Tag Archives: E3 2018

Commerce inverted

A decently intelligent salesperson educated me (some time ago) in the concept of think global, act local. it is something to live by for several reasons. It made perfect business sense, yet what I did not know at the time that it came from the consideration towards the health of the entire planet; to take action in communities and cities. It comes from that ‘sane’ period of time when individuals were coming together to protect habitats and the organisms that live within them. It is what founds the event we now call grassroots efforts, occurring on a local level and are primarily run by volunteers and helpers. So when we consider this and in the business sense we see that It asks that employees to consider the global impact of their actions. It can be applied on a near universal scale and it is a setting of common sense as I see it. So why exactly is Microsoft doing the opposite of it by acting global on a local way of thinking?

Now, they are not alone, but they are the most visible one, because that is how they played the game themselves. When you want to consider an eCommerce move, you need to consider what you are up against and adjust your model accordingly. So why exactly do they advertise the new game Shadow of the Tombraider for AU$144 and the Digital download for AU$114, whilst the shops in Sydney are already offering it for AU$79 and a special edition for AU$89? How does a 42GB download (speculated size) become 44% more expensive, whilst getting an actual physical copy in Sydney is stated to be up to 61% more expensive to download from the Microsoft store? So here we saw (all over the E3) ‘pre-order it on the Microsoft store‘ to be slightly too none lucrative for anyone to ever consider it. Another (weaker) example is FIFA19, where the download is a whole AU$2 cheaper than the physical copy. Yes, it seems to make perfect sense that 4-11 hours download to get that game AU$2 cheaper, does it not?

Now, in itself, I have no issues with the Microsoft store, there are several perfect examples where the store comes with awesome deals, absolutely a given, but now, just after the E3, the new games are what counts and that is where we tend to look. OK, not everyone, I saw ‘games coming soon‘ and the entry was the anticipated game ‘We happy few‘, so I wanted to take a look at what it would cost (and when it is released), and guess what, it wasn’t even in there at all. It is just as deceptive as ‘Play FIFA World Cup Free‘, whilst you are taken to the FIFA18 game of AU$24 (which is a good deal) and in the text is somewhere that it is an addition, a free DLC for anyone who has FIFA18, so why not state ‘Free FIFA 18 World cup DLC‘? It would clearly indicate that it is part of FIFA18 and gives out that it comes with a DLC. None of that is seen and Microsoft is not learning how to properly play the game, not to treating gamers like kids, but like the savant controller users most of them are (and many of them are adults). Microsoft needs to up their game by a fair bit at present.

Oh, and before you think that this is all me, that this is merely an error. I first mentioned it in regards to Shadows of War on May 13th in the article ‘It is done!‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/05/13/it-is-done/). There the difference was 50%. Microsoft made no adjustments of any kind. Now, let’s be clear, they are not required to do that, yet in light of the evidence we see where buying from the Microsoft Store will regularly be well over 30% more expensive than a physical copy, why would we consider getting new games there unless we needed that title desperately? This gets us to the entire ‘think local, act global‘. When the question becomes: ‘we need x% margin‘, and when it comes from an overpriced place, the equation changes and logic goes out the window (as I personally see it).

So when we tally the issues that Phil Spencer has on his desk, we also feel sorry for the man. Not, pity mind you, I do not give a hoot about giving him pity, his income is likely in line with a fortune 500 CEO, so he is laughing to the bank on payday (every month), yet he does have an awful mess to clean up from the previous sceptre wielding bosses, not a job I envy.

You see, these small matters are important. The gap with Nintendo is getting smaller and when you consider that Fortnite was downloaded 2 million times in the last 24 hours, you get to see the issue. These players will play on route to somewhere, it merely takes a view for others not having a Switch to consider one getting one at the earliest option, the Fortnite clans are also growing the Nintendo Switch population and cross play gives these people options to get the Switch. The bad side for Microsoft is that they buy additional games, non-Xbox games and that is where the hurt begins, because any gamer will initially get 3-4 games, so that takes an additional $300 away from both Sony and Microsoft. And that is not all, what kind of an impact do you think 120 million Fallout shelter users can make? You see part of this is that the top 10 of downloaded games has 5-7 titles with well over a million downloads, those numbers rack up. Anyone with a passion for multiplayer gaming will not ignore millions of gamers, especially when it comes to half a dozen games of multi-player capable titles. The numbers start to add up at that point, so when we see such shifts Microsoft really cannot afford the issues seen in the Microsoft store as they are at present and it has been an issue for a long time. Their only positive side is that Sony made pretty much the same mistake from day one, so there is no competitive issue on that side for them.

That brings us to another side, which to some regard shows Microsoft marketing dropping the ball. To be honest, it took me by surprise as well. We got to see a filmclip at the Bethesda show with a very special edition of Skyrim. We all laughed, yet the joke is on us, so as Business Insider (at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/skyrim-very-special-edition-amazon-echo-alexa-bethesda-video-2018-6) gives us you can actually download the game for your Echo‘, and with Keegan-Michael Key on the sofa, why would you not think it was comedy? Yet when you look at Amazon (at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D6STSX8), you get the goods. So there is an actual Skyrim Very Special Edition on Amazon. The movie you can watch again (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=FnEW6dX_BmU). When we read: “Fans have since uploaded videos of themselves playing “Skyrim: Very Special Edition.”“, we see that Bethesda marketing is creating waves in several fields on several places and in places where we never thought to look before. So as we keep on seeing ‘the most powerful console in the world‘, there is a much larger need to adjust view and vision. Even as the hardware is slightly too flawed, the Game Pass, which I tend to call: ‘GamerPass’ is something to work with. Anyone who has the intent of buying more than 2 games a year would be crazy not to get it. No matter the congestion, the hardware flaws and other matters. Game Pass is an almost certain game changer for Microsoft, it will give them time to clean up other matters and it will set the stage for more. So why am I not seeing Game Pass on YouTube and on web pages at least once a day? In the last 3 days I have seen nothing from Microsoft. Anthem, Fallout 76, Summerset, Fortnite and a few others, they all got their advertisement minute in (more than once I might add), not Game Pass though. The digital visibility is everything and Microsoft seems to be blindly staring at some surface (pun intended), how will that help Phil Spencer? I might not be pro Microsoft, yet I remain pro-gaming no matter what format it is on. There lies the setting from both EA Access and Game Pass, to give but a simple example.

None existing example

When printing these ‘credit card funds‘ to buy and enter a code on your console, why do places like Gamestop, JB Hifi, EB Games not have the Game Pass out in front? There seems to be an English version. Why can’t we get a load-n-go Microsoft debit card to use for the Xbox for gamers? All simple implementations of systems that are already in the field, with additional account linking as well as additional download bonuses with every purchase (over a specific amount). If visibility is the essential need of any console, I am confronted with a personal belief that Microsoft Marketing is looking at the wrong surface, the surface of some tablet, not the surface of a 130 billion dollar a year industry. Does Microsoft want to matter or not, that should become the thought on the front of anyone’s mind that has one. I am getting pissed off and angry for the same reason I have been pissed off with Yves Guillemot (he apparently owns Ubisoft) for half a decade. He had an amazing IP and let it go to waste for years. We are starting to see the same thing here and it becomes a much larger field of where Microsoft needs to look. We can agree that to some extent Ubisoft is adjusting its trajectory (last 2 years already), now we see Microsoft starting a similar spiraling downfall (from the gamers point of view). Some things cannot be prevented, but a lot of them can be fixed and change the path for the future. It needs a visionary! The presentation showed that Phil Spencer has vision, but is it enough and will is he fast enough to correct all the previous mistakes (not done by him), that is the part I cannot tell at present. It is also unfair to confront him this strong a mere two days after the E3, but he needs to recognise that the third period is starting and he has 2 goals against him, so he needs to get his star players on the ice and against the teams that are slowing him down, even if it is his own Azure team dragging issues along (a 2014 issue). Now as the game changes, or better stated as Microsoft wants to change the game, they need to be on the ball all the time and that does not seem to be the case (a personal observation). You cannot do this with a static shop 11% the size of an Apple store down the road (less than 100 metres down the road), you do it be creating engagement. You set the stage where everyone can game for an hour and feel the goods, to get the parents involved and show why the Game Pass is the solution, get to the mothers, seeing how AU$120 per year gets them 100 games (valued at an average total of AU$ 7500), and how that value increases year after year, especially on money saved from not buying games.

