Friday, October 31, 2014

Sony's financials, Vita steady at the bottom

Now the PSP numbers are consigned to history, we can see how Sony is doing on Vita sales, no more hiding behind silly math. Overall, the company is still losing income, burning another three-quarters of a billion dollars. Also, so much for Sony's claims that the PS4 was giving the Vita a sales boost!

The company is shipping 700,000 Vita and PS TV units a quarter according to its latest report, which is steady over the course of the last 18 months. However, with the biggest Christmas quarter just starting, where it managed to ship around two million units last year, it does have a chance to make an impact.

The games division managed a tidy profit going into its most important season, driven by great PS4 sales. Will the launch of PlayStation TV in the west have any impact, guess we'll find out soon enough? I'll break down the Japanese sales figures and try to work out rest-of-the-world numbers soon.

Looks like Resogun will blast the Vita

Letting slip during an update about the PS4 version with some new DLC, HouseMarque dev, J Hawkins, may have confirmed the existence of a Vita version. If true, that's a cool little gem headed the Vita's way to go alongside Super Stardust, Dead Nation and the many other fine shooters.

All he said was, "Keep watching this space, the VITA version is coming and is looking, sounding and most importantly, playing great!" Which is in no way an official confirmation, but it would make sense as Sony tries to find tame developers willing enough to drag games across to the handheld.

There's been no follow up, so I guess it could well happen, which will brighten up non-PS4 owner's days. Enjoy a clip of what we could all soon be playing.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Arcana Heart 3: Love Max gets a new trailer

If you're not aware, Arcana Heart 3: Love Max is NISA's updated version of a 2D fighter that includes rebalanced gameplay and several new game modes to choose from. Select between 23 adorable anime characters with new attacks, defensive skills and new 3D rendered environments.

In it, you mix and match each character with Arcanas (celestial beings) in order to figure out which combination works best for you while creating new deadly custom combos! Prove your skill in online multiplayer or enjoy the new content in story mode. With new hidden scenarios and over 300 vignettes depicting the daily lives of the heroines, there is more than enough content to keep you busy for countless hours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Vita sales up on Baseball and Heroes in Japan

Bandai and Komani provide PlayStation with a little multiplatform firepower this week, although if the Vita is Sony's success in Japan, why did the PS3 version of Pro Baseball outsell the Vita's by 30K? Super Hero Generation didn't do so well but the Vita came out on top in that battle on the Media Create chart.

01./01. [3DS] Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (Capcom)  - 172.348 / 1.945.850 (-47%)
02./00. [PS3] Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 2014 (Konami)  - 81.981 / NEW
03./00. [PS3] The Evil Within (Bethesda) - 59.388 / NEW
04./00. [PS4] The Evil Within (Bethesda)  - 59.204 / NEW
05./00. [PSV] Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 2014 (Konami) - 50.836 / NEW
09./00. [PSV] Super Hero Generation # (Bandai Namco Games) - 16.802 / NEW
10./00. [PS3] Super Hero Generation # (Bandai Namco Games) - 12.566 / NEW
11./04. [PSV] Chaos Ring III: Prequel Trilogy (Square Enix) - 6.967 / / 19.402 (-44%) 

20./11. [PSV] DanganRonpa: Another Episode (Spike Chunsoft) - 2.132 / 98.528 (-35%)

That activity gave Vita and PlayStation TV combined sales a little boost back to near-"normal" levels, but its hardly inspiring and the downward average trend continues. I guess buyers wait for the new Phantasy Star Nova models, which seem to be Sony's only real drive for sales, aside from the girl gamer push. 

If you want a chuckle (or more of a deathly cough), PlayStation TV (795) is now outselling the Xbox One (613) in Japan, ouch!

Labyrinth of Grisaia visual novel trilogy could come west

Sekai' Projects' The Labyrinth of Grisaia is coming to PSP and the Vita in Japan next year, but it could also land in the west if this upcoming Kickstarter campaign is successful. The visual novel game, originally on PC, is set in a girl's school where the very first male student has just arrived, causing all sorts of shenanigans.

