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Yesterday, while cleaning up my media center, I found my copy of Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus, which I bought sometime before Christmas last year. I had been pretty excited about this game pre-release, what with it being the first "traditional", albeit shorter than usual,...

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The Microsoft 180: Business as Usual
Posted on Tuesday, July 1 2014 @ 11:58:22 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

When Microsoft announced its new “Kinect-less” Xbox One offering, the debate over the “Microsoft 180” was reignited. As I read the comments for and against this business move, I couldn’t help but feel that a great deal of people either forgot how multi-billion dollar business decisions are made or were simply unaware. Specifically, it is a “team” of people with varying opinions and ideas who determine the best way to proceed. What people seem not to acknowledge in the current discourse is that there were probably members of that team who felt just as the consumers felt (anti-Kinect, anti-DRM, anti-no used games, etc…), but in making decisions as a group you must concede at times for the sake of what is deemed in the best interest of the majority (at the time…). So, it really isn’t a 180 in the classic sense for all involved.
 
Aside from the dichotomous view that they either go with their originally planned course of action or are simply back-pedaling and reneging on original promises, I would remind you of something we are all familiar with: “The contingency plan." When you head off into an multi-billion dollar endeavor, you do not simply plot a single course of action but rather you create contingent strategies as you can’t predict with 100% accuracy the reception of your product in real-world markets due to all of the variables. The “Microsoft 180” discourse seems to completely overlook this key facet of business planning. I would argue that Microsoft never actually did “a 180” but rather based on real-world feedback modified their business plan to position themselves to make a viable profit off the product they are offering.
 
It’s easy to simplify the nature of this concept and say that they are back-pedaling or that Sony has done everything right, but neither point is entirely accurate. If we step away from console wars of Microsoft vs Sony (Nintendo… intentionally omitted at this point) and look at them simply as businesses offering a product, then we can start to get away from applying the characteristics of an “individual” to a multi-billion dollar corporation with hundreds of employees who jointly determine business actions.
 
From my perspective, I see that a team of Microsoft employees came to the decision that, based on  feedback on the Xbox 360, the initial product offering for the Xbox One should look like “x” (always on, Kinect-required, no used-game playability, etc…). Absolutely nothing was wrong with this course of action and at the time it was deemed by those involved as quite reasonable. Once the product was introduced to the market, consumer feedback was received and the model was tweaked to address consumer demands. Microsoft is still doing what it is supposed to and consumers are as well. This isn’t a 180 in my perspective—​just business as usual.
 
Now you have a third character in the mix which is Sony. Aside from consumer feedback on your product, you have to review the performance of your competitors as well and adjust your business model accordingly. I reiterate that this is a multi-billion dollar business plan. The plan that you remain consistent to retain the perception of being steadfast in your business choices is offset by the reality of the gravity of the business decision. If you are losing money and believe this business plan to be of a ten-year nature (long-term/console life,  then you understand that you vary and tweak your business strategy the most on the front end until you stabilize hopefully in Year 1 or 2 but even Year 3 (See the PS3), so that you have 7-8 years to demonstrate how steadfast your “final” business plan is.
 
I honestly think the PS4 and Xbox One are still both in a good market position. Numbers are currently down for Microsoft much like the initial run for Sony last-gen, but there is plenty of time to reposition and retain a competitive stance in the current market. The “Kinect-less” offering with a price point consistent with your most significant competitor is a step in the right direction.
 
So, before you get all huffy-puffy about your favorite or most hated company doing a 180, don’t forget what’s on the line and also the fundamentals of how these decisions are being made… by groups of people (some of which I so want to believe are avid gamers). I would much rather a “180” if that’s what you want to call it than seeing a huge market competitor fall to the wayside to retain short-term perception of being steadfast in their beliefs. It’s not like we have seen a lot hardware competitors enter the market in recent years only to fall to the wayside unable to secure a significant enough market share to prosper? I wonder if dynamically and promptly addressing your consumer demands leads to that solid footing Microsoft currently has…

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted earlier in May 21, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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So much more than war...
Posted on Friday, April 18 2014 @ 16:56:36 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.