Get the ‘Consider Game Pass‘ on every digital download card you buy in store, post office and supermarket. Because parents see the ones in the post office and supermarket, these places can start engagement, a path that gives long term visibility. In all honesty, I haven’t seen any of that. Is it merely placement of product? If it is that important, I should see something like that twice a day and not on my console, when I am there, I merely want to start the game I felt like playing.

Oh, and that is not merely my thought, Google has all these free advertising classes on learning to use their products, pretty much stating the same thing. The foundation of digital marketing seems to be missing. So when I get to the start page of a place like JB Hifi (everyone in Australia knows that one), I would care less on seeing ‘Surface Pro‘ every time I get there, There is no mention at all of Game Pass. I can actually search ‘Game Pass’ and I get all kinds of passes and the 19 linked to the Xbox One, not one is about the Game Pass. That is the game! That is how you lose it, by merely not having visibility. Oh, and they are not alone, seeking it on Amazon gives you one option in the ‘Currency & Subscription Cards, Subscription Cards‘ department. It is the 12 months Gold Live subscription. A mere example on how visibility is the key to forward momentum. Sony knows it, Nintendo definitely knows it, and it is time for Microsoft to wake up to the proper digital age. For these examples are all clear pieces of evidence of inverted commerce in the digital age. I’ll let you decide on how many of those corporations stay afloat whilst making a living through applying inverted commerce, if you find one, ask them to send me a postcard.

Was that over the top?

 

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Where we are in gaming

So the E3 is almost done. I saw the EA bit, I was blown away by Bethesda where they ended the presentation with 13.2 seconds announcing the Elder Scrolls VI. A mere teaser, but what a teaser, the crowd went insane on the spot (me included). I reckon that it will be a 2019 release and we will hear a lot more after the release of Fallout 76 later this year. When it comes to Fallout 76 it will be a lot bigger than ever before. It allows for single play, friends play and multiplay. That is merely the first part, the second part is that Fallout 76 is announced to be 4 times the size of Fallout 4, so any Bethesda fan expecting to be well rested by Christmas better start buying stocks and options in Red Bull, as they will need it and lots of it.

There was a lot more announced, most importantly the setting of a new free game, called Blades, an elder scrolls version of Fallout shelter, a very different one, Bethesda went one step further where the game is fully playable in portrait and landscape mode, the view on the game made me desire an immediate update to my mobile (which is falling apart anyway). In addition, Fallout Shelter became available at that point for both PS4 and Nintendo Switch. So Bethesda is not sitting still and a lot of it at no cost at all, showing a level of gamer care that we have not seen to this level before. Bethesda blew us away with the upcoming DLC’s, updates and new games. After that it was time for Microsoft. I have had issues with Microsoft and they are still growing, yet the presentation given was really good. Phil Spencer knows his shit and that of many other players in this field. He knows what it is about and as we saw all kinds of ‘world premieres’, it relied to some degree on both Bethesda and Ubisoft to give some of the goods, but that was not all. I stated it before, I am not a racing fan, but Forza 7 blew me away, it was astounding to see, so I was not ready for what happened next. If Forza 7 is set at as a 90%-91% game, the upcoming Forza Horizons 4 is getting us straight to the 100% mark. They really outdid themselves there. It is set in historical England, all of England and if you think that Forza 7 had the goods, seeing seasons and weather set into the driving, seeing every place go through the 4 seasons, you will see something totally unique and there is no doubt that if it holds up on the Xbox One X on 4K and 60fps, you are in for a treat, even a non-racing fan like me can see that this is something totally new. There were also announcements on gaming houses and developers bought as well as some of the indie developers who are showing excellent products. Phil Spencer is making waves; he is not out of the woods as he has to clean up the mess of two predecessors, so he has his work cut out for him. There was also a less nice part. They did in many cases give not any release date, merely ‘pre-order it at the Microsoft store‘. I personally believe that this is the Microsoft path, a path that was dangerous and I accused them for not being in consideration of gamers. There was more. You see, Microsoft is moving to take the shops out of the equation. They were doing it to some extent (poorly I might add), yet now when we consider Gamerpass “Xbox Game Pass launched back in June, and provides access to more than 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games for $10.95 per month“, before you think that this is a lot, consider that you get access to 100 games, with the announced NEW games, we got that it will include the next Halo, Gears of War, and Forza on launch day. So that is a massive teaser, yet I am also scared of the intentions of Microsoft. I have seen this before. You see, TechAU gave away the speculated goods with “selling games is no longer an option. With console hard drive storage sizes increasing to 1-2TB, its possible we need to rethink game ownership completely. The big question will be the games available. If they’re all games from 6-12 months ago, it may still be seen as a good opportunity to play a bunch of games you meant to buy, but never got around to it“, if only it was true, because they already dropped the ball twice on that one. You see, I saw a similar play in the late 80’s by The Evergreen Group, they had government backing and undercut the competition for years, after that when the bulk was gone, the prices went back up and they were close to the only player remaining. It seems that Microsoft is on a similar path and when we saw the Faststart part I got a second jolt of worry, with the stating that they used machine learning to see how gamers play. This implies the profiling of all players, so when exactly did you as a gamer agree to that? You see, when this becomes personalised, it is not about the average player, this is about you as the individual player and I personally believe that the push ‘to pre-order at the Microsoft store‘ is not merely marketing, it is about pushing for online only and take the shops out of the equation. It makes sense from a business point of view, yet you end up with the only IP, the ones they allow you to have, for whatever time you end up having it. I never signed up for that, and even if we love the offering they give for now. When the shops can no longer support this theory, what happens then? How will you feel in 5 years when your IP is based on a monthly rental? It is a dangerous part and for now you think it does not matter, but it does, you see the earlier quote ‘With console hard drive storage sizes increasing to 1-2TB‘, yet the Xbox One X is merely 1TB, so there is that already, then we realise that the 1 TB merely gets you 800 GB (OS and other spaces reserved), so now we see that the previous Gears of War was 103.12 GB, implies that with one game installed, you are down to less than 70%, now add Halo 5: Guardians (97.53GB) and Forza 7 (100GB). So, only 3 games and 50% of the total drive space is gone (those mentioned games were the largest ones).

