While I did not take the time to track every game released for console, PC and dedicated portable game systems in 2016, I am fairly confident that the total is over 1,600 and possibly as high as 2,000 (US.) According to research firm, SuperData, the total dollars spent on PC and Console gaming, worldwide, was close to $70 billion. These are some BIG numbers (not completely believable/verifiable… but BIG.) While every gaming website is now in the process of giving you their “Best Of” for the past year, I have always thought that these compilations were bogus. No matter how big the site, they simply can’t cover all of the games released, and those that they do cover are split up among a handful of editors/game reviewers.
So, while they may have fairly educated opinions, they are just that – opinions – based on those games that they did play and ignoring the ones which they did not. So, at the end of the day, what they are really giving you is their list of favorites – not the “Best.” My list is admittedly very personal, but I believe no less educated. While I estimate that I probably played 200 or so of the new games on offer for the various platforms in 2016, I have whittled that down to the 25 that I enjoyed the most in 2016. The list is chronological and not based on any empirical rating system. In addition, there are games, like Civilization VI, that are from genres that I simply do not play – if it has anything to do with “RTS,” “turn-based,” or “world-building,” I am out. So, no matter how great they might be to those that enjoy that particular genre, they are not going to make my list.
They’re what I like, because they’re what I like – no definitive recommendations made and no apologies offered. I am guessing, however, that a number of these can be found on your lists as well.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC)Publisher: Square-Enix Developer: Crystal Dynamics/Nixxes
Although released originally in 2015 for Xbox One and Xbox 360 (and my favorite game of 2015), I couldn’t wait to come back to Ms. Croft’s latest adventure when it was released on PC in January. Why? Well, first of all, it’s a great game that deserves to be played more than once. Secondly, Nixxes, the developer responsible for the PC port, was kind enough to patch the game for Stereoscopic 3D. SOLD! You haven’t lived as a gamer until you have experienced ROTTR in breathtaking 3D!
Firewatch (PC)Publisher: Campo Santo Developer: Campo Santo
February saw the release of this compelling Indie title and the story, sense of isolation and developing relationship between your character and the mysterious woman at the other end of your radio combine to make Firewatch one of my most memorable gaming experiences of 2016.
SUPERHOT (PC)Publisher: SUPERHOT Team Developer: SUPERHOT [...]
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 [...]
Are you ready for some football? Apparently, at least 250,000 US-based humans that purchased the game during the week ending 9/3/16 are, as the PS4 and Xbox One versions of “Madden NFL 17” hold down the first and second spots on the latest VGChartz Top 10 list (USA.) Madden NFL 16 sold roughly 7.5 million units worldwide. The 2015 version sold roughly 7 million. As of 9/3/16, Madden NFL 17 has sold approximately 1.3 million units. Will it hit the 7 million + figure as its two predecessors did? Hard to say – the prior two years, the Gen 7 SKU’s did fairly well. Out of the gate, it doesn’t look like that same set of circumstances will apply to the Gen 7 models of 17, as they are barely making an impact at retail. So, the Gen 8 versions will have to carry their weight, and then some, to match prior years’ performance. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on the under.
Best-Selling Games (USA) for the Week Ending 9/3/161. (PS4) Madden NFL 17 2. (Xbox One) Madden NFL 17 3. (PC) World of Warcraft: Legion 4. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 5. (PS4) Doom 6. (3DS) Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire 7. (PS4) Resident Evil 4 HD 8. (Xbox One) Gears of War 9. (PS4) Attack on Titan 10. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V
A 30 Second Spot with No Gameplay Until the 20 Second Mark? I Love When a Game Believes Itself to Be a Cultural Phenomenon!
Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, when Sony’s PlayStation division introduces a new piece of hardware, you can bet that there is going to be a promotional tie-in with Taco Bell. In my eight years at SCEA, I saw it over and over again – PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4… every hardware introduction seemed to come with cheese and re-fried beans on the side. In truth, it was a little embarrassing. I ran the advertising business for PlayStation and did not have anything to do with promotions, but I always wondered what was going on in their world… I mean… it’s PlayStation for cryin’ out loud – can’t we find just ONE other promotional partner, or are we going to have to make another run for the border?
