I, Opinionate: Why Critics Are Important To A Growing Medium
- Jul 21, 2009 7:35 pm GMT
- 67 Comments
We've heard the various one-liners of "Opinions are like **** and "Everyone is a critic". As a film reviewer, I dealt with those caveats from a daily basis. The reason? Film critics simply don't hold the weight or respect they once had. Maybe critics of right now don't mesh well with the current generation of film-goers. Maybe film critics are considered irrelevant by this point. A sad and unfortunate lesson that was learned for anyone, like myself, who wants to write about films for a living: There wasn't much to write about in films that hasn't already been written. There really isn't anything new that can be said.
Not so about games, which brings to the topic of this editoral: The importance of a game critic. Not a game writer. Not a game reviewer. A game critic.
Few really know the difference of a true critic. A critic is someone who overs analysis, theory and subjective outlook on a piece of work, a place in time or anything that requires a deeper look. Few game reviewers can be considered critics of their craft, mainly because a reviewer tells you whether to play the game or not. A critic requires the reader and, most importantly, himself, to be of an open mind on all types of medium.
A critic can't merely enjoy the piece they are analyzing: Some critics debate whether they can enjoy the work they analyze. It's hard to look a movie or game you enjoy and realize it's a rather poorly made game or to play a game you simply can't enjoy but realize it's actually a very well made, supremely crafted piece.
This leads to a great question: Why aren't there any game critics, or why so few? There are many arguments to suggest that it's still a medium in its infacy and that there's simply no need for them, due to the fact that no one is really asking for criticism in games: Just tell me if they are good.
But there is a growing contigency that is waiting for the day that is waiting for the same type of respect and celebration that movies, books and music have. And it will only get there with the evolution of what a game critic is and what he needs to do to represent his/her medium.
Where am I coming from with this? A medium is only as good as its criticism, and with all due respect, there really aren't many, if any at all, that deserve praise for their use of game reviewing. I base this on the fact that, until the early 70's, movies were considered merely movies to a mass audience, with the exception of a few groups of people.
That changed with the introduction of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, two critics that helped show different types of films to a mass audience. They dissected, analyzed and discussed in great length any and every film that their eyes peered on and they earned praise for not only their witty dialogue about films, but for helping move films forward faster than others could have possibly imagined.
They made films serious. They showed that films could touch and move people and that some are worth the time and effort to search for. People started going to art houses to see rare foreign films. Tastes were more refined and as such, films started to refine as well.
We need a Siskel and Ebert for games. Plain and simple. Especially since we can't identify with a creator and or a person who makes the games (exceptions are Hideo Kojima, Tim Schafer, Suda 51). We need reviewers to step up and show that games aren't merely just an experience that is controlled by a button and stick, that these games are far more than what they appear in face value.
A gaming audience can greatly benefit from having a deeper thinking of its form of entertainment, aside from a review score and a few paragraphs on how the controls work. Until then, we will always be in the rut we've put our industry in.
I'll be honest, for years I've hoped to become such a person, since gaming deservedly needs to be looked as an art and as a way to show different viewpoints and philosophies. Whether I will do it remains to question, but whether I make it or not, I hope someone does it.
Why the video game industry is NOT recession proof
- Jul 20, 2009 12:27 pm GMT
- 58 Comments
Towards the beginning of the recession, video games seemed to be doing fine, selling just as well as before. People claimed they were recession-proof, and may even thrive in a recession, such as the movie industry. Then came the June 2009 NPD numbers(http://www.gamespot.com/news/6213540.html?tag=result;title;0). Compared to June 2008, there were 31% less sales. While some claim this is just because there were few major titles released, I think it is due to the fact that not only are video games not recession-proof, but that they actually suffer terrible during a recession.
Why do I think this? While it may seem to go along with the trends of other entertainment(such as movies in the great depression) that video games would thrive, you simply need to think of it as a gamer, not an analyst. What do you do when you are strapped for cash? Certainly not go out and spend $60 on a new game! Movies are much cheaper, which is why they thrive. You can go to the theater for $10, or the equivalent of 2 happy meals, compared to buying a new game for $60, the price of 12 happy meals.
