Short-Takes: 6/20/14

kotaku.com

kotaku.com

This is all but a formality, as Xbox has historically done exceptionally poorly in Japan. By exceptionally poorly, I mean as poorly as Spain in this World Cup. (Immediately knocked out, for those nonsports readers) Don't forget, the 360 has sold less than 2 million units in its entire lifetime in Japan, even less than the original Xbox did. The Xbox One is going to launch in Japan on September 4th, and Destiny will be release a mere 5 days later. Microsoft has such low expectations that they've bundled Japan's Day One edition with Titanfall and Kinect Sports Rivals. That's in addition to the special controller and special achievement, all for $490. I will be flabbergasted if they manage to move units in the hundreds of thousands.

Max Gruber:

I was not surprised to see this bit of news roll up. The Xbox brand as a whole has had a less than stellar performance in the East, and this is reflected by this exclusive deal in Japan. Sony is taking absolute advantage of the Xbox's terrible sales figures in their home turf, and are hitting them hard. I do have to question Microsoft's stubborn and continued attempts to capture the Japanese market, since they've clearly lost two generations in a row in Japan. What was that saying, again? If at first you don't succeed, stop doing it.


Capcom abandons its stock takeover defense plan, now open to buyout

Simon Wu:

abload.de

abload.de

Clearly, Capcom's shareholders have run out of patience with the strategy the current leadership is taking. The short-term prospects of the company, which is what shareholders are overwhelmingly concerned with, show no signs of increasing anytime soon. The company itself predicts that revenues will remain stagnant this year, and as such it's time for drastic action. Plus, these shareholders are probably just annoyed that their perks got taken away.

Max Gruber:

I'm not an investor, but from my limited experience with the Stock Market, that market can hold a lot of power for a company. Considering that they no longer have protection from being taken over, it means that anyone could buyout Capcom. Look at what happened with Kadokawa's purchase of From Software. They bought every stock in them and they were able to acquire them, even though they were owned by Bandai Namco.


Modder Finds Files for Better Graphics in Watch Dogs’ PC Version

Simon Wu:

kotaku.com

kotaku.com

Ubisoft has since responded to these revelations with a pretty unconvincing denial and the following excuse, which is significantly paraphrased: "Well, turning the graphics up may cause the game to stop working on some computers." There is one element to their denial which has a slight amount of merit,

and that is the possibility that certain high-level graphical elements could actually start hindering gameplay, as has been reported by some mod users. There are two aspects to this story. The first is that Watch Dogs continues to provide us reasons to realize that it was so much more underwhelming than our conception of it, and also a reminder that this sort of compromise will continue to happen as we slowly phase out cross-gen games over the next two years or so. In a way, Watch Dogs was an unfortunate victim of timing; the next Assassin's Creed is strictly current-gen, most likely to prevent this exact thing from happening.

Max Gruber:

This recent discovery has really shown us that PC gaming is being stripped down to make it comparable to the "next-gen" counterparts. It is definitely concerning for the legions of hardcore PC gamers who want to play a game on its highest settings, only to find that it can be pushed even higher, and run even smoother than the vanilla version. As to why they would do this, I paraphrase TotalBiscuit and say that they were either lazy, or malicious. On one hand, they probably didn't have time to finish working on it and decided to dumb down the visuals. On the other hand, however, they probably did it so that the game looked as close to the PS4 and Xbox One versions. We probably won't know for certain, but this is very concerning for the future of PC gaming.


Nintendo Looking To Grow Wii U Audience To Tempt Back Third Parties

Simon Wu:

Oh really? I tweeted out the story when I saw that EA is planning to release FIFA 15 on the 3DS and even the Wii, but skipping over the Wii U. That's just plain embarrassing when one of the biggest franchises worldwide is not getting put on your current-gen console, but is getting put on your last-gen console, because from a business point of view, it's only worth it to develop for the platforms with numbers behind them. Nintendo already tried this when the console first launched. It failed spectacularly then, and publishers are now once bitten, twice shy.

Max Gruber:

While many believe Nintendo "won" E3, I'm still skeptical about their future, and this article is an example of that. I don't remember when we discussed this, but we talked about how one of either Simon or Alex's friends bought Ghosts on the WiiU, and there were only 150 people in the multiplayer. I'm not at all convinced that they're going to be making third-parties interested in the WiiU again. That fundamental question is still there and it has yet to receive an answer. In all honesty, as a gamer, why would you bother going out to get a WiiU for both the exclusives and third-party games, when you could get the PS4 or Xbox One, with third-party games that were designed with those consoles in mind, and brand new IPs and higher quality first-party exclusives that are generally not rehashes of the same games? Yes, both of them have their share of sequels, but at least they're not pulling them out of a magician's hat every year, Nintendo.


