Posts Tagged ‘PS3’

E3 2014 – Sony

Posted: June 6, 2014 in Current Gaming
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E3 Sony

Wrapping up my E3 Predictions (which will undoubtedly be 100% accurate) is my take on Sony and their PS4 and PSVita. Feel free to also read my previous entries:

E3 2014 – Nintendo
E3 2014 – Microsoft

PS4
Whereas I thought that both Nintendo and Microsoft had to make a difference, I think that Sony really just needs to keep doing what they’re doing. They have a comfortable lead in the console race, and, outside of Japan, are generally outselling the other two consoles on a monthly basis. The PSVita is also enjoying moderate success. It’s no 3DS, but it’s still selling respectably well. Basically, Sony, don’t f**k things up.

Yeah, don't do anything like this.

Yeah, don’t do anything like this.

Okay, that’s too simplistic. But Sony really doesn’t need to shake the world to come out of this conference looking good. They, much like Microsoft, do need to find a way to add value to purchasing a PS4 over sticking with a PS3 or Xbox 360. Much like Microsoft, I’m not totally sure how they do that outside of bringing new games to the system. Preferably this year. They have to get some next generation exclusives out, and soon. Right now there’s just not much coming out for the PS4 and Xbox One that aren’t also coming to the PS3 and Xbox 360. I hate to continue beating this drum, but I think it’s a major problem that neither Sony or Microsoft has been able to adequately address to date. With so many exclusives (such as Batman: Arkham Knight) being moved to 2015, and new titles (such as Mortal Kombat X) still coming to both generations even into 2015, there is still no huge incentive to upgrade just yet.

PSVita
In addition to the PS4, Sony also has to focus on the PSVita. I’m sure they’ll have some focus on the little handheld that could, but I do wonder how much. In all honestly, the game support for that system has been lacking. Perhaps now that the PS4 has launched, Sony can shine some more light there, but I wouldn’t expect it. Truthfully, I’m not sure that Sony really knows how to approach the handheld market, even with the success the PSP enjoyed. Nintendo still owns that market, and I think that has pushed Sony off their stride.

What Nintendo seems to understand is that when most consumers buy a handheld, they do so wanting to play a different type of game than what they play at home. Not worse games or more simplistic, just different. Games that can be broken down in chunks. Sony seems to think that consumers want to take their console games on the go, and I’m don’t believe that is the case. When you go down that road, you end up competing against yourself because there is no differentiation in the games that you are offering your customers. Maybe this is the year something clicks and they find a sweet spot for the PSVita, but past marketing efforts don’t give me much hope.

Case in point

Case in point.

Predictions

  • The Last Guardian will be mentioned as not cancelled…and that’s it
  • Uncharted 4 will make an appearance, coming in 2015
  • Price cut for either the PSVita or the Memory Cards
  • I’m at a loss here. I really don’t have anything else for Sony.
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Mario Death

I didn’t want to write this blog. I like to write about fun and positive stuff. But then Nintendo had to go and completely miscalculate how the market would react to the WiiU. Damn it, Nintendo! You force me to write about some unpleasantness. And unpleasantness about my favorite gaming company on top of that. Why would you do that to me!?

Anyway, most people have read the news on this , but just in case you haven’t, here you go:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/gaming/2014/01/17/wii-u-sales-forecast/4575041/

Yes, Nintendo slashed sales forecast by over 6 million consoles. Not a big deal if you’re talking a cut from 50 million to 44 million, but when it’s from 9 million to 2.8 million, that’s a mighty big cut…and a mighty big miscalculation of the console buying market. Damn it, Nintendo.

The question you may be asking me is why I care about this. After all, this doesn’t affect how my WiiU performs or the enjoyment I get from the games. My investment is because I’m a WiiU owner. Bad sales mean less games. Extremely bad sales could mean near abandonment. That means that I have a console that potentially won’t be receiving a lot of games. Look back at My Top 8 Upcoming Games of 2014. The link is just to the left. Three of those titles are WiiU titles. Is their development in jeopardy? I have no idea, but you do have to wonder if behind the scenes they aren’t considering cutting their losses and cancelling some of their bigger budget titles that are still quite a bit of time away (if I’m robbed of X they may lose me forever). Or maybe they’re being put on hold to see how Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Brothers affects sales of the WiiU. Again, I have no idea, I just know that by cutting forecasted sales, Nintendo is openly admitting that they miscalculated with the WiiU and are indicating that the console is in real trouble. Damn it, Nintendo.

I can't imagine how important this title must be to Nintendo & the WiiU right now.

I can’t imagine how important this title must be to Nintendo & the WiiU right now.

Oddly enough, this seems to be the trend for console manufacturers after they’ve had a very successful console generation. Sony royally screwed up the PS3 launch after dominating with the PS2. Microsoft became a running joke after unveiling the Xbox One. Nintendo has been down this road before by sticking with cartridges on the Nintendo 64. There seems to be this belief by these companies that consumers aren’t fickle and unfaithful creatures when they really are, outside of a very small group of loyal fans. Whichever manufacturer finds itself in the catbird seat in the current generation, seems to think that those fans will flock to their new console due out for the next gen, so they feel that they can set the rules for how things will work. Everyone loved the PS2, so of course we can charge $600 for the PS3, thought Sony. The Xbox 360 did extremely well, so of course we can include regular online check-ins, thought Microsoft. The Wii sold like the PS2, so of course we can just slap a name modification on a machine a bit stronger than current gen and launch it, thought Nintendo. Damn it, Nintendo.

There is a reflex to point out that the 3DS was once in similar trouble, but is now a monster, outselling everything in 2013, but I have a problem with that comparison. See, the 3DS only had to compete against the Vita (I’m not discussing tablets and smartphones in this post), and Sony was hardly taking advantage of a weakened 3DS, plus the 3DS had quite the headstart on the Vita. The WiiU, however, is having to compete on two levels. Firstly, it has to compete against the PS3 and Xbox 360 because, rightly or wrongly, it’s seen as a contemporary to those in regards to it’s processing power. Secondly, it’s having to compete against the more powerful PS4 and Xbox One. The WiiU is over a year old while those are new. It’s never fun to compete against “New & Shiny” when you’ve been out a while. Combine that with a lack of games and a perceived (and probably factual) lack of power, and you have a console that’s going to be a hard sell. Damn it, Nintendo.

