I am a Brazilian student in Norway. I also happen to really, really like games! I'm a huge RPG fan, especially JRPGs and party-based WRPGs, but I also enjoy nearly every genre, from Mario Kart to Limbo to Bulletstorm.
Record of Agarest War series
Ni No Kuni
Back to the future: The Game
Ghost Recon Future Soldier
Siren Blood Curse
The Walking Dead
Thomas Was Alone
The Walking Dead
Sam and Max
Wallace and Gromit
Saints Row 3
Double Dragon Neon
Resident Evil 6
Aliens: Colonial Marines
War in the North
Assassin's Creed 3
Fatal Frame Series
Currently playing: Record of Agarest War series
My 3DS code: 3995-6846-8256. For some reason it doesn't appear in the player profile.
I think I'm not supposed to write two blogs in a row, and this was originally supposed to be in my blog about privacy, but I since it has nothing to do with privacy, I decided to make another blog just for it. And it's in my head right now, if I leave it for later I probably won't write it. I don't blog much, so maybe I can do it just this once? Pretty please? Thanks!
We've talked plenty about how Xbox One is more like Xdone, and I just wrote about privacy. Leaving all that aside, I'm in the mood to play armchair analysts, so allow me to briefly take on Microsoft's strategy.
This year, total Playstation 3 sales have overtaken 360 sales, despite the fact it launched a year later, is more expensive and has always remained a distant second in the hugely important U.S and UK markets. This tells us two things: One, Microsoft has the U.S and UK market in the bag. Two, as big as those markets are, the rest of the world is even bigger.
Which is why I'm baffled by Microsoft's choice. There's probably a reason I'm here writing a Cblog and not running a billion dollar corporation, so maybe I'm just clueless, but I truly don't get it. Microsoft believes 1 billion next-gen consoles/devices will be sold, and yet it seems to be focusing 95% of its efforts precisely on the markets it already conquered, and some of those efforts even leave out the U.K entirely, at least for now.
The TV TV Experience TV Television TV integration, for one. Microsoft obviously sees it as a big selling point of their new entertainment device. At launch, it's just for the United States, where Xbox already dominates. Obviously, Microsoft's plan is to launch it globally "over time", but how long will it take? Is it even viable anywhere but the biggest markets? U.K residents who get Xboned can no doubt expect to be one of the very first "other" countries to be graced with Xbox TV, but if anyone in Finland or Belgium is excited about it, I'd suggest you find a really fun hobby to pass the time while you wait.
Or the exclusive NFL deal Microsoft paid $400 million for. Sure, $400 million is a tiny sum for Microsoft, but it's significant for the Xbox division. How much it costs, though, is not really the point, the point is what it says about Microsoft's priorities. The NFL is about that weird sport that U.S people call "Fooball" for some reason even though they only use their feet to run, and is only appreciated by weird Americans. Oh, you weirdos!
In case the above paragraph didn't give it away, I'm not American, and it's not a coincidence that I'm, to put it mildly, not all the interested in American Football. By and large, only people in the United States care about it. So Microsoft goes and invests in exclusive content that only appeals to the one country besides the U.K that is already seduced by the Xbox brand.
Another selling point, as Microsoft sees it, is the voice interface. Question: what does a voice recognition device needs to work properly? Answer: it needs to understand the language. I don't really know anything about the tech side of things, so I might be mistaken, but I suspect it's not easy or quick to prepare a device like Kinect to recognize and speak multiple languages. The original Kinect only launched with 3 languages. Assuming Kinect 2.0 voice powers are as amazing as advertised, it will probably take even longer to expand to many languages. And will Microsoft even bother with small or tiny languages? They will definitely have French and German Kinects at some point, but what about Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, etc, etc, etc? Sure, individually, the countries that speak those languages have very small markets, but altogether they matter. The PS3 outsold the 360 worldwide precisely because, besides Japan, Sony conquered most of these individually insignificant markets.
