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EA voted worst American company in 2013

Apr 09 // Jim Sterling
"Video games are big business," the outlet wrote. "A company like EA -- and Activision, Ubisoft, Nintendo, and Sony, etc. -- merits just as much scrutiny as any other business that plays a leading role in a multibillion-dollar industry. It’s only a fractured, antiquated public perception that video games are somehow frivolous holdovers from childhood that allows gamers to be abused and taken advantage of by the very people who supply them the games they play. "... When we live in an era marked by massive oil spills, faulty foreclosures by bad banks, and rampant consolidation in the airline and telecom industry, what does it say about EA’s business practices that so many people have -- for the second year in a row -- come out to hand it the title of Worst Company In America?" Some would argue -- and have -- that the results say more about gamers and their broken priorities than it does about Electronic Arts' business practices. Is that the right call to make? Depends on where your own priorities lie, I suppose.  I'll certainly agree, as I did last year, that it may be silly to have EA considered worse than such monstrosities as Bank of America, but at the same time I hardly consider it worthy of outrage. Gamers are concerned with game-related companies, and Electronic Arts has done a lot to earn their ire. It makes sense they'd vote for what they're most intimately concerned with. Ultimately, it's not like the prize for the victory is jail-time, fines, or any other tangible punishment. It's an online poll in which the winner receives a "golden poo."  I'd argue getting upset over EA receiving metal-plated feces is about as silly as it winning in the first place.
EA voted worst of 2013 photo
Electronic Arts takes home the prize for a second straight year
How time flies! In April of last year, Electronic Arts "won" the worst American company of 2012 award, beating out near-criminal banks and oil companies to achieve victory in The Consumerist's publicly voted poll. EA has now ...

Aliens: Colonial Marines photo
Aliens: Colonial Marines

Aliens: Colonial Marines Wii U canceled

What. A. Shock.
Apr 05
// Jim Sterling
Those of you left caring may have noticed Aliens: Colonial Marines missed its Wii U release launch window. There's a very good reason for that -- SEGA finally decided to shoot the lame dog in the head, and has quietly cancele...

Microsoft man on always-online consoles: 'Deal with it'

Apr 05 // Jim Sterling
When his comments were taken to task by BioWare's Manveer Heir, who pointed out the embarrassing issues faced by Diablo III and SimCity at launch, Orth got even more derisive. Heir mentioned America's less-than-consistent broadband coverage, and how users in areas such as Janesville, WI or Backsburg, VA would have a rough time dealing with a console that required a constant connection. His response?  "Why on Earth would I live there?" Wow. His comments were seized upon by NeoGAF commenters, who took him to task in their usual merciless way. Aside from making comments on things Microsoft has been staunchly refusing to comment on, he was taken to task for his general snotty attitude and derogatory comments toward those who don't live in cities blessed with non-shit broadband. Some have taken his combative defense of the idea as a strong hint that Microsoft will, indeed, force Next Xbox users to stay online -- an absolutely absurd hypothetical plan that banks on broadband infrastructures around the world improving immeasurably in an incredibly short time.  Detective-GAF also found a comment from an experienced developer following the issue, posting a line from Nikolai Mohilchock, who said: "Given that legally I cannot confirm or deny if this information is true, nor can I comment on rumor or speculation, all I can say is be sure to pay your ISP bills." In response to the online battering, both Orth (who likes to be called Sweet Billy) and Heir downplayed the nature of their discussion, the latter saying: "Don't read too much into our back & forth ... All those tweets you are seeing about the city being superior. That's him just trolling me. And I fell for it. Don't bust his balls on that." Unfortunately for Orth, it was way too late for that, and his comments were damning even without the "trolling" about cities.  In the wake of the shitstorm started by his statements, Orth has now protected his Twitter account, hiding further commentary from public view. Once again, this is little more than a case of locking the door after the horse has bolted, but there you go.  A number of industry members, most notably David Jaffe, have rallied to Orth's defense, asking members of NeoGAF and other communities to stop giving Orth a pummeling and insisting he's "one of the good guys." While that might be true (unconfirmed), and while he's probably suffering some disproportionate retribution, what he said to begin with was impressively, jaw-droppingly ignorant, and he does deserve to have such poisonous, anti-consumer rhetoric counteracted. He's going to have to "deal with it" for a while. The privileged attitude of "deal with it," seems to be one held by many members of the mainstream publishing industry, and more and more customers are getting sick of it. As the console market spirals ever haphazardly toward a crash, I feel people like Orth will learn exactly what happens when consumers en masse begin to learn they don't actually have to deal with any of this bullshit, and go looking for entertainment elsewhere. When the major companies fall to their knees after trying to shave the sheep one too many times, I wonder if they'll be able to "deal with it." On the subject of an always-online, DRM-gated console, I think Michael Hartman of Frogdice Inc. sums it up perfectly: "I hope the entire next gen is 'always on DRM.' I love anything AAA does to make it easier for us indies to sell our games." Deal with it.
Next Xbox always online? photo
Director spews bullshit about DRM-locked system
[Update: Microsoft has since apologized for Orth's statements. Deal with it.] Rumors that the Next Xbox will be restricted by the same always-online requirement that has crippled several major PC releases of late has not exac...

