This Week in Games: March 31, 2012

This week saw word of a cheaper, crappier Xbox, an Assassin's Creed sausage-fest, the PlayStation 4 getting a different name (plus it won't play used games), a Mass Effect cupcake explosion, and a prediction of your free-to-play future.

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Next-gen news was a little thin on the ground last week, but the crazies have been out in force over the past seven days. Behold…

This Week's Next-Gen Nonsense

Microsoft will perhaps have new hardware for gamers next year after all, but it won't be a next-generation console, according to noted anonymous Microsoft blogger MS Nerd. He wrote on Reddit that Microsoft will ship a stripped-down Xbox in late 2013. Given the recent Web domain registration for Xbox FL there's some speculation that this move is somehow related. MS Nerd further noted that the ARM-powered console will focus on "Arcade-style games" and Kinect applications. The technology will be "price-competitive" with Apple TV, which currently retails for $100. Just what we all need right now, a cheaper crappier Xbox rather than a new and improved system with more memory and faster innards. A Microsoft representative issued GameSpot the following fluff-laden obfuscation: "Xbox 360 has found new ways to extend its lifecycle like introducing the world to controller-free experiences with Kinect and re-inventing the console with a new dashboard and new entertainment content partnerships. We are always thinking about what is next for our platform and how to continue to defy the lifecycle convention." Blah, blah, blah, not addressing the issue in any way whatsoever blah, blah. The statement ended with a predictable, "Beyond that we do not comment on rumors or speculation." Thanks bud.

Just what we all need right now, a cheaper crappier Xbox rather than a new and improved system with more memory and faster innards.

In other next-generation console news (it was also by far the most-read news all week,) rumors circulated on Thursday that the PlayStation 4 is named Orbis (there's a convoluted logic which explains how this is related to the name "Vita," but we won't waste your time with it here) and that it will feature an anti-used-game system, offer no backward compatibility with PlayStation 3 titles, and ship in holiday 2013. Based on this, we assume it will also loudly berate and insult you every time you turn it on. If all this is true, it seems 2013 is going to be a bumper year for gimped hardware and the execution of myopic, unfriendly, and terrible decisions by platform holders. Multiple sources told Kotaku that the Orbis will sport some sort of anti-used-game measure and that full Orbis games will be available via Blu-ray disc or as a PlayStation Network download and will be locked to a single PSN account. Players will not be able to circumvent the system by remaining offline, as the source said users will be forced to be connected to the PSN to boot up their games. Genius, huh?

Ever the contrarian, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter dismissed the rumor, arguing that the story was "just a rehash of that old rumor and the recent one about the Xbox 720," before saying that the story's "reliable source is a monkey." Wait. What? A monkey? The "consumer backlash" from blocking secondhand games would be huge, he said. It would also be unlikely to help the firm financially, though he did admit that it might benefit the larger publishers such as EA and Activision "slightly." This backlash would prevent Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft from unilaterally blocking used games, he said. While a multilateral move might mitigate some of the fallout, none of the three firms "are evil enough to do it together." He might have a point there. Or does he? What do you think?

In somewhat related news, Silicon Knights founder Denis Dyack grumbled that used game sales are cannibalizing the business, predicting that "there's not going to be an industry" if used sales continue as is. There's a good

The used game market is ultimately good because it shows there is healthy demand for games in the industry in spite of the onerous measures publishers are taking to discourage secondhand sales.
chance he thinks that Sony is on to something with its new idea. Dyack complained that it used to be possible for a game like Warcraft to continue selling over a 10-year life span, but the used market has changed that. "Now there is no tail. Literally," he whined, presumably ignoring the fact that people still willingly buy the Warcraft III: Battlechest after (ahem) 10 years. "You will get most of your sales within three months of launch, which has created this really unhealthy extreme where you have to sell it really fast and then you have to do anything else to get money," Dyack said. To be fair, his comments are more appropriate for console games than PC. It's just unfortunate that he used that particular example.

