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Two weeks, 12 dramas. The most controversial console generation yet?

Above: PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One

The release of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this month has provided us with more drama than we could ever have imagined.

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up 12 of the biggest controversies that accompanied these new machines into the world.

Dead consoles, grinding disc drives, broken games, unwelcome microtransactions, sabotaged production lines, and bizarre gaming streams. You’ll find it all and more below.


PlayStation 4’s ‘Blue Light of Death’


You take launch day off and sit home waiting for UPS to deliver your brand new PlayStation 4. Finally, you get the chance to boot it up and … you get a blinking blue light. That’s it.

Rumors of this fault, nicknamed the “Blue Light of Death,” started trickling in before release, but the floodgates really opened once the PS4 hit stores on Nov. 15. Reports of the problem filled Amazon’s reviews board, gaming forums, and YouTube.

There are currently 868 1-star reviews on Amazon, most reporting units being D.O.A.

Above: There are currently 868 1-star reviews on Amazon, mostly reporting units being D.O.A.

Image Credit: Amazon

Sony was quick to respond, posting a detailed troubleshooting guide on its community forum. It suggested that console owners check their power cables, HDMI ports, and hard drives for damage or anomalies. It also recommended using the console’s safe mode to troubleshoot software issues.

The Blue Light of Death has since been attributed, at least in part, to damage caused during transit. A Sony spokesman told Bloomberg: “There have been several issues reported, which leads us to believe there isn’t a singular problem that could impact a broader percentage of PS4 units. We also understand that some units were reportedly damaged during shipping.”

The malfunction rate of the console is less than 1 percent, but that hasn’t made the problem any easier for those affected.

If you’re having this problem, the best bet is to work through the troubleshooting guide and then arrange for a replacement if it doesn’t help.

Sony is offering replacement units with expedited shipping to customers that call their support line: 1-800-345-SONY. Amazon is also replacing faulty units, and this time around, it’s apparently using better packaging.


Xbox One Blu-Ray drives going nuts

Some sounds offer comfort, like birdsong or the gentle swell of the ocean. The grinding noise coming from some Xbox One consoles on launch day was anything but reassuring.

YouTube videos appeared within hours of release, revealing the noise coming from the Xbox One’s Blu-Ray drive. Some discs wouldn’t go in fully, and some couldn’t be read. Either way, it meant trouble.

Microsoft’s initial response came in the form of a blanket statement: “The issue is affecting a very small number of Xbox One customers. We’re working directly with those affected to get a replacement console to them as soon as possible through our advance exchange program. Rest assured, we are taking care of our customers.”

And take care of them the company did, offering affected owners a free digital download of either Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Ryse: Son of Rome, or Zoo Tycoon.

Not all gamers are patient enough to wait for a replacement unit, though, and a low-tech alternative fix is now in circulation. It involves ejecting the disc, turning your console upside down, and repeatedly whacking it on the site of the Blu-Ray drive.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft does not recommend this fix, instead suggesting that affected owners get in touch with Xbox support at support.xbox.com.

Attempting to fix a $500 console with punches is obviously something you do at your own risk, but the method is seen in action in the video below.


Kinect swearing bans

Xbox Live will throw bad grammar at you if you're naughty

Above: Xbox Live will throw bad grammar at you if you’re naughty.

Image Credit: Twitter/@getB3NT

Kinect is the Xbox One’s all-seeing eye. Turns out it’s listening, too. Especially if you’re saying rude words.

Xbox One gamers started posting reports of bans on the Xbox support forum last week, which seemed to be triggered by the use of profanities, either in the Skype app or in videos created and uploaded from the console via Upload Studio. They were unable to access either Skype or Upload Studio, instead receiving the following, confusingly written, message: “Choose something else to play. Because of your past behavior, you can’t [access this service.] Xbox Live Gold is required to use Skype for Xbox One.”

Bad grammar aside, this was a worrying development. Reddit user MakVolci claimed their Skype ban was nearly instantaneous, saying: “Woah, this just happened to me. Was typing to my buddy on Skype, typed a few words of profanity talking about movies, and when I jumped back to Xbox One, it said I was banned from it.”

Microsoft has since responded to the issue, saying in a statement to Polygon that “the Xbox Live Policy & Enforcement team does not monitor direct peer-to-peer communications like Skype chats and calls.”

“Also, we take Code of Conduct moderation via Upload Studio very seriously,” the statement continued. “We want a clean, safe, and fun environment for all users. Excessive profanity as well as other Code of Conduct violations will be enforced upon and result in suspension of some or all privileges on Xbox Live. We remain committed to preserving and promoting a safe, secure, and enjoyable experience for all of our Xbox Live members.”

