Can Consoles become the new Master Race?

console-vs-pc

Predicting the Apocalypse of Consoles

Every once in awhile, the subject of video game consoles coming to an abrupt end is brought up. Every few years critics would claim that consoles are on their way out and will be replaced by PCs. Only to be proven wrong when the next generation is released into retail. Some are even being lead to believe mobile will also contribute significantly to the demise of video game consoles, even though they appeal to different target markets. Obviously such statements are open to interpretation. If we are talking dominance in revenues and profits, that is a worthy debate but one replacing the other? A rather sensationalist conclusion. Although many are convinced consoles’ end is a matter of time with PC gaming regaining its crown and the masses embracing the “master race”. But what I don’t see being discussed is whether it could work the other way round. What is to stop consoles – that are gaining more of PC’s main attributes – from sucking substantial market share from the PC gaming market in the near future?

With the market share between PC and console gaming evenly split, it’s hard to see either one gaining a significant lead over the other. Since the beginning it has always been plug-n-play convenience vs. sheer power and performance and neither advantage has had enough pull to create a big enough lead in recent years. This could be about to change as new trends are about to shake up both markets significantly and we will finally learn what matters to consumers the most.

newzoo_global_games_market_revenue_growth_2015-2019-1

Neither market will suffer handheld’s fate

Firstly, every game console has its place, even the near extinct handheld consoles. With Super Mario coming to iOS, the fate of handheld surely lies in the hands of Nintendo. Video Game consoles are dedicated machines and easy to use while PCs are for the enthusiasts who don’t mind tinkering with their machines. These markets will never disappear completely but their market share can experience a heavy downturn similar to their portable cousins. So let’s explore the trends that could contribute to such a scenario.

Trends in favour of home console gaming

The end of traditional console life cycles

Xbox and PlayStation are finally attempting to shorten the product life cycles which would allow their products to close the gap between them and desktops in processing power and gaming performance. Originally, upgrading every 6 years gave PCs too heavy of a lead which may now be mitigated with more frequent releases. This combined with computing power taking longer to evolve would mean consoles have a better chance of catching up. There will always be a gap in graphics, frame rates and performance but the smaller the gap, the less significant it is.

Consoles are not only becoming more powerful but also more similar to PCs in terms of architecture.

Moving to x86 means that Sony and Microsoft can do just this and make their next consoles with newer and more powerful components and still retain the same operating system, online services and games library –  The future of games consoles is evolutionary

The actions of the big console manufacturers is proof they are becoming more aggressive towards stopping consumers adopting PC gaming, hence why PS4 Pro was actually created.

Deeper Customisation, More Freedom

Buzz Light year mod on Fallout 4

The PC modding community has always been the biggest draw with games such as the Fallout series. With them now arriving on consoles, we could be seeing the beginning of a new trend. The best mods eventually arriving on consoles gives gamers more options and access thus providing a more expansive experience. It still has a long way to go but it’s a very exciting prospect that could also prove a great unique selling point for console manufacturers and game publishers. Although whether this gains traction across other games is dependant on the cooperation of the likes of Sony.

Frame rate vs Resolution

NiOh Alpha Demo Resolution Framerate Modes

Recently with the PS4 exclusive – NiOh alpha demo – there was an option for players to select between framerate and resolution. Also with the PS4 Pro, you can select such settings on Tomb Raider. If this becomes the norm with new AAA titles, it would potentially put to bed the heated discussions over what developers should prioritise with the limited power of consoles. By putting the decision in the hands of gamers, they can both empower them and also confirm what IS their preference if given the choice. Consoles are becoming more sophisticated at fitting the needs of gamers with attention to detail. An advantage that is known to be mainly reserved for PCs.

Neglecting the Master Race

You would think developers working on multi-platform titles would give PCs their best work. I mean they do love demoing on these high-spec machines during conferences. However this has not stopped Steam being plagued with bad ports to PC. No matter how superior PC is for their games, they are still seen as an afterthought to the more profitable console gamers.

It is not surprising if you consider that PC piracy is still an issue in 2016 alongside frugal customers who tend to hold their wallets for Steam Summer Sales. This all means smaller margins for developers and less incentive to deliver a quality product.

Trends favouring PCs

Cross-platform-play means more friends to play with

Rocket League Cross Platform

On the other hand, there is a lot more going for PC gaming. Firstly, cross-play between PC and consoles is officially a thing. A lot of PC gamers will tell you of the frustration of not being able to play with their real-life friends who have consoles. You can now play with your friends and also have access to bigger online communities.

