PlayStation Acquires Bluepoint Games

Welcoming Bluepoint Games to the PlayStation Studios family by Hermen Hulst on the PlayStation Blog

Today I’m very excited to announce that PlayStation Studios has grown again with the addition of long-time partner Bluepoint Games! From the exceptional PS5 remake of Demon’s Souls to the critically acclaimed PS4 remake of Shadow of the Colossus and remasters of fan favorites like Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Bluepoint has built a name for itself by creating some of the highest-quality remasters and remakes in the industry.

With each of its projects, Bluepoint has raised the bar on console-defining visuals and gameplay, and the studio’s vast expertise in world building and character creation will be a huge plus for future PlayStation Studios properties.

Yours truly back in April writing about PlayStation’s blockbuster garden:

It sounds like they wanted to be Sony’s first party remake studio, at least at first. I predicted this year that Sony would buy Bluepoint Games. I still think that is a possibility and should happen. In the long run, it could be cheaper to buy the best remake studio in the business than develop one from the ground up internally. Microsoft certainly thinks it is cheaper to buy prominent studios in the long run.

And another one of my 2021 predictions has come to pass. I am having a very good year.

That’s No Moon Studio Announced, Former PlayStation Devs Behind It

Game Veterans Establish New Indie Development Studio by Trilby Beresford for The Hollywood Reporter

That’s No Moon Entertainment is led by CEO Michael Mumbauer, former head of PlayStation’s Visual Arts Group. For its debut action-adventure project, the company is backed by a $100 million investment from South Korean developer Smilegate, creators of the CrossFire first-person shooter series.

I have never heard of CrossFire, but Michael Mumbauer’s name is familiar. Mumbauer was the head of PlayStation’s Visual Arts Group, which operates as a support studio. Mumbauer reportedly wanted to remake The Last of Us as a way to get Sony’s attention and pursue standing out as its own team, remaking games and creating new ones. That did not fly. Mumbauer left Sony by the end of 2020.

This is apparently what he has been up to.

There are quite a few PlayStation dev alums at That’s No Moon. Four of the 29 current team members alone are from Naughty Dog. More hail from PlayStation (possibly the Visual Arts Group itself), Sony Santa Monica, and Bend. Others come from Bungie and Activision.

My brain immediately went to what if PlayStation entered a second-party relationship with That’s No Moon, but that sort of seems farfetched, considering how Sony treated Mumbauer’s ambitions for the Visual Arts Group. Maybe if the check is big enough and That’s No Moon keeps creative control. Whatever their game becomes, we won’t see it for a long, long time.

Sony PlayStation Revisited, Japan – DF Retro

DF Retro: Sony PlayStation Revisited – Every Launch Game Tested – Part One: Japan by Digital Foundry on YouTube

It’s DF Retro’s BIGGEST episode yet – split into three parts running in consecutive weeks. John Linneman and Audi Sorlie revisit the launch of the Sony PlayStation from its origins in Japan to its eventual rollout across the globe – and in the process, assess every single launch title in all three territories, stacking them up against other versions on other systems.

This is a rich, in-depth look at the launch of the PlayStation. While I may have been alive, I was not there for the consoles launch. This is the exact coverage we’d expect today between a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, but between the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Super Nintendo, and the arcade. Oh to go back in time for these launches.

Cross-Generation Games are like Movies at the Theater

It’s vital Sony maintains its PlayStation 4 support | Opinion by Christopher Dring for GamesIndustry.biz

In reality, people will want the best version of these games. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is more popular on PS5 than PS4, and that will be true of Horizon: Frozen West, Gran Turismo 7 and God of War. It’s the difference between watching the new Marvel movie at the cinema compared to getting it on Disney Plus. The hardcore fans will want the big screen experience. But as the film industry also discovered during the pandemic, there’s a huge opportunity in the TV space.

I like this analogy. Movies have totally shifted in the last year, bringing the direct-to-digital future to living rooms sooner than big theater chains ever wanted. I certainly rented my fair share in the last year. Heck, Warner Bros. bringing their movies to HBO Max on day one made me keep my subscription.

And Dring is right about people wanting the best versions. Movie theaters are opening back up. People will buy the PS5 version of Spider-Man or God of War, if they can. They may even opt to wait until they get a PS5 to buy those games (or, as I’m sure Sony hopes, double dip).

