Tag Archives: Activision

Multiple rulers

We have a ruler at times. A ruler so we can see whether the size measures up to the setting we held ourselves to, and a size to what we hold others. We are all like that, and sometimes we use more than one, it is almost like we set a standard metrical and then another one to get the inch setting. There is one stage we avoid; not on purpose, but the stage we set because we did not think of it. That is the stage that I found myself in this weekend. Anyone who has a Playstation 4 (or better) has either been playing the Last of us part 2, or has been contemplating playing it. There might be the smallest group that did not (and that is fair) but that group is really really small. It started in 2013, a (small) player named naughty dog, famous for Crash Bandicoot and a few other titles, had an idea and made that game, that game was titled The last of us, we might not have realised it at the time but gaming history was written that very moment. They made the game that heralded the end of the Playstation 3 on a high. The game was graphically, musically and technically at the very top of gaming, do not take my word for it, the game got over 200 game of the year awards, which is a record by itself, so when it was remastered for the Playstation 4, I did not hesitate to get it, now there is the second part and what I have seen so far is blowing my mind (again). It als gave me the idea to come up with the two ruler rule. So far the only three passing that standard are Naughty Dog, CD Project Red and Bethesda. This does not mean that others are not good, some are great. Yet to fit this measurement you need to be better than the best. I believe that those makers could have turned their game into a movie and it would be as groundbreaking and as appreciated as the game. As I see it CD Project Red did that by getting the Netflix the Witcher made. OK, they cheated by getting Superman to play the lead, but still they got it done and it is every bit as amazing as the game was. Excellence is transcendental (or so I believe) and I feel certain that the Last of US (both 1 and 2) would make amazing movies/mini series. I played part 2 to some extent and then I remembered (I thought back to the first one) and I decided to play it again. Even now, 7 years later, the first game is as overwhelming as any new game is, yes, the second one surpasseds the first one by a fair bit, but both of them leave most others in their wake, the games are that good. This is not bad for the others, there will always be rocksteady, there will always be rockstar and they will endear the gamers in their own way, there is no doubt about it, yet when we see the bullet point memo people at EA and Ubisoft, they are done for. The few franchises they hide behind will not help them, even now, their games at 70%-80% reduced rate are a debatable buy and that is not a good place to be in. When a two billion company like Ubisoft gets passed over by what some regards as small studios, we need to realise that gaming has been on the fringe of technology since the 80’s. Some people decided to give the thought that gaming too is iteration (like every year an Assassins Creed game), some exploited other means, some good and some bad, and before some think that Ubisoft is all bad, they did bring us Assassins Creed 2 (and brotherhood), Far Cry 3, AC Origins, Watchdog 2, The Division and a few others, when we look past the iteration, we see that they make good games, if only they were properly tested and vetted before release, it is the largest flaw that Ubisoft brings us today. And it is getting noticed more and more as we take notice of games like The Witcher and The Last of Us. Wecan add games like Elite Dangerous and Subnautica and the remastered edition of System Shock (hopefully 2020), we see that the original ideas are still there and they are wiping the floor with the iterative wannabe’s. You see the stage is changing and gamers are not completely aware.

We see the created hypes and we see how Microsoft is hiding behind the marketing cry ‘the most powerful system in the world’, yet they got defeated by the weakest system of them all (Nintendo Switch) and as Microsoft hides behind the hype screen we are all missing the larger point. As 4K gaming hits the front yard of many gamers this holiday season, they tend to forget that the games will be twice the size and so will the patches. In this situation consider that in places like Greece and Turkey a Ubisoft patch will take up to a day (estimated), a day per game downloading a patch. The UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy and a few others have better connections, yet in these places in Rural areas their internet is not great, so the long term view of the approach that they are currently holding is that they will not be in a great place. Yes, France, Spain and Scandinavia the connection is well above decent, yet is that the same in rural areas? In France it is not and I just set the pulse point on millions of gamers who will be in an extremely agitated state soon enough, yet not if Ubisoft continues as it currently is. And we need to review that too. A game might seem amazing, yet in the 4K life, patches will be increasingly larger and larger. So what do you think will happen when a patch is not 38 GB, but 70 GB? How long until gamers lose their shit over this, because the second time it happens might already be enough for the gamer to demand a refund, and with some places having the 7 day purchase option in place, that cooldown will be enough to end the lifespan of places like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Activision. Yes, I get it, others will be in a similar place, but consider keeping a list of all your games and all the patches that come through, who will win the patch race agitation list? 

Yes, we get it Bethesda will also be in a bad place, yet RPG games like Skyrim are too great and will always have patches coming their way, yet overall when I look back at the games like Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, Fallout 4 the amount of patches have not been overwhelming. As I see it one breakpoint patch has had more to download then the sum of nearly all Bethesda games, that is the station we see, yet we forget that the station we face is nothing more than a small way station, the stations we are about to hit are proper terminals with larger needs. We need to measure what was and what will be to a much larger extent and use two rulers, the size of the game and the size of the patches, whilst we tally the number of patches. Breakpoint was regarded by gamers as the most disappointing game of 2019, 38GB of patches later and it is still up for debate, as I see it, they no longer have any freedom of movement, gaming will change but not in their direction, the games will need to be better and their infrastructure is not ready, the patch notes give a clear indication of that. So yes, we will see a console war, but we will see a lot more than that. Santa Monica Studios, Naughty Dog and a few others are ready and they make Playstation games. The people at Microsoft are not ready for the issues that sme games bring and their Azure cloud is useless at this stage, it is about innovative gaming, the iterative clowns have no place being here. We are about to see a console war and Microsoft could soon end up in 4th position, so when we consider the big three, who else will surpass them? Their marketing hype of the most powerful console for sale, and they forgot that they still needed good games to stay in that place, with less than half a dozen exclusive games, the pickings are slim for Microsoft, to see that you needed an additional ruler, a different stage of measuring. Just like the measurement of power, there are two ways of measuring it, all whilst the elements for both formulas were readily available, too many players were looking at one formula and forgot about the other one, and that is what the limelight will show at the end of the year and when that limelight shows bright, we will see that some players are done for, one ruler would not have shown it, they all focussed on the revenue and they forgot that revenue is hindered by the resistance that patches bring, these players forgot or basically ignored the danger of large patches and now that they are 26 weeks away from a new standard these players will panic, they will panic more and more and let marketing do the fight of the public arena all whilst it will merely stop activities for a few days and some patches required months. Now, we accept that both Sony and Microsoft have that house of Pox looming, but as I see it, Sony has more alternatives and in this fight, the one with alternatives is the most likely to win. In all this there is strength to any marketing endeavour, but its flaws are there too and once your board of directors start to earnestly believe the stories they tell, they have already painted themselves into a corner. 

