Weekend Short-Takes: 8/15/14

The internet absolutely exploded when this was first announced and we didn't hear the whole "timed" bit. PlayStation fans were absolutely up in arms over this apparent "betrayal" by Square Enix. The prequel sold about 4.8 million units across five systems, with 2.2 million, or nearly half, coming from the PS3. This move was also slammed by most analysts which called it bad business on the parts of both companies. I think that the move, however, is smart business for both parties. It's no secret that sales figures for the reboot were underwhelming at best, regardless of who the strongest platform is, you have to diversify if your numbers are low. Signing an exclusivity deal implies that the hardware partner has some sort of obligation to try and promote it harder than a cross-platform title. The most hardcore fans will reluctantly buy an Xbox One, which is all Microsoft really wants at the end of the day, no matter how much they trash it on the forums. Square Enix gets to have unrivalled access to an underserved audience, but then gets to sell to its main base. Even if they are savaged relentlessly by the fans, if the game is good, people will buy it.

Jonathan Tung:

Upon the horrific realization that the new Tomb Raider was to be an Xbox exclusive, the developers atr Crystal Dynamics went on to Tumblr to explain their reasoning behind their decision to focus on a single platform. To quote, "Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and...We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past - we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft." In many ways, it felt more along the lines of the company simply admitting to their fans that Microsoft simply paid them off for exclusivity rights. Most of the responses I have read regarding that post have ranged from inane fanboy rage to abnormal death threats, which could also explain why the developers quickly pulled their post for a short while. And in many ways, this is actually one of the worse blunders Square Enix has pulled off in recent months, including the decision to not port Final Fantasy Type-0 to the Vita.

PlayStation 4 Sells 10 Million Units, Sony Reveals at Gamescom

Simon Wu:

mygaming.co

mygaming.co

Don Mattrick isn't even running Xbox anymore, yet his foot-in-mouth comments are still going strong. Gamespot published this gem of his from 2008: "History has shown us that the first company to reach 10 million in console sales wins the generation battle." Right. Well, it seems like we can call it a day here and see you back in 10 years for the next console launch! Microsoft has only managed to make 5 million, and that's just putting them on shelves. Sony has put 10 million units into the hands of paying customers. The difference is humbling and staggering. Microsoft really has only one somewhat bright spot that it can point to, which is that Sony launched the PS4 in all planned 48 markets by Christmas, with the only exception being Japan, which got the console in mid-February, but as we've seen, has been shockingly underwhelming. The Xbox has only been available in 13 countries so far, just over a quarter of the market presence of Sony. An additional 29 markets will be reached this September. But one thing is for certain: time is running out.

Max Gruber:

Already, we're seeing what the future holds for this generation of consoles, and it appears to be that Sony will come out on top of the competition. The last generation's winner was very evident: Microsoft; and because of that, they could easily roll with exclusive deals from a great many studios that wanted their game to sell well on the Xbox platform. However, things might take a turn for the worse for Microsoft, especially given this stat. It is very much possible that the big publishers that were siding with the Xbox 360 will jump over to the PS4 for the exclusive content on that platform. We saw that very prominently with Battlefield Hardline and its beta offering. On one hand, they'll make that jump over to the winning console and stay there for good. On the other hand, though, perhaps some studios will stay with the underdog and land a surprise attack on the PS4. Whatever happens, we just have to hang on to our seats and sift through the storm.

Sony unveils Share Play, online game sharing

Simon Wu:

gamezone.com

gamezone.com

This would actually be the steal and reversal of the century because Sony has already managed to successfully bring down the Xbox One for having this sharing system. Now, Sony is trying to appropriate it and do what Microsoft never managed to do in several months of trying: communicate clearly how it works and what the limits are. It is less of the game borrowing mechanic and more of a virtual drop-in, drop-out system, but the idea is no less ambitious. If Call of Duty were still challenging, I hypothetically would have been able to let a friend get me through a particularly difficult sequence on Veteran. But again, it isn't the whole game, just however much you let them play in an hour long session.