Now of course comes the obligatory argument, "Games are more worth it because they have more replay value." While this may hold true under normal circumstances, this actually works against games in a recession. Because people can't afford to buy new games, they have to find other ways to entertain themselves, which is extremely easy as a gamer. If your reading this you probably have shelves full of games you haven't played in years. Revisiting old games means you don't have to buy new games, and can get you many many hours out of games you have forgotten. Say you have 20 good old games, each takes about 10 hours to beat. That's a full 200 hours of entertainment that the gamer already had in his/her closet, without paying a single penny.
Another thing that is becoming more popular, and is helped along by the recession, is competitive multiplayer gaming. Aside from the $50 yearly xbox live subscription fee, a gamer can play halo 3, call of duty 4, team fortress 2, all games they already have, and get hundreds of hours of multiplayer enjoyment out of those alone. And if they have multiplayer gaming habits, they will most likely make sure the purchases they make will be just as productive, meaning that their next $60 purchase will last them just as long as those other games have, meaning a longer period until another purchase. This is where I personally get my entertainment. My game is StarCraft: Brood War. I paid $20 two years ago to buy the battlechest(Game+expansion) and have gotten hundreds of hours out of that game alone, and im not even close to peaking.
The last way gamers get more bang for their buck is by cheaper "casual" games, and in the case of PC gamers, free games. A recent rising trend has been downloadable arcade games on xbox live. For just a few dollars, you can download a game that could potentially get you 10-20 hours of entertainment, or maybe even more. Audiosurf for the PC has gotten me 30-40 hours off of a $10 purchase, and geometry wars has gotten me about 10 hours on a $4 purchase. For more hardcore gamers, You can still get cheap games that pack a lot of competitive value, such as Battlefield 1943. Free games are also a way PC gamers can waste their free time for nothing. Do not understimate free games, or pass them off as cheap WoW clones. A particular game I have gotten about 10 hours out of called nexuiz was a free downloadable game, based on the original Quake engine, and still provides a lot of intense competition, and costed me nothing. Another way to get something for nothing as a PC gamer is mods. The more popular shooters(source engine, Battlefield 2) have an extroadinary amount of mods that sometimes even make a completely new game, and are all completely free.
As you can see, their are many alternatives for gamers to entertain themselves and forget about the recession for free, forcing game sales lower and lower despite what some optimistic analysts theories predicted. I know I sound gloomy, but sales will most likely go lower and lower until the recession starts to lift. The only way for a studio to live is to figure out what a gamer wants to buy in this environment. Gamers don't want to buy a 6-hour long game for $60, but would rather buy a multiplayer game with unlimited replay value for $30. But as for the health of the industry, we will just have to wait and see. It will definitely survive, given the amount of gamers is higher then ever, but the condition it emerges from the recession in will be very poor.
Advertising in Video Games
- Jul 14, 2009 2:38 pm GMT
- 5 Comments
There has been a rash of complaints about the increase of in-game advertising. Personally, I don't see it as a problem. If anything, it helps build the realism of the game world. On my way to work every day, I pass over thirty billboards, so a few in a game is fairly realistic. The only problem I have run into is the lack of variety. In Rainbow Six: Vegas, I thought it was really cool to run into a Dodge Ram in the streets (partly because it was virtually identical to my own truck), but once I realized that every single car was a Dodge, it kind of hurt the experience. When playing Mercenaries 2, spotting the billboard for the movie Righteous Kill (which sucked, by the way) was pretty cool, but seeing that same ad on every other sign was disappointing. If they were to go out and get three or four other sponsors, and multiple ads for each company, these advertisements would blend seamlessly into the games. I can almost understand the argument that we pay for the games, so we should have tp pay for them advertising to us, but ads have become so integrated into everything else (movies, cable TV, billboards on toll roads) that I don't see it staying out of video games.
Alec Mason vs. Cole MacGrath: The Facts
- Jul 8, 2009 12:14 pm GMT
- 46 Comments
Lately, I've been having a great time with both Red Faction: Guerrilla and Infamous. And while both game's plots share similarities--a lone protagonist taking up against an overwhelming enemy--it's the differences between Red Faction's Alec Mason and inFamous' Cole MacGrath that stand out to me. Thus, I present for your consideration, my careful scientific study of the two heroes of each respective game.
