Hello regular This Week In Gaming readers, I hope all six of you had a great week. It’s the first full five day week we’ve had in a while, so I trust you’re not interested in my ramblings – let’s get straight to it. This week brought a whole heap of Nextbox rumours, some sweet justice, more than a few people with opinions and videos made a glorious return to the main stage. With that confusing and wholly unhelpful summary out of the way, let’s dive in.
So the Playstation 4 is kind of old hat now. We’ve seen it, we’ve spoken about it, and it’s coming. What people really want to know about now is the next-gen Xbox, and the rumours have been flying in full force.
Let’s start with the bad news – it’s apparently going to be expensive. Really expensive. The rumour comes via Paul Thurrgot, a US journalist well-known for getting the scoop on Microsoft news ahead of time. Apparently, the console could cost as much as $500.
He also said it’ll be a Windows 8 device (ew) and use Blu-ray discs, to be released this November. Thurrot as well as The Verge are saying there’s going to be a reveal on May 21st, showing off the new console for the first time.
Thurrgot also reports that Microsoft will be releasing a $99 Xbox 360 later this year. Which you might need, since Durango isn’t backwards compatible (reportedly). According to Bloomberg, inside sources say that the console won’t be compatible with your old games due to the new architecture. This shouldn’t come as much of a shock, since the PS4 can’t either, for pretty much the same reason.
More rumours (it’s rumours at this point) have emerged regarding the next-gen Kinect – apparently it’ll be able to detect eye movement. This news comes again via The Verge, who claim that the sensor will be able to monitor multiple users at once, and pause media content when they look away from the screen. Wowzers. Apparently, Durango will focus a lot on television and media consumption, making it more of a multimedia device than a strictly gaming console.
Another more cheerful rumour is that apparently the the Nextbox won’t in fact have to be permanently connected to the internet. This news comes via VGLeaks, who cite a source that claims the console will have always-online functionality, but if you’re not connected you can still play local content and second-hand games.
They believe these rumours have actually been confused with another Xbox device, the new “cheap” console mentioned earlier, which is designed to compete with Apple TV and won’t actually have a disc drive – all content needs to be digitally downloaded. One nifty little feature of this mini-console is that connecting it to a Nextbox will allow you to play Xbox 360 games. The report claims this helps keep the cost of Durango competitive, as backwards compatibility is not something everyone is really going to care about.
A lot of exciting rumours, but according to Bioware co-founder Dr. Greg Zeschuk, none of that crap matters. He describes the console industry as “sick”, and doesn’t see the next-gen consoles as the cure. Greg thinks traditional boxed gaming is suffering, highlighting recent high-profile resignations of the EA and Square Enix bosses.
Greg says: “Everyone’s kind of holding out hope for the new consoles, but I honestly don’t think they’re going to be that big a deal. I worry a lot that unless Microsoft or Sony pull something magically out of a hat, it’s pretty much the same old, same old repackaged and I don’t think they’re going to change the dynamic of the retail market. I don’t see how they can – the market is what it is.”
It feels like we’ve heard this kind of doom and gloom before about a dying industry, be it PC or console, and the games industry has consistently proved itself to be more robust than people give it credit for. I think the PS4 and Durango are going to be just fine, it’s the handhelds like the Vita and the awkwardly placed Wii U I’m worried about.
Speaking of the Wii U struggling, publisher Deep Silver (the people behind the Saints Row and Dead Island series) say that they have no plans to do anything on Nintendo’s next-gen console. In an interview with Game Informer, the COO of the company said that the “Wii U’s audience is not who we reach best”. I think this pretty much sums up the Wii U’s problem – despite their efforts to convince core gamers to come across, they’ve been pigeonholed as the casual gaming console.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Let’s start things off with the Good, shall we? Creative director over at Microsoft and part-time douche-canoe Adam Orth has “left the company” after last week upsetting the internet with his insensitive and arrogant tweets regarding always-online connection requirements.
Game Informer received a tip from an “unnamed source” that Orth had left – it’s not certain at this point whether he resigned voluntarily or forcefully, but there can be little doubt as to why. In case you missed it, Orth advised always-online haters to #dealwithit and made fun of people living in rural areas. It was all very rude, arrogant and surprisingly aggressive and Microsoft was quick to label Orth’s views as his own. However, it seems the matter has since been #dealtwith.
