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  

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.