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ryse-son-of-rome - Ultimate Gaming Paradise

What makes gameplay epic? The essential triumvirate of emotions

A video game’s direct appeal is, in my opinion, based on a triumvirate of elements. These elements are collected together within each and every video game in a sort of tripod array (i.e. three equidistant columns that hold up when combined). The three elements are:

  • Perspective
  • Difficulty
  • Indulgence

These elements form the very basis of a video gaming experience. You might be wondering how that is even possible. Well lets break down the triumvirate and explore these elements in the context of some of the next-gen console’s latest titles?

Perspective

Perspective, in the purest contextual sense, allows a dialogue to morph into a storyline. This storyline is the reason behind the continuation of the gameplay. Therefore, perspective offers gamers a sense of ‘involvement’. This ‘involvement’ thus allows the player to engage and invest emotion into the title.

Difficulty

Difficulty, in the context of challenges, allows the attributes of gameplay to create hurdles which need to be cleared – either literally or metaphorically – in order to progress. These attributes offer gamers a sense of ‘achievement’. These ‘achievements’ thus allow players to build upon the perspective emotions by adding positive emotional capital into their gameplay behaviour.

Indulgence

Indulgence, in the context of gratification, allows the gameplay to offer-up very basic, some would even argue primitive, behaviours that are indulgent to the user. These ‘fun’ elements are divorced from the above in the sense, emotional and achievement-based experiences are not needed for pure fun. However, in tandem with the above, as indulgence allows players to invest emotive behaviours that encapsulate a form of escapism, this escapism is part of the indulgence context.

Combined, the triumvirate helps gameplay by allowing the individual gamer to blend three very important attributes into a single coherent action. Lets explore a couple of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One titles to find how the triumvirate helps enable a more enhanced and emotive gameplay experience.

 

KILLZONE: SHADOW FALL (PLAYSTATION 4)

Killzone-shadow-fall-ps4-wallpaper-in-hdThis game is probably a solid example of how such a triumvirate exists and creates the right atmosphere for excellence in gameplay activities. The perspective element, the storyline so to say, allows you to invest in a franchise that you have already – in all probability – played. You are aware of the ‘back-story’ and you know about the ‘Helgast’. As such, the investment is partially already there. That said, the game needs a storyline.  The game sees the action shift thirty years into the future. The World War has moved into a “Cold” War style rift between the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance’ and the Helghan’ people. The story allows the player to invest into the context of many different emotive involvements. There are themes which are fluid in the storyline from ‘Eurosceptiscism’ – the ‘Vekta Cityspace’ and the nuances between the ‘Helghan’ and the ‘IPA’ spaces allow for notions of ‘underclass’ and ‘immigrationary’ fears to be used in the context of gameplay. Real life fears and issues in today’s society and thus fused with a game that is pure fiction. This is the success of the first strand of the triumvirate.

The game, in the context of difficulty, also finds the right balance between the challenges of playing the game and the similarities of playing the older versions. The game has the right balance of challenges – from inner-space to inner-city – as such the rush and the drive of the gameplay allows for different players at different levels of gameplay experience the right amount of ‘difficulty’ without making it ‘piss easy’ for the pro’s and ‘dead hard’ for the noobs. The game moves away from drudge-based war games – assault after assault followed by end credits. This game uses difficulty in a way other games failed to. It uses the context of nuance – of distinction – to help elevate each and every level. This makes the game more challenging in parts – it’s not perfect but it does highlight challenging elements in a more organic way that say, Deadrising 3 does on Xbox One.

Finally, the final strand of the triumvirate is the context of indulgence. The first two parts illustrated the notion of storyline and difficulty. However, the final strand in what makes a game epic is ‘fun’. Some of the most technically brilliant games ever made have failed miserable because the ‘fun’ was missing. This, it has to be said, is not the case with Killzone Shadow Fall. The game fuses seriousness with fun. The ‘OWL’ drone has to be one of the coolest gadgets ever. The drone can do everything – stun enemies, shield you from attack and you can even use it as a zip line! The overall experience – apart from thematic and linear issues with the storyline – illustrates that technical excellence and fun can be fused to create a great title.