It does, and you're going to need it.

It does, and you’re going to need it.

Did I say lack of games earlier. My mistake. I meant a veritable drought of games. Look, Nintendo makes amazing games, I don’t think anyone would argue against that. Even if you don’t necessarily like most of their titles, you can appreciate the fact that Nintendo are among the absolute best when it comes to game designing. The problem is, no matter how good they make games, they can’t single handedly support a console. For all the grief the Wii gets when it comes to its game library (for reasons I don’t fully understand) in reality it had a very good library of games. My favorite game on the system only launched in North America in 2012. Nintendo was able to get third party support along with their own games. It was a good mix. That’s not happening this time. Oh, teaming with Platinum to publish The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 was a genius move. Allowing Link to be used in a Dynasty Warriors based game is pretty cool, whether you like the series or not. But even with those two points, that’s still a ton of weight on Nintendo’s shoulders, and right now, only Activision and Ubisoft seem truly dedicated in putting their games on the WiiU. With none of those being exclusive, it provides no real motivation to move to the WiiU from an Xbox 360 or PS3 or newer console. The WiiU is becoming a console that is basically a Nintendo machine, and that’s just not going to be enough for many people, especially at the current price tag. Damn it, Nintendo.

So what does Nintendo do? Throw their hands up and start preparing for the next generation now? Go all in and throw money at developers to increase game releases for the WiiU? You know, I don’t have a clue. Nintendo has been in business a long time. I feel fairly confident that they are smarter than I am. Also, Nintendo has surprised us before. I’m so used to Nintendo pulling things out of the dark that it wouldn’t shock me to see them announce Half-Life 3 as a WiiU exclusive at E3…assuming they have an E3 presentation this year. I’d think they have to, assuming they’re going to fight for the WiiU. They could certainly use some buzz and excitement and there’s no bigger venue than E3. Nintendo Directs are a cool idea and all, but nothing matches the audience reaction at a new game reveal. Just imagine the live reaction of Mega Man’s reveal for Smash Brothers. It would have rivaled the now famous Twilight Princess reveal. I hate that we were robbed of that. Damn it, Nintendo.

You know you love this moment.

You know you love this moment.

I’m an unabashed Nintendo fan. I love the company, I love their games, I want them to succeed. I’m an invested customer, but I’m also invested because this company defined my childhood. To see them going through such trouble now is not something I enjoy but, at the same time, something I think they deserve. They mistakenly thought they could dictate the rules of console sales and are now paying for that miscalculation. This is where the forecast slashing becomes a positive. To solve a problem, you first have to see it and admit you have it. Until now, Nintendo hadn’t done that. The idea that they would sell nine million WiiU’s was absurd to everyone but them. Now that number’s gone. Nintendo is finally admitting their misstep, and maybe they’ve done it early enough to at least reverse their fortunes somewhat. Understand, I don’t believe that the WiiU will kill Nintendo. Nintendo as a company will be fine. They have deep pockets, but even with those, they can’t afford to continue supporting a failing console. The question now is what do they do to turn it around. Again, I don’t know the answer to that (but it should be interesting to watch). The WiiU will not win this generation. That ship has sailed. At the same time though, it can still be workable and sell respectably. I don’t know how that happens, but I firmly believe it can. I’ve thrown out ideas on Twitter, but people much more experienced in this than I am are calling the shots. As a WiiU owner and Nintendo fan, I just hope the hole isn’t yet too deep for them to dig out of. Damn it, Nintendo.

2014I bemoan my backlog for a while, then post about the games I want in 2014. Nothing absurd about that. Anyway, in regards to this list, my only limitation on titles is that they can’t have been released yet. I didn’t limit it to games on systems I own or anything. These are just the games that I’ve seen that appeal to me the most for this year. Of course, there is no guarantee that these are definitely coming this year, but I’m being optimistic. I’ve also used placeholder names in cases where the final title is as of yet unknown.

Keep Training, Grasshopper: Strider, Yoshi’s New Island, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Alien Isolation, Fantasia: Music Evolved, Bayonetta 2, Phantasy Star Nova, Deep Down, Dying Light

Yarn Yoshi8. Yarn Yoshi
Nintendo showed this title off in a Nintendo Direct last year, then promptly seemed to forget that it existed. Yarn Yoshi (as it’s known) is being developed for the WiiU by the same company that developed Kirby’s Epic Yarn, which is exactly why I’m excited for it. The short preview we’ve seen looked gorgeous, and, while being a bit more 3D than Epic yarn, shared many of the same design choices of that game. While I doubt this game will be groundbreaking, the wonderful design of Epic Yarn makes me believe this game will be more than competent in that regard. My personal hope is that we see the return of Yin-Yarn in this game, after his exile from Dreamland.

Sunset Overdrive7. Sunset Overdrive
Normally, a game like this wouldn’t do anything for me (because the premise is a bit old at this point), but when I see that it’s being developed by Insomniac, I begin to take notice. The bottom line for me is that this game seems to have strains of Ratchet & Clank in it, in terms of design and humor. I love the Ratchet & Clank games, so that is immediately appealing to me. That aside though, the gameplay looks intriguing in its own right. It appears to be fast-paced and open, as in, there are a variety of ways in which you can take on tasks. Similar to Dead Rising, maybe. I’m also curious to see how the “living world” aspect of this game works. If it’s implemented as I’ve read it will be, it could keep this game very up-to-date and relevant for years to come.