The recent blog, Peace in the Era of Call of Duty really made me think about war games that dig deeper than simply a kill streak reward. The first game that came to mind was Spec-Ops: The Line and although I haven’t played it, I began to wonder if it did the war genre as much justice as one of my favorite games (I have yet to actually finish…) Valkyria Chronicles. In many war games the focus seems to be on the conflict vs the interpersonal development and collateral impact on participants not directly involved in the conflict.

One of the things that I believe made The Last of Us so successful was the way in which Naughty Dog handled the relationship development between Joel and Ellie. They had players putting down the controller if only to pay attention to the dialog between the two characters as they progressed through the game. One minute you are figuring out how to get around a room full of infected with palms sweating and the next you are simply listening to Joel and Ellie discuss a painting they are walking past. It was a game focused on both avoiding and dispatching infected and hunters and also a drama about loss, trust, maturing, etc… framed as a standard third-person shooter. Can Call of Duty ever capture this type of dynamic in a modern warfare game? Is that even Activision's desire?

Valkyria Chronicles came out in 2008 yet it framed war in such a novel way to me. You started the game by returning home only to find your town invaded. Then you have to assist the militia in defending it. You lack experience as a leader and Welkin (the lead character) is portrayed as an average kid. The story was good but what made this a “great” war game was the squad mechanics. Much like X-Com: Enemy Unknown, if your squad member fell and you failed to revive them they were gone for good. As you used squad members more and more, their skills improved but “potentials” were also unlocked. These potentials were what made the game so impactful for me. Traditionally, when I think of skill progression in a war game I think of better armor, accuracy, weaponry, gadgets, etc… yet in VC you could have a squad member unlock hidden potentials like the following:

Coward - Having enemies nearby terrifies them, hindering accuracy when firing.

Darcsen Hater - Even just being around Darcsens makes them nauseous, leading to a decrease in defense.

Humanitarian - Unable to forgive themselves for harming another person, they cannot take any further action after attacking.

Misogynist - Having women nearby triggers constitutional loathing so powerful it lowers accuracy.

It was the first time I had seen skill progressions like this in a war game. It dealt with racism and sexism in its skill trees. This was pretty damn cool. Think about spending hours leveling up a squad mate to discover their final unlock is an ability like “Misogynist” and then having to restructure your team to address the newly arisen personality conflict with two other female squad mates. This was so damn different than anything I had previously experienced game wise and just made the game even better in my opinion.

As different potentials for the squad mates became unlocked I became more empathetic and attached to the characters because they seemed more “real”. This wasn’t a matter of building a squad with a tank, a support, a scout etc… it was more like, “Shit! I have two scouts I need for the mission but they don’t work well together do I send them out together anyway or keep them separate? Do I train a new scout hoping that they get along? Or do I simply figure out a different configuration without two scouts?” This relationship mechanic had me totally engrossed.



I entered the gaming experience thinking it would be similar to Command and Conquer and was pleasantly surprised at the depth of character development and the focus on the relationships. When you lost a squad member, unlike X-com, you lost someone that meant more because of their character traits. I mean I didn’t just lose a sniper; I lost a sniper that may have been allergic to pollen, was a pessimist, had a frail body, but would also never say die and these were all actual traits associated with just a single unit. Sure, I could train another sniper but the odds of getting that build and even the surprise of unlocking the potentials for the first time to determine what type of character you are dealing with just took the whole war game experience to a new level.

