Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition Temporarily Free for PS4

Free is good

As part of that free Play at Home marketing campaign around keeping people at home during the pandemic, Sony is now giving away Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition for the PlayStation 4 until May 14th at this link. The other eight games from the deal are only available until the morning of the 22nd. No PlayStation Plus subscription is required to add any of these games to an account.

PlayStation 3 and Vita Stores Not Closing, PSP Still Losing Out

Start up those emulators

Last month Sony announced that they were going to shut down the PlayStation Stores for purchasing games on the PlayStation 3, Vita, and PlayStation Portable. A statement from Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Jim Ryan has backtracked on this closure, but only for the PS3 and Vita:

Recently, we notified players that PlayStation Store for PS3 and PS Vita devices was planned to end this summer. 

Upon further reflection, however, it’s clear that we made the wrong decision here. So today I’m happy to say that we will be keeping the PlayStation Store operational for PS3 and PS Vita devices. PSP commerce functionality will retire on July 2, 2021 as planned.

There are about 80 million PSPs out there that will still be able to download games, but not purchase new games. It’s absolutely ridiculous to trust any of the companies who are selling games digitally to ensure they’ll be available to purchase or download in the future. Even Steam today had blips with Rockstar games going in and out of availability. Right now you can’t buy Midnight Club 2 on Steam, for example. On that same store, dozens of older games that get new re-releases have their original editions removed from purchase. Sometimes the publisher or developer is at least smart enough to leave the original store page up and have the original edition available for purchase in a bundle with the newer version, they get more money and you get at least one version of a game you’ll never play but you can’t make the mistake of buying the old version if you’d prefer the newer one. It isn’t always terrible, you probably don’t want to be able to buy the wrong version of a game, but if the newer releases are broken or missing features, soundtracks are the most likely to get trimmed due to music licensing, well then you’re just out of luck.

On the Xbox platform you can’t buy older versions of the Forza Horizon game digitally, presumably due to car and music licensing both expiring, and there are the same problems with newer editions forcing out older ones, but at least there’s backwards compatibility, right? All of the backwards compatibility and availability is up to the publishers of those games and Microsoft. The original Xbox and 360 emulation probably could work as a general purpose emulator, but Microsoft has left it up to publishers and developers who may not even exist anymore to decide if you can run those games on the Xbox One and Series S and X consoles. 

So, I don’t see this reprieve for the PlayStation 3 and Vita as meaningful. The axe will fall on their stores even if it isn’t this year, just as it will for the PlayStation Portable. Do what you will with that information.

Microsoft Breaking Java Minecraft on Raspberry Pi with Microsoft Accounts

Minecraft was acquired by Microsoft about 7 years ago, but 2021 is the year where Minecraft is finally switching to Microsoft’s account system and an updated launcher that will leave out players who have gotten the Java version to work on the Raspberry Pi platform in the transition.

There is a free version of Minecraft for the Raspberry Pi called Minecraft: Pi Edition and while that version is in some ways more accessible to modifications the Pi Edition isn’t compatible with Minecraft Java or Minecraft Bedrock worlds and servers. Minecraft: Pi Edition can’t even run in fullscreen and hasn’t received updates since 2016.

Because Minecraft Java can run on any platform that can handle Java, users of the Raspberry Pi have been able to run it in the past as long as they had Minecraft Java claimed on their Mojang account.

Players have also noticed that any new Minecraft Java purchasers today get Microsoft accounts to log into the Minecraft website instead of Mojang accounts. All Mojang accounts will also be forced to switch to Microsoft accounts that don’t work with the old Java system and only work in Mojang’s new launcher that uses the Microsoft login system. The newest Minecraft launcher is a native app on Linux, macOS, and Windows that isn’t cross-platform.

Not everybody can afford hundreds of dollars to purchase a gaming computer in 2021, but it doesn’t take a lot to run Minecraft Java, and the low-cost Raspberry Pi 3 and 4 have been powerful enough to unofficially run Minecraft Java for a long time now. Unfortunately those users will be locked out of the platform unless players can convince Microsoft and Mojang to bring the new launcher to the Raspberry Pi or developers with projects like the alternative launcher project MultiMC can figure out a workaround. There is one other possibility, x86 emulation on the ARM-based Raspberry Pi might get fast enough to run the official Java editions of Minecraft and their Microsoft-account-supporting launcher but that probably won’t happen on the Raspberry Pi 3 or 4.

I bought a Raspberry Pi 4 for my son earlier this year to run Minecraft, but I was surprised to see that the Microsoft account was an insurmountable barrier to playing the game. Java is supposed to be cross-platform but Microsoft has found a way to remove that cross-platform support by tying it to their login system and launcher.

Solitaire is Now an E-Sport

One of the games added to Apple Arcade yesterday was MobilityWare’s Solitaire by MobilityWare+, and it has online multiplayer. Playing klondike solitaire alone is relaxing so long as you don’t abide by the timer. Adding in a second player who is trying to win first turns this relaxing game we have all been playing for the past 30+ years into all of the joy and frustration of playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds into a tiny bite sized dose of card-based mayhem.

In about an hour of games I’ve had moments of victory but the majority of the time I am getting destroyed. No foe has been greater than that of Liam. In one of our matches the game gave me the autocomplete option to let me quickly finish the match and I accepted the choice. As the animation of the cards returning to their decks started playing, somehow Liam rocketed ahead and won. They must have just hit the final card a moment before me and now I hate Liam with the fury of a thousand suns for besting me at Solitaire by MobilityWare+.

Sadly, Solitaire by MobilityWare+ is not available on the Mac, but it is on iOS and iPadOS with that Apple Arcade subscription. On the Mac I recommend playing Full Deck Solitaire, which has better card designs but no multiplayer. However, Full Deck has a ton of other card games built-in and even AI competitors for Texas Hold ‘Em.

New Games on Apple Arcade

Apple added a heap of games to their video game subscription service today, new games like Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat and old games like Mini Metro that have been updated for the service.

Having just checked out Namco’s Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat, it’s a decent version of the drumming series but it does feel a little bit like an odd one-and-done thing for a music game to be on Apple Arcade.

Part of the deal with Apple’s subscription service is that games on don’t have ads and won’t sell in-app-purchases. This means that you won’t ever be able to buy more songs for a music game like Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat. In terms of other ways for the game to work with the platform there is exactly one achievement and it is for completing the tutorial. It is fun to tap to the beat on an iPad, the drum controllers for the console versions are hard to come by here, but it’s clear that Namco got paid and probably won’t ever look at this version again which is a blessing for most games on mobile platforms that are riddled with ads and in-app-purchases.

Apple Arcade games are usually required to be on the Mac, and Taiko gives you a keyboard option there which is a great way to play it. However some of the games added to Apple Arcade today don’t seem to be in the Mac App Store. More might be available for users with M1 Macs.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the service because I don’t like ads and in-app-purchases in general but it still makes it clear that the Apple TV box desperately needs an update to run these games better. Many of them won’t run well on that device because it hasn’t been updated in 4 years.