The War Z photo
The War Z

The War Z taken offline following security breach

User emails and passwords compromised
Apr 02
// Jim Sterling
It never ends for The War Z. While the controversial MMO was reinstated by Steam after addressing false advertising complaints, Hammerpoint's game is currently offline due to hackers making off with personal information. Acco...

Disney shuts down LucasArts

Apr 01 // Jim Sterling
LucasArts shut down photo
Studio axed as name becomes a "licensing model"
Disney has today announced that it's decided to close down LucasArts as a game studio, transitioning it into a "licensing model." This effectively means that LucasArts is dead, likely to exist as little more than a legacy nam...

Tomb Raider misses mark photo
Company's biggest recent releases proved unable to meet targets
Despite each game clearing at least a million sales, Square Enix has revealed Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs all failed to meet their targets. This news comes on the same day the company projected a 13 bill...

Square Enix prez resigns photo
Square Enix prez resigns

Yoichi Wada resigning as Square Enix president

Boss to step down amid talk of "extraordinary" financial losses
Mar 26
// Jim Sterling
Following in the footsteps of Electronic Arts' John Riccitiello, it seems Yoichi Wada will be the next executive taking the fall for a major game publisher's failings. Surrounded by talk of "extraordinary" financial losses, S...
uDraw shanked Saints Row photo
How one f*ck-up can ruin things for everyone
Poor, poor THQ. A series of catastrophic mistakes led to the 23-year-old company's closure earlier this year. Among the more notable mistakes was the uDraw tablet, originally released in 2010 exclusively on Wii where it becam...

SimCity can be played offline, according to anyone but EA

Mar 14 // Jim Sterling
[embed]248656:47560:0[/embed] This discovery follows reports by Rock, Paper, Shotgun that an anonymous insider is claiming SimCity never needed to remain online, and can actually go offline at any moment. While Maxis' Lucy Bradshaw claims offline play would require "a significant amount of engineering work from our team to rewrite the game," faceless informants cry foul.  "The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing," claims RPS' source. "They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they’re doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they’re not doing anything. I have no idea why they’re claiming otherwise. It’s possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I’m clueless." It's suggested the server doesn't even react to your gameplay in real-time, and that it can take a few minutes for it to check your session for hacks or cheats. The bottom line is that, according to those who aren't in Electronic Arts' thrall, it wouldn't take much effort at all to get your an offline version of SimCity -- barring, of course, the game's regional features.  But of course, Electronic Arts made a bold stand on this issue, and is expected to pridefully stick to its guns. All the while, its resolute determination to keep players online will continue to confirm something I think was obvious -- the always-online requirement was only ever a business decision, not one made to enhance the gameplay. The end goal was to keep tabs on players at all times, and control their behavior beyond the point of sale, because EA is terrified of its own audience.  It's DRM in sheep's clothing, and the longer EA decides to keep SimCity online, the clearer that becomes.
SimCity online workaround photo
Evidence mounts that 'always-on' requirement is total bunkem
There is mounting evidence that, despite EA Maxis' claims to the contrary, SimCity is wholly capable of being played offline -- a capability that would have saved buyers a week of hassle and tons of creativity now lost to ser...