In short, I just don't see how they expect to conquer the world with a device that's so U.S-centric.
Following the reveal a few days ago, many gamers quickly made up their minds and said a very loud collective NO THANKS. I'm not going to beat the dead horse and write yet another piece about why most of us want nothing to do with it (hint to journalists who haven't been paying attention: it's not because no games were shown). Instead, I want to talk about Xbone and (lack of) privacy. That part didn't get nearly as much bad press, but I think it should. That is a very big deal, and even if the Xbone was the second coming of the SNES or Playstation 1/2, it might still be enough to keep me away from the system entirely.
I'm sure some supporters will dismiss such concerns as "paranoia", deride critics as "conspiracy nuts", and point out that our data is already collected, shared and sold in myriad ways anyways. Well, I'm having none of it. It's a very big leap from Facebook sharing my likes with advertisers to a camera connected to Microsoft's servers watching me in my sleep, even in the dark, and listening to everything I say, and that raises all sorts of questions.
Imagine the possibility of visual DRM. If there are more people than allowed by the "license", or if the "wrong" person is trying to play/watch a movie, the software might be blocked. Now consider that Microsoft already filed a patent to do just that all the way back in 2011. Obviously, patents are filed all the time, and most never turn into actual things, but it shows Microsoft clearly considers such a scenario. When questioned about it, note Microsoft's "clarification": "Microsoft regularly applies for and receives patents as part of its business practice; not all patents applied for or received will be incorporated into a Microsoft product. The new Kinect is listening for a specific cue, like 'Xbox on'. We know our customers want and expect strong privacy protections to be built into our products, devices and services, and for companies to be responsible stewards of their data. Microsoft has more than 10 years of experience making privacy a top priority. Kinect for Xbox 360 was designed and built with strong privacy protections in place and the new Kinect will continue this commitment."
Read between the lines, and nowhere does does it say Microsoft can't/won't do it. The response basically amounts to "we're not necessarily going to do it, but if we do, you can trust us to do it right". Mind you, we're talking about the same company that is quietly re-engineering Skype to allow government agencies to eavesdrop on conversations. Also, mind the part about Kinect only listening to a specific cue, like 'Xbox on'. What it means is that Microsoft swears Kinect will only register what you say after the specific cue, but obviously, it can't pick up the cue unless it listens to everything.
Visual DRM would be freaky in itself, but it's not even close the worst scenario. There are all sorts of ways things could go very, very wrong. It's easy to forget at times, but Microsoft is not an electronic entity. Behind the hardware, software, websites and gadgets are... real people. Shocking, I know. What's to stop a disgruntled Microsoft employee from uploading video of you having sex, or just "enjoying" the video himself? Sure, Microsoft will have a system in place to prevent that. But systems fail all the time, because systems rely on people, and there is no such thing as a flawless person.
The mainstream media has also picked up on that. Time has an article about it, and one of the questions they raise I hadn't even considered yet is hacking. Imagine a daredevil hacker gaining access to hundreds or thousands of audio and video of your home life. Now imagine a criminal organization or hostile government gaining access to detailed recordings of the home lives of millions of people. Again, that will be derided as paranoia, but anyone who doesn't understand that ANYTHING can be hacked is just plain naive. And even in a fantasy scenario where Microsoft somehow developed a hacking-proof system, it still wouldn't eliminate the threat entirely. The same information could potentially be obtained by bribing/threatening high-level Microsoft employees with access to it. And that is just a sample of the risks.
The biggest risk is not even the Xbone itself. The biggest risk, I believe, is that once the technology is in place and people have been trained to welcome Xbone-like devices into their homes, there is nothing to stop companies and governments to take away what little of our privacy we have left, and using that power to squeeze money/influence our lives in ways we can't even imagine right now.
