Welcome to the weekend. It's been a crazy E3 hype train hype overload week!† There has been such an incredible amount of things that happened this week that Iíve decided that instead of having a blog about one topic that really caught my attention this weekend I wanted to share the love and talk about a few things that had really been big talking points this week.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
First thing I want to say is that this is the worst midnight launch game ever. EVER!† I know people want to have things as soon as possible and that is awesome, but Nintendo maybe when you launch the next Animal Crossing in a few years maybe you should do a mid-afternoon launch a few hours early instead of launching this series at midnight.† I refused to time travel so when I booted up my town and got it all set up to go I was greeted by darkness and the appearance of many cool things that I couldnít do.† Hey!† There is a hole that probably has a fossil in it!† Oh... I canít buy a shovel yet. †
Hey Isabelle, what can I do to make this town a better place?!
You should talk to Tia cause she is a cool villager elephant thing and would love to meet you.
Oh, sheís sleeping until morning...
That said the game is amazing.† It truly is the ultimate time waster.† I think the best part is that because of your mayoral abilities the game has given itself a lot more freedom for the player to play in a style that is more befitting to them and added a lot of longevity.† I honestly donít feel like after a week I have seen even a fraction of what this game has to offer beyond the special holiday events, which is something that had always bugged me in the previous Animal Crossing games.† There is still a ton to upgrade and unlock and I canít wait to see more of what my little village can offer!† Now I just need like 8 million more bells to completely upgrade my house.† Back to fishing and bug catching!
Sony's E3 Pleasure Presser:
Having watched the stream live all I have to say is that I donít think I have ever seen an E3 conference receive a reaction like this.† Sony pulled off an amazing feat during their presser and it was visible in the stream and with the people I watched it with.† They completely energized their fans, won the media and pulled in an entirely new audience that may had already been set in writing them off.† This presser will go down in history as one of the greatest E3 moments.† This is the true start to their competition with Microsoft.† It was pulled off brilliantly and was a major victory before the first system was even sold.† Microsoft: When is too soon to announce a price drop?† The next day?
Nintendo's Direct Approach:
I donít know why I woke up for this.† Since it was just a Nintendo Direct instead of a live presser I was set on waking up in the afternoon and watching it whenever I cared to.† In this instance I actually blame Sony for getting me so excited the night before for what was to come at E3.† So I rolled my hungover self out of bed minutes before the start of the conference to watch a streaming disaster that that was something very much like this:
The streaming issues coupled with the fact that Nintendoís showing included only one surprise left a sour taste in my mouth.† To be honest I am excited for and am going to buy the four major Wii U titles that they had shown off during the Nintendo direct, but if it was a complete surprise it would have been just that much more captivating. I also think I was a bit disappointed to see that Retro was dedicating their resources to another Donkey Kong Country game.† Yes, I loved Donkey Kong Country on the Wii and I know that this will be a fantastic game as well, but I just wanted something new.† I donít even need it to be Metroid.† I just think they are an extremely capable development studio and I would have rather they had taken a fresh look at a new franchise rather then a second revival of the one they just finished. †
To end on a good note though I am incredibly excited about the Smash Bros characters that have been announced thus far.† Being such an Animal Crossing addict these last few days the Villager seems like a perfect addition and one that I had imagined being in Brawlís launch a few years back.† Iím really happy to see Mega Man and itís strange for me to imagine a universe where Nintendo cares more about doing Mega Man right than Capcom.† Finally, the Wii Fit Trainer is an out of the blue, yet awesome choice.† I have always loved the off the beaten path characters in the Smash Bros games and this one fits the bill.† Also the memes have been amazing. †
Microsoft Shut Your Mouth:
To be honest their press conference was not too bad.† It definitely was a step up over the recent years.† As an aside, the choices that they have made with Killer Instinct, which to be upfront is a series that I cared for very little even before this week, are strange.† It seems weird to me that everyone was running around saying that a classic game from Rare is back to find out that it isnít made by Rare (which considering the company these days is honestly probably a smart thing, but it was about the wording). Also that it has one of the weirdest free to play or demo model that I have ever heard of from a fighting game. †
The important message for Microsoft this week though is to shut your mouths.† Seriously.† You should enact a rule that before responding to a question you need to wait for a few hours and talk it over maybe with some people who have professional public relations experience.† I know that this generation is far from over yet and the victors are no where near decided, but at this point you might as well be buying PlayStation 4ís for the people that were your Xbox 360 enthusiasts.† As Iíve said before I wouldnít describe myself as a fanboy of a certain platform or publisher.† I would consider myself a fan of the entire industry.† Microsoft failing right out of the industry may be a good laugh due to their terrible incompetence at launching this system, but it isnít good for the industry as a whole.† Letís be honest too, A LOT can happen over the next five to ten years, but every time Microsoft says something along the lines of, "Fortunately, we have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity and it's called Xbox 360," Sonyís advantage grows.† Itís not over Microsoft.† I wonít buy an Xbox One, but I am rooting for you to get your shit together!† Good luck!
