Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

April 2014

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What Decades of Pinball Machines In One Room Taught Me About Video Games

April 30, 2014

Some may have noticed that I wasn't in my customary seat for the early part of this week, and if that's the case, I'm glad to hear the absence was noticed. I was on a little vacation this weekend, and one of the features of said vacation was a trip to a pinball exhibition in Kalamazoo, Michigan known as “Pinball at the Zoo,” and while there, I had something of a learning experience that needed to be passed on.

Perhaps the whole point of Pinball at the Zoo is to bring together a whole raftload of pinball machines from the various years of pinball—and we're talking about everything from “Pirates of the Caribbean” pinball to some stuff with half a dozen targets and a mechanically-powered scoreboard—and put said devices on display, locking same in free-play mode to let people wander about a fairly large room and literally pinball themselves into a shallow coma. Indeed, in that time, I played games that I hadn't seen in years and played some games that I had never seen before. In the midst of all that flipper action and all those steel spheres rumbling back and forth across various play fields, a critical point emerged about the nature of gaming as a whole.

High School StarLeague: Bringing College Scholarships to Pro Gaming

April 24, 2014

It was easy to wonder, back when the concept of e-sports was getting started, if there would be college leagues and potentially even high school leagues as the next generation of competitive gamers would be sought out to put into league play. That seems to be the case now that Twitch and Newegg have gotten together to put up $20,000 for the High School StarLeague scholarship, an award that actually makes it possible to earn money for college while gaming.

Under the terms of the concept, Twitch and Newegg put up the cash as part of the High School StarLeague, a league of competitive gamers at the high school level. Now, the best players in this particular field will be able to go on to compete for $20,000--$10,000 from Twitch and $10,000 from Newegg--in college scholarships, a number that's never been seen for this level of play. Basically, it's to the point where the high school kids are competing in a variety of games, ranging from "League of Legends" and "DOTA 2" to even "StarCraft II," much in the same way they might play golf or basketball.

Microsoft Takes The Next-Gen Fight To Sony's Home Turf

April 23, 2014

For sheer brass, you've got to hand it to Microsoft. No, really; you do. Microsoft is looking to bring this round of the next-gen fight directly to Sony by bringing the Xbox One to Japan starting September 4. It's not going to just be taking the system to Japan, of course; there's an entire 26 country bloc set to land Xbox One systems, and that's going to give the console wars a whole new round.

Microsoft brought out the word earlier today about the Japanese launch date, and that's just short of a year after the console first came out.

Will You Buy A Game Digitally In 2018? Flip A Coin.

April 22, 2014

A new report from the market research firm EEDAR presents a new and interesting portrait of the upcoming landscape as far as game sales go, and the idea has some deep implications for the gaming market as we know it. By 2018, according to the EEDAR report, around half of all console gaming sales will be sold by digital download. That means some very big changes to come in how games are marketed, and understanding these changes will likely go a long way in terms of helping game developers come to grips with success in the market.

While 50 percent sounds like a pretty big number in isolation—basically every other game sold will be sold via digital download—the comparative numbers make the picture all the more unusual. Right now—in 2014—the average share of the digital download market is actually under 20 percent.

State of Decay Starts Down a "Long-Term" Path

April 21, 2014

It's been a long time since we got to talk much about “State of Decay,” but some recent events have worked together to change that particular point. But the game that almost didn't make it to consoles thanks to Microsoft's rules about publishing games is set to make a big splash indeed, and continue doing so for a long time to come.

While at the recently concluded Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East event, Undead Labs showed off a demo for “State of Decay: Lifeline.” As excited as I was to get hands on “State of Decay,” I believe I'm actually now more eager to give “Lifeline” a shot. Why? As exciting and fun as the first version was, it looks like the DLC is actually going to be on par with the original, and potentially even more so.

April 21, 2014

It's been a long time since we got to talk much about “State of Decay,” but some recent events have worked together to change that particular point. But the game that almost didn't make it to consoles thanks to Microsoft's rules about publishing games is set to make a big splash indeed, and continue doing so for a long time to come.

While at the recently concluded Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East event, Undead Labs showed off a demo for “State of Decay: Lifeline.” As excited as I was to get hands on “State of Decay,” I believe I'm actually now more eager to give “Lifeline” a shot. Why? As exciting and fun as the first version was, it looks like the DLC is actually going to be on par with the original, and potentially even more so.