I’ve always agreed that cross-generation support makes sense, as a business, especially with an install base of 120+ million PS4 consoles.

In the bloody confusing aftermath of the PlayStation 5 stream, Sony confirmed that Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Horizon Forbidden West are also launching on PS4. After believing in generations it seems that Sony also believes in its PS4 install base.

It’s no secret that I have voiced concerns about Xbox’s own public promise to support cross generational support for its Xbox consoles. The wider the range of supported hardware, the more work it is for the developers and the more it can limit the upward potential of the game. Now Sony has promised three major first party titles are cross generational.

This is great (just like it is for Xbox) for those consumers that don’y want to or can’t upgrade to the next gen consoles. You aren’t left behind. Nintendo has done this before with popular Zelda titles. It is definitely a win for consumers.

I guess they should have just confirmed Gran Turismo 7 and God of War were cross-gen too.

My stance is firmly rooted in limited development potential. With such technological strides in next-gen with the SSDs, native 4K, and so on, developing games for nearly decade old hardware has to cut off forward progress and new, previously impossible ideas.

Colin Moriarty pointed out yesterday that the only first-party PS5 exclusive we know about is Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and that is out in one week. Hopefully, E3 2021 changes that soon, but man that is weird for Sony to have all these games close to the chest after the open-book that was the PS4 catalog.

I’m starting to get a little whiplash from Sony talking out of both sides of their mouth. They need to communicate a clear message. If that message is “We are supporting PS4 and PS5,” then they ought to embrace it, clearly share which games will do that, and incentivize the upgrade to PS5 beyond being new and shiny. Eventually, first-party development will leave PS4 behind and wholly focus on PS5. Sony needs to be better about communicating when that change will happen.

The Next God of War is a Cross-Generation Title

Hermen Hulst Q&A: What’s Next for PlayStation Studios – PlayStation.Blog:

Sony just published a new interview with Hermen Hulst, Head of PlayStation Studios, that has revealed some interesting bits of information, especially before E3. I want to go through the blog post and dig into Hulst’s responses.

PSB: Are you able to give us a snapshot of the total number of titles that PlayStation Studios are currently developing for PS4 or PS5?

Hermen: Well, we have a lot going on right now. PlayStation Studios have more than 25 titles in development. Almost half of these are new IP. The other half, they’re titles that are set in franchises that PlayStation fans already know and love. So, it’s quite a lot.

This number of games in development actually broke earlier in May. I have a draft here in MarsEdit of me trying to crack the numbers on these 25 games. So I’m just going to throw that here!

  • Naughty Dog likely has three projects in some form of production
  • Insomniac has three – Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Spider-Man 2, and the rumored Sunset Overdrive port or sequel
  • San Diego with MLB the Show
  • Bend with their new project (more below)
  • Horizon Forbidden West
  • Haven with Jade Raymond
  • Firewalk Multiplayer project
  • Japan Studio/Asobi Astro new game
  • Sucker Punch with a Ghost of Tsushima sequel
  • Polyphony Gran Turismo 7
  • Media Molecule Dreams PS5 port
  • London Studio probably with a PSVR 2 title
  • Pixelopus Concrete Genie folks
  • God of War (2018) sequel and possibly that space game?
  • BluePoint’s next project?

By my estimation, I came up with 20 of the 25  games, but less than half a straight-up new IP. Speaking of new IP…

And you know, Bend Studio is working on a very exciting new IP that they’re very, very passionate about. They’re building on the deep open-world systems that they developed with Days Gone. So I’m really happy for Bend Studio.

Interesting to specifically call out Bend, especially after the reports they were sucked into Naughty Dog support for a brief period of time, which led to leadership departing the studio. Eager to see what is next for that team.

So we have, currently, two very big, very narrative-driven games in development: Horizon Forbidden West and the next God of War. And for both of those, they’re frankly affected by access to performance capture and talent. For Horizon, we think we are on track to release this holiday season. But that isn’t quite certain yet, and we’re working as hard as we can to confirm that to you as soon as we can. 

Sony seems to be keeping Horizon’s date very close to the chest. This helps explain why there was no mention of even a release window during the State of Play last week.

And for God of War, the project started a little later. So we’ve made the decision to push that game out to next year, to ensure that Santa Monica Studio can deliver the amazing God of War game that we all want to play.

This is not surprising at all. The real surprising God of War news comes next.

