Welcome to the FlipSide, where the good and the bad in video games collide. Every week, I will recap one positive news story, one negative news story, and then explain what I think about both. Let’s begin this week with the good!
Sony has given us a sneak peak of what is to come in PS4 firmware update 4.50. It turns out a much needed feature is being added. With update 4.50 external HDD support is coming to the PS4 along with some other features. The other features are custom wallpapers, quick menu refresh, simplified notification list, posting on PlayStation activity feeds, and 3D Blu-ray support for PlayStation VR. The update is available to those on PlayStation’s beta program. There is no official release date yet for everyone else who owns a PS4.
The main feature in this update has to be external HDD support. The digital age is slowly creeping in and it may be coming faster after the backlash against GameStop last week. One of the limitations keeping us from the digital age in console gaming is the storage limits in console hard drives. While there is a 1TB HDD option in the new slim model and a 1TB HDD by default in the pro model, the default PS4 since release in 2013 has a HDD of 500GB. The hard drives can be swapped out but only the most advanced users are going to bother doing that. That’s where the external HDD is a game changer. It’s so easy to plug in an external and keep it plugged in. There are no screws involved and no extra work to reinstall the firmware to the new hard drive. Also, it’s going to support up to 8TB which is a great amount of space. As someone who has struggled to manage the digital catalogue I have with the 500GB internal HDD, I am so excited to be able to plug in an external HDD and keep games that I want to come back to soon on it.
Some of the other features seem cool too. I am a fan of customization options, even if I’m never going to use them. I’m referring to the custom wallpapers. It seems you can use a custom photo as a background and change the drop-shadows on text. It doesn’t seem like the highest amount of customizing but it’s a start and a cool way to showcase some of those awesome shots you took while playing Uncharted 4. I’m also a fan of the quick menu adding in party features. It’s real annoying to have to go to the main menu to get Nick involved in my Rainbow Six party. This seems to be an easier and cleaner way of doing it without me having to leave the menus of the game I’m playing.
The other things I mentioned seem nice, but I personally feel indifferent to them. It’s good to see Sony is listening to a major requested feature we wanted. I’m real excited about this update and want it to roll out as soon as possible. I want to start reinstalling some games that have recently hit my chopping block. If only we could implement name changes. One day…one day…
However on the FlipSide this week…
The next iteration of NBA Live has been pushed back to fall 2017. This will mark the yet another full NBA season without a NBA game from EA Sports. Over the last few years the NBA 2K series has flourished as the dominant title representing the NBA. While I’m not shocked that EA Sports isn’t releasing a NBA game again this season, it’s telling of the direction sports games are going in the industry.
Owen S. Good of Polygon wrote a reaction piece to this cancellation. He states that each major sports brand has come down to one major game per. This all started with the with the NFL licensing their brand exclusively to EA Sports back in 2005. Since that deal, with or without an exclusive license, we have seen one game series take over their respective sport. Madden has the exclusive deal with the NFL still. The EA Sports NHL series outmatched the NHL 2K series around 2009. The MLB The Show series dominated the Major League Baseball 2K making 2K not renew their license in 2014. FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer seem to be the only one with a real competition, but FIFA has some major licenses that Pro Evolution Soccer doesn’t have.
It’s a shame we don’t have the competition that we used to have. In my opinion, that’s when we saw the the greatest innovation between the yearly titles. That competition kept the developers on their toes trying to make the best game they could make. Not that they are being lazy and don’t want to make the best product, but that push was more prevalent when they wanted to make the better game. These games still innovate today, but not to the degree that they once were. I saw some of the biggest gameplay changes come to the NHL series when the NHL 2K series was still around. One of the biggest changes to that series was the skill stick control scheme that was implemented in NHL 2008. This control scheme changed the way to control players in hockey and is still the base of the controls to this day still.
One of the biggest things I hate about this are these series are allowed too get away with half-assed attempts at games. I immediately think of the first Madden to be ported to Xbox 360 and the first NHL game in the PS4 and Xbox One era. Both of these games stripped major features from their predecessors, but there was no competition to challenge these games. If you wanted NFL or NHL action in a video game from those years, you had to pay the premium price for a watered down game.
Stripping features is bad but no innovation between titles is bad too. I think I’ve been complaining about the terrible defensive AI in the NHL series for the past five years. It’s making the game unplayable for me unless I’m playing EASHL now. As much as I love the MLB The Show series, innovation has slowed through recent titles. I don’t have as much experience with the NBA 2K series or Madden as I don’t buy them every year, but through friends and reviews those games have slowed as well. One can argue that making video games is very difficult today as opposed to the past. If developers need two or three years to develop an awesome game with cool new features than let’s give them that. I wouldn’t be mad with MLB The Show or any sports game getting released every two years, but giving roster updates regularly throughout that two year development cycle. I shouldn’t have to pay $60 a year for a game if the developer isn’t making a game that’s worthy of the price tag every year. I’m specifically looking at you EA Sports.
Even though it sucks for the gaming industry, I actually like seeing EA Sports struggle to get out an NBA game. NBA 2K has been killing it in quality over the last few years and because of that quality they have shoved EA Sports out of the NBA picture. This is the perfect revenge for what EA Sports did to the NFL 2K series, but 2K games didn’t have to spend a dime on acquiring the exclusive NBA license like EA Sports did back in 2005. I eventually want to see competition again in the NBA market, but I don’t mind seeing EA Sports struggle for a little while longer making a game that competes for the NBA 2K series.
I’m not the biggest NBA fan so seeing NBA Live cancelled for the NBA season is not a big deal to me. I’m concerned for the NBA fan if competition doesn’t come sooner or later. I wouldn’t want to see another sport series be brought down due to the lack of another game in the market like I have watched EA Sports do to Madden and NHL. What is fun to see is when developers actually grant some wishes and that’s what Sony did this week. It’s not in my hands yet, but knowing that I can shop for an external hard drive for my PS4 makes me happy for the near future. I’m ecstatic for this new feature, but I will continue to wait for the emotions that run through me when Sony announces name changes are possible. I will be back next week with more of the good and the bad in the world of video games.