Major League Gaming's Streaming Investment Pays Off With Big Viewership Numbers

April 17, 2014

It wasn't so long ago when we were hearing about Major League Gaming's plans to step up to a complete streaming platform. While the field of e-sports itself has been making some fairly substantial gains of late, the numbers for MLG in particular have been seeing some staggering gains, and the streaming platform is said to be responsible for a pretty large chunk of that gain.

Back during the first quarter—just a few months ago—MLG was reporting some pretty big gains to its platform thanks to the relaunched MLG.tv streaming site. The relaunch, meanwhile, gave the platform some new life thanks to some rebranding as a complete destination site for tournaments and related original programming. But with the first quarter of 2014 concluded, the numbers can be solidified, and they're impressive by most any standard: viewership is up 1,376 percent over the same time in 2013.

Unity Drives Home A Point Picking Up Playnomics

April 16, 2014

The Unity engine is increasingly well-known for its position in the independent gaming community, as more and more developers turn to it to help get games into the next generation of gaming consoles, and beyond. But Unity is about to be about a lot more than its engine, as it recently acquired Playnomics, an acquisition that should go a long way in terms of giving indie gaming developers the tools necessary to make not just games, but successful games.

Previously, Unity Technologies also landed Applifier, the company that put together the Everyplay platform that allowed users to make videos involving mobile gameplay, an increasingly popular form of video entertainment. Now, with Playnomics in Unity's arsenal, the company can also offer up a set of analytics tools designed to track data that in turn can be used in several critical metrics. With Playnomics, it's easier to tell who's more likely to spend money, as well as who would be most receptive to promotional efforts.

Tax Breaks For Game Developers: A Good Idea?

April 15, 2014

It's Tax Day in the United States, the day in which tax filings for the year are due to be turned in. And a new move in the Georgia statehouse is one that seems to be gaining ground in plenty of places, though with this new move is coming some new controversy. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a new bill into law that establishes fully $25 million in tax breaks to developers, giving Georgia just a little extra stance in entertainment production, and potentially even kicking off a new wave of such breaks arriving in other states.

The bill in question, House Bill 958, made it through the Georgia House and Senate, earlier this year, and included not only the video game support, but also several other tax breaks for food banks, and even for the general populace in the form of sales tax holidays. Several companies were reportedly in line to land tax breaks on this front, ranging from Georgia media giant Cartoon Network Games to Tripwire Interactive of “Red Orchestra” to “Smite”'s own Hi-Rez Studios.

The Oculus Rift: Already Working On Movies

April 14, 2014

 

We all knew that the Oculus Rift was going to be absolutely huge when it came to games. There was just no way around it; this was the closest we were ever going to come—for now, at least—to actual virtual reality gaming in our homes. But along with that came speculations in pretty short order about what kind of value this could have with other points like movies and television shows.

Does Microsoft Have What It Takes To "Change the World" For Gamers?

April 10, 2014

A new interview with new Xbox kingpin Phil Spencer showed up recently, as Spencer sat down with Director of Programming Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb and made it clear that Microsoft had some very big plans for the gaming community, noting just what he--along with the company--had to bring to the table. But one of the biggest remarks out of Spencer's interview was one that would likely raise a few eyebrows to go along with it.

"Fundamentally, this is a company that wants to do things that change the world. And they have the resource and the ambition to do that, whether that's with Xbox or any of the projects that we build."

That's a big statement, right there, and one that's going to put Spencer's credibility on the line for some time to come. Spencer offered some elaboration around this theme, noting that he'd been with the company 26 years--longer than some of Xbox's audience had even been alive--starting as a software development intern and heading steadily up the ranks, taking a hand in game development like "Fable" and "Rise of Nations." Earlier interviews showed some of Microsoft's plans for E3--now just about two months out--and indeed, Microsoft has some plans to talk about.



The 80 / 20 Rule? For Mobile Gaming, Try 46 / 0.22

April 9, 2014

One of the biggest rules around is the so-called “80 / 20 Rule.” Known by many names—the Pareto Principle, the Law of the Vital Few, the Principle of Factor Sparsity—this rule basically posits that, in many cases, 80 percent of a system's effects come from just 20 percent of its causes. 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of customers, 80 percent of problems come from 20 percent of systems, and so on. But a new study from Swrve says that, when it comes to mobile game revenue, it's not 80 / 20...it's 46 / 0.22.