As I currently play through Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Crysis 3, marking and executing unsuspecting enemies, I am reminded of how much more the experience could mean if I was given reason to care more about the people I assisted or slew. Valkyria Chronicles had a good story but the personalities that defined the characters were what made it so memorable. I would love to see a war RPG that can get this right again. We have become accustomed to shallow single-player campaign experiences from some of our most cherished war franchises with the rationale that the focus is on multiplayer. We thought the same thing about fighting games and then Mortal Kombat was released with an awesome single player campaign, so it can be done. We just have to want it.  

In a market saturated with war games it’s nice to have something that provides a bit more than kill “x”, unlock silencer, etc, but I do wonder if creating a game like VC in a modern setting would be extremely uncomfortable for some. Kill streaks are fun in their own right, but spending hours developing a squad with unique personalities only to have one of them killed and not be able to create a duplicate may hit a bit too close to home in the “art imitating life” scheme of things. Still, we strive for realism and the reality of war is that it is far more complicated than attaining a kill streak.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but it is a blog written by one of our community. This article, posted originally on April 15th, 2014, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. Write a blog by clicking "Add New Entry" on your GR profile page for a chance to be featured on GameRevolution's home page.

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A Day Without Booth Babes! But why?
Posted on Wednesday, March 19 2014 @ 11:31:18 Eastern

I felt compelled to write this one up after reading a recent write-up by Daniel Bischoff requesting the support of the GR community in banning booth babes. Before I begin to address some of the points made by Daniel, I think it worthwhile to expound a bit on my perception of sexuality and human form. As a first generation American with a family from Trinidad and Tobago it allowed me the opportunity to intimately experience two similar cultures with a few stark differences.
 
In Trinidad there is an annual event called Carnivale. At this event you will see scantily clad men and women for over a week long period dancing and partying. You will also see kids mixed in trying to imitate the costumes and dance moves of the adults and it is simply part of the culture. Starting at childhood and through adulthood you experience this each year and I guess it has desensitized me to some extent. Trindad has gay, straight, transgendered individuals etc… like many other cultures and something that seems to be missing in recent debates is that all of these individuals have the capacity to appreciate the human form. See, once you become used to peoples' bodies in all shapes and forms a booth babe just seems like meh…anybody else to me.
 
To further expound, when thinking of the way in which I view sexual preference in others I use the following form of reasoning: Consider how many people you have interacted with in a given day (I mean a cashier at the coffee shop, the person who glares at you on the bus, etc…) now multiply that number by 365 days and then by the remaining number of years you think you will live. Finally, consider that out of the total number of people you think you will interact with over the rest of your lifetime how many you will have an intimate relationship with.  Typically, for individuals living in an urban environment you are going to be intimate with less than 1% of the individuals you will interact with over the course of your life (I mean a lot less than 1%). By that reasoning and my past cultural experiences I tend to be more apt to treat all people sexually equal as the impact of their sexual preference on my life is negligible at best.
 
So that’s how I think for the most part and it allows me to treat people like people…not booth babes, not “gays”, not “hetero’s”, just… people.
 
Now to the article. Daniel asked three questions as follows:
 
(1) Do booth babes add to the video game coverage you read at home?
            (a) I personally don’t think so
(2) Do bloated marketing budgets allow developers to continue innovating?
            (a) I am not sure of the correlation between marketing budgets and innovation when you have explicit company missions that state such things as “we only seek to make game that are “franchisable” (if that’s a word). I think it a bit of a stretch if you believe that the removal of booth babes would lead to increased innovation. I would also argue that the portion of the marketing budget for a triple A title like GTA V that is allocable to booth babe compensation is negligible when compared to the TV ads, conferences, travel expenditures (we are going to come back to this), etc…
 
(3) Do skimpy school girls at E3 make Duke Nukem Forever a better game?
            (a) I don’t think the objective of booth babes is to improve the gaming experience. However, Nick Tan mentioned that on the second day of the conferences the Lines are ****ing dreadful…so do booth babes keep certain types of individuals in your line longer under these circumstances, I would argue yes. Not all, but certain types of people would be willing to stand in the line longer with the scantily clad booth babe vs a line without additional stimuli (yes, that is how I view booth babes/booth people to an extent, an additional form of stimuli to keep your consumer base engaged until you are able to deliver your marketing message).
 