Where it makes sense to develop a title for both PS4 and PS5 — for Horizon Forbidden West, the next God of War, GT7 — we’ll continue looking at that. And if PS4 owners want to play that game, then they can. If they want to go on and play the PS5 version, that game will be there for them.

The cross-generational bottleneck seems to be going on for a lot longer than I had hoped. It is a shame that God of Warand Gran Turismo 7 are cross-generational, especially when they will be released nearly two years post-PS5 launch. This fundamentally limits development potential. By 2022, the PS4 will be nine years old! How can anyone hope for solid PS4 performance and next-generation pushing features when you have to bridge a base-PS4 and the PS5? It can be done, and God of War will likely run fine on PS4 and great on PS5. The real detriment is the restriction it puts on potential. If the floor for development was just the PS5, the sky is the proverbial limit. With the PS4 in play, that ceiling is much, much lower.

This interviews seems to be a mix of good news and disappointing news that PlayStation wanted out in front of E3. We won’t be seeing Bend’s new game in a couple weeks. God of War may appear, but won’t have a 2021 date and is cross-gen. It is extremely exciting to hear about 25 new games, with half being new IP. Hopefully E3 can be a brighter spot, now that some of the more disappointing news is out of the way.

Returnal’s 3D Audio is a Mechanic, Not a Feature

The King of Custom – PS5 Specs Revealed by Me March 2020

My two cents on the custom audio tech inside the PS5 when it was announced just over a year ago at GDC by Mark Cerny.

I thought the most custom element was the 3D audio tech that Mark detailed. Sony wanted to offer great audio for all players, not just those with fancy sound systems or headphones. So they went ahead and built custom hardware to help create 3D audio from any set of speakers (eventually). Headphones are the gold standard due to one speaker per ear, but Mark even talked about generating 3D audio from TV speakers. With it included in every single PS5, that gives all players and all devs the opportunity to experience/use 3D audio. It reminds me of the leap from standard definition to HD, but for our ears. Pardon the pun, but it sounds bonkers.

I’ve spent an hour or so playing Returnal with some headphones on.

Holy. Smokes.

Besides just sounding incredible, I was surprised at how intuitive and essential it was. I heard wild alien creatures whipping around me in the level. I instinctively turned toward the sound and stopped immediately on the enemy.

This was more than standard surround sound pointing me in a direction. I locked-in on the enemy with my ears before I did with my eyes or gun. In a fight-or-flight scenario, my ears did their survival job.

Then I got thinking about PSVR2 again…

When you combine these [haptic feedback and adaptive trigger] elements with the PS5’s Tempest audio engine, PSVR 2 has incredible potential to really put users in a place.

PlayStation’s pursuit of immersion this generation is off to a stellar start and promises to be a transformative addition to gameplay. I can’t wait to feel, hear, and see more.

Returnal Shows that Sony can still be Weird and Daring – Eurogamer

Returnal Shows that Sony can still be Weird and Daring by Martin Robinson for Eurogamer

This isn’t the Housemarque you might know from Resogun or Nex Machina yet it’s also exactly like those boutique classics, mixing demoscene flex with arcade precision but on a much grander scale. There’s an intensity to the action, a readability to enemies and attack patterns, an immediacy that all harks back to the hard-edged classics of the arcade, but the spectacle is something else; Robotron with raytracing, the resulting action worthy of an Amiga classic that plays out like Ridley Scott in crisp 70mm on the big screen.

I suddenly cannot wait for Returnal. Logan Moore’s incessant hype and this preview sent me from “not a care in the world” to “is it April 30 yet?

Like Death Stranding this is an indie that’s epic in scope, and likewise it’s not a game that comes up short when it comes to spectacle. Is it triple-A or isn’t it? I’m not sure if there’s a scientific way to determine that one way or another, but I can tell you that Returnal’s credits run just as long as any Hollywood movie (just under 18 minutes, if you must know – I felt compelled to find out myself, anyway) and you can probably tell for yourself that it looks frankly outrageous.

I love this perspective on Death Stranding. Kojima’s odd and marvelous package delivery game ended up being one of my favorite games I played last year. Big budgets and wildly creative people being able to make bolder titles is great to see. This is how Sony has and continues to set itself apart in the market.

