Welcome to another issue of Currents, where industry headlines are broken down and editorialized. I hope life has been good on your end as we head into the tornado of fake E3 leaks. Yes, it is E3 time once again. As yearly tradition dictates, we'll be forced to ask two questions: whose showcase will be the best this year, and is E3 even relevant anymore? The jury is out on both, but we can all agree that internet reactions are awfully hilarious.
I honestly can't wait to see the troll comments this year.
If I could ask you readers some questions this week, they would be:
- What was your favorite announcement (good or bad) from previous E3s?
- Should we get our hopes up for anything this year?
- Is E3 still the best gaming event or is it overplayed now?
Publishers of video games hear my plea: I believe it is finally time we moved onwards towards greener pastures. In this case, those pastures are actually next generation consoles. Allow me to elaborate. I'm completely aware that the PS4, Wii U, and Xbox One have each sold over five million units. There's no doubt in my mind that these platforms have already developed an audience, and that audience is likely enjoying each system for what it can offer. Unfortunately, right now they can't really offer a lot (at least not much that is genuinely new).
I, like many other video gamers, want to purchase a next generation console. I have the money and I have the time. I do not, however, have a good reason yet. We're in that weird spot right in-between generations where AAA titles and sports games are being released for both current and next generation systems, with only marginal improvements for the latter. None of the next generation exclusives that have already been released have looked promising enough to make me pull my wallet out, and each of these systems are weak in third-party support. That isn't our fault though — I blame publishers.
I understand releasing games on multiple platforms in order to try and grab the most audience, but I also know that it's holding us back. By developing games with two very different tech specs in mind, you inevitably end up aiming for the middle. You can't push the PS4 or Xbox One to their absolute limits if your end goal is to also have the game playing on their predecessors (which have 1/16 of the RAM). It just isn't possible — which isn't to say they don't try.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is a good example of this. Touted as being "the first next gen Call of Duty," the game came and went with more of a whimper than a bang. PS4 and Xbox One players complained that the game "didn't feel next gen" as it suffered from numerous frame rate drops, and graphical tearing was a regular issue. The game also appeared to suffer from COD "Copy-Paste" syndrome, in which older low resolution assets from previous titles were lazily reused. Ignoring the problems with the gameplay (namely, the awful spawning system), the presentation of this game really left a bad taste in the mouths of gamers who chose to pony up $400-500 for their shiny new system. The game's presentation was then downgraded for the PS3 and Xbox 360 iterations, with clipping and tearing issues remaining, so that current gen players could be disappointed too.
Again, we're stuck in this limbo where publishers can't decide whether to move on and support a system with a lower install base or continue supporting systems that are dying out. It's doing no favors for the quality of their games and I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I'm tired of it. I don't want to play a game that was released on the PS3 or Xbox 360 on my pretty new console.
New consoles need new games that justify that console's existence — and not just new games that are first-party. Mario Kart 8, inFAMOUS: Second Son, and Dead Rising 3 are all lovely games. I'm sure that the owners of next generation consoles very much enjoy them. But what we need is a solid focus from all publishers on moving on and utilizing these advanced platforms to their fullest potential. It needs to happen. It's time that it did.
It's the most wonderful time of the year. Video game outlets big and small are reporting all types of crazy nonsense that will supposedly be on full display at E3 2014. Did you know that Final Fantasy XV is going to be playable? Did you know that The Last Guardian is going to be re-announced for the PS4? Oh, how about the fact that there is going to be a Castlevania: Symphony of the Night 2 and that it will be coming out exclusively on the 3DS? Or that a new Banjo-Kazooie is coming to the Xbox One? At some point you have to wonder when the madness is going to stop.
I'm so tired of NeoGAF users claiming to be industry insiders. I'm so tired of people taking a break from their normal DeviantArt works to photoshop fake game cases of unannounced games and present them as real. Are people on the internet so messed up and starved for attention? Do they somehow not realize that lying about these things is not a smart long-term move, as they're easily invalidated?
Here's a quick list of what's been promised for this year's E3:
Syphon Filter: Kill Strain
Heavenly Sword 2
The Last Guardian
Beyond Good & Evil 2
Star Wars: KotOR III
God of War IV
Xenogears: Origins (Seriously? Pretty sure Square still has that trademark)
The Legend of Zelda: Shard of Nightmare
Yeah. Good luck getting all of these games at E3. Why get people's hopes up? What is the point?
