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February 2013

Sony Reveals New Vision For PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4Sony pulled back the curtain on its grand plan for the future of PlayStation last night in New York and aside from the expected generational improvements regarding improved technical specs for the console itself, the major mantra for the PlayStation 4 involves social networking, connectivity, and playing games everywhere.  It's a modern approach for what our connected society has become since the PlayStation 3 launched in 2006 in which your friends have a stake in your gaming environment.  We heard a lot of rumors about how the PS4 would require an Internet connection and need to be online all the time, but unless Sony is still holding some DRM cards close to its chest, it seems that the always-online requirement is more of a suggestion and has more to do with the console's persistent connectivity features.  Your friends will be able to peek into your game session live and even take control of your game to provide some assistance if you desire.  It's the 21st century equivalent to passing the controller to your pal sitting beside you to help you beat that really tough boss or irritating stage.  Built-in video capture hardware will allow you to retroactively choose greatest gaming moments in screenshot or video format and upload those moments to social sites like Facebook and Ustream (that's where the controller's new Share button comes into play).  Interacting with friends in new ways is key to the PS4 experience.

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Sony Spotlights The Evolution Of PlayStation

Sony PlayStation logoAs part of the hype train run up to this evening's assumedly grand PlayStation 4 debut, Sony has produced a series of really short video documentaries highlighting the evolution of the PlayStation hardware line.  Starting with the original PSOne that put the brand on the map and spanning up to the present day's advanced home consoles and handheld systems, these videos are a fun walk down memory lane.  Before you learn about the future, be sure to review the past.

All of this talk about the new PlayStation reveal reminds of where I was when the company showed the PlayStation 3 for the first time.  I was covering E3 2006 with Kombo (then known as the Advanced Media Network).  By the time my flight arrived in Los Angeles and I arrived at the hotel where my team was staying, the big Sony press conference was just about to begin.  The six of us who were there already gathered in one hot, stuffy room (the air conditioner was out of service throughout the building that day) and huddled around a laptop that was streaming the show.  We watched as the company launched what would become the infamous Giant Enemy Crab gag into existence as well as the timeless call for Ridge Racer.  We laughed, we speculated, we outright guessed at what would happen next and how much more the presenters could lose the audience with nonsensical ramblings and half-baked promises.  After it was all over, we agreed that Sony had dropped the ball with their hubris and had a ways to go in order to reclaim the industry crown.  Hopefully they won't make the same mistake again tonight.

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Star Wars Pinball Tables Unleashing Next Week

Star Wars PinballZen Studios has been toiling away on a series of pinball tables for its outstanding Zen Pinball 2 / Pinball FX2 platforms based on aspects of the famed Star Wars universe for quite some time and is finally ready to release some of the results.  Three tables based on key aspects of the franchise are due to hit Zen/FX platforms next week with seven more on the way over time.  The Empire Strikes Back has to be the biggest attention grabber of the first wave, but tables featuring Boba Fett and The Clone Wars are also attracting some interest among Jedi and pinball fans alike.  Straight from Zen's Star Wars Pinball website, here's when and how you can get your Force fix:

Star Wars Pinball   will release as DLC for the following platforms and dates:
  • Pinball FX2™ on Xbox LIVE® Arcade – February 27th for 800 MSP
  • Zen Pinball 2™ on PlayStation®Network for PlayStation 3 &   PlayStation Vita with Cross Buy entitlement! Purchase once and play on both systems – February 26th in North America for $9.99, February 27th in Europe for €9.99. 
  • Zen Pinball 2 on the Mac®App Store – February 27th for $2.99/table
  • Zen Pinball on the Apple®App Store – February 27th for $1.99/table
  • Zen Pinball HD Google Play™ – February 27th for $1.99/table

Star Wars Pinball will release as a standalone application on the following platforms:

  • Star Wars Pinball for the Apple® App Store
  • Star Wars Pinball for Google Play™

Additional platforms will be announced at a later date.

I've been teasing my pinball pal Blake Grundman of the EvilCast podcast for weeks that the first tables are actually based on Jar Jar Binks (featuring new voicework from Jar Jar actor Ahmed Best), and L'il Anakin (complete with "Whoopee!" cheer).  It's provided me with no end of amusement.  If the real tables are half as fun as tormenting him with fake information, I'll be pleased.  Check out the trailer for Empire, after which I've included some of my favorite moments of trying to break Blake's brain.

