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PlayStation Network service spreads: UK, Middle East, more

It’s not just North America getting some PlayStation Network and Qriocity service this weekend. Sony has taken to Twitter to confirm that phase one of the restoration is now rolling out in the UK, Ireland and the Middle East, as the company brings the reinforced servers back online.

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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

PlayStation Network is back online [Video]

Sony has confirmed that the PlayStation Network is coming back online, with a mandatory system software update (v3.61) for PS3 consoles before they can rejoin the PSN. The phased update has now spread across North American and Europe, though there may be some delay as servers repopulate. Plus, Sony’s Kazuo Hirai has shared a video message about the restoration, which you can see after the cut.

The first phase includes sign-in to PSN and Qriocity, online gaming across PS3 and PSP, Netflix and Hulu streaming, chat functionality and PlayStation Home, including other elements. Logging in on your PS3 will present users with a mandatory password change, and there will be limits in future as to which device you can change your password again.

“If using a PS3, your password can only be changed on your own PS3 (or a PS3 on which your PSN account was activated), as an added layer of security. If you have never downloaded any content using your account on the system, an email will be sent to the registered sign-in ID (email address) associated with your account when you first attempt to sign-in to PSN. This e-mail will contain a link that will enable you to change your password. In this email, click on the link and follow the instructions to change your password. Once you have changed your password you can sign-in to your account using your new password”

“We recognize that actions speak louder than words” Hirai admits, going on to detail Sony’s changes to the security systems compromised. Users already know they will get free access to identity protection tools.

Sony moving PSN data center in hack response

Sony still refuses to detail the exact exploit used to hack the PlayStation Network and its Qriocitystreaming service, but has admitted that as well as updating the software security of the network, it is physically “moving our network infrastructure and data center to a new, more secure location.” The changes are part of a number of steps Sony has been forced to take after reportedly pulling down the PSN after rampant piracy took hold.

According to reports earlier this week, a custom PS3 firmware allowed hackers to unofficially gain access to the PlayStation Network developer channels. There, they were supposedly able to use false – and unchecked – credit card details to make purchases. Sony’s only recourse, it was suggested, was shutting down PSN access altogether.

In a new Q&A – which overlaps considerably with Sony’s previous FAQ on the subject – Sony’s Patrick Seybold, Senior Director for Corporate Communications & Social Media, confirms that the company is working with both law enforcement and “a recognized technology security firm” on what is being viewed as a criminal act. According to Seybold, credit card data was encrypted and users are only being warned about it “out of an abundance of caution”; personal data, however, was not encrypted but was, he insists, “behind a very sophisticated security system.”

It’s that security system which has been breached, of course, a side-effect of what Sony hacker George Hotz suggests is likely down to “arrogance and misunderstanding of ownership.”

“Traditionally the trust boundary for a web service exists between the server and the client. But Sony believes they own the client too, so if they just put a trust boundary between the consumer and the client(can’t trust those pesky consumers), everything is good. Since everyone knows the PS3 is unhackable, why waste money adding pointless security between the client and the server? This arrogance undermines a basic security principle, never trust the client … Notice it’s only PSN that gave away all your personal data, not Xbox Live when the 360 was hacked, not iTunes when the iPhone was jailbroken, and not GMail when Android was rooted. Because other companies aren’t crazy.” George Hotz

Sony maintains that certain services will be back online in under a week, though is yet to confirm which those services will be. The company is also facing a class action suit and what experts predict could amount to $24bn in credit card fraud.

iBUYPOWER gaming PCs arrive at Walmart

Walmart may not be the first place you think of stopping by when you need a new gaming PC, butiBUYPOWER is hoping to change that. The manufacturer has made a name for itself for high-powered, generally overclocked desktops, and now those computers are also available through Walmart’s online store.

Systems can be configured with a choice of AMD Athlon X6 645, AMD Phenom II X4 840 or X6 1075T, Intel Core i5-2500K or Intel Core i7-2600K processors, along with various AMD or NVIDIA graphics cards. RAM is up to 8GB while storage is up to 2TB, and there are various optical drives and cases to pick between.

Unfortunately this doesn’t mean you can head down to your local bricks & mortar Walmart and sign up for an iBUYPOWER PC, but perhaps if online sales are strong enough then it’s something they’ll consider branching out to. The Walmart iBUYPOWER gaming PC range kicks off at $578.

