Category Archives: sony

Mobile games not a threat to Vita, Sony says

Sony’s next-generation handheld video game system, the whimsically named Vita, officially launches on Feb. 22 after shipping out this week to those who pre-ordered it. It’s a very impressive and attractively priced device - you can read my full review here.

SCEA president and CEO Jack Tretton.

At the Vita’s launch party in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, I chatted with Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, about the Vita, PlayStation and game trends in general. The Vita, as it turns out, comes along at a time of major change in the gaming industry.

Smartphones and tablets have opened up an entirely new frontier for the industry, with people who wouldn’t previously be caught playing video games now idling away hours on Angry Birds and the like. Nintendo, Sony’s traditional rival in the handheld market, has already felt the pain as people have turned away from the more expensive and involved software produced for such devices and toward cheaper and simpler mobile games.

In discussing Sony’s long-term strategy with the Vita, Tretton said he’s not too worried about smartphones and tablets.

Is the Vita being sold through the razor blade model, where the hardware is cheap but you’re going to try to make money on the software?

What we do at Sony is we invest in the technology long term. Ideally, with economies of scale we’ll be able to cost reduce the unit, make it more profitable and ultimately hit an even more attractive price point. We invest heavily on the front end and say, ‘We’ve got to bring this out at a mass market price point that people can reach.’ At $249 with the technology under the hood, we’ve clearly delivered that from day one. It’s only going to get better in terms of the product offering. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on February 17, 2012 in sony, video games


Sony visor is in-your-face 3D

When Sony showed off its futuristic-looking 3D visor at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, few people thought the company would actually go through with it. Many wrote it off as one of those concept devices that technology companies bring to CES just to get media attention.

Well, nope. Sony has indeed put the visor into production and is currently taking pre-orders. The device officially hits stores in Canada on Nov. 25, although at $800, it’s not much cheaper than a full 3D television.

This is one of those oddities I simply had to try for myself and the folks at Sony were nice enough to lend me one for a week. Firstly, it’s obviously not for everyone. At its price tag, it’s clearly aimed at gadget lovers who get all the latest and greatest stuff, regardless of cost. Sony says the visors is in high demand through pre-orders so far - I’m willing to bet the vast majority of buyers (or the ultimate recipients of said purchase) are probably males between 25 and 40.

The visor is aimed at dudes who live in small condos and who don’t want to disturb their neighbours by playing Call of Duty at wall-shaking volume at 3 in the morning. Similarly, it’s also for dudes who don’t want to infuriate their spouse by doing the same. Trust me, I know.

It comes with a small set-top box that plugs into a PlayStation 3 or other Blu-Ray player. The box acts as an intermediary - the visor plugs into it and you have the option of running another HDMI cable from it to the TV. If you do so, the visor wearer and TV viewer can both see the same thing at the same time. I’m not quite sure why’d you ever want to do this, but it’s an option that’s there anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

1 Comment

Posted by on November 18, 2011 in 3D, sony


Resistance 3 a “greatest hits” of the series

September is almost here, which means it’s almost “holiday” video game season. From now until Christmas, the games industry will be turning to its big-gun blockbuster titles - which, like Hollywood, are almost inevitably sequels - to make a good chunk of its annual revenue.

One of the first big blockbusters to kick the season off will be Resistance 3, a first-person shooter for the PlayStation 3. The Resistance series is set an alternative version of Earth in the 1950s, where a bunch of alien creatures called the Chimera have invaded. The third iteration, which is sure to be a big hit, hits stores on Sept. 6.

I spoke to Marcus Smith, the series’ creative director from Insomniac Games, at a launch event in Toronto on Wednesday. Here’s a snippet of that interview, wherein Smith discussed how the new game is a “greatest hits” package of the previous two:

Comments Off

Posted by on August 18, 2011 in sony, video games


The Queasy life of independent games

While down at Sony’s PlayStation holiday preview event in New York last week, I came across a pleasant surprise. One of the launch titles for the upcoming PlayStation Vita, the portable game system that will succeed the PlayStation Portable by the end of this year, is being developed by a Queasy Games, a tiny Toronto startup.

