Digital Download Saga: Why it Will Initially Fail
Posted on Monday, May 4 2009 @ 10:22:43 Eastern
In the month of May, the game Patapon 2 will be released for the Sonly PSP. This is a game that will be very critical in shaping the future of gaming, even if it doesn’t know it. It’s not due to some innovative gameplay mechanic or a new game design either. It is actually due to its distribution, which will in turn be a forerunner for the probable future of video games. That is digital distribution.
Digital distribution is the selling of full games through downloads, similar to add-ons and arcade games on X-box live, the Wii virtual console, and the PSN, for example. The difference is that they are fully fledged games, such as a full version of Halo or Bioshock, a complete series of Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy, or even a fully updated roster for Madden and NHL. Digital downloads will give access to full, current-gen games to be downloaded for a fee at your own home. No longer will hard copies be the norm of attaining video games, when everything is downloadable, sales and distribution will be all done on the net, and it will happen.
This is the future of gaming, no doubt about it. And it is a natural progression as well. You have the current trend of game add-ons and full, retro games online already available, as well as custom new games that have been created by small, independent companies. Hell, the upcoming version of the PSP will feature only digital downloadable games, eliminating the use of Hard USB disks for the future.
But sadly, I feel it will fail now, at first, at least. It is not because I love hard copies of games, which I do because owning a hard copy of a game is so ingrained in my psyche it’s almost impossible to not enjoy these hard copies. But I feel like we may be jumping the gun in making Patapon 2 the first ever digital download title for the PSP, for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, Patapon 2 is a very niche game. Not to detract from the game at all, but it’s not a blockbuster like Final Fantasy or Madden. It’s a great title for a limited audience, namely the hardcore gamer crowd and those who know a good game from a bad one. But for the average consumer, Patapon 2 will be a very hard sale for what is not familiar, especially since its quirky design and very unorthodox gameplay mechanics make it look exotic.
Another aspect that might lead to this failure is the fact that this is being done with little fanfare. Retailers like Gamestop and GameCrazy are promoting the game for the PSP, but the fact that it is a downloadable game is not being mentioned, nor is part of the official press kit for retailers. Granted, some employers will be mentioning the game to the interested parties, but learning that the game is fully downloadable might detract from that.
This is actually similar to Grand Theft Auto, The Lost and the Damned for the 360. When it came out, both as a digital download and a hard copy, there was some confusion by consumers who thought it was a stand-alone game in retail stores, and squandered $20.00 without having a copy of GTA IV. It was a good experiment by Microsoft, but without letting people know of the digital download or that you needed the GTA IV game to play Lost and the Damned probably made the hard copy of the disk less desirable in stores, and maybe detracted from sales overall of the add-on.
One final piece that makes a digital copy of Patapon 2 a bad idea in terms of sales and profitability is the fact that it’s on the Sony PSP. The system has a turbulent history, with three incarnations and a fourth one ready to be released. The sales of the system though are not as solid, paling in comparison of the Nintendo DS. Over $50 million PSP systems have been sold worldwide, compared to $96 million DS systems, a margin of nearly 2-1. Respectable sales for a handheld to be sure, but the switch to digital downloads only might again confuse many consumers who are not kept abreast to the changes in the video game market, and again this might deter people from purchasing a PSP and other PSP games.
For digital downloads to work, retailers and game companies need to work together to actually educate people in the downloadable features of games. Many parents and gamers don’t know about Microsoft Point cards, for example. Telling them what the cards do will probably alleviate the confusion somewhat, and may even grant parents and casual gamers the curiosity to look at digital downloads in a new way, and research it themselves. Hardcore gamers know this is coming, and perhaps preparation is in order for us, but we also need to prepare everyone in the process.
So Patapon 2 will be a great experiment, but it will not speed up the process of digital downloadable games. But it will also not deter the ongoing change from hard copies to digital downloads. While I personally feel that a mixture of both hard and digital copies is what will ultimately be successful (and I’ll save that for another article.) the future of gaming is coming hard and fast, and we are able to see the bits and pieces of it manifesting today.
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A Gay Old Time
Posted on Thursday, March 26 2009 @ 11:25:43 Eastern
As a gamer, you sometimes forget about the differences that people may have from each other. The stereotypes of gamer geeks and manchildren are somewhat eradicated now, because of am emerging casual market, and a lot of different groups of gamers are coming into the fold. Recently though, the LGBT gaming community has hit a speedbump, thanks to a ridiculous Microsoft policy.