Or, in other words – Mi no quiero Taco Bell!
I suppose the school of thought adhered to by both parties is that the combination of a sedentary hobby and the consumption of high calorie, high fat food go together like an unemployed 20-something male and his mom and dad’s basement. So, this is a natural fit, right? Why worry about diabetes and heart disease when you can enjoy a Doritos Taco and a Mountain Dew while sitting on your ass for hours at a time playing insert game name here?
Now, we have the pending introduction of PlayStation VR and the two companies are at it again… “Buy a $5 Big Box and be entered to win a PSVR!” The difference is that this might finally be a cross promotion that the American Heart Association can get behind. At least with PSVR, there is the opportunity to stand up, move around, run in place and trip over the cable tethering the headset to the PlayStation 4 – that could burn off a few of those Big Box calories!
And, success with this promotion might open a few doors for other products from Sony Interactive Entertainment. The “PlayStation 4 Pro” was recently introduced and received a rather tepid reception. It could use a good promotional push and I think I have the perfect idea…
We’ve all seen the pictures of PS4 Pro – it’s a triple-decker, right? Say it with me… “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun!” Somebody in SIE Promotions reach out to Mickey D’s and make it happen! (Ping me if you need a contact!)
Sigh… I Weep for Humanity!
Below, you will find the forecast that I ran last week for “No Man’s Sky.” Since this was published, a virtual firestorm of hate has engulfed the title – from both PC users, who are furious with the game’s technical issues at launch, and, more importantly, from those that have actually played the game (be it on PlayStation 4 or PC.) Why is the response from consumers who have actually played the game more important that the opinions of the thousands upon thousands that have put down their cash only to be given the high hard one? Because (one would assume) the developer will eventually sort out the technical issues, what they are far less likely to fix is the game’s biggest problem.
It is boring…
Sure… we get it… infinite galaxy, randomly generated celestial bodies… yada, yada, yada. But, it seems the economics “Law of Diminishing Returns” is at play in NMS. The more you play it, the less likely you are to want to play it. Metacritic has the game (PS4 version) sitting at a score of 70 – no doubt skewing higher than it normally would almost one week after release as a result of most reputable gaming sites not yet posting scores. The user score, however, is a 4.9 – not good. Adding to that, Steam currently shows almost 30,000 (!) negative reviews. While most of these are because of the aforementioned tech issues and the resulting rage that they have induced, the rest are all talking about how the game is no different in hour 20 than hour one.
It seems my concerns were justified – concerns that I had back when I was at SCEA and that I voiced on numerous occasions behind the hallowed walls. After all the hype and all of the money – taking an Indie game and trying to convince the gaming public that it had actually evolved into a $60 AAA title – we are left with the realization that No Man’s Sky should probably have stayed “Indie,” SIE should have tapped the breaks on the marketing BS, and the game should be selling for half of its current price.
Which it no doubt will be doing within a few weeks…
No Man’s SkyPublisher: Hello Games Developer: Hello Games Release Date: 8/9/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC/Steam Price: $59.99 Forecast: Huge expectations… will be difficult to deliver on the promise
If nothing else, the release of “No Man’s Sky” is going to be an interesting study in marketing, PR and how the industry and consumers define an “Indie” game. It is easy to forget that a few years back, Hello Games’ baby was the darling of E3, the gaming media and the independent development scene. Then, the hype machine kicked into high gear, Sony and PlayStation got behind it and started pushing the vision. Then, the legend grew, as did the game’s scope and media and consumer expectations. With that growing legend and expectations [...]
In all honesty, there really is only one game releasing next week that is demanding of our attention. “No Man’s Sky” has been the subject of more hype than any “Indie” game released to date. Of course, it really isn’t an Indie game any longer, is it? With a $60 price tag and the full backing of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Hello Games’ space opus has made the transformation to full-fledged AAA experience. With media and consumer expectations running very high on this one, it seems like it will be almost impossible to live up to those expectations, but we’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?