Console games are no longer exclusives

Xbox Play Anywhere 2016

Playstation Now coming to PC is another move by Sony to cater to the PC market. Xbox Play Anywhere may have forced their hand but there is one clear winner either way. With access to the previously forbidden game libraries, it is another reason to not buy a console.

Who knows how far Sony will take PS4’s Remote Play? I wouldn’t write off the idea of streaming directly from the Playstation ecosystem on your gaming machine rather than needing the console itself. Microsoft for example are not shying away from these possibilities so once they lose their market dominance, Sony could be forced to follow suit.

Phil Spencer’s Vision

Head of the Xbox division – Phil Spencer – has a big vision for the future of Xbox that includes unifying Xbox and Windows 10 into one huge gaming platform. Meaning Xbox gamers moving to PC even faster without missing out on Xbox exclusives. This is fine with Microsoft as they have always been more of Software-As-A-Service business and are continuing this company strategy in regards to their gaming division. But their plans are not without resistance. PC gamers may grow uncomfortable with Microsoft’s attempt at dominating both console and PC if the economic benefits favours one heavily over the other.

Virtual Reality could create a new power struggle

Best Virtual Reality Gear

The tech industry is betting big on virtual reality and PC gamers are in prime position to embrace this new gaming experience. If it lives up to expectations, it would warrant investing in the hardware that can withstand high demands of virtual reality. It’s not as if consoles cannot compete effectively but this is completely new territory and forecasting who will win/lose/profit is very difficult. On the flip side, this pushes PC gaming’s price tag back up if VR becomes a must-have requirement.

Verdict – Console will eventually secure a big lead because economics

There will never be one winner but the advantage will eventually swing in one direction. Console manufacturers’ are almost giving away their main advantages over PC while also adopting the best parts of PC gaming. On the other end of things, PCs are becoming more accessible and affordable that may appeal to a growing tech savvy generation. Although if VR were to gain traction, it would prove how expensive the desktop experience can be. Many would say the ball is in the court of the gatekeepers – Sony and Microsoft and how much they wish to cooperate with these new industry changes but how the market moves is even more important. Console gamers remain the most profitable consumers and with everyone driven by economic incentives above all, market will dictate who reigns supreme in the end.

Game sequels are as demanding as their customers

As we all know, long running franchises dominate the game industry. They are the cash cows for AAA publishers while juggling a sporadic relationship with gamers from one sequel to the next. Being emotionally (and financially) invested in them means that we always have a lot to say about them. Actually, moan. We love to moan about them.

When we experience a good game we tend to want a sequel. Then another and it turns into a series. The people get what they want, developers get rich, everyone lives happily ever af-ahh wait. It’s never that simple. Actually it’s a complex request – give me the same thing but slightly different.

The consumer is both demanding and resisting change at the same time but there’s nothing special about that in itself. Although when reflecting on the gaming community’s perception of different game series, it becomes more interesting and outright hypocrital at times. Using examples of the hottest and coldest franchises nowadays, I’ll look at what franchises are doing right and wrong.

The same thing over and over again.

The Soul series hasn’t changed much since Demon Souls. I know, I’ve been there since day one. The fighting style is the same, the game design follows the same concept of progression through shortcuts and an interconnected world design. As a player your approach to the game is the same – watch your enemies move, wait for an opening and overcome. The movesets of the bosses have become familiar and there’s been a lot ofasset reuse throughout the series. The type of the accusation that has been thrown at other franchises.

But the industry isn’t bored of it and praises it critically for doing the same thing over and over again. Why? Because that’s what we want, iterations of the same game. I’m not complaining but from an unbiased view why is this frowned upon in other cases?

Perhaps because 3 is the magic number?

It started with Far Cry 4 then became an on-going joke with Primal. Browsing forums and review comments, you see a lot of comments saying things such as “4 is Far Cry 3 reskinned/ Primal is Far Cry 4.5” which is sort of true. As stated above, this is probably not an isolated case. Putting aside the Ubisoft’s reputation, the series may have been harshly judged in comparison to From Software when it comes to asset re-use. The difference is one is 5 games deep, and the other 3. In my humble opinion, 3 is the magic number. Anything beyond that and you will most likely face similar accusations of repetitiveness. Good thing Miyazaki will close the chapter on no. 3 before the magic fades.

