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”

November 2014

You are browsing the archive for November 2014.

A Gamer's Thanksgiving, Once Again

November 27, 2014

So it's a great day to be a gamer. There's a nice long weekend afoot, and though there will be lots to do with family and friends and the like, there will also be plenty of time to throw in on a few games and have a nice, relaxing weekend, at least part of the time. I've personally been neck deep in "Escape Dead Island" for the last day and half or so. But given the season of the year, and the general inclination that most anyone should have toward counting one's blessings, I took a page from fellow blogger Peter Radizeski, and figured it was a good time to take a step back and consider the things I was thankful for, with this particular post.

Some might remember that I've done this before.

Burned By Steam Early Access? Valve Has New Rules Afoot

November 26, 2014

Steam Early Access is an exciting idea that doesn't always hold it together. Perhaps best described as a mix of sizzle and steak where the sizzle is sometimes much more than the steak would merit, there have been times where players have felt burned by the Steam Early Access program. But needless to say, it doesn't take a lot of burned customers before either responses are framed or competitors start to circle, and in Valve's case, responses were framed to help improve Steam Early Access for the user base.

The overarching theme to the rule changes is rather simple: Steam Early Access is now to be regarded as “...a place for games that are in a playable alpha or beta state, are worth the current value of the playable build, and the developer plans to continue to develop for release.” That may sound a little mealy-mouthed, but Valve also notes that there is “ expectation by customers that (developers) will continue development to a point where you have what you consider to be a 'finished' game.” Naturally—and Valve even notes this—there are circumstances that may prevent this, but developers are expected to maintain communication with players and set the appropriate expectations for whether or not the titles will ever actually finish.

There are a few other points as well, but the end result is all the same; it's about managing expectations and working toward a goal. That's all fine and well, but as several have already pointed out—some couching the conclusion in humor, invoking Captain Barbossa of “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie fame to remind us all that these are more “guidelines” than actual “rules” that will be required to be obeyed lest removal from Steam Early Access follow.

Sony Doubles Down on PlayStation

November 25, 2014

Sony does a lot more than just the PlayStation line; it's also a presence in mobile devices, in televisions, and in a variety of components. A recent ad for Sony showed Sony buying a film script, and then building that film using a variety of Sony components. But one thing is clear: PlayStation is one of Sony's biggest properties, and as such, the company is putting extra focus on its development and sales, and putting its collective money where its equally collective mouth is.

A recent forecast suggested that Sony's mobile division, just by next spring, would lose as much as 30 percent of its sales. To that end, Sony is reducing the amount of support for its mobile device and television divisions, and up sales in the PlayStation division by as much as 25 percent, representing nearly $14 billion in business for the company.

Are Digital Games Too Cheap?

November 24, 2014

It's not surprising that we see some significant differences between the price of digital games and the prices of their disc-based equivalents. But word from Tony Bartel—GameStop's president—suggests that the discrepancies between prices for digital and disc-based games may have farther-reaching consequences than anyone expected, and one of those consequences may be some significant damage to the gaming industry itself.

Bartel, while talking to investors on a conference call, revealed that consumers expect to pay just a little over half the cost for a digital game that they would pay for its disc equivalent, expecting just $35 on the price tag instead of $60. Naturally, for a company like GameStop that does most of its business on disc, the idea of customers getting digital downloads for almost half the price would probably drive most of its operation out of business, but GameStop thinks that it's not just its own operations at stake, but game developers' as well.

Bartel noted that the industry is potentially courting disaster, by making what Bartel called “the same mistake as other entertainment categories by driving the perceived value of digital goods significantly below that of a physical game.” Huge sales from places like Steam are driving some serious price degradation, Bartel noted, but it wasn't alone. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have all been giving away games and also offering discounts; there's a new set of games for discount every week on Microsoft, and GameStop estimates that the companies are giving away nearly $100 million in games just for this year.

It's not surprising that GameStop would have a problem with this.

World of Warcraft's Warlords of Draenor Issues Prove Customer Service's Value

November 20, 2014

While there has been much speculation of the World of Warcraft of late, with some believing that it's only a matter of time before this long-lived game finally goes the way of the dodo and others believing that those people are quite literally full of it (here carefully not defining just what “it” is, noting only that there is plenty involved), it's clear that this game will be carrying on for some time. Recent issues hit the franchise with the rise of its newest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, and that lent some ammo to the “franchise is doomed” side of the equation. However, Blizzard's response is one that illustrates the value of customer service very nicely, and how a little expense today can prevent a lot of headache later.