Alec Mason vs. Cole MacGrath
Tale of the Tape
Cole MacGrath: MacGrath
Alec Mason: Mason
Cole MacGrath: Bike messenger
Alec Mason: Space miner, explosives expert, rebel
Cole MacGrath: Controls electricity
Alec Mason: SLEDGEHAMMER
Cole MacGrath: Water balloons, water pistols, showers/baths, humidity, sweat
Alec Mason: Falling buildings
Cole MacGrath: Close-cropped, blond
Alec Mason: Close-cropped, brown
Cole MacGrath: Black and yellow leather
Alec Mason: Sweet-ass green trenchcoat
Winner (for Pittsburgh Steelers fans): Cole MacGrath (for everyone else): Alec Mason
Cole MacGrath: Hobo filthy (see Weakness, above)
Alec Mason: Slightly dusty, in need of shave
Winner: Alec Mason
Cole MacGrath: Trish (doctor)
Alec Mason: SLEDGEHAMMER (sledgehammer)
Winner: Alec Mason
Additional scientific facts about Alec Mason and Cole MacGrath (with assistance from fellow scholar Chris Watters):
- Alec Mason is only afraid of falling buildings. Cole pees himself when he thinks of lawn sprinklers.
- Also, Cole pees himself when he thinks about peeing himself. Then he dies anyway.
- Cole can't go outside if there is a chance of showers. Alec drives a ATV off a sweet jump then explodes the clouds to make it rain
- Cole hasn't taken a shower since the explosion. Alec Mason showers in the tears of Jesus.
- Cole stays hydrated by licking a moist washcloth. Alec wrings water out of Martian rock, EDF rebar, and the air.
- Cole can't use moist towelettes after enjoying BBQ. Alec Mason can.
- Cole's fans ask him to charge their cell phones. Alec's fans ask him to sire their children.
- Cole spent three days in a coma after touching a dog's wet nose. Alec Mason has genetically engineered Martian wolves from dust.
- Cole's hair is short because he is in a constant state of electrolysis. Alec's is short because the follicles have unionized.
- Cole's jacket isn't leather, it's insulated rubber. Alec Mason's trenchcoat is made out of unicorn pelt.
- When a building gets in his way: Cole clambers over it. Alec breaks it and the laws of the physics by destroying its very matter.
- Cole can't climb fences. Alec Mason doesn't BELIEVE in fences.
- Cole has nightmares about the ocean. The ocean has nightmares about Alec Mason.
Got your own Alec vs Cole science you want to drop? Let me know in the comments below.
Why Everyone Wants Scribblenauts.
- Jul 2, 2009 10:35 am GMT
- 6 Comments
Unless you've been hiding under a rock since before the Electronic Entertainment Expo, you've undoubtedly heard of the game Scribblenauts, which will be released by 5th Cell for the DS in September. It seems that everyone and their mother wants this game; I know I'm definitely going to buy it.
"Why? We don't know about later levels yet, but the levels we've seen so far are so simple: get the Starite out of the tree or push the whale back into the ocean. That's too easy; it won't be fun!" If you're thinking along these lines, you do not understand the real attraction of this game.
You see, in Scribblenauts, to solve puzzles and complete levels, you can utilize almost anything you can think of, no matter how strange or obscure. You type or write the name of the object or thing you want, and it appears for you to place onscreen. This mechanic, which has never been seen before, has so much potential for brilliant and fun gameplay, and that is why Scribblenauts has people in a frenzy.
Freedom and Creativity:
As I said before, you can summon anything – anything. There may be tens of thousands of possible tools, objects, and people, and I've heard that 5th Cell will include every species of dinosaur. 5th Cell even had a team of people specifically assigned to read every dictionary, encyclopedia, and Wikipedia article they could find, just to expand the list of words in the game.
Even on the title screen, you can make various things appear and see how they react. People will probably take a very long time to finish the game, because they'll be too busy simply seeing what happens when they summon a steamroller and seeing what other things they can summon for it to flatten, or whatever else they feel like observing. They can simply do whatever they feel like.
When they finally get around to solving puzzles, how will they do it? By having people type the names of objects and making them appear, this game will allow people to solve a certain puzzle in a near-infinite number of ways. Will they summon the most obvious answer, like a ladder to get the tree-bound Starite? Or will they always go with a less obvious solution, like summoning a match and burning down the tree? Or maybe they'll use the most over-the-top resolution, like summoning a bomb shelter and a nuke.
It's also completely up to the player to decide how easy or hard the game will be. For example, the player could decide that they'll only solve a given level with three different objects, or maybe they'll only use animals, or things that are five letters long. I know there have been games before, and there will continue to be games, that let the player solve puzzles in different ways. However, no other game has as many potential solutions as Scribblenauts does.
