Hello again everybody, and a special shoutout to the people who read this segment every week. The support of all three of you means a lot to me (especially you, mom and dad). There were a few shake-ups in the console world this week with Nintendo getting panned again and the Xbox boss jumping ship. Check out more on those stories along with Randy Pitchford taking a Twitter lashing, Activision bragging, Rockstar saying not much of anything, a popular magazine taking a firm stance in the console war and the usual crop of videos and NAG highlights. All of this (and a little more) after ze jump.
Now that the Xbox One has dropped region locking, the Wii U will be the sole next-gen console that will have this restriction. Noticing this, the gaming community does what they do best – create a petition.
It’s a rather long-winded document which talks about Nintendo’s opportunities for further profits and why region-locking is bad and says a bunch of other things which somehow are assumed that one of the largest console manufacturers in the world doesn’t already know.
Do the people behind these things really believe that Satoru Iwata is going to sit bolt upright in his chair in some kind of eureka moment shouting, “By GOD gentlemen! If we sell a game in a different country, the money still comes to us!” Yes, that really is a point that is mentioned in this petition.
While the angry mob is demanding answers, Iwata himself did actually address the issue in a press conference at this year’s E3. According to the CEO, it’s primarily legal hassles and different rating systems which have caused Nintendo to adopt a region-locked policy.
Iwata said, “There are many different regions around the world, and each region has its own cultural acceptance and legal restrictions, as well as different age ratings. There are always things that we’re required to do in each different region, which may go counter to the idea that players around the world want the freedom to play whatever they want.”
So there you have it. Everybody put their pitchforks back where they found them and go home.
It’s more bad news for the Wii U this week, as gaming doom prophet Michael Pachter has said he believes the Wii U is “at the bottom of a huge mountain, with a huge uphill climb”. That was two “huges”, so it must be serious.
He goes on to ask, “with PS4 just $50 more than a Wii U, I mean, why would anyone buy a Wii U unless they have to play Nintendo games?”
It’s unfortunately a relevant question – the PS4 is new, shiny and exciting while the Wii U is poorly marketed and severely lacking a decent games library right now. The struggling console has a huge climb indeed.
While Microsoft is seen as the company really focusing on other forms of entertainment when it comes to their console, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House has said that the PSN is a “substantial business opportunity” for other components of Sony’s business.
House said in an interview, “With 110 million PlayStation Network accounts worldwide, that’s a substantial business opportunity for Sony Pictures to reach a different audience.”
House goes on to talk about two of the ways Sony is looking at expanding their television business to console-users.
“One is significant interest and work which is already under way to develop original TV-style programming content, which could be made available with some form of exclusivity to people on the PSN – essentially using PSN as a distribution network.
“The second point was to find ways to give earlier or exclusive access to other forms of content that Sony Pictures has – again, for people who are on PSN and particularly for members of PlayStation Plus.”
I’m not sure if this is something I’d be interested in, but as long as it doesn’t compromise my gaming I’m all for extra features.
The console debate burns fiercely since Microsoft pulled all their insane DRM policies, but international gaming magazine Edge has thrown its weight behind Sony’s offering. The cover boldly states “This Is Your Next Console” emblazoned on a PS4, with the subtext, “Why the only option right now is PS4”.
It’s interesting to see a magazine take such a definitive stance, what are your thoughts? Too confident? Preposterous? Fetch the whitecoats? I wanna hear all about it in the comments.
Last weekend a Microsoft exec incurred the fiery wrath of the internet (it isn’t hard) when he said that comparing the PS4 specs to that of the Xbox One is “meaningless”. This week he’s attempted to clarify his statement, saying that “I believe [Microsoft’s] games are going to be great and are going to look next-gen. And great games are what matters.”
I kind of feel a little sorry for the guy, his comment was almost certainly taken out of context. While the PS4 is thought to have the raw power advantage, I imagine this isn’t going to be apparent in the games, at least for a few years. Still, you have to be more careful about what you say in a public space; we don’t take kindly to folks being dismissive about hardware in these parts.
Of course, the biggest news this week for the Xbox One crowd was the poster-boy, Don Mattrick, leaving Microsoft to become CEO of sinking ship Zynga. This was covered quite extensively here on NAG this week so I won’t go into too much detail, but the gist of it is that the Xbox One boss has decided he’d rather work on Farmville than Halo.
This may seem like a bit of an odd move – until you see the man’s paycheque. According to reports, Mattrick will be earning nearly 20 million dollars in shares in his first year alone, with a 50 million dollar package over three years to make up for the Microsoft shares he lost.
Zynga stock rose 11% when Mattrick signed on as CEO (the faith in the current boss is, well, not great) which only served to increase the value of his offer. Ka-ching.
On a more positive note for Xbox One fans, Microsoft have detailed an “advanced troll detection system” in the console which should make online multiplayer gaming a more pleasant experience for customers.
Because Microsoft is pushing in-game chat through the Kinect, they really would prefer players’ sexual conquests of other players’ mothers get left out of a Team Deathmatch. To do this, they’ll be using a reputation system and cloud support to reward well-behaved folk and sift out the miscreants.