The Swrve study tackled the gaming habits of over 10 million players in 30 different titles over the course of 90 days, and the results that said study returned were downright shocking for most any mobile game developer. Out of that massive pool of gamers, just 2.2 percent of same spent money on any of the games in question.

Backpedaling on Backward Compatibility: Xbox One May Work With 360 Games

April 8, 2014

Before Don Mattrick left Microsoft for the apparently greener pastures offered by Zynga, he left a pithy remark about backward compatibility on the Xbox One, saying “If you're backwards compatible, you're really backwards.” And apparently, Microsoft is all nice and poised to backpedal once again, bringing a welcome treat along with it: the possibility of backward compatibility between the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One.



Of course, this is still very early stage stuff, so the end result may take a while to trickle down to the everyday gamer if it even actually gets there at all. The word came from the recent Build developer conference, at which point an audience member asked the question about backward compatibility. Word from Frank Savage, partner development head for Xbox, says that there are indeed plans to do just that, but there are some major issues involved in making it happen.

Cult County To Support Project Morpheus, or, Who's Bootstrapping Who?

April 7, 2014

Not too long ago the first reports came out about the Project Morpheus system from Sony, and the gaming community was largely excited about it, especially the community that favored the Sony PlayStation 4 approach to gaming. It was likely to put a real spark under PS4 gaming, and that meant big things indeed. But now an even bigger piece of news has emerged around indie title “Cult County” that should put some extra joy in the field.

 

Is Amazon Fire TV Ready To Take On The Console Wars?

April 3, 2014

It's an interesting question, really...and one we have to ask since the unveiling of the Amazon Fire TV set-top box. Yes, Amazon's great foray into console gaming—at least, after a fashion—may not seem like much of an issue to the larger consoles, but is it able to compete at all?

The good news for the Amazon Fire TV system is that it's going to be backed up by the entire Amazon ecosystem. That means television and movies aplenty along with the video games, an increasingly common experience. The Amazon Fire TV's particular strength is in its ability to stream media, much in the same way that the Roku box, the Google Chromecast or the Apple TV system.

Who's Watching E-Sports, Anyway?

April 2, 2014

We've talked a lot here about e-sports, from their potential to overtake and even replace regular sports to their increasing viewership numbers even to the scandal that can crop up in the field. But a new report from Newzoo and SuperData Research is giving us a better idea of just how big the viewership field really is, and even some word about the demographics involved in those numbers.

We kick it off with a big fact: in the last four years, online competitive gaming viewership has increased fully eightfold, and just between 2012 and 2013, viewership doubled, reaching a high water mark of over 70 million. Roughly half of that number, not surprisingly, comes from the United States, with the rest coming from a variety of regions the world over. Indeed, nearly half of the total audience—not strictly the half from the United States alone—is between 21 and 35 years old.

Only On Ouya: Can Exclusives Give Ouya An Edge?

April 1, 2014

The Ouya was a game platform that seems to be comprised of one part great idea and one part less than sound execution. News about the platform has been slim on the ground of late, but a new item has emerged to suggest that maybe Ouya's got more of a plan than it's letting on. We all know that a gaming platform--any one, from console to mobile--is really only as good as the games it can present, and to that end, Ouya is set to bring in a set of six exclusive titles that will only be found on the Ouya platform.

Three of the titles--"Duck Game," "Toto Temple Deluxe" and "Reagan Gorbachev"--are focused on the sillier side of gaming, featuring play mechanics like a bazooka-toting former Russian General Secretary and a retrievable goat, while the remaining three--"Whispering Willows," "Neverending Nightmares" and "Cascade"--will be much more serious, featuring a ghost story, a game based on clinical depression and a giant allegorical look at Alzheimer's disease, respectively. I've seen a playthrough of the demo of "Neverending Nightmares," and I'll tell you this much: between the freaky art style and the even freakier content, that's one package that's going to give you a wicked case of the whim-whams on a dark and stormy night.

Like I said above, we all know that games sell platforms.