So when I see the mention of space for 12 games, I wonder how correct it is. Now consider the announced games like Fallout 76, the Division 2, Beyond Good and Evil 2 and wonder what will be left. People will wake up much to soon as they have to reorganise their console drives, way too early in 2018. Consider, not just the games, but the patches as well. Now you start seeing the dangers you as a gamer face. The moment that 120 million gamers start working in an online setting (PS4, XB1 and Switch), how long until the telecom bandwidth prices go up? How affordable will gaming remain? For now it looks great, but the bandwidth fountain will be soured, the impact is not short term when it hits, and the impact will be too great to consider for now and the Telco companies have not even considered the dangers, only their option towards optional revenue. There is supporting evidence. In Australia, its fun loving product called NBN had 27,000 complaints last year alone. If the old setting for every complaints 5 people did not bother, we see a much larger issue. With issues like outage and slow data speeds one number (source: ABC) gives us that at present the growth of 160% of complaints ‘equated to 1 per cent of the activated premises‘, how is that to sit in whilst downloading 100 Gb for your Xbox One X, and that is merely Australia. In places like London in full setting congestion will be a normal thing to worry about. So when we see “Julie Waites said her 85-year-old mother Patricia Alexander has been without a working phone at her Redcliffe home, north of Brisbane, since June when the NBN was connected in the area“, which we see 4 months after the event, there is a much larger issue and Microsoft did not consider the global field, an error they made a few times before and that is the setting that gamers face, So when your achievements are gone because for too long there was an internet issue, consider where your hard earned achievements went off to. I am certain that it is not all Microsoft’s fault, but its short sighted actions in the past are now showing to become the drag regarding gaming.

The one part that Microsoft does care about is its connections to places like Bethesda and Ubisoft, who in their presentation show to be much larger players. We get that this is merely beta and engine stuff, but the presentation of the Division 2 rocked, I am not sure how the Crew 2 will do, but it looked awesome, in addition the EA games looked as sweet as sport games can get on the Xbox One, so they have the goods. Phil Spencer is making waves and he is showing changes, but how trusting will this audience remain to be after a mere two incidents where gaming was not possible due to reasons not in the hands of Microsoft? Their support division stated last year that the uploaded data from my console (not by me, were all the responsibility of the internet provider), are you kidding me? Yet the games do look good, there is no denying that, yet their infrastructure might be the Achilles heel that they face in the coming year. There was also time for the upcoming AC game called Odyssey. It is very similar to the look of Origin in looks. Graphically it is stunning. The view also shows that AC is changing; it has a much larger political impact in the story line and the changes you can make. It is a lot more RPG based than ever before, which as an RPG lover is very much appreciated and with the choice of a male or a female player is also a change for good, unlike AC Syndicate the choice will be for the duration of the game, making it a much larger replayable challenge. The demo shows that there definitely are changes, some are likely gamer requests, the rest seems to be a change to make the game more appealing regarding the play style you choose, but that part is speculation from my side. I would want to be cautious, yet they truly took the game to the next level with AC Origin, which makes me give them the benefit of the doubt. The setting that Ubisoft brings is much stronger than last year, so it could end up being a stellar year for Ubisoft. When we get to Sony, I become a little cautious. Yet even as we saw it in the previous presentation, instead of merely presenting titles, having live music on stage, the music from the games was a really nice touch. I do not know about you the gamer, yet I have been more and more connected to the music as the quality of it has been on the rise, so seeing the performances was well appreciated. It might have started as early as ACII and Oblivion, now we see that good music is a much larger requirement in any game. A much darker the Last of Us 2 (if that was even possible) sets the stage for what is to come. Yet, even as we see awesome presentations of what is to come, I have to admit that Microsoft did have a better presentation. Sony is also playing the ‘store’ setting with PlayStation Store for bonus options. The games are overwhelming and those are merely the exclusive titles. When we consider all that Ubisoft and Square Enix bring to the table, it shows to be a great year for all the PlayStation owners. Yet, the overwhelming advantage that they have over Microsoft is not as much as you would think. The question becomes how heavy the overbearing advantage that the Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima and Spiderman have, yet when set opposite Forza Horizon 4, Halo Infinite and Sea of Thieves I wonder if it remains a large advantage. Sony has more to offer yet the overwhelming exclusive benefit is not really there. So when we look at a new Resident Evil, actually a remade version of Resident Evil 2, we remain happy for the ‘unhealthy’ life diminishing gaming treats that are offered; both consoles will be offering gaming goods we all desire. There is no doubt that gaming revenue will go through the roof and it seems that we are in a setting where games are not just on the rise, the predictions are that they will grow the market in nearly every direction, and we still have to hear from Nintendo, you see that one is important for both Microsoft and Sony. There is little doubt that they will surpass the Xbox One in total sales, yet now it becomes the setting where they might be able to pull this off as early as thanksgiving, a setting Microsoft is not ready for, the ‘most powerful console‘ will optionally get surpassed by the weakest one as Microsoft has not kept its AAA game for close to two years. Three simple changes could have prevented that, yet the view and setting of always online, GamerPass and storage destroyed it, the mere consideration of infrastructure was missed by Americans focused on local (US) infrastructure and forgetting that the optional 92.3% of the desired customer base lives outside of the USA. The simplest of considerations missed, how is that as a hilarious setting? Oh and getting back to the Sony presentation, if you thought God of War surpassed your expectations, it seems (from the demo) that Spiderman is likely to equal if not surpass that event, so there is one issue that the others will have to deal with, the PlayStation players (Xbox One players too) will just have to wait and be overwhelmed with the number of excellent games coming their way before Christmas, because for both of them the list seems to be the largest list ever. I am posting this now and perhaps update a few Nintendo settings, as there are several revelations coming. GeekWire gives us in all this “Microsoft’s Xbox One still faces an uphill climb vs. Sony and Nintendo“, yet the article (at https://www.geekwire.com/2018/e3-2018-analysis-microsofts-xbox-one-still-faces-uphill-climb-vs-sony-nintendo/) misses out. You see, even if we are to agree with “Microsoft has effectively made its own console irrelevant, because even with the Windows Anywhere initiative, there’s no particular reason for a dedicated enthusiast to own an “Xbone” if you already have a PC. There are certainly advantages, such as ease of use, simplicity of play, and couch gaming, but the same money you spend on the Xbox could be going to tune up your computer so you can play the same games in a higher resolution“, we see the truth, but a wrong one. You see ‘the same money you spend on the Xbox could be going to tune up your computer“, is not correct. We need to consider “you can find a large number of 3840×2160-resolution displays in the $300 to $500 range“, as well as “For a better 4K experience, look to the $450 GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, $500 GeForce GTX 1080, and $500 Radeon RX Vega 64, though the Radeon card is still suffering from limited availability and inflated prices. These cards still won’t hit a consistent 60 fps at 4K resolution in the most strenuous modern games“, so you are down for a lot more than the price of the Xbox One X and still not get the promised 60fps that the Xbox One X delivers. And that is before you realise that a TV tends to be 4 times the size of a PC display. The biggest issue that has not been resolved is the mere stupidity of 6mm of space, that allows for a 3TB Seagate BarraCuda, it would have diminished most other issues, now merely evolve the operating system requiring people to be online all the time and Microsoft would have created an optional winning situation. It should not impact the need (or desire) for GamerPass and it would change the curve of obstruction by well over 70% overnight, all that when you consider that there is a $65 difference for 300% storage, something that the 4K community needs. Phil Spencer has one hell of a fight coming his way and if he can counter the Microsoft stupidity shown up to now, he could potentially turn the upcoming number three position around in 2019, making Microsoft a contender again at some point, yet if the short-sighted board of Microsoft is not willing to adhere to some views, they will lose a lot more than just the loss of a few hundred millions of console development, they might lose a large customer population forever, because gamers hold a grudge like no other and if it was not merely the cost of the console, the fact that the games they bought might overtake the total amount spend by close to 3:1, and once gone they will never ever return. That is the stage we see now and even as there is a lot of improvement, where it matter no changes were made. So even as we should all acknowledge that Phil Spencer is a large change for the better, Microsoft needs to do more. They have the benefit that Sony gave a good show, yet not as good as Microsoft. Perhaps the live presentations are the E3 part we all desire, the demos and previews were all great on both systems. In that regard Ubisoft and Bethesda both brought their homerun at the E3 and they are well deserved ones. As both deliver to both consoles there were no losses on either side, only wins for both sides, yet that leaves the small devil in my brain considering the question. If Fallout76 is 4 times the size of Fallout 4 which (according to Eurogamer) ‘required 100GB install sizes as a minimum‘ for 4K. So how much more will Fallout 76 need? It is in that light that we need to look with a 1TB drive, something I saw coming 5 years ago. So now, whomever buys a 1TB system will soon (too soon) stop being happy. That is one of the fights Phil Spencer will face soon enough, an issue that could have been prevented 6 years ago. It is so cool to see all these games coming, whilst we see a storage system supporting merely part of what comes and that is before we see the network congestion as a few million people try to update their game and get access to the networking facilities. It was an issue that haunted Ubisoft with the initial Division in 2016. When we saw ‘I’m still at work, had to stay overtime and I’m really salty because I might not even play today because of all this server downtime‘, I merely stated that they could have seen that one coming a mile away. Ubisoft upgraded everything and I do not expect to see this in the Division 2, yet consider that it is not merely one game. Consider every gamer getting issues when they want to access Gears 5 and Halo Infinite on launch day. That is the issue we could see coming and in all honesty, in most cases it will not even be the fault of Microsoft at all. The evidence was seen in Australia merely a week ago when ABC treated us to “NBN Co chief executive Bill Morrow suggested that “gamers predominantly” were to blame for the congestion across the National Broadband Network. He later clarified that he wasn’t blaming gamers for congestion, but reiterated that they are “heavy users”“, that is the reality setting, where Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Destiny 2, two games are 49% of the average hourly bandwidth usage, now add Fallout 76, Gears 5, the Division 2, EA Access and Microsoft GamerPass. You still think I am kidding? And that is merely Australia, now add London congestion and when we consider some news sources give us: “London, Singapore, Paris and New York taking top spots when we consider internet congestion“, I reckon that Europe has issues to a much larger extent. When we consider in addition that the Deutsche Welle gave us last January “A new report has found that only a small fraction of German users get the internet speeds that providers promise“, as well as “the problem is only getting worse“. That is the setting Microsoft is starting to push for and the gamers will not be enjoying the dangers that this will bring. Certain high level non thinkers at Microsoft are making this happen and now Phil Spencer will be faced with the mess that needs cleaning up. The part that many have been ignoring and it will hit Microsoft a lot harder, especially when it wants to move away from uphill battles, a sign that we cannot ignore and whilst the plan might be valid in 4-6 years, the shortage that the hardware and infrastructure gives at present will not be solved any day soon and that is counting against Microsoft. The impact will hit Nintendo as well, but not nearly as hard. The evidence is out there, yet some analysts seem to have taken it out of the equation. Is that not an interesting view that many ignored?