 

 

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Between fact and speculation

There are two parts in all this. The first is fact, the second is speculation, the facts come from what we know and have seen. First fact given by the BBC is that the PS4 has so far sold 108 million worldwide, the Xbox 49 million, which is 3 million less than the Nintendo Switch, The PS4 and Xbox both started in 2012. The Nintendo in 2017, surpassing the Xbox in half the time. As such, that so-called strongest console was surpassed by the weakest console and in 4 hours we get to see what the new PS, the PS5 will bring us. In all this there is no surprise for me, I saw this coming in 2016, and as the Xbox One X showed us the face of Microsoft and their short sightedness, I saw how they would lose the market more and more, even as Microsoft is trying to create hype after hype, selectively giving us missing information, the consumers are waking up to the colossal error that Microsoft has become and I firmly believe that it is about to get worse. If it was up to me I would direct Google and Apple towards alternative paths making Microsoft the system in 4th or even 5th position. I am that mean at times. 

Speculation

Speculation is another path, yet that is not about the hardware, that is set to the business practices of Activision and Ubisoft. To give you the example, I have been an Elite fan since its release in 1985, In 2016 it was on early release on the Xbox and it was pretty much the ONLY reason I got it. The game is still fantastic and since that point, over 3 years, the game has had a speculated 53 updates, the last one 3.4 GB, Ubisoft released AC Odyssey in 2018 and has a speculative 54updates, the last one 24 GB, almost 800% of the Elite Dangerous one. Activision seems to have a new record, Call of Duty has seemingly a 85 GB patch. That is way too massive and games on the PS5 will end up being larger, a lot larger. Under that given situation, the entire patch system needs to change. Ubisoft especially (Breakpoint 38 GB, AC Odyssey 2 GB) is a setting that gamers will no longer accept, it is a little bit ridiculous that Ubisoft cannot properly test its games. The AC series especially has shown a lack of proper testing, yet that will dwarf in both the PS5 and Xbox X series life. Under the new setting, the makers can hide behind ‘everyone has broadband’ and ‘there is unlimited download’, yet it is clear that rural Germany and France are not on the big internet page and the entire Coronavirus work at home part with congestion all over the place, in the same setting whilst players like Netflix is pushing 4K series more and more, the entire mess of congestion will only increase. Players like Ubisoft will not survive the quality they have brought so far and there is no doubt in my mind that both Sony and Microsoft will have to protect their player sooner rather than later. This is the speculative part and we will hopefully learn more in 4 hours when Sony gives us the works on the release of the PS5. The time of  release is nearing more and more. As I see it, it is a mere 22 weeks away and some will have to save up for both a 4K 125Hz TV as well as the PS5. As I see it, Sony is extremely likely to have a massively great 2020 soon enough and an even better 2021. None of this matters to Nintendo, it will work great on the new TV and they have already surpassed Microsoft, who will need the largest part of 2021 just to break even with the weakest console. They are not in a good place and whatever hype they create, it will not look good, yet that is still speculative of me and I hope to be proven right no later than March 2021. 

Gaming is about to change and we are only hours away from seeing it ourselves. 

 

 

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Changing the headline

It started (for me) around 6 hours ago when Emma Boyle at Techradar gave us ‘Ubisoft is aiming to create more unique games with an editorial shake up‘, which sounds nice, yet the initial problem for Ubisoft will be to make proper games, an initial essential requirement. As I see it, Ubioft lost their edge and now they are using PR and marketing to make it into ‘Ubisoft is aiming to create more unique games with an editorial shake up‘ (at https://www.techradar.com/au/news/ubisoft-is-aiming-to-create-more-unique-games-with-an-editorial-shake-up), proper games are made not merely by innovative designers and thinkers, but it requires a team of methological thinkers to properly test the game, they need a few wild cards to make sure that ‘stupid choices’ are optionally caught. We are now all about the results of The Division 2 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint, yet the fuming disasters of Assassins Creed Unity are still not forgotten. All whilst Far Cry 4 was more of the same (not a flaw and not the worst idea), yet the short sighted impact of Ubisoft needs to be seen where the bungle of a title is best prevented, at the very top (Yves Guillemot). I have had my issues with Yves Guillemot, yet he does have a proper business instinct and that is something that Ubisoft needs as well. The eyes are now all on Watchdogs: Legion which is approaching release and the idea, concept and work on it is pretty amazing. It takes Watchdogs in another dimension, one that we have not seen before (as far as I know) and it could make way for an entirely new Cyberpunk line. Yet the story is merely one part, it is the release and the initial feel that matters and to be honest, with previous blunders, I would feel more relaxed if they delay it to fix things BEFOREHAND, than give us some lame excuse afterwards, because that is marketing for you, get the money first. 

