Welcome to a new issue of RPGamer's Currents. It's all fun in the sun up here on the sandy beaches of Canada, and the gaming world is finally getting over the mass hysteria of E3 2013. Yes, this E3 2013 featured numerous announcements on a sliding scale of "wonderful" to "a little ho-hum." Former Currents Columnist Emanuel Merino did a swell job for RPGamer at E3 2013 and there is a tremendous amount of excellent content to consume. As such, I won't be spending much time on the event's video game announcements in this issue of Currents. I do, however, implore you to check out RPGamer's event coverage and join the many discussions on our boards.
In other news, Final Fantasy VII was released not that long ago for PC and features a few new things, such as cloud saves (heh, Cloud). Not everyone will be interested in buying the re-release of this PlayStation classic, but I'd think RPGamers would be interested in some of the cool things you can do to mod the title post-purchase (like revamping the graphics and upping the battle difficulty). Check out the video below to see the modded versions and where you can go to get the Tifa's Package Mod (heh, package):
How much sexier do those modded battle sequences look? 86% sexier.
Microsoft has been fumbling the PR ball with Xbox One. Whether you're a fan of Microsoft or not, it's clear that they haven't presented themselves in the best of lights recently. In fact, some of the internet's louder denizens have assumed that Microsoft has stopped caring about what gamers want, for the most part. That or the focus has always been mainstream entertainment users, which isn't a bad thing if you're interested in purchasing a $500 PVR/Netflix player. Regardless, a number of factors have contributed to people feeling left in the cold since the console's announcement.
Of the handful of gaming-related controversies which the Xbox One has stumbled over, the first and most notable was Microsoft's original approach to used games. Game studios apparently make a lot more money when every purchase is a first time purchase, and gamers should feel bad about trying to kill an industry by buying pre-owned instead of new (Cliffy B.'s opinion — not mine). The Xbox One was originally designed to give publishers the option to curb used game purchases by requiring gamers to use a cloud-based licensing system. This system would have made trade-ins complicated at best and impossible at the publisher's discretion, leading to a substantial amount of negative feedback from the public.
Xbox One was also designed to be "always on," which has hilariously become a pairing of words with an extremely negative connotation. If you didn't have an internet connection or happened to live outside of the 21 launch countries, tough nuggets — you don't get to play your $500 gaming device. Microsoft apparently needs to be able to spy on you with Kinect 2.0 at any point, and your rural, internet-less life runs contrary to the Xbox One's ability to become HAL-9000. After even more negative feedback, this feature was also altered to allow for "online spot-checks" which would take place every 24-hours. Much like their used game policy, this was seen by many as a step backwards. After all, why exactly should we support a console which actively tries to remove your agency as a gamer and makes gaming less flexible?
"Xbox, go home."
Then E3 2013 happened. Sony's PlayStation 4 was presented as being more powerful on the inside, sexier on the outside, gaming-centric, playable offline, holding no restrictions against used games, and demanding $100 less. Sony's whole presentation seemed aimed at burying Microsoft in the hole they had been digging themselves into, and the PlayStation 4 seemingly didn't have too much trouble doing so. Granted, Sony could have hopped on the same bandwagon as Microsoft and reinforced these archaic restrictions. Had this have happened, we would have likely accepted that this was the way it was going to be in the future. Thankfully, Sony didn't take that approach and now Microsoft is pulling an Xbox one-eighty (I'm not even sorry).
Microsoft recently reversed its controversial Xbox One policies, "as a result of feedback from the Xbox community." There will no longer be a 24-hour online check and internet won't be required for offline Xbox One games (although initial setup still requires the internet, which means that rural users and users outside the 21 launch countries are still screwed) and there no longer will be used game sharing limitations. You'll be able to lend your games to friends, trade in older titles, and buy pre-owned in this next generation. Well, providing you're still interested in physical media. Digital media, naturally, will only belong to the initial downloader. In my head this all sounds well and good, but have the mean winds of PR really changed?
The company has played its cards. Gamers were "expected" to return to the new Xbox console, which means that Microsoft was happy to piss on gamer hospitality until we loudly told the company not to. The technological mega-giant caved on this ridiculous issue because its policies were seen as an attempt to remove consumer freedom, a lot of passionate gamers became pissed off, and Sony was smart enough to not fall into the same pitfalls. Why people like Cliffy B. are willing to point the finger at the consumer, outside of presumably large paychecks, for "ruining" an industry that apparently "has to" start blocking used games and embracing digital is beyond me.
The "always on" and used game policies made sense from a business perspective (digital media is where gaming is headed, after all), but in the process Microsoft clearly forgot that businesses aren't supposed to exert control over consumers — they're supposed to react to consumer demand. To that end, if the video game industry is so broken that modern publishers can't survive with the used game market intact, applying a cloud licensing band-aid isn't going to fix it. A shift in the way business is done within the industry needs to occur.
Instead of hosting a large event for attendees like Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo happily took to the E3 floor. This decision, coupled with the companyís approach to regular information broadcasts via Nintendo Direct, demonstrates something interesting about modern Nintendo: it donít give a damn what the other guys are doing.
