Short-Takes: 9/19/14

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What are the possible ways this could happen? First, Minecraft is now getting released on the Xbox One and was just released for the PS4. Microsoft is taking in these sales at their highest levels. This not only includes new sales of software, but also upgrades from those who have it for the 360 and PS3. I bet that owners of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be dying to check out Minecraft Pocket Edition for their new, bigger screens. And while Windows Phone is still a fairly small portion of the market, it's fans arguably care even more about Minecraft, having already either played it on the PC or 360, and will still make an impact. Let's also not forget about Minecraft's own Realms paid subscription service, which offloads the hassle of having to make or join a server of your own. Microsoft will surely look to capitalize on this as it leverages its own cloud based offerings to power the game. just look at Halo. From one game, Microsoft has created a multi-billion dollar entertainment portfolio. With the wild success of the Lego movie, a Minecraft movie wouldn't be remiss, nor would Minecraft licensed, well, anything. 

Alex Miller:

That Microsoft expects to make up 2.5 billion dollars in essentially 6 months (as the sale won't close until later this year and their financial year ends in June as the article says) is incredible. The fact that I do not doubt that prediction speaks to the strength of Minecraft as a title, and video games as a brand. If you had told someone in 2000 that video games would get the same (or bigger budgets) than the biggest summer blockbusters, they would have called you crazy. Now that’s the reality, and while it can lead to more studios playing it safe with such massive investments, it also means the incredibly talented people in the industry we love have more to work with, and I think that at least is certainly encouraging. 

Jonathan Tung: 

By now, everybody has already known that Mojang, the creators of the surprise hit Minecraft, has been bought out by Microsoft, the same company that also happens to manufacture the Xbox line of game consoles. So instead of regurgitating the news we already know about, let's break down what to expect in the near future: Microsoft will still release updates to Minecraft on consoles other than the Xbox, meaning versions on the iOS, Android, and PlayStation platforms will still be up to date as expected. However, given Microsoft's current state of paying for times exclusivity rights, those updates might be delayed so that they will debut on Xbox first, which could lead to the company proclaiming that the best way to stay up to date on Minecraft will only be on Xbox One. Still, with Mojang's other titles not living up to the same hype expected from Minecraft, I fear the company will become nothing more than a one-trick pony and end up going the way of Rare. 

justpushstart.com 


EA chief lays out three-year plan, wants a 'player-first culture'


Jonathan Tung: 

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This coming from the same guy who thought online passes and having your own separate PC launcher was a good business idea. Personally, I call bull. So far, EA has been messing up in more ways than one in trying to win back gamers, from The Sims 4 suffering from a rather poor reception to the police militarization of Battlefield Hardline in the wake of the Ferguson shooting. If they want to win back customers, they might as well give us the players what we really want: true sequels to Need for Speed: Underground and Battlefield: Bad Company. That, or at least get their games back onto Steam. 

Alex Miller: 

I must say I disagree with Jonathan on a few points here. First of all, much as we may not like it, online passes and controlling the means of your games delivery to the consumer are both solid moves from a business point of view. Now, whether those fit into their "player first" strategy is more tenuous, but as a business move it makes perfect sense. Also, I think given the fact that Hardline has been in the works for at least a year (shown at E3 weeks before the tragic events in Ferguson and the absurdly militarized police response) and that cops and crooks is a pretty standard game team 1 vs team 2 setup (see GTA 4, Payday and Payday 2, etc.), its unfair to say the game is in poor taste. If anything it helps the issue of unnecessary force used by police forces in the United States stay in the public view. All that being said, I would question how well this "player-first strategy" has been thought out. Removing content from The Sims 3 for The Sims 4 has not been a great start, and if EA wants to avoid another worst company in America reward than I suggest they make sure they are truly taking this new strategy to heart. 

polygon.com 


GTA Parent Publisher Says Ignoring New IP Is "Kiss of Death"

Simon Wu: 

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Wise words from the president of Take-Two, but aside from briefly noting that new IPs should take up as much consideration as existing titles, most of the discussion then moved on to monetization of existing games during development cycles to keep revenue streams up. Rockstar has not had a major new IP for three years now, the last being L.A. Noire. They do, however, have two very promising titles of their own primed to launch for the new console generation: Gearbox's Battleborn, a co-op FPS with MOBA elements, as well as Evolve, the Left 4 Dead-esque 4v1 asymmetric monster hunter. 

