Hello one and all.
Apologies for the radio silence as we raced toward the end of 2016, but life, and my day job, intervened and kept me from the Inner Circle. Hopefully, I will be able to keep this blog on more of a consistent schedule in 2017 and give you a few things worth reading/thinking about.
So, with that being said, what say we close out 2016 by taking a look at what to expect from the core gaming platforms in 2017? Let’s start with the market leader…
I think it is safe to say that, with the launches of PlayStation Pro and PlayStation VR in 2016, Sony Interactive Entertainment in all-in with the 8th console generation. They have pushed all of their chips to the middle of the table and there is next to nothing that we can expect from them, on the hardware side, in 2017. Or, for that matter, in what remains of the current hardware cycle. Going forward in the new year, the platform holder will rely on hardware price drops and bundles, third-party software sales and sales of first-party games that, with a few notable exceptions (Uncharted 4 being the most prominent), have failed to move the needle much over the past three years. You know… straight from the PlayStation Sales and Marketing Playbook.
With the debut of PS Pro and the ushering in of mid-cycle hardware iteration, it is not even clear at this point that there will be a “PlayStation 5.” While it is fairly common knowledge among my colleagues that the Pro has made a limited impact on the marketplace, I believe it is only a matter of time (and dropping component prices) before the Pro becomes the PlayStation family’s base model and the next, even more 4K-y, more-HDR-y Super Pro becomes their high-end entry – thus ending the idea of the 5-7 year hardware generation life-cycle and any thought of SIE delivering a true Gen 9 PS 5. With regard to PSVR – color me “disappointed.” Actually, I can’t even say that I am disappointed. The hardware has done exactly what I thought it would do at retail and the “experiences” have been underwhelming. Like prior adjunct technology attempts by the company (Move, Stereo 3D, Vita, Wonderbook, etc.), it looks like any dream of continued long-term support and/or deep, AAA core games coming from SIE’s Worldwide Studios, let alone major third-party publishers and developers, is a pipe dream. As I own both PSVR and Oculus Rift, I get a close-up view of their respective ecosystems, and there is a lot of crossover. The vast majority of the titles are simple wave shooters, cockpit racers and games that really are tech demos – ranging in price from $2-$20. While there are a few standouts – Arkham VR, Lucky’s Tale, Edge of Nowhere and a handful of others – the vast majority of available software could be classified more as time wasters than AAA type games. With the exception of the tip of the spear gaming [...]
In a word…
Yes, it does look like Nintendo did enough with their new console/handheld hybrid to ensure that third-party software is not an issue – mainstream GPU, and a fairly “normal” controller (well… Nintendo Normal.) But, let’s face it – at this point in time in video game history, your average gaming enthusiast is not going to purchase Nintendo hardware to play what we can safely assume will be slightly watered down versions of CoD, GTA, Dishonored, Madden, etc. (when compared to their PlayStation, Xbox and/or PC brethren.)
So, leaving their main gaming platforms and making the switch to Switch is not going to be within the realm of probability for most gamers. Once again, and without any compelling reason for mass-man to join in on the fun (as they did with the original Wii), my belief is that the Switch will be (if Nintendo is lucky/smart) relegated to “second system” status and that its relative success will be almost entirely dependent on the quality and quantity of first-party software.
The new Zelda is already a foregone conclusion. The Switch teaser trailer offered a short, generic Mario game and not a whole lot else. How willing is Nintendo going to be to dip into their bag of under-utilized IP’S (here’s looking at you “Metroid Prime” series) and to nurture new IP’s more befitting an adult gamer demographic (if they can even remember how to do that?) And, can they put a new face/spin on those series’ that they have gone back to time and again to give them a reboot (here’s looking at you “Mario Kart” series?)
No, I think it is safe to say that there is not enough in what we have seen of Switch to make gamers switch. And, only time will tell if Nintendo’s first-party software development studios are up to the task this time around. They failed miserably with the Wii U and that wasn’t too long ago – their customers are still feeling the sting of that purchase decision. A strong offering out of the gate, with a clear road map of year one releases, could make their path to second system success a little easier to navigate and make Wii U consumers a little more forgiving/excited. But, without a strong lineup and a lack of vision on the software side of things?…
… consumers might just flip this particular Switch off.
Did Nintendo Learn Their Lesson? Will New IP Be a Priority? Will They Give Gamers ANY Reason to Make the “Switch?”
