next-gen next-gen

Gaming

I’ve lost hope in getting a next-gen console for the foreseeable future

On shortages, scalpers, and struggles from all over the place

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If you already have any of the next-generation consoles, you may read this if you wish. But for most of us, myself included, we all shared a collective struggle to snag one of the two highly-anticipated consoles late last year. Unfortunately, such struggle continued even into the new year, even when Sony and Microsoft were pretty optimistic about it to start.

Don’t get me wrong: the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are part of the future of console gaming. We’re talking technologies and hardware that supposedly rivals that of any gaming PC build for more than half the price. Even with a limited game library, game developers are adopting the next-gen consoles moving forward.

However, at launch, almost all units sold out in an instant — and the reasons are quite obvious. Months prior to launch, these companies stated numerous reasons for shortages on launch day. People like me were hopeful that restocking inventory would come soon enough, and would be enough for everyone all over the world.

But why are we still struggling to find a next-gen console?

Believe it or not, this struggle to simply purchase a next-generation console isn’t entirely on the industry itself. Sure, they’re running low on production staff, worldwide deliveries are a little messy right now — but that’s not 100 percent on them anyway. In case most people forgot, there’s still a COVID-19 pandemic happening in most parts of the world.

The pandemic put the video game industry on hold for a bit, as production for the next-gen consoles took a heavy hit. Because of remote working conditions and factories shutting down, Sony and Microsoft went out and said that launch day units will be scarce. I thought that they would just simply delay the launch, but nope — they still wanted to launch in November, on the exact day.

And yet, the next-gen consoles ended up being well-received by everyone — especially the ones that were either sent a unit, or successfully bought one. Both consoles sold out on launch day, mostly due to online pre-orders on Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and other retailers. Even here in the Philippines, eight retailers held online pre-orders and immediately sold out within the 5-minute window.

It’s pretty clear to me that there is a high demand for the next-gen consoles wherever you decide to buy one. However, the companies simply cannot provide regular stock as soon as possible due to a lot of factors — hardware shortage, mostly. Yet, Sony and Microsoft do their best to try and release more stock whenever possible so everyone gets an opportunity to buy one.

next-gen

What do you mean, everyone gets an opportunity?

I remember when Datablitz PH held its first online pre-order for the PlayStation 5 back in November, two weeks before the official release. On the day of the pre-order, I received the email with the link to the pre-order form and instructions on how the process goes. However, I was busy around that time, so I asked my sister to check the link for me.

Then, she texted me saying that every pre-order slot was full, even for the Digital Version. Slots went out so fast, it’s like the 5-minute window was way too long. At the moment, I had no complaints because I expected this to happen. This wasn’t the case for the rest of the internet as they took  their complaints to social media on the online pre-order system.

Another pre-order wave started, so more opportunities, right?

A second wave of pre-orders came in just last January, and I didn’t even bother with it anymore. Instead, I decided to lurk around Datablitz’s Facebook page and see the comments on their restocks and, well nothing changed. The claims were the same as the first time: bots from other buyers, while others are able to log in at an earlier time. There were even some conspiring that retailers had internal agreements with other people about it, which I don’t think is the case.

In essence, not everyone gets a “fair” opportunity at grabbing a next-gen console. It sucks that this has been a regular occurrence with premium items like this, and yet no concrete actions have been taken. But, I was thinking that maybe we’re looking at the wrong culprits here.

It isn’t the pre-order system’s fault entirely, and it’s mostly because this was an initiative by Sony and Microsoft given the pandemic situation. We’re trying to contain the virus here, and staying indoors for the most part is the best way moving forward. Still, I think they could have improved the process with every new run.

Wait, how come they have an abundance of stock of the next-gen console?

Instead, allow me to direct your attention to the scalpers themselves; you know, people selling you things for an insanely higher price. You’ve seen these people on a Facebook Marketplace or on Shopee, promoting that they have a next-gen console ready for you. Some of them even go out of their way to offer you a complete bundle to save you the hassle!

It’s not just these people that are participating in the grand sweepstakes for a next-gen console. In addition, there are also these (let’s just call them) unauthorized resellers who also somehow have stock of these consoles. While some of them do sell the console at either a fair or much lower price, there are those that don’t tell you that you have to pay extra fees for them.

PlayStation 5

In essence, these people manage to give you what you want: a next-gen console. The catch, however, is that you have to satisfy these two conditions to get it: be a sure buyer, and be ready to spend tons of money getting it. 

But, I thought that next-gen consoles were in shortage?

