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The DeanBeat: Sony shows off its immersive worlds coming … someday

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The DeanBeat: Sony shows off its immersive worlds coming … someday

A new GamesBeat event is around the corner! Learn more about what comes next. 


Sony showed off an impressive lineup of games with immersive worlds at the PlayStation Showcase, but it also used familiar sleight of hand that console makers use to puff themselves up. Many are a long way off, and some weren’t even exclusives.

The showcase served its purpose of hyping the games coming for the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 consoles. But, as always, the best things that Sony announced either don’t have launch dates or are coming a long time from now. And two of the games that it touted, Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online, actually arrived with some bad news. Those games won’t come out on the PS5 and the Xbox Series X/S until March, about four months behind schedule.

Of course, brilliant games take longer to make and more games are getting pushed back in the pandemic for all game companies. And we should not forget Sony had a wonderful exclusive in June with Ratchet & Clank. Perhaps Sony’s most painful delay, which it announced August 25, was pushing Horizon: Forbidden Wes to February 2022. That means its major 2021 exclusive will miss the holiday window.

And that hurts, since Sony faces some tough competition during this holiday season. The biggest troublemaker in that pack of games is Halo: Infinite, the next big Master Chief title from Microsoft and 343 Industries coming December 8. Microsoft also has Age of Empires 4 coming on October 28 and Forza Horizon 5 on November 9. These will help Microsoft capture its core fan base in the holidays and cement its lead in subscriptions with Xbox Game Pass, which is a real threat to Sony.

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Against those, Sony is launching Deathloop (PC and PS5 on September 14). It’s one of the last Sony exclusives from Bethesda, as Microsoft now owns that studio. Also coming are Kena: Bridge of Spirits on September 21 (PC and PlayStation consoles) and Death Stranding: Director’s Cut on September 24.

A holding action

Spider-Man 2 is coming in 2023.

Above: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is coming in 2023.

Image Credit: Sony

I guess you can think of the showcase itself as a kind of holding action. While we’re in the middle of a delicious fall season of games, not many of them are Sony exclusives.

In some ways, PlayStation chief Jim Ryan played a familiar hand. Without many exclusives to show off for this season, he showed off games that are bound to get fans excited, even if they are coming years from now. Those teaser trailers may be enough to keep Sony fans from defecting to other platforms.

Ryan also did something smart in buying a different kind of exclusive. At the start of the show, Sony announced that Aspyr is doing a remake of a fan favorite, Knights of the Old Republic, as a timed exclusive for Sony. That’s good marketing at a time when the biggest exclusives aren’t ready yet.

The point of first-party exclusives

Horizon: Forbidden West.

Above: Horizon: Forbidden West is an important 2022 Sony exclusive.

Image Credit: Sony

Still, I can’t complain about this PlayStation show too much. Sony’s game studios are still the best at creating games with immersive worlds — the kind with single-player campaigns that you can get lost in for dozens of hours. It is holding the line in favor of these expensive games, even though it’s hard to monetize them with microtransactions or live operations. Many game companies are giving up on these titles as too expensive, as I’ve learned in interviews with former Sony Interactive Entertainment chairman Shawn Layden and many others.

“That’s the dirty little secret of the video game business is that it is a business, after all, and we need to create an audience,” Layden said at our GamesBeat Summit event in April. “We need to create a revenue stream and cash flow in order to continue to create new and exciting games for people to play. From a first-party perspective, when you’re winning the console business, and you have a vertically integrated hardware layer and an OS and then the game to go on top of that, it’s super-important to continue to stress the importance of original IP.”

It’s good to remember Sony’s role as a first-party creator of games for its own platform. It has to come up with original games that expand the game market beyond the few hundred million people who buy consoles. It’s very hard to come up with those games, as they can cost $250 million and take as long as seven years to make. And so sequels are often what companies fall back upon.

God of War: Ragnarok

God of War is coming again.

Above: God of War: Ragnarok is another key game in Sony’s PlayStation strategy.

Image Credit: Sony

Perhaps the most anticipated and impressive game that Sony showed is God of War: Ragnarok, the sequel to 2019’s God of War, which won many Game of the Year awards. God of War: Ragnarok got a long trailer reveal for its story and gameplay. But, you guessed it, it had no launch date.