 

RYSE: SON OF ROME (XBOX ONE)

On the other end of the spectrum (and I mean spectrum by the way, not Spectrum the 80s computer), we see Ryse: Son of Rome. This is a Microsoft title that was given the green light to highlight what’s great and excellent about Xbox One. So let’s look at how the triumvirate worked on Ryse?  Ryse is a great example of shoddy storyline development. Developers have long avoided Rome and Greek themed titles – I remember Shadow of Rome on PlayStation 2 and that was pretty awful. This storyline has elements that seem to be mashed together in an incoherent fashion. For added flair, they have mangled Roman fables and histories into a mongrel tale. This ‘mongrel’ tale leaves little for the gamer to invest any emotion into. There are light-hearted areas – the motion capture scenes are epic. However, the collective storyline fails to incorporate the right balance of emotional and psychological allure to help develop the right relationship between game and player.

Ryse Arena  - Ultimate Gaming ParadiseThe ‘difficulty’ context of Ryse: Son of Rome is another epic failure. The game fails to create enough in the way of challenges for the player. It’s important to define what we mean by challenges. This is not about setting the difficulty level from easy to hardened. This is about the difficulty, and therein the achievement, complexity that allows gamers the emotive capital to invest into the title. Yet again, Microsoft and Crytek have failed miserably to offer the right balance in terms of challenges for gameplay achievement. The ‘rumbling’ between stages from arenas to open-spaces fails to create a sense of urgency and this at its core is about the lack of achievement-building in the wider gameplay experience.

Finally, the fun context of the game is a whole different story to the other two elements. The game is fun! There is no denying the lavish beauty of the graphics – as a visual showcase, the game at present has no equal in terms of Xbox One graphical excellence. This beauty echoes through the gameplay. As such, one part the ‘hacking away’ element is, whether it’s a good thing or not, rather fun on the whole! Those pesky Barbarians will meet the blade of your sword and it’s not going to end well for them. That said, it’s a fun game it’s just that the two other elements fail to create the complete package.

 

There. Two examples of next generation gaming and the importance of a triumvirate of essences that make video games better. They exist in the context of Killzone Shadow Fall but are miserably left out of Ryse: Son of Rome. The dynamic of the triumvirate can be seen in the successes of Call of Duty: Ghosts and FIFA 14 whereas they are epically missing from Battlefield 4 and Forza. Therefore, when looking at what next to buy for your console, why not use this evaluation tool to better engage with the right title. The triumvirate of achievement, entertainment and perspective creates the right environment for a game to flourish and therein the player’s experiences to be completely blown out of the water. This, at its core, is what gaming is about. That’s why we need to make sure we “keep it real” when gaming.

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PS4 vs Xbox One

PS4 Availability Worldwide Trumps the Xbox One

The console debate has been incredibly heated since the release of the next-gen iterations of both the Playstation and Xbox. Ranging from Sony having a better day one policy than Microsoft to the Playstation having better hardware than the Xbox, the common theme that is being driven across by media outlets around the world is that Sony’s console is surging ahead and leaving the Xbox behind in the dust.

Sony-Playstation-4And although the PS4 sold more copies of their console in November than the Xbox One, sales have been pretty tight across the board and are relatively similar to each other at the moment. This is curious when the PS4 is lauded as the new superior console by so many websites around the world. If Sony’s console was truly moving ahead as the number one console, why are sales being matched?

A theory about this involves a number game. Both Sony and Microsoft are manipulating sales figures to place themselves in a more positive light while remaining on the safe side of the line. After all, being called out as a liar right now wouldn’t be great for their image. Instead, both companies are using cliché phrases to improve their statistics. Sony has said that they’ve sold over a million devices in less than 24 hours while Microsoft says they’ve been selling a steady number of 101,000 devices every single day of their starting week. From an objective viewpoint both points are technically true, but overall sales are neck and neck in the race. It all comes down to market and audience when you consider the financial differences between the two consoles.

