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MALTATODAY 4 October 2020

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13 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 4 OCTOBER 2020 The various representatives agreed that, at least on paper, the new Xbox seemed to out- perform the PS5, albeit slightly. "But that will not influence PS fans," Lawrence Azzopardi, of Gamers Malta in Birkirka- ra, told MaltaToday. "Because what the PlayStation has in its favour is the number of huge popular games that are exclu- sive to Sony's console." To counter the PlayStation's e d g e in exclusive games, Microsoft is scrambling to acquire a number of gam- ing companies to secure more popular exclusive titles. "They have recently bought Bethes- da, owners of the hugely-pop- ular Fallout and Skyrim titles," Caruana said. "This is a smart move because if Sony wants to be able to include these games in its console line-up, they will have to go through Microsoft to be able to do so." The PS5 and Xbox Series X will retail for around €500, while the digital only PS5 and Xbox Series S will be around €100 cheaper. Caruana said that the two 'lesser' consoles would be more than enough for those who did not want to spend a lot. "But for real gamers, the Series X would be a better option because of its specifications and the experience it of- fers," he said. Azzopardi said that two PS5 consoles had the same specifi- cations and are backward-com- patible; but one version will not be able to take older PS4 disks: players would have to download their games directly from the PS store. "There are some downsides to this, as players will not be able to enjoy older games on disk, because the digital version does not take disks. "All games would be saved on the console's hard drive, with the risk of losing everything if the drive were to be damaged," Azzopardi said. But Azzopardi explained that with the digital version, play- ers would not be able to sell on their games. "We, like other outlets, offer for sale a vast range of pre-owned games at highly-re- duced prices," he said. "Many players sell us their used games, as the market for pre-owned games is very active. Owners of the digital-only PS5 will not be able to make some money off their games at all." It is not just the games that are sold: a quick search on Facebook's marketplace or will reveal the large number of PS4 and Xbox One consoles being put up for sale ahead of the November re- leases. A clear indication, if any more were needed, of how many Mal- tese players just cannot wait to get their hands on the new console, be it PlayStation or Xbox. "I've had over 500 bookings for the PlayStation but I had to stop because unfortunately, like Microsoft, Sony also suffered from a shortage of consoles in comparison to the number of pre- orders" The PS5 (left) is already bringing in hundreds of pre-orders, while no clear instructions are yet available for retailers of the Microsoft Xbox Series X (right) and the smaller Series S decisions in public, giving the opportunity to the applicant and the public to make com- ments and representations. Moreover, ERA will also be obliged to take into considera- tion the feedback from the pub- lic before arriving at its final as- sessment of a project and when making recommendations. This means that before a final Planning board decision, pro- jects will also be submitted to ERA's approval. The ERA's de- cision will however not be bind- ing. But the PA will be duly obliged "to take into account the ERA's position and recommendations, and incorporate them into its decision-making process". The legal amendments stop short on giving ERA a veto on projects having an environmen- tal impact. Only last year the ERA had formally asked for veto powers on developments in rural areas, in submissions to new PA rules. But this was not taken up in the new rural policy guidelines issued for public consultation. Most of these permits do not even require an EIA. A MaltaToday probe in 2016 had revealed that the ERA had objected to 69% of applications outside the development zones (ODZ) approved by Planning Authority. In its submissions on the new policy, ERA presented a radical proposal addressing this major shortcoming – namely that all development applications with the rural area should be subject to "its clearance prior to the is- suing" of any permit. The aim of this proposal is to ensure that "environmental considerations are intrinsically integrated in the development control process". "ERA believes that all devel- opment related applications within the Rural Area should be subject to its clearance prior to the issuing of any development consent." A similar proposal to give ERA more say in the determination of ODZ applications was made by planning ombudsman David Pace in 2017. Pace had proposed changes to legislation to ensure that appli- cations that are objected to by the ERA, are not approved by the PA unless the grounds for these objections are effectively addressed, and the necessary amendments are made to the proposed project. But this proposal has not been inserted in the first draft of the redrafted policy issued for pub- lic consultation. In its reply to ERA's submis- sion, the PA said the role of ERA as one of the "statutory consultees" in the processing of all applications including those in rural areas was already regu- lated by law. The law at present obliges the PA to consult with ERA but gives the latter no veto powers. But while the proposal to give ERA veto powers was not in- cluded in the first draft, most other proposals made by ERA to plug loopholes which led to the approval of ODZ villas, were in- cluded in the policy update. PN environment spokesperson David Thake recently proposed giving the environment watch- dog veto power on planning de- cisions about works in outside development zones.

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