Tag Archives: Sony PSP

So Long, Sony: How the Demise of the Vaio Could Been Avoided

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 15.32.54In today’s iPad-happy landscape, where Apple enjoys full-spectrum cultural dominance of popular computing and where the number one consumer ambition is to slump on a sofa with a Designed in California, Made in China touchscreen device, it seems almost unthinkable that as recently as the early 2000s Apple was nothing more than a cult brand, and that the popular representation of computer nirvana was the Sony Vaio. The news that the Vaio range – long synonymous with quality engineering and great design – is going to be hived off to Japanese private equity group Japan Industrial Partners for around £300m, a tiny fraction of Apple’s US$170bn revenues for 2013 alone, has probably (and poignantly) passed most former Vaio users by.

So what went wrong for Sony’s flagship laptop brand? After some contemplation, our Creative Director & CSO thinks that Vaio could have run toe-to-toe with (and perhaps even beaten) Mac if the struggling Tokyo-headquartered corporation had gone into the middle of the last decade armed with three tactical stratagems:

1. Synergise with the PS2. Quite incredibly given the shared origins of the two devices, Sony did not even attempt to give the Vaio any kind of gaming edge using technology from the PlayStation 2. This omission became even more glaringly obvious with the release of the Sony PSP at the end of 2004: this portable console, essentially a mobile version of the PS2, proved that fitting out Vaios with advanced entertainment capabilities at precisely the time when most laptops were highly deficient in this regard was not merely possible, but eminently doable.

2. Own the OS. With Windows’ unique ‘blue screen’ feature starting to wear thin by the mid-2000s, the time was ripe for Sony to break with convention and fit its PCs with its own OS and multi-format-compatible applications suite. It didn’t have to look far to do this: as users of the PSP will testify, the XrossMediaBar was and still is an attractive, intuitive and memorable operating system which is as robust and reliable as anything dreamt up in Cupertino. LiveArea shows that Sony still has the midas touch in this regard – but do they possess the vision?

3. Drop the Price. With computing power breaking all records and processing capacity prices collapsing, Vaio remained a premium brand – but without the quality to justify the eye-watering price tags. When you can get a machine which works as opposed to one running Windows, functionality wins out over sentiment and familiarity for all but the certain user groups who are prisoners of Microsoft. Most of the rest will run like refugees to the Apple Store.

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Vita Statistics: Sony Handheld Console Sales ‘Acceptable’

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PES 2012: First Demo Suggestions from Mediolana to Konami #LLI

As the northern hemisphere summer elides into autumn, the attentions of virtually every sophisticated male mind are captivated by one thing and one thing only: the prospect of the forthcoming release of the latest iteration of Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (‘PES’). Having engraved itself into the hearts of all serious football fans during the sixth-generation consoles era, the general consensus holds that PES has struggled to assert itself on more contemporary machines: PES 2009 and PES 2010 were regarded as particularly flat titles. However, Tokyo-based Konami rebuilt PES from scratch for the 2011 version, and this incarnation – though buggy and inchoate – evinced tremendous promise; moreover, PES’s developers are ostensibly going out of their way to listen to the buying public, with no less than two demos being made available before the respective North American and European launches of PES 2012 at either end of a 19-day window in September and October 2011.

We at Mediolana have been fortunate enough to get our paws on the first Windows demo for PES 2012, and can say without hesitation that for the first time since PES 6 we are beginning to feel the force of Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka, the legendary Executive Producer of the Pro Evolution Soccer series whose every utterance has more ultimate meaning for most Generation Y-ers than the musings of Alan Greenspan; the game is smoother and more compelling than in many a year. Fouls – an endangered species since PES 2009 – are called with realistic regularity, the computer AI at last has a mind of its own again and the player modelling is often outstanding. Nevertheless, at least on the basis of this admittedly sketchy demo, Mediolana feels it apposite to make a number of suggestions to the development team at Konami:

1. Interface. The interface is still considerably less intuitive than in pre-PES 2008 editions of the game. For inspiration in this regard, Konami need look no further than PES 2011 for the Sony PSP, where the line-up selection mode is simple and clear while packing a lot of information into one screen, thus encouraging experimentation with formations and the definition of individual roles.

2. Entrance Scenes. One of the best features of PES on the sixth-generation machines was were entrance scenes which set the tone for the match to come: line-up diagrams which scrolled precisely into place, team photographs with plenty of camera flashes and excellent, appropriate crowd noise, with the ability to flick through all of these using X. Later iterations of PES have needlessly lost such elements which contributed immensely to the atmosphere of the game.

3. Replays. A feature of the game since PES 2011 has been the automatic insertion of endless replays of any incident resulting in a foul or shot at goal, regardless of its actual significance. In television presentations, fouls given in favour of the defending team in their own half are almost never replayed unless they are particularly violent or interesting; similarly, not every shot at goal is worthy of being seen again. This is something that Konami grasped brilliantly in older PES titles – constant replays destroy the rhythm of the game – and would do well to realise once again.

4. Presentation. Next-generation PES has featured a presentational aesthetic which, while generally clear, inclines towards blandness. For examples of how informational elements such as line-ups, substitutions and goal scorers could be presented, Konami should take heed of examples such as the football coverage provided by the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) for today’s J-League, or going a little further back, RAI during the 1990 World Cup in Italy. A title notifying the player of the main protagonist in any replay – a great feature from earlier PES titles, and something still extant in the PSP version of PES 2011 – should be reintroduced.

5. Gameplay. While even at this early stage it is evident that the gameplay is considerably better than in PES 2011, in our opinion the demo makes it a little too easy for the human player to adopt a possession game – there is not enough closing down by the computer AI in midfield areas, with even skilful teams such as AC Milan all too eager to adopt a long-ball game instead of a more nuanced approach – as opposed to earlier iterations of PES, where it was arguably too hard for most human players to utilise a possession game with the emphasis on passing through the midfield.

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