In a counterargument, GameSpot senior editor Brendan Sinclair suggested that used games aren't the problem at all, and instead suggested that "the used game market is ultimately good because it shows there is healthy demand for games in the industry in spite of the onerous measures publishers are taking to discourage secondhand sales. Maybe certain companies will go under because the missing revenue caused by used sales somehow makes the difference between keeping the lights on and calling it quits. Maybe there will be fewer Call of Duty clones, or fewer AAA bets on original intellectual properties. But the underlying demand for games will ensure that the industry presses on; it's just a matter of what form it will take as it does. And as with any sea change in a consumer industry, it will be the entrenched giants who seek to impose their terms on the market who drown in the tide."

What do you think? Express yourself in the comments, please.

Let Them Eat Cake! Mass Effect Stuff Continues

The Mass Effect 3 ending protestors changed their tactics quite dramatically this week. After being shut down for raising Child's Play money, they instead resorted to the persuasive power of sugary treats. Members of the developer's forums organized a successful ChipIn fund to raise more than $1,000 to deliver 400 cupcakes to BioWare's Edmonton offices. According to the fund's official page, 96 people pooled their money to have Edmonton-based bakery Fuss Cupcakes deliver the treats to BioWare. A worker at Fuss confirmed for GameSpot that the order was placed and the cupcakes were set for delivery this past Tuesday. If you poke around on the bakery's site, you'll find a comment from one John Shepard, stating, "I'm Commander Shepard and this is my favorite store on the Planet!"

When is an MMO not an MMO? When it's Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium

THQ's long-awaited massively multiplayer online game Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online is no longer going to be massively multiplayer, as the publisher announced on Thursday that it would be making a major genre shift to turn it into a single-player game with some online multiplayer features. "As previously announced, we have been actively looking for a business partner for the game as an MMO," THQ CEO Brian Farrell said in a statement."However, based on changing market dynamics and the additional investment required to complete the game as an MMO, we believe the right direction for us is to shift the title from an MMO to a premium experience with single and multiplayer gameplay, robust digital content and community features." Yeah, that'll work. The last single-player Warhammer 40K game that had some online multiplayer was a roaring success, right?

RIP Zipper

Back in 2002, Sony and Zipper teamed up to make the first SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs game and establish the PlayStation 2 network adapter as an essential accessory for the console. After that, the pair went on to release six further installments of SOCOM (two for the PSP) before Sony acquired the studio in 2006. In January of 2010, the studio released MAG, an ambitious first-person shooter for the PS3 that supported an unprecedented (on console) 256 players in a single game. That was followed up with SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs for the PlayStation 3 and then Unit 13 for the Vita. After all that, the studio announced on its Twitter feed Friday that it was closing down. A sad day indeed. Even though its titles weren't huge runaway hits by any stretch of the imagination, much of its work was groundbreaking and well loved by a dedicated following. Sadly, in a genre now dominated by Call of Duty, Zipper could no longer attract an audience at the scale necessary to be competitive.

Skyrim's Free-to-Play Future?

Ngmoco Sweden boss Ben Cousins is a smart cookie. If his name sounds familiar, it should. He was previously the manager on Battlefield Heroes and Battlefield: Play4Free at Electronic Arts, and before that was the creative director for PlayStation Home, the design manager for the EyeToy group, and a lead designer at Lionhead back in 2001. This week he caused a bit of a stir when he spoke at the Free 2 Play summit in London and stated, "I am totally 100 percent confident--I will bet large amounts of money--that we will have, in the next few years, a free-to-play equivalent of Skyrim," he said. "A game like Skyrim, where you accrue skills and equipment over time, that you can play for hundreds of hours, is actually one of the easiest games to develop for a free-to-play model. That would be a big hit. In the future I believe free-to-play will be the way that nearly everyone plays games," he continued. "It will be nearly every genre, and it will be nearly every platform."

What do you think? Do you agree with him? You know the drill…let us know down below.