Interestingly, Cory Barlog, the game director for God of War, said he isn’t working on Ragnarok. Instead, Eric Williams is the game director, and Barlog is working on something else. That’s tantalizing, and it may mean that Sony may be investing in more than one God of War at the same time. And Ragnarok’s storytelling, acting, and action-adventure gameplay looks impressive. If it’s as good as God of War, this is one of those games that could swing the balance of power in this generation back in Sony’s direction.

Pluses and minuses

Each game Sony showed had its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to flexing Sony’s power. It mentioned that Alan Wake Remastered is coming from Remedy Entertainment for the PS5 and PS4, but it had a vague release window (sometime this fall), and it’s going to be on Microsoft’s platforms as well.

Ubisoft showed off Rainbow Six: Extraction, where operators square off against aliens. But it was padding in the event, as it’s not exclusive for Sony’s platforms. While you can consider the Remedy and Ubisoft games as disappointments for those who want Sony to only have exclusives, some surprises were good.

Above: Forspoken is a Sony exclusive.

Image Credit: Sony

Forspoken impressed me. It features a female lead character engaging in magical combat in a fantasy world. The Square Enix and Luminous Productions game features writing from Gary Whitta (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Amy Hennig (Uncharted), Allison Rymer, and Todd Stashwick. That’s an all-star writing team. It’s coming on the PS5 and PC in the spring 2022.

One of the surprises is Project Eve, a Bayonetta-style action game that takes place on a ruined Earth. Coming from Shift Up, Project Eve takes place on a ruined Earth and debuts on the PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. It doesn’t have a launch date.

And we saw some tidbits for Naughty Dog fans who are waiting for the next big game from one of Sony’s most precious studios. Sony unveiled Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection (which combines Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy), a remaster for the PlayStation 5 and PC.

Above: Sony teased Marvel’s Wolverine.

Image Credit: Sony

Sony also showed a teaser of Marvel’s Wolverine and a new trailer for Eidos Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s good to remember that Marvel games aren’t always exclusives. Since Insomniac, a Sony studio, is working on Wolverine, we can expect that it will be a PlayStation exclusive with perhaps a PC version. More exciting, at least to me, is Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 from Insomniac. But that game isn’t coming until 2023, which might as well be in the next century.

Bethesda showed off Tango Gameworks’ Ghostwire Tokyo, which looks pretty creepy. But that game slipped, too, it’s coming on the PS5 and PC in the spring 2022. And that will be the very last exclusive for Sony from Bethesda, in my estimation.

Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty: Vanguard debuts November 5 on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. But Sony gets a small victory with the first public multiplayer beta on the PlayStation starting today. Next weekend, Xbox and PC players will get to play. That’s a very small advantage. But since Call of Duty is consistently the most popular game of the year, I’m sure Sony will be happy to remind us all of that very small advantage.

And I supposed I have to remember that the console war doesn’t end at the end of this year, just as it didn’t last year. Microsoft may score a lot of holiday purchases, but Sony will have good stuff early next year, including Gran Turismo 7 on March 4. And if I look back exactly one year ago, the shoe was on the other foot. Microsoft had a weak holiday, and Sony was king with the likes of Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

But I’ll ask Sony a relevant and snooty question. What have you done for me lately?

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

Here’s what leaked retailer pricing tells us about the performance of Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake S CPUs.

6core vs 8core cpus

Intel / AMD / janniwet / Shutterstock

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Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake processors aren’t upon us yet, but another price leak indicates they might indeed compete with AMD’s best CPUs, unlike current top-end Core offerings.

The latest oopsie comes from retail IT vendor Provantage, which puts the top-end Core i9-12900K at $605. The IT vendor also lists the Core i7-12700K at $420, as well as a Core i5-12600K for $283.

After news reports of the part numbers and prices surfaced, Provantage removed the listings. The latest leak follows reports two weeks ago—supposedly from European retailers—that placed the Core i9-12900K at $705, the Core i7-12700K at $495, and the Core i5-12600 at $343.

Before you jump to any conclusions, we want to point out that as reliable as a leaked retail price might seem, they can very unreliable too. Often times stores prep for impending launches by using placeholder prices and specs. Those listings are then updated when the stores receive the final information.

