Google today took the wraps off its Stadia cloud gaming platform, showing off a bold but largely untested vision of the future of gaming that involves distributing and playing software in real-time over the internet. We still don’t know a lot about how Stadia will work, how much it might cost, whether it will operate as a Netflix-style subscription service for consumers or use a different business model, or when exactly it will come out later this year. But we did get our hands on the custom controller Google built, the only physical piece of the Stadia package.
Surprisingly, the Stadia controller feels and looks great. Granted, we didn’t get to try it on a live Stadia demo, but we did get to go hands-on with the same white and orange model that was used onstage during the reveal. It has a heft and texture similar to recent Xbox One gamepads — specifically the one that released with the Xbox One S redesign — but with the thumbstick layout of Sony’s DualShock 4.
It features a USB-C port on top, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, and dedicated buttons to trigger Google Assistant-powered voice features and capture video of your gameplay. In a nice nod to gaming culture, images of the controller on Google’s website show it may have the Konami Code sequence as a barcode label on the bottom of the device, below the headphone jack. You can even type the requisite commands into the Stadia website to bring up a 3D model of the controller that you can inspect in your browser window. The controller we tried at GDC didn’t have the code on it, so it’s unclear whether the commercial version will feature it or if it’s just a fun Easter egg.
In one impressive demo shown onstage, Google showed off a feature that would let you use the Assistant button on the controller to pull a YouTube tutorial showing you how to overcome the specific hurdle or puzzle that’s giving you trouble in that exact moment in the game. The controller is also used to launch right into games that you may find on YouTube’s live streaming platform, so you can immediately start playing a title a favorite streamer of yours is playing at that moment.
According to Phil Harrison, former Sony and Xbox exec and current vice president at Google, the controller connects directly to Google’s data centers — rather than any specific screen you might be using — so you won’t need to re-sync it to, say, your laptop when you stop playing on the TV. In an interview with The Verge, Harrison says you’ll pair it with the Stadia network using a companion mobile app, which will connect the controller first to your local Wi-Fi network and from there to Google’s Stadia service.
We don’t know how much the controller will cost, or whether or it will come bundled with a Stadia plan. (Assuming there will be a subscription plan of some sort, which still isn’t clear.) But it doesn’t seem like Google skimped on this controller, which is a good sign for those who were worried it would be a cheaper, lower-quality gamepad compared with the devices that ship with Microsoft and Sony consoles.
And if you don’t want to use this controller, you won’t have to: According to Harrison, the service will support other gamepads, too. It sounds like the Google Assistant integration may be the only thing you’ll miss.
If This Is The PS5’s Launch Price, The PS5 Will Be In Trouble
Huge, unexpected news out of the videogame industry today: Sony has officially revealed the PS5–or, not the PS5, not officially, just Sony’s “next-generation console”, which is how Mark Cerny is referring to it in this exclusive Wired story outlining the first details that the company is willing to share about the new machine. And they’re some juicy, interesting details, things like an SSD, ray-tracing, backwards compatibility and a disc drive. This is all great, particularly the SSD. But there’s one number that I’m not seeing, likely because it isn’t finalized yet. And it’s by far the most important number of the bunch: the price.
A curiously-timed, wholly unconfirmed leak the other day appeared to drop a ton of information about Sony’s upcoming console. At the time, there was so much information that it seemed incredulous based on that alone: the leaker claimed to be a dev working on a PS5 title, giving us specs, details and even the launch lineup. Now that the console has been partially revealed, however, we can see that the leaker got some things right, such as backwards compatibility, 8K graphics, AMD Navi GPU and support for physical media. Even with that, we should remember, the leak should be taken with a heaping of salt. A lot of the details that the leaker got right are the sort of thing that wouldn’t be too hard to guess or the sort of thing that basically were going to go one way or the other. The leaker was wrong on the SSD count, which is a big thing.