Consider the fact that I was able to initially ‘design’ a new Watch Dogs 3 (playing in Okinawa) in less than 8 hours, setting the initial stage for close to 50-100 hours of gameplay and with the setting of optionally 4 storylines, all set in hypermodern (slightly futuristic) Japan. Each of the storylines was different and a separate play through of the city with other approach options. Taking lessons from past successes and failures to give the people a new experience. And I got there by ignoring the storyline and setting a free roam stage where you could fall into choices. 

Yet Polygon gives on the 17th (at https://www.polygon.com/2020/1/17/21071083/ubisoft-editorial-team-changes-paris-serge-hascoet-yves-guillemot) ‘With all its games looking the same, Ubisoft shakes up its editorial team‘, there we see the words of CEO Yves Guillemot “blamed on a lack of differentiation in consumers’ minds“, it is actually simpler than that, when you try to build game that pleases all, you end up with a product that pleases none, as I see it, it is really that simple. And as I personally see it, the quote: “Ubisoft chief creative officer Serge Hascoet will remain in charge of Ubisoft’s editorial group, but that he will be given more subordinates and they will be given more autonomy, so that he is able lead from a broader perspective rather than directing individual projects himself” sounds nice, but will it work out that way? It is merely internal marketing of another kind (I am not laying blame on Serge Hascoet). Ubisoft is in a difficult place and this preemptive setting is merely good for the stage if Watch Dogs: Legion misses out too much, if this goes sideways (which I will not initially expect), the value of Ubisoft will diminish 30%-60%, which would scare the shareholders to no degree.

That this is all marketing (to some point) is seen with: “Guillemot said Breakpoint had “been strongly rejected by a significant portion of the community” and that it “did not come in with enough differentiation factors, which prevented the game’s intrinsic qualities from standing out.”“, how about the fact that it was littered with bugs? There is a reason why people are happy to wait 12-20 weeks and pick up the game for 75% less, bugs are a main reason. The lack of quality has driven the massive day one release buy to a soft interesting week 5 or later buy. You can only remain with a setting of special editions with optional additions when you do something about the quality, and that had remained absent. As such I hope that the Watch Dogs: Legion delay is also so that it can be properly tested. I also oppose to some degree the statement “the company needed to leave more time between the launches of its live service games so that they aren’t cannibalizing one another’s interest and audience“, yet too many games at the same time is an issue, but it is not merely about Ubisoft, the game designers ALL want to capture the audience, even as they all know that the consumer in this day and age can only afford one new game, the stage is still set to getting them all. So as we then get into comparing Breakpoint against Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, we saw how Activision kicked the hell and nearly all life out of Breakpoint, that danger would have been a lot less if it had been properly tested. Activision also took a stand, as we take notice of “Modern Warfare’s single-player campaign focuses on realism and feature tactically-based moral choices whereupon the player is evaluated and assigned a score at the end of each level” (source: GamesRadar). Making of forcing a choice is not debilitating, bad testing is, that simple truth hit Breakpoint at least twice over, and as such if became the failure it is (as I personally see it). In all this, the power of better testing will enable ALL games from Ubisoft and making sure that the release date is not what marketing it makes out to be, but when development states that it is ready is a second part in all this. They forget that in the end it is the gamer who wants it and as CD Projekt Red has proven twice over, it comes when it is ready, and as I see it their 93% rating proves them right, which opposes 57% from Breakpoint and it sets a different precedent, it makes the gamers wonder if Ubisoft is still a AAA developer, a question they never really asked before, as I see it Watch Dogs: Legion will push that question to a larger degree in a much larger population making the 60% loss more and more direct, in this I am trying to remain an optimist, the losses could be larger.

The clear message becomes, that Ubisoft better get it right with Watchdogs, if that fails several franchises could be up for grabs for very little, because that is also the curse of shareholders, they will sell, as long as they break even in the deal and for now, that is not the case.

I for one would be a little sad, Ubisoft is a French company, to see a non American (or Japanese) company be this successful was an interesting side, it opened others to the idea that good games did not need come from either two countries (CD Projekt Red also proved that) in all, France has too much on the anvil and they could win and remain or lose a lot, it is not a great place to be, but the two elements I gave out could limit losses to some degree and there is no fault or damage to shift a release date, that is just junk others thrown into the mix. 

And it is not over for Ubisoft, as we see how top title after top title is making an impact on Nintendo Switch, there is a lot from Ubisoft that does have a massive following and they could again. Consider FarCry III on Switch, and even as some are already on Switch, they were not the greatest Assassins Creed games (I still do not regard Assassins Creed IV an AC game). More important, as we see Witcher III on Nintendo, where is AC Origins? It was a masterpiece, could that not be transferred? It is easy to look at transfers, but it is also the cheapest way to repair a software house (and it optionally gives low cost and high yield revenue). In addition the setting where a games might take up to 100 hours, yet the main story take no more than 20 hours, making it an unbalanced equation. Set that against a speed run on Witcher 3, which is not my favourite game mode by the way, taking a player no less than 25 hours. As such we should take notice that there is an optional shortfal in some Ubisoft games (not in AC Origins, or AC Odyssey though), as such there is a lot more that Ubisoft can do, especially in Watch Dogs: Legion and as I personally see it, they better do that BEFORE the game is released, not as some lame DLC excuse (free or not). All this is coming to roost at Ubisoft even before that new Microsoft contraption and the Sony PS5 are released. It shows just how much Ubisoft needs to get fixed and not in a marketing way. They actually remained in the game longer than I anticipated, but as far as I (and others) can tell, they are running out of options, so whether we see an obituary of Ubisoft in the coming year, or a revitalisation is up to the big chair, the quality of games is not something they can short change the gamer on again, they have done that too often (as I personally see it) and the entire “but we fixed it” will not hold water, not this time, there are too many competitors at present.