As it stands right now, the PS4 is available in 48 nations while the Xbox One is available in only 13. It seems as if Microsoft has elected to initially target their strongest markets, namely the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Brazil, and other popular pro-Xbox nations. Just in case your geography isn’t all that up to date, there are currently 196 countries in the world which means Microsoft is currently meeting the market expectations of a whopping 6.63% of the global economy. Sony isn’t much better on this front, but they’re doing a significantly better job of reaching different audiences by currently resting at a reach of 24.5%, so nearly a quarter of the world.

xbox-oneRather than try and tell you which way is better, I’ll leave the floor open for debate. It’s arguable that both consoles have had a boatload of troubles with their respective releases, and it’s arguable that in the end, availability doesn’t matter too much in the bigger picture unless you live in one of the countries that it’s not available in.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that even if you live in a nation that doesn’t have any retail devices, you can still purchase them online for a steeper price tag. In any case, the PS4 is being sold in markets that the Xbox One hasn’t even come close to entering yet. It’s a blow to global Microsoft loyalty and a great boost to generating consumer appreciation towards Sony. After all, Sony made sure their console was available to a smaller market, which means they care. It’s an interesting market tactic, and the next few months will definitely demonstrate whether or not it works out for them.

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Coding

PATCH UPDATES: The Single Biggest Threat to the Future of Next-gen Gaming

The console launches, last November, of Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen video games platforms marked a new era in home video game console playability. The increases in graphics, social networking and wider entertainment facilities have created the spectre of a gaming and entertainment hub in each and every living room or bedroom throughout the world. However, the current spate of patch update after patch update news, seems to indicate an issue. This issue is harming not one single platform but the entire next-generation platform. In four weeks, there have been issues with the following games (on all next-gen platforms):

  • Ryse: Son of Rome – required a 550mb patch
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts – required a 375mb patch
  • Grand Theft Auto V – required a 227mb patch
  • Battlefield 4 – at time of writing, required a 447mb patch – that could grow with current issues still unresolved
  • FIFA 14 – required a 220mb patch
  • Dead Rising 3 – required a 600mb patch

Dead Rising 3 Game - Ultimate Gaming ParadiseGames developers and publishers, much like Activision, Electronic Arts, Capcom and DICE have released titles that have been literally “plagued” by glitches, bugs and other critical errors that have brought the next-gen consoles into disrepute.

There is an argument, noted by many, that argues that a new console is always paired up with mediocre software. This is inherent in the fact publishers and developers do not have enough time to ‘fully utilise’ the technology of the next-gen console to create a better title. However, bugs in 90s or early noughties consoles where something one had to ‘live with’. The Sonic the Hedgehog 1 glitch on Level 3 is now infamous. However, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One – and in some respects the Wii U – are network connected and thus, because of the ‘platform network (your PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live subscription), these ‘patches’ are mandatory. “You will not be able to use Microsoft Xbox Live if you decline this update” was a regular occurrence on the Xbox 360. Many gamers, and commentators, believed the next gen consoles would bring about what the PC has done (and many smart phones) over recent years – downloads and updates in the background while you “get on with it”.

This didn’t happen. In fact, more worryingly, key platform features – defining features some would argue – were on purpose left out of games. A notable example is the PlayStation 4 – which has 1080 ability for High Def gaming. This functionality was not present on the disc of the Call of Duty: Ghosts title; you had to download a patch thereafter. This seems to indicate 1080 ability was an afterthought and not a central part of the design focus?

The single biggest next-gen mess-up is the release of Electronic Art’s digital unit Dice’s premier title: Battlefield 4. The Battlefield series has been EA’s attempt to dislodge war gamers from Activision’s Call of Duty series. The well-reviewed Battlefield 3 saw a migration of users away from Black Ops 2 to Battlefield 3. The new platform and the bigger investment by EA into the franchise should have resulted in Battlefield 4 becoming the premier title on the platform. The game, on both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 platforms, has been plagued by repetitive ‘patch updates’. The title has received approximately 4 patch updates globally since launched in November.