Certainly, one of the girls has access to a sniper rifle so I'm guessing lover's tiffs are high on the agenda. It is based on an anime currently on Crunchroll, and the game needs $40,000 per episode, with the plan being to get the whole trilogy translated, with physical copies as part of the plan.

This is a neat use of Kickstarter, and I'd like to see more western devs get support for Vita versions this way, beyond the usual indie projects. Seems like the only route left for moderate projects.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tales of Hearts R gets an EU trailer

Subtitled, and the same basic intro you should all have seen in the preview. But hey, we're getting a Tales game dammit! And there's only a couple of weeks to go.

Its the biggest Vita release of the winter alongside Freedom Wars, so should get decent sales among the Vita community, but will it good enough to gain wider attention and perhaps get Bandai Namco to get the other Vita tales titles over here?

Live App now out for PS Vita, PlayStation TV

Sony's new Live App is go for the PS Vita, and at only 5MB won't dent your memory card. It lets PS Vita and PS TV users  watch live PS4 gameplay streams, watch livestreams that your friends are broadcasting and add your own comments as you keep up to date.

There's a bunch of restrictions for sub-accounts and regions, but that shouldn't cause too much hassle for most. You can watch Twitch and Ustream feeds, and log into each service to join in the chat. Now all I need is a PS4 to join in the fun.

Based on a quick play, it looks okay, rather neat. The search option is accessed by the tab on the left.  or you can sort by spectators, date and comments, which is less than helpful. Leaving any stream requires it to rebuffer, which is slower than on most other systems, I guess the Vita has less spare overhead. Guess that's the rest of my week sorted while waiting for Freedom Wars.

Vita and PlayStation TV firmware update 3.35 goes live

Grab it now for a video quality setting when using Remote Play, and support for up to four controllers for multiplayer on your PlayStation TV. The PS4 gets its own big v2.0 firmware update to bring additional features to the big console.

Frankly, if Sony feels the need to adjust video quality then it suggests that the feature is way less than perfect. Compromising on image quality isn't something that shouldn't be happening in 2014, but since the Vita's Wi-Fi hardware is probably four years old, I guess we're limited in what it can do.

That's one reason why I expect a PlayStation 4 Portable with a modern MIMO Wi-Fi part to really make remote play and HD streaming fly. Pack in a 1080p screen and all the DualShock 4's controls and it would make a credible device.

Freedom Wars reviews starting to pop up

In what is universally a bad sign, Sony has apparently delayed sending out review copies to sites. However, some folks are getting their copies early, and the game is out in the States today, reviews are starting to appear online.

I  expect the major sites to dole out their usual cynically-loaded reviews. But, if the true game players are having a bad time then I guess we know Freedom Wars isn't all it is cracked up to be. Perhaps the high concept, action focus could drown out the RPG elements, especially if folks only have a few hours/days to do a review.

On the other hand, if it manages to blend all its concepts well and doesn't confuse or bury players in endless guff and complexity, Sony could have a hit on its hands. Shame there's no bundle to try and shift some hardware, or a price cut to goose sales. Guess we'll find out soon enough. Let me know if you see any reviews going live. If anyone is playing it now, let the world know your first impressions!

Just Push Start 7/10
PlayStation Lifestyle 7/10
Hardcore Gamer 3.5/5
PlayStation Universe 8.5/10
DualShockers 8/10
PS Nation 9/10
NicheGamer 7.5/10

Monday, October 27, 2014

Gung-Ho and 17-Bit sign publishing deal

Publisher GungHo has signed a deal with 17-BIT to promote and publish its future titles. 17-BIT is currently working on the shooter Galak-Z: The Dimensional for the Vita, PS4 and PC while GungHo helped bring the Dokuro and Ragnarok Odyssey to the west.

Check out the latest progress on the game here. Hopefully the deal should improve the profile of the indie team, boosting sales, and give it some financial space to ramp up its next efforts. Also, it would be good for GungHo to pick up some more western-based teams to expand out of its Asian-themed niche.

Will the Vita get a price cut for Christmas?