I recognize that privacy in the age of the Internet, ubiquitous tech gadgets, terrorists and paranoid governments will never mean what it used to mean, and I accept that. Heck, I love it. My life literally wouldn't be possible without it. The benefits of a connected world far outweigh the risks. But there are limits I am not willing to cross, and in an ideal world, no one should. A recording device in my bedroom that cannot ever be completely disabled is a huge red flag. I can't stop people from supporting the spread of this kind of thing but I can write a little blog to raise awareness and do what I can to scare away anyone I know that might be even mildly interested in getting Xboned... though right it sure doesn't look like I'll have to work very hard!
The full title was supposed to be "Why is Nintendo such a polarizing company, and why do we care so much about the industry?" One of the most fascinating aspects of videogames to me is the sheer power of the emotional commitment they elicit out of us gamers, in a way I don't think any other entertainment medium does. I don't follow other mediums closely, so I might be mistaken about this but I can't imagine a discussion between music buffs ever touches on the business practices of Sony Music, or that the most fanatic book reader has any idea who the CEO of HarperCollins is.
We, on the other hand, spend almost as much time, if not more, talking about sales charts, business strategies, analyzing company policy and the like. We know by name not only the CEOs of many game companies, but the names of several lower level execs as well. We're all analysts, and we love it! Many gamers like to pretend to be "above fray", that it's "just videogames" but they just can't help themselves. They will let us know how everyone is so silly to be wasting time talking about whatever, and then proceed to chip in anyways! When there's a thread they "couldn't care less" about, say, EA's latest exec reshuffle, they care so little that they make sure to log in and let all of know know just how little they care. Repeatedly. Sometimes they'll even respond to comments in the same thread they don't care about!
It's not rational. It makes no sense. We don't have a stake in any of these companies. But we care anyways. Why? I have no idea. I know I care. I've tried not to, because, really it makes no sense and is kind of silly, but once I realized it wasn't about making sense (and when you think about it, not much about life really does), what the heck, I gladly embraced it.
Which brings us to Nintendo. Among all the companies in the business, I don't think there's a company that generates stronger reactions than Nintendo. Nintendo is scrutinized in a way that's probably unmatched anywhere else in the industry. It seems that virtually everyone involved in the business, from raging fanboys to financial analysts, care about Nintendo one way or another. Wait, what about the legions of Nintendo haters? That's just the thing, you only hate what you care about.
Even when "professional" analysts discuss Nintendo, it's not unusual to see the "analysis" clouded by Nintendo love/hate. Consider this article on Forbes titled Nintendo: The New Sega, an article so, shall we say... inconsistent, that the writer was called out in the comments by at least one fellow Forbes writer, something I never thought I'd live to see. To give you just a sample of the quality of the work, the guy cites ATARI as an example of a company that successfully transitioned from hardware to software.
Or this one on GamesIndustry International, titled "Wii U: Death By Apathy". It's pretty obvious where the writer is going by the incendiary title. And obviously the Wii U is struggling, and there are many ways to reasonably argue that it won't succeed (just as there are many reasonable ways to argue that it will), but what caught my attention wasn't the content of yet another DOOMED piece, but the wording. Intersped throughout the piece we have the likes of "Christimas is cancelled for Nintendo" (his take on EA not supporting the Wii U), "a title no one asked for and no one is interested in" (referring to Insomniac's Fuse) and "Fisher Price tablet" (the Wii U Gamepad) among others, that make you wonder if you're reading a professional industry analyst or a slightly better written forum response in a console wars thread.
Just as interesting are the comments. Unlike most websites, commenters on GamesIndustry are identified by their real names and jobs, and most work in the industry. Obviously, the level of discourse is far above your average Destructoid or IGN, but they still duck it out. Some loved his "Fisher Price" gag, others called him out on his "venom". Hum... where have I seen that before...
To say nothing of the recent twitter tirade and possible career suicide of EA's Bob Summerwill. The list goes on and on. Just as long is the list of articles that read like love letters to Nintendo, although right now they are naturally eclipsed by the doomed crowd.
