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9:41 PM on 07.05.2011

Wii U Online: Not Unified but 'Flexible'?

I'm betting you've heard that news about a new Nintendo console. Not sure why, but I'm just going to go on the assumption that you know the name is the 'Wii U' as well.

But since that ever so slightly confusing and, perhaps, even a little misleading conference (depends on your view of the use of 360 and PS3 in game footage as a benchmark for eventual titles) the only news that seems to have come out has been a bit of a downer for the up coming Nintendo Wii successor.

Don't get me wrong. If you desire your Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Pikmin than I'm sure you'll still run out and buy the console though I'd suggest waiting until Nintendo actually puts software out worth owning (like people are smartly doing with the 3DS). But the news of using a proprietary disc format, the fact that each Wii U only supports (rumored at least) one of those fancy controllers and not including a hard drive... Well, let's just call me less than thrilled by those particular reveals for Nintendo's attempted foray back into the hearts of the core gamer.

But now it would seem that Nintendo isn't really serious at all to win back the core gamers especially from an online perspective. If a Joystiq article on the matter holds any water, don't expect a unified account. Nope. Rather you should anticipate juggling possibly any number of accounts with publishers and developers in order to enjoy your online functionality. Makes me think back to our good friend Jim Sterling's criticism of EA entering the digital distribution realm and it really should make you nervous if not a little angry.

If this really happens the way that our minds pretty much have to process the available information, wow Nintendo... Just wow... Do you not want people to buy your system and it's games? Do you not have any concept of a proper online service? You're a huge company with an amazing legacy of creating some of the most well known games and characters in existence, but you can't look at reality and implement a logical unified system for your consumer base? You know, that system that has worked wonderfully across both Live and PSN while your first foray with Friend Cods sucked?

No one wants to have to remember a slew of accounts and passwords just so they can play their games with their friends. So either this keeps most people away from the Wii U, or people just throw security to the wind and use the same username and password for all of their stuff and just pray that no one hacks the information from some insecure server. And God forbid if people start stealing user names from game to game, turning it into a dash to who can claim a name first. That will definitely be fun for people. I have to admit that I'm astounded that Nintendo has actually managed to make Friend Codes sound like a good idea. Hell, maybe that's what this whole plan is.

But seriously, Nintendo? So you don't want to localize games for the core who really want them and have gone out of their way to write letters that aren't just asking but begging you bring certain titles over. And now you don't want to move into the modern era and make a functional online system. I'm seriously beginning to believe that if the Wii hadn't manged to gimmick itself to success to millions of non-gamers that Nintendo as a console hardware provider would be no more. Say what you want about Sony copying other successful features and devices. At least they're quick to add features that the market demands and actually allow other people to publish games that they don't want to bring over such as Demon's Souls.

Are you trying to fail Nintendo? Is this a game of chicken to see how much you can do wrong and yet still make money off of people? Because if you are, Nintendo, well, you might want to look out for that cliff edge. You're treading pretty darn close right now. Careful you don't completely throw yourself off it.   read

10:25 PM on 01.18.2011

Activision Threatens to Shutdown PSN Servers

I've not been much of a fan of Activision as a company of late. Between Bobby Kotick raking in boatloads of cash by milking franchises to death until they're nothing but dried up husks and the treatment of the developers themselves such as Infinity Ward's firing of its bosses (we'll see how the lawsuit plays out) or even Raven whose worthwhile game Singularity was given no real marketing at all, I've just not had much reason to like the company.

And assuming Jason Koblovsky is telling the truth in his blog, and I see little reason for him to lie, then I certainly have reached a point at which I may just have to never even consider touching another Activision title for quite some time.

In utterly shocking news, Activision's recent release of their hot selling series Call of Duty has been having some issues with it's multiplayer component. I know that some of you are shocked by this news and I'm sorry to have to break it to you here.

Koblovsky, an independent freelance journalist, has been an active member of the PS3 Activision forums which has been busy with complaints levied against Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops online multiplayer extravaganza.

When Koblovsky asked the developers how they were going to make it up to the PS3 community as a result of the consistently poor performance of their game, Activision gave a rather threatening response:

Well I have nothing else to offer and I too follow forums and have many friends who play and enjoy the game for all of its features. As an avid gamer, I would also disagree with any legalities involving a single aspect of a game as online experience may change at any time. The publishers have the right to shut down the servers for their game at any time as well which based on the number of reported posts from users may be a viable solution over the free PSN.

[i]In any event, if you would like to send your game disc into us, we can either;

a) Exchange for a sealed (unopened) copy of the game that you can take back to the retailer
b) Swap for another platform
c) Exchange for another Activision title of equal or lesser value.

These are the options that we are able to offer to you as a one time courtesy.

Let us know how you would like to proceed.[/i]

Koblovsky, not to be silenced by such a threat, fired back at how Activision was threatening to silence PS3 owners who were being denied a fully functioning product that they purchased. He further threatened never buying another Activision product as well as potential legal action if Activision followed through on such a threat.

(For the full response by Jason I will of course suggest that you read Jason's blog which I have linked at the beginning of this post.)

