Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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November 2013

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Three Things To Be Thankful For In Gaming

November 28, 2013

And now, with Thanksgiving winding to its inevitable close, and the events of the longish weekend stretching out before us, it's worth taking a step back and looking at all the things out there that make us thankful. Of course, the gaming community is no exception, and by extension, neither am I. For the second time in what I hope to be a long tradition, I'm going to run down the things I'm thankful for in gaming.

The Growth of Open World Gaming

One development that didn't necessarily start this year, but gained ground with alarming rapidity was the growth of open world gaming. We'd had open world games for some time, but most of them were Bethesda titles or involved the word "Grand" in some way. But this year saw things step up a bit.



Freemium and Premium On One Console?

November 27, 2013

Just before we all tuck in to a monster Thanksgiving feed of turkey, assorted vegetables, and both stuffing and potatoes in one shot—not to mention dessert, seriously, don't mention dessert. I actually picked up a cherry cordial chocolate cake for the family dinner tomorrow and it looks amazing—an interesting development came into view from Patrick Soderlund, who's currently serving as executive vice president at Electronic Arts. Soderlund described to MCV how freemium and premium games really weren't in competition, but rather were two halves of a greater whole.

Essentially, Soderlund likens the freemium and premium gaming markets to the YouTube video and feature film markets. There are similarities and differences between the two concepts, of course, but the parallel is actually quite sound. Indeed, it makes no small amount of sense.

Microsoft Steps Up Customer Service, Shows Value of Digital Delivery

November 26, 2013

Microsoft may well have just pushed ahead in the “who had the better launch” race thanks to a new development that will no doubt prove well-received on the parts of gamers who bought an Xbox One at launch and fell prey to the drive problem. This move is almost shockingly elegant, and solves two critical points at once: how to do customer service up right, and how to show the truest value of digital delivery.

Basically, what Microsoft did was take everyone who's waiting for a new Xbox One to arrive following the discovery of the grinding, clattering disc drive issue and offer a free download code for one of four games: “Zoo Tycoon,” “Ryse: Son of Rome,” “Forza Motorsport 5,” and “Dead Rising 3.” Thus, gamers will be able to sidestep the clattering drive issue and play games direct from the hard drive, allowing said gamers to keep right on playing as though nothing had ever happened.

Naturally, this is a move that's likely to endear a lot of gamers to Microsoft, a particularly valuable point after the less than successful E3 run that Microsoft had that caused the company to frantically backpedal on many of the Xbox One's design points. But this is a purely stand-up move that should make a lot of gamers feel better about Xbox One purchases, maybe even to the point where some gamers might actually wish the system said gamers had purchased was malfunctioning itself.

But beyond this, however—and in perhaps a slightly more insidious move—Microsoft is showing firsthand that, in a way, it was kind of right. Microsoft is showing that digital delivery is going to get and keep gamers in the game faster and more effectively than discs.





Microsoft's Xbox One Launch Not Without Its Own Problems

November 25, 2013

It was a little under a week ago where we discovered that the launch of Sony's newest entrant in the console wars, the PlayStation 4, was having some pretty substantial mechanical problems, up to the point where positive comments and negative comments were, for a while, matched evenly on Amazon. With a series of mechanical issues coming into play, the next question became one of just how well Microsoft would do with its foray. Indeed, there were mechanical failures and issues to behold, but from the look of it, the whole affair seems greatly muted as compared to Sony's.

Right now, the ratio of positive to negative comments on Amazon is running a little better than two to one in Microsoft's favor, with five stars clearly leading over all others and a surprisingly large number of four star reviews in play too. Overwhelmingly, the negative comments point to faulty disc drives, leading to the newly-minted titled “Disc Drive of Doom.” Reports emerged of a “grinding or clicking” sound when discs were inserted into the drive bay, and said grinding and clicking left the unit unable to read the disc in question.

But by like token, further reports also seem to indicate that Microsoft may have learned from the Red Ring of Death phenomenon, and is ratcheting up customer service to match with quick responses and replacement units sent out accordingly.



Third Quarter Game Spending On The Rise In New Report

November 21, 2013

With a new generation of the console wars about to kick off in earnest and the Xbox One about to emerge—the PlayStation 4 only recently made its own appearance in stores—it could be expected that gamers would curtail spending in the third quarter and build up cash for the fourth quarter. New reports from The NPD Group, however, suggest that that wasn't the case at all. In fact, as compared to the third quarter of 2012, the numbers are actually up, and up substantially.