Sony Reverses Decision to Shut Down PS3 and Vita Stores

PlayStation Store on PS3 and PS Vita Will Continue Operations by Jim Ryan for the PlayStation Blog

Recently, we notified players that PlayStation Store for PS3 and PS Vita devices was planned to end this summer. 

Upon further reflection, however, it’s clear that we made the wrong decision here. So today I’m happy to say that we will be keeping the PlayStation Store operational for PS3 and PS Vita devices. PSP commerce functionality will retire on July 2, 2021 as planned.

We see now that many of you are incredibly passionate about being able to continue purchasing classic games on PS3 and PS Vita for the foreseeable future, so I’m glad we were able to find a solution to continue operations.

I’m glad that we can keep this piece of our history alive for gamers to enjoy, while we continue to create cutting-edge new game worlds for PS4, PS5, and the next generation of VR.

Vita does mean life.

PlayStation May Have Previously Worked on Remakes of Uncharted and God of War – Comicbook

PlayStation May Have Previously Worked on Remakes of Uncharted and God of War by Logan Moore for Comicbook

Speaking to David Jaffe, the previous director of titles like God of War and Twisted Metal, Michael Mumbauer, a former head at Sony San Diego Studio, talked a bit about what his role was at the developer while he was there. Mumbauer’s main position at first was to lead a visual arts group that would provide support to other Sony studios, but over time, this began to change.

This article was published nearly four months ago.

Michael Mumbauer was a main focus of this morning’s Bloomberg article. Turns out that remakes have been an idea floated around and worked on at Sony for some time now, inspired by remakes like the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. These were seemingly pursued by former President of Worldwide Studios, Shawn Layden. When Hermen Hulst came into the postion, it is even easier to imagine why he’d want to shift Mumbauer’s team off remaking The Last of Us. The cost of having a new team make a new engine just doesn’t make financial sense compared to them being a support group for the original development team to pursue a remake.

“Remakes and remasters were the things I was chasing after. So that’s why the dev team was built,” Mumbauer said in the conversation. “What I can tell you is that’s what I was chasing because I believed that there was value in doing something like a remake of God of War at the visual fidelity of today. Or, a remake of Uncharted 1 at the visual fidelity of today.”

These plans have been in the works for many months, more likely years, as Sony observes, plans, and reacts to the market. Like I said this morning, the fruits of this work is going to take time to see. Obviously, finding out about this was not what Sony wanted. This would have been a surprise reveal at some event. Now the story is out and we just have to wait and see how and if Sony reacts.

I also feel bad for the team working on this supposed remake. Hopefully, they have excited about their work and remaking one of gaming’s best titles for an incredibly powerful system. It has immense potential to be a wonderful product. Heck, imagine if they remade Factions multiplayer with it. Now their project can’t officially be talked about and its name is being dragged through the mud. It’s rather unfortunate all the way around.

PlayStation’s Blockbuster Garden

Sony’s Obsession With Blockbusters Is Stirring Unrest Within PlayStation Empire – Bloomberg: by Jason Schreier for Bloomberg

Interesting article to kick start the day. Never a dull moment with Schreier’s reporting.

Sony’s focus on exclusive blockbusters has come at the expense of niche teams and studios within the PlayStation organization, leading to high turnover and less choice for players. Last week, Sony reorganized a development office in Japan, resulting in mass departures of people who worked on less well-known but acclaimed games such as Gravity Rush and Everybody’s Golf. The company has informed developers that it no longer wants to produce smaller games that are only successful in Japan, Bloomberg has reported.

The practical shutdown of Japan Studio was surprising initially. Then Sony confirmed that Team Asobi, those responsible for the highly impactful and successful Astro Bot games was remaining intact. Sony is looking at the numbers, cutting costs by trimming the fat, and leaning into teams and products that generate huge returns on their investment.

That comes off cold and calculated, especially when games can be artistic, quirky, and so on. Sony has contributed to the indie and smaller game scene for decades. It feels strange to see them making bigger swings like this.

But maybe this should not be strange or surprising. Back in 2019, Hermen Hulst was officially promoted to the head of Worldwide Studios and Shuhei Yoshida was put in charge on an indie developer initiative. Yoshida is in charge of courting indie developers and bringing great games to the PlayStation 4 & 5. It seems clear now (hindsight is 20/20) that Sony would break-up their smaller studios from making smaller games to being support studios for their larger teams. Sony is moving their indie and smaller games to external partners and focusing their internal studio budget on their global money makers: the games and studios that bring and keep folks in the PlayStation ecosystem. Even the line between studios is blurred with the branding of PlayStation Studios now.