That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I kept seeing some of these “sellers” on social media. The fact that they have nearly tens to hundreds of units every other week just makes it hard to believe. Even when both Sony and Microsoft declared a shortage for the next couple of months, the grind continues for these “businesses.”

I say that they’re a business because these sellers claim to be such entities. They’re somehow able to capture a need present in their market, and provide the product or service to address it. As with most businesses, they determine the price such products or services are offered through extensive research and planning. For scalpers and unauthorized sellers, however, price setting is the easy part.

These entities will seek to supply everyone with as many units as possible, and they’ll find ways to procure them in bulk. You know how people were complaining that bots are taking their stock for online pre-orders? Well, some online retailers and news agencies are aware of such technologies being abused that way.

In my own experience asking one of these unauthorized sellers, they told me that they’re supposedly closely linked to the manufacturers. Also in some cases, they are not giving me a full rundown of any additional fees nor any proof of such. Yet, they expect me to simply abide by the payments since I got it for cheaper. In essence, they achieve the same thing as scalpers do by paying more than official retailers.

So, what now? Should we just wait for regular stock?

Admittedly, I’m already thinking that regular stocks of the next-gen console won’t be here for another 7-8 months or so. It’s not just because of the already announced shortages in hardware. Rather, it’s the fact that there is a higher chance that scalpers will get a hold of them first.

I feel like these companies were pretty clear on how they want the next-gen consoles to be received. In my opinion, they truly want to give everyone access to the future of gaming; that maybe you don’t need to spend insane amounts of money for crisp, clean gameplay. You know, something that you can do on a gaming PC but on a much cheaper yet strategic price tag.

PlayStation 5

Yet, these scalpers and unauthorized resellers simply want to make a profit off a need like this. Cry about it all we want, but these people exist and some people partake in their businesses. They’ve practically turned the next-gen console into a true luxury, something that the industry and some governments are trying to go against. 

I’ve lost hope in trying to get the next-gen console for this year, or possibly while the shortages are still in effect. At this point, I’d rather spend that money somewhere else, or invest it in the stock market. We could wait for regular stock all we want, but if scalpers keep getting these from us, there’s just no hope.

SEE ALSO: A somber look at the PlayStation 5 crisis

Gaming

NEO: The World Ends with You is launching in July

On multiple platforms

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After announcing that NEO: The World Ends with You is indeed coming, Square Enix has now confirmed the game’s release date — July 27, 2021.

Square Enix also released additional details about the game including characters, locations, and team battle details.

The colorful cast of characters is lead by Rindo along with Fret, Nagi, Minamimoto, and Shiba. These characters will interact in a cartoonized version of Shibuya, Tokyo and their communication will be presented with a comic-esque look.

As you go around exploring the city streets and sounds, you will uncover the secret behind everything. As Rindo, you and your group of friends must break the fate handed to you by this deadly game.

Platforms, Pre-order bonus

NEO: The World Ends with You will be available on the PlayStation 4 (PS4), Nintendo Switch, and PC on the Epic Games Store.

The PS4 digital pre-order bonus includes an avatar set that can be used on the PlayStation Network profile.

The PS4 and Nintendo Switch digital early purchase bonus are five equippable items once used by the legendary Neku. These items are normally unavailable until you proceed considerably far in the story, so they will give you a leg up in the early days of the game. These are:

  • Legendary Headphones — Drastically increases item drop rates from enemies.
  • Legendary Tank Top — Greatly increases Attack.
  • Legendary Shorts — Shortens the duration the wearer is knocked down.
  • Legendary Sneakers — Increases movement speed during combat.
  • Legendary Music Player — Enormously increases HP.

Early purchase bonus for the physical version are:

  • Pin: UFO Rescue — Hold the button to slowly restore your team’s HP.
  • Threads: Virupaksa Hoodie — Greatly increases HP.
  • CD: Twister (Neo Mix) — Adds ‘Twister -NEO MIX-‘ as a main menu music option.
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Gaming

Sony intends to bring popular PlayStation games to smartphones

Because mobile gaming is the future!

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PlayStation

PlayStation is an iconic brand that’s already testing many fans’ patience in countries like India due to the shortage of the latest consoles. While there’s no doubt that the console market is booming, it’s also a fact that mobile gaming is equally successful and considered the undisputed future.

In a job listing shared on the game forum ResetEra, PlayStation is looking for a new Head of Mobile. It’s a senior position that’ll be tasked to “promote the vision, mission, strategy for mobile game development within PlayStation Studios.”