Their first-person shooter is up against Activision (80%), their RPGs are up against Guerrilla Games  (90%) and CD Projekt Red (92%), and several other games are up against Santa Monica Studio (94%). It goes on and Ubisoft needs to see that they are not alone and that others are winning the gamer share that Ubisoft once had, it is the direct result of sub-standard delivery on quality all that whilst we see that there is no other group that is so into gossip like gamers, mistakes like this become the setting of failure within hours of day one sales and there is a larger group no longer running out on day one, they are largely becoming week 2 buyers (at best)  when it comes to Ubisoft games, as I personally see it, when a gamer gets to spend their cash once on a new game twice a year, that new game better be really good. 

That is the setting that Ubisoft faces and marketing will not save them this time. As to what the new headline should be, I leave that up to the reviewers who took over from me, I looked at games for 13 years, I gave a view of games to two generations and even as I still love games, it had become time (in 2000) for others to take over, yet I never stopped looking at games with a critical eye (yet enjoying them became my number one priority). No matter what story you see published, Guillemot must be realising that his time is over, I will admit that even as For Honor was never my cup of tea, it was unique and amazing as a title, even as it was a multiplayer title, Ubisoft outdid themselves that time around. I recognise that there are plenty of games that are not my cuppa tea, yet that does not stop me from admiring excellence, for Honor delivered, and they are not alone. 

As I stated, changing the headline would give us the real issue and I think the headline should be ‘If we had only given more time to testing out product‘, it might end up being a lousy obituary, but the truth tends to be that, lousy and hard hitting. In the end, we will need to wait until later (after Q2) 2020 to see where Ubisoft is going and what the optional gamer will buy from that point onwards. Yet this is all happening whilst some of the others are solely focussed on getting their one games out. So no matter how we personally see it, Ubisoft is in a vice and they basically put themselves there, considering that AC Origins was a 2017 release. When you get articles on ‘Here are the best (worst) <insert title> bugs‘, you have an actual problem and with 2 years of bugged titles, something should have been done a long time ago, especially as I personally see it that this issue has been around since 2012 to an increasing degree (I will abstain from the ‘to a larger degree’) expression. I understand that NO GAME is absent of bugs, Ubisoft merely has too many of them and for the most they are all over the web and YouTube, so it is not merely my view, as per illustration have a look at the funny parts (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykcA3yKPolY), it is merely the tip of the iceberg and we all know what happened to the Titanic when they wanted their drinks on the rocks.

 

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Can you figure it out?

Let’s play a game, let’s play the game called ‘Can you Figure it out?‘ In this case a very numbers worthy game has been called to attention twice before, so let’s have a look especially with Black Friday coming up (in about 4 weeks). Let’s play it shall we?

Breakpoint, normal PS4 edition is $37.88

Breakpoint, Steelbox Gold edition XB1 $95.68

Breakpoint, Gold edition PS4 $59.56

Breakpoint, normal edition XB1 $62.77

Breakpoint, XB1 digital code $59.99

 

Can you figure out the 5 prices? And they all come from the same vendor, Amazon! This is a game that had the enormous flaws, the design weaknesses and the discussion issues, Having two bare prices would have been enough, one for XB1, one for PS4, although they too should have been driven across the fold, and what is that about a code for downloading? Why is it priced differently? OK, that latter part is fair enough I think, yet it shows just how unremarkable the Microsoft download is. A game that should be 100% prices until the end of the year no longer is and it will be getting worse up to Black Friday, now 4 weeks away.

I expect Breakpoint to go down a few notches in price, the initial price setting has become that much of a debate, with Ubisoft it has become a buyers’ market, they decided not to learn. Then there are the lightning errors, to see through the window of a bunker has a better light differential, then to just be outside. There are a few more that I noticed, but there could be an alternative approach to events, so I keep my cool.

However, one of the posters on YouTube gave an interesting view (for PC) that he had to lower the resolution to 1080p to deal with the performance of the game, so this game might not be actually playable (on any decent resolution) on anything but a PS Pro, or a Xbox X version (mere speculation by yours truly).

And still, beyond all the facades, beyond all the versions and mapping issues, this as well as the later far cry versions are as close as a playable version of Midwinter as this is going to be. Yes, for some that title is a revelation, but it is what it amounts too, a version that is as close to as the original in a version that is as crazy as possible. Yet in all its shape and all its flaws it is what the player is willing to pay for it, that is the game that Ubisoft invited, that is what ‘failed to complete‘ enticed. An AI that is esteeming below what an AI should offer, and that is merely in game vision, apart from that the colliding parts of one person against simple events like a barricade, or a wall.

In the end, the game that should have been a whopping 75%-90% was merely a 56% by metacritic; PC Gamer (probably because of the resolution issue) gave it a mere 40%, that is the consequence of not properly testing a game before release, if the entire Call of Duty path is part of their decision, the entire matter becomes a larger hoax. And that is not even the largest issue, the larger issue is that we stopped anticipating a 85%-95% game from Ubisoft, so any Ubisoft game will have a lower expectation, from the lower starts of -10% to a maximum of -15% away from the 100% of a near perfect game should be regarded as. That is what they are now fighting for, with Watchdogs: Legion being a game with a rating no more than 70%-85%, the revenue that it should promise will abstain, people will wait for the 50% discount, that is what Ubisoft will be fighting. The eternal fight against average, in case of Ubisoft it will be most likely a rage against average and avarice. For a lot of ‘fans’ it is a rather large problem, I was looking forward to Legion, so the anticipation of that game being within certain levels (an 80%+ game) is rather important and I am considering that Ubisoft will try to make it a game that is over 75%, the problem is that to understand this slide of quality is to expect us to figure out what Yves Guillemot will do.