With so many things at the player's disposal, players will undoubtedly just sit down and try putting things together. For example, what if someone summoned a dung beetle and some dung? First of all, is dung even in the game? What about the dung beetle? (I assume they are, but you never know.) So, will the dung beetle roll the dung, or will it ignore the dung? Would you have to place the dung beetle on the dung, or will it happily run to any dung in the vicinity? Not only that, but do animals make dung if left long enough?
There are so many things you could try, it is truly mind-boggling. What would happen if you summoned a superhero and a villain? A dragon and a T. Rex? A king, a pomegranate, and a television? (Huh?) Does anyone go to sleep if you turn day to night? What if you make it day again? Can you change the weather? Will civilians run from potential danger? If you summon several cats, will they all look the same, or will each one be a different color? Wow, I'm getting excited just writing this.
For an E-Rated game, Scribblenauts has perhaps more potential for controversy than any game before it. I recall a demo of Scribblenauts showing God (who appears as a Zeus-like figure) fighting Death (represented by the Grim Reaper). In the end, Death killed God. This seems like a very unnerving result (although, if God had a shotgun and skateboard… ). What does it mean about life and death? Can God save anyone from the clutch of Death? What does this mean for anyone of any religion? Will people be offended by the game's representations of God and Death? What if you summon 'Life'? This game can make you think long and hard about life, the universe, and everything.
Not only is there religious controversy; there can also be debate about the player's in-game actions. Remember that steamroller I mentioned? What if some player placed a baby in its path? Will the steamroller stop, or will it mercilessly squash the poor baby? What happens to the steamroller then? Will the baby's mother come, grief-stricken by her child's untimely demise? Will the steamroller, suddenly despised for its actions, be beaten to a pulp by anything else on screen? Or will no one care, while the steamroller goes on its merry way? I think Scribblenauts really has whatever age rating the player decides it has.
So, Scribblenauts will allow the players to do whatever they please, whether they want to solve the presented puzzles, blow everything up, or kill people. We will probably be discussing this game up until it comes out, and likely beyond. Also, as the release date draws closer, more questions present themselves: Will this game be banned anywhere? Will Scribblenauts be among the best selling games ever? Or will we have forgotten by the time it comes out? Personally, I doubt we'll forget, especially considering this is the game that first made us wonder, "Who would win in a fight? God or Cthulhu?"
No More Video Games
- Jun 14, 2009 4:35 pm GMT
- 436 Comments
I'm a bit short on time and I've come to the conclusion that it is time to put down the video games for a while.
For me this is not a particularly dramatic decision as it is for some folks out there. Mommy isn't coming to take my 360 away because I forgot to pick my sister up at school. My family hasn't joined a cult that only approves of playing areligious themed UNO game (UNO for the monotheistic folk of course). I haven't developed a Peggle addiction so severe that it is threatening my college grades and/or health. And I haven't lost my job forcing me to sell my video games so I don't have to sell my blood.
Rather my gaming has just been on a slow decline. Somewhere around the time games went to $60 a pop for "premium" titles (premium defined as "when we want more of your money") I started cutting back on buying new titles. The price increase was my cue to take stock in how much I was spending, and evaluate how much I was really getting out of some of those games. After that I started renting more and buying only when I really knew the game was a good deal. That evolved to no buying and just renting three games at a time from Gamefly, two at a time, one at a time. Recently when I realized I hadn't touched the game I last rented three months ago at all I figured it was time to make it official and quit.
It isn't as if I had not even considered playing over the last few months. Often when I retired to my desk at home, I would glance at my game controllers and flip thru my disks, but more often than not it seemed like a hassle to get into any of the games. I'd wonder if I put a couple hours into a new game tonight would I remember it all if I hopped back in a week or more again later? Are the save points close together or am I going to blow 30 minutes doing the same thing over again the next time I pick up the game?
Other times I'd think to myself "Oh man didn't they just release a new map pack or patch for that?" just bothering with picking up all the changes in games that I even knew well seemed a bit of a hassle, let alone jumping into whole new games. It was working for fun and after a long day at work just I wanted some instant fun.