“As Head of Mobile, you will own and develop the mobile game’s strategy for PlayStation Studios and help build a foundation for future growth opportunities,” the listing read.

PlayStation’s most popular franchises include Naughty Dog’s Uncharted and The Last of Us series, Polyphony’s Gran Turismo, Sony Santa Monica’s God of War, and Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank.

We expect the company to develop mobile-centric adaptations since a direct port will be challenging. Smartphones can run a game like GTA: San Andreas today, which required a bulky computer not long ago. A similar anomaly is now visible with modern games like PUBG: Mobile, which is a slightly truncated version of the desktop game but still retains the infamous battle royale format, an open world, and optimized experience.

Nintendo also followed a similar path and has made a fortune out of its existing assets. Even third-party publishers like Activision have cashed in on the gaming title, taking on Tencent’s PUBG: Mobile.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 review: A daring proposition

Bulky-sleek, with power you’ve relied on for years

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Strix Scar 17

Most gaming laptops these days are going for sleeker design options even with hefty internals inside. At first, you would think that it poses several issues with thermals and heat-filled components you can fry eggs on. Obviously, the benefit for it is a power-hungry machine for great gaming performance.

I’ve seen ASUS ROG’s previous STRIX SCAR laptops that follow a similar trend of producing sleek yet power-hungry devices. Unlike their other gaming laptops, these look and feel easy to bring around while equipped with the latest gaming-ready internal hardware. Again, with sleek form factors comes the thermal issues surrounding it.

So, when the latest version of the ASUS ROG STRIX SCAR 17 (G733) was launched, I wondered “what are these guys going for this time?” It arrived at my doorstep in a rather hefty packaging, with lots of freebies inside. Right out of the box, it doesn’t seem like it’s anything different from the other STRIX SCAR laptops they’ve had.

Wait, why does it look sleek but it feels bulky?

When I first removed the device from the box, it felt a little bulkier physically. Don’t get me wrong, I looked at it from all angles and it’s still quite slim and sleek compared to most gaming laptops. However, I felt that this gaming laptop has some heft to it in its sleek form factor at about 2.7 kg.

While we’re on the form factor, ASUS ROG manages to retain the same design features with one key difference. The review unit I received came in a pristine black finish, with the LED ROG logo on the lid. Of course, you can’t really take any of the RGB LED strips away from the bottom of the laptop. For ergonomic reasons, most of the ports are at the back, which is a great touch.

Unlike the previous models, ASUS ROG’s main gimmick here is the customizable Armor Caps for added customization. Essentially, they’re just a part of the hinge mechanism for the display that you can customize with any color or logo. Plus, you can 3D print your own cap if you’re not really a fan of the ones they have in the box. Personally, it’s not something I’d completely rave about but it’s nice that they extended the customization to that level.

Gaming performance, as expected, delivers well

One thing I would completely rave about the ROG STRIX SCAR 17 is its gaming performance. See, the device comes with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and an NVIDIA RTX 3080 inside the bulky-sleek form factor. Ideally, what you’re getting is, quite simply, a power-efficient gaming setup fit for the competitive scene.

Most of the games I played through this machine ran quite well, all things considered. Part of the reason is also because the FHD anti-glare display also came with a 300Hz refresh rate, which is pretty smooth. Although, it does come with a 3ms response rate so you may have a little bit of difficulty reacting to somebody one-tapping you.

Now, because this device came with a more modern RTX card, I figured that I should look at some games a bit separately. Hopefully, I’m painting a good whole picture here:

Standard, old-fashioned, high quality gameplay

Without even turning any RTX setting on, most games fared more than well on the ROG STRIX SCAR 17. Here’s just a bit of a run down of how some of the games I played ran with their respective game settings:

Title Graphics Settings Avg. FPS
VALORANT Max. Settings Agent Select: 367 FPS

In-Game: 210 FPS

Fortnite Battle Royale Epic Settings 119-133 FPS
Apex Legends Max. Settings using all 16GB of VRAM Lobby: 125-130 FPS

In-Game: 155-170 FPS

Call of Duty: Warzone Max. Settings 107-110 FPS
Cyberpunk 2077 High Settings 67-74 FPS
Rocket League High Quality Settings 255-264 FPS
GTA V Max. Settings 91-103 FPS, depending on the environment
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Ultra Settings 91 FPS

Clearly, the RTX 3080 slayed in most competitive and casual games alike, while also providing accurate colors and details. There were some instances of momentary lag due to too many things happening — especially with intense gameplay. However, for the most part, it’s a gaming machine fit for every possible game you could throw at it.