No matter what their decision will be, it will be out of our hands and in the hands of a reacting population of gamers that have had enough and that is the part that is still willing to consider Ubisoft and do not go directly to Activision’s Call of Duty.

From this point until the end of the year will be intense for Ubisoft, but they did this to themselves, no one can tell us any different on that.

 

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The news was there, but was it?

It seems that Ubisoft made some noise in the last 12 hours and that has come across as ‘Fixing it news’, the news will not let up around it today, so it is only fair that I take a look at it. Polygon brings us the latest one hour ago stating: “the developer announced a long-term plan to fix the game’s biggest issues. Those updates include previously announced features, like the addition of AI teammates, plus an overhaul of the game’s survival elements that will deliver a “more radical and immersive version of Ghost Recon Breakpoint.”” I see this translated into “there is a long-term plan to fix the game’s biggest issues. like the addition of AI teammates, plus an overhaul of the game’s survival elements that will deliver a “more radical version of Ghost Recon Breakpoint.”” It means that Breakpoint will become Breakpoint minus one. A fun response was “One of the key elements of our vision for Ghost Recon is to immerse our fans in a gritty and authentic military experience,” so please tell me, how do we level soldiers to 150 in the war theatre? How does a sniper rifle learn to ‘negate armour‘? Or perhaps the funniest part in this, is the response ‘authentic military experience‘ whilst weapons are set to levels? For example, I noticed the TAC 50 to have .338 ammo, the actual Mac Millan TAC50 has an effective firing range of 1,800 meters and at 11.8 Kg it is a heavy fucker, I prefer most .338 as they weigh less, also ammunition will become a weight issue, so there better be a nice setting for me to use the TAC50, yes it has a .50 bullet, but consider the 17 KG (Weapon +2 additional clips) it will be a drag on your mobility, Oh and the version in the game has a suppressor (they be bulky too). So in all this the response ‘authentic military experience‘ is just too perky to ignore.

And that is only the sniper rifles looked at. If we weigh the entire matter on available weapons, it becomes a rather hectic issue. Then there are the extract a person mission, who is firing at you, which could make sense, but how to disable the person. Watching a YouTube where shooting a person in the leg does not hinder (yes I said ‘does not’) his mobility. So what about ‘authentic military experience‘ in that case? I saw people getting hit in the chest and they kept on walking, even with a vest that is not as authentic as ‘authentic military experience‘ is likely to give you.

We get a few more items to look at when we look at venture beat (at https://venturebeat.com/2019/10/28/ghost-recon-breakpoint-prepares-to-recover-from-rough-launch/), there we get to see “The publisher released a post today detailing Breakpoint’s future. This includes fixing the game’s bugs, post-release content, and fixing the in-game economy.” Its the ‘in-game economy‘ that is the larger smirk (I guess), a soldier has no economy, a soldier has value. Now this is a game, and I get that, so we need to allow for a larger field of view. So what gives? Acquired Weapons sales? Consider having to drag weapons for sales, and perhaps I am looking at it all wrong, perhaps your value goes up by the damage you post to enemies. The bugs? Well they need addressing and I saw a few whoppers in the game, but I am distancing myself from that as I am unaware with the versions some were playing on, it could be beta materials, yet the fact that idle standing ignored the walls of a building is not a good thing, also slamming your weapon in to a wall tends to be rather stupid on a few levels.

If I had to grasp the futility of Ubisoft, then it would be that in the first they were not ready, some of the things I saw should have been alpha or beta fixed, some of the issues should not be appearing at all, the entire weapon caliber I noticed whilst the video made no mention of it at all, could be wiped away, yet if it alters perception due to ammo needed and the carrying weight of additional ammo is also incorrect, it is a larger issue, all this seemed to have been part of the fight because of Activisions Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, So the blundered twice, once in regards to a game that is poorly placed against someone who was better and better prepared, it is not the only time Ubisoft made this mistake, but I feel certain that because of the costs involved it is unlikely to be repeated. No one can waste millions like this and not get to get their hearts handed to them, fair is fair.

 

 

 

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Are stockbrokers clueless here?

My twitter account tweeted a tweet only minutes ago that gave me pause to take a look. It is an article from Gamespot (at http://www.gamespot.com/articles/activision-stock-joins-ea-in-hitting-all-time-high/1100-6428993/), which is actually 2 days old. The title ‘Activision Stock Joins EA in Hitting All-Time High‘ was reason for the first giggle, then I decided to take a deeper look at the quotes. The result?

Well, judge for yourself!

First off we get “The video game publishing giant’s share price reached an all-time high recently of just above $26 a share–and some experts are optimistic about the company’s potential to grow even further“, which is funny in its own right, where ‘some experts‘ is a link to www.zacks.com. Now, as I see it, the fact that they rely on how Activision/Blizzard is such a success as they state it “Call of Duty, Warcraft, Diablo, and Guitar Hero franchises“, which gets an added “Along with its Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and an expected EPS Growth Rate of 7.47%, there are three important factors to know when considering investing in Activision Blizzard” the site goes on mentioning a few titbits, which are all true, yet the foundation of the issue is one they skated around, why? It can be that they have no real sight on video games, or because they have other reasons. I have no idea what the other reasons are, yet in my view, their first tactical error is: “For the quarter ended March 31, 2015, Activision Blizzard’s GAAP net revenues were $1.28 billion, as compared with $1.11 billion for the first quarter of 2014” the second one is “Activision Blizzard’s earnings per share in 2014 was $1.42, again representing an all-time high of over 50% growth year to year“.

Before I start explaining this, let’s go back to the original article for a moment.