Welcome to the weekend!† Judging by the outcry on the internet I would be amazed if there are many people that think that Microsoft is taking the Xbox One in the right direction. † From DRM to people calling their practices anti-consumer they have built themselves quite the PR nightmare these last few weeks.† Looking in from the outside it would seem to me that Microsoft is trying to build a box to make everyone happy (and by everyone I mean content producers and consumers), but that is like cats and dogs living under the same roof.† I would also go as far to say that to me it looks a lot like Microsoft is trying to take the right steps to solve the wrong problem. †
The problem that they are trying to take on is the resale of games that consumers have purchased. † Are used games really the villain though?† I guess that would depend on your point of view.† I feel as if most publishers take the stance that every used copy sold is less money in their pocket, which is true to a certain degree.† Itís an incredibly black and white view on how used games actually contribute to the market. In a bubble that view may be perfect, but in the real world it doesnít take into account the many factors why a customer wouldnít just buy a new one in the first place.†
The most obvious factor in this equation is the price.† Yes, I am sure that there are customers who are excited to see a used copy of a brand new game for five dollars off, but there are equally more who would rather just wait for the game to be even cheaper before its worth buying.† Let me be honest too, there are many games based on quality alone that shouldnít even be on a store shelf for sixty dollars at release and people wonder why they donít sell. The sales you are losing are from the people who think that a sixty dollar game is too expensive and would rather pay forty or even twenty dollars for a game.† In a lot of cases games donít hit that price until some time after release and considering how stingy the publishers seem to be at dropping prices that can often be after the game has already stopped printing. †
Which brings me into my next point: Letís not forget that there are customers who actually would prefer to buy a new copy of a game that no longer can.† To be fair, this current generation will likely be the last where that ever is a concern.† But as it has been clear to see there have been many titles throughout the last generation that could only be purchased second hand, because new copies were no longer made after a few months.† Now that we are at the end of the console cycle more of those titles have the ability to be digitally distributed.† Even still though the download sizes in a lot of cases can be catastrophic and depending on your internet provider completely unfeasible. †
I would also be remiss if I didnít talk about how game trades lead to sales of new games.† The customer isnít always out there trying to take money away from publishers. For many people used games are a currency to buy brand new games with the shrink wrap and publisher money included.† If I was going to make this message as black and white as their view on used games is I would say: Putting limits on how a consumer can pay for your games will cause you lost sales.
There definitely has been talk in the community that if publishers made money off of the used games then games in general would be cheaper. † Do you want to know why no one believes that this would happen?† Itís because every time a potential savings could be passed on to the consumer it is absorbed back into the corporate wallet.† Digitally released games require no production or middle man yet cost exactly the same as one bought in brick and mortar.† Games arenít getting any cheaper for the consumer and even from a physical standpoint most games now come with no booklet and are nothing more than a disk in a flimsy box with a picture on it.† Granted a lot of that has to do with the pull from retailers, but if you think that pull will magically disappear with this new console then you are sadly mistaken.