Call of Duty Ghosts advert - Ultimate Gaming Paradise

RYSE was a key launch title by Microsoft. It was meant to be a title that defined Xbox One. However, this was also ruined by the spectre of day one ‘patch’ updates. If the next generation of video gaming will be a

continuum of patch after patch update, how will this affect gamer perceptions of the platforms? The rise of mobile gaming, the resurgence of PC gaming (along with the investment by Apple into Mac OS gaming) has created viable competition to Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. They, in true US fashion, needed their ‘game faces on’ when it came to launching the Xbox One, the Nintendo Wii U and the PlayStation 4. The result was far from a coherent effort to lead a vanguard attack on other gaming platforms. In reality, some argue, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 will become a poster child for the exodus of gamers to other – more stable platforms.

The crux of the issue is that, if 24/7 network connectivity means developers can release shoddy games with shoddy code and expect users to eat up bandwidth through downloading “fixes”, it will, in the long run, affect gamers’ playability and therein their connectedness to the platform. It is important developers and publishers BETA test their platforms to a greater level. These consoles take the gaming experience to the next level – it’s only right publishers and developers take their pre-launch testing to the next level in order to maintain high expectation of latest titles and their increased playability over other platforms?

It’s important that the next gen consoles retain their simplicity. They have always been ‘plug and play’ experiences and it is important that this experience is not altered. The mobile gaming world is enjoying massive growth with the development of such mobile titles – like FIFA, Call of Duty and Need for Speed; that allows users a simple ‘pick up and play’ experience. PC Gamers on the other hand, have always been used to Windows updates and therein updates from their games publishers. It is part and parcel of the experience – newer graphics cards etc. have resulted in more patches being issued for PC games. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are meant to be the showcase platform – incorporating excellence (like the PC experience) with simplicity (like the mobile experience) but in a concurrent gaming experience. To save this experience from being eroded by the plight of patch updates, it is crucial that developers really start to understand how these ‘patch updates’ can affect the long-term playability, and therein platform loyalty, that could result in gamers moving to other platforms – Amiga and Sega’s decline was, at its core, about quality. Microsoft and Sony need to heed the historical along with the current issues facing their next-gen platforms in order to protect their platforms from becoming obsolete.

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Xbox One vs PS4

PS4 vs Xbox One – A Tale of Two Consoles

There seems to be a very odd approach taken in explaining the sales figures of the PS4 and the Xbox One. Many news sources, like The Daily Mirror, The Independent and the BBC, seem to be reporting that the “Playstation 4 has ‘outsold’ the Xbox One“. However, many analysts argue that such headlines fail to really examine the crux of the whole affair. Are we looking at all this the wrong way?

It’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges. They’re fruit but they’re not the same fruit. This is a pretty good metaphor to describe the current tit-for-tat battle currently being enacted in the wider media. The Playstation 4 launched in North America only whilst Xbox One launched in 13 countries simultaneously. The on-hand stock is thus, in the case of the Xbox One, more diversely distributed than Sony’s. This meant Sony had more ‘onhand’ stock to be able sell more. This is not to say Sony didn’t break records. But we need to look closer at the detail.

On 30th November, InfoScout publish an ‘investors’ note’, guidance for fund managers to examine how retail sales would affect their share portfolios. The note reported on the Black Friday sales, America’s biggest shopping day, and how it affected each of the different consoles – both the 3rd and 4th gen Microsoft and Sony. The data saw that over 61% of sales went to Microsoft. The Xbox One accounted for 31% of all sales at Walmart and Target (two of the biggest US retailers). The Microsoft Xbox 360, now a legacy console, outsold Playstation 4 by two to one. It also seems in America, at any rate, the Xbox One outsold the Playstation 4 during one of the busiest shopping days in America. Now, poor old InfoScout took quite a hammering by the ‘establishment’. Time Magazine’s video games supremo Matt Peckham called the data mining and survey specialists approach a kind of “voodoo”. The reason behind this was that their multi-platform based approach was based on ‘projectable’ analysis over ‘representative’ analysis. There is an on-going battle within survey circles arguing the merits of each approach. Time doesn’t take much stock in InfoScout’s data. However, this is important. Time, as with the BBC, The Independent and The Mirror, seem to be focusing too narrowly on the similarities whilst ignoring the differences. It’s a very unusual case of apples and oranges being cross-evaluated by a ravenous press out for division and disunity.

