The Weekly Wrap – ApocalyPSN, Project Café and more

By Nathan Grayson, Saturday, 30 April 2011 08:40 GMT

This week, we’ve decided to blather on for 15,000 words about PSN and the Royal Wedding. Kidding. Mostly.

PSN: Sony “could well have been negligent,” faces big fine

What happened: Sony made a boo-boo. Hackers took advantage. No one ever smiled again.

What it means: Our very own The Internet’s Brenna Hillier took a fairly even-handed look at the situation as it stands, and she made some excellent points. When hackers caught Sony with its pants down, the multimedia giant yanked said trousers back up with surprising swiftness. There’s just one problem, though: Sony forgot to tell us. And that’s “us,” the hyper-savvy, news-inhaling hardcore gamers. Just imagine if you were an average Joe or Joette cradling your partially lifeless console in your arms screaming “Whhhhhy” to the heavens. This article by Digital Foundry also merits major consideration, potentially kicking an already wobbly leg right out from under the whole “leave Britney Sony alone” argument. In a nutshell, Sony could have patched up its obvious security holes long before this happened, yet it chose not to. Worse still, some of said security holes are frankly astounding. The next few months, then, will be crucial, as Sony desperately needs to win back consumer trust or risk leaving another ugly scar on its already tarnished record. Unless it starts singing a drastically different tune soon, however, we’re not sure it’ll be up to the task.

Nintendo confirms new console will be playable at E3

What happened: We planted a big, sloppy kiss on our framed picture of Satoru Iwata. No we didn’t. That would be weird. But Nintendo did finally begin to return our calls about its Next Big Thing, and for that, we are eternally grateful. So, the facts: It’ll be at E3. It’s not releasing until after April 2012. It will have a controller with buttons, sticks, and other pressable doo-dads for you to coat with your dead skin cells.

What it means: The big questions – for instance, will it have a touch screen, will it be king of the graphical hill, will it have a really silly name – won’t be answered until E3. Still though, a 2012 release date seems likely at this point, which may leave Sony and Microsoft soundly beaten to the punch. Also, it’s good to hear that Nintendo’s not entirely abandoning traditional controls. It could have easily taken the Wii’s ultra successful ball and run with it (We mean that literally, of course. The new controller could have been a ball), but instead it chose to set up shop on the middle ground between tradition and patented Nintendo zaniness.

EA COO Schappert leaves for Zynga

What happened: EA’s second-in-command jumped ship for Zynga, the Facebook giant behind such popular relationship-wreckers as FarmVille, CityVille, FrontierVille, and the largely fictional VilleVille Revolution.

What it means: As evidenced by Brian Reynolds’ massive success with FrontierVille, there’s plenty of room for “traditional” gaming industry vets to thrive in the Facebook space. Having already snapped up folks like Lou Castle and Jeffrey Katzenberg, Zynga’s been moving its pieces into place like a pro, and Schappert’s another incredible hire. After all, we’re talking about the man who – among other things – spearheaded EA’s much-needed move into the digital space and, back at Microsoft, oversaw the launches of Halo, Gears of War, and the New Xbox Experience. Let’s face it: whether you like Zynga’s games or not, it knows what it’s doing. We’re calling it now: Zynga. President. 2012.

Diablo III “on the home stretch,” says Blizzard

What happened: Blizzard, notorious wielder of “when it’s done,” gave the world a thin strand of hope to grasp onto in the form of a development status update. “We’re definitely in the home stretch. We’re crunching. This is when the magic happens,” director Jay Wilson told The New York Times.

What it means: Almost nothing. StarCraft II – if you’ll remember – was in its “final stretch” back in February 2009. The long-awaited sequel then launched in July 2010. Hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but, uh, pop. Fingers crossed that Blizzard pulls its piece of hack ‘n’ slash heaven out of development hell before the end of 2011, but we’re not counting on it – no matter how desperately we want to.

Games industry pay up, conditions down

What happened: The results of Game Developer Magazine’s annual survey dropped, and – at first glance – the industry seems to be doing pretty well for itself. The average games industry salary in 2010 was $80,817 – up seven percent from 2009. Money, however, isn’t everything, and the looming specters of crunch time and job cuts cast a heavy shadow over otherwise happy news.

What it means: Once upon a time, stressful, crunch-heavy triple-A development was the only option on the block. Times have changed, however, and indie/social/mobile development’s becoming more and more alluring both in terms of workload and pay. Don’t get us wrong: big-budget games aren’t going anywhere. But there are plenty of aspects of their creation that simply aren’t practical, and this is yet another glaring issue to add to the already too-tall heap. Now, obviously, things vary from studio-to-studio, but by and large, they need to change to survive.

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