Maxis has 'no intention' of making SimCity offline

Mar 11 // Jim Sterling
"The good news is that tens of thousands of new players are streaming into the game every day and the confidence our fans have shown is truly humbling," she wrote. "I can’t begin to explain the way a development team feels when something you're proud of is threatened at launch. Our biggest fear was that people who love this franchise would be scared off by bad reviews about the connectivity issues. "But you put your faith in us. You bought the game with the understanding that we’d quickly fix the server issues. For that support -- that incredible commitment from our fans -- we are deeply grateful. As the general manager of Maxis, I want you to know that we cherish your faith in us, and the love you've shown for this franchise." All very touching stuff, but these grand displays of humility ring rather hollow for me when it was so obvious SimCity was going to be unplayable at launch. We all pretty much called it, and I refuse to believe anybody at Maxis or Electronic Arts would be so dense as to have not called it too. Once you cross a point where what you're doing is so obviously detrimental to a game launch, and you do it anyway, you waive the ability to craft a believable apology.  SimCity's bullshit wasn't a mistake. It was the result of a decision that had to have factored in the frustration of launch day buyers, and deemed that frustration an acceptable risk.
No offline SimCity photo
Claims the problems are 'almost behind us'
While SimCity's DRM-in-sheep's-clothing continues to cause playabilty issues, EA Maxis has declared its intent to keep the game tied to a server. The company will do "everything it can" to make your game playable, but that do...


No SimCity refunds on Origin

Anti-refund policy exposes the risk of buying digital
Mar 08
// Jim Sterling
If you are one of the many who purchased SimCity this week and found yourself unable to play it, you may feel like you were gypped out of $60 and want your money back. Unfortunately, while physical retailers might do the hono...
PS4 can't play old games photo
Strike one, Sony
[Update: Sony has confirmed to Dale North that it has the ability to honor your PSN purchases through its cloud service. If it chooses to, it can give you everything back in streaming form. Of course, it's not said it will --...


Aliens: Colonial Marines 360 save wipe bug

Do not clear your cache if you want to keep your saves
Feb 15
// Jim Sterling
Oh, Aliens: Colonial Marines could really use some bad press? Sure, why not? It's been such a long time since we heard anything negative about it. Try this one on for size -- players are reporting that Xbox 360 save files are...

Aliens: Colonial Marines says hello, my honey

All singing, all dancing!
Feb 12
// Jim Sterling
So yeah, Aliens: Colonial Marines is pretty glitchy, but considering the lack of entertainment value in every other facet of the game, I guess we have to take our laughs where we can get them. This, for the record, is worth a solid chuckle.  At least this game's proving itself fertile ground for video clips and .gif silliness!
Aliens: Colonial Marines photo
Aliens: Colonial Marines

Aliens: Colonial Marines innovates with self-heal glass!

A window into the FUTURE!
Feb 12
// Jim Sterling
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a stinker, this much is true. However, it's not all bad. As the super-duper really-real canonical sequel to Aliens, Gearbox's outsourced labor of love is rewriting the script on a beloved movie fr...
Rayman Legends delay photo
Rayman Legends delay

Ubisoft tries to explain Rayman Legends delay

Admits multiplatform decision pushed it back
Feb 07
// Jim Sterling
So, Rayman Legends has been pushed back to September, and news of the delay just so happened to coincide with its multiplatform announcement. As many disappointed fans suspected, the two are entirely linked, with Ubisoft hold...

Sony cuts PS Vita sales target, cites lack of penetration

Haha, penetration
Feb 07
// Jim Sterling
The sad ballad of the PlayStation Vita continues to ring its mournful tune in taverns across the kingdom, with Sony now lowering its sales forecast in light of its failure to achieve "market penetration." This is not the firs...