So while Skype is reportedly not being monitored, Upload Studio certainly is, and Microsoft is not afraid to ban users it feels are stepping out of line.

PlayStation 4 on Twitch TV: Shotgun, strips, and bans

Horse head on TwitchTV

When canny gamers realized they could use PlayStation 4’s live-streaming capabilities, along with the pack-in title PlayRoom, to broadcast themselves on Twitch.tv, things started off innocently enough.

One of the first streams was an epic call-in show hosted by a wonderfully photogenic couple from Washington. It got over 200,000 views in its first night.

There’s always someone who spoils nice things for the rest of us, though, and what followed made for a different kind of viewing.

Gaming forum NeoGAF paid close attention to the variety of nongaming content that suddenly exploded on Twitch. Reports came in of people wearing horse heads, folks carrying shotguns, a guy just streaming his cats, and many streams featuring breasts being flashed.

Twitch user Darckobra took the award for most inappropriate content, however. He spent his Twitch time drinking heavily with his partner before she passed out on the couch. Darckobra then proceeded to expose her breast to the camera for about 15 minutes. The camera went off for a while, and when the stream returned, she was naked, still unconscious in front of the PS4 camera.

Twitch.tv initially responded to this spate of inappropriate streams by banning individual accounts.

The company has since removed Playroom from its gaming directory, telling Game Informer, “We removed Playroom content from the directory because a majority of it was nongaming related. We will look into adding it back as PS4 owners become more familiar with the games-only focus of Twitch content.”


Kotaku’s PlayStation 4 HDMI problem

PlayStation 4 rear image

Above: A rear view of the PlayStation 4

Image Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment

Shortly before launch, gaming website Kotaku had a problem with one of its PS4 retail consoles. The HDMI cable wouldn’t fully connect, and the console wasn’t outputting a signal.

Something seemed seriously awry, and editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo included details of the problem in his PS4 hardware review, noting, “I certainly hope this is a fluke. I’ve asked Sony to share any insights they have into how common this issue has been. They’ve not provided any official reply yet, but a rep did seem surprised when I first told him about it.”

Thankfully, Sony collected the faulty unit and examined it, solving the problem. A small piece of metal at the base of the HDMI port pointed upward, and this had obstructed part of the HDMI connector. In fact, the metal had actually knocked some of the teeth from the HDMI cables that Kotaku had been using to test the unit.

When the Sony engineer pushed the obstructing piece of metal back down with a pin, the machine worked perfectly again.

In a follow-up article, Totilo explained that the problem may have come down to human error on Kotaku’s end, or it may have been a fault with the HMDI port or cable. “Sony doesn’t know. We don’t know,” he said.

Thankfully, this problem sounds like a one-off. But, being extra careful, you’ll want to check that everything is flush before connecting up your PlayStation 4 for the first time.


Xbox One suffers TV juddering problems in Europe

Yusuf Mehdi is chief marketing officer for games at Microsoft.

It’s easy to speculate that Microsoft created the Xbox One with the U.S. market primarily in mind. Full TV integration, a cornerstone of the Xbox One’s vision, has only a vague 2014 roll-out date for the U.K.

Worse still, running basic, live TV through the Xbox One is causing problems in both the U.K. and Europe, with the broadcast picture noticeably juddering.

Review site HDTVtest first noted the problem, which is due to the different TV broadcasting systems used in the U.S. and Europe.

The native frame rate of the Xbox One is 60Hz, but the U.K. and European TV uses a 50Hz broadcasting system. As a result, the Xbox One is taking a 50Hz signal and outputting it at a forced 60Hz. Richard Leadbetter, a game technology specialist from Digital Foundry, explained to Eurogamer that “every sixth frame will be a duplicate, resulting in noticeable judder on a lot of material — scrolling text on news channels, fast pans in TV and movies, and the left to right sweep of the camera in football matches.”

There is a workaround for this issue, which involves tricking the Xbox One into thinking your TV isn’t compatible with a 60Hz signal, thus forcing it to output in 50Hz.

To do this, you must set your Xbox One to autodetect HDMI from the display settings menu. Toggle the resolution from 1080p to 720p (or vice versa), and select “No” when asked if you want to keep the new resolution.

Unfortunately, this workaround means that games will then output at 50Hz, meaning they may stutter instead.

For now, switching forcibly between a 60Hz and 50Hz signal seems the only way to make sure that both TV and gaming outputs run smoothly in Europe. It’s a long way from Microsoft’s vision of having one box that seamlessly does everything.

Microsoft has not made any official comment on this issue yet.