The next quote is “Activision has a number of projects currently in the development that investors may be looking forward to. These include Destiny’s Taken King expansion (September), Skylanders: Superchargers (September), and Call of Duty: Black Ops III (November)“. It is important to see what is up and coming, as such we see a field of particular possibilities, which gets the final added quote “the company will report earnings for its latest financial quarter on August 4th“.

So why is all this an issue?

First off, this is about stock joining EA, whilst the article is deadly numb on anything Electronic Arts in this field, which is odd to say the least.

Now for my other part, you see, investing in game stock is often massively risky, the part that these research companies fail to realise is that the value of these places are directly depending on the next upcoming failure! That has forever been the case with gaming companies, you see there is a reason why Ubisoft PC sales were down 90% in 2011 and I can tell you for certain that software piracy was NOT the cause of that!

So why did I find this all hilarious? In the end whatever a person wants to sink their money in, it is all fine by me. Now for the backdrop in all this, because so far, my reasoning could be regarded as an emotional one, which is really bad when it comes to shares.

No one will deny that Blizzard is a place of success, I am still addicted to Diablo 3 (as I was to versions one and two), yet Blizzard is still getting over the loss of Titan, a success that would never come to truth, which in the scheme of things is not the deadliest issue, especially as World of Warcraft is still grossing a billion a year, so Blizzard has many moments of success. However, stability is not a sexy thing in the market and Blizzard requires growth to pull this off, even though there are clear and reliable rumours of another DLC for Diablo 3, which would be, if we go by reaper of souls an essential and absolute must for any Diablo fan, it would not be enough for Blizzard to propel forward to the degree it needs to (personal view), in the end Blizzard is a fine company, with a solid income, yet as I see it, the massive sales drive needed (growth of customer base) is not one that Blizzard has, it has a faithful and loyal customer base (I am one of them), yet in my case, it is set to a game I have had for well over a year with no new spending in that time.

Now let’s take a look at Activision, first the good stuff, there is no denying that Skylanders was a brilliant idea, not particularly for me, but it is making kids spend, and spend and spend (or at least their parents), these figurines are not cheap. A well thought through business model. Destiny is another matter, this game is an MMO and a FPS, which is nothing short of a hybrid game and even though I am not a fan, the game looks good on the systems, but like all games of this nature, it has a problem and a handicap. This is nothing personal, you see, whatever good it is, it is money that has been spent. In one way Destiny is a huge success, the cost to make it was half a billion, yet this game made over 1 billion, so that is definitely a win. Now Destiny joins the ranks of requiring DLC moments, and here is the first hiccup. The drive and ‘choices’ in ‘The Taken King‘ expansion, has been all over the net and the day one gamers are not happy! The new full version with DLC will come with items available only in the Collector’s Edition mean that players only chance to get those items requires them to re-purchase a game and DLC they already own, which is not a good moment, so the new players will get rare weapons and items that seasoned players will not be able to get their hands on, the playing field will now be slightly uneven, it also makes for a game where players have a case of the ‘envy’ which also does no good, you see envy bites in a gamer, until he is too pissed off to play, which is deadly to Bungie to say the least. In addition, like with blizzard, revenue will come in, yet not in the large masses it did come in, so these players need to also rely on new IP and new games to grow its customer base. In addition, when we see a review like ‘Final verdict on most expensive video game ever made is a disappointing lack of ambition’, which we can question as it is only a single view, but MMO’s have fans and loathers, there is no in-between here. I am to some extent a loather, in this my reasoning is that these games at some point get hacked and the people go in overcharged destroying a perfectly good game, in addition, you need a decent player base with gamers that play like gamers, I do not mean their skill levels, but I mean that a certain level of courtesy is expected of your fellow fight mates, that at times is just not happening, souring the experience. It is also important that these bad moments are often just moments, not constant occurring events, in addition, many MMO games are often too unforgiving to new players, in some cases players who are experiencing their first 10 minutes in a game like Destiny, I have found in the past that MMO games do not once, not ever correctly tailor to those players, which puts them off. Someone gave this as a con to Destiny “Repetitive enemies, non-existent set pieces, and terrible bosses. No new ideas and overly simplistic role-playing and customisation elements“, I do not disagree here (from what I have played) but there is one side that is not part of that ‘con’ A game that tailors to thousands of players needs a stable setting, which cannot survive on terrible bosses and simplicity, what cannot (and as far as I can state) has not ever been confirmed is how the game plays after a while, you see, these games need to rely that a person once he/she pushes past level 13 is still eager to play, repetition is a killer here, not at level 4, 5 or 6. That will impact longevity, a side the stockbrokers do not seem to understand as that part of the game will not fit into a spreadsheet.

Now we get to the EA side of things, yes, there is no denying that their list is good. First we get the sports games (NHL, FIFA, NBA and NFL) and there will be Star Wars Battlefront. Now the bad part, so far EA Sports will always need patches and if the previous games are anything to go by it will not be that bad. In addition, sports games have a loyal following so unless their QA department screws up, we have 4 seemingly decent going games, however Star Wars Battlefront (SWB) is another matter, no matter how it looks now, there will be issues all over the board when the population at large goes into it, it is a mere statement of fact. An open system with so many fans will optionally truly drain the internet, so as EA overcomes the first issues, it will be an important setting, because Destiny and other MMO’s (real Elder Scrolls) have made many gamers a little hesitant to go day one (except for the limited edition fans), so that first hiccup will determine how wave two will react and that will result in slacking sales, in addition, upcoming Q1 2016 games will possibly see delays and the true kicker (Mass Effect Andromeda) is not out until the end of 2016, that is if there are no development hiccups. So in all this we have a stable setting from both, yet in my view, stability does not give rise to exploding share prices and the fact that EA doubled in a year might sound nice, but that was the result of new Nextgen consoles with a population making a mandatory purchase as there were almost no choices in games, now a year later that market shifted and the true anticipated upcoming games only have SWB on its list, the rest of the desired Nextgen games are all indie developers with none of them linked to either Electronic Arts or Blizzard/Activision.