Square Enix loses money, blames console market

Fails to make returns from a 'difficult' industry
Feb 05
// Jim Sterling
Despite rising sales, Square Enix has lost money in the nine months ending December 31, reporting itself out of ¥5.7 billion. The publisher claims it's been unable to make a return on its console releases, blaming th...

Resident Evil 6 is officially a failure

Feb 04 // Jim Sterling
As far as Resident Evil 6 goes, I'd almost be tempted to gloat like a smarmy weasel and celebrate the failure of one of the most tacky attempts to homogenize a game I've ever had the displeasure of playing. It would be satisfying to declare, "Serves you right," and film myself dancing around a grave I've built for the game in my back yard, before launching into a passionate tirade about how those who desperately follow the market will never become market leaders.  But I don't actually feel much joy at this news. Or sadness. It's just ... a thing that happened.  I was sad playing most of Resident Evil 6. Like many of you reading, Resident Evil was a big part of my childhood, an icon in survival horror that popularized the genre and was, to the many of us who missed out on Alone in the Dark, a brand new way of playing a videogame. For years, Resident Evil was the leading example of horror gaming. Sure, it was cheesy, and it lacked the truly macabre leanings of Silent Hill, but it was the vanguard of the genre, and not without reason.  To see how low the series had sunk, going from a leader to this miserable, cloying, desperate little mimic, pathetically swimming in the wake of bigger and better games, was just depressing. I'm not happy it failed. I'm still sad it ever existed, and I'd rather us be able to talk about a good Resident Evil succeeding, as opposed to an awful Resident Evil doing badly.  Then there's the frequent reminder of how unwieldy and bloated the world of "AAA" game development has become, where you can sell 4.8 million copies and still fail your masters. It's not exactly positive news that a game could do that well by any normal standards but still be bad enough to cause alarm. Resident Evil 6 was already a product of fear, of the growing paranoia among publishers that they will never make their money back, and this latest setback could only drive Capcom further into the gibbering madness that seems to have taken hold.  Still, I do recognize that this was the most positive outcome we could have had. Better Resident Evil 6 do poorly and give Capcom a chance to regain its senses, than do well and justify the series continuing to be a neutered industry parrot.  And hey, Revelations did alright, so at least the RE game that wasn't worse than a plate of cold sperm came through. Hopefully that sends the correct message.  Capcom FY2012 3Q results [NeoGAF]
Resident Evil 6 failed photo
Capcom's financial results are in
Capcom's financial results are in, and the big news is that, despite still managing to shift almost five million copies, Resident Evil 6 is officially a disappointment, unable to meet publisher expectations.  The critica...

CNN host tries and fails to link videogames to violence

Feb 01 // Jim Sterling
"You kill a prostitute, and that's a big thing, you get to win points," lied Burnett. "I find that offensive. But does that mean that those people who play that game are more likely to kill people?" Pollack's answer? No. He said there was absolutely no evidence, though admitted gamers may be less willing to break up fights and may engage in domestic violence. As questionable and alarmist as even that is, it clearly wasn't the answer the CNN reporter had hoped for.  As the interview concludes, I urge you to take a moment to observe Erin Burnett, stuttering, dejected, and visibly disappointed -- a far cry from the look of petulant smugness she begins the interview wearing. She wanted a psychologist to say violent videogames cause killers, and got one who said they don't. She wanted her assumptions to be backed up, and was told there no evidence supported her opinion. The sorrow on her face says it all.  Naturally, Erin and her sordid ilk will continue to bang on the same drum, and can find any number of alleged psychologists who will say anything they want. With that in mind, it's a small comfort, but it is nice to see a panic-mongering hack squirm after utterly failing to get the story she so pitifully and obviously tried to claw for herself.
Erin Burnett wants psychologist to say things he doesn't believe
CNN's Erin Burnett last night tried desperately to make a psychologist blame videogames for gun violence, attempting to coerce him into agreeing with her that "violent" games make people more likely to kill.  "There's a...

Dead Island statue photo
Company apologizes after fan backlash
Dead Island has turned heads since its very inception, but Deep Silver bit off more than it could chew today with its latest promotion for the series. The publisher received a torrent of negative feedback upon unveiling ...