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More Gaming Deals At Amazon Today

Buy somethin' will ya!If you're looking to save some money on selected video games and gaming accessories, then Amazon has your best interests (and their profit margin) at heart as the online retailer is offering another all-gaming Gold Box and Lightning Deals day.  Today's big sale is on the recently released Dead Space 3 for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC.  It's discounted to $39.99 all day today.  Other offers that will come and go throughout the day include a big discount on a PS3 bundle which includes PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and Ratchet & Clank Collection for $249.99, Epic Mickey 2 accessories for the Nintendo Wii and Wii U, Battlefield 3 Premium, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the Professional Edition of Hitman: Absolution, and plenty of other titles.  Meanwhile, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time for the PS3 is just $30 right now and it comes with a free download of the PS Vita version of the game.  These are great deals!  Check out the sale and see if anything strikes your fancy.  Anything you purchase via the green link here goes to support Press The Buttons which, as always, I really appreciate.

Rock Band DLC Releases Ending Soon

Rock BandHarmonix has been cranking out new downloadable songs for its mighty Rock Band franchise for years, but all good things must come to an end sooner or later, so it's with a heavy heart (and a plastic instrument, I bet) that the company has announced that it is ending new weekly song releases.  Everything wraps up in April.  Here's the news from Harmonix itself:

As you may have seen in our recent announcement regarding the release of Rock Band Blitz tracks as singles, Rock Band DLC production has gradually slowed over the past 5 years. We’ve managed to maintain a consistent release schedule for a staggering 275 consecutive weeks, releasing over 4,000 songs for the Rock Band Platform, but in recent months we’ve scaled production down as we’ve transitioned resources onto other projects. With several new titles in development and developers needed to usher these new games along, April 2nd will be the last weekly DLC release for Rock Band.

While there is no content currently scheduled beyond April 2nd, we still have DLC releases lined up for the next few weeks, including the remaining tracks from RB Blitz, several Pro guitar upgrades, and a handful of artists who have not yet appeared in Rock Band. We’re incredibly proud of the DLC milestones we’ve set, especially producing the largest music library of any game available, and we wouldn’t have been able to release as much outstanding content without the support of our amazing community. As thanks to the community, we’re going to continue the ongoing DLC sale of 50% off over 1,100 songs so fans can continue to build their personal libraries from our back catalog.

While it's sad to see the releases end, I bet that most people have had their fill of new tracks by now.  The plastic instrument sing/play-a-long genre is dead for now in the market, and I don't know about you, but while I love playing Rock Band, I already have more songs that I'll ever have time to perform.  I stopped buying DLC over a year ago.  I suppose it's just time to move on, but of course there's nothing stopping you from dipping into the giant catalog once new releases end.  There's enough out there to keep you busy for a lifetime.  I'm keeping my instruments (even the drums that we could never properly calibrate).  When given the opportunity and the time, it's still fun to rock.

EvilCast Recap - Episode 165

EvilCastWhenever my friends over at Games Are Evil need a guest to sit in a vacant chair on the EvilCast podcast, they summon me by turning on a Sony PlayStation 3 and loading up Bionic Commando (or, more commonly, they send a text message).  One way or the other, I turn up on this week's new episode of the show, Episode 165, alongside Blake Grundman, Ross Polly, and Keri Honea to discuss the new Nintendo announcements that make up the Year of Luigi, Sony's impending PlayStation 4 reveal (particularly that mysterious prototype controller image that's been making the rounds), bad times for Aliens: Colonial Marines developers and players alike, a little pinball conversation, and a little talk about Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, LittleBigPlanet for the PlayStation Vita, and a freemium Ghostbusters game for iOS that does its best to do right by the source material.  Join us for some off-the-cuff fun.

Sony To Drop PlayStation Vita Price In Japan

PlayStation VitaThose of you who have wanted to buy a Sony PlayStation Vita but have been hesitant because of the high price ($250 for a Wi-Fi model and $300 for a Wi-Fi/3G model) should pay attention to this morning's news from Japan as Sony has announced that it will drop the price of the Vita to ¥19,980 at the end of the month.  That works out to $214 at today's exchange rates and could signify a similar price cut coming to North America and beyond shortly.  Joystiq has the news.