Now as a bisexual, I have had a fair share of discrimination from people (New York is liberal, but not THAT liberal, at least where I live.) but on an online forum, where everyone is anonymous, I usually don’t put out my sexual preferences. Plus, I have a plethora of gay friends online, and we have done countless rounds of Soul Calibur, Left 4 Dead, and Rock Band together without incident. But since the whole scandal between Microsoft’s really somewhat intolerable policies on posting your sexuality over X-box live, it’s become somewhat sticky for the company to keep their public image.
What happened is a woman playing on live had her account banned because she had said she was a lesbian in her profile. The woman was harassed online for a while, until Microsoft banned her name, saying that it was a violation of terms of service. Microsoft went on to say that saying anything about your sexuality, whether it be “straight” “bi” or “gay”, is essentially a bannable offense, if deemed by the higher powers of the company.
The policy is, frankly, too zero tolerance. While I can understand Microsoft trying to avoid conflicts, because anonymity online leads to thousands saying things they normally wouldn’t say, I personally think this is just pushing off a rather important issue. People will always be, for a lack of a better word, *******s online. Hell, any game where I get called “gay” for winning is proof of that. When someone is actually gay, and he or she gets harassed doubly so because of identifying themselves as such, it should be expected that there would be some intolerant and close-minded idiots out there.
But is it right to do punish the victim over it? Microsoft is asking them this question, and has recently tried to apologize for this, claiming that their own banning policies are “inelegant” and is looking to revamp the system to make it friendlier for online interaction. One idea was to implement symbols that would denote your orientation, according to Stephen Toulouse, the program manager for policy and enforcement on X-Box live.
But if Microsoft really wants to change their policies, they may have to look inward first, and deal with their own issues. Recently, Microsoft is under fire once again, this time being sued by an employee of their subsidiary, Lionhead Studios. Lionhead, as you know, is the creator of games such as Black and White, the Fable series and The Movies. Microsoft purchased the English studio two years ago, and that is when the trouble began for Jamie Durrant, an 11-year vet of the company and a senior game designer. At his work studio in England, the human resources department has, since last January, been harassing Durrant due to his sexual orientation, sending defamatory emails and posting homophobic messages in his office.
Durrant, who became under stress from this, appealed to the HR department chair, which promised to send emails reminding the staff on how to behave in an office that is diverse. Sadly, the emails never went out, and when Durrant inquired why, he was told that the firm “would have to draw up new policies before an email could be sent.”
This is significant, because, Microsoft, back in 1989, was one of the first companies to already HAVE policies of non-discrimination in regards to sexual orientation.
Durrant “was allegedly asked to sign a document agreeing not to raise a formal grievance and confirming that he was happy his complaint was being dealt with. He said that he refused but it was agreed that Microsoft would post its anti-discrimination policy on the firm's intranet for staff to see.”
Durrant’s grievance is probably blown out of proportion, but it does make you scratch your head for a second. Why would a company blatantly lie to an employee who is being harassed? Of course, Microsoft is denying this ever happened, and the whole he said she said back and forth will likely follow, but it’s somewhat interesting to see Microsoft being called hypocritical, especially on the heels of a very unpopular policy action one month ago.
Maybe it’s just the timing of the two events being so close that makes this more important, but all the same, it’s fairly bad publicity for Microsoft. Perhaps if they would enact a stricter policy of tolerance, this might have blowed over. Maybe if Microsoft would just accept that there are tons of homosexuals playing Halo 3 as much as heterosexuals, then this will become a non-issue. Be that as it may, controlling a workforce is one thing, controlling the internet is another.
But as gamers, we need to recognize differences of others. I may be a bisexual, but so what? It doesn't make me less of a gamer. I can probably shred faster than you in Rock Band, just as much as you can snipe me in Halo. Sexuality never should be an issue when playing a game, or making one for that matter. Gamers are just as diverse as any other social group, and embracing that diversity, be it tolerance or acceptance, should be step one in solving these issues of discrimination. This is, perhaps, the true lesson that Microsoft needs to learn, not just for the sake of one employee, but for the sake of their clients, who just want to have a good time.