2 Legit 2 Quit photo
2 Legit 2 Quit

The Mario Brothers expand their plumbing business in SF

Half-price plumbers hire half-ethical graphic designers
Jan 14
// Niero Desu
This is completely legit.

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct trailer is ... HAHAHA

Jan 10
// Jim Sterling
Last time we saw footage of The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, it was presented as a trailer that turned out not to be a trailer, though it managed to even fool folks from Activision. The early footage made ...

Connecticut town cancels game destruction plans

Southington SOS claims victory in defeat
Jan 10
// Jim Sterling
Southington SOS, the group that had planned to physically destroy "violent" videogames in order to save the world from guns, has decided to back down and cancel the event. Claiming it had achieved what it wanted to, the group...

Videogames now accused of giving children cancer

British tabloid does a British tabloid thing again
Jan 08
// Jim Sterling
British tabloid the Mirror has decided to try something a little different. With its peers implicating videogames in school shootings, this particular rag has a new approach -- blaming games for giving kids cancer. ...

Pre-owned Wii U systems can download last user's games

Secondhand buyers able to nab some freebies
Jan 04
// Jim Sterling
Nintendo's obsession with tying game purchases to hardware may have bitten it in the keister, with word that secondhand Wii U systems are able to redownload software purchased by the previous owner. Oh Nintendo, you so Ninten...

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct trailer is ... hmmmm

Jan 02 // Jim Sterling
Oh. Looks like I wasn't wrong about the screen tearing.
Walking Dead: SI footage photo
Footage of first-person zombie spin-off fails to impress
[Update: This is a not an official trailer by Activision or Terminal Reality. Rather, it's a fan made video of gameplay clips taken from an interview by IGN Start on the upcoming game.] The Terminal Reality-developed The Wal...

PS Vita 'one of the worst product flops of 2012'

Dec 29 // Jim Sterling
Pictured: Something. There's no arguing that the PS Vita failed to ignite the world of handheld gaming. Still bound by this idea it can charge what it wants and people will eat up the brand, Sony's arrogant refusal to compromise on price and insistence on coupling the Vita with expensive memory cards has bitten it in the ass this year, and it sucks, because the Vita is a damn good system. A system hamstrung by the narcissists in charge of it.  Whether or not you'd consider the PS Vita an outright flop is a matter of perspective, but it's had an undeniably disappointing run for all but the most deluded of fans. I say that as a big supporter of the machine, too. Its performance, in terms of pretty much everything since it launched, has been a letdown. The long wait between decent game releases, the pathetic software space limitations, the mishandling of PS One Classics, the general awkwardness and clunkiness of any extra app outside of the admittedly solid Twitter one -- the Vita has a laundry list of failings in a market where you just can't away with that shit anymore. It's a testament to how good the Vita is that I'm still such a hardcore user of the console in spite of all these falterings, but at the same time, they cannot be honestly denied, and if Sony itself continues to deny them, then I think the Vita's status as a flop will truly be achieved.
Is PSVita a flop? photo
Financial writer gives handheld a good drubbing
Financial blog 24/7 Wall Street has ranked the PlayStation Vita among the worst product flops of 2012, placing it alongside such disasters as Apple Maps, the Dodge Dart, and John Carter. Yep, this is going to be one of those ...


SimCity cranks the always-online DRM up to eleven

Cloud saving is the latest way to bugger your customers
Dec 19
// Jim Sterling
A Reddit AMA thread can do wonders for somebody's publicity, as companies and personalities engage directly with one of the largest online communities. However, Maxis didn't quite get what it wanted from the system,...