… [Bend] tried unsuccessfully to pitch a [Days Gone] sequel that year, according to people familiar with the proposal. Although the first game had been profitable, its development had been lengthy and critical reception was mixed, so a Days Gone 2 wasn’t seen as a viable option.

Instead, one team at the studio was assigned to help Naughty Dog with a multiplayer game while a second group was assigned to work on a new Uncharted game with supervision from Naughty Dog.

The time between Bend’s previous game, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and Days Gone was seven years. Even with Days Gone being profitable, it makes sense to have them help produce two games that will, arguably, be more profitable in a shorter window of time. Naughty Dog cranks out hit after hit, even in the face of intense crunch, and has for years. Exploring crunch and its impact is definitely more Schreier’s wheelhouse and I’ve written about Naughty Dog’s own practices during the PS4 generation. It sounds like having dedicated support teams could help alleviate crunch on some level, helping keep the output and quality consistent, leading to more revenue.

Bend’s developers feared they might be absorbed into Naughty Dog, and the studio’s leadership asked to be taken off the Uncharted project. They got their wish last month and are now working on a new game of their own.

The folks at Bend didn’t sign up for this work though either. I am curious how long this next game will take to be developed, especially if parts of the studio are still assisting with two Naughty Dog projects.

Emphasizing big hits can also be counterproductive because sometimes games that start small can turn into massive successes. In 2020, Sony didn’t put much marketing muscle behind the quirky video game creation system Dreams, by the PlayStation-owned Media Molecule in the U.K. As a result, PlayStation may have missed out on its own version of Roblox, a similar video game tool. Parent company Roblox Corp. went public earlier this year and is now valued at $45 billion.

I feel like this is business-talk for the Bloomberg investment reader. This is not an apt comparison; really, it is complete conjecture. Roblox has been around since 2006. They have built an audience and a product for 15 years before going public. I don’t see Dreams as a one and done style game and tool for development. I’ve been talking about PlayStation getting into the game engine business and Dreams is an essential part to that plan, I believe. Shuhei Yoshida has even talked about a “decade of Dreams.” Sure, talk and action are to different elements to game development and promotion. Dreams did/does have plans to be brought over to PS5 and PC with features to export creations from Dreams. Roblox wasn’t built in a day.

In theory, this [remaking The Last of Us] would be a less expensive proposition than remaking Uncharted, since The Last of Us was more modern and wouldn’t require too many gameplay overhauls. Then, once Mumbauer’s group had established itself, it could go on to remake the first Uncharted game and other titles down the road.

It sounds like they wanted to be Sony’s first party remake studio, at least at first. I predicted this year that Sony would buy Bluepoint Games. I still think that is a possibility and should happen. In the long run, it could be cheaper to buy the best remake studio in the business than develop one from the ground up internally. Microsoft certainly thinks it is cheaper to buy prominent studios in the long run.

“The people funding the work are often risk-averse, and if they have to pick between a team that’s done it before, and someone trying to do it on their own for the first time, I can see why some people pick the prior developer over the latter,” [Dave Lang] said.

Makes sense to me.

Mumbauer’s project, code-named T1X, was approved on a probationary basis, but Sony kept the team’s existence a secret, and refused to give them a budget to hire more people, leading many to wonder if the company was really committed to letting the team build a new studio.

I imagine that “T1X” stood for Thing 1 X. “Thing” was the codename for The Last of Us, so T1 makes sense. “X” is a cool letter to use and could stand for “remake” or anything really.

He thought the remake project was too expensive, according to people familiar with the matter, and asked why the planned budget for T1X was so much higher than remakes Sony had made in the past. The reason was that this one was on a brand new graphical engine for the PlayStation 5.

New game engines are expensive. Hideo Kojima had to shop around for an engine after leaving Konami. He settled on Guerrilla Game’s Decima engine, which took years and money to build. It’s also a widely adaptable engine. As for Naughty Dog, their engine is proprietary. If Sony wanted to remake The Last of Us, it would make sense to use an established engine, rather than build one from scratch, especially when comparing costs to previous projects. Sony’s own remakes were sometimes upscales of PSP games.