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

Many, John Tarr included, said that Sony won because Microsoft’s biggest announcement was simply a remaster of a collection of old games. Admittedly, they are very good games, but clearly it was not enough to set the bar higher. Remember last year when Microsoft said that the One would get 15 exclusives in the first year? First of all, we’re already down at least one because of Quantum Break’s delay, but even so, I can’t see the Xbox One getting that many, let alone even list half that many from memory of recent launches. Also, I really hope Microsoft wasn't planning on counting these as four to inflate the numbers. 

Jackson Sinnenberg: 

Like Mr. Gruber predicted last week, 343 is looking to jump in on the "Next-Gen Update" bandwagon. While this is undoubtedly a huge boon to Halo fans, I cannot help but be skeptical of 343 and Microsoft. It seem that the One still is having trouble getting people interested in Xbox Live and online play for the One. Even though Titanfall is consistently leading sales figures not only for Xbox One but also for current gen games, a lot of Titanfall's sales still come from PC and and 360 purchases (Cinemablend reported that, in the UK in April, 71% of Titanfall purchases were for the 360). With Microsoft planning to host online multiplayer for all the games of the Master Chief collection, they seem to be looking for a way to finally pump life in to Xbox One online play. Due to the economic pricing of the collection ($60) and the recent down pricing on the One, Microsoft are looking to have a huge surge in sales and Xbox Live traffic come November. 

Alex Miller: 

It seems almost fitting that Halo 2, the game that launched Xbox Live, is amongst the collection that Microsoft is pushing to try and build Xbox Live on its newest console. While I am certainly excited (4 games on one disk, including Halo 2's excellent multiplayer in its original form) I have to agree with Simon and wonder where the other games are. As Jackson points out, Titanfall is leading sales figures, it is doing it far more on the Xbox 360 than the One. Perhaps this Halo collection will be the spark that sees people make the changeover, but if Microsoft don't deliver with other games to play than it will all be for naught. Based on what I saw at E3, they might actually be able to do just that. 

 

Sony: 

From Software's new IP is Bloodborne, headed by Hidetaka Miyazaki 

Simon Wu: 

As someone who is painfully and laboriously picking his way through Dark Souls one death at a time, this is even more exciting. It's fine and all to work my way through ridiculous bosses and the same five trash mobs 10,000 times because of equally as many deaths, but it just doesn’t quite speak to me. But, just as The Order: 1886 has me excited to explore Victorian England, so too does this new IP seem to fit into that mold. Also, ranged weapons other than that dinky bow and arrow. It still promises to stay true to the style of Dark Souls, which is good. I've been plopped into the world with some sort of weird intro video about defeating the dragons and that’s... about it. Liking it so far, and I hope I can get on the train with this one from the start. 

Max Gruber: 

For those who don't know, Hidetaka Miyazaki was the creative director behind Demon's Souls and its successor, Dark Souls. It was Demon's Souls that put them on the gaming radar, and since then, they've exceeded everyone's expectations and defied all logic for what publishers don't want: a brutally hard game becoming a successful franchise. After Dark Souls, Miyazaki moved on to this project and has been working on it in secret for the last 3 years. It's a large departure from Souls logic, which has been the ubiquitous and classic "Block-attack-advance-block-attack-advance-repeat". Instead, it's more focused on faster, more aggressive tactics, where you evade the attack and then follow up with a counter attack. In addition, guns are now being added to the roster of weapons, but it's mostly one-bullet-before-reloading type guns like a blunderbuss or a musket. 

 

Nintendo: 

Nintendo at E3: A comeback is always just a game away 

Simon Wu: 

As is always the case, Nintendo draws visceral reactions from both sides, arguably more so than Sony or Microsoft. It’s probably partially because they’ve been completely on the defensive for the better part of two years now, and also because the cavalry has now finally arrived for the Wii U in the form of… you guessed it, first-party titles. I was recently messaged by one of these… supporters who reminded me that the Wii U has now outsold the Xbox One by one million units, the year headstart notwithstanding. He also pointed out to me that the other consoles don’t matter because you can get most of their titles on the PC anyways, and that the new Zelda was basically Skyrim minus the darkness and violence. While I don’t match his boundless optimism and borderline Nintendo militancy, it is a proven fact that Nintendo has now brought in the first-party titles while their feeble and vain attempt to broaden their reach went nowhere fast, to solid effect. 

