Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Sony is expected to announce its next PlayStation console at its February 20th press event. Every day until then, Shacknews will look at PlayStation's history, and analyze what that could mean for the company's future.

Sony's investment in first-party development is arguably their greatest asset. Sony owns over a dozen studios which have been responsible for some of PlayStation's most iconic franchises: Gran Turismo, Uncharted, God of War, Killzone, and LittleBigPlanet are just a handful of the games developed by in-house studios. These teams have undoubtedly been working on next-gen software, and their exclusives will play a big role in how successful the next PlayStation will be. Today, we take a look at Sony's first-party teams and make some guesses on what they could be working on.

Naughty Dog/SCE Bend Studio

With numerous Game of the Year awards picked up by Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog is probably considered the pinnacle of Sony's internal development studios. Although the studio is shipping The Last of Us in May, it's incredibly likely that the team has something in the works for Orbis. Why? Naughty Dog is a two-team studio, and the Uncharted 3 team has been largely silent since that game shipped in 2011.

What could Naughty Dog's Uncharted team be working on? Given the success of Nathan Drake's high-profile adventures, an Orbis-exclusive Uncharted 4 seems like a safe bet, with the studio admitting that the series "wasn't conceived as a trilogy at all." However, Naughty Dog also has a history of abandoning franchises with each console transition. For example, the studio's Crash Bandicoot series was iconic during the PS1 era, with future games developed by Traveller's Tales and Radical Entertainment. The studio's Jak & Daxter franchise was equally popular during the PS2 era, but later games were developed by Ready at Dawn and High Impact Games. The Uncharted franchise will unquestionably continue, but it could be at the hands of another developer, such as SCE Bend (who developed Uncharted: Golden Abyss).

Sucker Punch Productions

Like Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch is also responsible for creating some of Sony's most iconic franchises--and then abandoning them. In the PS2 era, the studio created the Sly Cooper franchise before moving onto the Infamous series on PS3.

The studio has remained largely silent since, making a surprise announce of a PS3 game incredibly unlikely. Sony's purchase of the studio after Infamous 2 shipped would make it far more privy to next-gen plans than most. The company is said to be working on its "next big thing," which is likely to be a brand new IP--given the company's track record, and the rather final nature of Infamous 2's endings. (That hasn't stopped people from coming up with their own ideas.

Guerrilla Games/Guerrilla Cambridge

Killzone 2 was one of the more controversial games of the PS3 debut due to its use of pre-rendered target footage instead of real-time visuals. It's unlikely Sony will pull off that trick again, given the lambasting the company received afterwards. Once again, the studio has been incredibly quiet since the release of Killzone 3 in early 2011, and it's likely the studio is working on an Orbis launch game. Guerrilla Cambridge is working on the very-pretty Killzone Mercenary, freeing up the Dutch studio do its own thing. Guerrilla’s studio recruiter Adrian Smith said that in addition to a new title in the franchise, the studio was also working on a new IP. The latest rumor suggests that we'll see Killzone 4 at Sony's 2/20 presser--and not Guerrilla's new IP.

Evolution Studios

Like Killzone, MotorStorm made its debut using pre-rendered target footage instead of real-time visuals. Still, MotorStorm largely made good on its promise, spawning multiple sequels. Developer Evolution Studios is clearly working on something for Orbis, with game director Paul Rustchynsky also excited for Sony's 2/20 meeting. The latest rumor suggests that Evolution isn't working on a follow-up to MotorStorm. Instead, the team is working on a new racer that plays "in a manner similar to Project Gotham Racing," and will be "Europe's biggest racer."

Polyphony Digital

In addition to whatever Evolution has in the works, Sony has another AAA racing game in the works. And, this one was easy: "Of course we're working on GT6 already," Polyphony Digital head Kazunori Yamauchi said. Given Gran Turismo 5's lengthy development, it could be quite some time before we see GT6.

SCE San Diego Studio

Here's another given: SCE's San Diego team is undoubtedly working on an Orbis version of their best-in-class MLB The Show series.

Media Molecule

The studio behind LittleBigPlanet may be working on Tearaway, but it has another mystery project in the works. Considering the developer's significant R&D budget, expect their next project to be quite... different. Their next game won't be LittleBigPlanet 3, however, as the studio has already said it plans on stepping away from the franchise. LBP3 is rumored to be in the hands of Sumo Digital.

Whatever Media Molecule is working on for Orbis is likely to be revealed soon, as the developer recently updated their website with this bizarre teaser video.

SCE Santa Monica Studio

Santa Monica Studio has its name plastered on a lot of Sony's second-and-third-party efforts. However, it's internal development team is best known for its work on the God of War franchise. With God of War: Ascension due for release this year, it seems unlikely we'll see an Orbis game from this team any time soon. In an interview with Shacknews, studio director Shannon Studstill told us that the team had explored making a non-God of War game. Job listings suggested that the studio would eventually work on a vehicular combat game, which we posited could be for Sony's next-gen console. Given Eat, Sleep, Play will no longer work on Twisted Metal games, that franchise could find a new home at the house of Kratos.