In speaking to CNN, Nintendo's President Satoru Iwata made it clear that Nintendo's strategy remains fundamentally different from its competition — much like the Wii U console is to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. "We just don't care too much about what other companies are doing or are trying to do," he said. "Our primary focus is to think about and actually carry out something which [another] company's hardware can never realise. We are trying to provide consumers gaming experiences that can only be available on Nintendo platforms."
Historically, Nintendo's greatest selling point has always been its first-party titles. While many are impressed by the uniqueness behind the Wii Uís design, it takes more than smart console aesthetics to sell mass units. Nintendo has seemingly realized that the more they compare themselves to Sony and Microsoft, the less magical their next gen effort appears. What better way to differentiate themselves than by going gorilla with their PR efforts?
"The number of hardware selling and the number of people who can experience the unique attractions of the Wii U are going to increase, and thereby the knowledge and the understanding about the Wii U system shall naturally expand," said Iwata. "Starting from this Summer, Nintendo is preparing for a very strong first-party software lineup that people really want to try out. By selling the software, we'd like to expand the hardware sales of the Wii U system. That's our message."
Providing Nintendo focuses on their very strong first party offerings, releases a reasonable amount of high quality games (not just HD remakes of classics), and continues to improve the Wii U software ecosystem and UI, I think the Wii U can bounce back in a big way. Still, that is a tall order to fill.
Avalanche Studios' Chief Creative Officer Christofer Sundberg has been making a lot of noise lately. Last month he defended the initial Xbox One reveal (TV, TV, TV, TV, Sports, Sports, Sports, TV, TV, Call of Duty dogs, TV), stating that the console manufacturer would have lost the attention of media had it been presented as gaming centric (all press is good press?). This month, in the aftermath of Xbox One policy revisions, he's made a point of talking about used games.
The studio founder now suggests that games are resold on the pre-owned market because they are completed too quickly or offer little replayability. "I'm sure it's been an issue but that's because games have been too short," Christofer Sundberg told Edge. "I mean when you can play a game through from 8 to 10 hours, I would return the game too, because there's no reason for players to play it again." Avalanche Studios is best know for the massive, open-world Just Cause franchise and its clear that replayability is a focus for his work. "If you're offering little variation, then there's no motivation for the player to keep that game — unless they want to have a nice bookshelf. That's why we answered that with Just Cause. I go into game stores each week and I always go to the used game boxes — I usually don't find that many [copies of Just Cause]."
Not to steal the wind from Sundberg's sails, but I purchased both Just Cause and Just Cause 2 pre-owned about a month after their respective releases. This wasn't because these games were bad or didn't feature enough replayability — quite the opposite actually. Some people just buy games only to discover that those games are not their thing. I think it's a little naive to blame a lack of replayability for the main reason why gamers shed their games. It's definitely a factor, but sometimes we just buy things we don't like that much.
There was one console manufacturer at E3 2013 that we didnít hear too much about: OUYA. You may attribute this to games journalism being more predicated on traditional consoles or PC releases, but in actuality OUYA wasn't even on the E3 floor. It was outside in the parking lot across the street.
In a bid to be "100 percent open to the public," OUYA opted for a an unorthodox, unofficial E3 presence. Some marketers would cite this as a brilliant move for the console, as it not only spoke to how willingly untraditional the console was but also ensured that it wouldnít become lost on the E3 floor. Others saw this move as being petulant and immature.
PR stunts define consumer perceptions. While the police were shutting down OUYA's operations, across the street, gamers and journalists were huddling into a crowded convention centre. There was a disconnect in how the product was positioned during the event and the impact OUYA wanted to make. Too many people walked away from E3 2013 thinking of OUYA as less of a "disruptive technology" and more of an "industry troll."
This is a newer section of RPGamer's Currents where we take a hard look at some video game industry rumors and attempt to assess how plausible they are. Nothing in this section has been officially confirmed, but who knows which rumors will float to the surface as fact in the future?
Half Life 3, Left 4 Dead 3, and Source 2 in Development?
Thanks to an issue with Jira Software, internal tickets and mailing lists for Valve were somewhat accessible last week. As a result, someone got in and took some screenshots of what could be assumed to be ongoing projects at the company, including: Half Life 3, Left 4 Dead 3, and Source 2. Likelihood? It's possible. There again, who knows if these lists are active? The might have been at one point which were eventually abandoned.
Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun Was a Thing (Still Kinda Is)
Thanks to a certain NeoGAF poster, we've recently become aware of ten canceled Legacy of Kain titles, including a game developed by Climax Studios titled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun. While this project would eventually be canceled by Square Enix, Nosgoth — the recently confirmed multiplayer Legacy of Kain title — recycled the art assets from Dead Sun's single-player. Likelihood? High. Disregarding the fact that this NeoGAF-er has been correct about a lot of things in the past, it would make sense for Square Enix to salvage whatever they could from a project they've already invested in.
Metal Gear Solid V: Conspiracy Theory
A rumour which likely wonít be squashed until the game is actually released: both Kiefer Sutherland and David Hayter will be in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Likelihood? Who knows? It wouldn't be the first time Kojima has fooled us, but it does seem like a lot of effort for a PR stunt.