Jackson Sinnenberg: 

E3 helped cement that the Wii U, while perhaps not in the bracket at the other current gen consoles, is nonetheless still a serious competitor in the game. While the console wars of November made out the Wii U to be a sort of dying animal, it has only been gaining steam since - estimated to have outsold the Xbox One in the week before Christmas. With the huge push from Mario Kart 8's sales, the Wii U has been skyrocketing in terms of sales. Now that Nintendo is displaying a strong variety of games - with a mix of new and classic IPs - to come, people will be much more receptive to it. With two new Zelda IPs, always the biggest cash grab of their franchises, Bayonetta 2, Xenoblade, and Smash Bros coming for the Wii U, people now have more reasons than ever to get the console. In short, Nintendo took a while to get the ball rolling, but now it is. 

Alex Miller: 

Nintendo certainly followed the trend of this year's E3 in that its focus was entirely on games. All games, all the time. With a plethora of new first party titles (the only kind they get since they seem to have broken with all major developers outside of their stable of in house studios) they finally have provided users with a reason to actually buy a WiiU. With the boost from Mario Kart 8 and all these new games coming, you might think that Nintendo is actually launching a serious challenge to get themselves back into the race they fell so far behind in despite the early start. My only question is: is it too late? It's certainly not too little, but the fact that it has taken two years for games worth playing to be announced and released is worrying for Nintendo. 

 

EA: 

BioWare Teases Mass Effect 4 and New IP Details 

Simon Wu: 

EA did many things at E3, but these were really the only big two new showings. Of course there was Battlefront in ever-so-slightly greater detail that set our hearts racing once more, this time even with alpha footage which looks great. Beyond that, we know plenty about Battlefield: Hardline already, and of course all of the sports games get more sporty and more realistic, etc. This Mass Effect announcement served to reinforce some of the earlier hints we’ve heard, namely that the next game will not feature Shepard and will take place in a different part of the galaxy, but we now got a first look at the location, which is far more rugged and remote than the urban Citadel, taking a bit of a space Western twist to the series. 

Max Gruber: 

Everyone seems to view EA as this evil empire that wants to rule the world, and I can understand that heated resentment for them, especially in regards to the Mass Effect 3 scandal, but I think people should enter this one with a clean slate. After all, as Simon points out, this is the first Mass Effect without Shepard as the lead. It's a big departure from the main story, since you're no longer following in Shepard's footsteps. I'm more interested in hearing what the new guy/gal will be called, because Shepard is such a recognizable name within the games themselves. As for the new IP, why do I get the feeling that they're working on a game to compete against Destiny, in the way that Titanfall is competing against CoD? 

 

 

Ubisoft: 

No female Assassin's Creed characters a "reality of development" 

Max Gruber: 

As me, Simon and Jackie discussed on our female gamers podcast, it's becoming more acknowledged that a woman can be a gamer and enjoy it just as much as a man would love it, so it's hard to swallow this piece of news. On one hand, I can understand why they would want to avoid having female protagonists, since every industry, sadly, follows this creed—no pun intended. But, on the other hand, I find inexcusable for them to at least take the time to work on an interesting female lead, since this industry is filled with drab, boring and generic male protagonists. Given their recent track record, especially in particular with Watch Dogs, I'd be surprised if they create a game where you play as a woman protagonist, and not a game where you can chose between playing as a man or a woman. 

Jackson Sinnenberg: 

While I cannot argue with Ubisoft's logic, that does not mean I cannot fault them. Forcing a female lead into Unity would not mean progress - just because we have a female lead, does not mean that we would have a good one. Mass Effect shows that just because we have a lead who is female, we don't necessarily have a female lead: Fem Shep is essentially no different than her male counterpart, except for a few relationship choices. If the plot of Unity is male tailored, forcing a female in at this point would cause more harm than good. However, that does not mean that Ubisoft should not have considered the possibility. Mr. Gruber pointed out to me that Assassin's Creed already had a female lead in ACIII: Liberation, AND it's set in the period that leads up to the Revolution. So why couldn't they make a female assassin during Revolutionary France, but if Ubisoft could have made a *strong* female lead character, why couldn't they? I fear that the simple explanation is that it did not even occur to them. While I also call bull on the "too much work" claim - if you planned ahead it would not be so much work - the main thing this represents is the continued discussion of the "Boys Club" of video game design and enjoyment. Hopefully Ubisoft can be more inclusive and forward thinking when designing the next AC IP.  

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

Short-Takes 5/16/14

A major shocker heads the Short-Takes this week as Microsoft boots out Kinect to drop the Xbox One's price, but is their ambitious vision finally over? Also, entertainment apps will not need Gold anymore, but MMOs and F2P games still do, Square Enix returns to a slender profit, and Sony's game division continues to report losses.

 

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Short-Takes: 5/9/14

Destiny takes center stage this week as Activision announces it will cost over half a billion dollars and the beta gets detailed. The next title from From Software also might be a PS4 exclusive, and Star Wars Battlefront will be shown at E3.

 

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