The leaked info itself from Provantage would indicate it’s not quite baked yet. For example, we know the top-end Alder Lake S chip will feature 8 performance cores and 8 efficient cores (Intel’s Alder Lake chips feature a radical new mixture of big and little cores), yet the listing at Provantage lists the top-end chip as an 8-core design. 

alder lake provantage Provantage via Hothardware.com

Hothardware.com snapped this image of Intel’s 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs at retailer Provantage. that has since been removed.

Still, both combined retail leaks reinforce what we’ve already come to conclude so far: Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake S will at least suit up with the intent to take on AMD’s 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X.

That’s a marked change from the $550 8-core 11th gen Rocket Lake CPU, which lost badly to AMD’s $550 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X chip. With the 11th-gen desktop chips, Intel didn’t even try to field a CPU against AMD’s $750 Ryzen 9 5950X.

With its increased core efficiency, newer manufacturing process, and physically more cores than previous Intel consumer desktop CPUs, it’s entirely possible Intel’s 12th Core i9 will actually end up being somewhere between $604 and $705 when it comes out.

intel alder lake performance core benchmark Intel

Intel is touting a marked increase in core efficiency with its 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs.

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One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.

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The best Windows backup software

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The best Windows backup software

Updated

The best programs for keeping your data and Windows safely backed up.

Rob Schultz/IDG

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We need backup software for our PCs because our storage drives won’t last forever. Backup software ensures we’re covered when the day comes that our primary drive up and dies.

It would be nice if Microsoft itself provided Windows users with something like Apple’s Time Machine: an effective, set-it-and-forget-it, total system recovery and backup solution that requires little interaction or thought on the user’s part. 

Instead, Microsoft delivers a mishmash of restore points, recovery discs, file backup, and even the un-retired System Backup (Windows 7), which was probably originally put out to pasture for its propensity to choke on dissimilar hardware. Online backup services are another option, but desktop clients tend to offer far more flexibility. 

Plenty of vendors have stepped in with worthy alternatives, and while none are quite as slick or transparent as Time Machine, some come darn close—and many are free. Read on for our top picks. 

Updated on 9/15/21 to include our review of the newest version of Aomei Backupper 6. It remains our favorite free backup software for Windows because it provides a near-total backup solution, with a generous number of features. As a paid program, however, there are better options. Read more about it below. And scroll to the bottom of this article to see links to all our backup software reviews.

Best overall backup software

There’s a reason True Image is renowned in the world of backup software. It’s capable, flexible, and rock-solid reliable. Indeed, it’s easily the most comprehensive data safety package on the planet.

Besides offering unparalleled backup functionality that’s both robust and easy to navigate, True Image integrates security apps as well, which protect against malware, malicious websites, and other threats using real-time monitoring. Read our full review.

Best free backup software

Among the free programs we tested, Backupper Standard wins primarily because it has the most features, including imaging, file backup, disk cloning, and plain file syncing, plus multiple scheduling options (see our full review). This was the case with Backupper 4, and the latest version has only added more options, making it a surprisingly well-rounded free offering. We hit a few performance snags with less-conventional system setups, but for the average user, it should perform as expected.

What to look for in backup software

As with most things—don’t over-buy. Features you don’t need add complexity and may slow down your system. Additionally, if you intend to back up to a newly purchased external hard drive, check out the software that ships with it. Seagate, WD, and others provide backup utilities that are adequate for the average user.

File backup: If you want to back up only your data (operating systems and programs can be reinstalled, though it’s mildly time- and effort-consuming), a program that backs up just the files you select is a major time-saver. Some programs automatically select the appropriate files if you use the Windows library folders (Documents, Photos, Videos, etc.).

Image backup/Imaging: Images are byte-for-byte snapshots of your entire hard drive (normally without the empty sectors) or partition, and can be used to restore both the operating system and data. Imaging is the most convenient to restore in case of a system crash, and also ensures you don’t miss anything important.

Boot media:  Should your system crash completely, you need an alternate way to boot and run the recovery software. Any backup program should be able to create a bootable optical disc or USB thumb drive. Some will also create a restore partition on your hard drive, which can be used instead if the hard drive is still operational.