So we are moving forward in gaming, no one denies that, but overall, some cards (like always online) were played much too early and it will cost one player a hell of a lot more than they bargained for.

 

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The gaming E-War is here

The console operators are seeing the light. Even as it comes with some speculation from the writers (me included), we need to try and take a few things towards proper proportions. It is a sign of certain events and Microsoft is dropping the ball again. The CNet news (at https://www.cnet.com/news/xbox-big-fun-deals-e3-week-starts-june-7/) gives us “Microsoft’s big E3 sale on Xbox consoles, games starts June 7“, where we see “Save 50 percent or more on season passes, expansions and DLC and other add-ons“, which sounds good, yet in opposition, some claim that as Microsoft has nothing really new to report (more correctly, much too little to report), they want to maximise sales now hoping to prevent people to move away from the Xbox. I do not completely agree. Even as the setting of no new games is not completely incorrect, the most expected new games tend to not get out in the first month after the E3 (they rarely do), so Microsoft trying to use the E3 to cash in on revenue is perfectly sound and business minded. Out with the old and in with the new as some might say. Yet, Microsoft has been dropping the ball again and again and as more and more people are experiencing the blatant stupidity on the way Microsoft deals with achievements and now we see that these scores are too often unstable (I witnessed this myself), we see that there is a flaw in the system and it is growing, in addition, I found a flaw in several games where achievements were never recognised, implying that the flaw is a lot larger and had been going on for more than just a month or so. The one massive hit that the Xbox360 created is now being nullified, because greed made Microsoft set what I refer to ‘the harassment policy’ of ‘always online‘, this is now backfiring, because it potentially drives people to the PlayStation, who fixed that approach 1-2 years ago (some might prefer the Nintendo Switch). Nintendo needs to fix their one year calendar issue fast before it starts biting them (if they have fixed it, you have my apologies).

Sony is not sitting still either as Cnet reports (at https://www.cnet.com/news/sony-isnt-waiting-for-e3-2018-will-reveal-3-playstation-games-early/), with the quote “Starting Wednesday, June 6, the company will spoil one announcement each and every day for five days in a row. Sony is being tight-lipped about the details, but those announcements will include [censored]“. Yet getting back to Microsoft, they do need and should get recognition for “Up to 75% off select games including Monster Hunter: World, Sea of Thieves and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds“. I admit that a game like monster hunter is an acquired taste, yet 75% off from a 95% rated game like Monster Hunter is just amazing and that game alone is worth buying the Xbox One X for. I only saw the PlayStation edition, yet the impression was as jaw dropping as seeing the 4K edition of AC Origin, so not seriously considering that game at 75% discount is just folly.

The issue is mainly what Microsoft is aiming for (and optionally not telling the gamers). They never made any secret of their desire for the cloud, I have nothing against the cloud, yet when I play games in single player mode, there is no real reason for the cloud (there really is not). So when I see that Microsoft bought GitHub for a little less than 10 billion, we should seriously consider that this is affecting the Xbox One in the future, there is no way around it. Even as we see the Financial Times and the quotes of optional consideration “Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness and innovation,” a claim from CEO Satya Nadella. He can make all the claims he like, yet when we consider that this is a setting of constant updates, upgrades and revisions, we see the possible setting where a gamer faces the hardship that the Oracles DBM’s faced between versions 5 and 7. A possible nearly daily setting of checking libraries, updates and implementations to installed games. Yes, that is the real deal a gamer wants when he/she gets home! (Reminder: the previous part was highly speculative)

As we get presentations from the marketeers, those who brought us ‘the most powerful console on the market‘, they are likely to bring slogans in the future like ‘games that are many times larger than the media can currently hold‘, or perhaps ‘games with the option of bringing additions down the track without charge‘, or my favourite ‘games growing on every level, including smarter enemies‘. All this requires updates and upgrades, yet the basic flaw on the Xbox needing extra drives, extra hardware and power points, whilst increasing the amount of downloads with every month such a system is running is not what we signed up for, because at that point getting a gaming PC is probably the better solution. A business setting aimed at people who wanted to have fun. This is exactly the setting that puts the AU$450 PS4, AU$525 and AU$450 Nintendo Switch on the front of the mind of every gamer soon enough.