However, Michael Pachter, media stalwart and chief analyst at Wedbush Securities – an investment and hedge fund company – argues Sony’s 1.25 million sales “thrashed” Microsoft’s 750,000 units sold. There seems to be a lack of logic evident here – Microsoft did not have onhand the stock to counter Sony in the US as it’s launch was global. It’s also worth remembering that Sony did launch the PlayStation 4 first in North America only, on the 15th of November 2013. Then two weeks later it was rolled out globally – including the UK. Microsoft, on the other hand, launched globally on the 22nd of November 2013. Sony had one week to push ahead in US sales. Microsoft’s sales need to ‘catch-up’ to Sony before we can really evaluate the differences and the wider impact.Xbox One v PS4 logos
What does ‘selling faster’ actually mean? Microsoft, on the 22nd of November, publicly stated that they where trying to re-stock as soon as possible after “unprecedented demand” from customers deflated available on-hand stock levels. In layman’s terms, they launched in several key markets at the same time and sold out! Sony, on the other hand, launched a week earlier on the 15th just in North America and then on 29th November in the UK. Sony, however, didn’t seem to have that much in the way of stock shortages? In fact, the media are only starting to report ‘possible’ UK shortages of PS4 in early December 2013. On the Xbox One side of the fence, they’re completely sold out – you are either looking at a Christmas Eve delivery date by most retailers or a £600+ eBay purchase. Is this all down to a Microsoft blunder? You’d think, Microsoft sat down and said to itself, “look, we are launching in x number of countries, lets make sure we have enough consoles to go around.” You hope they had the conversation. However, looking at the sales data – especially the Black Friday data from the US – we start to find nuggets of information that seem to indicate that on-par, Microsoft will outsell Sony.

What are the reasons? Many, like Pachter, argue that price seems to play a big role in the so-called ‘demise’ of the Microsoft Xbox One against its cheaper PlayStation 4 rival. Let’s look at the price dimension? Microsoft ships the Xbox One for £ 429 whilst Sony is selling the PlayStation 4 for £ 349. That’s a cash difference of £ 80. Now, some argue that since the Kinect is pre-packaged with the Xbox One that’s an extra purchase for Sony PS4 owners which adds an extra £ 60, for the Sony Eye camera. That means the saving is now only £20. Now, since you have to have a PlayStation Plus Network subscription – unlike the PS3 – to play online that adds a further £49.99 to the PS4 bundle. The Xbox One Live annual pass is only £ 39.99. Now, let’s add it all up and look at the total bundle cost; the PS4 with Eye camera and PS+ access costs £ 458.99 whereas the Xbox One with Xbox One Live annual subscription costs £ 468.99. That means the ‘real’ cost difference between the two is a mere £ 10. These journalists and analysts seem to think £ 10 will obliterate the competition and will help Sony reign supreme?

The perceived media success of Sony’s PS4 launch is based on the concentration of its initial US launch. This was a market they had been loosing steadily for years to Microsoft. They need a bigger percentage of the $42 billion dollar a year US video gaming market. They knew what they were after and went straight for the jugular. However, Microsoft was already king of the roost, back home in the ole’ US of A. They wanted to continue their global appeal. Two different launch approaches, one successfully stocked and the other it would evidently seem, was under prepared.

It’s also fair to say that the “zero sum game” approaches to the ‘console war’ will always fail to highlight the nuances of the wider video games market. People are brand loyal, they define their video gaming experience on the desirability and playability factors of their favorite gaming platform. The sales data is still raw, the figures still need to be crunched and as such, more needs to be done to better evaluate the full extent of the marketplace. However, let no one tell you Microsoft or Sony are going anywhere soon – they will be building consoles for a fair few years to come.

 

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Xbox One controller

Is the Xbox One just a very expensive paperweight?