The NPD Group's numbers showed that consumers actually shelled out 17 percent more on game-related matter in the third quarter of 2013 than its counterpart a year prior. Gamers spent a combined $3.45 billion on game content, with $1.3 billion of that being new physical copies of games.

Where Do Xbox One Games Go After Launch?

November 20, 2013

The good news about the upcoming Xbox One launch—still set to hit this Friday to the delight of plenty of gamers out there—is that this is not at all likely to be a one-off affair. No, Microsoft is already looking clearly in the direction of the post-launch era, and more specifically, to what kind of games will emerge in that era. The good news is that, while there are plenty of games ready for the launch phase, there will be plenty more to follow.

Perhaps learning from Nintendo's mistakes, Microsoft is—according to Microsoft Studios corporate vice president Phil Spector, who talked to Polygon recently about the upcoming line—eager to avoid any “gaps” in terms of bringing out fresh titles to the line, with plans to make new announcements about the various titles set to emerge over the next few weeks and months beyond that. Spector engaged in something of a grand tour to check out the line, with stops at Lionhead, Rare, PressPlay and several others, leading Spector to note that “The depth of the portfolio next year is pretty incredible.”

Additionally, there are a set of titles set to make an appearance in early 2014 as well that figure into the equation, things like “Watch Dogs,” “Destiny,” and “Titanfall” are all set to put a little extra punch in what is normally a slower period.



E-Sports Gets Big News: New Streaming, Huge Numbers

November 19, 2013

The last couple of days have been very big in terms of new developments for the concept of e-sports, and so I've boiled down the events into a smaller post to provide a nice broad look at the field. There were two critical developments from two big parts of the sector, and this combination bodes very well indeed for e-sports fans.

 

The first bit of news hit yesterday, as Major League Gaming brought out a new streaming platform for e-sports viewers.

PlayStation 4 Already Seeing Mechanical Trouble?

November 18, 2013

Over the weekend, a couple of different articles popped up that lead me to thinking. They were both found on the same site, from the same author, published about four hours apart. But the two of them together were unsettling, and both of the articles in question were about the recently-released PlayStation 4.

Word had emerged, not long ago, about the “blinking blue lights” that were showing up on the new game system. And indeed, Sony came out with a troubleshooting guide designed to help users work around the problem, including that users turn off the PS4 completely, then hold in the power button for at least seven seconds before restarting.

PlayStation 4 Launches Tonight, But Where Does It Go From Here?

November 14, 2013

It's been a night that many out there have been looking forward to since June or so. A night that some have been actively planning to avoid, and a night that for some will come at an undetermined day sometime in the next six months to a year. It's the launch of the PlayStation 4, and with it, the time when the next generation of the console wars kicks off in earnest.

A recent report suggests the breakdown of the next generation so far, as Intergi Entertainment took a closer look at the numbers by polling fully 5,000 gamers and looking at the breakdown in response. Indeed, the responses turn out about how you'd expect, really.

Is Digital Delivery Doomed by the Infrastructure?

November 13, 2013

Talk to most any geek out there you care to name, and gently steer the subject to bandwidth caps in broadband data access. Chances are there will not be a lot of complimentary language on that topic; in fact, it's a pretty safe bet that you'll learn a few new obscenities. But the concept of the bandwidth cap is fundamentally changing, and that's certainly boding well, but is it changing sufficiently to open up the topic of digital delivery of games?

I have to tip my hat on this one out to the crew at Penny Arcade, whose Tycho broached the topic as only he could, declaring: “I have more or less demanded the ability to purchase games digitally since we had a digital.  Or, like, a Web. 

Ubisoft's Numbers Show Value of Open World Gaming

November 12, 2013

For a while, we've been considering the wider field of open world gaming and been able to talk about it largely in general details. Sure, we've been able to prove that there are plenty of open world games out there, and that these titles tend to sell well. But when Ubisoft came out with its most recent sales numbers, we got one very critical point to add to the arsenal: open world games mean profit.

 

The Forest: Oculus Rift's Potential All In One Trailer

November 11, 2013

We've talked a lot about the Oculus Rift here before, and made many possible suggestions about future uses for said system ranging from games to movies to live events. But a new trailer for a new first person game is showing us, in great detail, just what the Oculus Rift can really do by running the gamut from the serene to the shocking.