Zelda U6. Zelda U
As time has passed since I finished Skyward Sword, I can more clearly see the flaws of the game. It was fairly linear and despite the heavy praise people gave the 1:1 sword movement with the Wii Remote, it just got on my nerves. All that said, I like what the developers have done with A Link Between Worlds and what’s being said about this game in terms of layout and linearity. I’m still clinging to the tech demo from the WiiU’s unveiling as the graphical style of choice, but that’s hardly been confirmed. It’s also unconfirmed that this game will grace us in 2014, but with the WiiU floundering, I’m hard pressed to believe that Nintendo won’t do everything in their power to have this title present for the holiday season in an effort to boost sales of the system.

Evil Within5. The Evil Within
While survival horror games will always appeal to me, it’s the pedigree behind this game that makes me want it. Shinji Mikami, who worked on the Resident Evil series and created the sublime RE4, is directing this title. If there is anyone I want watching over this type of game, it is someone such as Mr. Mikami. Even if you aren’t a fan of the fixed camera of the original RE games, the fear and dread they were able to create was amazing. RE4 was able to keep the bulk of that fear while making the actual gameplay much more user friendly. My hope for this game is a further blending of the fear in RE with the ease of play of RE4 (I think that sentence makes sense).

The Order (1886)4. The Order: 1886
A game set in 1886, featuring some steampunk elements and a rich story going back through the Arthurian Knights? Yeah, I think I’m probably sold on this title. The back story for this game has humanity fighting off monsters/mutants throughout history. After suffering many defeats, mankind has finally turned the tide when, in 1886, a new threat rises. Other than the plot, not too much is known about this title yet, but I still rank it this highly because I find that plot very intriguing. I just hope the gameplay impresses as well.

Lords of Shadow 23. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
I’ll always prefer the style of older Castlevania games, but Lords of Shadow did quite a bit right. The idea of taking that style of that game, moving it to an open world with a Metroidvania feel is extremely exciting to me. While I don’t relish playing the “bad guy” (which I’ve written about before), in a case where you’re taking on the rise of Lucifer, it’s more of a lesser of two evils situation. All printed previews of this game praise it, so I can see this as a title I try to purchase quickly and play immediately. One of the most appealing aspects of this game is that it’s a continuation of the previous games and will completely close off the story that began in those titles. I like the idea of a developer setting out with a story in mind, even if it advances over a couple of games.

Fable2. Fable Anniversary
Sure, it’s a re-release of a game that’s been out for some time, but what a game. Despite it’s flaws, I loved the original Fable. It never lived up to it’s expectations (but in fairness, no game could have done that), but what it did it did exceedingly well. Take that game, add some content, sharpen up the visuals, and bring it closer to what it was predicted to be, and you have one heck of a potentially amazing game. I’ve made it clear that I will rarely purchase a game quickly after its release due to both my backlog and tight funds, but this is a game that I will pick up relatively quickly after its release on 2/4. That is how pumped I am for this title.

X WiiU1. X
Xenoblade Chronicles was not only my favorite game for the Nintendo Wii, but one of the best games I’ve ever played. I never expected a psuedo-sequel to be produced, so my surprise and delight at this game being unveiled was beyond measure. X appears to be connected to Xenoblade in some fashion, which is, of course, exciting for me, but even if it were not, I would still be just as excited based on the previews I’ve seen so far. X seems to be set in an open world with a combat system very similar to Xenoblade. Traveling takes place both on foot as well as in large mechs (“Dolls,” according to the trailer). It also appears that there will be online coop, though that isn’t confirmed, just suspected. Regarding visuals, this game looks gorgeous. I don’t demand wonderful graphics so long as the gameplay is fun, but if they are wonderful, I will compliment them. This is a game that will put all my other games on hold once it is released. I only hope it receives the appreciation I imagine it will deserve upon it’s release on the WiiU.

Coexist

For better or worse, the next generation of consoles is upon us. Still, a funny thing has happened, the older consoles, the Xbox 360 and PS3, have refused to die their nice quiet death and wander off to the console graveyard to let their younger, hipper offspring take their place in the spotlight. As a matter of fact, it appears that, at least for a while, developers are content to either manufacture their games for both generations or even stick to the 360, PS3, and WiiU (no, I’m not calling the WiiU last gen, just not ignoring the fact that it’s more likely to receive games of the same quality as the 360 and PS3 due to it’s capabilities). While this is obviously still very early, there are still quite a few well-known games announced for the last generation of consoles into 2014. I believe this is actually quite understandable, and I can see it continuing for a couple of years at the very least for a few reasons.

Cost of Development
The cost of developing games has increased massively from what it cost just a couple of generations ago. If developers are going to sink a sizable bit of money into a game, they’re going to want to make it as widely available as possible. Right now, there are just under 10 million current generation consoles out there, a touch over 4 million of which are PS4’s and Xbox One’s. Which is more appealing to a developer that has a game that may not be a guaranteed hit (apparently also known as a sequel): releasing to that number of consoles, or including the 80+ million consoles from the last generation as well? This is not a hard question to answer.

A metaphor

A metaphor

Familiarity
As consoles have gotten more advanced, it has taken longer for developers to fully harness what they are capable of and make games that push them to their absolute limits. I think that we were really just getting to that point with the Xbox 360 and PS3. At least one former developer agrees with this:

“The 360 and PS3 are far from tapped out in terms of what a developer could do with them, but the whole world’s gonna move over towards next-gen and high-end PCs and all these other things. Part of me still frets a little bit about that, where just as you fully understand a previous generation, you have to put it away to kind of surf forward on the tidal wave of technology that’s always moving. That’s something that we’ve struggled with in every generation.” – John Carmack, formerly of id Software

If there’s still life to be squeezed out of these machines, technologically speaking, then why would developers not continue to do so? These are the machines they’ve been working on for seven or eight years now. They know how to approach the architecture of these machines and how to design for them efficiently and quickly, relatively speaking. New machines represent a new challenge, which means learning the ins and outs all over again. Obviously, they will work to know the newer consoles better, but going back to my first point, why not downscale a game a bit on a piece of hardware you’re familiar with and squeeze a bit more revenue out of your game.