Assassin's Creed III: Pour Hommes

The hype for Assassin's Creed III is reaching unprecedented levels. The publisher revealed on Thursday that in the three weeks since the game's preorder campaign kicked off, it has already exceeded the total US preorder numbers of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and has topped 10 times the preorders Assassin's Creed: Revelations attracted in a comparable time frame. Why the rush to preorder? Surely it's not just the steelbook package with the Alex Ross art? It's nice…but is it that nice? By the time E3 rolls around in June, Ubisoft expects Assassin's Creed III to have dethroned Revelations as the most preordered game in company history (US only). That would leave the game plenty of time to cushion its status, as Assassin's Creed III isn't set to launch until October 30 in North America.

In other news, we learned that Ubisoft steered clear of making the Assassin's Creed III protagonist a female character because the game's setting is not a strong match, according to creative director Alex Hutchinson. "I think lots of people want it, [but] in this period it's been a bit of a pain. The history of the American Revolution is the history of men." He then continued, stating that "there are a few people, like John Adams' wife, [Abigail]--they tried very hard in the [HBO series John Adams] to not make it look like a bunch of dudes, but it really is a bunch of dudes," he added. The Assassin's Creed franchise has bent the books of history before, but Hutchinson admitted that doing so in Assassin's Creed III could be problematic. "It felt like, if you had all these men in every scene and you're secretly, stealthily in crowds of dudes [as a female assassin], it starts to feel kind of wrong," he said. "People would stop believing it."

Speaking of Things That Sell a Lot

In news that surprised exactly no one, we learned this week that Angry Birds Space has sold an awful lot of copies since its release last Thursday. 10 million, in fact.

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Discussion

142 comments
freeko
freeko

This blocking of used games is insane. Lets say for example I have a game on the ps4, and I want to go to my friends house. Oops! I can not play that game at my friends house since the game is locked into my psn account? That is just outright absurd to think that a model like this would be anything more than an april fools joke. If it is not then off to steam I go to download more games that go on sale for 75% of what they would normally cost. I would not have a problem at all if the newer consoles removed the physical copy of games from existence. The problem will become what would possibly convince me to try a game that I would not normally even look at because the risk of wasting money on crap is too great. This is why I am mostly purchasing used games. IF I could somehow return a newly bought game and get my money back when the game sucked, then I would buy more new games that I thought that I might like. Oh, when was the last time that you have seen a console game "on sale"? No, I do not mean the regular price drops over time, but simply on sale for a week at 10-20 dollars less than what it would regularly sell for. I believe that answer is not any time within the last 10 years that I can remember.

Abishot
Abishot

Skyrim's Free to Play Future? I think they spelled "Pay as you Go" wrong.

x2rufff4u
x2rufff4u

You guys are noobs!!! Xbox?!? Get a pc!!! I'm out "drops New Gen xbox/ps3 on the ground".

shiss27
shiss27

Assassin's Creed III is so popular because it's based on Historic USA. Some of the most famous (George Washington, Jefferson, Ben Franklin, etc.) and infamous (John Wilkes Booth, Benedict Arnold, Slave masters in general, etc.) are expected to be abound in the AC3 universe. I've never liked AC at all, but might pick this one up just based on the forefathers alone.

ggregd
ggregd

If you're thinking about switching to PC if the console makers block used games, forget it. It's hard to find boxed copies of NEW games for PC - everything is going digital. Every time I go into Best Buy they have fewer PC games for sale. There has never been a big market for used PC games and the way things are going, that's not going to change. I don't really see a need used PC games anyway. You can buy awesome games dirt cheap on Steam, GamersGate, etc. once they're a few months old.

minivirus2
minivirus2

I'm sorry, but these companies have been around for a long time and know what will ensure longevity. They'd never so something as stupid as blocking used games or making them single account uses. Consle purchases, peripherals and first party games are their bread and butter, so why the **** would they intentionally shoot themselves in the foot for the sake of the devs and publishing companies. This is a perfect case of the technological age's lack of logic. People read a rumor, get pissed at said rumor, tell two friends to expand the disbelief (often with a huge lack of evidence or distortion of original details) and then the whole thing gets blown out of proportion in mainstream media. IT. WONT. HAPPEN... Also, am I the only one who's disapppointed by the closure of Zipper? I was praying for a MAG 2, but alas my dreams shall not be :'(