Upon canceling my account Gamefly was nice enough to remind me that despite the fact that they won't refund any of my money for the month of June (that I've already paid for) AND if I don't get that one game back to them ASAP they'll charge me, for June... again. And that leads me to the one other disappointing revelation.
It doesn't have to be this way
A combination of the Wii and the various focus that Microsoft and Sony have put on casual gaming always lead me to believe that even if I was squeezed for time I'd still have a place for gaming. To some limited extent I expect this to be true, but not as much as I had hoped. The Wii and my 360 version of Scene It will likely continue to come out for some fun at parties in the duxup home, and when traveling I'll have my DSi with me from time to time. Yet I expected there would be more options than just those.
Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Store seemed like they'd be a great place for some simple arcade games. A place for devs to toss out blasts from the past, some new games, and some revamped games. With the wonders of digital distribution I expected it to be the perfect place to get some easy pickup and play games at a good price. Well the pickup and play is there to some extent, but the value not so much.
Then there are the systems themselves. If for some reason one of my systems died would I throw down the few hundred dollars to have it replaced at this point just for the few well priced XBLA or PlayStation Store games? At this point I likely would not, but it is a bummer because XBLA and the PlayStation Store could really be so much better than they are in terms of price and quality and could keep me hanging on for some occasional gaming for years to come. Instead it seems more like a haystack with a couple needles in it but not enough to justify the bother to dig thru it all of it.
Of course, the obvious way to dig thru the haystack of so-so and overpriced games are the plethora of game sites out there. Yet the focus for every one seems to be the enthusiast dude who they understandably want visiting the site every day, not the guy just looking for a good game to pick up that god forbid may have been released a few months ago. Just looking at the content of those sites and it is preview, preview, preview, screenshots, impressions, developer interview, review, hands on, gaming news, gaming news, gaming news.
I admit I've spent years gobbling up all that information and it was tons of fun to watch the industry grow and evolve, but when squeezed for time I have to admit the most and arguably only useful info for me are the reviews. That is theoretically the one and really the only time these sites get to tell me about the game without some PR dude doing the talking or guiding them thru the experience.
Yet it could be my imagination but the focus of the websites and the usefulness of reviews feel more limited than ever. The review scores in general seem to be almost universally high. Now there are outstanding games out there. I played some of the best games I've played the last year or two. At the same time they're often joined up in the high scoring range by games that frankly don't measure up.
To make things worse reviews these days seem to contain fewer qualifications and more vague commentary than ever. As awesome as a racing game might be, and I like my driving games from time to time, if it is likely to appeal to just the hardcore simulation driving fans that might be worth noting in the review rather than slapping a big score on a game along with some hyperbole. Yet that seems to be more common than ever almost as if reviews are evolving to become as inoffensive as possible to make the fanboys feel oh so comfortable at whatever site issued the reviews. At least I hope it has to do with the fanboys...
None of this is to say that I'm hanging up my thumbs in favor of sitting on the couch and watching TV. There are some other motivating factors. One big factor is that the Mrs. is expecting and is due with our first child this coming December. Rumor has it babies take up a fair amount of time to care for. Now I know there are plenty of gaming dads out there who make it work. However, in my case when faced with work, a photography hobby, a little one, and some other activities something has to give and I've chosen the gaming. As I noted above the industry and even gaming media make that a fairly easy choice.
I do look forward picking up the games again one day. Until that time I'm reminded of all those forum threads where people speculate about what the PlayStation 5 or Xbox 1080 will be like, except the next time I do some serious gaming I'll be there.
See you all on the other side.
e3: Sequels Rule and New IPs Drool?
- Jun 10, 2009 3:29 pm GMT
- 32 Comments
Ah e3, the yearly gaming convention that brings together developers, publishers, the media. and rampant naysayers. Probably the best chance for the media to ask pointed and unanswerable questions of developers, questions like, "what the @#$% were you thinking?", and "2010?? You know I'd like to play these games before my unborn, unplanned children graduate from college, right?"
So E3 is over and like the day after Christmas, or just after a leader is elected in many countries, there is a lot to take in, analyze, and sometimes take back because your present didnt have batteries, or turned out to be socks (anyone else get clothes three years in a row as a teenager?). This year's e3 showcased a number of games, but does it come as a surprise to anyone that most of them turned out to be sequels?