The Difference isn’t that Great
I may catch some grief for this one, but as of right now, the graphical leap from the seventh generation to the eighth simply isn’t that striking. I do realize that these new machines are more powerful, obviously, but this generation hasn’t seen the visual leap that was seen in previous generations. Frankly, this doesn’t surprise me because visuals on the seventh generation machines were pretty great. How far can you truly push graphics? At some point, they are enough, and I think we’ve hit that point. I feel this is why there are so many media elements or controller alterations going on with newer consoles. There has to be a reason to upgrade. Once, the leap in power and graphics was enough, but that’s not the case anymore.

This is so last gen. Looks like an NES game.

This is so last gen. Looks like an NES game.

Current Consoles are still Popular
Anyone remember the PS2? It was this little system that became the best-selling console of all time. As of November, 2006, it became obsolete with the launch of the PS3. Yes, despite being obsolete, it continued to sell well and was only officially discontinued in the first week of 2013. Yes, that would be this year, the same year the PS4 launched. Also, new games continued to be available up through 2011. Granted, it wasn’t many games, but they were still there.

Now, to state the obvious, the Xbox 360, PS3, and WiiU aren’t the PS2, but they do account for nearly 90 million consoles sold. That is a major install base and there is no guarantee that those owners are going to upgrade in the next year or two. Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 have big name games announced for next year. Games that could drive more people to purchase those consoles. If either the Xbox One or PS4 were backwards compatible, I could see the argument for upgrading, but as they aren’t, some consumers are going to choose the cheaper, older console with the larger game library versus the newer, more expensive console with the relatively small library. Speaking personally, I’d absolutely purchase a PS3 over a PS4 at this point in time. I have to believe there are other gamers out there that feel the same about the current consoles.

The major caveat here is that it is still very early, so this is the one point I’m really making major assumptions about. My opinion is that the older consoles will still continue to sell well alongside their newer brethren, but I have no facts to back up that assertion. I believe I’m right, but most people with opinions do, so this is one that we’ll simply have to wait and see on.

Awwww, thank you!

Awwww, thank you!

Yeah, this is all my opinion and I could be drastically misreading the market, but my gut tells me that the PS4 and Xbox One are going to level off in sales in the new year and won’t match what the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii were able to do at their launch. There seems to be a certain excitement lacking that I felt when the seventh generation launched. I don’t know why that is, but I do believe it exists, and I believe it will show itself in sales as the early adopters fall away and general consumers begin to make decisions with their dollars.

Game Shirt

A few days ago Destructoid ran a story regarding porn searches and usage on a per console basis. The data was compiled by a porn site that I will not link to here, and was based on traffic at their site specifically. You can find the story here, and it’s quite entertaining:

http://www.destructoid.com/the-ps3-is-porn-console-king-360-is-indeed-for-teens-266917.phtml

As much as I’d love to make jokes about the search results, I’m trying to maintain a certain atmosphere at this blog and having fun with hentai and MILF jokes would probably detract from that…though I do find it particularly amusing that porn surfers on the Wii were the only ones to boast a search for a “large endowment” in their top 10 search terms. Yes, I still find Wii/Penis jokes funny.

Oddly, units sold were inversely related to porn usage...I guess there's a positive in that somewhere.

The PS3 sold the least units of last generation, but those users were dedicated in making sure it was the porn king. Congrats!

Seriously though, I bring this up because I feel it ties directly into the use of consoles by non-adults and how there is very little supervision, or even an understanding of the consoles, by many of their parents. Now, I’m not saying all of this porn searching was done by kids or teenagers. I’m certain that a decent percentage of it, possibly even the majority, was by adults, especially give the average age of game players and console owners being in the 20’s or early 30’s on based on many reports. Still, there is a large enough portion of this being done by those that are not yet adults that I feel it warrants this discussion.

To detract just a bit, those of us that play games are used to them being used as scapegoats for violent acts, usually because the person involved might have played a video game once. Not to divert from my main point, but my stance on this is that while the games may serve as some point of influence, a person has to already be broken somewhere to resort to violent acts. The key is identify that and treat it accordingly. Anyway, the scapegoating then leads to an outcry about violence in newer games, be it the latest Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. This outcry almost universally ignores the fact that a rating system is in place to prevent juveniles from buying these games. I myself was carded when buying Resident Evil 6 a few weeks ago, and I’m 32.

If only some kind of game rating system actually existed...

If only some kind of game rating system actually existed…

So, if the rating system is in place, how do they (non-adults, young kids, etc…) get their hands on these games? Easy, their parents buy them. See, far too many parents fail to educate themselves on the video games their kids play. It’s not like a movie where you can watch a preview and know almost immediately if it’s appropriate. No, games require more effort. You have to actually read up on them to be fully educated on their content, and all too often, this isn’t done. Then, the games are cited as a cause of violence and as being too easy for under-aged people to get their hands on. What’s ignored in all of this? The fact that too many parents don’t take the responsibility required to govern what their children are doing on gaming consoles.

This ties right back into the porn usage. Parents might lock their computer or put safety barriers in place to prevent a visit to the more illicit areas of the internet, but many are completely ignorant to the fact that all current consoles and handhelds can visit those same sites. The porn usage isn’t the sickness, so to speak, it’s only a symptom, much like 10 year-olds playing something like GTA V or a game like Manhunt. Again, this is a failure on the parent’s part to fully understand what their children have access to, and it is incumbent on them, as parents, to be educated on such matters. I’m being a bit harsh here because I believe it is this same ignorance that is at the forefront of outcries against violent video games, be it the latest “shocking” revelation that GTA V has violence and prostitutes (seriously, who knew?!), or the latest iteration of Call of Duty or any other game depicting realistic killing of other people.

Family fun for all ages.

Family fun for all ages.