I'm sure many of the people above are intelligent people, yet when it comes to Nintendo, it's like the emotions just take over. Why is that? I don't know, but of course I just HAVE to present my own armchair psychology theories! Maybe it's because Nintendo had an inordinate influence on the chiildhoods of legions of gamers, and those memories stay with us. Maybe because some former Nintendo fans resent the company for "betraying" them with the Wii (or even with the N64).
Maybe... who knows. What I do know is that it amazes me that Nintendo in particular, and games as a medium, can have such a powerful hold on people. What do you folks think?
The coverage on that so far mostly leaves Youtube completely off the hook, and is all about how evil/justified/stupid/smart Nintendo is for going after LPers, while the potentially most important factor behind Nintendo's decision has been largely ignored: that head-scratching, logic-defying creature known as "intellectual property law", and I just wanted to share an interesting Gamasutra piece about it.
The game industry is changing, and "disruption" is the buzzword of the day. Everyone now plays electronic games in some shape or form, and inclusion is the name of the game. Every publisher's wet dream is to get the billions of smartphone users to play their game. Because if everyone plays games, it stands to reason that every game can be played by everyone... or so the logic goes.
How I see myself.
One of the targets of this push for inclusion is the word gamer. Many claim that everyone is a gamer now, while others insist the word should be retired altogether. One such Gamasutra article is what prompted this response. In the article, the writer argues that "gamer" is a derogatory term that defines you as "someone who plays games, to the exclusion of all else", and is exploited by the news media as another way of ridiculing us, and so should be axed entirely. One commenter added that it was "troubling" that someone would self-identify as a gamer and not by, say, his profession. I'm here to defend, and embrace, the term "gamer".
How the mainstream media sees me.
Words are fluid. They mean different things to different people, and no single definition is absolute. Clearly, Brandon Sheffield has his own definition of gamer, for I cannot find the "to the exclusion of all else" part in any dictionary. I am reminded of how many times my teenager friends (and my teenager self, I must admit) used the word "gay" as a "joking" slur. Should we retire the word gay, then, because it has negative connotations to way too many people? Absolutely not. Far better to retire our own ignorance, which, in the case of my friends and me, has fortunately mostly been achieved.
My definition of gamer is someone who plays games enthusiastically, and to whom games are an important part of life. In other words, "gamer" to me is the gaming equivalent of cinophile, or any number of other words applied to enthusiasts of a number of other hobbies. And I see no reason whatsoever to be ashamed of it.
Which is why I don't see everyone who plays games as a gamer, just like not everyone who reads books is a bibliophile. And there is nothing wrong with that. I've never been ashamed to self-identify as a gamer, simply because I never thought that it "excluded everything else". Seeing myself as a gamer doesn't "disturb" me in the least, because that is not, nor has it ever been, all I am. I am a gamer. I am also an investor, a businessman, a Brazilian, an expatriate, a husband, a son, a friend, a student, someone who suffers from depression, someone who had to deal with the shock of hearing his 31-year old wife was diagnosed with cancer, someone who likes to play the guitar occasionally, a Destructoid reader, and a whole bunch of other things, with different degrees of importance at different times. None of them excludes anything else, and altogether, they make me who I am. And games are a part of who I am.
A good chunk of Brando's argument centers on how society at large and the mainstream media still views gamers as adult children, and thus we should retire the label to help change public perception of the game playing public. As a game developer, which I assume he is, I understand that public perception may have very real consequences for his livelihood, and he's welcome to do whatever he wants to try and change that. As a gamer, however... I just couldn't care less what the mainstream media or this faceless creature we call "society" have to say about me. It also strikes me as somewhat ironic that he doesn't want us to define ourselves as gamers precisely because he embraced the definition of gamer adopted by the news media! As an only child, I'm used to finding my own way. I've never defined myself by what is expected of me, certainly not by an amorphous entity such as "the media", and I'm not about to start now.