The elemental flaw that the system holds is becoming an issue for some and when (or if) they decide to push to the cloud to that extent the issues I give will only grow. Now, I will state that in a multiplayer environment, a GitHub setting has the potential to be ground breaking and my making fun with the slogans I gave in Orange, could be the true devastating settings that will form an entirely new domain in multiplayer gaming. Yet we are not there yet and we will not be there yet for some time to come. Even as Ubisoft is getting better and they did truly push the edge with AC Origin, you only have to think back to The Division, the outages and connection issues. The moment that this hits your console for single player that is the moment when you learned the lesson too late. In similar view we can state that the lessons that we learned with Ubisoft Unity, what I call clearly bad testing and perhaps a marketing push to get the game out too early ‘to satisfy shareholders‘, whilst gamers paid AU$99 for a game needing a ‘mere’ patch, which was stated in the media in 2014 as: “The fourth patch for Assassin’s Creed: Unity arrived yesterday as a sizable 6.7 GB download. At least, that’s the case for non-Xbox One players; some players using the Microsoft console are facing 40 GB downloads for the patch“. Think of that nightmare hitting your console in the future, and with the cloud the issues actually becomes more dangerous as patches were not properly synched and tested. That was the fourth, and that was before 4K gaming became the 4K option on consoles, which would have made the Unity download a speculated 80GB, over 10% of the available space of an empty Xbox One. Now, you must consider that such patches would be enormous on the PS4 pro as well, that whilst Microsoft could have prevented 40% of the issues of the issues we are faced well over a year ago, now consider how you want your gamer life to be. Do you still feel happy at present?

Oh, and Sony is not out of the woods either, even as some are really happy with the PS4Pro, it must be clearly stated that there are enough issues with frame rates on several games, all requiring their own patch, which is not a great setting for Sony to face. Even as the new games are more than likely up to scrap and previously released games like Witcher 3 are still getting patches and upgrades, the fact that God of war had issues was not a great start; the game looked amazing on either system. Still, when it comes to fun, it seems that Nintendo has the jump on both Sony and Microsoft. The Splatoon 2 weapons update (lots more weapons) is just one of the setting that will entice the Nintendo fans not put away their copy of Splatoon 2 any day soon. In addition, Amazon implied that Fallout 76 will be coming to the Nintendo switch, which is a new setting for both Sony and Microsoft. For those imagining that this is a non-issue because of the graphics need to play Metroid Prime on a GameCube and watch it being twice the value that Halo one and two gave on an Xbox (with their much higher resolution graphics). The mistaking belief that high-res graphics are the solution to everything clearly has never seen how innovative gaming on a Nintendo outperforms ‘cool looking images‘ every single time. Now that Bethesda is seeing the light, we could be in for a new age of Vault-Tec exploration, but that is merely my speculated view. That being said, the moment we see Metroid Prime 1 and 2, as well as Pikmin and Mario Sunshine on Switch that will be the day that both my Xbox One and Ps4 will be gathering dust for weeks. These games are that much more fun. I just do hope that it will not overlap with the release of some PS4 games I have been waiting for (like Spiderman), because that in equal measure implies that I need to forgo on hours of essentially needed sleep. Mother Nature tends to be a bitch when it boils down to natural needed solutions (I personally do not belief in a red bull life to play games).

So as we are in the last 4 days before the E3 begins, we are more and more confronted with speculations and anticipation. Cnet was good enough to focus on released facts, which is awesome at present. Yet we are all awaiting the news. That being said, the leaks this year has been a lot larger and revealed information has been on overload too. It might be the first sign that the E3 events could be winding down. There had been noise on the grapevine a few weeks ago, yet I was not certain how reliable that information was. The leaks and pre-release information does imply that E3 is no longer the great secret basket to wait for as it was in previous years. We will know soon, so keep on gaming and no matter which console your heart belongs to, make sure you have fun gaming!

 

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Be not stupid

There is an article in the Guardian. Now, we all agree that anyone has their own views, that has been a given for the longest of times, and those reading my blog know that I have a different view at times, yet for the most, I remained neutral and non-attacking to those with a different view, that’s how I roll.

Today is different, the article “‘Easy trap to fall into’: why video-game loot boxes need regulation” by Mattha Busby (@MatthaBusby) got to me. It is time for people to realise that when you are over 18, you are responsible for your actions. So I have, pretty much, no patience with any American, Reddit user or not, who gives us “a Reddit user who claims to have spent $10,000“. If you are that stupid, you should not be allowed to play video games.

The Setting

To comprehend my anger, you need to realise the setting we see here. You see, loot boxes are not new. This goes all the way back to 1991 when Richard Garfield created Magic, the gathering. I was not really on board in the beginning, but I played the game. The issues connect when you realise how the product was sold. There was a starter kit (which we call the basic game) it will have enough cards to start playing the game as well as the essential cards you need to play it. To get ahead in the game you need to get boosters. Here is where it gets interesting. Dozens of games are working on the principle that Richard Garfield founded. A booster would have 9-13 cards (depending on the game), It would have 1 (read: One) rare card (or better), 3 uncommon cards and the rest would be common cards. I had several of these games I played and in the end (after 20 boosters) it was merely about collecting the rare cards if you wanted a complete set. Some would not care about it and they could play the game. So this is not a new thing, so if you truly spend $10,000 you should not complain. If you have the money it is not an issue, if you did not, you are too stupid for words. In games it is not new either. Mass Effect 3, the best multiplayer game ever (my personal view) had loot boxes as well, I am pretty sure that they were the first. Yes, you could buy them, with money, or with Microsoft credit points. The third option was that you could gather points whilst playing (at the cost of $0) and use these gained points to buy loot boxes, the solution most people used. Over time you would end up with sensational goods to truly slice and dice the opponents, all gained through play time, no extra cash required.

So when I see places like Venture beat (and the Guardian of course) state issues like: “some people, policymakers, and regulators — including the gaming authorities in Belgium and Netherlands — that those card packs have are gambling“. I see these statements as moronic and I regard them as statements of false presentation. You see, that is not what it is about! When you see the attached picture, you see that these cards are sold EVERYWHERE. The issue is that the CCG card games are sold in the shops, which means that revenue is TAXED. The online sales are not and now, policymakers are all up in arms because they lost out on a non-taxable ‘$1.25 billion during its last quarter even without releasing a major new game‘, that is the real issue and they are now all acting in falsehood. So, when I see “I am currently $15,800 in debt. My wife no longer trusts me. My kids, who ask me why I am playing Final Fantasy all the time, will never understand how I selfishly spent money I should have been using for their activities“, as well as “he became addicted to buying in-game perks, which he later described as ‘digital garbage’“. I merely see people without discipline, without proper control. So without any regard for diplomacy I will call them junkies, plain and simple. Junkies who have no idea just how stupid they are. And, since when do we adjust policy for junkies? Since when are the 99% who hold themselves all plenty accountable, have the proper discipline to not overspend and some (like me) never considered loot boxes in a game like Shadow of War, now being held to account, to lessened gaming impact by junkies? Can anyone answer me this?

Now, we need to take into consideration one or two things. Are the FIFA18 loot boxes set in a similar light? That is the one place where (seemingly) FIFA is in the wrong. You see I have been searching to get any info on what is in a FIFA loot box, but there is no information given. I believe that this lack is actually an issue, yet that could be resolved in 24 hours if Electronic Arts would dedicate 1 page (considering it brings them $1.25 billion a quarter) on what is to be found in a loot box (Rare, Uncommon, Common). The second part that I cannot answer (because I am not a soccer fan) is whether the game allows loot boxes to be earned through playing and finally. Can the game be played without loot boxes? It seems like such a small alteration to make and especially when we see the fuss that is being made now. Some additional facts can be seen in Rolling Stone Magazine of all places (at https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/features/loot-boxes-never-ending-games-and-always-paying-players-w511655). So now that we get a fuss from several nations, nations that have been all open and accepting on games like The Decipher CCG games Star Trek and Star Wars, Magic the Gathering, The Lord of the Rings, My Little Pony, Harry Potter, Pokémon, and that list goes on for some time. In that regard, they are all gambling and in my view, I feel certain that these so called politicians and lime light seekers will do absolutely NOTHING to get anything done because the cards are subject to VAT and the online stuff is lost taxable revenue. That is what I personally see as the foundation of a corrupt administration.