No Man’s SkyPublisher: Hello Games Developer: Hello Games Release Date: 8/9/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC/Steam Price: $59.99 Forecast: Huge expectations… will be difficult to deliver on the promise
If nothing else, the release of “No Man’s Sky” is going to be an interesting study in marketing, PR and how the industry and consumers define an “Indie” game. It is easy to forget that a few years back, Hello Games’ baby was the darling of E3, the gaming media and the independent development scene. Then, the hype machine kicked into high gear, Sony and PlayStation got behind it and started pushing the vision. Then, the legend grew, as did the game’s scope and media and consumer expectations. With that growing legend and expectations came a thoroughly unexpected, and un-Indie, price tag. $59.99 is what we pay for huge AAA Batman, Uncharted, Halo, etc. games, not “Indie” titles. Will the weight of the “Sky”-high expectations and the lofty price tag conspire against No Man’s Sky, or will it deliver the Star Wars/Star Trek endless universe fantasy that has been heavily pitched and that is now expected? As of this writing, only one person, who reportedly spent $1,300 for the privilege, has expressed a negative POV… but he really doesn’t know. Hopefully, those of us who cough up 60 bucks won’t feel the same…
This is the No Man’s Sky “Survive” Video – Hopefully, the Game “Survives” Consumer and Media Expectations!
The WestPublisher: IVO Developer: IVO Release Date: 8/12/16 Platforms: PC/Steam Early Access (Full release expected mid-2017) Price: NA Forecast: Too early to tell…
First-person survival games are a dime a dozen and very few hold any level of interest for me. That being said, “The West” is set in America’s western expansion period in the 1800’s and I have always been a sucker for the classic Western (usually starring “The Duke” – John Wayne… look it up) – so I am going to give this one a try. According to the developer, this release is in an Alpha state and they will be working on it for close to another year before it’s [...]
According to the developer, the word “ABZU” is an amalgamation of two words form “the oldest mythologies” – “AB” – meaning “water,” and “ZU” – meaning “to know.” After playing for about an hour, I can tell you that I haven’t a clue as to what the plot/ultimate goal of this third-person underwater adventure is all about. What I do know is that it is absolutely stunning, graphically, completely calming, sonic-ally, and an exploration adventure that shouldn’t be missed. More than anything else, my take is that the game, like “Journey” and a few others, is meant to evoke a sense of awe and wonder and to be enjoyed simply for the world that the developer has created. While I am not far enough along to know how the journey evolves or how it will end, it seems that I am on the path to discovering some ancient human civilization buried under the sea as I follow a lone shark and acquaint myself with a wide variety of ocean-dwelling species. As I move deeper and deeper into the ocean’s depths, all signs seem to be pointing toward some sort of lost world of “Atlantis.” In any event, no matter where this journey leads, I can tell you that I am already enjoying the ride immensely. Check out the video below to see some of what I have discovered in the 30 minutes or so of the game.
ABZUPublisher: 505 Games Developer: Giant Squid Release Date: 8/2/16 Platforms: PC/Steam, PlayStation 4 Price: $15.99 Initial Impressions: Beautiful, calming, unique, excellent control, sense of wonder, emotional
ABZU Presents a Unique Look, Feel and Sense of Place… Absolutely Stunning!
Double Fine Productions knows crazy. They have made the development of crazy video games a cottage industry. In their latest, “Headlander,” you play as a disembodied head (the last known human/head in the universe) in outer space – a world where a computer (Methuselah) rules over human minds that have had their thoughts transferred into “robotic impostor bodies” and the vibe is decidedly 1970’s (for you youngins’… disco, CB radios, VHF/UHF, the colors brown and orange, avocado kitchen appliances, bell-bottoms, the Bee Gees… look it up.) Your head can switch from host body to host body, fly around on its own, use its built-in vacuum to pull off other bodies’ heads and land on all different manner of objects – and this is just in the first hour of the game. In addition, when you are securely fastened to a host body, you can run around, fire lasers, roll through low openings, etc. The game itself is what is currently described by the gaming media and core gamers as “Metroidvania” – an amalgamation of the franchises/words “Metroid” and “Castlevania.” Loosely translated, this means a game that scrolls along both the X and Y axis’ where there is much emphasis on backtracking and exploring. The bottom line in Headlander, no matter how you define the category of game that exists within, is that it is inspired lunacy (see below for almost 15 minutes of it.)