Too much change is bad thing right?

With the open world series facing the same accusations normally directed at its sibling – Assassin Creed – it seems appropriate to touch upon it. Ubisoft has been here before, it’s just this time round people are complaining about watchtowers and animal skinning. So like any good corporate organisation, it decided to innovate its product. With this sequel, changing the setting, time period and story wasn’t enough. So it added a new aspect to the gameplay and Assassin Creed: Black Flag was made.

The game sold and reviewed well but somewhere along the line you couldn’t help hear the groanings of the game being called a Pirate Simulator instead of an “Assassin Creed game”. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It seems some gamers are either very picky about what change they want, don’t know what they want or simply hate Ubisoft. I say that as this same argument has been used against the recent third-person shooter, The Division. Apparently, the lack of stealth, online-only aspect and new premise doesn’t make it a “Tom Clancy game” (I wish I could find the link). The message is clear, people want change but not too much. For me, I loved Black Flag and thought Ubi hit gold ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) with the pirate aspect. The Division also strung a chord with consumers as it has sold a lot already. Whether you are for or against the publisher’s annualised releases, it would be fair to give credit where it’s due when it does actually creatively improve its products.

Uncharted revolution over collection

So I have recently finished the Uncharted Collection in time for the 4th and final installment. Playing it may have actually inspired this blog because frankly, the series is pretty repetitive. I get that it is one long story split over several games but the gameplay is practically unaltered. The only changes I can pick out are more to do with technological improvements rather than creative ones. It feels like Naughty Dog got a free pass amidst the hype of the Uncharted 4.

I guess if the storytelling is good enough gameplay stagnation is irrelevant. It could also come down to the studio’s good public reputation that makes it hard to criticise. Based on this, it seems you can get away with little to no change if you do everything else right. You can assume the same logic will be applied to The Last of Us 2 but do we just want a continuation of a great story and no gameplay changes? Looking at the contrast between the article and the comments section, we are pretty divided on that too.

There’s a risk in change

Change is risky and risk isn’t good business. You will get eaten alive by critics if the change doesn’t come off right regardless of your effort, impacting your sales and profits severely. Because remember, making games isn’t cheap.

I went to a Comic Con in London in 2015 and attended the Batman: Arkham Knight presentation by Rocksteady Studios development team. I was lucky enough to even ask them a question during the Q&A which was “What was the biggest challenge creating the game?”. The response was a long-winded (but interesting) lecture on how they created the Batmobile. During the explanation, you could tell they tried really hard to make it great and when the game was released, it got torn apart. They must have felt very deflated once the reviews came out.

The Batmobile was their big change to keep the franchise fresh. It was the change that defined this installment from the last. They could have given us the same thing but no, they tried something new. I’m not saying it wasn’t a bad move but critically it didn’t pay off (but financially it did – life is good).

Gamers are a tough crowd and they should be if you intend on making profit off them. Publishers will continue to attract criticism the longer franchises go on but hopefully, you can appreciate the complexity of balancing expectations. But hey, if I profited from beating a dead horse, I wouldn’t stop either.

My Gaming Wishlist for 2016

I’m a couple of weeks late as some of my wishes are already starting to come true but anyways this is a list of things I want from the gaming industry this year. 2015 was great and this one has the potential to be even better.

PlayStation VR

PSVR with Controller

For this not to flop. I’m not expecting huge sales figures but I want VR to do well because there is so much potential with this technology. The Playstation Experience tech demo was terrible  and made me feel that maybe we have rushed this process. The Oculus price point wasn’t a good start to the year either but I remaining hopeful that VR can add a new dimension to gaming that’s not another gimmick. The benefits and long term implications, go beyond gaming and can really enrich our lives in many ways. Sony has the biggest install base and a lot of third party support so they are in the best position to be the standard if given enough time, patience and investment.

Horizon Zero Dawn to justify the hype

Horizon Zero Down Flying Dinosaur

Probably the most anticipated PlayStation exclusive of 2016. We have seen promising gameplay trailers and interviews with the staff working on it. And based on initial impressions, this new IP can be another open world for RPG-enthusiasts to get our hands on.