I have to say that I wish I was surprised by this response by Treyarch and ultimately Activision. But, sadly, I am not surprised and I doubt that many of you will be either. It's utterly shameful that we have a company threatening to pull service from it's customers because they are not able to create a game that functions properly. It would one thing if many talented developers were having issues with creating a worthwhile PSN multiplayer system. But, and say what you will of Infinity Ward's Call of Duty titles, this is not the case for many multiplayer games including past Call of Duty outings. At the very least, previous Call of Duty titles were never this bad. So to have Treyarch threatening it's customer because they can't deliver on a platform owned by millions of customers who have caused Call of Duty, and most certainly Black Ops, to be a commercial success really just ends up being pathetic.

In an age where games can be patched and updated there is no excuse for problems to be so persistent in any game for a lengthy period of time. And yet, I think this generation of games has had more issues than any other that came before it. Games have been released riddled with glitches upon release and this includes single player games so you can forget simply blaming the emergence of internet multiplayer as the reason why glitches are so much more prevalent now than in previous console generations.

And to top it all off, now we're being threatened because we demand the games that we pay for to actually work! Seriously, we should all be ashamed of ourselves... Look at what we've bred into existence with these companies. Garbage in, garbage out. It was only a matter of time before this happened. We've been feeding the demon a little too well lately and now they think they control us. But the fact is, we control them. But until gamers learn to put their money where their mouth is instead of supporting horrible developers we'll be dealing with threats like this for a long time to come. If I'm giong to be honest though, this is just the beginning of what I think is going to be a royal mess.

But hey, I'd be really happy to be wrong on that.   read

1:21 AM on 05.12.2010

EA: Waging War on the Used Game

I doubt anyone will be the least bit surprised on this front as this is not the first instance of this kind of tactic being implemented by game publishers. But for those unaware, EA is now tacking on a $10 multiplayer activation charge for their used games starting with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 and following in the suit of SONY's similar charge on their PSP Socom title, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3.

I really wish I could be angry at them. Actually, I know the opportunistic penny-pinching consumer part of me is. The last thing I want to do as a consumer is to spend more money on games as, for those who aren't kids anymore know, games can put a nice dent in you wallets and bank accounts pretty darn fast. This is especially true with the current video game climate where it is becoming a market filled with more worthwhile game titles and consoles than we can sometimes have money or time to spare. I can just hear my economics professors echoing the foundation of economics in my ears: Unlimited wants and limited resources. There is probably not a much simpler truth than that so it is hardly shocking that so many people rely upon those nice deals that are used games to help meet their list of wants. Sure, Gamestop is laughing all the way to the bank, but we the consumer honestly have no real reason to care.

However, while I don't care about EA or SONY, that doesn't mean I don't get why they're doing this. You make a game that takes millions of dollars of investment - tens of million on the current gen platforms - and a team of considerable size and filled with an assortment of talented individuals only to have someone buy your work, beat it in three days, sell it back to the store that they bought it from (for maybe a lousy third they initially paid), and watch an infinite cycle of resale and re-buy that has the middleman nabbing more of your hard-work in the form of cash than you are. In fact, you get money only on the initial sale. Granted, they're getting a nice piece of the pie, but that doesn't make the used game money making scheme all that much more tolerable from their perspective.

In fact, I find that this isn't the first move towards trying to kill the used game though this will be the first that really will hit the consumer. I've come across a lot of people complaining this console generation about multiplayer in games in my times across game forums. A sort of whining that to paraphrase comes down to this: 'Why are they wasting their time on the multiplayer instead of the single player?'. You can go ahead and tack on such things as the complaints about single player campaign lengths as well. But what it comes down to is that game developers are trying to give games the longest lives possible. The longer it hooks gamers into playing the less used games on the shelves. So unless you're in the RPG genre, it is pretty hard to keep gamers hooked long enough. But multiplayer? That's the ticket assuming it is handled well enough and, perhaps worst of all, if it is good enough many people will sometimes overlook a shoddier than necessary single player experience. But that's a whole different thing for me to gripe about another time.

So now that we're here, facing what I fear will be more companies following EA's lead to get a piece of the used game pie, what happens now? The consumer is either not going to feel this at all or we're going to feel this a lot. Somehow though, I'm leaning towards the consumer getting bit pretty hard on this one.

Best case scenario: Gamestop lowers used game prices to accommodate the activation cost. Consumer still gets used games at a lower cost overall - even more so if the consumer doesn't pay the charge - and the entity taking the profit hit is Gamestop. Yeah, that's not likely I'd wager

Worst case scenario: The consumer is forced to either buy used game and miss out on multiplayer or we pay more and just buy the game new which increases new games sale and make the publisher happier and still pads Gamestop's bottom line anyway.

Right now, the only silver lining is that this is just EA - SONY too, I guess - and only multiplayer. But, in the words of Big Boss, "The moment zero becomes one is the moment the world springs to life. One becomes two. Two becomes ten. Ten becomes one-hundred." We're already at two. So just how long until we reach one-hundred? And perhaps more importantly, is there anyway to bring this back to zero? Sadly, I don't think we can.   read

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