Max Gruber:

This concept of Share Play seems to be the next evolutional leap for sharing on the PS4, especially given how you'll be able to share games to people that don't have your game, something they were touting back at E3 with Far Cry 4. But one problem I see with this feature is one they've explicitly been marketing: the ability to ask your friends to help you with a game by having them play the level you're on. The person who is helping you has to at least have the game on them and know what to do, for obvious reasons. I wouldn't want to give someone access to my game to someone who doesn't have it and screws with it in a number of ways. In addition, they have to stream the game to their console, but how much is actually streamed?

Bioware's newest RPG is called Shadow Realms

Simon Wu:

While I did not have Jonathan's tenacity to see the live stream, I am personally grateful to see that there is at least one studio out there that is committed to continually producing new IPs. It recognized that Mass Effect had come to a natural conclusion, and while Bioware is still producing new entries in the series, it is not a primary focus at the moment, seeing as we've still heard next to nothing about it. It is also not a forced continuation of the existing story, as they've said Mass Effect 4 has almost nothing to do with the previous titles. Back to the matter at hand, it seems that we're seeing a new trend of asymmetric games, with Evolve being the other notable example of the 4 vs. 1 gameplay we usually relegate to Juggernaut multiplayer matches.

Jonathan Tung:

When I first saw Shadow Realms during the live stream (yes folks, I literally stayed up to one AM just to watch it), the only thing that came to mind was how much it reminded me of The Secret World, FunCom's failed MMORPG that was of a similar nature. I'm still questioning how the game's 4vs1 system will work utilizing a Free-to-play model, given the fact that 2K's EVOLVE has already beaten them to the punch with that system in hand. Still, I question whether or not this game will succeed in today's market, as many similar MMOs have actually failed dead on arrival (see Wildstar and Firefall for example).

Short-Takes: 7/11/14

Simon Wu: 
Apologies for the comparatively brief comments; I am in China and will be for the next several weeks, so my participation will be sporadic. Anyways, long time podcast listeners will no doubt know my position on this already. I have an intense dislike of content I can't access, such as the PS4 exclusive DLC for some of the Assassin's Creed titles. This meddling by Gamestop could be the start of a very dangerous trend. We're already seeing this in small ways, as Wal-mart, Gamestop, and others already get different DLC. While these are generally small and cosmetic, an integral part of the game only accessible by buying the "Gamestop edition" is unacceptable.

Alex Miller: 
The troubling thing about this is not that it is new, but rather that it is an expansion of something that we have begrudgingly allowed to exist for several years now. Assassin's Creed has had exclusive content only accessible to gamers on the PlayStation 3 and 4 for several iterations, while Xbox owners have been treated to early access to maps in Call of Duty games for years now. It is a frustrating state of affairs, but it will become intolerable if individual retailers join the exclusive content game in a meaningful way. If Walmart and BestBuy each have different versions of the game than the one at GameStop, all that results is frustrated gamers who resent all the companies involved. Hopefully people vote with their wallets, but the problem is, if this spreads there may be no other options than to eschew consoles entirely, something many people aren't necessarily willing to do. And while many PC gamers may see this as a victory in the rather childish PC vs. Console war, developers can just as easily diversify their distribution systems and give exclusive content to services like Origin and UPlay, more so then they already have and may be emboldened to do so if it becomes the norm in the console game. No one wants this, and hopefully we won't have to suffer through it.