Daniel then goes on to make the statement,
 
 “Booth babes cannot be allowed to represent women in the industry any longer, as there are countless female developers, executives, and players helping to shape the medium today.”
 
Would you be considered a victim of the bias you seek to change if you believe booth babes are representative of “women” in the industry. This seems to be the type of gross generalization you seek to change. I really didn’t understand this stance, as I see booth babes as just that, booth babes, not a representation of female industry professionals or gamers. They are one aspect of a gaming industry. If you look at the film industry, you have summer blockbusters like Transformers, you have movies like Momento, and you also have porn. Would you see female porn stars of detriment to the perception of female movie producers, executives, actresses, etc…I don’t and I also don’t see anything wrong with their business or the way in which they market the media for their products which is vastly different than how Transformers would be marketed. They are in the same medium but represent very different things and to me that is okay.
 
With regard to videogames, the subject matter much like the movie industry varies greatly. The way in which marketing firms determine how best to reach their audience is highly correlated to the type of material portrayed in their product. Both of last year’s games of the year GTA V and Last of Us portrayed graphic sexual and violent scenes/themes. There were 100’s of other games produced last year yet unsurprisingly our choice as a community leaned toward sex and violence.  Yet, you make the argument that you don’t need to sell violence with sex…? This statement is perplexing for me in that it raises another issue which is the difference in acceptability thresholds for Americans with regard to sex vs violence.
 
You say that booth babes deter a segment of the population from embracing the industry and yet I just don’t get the unabashed acceptance of violence, unless that would be the next area to be addressed. Look, I honestly admit that I find both sex and violence alluring like many others who support the now multi-billion dollar gaming industry. As discussed earlier, I became comfortable with the human form based on my past cultural experiences but I have yet to find a cultural experience that makes individuals comfortable with the degree of violence depicted or accepted in American culture. I am okay with it as an American but I try not to demonstrate bias toward either. However, I would be more averse to having my child in a haunted house depicting the mutilation of the human body as I would a Carnivale with tons of scantily clad people. That's just my preference...stripper vs. sociopath...stripper all day. 

I commented to Dan, "Why don’t they add more types of "booth people" and he replied that they were unlikely to increase the number of booth males and they wear more clothing. To this I say give it a shot. Consider that one of America’s most masculine and favorite pastimes is football. Each team has a locker room and in each of these locker rooms are scantily clad (if clothed) men. Surprisingly enough, in these locker rooms most guys are able to converse without the feeling of discomfort. This is possibly due to the fact that over time they were desensitized to that sense of discomfort through exposure not exclusion.
 
I am sorry to pick on you Dan but you also made the statement,

“Yes, exactly. Booth babes are hired, flown in, based on their looks, not their fandom. Booth babes don't care about the game they're working with. They care about collecting a paycheck…”
 
Dude you just dehumanized them and generalized again? Booth babes are people with varying interests, opinions, and expertise. This comment leads to my following idea for GR.
 
(1) Wait until the second day of a conference when the lines are long as hell, then;
 
(2) Interview the booth babes (this may also make you more comfortable around them if you find certain commonalities and don’t see them as simply a distraction). Ask them about the game booth they are representing and the game in detail and record it. This would at least give some substance to your assertion that they don’t care about the games they are working with;
 
(3) If they have no idea about the game or the booth they represent politely thank them for their time and move on to the next booth;
 
(4) Following the conference do an expo on your findings outlining whether they support or deviate from your hypothesis;
 
(5) Provide copies of your write-up to those publishers/developers with booth babes who lacked knowledge, explaining that when on the second day of a conference the lines get long the booth babes are the first line of communication to your consumers in relaying your message. As you have to report on numerous publishers and developers and as time is limited it would be prudent that the individuals they use be aware of the subject matter as it is a missed opportunity to get their message across and isn’t that their fundamental goal at these marketing events?
 