Links to the articles:
Xbox Designer Accuses Microsoft of Homophobia
Xbox Live Bans Lesbian Gamer, Microsoft Apologizes
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Winter and the Wii, Low Risks and No Rewards
Posted on Thursday, January 22 2009 @ 17:27:05 Eastern
Recently, IGN just did a little piece on this Survival Horror game called Winter, that was made exclusively for the Nintendo Wii by developer n-Space. The game is essentially a Survival Horror game more akin to Silent Hill than the current trends of games in the genre, more about the exploration and survival aspect then strict action/adventure and shooting combat. In fact, the look and the feel of the game is fairly old school. The original article can be found here.
http://wii.ign.com/articles/946/946492p1.html (Links won't work for some reason, sorry.)
http://wii.ign.com/dor/objects/14315298/winter/videos/Winter01.html (Video to the developer demo.)
The link here is a three minute video made by a twelve person development team from N-space, spending a six weeks back in the summer of 2007 to demo the game’s core gameplay elements. The premise is simple, starring as an EMT named Mia who is caught in a severe snowstorm in an old town. As you go through the town, the temperature drops and becomes an overarching enemy in it’s own right that can kill you if you’re not careful. It also can block off areas in the town by freezing doors and snowing in windows, hindering your progress. Enemies include rabid wolves that roam to get warm from the cold, and mysterious, deformed enemies similar to Silent Hill’s twisted creatures.
Interaction with the environment seems to be the core aspect of this game, as your character must rummage through cabinets, tables, dressers, and other various drawers to find items that may help you in your situation. Since your first goal is to survive the cold, doing things to sustain your warmth, such as lighting oil fires, starting cars and upping the temperature for a short period of time, even cutting open dead enemies and using their bodies as an extra coat. This also adds a mix of adventure gameplay into it, incorporating a “point and click” aspect to the control scheme and causing more interactivity with the environment.
Another interesting concept, not only from the video but also from the developer’s Ted Newman and president of n-Space, Dan O’Leary, was how combat would be done. It is also point and click, but the interactivity with items. Gestures with your hands need to be done correctly for some items, such as moving your hand sharply and swiftly to turn on a Flare, or shaking the Wiimote against your hand to put a light back on a dimming flashlight. Interactions with weapons can range from breaking planks to make sharp, pointed ends to it, or using hammers and knives to whack and stab enemies, similar to Condemned’s combat system, only in third person mode.
And graphically, the game was fairly advanced, pushing the Wii’s graphical limitations on such a small demo. The lighting effects in particular stand out, creating dynamic light and shadow’s to give the game a more atmospheric presentation.
With a lot of good points and with a fairly impressive, 3-minute video demo, you would think a game like Winter would already have a publisher, right? Well, you would be wrong. The sad truth is, Winter has been cancelled.
Oh sure, according to the developers there was a lot of praise for the design and the impressive gameplay elements, but they also thought the game was not marketable on the Wii because of it’s “adult” content. Despite the innovations made for the systems controls, any game that is not a “kids” game, according to the third party publishers, is too risky to play on the Wii. Another problem was the new IP for the game, making it more of a risk to market and advertise. This is not a new problem, but it is always a contributing factor to games when they get published and developed in the industry.
Personally, I find this to be a shame, because after looking at the concept art and viewing the demo they made, the game looks fairly impressive, even for a demo. Plus it has been a long while since there has been a fairly good Survival Horror game, since most of them have evolved into action shooters in the later years, from Silent Hill, Homecoming to the current looks of Resident Evil 5. It is not a bad trend, but it is sort of killing the point of Survival Horror games, something that has lasted since the early 1990’s with the original Alone in the Dark.
Plus it would be nice to have a game that you can justifiably say is good for the Wii. Thousands of party and mini-game clones aside, the Wii needs to expand its horizon’s a fair bit, from RPG’s to first person shooters. A game like Winter would be a great leap forward to capture a hardcore audience niche that is clamoring for more of it’s genre. In fact, an emerging, hardcore adult market is starting to manifest on the Wii, and that is thankfully due to SEGA.