HeadlanderPublisher: Double Fine Productions Developer: Double Fine Productions Release Date: 7/26/16 Platforms: PC/Steam, PlayStation 4 Price: $19.99 Initial Impressions: Hilarious, fantastic retro ’70’s sci-fi vibe, tight gameplay and control – a little easy to get lost in the chaos
Headlander is… Well, it’s… No… it’s Like… No… Well, it’s Totally Nuts!
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 [...]
It was seven years ago this week that EA and Bright Light Studios released “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” – a game that has few fans among the gaming media. While the Lego Harry Potter games are the easy choice for HP fans, that doesn’t mean that the less well thought of games are without merit, and HBP is case in point.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrincePublisher: EA Developer: Bright Light Studios Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PC Release Date: June 30, 2009 Worldwide Sales: 2.2 Million Units Metacritic Rating: 64
There is so much that is wrong with EA and Bright Light’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that you are likely surprised that I am even bothering to discuss it at all. The gameplay is repetitive. The voice acting is spotty, with the young woman voicing Hermione Granger being particularly irritating. In the attempt to (loosely) follow the film’s plot, the game’s pacing becomes stilted and unintentionally comical. And, in spite of relying on the source material, there are holes in the plot that shatter the narrative to pieces.
So… why is it my favorite (non-Lego) Harry Potter game? Because the one thing that the developer got right, they got very right – Hogwarts Castle itself. If you can manage to ignore the rinse-and-repeat nature of the dueling, potion making and Snitch chasing, and instead focus on exploring Hogwarts and making use of the various Charms at your command to secure the 150 Hogwarts Shields scattered throughout the castle, and accomplish the various tasks that require you to trod across the hallowed grounds, you can have a very good time based solely on the sense of discovery.
While Bright Light did make an attempt at building Hogwarts in their previous HP game – “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” it was incomplete and featured a camera that failed to immerse you in your surroundings, but that instead made you feel detached from them. In HBP, the third-person camera effectively tracks Harry (and Ron and Ginny, as you play as each of them for a short time) as you hold down the right trigger while manipulating your controller’s right stick (all console versions with the exception of the Wii.) There is no loading as you navigate the castle and it is beautifully rendered. While the story has been altered to allow for the idea that Aurors have closed access to certain parts of the castle when the game begins, eventually all areas become accessible and the whole of it is as big and meandering as you have been lead to believe by the films and books (neither of which ever had to actually build the fictional castle in its entirety, BTW.)
If you are a gamer (of course you are – why else would you be here?) and a fan of all things HP, I encourage you to seek out any of the Gen 7 console versions of the game, or the PC version (all available [...]
I’m pumped. This week is highlighted by the release, on just about every available platform, of “Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Those of us who prefer single player games finally have an Episode 7 game to sink our teeth into (no offense to the Disney Infinity Playset, which I quite enjoyed, and a little offense to “Star Wars: Battlefront,” which was lacking on the SP front.) In addition, we have the return of a classic JRPG franchise in “Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness,” and some more post-apocalyptic mayhem set on two different planets. Ooh… I wonder if they will include zombies and crafting? Jebus knows we’re seriously lacking games with those particular feature sets!
Lego Star Wars: The Force AwakensPublisher: WBI Developer: TT Games Release Date: 6/28/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, Vita, PC/Steam Price: $49.99 ($39.99 for PC/Steam version, $29.99 for 3DS and Vita versions) Forecast: The Force is with it – power of two suns
I love Lego games. I love Star Wars. So… what’s not to love about the coupling? The best Star Wars movie since Episode 5 meets those lovable little bricks, and I couldn’t be happier. Question of the day – does this game sell better than EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront (11 million units plus whatever it did on PC through Origin?) It might not, but I’ll bet that the customer base for Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be a lot happier with their purchase!
Who’s Your Daddy Kylo…Who’s Your Daddy?
7 Days to DiePublisher: Telltale Games Developer: The Fun Pimps Release Date: 6/28/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC/Steam Price: $29.99 (Currently $9.99 for PC/Steam Early Access in their Summer Sale (original EA release date: 12/13/13)) Forecast: Hoping to survive… but death likely coming
After 2-1/2 years in Steam’s Early Access program (as of this writing, the game has not come out of EA and there is no timetable for it – I would assume on the same day it releases for Gen 8 consoles, but just an educated guess at this point), this survival/crafting/zombie game makes its way to console gamers. While the game has received positive reviews from the Steam community, it’s extended stay in EA purgatory should be of some concern, as is the fact that there are so many of these survival games available in the marketplace that they should be given away for free when you fill your gas tank.