You see, the fact is that it is not gambling. You buy something that is in 3 categories, Rare, Uncommon and Common, you ALWAYS get this in a setting of 1 rare, 3 uncommon and 5 common, which card you get is not a given, it is random, but they will always get that setting. Let’s for example state that the loot box is $7, you get one $3 card, three $1 cards and five $0.20 cards, so how is that gambling? For Electronic Arts, until they update the website to give a precise definition might be in waters that are a little warmer, but that can be fixed by the end of the day. Perhaps they do have such a page, but Google did not find it.

In addition, Venture Beat gave us (at https://venturebeat.com/2018/05/08/ea-ceo-were-pushing-forward-with-loot-boxes-in-face-of-regulation/) “EA will have to convince policymakers around the world that it is doing enough and that its mechanics are not the same as the kinds of games you’d find in a casino“, which is easy as these policymakers did absolutely nothing to stop CCG’s like Pokémon and My Little Pony (truly games for minors), so we can stat that this was never about the loot box, it was about missed taxable revenue, a side that all the articles seemed to have left in the dark.

The Guardian has one additional gem. With: “A bill introduced in Minnesota last month would prohibit the sale of video games with loot boxes to under-18s and require a severe warning: “This game contains a gambling-like mechanism that may promote the development of a gaming disorder that increases the risk of harmful mental or physical health effects, and may expose the user to significant financial risk.”” Here I am in the middle. I think that Americans are not that bright at times, a point of view supported with the image of paper cups with the text ‘Caution Hot’ to avoid liability if some idiot burns their mouth; we know that sanity is out of the window. Yet the idea that there should be a loot box warning is perhaps not the worst idea. I think that EA could get ahead of the curve by clearly stating in a readable font size that ‘no loot boxes are needed to play the game‘, which is actually a more apt statement (and a true one) for Shadow of War, with FIFA18, I do not know. You see, this is a changed venue, when you can add a world player to your team the equation changes. Yet, does it make it more or less enjoyable? If I play NHL with my Capitals team and I get to add Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretsky my chances to get the Stanley cup go up, yet is that a real win or is that cheating? That is of course the other side, the side that the game maker Ubisoft enabled in their Assassins Creed series. you could unlock weapons and gear for a mere $4, they clearly stated that the player would be able to unlock the options during the game, yet some people are not really gamers, mere players with a short attention span and they want the hardware upfront. Enter the Civil war with an Uzi and a Remington, to merely coin a setting. Are they gamers, or are they cheaters? It is a fair question and there is no real answer. Some say that the game allowed them to do this, which is fair and some say, you need to earn the kills you make. We can go to it from any direction, yet when we are confronted with mere junkies going on with spending $15,800, adding to a $69 game, we are confronted with people so stupid, it makes me wonder how he got his wife pregnant in the first place. If the given debt $15,800 is true then there should be a paper trail. In that regard I am all for the fact that there should be a spending limit of perhaps $500 a month, a random number but the fact that there is a limit to spend is not the worst idea. In the end, you have to pay for the stuff, so have a barrier at that point could have imposed a limit on the spending. In addition, we can point at the quote “how I selfishly spent money I should have been using for their activities” and how that is the response of any junk to make, ‘Oh! I am so sorry‘, especially after the junk got his/her fix.

The Guardian gives in addition an actual interesting side: “Hawaiian congressman Chris Lee said “are specifically designed to exploit and manipulate the addictive nature of human psychology”“, it is a fair point to make. Are ‘game completionists’ OCD people? Can the loot box be a vessel of wrongdoing? It might, yet that still does not make it gambling or illegal, which gets us to the Minnesota setting of a warning on the box. It is an interesting option and I think that most game makers would not oppose that, because you basically are not keeping loot boxes a secret and that might be a fair call to make, as long as we are not going overboard with messages like: “This game is a digital product, it requires a working computer to install and operate“, because at that point we have gone overboard again. This as a nice contrast against: “In the Netherlands, meanwhile, lawmakers have said that at least four popular games contravene its gambling laws because items gleaned from loot box can be assigned value when they are traded in marketplaces“, which is another issue. you see when you realise that “you can’t sell any digital content that you aren’t authorized to sell” and as we also saw in Venture Beat ““While we forbid the transfer of items and in-game currency outside of the games, we also actively seek to eliminate that where it’s going on in an illegal environment,”“, we see a first part where we can leave it to the Dutch to cater to criminals on any average working day, making the lawmakers (from my personal point of view slightly short sighted).

So, in the end Mattha had a decent article, yet the foundation (the CCG games) which were the creators of the founding concept were left outside the basket of consideration, which is a large booboo, especially when we realise that they are still for sale in all these complaining countries and that in that very same regard these games are not considered gambling, which sets the stage that this was never about gambling, but several desperate EU nations, as well as the US mind you, that they are all realising that loot boxes are billions of close to non-taxable revenues. That is where the issue holds and even as I do not disagree with the honourable men from both Hawaii and Minnesota, the larger group of policy players are all about the money (and the linked limelight), an issue equally left in the dark. There is one issue against Electronic Arts, yet they can fix that before the virtual ink on the web page has dried, so that issue is non-existent as well soon enough.

It’s all in the game and this discussion will definitely be part of the E3 2018, it has reached too many governments not to do so. I reckon that on E3 Day Zero, EA and Ubisoft need to sit down in a quiet room with cold drinks and talk loot box tactics, in that regard they should invite Richard Garfield into their meeting as an executive consultant. He might give them a few pointers to up the profit whilst remaining totally fair to the gamers, a win-win for all I say! Well, not for the politicians and policy makers, but who cares about them? For those who do care about those people, I have a bridge for sale with a lovely view of Balmain Sydney, going cheap today only!

 

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Holding pattern

It feels like the world is in a holding pattern, it is awaiting events and there is no news on a few fronts. The first is on gaming; a little over two weeks remain until the E3 starts, which is when the actual (official) news is given. Part of me is sad, because there have been so many leaks that I fear we already know what is coming to the larger extent. In this I got confronted with more issues surrounding the Xbox One, and even as they proclaim it is going good, I am of the mind that good just is not it, it will not even be close to it. If the Business Insider is to be believed, there will be a lot more bad news coming to the Xbox One owners, the article (at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/playstation-4-vs-xbox-one-e3-2018-5) gives us “‘Crackdown 3’ is an exclusive Xbox One game, meaning it will work on the One X and One S“, implying that this is the first game that no longer supports the Xbox One. Pushing people into upgrading to new hardware? I see that as one more nail in the coffin called Xbox. The information (at https://www.xbox.com/en-AU/games/crackdown) is equally sketchy, yet that game cover does not have the HDR part, implying that there might be two editions, one for the Xbox One X and one for the normal Xbox, which would be very acceptable, implying that they are soft pushing people to upgrade their console which is a fair and acceptable business practice. I wanted to be certain and no misinform you, so far there is no real mention on it, yet there seems to be a version on HDR (implying Xbox One S and Xbox One X only), in addition one source had another box art, yet Amazon did not, neither did a few other shops, so this could become a very large issue close to Christmas as the latest (unconfirmed) issue is that release is planned for later this year.