Far Cry 3: The creative failure of industry 'commentary'

Dec 18 // Jim Sterling
If Yohalem wishes to insist his story is supposed to be an exaggerated commentary, he's going to have to come to terms with the fact that he's not a very good commentator, because Far Cry 3 comes off as quite genuine and clearly acts like it wants to be taken seriously. Far Cry 3's plot never distinguishes itself from any other open world game, and not once did I ever get the impression it was trying to be more than a straightforward -- albeit slickly produced -- adventure story. That's fine, and I wasn't offended by any of the game's narrative elements, but if it was intended to "exaggerate" anything, it failed. Given how ridiculous videogame stories generally are, Far Cry 3 needed to go way further than it did to expose the stupidity of the genre. Compared to something like Saints Row, the game's writing is tame. I'd argue Volition's done a lot more to expose the silliness of open world games, and when you compare it to Far Cry 3's effort, Yohalem's statements come off as disingenuous, attempting to answer criticism with excuses after the fact.  "When you’re with Citra in front of the warriors, that’s Jason’s fantasy, you know the white guy from LA has sex with this beautiful woman, it’s very gratuitous, and it’s in front of the whole tribe," Yohalem added. "It’s a fantasy that we’ve seen in pop culture cinema. "What I didn’t expect was the people who half-listen. If you half-listen to the story, it seems like it’s reinforcing tropes that I disagree with." The above quote is a perfect example of my problem with the writer's argument. Yes, the sex scene with Citra is a gratuitous fantasy -- but in an industry where gratuitous fantasy is the norm, presenting this scene without any added irony or commentary just comes across as yet another pointless sex scene in a world full of pointless sex scenes. It appears cynical, not satirical. As he says, it's a fantasy we've seen in pop culture cinema, but it's recreated so faithfully in Far Cry 3, it cannot be considered as exaggerated -- it's just another example of the trope.  Not once is there a shred of dialog or a visual cue to clue the audience into the idea that this is the protagonist's personal fantasy. Jason never says this. He never indicates beforehand, even briefly, that his dream is to shag a priestess in front of a crowd. It just happens, with a muted seriousness. In simply presenting the scene without added commentary, it looks like the writer's fantasy, not the main character's. It's sex for sex's sake.  Again, if that's what Far Cry 3 wanted to do, then whatever -- but implying now, weeks after release, that we're ignorant for not "getting" it, is offensive. I assert there's nothing to get. The videogame industry is not known for its subtlety, so if you set out to criticize, satirize, or otherwise comment on the medium's tropes, you're going to have to work hard and communicate it clearly. You don't get to act better than your peers by simply saying you are. You have to actually be better, and Far Cry 3 is not better.  It reminds me of the "satire" seen in The Simpson's Game, released a few years ago. This is a game that set out to parody problems in videogames by simply including the problems within its gameplay. It would give you tired and repetitive block puzzles, but excuse the lack of inspiration by having a character quip about how tired and repetitive the block puzzles were. That's not how it's meant to work -- simply acknowledging how bad your game is doesn't work as satire. There's no difference between your "parody" and any other game with mediocre block puzzles -- the result is still the same, as players are being bored by insipid gameplay no matter the stated intent. Game developers often think that, if they point out their own flaws, they're allowed to keep them. Having an RPG character make fun of fetch quests isn't a joke if you're going to lazily make the player do the fetch quests anyway. It's just insulting -- it comes off as a developer admitting they know how lame their gameplay is, but isn't interested in doing a thing to change it.  This is what Far Cry 3 did from a narrative perspective. In acknowledging these tropes, the lead writer admits he knows what's wrong with his game. However, by simply presenting these tropes with a straight face, he's not managed to make any kind of creative statement. He's fallen into the trap of simply being the thing he's trying to criticize. Or at least claims he's trying to criticize.  I maintain that Far Cry 3 is a great game, and I think its story is okay -- notable more for its superb voice performances than anything else. However, to suggest its critics didn't "get" the game, when it presented nothing to get, is both misleading and insulting. The justifications for Far Cry 3's plot actually serve to make the game look worse, because now it's not just a big dumb action story -- it's a big dumb action story that failed to be a smart and cutting observation of the industry. Frankly, it would've been better if  Jeffrey Yohalem had cashed in his chips while he was ahead, rather than take this PR gamble. Better to be known for writing a successful escapist's fantasy, than writing a failed indictment of it. 
Far Cry 3 photo
How a writer thinks critics didn't 'get' what wasn't there to get
Far Cry 3 has been accused of racism, sexism, and relying too heavily on exploitative narrative tropes. Lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem, however, thinks the critics have missed the point, and told Penny Arcade that Far ...

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