Only 4 More Days Until We Have 7 Days to Die!
Star Ocean: Integrity and FaithlessnessPublisher: Square-Enix Developer: Tri-Ace Release Date: 6/28/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4 Price: $59.99 Forecast: Appealing to a fervent minority
It’s been seven years and a console generation since we’ve [...]
It has been over four years since Sony’s Bend studio (named after the city in Oregon that they call home) has published anything (the excellent and very underrated “Uncharted: Golden Abyss” for PlayStation Vita.) After all this time, they finally have announced their next project… a post-apocalyptic, humans becoming beasts third-person shooter entitled “Days Gone.”
Really? Good god… how many of these are developers going to keep cranking out? I mean… no offense to Bend – they have always been one of my favorite studios and I have a lot of personal history with them, going back to when they were known as “Eidetic.” But, this genre is just so played out at this point in time. Sure, there have been a couple of titles that have achieved “hit” status (“The Last of Us” comes immediately to mind), but there have been many, many more that have sunk without a trace.
While I wish them the best of luck, I don’t see the logic in delivering yet another game in this overcrowded vertical. Wait a minute… Naughty Dog creates “Uncharted,” Bend creates an off-shoot. Naughty Dog creates “The Last of Us” – Bend replicates the feat… I see a pattern developing here!
The First Thing to Disappear After an Apocalypse? Razors!
Wow! Insomniac has been BUSY! They just delivered the critically-acclaimed reboot of the beloved “Ratchet & Clank” franchise, followed by their first foray into virtual reality with the Oculus-exclusive “Edge of Nowhere” (also excellent.) And, the first fruit of their partnership with Gamestop’s “GameTrust” initiative is scheduled to release in the next few weeks, in the form of “Song of the Deep.”
Apparently, all of this is not enough for the developer, as they have announced their first game based on a licensing partnership – “Spider-Man.” No release date yet, and the game is not tied to the upcoming film, but would make sense to release it around the same time – so I would look for it next Summer.
Insomniac Looks to Give Peter Parker the Rocksteady Treatment in 2017
Uh… OK – this is one I wasn’t expecting.
We all knew that PlayStation’s “God of War” franchise wasn’t going to disappear after the destruction of Olympus and those crazy cats that called the mountain home – just as we know that Uncharted 4 is not going to be the end for the thief. There is simply too much money being generated by these franchises for Sony to bid them hasta la vista.
But, to see Kratos grow a beard, become a father and move to the frigid Scandinavian climate to (one would assume) do a little dance with the Norse gods while he deals with his anger management issues? What’s next… skinny jeans and Adele? And, a major technical change has occurred that you might notice when watching the trailer below – for the first time in the series, the game employs a user-controlled, third-person camera.
While no release date was given, Sony is VERY predictable in these matters – you can bet on the game releasing in Q1 2017 – likely end of February to mid-March (gotta make fiscal.)
Is it Just My Imagination, or Has the Frigid North Made Kratos More “Ghostly?”
Uncharted 4 continues its ride at the top of the VGChartz this week, while “Homefront: The Revolution”makes its way into the Top 10 on both PS4 and Xbox One. In addition, the PlayStation 4 claims seven of the Top 10 titles – once again asserting its market dominance and reminding us that, in Gen 8, the most significant aspect of this generation’s “console war” is that there hasn’t been one.
Best-Selling Games (Global) for the Week Ending 5/21/161. (PS4) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 2. (PS4) Doom 3. (PS4) Homefront: The Revolution 4. (Xbox One) Doom 5. (3DS) Fire Emblem Fates 6. (PS4) Valkyria Chronicles 7. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 8. (Xbox One) Homefront: The Revolution 9. (PS4) Ratchet & Clank 10. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V
The Thief May Have Ended, but Uncharted 4’s Market Dominance Has Not!