At the end of the day, it’s always easier to find a scapegoat to blame, and that makes me extremely angry. Like I wrote earlier, it’s a case of treating a symptom instead of the root cause. You may eliminate one symptom, but so long as the root cause of that symptom remains, a new symptom will show up. In our current society, it seems that a loud segment has decided on video games as the root cause they wish to target. So long as that’s the focus, the true cause (mental instability?) for people’s actions will have to take a back seat.

I feel it’s important to note that I’m coming at this from experience. I have a seven year old son that adores video games, much like I do. I’m extremely careful about what he plays or sees me play. Since he’s been three or older, I’ve played through Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil: The Umbrella & Darkside Chronicles, Resident Evil 5, Dead Space, Dead Space 2, Bioshock, and Bioshock 2, just to name a few off of the top of my head. He has seen none of the gameplay from any of those, because I only played them while he was asleep or not home. I realize that not all parents have my level of interest in games, but I do the same type of monitoring on the YouTube videos he watches (he loves Let’s Play type videos). Once I hear one swear word, it is either muted or turned off, and he knows that. It’s why he only watches them when my wife or I are present to monitor them to some degree.

I don’t think it’s unfair to ask that other parents exercise the same level of caution with their children when it comes to the medium of video games. I’m sure more are doing so as the systems have advanced and they (the parents) are becoming more familiar with them, but unfortunately, there are still far too many that would pick up GTA V or Dead Space 3 for their 8 year old without blinking an eye.

Achievement

For quite some time after I picked up an Xbox 360, I didn’t realize that there was a group of people that loathed achievements (and trophies, but I’m concentrating on the system I own). This is something I only just stumbled across a few years ago and, to be very honest, I don’t fully understand. I’ve also learned that this is one of those topics that seems to bring out the passion in people, so I’m probably asking for it with this post.

Now, to be clear, I’m not passionate about this subject. Not even slightly. I like achievements fine, but I’m not going to cry if they suddenly disappear. To me, they are a way for any of my online friends to see what I’ve been up to in the games I’ve been playing. Almost like a milestone journal of games I’ve played. I like that, and I enjoy perusing my friends’ achievements for this very reason.

The primary argument I hear is that they are unnecessary and are guilty of taking you out of the game world. Well, yes, they are unnecessary. I don’t recall anyone ever saying otherwise. As for them serving as a distraction, this has never bothered me as most are received after a certain milestone in the game, and the notification only appears once that section is complete. Still, if getting a notification during a tense section of Dead Space or Dead Space 2 didn’t take away from the atmosphere for me, I’m guessing I’m immune to this happening.

Maybe people would be less opposed if they were funnier?

Maybe people would be less opposed if they were funnier?

The biggest issue I have with people that actively complain about achievements (and trophies) is that the notifications can be turned off quite easily. That doesn’t mean you won’t score the achievement, just that you won’t be notified when you have done so. Many of the people I’ve encountered want them totally removed, totally disregarding the fact that some people do enjoy them. This is like not only refusing to eat a sandwich because a pickle was served on the side, but then insisting that the restaurant that served it totally stop serving pickles even though they remain popular and most people eat them.

Again, I’m not in love with achievements at all. There are times that I may play a bit differently just to get one, but only if I find the idea of doing so to be fun. I would never trudge through tedium for an achievement. If you don’t believe me, I refused to even attempt a particular gardening achievement in NIER, and if you’ve been reading this blog, you know how much I adore that game. I’m also not a fan of games being required to have achievements. Forcing developers to shoehorn them in seems a bit asinine to me and if you want to complain about that aspect of achievements, I’ll be right there on your side.

Of the current consoles, I think Nintendo may have struck a good balance on this front by allowing posts to Miiverse that points out what you’ve accomplished while also leaving a note for others to read. On the flip-side, this method is also far more jarring than what achievements and trophies do, so if that’s your hang-up, I suspect you would hate this method.

Ultimately, these things do now exist and I doubt there is any going back. If you don’t like them, don’t complain, just cut them off. Just stop trying to take everyone else’s pickle in your unhappiness.

Console Wars

Let me begin by saying that this entire post is being pulled completely from my nether regions. Sure, I’m going to give my pros and cons and it may sound like I really, really know what I’m talking about, but this is still based mostly on some general reading I’ve done, my general knowledge of the gaming market, and the vibe I’m getting from fellow gamers on Twitter and other social media sites. I’m probably less reliable than the Magic 8 Ball, but figured why not? So, with that in mind, here we go…

WiiUWiiU

– The Pros –

  • The Wii Brand. Sure, a new market of gamers made the Wii the amazing financial success it was and Nintendo can’t count on that same audience being a repeat buyer, but it can’t hurt too much to have your new console carry a similar name as your last console that sold over 100 million units. Or, can it…
  • Fanboys. Yeah, guilty to some extent. Few fan groups will defend their console the way the most dedicated Nintendo fans will. These are the gamers that could give you ten reasons why Nintendo losing out on Final Fantasy VII was actually a good thing. These exist for all three consoles, but, perhaps because of Nintendo’s longer history in the gaming market, they seem to be the most loyal in Nintendo’s camp.
  • IPs. At the end of the day, Nintendo owns the most famous stable of IPs of any console developer. Starting with Mario and running through Link, Samus Aran, Pokemon, Starfox, Pikmin, F-Zero, Kid Icarus, and you get the point. Nintendo can, at anytime, excite the gaming market by announcing a new game in one of these series. Are they always good? No. Metroid: Other M was a low point for the series and Starfox has been missing in action ever since having a couple of lukewarm entries, but even a mediocre or less than stellar release will create news for the console and move a few units at the very least.
  • The Gamepad. Of the three developers, Nintendo is the only one that is including a different input method that hasn’t been seen in any form since the Dreamcast controller had a screen. This is at least a minor pro because it is included whereas Smartglass and a Playstation Vita will have to be purchased separately from the console to utilize.