Sony to actually listen to their customers

Better PSN 2016

Even though the console has sold very well, there is still a long way to go. We have had our first outage of the year already from a PS Plus service that has been supplying underwhelming freebies for some time now. It would be great if the platform got a few more Rocket Leagues and Shovel Knights to make up for recent drop in quality titles. Especially as Xbox has seemed more generous with their own service recently.

Also there’s the operating system itself. PS customers have made it very clear (think #BetterPSN) what features us users actually want. We still don’t know whether the survey rumours were true but 3 years into the console’s lifecycle, there’s really no excuse.

Add-ons that are actually worth the price.

Microtransactions are here to stay and will become even more prevalent. You just have to not buy them, okay guys? And we can expect the money spinning manoeuvres to come in even more shapes and sizes. You can definitely get good, bad and ugly DLCs so try not be a sucker and research before you buy. Especially when it comes to the expensive season passes and high maintenance DLC skins.

Episodic games trend done right

Final Fantasy Remake Gameplay

Publishers are coming up with new ways to slice up their game packages in order to increase their revenues. Such as releasing Vanilla like versions only to sell the rest of the game later and now multiplayer-only games  epitomising the business-driven practices of optimising their post-release sales. Now we may be on the verge of another variation in the long list of ways games are being sold to us in bits and pieces.

Episodic games are the new wave spearheaded predominantly by Tell Tales Studio and other niche developers. An interesting one but I can’t really tell whether this could work out. At the end of the day, it’s all about the price point (It’s the economy stupid!). This trend has usually been left to the small-timers but this may change with the Final Fantasy VII Remake potentially being episodic. I’ll hold back judgement but I have this feeling the economics will not weigh in favour of the consumer.

Publishers to stop yearly iterations

Assassin Creed Collection Mock-up

Ubisoft may finally be deciding to take a break from the yearly releases of Assassin Creed. Thank God. Hopefully they will also consider this after releasing Far Cry: Primal which looks like a reskinned FC4. You would think the Call of Duty franchise would follow suit but deep down we know Activision are already developing the next iteration. Black Ops 3 was a great entry and it would be shame if the franchise then produced another flop straight after. Profit will always be important but yearly sequels do not provide the quality gamers demand for full retail priced discs. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction for Ubisoft as a whole so it can rebuild its tarnished reputation. Because as we all know, good will is profitable.

The announcement of The Order 1886 sequel

Order 1886 Fight Scene Beautiful

Yes, it was short and deserved all the criticism it got. It’s unfair to charge people X amount for minimum content regardless of the overall quality but a lot of people enjoyed it. I have personally noticed many reddit posts from players praising it even though it was a glorified demo. When you look outside the lense of a hardcore gamer, you do realise that not everyone wants long ass games (but 20 hours wouldn’t hurt at £40 mate). Having played it myself I really love the concept and believe that there is a decent story worth pursuing.

Anyways that’s it, I’m not asking for too much.  Also more free time to actually play games would be great because my backlog is becoming problematic. What would you like to see in 2016 from the games industry? 

Why Fallout 4 is flawed greatness

FO4 realifeBethesda’s love child is a bit of a mess really. This is game number four and it has barely changed. The bugs have become an on-going joke – where you buy it months down the line fto guarantee an almost-normal gaming experience. Throw in the poor lip sync you can’t really consider this a polished product.The post-apocalyptic wastelands look more depressing with every version that’s released and the graphics could be a lot better. So how the hell did it get so many positive ratings?

I tell you why. Because it’s still bloody awesome.

Wait, what was that first paragraph all about? Well, it was the truth but in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter (that much). Regardless of how bias game journalism has been in this case, you can’t deny the community love in spite of its many flaws. It is still being nominated for numerous awards and happens to be the only thing non-porn related to dent Pornhub’s website traffic. So why do we love the Fallout series so much? Is it overrated? And is the hype justified? For these reasons, I believe it is and will continue to have special place in the heart of the gaming community.

We want to test our survival skills

Walking into FalloutTownEveryday we are told that the inevitable end of the human race is only round the corner. That climate change will destroy civilisation. That World War 3 is inevitable. That if it’s not Ebola then another disease will cause human extinction. Doom days have been prophesied in many forms, from click-bait headlines to theories from paranoid experts. This has been embedded into our imaginations thus we fantasise of how we ourselves would survive a real, global crisis. That is the scenario Fallout 4 provides. It is Day Zero as you exit ‘The Vault’ being one of the few survivors who must start over and survive once again. But rather than feel sorry for yourself, you pick up the stray 10mm pistol and enter the new world.

