the Globe, How Brampton demonstrates the new vision of Canada argues essentially that Brampton today is your town tomorrow. It’s the first part in a series of articles about the city, which is now the country’s ninth-largest city, thanks to an influx of South Asian immigrants that have made visible minorities the majority. All sorts of things happen as a result, from the South Asian interest in hockey to the surprising density and resource-sharing that come from a different model of family tackling a low-density suburban sprawl.

Something that had been marinating in my Instapaper queue finally came out and got eaten: First Do No Harm, the engrossing, tragic story of a coroner’s inquest into prescription narcotic abuse in Ontario. While telling the story of two victims of the crisis, it mentions “a prescription narcotic–related death occurred almost every day in Ontario in 2008” and that the medical establishment is dangerously wrapped up in things. In fact, I learned a new word: iatrogenic, “induced by the words or actions of the physician”.

Olivia Chow’s unofficial campaign for Toronto mayor in 2014

Seems pretty clear that she’s gonna run. So far, the polls have her beating Ford handily, unless the left was split three ways.

Microsoft Office for iPhone is finally here, and it changes everything

Not sure about that. It requires an “Office 365” subscription plan, which costs $10/mo (for access on up to 5 devices including Macs/PCs). Also, no iPad version.

Ford scandal deepens with Toronto raids targeting gangs, guns and drugs

This was reported elsewhere yesterday but worth pointing out:

<blockquote>        <p>According to sources with knowledge of the investigation, the existence of the video was caught up in surveillance conducted as part of Project Traveller — an unintended discovery by police while investigating gang activity that took place before the Star first published reports of Ford’s alleged substance abuse problems in March. Persons of interest to the investigation discussed the iPhone video, sources say.</p>   </blockquote>

Why Yesterday? – Metro Morning

Interview with Toronto police chief Bill Blair in which he states, of the photo of Rob Ford with Anthony Smith and two men who were arrested yesterday, “the photo is real,” and “the truth will come out.”

On “Geek” Versus “Nerd”

analyzing twitter data to try and arrive at a distinction between the two terms. The author’s theory is that nerds are more academic. I think my theory, “a geek is a nerd who’s still in the closet”, still holds true. (via)

Massive police raid launched in Toronto

Pre-dawn raid centered on 320 Dixon Rd., “ground zero” of the crack tape scandal, targeting two rival gangs. It also hit the house of Muhammad Khattak, who was the other man shot in the Anthony Smith shooting.

“Caught up in the investigation, sources have told the Star, is the issue of the video in which Ford appears to be smoking crack cocaine.” And “Windsor police confirmed that there is an operation connected to the Toronto raids underway in that city as well.” Recall that Gawker has said the fella selling the crack tape had gone to Windsor. · Been There, Done That

On iOS 7 design and Mac OS X Aqua.

Can't go wrong with the glow show

“As we collectively re-watched Repo Man in the office screening room today, it occurred to me that it’s been too long since we had a movie where everyone was chasing a mysterious glowing MacGuffin-in-a-box.” Wonder if the Rob Ford crack tape will glow.


Penny Arcade on the Sony/Microsoft battle of the press conferences

Coyote Tracks – iOS 7's design language

Rob Ford’s billion-dollar lie

aka this year’s “gravy train”

Edward Snowden and the security state laid bare


Debate on Secret Data Looks Unlikely, Partly Due to Secrecy

What a headline!

WWDC 2013: More Details Emerge on Official iOS Game Controllers

Well this is a big deal. Apple is releasing an official spec for iOS game controllers. So in theory, games that support it could be played on a theoretical, App Store-enabled AppleTV.

No Always-Online, Yes Used Games on $399 PS4

Sony is making smart next-gen moves: the PS4 will be cheaper and far less Orwellian than the Xbox One.

Daring Fireball: 'This Is Our Signature': iOS 7

On Jony Ive’s now-evident software design philosophy

Apple – Mac Pro

There we go.

11 Rules of Good Writing That Iain M. Banks Left as His Legacy

Iain Banks has died (see here).

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

Is This Who Runs Prism?

If a contractor (say, this company Palantir) were doing the data mining on behalf of the government, the denials from Apple, Google et al would be non-denial denials as they claimed things like “we do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers…”

U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program

Another privacy-invading Big Data adventure that started under Bush and expanded under Obama. They are back-dooring into “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” Dropbox “coming soon”.

A Pipe-Wielding Thug Stormed the Rob Ford Crackhouse, Seeking Video

This is big. Gawker has an account of the crack-smoking night at 15 Windsor Rd, plus of the violence that occured there on the 21st.