DualShock 4 rubber wearing out

This damage is from two weeks use

Above: Down to the plastic with just two weeks of use

Image Credit: Reddit/Cayos

While most gamers are falling in love with the new DualShock 4 controller (which we recently covered in our exclusive four-part series), some have reported problems with the rubber on the analog sticks. Specifically, the rubber covering of the left stick has been wearing away or splitting completely.

While this problem was first noted just before launch via a Reddit post, it was largely dismissed as a one-off. Now that the PlayStation 4 has been in people’s homes for a couple of weeks, though, it’s clear this isn’t just an isolated incident.

The organized folks over at gaming forum NeoGAF have even started recording which batch numbers have the issue in the hope of seeing a pattern emerge. Nothing reported so far indicates that the problem controllers are from the same production run, so it could be more than just a faulty batch at blame.

The Redditor who originally flagged the concern cites an email thread discussing the problem, which credits a Sony representative saying, “Tell people not to press so hard.” This, of course, should not be taken as fact.

Sony Computer Entertainment has yet to make an official comment on the issue.


Xbox One microtransactions leave a bitter taste

Forza Motorsport 5

Above: Forza Motorsport 5

Image Credit: Microsoft

Remember the days when you just bought a game for $60 and played the heck out of it? If the Xbox One’s launch lineup is anything to go by, those days are well and truly behind us.

Ryse: Son of Rome, Crimson Dragon, Powerstar Golf, and Forza Motorsport 5 all have microtransactions built into them that either help boost performance or unlock additional items.

Forza has seen the biggest backlash against this system as the game seems to make unlocking cars by skill alone into a Herculean task. Why grind the same old tracks for hours when you can drop some cash and unlock that shiny new set of wheels?

The biggest letdown is for gamers who buy the Forza season pass, which drip-feeds you a selection of new cars you can’t just jump in and drive. Despite dropping $50 on the pass (on top of your $60 game purchase), you can’t actually access the cars until you buy them in the game through accumulating or buying tokens.

The most expensive vehicle, Kimi Raikkonen’s 2013 Lotus E21 F1 car, costs over $50 to unlock, and developer Turn 10 has now started to address concerns about these microtransactions.

“Based on the numbers we’ve seen from our first week of Forza Motorsport 5, as well as feedback we heard directly from you, we’re in the process of making some changes to the Forza Motorsport 5 economy,” said Turn 10 community manager Brian Ekberg in a recent blog post.

For some, though, the mere existence of such microtransactions in a full price retail game is enough to make them turn their backs.

A fan responds to the Forza 5 microtransactions in a GamesBeat comment

Above: A fan responds to the Forza 5 microtransactions in a GamesBeat comment

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Did Foxconn iterns really sabotage the PS4?

foxconn workers i love

On Nov. 15, a new member started a thread at IGN’s gaming forum, claiming to know something about the hardware issues the PlayStation 4 was having.

The member, known as “qbroid,” posted a screenshot showing a comment from a Chinese forum. The comment reportedly came from a Chinese student who worked as an intern at electronics manufacturer Foxconn, which helped produce the PlayStation 4.

Qbroid translated the post as saying: “Since Foxconn are not treating us well, we will not treat PS4 console well. The PS4 console we assemble can be turned on at best.”

Qbroid followed up this post with more alleged comments from students, including one that read, “I throw PS4 down every day, three together once.”

It’s no secret that students worked at Foxconn this summer on a basic wage as part of a compulsory internship. Foxconn has also confirmed that these students were given night shifts and overtime in violation of its own policies. Whether these students felt so aggrieved as to deliberately sabotage their own production line, though, is far from clear.

Kotaku examined the IGN comments a few days later, deciding that there was too little substance to take them at face value. The Chinese press, however, has been reporting on the PS4’s hardware problems, and a number of high-traffic sites have mentioned the Chinese forum posts shared on IGN.

This one sits firmly in the rumors category for now, but it’s an interesting rumor nonetheless.

Microsoft dumps U.K. launch personality

YouTube star KSI performing at the Xbox One London launch

Above: YouTube star KSI performing at the Xbox One London launch

Image Credit: YouTube

For the U.K. Xbox One launch, Microsoft decided to bring in popular YouTuber KSI, whose shouty FIFA commentary videos have brought 4 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. But KSI’s onstage performance with U.K. rapper Sway was quickly overshadowed by the backlash that followed.

Social media reacted to the booking immediately as Twitter users questioned KSI’s suitability for such an event, given his misogynistic attitude and history of sexist behavior. KSI’s treatment of female attendees at 2012’s Eurogamer Expo — the U.K.’s largest video gaming event — saw him banned from all future shows, and he is notorious for making videos about his “rape face.”