A fresh start

Leaving The Vault Fallout 4Most of us have many regrets and have already made mistakes in our short lifespan. Upon reflection many of us hope for a fresh start. We all long for a new adventure without the baggage. And then a new Fallout game is released and we can start from scratch without leaving our bedroom. It is game escapism at its best. Besides the odd Deathclaw and the absent nuclear explosion, the setting is realistic enough for us to immerse ourselves until we have the courage to pursue that fresh start in real life. Ahh, technology. What a blessing.

A shooter without the gimmicks

Fallout Mini Gun in ActionMany think the Fallout series has turned from a traditional RPG to a glorified shooter. But this criticism is nothing new as series will always tend to both evolve and digress from their humble beginnings. It’s called going mainstream, an unfortunate reality for day one fans across genres. Anywho, Fallout 4 bucks the trend of traditional shooters unintentionally (just imagine a FO4 multiplayer mode? It would be insane). There’s been this trend with shooting games being too “futuristic”. I felt this quote summed this up.

Most shooters have focused on bleeding-edge technology and the allure of the futuristic. Titanfall pushed things even further from the present, motivating recent FPS games to include extremely fast, augmented movement. The character you take control of in Advanced Warfare or Black Ops III is not so much a soldier as a hyper-lethal cyborg.

Call me old-fashioned but it is then nice to scale back all the technology and be like:

“Hey, here’s a switchblade. You can choose to give it bluetooth, wif-fi and stick it on top of your laser cannon…. Or you can just leave it as it is. A switchblade.”

Also finding the materials and piecing together your own rifle gives the final version more sentimental value. You actually want to name your FO4 weapon, whereas I tend to only want to name my custom loadouts so I don’t confuse myself. Kind of like driving, automatic is easier but nothing beats the feeling of manual gear changing.

Freedom to f*&k with everything

Breaking Bad Meets FalloutThe level of customisation in this game is ridiculous. Every asset can be modified whether it is on PC or PS4. You can spend hours mixing and matching, alternating, changing, editing and modifying stuff. It’s your post-apocalyptic Minecraft. Unlike real life, this world is your oyster and you can do whatever you so please with it.

A good change from swords and dragons

When you think of RPGs you think swords, fantasy and dragons. The genre is filled with open worlds filled with mythical creatures and humans with supernatural capabilities. Something a bit more modern is a nice change. Particularly those who are fatigued by medieval settings or others who want the same deep customisation in an open world without the magic. This is a gap in the market that has been dominated by Bethesda without any clear rivals – albeit Mass Effect, which is sci-fi. Although that is slowly changing with the open world trend happening across many gaming categories.

These are probably the bare minimum in terms of what makes Fallout so amazing in spite of its flaws. So…what makes this series so much fun for you?

Welp. Single Player Campaigns Are Dying Fast.

 

Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six has confirmed there will be no single-player campaign. This is unexpected with an established IP who has always delivered top-notch offline campaign modes in comparison to their rivals. This has been a progressive trend for current-gen consoles, particularly shooter games. There was Titanfall, Evolve and even now the heavily anticipated Star Wars Battlefront.

Soon it’ll be the norm whether we like it or not. We didn’t like DLCs but we’ve come to not only tolerate but embrace them. Maybe gamers will eventually be satisfied with multiplayer-only games….or not.

This trend rubs some gamers the wrong way

Based on what’s discussed on Reddit and the comment sections of IGN, Gamespot & co, we could say people are not very happy about this trend. But in the end gamers will vote with their wallets. Although, I can understand the negative sentiment.

Are AAA publishers cutting their losses?

I would hazard a guess that developing a single-player campaign is way more expensive than the multiplayer mode. Building cinematics, voice acting, custom scripting and large settings to accommodate 5-10 hour long stories requires a lot of investment. Whereas multiplayer modes mainly need custom maps and artificially intelligent bots. P.S. I’m not a game developer so I could be wrong. To me it seems like a cost-cutting exercise rather than giving the players what they want.

From a sceptical gamer’s point of view, the question is – why would publishers charge full price for something that’s taking them half their time and resources? Nowadays gamers have serious trust issues with publishers. It comes with the territory nowadays, especially as a AAA publisher with a bad reputation.