In addition, the latest ‘remaster’ joke comes from Activision, The Prototype bundle, which I was initially looking forward to is now already regarded as the worst remastering ever. A frame rate that seems to go no higher than 30, blurry graphics at times, what was original is now a game not to take seriously (either of the two games). So Activision end up with two titles on Nextgen that look worse than it did on the original consoles, who is that for a non-achievement, that failing will also impact the non-revenue side. Kotaku shows it best at (http://kotaku.com/the-prototype-bundle-for-ps4-and-xbox-one-is-pretty-sho-1718779050), especially when the Xbox 360 has a framerate of 26, whilst the Xbox One has a framerate of 24. The average gamer can immediately see the flaw here, so why release a game that below acceptable default? It also implies that when a software house goes to this length to hope for revenue, we see a side that many gamers fear, the remake of a decent game that becomes a far below average result. It tend to make them shift focus to other titles, titles that are not from that software house.

From these point, I can now state the opposite of Zack’s reason to buy, which is from a gamer’s point of view, perhaps the shareholders will see it differently (as they focus on spreadsheets) when they look at returns, so when the next set of games fall short of quality, are returns still a guarantee? Again, my emotional side does not trust the setting here and I would personally prefer to sink $100 for shares on Frontier Development or Hello games based on their beta’s then on some of the final versions that either Activision or Electronic Arts has to offer. Yes we gamers are an emotional lot perhaps that will be part of what some might regard as ‘my failed view’ here, which would be fair enough.

 

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A changing console war

We are 12 days from the beginning of a new war, an all-out war, it is the war of the consoles and this war will start now and will go on until past Christmas. Yes, Christmas is the new center of these war efforts.

On the left side we have the one, and on the right side, the other. It is Sony versus Microsoft and it does not matter who you choose or support, you the gamer will make at some point a choice. Some with get neither and some will get both, 4 groups! From my view, I choose the Sony side, as the PlayStation 4 is stated by them as a system for gamers! Yet, both sides made the same mistake, even though Sony had an optional alternative, both systems come with a 500 Gb drive. The PS4 allows for the system to be upgraded with a bigger drive. What I do not understand is why they did not install a 1Tb drive for a mere $20 more. There is a lot more to this, but about that part more a little later.

I will mention at this point, right now, that part of the view that follows has bias. I want to be completely impartial, but to claim impartiality when a person’s passion is attacked is at times way to ludicrous!

My issue with the Xbox One, the Microsoft (aka Micro$oft) product had issues from the very beginning. First, they (Microsoft via Don Mattrick) announced on the need for a once a day login to the Microsoft system. I discussed that in my blog called ‘Discrimination or Segmentation in gaming? (UPDATED!)‘ In June 2013, that part was later recalled, which is why I updated the blog. I do believe in keeping people abreast of the correct information. Microsoft made the blog again in August 2013 in my blog called ‘Tax evasion, copyrighted by Vodafone?‘ This was all about ‘pay as little as taxation as possible‘, which will link to this later. Then in September 2013 we get the blog ‘The marks of trade‘ which again links Microsoft. So, why are these linked to the console war?

The last article has the mayor link to what the consumers of their choice in the console wars are not getting informed about.  “When the digital world is entering the field where more and more possible ‘new’ consumers are updated through the net, it seems that their marketing and party lines need to get a massive overhaul and it should all get a much better mentor system then it currently seems to have.” There is a side that had been hidden, even from me. This side is not on the up and up and even game sites like Gamespot have until now been silent about it. The latter one is silent about it as they might not be aware at all, which would be fair enough.

So what is going on?

The next generation of consoles will evolve into a new world that is all about DRM (Digital Rights Management). Even though you think that this was off the table, certain changes are now becoming visible doubting that all no matter what some executives claim to be the case. In case of Microsoft, for their system, as this is not a gaming system, but it has been labelled as an ‘entertainment system’ this all will become a much bigger issue. Do not think that Sony is off the hook here, they will be part of all this down the road too!

The issue came to light when I was made aware to an article called “TPP ‘A Substantial Threat To Australian Sovereignty’” (at https://newmatilda.com/2013/11/14/tpp-serious-threat-australian-sovereignty). If we ignore mentions like ‘secret law‘ for now and concentrate on “a law that will override the High Court of Australia” as quoted, then we see that our attention was pulled away from lawmaking that will have a massive influence on global users of all forms of entertainment.

Suelette Dreyfus a research fellow from the University of Melbourne states “At its heart the TPP is basically a grab for money. It will take money out of the pockets of average Australians and give it to large corporations in the US“. She also makes a mention on how illegal movies will now have to be policed by the ISP’s, even though the high Court of Australia had already ruled in ‘Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd [2012] HCA 16‘ in this matter. The law changes would influence future events. I dealt with the initial issues of illegal downloads somewhere during the year, but the change might, if enforced mean that, should illegal downloads stop (I am not against that), that the economic fallout would be enormous. Consider that Telco’s would see a bandwidth drop of two marks, which would mean that the consumer bill would lower an average of $30 a month, with over 7 million users this amounts to 210 million revenue per month less (spread over several providers), this would have a massive consequence, but the effect would soon be global if this path continues. To be frank, it does not affect me, I never download movies. I prefer the quality of a DVD/Blu-Ray on my TV screen, whenever I want it.