Max Gruber: 
The idea that a game retailer can get exclusive content for a specific game is a scary prospect, but when they can just barge in and state that certain content should be released as an incentive for pre-ordering at their stores is an even scarier proposition, especially given GameStop's history of giving out pre-order bonuses like it were candy to a child. I find it ludicrous that they have that kind of power now, where they can just say "Yeah, that piece of content right there? That's now a pre-order item." In addition, we could very well see a massive change in the way that game content is delivered, where the very important pieces of content (i.e. Javik) is only available if you pre-order at GameStop. We walk a very slippery and dangerous path right now.

vg247


PS4 fails to impact Japanese console market

Simon Wu: 
Trouble in paradise? This is completely unexpected, for me at least. I thought the PS4 would have a hot start out of the gates on home turf for Sony. Instead, it's Nintendo who's currently getting the last laugh. Why might this be? First of all, there are still really no world beating games out for the PS4 at the moment, especially not ones that cater to a Japanese audience specifically. Secondly, the handheld market is huge for a culture that increasingly lives in very densely packed cities, and is always on the move. There isn't room for a giant console in a several hundred square foot apartment, which is why the humble Vita of all things is outselling its big brother. 

Alex Miller: 
This underscores just how vital it was for Sony to improve their sales numbers in the US. Just like the barbarians running into roman territory to escape the Huns, Sony needed to expanded into other markets to make up for the growing behemoth of handheld and mobile gaming in Japan. However, Sony is confidant in their system, saying it's "doing okay in Japan" and that the success of the PS3, combined with a reticence to change by the major Japanese studios, has lead to less support than they might have expected. This hasn't harmed its record sales in other markets, so it's interesting to see it affect the console so much in Japan. Hopefully, for Sony's sake, this is only temporary, and not the beginning of the end of traditional consoles in a new age of gaming in Japan.

Max Gruber: 
You know something is going horribly wrong with the PlayStation when it's underperforming in its home turf. Given the recent success of the PS4 in the States and in the UK, you'd think that it would sell equally well in the Land of the Rising Sun—but it's anything but. Then again, Japan has shifted to being more centered on mobile gaming than console gaming, which is why the Vita is outselling the PS4 by a longshot. It definitely raises a big concern that gaming as a whole is moving away from the big, clunky boxes in our houses and is instead moving towards the smartphones in our pockets, given how most, if not all, of today's innovations started in Japan.

wikimedia 


Gears of War Creator Goes Back to His Roots for Project BlueStreak, a New F2P Arena Shooter

Simon Wu: 
Say it ain't so. Cliffy B coming out of self-imposed developer retirement to grace us with an F2P arena shooter? It is interesting to note that his former company, Epic, is working on an updated Unreal Tournament, perhaps the project he was itching to get his hands on all along, but never got the chance to. But instead of doing a remake and getting chained to expectations from fans of certain maps or weapons, he can completely start from scratch with his own vision. Let's hope, though, we can have slightly less muscle and brown grit this time?

Alex Miller: 
I gotta say, I'm excited. As someone whose first experience of multiplayer in video games (other than super smash bros) was PC arena shooters. This news, combined with the news that Epic is remaking Unreal Tournament and that Halo 5 will return to the Arena style multiplayer the series is known for, is welcoming given the years of class based, load out filled shooters, a la Call of Duty. While I've certainly enjoyed those games, it will certainly be nice to see one of the best in the business revitalize a genre that is near and dear to my heart.

dualshockers


Watch Dogs pushes Ubi sales up 374%

Simon Wu: 
Those are incredible sales numbers pushing Ubisoft's overall outlook up substantially. But one simply has to wonder: how much of that was pent up expectation from the years of hype, that were then left very disappointed, as yours truly was (with the exception of SPIDER TANK). In that sense, it may be a temporary bump that will not see nearly the same reception for a potential sequel, with a crowd of once bitten, twice shy gamers. The PS4 skew is also unsurprising, as Ubisoft have always tended towards Sony as a closer partner, but the digital sales as an ever bigger driver is interesting to note, especially since I was one of the evidently many that elected to make this title a digital, not physical, purchase.

Alex Miller: 
I must say I am surprised by these numbers, but I am not confused by them. As Simon says, the hype surrounding this game was huge following a hugely impressive E3 2012 and that alone may account for some of its success. Some other portion may be attributed to the dearth of AAA titles coming out around it, which if true means their decision to push it out of the holiday bread and butter selling period paid off. However, between the lower than expected reviews and the controversy stirred up over the new Assassin's Creed and Far Cry 4, you have to wonder if this financial upturn for Ubisoft isn't to last.