Not surprisingly, when Warlords of Draenor hit, there was a rush to get in on the action. Equally not surprisingly, this rush led to a lot of traffic and slowdowns and queues and the like.

How 11 Bit Studios Put Piracy to Work to Help This War of Mine

November 19, 2014

Piracy in video game circles—particularly in PC gaming—is a huge problem. With nearly any game around available for immediate download, and studios all but required to release the tools of their own demise thanks to the way that PC games are bought and sold, it's not surprising to see that piracy may be a bigger problem in gaming than just about anywhere else. But while there's plenty of outcry over piracy, there are also some more creative solutions afoot, and one came from developer 11 bit studios, who brought the pirate war directly to the pirates, by appealing to their humanity.

Basically, what 11 bit studios did was, after releasing its game “This War of Mine”, it took the title straight to The Pirate Bay, commonly regarded as one of the great hubs of pirated content currently available online. And then, 11 bit left it there.

Is Linden Lab Putting Its Next Big Hope on VR?

November 18, 2014

Linden Lab is a name you might recognize, particularly if you were gaming in the late 2000s. Linden Lab put together a combination game / game world called “Second Life,” and for those who played, it was an unusual experience to say the least. But Linden Lab has been undergoing a lot of changes of late, and it may well have found its next big thing in the form of the growing virtual reality (VR) movement.

Now down to just two properties in its quiver—“Second Life” and the “Blocksworld” app—the company is putting particular focus on “Second Life”, and turning to VR to help drive new interest. It might strike some as odd that a game that started in 2003 is still popular today, but “World of Warcraft” hardly wants for players, and that launched in late 2004.

One in Four Games Sold as Digital Download?

November 17, 2014

We all knew that digital game sales were catching on, and while we all likewise knew that digital game sales had plenty of problems associated with them, a new report from The NPD Group suggests that digital game sales have caught on a whole lot harder than anyone may have expected. How hard? Try one sale in every four titles, potentially.

The NPD Group's most recent numbers suggest that, indeed, hardware did pretty well in sales, but software sales, meanwhile, were down almost 28 percent over this time last year. That doesn't sound so great, though admittedly, the large number of titles that got pushed off to 2015 might well have something to do with that.

Two Million Dollars Playing Video Games? With Skillz, It Happened.

November 13, 2014

Not so long ago, we heard about the arrival of Skillz, a gaming platform that allowed players to compete for actual cash by playing games. But a new update suggests that the idea of playing games and taking home cash for the winner is catching on, and harder than many might have thought. The newest report suggests that, since the start of this year, the company has meant fully $2 million in prizes to those competing in Skillz's array of competitions.

Further, the company reported that it plays host to over 100,000 separate tournaments every day, with a variety of games serving as the battlegrounds in question. Games like Survival Run with Bear Grylls  are just part of the action, and the company also revealed some key information about its demographic operations as well.

Help Wanted: Gaming Puts On Major Expansion in U.S. Economy

November 12, 2014

Admittedly, the last several years of the economy in the United States has not been great. But there are notes that suggest things are on the mend, economically speaking, as unemployment rates drop and more businesses look to do some hiring. But even through the rougher times, there was one bright spot in the economy over the last few years, and that bright spot was video gaming.

Word from the Entertainment Software Association—the game industry's lobbying group—showed that business grew over nine percent annually from 2009 to 2012, which is no small feat given what was going on in the wider picture economically during that same time. In fact, it was better than four times what the entire United States economy could muster up, suffering an anemic average two percent growth during those years.

BlizzCon Brings StarCraft 2 & Hearthstone Add-Ons, Plus A Whole New Game

November 11, 2014

Wrapping up last week was a bit of a surprise as this year's BlizzCon came and left some new trailers in its wake. While not as big a deal as, say, E3, Gamescom or the Tokyo Game Show, BlizzCon often still has some exciting bits of news to arrive with it. This year was no different as a set of new trailers arrived showing off some future developments, and the news looked pretty good to say the least for Blizzard fans.