The PlayStation has similar holding patters, we know the four larger titles and that is it on the exclusive front, implying that both will be a little more dependent on the makers like Bethesda, Ubisoft and EA to hold the candles for unexpected news. I am particularly interested in what Ubisoft brings. I think it was 2 years ago, when they truly hit a home run at the E3, in that time we all got overwhelmed by Ubisoft that had cleaned up its act. AC Origin exceeded everyone’s expectations (including mine) and playing on a much higher level the second time around had been fulfilling in a way I never expected. In addition, even as I kept a distance from Far Cry 5, it shows, that for those who wanted more of the same, it did satisfy, in addition its first actual setting towards open gameplay was a true evolution, so those who wanted ‘more of the same‘ got a lot more than they bargained for and that is a good thing. So we have no real idea what Ubisoft is bringing and that is good, knowing all the things that matter beforehand is not good, it takes away the WOW factor in announcements and I think the French know that. In that same setting we also look forward to Bethesda, who apart from last year tends to make homeruns, they focused on the VR setting last year and when you are not into that you tend to feel left out a little. So here’s hoping for this year. Most are hoping for a new Elder Scrolls (non-online) game announcement, which is a stretch and unlikely. I am still proud of having made an initial setting for Elder Scrolls VI: Restoration, but it seems that Bethesda had other ideas. Fair enough, it is their IP. Yet we recognise that Skyrim was 7 years ago from initial launch, we should give the cautious setting that it is time to WOW us with a new one, especially after 7 years. Fallout 4 is getting towards its 3rd anniversary, yet with the season pass giving us so much, we still feel decently satisfied for now. I personally feel that a Fallout 5 is at least 2 years away from a clear announcement and for those overwhelmed Fallout shelter can keep your blood flowing on mobile and a few other devices, the fact that it is free and no real purchase is needed just makes it an amazing extra. And that is all for the games section at present.

Rocket Men

There is a man, a Rocket Man, it is not the man in the song, not the quote from the movie; no, as we see (at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0392), we are given the US Treasury setting: “the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five Iranian individuals who have provided ballistic missile-related technical expertise to Yemen’s Huthis, and who have transferred weapons not seen in Yemen prior to the current conflict“, the issue I have voiced for a while, again I have been proven correct, and even as the media at large was all about calling Saudi Arabia names and just blindly staring at the victims (which is not entirely wrong), we are treated to “Treasury is targeting five Iranian officials who are associated with the IRGC-QF and Iran’s ballistic missile programs. Their actions have enabled the Huthis to launch missiles at Saudi cities and oil infrastructure. They have also disrupted humanitarian aid efforts in Yemen, and threatened freedom of navigation in key regional waterways“. I agree to some extent with Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, I do not think that he is entirely correct. To give understanding to my statement, we need to look at the 5 names.

Mahmud Bagheri Kazemabad and Mohammad Agha Ja’fari who were acting for or on behalf of the IRGC Aerospace Forces Al- Ghadir Missile Command. Javad Bordbar Shir Amin and Mehdi Azarpisheh who are members of a special forces unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards responsible for their extraterritorial operations, they report directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. In addition there is Sayyed Mohammad Ali Haddadnezhad Tehrani, who is allegedly providing, financial, material, technological or other support for, or goods or services in support of, the IRGC Research and Self-Sufficiency Jehad Organization. I use allegedly because without the clearance levels I cannot vet the final part of data there. I believe that Sayyed Mohammad Ali Haddadnezhad Tehrani has at least partially and most likely fully deployed Chinese walls to isolate him away from that, yet there are at least three names missing, these people are part of the training and deployment side of the missiles. It is my personal opinion that Javad Bordbar Shir Amin and Mehdi Azarpisheh could not have arranged that by themselves, they are without doubt involved, but on that level they had higher level help, not merely the smuggling of the missiles, the deployment, training and smuggling of the missiles is specific knowledge, it is very specialist knowledge and in that (at least) three names are missing. That mess is actually growing. It is seem in the first part in Bloomberg (at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-23/doubts-emerge-at-eu-steps-to-counter-u-s-iran-sanctions-threat), in all this we see at the end “The commission is also looking at creating special purpose vehicles to allow transactions with Iran, the people said. The effectiveness may also depend on whether the U.S. treats them as a circumventing tool, one of the people said. “If in the end jobs will be lost in Germany, one has to ask whether this is the right thing to do,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in a TV interview last week“, it is an issue! It is an issue, because mere open source intelligence and common sense gave me the inside view that have been proven correctly, the entire Iranian mess as we see now, whilst the people in the Bloomberg article are all about acting or is that not acting) because jobs are lost, whilst the entire missiles on the attacks on the Saudi civilian population is just ignored as well as the plight to the Yemeni civilian population because of the acting of Iran, the EU has a much bigger problem and it is time that the people start thinking this through. From my (an admitted optional flawed view) is that the Iranian mess started with Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini and never stopped being an issue, which amounts to January 1st 1980 being the setting for the mess we are in now. I am willing to admit that if the US and UK had left Iran alone in the actions of 1953, we might not be in this mess, but that is too much water under the bridge, what is the setting is that the BBC (at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44230983) gives us Ayatollah Khamenei’s main conditions.

  • European powers should protect Iranian oil sales from the US sanctions and continue buying Iranian crude.
  • European banks should safeguard trade with Iran.
  • The UK, France and Germany should pledge not to seek negotiations on Iran’s ballistic missile programme and regional activities, both demanded by Washington.

The supreme leader said that if the three counties were unable to meet these demands, Iran would resume its enrichment of uranium. this translates to ‘do not interfere in Yemen‘, which is a regional activity, the fact that EU politics seems to be very willing to do that makes for more concern, in addition, when we look at the newspapers in the EU, we are left in the dark on several issues, which is also a concern. They are all focused on the Saudi attacks, the Yemen events, but not on the Iranian support setting for firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, that seems to be off limits and that is a massive issue as I personally see it.

So here to is the beginning of a holding pattern, an issue that is stretched over time, allowing for non-activity to rule the setting. Now, there is a twofold part, one is positive, because there is a partial setting where waiting the next move makes perfect sense, yet the numbers give us that thousands are getting exposed to Cholera and famine, not a combination you want to see, because at that stage, even with medical hep, the chances for surviving are not that great to begin with. Even as the people on Facebook are hiding behind “Stop the Saudi-led war on Yemen that kills civilians and destroys the country infrastructure“, the bulk of everyone remains in denial of Iran’s part in all this and the fact that Yemen is used as a stage to attack Saudi Arabia whilst Iran relies on ‘I know nothing‘ is a setting that is much worse because those are the people who the EU are trying to keep their business alive within a nuclear setting, whilst there have been clear indication that Uranium enrichment is an event that will be happening in Iran. Yes, that makes all the sense in the world (implies sarcasm).