Oh!† Donít worry!† I hear you telling me how it is on Steam, but letís be honest in most cases over the last decade the PC market has been treated as the ugly redheaded step child who only seems to generate money as an after thought.† Ubisoft and EA have both shown incredible under sight and made disastrous missteps in this market that could have been easily avoided if it was treated as importantly as itís console brethren.† Things definitely have been getting much much better, but most of that has to do with the fact that Steam is far more open for publishers and developers to be independent and competitive then the closed system that has been run on the console marketplaces.†
My message to publishers: Instead of running around screaming from the top of the mountain that used game sales are the devil have you considered that maybe the key is opening up more alternate revenue streams?† Letís be honest, by the time used DVD sales actually become relevant movies have already had two or three opportunities at making money with nearly infinitely more opportunities after the fact.† There is nothing remotely approaching that with video games. With most games they only tend to be relevant for a few months after their release and even after less than a year they fade into obscurity. †
What about a digital only early release edition?† Do you want to be the first person to play the new hot game?† Well, it costs more, but you get it a month before it releases anywhere else and it comes with some early adopter bonuses.† If you want the physical copy too throw in another ten dollars and weíll ship one to your house.
Another place that video games could follow in the footsteps of movies is by setting up deals with distribution services for some extra revenue.† The first thing that comes to mind for me is PlayStation Plus.† Sony is trying to entice people to join PlayStation Plus work with them to offer your old games as part of the package.† It garners goodwill, you will get some cut of the profit and it could lead to a revenue stream or a franchise revitalization that you had never expected.
Paid betas.† Seriously can you imagine the amount of money that Activision or EA could bring in by offering paid betas for Call of Duty or Battlefield respectively? †
Those are just three ideas I thought of in a matter of minutes.† I am sure if I had an afternoon I could fill a novel full of new ways to generate money for game publishers, but the key thing with the ideas that I listed above are that none of them infringe on the end consumers right to enjoy the game.† They enable the consumer to be in a position to help support the games that they love in new ways and ultimately are being rewarded for it.
The last thing I want to say to the developers and publishers out there: You are rushing something that is inevitable anyway.† Maybe it wonít be in November like you would like, but consoles games are moving toward a downloadable or cloud based streaming future.† Rushing it along is what is causing more ill will when you could instead be constructively helping build the future direction of this industry.† Donít blame the customer for your problems.† Ultimately, it is your business model with the over inflated budgets and unrealistic sales projections along with a true lack of innovative money generating ideas that are causing these problems.† Not the people who are passionate about playing these games.†
Welcome to the weekend!† For me this week has been about getting excited for E3.† The event has always been something special to me. I've always lovingly referred to it as second Christmas. Itís always been that few days in June where I get to sit back and enjoy the crazy news and over the top industry hype that is spewed in a few short day span. †
While Iíve never been able to go to the event (itís on the bucket list) Iíve gradually evolved my E3 traditions through the years to be able to best enjoy the time. †
As long as I can remember E3 being an event I remember being fascinated by the news that came out of it.† Back when I was a kid I remember waiting for the E3 issue blow out in the video game magazines.† I would study all of the articles and pictures for hours imagining how cool it would be to be able to go.† From there it evolved into hopping on the internet and catching the blogs as soon as they were posted.† Today it is all about the live streams!
Surprisingly Iíve found that my current E3 traditions started completely by accident. † I just happened to be taking some time off during the event and was looking for some new way to keep up with everything as it happened.† It was during a brief window of time where I had G4 and because I was bored I decided to pop it on and watch it.† Originally I had only planned on just watching Microsoftís conference, but much to my sisterís dismay I ended up staying on the channel the entire day and never relinquishing the television.† It was at that moment that I realized that reading about E3 is one thing, but actually getting to see the events unfold is an entirely new experience. †
From then on my E3 vacations became a planned event and as important as any birthday or holiday that I would take off work for.† At the time I had thought that I may be the only person crazy enough to do such a thing.† However one day while I was watching the Microsoft conference starting off the E3 events I had gotten a text message from a friend asking if I just saw what they did and how crazy it was.† Honestly, at this point in time I canít remember what they did or how crazy it was, but considering Microsoftís track record of E3 pressers I am sure it would live up to itís absurdity today.† When I responded back he invited himself over to watch it with me.† I hadnít planned on having company over, but I quickly put together a plan to stream the events from the Internet to my (now cable free) television.† We grabbed some beer and ended up having a great time living up the event from home.