Hurvl
Hurvl

I keep my games, because I see them as a long term investment. I only buy games that have lots of replayability and also, the PC market for used games is even smaller than the Mac market for computer games. These games also quite often have a strong mod community. If you wait a few months or a year (or several years, some mod communities are very long-lived), you'll be able to get lots of free content for your game. Who needs DLC when you've got mods?

stifodaum
stifodaum

There is one simple solution to ensure that retail doesn't take away all the profits: LOWER THE GAME PRICE FOR CHRIST SAKE. Money is just excellent, but thinking about long term investments, wouldn't it be great to have more than half of the world playing a game your company created, and also getting rich at the process, not because of the high prices but due to the huge demand of your great game at a reasonable price? Gamers want to play, and they will even more, IF companies give them good means to do so. Otherwise, unfortunately, piracy will always find a way to profit over the blind greed of the big companies.

rockhoppur
rockhoppur

In all that BS about anti-used games they didn't even mention rentals?? If you can't play used games you also can't rent before you buy! So now you are FORCED to buy their sh^#&*y games without even trying it first, and then you are stuck with it forever since it is useless to anyone else! WTF?? There is NO WAY they would do this......is there??? :(

GamingForLives
GamingForLives

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

danyboy278
danyboy278

well i think if gamers cant buy used games on consoles they would just shift to the PC... seriously looking at the opportunity cost of what their planning to do... who in their right minds would even buy a console and spend 60$ per game... to the big firms out their were gamers not moronic old people who fall for this idiocity..... and seriously more than 50% of ur purchasers are non income earners... do some economics here, parents like hell would buy u a new game every month or so... By my point of view i think their would be a revolt,a gamer movement and a bunch loads of angry gamers ready to hack and finish off sony and microsoft.... and seriously sony do u want to be insulted by a bunch of nerds again and then spend billions of dollars on security....... i just say to hell with the next gen consoles im bringing out my atari and sega goinng old school!!!

solidus2_1
solidus2_1

Looks like we better start baking cupcakes for sony and microsoft begging them not to make consoles that dont let you play previously played games. Bioware is gonna have to tell them what happens when you piss of your consumers.

solidus2_1
solidus2_1

I dont know how it would work one time used only games. What about families with 2 or more children would you have to buy 2 completly seperate copies of the same title so each child could play? Or what about borrowing games from a friend. Why are they complaining about the sales of used games, if I buy a used car off someone the car company and dealer they bought it from dont get any money out of it, or used dvd's/blu-ray's the film company doesnt get anything if I buy them from a pawn shop, or a garage sale. and books as well the publishers dont get anymore money when i buy a previously read copie It would also mean you couldn't rent games. Not to mention I usely have to trade in 2 or more (usually 4 or 5)of my used games just to get a copie of one brand new games. what make these console developers think they could get away this, were do they think stores like EB Games, Gamestop, etc ,etc get most of their profit from? All the used Items they sell. I'm just saying the whole thing if true is so fool of loopholes that it would destroy microsoft and sony and nintendo.

Minasodrom
Minasodrom

the article came out 31. of March, why would it be an aprils foola joke?

BuBsay
BuBsay

sadly, this isn't an April Fool's prank, all of these articles are indeed real.

BloomerNYC
BloomerNYC

Go ahead console devs...commit financial suicide. You deserve to be out of jobs for trying to destroy the one thing that makes you so successful.

D0UBLEJUMP
D0UBLEJUMP

Ben Cousins? Why are they letting a drug addicted football player make the game industries decisions? ... I'm thinking of the wrong person aren't I?

fightingfish18
fightingfish18

If Next gen consoles are disc distribution that blocks used games, then I will not be a console gamer next gen, period. Every game I buy used is either out of print or one i can do without. Watch how much game sales plummet when they charge $60 forever on one time use games.

isshiah
isshiah

i don't know if anyone has said this already, but ben cousins sounds familiar to me because that is the name of a former football player in australia.