One way to do that, of course, is to just make all the angry shouty people play with each other, by matching people with good reputations with other like-minded and civilised individuals.
It isn’t just the trolls, however, the cheaters will also be taking a spanking from the Xbox hands of justice, since cloud support means more dedicated servers, which means better policing of those servers. See you all in the low-rep pool!
Games come and go, except for Call of Duty which is of course always coming. The next annual installment, Call of Duty: Ghosts, is due (as always) in November, and Activision CEO Eric Hirschberg insists that the franchise has “never been stronger”.
He’s got the stats to back it up, too. “At this moment in time, we have more people playing every month, more people logging on to play every day, a better digital business with people playing longer into the cycle of each product and purchasing more DLC and purchasing micro-DLC and purchasing season passes.”
Hirschberg credits this to “making a great game every time out”, and it hurts me to say that in some ways it’s hard to argue. The Call of Duty games are polished and well-made, and deliver exactly what you expect. He also promises Ghosts will be “something special”, but that I will believe when I see it.
The only game which may just trump Ghosts in hype is the long-awaited Grand Theft Auto V, which is starting to cause more of a buzz as it nears its September 17th release date.
Addressing some concerns this week, Rockstar have promised that any performance difference between the PS3 and Xbox 360 will be “negligible”.
As for us PC players who got shafted and the next-gen consoles, Rockstar is keeping mum for now. In a rather stilted statement Rockstar said, “We don’t have anything to share about the possibility of a next-gen or a PC platform release at this time and we are completely focused on delivering the best possible experience for the consoles people have right now.”
Damnit, I have a PC right now. Bleh. Anyways, it’s seems like a safe bet that the game is being developed for the next-gen as well, with the amount of time and money that goes into developing a game like this it seems like a no-brainer.
In other news, Gearbox president Randy Pitchford got trolled last Sunday. Getting roped into a massive Twitter war, Pitchford found himself defending the horrendous shooter Aliens: Colonial Marines, saying that it did not “exploit” fans.
This came after Pitchford criticised free-to-play monetisation tricks designed to extract money from customers, which someone was quick to point out was a parallel to garbage games like Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Pitchford’s position was basically that those games weren’t intended to exploit, they were intended to entertain. In other words, he wanted and expected them to be good games. He argues that it was a failing, not exploitation. What’s your stance? Is Colonial Marines exploiting gamers, or just a crappy game?
Speaking of exploiting gamers, Double Fine’s Tim Schafer has said that his Kickstarter project, Broken Age, cannot currently be made to completion as he “designed a game so big that it would need even more money”.
Schafer goes on to insist that he’s not asking gamers for more money, and going back to Kickstarter seems “wrong”. However, he’s also unwilling to go with a publisher, as this would “violate the spirit of Kickstarter”.
This really doesn’t sit well with me. The original Kickstarter had a modest goal of $400,000 – this means if you give me that much money, this game will be made. The Kickstarter ended up making an enormous $3,336,371 – and that still isn’t enough? How is that not violating “the spirit of Kickstarter”?
Schafer’s solution is to make the first half, put it up on Steam early access, and then release the second half at a later date as a free update. This might be a solution that suits everyone, but I feel it’s a lesson in not making promises you can’t keep. How exactly would this game have been created if only the original goal of $400,000 had been met? Maybe this number-crunching should happen sooner, before putting up arbitrary figures for crowd-funding.
Somewhat under the radar, Runescape 3 is being released this month, on the 22nd to be exact. The release date was revealed in a behind-the-scenes trailer which details some of the new features and highlights of the game.
Changing pace, next up we have an interview with the art director from Metal Gear Solid 5 who discusses some of the new characters, without giving too much away of course.
Our friends over in America celebrated their Independence Day this week, and to celebrate the national holiday Deep Silver released a special Saint’s Row IV trailer just for the occasion. It’s every bit as ridiculous and confusing as you’d expect, but that’s kind of what makes it awesome.
For the racing fanatics, some new Gran Turismo 6 PS3 gameplay footage surfaced this week, showing off the game’s UI and graphics. The skill of the player is, uh, less exciting. Check it out:
Best of NAG
All eyes are on Bungie and their upcoming FPS title, Destiny, as people expect quite a lot from the team behind the Halo franchise.
Curious? Then check out the lengthy 12-minute gameplay video from E3 which made its way into the public space this week. It’s worth it.
Another game which I’ve been following closely as an RTS fan is Company of Heroes 2, the better-late-than-never (looking at you Valve) sequel to the critically acclaimed original.
NAG’s own Miklós Szecsei put the game through its paces, and you can see exactly what he thought about it right here.
For something a little out of the ordinary for a gaming-focused website, check out my column for this week where I tell you why games are boring and I don’t want to play them.
Finally, end things off on a good note with these stunning pictures of an enormous storm-sewer system in Japan, which inspired the Mirror’s Edge sewer level.
Their enormous size is due to the fact that they have to manage tsunamis, and it’s a pretty damned impressive piece of engineering.