Max Gruber: 
This financial report from Ubisoft came just after Watch Dogs' mixed reception from both critics and fans, and it's not impressing me. Yes, I do have to admit that these numbers are very impressive, but as Simon points out, it was mostly due to the amount of hype they built up following the launch. I'm more than dubious about the future of Watch Dogs as a franchise. The amount of backlash from everywhere I've looked seems to indicate that, unless they do a massive overhaul on the sequel, they're less likely to go out of their way to get Watch Dogs 2.

destructoid

Short-Takes: 6/20/14

In this week's Short-Takes we look at Destiny being exclusive to PS4 in Japan, Capcom opening themselves up to buyout, Ubisoft claiming it did not downgrade the graphics on the PC version of Watch_Dogs, and Nintendo's attempts to win back third party developers.

 

Short-Takes: 6/13/14 (E3 2014)

This year's E3 was a markedly more subdued affair than last year's bonanza, but rest assured we have taken fewer stories and expanded on them further. Examine what Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, and Ubisoft are all up to, this week on the Short-Takes.
 

Short-Takes 5/30/14

This week on the Short-Takes, The Order: 1886, The Evil Within, and Quantum Break are all delayed, Battlefield: Hardline is announced, and Telltale tries to get The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us on as many platforms as possible. 

 

Short-Takes 5/23/14

Simon Wu: 
It seems like each week we have a blockbuster news article to discuss. Well, here we go. As many of those familiar with WikiGameGuides know, YouTube has become incredibly difficult to monetize because of the new copyright system which switched from a blacklist to whitelist, which is why John now has shifted his focus to daily Happy Hour livestreams. Essentially, everything is guilty of copyright violation until proven otherwise. Now, could we be seeing the media lobby want to get their hands on what has until now been a relatively free enterprise? The alternative is that Google doesn't want to totally alienate an entire demographic, and Twitch becomes the relatively more free gaming arm of YouTube.

Max Gruber: 
If this report is true, then I think we might be in for a bumpy ride. A REALLY bumpy ride. Given last year's massive scandal that was YouTube's content ID claims, I'm not convinced that this acquisition will be beneficial for the long run, especially considering that YouTube has been very cold towards the gaming community. Another thing that makes YouTube a pain, is that anyone can abuse the flagging system on content. Anyone can go onto a video and say, "this content is 'mine', so I'll take it down", when the content is clearly not theirs. My biggest fear is that if Twitch becomes the new YouTube, video game let's plays will suffer horrifically.

Alex Miller: 
This purchase, if nothing else, shows how much money is in esports and gaming entertainment beyond just traditional game sales. Live streamers and eAthletes (?) are giving a second revenue stream to video games and the growing importance this second avenue is getting. Hopefully, with the focus of this service being live streams of video games and not just any kind of video, we can see a more nuanced and practical system of copyright compliance without destroying the service. Given how much money Google is spending here (through YouTube) you have to think they want to keep the already incredibly popular service going just as strong, meaning I think might get just that.

gamebeyond.com


Alienware's Steam Machine will be their "least profitable system" ever

Simon Wu: 
If that's not a conclusive indictment on the Steam Machine model, I don't know what is. Alienware is a respected and long-time player in the gaming PC market, and their words should be believed. For all the supposed hype of the Steam Machines, it's taking far too long for them to come to market. Right now, despite the current console race, they are both making it harder and harder for Steam Machines to have an open audience to capture. Thus, manufacturers will have to take margins that are slim to none just in order to have a competitive price. But as we see from Microsoft's move last week in dropping the Kinect, it will be a long fight all the way.

Max Gruber: 
Strong words from one of the most revered gaming PC companies in the market. I've said this once, and I'll say it again: there's nothing compelling about the Steam Machines. There's nothing unique about them to begin with—they're just gaming PCs with the Steam OS built into them instead of the Windows OS. It's quite the tell when one of the largest competitors in the PC gaming market says that one of their newest systems will be the least profitable system in their history of existence. Whether this bodes a similar response with other companies like Maingear, Nvidia, AMD, etc., only time will tell.