Just removing booth babes may start a dialogue but not necessarily your intended one and thus the idea above frames your dissent in a way in which the public is more aware of exactly why you see no value in booth babes and provides a direct incentive to publishers/developers as to why to change their individual system. I believe it isn’t simply the conference attendees' whose perception you would like to change but rather the industry as a whole.
 
In conclusion you hit on an excellent topic but I disagree with regard to your suggested means of reaching the end. I don't think the booth babes are as much an issue as our inability to segregate the physical form from the substance we seek. As I stated in the comments to Daniel's article I don't see the need to get rid of booth babes but rather, I think the focus should be on more effective marketing strategies (whether that be booth babes, booth dudes, booth kids, or booth other) that are consistent with the media they are portraying... Booth Babes for DOA Beach Volley Ball no Booth Babes for Stanley Parable...(I think booth comedians would be kind of cool as well). 
 
Also, I almost forgot but with regards to the bloated marketing budget I would focus more so on travel expenditures you would be surprised at how much bloat you can reduce by utilizing per diems, lower cost lodging options, and airfare and car rental restrictions…this change would significantly impact a marketing budget but that still doesn’t mean the revenue saved would be allocated to innovation, as that is a separate business decision all together.

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The Great Compromise: Final Fantasy VII
Posted on Friday, March 7 2014 @ 08:42:06 Eastern

[Yep, I flipped the image... see what I did there? Ed. Nick]
I was not originally a fan of FFVII; in fact, I remember looking at the commercials in the '90s and finally purchasing the game only to realize the commercials only show...   read more...

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Playing to achieve, complete, or enjoy?
Posted on Tuesday, March 4 2014 @ 16:38:29 Eastern

I read the article, “Gamer Earns 500 Platinum Trophies, Makes a Real-life Platinum Trophy” and it reminded me of Ryan Bates piece, an “Irrational Divide” and a piece by Daniel Bischoff called, “I Got a Top Score in Call of Duty”. What the...   read more...

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Playstation+ More than Just Free Games
Posted on Friday, January 31 2014 @ 10:16:51 Eastern


On June 28, 2013, Anthony Severino posted an article quantifying the monetary benefit of a one year subscription to Playstation Plus (PS+). After some basic assumptions and quick math, Anthony assessed that a user for that time period would h...   read more...

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What yah looking at Big Brother?
Posted on Wednesday, December 18 2013 @ 15:35:18 Eastern


As the holiday season is upon us I am reminded of Santa Claus making a list and checking it twice, because he knows who is naughty and who is nice. Santa’s a damn spy and I don’t want a plump, old dude of no relation to my childre...   read more...

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I ain’t scared of no ghost! Now clowns on the other hand…
Posted on Monday, December 9 2013 @ 16:47:07 Eastern

I recently read an article discussing Shinji Mikami’s (Evil Within) revelation that it is simply getting harder to scare gamers. Sir, I agree! As I roll into my 30’s I have developed a rather tragic condition, called “Fearlessness&r...   read more...

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My experience at the Rockstar Diner: GTA V Revisited
Posted on Tuesday, November 12 2013 @ 17:17:09 Eastern



While enjoying a hot bowl of Pho, I was texted by a buddy of mine who inquired as to whether I had gotten onto GTAV Online yet. As some of you may be aware, this has been an issue of contention for me. See, when GTAV came out I ranted...   read more...

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Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Full Burst Review Rebuttal
Posted on Wednesday, November 6 2013 @ 15:32:32 Eastern

Dear Ryan,
 
I had a chance to read your review today regarding Full Burst and as a fan of the series I just wanted to play devil’s advocate (aka: pseudo fanboy) for a moment. I am all good with your score but just wanted to ...   read more...

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