SCE London Studio

London Studio has been rather prolific with its casual mainstream-appeal titles, such as Wonderbook, EyePet, SingStar. Expect even more family-friendly games from the studio. One big question mark is BigFest, an online gaming social network coming from SCEE. Could London Studio be working on what we presume to be Sony's next-gen follow-up to PlayStation Home?

Team Ico/Project Siren

Finally, we come to SCE Japan Studio. Project Siren recently shipped Gravity Rush, a game whose sequel has been teased by its creator. The future of that franchise seems to be on Vita, not Orbis--but anything is possible, of course. Perhaps the biggest mystery of Sony's first-party lineup is the fate of The Last Guardian, the latest game from Fumito Ueda, renowned director of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The game's troubled development has been well-chronicled, and was supposedly being "rebuilt." Given the impending release of Orbis, we wouldn't be surprised if Team Ico's latest is being rebuilt not for PS3, but for Sony's new hardware.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The delay of Rayman Legends caused no small bit of consternation among eager fans, especially once it was revealed that the game hadn't suffered any Wii U development setbacks. The sole reason for the delay, according to Ubisoft, was to have a same-day release on multiple platforms. Some of the development team, including creator Michel Ancel, has now shown support for a set of protestors.

Photos on Eurogamer show Ancel and his team standing with the protestors, who were holding a banner that translates to read: "Release Rayman: Support Ubisoft Montpelier." The banner also shows a crying Rayman saying "SVP" ("s'il vous plait," or "please"). This comes just after an unnamed former Rayman developer expressed frustration at the delay.

Ubisoft has promised a new Wii U demo to appease gamers upset by the delay, but so far has shown no signs of changing its mind and releasing the Wii U title earlier than the planned PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. Ancel and his crew showing support for the protestors doesn't necessarily mean they support the message--they could simply appreciate the fans' passion, after all--but it certainly comes off as a bit of civil disobedience to his bosses.

[Photo courtesy of Eurogamer.]

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Those PlayBoxes in the corner of your living room have been increasingly presented as (or increasingly become, at least) some sort of magical portal to all manner of non-game things, and the next generation will surely be moreso. Microsoft yesterday announced that it's formed a new studio to make more "true interactive content" for the Xbox and other devices, things like the Election 2012 Hub and Grammy Awards coverage.

Xbox Entertainment Studios, in Los Angeles, is headed by Microsoft president of entertainment and digital media Nancy Tellem, who was formerly president of CBS Entertainment.

"When I worked in traditional TV, we would find ourselves saying things like 'Wouldn't it be cool if we could add an interactive aspect directly into the show and engage directly with the viewers?'" Tellem said. "With Xbox, that is possible today."

Of course, you may not be excited about all of that interactive future. The Xbox 360 gained Kinect-enabled 'NUads' advertisements last fall, and who's thrilled to see advertising a bigger part of the dashboard? Though, worryingly, Microsoft said that 37% of people responded to "the first wave" of them. You people!

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

The risk of permadeath is what makes Diablo 3's Hardcore mode so thrilling, even knowing one single lag spike or server hiccup could spell your doom. Some people, however, have been big babies and refused to accept this, faking account hacks to get their account rolled back and recover their lost characters. No more! With the release of patch 1.0.7 today, Hardcore characters are excluded from rollbacks.

"In recent months, we've discovered that some players who've lost Hardcore characters through normal gameplay will fake an account compromise and request a rollback through Customer Support in order to get their characters revived," Blizzard explained.

"Hardcore characters were never intended to be revived or undeleted by an account rollback. Bringing Hardcore characters back to life via rollback really isn't in the spirit of Hardcore (where death is permanent, no matter the circumstances)."

Blizzard has wanted to exempt Hardcore characters for some time, but only now has the tools to do so. Bad luck, babies. And these baby shenanigans affect adult players too, Blizzard says.

"Not only is this an abuse of the services we provide to the community, but it also impacts other players who have submitted legitimate inquiries by increasing wait times across the board."

Patch 1.0.7 launches today with great gobs of changes, including a new 'Brawling' duel system, new recipes, Monster Power changes, balance tweaks, and loads more. Until the final patch notes hit, check out the old test realm notes.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

An earlier Crysis 3 trailer wanted to inspire awkward feelings of awe and arousal for one of the FPS's guns, apparently. Now a new commercial wants to spark similar desires for its protagonist, with a little help from ZZ Top. Boys want to be him, I guess, and girls want to be with him, probably. Every girl's crazy about a sharp-dressed man, after all.

I've often remarked that the first-person shooter genre is severely lacking in smarm, cockiness, and other brosome qualities, so it's good to see EA taking steps to resolve this critical flaw.