Brendan Molloy, the Information freedom activist and Councillor for Pirate Party Australia has an interesting view on other changes. “Perhaps the most shocking inclusion in the TPP IP chapter is criminalisation of non-commercial copyright infringement.” The Australian patent law changes, discussed in what is referred to as the ‘raising the bar act 2013‘, is all about promoting innovation. These events change everything. His quote “The text even attempts to consider temporary copies to be copyright infringement!” is an interesting (read dangerous) change. It implies that personal owned transfers (like CD to MP3) could be affected. A final quote is “There is language that would lower global standards on medical patents and potentially extend patents beyond 20 years, all supported by the United States.” This means that there steps in place to thwart innovation and strangle hold commerce. This means that only the big boys will be able to dictate progress for the next few decades, which means innovation goes out the window for a long time to come.

Angela Mitropoulos, Researcher at the University of Sydney has the following to say “The biggest winners in the TPP are the largest global corporations and, with the proliferation of mechanisms proposed, they intend to fully harness the infrastructures of the internet and the full force of the law in order to capture and extract even larger profits and a wider share of the world market.

Basically, the new world terrorists will be the large corporations, if these reported events are true. So how does this strike back to the console war of Sony and Microsoft?

First of all, games and consoles are ALL about innovation. A console is only as good as its games and without innovation a console dies fast. Sometimes reverse engineering is the only way to get true progress. Consider the parts mentioned earlier, and if you have a console (either Wii, Xbox 360 or PS3), look at all the parts you have and how many of these parts were not an official Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft product. Items like recharge-able batteries, controllers and head sets. All that could stop! The issue goes a lot further, if we consider the quote from Brendan Molloy “article QQ.G.10 reinforces one of the worst parts of our current IP regime, which consists of legal protections for technical protection measures. Why should it be illegal to jailbreak your iPhone?

So products like Blu-Ray’s and DVD regions and Smartphones. All of it treated under scrutiny of big business! Consider that due to these changes the new iPhone 6 could then only be there for the Telstra (or Vodafone) customers (presumption). These changes would make these events possible. Smaller firms would quickly be pushed out of existence, giving even more power to big Telco’s. This could also have an effect on consoles. If we consider the implications, then the danger becomes ever more apparent that the innovation that we desire to see gaming go forward is also in danger as a sizeable part of the indie developers are in the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and a few others, who are not part of this agreement. So, if Sony and Microsoft set their IP stranglehold to such an extent to drive these developers away, then what happens to innovation?

The TPP seems to be about segregation not about innovation (as far as I saw the information pass by), which means that whatever happens will be under complete control for Sony and Microsoft for their respective consoles. Is this bad or is this good?

I think it is a bad thing, if we consider innovation in gaming. I am not against Activision protecting themselves against a reverse engineered version of Skylanders on one side, but to strangle hold a market will never lead to innovation, which translates in our case to better and new original games.

The next part is on Microsoft specifically. This is because they ‘wanted’ to label their system as an ‘entertainment system’ as such; the changes that the TPP is trying to push through will have additional consequences for the Xbox One.

The initial TPP article made the following mention, which came from Brendan Molloy “The United States has proposed several provisions that are anti-innovation. One such provision is a blanket ban on the retransmission of TV signals over the Internet in Article QQ.H.12, regardless of purpose, without permission of the rights holder.” This is where I get back to that small drive in the Xbox One. There are two sides. If we cannot store too much on the Xbox One, then we must either park it on the cloud (where we can be monitored), or we download it again and again (costing us bandwidth). That was ‘yesterday’, when the TPP comes into play, the retransmission of a movie from the cloud might come with additional limitations where any additional ‘replay’ could be charged. I am not stating that it will, yet the changes are ALL about economic control, so it could happen. This reflects back to the part in ‘Tax evasion, copyrighted by Vodafone?‘, because even though we are all charged, the provider is likely to pay a lot less taxation on these services, so not only will local commerce get hurt, those local governments will collect a lot less corporate taxation because of this all. We saw that in cases of Apple, Amazon, Google and a few others.

That means that the digital movie and TV options from Microsoft would go through very specific bans and very tight rules. This means that picking up the Swedish or the Dutch newscasts online might not be possible. You see, QQ.H.12 is one step away from WHICH stations your entertainment system will receive, all set in a nice package pushed through by a nation that is one step away from bankruptcy, desperately in need of money! You still feel safe with your Xbox One?

So, as we see the interaction of QQ.G.10 (jail breaking) and QQ.H.12 (retransmission) we see that in the broadest sense of the word that Microsoft could decide what we see and when we see it. Is this the global, shared world we were supposed to move forward to?

The site ‘Business Spectator’ quoted the following in regards to the TPP. “Besides the United States, the pact would include 11 other nations, among them Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Mexico, though it excludes regional powerhouse China as well as Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy.” So, it seems that the IP world is no longer about making a global effort in moving forward, with these different trade pacts we will get a new war, not on resources, but on who gets to play with what, when and how and the new consoles are smack in the middle of this changing landscape.

So if your console does more then play games, the question will soon become ‘at what price‘ will it do what it does?

Philip Dorling from the Sydney Morning Herald reported this 2 days ago “Australians could pay more for drugs and medicines, movies, computer games and software” so even though we get to pay 30%-60% more on games at present and 60% more for movies, we might end up paying even more then that? I am not even touching medication, which is a hot iron on several levels. To read that Tony Abbott is quoted in the article with “Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated he is keen to see the trade talks pushed to a successful conclusion next month” gives us further pause for concern. The man just got elected and it looks like he sold us out to the Americans within 80 days of his election, this must be a new world record!

So the choice of your new console could come with an additional price tag, one that the politicians will happily leave to big business to decide. I have not known ANY instance EVER, where greed driven entities EVER decided in favour of the consumer! It is an expensive lesson gamers might soon be forced to learn again soon.

Have a great holiday and don’t let that new console hit you too hard in the Credit Card on the way out of the shop.

 

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