It’s finally happening: As promised earlier this year, Sony is bringing PlayStation 4 games to PlayStation Now subscribers on both Windows PCs and PlayStation 4. The new games, 20 total out of the gate, are due today, July 6.
Here’s the starting lineup: Killzone Shadow Fall, God of War 3 Remastered, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, WWE 2K16, Tropico 5, Ultra Street Fighter IV, F1 2015, Darksiders II Deathfinitive Edition, Evolve, MX vs ATV Supercross Encore, Resogun, Helldivers, Broken Age, Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition, Grim Fandango Remastered, Akiba’s Beat, Castlestorm Definitive Edition, Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky, Nidhogg and Super Mega Baseball.
They’re all older games, as you’d expect from a flat-rate subscription service Sony doesn’t want undercutting premiere PlayStation 4 games. “At this point, we’re not looking to debut new content in PS Now,” says PlayStation Network boss Eric Lempel. “We do want to continue to promote the PlayStation 4 front line releases and typical software lifecycle. But we also haven’t set any firm criteria around when titles can come into the service.” In other words, Sony is open to exploring timeframes, he adds.
Sony says additional titles will appear along per its monthly content updates. Subscriptions run $99.99 for 12 months or $19.99 per month, and newcomers can hop on for $9.99 per the first month, then $19.99 per month thereafter. Existing subscribers get the new PlayStation 4 titles immediately at no additional cost.
PS Now is Sony’s Netflix-like game streaming service, the heir apparent to once renowned startups like OnLive and Gaikai. Sony bought Gaikai in 2012, spun out its PS Now service (which launched in January 2015), shifted to an all-you-can-play monthly subscription model and now boasts a library of over 500 PlayStation 3 games. The service has been available on PlayStation 3, PS Vita, PS TV as well as select Sony and Samsung TVs. But as of August 15, 2017, it will be exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation 4 as well as any Windows PC.
When I asked Lempel how PS Now was doing in general, he declined to give subscriber totals, but offered two general statistics. It’s hard to wrap your head around what these numbers signify, since they’re decoupled from baselines, thus figures like a 63% increase in play sessions from 2015 to 2016, or 40% active subscriber growth for the same period year-on-year, don’t provide the connective tissue necessary to gauge contextual performance. Sony’s take is bullish, of course: “We set goals for the service and we’re achieving those goals, and I can say that 40% growth is really healthy compared to our initial forecast,” adds Lempel.
Another concern, admittedly more for purists who fret over the sort of visual aberrations that can momentarily glitch streaming content when Internet speeds yo-yo, is what Sony’s been doing to improve the so-called “last mile” quality of service.
“Gaming, unlike other media, has to function well in real-time,” concedes Lempel. “You have to be able to hit a baseball, or jump out of the way of a bullet, or duck behind something, and all of that must happen when you want it to happen or it’s not a good experience.”
Lempel says that while Sony continues to work to enhance the service’s topological capabilities, consumers are already pretty happy with its performance. “You’re really not giving up anything in terms of the quality of the experience at this point,” he says. “You’re still getting the experience the developers intended.”
It was also no low-hanging endeavor bringing PlayStation 4 games to PS Now, says Sony. Games have bespoke platform backends, and the PlayStation 4’s is obviously quite different from the PlayStation 3’s. “It’s a lot of work, any time you do any of these things,” says Lempel. “Because the PlayStation 4 is a different platform, it does require a different delivery path and did require a lot of testing.”
That includes platform-standard stuff like gameplay status updates, unlocking trophies, dispatching multiplayer invites (which doesn’t require a PS Plus subscription) and copying save files to and from cloud storage, which facilitates seamless interaction between the PS Now and discrete PS4 versions of these games (this does requires a PS Plus subscription). It also involves getting the PS Now versions of PlayStation 4 games to “play nice” with the rest of the platform’s base, a multiplying figure that recently surpassed 60 million units sold worldwide.
“We have fully featured games that interact well with the community, independent of how they’re playing the game,” says Lempel. “But it does depend if there are different versions of the title.” Where there’s DLC available, in some cases Sony may bundle that, but in some cases it won’t, depending on the title. (A Sony rep adds that the PS Now versions of these games will often appear in their “ultimate” or “game of the year” incarnations, inclusive of post-release content.)
That a company like Sony is doubling down on streaming significant segments of its legacy content — adjunct to its flagship PlayStation 4 as well as Windows PCs — speaks well of the technology’s prospects. Not long ago the opposite seemed true: vanguard games streamer OnLive crashed in 2012, and the takeaway (like virtual reality in the 1990s) was your classic “too much, too soon.”