Alex Miller: 

Spot on from Mr. Slatoff. His words regarding annualizing popular series highlights exactly what can happen (and what many think has happened) with a game series like Call of Duty; one that is annualized and heavily relied upon by Activision, "[b]ecause god forbid, one of your core IP starts to deteriorate over time, then you're in real trouble." And though the last time Rockstar came out with a new IP was three years ago, as Simon points out, they aren't releasing games every year so that’s less of a concern than if they were releasing games every year with no new IP. As I mentioned in the Minecraft article, these games are getting movie budget levels of funding, and that budget should go to making the best possible game. You can't do that if your releasing every year; it's just impossible to ensure the quality of the game with that sort of time. If it means we have to learn to get used to DLC and micro-transactions to support a game over a couple years, then as long as developers support them with quality content over the break I would support that move if it decreased the driving-into-the-dirt levels of repetition we see from some franchises today. 

gameinformer.com 

Short-Takes: 8-22-14

We've suspected that this was the case for some time now. Sony executives have commented in the past week or so that the amazing success of the PS4 has surprised even them. They also noted that they weren't quite sure who exactly was buying the device, a curious and telling admission for a major company that would probably otherwise have claimed to have masterminded all of the success brilliantly. I've heard many stories of gamers who have defected from the Xbox 360 to the PS4, generally citing its focus on... games. Finally, we see the fulfillment of the prediction that I made a while ago that by combining a focus on the home entertainment market and a very high price, Microsoft wound up with neither gamers nor price sensitive families. 

Alex Miller: 

While the impact of the Xbox One's high initial price cannot be discounted (luckily the console was! I'll see myself out...) I think the string of blunder after blunder from Microsoft's PR and media team really handed Sony a gold wrapped caviar covered birthday cake sprinkled with diamonds to celebrate their new console, point being Microsoft screwed the pooch and gave Sony a massive opportunity, something Sony has done well to capitalize on. However, maybe even more important than that has been the wave of fans who have lost interest/faith in Nintendo and have hopped over to their national rival. You can tell, beyond the comments Simon referenced above, that Sony could not have planned this by the string of things that have gone wrong for both companies. Sony is happily picking up the pieces (and customers) from each of their rivals 2014 troubles. It will be interesting to see how each respond. 

youtube.com 


Microsoft Testing 24 Hour Trial Access to Xbox One Games – Free Play Day with Gold 

Simon Wu: 

Hot on the heels of Sony's Share Play announcement, Microsoft is once again playing catch-up to their own vision. Game demos have always been around, but they've always been... well... demos. Finally, we see a concept of the game demo that incorporates some of the technological advances we've had since... the early 2000s? Both consoles now have preloading as well as streaming (although when streaming truly goes beyond menu surfing early access remains to be seen). Dozens of times, I've been scrolling through dozens of games, and while I've heard good things about some, there's no way I can find out for sure except by buying it. So I skip it. Allowing users 24 hours of free reign is a much better way for them to kick the tires than giving them one level. 