Scheduling: If you’re going to back up effectively, you need to do it on a regular basis. Any backup program worth its salt allows you to schedule backups.

Versioning: If you’re overwriting previous files, that’s not backup, it’s one-way syncing or mirroring. Any backup program you use should allow you to retain several previous backups, or with file backup, previous versions of the file. The better software will retain and cull older backups according to criteria you establish.

Optical support: Every backup program supports hard drives, but as obsolescent as they may seem, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are great archive media. If you’re worried about optical media’s reliability, M-Disc claims its discs are reliable for a thousand years, claims that are backed up by Department of Defense testing.

Online support: An offsite copy of your data is a hedge against physical disasters such as flood, fire, and power surges. Online storage services are a great way to maintain an offsite copy of your data. Backup to Dropbox and the like is a nice feature to have.

FTP and SMB/AFP: Backing up to other computers or NAS boxes on your network or in remote locations (say, your parent’s house) is another way of physically safeguarding your data with an offsite, or at least physically discrete copy. FTP can be used for offsite, while SMB (Windows and most OS’s) and AFP (Apple) are good for other PCs or NAS on your local network.

Real time: Real-time backup means that files are backed up whenever they change, usually upon creation or save. It’s also called mirroring and is handy for keeping an immediately available copy of rapidly changing data sets. For less volatile data sets, the payoff doesn’t compensate for the drain on system resources. Instead, scheduling should be used.

Continuous backup: In this case, ‘continuous’ simply means backing up on a tight schedule, generally every 5 to 15 minutes, instead of every day or weekly. Use continuous backup for rapidly changing data sets where transfer rates are too slow, or computing power is too precious for real-time backup.

Performance: Most backups proceed in the background or during dead time, so performance isn’t a huge issue in the consumer space. However, if you’re backing up multiple machines or to multiple destinations, or dealing with very large data sets, speed is a consideration.

How we test

We run each program through the various types of backups it’s capable of. This is largely to test reliability and hardware compatibility, but we time two: an approximately 115GB system image (two partitions), and a roughly 50GB image created from a set of smaller files and folders. We then mount the images and test their integrity via the program’s restore functions. We also test the USB boot drives created by the programs.

All of our reviews

If you’d like to learn more about our top picks as well as other options, you can find links below to all of our backup software reviews. We’ll keep evaluating new programs and re-evaluating existing software on a regular basis, so be sure to check back for our current impressions.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Jon is a Juilliard-trained musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time (late 70s) computer enthusiast living in the San Francisco bay area. [email protected]

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

Or maybe they’re yoga pants for your thumbs?

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Razer has never been afraid to take a shot on products that seem unusual at first glance. Witness its RGB-infused N95 mask, the now-defunct Razer Game Store with its own zVault currency, or the first-gen Firefly mousepad, which has evolved into something special but originally prompted us to review it against a ripped-up piece of cardboard. The company’s latest offering might just take the cake though. This week, Razer introduced gamer thimbles.

Yes, thimbles. You know, like the Monopoly piece (or the sewing accessory for more worldly folks out there). Seriously.

Well, not quite. If you simply can’t abide sweaty palms and greasy fingerprints interfering with your marathon mobile Fortnite sessions, the new Razer gaming finger sleeve may be up your alley. “Slip on and never slip up with Razer Gaming Finger Sleeve that will seal your mobile victory,” Razer’s site breathlessly boasts.  “Woven with high-sensitivity silver fiber for enhanced aim and control, our breathable sleeves keep your fingers deadly cool in the heat of battle, so you’ll always have a grip on the game.”

Razer says the 0.8mm-thick sleeves are sweat absorbent, and that they’re made from nylon and spandex. So maybe they’re more like gamer yoga pants? But you know, for your fingers?

Either way it’s ludicrous. And unlike most of Razer’s gear, the gamer thimbles understandably (yet sadly) lack RGB lighting. But if you want to wear your dedication to the Cult of Razer on your slee…thumb, or maybe just look snazzier when you’re passing Go and collecting $200, you can pick up a pair of Razer gaming finger sleeves on the company’s website for $10. The truly dedicated can double down to look especially gamer:

razer gamer thimbles 2 Razer

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