The shuffling of existing titles continues on the latest VGChartz Top 10 list (USA.) The one new entry, Nintendo’s much-maligned “Metroid Prime: Federation Force,” sold less than 10,000 units in its debut… ouch! While the game debuted a little later in Japan and the EU/UK and sales figures are not available for those territories quite yet, I think it is safe to say what we all already knew – Federation Force is not the Prime game that fans of the Metroid series wanted, nor was it delivered on the appropriate platform. Nintendo’s refusal to see the writing on the wall going back two years now, coupled with the various product and policy decisions that the company has made over the last few years, begs the question… How many different ways can they screw the pooch?
Best-Selling Games (USA) for the Week Ending 8/20/161. (PS4) No Man’s Sky 2. (3DS) Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire 3. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 4. (3DS) Pokemon X/Y 5. (Xbox One) Gears of War 6. (Xbox One) Tom Clancy’s The Division 7. (PS4) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 8. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 9. (3DS) Monster Hunter Generations 10. (3DS) Metroid Prime: Federation Force
The Game That Nobody Wanted… Nintendo – Always Listening, Quick to Adapt… Can’t Read the Room
Wow! This one really came out of nowhere. “Unbox,” from the moment you first hear the steel drums kick in the very tropical theme that plays in the game’s first open-world, evokes fond memories of classic Gen 5 and Gen 6 platform games – most notably “Mario Sunshine” on the Nintendo Gamecube. The game, a third-person, open-world platform adventure that draws on all of the best of the genre (including collect-a-thons like “Banjo-Kazooie”), is an interactive love letter to a style of game that is all but lost in 2016. It is beautiful, simple fun that, a few hours in, has left me with a smile on my face and wanting to play more. Oh… and you play as a cardboard box.
UnboxPublisher: Prospect Games Developer: Prospect Games Release Date: 9/5/16 Platforms: PC/Steam Price: $12.79 Initial Impressions: Fun, fond memories, incredible bang for the buck, Amazon Prime (if you play the game, you’ll get the “joke”)
Unbox is an Interactive Love Letter to the Great Platformers of Gens 5 and 6
I have to admit that I have never understood the whole Pokemon phenomena. My oldest son, who was hooked when he was five or six years old, is now 26 and still plays Pokemon games. I, however, in spite of playing thousands of games over the years, have never felt the desire to “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.” Obviously, I am in a very small minority, and this has, once again, been reflected in two Pokemon games holding the top two spots on VGChartz Top 10 list (USA) for the week ending 7/30/16. Of course, it was a very quiet week and the overall sales volume was low (when was the last time we found THREE 3DS titles lurking within the Top 10?), with a number of well-worn games making a reappearance on the list, but still impressive – particularly given the fact that most of these purchasers were likely trampling on your aunt’s prized petunias while scouring the countryside playing Pokemon Go!
Best-Selling Games (USA) for the Week Ending 7/30/161. (3DS) Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire 2. (3DS) Pokemon X/Y 3. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 4. (Xbox One) Gears of War 5. (3DS) Monster Hunter Generations 6. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 7. (PS4) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 8. (Xbox One) Grand Theft Auto V 9. (PS4) Overwatch 10. (Xbox One) Tom Clancy’s The Division
Is it Just Me, or Are the Naming Conventions of Pokemon Games Getting More and More Ridiculous?
As most of you likely know, the PlayStation 4 has been the dominant market leader, in terms of hardware sales, in what is commonly referred to as “Gen 8,” or the eighth generation of home console video game hardware (Gen 8 also includes Wii U and Xbox One.) In its first 30 months of availability, it has racked up global sales of over 40.7 million units – more than doubling the sales of PlayStation 3 over the same period of time (19.6 million units.) And, at least to this point in time, it is keeping up with the sales pace set by Gen 6’s PlayStation 2 – the undisputed all-time champion of home video game consoles, with global lifetime sales of over 157 million units.
But, in spite of the success of PlayStation 4, all is not wine and cheese puffs for Gen 8 home console sales. When we add Xbox One global sales over its first 30 months of availability (21.1 million units) and those of the Wii U for the same period (12.9 million units), we come to grand total of 74.7 million units of Gen 8 home gaming consoles that have made it into consumers’ hands. On the surface, a solid number…
But, if we look at the first 30 months of availability for each of the Gen 7 home consoles, we get the following:PlayStation 3: 19.6 million units Xbox 360: 18.1 million units Wii: 43.6 million units
For a grand total of 81.3 million units of Gen 7 home video game consoles sold in each of the participant platforms’ first 30 months – a figure that is 8.2% higher than the current generation. So, what’s happening? How do we account for this performance dip?