Release of The Last of Us Part II had been pushed to 2020 from 2019 and Naughty Dog needed the Visual Arts Service Group to polish it off. Most of Mumbauer’s team, along with some of the 200 or so other staff at the Visual Arts Service Group, was assigned to support Naughty Dog, slowing down progress on its own game.

The Visual Arts Service Group’s main job sounds like it is to be support and wrap-up on projects across Sony’s disciplines. Mumbauer seemed to want to change that, but their first priority would have been to provide support. It makes building your own team, engine, and game all that much more difficult. Really playing against a stacked deck.

Sony sent word that after the completion of The Last of Us Part II, some people from Naughty Dog would help out with T1X. Mumbauer’s team saw this as their short-lived autonomy being stripped. Dozens of Naughty Dog staff were joining the project, and some had actually worked on the original The Last of Us, giving them more weight in discussions about T1X’s direction. The game was moved under Naughty Dog’s budget, which Sony gave more leeway than the Visual Arts Service Group.

Not to sound like a broken record, but this, again, makes sense. It strikes me as more efficient. Naughty Dog made both games, just coming off the sequel. Naughty Dog transitioned their game engine to the new platform early from the  PS3 to the PS4. They did it with The Last of Us last time! This could likely be cheaper for Sony, giving them even more of a return on their investment.

But those who had wanted independence were disappointed. By the end of 2020, most of the T1X team’s top staff had left, including Mumbauer and the game’s director, David Hall. Today, the T1X project remains in development at Naughty Dog with assistance from Sony’s Visual Arts Support Group. The future of the remainder of Mumbauer’s team, which has come to be jokingly referred to as Naughty Dog South, remains unclear.

Their disappointment is understandable and human. I am empathetic toward it. I’ve had my share of projects and visions get pulled out from under me. This group of people had an idea they were passionate about with a new direction to move forward in. Their owner, unfortunately, did not agree with the cost of that vision. It did become a “stay here and keep supporting” or leave situation. Some folks left, hopefully finding the independence they wanted.

This mixture of passion and finances makes decisions like this feel cold. Sony has a whacky legacy with some truly great, small games. As the cost of development skyrockets and broader appeal becomes more necessary to make returns, I can’t blame them for cutting costs by shutting down studios. Hopefully, it is a strategy that pays off. If making more blockbuster games brings in more customers which equals more money, then Sony could create more indie partnerships through Yoshida’s initiative: A rising tide lifts all ships scenario.

Microsoft is raising their tide by buying up elite studios and creating recurring revenue with Game Pass on a monthly basis. It’s consistent and dependable. Heck, I converted to Game Pass Ultimate before the Xbox Series X launched with 2 1/2 years. In the rough year I’ve had the service, I have played one game off Game Pass. When my subscription is up, they hope I stay on board and continue the trend of paying them, whether or not I actually play the games. This plan for revenue allows Microsoft to make more deals, take smaller risks more often, likely giving their teams more opportunities for creative freedom. Microsoft is also not afraid to shut a project down.

Sony is bringing their games to PC and even Xbox! Bringing their huge, extremely popular titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, MLB The Show, and Days Gone to other platforms helps diversify and increase their income while focusing on making more of those huge titles.

Sony is also leveraging their film making department and relationships to expand their video game IP to wider audiences. HBO is taking a crack at The Last of Us. Ghost of Tsushima just had a movie announced with some of the people from John Wick. The Uncharted movie is still slated for release this year. These partnerships bring more folks into these blockbuster game properties, hopefully bringing in more people to play these games on PlayStation.

Deals like Game Pass or Sony’s Indie Initiative take time to see the fruits of their labor. Game Pass is easier to see now that those fruits are becoming ripe and ready for folks to eat. Sony’s may take similar amounts of time. I genuinely hope these plans and moves pay out. Not only for my own selfish fan desires, but because I can see it lending great opportunity to foster external, new talent. Or Sony is batting down the hatches, closing off their garden, and the fruits will begin to wither away. Either way, it’s going to take time to find out.

Preserving the Vita – Upgrading My Vita TV

A little follow-up on backing up and preserving my game collection in light of the PS3, PSP, and Vita stores shutting down in a couple months:

Hack your Vita and/or PS TV.