Press Release:

iBUYPOWER Partners With Wal-Mart to Launch Custom Configurator on Walmart.com – Build Your Own Gaming Desktop Bundle
26 Apr 2011

With many components to choose from Wal-Mart customers can configure hundreds of different iBUYPOWER gaming systems

El Monte, CA – April 26, 2011 – iBUYPOWER, a leading innovator in gaming PCs, is excited to announce it has partnered with Wal-Mart to launch the retailer’s first custom configurator on Walmart.com – Build Your Own Gaming Desktop Bundle Wal-Mart customers will now be able to configure a desktop to meet their specific gaming needs.

“There are few brands in the world that are as recognizable as Wal-Mart,” said Darren Su, Vice President of iBUYPOWER. “It is an honor to be chosen to join forces with them to offer custom built PCs, and will introduce the iBUYPOWER brand to an entirely new segment of gamers.”

Wal-Mart customers will have 5 cases to choose from, both AMD and Intel “K” processor options, 3 different memory options, 3 hard drive sizes to choose from and both AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards options, 3 different optical drives to choose from and three versions of the Windows 7 operating system. The result is over 10,000 different possible hardware configurations (see complete component list below).

The new customizable iBUYPOWER systems from Wal-Mart start at $599 All iBUYPOWER systems come standard with 1 year limited warranty and lifetime technical support.

Nintendo 3DS sales hit 3.61m: 2010 net income down 66.1%

The Wii 2 may be off in 2012, but Nintendo is also talking about its current range, including sharing sales figures for the 3DS. According to the company’s latest financial results [pdf link], Nintendo sold 3.61m 3DS along with 9.43m games to play on it; that pales in comparison to the DS, which Nintendo sold 17.52m of and almost 121m games.

Nonetheless, sales for hardware and software overall were down in comparison to the previous year, with net sales for the twelve month period up to 2012 being 1,014 billion yen, down 29.3-percent, and net income of 77.2 billion yen, down 66.1-percent year-on-year.

The Wii, which will be replaced next year, sold 15.08m units worldwide, while 171.26m Wii games were sold. An extra 24 titles joined the list of “million sellers” for Wii – taking the total to crack that figure to 103 – while two of the 3DS games also broke the 1m barrier.

Nintendo maintains production is unaffected by the Japanese earthquake, though warns that indirect impact is likely. The company expects to sell 16m 3DS handhelds this coming year, as well as launching the Nintendo e-Shop download store for the console.

Nintendo confirms Wii replacement in 2012; Preview at E3 2011

Nintendo has announced [pdf link] it will release its next games console, the successor to the Wii, in 2012, with the first preview of the new hardware at E3 2011 in early June. Confirmed in a new investor note, the unnamed console – referred to in rumors as the Wii 2 – will seemingly drop sometime after March 2012, given Nintendo has not included it in its current financial forecasts.

Specifications of the Wii 2 are unknown at present, though recent leaks suggested a so-called Project Cafe – and the potential launch name Nintendo Stream – which would mark Nintendo’s stepping up to HD gaming. The Stream would come with wireless controllers each featuring 6.2-inch touchscreen displays, which could show individual gameplay views or other personalized data.

Alternatively, GameKyo [via CVG] reports that Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto suggested this weekend that the Wii 2/Stream could use the Nintendo 3DS as a controller. The developer confirmed Nintendo had been exploring ways the 3DS could be connected with its “future home console.”

Press Release:

Re: Wii’s successor system

Nintendo Co., Ltd. has decided to launch in 2012 a system to succeed Wii, which the company has sold 86.01 million units on a consolidated shipment basis between its launch in 2006 and the end of March 2011.

We will show a playable model of the new system and announce more specifications at the E3 Expo, which will be held June 7-9, 2011, in Los Angeles.

Sales of this new system have not been included in the financial forecasts announced today for the fiscal term ending March 2012.

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.

PAX to add PAX Dev Pre-Convention for Developers

The PAX Prime gaming convention will add a pre-convention just for programmers, designers, producers and artists. This event, called PAX Dev, will allow these folks to actually get some work done, away from the press, and the craziness of the main convention. It will take place two days before PAX Prime, Wednesday and Thursday, August 24 and 25.

The event will be at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel, and there are only 750 tickets available, at $249 for early registration, or $329 at the door. The press will not be admitted, so it will be an “intimate event where game developers can concentrate solely on the art of game development.”

“The idea started with friends in the game dev community asking us to host an event where they could really focus on exchanging ideas without any distractions,” said Robert Khoo of Penny Arcade. “There are events that are great for signing your next deal or promoting your current project, but that’s not PAX Dev. We’re 100 percent focused on the craft of game development.”

Registration is here: http://dev.paxsite.com/registration.php, or register for PAX Prime here: http://prime.paxsite.com/registration.php

[via BrainLazy]

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