One of OnLive’s philosophical tenets involved founder Steve Perlman’s belief that streaming would at some point overtake and supplant local play — the true “Netflix of gaming” model. Does Sony see that as aspirational in its own designs, with a service like PS Now replacing or at least surpassing demand for local games content at some point down the pike?
“The technology keeps getting better, bandwidth speeds keep getting higher — a few years ago if you said you would have the ability to near-instantly start over 500 PlayStation 3 and 4 games from home, that would be this proposition that I think would blow people’s minds,” says Lempel. “From here, I like the fact that we’re engaging people who don’t have a PlayStation 4 through the PC version of PS Now. And I think there’s a balance of consumer understanding and technology that has to come together. Once it clicks and people get it, I think we really unleash the true potential of streaming and the games catalogue.”
The company is also mindful of requests from users on alternate platforms, say Apple’s MacOS or Linux, for a version of the PS Now client. “It’s something we’re exploring,” says Lempel. “Any change to a platform, any new device, involves a significant engineering effort, but we continue to look for new ways to bring this content to a wider audience.”
Though don’t look for PlayStation VR support by way of PS Now anytime soon. I realize it seems a silly question given streaming’s latency limitations, which are at stark odds with virtual reality’s comfort-driven ulra-low-latency requirements. But what if at some point they weren’t? “It’s something we haven’t looked at yet, but I suspect it would probably be a bit of a challenge,” says Lempel, laughing.
2019 Google Play Award winners highlight top Android apps and games
Google on the eve of I/O 2019 announced the Play Award winners to celebrate the top Android apps and games. The nominees in nine categories were unveiled late last month, with the ceremony this evening in Mountain View, California.
There are nine categories with criteria factoring overall quality, strong design, technical performance, and innovation. The nominees were first selected by various teams across Google. Winners during the May 6th event also received a silver Play trophy, and are featured on the Play Store.
We’re sharing the winners that rose to the top for providing the best experiences for fans, making an impact on their communities and raising the bar for quality content on Google Play.
Standout Well-Being App
Apps empowering people to live the best version of their lives, while demonstrating responsible design and engagement strategies.
- Woebot by Woebot Labs
Best Accessibility Experience
Apps and games enabling device interaction in an innovative way that serve people with disabilities or special needs.
- Envision AI by Envision Technologies BV
Best Social Impact
Apps and games that create a positive impact in communities around the world (focusing on health, education, crisis response, refugees, and literacy).
- Wisdo by Wisdo LTD.
Most Beautiful Game
Games that exemplify artistry or unique visual effects either through creative imagery, and/or utilizing advanced graphics API features.
- Shadowgun Legends by MADFINGER Games
Best Living Room Experience
Apps that create, enhance, or enable a great living room experience that brings people together.
- Neverthink by Neverthink
Apps and games that display a groundbreaking new use case, like utilize new technologies, cater to a unique audience, or demonstrate an innovative application of mobile technology for users.
- Tick Tock by Other Tales Interactive
Standout Build for Billions Experience
Apps and games with optimized performance, localization and culturalization for emerging markets.
- Canva by Canva
Best Breakthrough App
New apps with excellent overall design, user experience, engagement and retention, and strong growth.
- Slowly by Slowly Communications Ltd.
Best Breakthrough Game
New games with excellent overall design, user experience, engagement and retention, and strong growth.
- MARVEL Strike Force by FoxNext Games
My Samsung Galaxy Fold screen broke after just a day
Look closely at the picture above, and you can see a small bulge right on the crease of my Galaxy Fold review unit. It’s just enough to slightly distort the screen, and I can feel it under my finger. There’s something pressing up against the screen at the hinge, right there in the crease. My best guess is that it’s a piece of debris, something harder than lint for sure. It’s possible that it’s something else, though, like the hinge itself on a defective unit pressing up on the screen.
It’s a distressing thing to discover just two days after receiving my review unit. More distressing is that the bulge eventually pressed sharply enough into the screen to break it. You can see the telltale lines of a broken OLED converging on the spot where the bulge is.
Whatever happened, it certainly wasn’t because I have treated this phone badly. I’ve done normal phone stuff, like opening and closing the hinge and putting it in my pocket. We did stick a tiny piece of molding clay on the back of the phone yesterday to prop it up for a video shoot, which is something we do in every phone video shoot. So perhaps a tiny piece of that snuck into a gap on the back of the hinge and then around or through its cogs until it lodged in between the screen and the hinge. It’d be sort of like Charlie Chaplin getting caught in the gears in Modern Times.