The easy answer is that the Wii was a dominant market force that reached out and grabbed the “mass market” (people that don’t normally purchase video game consoles) by the scruff of the neck, and that the Wii U took the express route straight down the crapper. True on both counts… But, while the raw numbers point to this conclusion, I think there are more subtle market forces at play here. When the PlayStation 4 came out of the gate as strong as it did at the end of 2013, pundits and market analysts were quick to cite the well-publicized, corporate-wide “foot-in-mouth” disease that had plagued Microsoft’s Xbox division as the cause of this shift in power to the PlayStation brand in Gen 8. But, the reality is that Microsoft has actually attracted a slightly larger audience for Xbox One in the first half of Gen 8 than they did in Gen 7 with the Xbox 360 – it’s just that PlayStation 4 has done so much better.
So, while many have attributed the success of PlayStation 4 to a migration of Xbox 360 owners to the PlayStation Nation, I think a more accurate conclusion is that it is not Microsoft that has suffered a mass exodus to the PlayStation brand – it is Nintendo. While the company was able to have [...]
There is no denying that Nintendo’s “Pokemon Go” has been an instant sensation in the world of social media and that it is enjoying phenomenal popularity as Android and iOS device users across the US, New Zealand and Australia get their hands on the game/exercise encouragement app/public nuisance simulator. The game, allowing players to track down, train, battle and trade virtual Pokemon via Augmented Reality in the real world, is the product of a joint venture between Niantic (the developer – based on their previous (and very similar) “Ingress” games), Nintendo, The Pokemon Company and Google.
That list contains quite a few major players in gaming and technology – players with deep pockets… VERY deep pockets. And, where there is a lot of money, there are a lot of lawyers. Like sharks to blood, they simply can not resist the direct path to stuffed wallets in the possession of large, publicly held companies that avoid litigation in favor of settlement.
In the case of Pokemon Go, this is relevant because the game is sort of a cross between the Pokemon gaming IP, the “Where’s Waldo” children’s hide-and-seek series of books, and a real world Snipe hunt. Any product that requires people to wander cities, suburbs and the countryside, staring at their phones while crossing streets, railroad tracks, etc. is just begging for ambulance chasers the world over to sit up and take notice. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be morons, idiots and dolts – but they are all around us, aren’t they? It is only a matter of time before one of the constituents of these large demographic groups will wander off while fixated on their device’s screen and get plowed by one type of vehicle or another. Or, they will hop a fence and cross private property… meeting the business end of a card-carrying member of the NRA’s weapon of choice in the process.
The possibilities for mayhem and negative outcomes are almost endless. Surely the PTB in this venture have taken these risks into consideration? In this first week of the game’s availability, there have already been a number of reports of minor injuries, players congregating near private homes and property, and of local police concerns. To date, over one million players are combing their locales, attempting to “catch them all.” It won’t be long before that figure increases by a factor of 10. What will happen then?
I mean, doesn’t Nintendo have enough problems with the Wii U, its dearth of software development and the impending launch of the NX? Surely a major class action lawsuit that quite possibly could include injury, damage to private property and death is something they would rather avoid? I can just see it… the year is 2020 and you can’t watch any old syndicated sit-com on late-night cable without seeing ad after ad asking “Were you [...]
16 Years ago this week, Rare and Nintendo released one of the defining games of Generation 6 and the Nintendo 64, and one of the highest rated games on Metacritic of all-time, “Perfect Dark.”
Perfect DarkPublisher: Nintendo Developer: Rare Platforms: Nintendo 64 (later remastered for Xbox 360) Original Release Date: May 22, 2000 Worldwide Sales: 2.5 Million units Metacritic Score: 97
Perfect Dark was Rare’s spiritual successor to the universally lauded “GoldenEye 007.” In development for over three years, it was also the flag bearer for the Nintendo 64 Expansion Pack, which was required in order to play the game (well… most of the game – there was about 35% of the game that could be accessed without the RAM-expanding device.) The first-person shooter cast the player in the role of Joanna Dark, the super spy that must infiltrate and stop the evil dataDyne corporation from its nefarious deeds that involve an alien plot twist. The single player game takes place over 17 connected missions that place Joanna in harm’s way. Like GoldenEye 007, mission objectives vary/increase based on the chosen difficulty level and Joanna can make use of a variety of weapons and gadgets to complete the objectives.