“No one finishes the single player campaigns anymore”

Wolfenstein Proves Single Player Games

There is data that supports the notion that gamers rarely complete single-player campaigns, but does this mean players don’t care about the story? I would partly disagree with the idea gamers don’t care about stories when it comes to shooters. Partly because a lot of first-person shooter narratives are pretty awful and unoriginal. The data would probably show something different if Call of Duty and Battlefield gave us a bad ass – Wolfenstein esque – story that would actually be worth finishing.

While gamers don’t play them as often, I believe if your campaign is compelling enough then it’ll be worth the investment. A good case study is Destiny.

Originally, Destiny was viewed as a MMO with no substance, no story and definitely not worth the time needed to play online. Then with the recent release of the Taken King, we finally have a story. And all of a sudden, the game is scoring ridiculously high review scores from critics. This supports the theory that stories matter even in FPS games with a strong multiplayer element.

They motivate and give players a reason to shoot things. That’s the sort of data analysis, that a few metrics won’t tell you but doesn’t make it any less true.

Value for money

Not everyone has had their feathers ruffled. Many don’t mind this huge omission from Rainbow Six Siege as long as “there’s enough content” in place of it. That’s a fair request from people who simply want value for their hard earned cash. Because without the story, you’re paying for “half the game”. Now that’s debatable because you’ll most likely spend more hours online, on the other hand, you are effectively experiencing half the content. In the end each gamer can work out what’s worth £49.99/ $60.

Some Games need a story, some don’t.

Star Wars Battlefront

In my opinion, Battlefront doesn’t need a story mode because most people are already familiar with the story. After so many movies and previous game entries the main objectives are clear. The universe is familiar enough for players to jump right in. On the other hand games such as Titanfall needed a story. Something to hook players.

Rainbow Six is a strong franchise but its popularity was built on its solo missions. Deciding to get rid of one of the game’s unique selling points is a dangerous move. From a strategic point of view, Ubisoft are sacrificing a major competitive advantage.

No story, no community

Titan fall Online Flop

This is a major issue with new IPs. Probably explains why Evolve didn’t do as well besides its poor DLC policies. Even Titanfall eventually fell flat as people got bored of the bland multiplayer maps, thus there was nothing to fall back on. Even now they’ve resorted to giving the season pass away for free. A good narrative gives games a platform to build on when building a thriving multiplayer community.

When you’re totally reliant on multiplayer you’re taking a gamble. The publishers may be happy to risk it but it’s a different story for paying customers. That level of uncertainty doesn’t sit well with the cautious buyer who rather not be held to ransom by online issues. I mean we are still experiencing online issues to this day, so why should gamers believe you will provide a consistent online service?

Gaming is an experience. What’s an experience without a story?

There are many elements to the gaming experience. The story provides context, emotional investment that motivates the player while multiplayer provides community spirit, competition and replayability. This all comes together into a package to form a disc filled with an experience. When you remove one aspect of that, the package can have less value, it may even devalue what’s left. Something to contemplate.

In Defense of the Shiv

Recently I read an article with an excerpt from a book asking the game industry to grow up. The written piece seemed to make direct comparison between games and movies, claiming the latter was a more artistic form of expression. But overall I felt the author didn’t acknowledge the art in gameplay and made an unfair criticism of gaming as an art form. Here’s one extract for example:

Films have more ‘meaning’ than games

Films are calculated works from start to finish, everything that happens in them matters to the work. Because that’s what art ultimately is. It has a purpose, to communicate something to you. Sometimes something other than what the creator intended comes through, which is fine and speaks to the fluid nature of art as a concept.

And the word “art” is a term that describes a very broad form of expression.You won’t see all the key elements contained within the full package that is a AAA video game have the meaning that a sneeze will in a movie.

The author went on to take apart one of the most adored games of the era – The Last of Us. This was only an excerpt from his book and I believe this was clearly a strategic selection to gain a reaction. While his twitter mentions is currently looking like a civil uprising, I’ve penned my initial thoughts.

You obviously don’t understand gaming as an art.

Journey Is a Work of Art and a Game

Whether gaming is an art is totally subjective. To us gamers it actually doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need to be categorised alongside movies, books and music because the numbers don’t lie. Sales are up, and even more than other ‘art’ industries. But if you want to go there, then fine. Let’s.

I’m not a game designer so I am not skilled with the jargon needed to form a well-rounded argument from a technical point of view but I will attempt to defend gaming against these movie buffs who look down on it.