Alex Miller: 

I agree with Simon that looking at the game itself, warts and all, instead of a carefully chosen (by the developers) slivers of the overall game is a much better way to make a purchasing decision. I hope that this system can be successful, as I would like it to become the new standard for trials. The interesting thing would be if PC gaming followed consoles in this situation, as it has for most of the last decade. One of the main arguments for piracy (other than I'm poor) is that "Oh, I just wanted to try out the game before I bought it." Now, I can't condone game piracy, but I understand where people are coming from there. Games are expensive and with all the options out there gamers want to make sure they are making the right choice. If the whole game was available to try for free from the publisher, would we see a drop in piracy? It wouldn't disappear, sure, but I would be interested to see the impact. 

technobuffalo.com 


Pokémon Card Game Headed to iPad 

Simon Wu: 

Hold on to your butts. For ages now we've been saying that Nintendo simply must diversify beyond its own platforms. I've talked with a staunch Nintendo supporter recently who lovingly pointed out that a game called Youkai Watch 2, available in Japan for only five weeks on 3DS, has already surpassed sales of Titanfall, which has been out on three platforms for 22 weeks. Bear in mind though, that their handhelds are doing just fine; it's the console that's doing poorly, though at the moment they may have passed that crown to Microsoft. I think this is the very first, very small step in what will be a larger trend. When Nintendo gets serious about taking down illegal ROMs on the app stores and replacing them with genuine paid copies (or maybe free to play with microtransactions), then we'll realistically be talking about a three horse race again. 

Alex Miller: 

So, theoretically, "Pokemon" "Game" and "Headed to iPad" should be a sentence that brings joy to all people and lets Nintendo fire up their cash printing machine. However, it’s the inclusion of that little word "card" that throws off the whole thing. Sure the Trading Card Game was popular, but more as an accessory to the TV show and Gameboy games, it didn't have the popularity of Yugi-oh or Magic the Gathering when it comes to the card game itself. Obviously you would shank someone to get a shiny Charizard, but that’s just cause it was rare and you wanted it, not because you desperately needed it to complete your deck of cards. The fact that Nintendo is willing to allow their content on platforms other than their own is encouraging (I wrote a Mindshare almost two years ago on how I see them going the game developer route, like Sega, in the future) but the fact that they aren't offering their quality stuff makes the whole thing feel kind of phoned in. Seeing as handheld is where they are still relevant, I find it hard to believe they will give mobile gaming more of boost than it has already, but I think it would have been in the long term benefit of the company if they had offered more here. Pokemon yellow on iPhone? Why not, presumably they aren't making another remake of Gen 1 games anytime soon. 

9to5mac.com 


Watch Dogs will be 'the only mature game' Ubisoft publishes for Wii U 

This year's 'Call of Duty' is coming to everything but the Wii U 

Simon Wu: 

Where there's good news for Nintendo, there must be bad news. This has been a long time coming, but it's now official. Hardcore titles are all but extinct. You can't fault Ubisoft for lack of trying. They were first to platform with ZombiU, which was designed specifically to try and utilize the Wii U's unique features as much as possible, but to underwhelming results. So they then simply tried to port all of their hit titles over, like AC3, AC4, and Watch_Dogs, but even that didn't work. I've also previously noted that in a conversation with the friend of a Wii U owner, he noted that his friend bought CoD: Black Ops II for the Wii U, and had a great time with the other several dozen people in matchmaking. My... Nintendo loving colleague himself admitted that all 3 of his Wii U games were first party titles. And that right there puts it all in a nutshell. 

Alex Miller: 

As Simon says, its becoming painfully obvious that the WiiU has become a first party only platform. While that serves a purpose in offering a potential for an alternative to mainstream gaming, this opportunity is not taken often enough or well enough for Nintendo to maintain their current path. Ubisoft has done the most for Nintendo, bending over backwards where most other major publishers have simply given up, but even the Canadians are getting tired of Nintendo's hoops now. While sales have been up since Mario Kart 8 came out and the new Super Smash Bros was announced, the fact that both of those games are part of decade old franchises shows the lack of original content on the WiiU. If its going to serve as a gaming alternative, which (now that Ubisoft is pretty much done with them) is the only role left to the WiiU, it needs more than that. 

cheatcc.com