While the single player game was relatively lengthy for the time, most players were drawn to the game because of the multiplayer game modes – due primarily to the reputation that GoldenEye 007 had earned for its couch multiplayer. There were three different multiplayer modes, including co-op, with the critics of the day citing the multiplayer aspects of the game as one of Perfect Dark’s biggest strengths. Personally, although I spent a lot of time in GoldenEye 007’s multiplayer with my brothers and oldest son, and less time with PD’s MP, it was the SP campaign that drew me in and, in my opinion, that still resonates to this day. Like GoldenEye, I think the lasting contribution that Perfect Dark has made to gaming is the idea of giving the player more to do/accomplish when choosing to play at higher difficulty levels. When gamers talk about “replay value,” is there a better way of accomplishing it? Yet, very few games makes use of this technique. Off the top of my head, I think the last game to do it was Eurocom’s/Activision’s “GoldenEye 007” (very underrated) re-imagining on the Wii in 2010 and later on PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360 as “GoldenEye 007: Reloaded.”)
In spite of Perfect Dark’s stellar reception by critics, the game was not without its problems. While the increase in RAM via the N64 Expansion Pack allowed for some sharper images, it could not help the CPU with the calculations required/graphics data processing and the game’s frame-rate hampered gameplay and occasionally dropped below acceptable levels – an issue that would not be corrected until the Xbox Live Arcade remaster [...]
The SEGA 3D Classics Collection – nine games on one $30 Nintendo 3DS game card. Three of these games are among the best of 1980’s arcade, polished to Stereoscopic 3D perfection. One is the game that made the SEGA Genesis a worldwide phenomena. How to evaluate such a package? One game at a time, my friends… one game at a time.
Power Drift sits alongside OutRun as testimony to SEGA’s decade of domination of arcade racing, from the mid ’80’s to the mid ’90’s. In its Stereoscopic 3D form on the 3DS, the game is taken to a whole new level. Graphically, it’s fast and furiously good looking, and the gameplay is better, with a more assured sense of control, than it ever was in the arcades.
The only thing missing in this version of the arcade classic is the rockin’ and rollin’ sled that served as the arcade game’s cockpit. But, that omission is more than made up for by the 3D visuals, fantastic control, speed of play and the missing quarter slot. Seriously, this 3DS version of the game is BETTER than the arcade original.
Galaxy Force II
Perhaps the most technically impressive arcade game from SEGA’s 1980’s stable, Galaxy Force II is a tour-de-force on the 3DS. While there is no spherical cockpit for you to roll around in as there was in the arcade game, the 3DS puts you right in the middle of the chaos and hardcore third-person shooter action.
Sonic the Hedgehog
While the Stereoscopic 3D doesn’t bring too much to this Genesis classic, it’s still Sonic and it’s still a helluva lot of fun. One of the cool options in this one is that it will allow you to simulate the curve of a Cathode Ray Tube, 4:3 TV – there’s no school like the old school!
Puyo Puyo 2
Like Sonic, Puyo Puyo 2 doesn’t benefit a whole lot from the 3D treatment, but this Japanese classic in the falling object puzzle genre is still fun to play and a world apart from the high-octane SEGA arcade classics mentioned above.
It sucked in the arcade. It sucked on the Genesis. Now, thanks to [...]
I originally posted this article on ICG’s launch date (10/28/15.) Given the news coming out of the Nintendo camp today, however, I thought it would be appropriate to move it up front and center. Six months have apparently done nothing to improve Nintendo’s fortunes… there is still a lot that is really wrong with Nintendo.
Over the past few years, since the massive herd that was the Nintendo Wii installed hardware base stopped buying games, there has been a lot of talk about Nintendo’s future in the home console business. With the anemic performance of the Wii U (sorry Nintendo hardcore folk, but facts are facts – Wii U was DOA in the marketplace and its market share has been on a downward trajectory since launch), this discussion has only intensified. What can Nintendo do? Should they focus on Mobile? Will the NX put them back in a position to challenge SCE and Microsoft? Has Nintendo lost its magic touch?
While all of these questions are valid, my perspective is that they are tertiary to the main problem facing the company. It is not a hardware issue at all – it is a software issue. Nintendo, in my opinion, is no longer a company that innovates – they iterate. As hard as it is to hear, they are now much closer in spirit to EA and Activision than to an Apple or SCE.
Because third-party software publishers all but abandoned Nintendo platforms years ago (the root issues in their TP relationships date back to the original NES/Famicom), Nintendo has been solely responsible for keeping its hardware alive with a regular flow of innovative, imaginative software. Can you imagine SCE or Microsoft in this position? SCE would be dead in the water this holiday season and Microsoft would have only Forza 6 and Halo 5 to keep hope alive.