The game in question is known as “The Forest,” and it's going to show us what happens when a first person game goes for such immersive quality that it feels like you're there. That's a line that's been heard a few times before, but with “The Forest,” you'll not only feel it...you'll wish you didn't. The trailer kicks off with our hero going to get an axe so as to cut down some trees for raw material to build a fence around a log cabin.

E-Sports Gets Another Boost With Planetside 2 in South Korea

November 7, 2013

The field of e-sports is one to watch, that's for sure, and it just got a little extra boost--at least, in South Korea--as the country will see the debut of Planetside 2 in a cooperative effort between Sony Online Entertainment and Daum to give the e-sports field in South Korea something new to compete with.

While an exact date of launch for Planetside 2 is as yet unknown, one thing that was clear--according to Sony Online Entertainment's Louis Figueroa, who serves as the company's senior vice president of business development--South Korea's impressive gaming culture and sheer number of users involved made it a great place to roll out a game like Planetside 2. Backed up by Daum's track record, Figueroa elaborated, the launch in South Korea would likely prove to be a successful one. Though it won't be a full debut, in the strictest sense--Planetside 2 is actually available in North America for PC--but Sony Online Entertainment is planning to put the title into the PlayStation 4's lineup in 2014.

Described as a "massively multiplayer online competitive shooter," Planetside 2 pits groups of users against each other in a bid to control a far-off planet known as Auraxis, packed with valuable relics, including several exciting slices of alien technology. But Sony Online Entertainment's newest addition to the platform makes it particularly well suited for e-sports: Battle Islands.



Why Is World of Warcraft Losing Subscribers?

November 6, 2013

That's a profoundly loaded question right there, and the newest numbers bear it out. Reports suggest that World of Warcraft's subscriber count has been on a downhill slope for some time, going down from 7.7 million subscribers in August to 7.6 million in the most recent numbers. Worse, the downhill momentum seems to have legs, as the subscriber counts were down fully 400,000 since May, and that's still well off the game's high-water mark of 12 million back in 2010. Reports go so far as to suggest that Azeroth hasn't been this empty since 2006, and that's a pretty major point in the whole affair.

Now, that's not to say that Azeroth is doomed to complete shutdown any time soon.

Is There Value In Console Gaming Bundles?

November 5, 2013

While rummaging through the great piles of gaming news that come out in a day, I caught sight of something that took my notice, and got me to thinking. Specifically, the word about the newest Humble Bundle that's jammed full of Warner Bros. Interactive titles for Windows PC was what turned me to thinking, and the idea of why there isn't this kind of thing going on more often in console gaming.

The Humble Bundle in question brought out a slew of somewhat older titles all in one handy package with a blank price tag on same. Essentially, according to the reports, users pay what they please and walk away with, in this case “Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition,” “Fear 2: Project Origin,” “Fear 3,” and “The Lord of The Rings, War in the North.” Those who pay more than average get bumped up to “Batman: Arkham City Game of the Year Edition” and “Scribblenauts Unlimited.”

While that was quite a coup in its own right, I got an e-mail earlier today from Good Old Games, insisting that, were I to buy at least three games from a list of several for a minimum donation of $5, 100 percent of said donation would go directly to one of several different charitable efforts.

Bundling old games together and offering said games for a low, low price seems to be the province of either PC games or eBay auctions, because I seldom see something like this go for console games. Oh, to be sure, there are some great bargains to be had in console.





Augmented Reality Vs. Virtual Reality: Which Is The Real Game-Changer?

November 4, 2013

It's an interesting question, no doubt, but the question of just which technology is going to have more impact in terms of gaming—virtual reality or augmented reality—is one that should be front and center for more than a few gamers out there. We're rapidly approaching the point where both of these technologies are going to make a huge difference in the way we play games, but figuring out just which is going to be the real game changer is a tall order to say the least.

Virtual reality is seeing a serious comeback of late, powered mainly by the force of the Oculus Rift head-mounted display system. This not only poses the impressive opportunity to get us face-on with current games, but also opens up the possibility for games specifically designed to the virtual reality concept. That's exciting enough to more than a few gamers out there, but throw in the recent rush to open-world gaming, and—when coupled with the Oculus Rift—poses a serious set of possibilities for gamers out there.

But the concept of augmented reality gaming, meanwhile, is really starting to gain ground in the form of “Ingress,” a game that's making some major inroads.