As for the bad, Square Enix sales have been struggling with Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution and Sleeping Dogs all showing somewhat underwhelming sales at 3.4 million, 3.6 million and 1.75 million respectively. It’s particularly disappointing as this is the first year the publisher has focused heavily on releasing big titles in the West without any AAA Japanese releases; compounded by the fact that these are excellent games that received high praise from critics. It’s sad to see great and original games like these get pushed aside by generic FPS moneymakers and the like.
As for the Ugly, publishing juggernaut EA has once again clinched the title no one wants, being voted Worst Company in America for the second year running. I’m guessing the ill-timed SimCity fiasco really didn’t help things here. The poll is hosted by the Consumerist, who put out a pretty scathing statement:
“Following last year’s surprise Worst Company In America victory by Electronic Arts, there was hope that the video game giant would get the message: Stop treating your customers like human piggy banks, and don’t put out so many incomplete and/or broken games with the intent of getting your customers to pay extra for what they should have received in the first place.” Ouch.
Always online requirements is the hot topic at the moment, and former Epic designer Cliff Bleszinski believes it’s not only fine, but it’s also the fast-approaching future of gaming for all of us. He cites examples such as Diablo 3, saying that if it didn’t have the always online elements it “would have sold half as many copies”. He argues that those lacking always-online connections are the “edge case”, and technology doesn’t advance by worrying about edge cases.
He has some decent points, but for me I think he’s missing the point. It’s very easy to have those always-online features, alongside a reduced-functionality offline mode. If Diablo 3 had an offline mode built in, it definitely wouldn’t have sold “half the number of copies”. Seriously, it doesn’t have to be one or the other; it can quite easily be both. People like options.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but PC gaming is DYING. Again. Global PC shipments have dropped more over the last quarter than they have since 1994 – and it’s all Windows 8 fault. At least that’s what one analyst says, claiming that instead of boosting the market, the Windows 8 launch has actually slowed it. Oh well, we’re all now familiar with the good-bad-good-bad cycle of Windows releases, let’s all just hang out in Windows 7 and wait for the ugly start menu to pass us by.
In what could potentially be pretty big news, free-to-play games are being investigated by London’s Office of Fair Trading to determine whether they are acting within the law. The main issue is the marketing of in-game purchases towards children – strong encouragement to make purchases is actually unlawful under various consumer protection acts.
If the investigation determines that these games are problematic, it could bring about big changes in the industry – they may become adult only, they may be subjected to tighter restrictions and it could mean a huge reduction in investment into free-to-play games as the regulations become difficult to develop around. The freemium model which has become increasingly popular could be stopped dead in its tracks.
Videos make their triumphant return
Last week was embarrassingly short on videos, and I gave a humble apology which was happily not accepted by anyone. So if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like books without pictures in it, put away the torch and pitchfork, I’ve dug up a few videos for this week.
First up is the world premier Dark Souls 2 gameplay video, a sexy 12 minutes of insanely difficult gameplay, talked through by two of the game’s producers.
Another exciting release on the horizon is ShootMania Storm, a high-paced multiplayer FPS from the people who created TrackMania. The game will have a heavy emphasis on community content, much like TrackMania was. I think it looks pretty awesome, check it out:
Finally, Dishonored is getting some pretty sick looking new DLC – The Knife of Dunwall. It’ll be coming on April 16th, in the meantime you can get psyched with some choice bits of gameplay:
Best of NAG
We’ve been bouncing the DRM debate back and forth here on NAG for a little while, I myself wrote a column on piracy and this week Wesley Fick had a look at a different kind of DRM which doesn’t garner nearly as much attention, but is definitely just as annoying.
A while back gamers made a stink over the generic, boring and frankly not very good Bioshock Infinite cover. Irrational explained it was actually intended to appeal to the, uh, less informed shall we say, but now this week we’ve been treated to eight brand new covers, and they look awesome. Check ’em out.
Better late than never, Tarryn van der Byl’s tardy Crysis 3 review surfaced this week, and it’s worth a read just for entertainment value alone. It’s the unofficial review they didn’t want you to see, and you can find it here.
Finally, I wrote a column this week on the sexism issue surrounding the lack of female protagonists, and not one of you commented. Not even one. Seriously guys, you’re going to get me fired. Just go over there and tell me I’m stupid or something.
That’s it for this week, y’all have a good weekend now, y’hear?