The problem is that the flow of AAA-type games from Nintendo for Wii U and 3DS has slowed down considerably and that the games they are shipping are products of the same IP that they have been pushing for decades… Mario-this, Zelda-that, Super Smash, Yoshi, Pikmin, etc. Hell, they can’t even do that right – Wii U launched 3 years ago and they still haven’t shipped a Metroid or a legitimate, killer application Mario (before anyone starts down this path… Super Mario 3D World was Super Mario 3D Land on the big screen, and 1990 called and they want their New Super Mario Brothers U back.)
Here are the hard facts; the Wii U has sold roughly 10MM units, life-to-date, and it claims about 20% of the market. With the exception of the original Wii, Nintendo’s hardware market share has been falling consistently since the SEGA Genesis came out of nowhere to split the market with the SNES in the early 1990’s. While in the past 20 years they could always count on the Mario’s and Zelda’s to pay some bills and keep them in the ballgame by ensuring that they were the second system for core gamers, [...]
Ratchet & Clank are The Kings of England
According to GfK Chart-Trak, the PlayStation 4 re-telling of “Ratchet & Clank” has debuted in the #1 slot on their weekly Top 40 list, for the week ending 4/23/16 – the first game in the long-running series to do so. With the movie set to debut this weekend, and the excellent game riding high (see my evaluation here), life couldn’t be better for the lombax and his robotic sidekick, as well as their proud parents, Insomniac Games.
Hot on the Game’s Heels, the Ratchet & Clank Movie Hits Theaters This Weekend
One Last Ride?
In case you have been living under the proverbial (video game) rock over the past few months, Naughty Dog’s “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” is less than two weeks from its worldwide debut on PlayStation 4. While ND and SIE have been touting it as the conclusion of Drake’s adventures, you can most certainly bet that it is not. If games sell, they make more of them – it’s that simple. Is Batman’s story going to ever end? James Bond’s? Sometimes the folks responsible for marketing entertainment just make me laugh. How stupid do they really think we are? We’ve all been to this particular rodeo.. got the t-shirt… and have worn it out. OF COURSE there is going to be more Uncharted – as sure as Victor Sullivan loves his stogies and as sure as ridiculous “buddy” dialogue will pepper the adventure.
Once More, with Feeling… The Last (?) Trailer Before Launch
Nintendo’s Last Hope? Gaming’s Last Console?
In their full-year earnings report, Nintendo confirmed the release date for their next gaming console, code named “NX.” The platform has an announced release date of March, 2017. Interestingly, it will not be on display at this year’s E3 – making it very likely that the public will get its first glimpse of the NX at the Tokyo Game Show this Fall. Given that the Wii has been the only console in the last three hardware generations that Nintendo could label a success, there is a lot riding on NX. If it doesn’t effectively compete in the marketplace, it might spell the end for Nintendo as a home console creator/designer/manufacturer. With both Microsoft and Sony seemingly adapting a PC upgrade model in the near future, it is also possible that the NX could be the last entirely new console that the video game marketplace will see. Interesting times…
House of Mario – Trending Up or Going Down the Tubes?
Wow! A plethora of great and historically significant games released This Week in Gaming History – dominated by one publisher, the late, great LucasArts. I don’t know what George’s interactive division liked about the end of April, but they delivered the big boys! Oh, and for a little gaming trivia… From Software’s “The Adventures of Cookie and Cream” was named by my brother while employed at my publishing company. If you’ve never played the game, it is really fun – requiring that you use both analog sticks to make two different characters work together to solve environmental puzzles and progress through the levels at the same time in the single player mode. The game firmly established itself as the king of the “Pat Your Head While Rubbing Your Stomach” genre!
April 27, 1992: Nintendo’s Kirby character/franchise makes its debut in Kirby’s Dream Land – released in Japan for the Game Boy
April 28, 1995: SCE releases Jumping Flash! on the original PlayStation in Japan
April 30, 1995: LucasArts’ classic adventure, Full Throttle, releases on PC
April 30, 1996: Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures releases for PC (BTW: the only video game I have ever seen my mother play)
April 30, 1997: LucasArts releases Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter on PC
April 27, 2000: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is released for Nintendo 64 in Japan
April 30, 2001: The Adventures of Cookie and Cream by Agetec (and developed by “Dark Souls” developer From Software) is released on PlayStation 2 in Japan
April 25, 2006: OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast debuts on PlayStation 2 and Xbox
April 29, 2008: Grand Theft Auto IV releases worldwide on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
It’s pretty light traffic during the last week of April, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few titles worth taking a look at…
SEGA 3D Classics CollectionPublisher: SEGA Developer: M2 Release Date: 4/26/16 Platforms: Nintendo 3DS Price: $29.99 Forecast: Brilliant 3D Sunshine
I love me some SEGA 3D Classics and this collection contains a number of goodies – Power Drift, Thunder Blade, Galaxy Force II – all giants from SEGA’s golden age of 1980’s sprite scaling arcade games. In addition, they are throwing in a few Genesis and Master System classics to round out the package… Nice!