– The Cons –

  • The Wii Brand. Yes, this is double edged sword. For the positives I listed above, there are some negatives to this. Primarily, it has managed to confuse some consumers. My own wife asked me after the WiiU was released if it was a new system or just a new controller for the Wii. This person lives with me. Me, a Nintendo fan and avid game player. If she didn’t know, how many people out there that pay even less attention are thrown off by the similar names?
  • Power. I’ll be the first to say graphics aren’t everything, but this is still important, especially with third party offerings. Nintendo runs the risk of being shut out of third party offerings that will appear on the PS4 and XBox One simply because the games would have to be downscaled. This won’t be a problem for a while as it appears that development for the 360 and PS3 will continue for at least a couple of more years, but it could quickly become one once that production ceases. Speaking of…
  • Third Party Games. The WiiU hasn’t exactly sold the way Nintendo expected, which has lead many third party developers to simply stop developing for it. Nintendo can only do so much on their own and need to find a way to lure those developers back if they hope to compete with the WiiU. When you’ve lost EA development, it becomes a bit of a concern.
  • Timing. The WiiU has been out for around a year and is modestly more powerful than what has been on the market. As with the 3DS, the launch went poorly thanks to a drought of quality games for the system. Now that a few are starting to come out, they will have to compete for headlines with the launch of the XBox One and PS4. No easy task. The 3DS didn’t have this kind of competition to contend with once the games started flowing.

Xbox One

Xbox One

– The Pros –

  • Exclusives. This is a close one, but with Titanfall, Ryse, and Dead Rising 3, I feel the edge in this department has to go to Microsoft. I’m thinking solely in terms of third party support here, but having Halo in your stable can’t hurt. It’s very telling that I named these three without any research, yet can’t recall a single PS4 exclusive at or near launch.
  • Online Structure. It may have a subscription cost, but Microsoft has excelled in this department, being the first console developer to really harness the power and popularity of online gaming. Sony is doing itself great justice in this department, but I still think of Microsoft as being the leader in this area, even if that lead has narrowed.

– The Cons –

  • Microsoft. Watching Microsoft attempt to market the XBox One has truly been a lesson in how to destroy your own popularity. Be it price, online requirements, reversing said requirements, or dismissing your potential customers, Microsoft has put on a clinic of how to defeat yourself. Sony suffered through this with the PS3 and it took them some time to put it all behind them. I fear the same will be true of Microsoft.
  • Price. I’m hesitant to include this as it is a fluid number that can change at anytime, but at the very least, at it’s launch, Microsoft will have the priciest console by $100 over the Playstation 4. In an era where there are so few exclusives to sway consumers, that kind of difference can certainly influence a potential buyer.
  • Lack of Trust. Even though they have reversed the policies that gained them so much ill-will, I get the sense that many gamers still believe that Microsoft could re-implement those policies at some point down the road, making them hesitant to be an early adopter. In the end, this may not make a noticeable difference, but I believe it does set in the back of quite a few people’s minds and could steer them to Sony’s PS4.

PS4

Playstation 4

– The Pros –

  • Microsoft. All of the negatives I listed above about Microsoft’s actions have driven more than a few people to Sony’s camp. Sony have played this perfectly, calling out each of Microsoft’s maligned policies at their E3 conference, and denouncing each one. It resulted in some of the loudest cheers I’ve ever heard at an E3 conference and may have been the final nail in forcing Microsoft to reverse said policies.
  • Price. If it’s a negative for Microsoft, it’s a positive for Sony. Again, they are under Microsoft by $100 which could be enough to sway undecided buyers. A fluid number, but looking just at the launch, it is a nice advantage to have.
  • Buzz. Starting with the aforementioned E3 conference, Sony has steadily increased their positive buzz. It has almost become a situation where one company seems to be the Good Guy (Sony) whereas the other is the Bad Guy (Microsoft). I’m guessing that in this scenario, Nintendo would be bartender that just doesn’t want his place shot up?

– The Cons –

  • The Vita. Sony is really pushing off screen play, but to utilize that, gamers must purchase their handheld ($199) in addition to the $400 system. Quite a chunk of change to get a “full” experience. It’s not a game breaker to not have the Vita with the PS4, but it is an aspect Sony is marketing heavily.

Conclusion

As much of a Nintendo fan as I am, I just don’t see them recovering in time to dominate this generation. I think their games will ultimately sell the system, though sales will be nowhere close to the numbers the Wii moved. I feel that Microsoft is going to be fighting an image problem for a least the first year. This combined with their price point, assuming they don’t lower it, could hurt their sales after the initial launch period. Ultimately, I think this generation is there for Sony to take. They’ve been able to capitalize on the mistakes of their competitors and may have hit on a price point that will move consoles for the holidays. So long as they avoid the drought of games that Nintendo experienced with the WiiU (and are still experiencing to some extent), I believe they’ll move more consoles monthly on a regular basis and will vindicate themselves from the horrific PS3 launch.

Still, what do I know. I did predict the success of the Wii, but have also never been able to figure out why the Gamecube moved so few systems or why the TG-16 never caught on. Listen to me at your own risk.

NIER

NIER is a game that was developed by Cavia (Drakengard) and published by Square a few years ago for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Upon it’s release, it received mixed reactions from both reviewers and gamers alike. Criticisms included repetitive fetch quests, sub-par graphics, and mundane, if varied, gameplay. NIER also happens to be one of my favorite games of the current generation, or of any generation. NIER, I believe, is a wonderful example of how the narrative of a game can actually transcend gameplay and elevate said game to be more than the sum of it’s parts. It is also an element that is hard to quantify in a review or review score and can be too easily passed over in an attempt to complete the game for the sake of completing a review.