Back in January, I made the move to finally buy a PS TV. I always said not being able to play Persona 4 Golden on my TV is why I never finished the game. Then my Persona-obsessed friend mentioned there was some sort of HD patch for P4G if you hacked your PS TV. I was interested in the process beforehand so I could whitelist games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and utilize homebrew software like Sharpscale, thanks to a video from My Life in Gaming. The downside to this move was that I needed to use my one and only proprietary Vita memory card of 16GB for my PS TV, leaving my poor Vita without any storage, making it essentially unplayable.

Since the announcement of the Vita store’s closure, I’ve been researching how to expand my PS TV storage since Vita memory cards are still outrageously expensive. I came across two options; something called the SD2Vita and a USB mass storage route. The SD2Vita is an adapter that goes into the game card slot and uses an SD card. Hack the system and voilà, you have extra storage. I’m not a fan of this though since it takes up the game slot, not the memory card slot, thus taking my physical games out of play.

This left me with the USB mass storage route, which was both easier and more frustrating than I expected. It was more simple because I already had the tools in place and more frustrating because I did not understand the file structure of the PS TV and its games. Searching online will lead you toward plugins, but if you hack your PS TV, you ought to have VitaShell installed. VitaShell has the ability to mount USB storage as the Vita system’s main memory source (“ux0”)  built right in. Launch VitaShell, plug in the USB drive (formatted exFat with a Master Boot Record [MBR] partition), and press Triangle to open a menu to mount. This did leave me with the need to redownload all my Vita games, which took all day over a wireless connection. Maybe there was some workaround I could have down via FTP or copying files over from the memory card, but I could not find the answer.

Where I ran into trouble was reinstalling all my homebrew plugins—Sharpscale, PSVShell, a DualShock motion sensor, and Whitelist. Turns out installing these while the USB drive was mounted was causing the issue. So, I installed all my homebrew directly on the PS TV itself and then mounted the USB drive and everything worked out perfectly.

I share all this to call attention to the time and effort it will take to back these games up and get your console ready for the store’s final days. This is not something you want to wait until the last minute for. Enabling USB storage on my PS TV has given my Vita its memory card back, while allowing me to download more games on a Vita platform than I’ve ever had. It also let me back that USB drive up to my laptop and my backup service so I can keep redundant copies of my Vita data, should anything dire happen to the drive itself (or I upgrade it).

The Vita is a wonderful system with an incredible legacy. If you own one or a PS TV, I implore you to download your games and buy the ones you want in these next two months. And if you are comfortable with it, hack the console to unlock more features and capabilities. These next few months will be a crucial time to prepare the way for and preserve your Vita collection.

Thoughts on the PSVR 2 Announcement

Sony’s next generation VR headset was officially announced/acknowledged at the end of February 2021. I’ve been meaning to write about the announcement since then, especially since it was a 2020 prediction of mine. Procrastination paid off in March when Sony revealed the new controller design for what most are just calling PSVR 2. If I wait any longer, the whole thing will be revealed and I don’t want to necessarily wait that long.

The initial announcement did more than confirm the new hardware was coming out some time after 2021: It actually gave insight to where the hardware is headed, especially for such an early tease.

…enhances everything from resolution and field of view to tracking and input. It will connect to PS5 with a single cord to simplify setup and improve ease-of-use, while enabling a high-fidelity visual experience.

The original PSVR had all right specs back in 2016, with some that are still leaders in the VR space. The headset supports a 90Hz-120Hz refresh rate, which matches the Valve Index and out-specs Oculus Rift S and Quest 2. PSVR 1 has a 100° field-of-view with a 1080p OLED display, while the Index has 130° field-of-view with 1440 x 1600 LCD screens.

The single cord reminds of the Rift S when I tried it at PAX East 2019. This tells me that the PS5 is going to be handling all of the processing, unlike the first iteration of PS VR where an additional processor box was required for powering the TV output and audio processing, something the PS5 should have no issue handling at all. I know plenty of people who were wishing for a wireless headset, but if Sony did go wireless, I doubt they could use the PS5’s power to its max potential. It would limit the new headset’s capabilities right out of the gate.

…which will incorporate some of the key features found in the DualSense wireless controller, along with a focus on great ergonomics. That’s just one of the examples of future-proof technology we’re developing to match our vision for a whole new generation of VR games and experiences.

Back in February, this was easy to imagine after using the DualSense with my own PS5. The technology inside that controller is just begging for VR implementations. Thankfully, it didn’t take long at all to see how Sony was going to morph the DualSense tech into a VR controller—a real, designed-for from the ground up VR controller.