So Much Good Stuff in One Small Package!
King’s Quest – Chapter 3: Once Upon a ClimbPublisher: Sierra Developer: The Odd Gentlemen Release Date: 4/26/16 Platforms: PC/Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Price: $9.99 Forecast: Partly Sunny
I have played the first two chapters of The Odd Gentlemen’s reboot of the classic “King’s Quest.” I absolutely loved the first chapter (“A Knight to Remember”) and liked the second (“Rubble without a Cause.”) The difference between love and like? Time, my friends… time. Chapter 3 needs to give me more than Rubble. If the Odd ones can do that for me, I’ll keep buying as long as they are selling.
Chapter 2 Was a Little on the Short Side – Hopefully Once Upon a Climb Will Reach New Heights!
Hitman Episode 2: SapienzaPublisher: Square-Enix Developer: IO-Interactive Release Date: 4/26/16 Platforms: PC/Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Price: $14.99/$9.99 (?) Forecast: Sunny
I really enjoyed the first episode in the Hitman reboot and am looking forward to seeing what Episode 2 has to offer. I couldn’t find any information on pricing for the standalone episode, but expect it to be either $14.99 (the cost for episode 1) or possibly $9.99.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous… and Targeted for Assassination!
Cornerstone: The Song of TyrimPublisher: Phoenix Online Publishing Developer: Overflow Games Release Date: 4/26/16 Platforms: PC/Steam Price: NA Forecast: Unsettled
I found this game while digging around Steam and downloaded the demo. It’s a little stiff, takes a page from the look of “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker” and puts a Norse/Viking spin on things. Based on the short time I spent with the demo, it seems like the developer is targeting a younger crowd, or those Millennials looking to get their Nintendo 64/Gamecube nostalgia on.
Early Footage of Cornerstone from Two Years Ago – Looks Interesting… Taking a Flyer on This One
Stealth LabyrinthPublisher: IV [...]
Did you ever notice that the video game industry spends a lot of time discussing the “birth” (i.e. launch) of a console, but very little time discussing a console’s “death”? It’s almost as if our reluctance to discuss the subject in real life has carried over to our hobby: “Poor Dreamcast… taken from us much too soon” or “Our Atari 2600 lived a long and happy life, and we will always cherish the memories.” Or “Isn’t it time to pull the plug on the PS3?”
This occurred to me as I recently moved to a new home and had an opportunity to go through my video game collection for the first time in many years. I own cartridge-based systems that are now thirty to forty years-old, and yet they still work fine… if you can find a television with an old antenna connection, that is. Disc-based systems are apparently not quite so sturdy, as anyone who has replaced an Xbox 360 due to the “red ring of death” can tell you. While my original PlayStation still works, twenty years after I purchased it, I’ll be surprised if it lasts another ten or twenty. Am I wrong to think that this is not long enough? After all, our cars, washing machines, televisions and computers all have limited lifespans. So why should game consoles be any different?
The problem is that I don’t think of videogames as consumer electronics. Instead, I see them as forms of entertainment… and, when compared to other forms of entertainment, videogames get the short end of the stick.
My wife is an avid reader with a large library of books. I can’t imagine she would be pleased if the text in her books started disappearing after a certain period of time. And neither of us would appreciate it if our movies and music similarly became unusable with age. But books, movies and music are likely to continue indefinitely because they aren’t dependent upon a particular media. The Beatles album which my parents purchased on reel-to-reel tape or 8-track, which I bought on vinyl or cassette, which my son bought as a CD or an .mp3, is likely to be purchased by my granddaughter on whatever music format exists in 2036. My wife’s favorite book, a copy of which she bought in the 1990’s, was originally written in the 1960’s but is currently available on Kindle and will likely still be in print twenty years from now.
Not so with videogames. Ignoring emulation, and the legal issues involved, if your console of choice becomes inoperable in the future, your games will be worthless… no matter how carefully you store your CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays.