As art forms these categories have different effects on their audiences. Movies make you cry and feel empathy while games make you sweat, angry and provide a feeling of triumph. So I guess you may struggle to understand why a gameplay element is as significant as the intricate details of a movie setting. No worries though, as we are going to explore the significance of the gameplay element that rubbed this guy up the wrong way.

The Shiv

The item you’ll likely end up crafting more than any other is a shiv, and in a bit of blatant absurdity you’ll need to scavenge four scissor blades and some tape in order to make one. As a mechanic, these shivs are just as logically fragile to me playing the game as they are physically fragile within the game. Why you would need four scissor blades to make a single shiv is a question so silly as to be pointless. There is simply no meaning to be found there beyond their being a gameplay device.

Crafting Shiv From Inventory

Phil Owens essentially thinks the Shiv in the Last of Us is pointless and holds no significance in comparison to a sneeze in a film. I do not doubt that the sneeze is significant in the right context but the Shiv mentioned is very fucking significant. And as an ex-video game critic, I’m disappointed he can’t understand the significance behind the most important weapon in the game.

So let me tell you why the Shiv is important

Joel Stabs Clicker With Shiv

The Shiv is the ultimate weapon against the vile monsters that has driven humanity to the brink of extinction. It is amazing such power is held within a blade pieced together with ingredients so simple as scissors and cello tape. Also what’s fascinating is the rusty and underwhelming appearance of the ONLY thing that can save you before a fatal bite. Call it artistic or not, it’s definitely symbolic.

This isn’t just a knife wrapped in tape, it is your most treasured possession in your inventory. Now consider this for a moment:

How do you feel when you have 0 Shivs left in a cesspit filled with bloodthirsty clickers? Scared, alone and defenseless. All kinds of emotions run wild while you contemplate your anticipated end unless…. you find one half of a pair scissors. Then suddenly you are filled with hope. What else is around? There is a sense of anxiety while searching the surroundings while holding on what hope you have left.

You may not see it but there is an art to creating such dilemmas in the mind of the player.

The Shiv is also a key

Opening the door with the Shiv

A key to possibilities  and new opportunities. Once again scarcity plays a part in your decision making. You are forced to agonise over whether you use your limited resource to gamble on something better. Risk and uncertainty lies behind the door that can only be opened with your trusty Shiv. This isn’t some small throwaway decision, it’ll impact how you will survive your next encounter….

Hopefully you can appreciate the shiv is quite significant. Whether you consider it an art is up to you.

Games do have their flaws as a form of art

Joell and Ellie sititng on the side beautiful relationship

There are many repetitive elements in games nowadays that hinder the experience but please do not misconstrue your lack of effort for lack of art. If you have become accustomed to consuming content (i.e. Netflix) without any input then it is easy to criticise inconveniences in games. But gameplay isn’t easily consumed like movies or based on a linear structure like a normal story in a book.

Gameplay is an art

Embrace the art of gameplay by realising the art in creating conflict and puzzles for players to solve. Traditional definitions of art relate to a form of expression but this doesn’t nearly incorporate the interactivity of gaming. Gaming is a form of art as a way of making the player express themselves rather than imposing your “artistic expression” on them. Games also expose themselves to external input unlike other forms of art you love to compare it to. So respect the craft and respect The Last of Us for turning survival into play, by recreating the apocalypse to a level of immersion a normal movie never could.
And for god’s sake, don’t diss the Shiv.

 

Business Lessons from CD Projekt Red’s Witcher 3 Release

The-Witcher-3-Wild-Hunt-Download-PC-Free-Full-Version-Crack-10-1

CD Projekt Red has had probably the best year – as a gaming studio – with the release of Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. They are front-runners for numerous awards and are expecting to  have a very profitable year. On top of that, they have pretty much won the hearts of gamers in an industry that has been tainted with controversies, one after another of recent.

For those who work on the commercial side of the gaming industry, there is so much you can learn from their valiant efforts. And thankfully they have actually made this easier for you. I recommend everyone who works in Marketing or Business for a gaming company watch this video from 3:53 to 13:05. So you can understand what it is to be in the gaming business selling to gamers because “they are not your everyday consumer”.

A Breakdown of CD Projekt Red Key Takeaways

I have gone a step further and have broken down the wise words of the Managing Director – Adam Badowski – to further emphasise what makes good business practice for gaming. The philosophy of the studio is brilliant and if they continue to follow this, they will not simply remain profitable but will be a brand gamers will grow to love in its entirety.