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that sequels and the people who play them are inherently evil (technically...), heck, some of my favorite games are sequels (Morrowind, Diablo II, etc). But does anyone else miss the 16 bit days, when games you've never heard of just magically popped onto store shelves and sometimes they even turned out to be good? Remember Young Merlin? (okay, bad example..), but how about Soul Blazer? (Hmm I can do better than that...). Oh, I know! How about Chrono Trigger? (nice try, but you cant argue with success, just ask Mailer =P). My point is, remember when games for the SNES and Genesis hit the stores and you didnt know a thing about them? A lot of them weren't sequels either. Fine, fine, you might have checked out Nintendo Power back then, but for many of us, the decision to buy a game rested solely on the box art and the two sentence blurb on the back of the box, followed by some pictures that could only be seen with a physics lab quality microscope.
Microsoft took the stage early and showed off games like Splinter Cell: Conviction, featuring our favorite agent Sam Fisher. Final Fantasy XIII looks to be quite lucky for Square, while XIV appears to let you be able to play Final Fantasy the way your grandparents always wanted you to...online! (again!). Forza 3 looks to satisfy rabid Forza 2 fanatics (aka Forzatics). Assassin's Creed II promises new ways to let you kill enemies back when Venice was cool (brother's note: "Venice was never cool! They dont even have a football team!"). The Beatles: Rock Band looks to give us Beatles fans (they did "Thriller", right??) just the fix we're looking for. Sequel filled, yes, but still a heck of a good time.
Not to be outdone, the big N showed off a lot of its stars in true sequel form. New Super Mario Bros Wii proved that you dont need to be a sackboy to have a good time, you just need a penguin suit and propeller hat. Golden Sun DS, Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Bowser's Inside Story showed that sequels on the DS are ever present and look just as much fun as ever. Super Mario Galaxy 2 looks to launch Mario to new worlds, while Metroid: Other M looks to give more outer space action (I wonder if its Kasumi in that suit this time =P). More sequels than a Rocky DVD box set? Definitely. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
Sony's lineup wasnt entirely sequel free either. Uncharted 2 showed off gorgeous graphics, and gave audiences useful, everyday tips on how to dodge helicopter fire, something desperately needed in Los Angeles (they dont teach that kinda stuff at community college anymore, damn economy...). Perhaps Sony's heaviest hitter, Kratos, returns in God of War III, which looks to be as bloody and visually enticing as the previous two games in the series. Sony also showed off a portable MGS game for its PSP and the new PSP Go, which are now UMD drive free for today's on the go consumer. (Because putting miniature discs in drives is so 2008!)
If sequels were the norm at this year's e3, it really made those games that were new and exciting stand out even more. Games like Batman: Arkham Asylum that puts you in the shoes of everyone's favorite crime fighter (thank god it isnt George Clooney!), looks to be a real winner. MAG looks to keep shooter fans happy if they can keep the game from becoming a slideshow. The Last Guardian looks to continue the same great visual s-t-y-l-e seen in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Wii Sports Resort actually looks like a fun way to spend your next vacation (bikini and tiny pink umbrella, not included). Dragon Age: Origins looks like a dragon slaying good time and brought back memories of Baldur's Gate...painful..awkward memories.
This year's e3 seemed to have a little bit of something for everyone. Whether you like action, adventure, role playing or shooters, there seemed to be a game to fit the bill. If the press conferences and showfloor were any indication, there seemed to be an intoxicating energy that you could see in the presenters, and the media. Hopefully this energy can carry over into next year's e3. (Where I'll still be waiting to play The Old Republic =P).
Nintendo Shouldn't Feel Threatened by New Motion Control Systems
- Jun 10, 2009 11:15 am GMT
- 211 Comments
Both Sony and Microsoft announced new motion controllers at E3 this year. After seeing a few of the capabilities and imagining the possibilities, many saw Nintendo's announcement of Wii Motion Plus as nothing special. More so, many people think that Nintendo will fall behind with motion control and may ultimately loose a part of their audience that will have different casual gaming options. However for all the hype surrounding Project Natal and Sony's motion controller, Nintendo shouldn't feel threatened by the competition as their position in the market will not change.
At the Microsoft Press Conference the crowd was astonished by the capabilities of Project Natal. Not only did the system have fully playable demos, such as the full body brick-breaker and the paint feature, but Peter Molyneux and Lionhead's Milo application created an extraordinary buzz around the video game industry because of the possibilities for player experience. Not to be outdone, Sony showed off some technical demos of their new motion controller. Initially people saw the wand with a ball at the end as a huge step behind Microsoft's controller-less option. However, when they displayed the precision of the controller (especially when they wrote almost flawlessly) and the ability to picture yourself holding specific weapons, many thought that Sony's surprise created a three-way rivalry.
