Hello again and welcome back to This Week In Gaming, the best thing you’ll read all week, or perhaps ever. This fine Saturday we’ll be looking at new developments in the disastrous Sim City launch, a whole ton of console news, more of those sweet videos you’ve come to expect, a few loose ends and some stuff from NAG that deserves another look. Dive in after the jump.
The Sim City Fiasco
The big news of last week was Sim City’s spectacular failure of a launch, and this week isn’t much different. It’s been nearly two weeks since the game’s North American launch, and people are still experiencing major server issues. Maxis CEO Lucy Bradshaw has stepped up to take the blame on the chin, saying “I feel like I let [the team] down, this was my responsibility.”
That’s all well and good, but the real scandal this week has come from the not-all-that-surprising revelation that Sim City actually runs just fine without its servers. Maxis had previously insisted that online component was critical to the game’s core functioning, but evidence to the contrary has begun to emerge. It started when a Kotaku writer noticed that his game ran just fine for 20 minutes with his internet switched off, which led to the creation of an offline hack which allowed players to play the game without connecting. Oops.
The hack was being discussed and distributed on Maxis’ own forums, until the thread was deleted, sparking yet more controversy. EA Maxis senior director of worldwide communications Erik Reynolds addressed the outrage on Twitter, saying that the thread was a violation of their Terms of Service but people are welcome to discuss the “fix” elsewhere. He also added that this wasn’t a mod, but a hack.
EA seem to have handled the whole situation extremely poorly, especially by insisting that offline play would not be possible without “a lot of engineering “from their side. It’s looking more and more like another case of a failed DRM endeavour that ends up punishing paying customers rather than pirates, especially since the game will inevitably be cracked anyway.
When you’re talking mainstream graphics hardware, there are only really two players – Nvidia and AMD. As you may know, AMD technology can be found at the heart of the PS4, but Nvidia has downplayed this by saying they “didn’t want to do the business at the price those guys (Sony) were willing to pay”. Sounds like they may just be sore losers. Rumour has it that AMD also won the bid for the nextbox as well, but that is not yet confirmed.
After holding out for quite some time, it looks like Sony has finally cut the price of their struggling Vita handheld, from $299 to $199. What’s going on exactly isn’t clear however, as there are a lot of mixed reports coming from Sony employees. While some say the price drop is permanent, others insist it’s a short-term offer. The price drop is supposed to be across the US, but has not yet reflected in some of the stores. Also, some employees claim that the price cut on the 3G model is due to it being discontinued. No word yet from the big wigs, but this seems to have been a long time coming. A price cut is what saved the 3DS so it could do wonders for the Vita.
Another struggling console is the Wii U – Gamestop president Tony Bartel has described 2013 sales as “slower than expected”. He did add that Nintendo will be launching “some of their biggest IP” in the next few months, which he believes will bolster sales. Despite beating Sony and Microsoft to market, it seems people are a little gun-shy of investing in the Wii U right away, and may be waiting for the other next-gen consoles to arrive first. If we’ve learnt anything from the console wars, it’s that it all comes down to your game line-up.
On the other hand, Bartel has said there would appear to be overwhelming interest in the PS4, with already 600,000 people signed up for Gamestop’s “First to Know List”. Not much surprise there.
More bad news for Nintendo – they’ve been ordered to pay $30.2 million in damages by a federal jury in New York. A while back we reported that a Japanese man named Seijiro Tomita had filed a case against Nintendo for infringing on his patent in their design of the 3DS – claiming that Nintendo execs had stolen his ideas after he presented them back in 2003. Nintendo was dismissive at the time, saying that they’d had “lots of meetings” with all kinds of people. However, the court found that Nintendo did violate Tomita’s patent, to the tune of 30 million dollars.
Ubisoft Montreal’s Jean Guesdon has got the internet abuzz by implying that Assassin’s Creed 4 for the PS4 will be released alongside the PC and current-gen versions of the game on October 29th. When asked if there’ll be any delay between the releases, he simply replied, “Same ship.” Take that as you will.
Another week, another bundle of sweet gaming clips for your enjoyment. First up we have a showcase of Splinter Cell Blacklist’s night-missions, making use of the ever-present night-vision goggles. Check it out:
Microsoft has released a new Gears of War: Judgment video focusing on “Kilo Squad”, the COG unit you’ll be playing in the game. Get acquainted with Damon Baird, Augustus ‘Cole Train’ Cole, Garron Paduk and Sofia Hendrik:
Last week we saw a teaser trailer for the new Call of Juarez title, Gunslinger. Now Ubisoft have released an official “reveal trailer”, with a little more action than the last one.
Best of the Rest
Do you spend your days playing Gears of War, Uncharted or other console-bound games that are actually good, longing to be able to kill wild boar after wild boar in World of Warcraft? Well you may have to wait quite some time, as Blizzard lead systems designer Greg Street has said making a game like WoW on a console would be “a huge challenge”, due to its “massive hard drive footprint and reliance on mouse and keyboard”. That being said, he did also say it can be done and he’d love to see it, so your days of employment and stable relationships may be numbered.
Irrational Games big cheese Ken Levine has revealed that he pulled the plug on the Bioshock movie. He tells that director Gore Verbinski was psyched to make a big-budget, R-rated horror movie out of it – which sounds pretty freaking awesome. Unfortunately, The Watchmen tanked at the box office and Universal got cold feet about spending $200 million on a horror flick. They dropped the budget down to $80 million, Verbinski pulled out and when they brought in a new director Levine didn’t click with and the Bioshock movie was dropped.
Zynga has been out of the news for a while, after the extremely public downfall of the once-juggernaut of social gaming. New life is being breathed into the company however in the wake of widespread speculation that Yahoo may be looking to buy them out, raising Zynga’s shares by about ten percent. Expert opinion on such an acquisition is divided – do you think it’ll be a good move for either company?
Moving on to successful companies, Minecraft creators Mojang have decided all the money that exists isn’t quite enough, and are now planning on offering a paid subscription service. Dubbed Minecraft Realms, it’ll allow players to roam freely on their own private server space, without rude people walking by and laughing at their inferior lego skills.
Best of NAG
It was a week crammed full of reviews here on NAG, and I’ve bundled up the best (read: all) of them. First up, have a look at Tarryn’s take on the controversial SimCity reboot as she struggles to fend off Godzilla and manage her sewage networks.
Speaking of reboots, it’s been eight long years but we finally have another Painkiller game. The original was excellent and everything after it was terrible, so where does this new and somewhat under-the-radar entry fit in? Let Nic Simmonds guide you through these confusing times.
Moving away from games, NAG’s own resident insomniac and self-proclaimed intravenous coffee consumer Wesley Fick has been asking the questions only he can (or would), having a look at both the Razer Orochi wireless gaming mouse and Razer’s curious Ferox portable speakers.
Meanwhile, Miklós showcased an extremely interesting looking indie still in the development stages. Check out this creepy platformer here.
Enjoy your weekend, everyone.