Queasy is the brainchild of Jonathan Mak, a 28-year-old game designer who studied computer science at the University of Toronto. Mak saw his first success a few years ago with Everyday Shooter, which was picked up and offered by Sony as a downloadable game over the PlayStation Network. That led to the upcoming Vita release Sound Shapes, an intriguing idea that marries gaming with music creation.

I wrote about some of the better Vita games last week and also had a chat with Mak about the world of independent games. Here’s an edited version of that conversation:

A screen grab from Everyday Shooter

How did you get into games?

My parents started a computer business in the eighties so we always had a computer lying around and my older brothers would be playing video games. Somewhere around grade 7 or 8 I met a friend who taught me how to make programs, how to code. That’s when I started making video games. Back then it was a lot harder to make games because you had to do all this weird computer hackery just to draw a pixel.

I was trying to think of how to break in [to the business], but there was no indie scene or at least I wasn’t aware of it. All I knew about was whatever was in PC Gamer. Someone in the industry told me to go to university, so I did. I don’t know how helpful that was but I did meet a fellow game developer there, they’re now Metanet [creators of the popular game N+]. They were a year or two ahead of me and they showed me what was the indie scene back then. They started working on N and I thought, hey, maybe I could make a game on my own instead of working for some gigantic company.

When I graduated I took a year off to try to make a game that I could sell and break in [with], but that [Gate 88] didn’t do very well at all. From there, I got a job. [Gate 88] had a chat program built in and someone offered me a job in that chat program. I turned it down but then I ran out of money, so I took the job. I did that for a couple of years and during that time I worked on Everyday Shooter, which was my first commercial game and the first that actually came out and made money. After that, I hooked up with Shaw-Han Liem, a musician from Toronto, and we started collaborating on a project. It was very simple, we were working on a visualizer and started dabbling with some game prototypes. We did like nine prototypes and then we hit upon an idea that would become Sound Shapes. Since then we’ve hired some people to help us out.

When did you form Queasy?

Queasy was the name I would release games under when I was a kid, in grade 7 and 8. When I put out Everyday Shooter I just called the company Queasy Games. You have to be incorporated to receive the money. We have seven or eight core people and then some people helping us out contract-wise.

Are you still in a basement or do you have an office?

We have an actual office, but we were in a basement until we had our first hire, which was a year and a half or two years ago.

How did you get hooked up with Sony for the Vita?

[Everyday Shooter] happened because I was showing that game at the [Independent Games Festival] and got nominated as a finalist. A bunch of Sony guys were there and I guess they liked it and offered to publish it. So with [Sound Shapes], since we’d already done business with Sony it made sense to go back to them to see what they thought. When we showed them, they flew us down [in 2009] and showed us the early prototype Vita hardware. They were like, “It’s a good fit, what do you think?” and we were like, “Okay.”

How has working on Sound Shapes been?

The design of it is so difficult to comes to terms with because of the tight integration with musical gameplay. If you change one little thing, like you make one thing move faster so that it’s more fun, that breaks the music. You do one thing to the music and that breaks the game. That’s been the hardest part, is figuring that out. It’s not a resource-intensive thing, it’s just that someone has to sit down and go through it.

What’s the biggest challenge you find as an indie game developer?

It may not be the answer you’re expecting, but it’s just about making a good game. Once you’ve made a good game, people want good games, publishers want good games, your audience wants good games. From a business point of view, it’s easy to market a good game. People will pay money for that. The hardest part is coming up with a good concept and executing on it. There’s a balance between the amount of time it takes to do that and the amount of money you have in the bank. I’ve gone through the process twice now of having no money to making a game. It’s about not giving in to tangential jobs just to pay for your project.

Sometimes you might make something that you think is really awesome but that the public just doesn’t get or isn’t ready for and then you have to make a decision of, “Oh I can take this path and dumb it down or be true to myself and figure out why nobody is getting it. Can I change it in a way that it’s accessible but doesn’t destroy the original vision of the game?” That’s something I hope as a game creator that I learn to do better and better because that would help to make the game better.

A screengrab from Sound Shapes

Why did you decide to stay independent rather than working for a big company?

It wasn’t like I was sitting there and thinking, “Okay, I could work for a triple-A game company or I can start my own business and make a game.” It was more like I have this idea for a game, so how do I make it? I guess by definition at the time, that was independent. I also thought that it’d be hard to get a job. After that first year where I made the game that didn’t do very well, I actually tried to get a job in a triple-A game company and they didn’t hire me, which I think was a good decision on everyone’s part. I don’t think I would have done well there. It’s so specialized and I have no desire to specialize.