Nintendo's Miyamoto is ready to fight, but it won't be a tough one
Of course, Nintendo showed off some additional applications utilizing their Wii Motion Plus controller attachment, but the response from the crowd were less than satisfactory. Why didn't this come with the original product? Why will it only work with some games? These were just some of the plethora of questions about Nintendo's addition to their controller that has brought so many to gaming. With unabashed confidence, Nintendo execs described how they were going to continue to lead and how their system was going to create even more gamers.
Nintendo's confidence is warranted. They have every right to think that they will maintain first place in the console wars. The Nintendo Wii has outsold the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 by a significant margin while Nintendo has also enjoyed enormous success with the Nintendo DS handheld. Although Nintendo is not foolproof (as Wii Music was certainly an enormous failure) they continue to turn out games that make non-gamers want to purchase game consoles. The vast majority of these people are playing Nintendo Wii. Despite efforts to draw additional consumers with more casual games, purchases of the powerhouse consoles by newly turned gamers pale in comparison.
Nintendo really does not have to feel threatened by Microsoft and Sony's new motion controllers. If anything, it is validation that their enormous gamble creating a system almost solely based on motion control works. Many at Nintendo view new motion controllers as imitation, which they believe is the greatest form of flattery.
Iwata supposedly said that Nintendo passed on camera controlled technology
The Wii is so far ahead of the competition that the introduction of similar products will do very little to fetter their success. There console is perceived to be the cheapest of the bunch. It doesn't matter that with all of the additional controllers and attachments that the Wii becomes as expensive as the other consoles. The public, because of word of mouth and the mainstream media, sees the Wii as the cheapest, easiest, and most enjoyable of all of the video game systems. That is why everyone and their mother owns one.
Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo has games that utilize motion control well. Wii Play is now the top selling, non-bundled game of all time and almost every game with "party" in the title sells a million copies. Publishers are making enormous profits off of games made for the Wii while development for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 are perceived as difficult and expensive (especially the PS3).
What should be deduced from the status-quo and the implementation of new motion controllers by Nintendo's competition is that their business model works. That being said, Sony and Microsoft will not fail, but their motion control systems will take longer to implement and will be less likely to succeed. The consumer will be less likely to purchase another system for motion control specific games especially after so many have purchased Nintendo's console. Nintendo will have to continue to make innovative games and fun games, but their head start and reputation prevents Sony and Microsoft's motion controllers a real threat in the foreseeable future.
Sound Off: Should Nintendo be worried? Do you want Microsoft and Sony's motion controllers to do well, or does that imply more casual games?
E3 Aftermate: Conferences and Game Of E3
- Jun 4, 2009 6:41 pm GMT
- 11 Comments
Thanks to everyone who read my very long blogs over the past few days on the conferences. Unfortunately as you can see to your left... or at least as I type this I am missing Microsoft and Nintendo emblems... well only the Microsoft one as I missed Nintendo's as I was in work. If you are too you are not alone! Hopefully when some of you read this it will appear.
Well I am really tired as I live 8 hours ahead, so I've been staying up very late to catch as much as possible without breaking my bandwidth limit. I was even tempted to pull a sicky so I could continue to watch the live feed. Unfortunately that job of mine pays for my broadband.
Summing It Up
This year is one of the best E3's I've seen, the line up was brilliant and I was endlessly reading the live blog feeds of other conferences that did not allow cameras. Out of it all I came away with a wish list that was doubled to include Left4Dead 2, Final Fantasy XIV, Splinter Cell Conviction, The Last Guardian, Metal Gear Solid Rising, MAG, Wet and many more. To go in hand with the ones I already had been anticipating like Final Fantasy XIII, Uncharted 2, Assassin's Creed II, Mass Effect 2 and well you get the point.
A lot new tech have also been announced, including the PSPGo... in hand with MediaGo, Magic Wand but none as impressive as Microsoft's Project Natal.
And The Winner Is...