SEGA is publishing two big name titles for the Wii coming out in 2009, The Conduit and Madworld. The Conduit is a custom made, first person shooter that has gorgeous presentation similar to Halo and Metroid’s Sci-Fi aesthetic, with extremely crisp graphics that rival the aforementioned games above. The game also supports online multi-player and split screen multi-player, which will no doubt be a major title for the Wii for the online crowds. Madworld is an action-adventure game stylized from the Frank Miller School of Design, with the three colors being black, white and red, and lots of over the top violence and stylized gameplay mechanics with the Wii controls. In fact, Nintendo has even defended Madworld and it’s over the top violence, stating that the console is a “system for everyone, even adult gamers.” According to a press release back in August on Mail Online.
So what does that mean? Well, it gives hope to a game like Winter, for one. Dan O’Leary has said if a publisher is interested in the game, he and his company will go back to it to complete the game for launch. In fact, the very existence of this game was only made known to the public when IGN reported on it yesterday, so it may get a second life from some publisher, maybe even SEGA, who seems to be giving the Hardcore market what it wants on the Wii.
Perhaps the most important point though it means that the stigma for “kiddy friendly” titles on the Wii will finally begin to fade away. I find it somewhat insulting that people assume the Wii system is a system for kids only. It has a lot of good games that appeal to adults, be it first party titles like Zelda and Mario, to 3rd party titles like Red Steel and No More Heroes. Even games like De Blob, Boom Blox and Zack and Wiki, which appeal to all audience and are great games, prove that the Wii can be just like Microsoft and Sony’s big rig systems in their own way. It would also help justify the Wii as a console, since it is getting too much flak for the horrific shovelware syndrome that is plaguing the system and causing the hardcore gamers out there to shun it’s potential.
So here is to Winter, and the hope that it does one day grace the sleek, snow white system that Nintendo has crafted. Video Games are always made with a degree of risk and reward, and for the Wii at the very least, most publishers are going for the low risk, no reward strategy. With Winter, the risk may be higher than what some companies are used to, especially since it is a totally new idea, but the rewards for a successful product will be great. And from what I have seen in the video demo, I think the game can be successful if given a chance. I doubt my little ramblings on this blog can change anything, but at the very least, I hope that this is not the last time we see Winter, and it can hopefully rise from it's grave and with the right publisher, create a unique experience for the Nintendo Wii.
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Posted on Monday, January 12 2009 @ 12:31:18 Eastern
I have to put the Retro-Review series I have been doing on hold, mainly because I don't have time anymore to write a review every week (which is sad, because since October I feel like I have been pumping out some of my best stuff in terms of reviews.... read more...
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Thank you, Duke.
Posted on Monday, December 22 2008 @ 13:17:53 Eastern
Thank you, Duke.
Thank you so much for mentioning obscure games like “Personal Trainer Cooking” on the podcast. Yeah, it does seem kind of weird that the editor in chief of Game Revolution is... read more...
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A Chance at Something More
Posted on Monday, November 24 2008 @ 15:37:07 Eastern
Well, after deliberating for over a week, asking the advice of people I know and respect, and who have read and even critiqued my own ramblings on paper, I decided to do it. Gaygamer.net has put a call in for contributing writers... read more...
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Red Rings of Death
Posted on Monday, November 17 2008 @ 13:52:51 Eastern
While playing Fallout 3, my X-Box 360 froze one me. Normally I think this is something wrong with the game, and I have one minor scratch on my Fallout 3 disc, but after attempting to restart my system, it froze again, this time on the first boot up s... read more...
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Confessions of a Pokemaniac
Posted on Friday, November 7 2008 @ 11:28:11 Eastern
Today on Serebii.net I was browsing through they’re in-depth pokedex and I suddenly realized something, something that has not crossed my mind in years. Pokemon is pretty damn old now. Maybe not as ancient as most game fran... read more...
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History has been made
Posted on Tuesday, November 4 2008 @ 20:30:53 Eastern
As of right now, the projections for the presidency say Barack Obama has become the 44th president of the United States.
This is a time for jubilation for some, doubt for others, and hopefully, the promises of change that will occur. This... read more...
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Posted on Friday, October 31 2008 @ 14:05:50 Eastern
Eight! I did eight reviews for games in a month! Damn I must either be good at this, bad at this, or I really have a lot more time on my hands than I think I do.
Eight? Seriously, I haven't written this much in a month in a long time, and ... read more...
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