REALpyrodark
REALpyrodark

I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY WOULD..oh, wait...I hate April 1st :/

Spacerac
Spacerac

I see it like this. I currently own a PS3 and have owned it since 2010. I had planned to get a Wii but I decided to wait since the Wii U was announced. If the NextBox and PS4 go through with blocking used games, then I'm sticking with Wii U next gen and purchasing a 360 on the cheap to play 360 games I missed. Between these three systems I'll have more than enough games to last to not have to subject myself to the rumored crappy treatment of the next generation except for Nintendo.

Kevlar101
Kevlar101

Please take no offense in my last comment, as I meant it for humorous purposes only. No sexual harassment was intended.

Kevlar101
Kevlar101

OH MY GOD!!!!! GREAT JOKE!!!!!! I just realized what GameSpot can be turned into: G-Spot.Com!!!!! LOL

zillaman101
zillaman101

Sony should just stay with PS3 for at least 6 more years my god

Eveco
Eveco

April Fools. Right? PLEASE?

Boomslang
Boomslang

Keep up the good work on this weekly round up feature. I always catch a few stories in here that I missed during the week!

Farbrorblau
Farbrorblau

If this is true i will surely switch to Microsoft for the first time ever. Been a dedicated Sony player since i first bought my Playstation to play FF7. Cant believe why they would want to commit suicide like this. maybe after the bankrupsy of Sony the gamingindustry will realise that the used-game market is necessary

Chavis02
Chavis02

Cupcakes is making me hungry.. @_@ Can someone bring me some cupcakes? :D

jedediahpelland
jedediahpelland

Hmm think Ill just start building a new gaming PC, Ive got a pretty decent one now, but intead of the new consoles, I think Ill go PC all the way and just keep my 360 and PS3 around.

CylonRaider01
CylonRaider01

The line "I'm Commander Shepard and this is my favorite store on the Planet!" was epic,it made my day.

nate1222
nate1222

@demi_veritaz Too true. Alotta that "premium" content is stuff that used to come included six years ago. Today, they charge you extra...on top of $60. I don't care if I get thumbed down for saying this, but: The 7th gen has been a major bust for the most part. With the exception of a few cool new ideas, everything else has been racketeering practices. But...these kids just had to keep rewarding console makers and publishers for this crap until it became the new "standard".

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

everything is based on news we already read in the website and it has links ... so I don't see much of a april fools around here

RadPro
RadPro

Don't know about the other articles, but the cupcake one is real.

chronos_ss2
chronos_ss2

amazing... how every year people fall victim to the minutia of April fool's day.

random3905
random3905

this toast is good... sorry what? ps4 sucks? same for xboxFL? your a fake hipster hopping on the "consoles suck" bandwagon? interesting... have fun with your call of duty map packs

glbbg
glbbg

This year cupcakes for BioWare, next year grenades for Generals 2.

jezz555
jezz555

making dark millenium not an mmo is probably a good idea every mmo that isnt WoW or I guess SWTOR is kind of doomed in this market and I'm just not really the biggest mmo fan. Besides space marine didnt do that badly...

-Beatz-
-Beatz-

Reading all this serious discussion in the comments section is deliciously amusing.

andy2002x
andy2002x

Who loves april fools? I do!

demi_veritaz
demi_veritaz

At this point I just vote with my wallet. I don't care if everyone else is willing to buy a new CoD every year, they're not innovating, they're waaaaaaay over-pricing their products, etc etc. I can understand premium content, but what a lot of these companies do would not be considered premium content if they hadn't put that label on themselves.

catoblepas
catoblepas

Some games are just not worth spending $60 on, especialy if you're only gonna be playing it for a couple of days. Well I can't afford that anyway...

gostrider373
gostrider373

PC gaming all the way. console future isnt looking too bright..

anthonycg
anthonycg

If used games were banned I'd quit console gaming. Games of that quality are not being released often this gen.

bpthomas85
bpthomas85

The whole PS4 thing is pure rumor. If PS4 came out first and couldn't play used games, Microsoft would destroy them by making the new xbox play used games. With so few exclusive titles sony couldnt be competitive.