Unfortuately despite the obviously mind blowing piece of genius that Microsoft came up with the conference that impressed me the most was surprisingly Sony. I went into E3 looking for info on games and a surprise and damn Sony got me, with their stage demo's and then realed me in with my one weakness a new Final Fantasy game. I'm like a love sick puppy at the mention of anything related to this series I fear I may be sick or just a fangirl... nooooo!!!
However putting aside my fangirlism there was one game that had me swooning with all its trailers and its stage demo and even made me sit through a terrible conference on the behalf of Ubisoft in order to watch a 4 minute trailer.
Game of E3
Of course my game of E3 had to be no other then Assassin's Creed II. The trailers, the stage demo, I just couldn't get enough of it and I still can't. At this rate its shaping up to be better then the first one and all this has left me wanting to know more and its partically down to this one move... (see video)
You know that move is wicked!
Hope you all enjoyed E3 as much as I did!
Editorial -- Realism: The Glass Ceiling of Gaming
- May 10, 2009 5:51 pm GMT
- 167 Comments
Most gamers are at least casually aware of the Uncanny Valley – the point at which a character in a game looks close enough to photo realistic, but because of the infinite little movements and expressions a real human emotes, seems unsettling because the game does not emulate it well enough. The Uncanny Valley is something game developers have to battle any time they make the choice to go for realistic character models. At this point in time, it seems that the UV has only one definition, but is there another version of the Uncanny Valley coming around? Are games going too far to capture realism?
Oh Snap! She's got a...wait, those wrinkles don't look right.
Obviously graphics have become one of the most, if not the most, important part of games in the eyes of the average gamer (especially the younger crowd). It would be foolish to deny that developers largely focus on making sure their game looks amazing before they worry about gameplay, but lately there seems to be some spots of light poking through the darkness. Games like Grand Theft Auto 4 that strive to give a more realistic world to play in, for example, lead the way of the sandbox.
I think as we move forward, we're going to start seeing more genres incorporate the sandbox ****of gameplay. The Mercenaries series, for example, has melded third-person action with the sandbox. In a similar vein, the Far Cry and Crysis games have thrown the First-Person shooter into the sandbox. Even sports games like NHL 09 have flexed their realism muscles when the "be a superstar" mode has you play as one player from a dynamic angle, and even has you sit and watch from the bench when your shift is over (now that's entertainment). Where is all of this going, and how does it relate to the uncanny valley?
Let me answer that question with another question: When does a game stop being a game? I don't know about the rest of those who played GTA IV, but the novelty of having anyone but Bruce blow up your cell phone every five minutes wore off really quickly (and even Bruce, however awesome he was, got annoying after a while). Rockstar was shooting for a more realistic world, but it kind of backfired. It isn't any more fun to have your cell phone being called constantly by needy friends in a game than it is in real life. The same kind of deal happened with San Andreas when you had to eat and workout, or suffer the consequence of morbid obesity. Developers probably aren't going to stop though, so long as they know realism is the thing that's cooler than sliced bread, and so some time down the road, the next definition of the Uncanny Valley is going to come roll up on us.
Psht, show me my muscle tissue and tendons.
Sometime in the future, maybe when GTA VII graces our shelves, we may be in the position where a game world seems almost too real, much like a character model that looks too real, but something will be off enough to creep you out. The other scenario is that it will be so real that it'll be boring as hell. GTA VII will have you buying groceries, using the washroom, showering, and perhaps most shockingly, putting on a condom before rocking the car. It's going to bring together so much of what you do outside of the game that it will probably stop feeling like a game altogether (assuming you shop, relieve yourself, bathe, and wrap it up of course). On the other side of things, Far Cry 9 will probably have a feature where once you die; you're done, back to square one – just like the RL! Or maybe you'll have to manually stitch your arm up with a motion sensing controller (ok so that last one sounds awesome, but you get the picture).
It's kind of ironic, really. Gamers are dying for a realistic experience, but there are those ever present limits that will remain as roadblocks for developers and "Uncanny Valleys for both themselves and gamers to try and get over. It's one of the few glass ceilings of gaming, and one that doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
What's your take on realism and games? Is there a stopping point where anything beyond it is too real? Will developers even take it that far?
Have a good one,
EDIT: I was totally caught off guard having this soapboxed, and so have fallen way behind in responding to everyone's comments. I won't have the time to respond to them all at this point, but be assured I'm reading them all and truly appreciate every one of your responses! In the future, I will try and make a more solid effort to respond to as many comments as possible. Thanks again, everyone!
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