Give Gamers what they paid for

“Our point of view is that if a gamer spend 60 dollars for a game then that is what he/she has in the box. And he/she doesn’t care about the figures you’ve just heard about, doesn’t care about 3 and a half years work or the amount you invested and so forth. What the gamer wants is the game inside”.
The Order 1886 Cinematic but Gameless. And Bad value for money.

The Order 1886’s Poor Price Point

Gamers do appreciate the effort that goes into creating amazing games but they also want what they paid for. As microtransactions and DLCs become the norm in this line of business, publishers seem to have developed a different perspective of what value for money is to their consumers.

There is no doubt that the production of high-end games will increase even more but no gamer wants a product they cannot afford. As the seller, you must be able to justify the price tag. Ready At Dawn learned this lesson when they packaged a 7 hour long cinematic experience at $60 in a market full of games that offered multiple times the length at the same value.

Witcher 3 on the other hand provided an expansive  and vibrant gaming world with 12 DLCs free of charge.

Understand who you are selling to and respect them

“Now our target audience are the gamers obviously – they are just like us, we respect them for their intelligence and we know they expect the best. A gamer analyses what he/she sees, draws conclusions and looks forward to what is in the next part of the game while also tying it to who delivered the game”
Destiny Taken King Controversy

Bungie’s disregard for Destiny fans’ loyalty

When you are promoting a new sequel, you will have your core fans and the new market you are targeting. Respect should be shown to both because both parties are capable of raising you up as well as bringing you down. It’s a difficult balancing act. The importance of truly understanding who you are selling to cannot be understated.

Something Bungie found out the hard way. Releasing an expansion pack that cost as much as the original game was always going to turn heads. Although what really stuck was that current gamers had to repurchase content they already had.

What happened here was that in a bid to attract new players, Bungie not only neglected those who were already loyal to them but outright disrespected them. Their overall approach was succinctly summed up in the controversial interview that sparked most of the criticism.

Neglect your core audience at your own peril because they are the ones with the power to drive your commercial success. Having your customers turn on you could be as costly as what you look to gain by chasing profit margins.

Be honest

“So the climate of the hype must coincide with the launch of the game. And this is crucial that this communication with the gamer is honest. So when the game is released they don’t feel let down”

I really don’t understand why high profile companies believe they can ever get away with being deceitful. The internet makes it easy for consumers to expose your bad intentions and amplify them. So it goes without saying that honesty is the best policy. And that goes beyond telling white lies. This is about using review embargos up till the release day. This is about rendering PC graphics in trailers for consoles. Particularly in the gaming industry, the sales cycle is longer than the release day. Reviews will be written and recommendations will be made. There is no profit in being greedy from day one, but there is good profit in having a reputation people trust.

Take control

“We are the publisher of the game, we are self publishing the game. This means we have got full control over everything that is being done.”
Arkham Knight PC Controversy

Rocksteady turns its back on PC gamers

In an ideal world, the right people would have full control over their own projects but games tend to be joint ventures of financial backers, developers and third parties with vested interests. But if you have the means to, you must take control over as many elements of the production, marketing, business operations as you can. As it is your reputation on the line and you should take responsibility for that.

This is something that recently went wrong with Rocksteady when they outsourced the PC version of Arkham Knight to Iron Galaxy Studios. They knew there were issues and refused to take responsibility for them. They could have easily delayed the PC version to fix them. Publishers are already choosing to learn from their mistakes and delay their releases in order to provide a finished product.

For a studio as big as theirs, Rocksteady decided to deprioritise a key market and it backfired. Will PC Gamers ever trust their launch day releases in the future? That remains to be seen, but there has probably been some more permanent damage over the longer-term reputation of the company.

Many studios see true independence as a pipe dream but they should always strive for it. And if they are balancing the interests of different stakeholders, they should communicate this properly with their end customers.

The CD Projekt Red Philosophy

“This is our philosophy, we want to have a partnership based relationship with our customers – the gamers”.
Witcher 3 PS4 Packaged in Box Filled with collectables, providing a great experience

CD Projekt Red Showing How Much They Care

Beside releasing an awesome game, it was refreshing to have a studio that truly cared for its customers. That focused firstly on the product then delivered it in such a gracious manner in which they were equally rewarded. Doing right by your customers is clearly good business as these guys have already proved true.