Still, this leak now goes one notch up on the credibility scale, which means its time to examine some other parts of the leak. And one of them concerns that all-important number, predicting that the price will land at $499, the same price as the Xbox One at launch and $100 more expensive than the PS4. This might be the price necessary to get all that hardware in there, but it’s a dangerous price indeed, particularly if the competition figures out how to get in underneath.
The PS4 won the last generation for a ton of reasons, not the least of which was Microsoft’s utter flubbing of its messaging throughout the entire of the runup to the Xbox One launch. But at the end of the day, I can’t imagine that the biggest factor wasn’t price: the PS4 and Xbox One were ultimately similar machines, but the PS4 was $100 cheaper. In that situation, the cheaper option is just bound to win. Again, $499 is 100% unconfirmed, and the price is likely not finalized. But Sony doesn’t have massive sources of revenue to subsidize a larger loss–like Microsoft does–and SSDs are expensive.
I expect price competition to be even fiercer this generation as streaming services begin to lower the barrier for a certain kind of console experience and as Xbox seems ready to release a lower-priced entry-level console along with whatever will be considered the genuine competition for the PS5. Microsoft is also moving hard on its subscription services in order to produce more ongoing revenue from Xbox users, which means that the company might be willing to take a slightly steeper loss and hope to make up for it with Game Pass and Gold subscriptions.
US braces for future 5G world largely built with mobile network gear from China’s Huawei
US national security officials are planning for a future in which the Chinese firm Huawei Technologies will have a major share of the advanced global telecommunications market, and have begun to think about how to thwart potential espionage and disruptive cyberattacks enabled by interconnected networks.
“We are going to have to figure out a way in a 5G world that we’re able to manage the risks in a diverse network that includes technology that we can’t trust,” said Sue Gordon, the deputy to the director of the US intelligence community. “We’re just going to have to figure that out.”
Officials have not let up on their campaign to urge other countries to block Huawei – a company that the US claims to have close ties to the Chinese government – from their burgeoning 5G mobile networks, which will power everything from self-driving cars to military operations.
But they are cognisant that many countries already use low-cost Huawei equipment and will probably continue to rely on it, as they transition to the next generation of mobile communications, which will be up to 100 times faster than current 4G platforms.
“You have to presume a dirty network,” said Gordon, at an intelligence conference at the University of Texas, Austin last week. “That’s what we’re going to have to presume about the world.”
Already, officials have begun discussing ways to use encryption, segmented network components and stronger standards to protect key systems. The major US telecoms providers began several years ago to design into their 5G network plans certain features aimed at keeping domestic systems safe from spying and cyberattacks by adversaries and criminals.
US officials, frustrated by persistent demands that they reveal a “smoking gun” to back up their warnings that Huawei represents a security risk, have pushed the argument that Chinese laws compel firms such as Huawei to cooperate with intelligence agencies, without the judicial and legal safeguards that exist in the United States.
Gordon’s remarks – striking for their candour about the need to prepare for a future with Huawei in the networks – reflect the twin pressures officials face, as they to try to persuade allies that long-term national security interests should take precedence over short-term economic benefits.
Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, insists his company has never shared information with the Chinese government and it does not plan to. “For the past 30 years we have never done that, and the next 30 years to come, we will never do that,” he told CBS News in February.
German security officials have also urged their ministers to block Huawei from the country’s 5G networks. But there, as in other European countries, appeals to heed the security risks are competing with Huawei’s aggressive price-slashing that especially targets firms under economic duress.
“I can’t understand how German telecoms providers are so naive about Huawei,” said one senior German security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. “If the Chinese authorities want access [to the networks], Huawei will have to grant it and that’s a problem.”
Already, Huawei controls the 4G market in Africa, much of the Middle East, southern Europe and parts of Southeast Asia. “Huawei has a desire to dominate the 5G market,” said James Lewis, a technology and cybersecurity policy expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “There’s no way we’re going to keep them out everywhere.”
The fear that major US telecoms network operators have is that if Huawei corners the market, shutting out the handful of European competitors that exist, there will be no option for other countries in the future but to use Huawei.