Twitter didn't respond well to Microsoft's choice of Xbox One launch personality
Twitter didn’t react well to Microsoft’s choice of launch personality.

Phil Harrison, the corporate vice president at Microsoft, was unaware of KSI’s reputation when interviewed by GamesIndustry International shortly before the event, but he quickly got up to speed.

“At the Xbox One launch in London last night, KSI performed a song with three other artists, which was one part of a 10-hour event featuring a main stage show, Xbox One gameplay, and a midnight launch for hundreds of our fans,” a Microsoft spokesperson said the next day. “This does not represent Microsoft’s endorsement of KSI’s personal views, and we are not planning on working with KSI in the future.”

As for KSI himself, “Sexism is not something he condones or wants to be associated with,” according to his manager’s 550-word statement on the subject. Strange, then, that he raps the line, “That b**ch, I’ll smack her like Chris Brown,” in a Q&A video released Nov. 17.


Battlefield 4 broken

Battlefield 4 - Fishing in Baku screen 3

Developer DICE proudly proclaimed that the Xbox One and PS4 versions of its first-person shooter Battlefield 4 would offer console gamers their first chance to enjoy the full 64-player Battlefield experience.

Console gamers were just as hyped until they actually tried it.

PlayStation 4 owners got to test out Battlefield 4 first, and it was found severely wanting. Single-player sessions crashed, game installs became corrupted, save files were lost, and multiplayer was nearly unplayable. The error code CE-34878-0, visible during crashes, has 27 pages of discussion dedicated to it at the Battlefield forum.

Publisher Electronic Arts initially blamed crashing and freezing issues on Sony’s 1.5 firmware update for PlayStation 4 via a message on its help forums. This message was subsequently deleted because it was “posted in error,” according to an Electronic Arts spokesperson.

Two patches later, and the game is starting to take shape. Twitter user Nil Thacker is kindly providing the Battlefield Twitter account with his own personal status reports.

 Not looking great on day 7

Not looking great on day seven.
Well, at least conquest mode is now working

Above: Well, at least Conquest mode is now working.

Image Credit: Twitter/@nilthacker
Hmmm..... no servers?

Above: Hmm … no servers?

Image Credit: Twitter/@nilthacker

So server issues and single-player concerns still exist, but at least the 64-player Conquest mode is now working.

As for Xbox One owners, they’re playing catch-up and are experiencing a lot of the same problems. Multiplayer is still crashing, and connecting to game servers is proving troublesome for some players.

In an open letter to the Battlefield playing community last week, DICE general manager Karl Magnus Troedsson addressed these problems, saying, “I am extremely proud of the people at DICE and everyone across EA that contributed to the development of Battlefield 4. However, I am less proud to see that the game has experienced some turbulence during the launch period.”

Andrew Wilson, the CEO of publisher Electronic Arts, also acknowledged the challenges of next-gen as we noted in our review of Battlefield 4:

“We have had our challenges with stability issues on Battlefield 4, and the DICE team is 100 percent focused on understanding and resolving the problems that some players have been having. We won’t rest until we get things fixed,” Wilson said in a blog post.


Graphical disappointments and cardboard crowds

Be afraid of the Forza 5 clone army

Above: Be very afraid of the Forza Motorsport 5 clone army

Image Credit: NeoGaf/chubigans

Next-gen graphics should have blown us away, but developers have had to make compromises.

Take Forza Motorsport 5, for instance, the flagship Xbox One racing game. It’s a fine-looking title by anyone’s standards, but it isn’t quite the graphical showcase it could have been. Just take a look at the shot above of the crowd.

While a racing game is all about the cars, the virtual crowd that Forza developer Turn 10 has delivered in its final build is a mass of static 2D clones wearing an array of colorful shirts. The footage from the Electronic Entertainment Expo, meanwhile, and the build of the game showcased on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, promised an animated 3D crowd cheering on the race.

Other differences between the E3 and retail versions of Forza have been debated long and hard this week, but the general consensus is that the game just doesn’t look as good as it did in the previews — something you can clearly see in the comparative screens below.

While the graphical downgrades were probably a payoff for Forza Motorsport 5 hitting a frame rate of 60fps (the Holy Grail of gaming performance), they are still disappointing.

Prague in the Forza 5 E3 footage

Above: Prague in the Forza 5 E3 footage

Image Credit: NeoGaf/chubigans
Forza 5 track

Above: The equivalent scene in the release version of Forza 5

Image Credit: NeoGaf/chubigans
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