Blizzard's eponymous gaming convention had quite a bit to show off; not only were there two new expansions looking to come into play in StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, as well as Hearthstone: Goblin Vs. Gnomes, but there was also a completely new game in Overwatch, a team-based shooter game that's something of a departure from Blizzard's normal round of gameplay. That will be welcome, or unwelcome, depending on your affinity for Blizzard's current catalog.

The arrival of Goblins vs.

November 10, 2014

Chalk it up to yet another in the long, long, long string of Fallout 4 rumors that have come and gone over the years. Turns out that German trademark filing for “Shadow of Boston” you might have heard about was nothing short of a fake. But while this particular unpleasantness is just another in a long string of same, it's also a sign of a much clearer problem.

Thankfully, much of what we knew about Fallout 4 is still quite intact. It is almost certainly an actual thing—there's simply too much cash involved to not be considering how the last rounds of Bethesda titles sold—and better yet, the Boston setting is likely to still be a thing.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Has a Surprising Influence

November 6, 2014

This is, perhaps, the answer to a question that I've been asking since somewhere around 2003. More specifically, the question I asked so long ago was “Why aren't more games like Morrowind?” I was very much into that game back then—and why not? It was perhaps the first time a console gamer had ever had access to that level of immersion, and most were enjoying it. Now, that influence is starting to be felt in earnest, and is even showing up in Dragon Age: Inquisition.

While Morrowind was a big seller, so too were its descendants.

Halo Championship Series Shows off E-Sports' Power

November 5, 2014

It will likely come as a surprise to virtually no one that Halo is a pretty big name when it comes to competitive gaming. But it's not really seen as a major name in e-sports, especially when it comes up for comparison against some games. But the Halo franchise is about to get a big new step up, thanks to the upcoming Halo Championship Series.

The Halo Championship Series--which will see 343 Industries and Microsoft partnering up with Twitch, the ESL, and others to help build tournaments around the Halo series. It's designed to reach its full capability when Halo 5: Guardians makes its first appearance in 2015, so it should start showing up any time now.

World of Warcraft May Have More Endurance Than Thought

November 4, 2014

It may be hard to believe, but this year marks the 10th anniversary of “World of Warcraft,” a game that's been reviled and beloved—sometimes even in the same breath—pretty much since it got started. It would be easy to look at a game that's been in play for, roughly, three console generations (the original Xbox wasn't discontinued until 2008, after all) and say that its days are numbered. But new reports suggest that this grand dame of the MMO has a lot of room to run.

Word came from “World of Warcraft”s lead designer, Ion Hazzikostas, in an interview with CNET that, while he didn't know just what form it would take exactly, there “...definitely is going to be...” a 20th anniversary for “World of Warcraft”. Indeed, Activision-Blizzard is reportedly planning ahead through at least the next two major expansions to the game, though it's more of a “big picture storyline” matter right now than anything else.

The First Movie for Oculus Rift is a Horror Movie

November 3, 2014

This is a piece of news that should prove exciting for movie buffs, horror fans and gamers alike, as word emerged from Jamwix that it has created a breed of software that will allow for films to be distributed specifically for the Oculus Rift. While that by itself might make a pretty impressive news, what's even better here is that Jamwix's new software is set to work with one particular movie, a title that some may never have even heard of, but one that would work quite well nonetheless.

Jamwix's new software is known as "Chimera," and it allows current releases to be converted into a kind of immersive 3D experience, the exact sort of thing that the Oculus Rift will really need to make it perceived in the market as more than just another gaming peripheral. But the really good news here is what title is first to run on Jamwix's new Chimera system, and it's a little-known title from XLRator Media called "Banshee Chapter."

"Banshee Chapter" was big news on the film festival circuit--it took "Scariest Film" at both the 2013 London Fright Fest and Toronto's After Dark Film Festival--and it follows a young man with a journalistic bent who's looking into the concept of a new mind-altering chemical created by a set of CIA experiments back in 1973. Having seen this one myself, I can assure you that, in normal channels, it's pretty scary stuff, and the idea of watching this thing through an Oculus Rift that actually lets me feel like I'm there--complete with horrible basement crawls and exploring abandoned facilities--leaves me scared downright green.

But at the same time, I'm extremely enthused about this development for one particularly good reason: this is exactly what the Oculus Rift needed.

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