Now my E3 events involve that friend, quite a few others and even more beer.† It has also now become the one day of the year where I donít mind drinking before noon.† The one thing that I have always loved about gaming as a hobby is that it is easy to share that passion with others who feel the same way and come together over that commonality. †
Despite all of the crazy E3 shenanigans I have at my house I still would love to attend the event one of these years.††I can only wonder how my traditions would evolve in actually being there to feel the atmosphere and excitement!
So anyone else out there have their own E3 traditions?
When I sit down to figure out what subject I am going to tackle on my weekly blog I try to find some video game news or event that has been relevant to me the most over the last week.† As I had thought about it this week though I realized that despite the media attention over the Xbox One there was one thing that had captivated me more then I could have imagined. †
That is Shadow of the Eternals.
You may remember, although I think it is unlikely I have weekly readers of this blog, but a few weeks ago I talked about the project and at the time I was skeptical.† I think most people would say that was justified stance to take.† However after I had posted that original blog, being such an incredible fan of Eternal Darkness, I ended up finding myself in a conundrum.† I was incredibly excited for the potential of the project, but the circumstances around Silicon Knights had me concerned.† At the end of the day I realized that all issues aside I really wanted to see the project come to life and that if I didnít contribute to it I felt like I wasnít doing my part, however small that contribution may be.† I was a bit nervous about it all but I made the plunge.
What an amazing surprise it ended up being.
The first thing that surprised me though is how much I have enjoyed the community that formed around this project!† I have participated in a quite a few different online communities through the years, but I have never experienced something like this.† Iím sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that community is focused on a very specific game.† It really boils down to fans of Eternal Darkness who are energized to see what Precursor can do with this spiritual successor.† When you are getting into the discussions you are ultimately participating with people who share a passion over the same specific experience as you and as such grants a common bond before you even reach any conversation. †It is also possible that the overwhelmingly positive discussions are because the project is based in Canada and Canadians are stereotypically well known to be a kind and sharing people. Regardless itís refreshing to see a community that prides itself in promoting creativity, positivity and a shared passion of this game. †
Once you are in the mix of things one of the next things you will notice is how communicative the Precursor team is.† They are in the forums and greeting people, answering questions and blowing my mind.† Did you know that the actor that played Jek Porkins in Star Wars was also the voice actor of Maximilian Roivas?† With the Precursor team now sharing the limelight with Dyack it is easy to see the incredibly creative and enthusiastic people that are the backbone of this project.† Ken McCulloch especially, whom they title the lore keeper, world builder and dream merchant, is an easy stand out of the bunch.† He comes off as an incredibly brilliant and inspired personality.† I can see him as one of those people who can captivate an audience for hours just by talking lore and design philosophy.† Together they are fostering creative projects from the community that could help shape the game, like offering up gameplay suggestions, ideas for lore and, of course, sanity effects.† They have been consistent at making daily updates for those interested and really bringing the community into a side of game development that I had never experienced before.† I find it to be entirely fascinating.
On the side they also have some really entertaining ARG stuff having to do with the mythos of the game.† This week, for example, they posted up this picture of a rosetta with some unknown writing on it.† Further down in the message I found a picture that had some interesting lore written in it, but it was written in the form of what looked like a word search.† As I tried to solve the puzzle and figure out the meaning of the way different letters were highlighted I realized that I had found a QR code.† I then whipped out the picture editor that I have and started blackening in boxes.† Once I finally got it so that my phone could scan it I was directed to a website that, amongst other content, contained a picture of a cipher, (which I soon found out was the final part of a cipher that had been discovered earlier in the project).† Now that I had completed the cipher I was able to start deciphering the rosetta. †I printed it out and started writing on it with a pencil and blocking out words like I was back in my childhood mapping out an NES game.† I know that an ARG is nothing new, but wow!† It was a super exhilarating feeling to feel part of a bigger project and story!† If this is the type of experiences that they are setting out to create with this community and game then we are in for a special adventure.