Which is what I found myself doing this past weekend. Years ago I had a bookshelf of PS One CD jewel cases (and the occasional cardboard or plastic boxes for the system’s earliest titles). A few years later, those were joined by the DVD cases of my PS2 collection. When the PS3 was released, and I was running [...]
You know it’s a quiet week when the best-selling title in the world is a baseball game that sold almost exclusively in one market. But, that was the case as “MLB The Show 16” made its debut in the top slot. In other chart news, “Tom Clancy’s The Division” continued to show strong on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and, surprise, surprise… both GTA V and Black Ops 3 bounced back to continue securing their customary two spots in the Top 10.
Best-Selling Games (Globally) for the Week Ending 4/2/161. (PS4) MLB The Show 16 2. (3DS) Yokai Sangokushi 3. (PS4) Tom Clancy’s The Division 4. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 5. (Xbox One) Tom Clancy’s The Division 6. (PS4) Star Ocean 5: Integrity and Faithlessness 7. (3DS) Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 3 8. (PS4) Far Cry: Primal 9. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 10. (PS4) EA Sports UFC 2
Will the North Siders Replicate MLB The Show 16’s First-place Finish This Year?
This Week in Gaming History features two major releases in the “Mortal Kombat” franchise, and one that is its direct descendant (“Injustice: Gods Among Us.”) It is also the week when Crystal Dynamics took control of the “Tomb Raider” franchise and saved it from obscurity and irrelevance with the release of “Tomb Raider: Legend.” In addition, this week saw the release of one of the most recognizable names in arcade history, Namco’s “Dig Dug” and a Gen 7 game based on one of the most recognizable IP’s in entertainment history, Digital Extremes’ “Star Trek.”
April 19, 1982: Namco’s Dig Dug released in Japanese arcades
April 21, 1989: Nintendo releases Super Mario Land on the Game Boy
April 19/20, 2005: Double Fine Productions releases Psychonauts on PC and Xbox
April 24, 2008: SEGA’s cult hit, Valkyria Chronicles, releases for PlayStation 3 in Japan
April 19, 2011: NeatherRealm Studios releases Mortal Kombat on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – signifying a reboot of the franchise
April 19, 2011: Portal 2 is released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
April 24, 2012: Prototype 2 is released by Activision and Radical Entertainment for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
April 23, 2013: Star Trek, Digital Extremes’ third-person action game bridging the gap between cinematic releases, debuts on Gen 7 consoles and PC
In the wake of last week’s big releases, Dark Souls III and Ratchet & Clank, there is not a whole lot going on for the week of April 18th – unless you are a Wii U owner looking for a reason to continue to invest time and money as the platform inches its way toward the bright white light…
Lichdom: BattlemagePublisher: Maximum Games Developer: Xaviant Games Release Date: 4/19/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (released on PC 8/26/14) Price: $49.99 Forecast: Cloudy
I am not really sure how this first-person, spell-casting Action RPG is going to fare on Gen 8 consoles. The game has been available on PC for almost two years and I purchased it about a year ago. I enjoyed the game to a degree, but it has received mixed reviews from the Steam community – mostly for its repetitive gameplay. Also, hitting the market the week after “Dark Souls III” will likely not help its cause at retail. But, it could still appeal to those looking to get their “Harry Potter” on.
Defense Against the Dark Arts… Class is in Session
Star Fox ZeroPublisher: Nintendo Developer: Platinum Games Release Date: 4/22/16 Platforms: Wii U Price: $59.99 Forecast: Partly Sunny
As the Nintendo Wii U quickly moves from four years of irrelevance to join the Virtual Boy in Nintendo’s Closet o’ Shame, the company is making one last effort to try to get their fan base to understand why the Wii U GamePad was ever thought to be a move forward for the company and an essential part of the Wii U experience. Star Fox Zero is looking to recapture some of that Nintendo 64/SNES magic with the game and give Wii U owners ANY reason to hit the “Power” button on said GamePad. Seriously… mine is hooked up to my HDTV in the family room and I haven’t turned it on in months. Will SFZ be the game to make me fire it up? Ehh… doubtful, but who knows? I wasn’t impressed when I played it at E3 last year, but maybe Platinum has been able to sprinkle the (increasingly rare) Nintendo pixie dust on it.
Star Fox Zero… or Hero?