The four major US telecoms carriers – AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile – have pledged to the US government that they will bar Huawei and another Chinese firm, ZTE Corp, from their 5G networks. But they must still connect with foreign networks, and if they are running Huawei, American traffic will traverse boxes that Huawei controls.
That has prompted warnings from officials, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who in Budapest, Hungary, in February told allies that using Huawei could make it difficult for the US to “partner alongside them” if their equipment ties into “important American systems”.
The US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, in March sent a letter to German officials saying the United States would limit intelligence-sharing with Berlin if Huawei is allowed to provide its 5G network.
US intelligence sharing “is a matter of life and death for us”, said the German security official. Last year, for instance, the US passed intelligence to the Germans that helped them track an alleged terrorist plot involving the deadly biotoxin ricin developed by a Tunisian extremist living in Cologne who was suspected of being inspired by the Islamic State.
Though the German government has ruled out a ban on Huawei, Jürgen Hardt, a member of the German parliament, said he believes officials in Berlin are taking the potential threat seriously.
“We are aware of the challenge and we are handling that challenge well,” he said.
Hardt said authorities have set a high barrier for participation in construction of the country’s 5G mobile network, insisting on strict security protocols he said would be difficult for Huawei to meet.
The German security official said he believed Huawei equipment would not be in any systems that underpin military or critical infrastructure such as water and electricity.
Britain already bars Huawei from government and all critical networks. And its presence in the commercial 4G system is limited to one-third of the components that are separate from the network core. The other two-thirds are split between the Finnish company Nokia and the Swedish firm Ericsson.
Some US officials said the greater threat is not espionage, but disruption of critical systems in a crisis.
Telecoms network operators like AT&T and Verizon have engineered features, such as gateways through which all untrusted international traffic must pass to be scrubbed for malware or other forms of attack.
“The 5G standard is being built with security from its inception, building on lessons learned from previous generations of wireless [systems],” said one telecoms industry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly on the issue. “And it is an iterative process, so that as problems arise, they can be addressed.”
Experts said that while 5G services will emerge over the next few years, a full buildout will take 10 to 20 years. It takes time to install network antennas on street corners across the nation, to produce fleets of cars that can drive themselves and deploy sensors that will power smart cities and factories.
That gives the US government time, if it starts now, to execute a strategy to seed innovation in 5G technologies so that more players can enter the market for integrating the hardware and software to compete with Huawei, said Thomas Donahue, a retired CIA analyst and former White House official who devoted 30 years to technology and national security issues.
Donahue, however, said “we will not succeed unless government and industry come together”.
“This requires leadership from the US government – from the top. In this regard, we may have something to learn from China.”
Konami Renames New York Office as It Refocuses on ‘Frogger,’ ‘Contra,’ More
Konami renamed its New York City outpost, 4K Media, in order to reflect its new approach to intellectual property rights management, the company announced via press release Monday.
Konami Cross Media NY Inc., the new name of 4K Media Inc., is effective Monday. It is a subsidiary of Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc., which specializes in brand management and production for multiple platforms, according to the press release.
“On the heels of a year filled with both change and growth,” the press release stated. “Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd. has announced that its New York City outpost, 4K Media Inc. has been renamed Konami Cross Media NY Inc. to reflect the company’s evolving, 360-degree approach to managing intellectual property (IP) for some of the world’s most iconic gaming brands, such as ‘Yu-Gi-Oh! Bomberman,’ ‘Contra’ and ‘Frogger.’”
Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd is the core company of Konami Group, and the developer behind popular game franchises like “Metal Gear Solid” and “Castlevania.”
Konami reported its most successful fiscal year yet last May, securing over $2 billion in revenue. The company credited this partly to the success of “Pro Evolution Soccer: 2018” and “Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links.”
The Konami report also mentioned an increasing interest in esports.
“In the game industry, efforts are accelerating to offer new experiences through game content in various ways, including esports, which are regarded as a form of sports competition and are attracting more and more attention,” the financial report stated.
Konami is also currently working on development of The Konami Creative Center, which will be a 12-story high esports-dedicated building in Tokyo.
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