The Fishing Mechanic Debacle
Before I touch on the power of NIER’s narrative, this has to be addressed as I made a point about reviews above. A few hours into the game, as part of a required fetch-quest, you must go fishing on a beach. The area is marked with a circle on the map and is easily found. The fishing mechanic is very simplistic, similar in a way to the fishing mechanic found in Twilight Princess, except you are given a gauge showing the stress on your line and the goal is to keep the stress level low lest your line break. When I played through NIER, I got this quest, went to the area, and caught the needed fish in less than a minute (the needed fish is the only one you will catch at this point). It took me two casts to accomplish this.

Understand that I bought NIER right after launch and before many reviews were published. I played it right away and had fallen in love with the game, so I was hoping for high reviews. When they came in a bit middling, I was disappointed but not terribly surprised as the game does have some faults, even though I was able to look past them. My shock came when I saw that at least one reviewer had been completely unable to get past the fishing fetch-quest. Meaning that they hadn’t even completed the game before publishing the review. Granted, they did disclose this, but there are potential buyers of this game that will read that review and believe that the game is broken, as opposed to the reviewer just not getting how the mechanic worked. I want to reiterate once again that I finished this quest and didn’t give it a second thought. I simply can’t understand how anyone, especially a reviewer of games (this is what they do) would fail to complete this part. But they did, and the review suffered as a result.

The hardest part of any game ever.

The hardest part of any game ever.

The Story
So I laid out some of the complaints about this game above. Even though I don’t fully agree with those complaints, they are valid as we all have preferences that differ. NIER does employ a variety of play styles, ranging from standard third person adventure to SHMUPs and text adventures. While I enjoyed this variety, I can see how it would be irritating or jarring for someone that wanted or expected only one or two types of play, and while NIER does touch on these varieties, it can then abandon them just as quickly. It’s also true that there are many fetch-quests, so if you aren’t fully immersed in the play style of the game, you may find these tedious, though only a handful are actually required. I refuse to address the complaint about graphics as I feel that was a design choice, one that I thought was actually well done, especially the bosses and shades.

Graphical style is hardly objective, and I personally have no qualms with NIER's.

Graphical style is hardly objective, but I personally have no qualms with NIER’s.

So why do I still love this game? To me, it has something that you can’t properly judge in a quick playthrough. The story behind NIER is one of the most touching and emotional of any game I’ve ever experienced. None of the actions I completed in the game ever felt tedious because I felt the burden the main character, NIER, was carrying on his shoulders as he completed them.

In NIER, you play the title character. Your daughter, Yonah, has caught the Black Scrawl, an incurable disease that will kill her. You, understandably, are determined to find a cure, even though no one has in the past. This motivation is your entire driving force through the first half of the game and is driven home in your regular interactions with Yonah, as well as the townspeople where NIER lives. The developers seemed to go out of there way to make the connection as close as possible in order to establish an emotional connection not just between NIER and Yonah, but with the player as well.  After you travel to another city, for instance, you receive a letter there from Yonah about how she misses you.  At one point, you come home to find she has fixed you dinner. The internal dialogue lets you know that it tastes awful, but your character eats it anyway to keep her happy. You can also sometimes bring her gifts.

Halfway through the game, there is an event that makes your quest more urgent, and then five years pass by before you regain control. I was so involved in the story at this point that I felt a personal urgency to start getting things done so I could resolve the aforementioned event. Once you reach the end of the game, NIER somehow outdoes itself in the story department as you get a few new revelations about what has happened to the world that completely changes the way you’ll view your actions in the game. This is driven home in a subsequent playthrough, where additional scenes are added that  completely alter your perception of the Shades and what you are doing to cure Yonah. It is another testament to the game’s story that I fully completed it twice, and finished the second half yet another time in order to gain all four endings. I generally don’t care to replay a game so quickly after completing it a first time, but I simply had to see all the conclusions to the story before I would be happy. No, reading them on Wikipedia wouldn’t count.

This is where I think the reviews missed on NIER. Even if you agree with the criticisms of the game, and I’m sure many did, the story element of this game is extremely powerful, and an aspect that is hard to be fully appreciated in a quick playthrough for a review. Also, I’m not knocking reviews or reviewers in this post (well, except the one that didn’t know how to fish). You can’t dwell on a particular game when you have more waiting to be completed, and that’s completely understandable. I just feel that in some cases, such as with NIER, there’s an experience that’s missed in doing a review playthrough and will then be missed in the review itself. It’s unavoidable, sadly, but again, it’s also an element that’s difficult to fully explain or evaluate to another person. Even in my attempt here, I’m sure that I’ve come up short in some way. Unfortunately, it is simply the nature of the beast that some aspects of a game may be beyond fully informing someone on, and have to be simply played to be appreciated.

NIER - Story

PS4

Very recently I wrote about why I no longer trust Microsoft. Today, I’m going to analyze the flip side of this coin. Why I now trust Sony.

Now, let’s be clear, I didn’t really trust Sony very much during the PS3 era, which is kind of a trend for console developers. As you can see in the Tweet above, it was pointed out to me that console makers seem to have a third console curse. Basically, once a company develops their third console, they make some kind of boneheaded mistake with it. Sega had the Saturn debacle with a high price point and a surprise launch date. So surprising, in fact, that developers and retailers weren’t even ready to sell the console. Nintendo decided to stick with cartridges when they launched the Nintendo 64. As a result, they lost the support of quite a few developers to the Playstation, which used optical discs, the biggest sting being the loss of the Final Fantasy franchise. Anyone remember FFVII? Yeah… Just an aside, but beginning to wonder if Nintendo is suffering from the third console curse, part 2, but anyway… Microsoft has pulled the screw up card themselves so far with the Xbox One, though the jury is still out on that one.

This brings us to Sony and the PS3. And yes, they screwed up. I like to think that they were suffering from a bit of a God complex after the massive success of the PS2. They felt that they had a dedicated fan base that would follow them loyally. Unfortunately for them, as Nintendo and Sega have learned, game players can be fickle with their systems. They’ll generally go to the system with the best games, despite the maker (this is a very generalized statement, I realize that). Sony’s troubles started at E3 when they announced the price of the PS3. Suffice it to say, most gamers weren’t all that anxious to shell out $499/$599 for the PS3 when they could have an Xbox 360 for $299/$399 or a Wii at $250. Sony didn’t stop there, however. They appeared to most of the world as rip-off artists once they unveiled that the new PS3 controller would have some motion control technology, similar to the technology that was giving Nintendo’s Wii quite a bit of buzz. Topping all of this off was an E3 presentation that gave us numerous quotes and memes.

