This was supposed to be the week of the Game Developers Conference, during which Sony and Microsoft had planned to reveal more details about the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, respectively. But seeing as how the reveals were to happen at GDC and we're still about three-quarters of a year away from the launches, the reveals were going to be aimed primarily at an audience of developers, familiarizing them with the wonderful new hardware they would hopefully be making games for.
But as you might have heard, GDC (and in many ways, the outside world itself) was canceled due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. So much of the messaging that would have taken place in the halls of the Moscone Center in San Francisco was instead broadcast online, first in the form of a Digital Foundry reveal of Xbox Series X specs, followed later in the week by an hour-long YouTube presentation from PS5 lead architect Mark Cerny.
I would have included some of the specs as stat entries below, but they're basically meaningless at this point. The week's takeaway is that Microsoft wins if all you care about is the numbers of each machine when compared against one another, but Sony has made a case that its custom hardware and approach to clearing bottlenecks as the game makes its way from the PS5's solid-state drive to the screen could make for a better gaming experience. It also has a 3D audio technology that it says could be great or just OK, depending on the shape of your ears and head.
There were no games, little in the way of new features announced, no price points discussed… It was just a bunch of numbers that might mean something to developers, a little to the rest of us, and life itself to angry uninformed people online who are crusading for their preferred multinational megacorp.
In short, there was nothing for people to look at to make an informed purchasing decision, and precious little for them to get hyped for unless drastically reduced load times are your thing. (And if they are, no judgments here. Load times are terrible!) That lack of exciting news may come as a disappointment, but realistically, it's about what we should expect this far out from the announced release windows, especially since there's no telling if the pandemic will force delays on that front anyway.
That said, at least we have more substantial reveals to look forward to, and without an E3 for companies to focus on this year, there's a chance we might not have to wait until June to see more.
QUOTE | "Thanksgiving 2020" - The official Xbox Series X website offered a release date for the system this week.
QUOTE | "An Xbox product page in some regions inaccurately listed the launch date for Xbox Series X as Thanksgiving 2020. We are committed to launching Holiday 2020" - Microsoft's Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb backtracks on the Thanksgiving date once the press started reporting on it.
QUOTE | "To ensure we adhere to CDC-recommended social distancing guidelines, we will be selling Doom Eternal a day early on Thursday, 3/19 as a safety precaution for our customers and associates." - GameStop doing its part to fight the virus by getting that revenue in the door ASAP. So noble.
QUOTE | "Each gaming station will have a full clean following each customer's session including all peripherals, works surfaces and chairs. We are also, where possible, leaving empty desks between players/groups of players." - U.K. retailer GAME explains that it's not only keeping its stores open during the pandemic, it is also continuing to run the shared gaming spaces of its Belong gaming arenas.
QUOTE | "Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers' experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time." - In a corporate memo, GameStop instructs employees not to comply with law enforcement officials telling them to close due to COVID-19 concerns. Instead, the store wants them to have the cops call GameStop's corporate office.
QUOTE |"Our Counsel has advised GameStop that it is not our view that it is an essential business." - A representative from San Mateo county, in an update to that same story, which has ordered all non-essential businesses to halt operations.
QUOTE | "Webcams, microphones, mice, keyboard, monitors, chargers, audio equipment, and more." - A list of items GameStop sells that the company told IGN qualifies it as an essential business.
QUOTE | "[W]e would leave quarantine, and we would try to spread it as much as possible because the world would be a better place without old and poor people." - Streamer Kacey "Kaceytron" Caviness will hopefully be sitting at home with nothing to do after that comment garnered a well-deserved time out from Twitch.
STAT | 75% - Increase in online gaming during peak hours since COVID-19 self-isolation ramped up, according to Verizon.
QUOTE | "Today when you tell people you make games, they just say, 'Oh, I hear you're making a lot of money, how much money do you make?' as if they're talking to a casino owner." - Jenova Chen of Journey and Sky developer thatgamecompany talks about a variety of negative connotations the industry has brought upon itself in recent years.
QUOTE | "The thumbs up gesture is actually the same as [giving the middle finger] in some countries. But yet that's the corporate symbol of Facebook." - Localization expert Kate Edwards talks about some of the more common pitfalls companies run into when they go global.