Sony announced a sizable price cut for the PlayStation Vita in Japan this morning, starting February 28. Via a special online broadcast, Sony detailed that both the 3G/Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi-only models are to cost ¥19,980 (around $215). That's roughly a 20 percent drop from the launch price of the Wi-Fi only model, and a chunky 34 percent off the 3G/Wi-Fi model.  The price drop coincides with the release of Phantasy Star Online 2 for Vita in the country.

Cutting the Vita price abroad by a similar percentage to, say, $200 would be a nice way to jump start sales, although there is still that hidden memory card startup cost with which to contend.  I think the bigger news here is that Sony is doing away with the premium upcharge to buy a 3G Vita.  Both Vita models will be available at the same price, so with that in mind, why not buy a 3G unit?  Nobody says you'd have to activate the 3G service and pay the fee during months that you don't intend to use it.  I know that the inclusion of 3G was a way of future-proofing the device, but the way things have been going in the Vita market, I couldn't ever see a need to absolutely have the capability and it certainly wasn't worth the extra money.  Now that both models will be the same price, however, why not take a chance?  You might as well get as much product for your money as possible.  Here's hoping a similar cut for other regions is only an announcement away.

Mega Man 10 Robot Master Evolution

Sheep ManWhether it's in fiction or in reality, a Mega Man Robot Master does not enter this world fully formed.  Talented designers (be they Dr. Light or a Capcom artist) slave over the drawing boards and sketchpads to turn a vague concept like, say, Sheep Man into a finalized creation.  The incredible art book Mega Man: Official Complete Works detailed the creation process of all of the franchise's famed Robot Masters up through the end of the last century, but only now with the release of a revised and updated volume can we see the genesis of characters from the recent game releases.  The Mega Man Network has translated and scanned a few selections from the new R20+5 book so that those of us who cannot read Japanese can appreciate the process of creating Mega Man 10's Robot Masters.  Here's a sample:

In Sheep Man’s initial stages, he was thought up as a character with rounded eyes like Heat Man. Being a sheep he had this sleepy eye image, plus I had thought it was necessary that one or two bosses among the eight have rounded eyes.

Sheep Man gave me the roughest time for a number of reasons. In the end I went with a design that I’d got from Inafune, but with this I feel that it continues the line of animal type bosses like Uranus and Hyper Storm H.

As for Sheep Man, I have to admit that I kind of prefer some of his transitional designs.  The round eyes suit him well and the stubby arms only add to the cuteness.  Be sure to check out some of the other intriguing designs; Chill Man began as a Russian Cossack-type character and Strike Man was once a proper athlete instead of being actual sports equipment.  I can't get enough of these kinds of concepts.  I'm very happy to see the recent Mega Man games get some spotlight.  While the old classics such as Mega Man 2 tend to get all of the attention, there were some inspired designs in the later games, and missing out on information for 10 was a disappointment.  There's no news on if this updated book will appear outside of Japan, but for now I'll take the unofficial translation. 

Join The PTB Tumblr Experiment

Assassin's CreedSince I had to sign up for a Tumblr account in order to work on Super eShop World, I decided I might as well play around with the format myself.  I come across fun images and videos all the time that I think people should see, but they don't justify a full PTB post, so I figure I should share all of that material in the Tumblr microblog format.  I'm tinkering with it at the aptly named Press The Buttons on Tumblr blog, so why not stop in and see what's up?  I haven't decided if I'll keep it around in the long run yet.  It all depends on if enough people find it worthwhile to read, follow, reblog, and do all of those other Tumblr activities.  After all, If I'm going to present content, I'd prefer there be an audience out there to see it.

Power Button - Episode 93: What Are You Hiding, PlayStation 4?

Power ButtonSony is set to make a major announcement of some sort about the future of the PlayStation brand and everyone in the gaming community is waiting to see the official reveal of a new console.  The PlayStation 4 (or Orbis or PlaySt4tion or whatever they end up calling it) is on the way and we're all hyped to see what it is, what it does, and when we can get our hands on one.  In advance of the official reveal, information is leaking out.  Kotaku has a list of supposed specifications for the console hardware, a list of new features for the controller, and information on how the next generation of PlayStation Network will handle accounts.  Destructoid has an actual photo of the alleged controller (development kit iteration).  There's so much to discuss about all of this, so leave it to Brad Hilderbrand and I to spend fifty minutes talking about what we think of the new information, how we believe it will impact future games, and which other features we'd like to see integrated into the PS4 experience.  It's all analysis and speculation from here on.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button - Episode 93: What Are You Hiding, PlayStation 4?