Welcome to the Weekly Initiative, where I bring to you some of the gaming headlines over the past week with a spin at the end.

Headlines for the week of March 11th to March 17th.

1. PlayStation Now is getting PS4 Games

In a recent announcement on the PlayStation Blog, Sony has announced that their subscription based streaming service ‘PS Now’ will expand its library to include Playstation 4 games. “All of the games in the service, including PS4 games, will be included with a single PS now subscription. We’ll share more information as we get closer to launch, so stay tuned.”

Having acquired Gaikai, the cloud-based gaming service, in 2012 and introduced it as PS Now in 2014, the service had not picked up as expected by Sony. Over the last couple of years, various PS3 games have slowly found their way onto the platform along with cuts in its subscription price to appeal to more audiences. During this presumed lull period, PS Now had acquired over 400 titles across its service.

In recent weeks, Sony had also announced that PS Now would be cutting service for PlayStation 3, PS Vita, PlayStation TV, and certain TV brands and models. Initial thoughts were that the service was consolidating and removing service for platforms that otherwise didn’t use the service, but this recent announcement of PS4 games arriving instead indicates PS Now was preparing for the arrival of PS4 games to the service.

Sources: Kotaku, PlayStation Blog.

This was a very interesting announcement when I first read about it on Kotaku. While no doubt it was also a play made against the Xbox Games Pass that was announced recently (similar idea, except you’re downloading the full game onto your storage, rather that streaming it), recognizing the move Sony made prior in cutting support for older platforms made me wonder how far down the pipeline this was planned.

PS Now truly did feel like it was going nowhere for a while. Their library was slowly advancing with games people likely already had on their own PS3 consoles, and streaming it on PS4 or PS TV for their asking price felt silly when it as simple as plugging in your PS3 to play them.

While not a true step to backwards compatibility that most audiences would want, this is still a good step for PS4 players to explore a catalogue of games, both in past and current lifecycle, they otherwise wouldn’t have cared to try. Its success largely will depend on the reliability of the service and how many PS4 games Sony can bring to the table.

2. Telltale Games CEO, Kevin Brunner, steps down.

Sources speaking with Kotaku has told the website that Kevin Brunner, CEO of Telltale is stepping down.

Having been with Telltale since early 2015, Mr. Brunner has seen the releases of Telltale titles such as Minecraft: Story Mode, Batman: The Telltale Series, and The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. 

Source: Kotaku.

As of writing, I’m still following the story originally on Kotaku, where another co-founder has taken the reins during the transition. Telltale games have always been a delight for me, in that I could simply play an episode for an hour or two, stop, and feel like I’ve made significant progress in an overarching story. 

Telltale will continue to grow in the coming years, that I believe for sure. I do wonder if they’ll fully take advantage of current hardware in the future, and perhaps fix issues with their own engine (hearing about crashes in recent titles — not good). 

3. Horizon Zero Dawn Passes 2.6 Million sold!

In the 2 weeks that Horizon Zero Dawn has launched, Sony announced that the new, popular title has passed a staggering 2.6 million copies sold mark. Developed by Guerrilla Games, of Killzone fame, this new Sony IP has gone to be become of the most successful IP debuts Sony has seen on the PlayStation 4. These sales numbers includes digital sales as well as physical copies sold to consumers.

As IGN notes, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, a well established title in the Uncharted series, “sold over 2.7 million units worldwide in just its first week.” To compare once more with another popular Sony-exclusive IP, Bloodborne had sold roughly 1 million copies a few weeks after its initial launch.

Source: IGN

I was very much tired of the open-world genre and style of games. Having come off playing Batman: Arkham Knight and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, I was exhausted of seeing large areas with way too many small collectibles and the occasional vantage point that needed to be scaled.

Horizon Zero Dawn breathed new life into my love of open-world games. It was alive in ways other games wished they were. It was dynamic in ways where exploration never felt cumbersome. And the photo-mode made me appreciate the attention to detail like never before. Taking a moment to appreciate the work and craft put it through framing every single picture was the type of relief I needed after battling it out with a Snapmaw (giant robotic, crocodile-like lifeform). 

I am thrilled to see its success. There is a masterful degree of refinement in this game, and it deserves the traction its getting. While I do have gripes with the Skill-Trees, and some of the gameplay mechanics (why do I have all these weapons when I only ever needed 2 or 3?), this game delivers a refreshing environment that’s beyond the world we’re familiar with.

I will sing its praises to the moon, but maybe not any further.

4. Persona 5 Previews.

With preview embargoes lifting for this niche Japanese Role-Playing title, reviews and journalists alike are pouring hours upon hours into Persona 5. Developed by ATLUS (now owned by SEGA), Persona 5 is the latest release in a franchise beloved by a large pocket audience.

Previews and comments on Twitter by figures in games media such as Andrew Goldfarb (IGN) and Jason Schreier (Kotaku) have been nothing but positive for the title, commenting on the bombastic and vibrant art design. Reviews Editor Philip Kollar over at Polygon had spent some-20 hours into the game, praising it for its visual design also.

Persona 5 takes a group of High-School students who are thrown into dire straits while having to live their every-day lives attending school, part-time jobs, meeting friends, while solving strange occurrences surrounding abusive authority figures.

Meanwhile, another niche Sci-Fi title called Mass Effect: Andromeda has not been doing as well, with criticisms over animation and frame-pacing during combat and cutscenes.

Persona 5 launches on April 4th, 2017.

Source: Twitter, Kotaku, Polygon.

I’ll admit just a bit that there’s a distinct love of the series from myself as well. And seeing the more prominent voices in the games industry pick up on this title, after not having seen a major numbered release since 2008 (Persona 4), was a delightful twist. 

Persona’s popularity has blown up over the years with several spin-off titles, two animated series’, and even a musical in Japan.

Having been delayed for several years, the anticipation for Persona 5 is high, and by all accounts it will seemingly live up to the reputation and hype. This is a beautifully niche title that isn’t really in the Triple-A space, but deserves a limelight. This has been a great year of for the Japanese gaming industry, which I believed to have been dwindling post 2015. Titles such as Nioh, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, I am Setsuna, Zelda: Breath of the Wild and NieR Automata are coming in big strides. There are exciting times ahead, and the success of these games are really going to determine the pace of Japan’s gaming industry, which many believed to be faltering and incapable of adapting.

5. Notable Launches of the Week:

This is primarily a section for myself to take a look at some major releases that have peaked my interest. Just one this week.

Danganronpa 1&2 Reload: Not even a new release per se, but having released on PlayStation 4 as a small set together, this crazy, weird, and borderline psychotic visual novel mystery is a fun little package and easily worth the money spent. Following a murder mystery where one individual in a crowd has killed someone else, it’s your duty to learn about each person and discover the truth. Although you’re also a psychotic stuffed android bear. Yeah.

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