The Vita isn't selling well, that much the world knows. The Vita has few major games in development for it, don't think anyone can argue with that. Sony is still a company in deep financial trouble, despite sales of the PS4.

So, given all that, is it worth the company cutting the price of the Vita this year in time for the Black Friday, festive, New Year and other sales? Will some tens of thousands of extra units sold make much difference to the overall market? Without a big name game to sell it, will anyone even notice? 

Sony's previous price cuts don't seem to have made much difference and while Microsoft has started the ball rolling with an Xbox One price cut, Sony may be tempted to keep its margins higher on the better-selling PS4. Also, now Sony has PlayStation TV to sell, it might think it has its range and price points covered from sub-$100, then Vita and PS3 all the way up to the PS4. And, if it cuts the price of the Vita to $120-130, then that might dent PlayStation TV sales.
Adding all that together, I would be surprised if Sony did cut the price, except for perhaps a specific short-term period. Apparently selling just a couple of thousand a week in the States, Sony will be more keen on the a tiny profit from those, than losing money and trying to drive the user base, when traditional developers have already abandoned it. 

I'm not sure if using stock microSD cards would have helped the Vita's situation, but the proprietary memory cards certainly haven't helped. Having profited from them massively, perhaps Sony will finally cut those prices to sane levels, just for us loyalists? Thoughts welcome!

Wild Season gets a first trailer

Confirmed as coming to the Vita, the Kickstarted Harvest Moon inspired game from Quickfire has a first proper trailer showing off some of the characters, farming tasks and fun diversions like horse racing that should provide a terribly addictive experience.

Wild Season is a farming-life sim, borrowing from farming games, visual novels, and RPGs but delivering them with a twist. It gives players the chance to rebuild their farm to its former glory and beyond, befriend the townspeople and maybe find your one true love, and solve a hidden secret within the valley.

PS Vita UK chart, waiting for the storm

Over the next few weeks, the gaming charts will be torn to shreds by a torrent of new AAA releases. Except for the Vita which gets a smattering of new games, mainly Freedom Wars, Tales of Hearts R and the belated boxed release of Minecraft.

Until then, the current Vita chart snoozes on, with just a couple of reentries (LEGO Hobbit at no. 7) suggesting that anyone even buys Vita games anymore. Will the release of PlayStation TV jiggle things about a bit? Certainly, I expect quite a few complaints as unaware buyers pick up non-compatible games for it.

1 - FIFA 15 EA SPORTS (last week) 1 (weeks on chart) 5

Over Amazon, the usual suspects dominate the pre-order chart, with only LEGO Movie and The Muppets recently added. The most searched for term on the blog recently is "Vita games 2015" - I'm starting to wonder just how few results there will be, in a retail capacity.

Demon Gaze team's next RPG hits Japan in February

This mouthful of a title is out now on Xbox in Japan, but the improved Vita version will land early next year. It will put Demon Gaze fans right at home, with classic RPG action. I was never sure what the actual title (thanks autotranslate) was, but Siliconera informs us that it is: The Stranger of the Village of the Sword: The Black Palace. Which explains why my earlier stories were somewhat random.

This, Operation Abyss and the upcoming Demon Gaze 2 are hopefully all ripe for western releases after the success of the first DG title. Here's hoping! Some latest pics and details on the official page.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Landing this week on PlayStation Vita, Freeeedoooommm

Freedom Wars leads the way this week, the big Vita original game hope of the year. Not that Sony want anyone to know that - I mean did you see an advert for it? Also, the video they're showing is nearly four months old, that's how little effort is going into marketing this game. Even the poorest indie developer tries to get a few new clips out before release.

Elsewhere, Poltergeist, Tiny Troopers, Unfinished Swan add a slick indie feel to things, but the best game of the week, probably Battle Isle on the PS4 - loved that series on the Amiga, would buy a PS4 for it, if I could afford one. Didn't even know it was coming, which is another impressive bit of Sony non-marketing.

Here's the US PSN drop page with all the details. The game lands on Friday in the UK, cause we're shit like that! On the plus side, Europe does get Die, Mr Robot from Infinite States.