P.O.L.L.E.N.Publisher: Mindfield Games Developer: Mindfield Games Release Date: 4/20/16 Platforms: PC/Oculus VR Price: NA Forecast: Unsettled
This first-person exploration game, set on Saturn’s moon, Titan in 1995, supposes that, among other things, the assassination of President Kennedy failed, the internet was never invented and that the US and the Soviet Union combined their efforts in the exploration of space and eventually handed over their findings to private corporations. RAMA Industries is one of these corporations and you are in their employ. A fellow member of your research team on Titan has mysteriously vanished and you are sent it to solve the mystery. That’s all we know at this point – Steam doesn’t even have a price [...]
This is the week I have been waiting for since we first got an inkling at SCEA that the franchise reboot was going to happen – “Ratchet & Clank” for PlayStation 4 hits the streets this week – my pre-order is in and I am ready to get my Lombax on! Of course, if you are more into self-flagellation, Namco-Bandai and From Software have you covered with the release of “Dark Souls III” on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. These are the two big titles, with the week being rounded out by a number of indie offerings that look to be VERY indie, and not particularly exciting (but I’m willing to be proven wrong as the week unfolds.)
Ratchet & ClankPublisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: Insomniac Games Release Date: 4/12/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4 Price: $39.99 Forecast: Brilliant Sunshine
When I was at SCEA, there was a lot of hand-wringing as to what to do with the R&C franchise. Sales had tailed off on the PlayStation 3, as compared to PlayStation 2 and the genesis of the IP, and the PTB were convinced that the industry had simply “aged-out” of the Lombax’s core demographic and that targeting the game at more of a budget price point would help for games in the series released after “Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.” Ehhh… not so much. I maintain that R&C, like many other quality games at this particular period in the gaming industry, appeals to a smaller, but no less fervent/engaged consumer base and that discounting the game is a mistake. My belief being that SIE won’t lose one unit of potential sales by pricing the game at $59.99. But, hey… I’ll take the 20 bucks, thank you very much… I just don’t want fans and potential customers thinking the game is anything less than AAA-quality because of the lower price point. So, join me, won’t you, in celebrating the Gen 8 debut of one of my all-time favorites next week.
Ahhh… The Good Captain and His Tomfoolery… Can’t Wait!
Dark Souls IIIPublisher: Namco-Bandai Developer: From Software Release Date: 4/12/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Price: $59.99 Forecast: Not a Cloud in the Sky
From the developers that brought you “King’s Field” on the original PlayStation (a game we gave a PSExtreme cover to back in the day), comes the latest in their “we will beat the player into submission” third-person action/adventure/RPG series – Dark Souls III. Let the flogging begin…
Death is Coming! Again… and Again! and… Again!
Bravely Second: End LayerPublisher: Square-Enix/Nintendo Developer: Silicon Studio Release Date: 4/15/16 Platforms: Nintendo 3DS Price: $39.99 Forecast: Local Sunshine
The JRPG, after a year of availability in Japan and a few months [...]
“Tom Clancy’s The Division”continued its strong showing in its second week of availability, maintaining the top two positions on VGChartz for the week ending 3/19/16. In addition, EA Sports’ latest UFC title made its debut, pushing through over 600,000 units on the two Gen 8 platforms.
Best-Selling Games (Globally) for the Week Ending 3/19/16:1. (PS4) Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. (Xbox One) Tom Clancy’s The Division 3. (PS4) EA Sports UFC 2 4. (Wii U) Pokken Tournament 5. (Xbox One) EA Sports UFC 2 6. (PS4) Far Cry: Primal 7. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 8. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 9. (Wii U) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD 10. (PS Vita) Digimon World: Next Order
EA Sports’ UFC 2 Makes a Strong Showing in its Debut Week
Nintendo seems to have dominated this week in gaming history over the past 15 years or so. Of the eight games featured below, four of them are from the House of Mario, and some pretty significant releases at that. Although, the best money I spent this week (I own 6 of the eight games) was on “Alias” – a very underrated take on the popular ABC spy drama that launched Jennifer Garner’s career in the early part of the 21st century, and the phenomenal “Lego Star Wars: The Video Game” – a game I still play to this day.
April 4, 1998: Star Wars Episode I: Racer released for the SEGA Dreamcast
April 8, 2001: Nintendo releases Dr. Mario 64 on Nintendo 64
April 8, 2003: Rockstar releases Midnight Club 2 on PlayStation 2 and PC
April 5, 2004: Alias releases for PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox
April 5, 2005: LucasArts releases Lego Star Wars: The Video Game on Gen 6 consoles and PC
April 9, 2007: Super Paper Mario is released on the Nintendo Wii
April 10, 2008: Mario Kart Wii is released by Nintendo
April 8, 2015: Pokemon Rumble World is released on 3DS