Or maybe something got in another one of the little gaps somewhere else. Or maybe it was pieces from the hinge itself breaking loose and working their way up into the screen. I don’t know. I just know that the screen is broken, and there was no obvious proximate cause for the bulge that broke it. I certainly haven’t used it on a beach or shook it in a bag of chips or anything wild. Just normal use.I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED; I JUST KNOW THE SCREEN IS BROKEN
We’ve seen worries about scratches on expensive phones and debris breaking the keyboard on expensive MacBooks, but a piece of debris distorting the screen on a $1,980 phone after one day of use feels like it’s on an entirely different level.
I reached out to Samsung right away to get a statement, but it took about 24 hours for the company to put one together. Here it is, and the gist is that Samsung is looking into our unit and also warning users not to try to peel off the protective layer on the top of the screen.
Also, I have, however, received a replacement review unit from Samsung. I think the first one is on a jet to South Korea for Samsung’s engineers to take apart and diagnose.
By the way, it appears I’m not the only reviewing the phone who has had a problem with the screen. Here’s Steve Kovach:
Mark Gurman of Bloomberg also broke his, but that’s perhaps because he removed a protective layer that looks like a screen protector, but definitely isn’t meant to be removed.
And here’s Marques “MKBHD” Brownlee confirming he, too, had to get a replacement unit after peeling off the outer layer (which, again, wasn’t our issue):
It looks like retail units of the Galaxy Fold will include a warning about not removing the protective layer, but review units don’t seem to have included this one:
Like everybody else, I said in my original hands-on with the Galaxy Fold that I absolutely am able to see the crease between the two sides of the screen. But when I’m using the phone, I don’t actually notice it much. It’s easy to talk about it as a small first-generation compromise you have to make for what is otherwise a wonder of engineering: a tablet that folds in half.
I took a photo in my hotel room when the bulge first appeared. The next morning, that same bulge finally broke the screen.
Another thing people are worried about is the plastic screen scratching or picking up nicks easily. There are already a couple of minor dings on my unit, but they’re minor enough that I didn’t see them until our photographer zoomed way in to show them to me. If you look closely at the edges of the screen, there’s a sort of built-in screen protector on the front of the device. Samsung calls it a “polymer layer.” It is not designed to be removed. (Please don’t try it if you get your hands on a Fold.)
But while the crease and the nicks feel like compromises you could live with, a mysterious bulge that breaks the screen is something else entirely — especially one that appears just a day after pretty normal use. It’s a problem that is unacceptable on a phone that costs this much.
Every phone with movable parts is going to have more points of failure than a fully sealed, static phone. So it’s natural to say that you need to treat it with more care than usual. Before I saw this bulge, my impression was that this phone was much more durable than I expected. The hinge always felt solid and well-built. That impression of (relative) durability is obviously as broken as the flexing screen now.
If I’m right and it’s debris, it means that not only do you need to treat your phone with care, but you also have to worry about stuff getting in underneath the screen. If I’m wrong and it’s some kind of defect in the hardware, well… then we’re in entirely different territory. Either way: yikes.
Hopefully Samsung lets us know the results after it takes my original review unit apart to see what happened.
This is the best time to purchase an iPhone XR in India
Apple is discounting the iPhone XR by a massive 22% from Friday.
Apple is kicking off a massive discount on the iPhone XR in India that will bring the device down to just ₹59,900 ($870). That’s a staggering ₹17,000 ($250) discount from the phone’s retail price of ₹76,900 ($1,120). What makes this particular deal even better is that HDFC is getting in on the action, offering an additional 10% cashback on top of the discounted price.
That effectively brings the price of the 64GB iPhone XR down to just ₹53,900 ($780), which is a fabulous deal. The promotional price extends to all three variants of the iPhone XR, and you’ll similarly be able to avail the HDFC cashback on all three models. The deal will go live from Friday, April 5, and will be valid until stocks last.
Here’s the breakdown of the new pricing:
|Category||MRP||New price||For HDFC customers|
|iPhone XR (64GB)||₹76,900||₹59,900||₹53,900|
|iPhone XR (128GB)||₹81,900||₹64,900||₹58,400|
|iPhone XR (256GB)||₹91,900||₹74,900||₹67,400|
The HDFC cashback is valid for both debit and credit card holders, and if you don’t have an eligible card yet, you can pick one up to avail the discount on the iPhone XR. I’m partial to the Regalia for the airline benefits and low markup on international spends.
This is Apple’s most aggressive move yet in the Indian market, and it’s clear that the company is positioning the iPhone XR against Samsung’s Galaxy S10e, which retails for ₹55,900 ($810). The discount will be a huge driver for iPhone XR sales in the country, and should give Apple some much-needed momentum in the premium segment.
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