There are a couple of final things to point out since I feel they are key items that I have seen that people are not aware of yet.† First, they do have a Kickstarter now.† The way Kickstarter works is they donít take your money unless it meets itís funding goal.† If the project doesnít make it then there is absolutely no risk to you.† For those that have already contributed via PayPal that money WILL be refunded if the project does not make itís goal.† Second, if you are a person that is concerned about Denis Dyackís involvement with the project, especially in light of the Kotaku article I urge you to check out his rebuttal.† The brief recap is that he realizes that mistakes were made in the past, but makes a very compelling argument regarding falsities in the article and why there should be trust put into Precursor Games. † †
If despite all of my words you are still on the fence I highly recommend you check out what Shadow of the Eternals has to offer.† For someone who was just sitting there a short time ago I can say that the only thing I regret was waiting so long.
P.S. If any of you out here did support the project you would be my hero for reading and voting on my contest entry: Nothing Happens By Coincidence.† Mark it as Codex Worthy in the first post!
Honestly I always like to give EA the benefit of the doubt these days. Yes, they can do some things that can irk gamers, but I've never considered them the worst company in America.† Yeah, they may not be the best, but considering some of the other trouble that more prominent companies have stirred up they arenít the worst.
It makes me wonder what their angle on ending the online pass is though. Let's be real, there is no way that the online pass system wasn't making them money. By hitting second hand purchases with a ten dollar fee to access the online portion of their games absolutely helped generate money.† At the end of the day they are a company that is expected to generate a profit.†
So what does this mean?
There are a couple of ways to look at this. This first is a genuine attempt to garner favor with customers. We all know that they have had it rough lately. They were named the worst company in America again. Granted, that prestigious award is a bit skewed in how it reaches that conclusion, but itís the internet.† Not to forget, last year they faced the massive outcry over the Mass Effect ending, a lack luster amount of users and content for Star Wars: The Old Republic and a few months ago they had botched the anticipated Sim City launch despite recently seeing other products fail for the exact same reasons.† At the end of the day brand loyalty goes a long way to improving sales. This could be a good will gesture that intrigues customers to come back and ultimately sweetens their bottom line.†
But like I said they are a company thatís ultimate goal is to generate money.† What then if there are more nefarious suggestions as to the reason of the move?†
Well, one reason could be DLC.† Some gamers may view online multiplayer as an essential feature, but that doesnít mean you canít get people to pay in other ways.† First up they have shown a lot of interest in driving micro-transactions into their games.† As Dead Space 3 has shown recently you can offer impulse purchases of items to help a struggling player for a few dollars.† It is a quick and easy way to garner more than that measly ten dollars that they are passing up without a player thinking too much about it.† Then on the other extreme end of DLC is the season pass.† The season pass does pose more of a risk and reward type scenario to replace the online pass.† However, because they can generally run $20 to $50 in price they are bound to bring in substantially more money if done right.† As Call of Duty and Battlefield have shown there is a huge portion of online gamers that would prefer to pay upfront for their downloadable content and it ultimately provides them money to help finance the development of said content before it is all released. †
There is one last super evil possibility to consider though... What if those rumors about Microsoft putting measures into place to limit used sales is true?† EA announces just before the next Xbox unveiling that the online pass system is out.† This in turn garners them some good will from the gaming community.† Then we find out that next generation games will be one time use essentially netting the point of online passes moot.† Microsoft takes a lot of flack and EA can sit back and say that they didnít want this and that is why they stopped it.† If this is the case I think both companies would be shooting themselves in the foot because used game sales/trades do help generate more money to buy new games.† The math is easy!† Less money equals less game purchases which leads to less money for game developers. †
At the end of the day I do think it is nice to see EA trying to shake things up a bit as they start to come under new management.† It will be interesting to see where they end up in a years time with all of the news that they have been drumming up these last few weeks.† In the last two weeks alone they have Star Wars, ditched online passes and threw the Wii U to the curb. †I can only imagine what is next.
With all of that said where do you stand on EA? †Genuine or Evil?
Hey guys itís Thursday and guess what Eternal Darkness is getting a sequel!† Oh wait... You arenít that excited for it?† Oh, itís only a spiritual successor.† Well, I guess Nintendo does own the IP for the series so that makes sense. At least Denis Dyack is involved right?† Summoned back from the dead and back into the internet spotlight!† Oh that is a problem too?† Well then.