Gone are glowing golf balls, replaced with a tracking ring monitored by the headset itself. This implies there will be no need for the official PS5 camera accessory to use PSVR 2. The marvelous haptics and the adaptive triggers are in place along with finger touch detection. This doesn’t sound quite like finger-tracking. The touch detection will be in place where your thumb, index, and middle fingers rest. Maybe finger-tracking can be added via a patch, if the headset does have outward tracking cameras. When you combine these elements with the PS5’s Tempest audio engine, PSVR 2 has incredible potential to really put users in a place. Hopefully the headset keeps a high refresh-rate OLED panel to further immerse users in color and reduce sickness. The real test will actually be to use the controllers and the headset, but I can’t see that happening until Fall 2022 at the earliest, especially with the controllers only going out to developers in the near future.

I have been a day-one adopter of PSVR and a firm believer in VR as a whole since I demoed an HTC Vive one day at UCF on a whim. VR truly offers new ways to engage with games, media, and each other. PSVR has reminded me a lot of Oculus’ cheaper initiatives with the goal of getting quality VR in the hands of everyday consumers.

There are plenty of ways Sony balanced cost with quality for the PSVR. The two key points would be the use of the PS4 itself as the power behind the headset and the use of the PS3 Move Controllers from 2010. PSVR itself launched in 2016. Repurposing older technology allowed them to not bet the proverbial farm on VR though. By using a console that was in tens of millions of homes (now over 125 million) with older accessories, Sony offered customers a competent, fully featured VR headset that helped prove VR was and is more than a fade. Combined with exclusive games deals and continuous development for new games, both internally and externally, Sony was able to offer enticing titles for the platform despite its limited specs. Some games even pushed the medium forward like Tetris Effect and Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

Now, with PSVR 2, they seem to be going all in on the right types of technology to create a powerful, comparable, and competitive headset. Combined with the relationships curated with developers and rock solid exclusives, PS VR 2 can push forward in the space well. It will (most likely) be cheaper than top-of-the-line PC headsets and likely have more power than mobile headsets like the Oculus Quest 2. It could find that sweet spot once again between cost and quality.

Also, Half-Life Alyx on PSVR 2 please?

Sony is Shutting Down the PS3, PSP, and Vita Stores

Me, nearly two months ago:

This all started when one day last month I had a concern: I became very worried that the PSN for PlayStation 3 and Vita would shut be shut down with very little notice. I had recently started rebuilding my PS3 collection. I have an 80GB “Phat” model and realized I couldn’t download all the games I had digitally acquired over the years.

Thankfully, Sony seems to have always made hard drive swapping in their consoles user friendly. I swapped in my original PS4 500GB hard drive and went download crazy. I also took out an old orange USB stick with all my old PS3 save data.

And here is Sony announcing the closure of the PS3, PSP, and PS Vita stores for later this summer:

We are closing PlayStation™Store on PlayStation®3 consoles on 2nd July 2021 and on PlayStation®Vita devices on 27th August 2021. Additionally, the remaining purchase functionality for PSP™ (PlayStation®Portable) will also retire on 2nd July 2021.

Thankfully, this is more notice than I had feared. Regardless, the end of these consoles official support is upon us. I am glad I decided to upgrade and download all I wanted back in February. All my physical games are patched and my digital collection installed. Now I just need to pick and choose which games I’d like to snag before the final day. I was looking on my PS3 this weekend and filled up cart to the max limit of 10 items and was just breaking $100. No time like the present to talk with my wife and come up with a budget.

I was looking at games I haven’t repurchased physically yet, like collections of PS2 games and the Ratchet and Clank PS3 games. Some are becoming more expensive, even before this announcement, but I am expecting prices for physical games to continue to climb. I had a few PS1 games in there as well, since this is the only way to play those games officially in 2021. I even bought Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier a few weeks ago, a PSP game I never played.

Thankfully, Sony has promised the ability to still download previous purchases, but some day that support will go away too. I may buy an external drive and back up all my games locally too. It is a shame to see the end of these store fronts and all the beloved games, both AAA and indie, that were released on those platforms. Sony needs to step up their access to older titles. There is a rich legacy under the PlayStation umbrella: One Sony loves to celebrate in its games, like Astro’s Playroom, but ignores in the real world when it comes to playing those beloved titles.