Blog Archives

Sony’s Next PSN Challenge: Restoring Reputation

After weeks of downtime, governmental scrutiny and untold user fury, Sony has finally begun to restore PlayStation Network and Qriocity streaming media services. It’s not been an easy journey, either: it wasn’t just server failure that took the PSN offline, but a security breach that saw millions of consumer records snatched out from under Sony’s nose. With only the slightest publicly-released information to go on, systems experts have looked on in horror as Sony took a forced deep-dive through server strata, uncovering the flaws – in its data centers and its ego – that allowed the hack to take place. Still, Sony may find that restoring the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services were the easy part – rebuilding its ailing reputation may be far trickier.

Sony started slow with its apologies and its explanations, letting users stew as they waited for the bad news to unfold. While the company insists that it only reached the realization that credit card information had been lost a week or so into the downtime, gamer consensus seems to be that they’d rather have had an earlier – if tentative – warning than feel like the people paying the fees were the last to know. Read the rest of this entry

It’s Official: Xbox 360 Is the Best Console of This Generation

In the video game industry, there have always been debates among gamers over which company delivered the best hardware on the market. Years ago, that debate raged on between Sega and Nintendo fans. After Sega was knocked out of the market, the attention shifted to Nintendo and Sony.

Nowadays, we have our work cut out for us. We need to decide which console — the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, or Microsoft Xbox 360 — is the best of this generation.

There are some who have supported Nintendo over the years that can point to several reasons their favored company should take that prize. They say that the Wii delivered a new style of gaming and changed the industry forever. Read the rest of this entry

The Five Technologies That Impacted My Life

 I thought it would be great to bring this series back and write a similar column on my own personal technological pilgrimage. Many of these are more representations of a more fundamental element of computing that has broadened my horizon and got me to where I am today.

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
That’s right, the very first one: the EPIC NES. It was 1985 when the NES came into my house. I was instantly the coolest kid on the entire block. My father being one of the first analysts in the computer industry developed a good relationship with Nintendo so he got to bring one of the first units home.

Many of you can relate to your first gaming expereince, whether it be with the Commodore, Atari, NES or even the Playstation or Xbox. It was mesmerizing, captivating and seriously addicting. I couldn’t get enough, the escape that video games presents was more immersive and emotional than books or movies could ever were, for me at least. Read the rest of this entry

Is Anyone Really Surprised the PSP Go Was A Failure?

When Sony launched the PSP Go in 2009, it was expected to be the next big thing by some fans. They said that it would capitalize on the growing downloadable-content trend, and gamers wouldn’t even miss the UMD drive. More importantly, they said, with such future-focused features, it could justify its $250 price tag.

But then gamers actually got their hands on the device. And they quickly realized that all the so-called benefits of owning the PSP Go were, well, non-existent.

When discussing the reasons the PSP Go failed, it’s hard to pinpoint a single issue. The device was rife with problems from the beginning that made it dead on arrival. And towards the end, it seemed that only Sony saw it as a worthwhile buy.

Take, for example, the exorbitant $250 price tag. At that rate, consumers expected much more than a device that would allow them to download games and play them while on-the-go. After all, for $50 more, they could get the most-capable gaming device on the market, Sony’s PlayStation 3. Even after Sony reduced the PSP Go’s price to $199, it was too expensive.

There was also the issue of games. Generally speaking, the library of titles available to the PSP Go were lackluster. And those that were actually dedicated to gaming on a PSP would have chosen Sony’s traditional model, which supported a UMD drive, so they could get all the games available on the platform.

But it goes beyond the device’s own shortcomings. It was available in a time when casual players were less likely to turn to portable devices, like the PSP or the DS, to satisfy their gaming needs. Instead, they took to Apple’s App Store, found downloadable games, like Angry Birds, and enjoyed them from their iPhone. Android gamers have been doing that as of late, as well.

Simply put, casual titles are becoming more popular. And for the first time, traditional portables are being forced to actually worry about smartphones. Some of the more popular options, like the DS, have been able to thrive under those circumstances. The weakest of the bunch, including the PSP Go, have failed.

So, what can Sony learn from all this?

For one, the company needs to give itself a better chance of competing against Nintendo and smartphones by fairly pricing its upcoming NGP. It would also be a good idea if Sony acknowledges the threat that the competition poses and market the NGP around that.

But perhaps more than anything, Sony needs to learn to not take such giant leaps in the portable space without doing it the right way. The iPhone was a gamble, but Apple pulled it off by doing something special. The same can be said for the DS.

The PSP Go wasn’t special in any way. And that, more than anything else, is why it failed.

A Half-Baked PlayBook is the tip of the Firmware Nightmare

If there’s one message that comes through loud and clear about the BlackBerry PlayBook – both in our review and in others – it’s that RIM’s first tablet is half-baked in its current state. The 7-inch slate is dependent on a phone for half of its key apps, glitchy in more places than it should be, and has left reviewers warning would-be early-adopters that it might even be too early for them to consider, well, adopting. Welcome to the firmware nightmare, where every device is a work-in-progress and nobody is ever quite satisfied.

The PlayBook is just the latest in a growing number of devices pushed to market before they’re fully cooked, with manufacturers selling us on the promise of what their shiny hardware will do however many months down the line, after they’ve had a chance to similarly buff the software. Motorola’s XOOM is another good example, with a non-functioning memory card slot and missing Flash support at launch, but we’re increasingly seeing it in phones and other devices too.

Once upon a time, we’d buy a phone, live with it – and its stock feature-set – for the length of whatever agreement we’d signed up to, and then upgrade to The Next Big Thing. Now, there’s an expectation that our devices will evolve in features, functionality and stability over time: become better tomorrow than the gadget it is today.

That accelerated software cycle has, however, given manufacturers a green card to release before things are entirely ready. Consumers are treated as beta testers, hooked in with hardware and the promise of what that hardware is capable of, with the firmware to actually make all that a reality delivered somewhere down the ownership line. As our own Vincent Nguyen said, buying RIM’s latest is very similar to buying on credit: “Buy our PlayBook now, and we promise to deliver later.”

On the flip side, meanwhile, there’s a fresh sort of upgrade anxiety, a sense that the next great firmware for our phone, or our tablet, or some other gadget is just around the corner. It’s the new obsession, and it leads to all manner of paranoia when that next update isn’t quite as timely as we’d like it. Most carriers and manufacturers have told me horror stories of frenzied consumers baying frantically for the newest software release, whether that be Gingerbread on their phone or iOS on their tablet. The device you have today – the device you chose to buy in the first place – isn’t good enough any more; it’s a short, if obnoxious step to blaming OEM and network for purposefully undermining your user experience. I know of at least one PR person who, after a disgruntled and impatient smartphone owner managed to discover their direct number, called them repeatedly throughout the day accusing them of deliberately withholding their upgrade.

We’re all complicit – users chasing the holy grail of functionality, manufacturers chasing sales – but I can’t help but think that the pendulum has swung too far. When impatience, our own and that of vendors, shifts us from the occasional glitch to entirely absent apps, when we have hardware proudly mentioned on the spec sheet and yet that we can’t actually use, that’s not future-proofing but a false economy. Give me a device that serves its purpose 100-percent of its life, rather than something I’m expected to coddle until the potential catches up to the promise. In the meantime, I’m going to try to expect less from tomorrow and insist on more – even if that means more moderation – from today.

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