Eternal Darkness is probably one of my favorite games. † Iíve played it more times than I can count.† It was the first M-Rated game release that I was old enough to purchase on my own.† Iíll admit right here that I know it is not the greatest game ever made, but it has always held special memories for me.† It definitely had some innovative elements to it, but the gameplay was lacking in some areas.† Regardless, those less than perfect moments never tarnished my love for this game.† To this day I still get giddy every time I see a clockís hands showing the thirty-third minute of the third hour. †
For those that missed out on the game it is a third person action game with a definite focus on psychological horror.† The story weaves a rather unique narrative as well.† You play as a woman named Alexandra Roivas whose grandfather was recently murdered.† In trying to figure out how he died you discover that the answer is somehow tied to the Tome of Eternal Darkness. † Every chapter Alex reads puts her into the shoes of another person that has fallen into the path of the ancients over the course of the last two-thousand years.† Their recounted experiences allow her to learn from their attempts to stop the darkness. † As each chapter progresses she will learn spells or maybe encounter a story element that will be tied to one of the puzzles her grandfather left behind, each ultimately is a step in progressing through the mansion and gaining the knowledge and experience to stop the world from falling into eternal darkness.
One of the really unique things that this game attempted to do at the time was to introduce sanity effects.† The idea from a mechanical standpoint was simple, the game has a meter for sanity, just like you would normally see for health and magick.† As the sanity meter decreased the game would react to it in different ways depending on how depleted the meter was.† If you had lost a little sanity maybe you would see a statueís head following your movement in the game or get phone calls from your dead grandfather.† If your meter was completely depleted you could spontaneously explode while casting a spell.† The best sanity effects were the ones that attempted to break the fourth wall.† It could have you walk into a room with zombies starting to come towards you and as you go to attack the game flashes that the controller had become unplugged.† One of my personal favorites is triggered when you attempted to go and save your game it would instead prompt you to delete your saves.† As the delete bar comes up and you feel your pants moisten slightly the screen flashes white and you realize that this canít be really happening. †
Flash forward to this week: With the announcement of the spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness, Shadow of the Eternals, you could not contain my excitement.† I had been waiting for this game for ten years.† Normally the idea of a spiritual successor isnít really that exciting to me, but it had two things working for it at a glance.† First, the studio that was working on it was a team made up of former Silicon Knights developers.† Second, and most critical in my mind, is that the story, while not being able to directly connect to the original, could still tie easily into the universe of Eternal Darkness.† It is mentioned in the original game that there are other people in other universes fighting the same fight for survival against the ancients.† New people and new ancients? Great!
Another thing that I had gotten really excited about with Shadow of the Eternals is the return of Denis Dyack.† Love him or hate him it is easy to agree that he is a very smart, very vocal man with some interesting and sometimes controversial opinions. † He is a believer in the industry and the future potential of video games as a medium.† He definitely has had some interesting interviews in the past, but honestly I always have felt comfortable with Denis Dyackís influence in my world.† His thoughts on the industry shaped a paper I wrote in college about the growth and maturity of the video game industry.† While he may come off as eccentric sometimes I always love that he is a developer who is passionate about what he believes in and I love hearing his opinions, unconventionalities and all.
With that being said though there are some real concerns about this project.† The goal of 1.5 million is incredibly lofty and is only to cover the first episode and initial production costs.† They mention that future episodes would be cheaper to produce, but I couldnít imagine going through another fundraising event every time an episode is released.† With twelve episodes planned for release the amount of money, faith and patience that would be asked for from the gaming population is unfathomable and each attempt surely resulting in more uncertainty of the future of the project. How long would you have to wait for twelve episodes of one game to be produced and released? Even Telltale who has been the most successful developer recently with episodic games seems to struggle with keeping the releases consistent and quick enough to keep momentum. † Factor all of that in with the question as to what happened to Silicon Knights and you have brewed the perfect cup of uncertainty. †
Despite my initial excitement, a few days later I still find myself staring at the Shadow of the Eternals page.† Iím still hitting refresh a few times a day and watching that dollar amount climb up.† Iím still staring down the rewards list debating on which one I would be willing to pay for.† I want this game badly, but Iím not ready to commit to it yet.† Part of me thinks itís a fear of losing my crowd funding virginity, but my mind keeps drifting towards legitimate concerns over the future of this project. †
At the moment I donít think my thoughts could be summed up better than those of Edgar Allen Poe.††