The Xbox One is finally released, and boy oh boy are there some problems. I had originally begun writing this article before the release date and was going to focus entirely on the fact that the Xbox One would be a $500 paperweight if you didn’t get their day one patch, as indicated by the title. Since then, it’s turned into an “Xbox One is kind of a paperweight for some people and a flawed product for all the others” situation.

As told to Engadget earlier this month, Albert Penello, Microsoft’s senior director of product management, said, “Functionally, you will be able to do very little without taking the day one update. You need the day one update to do anything.”

Alright, so what’s the reason behind this initial blow? The Xbox One is actually running on old software. That’s right, every single console device is essentially loaded with the equivalent of Windows XP while the only way to get Xbox OneWindows 8 (or maybe you start off with a plain pizza, and the toppings must be bought after delivery?) is via an internet update. There’s no disc and there’s no negotiating, if you don’t have access to the internet with your device you will never be able to use your console. So if you have restrictions for internet usage or you have no internet at home, don’t get an Xbox One. It won’t work and you can get a paperweight at the store for a few dollars.
With all that said however, the actual release of the Xbox One has come with its own list of problems. Users were made aware of the day one patch, but were they made aware that many of the devices were defective? Of course, they weren’t. And somewhat insultingly, users stuck with a broken console were thrown into a never-ending cycle of trying to get it replaced via Xbox’s support centre. For example, if you need a replacement console you were required to talk to a representative on the phone and provide your credit card information for a $500 verification. Yup, you have to temporarily pay another $500 just to get another Xbox One due to a mess-up on Microsoft’s part. If that isn’t bad enough, the wait times for getting on the phone with a representative are a bit long… About 8 hours long. Ouch.

Some of the common problems the Xbox One has faced in the past few days include the following:

  • The console just doesn’t turn on.
  • The day one patch was faulty, and did not actually make games playable.
  • The console rejected discs and would eject them upon stalling.
  • The day one patch took several hours to download and had the potential of failing to install or cancelling the download near the end.

When you compare this horror show with the PS4s release (in the USA & Canada), it’s pretty obvious which one is the fastest out of the gates right now, but will it stick? Will Microsoft fix the Xbox One and return to having the best customer record of all consoles? It’s too early to tell, but the next two months will be the most telling on how the legacy of the Xbox franchise will move forward. You also can’t forget the supply problems Microsoft seems to be facing, when will it ever end?

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Xbox One

THERE’S NOTHING TO SEE HERE FOLKS: Microsoft’s quietness over possible Xbox One shortage means there could be a looming supply problem?

The Xbox has a very long history of product launch ‘cock-ups’, which is not that surprising when you consider Xbox is a subsidiary of the king of cock-ups, that is the Microsoft Corporation!

Microsoft has form when it comes to ‘supply shortages’. The firm, in 1995, launched the epoch-changing Windows 95 operating system – saying goodbye to DOS-style command-line management and saying hello to Start button-powered file management! However, Windows 95 was marred by shortages throughout Asia and Europe because they used the wrong country data to forecast sales. The same error marred Windows XP’s launch in Japan and Germany. However, in recent years Zune (the now defunct music service), Surface Pro 1 and 2 (Microsoft’s hyper expensive tablet computer) and Office 2010 have all suffered major stock or service shortages upon launch.

Even Xbox isn’t immune to shortages. The original Xbox, back in 2001, faced shortages after a component manufacturer’s factory burned down with nearly 33% of the entire global Xbox motherboard stock up in smoke! In 2005 – I was rather (un)lucky as I was not affected by the disaster, I was playing my brand new Nintendo GameCube with the delightful Star Wars Rogue Squadron which gave me hours of fun. During the launch of the Xbox 360, similar widespread shortages throughout North America and Europe affected millions of gamers. These shortages where blamed on late imports of devices due to a dock workers strike at several key US ports in late 2005.