Things are changing over at Microsoft, and as usual that means a few changes for the Xbox division as well. No longer is a Xbox LIVE Gold subscription necessary for streaming, Games With Gold is expanding to Xbox One, and Kinect 2.0 is finally being unbundled from the core Xbox One console. Some see this as a welcome change. Others treat it as a threat towards innovation. Personally, I'm of mixed feelings. The lower price tag should be a nice selling point for the console and more power could hypothetically be harnessed now that the Kinect isn't attached to the console's hip like a conjoined twin. Plus, fans may be able to buy Kinect if they want it. That being said, Kinect was supposed to set the system apart through innovative gaming and now the Xbox One is just going to be another box that plays games. Worse, it's going to be another box that isn't as powerful as the PS4 and doesn't implicitly offer something to set itself apart.
Explaining why and how this happened to Forbes, Xbox's Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Yusuf Mehdi maintained that it was a fan-driven decision. "[...] for years now we've been trying to be very customer focused, looking to our fans and taking their feedback. You can track all the way back to E3, where after we got out we had a lot of good feedback about how you can play games, used games, and online connectivity. We've been very responsive, and this is consistent with that approach."
That's all well and good, but it doesn't change the fact that Xbox One is losing ways to set itself apart from its competition — not that Yusuf didn't have a response to that assertion. "We've got the best games line-up. We had the best games line-up this past holiday if you talk to most experts in the games industry. [...] We have had the best multiplayer gaming system in this space for many years with Xbox Live Gold. We've really set the standard. [...] You still get Xbox One as an input one device where you can still watch live TV, do two things at once, input switch. A lot of the things you do with entertainment you just can't even do on other systems. [...] finally you can still add on Kinect to create all these additional experiences with voice commands, biometric recognition, recording gameplay and more."
I have some problems with these statements. Firstly, saying things like "we've got the best games" or "we've have the best multiplayer" is
kind of subjective exactly subjective. Good on him for standing by the system he markets, but these aren't facts about the Xbox One so much as they are opinions. Also, how many people are using the Xbox One as an input device? Canada, Europe, and Australia have basic streaming but only a small fraction of the content. I don't see Xbox delivering on the promise of an "all-in-one entertainment device" in any location other than the US. So really, in analysing his response, I don't see any clear differentiators outside of Xbox One exclusives and the difference between Xbox Live and PSN. Which is bad.
Regardless, the Xbox One has changed. Time will tell if it is for the better or not, but it is clear to me that Microsoft is going to have to continue to work hard to set the platform apart. Maybe they should start by removing that awful ID@Xbox parity clause.
As originally reported by The Verge, the video game streaming service, Twitch, will be picked up by YouTube owner Google. It has been reported that the service courted a number of potential suitors before it chose YouTube, which it regarded as the best company to help it become "the definitive platform for watching and streaming live video gaming." Although, some would claim it already is.
Interestingly enough, the story doesn't end there. Not only was Microsoft spurned after supposedly offering over $1 billion for the service, but because of Google's preexisting online video streaming dominance the company could be in hot water. It is believed by several news outlets that Google is preparing to be challenged by regulatory bodies, mostly because it could be claimed that combining YouTube and Twitch creates a near monopoly as far as online video media goes. Understandably so, as YouTube boasts more than 1 billion unique users each month (as of March, 2014) and Twitch had around 45 million users by the end of last year. In fact, Twitch has had better traffic in recent months than Facebook, Amazon and Hulu in North America.
The internet is already having a bit of a temper tantrum over this recent news, likely due to privacy concerns and Google's reputation as of late, but this could be a very excellent thing for Twitch. Sure, there is a sneaking suspicion that Google+ will be shoehorned into the service somehow, but if history has taught us anything it's that when companies are acquired by the big G they usually prosper. In my opinion, things would have been far worse if Twitch went with Microsoft. Imagine if your PlayStation 4 suddenly couldn't stream or watch streams? Some would say that wouldn't happen, but I would expect Microsoft to cling to every value add they could at this point. Regardless, time will tell how peachy keen this deal is. Hopefully the service takes more steps forward than back.
Source: The Verge, YouTube, and Twitch
That's it for this issue of Currents. Shout out to Sarah McGarr for the new 'Currents' icon. You'll see another issue again in a couple weeks, but stay tuned to RPGamer for all the latest RPG news, reviews, previews, and interviews.
Your dork from the Great North,
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