Historical accuracy at its finest

So, what does this have to do with me trusting Sony now? Basically, I think a good slap-down really shakes a company up. After the N64, Nintendo moved to Discs and made a pretty powerful little system. No, it wasn’t a return to their glory days, but it did show that they realized they no longer dictated how the console industry worked. Sega gave us the Dreamcast, which has a major following to this day, even though it was their last. Again, though, it showed a more careful approach after the Saturn disaster. Now, Sony is giving us the PS4. Firstly, the price point places it below the price of the Xbox One (and the launch price of the PS3, for the record). More importantly to me, however, is what they did at E3. All of those negative things the Xbox One was going to have? Sony didn’t just not follow suit, they explicitly addressed each one at their E3 conference this year in what was one of the most glorious pieces of company trolling I have ever witnessed.

Now, all of this could be smoke and mirrors. Maybe the PS4 was going to follow suit but witnessed what happened with Microsoft and altered their path. For the time being, however, I’m going to choose to believe they have learned from previous mistakes. Assuming Microsoft produces a fourth console at some point in the future, I’ll happily analyze it and give them a clean slate as well. Each new console is a time for possible redemption, if needed, and a fresh start for a new generation of games.

If you’re interested in my thoughts on Microsoft from a previous post, you can find it here: https://justanothervideogameblogblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/i-dont-trust-microsoft/

SMB (NES)SMW (SNES)SM64

I still remember it very clearly. It was during the Gamecube/PS2/Xbox era of gaming. Rumblings had really just started about the next generation. I was discovering the glory that was Resident Evil 4. I was having a rare discussion about video games with my wife and I posed the question: At what point are graphics good enough?

See, I’ve always felt that gaming moved into 3-D worlds a generation too soon. There were great games on the Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and Playstation, but many of them are difficult to revisit now because, honestly, they are ugly. Even classics such as Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time suffer from a bad case of the uglies upon a revisit today. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good games, it just means the presentation is extremely dated. I’ve never noticed the same about Super NES and Sega Genesis games, but I feel it’s because they work on a 2-D plane, meaning that sprites were much simpler, but also seemed more detailed b/c they were viewed from only one angle. Donkey Kong Country is still a beautiful game. Super Metroid is still striking when I play through it. This all changed, for the most part, upon the release of the Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and Dreamcast. We were thrust into a new world. At the time, it was gorgeous, but that hasn’t lasted.

Back to my main point. I posed this graphical question to my wife for a good reason. Up to that point, a new generation was simply about power and graphical prowess, such as the move into 3-D I outlined above. Sure, there was some innovation with controllers or the medium (cartridges versus discs) but not too much beyond that. The Xbox really pulled in online gaming, and the PS2 dabbled in it. But those systems, along with the GCN, were beginning to age and everyone was anticipating E3 because we knew the new systems would be on display. At what point are graphics good enough?

I'd have been happy with this level of graphics, honestly.

I’d have been happy with this level of graphics, honestly.

I was quite happy with the graphical power of my GCN and PS2. Sure, they could be sharper, but that wasn’t reason enough for me to spend a decent chunk of money on a new system. There had to be more. To their credit, Microsoft and Sony innovated by marketing their gaming machines as media hubs. Both could play movies, stream music, play Netflix, etc… Online play was standard and extremely easy. These were no longer ‘just’ gaming machines. They were now media machines, and that’s not a bad thing.

The surprise of the three was Nintendo. Nintendo took a massive risk with the Revolution (and I still prefer that name to Wii). They were coming off a third place finish in the console wars with the GCN. What could they do to shake up the race? They gave us the Wii.

The buzz from E3 was almost immediate once Nintendo fully unveiled the machine and the motion controls. It was unlike anything else being presented. Power and HD capabilities had been sacrificed for pricing purposes (so they say). The buzz, though, was all about the input. No other console could do the games the same way the Wii could do them (six-axis controller doesn’t count). Upon it’s release, it was an immediate hit and was virtually impossible to find. I pre-ordered one, having shifted from my “why would I want to upgrade for graphical purposes” attitude.

Again, I still find this impressive, but I also grew up with 8 bits.

Again, I still find this impressive, but I also grew up with 8 bits.

You know the story from there. It sold amazingly well, but never achieved much of the promise many of us thought it had. The controller was eventually refined further with WiiMotion Plus, but only very late in the Wii’s life and not even required for most games. The Wii’s success eventually gave us Kinect and Move, the former being the more successful of the two (and now required for the Xbox One). Imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery.

Microsoft is now banking on the media center aspect of their next console, the Xbox One. The PS4 is pushing the same. The WiiU is more powerful than the 360 and PS3, but will probably be behind these new behemoths yet again, power wise. The thing I’ve noticed though, is that neither of these put a huge emphasis on graphics. As a matter of fact, it took Microsoft 30 minutes to ever touch on video games. It’s also worth remembering that both Microsoft and Sony say they’ll support their current systems for at least a few more years.

Maybe I’m old fashioned. I’m currently 31 years old, but I do try to stay “up” on my technology. Still, I’ve no desire for my gaming machine to be my media center. At the end of the day, I just want to play games, and I’m wondering if that isn’t being somewhat overlooked now. By Microsoft and Sony in their efforts to make their machines more than just gaming machines, and to some degree by Nintendo in their efforts to catch lightening in a bottle again with unique interfacing and controls. All three are searching to some degree for an advantage that games alone can’t give them. They can’t trumpet just power anymore, because I think we’ve finally gotten to the point where they have realized that graphics are good enough.