Turn on the ray-tracing power

Admittedly, among all of the games I played, only four of them support any RTX functionality of any kind. Whether it was shadows or immense lighting effects, my assumption is that the RTX 3080 can simply handle all of it. My goal here was to, at the very least, achieve a playable frame rate given how beefy ray-tracing is:

Title RTX Compatible Graphics Settings Avg. FPS
Fortnite Battle Royale Yes Epic Settings

For RTX: set to Quality and all set to highest

50-57 FPS
Call of Duty: Warzone Yes Max. Settings 98-105 FPS
Cyberpunk 2077 Yes High Settings

DLSS on Quality

For RTX: set to Ultra

54-58 FPS
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Yes Ultra Settings

For RTX: no option for it, but there is RTX for Shadow Quality

94 FPS

While I was playing these games, it was a pleasure just taking in all the visual enhancements ray-tracing brings. Reflections and shadows are present and in roughly full detail, and I still got close to 60 FPS on games with the ray-tracing turned up high. Then again, I’m playing on a FHD display so I still prefer replicating this on higher resolutions.

Pumping the brakes for a little bit

With an AMD chip inside this machine, I was expecting that it would last quite well under significant load. During my entire usage of it, I got about 6-7 hours using it for productivity purposes and a little bit of gaming. When you’re gaming full time at 60 FPS, I only got about 2 hours worth of juice on it — right around most gaming laptops.

Although, when you do need to fill it up again, it doesn’t take that long. In my tests, it took close to 2 hours for one full charge provided you’re not doing anything else. While you’re using it while charging, it takes just an hour and 45 minutes longer on average. It’s still quite fast, but it’s probably also a reminder for you to take a break from intense gameplay.

Now, the package also came with a 100W USB-C charger that you can use for both your phone and laptop. Although it doesn’t charge your bulky laptop that fast, it’s something quite nice to include as a multi-device charger. 

Staying cool under pressure

I touched on this earlier about how most sleek gaming laptops have some thermal issues with it. If it comes with heavy-duty components, the devices tend to get pretty warm and uncomfortable to use for a lengthy period of time. Sometimes, it would feel like you could fry eggs on your keyboard, but please don’t try to do that.

In the ROG STRIX SCAR 17’s case, it does feel warm around the sides and rear end — where most of the ports are found. When you’re playing for longer hours or under all that ray-tracing workload, it heats up significantly. I mean, just the air coming out of the heatsinks at the sides feels enough to burn my hand. Also, the fans tend to get quite loud at times, so prepare your headphones.

However, for some reason, it wasn’t uncomfortable, especially around the keyboard. See, ASUS used its patent Liquid Metal cooling technology for the powerful CPU and GPU inside. Even while boosting the GPU to push out better performance, the device remained warm enough not to make the keyboard an uncomfortable, hot piece of equipment.

About the other assets in the package

Apart from everything I’ve mentioned above, I feel there are a lot of other things to highlight for this device. First off, I thoroughly enjoyed using the mechanical keyboard of the ROG STRIX SCAR 17. It uses optical mechanical switches that act a level of clickiness with every key press, and they’re also quite accurate.

One other thing I liked was the inclusion of more ROG peripherals within the package itself. When I took everything out of the box, the ROG STRIX SCAR 17 came with the ROG Chakram Core, the ROG Delta RGB Headset, and the ROG Eye. All in all, it feels like a complete package that you can also give content creation or streaming a go for this device.

Also, inside the package is the Keystone II in a nifty keychain. Essentially, if you’ve had any of your Aura Sync settings or you just need a ghost drive, this is one of ASUS’s technologies that will surely be useful.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

At PhP 199,995, the ASUS ROG STRIX SCAR 17 has a daring proposition for the competitive gamer. On the outside, it’s a bulky-sleek gaming machine with a ton of RGB to go around and customization options galore. Inside, you will find one of the bulkiest and hottest sets of components assembled for competitive gaming performance.

Stream Like Water for better health!

It’s a package that ASUS ROG has delivered in many forms for years on end. Yes, they will come with the usual thermal issues and even a little too much RGB for others. Although it is at a hefty price point, it is still a device worth your hard-earned money in the long run.

Quite simply, the ROG STRIX SCAR 17 is a gaming laptop — to quote ASUS ROG on this — “for those who dare.” It’s something they’ve said for their ASUS ROG Phone 5, but I think it extends even further to their gaming laptops. 

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