Made by Crytek, Crysis 3 comes to PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 next Tuesday, February 19.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Borderlands 2 has enjoyed a certain level of sustained success, thanks to its steady stream of downloadable content and varied classes. One element new to the series that has kept fans coming back, though, has been the Shift codes. Initially a fairly rare novelty, Gearbox has been keeping players engaged with social events handing out the codes like candy. Gearbox president Randy Pitchford sees this as a system they can get use out of in other games and franchises.

"It's kind of like letting you into an insiders club," Pitchford told IGN. "What's interesting about SHiFT is we built this infrastructure because we wanted to be able to tighten the relationship between the gamer playing the game, the game itself on that system, and us. There's a lot of manifestations of that. We needed an infrastructure to do that.

"We created this platform because we intended to use it," he continued. "It's likely that this platform will be useful to any game that we do where there's some value in having the ability to connect between the customer playing the game and us, having that relationship." He says future iterations of the platform could build upon it with "more options, more functionality," based on this framework.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Batman: Arkham City followed about two years after Arkham Asylum, which means we're about due for another game revolving around Gotham's favorite insanity hotspot. Warner has confirmed that another title in the franchise is due this year, though it hasn't given much else in the way of official info.

"We also have a strong games release this year, which will include the next release in the Batman Arkham franchise," Time Warner CFO John K. Martin said in an earnings call. It's unclear if Martin was referring to the calendar year or the fiscal year, the latter of which could go into March of 2014.

VG247 also cites sources claiming that Rocksteady isn't developing this game. We had previously heard rumors that the next Arkham game would be a prequel set in the Silver Age, detailing Batman's first confrontation with the Joker. This was purportedly part of an effort to team Batman up with other DC heroes, as was common practice during the Silver Age of comic books. That report also claimed the game would not be coming until 2014 at the earliest.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Naughty Dog's highly-anticipated survival game The Last of Us has already set a date for May 7. Despite that, and with no official word from Naughty Dog or Sony, a set of retailers all seem to agree that the game is now set for June 18 instead.

Best Buy and Walmart now show the game's release date as June 18. GameStop still lists the Pandemic Edition for its regular date, but shows the Standard and Survival Editions for June 18, which could be chalked up to simply not updating each of the pages yet. This goes hand-in-hand with a tweet (via VG247) from a Best Buy customer who claimed to have received notice that his pre-order was delayed. VG Revolution has a scan of the delay e-mail, for any skeptics.

This would be a heck of a lot of smoke for no fire, but it's strictly a rumor until we hear official word. Shacknews has contacted Sony, and will update as more information becomes available.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Sure, you've saved alien races, conquered medieval Europe, and vanquished the Nazis a dozen times over, but do you have the turn-based strategy chops to defend a summer camp from the horrors lurking in the woods? Twofold Secret today launched a demo of Camp Keepalive, a TBS inspired by 1980s horror movies.

Camp Keepalive puts you in charge of a team of four counsellors with powers to help ward off the nasties, from slaying monsters to rallying campers. Their parents would be awfully unhappy if their little dumpling were chainsawed or bitten by a werewolf, after all.

The demo packs a tutorial and the survival mode, with endless amounts of spoiled brats to rescue. The finished version will offer more monsters and counsellors, and the multi-map Camp mode where, Twofold says, "your every decision could come back to haunt you."

Download the demo for PC or Mac from the official site. Or, grab the demo from Shacknews for Windows or Mac.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Crytek has spoken before about its hopes for free-to-play, hoping to escape the conventional retail model and solely make free-to-play games. The Crysis developer doesn't feel quite ready to make the switch yet but whether it takes two years or five, CEO Cevat Yerli has said, free-to-play will rival retail and Crytek will be there.

Crytek is ploughing ahead with free-to-play on PC with multiplayer FPS Warface and its F2P platform Gface. Consoles are far behind with F2P, though.

"So we have quite a few console titles in our pipeline that are [traditional retail games] while we investigate free-to-play on consoles," Yerli told VentureBeat. "But our primary goal is to make triple-A free-to-play games for the world market and transition entirely to that."

Yerli isn't sure whether that'll happen in two to three years or more like five, VB says.

Crytek also considered turning the multiplayer sides of Crysis 2 and 3 free-to-play, but ultimately didn't. Yerli has also idly pondered the possibility of a TimeSplitters on Gface too.

Gface is a social media platform for free-to-play games, with cloud gaming, video chat, and other shiny web 2.0 features meant to encourage sharing and discovery. It's a bit weird, designed for a market which doesn't seem to exist quite yet, but Crytek believes in it.

"If we could launch our games on a platform that already exists today, and we could get the same results, then we wouldn't build our own platform," Yerli said. "But we're convinced that our platform does some particularly new things that makes our games behave better. That's why we plan to offer this service to third parties."

A free-to-play Crytek, then: coming to a video gaming device near you at some point.