Alex Miller: 
After reading this, I cannot help but ask myself the same question I always ask after hearing about the Steam machine: why? Why make it when Steam is already a free program to download on a computer? Why make a custom gaming PC for a console gamer who most likely won't take advantage of its upgradability? Why would Valve try and shift their focus away from their very loyal, very successful PC market to a console market where they have no history and no factor making them unique? Why would a hardware company like Alienware even agree to make this when they won't be making anything back on the games sold to run on it? Why why why? Nothing about the Steam Machine adds up and the longer we have to wait for any sort of answer to these questions, the more likely the answer will be, as it has been for me for quite a while, that no one cares.

digitaltrends.com


GameStop simplifies its digital PC gaming service, offers discounts 

Simon Wu:                                                                                                                                                     GameStop isn't really known for its digital PC gaming service, playing a distant third fiddle to Steam and even Origin. Steam built a name for itself and is now synonymous with flash and regular deals that are often somewhere between 66 and 89 percent off. I've always argued that XBLA and PSN should adopt this model to really help digital sales gain traction, but monopolies being what they are, they can still charge $20 for Call of Duty 2 while I can buy it for literally pennies online. GameStop doesn't have that luxury at all, and to remain competitive in the post-physical media realm, this is a necessary step. 


Max Gruber: 
You can do what you want, GameStop, but Steam is still on top when it comes to digital PC releases. Valve has, through the course of an entire generation, made Steam a landmark of digital PC gaming. Nothing comes close to it. Origin, GoG, and many others have tried to surpass it, but Steam is still the purveyor of PC gaming, and continues to be that way. I'm not in any way convinced that this change will help GameStop in any way.


Alex Miller: 
This is definitely a good move for GameStop and an even better move for gamers. With all the stores available online, the last thing I want is another program that I have to manage my games through. I have purchased one digital game through GameStop's software and never planned to do so again. Not because the service was bad per se, more because it just seemed like a pointless knock off of Steam and I could find no compelling reason why I shouldn't just use the real thing. With their new setup I am far more likely to buy a PC game through GameStop and redeem it through Steam, and this works for everyone. I get a more streamlined process and GameStop increases online sales while also reducing the cost of having to maintain the servers necessary to run a Steam knockoff store. In the end everyone wins.

Minecraft coming to Xbox One, PS4 in August with a $5 upgrade deal 

Simon Wu: 
Speaking of moving more digital titles, this sets a great precedent. If you have the 360 or PS3 version of Minecraft, you can buy the graphically upgraded (?) version for just $5. Yeah, for as much as some Subway footlongs, a (nearly) infinite realm can be yours on the current-gen consoles. I think this is a phenomenal deal, and more importantly, should be something we see from more games moving forward. While Call of Duty can charge $60 for a new edition each year because there is such a loyal fanbase, new franchises could possibly offer loyalty discounts for people that own previous titles. Own more, and the savings add up. This would be virtually impossible to track with physical media, but when digital copies are tied to your account, it can act as a verification. That sounds like something I can get on board with.


Alex Miller: 
I completely agree with Simon that an upgrade process based on previous digital purchases sounds like a great setup, and a very nice way to try and promote and improve digital sales, something Simon and I both want very much. Also, one of the most exciting things about this, for me, is that saves are transferable between the old gen (Xbox 360/PS3) and the current gen (Xbox One/PS4). This, along with the cheaper upgrade price, is a continuation of Notch's, Mojang's, and 4J's commitment to supporting their fans, something which is not as common as it should be and that I think deserves praise. Additionally, the fact that they are able to import the saves from the previous consoles, despite the very different hardware internals that have previously prevented any sort of cross-gen interaction, makes me wonder if we will see more "upgrades" or cross-gen transferable data between iterations of games in the months and years to come.

gameskinny.com