Now, to be fair, a lot of the above was down to third-party suppliers who couldn’t produce the levels required by Microsoft to match demand. However, Microsoft has a habit, a very weird one at that, whereby they use companies they know – who have cocked-up in the past – to continue to create or source parts or products for their technologies? You see, Microsoft, doesn’t like to hit Ctrl-Alt-Del when it comes to terminating shoddy technology partnerships.

I have heard tell tale signs, tweets and whispers from, the so-called learned press to the beady-eye financial analysts who have all been blogging, tweeting and reporting that the Xbox One faces supply chain problems. Now, if you’ve heard Albert Penello’s recent comments (he’s the product development head honcho at Xbox), backed up by a whole legion of bloggers (who seem to be “connected” to a key Microsoft external advertising company, one MDC Partners – who have nearly $800 million in advertising accounts from Microsoft (which include Office, Surface and Xbox). That aside, Mr Penello said:

How can we possibly be having supply issues, when I have with me here a single Xbox One console?”

What’s strange is that general blogosphere, and somewhat unnervingly the so-called big tech media news platforms, have all recited, without a shred of journalistic inquiry, Mr Penello’s statements that there are no upcoming supply shortages?

Xbox One and controller

The Xbox 360 debacle opened the floodgates for accusations that the ‘shortage’ was a marketing ploy dreamed up by advertising executives in order to create a buzz that would increase demand – and in a way that’s what happened! I know, as I was one of those who paid a deposit for the 20gb Xbox 360 who, due to ‘shortages’ ended up with a hard-drive free 256mb Xbox and a voucher for a high street games store.

There is a lot to be said about Xbox using ‘shortages’ as a way of driving up demand as people flock to ‘order’ so as to be assured delivery of the latest console. That said, it should also be noted that when a company, and their marketing associates, start flooding cyberspace with statement after statement confirming that there aren’t any stock shortages affecting the Xbox One in the US, EMEA or Asia, then why are current UK and US retailers quietly complaining to their wholesalers about supply?

This intrepid journo, telephoned Britain’s three largest technology wholesalers and inquired about the possibility of stocking the Xbox One in November through a small independent bogus video game store. Initially, the calls where a resounding ‘yes’. However, details emerged that only ‘priority’ stockists could order today (October 15th 2013). These organisations, according to one company (who shall remain unamed) include Tesco and other multiple chain stores. Small independent stockists should have ordered back in July. That seems a pretty sensible answer – the big stockists will have greater demand! However, when asked about the PS4 the answer was okay and who do we invoice.

In China, the company assembling the next-gen console is the highly controversial Foxconn Corporation, recently in the news when it was reported that Chinese school children had to work on the PS4 assembly line to get final end of year credits. The Xbox One is not immune to controversy. The console’s assembly team have been working to tight deadlines – the pressure has resulted in nearly eighteen suicides since last year alone. These, heart rendering examples aside, there have been whisperings on Sino Weibo, China’s Twitter, that Foxconn is behind on assembly targets. One post, dated 2nd October 2013, which was removed within hours and only came to light when The Standard, Hong Kong’s biggest English language newspaper, published the tweet in it’s comments section. Other news, according to Reuters, found “senior Microsoft executives travelling to China” in late September 2013 to “engage with Chinese partners on assembly practices”. There does seem to be a problem – one that Microsoft and their supply partners want to be left unnoticed?

Whatever the truth – whether Foxconn and Microsoft are well ahead in the supply and distribution, there is a problem. Go on any retail platform and try and order an Xbox One. In an age of global logistics tracking, when giant corporations can literally track production from design, production and assembly to delivery, it seems somewhat bizarre that some of the world’s biggest retailers can’t seem to give an exact date for the second tranche of Xbox One deliveries in the US and US? I ordered a launch day Xbox One, I am, as such, a confirmed recipient of an Xbox One release day console. However, some people found it difficult to pony up nearly five hundred pounds to pay for a console, so a lot of people will be nervously waiting to find out if they will be getting their Xbox One consoles before New Year’s Eve. In an age when corporate trust has been eroded, perhaps Microsoft could have engaged with their fans and would-be fans by taking a more pro-active stance on communicating with the public as oppose to short-term fears surrounding stock prices and media publicity?

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