A WEEK IN GAMING 5.27.13-5.31.13

Sunday, June 2, 2013

By: Jamaal Ryan

Let’s take a looking at a week in gaming from 5/27/13 through 5/31/13

Square Begins to Shift its Focus (5/27)

Square Enix, the troubled publisher who’s suffered a loss of over 13 billion yen at the end of 2012 and 13,714 million yen at the end of its fiscal year along with underperformed sales for their published titles such as Tomb Raider, is beginning to branch away from big budget AAA titles towards a less financially demanding focus such as mobile gaming – specifically bringing console like gaming to handheld platforms, and the use of Kickstarter.

Upcoming president Yosuke Matsuda pins one of the main causes for their losses on dodgy marketing; claiming that they spoke to a global scale without considering regional individuality. But he believes that their new business approach will be lucrative and points out that Kicstarter “not only serve[s ]as a method of financing for developers, but I believe should also be seen as a way to unite marketing and development together by allowing us to interact with customers while a game is in development.”

Having a big name publisher turn to mobile gaming and Kickstarter is a true sign of industry climate. And while Kickstarter will be new to Square, they’ve already demonstrated success on the mobile platform.

However, this shouldn’t be taken as Square abandoning console AAA publishing and development. We should expect a proper Final Fantasy title to be debuted at E3 after their presence at the PS4 event, and we know that they’ll be involved in other future next gen titles such as the new Thief set to release next year.

Neglecting Wii U Third Party Releases (5/28)

The Wii U version of Sniper Elite V2 is out, but it released without the co-op content available on the other platforms. Developer Rebellion’s CEO John Kingsley stated that their focus was on “making the core game as good as can be”, sacrificing the integration of co-op content.

This is nothing new, as Wii U owners with titles such as Mass Effect 3, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 do not have access to the same content released on  other current gen systems.
There’s third party support on Wii U – if you want to call what little they have “support”—but with games that has less content than versions available on other platforms, what reason do owners of multiple systems such as myself have to invest in the Wii U copy?

I picked up Black Ops 2 on Wii U curious as to how the system can handle an online shooter such as Call of Duty, and it runs smoothly. Now, I also own it on 360 where I have access to timed exclusive DLC. As an owner of a PS3, I know that I would benefit to have a copy on that system (not that I would own three copies of the game) because I’m aware that the 360 content will eventually release on PS3. I cannot be so certain on Wii U.

Nintendo is whirlpooling into the same predicament that they’ve suffered from for the past two console generations. But unlike the solid library of titles on Gamecube, and the popularity of the Wii, the Wii U – granted this is only 7 months after launch – has little third party support as well as attractive first party titles to hold gamers to keep players invested. This absolutely shows in its abysmal sales, even in comparison to their readjusted forecast.

Upcoming large profile titles such as Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Watch Dogs are set to release on Wii U later this year, however I have little confidence that these will be the ideal or even comparable versions to purchase in comparison to both the 360 and PS3. E3 is right around the corner, and I cannot depend on the nebulous presenting of “We will have third party support” followed by a wall of publishers akin to last year’s press conference, nor can I base my anticipation off of actual games shown.

Seeing this pattern of Wii U getting the “lesser version” I would have to keep my ear to the ground and listen out for exclusive content on other systems and cautiously wait as critics and other consumers react to what’s actually included in the game.  

Video Games: The Movie & The Untold Stories of Japanese Game Developers (5/29)

Two Kickstarters caught the attention of the gaming press this week.
The awaited Video Games: The Movie reached its Kickstarter goal, awaiting higher funding benchmarks that will increase the film’s production value. Video Games: The Movie will feature some of the industry’s best and brightest such as Cliff Bleszinski, Randy Pitchford (try not to think about the Aliens scandal), and Warren Spector. 

In response to the incessant criticism that has tirelessly painted video games as a bad influence on our children from LT. Col. Dave Grossman’s frantic rants, to Joe Biden’s tax consideration, to Jim Steyer’s grossly misunderstood commentary in Katie Couric’s violent video games special, Video Games: The Movie  pokes logic holes in the constant misrepresentation, but most importantly it delves into the culture and creation within the video games industry.

In an attempt to breach the culture barrier of the Japanese game development landscape, journalist John Szczepaniak has taken on the responsibility to author his book called The Untold Stories of Japanese Game Developers. But it cannot come to fruition without the help of Kickstarter supporters.

Szczepaniak hopes to fly to Japan and sit face to face with the country’s industry members to develop a better understanding of their experience and perspectives along with uncovering undocumented facts of the marriage of business and culture in the Japanese games industry.

Hopefully this will answer our many questions that have sprung up over the years this generation in regards to the country’s decline in influence and impactful innovation. We’ve seen the diminishing pizzazz of the Tokyo Game Show, heard Phil Fish’s and even Kenji Inafune’s criticisms on Japanese game development. But it’s always better to have an open conversation – or in this case, read the perspective of one – than point accusational fingers. 

Holding a Controller with a Wedding Band? (5/30)

MSNBC’s Morning Joe went on a rant of his hopeful would-be primary bread winning daughter, claiming that all men in this day and age sit at home and play video games and are weak and unmarriable, and he willfully exempts his son and his friends (who probably play video games). While we should give him the benefit of the doubt that he might see video games as one of the reasons why men sit home with little ambition, this feeds into the consistent attachment of video games and a perceived deterioration in our society.

He seems to be making an underlying point that before the advent of video games, that men were strong and forward thinking individuals. That men weren’t sitting at home, consumed in unproductive activities. And while video games is certainly an activity one can drown in, fogging real life priorities, many gamers have flourished in games publishing, marketing, development and gaming press.

The two writers of this blog are in committed relationships, one awaiting marriage, the other awaiting engagement after seven years. Let us remind ourselves of the successful gamers with careers in the games industry; with careers outside of gaming such as photography and social work; gamers who happily await or are happily married.    

Looking Forward to Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference (5/31)

As gamers, our takeaway from the Xbox One reveal was largely unanimous. Where were the games? Who was Microsoft addressing this message to? Microsoft is losing its audience. Let’s not forget the used games mixed messaging and the vitriol against online requirements.

But Microsoft’s strategy might demonstrate some tact. Whether we liked it or not, the theme of Xbox One reached 8.5 million viewers. They might not have been talking to us, but Microsoft certainly reached its target audience within those millions.

Knowing that the company has 15 exclusive titles in development, 8 of them new IP’s to be released in the next year, only knowing one of those titles – Quantum Break – we can look forward to a hopping E3. In fact, in response to a Twitter user asking of Microsoft will be showing off more TV features in addition to what we saw at the Redmond event, Major Nelson responded,  "I can confirm that we will have TV's (or similar) on stage to show the games… That should be the [extent] of TV talk in your E3." 

And that's this week's A Week in Gaming. Be sure to tune in next week for more gaming coverage.

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