You might get stuck doing some minor job as opposed to bringing your ideas to life?

Yes, exactly.

It seems like many good independent game companies eventually get bought up. Can they survive on their own or do they inevitably get acquired?

There are people who are in it just to make video games and there are people in it to start a business making video games. For me it’s never been about making money. The only reason Queasy Games is incorporated is because there’s a technical issue where if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t get money. From a business point of view I know tons of people who don’t get bought out, who stay small. It’s kind of surprising when you say that most small companies get bought up because I don’t know anyone who would want to get bought. The business entity exists for negotiating their next game and that’s it, it’s not to grow or for turning a profit. They’re secondary to making a great game. For me, if one day I burn all the cash and the capital is gone, I’m perfectly okay with finding a job and making my games on the side until the next game I make makes money. I wouldn’t go and work on a game that I have no interest in because life is too short to do something you don’t want to do.

In Canada, we do have a lot of grant programs and that really helps keep companies alive to make their games. It’s a very good buffer. There’s a couple granting agencies and there’s also arts grants, which I haven’t had much luck with because I don’t think games are generally recognized as art in the arts-granting community in Toronto and Canada.

Some people, like film critic Roger Ebert, have said video games aren’t art. How do you weigh in on that debate?

When I was a kid coming out of university I totally got into that debate, but it was very academic. Now, I don’t really care. Whether people think it’s art or not doesn’t concern me. For many years now, I’ve thought that you decide whether it’s art, it’s not for Ebert to decide. You look at a painting and that can mean nothing to you or something to you, or you walk down the street and you hear that wind rustling through the trees. That can have meaning for you. For some people, it’s just, “Oh, it’s breezy today.” People should just think for themselves. I’ve been able to read meanings into games and also not, depending on the game. Same for movies, novels. For me, it’s beyond that question now. When I think of that debate, it’s like looking at a photograph where I’m like 19 or 20 thinking about those things. It’s as absurd as asking a musician, “Why are you doing this? Is it art that you’re doing?” Maybe what I’m doing isn’t art to you, but who cares, it’s just what I do.

That said, what’s your favourite game?

My favourite game is probably Tetris. It’s a game I’ve been playing since I was like 8, and I’ve never stopped playing. When I started playing it, I actually didn’t like it, but then I saw my brother’s friend playing it and he was speed running it. I was like, “There’s this whole other side to this simple game that I didn’t see.” I started reading into it. I was going through some stuff when I was kid and I thought, “Oh, this game is like life. Sometimes you get really bad pieces and you just have to deal with it.” Then I started to think of it in terms of probability, which is when that poker craze happened - at least in Canada - where poker became a thing and people were talking about odds and stuff. I was like, “Oh yeah, sometimes you have to rearrange the play field so that odds are you’ll have a piece that you can use somewhere.” It’s something that has always grown with me and once in a while I’ll think of a new meme for it.

Comments Off

Posted by on July 25, 2011 in sony, video games


PlayStation Vita makes phones look expensive

One of the big news items to come out of last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo was Sony’s announcement of the PlayStation Vita, the successor to its PlayStation Portable mobile gaming device. I wasn’t a big fan of the PSP, simply because I’m not much into portable gaming, but the Vita looks very cool, packed with features as it is.

Moreover, I was somewhat shocked at the announced price: $249 for the wi-fi version or $299 for the 3G model. Given how much technology is packed into such a small frame - the Vita has a touchscreen plus a rear touch pad, as well as internet connectivity and a web browser - it really makes you wonder why we’re paying so much for smartphones. Either Sony is taking a rather significant loss on the Vita, or smartphones - and tablets for that matter - are greatly overpriced.

Sony Ericsson’s own Xperia Play sells for $550, despite the fact that it is inferior to dedicated gaming platforms. At $250, I may end up picking up a Vita. Maybe I can even ditch my smartphone for it?

In any event, I spoke with Sony Computer Entertainment Canada general manager Stephen Turvey while at E3 about the Vita. Here’s a short clip from that conversation:


Posted by on June 14, 2011 in mobile, sony, video games


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,710 other followers