Ubisoft has announced the 11-15-16 availability of “Watch Dogs 2,” the sequel to their often-maligned, but Metacritic approved (80) and strong selling (over 9 million units across six platforms) third-person shooter/action-adventure released in 2014. Like a number of games set to debut at E3 this year, information started to leak out a few days ago, and the publisher soon followed with the official announcement. You would think that, with all of the hacking expertise that developer Ubi Montreal must possess to author a game where the skill set is central to the experience, they would be better equipped to prevent leaks like this.
San Francisco Welcomes You and Big Brother is Watching You!
As expected, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End launched like a rocket – moving almost a million units in its first week of availability in North America, according to the VGChartz Top 10 list (and including digital projections.) And, also as expected, id’s “Doom” reboot had a solid debut, moving over 300,000 units at brick-and-mortar across the three available platforms (VGChartz does not include digital) and another 600,000 through Steam (according to steamspy.)
Best-Selling Games (North America) for the Week Ending 5/14/161. (PS4) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 2. (PS4) Doom 3. (Xbox One) Doom 4. (PC) Doom 5. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 6. (Xbox One) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 7. (Xbox One) Gears of War 8. (Xbox One) Tom Clancy’s The Division 9. (PS4) Ratchet & Clank 10. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V
It Might Be the Thief’s End – But it is Only the Beginning of the Game’s Market Dominance
I am going to venture a guess that I have died at least 400-500 times over the course of the five hours (rumored to take 6-8 to complete) or so I have spent with “Lumo” – the indie adventure that pays homage to a bunch of classic isometric games of decades past. While I could call on any number of those to which I could compare, I am going to go with Sony Imagesoft’s (the division of Sony that became SCE with the launch of the original PlayStation) “Equinox.” Not because it was better than any of the others of a similar ilk (although I enjoyed its maddening, hair-pulling, teeth-grinding, controller-breaking challenge quite a bit back in the day), but because the woman that was to become my wife was the marketing manager on the title… and Imagesoft had so very few good ones…
LumoPublisher: Rising Star Games Developer: Triple Eh? Platforms: PC/Steam, PlayStation 4 (Soon on Xbox One and PS Vita) Price: $19.99 Release Date: May 24, 2016
I can go from loving Lumo one minute to hating it the next – this has always been the case with games presented from an isometric angle that require a lot of platform jumping, rope swinging, etc. You have to pay attention to shadows produced by your character and the objects in the environment. Unfortunately, at times, environmental objects in Lumo don’t cast shadows. At those times, you are going to die… a lot! For those of you that never experienced games pre-PlayStation that attempted to give the player 3D graphics without the mathematical calculations required to render them, you probably have not experienced the limitations inherent to the isometric point of view. Let’s put it this way – how many have you seen come to market since the advent of monoscopic 3D polygonal rendering in games? That’s right… not many. It was the best developers could do back in the day if they wanted to introduce a third axis into the mix but once they had a better option, they took it – and isometric games kind of went the way of the dodo.
But, with the birth of the “indie” developer, this method of presentation – much like side-scrolling games, is making a comeback. Why? Because it is much cheaper to develop a game this way. There aren’t many indie studios that can afford to give players the full-blown polygonal 3D experience and sell the game for 10 to 20 bucks. So, the renaissance…
All of that being said, and the frustrations that come with the angle of play aside, Lumo DOES bring back the warm fuzzy memories and there is a lot of great, crazy, story makes no sense, “what were they smoking?” gameplay to be had in this world. You can set the game up so you get unlimited lives and helpful checkpoints, so you can mitigate the multiple death frustration to a degree and just let loose on all of the environmental puzzles that you will come across as you make your [...]
Sony recently issued a self-congratulatory statement that it had sold more than 2.7 million units of “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” in the game’s first week of release. Read the fine print, however, and you’ll see that this number represents global sales, not North America. Sony pegs the worldwide sales of the PlayStation 4 console at around 40 million. Which means that a mere 6% of PS4 owners purchased a copy of Uncharted 4… arguably the best exclusive title that PlayStation has to offer. Which means that 94% of PS4 owners did not purchase the game! This begs the question…what are they waiting for?
Sure, not everyone likes the same type of games. Some people just like RPGs, while others only like first-person shooters. There are fans who play Call of Duty or Madden almost exclusively. But Uncharted 4 is hardly the sort of niche title that is inaccessible to the casual gamer. Indeed, the movie-quality acting and story line should appeal to everyone, and both hardcore and casual gamers can adjust gameplay settings to make the game as much (or as little) of a challenge as they prefer. Add near-unanimous critical praise (screw you, Washington Post!) giving the game a high Metacritic, and there is no good reason why more people shouldn’t be buying this game.
So why aren’t they?
Is it the high cost of games? Sixty dollars isn’t exactly a movie ticket, although if you are taking (and feeding) a family of four, it comes close. Compared to other forms of entertainment such as books and music, however, videogames aren’t exactly a cheap hobby. But, historically, the price of videogames has not gone up with inflation. In the 1980’s, the latest 8-bit Atari 2600 cartridges retailed for $40, and I can remember paying $60 for a SNES cartridge in the 1990’s. On the other hand, there wasn’t a used game market back then, or digital outlets undercutting each other. So, perhaps there are a number of people wanting to play Uncharted 4 who are willing to wait a few months to purchase a used copy for less – or to wait for the inevitable price drop.
Is it the large volume of games available? The complaint developers have against the Apple Apps Store is that there are so many games available that it is difficult for titles to stand out and get noticed. The PlayStation Store, with its weekly release of forgettable downloadable titles, is starting to follow that trend. But Uncharted 4 is not an indie, download-only title from a small studio with little or no marketing budget. Indeed, Uncharted 4 commercials are appearing on prime-time television. Given that sales will start to dramatically decline following the first-week, it is likely that Uncharted 4 might end up shipping 4-5 million units. How does that compare to other titles in recent gaming history?
Naughty Dog’s own Crash Bandicoot titles sold 5, 6 and 7 million units on the original PlayStation. The first Metal Gear Solid on PS One sold around 7 million [...]
Sony Expects Great Things from PlayStation 4 in 2016
Sony Corp just released their FY 2015 Consolidated Financial Results, as well as their FY 2016 Consolidated Financial Forecast (can be found here.) If you rifle down to page 10 of the PDF, you will see that they are projecting that they will sell 20 million units of PlayStation 4 hardware in their fiscal year ending 3/31/17. If this comes to pass, it would be an extraordinary achievement – effectively doubling their already robust user base of over 40 million to a total of 60 million PS4’s sold in its first 3+ years of existence. Can they do it? Well… I wouldn’t lay any money on it – that is a pretty tall order, but I suppose it could happen. Maybe they are counting on all of us early-adopters to cough up for the rumored PS4.5…
Is GT Sport One of the Games that Helps Push 20 Million Units this Year?
Overwatch Makes 2K and Battleborn Cry Like a Little Girl
The evidence that there are entirely too many games competing for the attention of consumers continues to mount as 2K Games, a mere two weeks after the game’s launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, has dropped the price of their online FPS, “Battleborn,” from $59.99 to $39.99. This $20 price drop comes just as Blizzard’s competing “Overwatch” hits the market. 2K would be well-served to do a “Definitive Edition” of the game at the same time. I mean… why not? They could include a free white flag with every purchase. And… two weeks?! They should allow for a recall for all consumers who purchased the game at launch. If 2K doesn’t do something, what are the odds that they will EVER be able to get consumers to make a day-one purchase again?
Two Weeks on the Market and a 33% Markdown? Thanks for Playing… Get Out the Abacus and Total the Red Ink!
Why Doesn’t Batman: Arkham Origins Get Any Love?
WBI recently announced that a Gen 8 collection of Rocksteady’s two Gen 7 Batman: Arkham games will be available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One near the end of July. “Batman: Return to Arkham” includes slightly sharper version of “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and “Batman: Arkham City,” plus all of the associated DLC. My question is – where the hell is “Batman: Arkham Origins?” I understand that Rocksteady didn’t develop it (WB Montreal had the honor.) I realize that the game wasn’t as well-received by critics as the first two (although I strongly disagree with that general opinion – I LOVED Origins and will risk committing heresy by stating that it features the best story of the three and some of the coolest boss fights to be found in the trilogy.) And, yes, it is a trilogy! In chronological order, Origins should kickoff the [...]