The holding patterns cannot be fought, because acting is not always the best thing to do, yet the entire Yemeni situation started in March 2015, well over three years ago, so I think it is time for the EU to actually actively respond to the actions of Iran, they have had enough time and intelligence to act. Their non-actions at present should be regarded as beyond cowardice, cowardice to facilitate to those who need a deal, who need financial blessing (read: greed). To illustrate this, WikiLeaks gave us in 2007,

In any case, France is prepared to “go beyond” multilateral Iran sanctions. A/S O’Brien suggested that the GOF make public statements about the risks of doing business with Iran and the recent decisions of major European financial institutions to cut off Iranian business. France is currently developing new legislation to criminalize arms proliferation and proliferation finance, above and beyond its criminal penalties for violations of UNSCR 1737 and 1747. O’Brien passed GOF officials two Treasury non-papers on Iranian state-owned Bank Melli’s proliferation-related activities and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and IRGC-Qods Force’s extensive use of the Iranian state-owned banking network. Regarding private sector outreach, A/S O’Brien met with senior officials at Paris-based Banque Natixis to discuss the risks of doing business with Iran“, for the forgetful, that was when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office, so there had been a massive drive to get more ‘revenue’ for the Natixis board of directors. I guarantee you that it goes downhill from there, the settings we see are not great, it never was, yet the need for the EU to do something and not as a 27 nation block keep on sitting on their ignoranus was not what the people were signing up for. That evidence is seen at the UN (at https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sc13225.doc.htm), in here we see “attacks against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia were unacceptable and raised concern over the Panel’s findings that Iran had provided short‑range missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, in breach of paragraph 14 of resolution 2216 (2015).  Urging the Council to stand firm against such violations, he said that while the United Kingdom had sought to ensure a balanced and impartial text, it also had not shied away from calling out those who had violated international agreements“, in that, Russia hid behind “The Russian Federation’s representative, also speaking before the votes, said he could not support the United Kingdom‑sponsored draft, as he did not agree with its inclusion of unverified information. Assessing the Panel of Experts’ work in the manner mentioned in that draft was misguided“, so whenever a Russian firm approaches Saudi Arabia for a Neom or Vision 2030 project, we should make sure that the Saudi officials are reminded of the SC/13225 meeting on 26th February 2018. I should see if I can get an opportunity there too, my bank balance is really really low at present. So in the end we all act on economic needs, the only difference is that I am doing it upfront (making it no longer a reality), but if I can stay honest, why not the elected officials that make well over 3000% of what I end up with?

Is that not an interesting question too?

Have a great day!

 

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Ferrari Mario (2018)

There is a new kind of race breed in the mix, it is not the fire coloured red that we expect, no it is the pink and blue that made Nintendo Switch the new hallmark console of choice. This thoroughbred game horse has shown to carry 18 million horses before the end of April 2018. Yes, in a little over a year the Nintendo Switch is now at 2/3rd of all life time Xbox sales. It is a massive achievement and we should stop and ponder just how amazing the achievement is. Even as Microsoft remains on its ‘most powerful console ever‘ horse, we need to take a step back, in the days of the initial Xbox, when Microsoft was a wannabe, they did bring us good games, no denying that, there was no keeping up with the PlayStation 2, but that was not an issue. Then we got introduced to the Nintendo GameCube. Even as some ignored it as it had no DVD, no high res graphics like either the Xbox or the PS2, the GameCube had learned from the initial PlayStation and started to market the family niche. It worked to some extent, but what worked even more was an amazing list of games, now like the PS2 it started meager with a mere 12 titles, but they included Luigi mansion (not great but original), Pikmin (awesome and addictive) as well as Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader which brought the Star Wars fans across overnight. I did not join them in the first hour, even as I was impressed what Rogue Squadron offered (when thinking low graphics), just the one issue is that none of the other consoles offered any of that play levels, so there was an issue brewing. Less than a year later we got Mario Sunshine and a few months after that Metroid Prime. At that point the GameCube became a very serious console for gaming and in that neither Sony nor Microsoft would release anything near those games. Microsoft did make a decent attempt by taking the Pikmin idea and give the gamers Overlord, which was enough combination of tongue in cheek, mayhem and slashing to make it really worth it and double thumbs up to Microsoft for coming with that. Yet Nintendo was now an equal partner in the top gaming choices. They lost a little with the Wii, a lot more with the WiiU and that led to this point where the Switch is now racing towards the number two position at the speed surpassing a Ferrari and if sales go the way they are going now, they will get there in the coming fiscal year, December 2018 is optionally the price they could get, the moment when they surpass the current number 2 Microsoft, but I remain sceptic that it is unlikely to happen before January 2019. This is what Microsoft is fighting; the most powerful console to become merely the number 3 console in gaming and in 5 weeks, at the 2018 E3 Microsoft can no longer merely hold presentations, making vague references. They will either have to show something workable or they will end up driving sales for the Nintendo even further. The next few Sony releases show that they are still on the power slide to move forward more and more, it was never going to be about that, yet we do recognise that the next releases, if not met with enthusiasm by the Sony fans will also drive the Nintendo Switch forward, so Microsoft could get a double slam against them. What is shown that with what is coming for the Switch will be well received by the gamers and will drive sales for the Switch in stronger ways and it does not stop there, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild now has a lifetime sales on Switch of almost 8.5 million units. In addition we see Super Mario Odyssey with 10.41 million units. In addition 9.22 million units have been sold of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and 6.02 million units for the awesome Splatoon 2. So the president of Nintendo will be smiling with every trip he makes to the bank, I reckon it is a feeling the people at Microsoft have missed out on for a while.

And in answering some responses from the previous blogs on this, it is simple, this is not me hating Microsoft, this is not me lashing out against Microsoft, his is me holding them accountable for the amount of missed hits by them, when you are vying for the top console position, you need to bring more than your AAA-game and a smooth marketing machine, you need to bring home the bacon, the results and the drive to keep the gamers, all opportunities missed because there was another drive between all of this non-stop and Microsoft forgot the gamers are very serious when it comes to the quality of games and the comfort of gameplay. They forgot all that and they let marketing dictate the one part fact ‘welcome to the most powerful console in the world‘, it does not hold the bacon when good games are not that great, when comfort is at the behest of a company with a need to drive data to their cloud and slogans like “Build your gaming empire with Azure, Start scrappy and go global with the cloud” the gamer wants a product that works and does not rely on clouds, especially when internet services are spotty in some non-metropolitan areas. Now, we give exemption to early access games, that comes with a few issues and I am very cautious about that part, even as Subnautica should be regarded as one of the best survival RPG games of the decade! Microsoft dropped the ball three times and expects to remain in the race? Gamers are finicky at best and once truly disappointed they will not reconsider your console for at least 2-3 editions. So all this drives the Switch sales even further.

In addition, the revelation a mere 20.3 hours ago gave us “Nintendo revealed the first details about its E3 2018 plans, which largely focus around one intensely anticipated game: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo Switch” which will get the people who caught the other games (close to 11 million of them) racing to the start lines to get that game, it has a massive following and could potentially imbue the first true damage to the networking capabilities of Nintendo when they all want to play this in multiplayer mode via the networks. The people seem to go nuts over a cartoon style of Tekken that is fun and keeps everyone challenging whether they win or lose. There is just too much fun to be had and it will spike the console for even more sales as newbies get the smash vibe, I have been there and it feels awesome.

That is what the current number two is up against and there is more than one indication that they are not ready for that fight and they have nothing to truly counter such a move. That in not the end though, there are a few more rumours, which I will not mention because there is no source that I found reliable enough and some of those reliable ones still hide behind ‘expected’ which is not my forte, or was that Forza? Forza 4 Horizons is expected at the E3 with a few announcements and in 4K, which is probably a good choice. It has a large following, and even as I am not that much of a race fan, there is no denying that Forza is an exquisite title to have and behold, but there is not much else, or more accurately stated, the lack of exclusive games does not make the Xbox as enticing as it should have been. There is however a distinction to be made, I never believed that it was merely about exclusive games, it needs to be about really great games and Sony has a collection of those and they are exclusive to the PlayStation, which hurts the Xbox too. So as some responses were about me hating Microsoft and some about that I was full of sh*t and that Xbox would be the number one station, it is nice to state that Forbes had quite literally this ‘The Xbox One X Is Literally No Threat To The PS4‘ to say and that was the previous E3, and since then the situation for Microsoft merely worsened. Microsoft knew what was coming, they knew what they were in for and as such they had a year to prepare and the Xbox fans got way too little on that. I do not believe that the backwards compatible games were the solution, they were a nice icing layer on the cake, but that cake was too small and not as exquisite in taste. So Sony went on its merry successful way and the failures gave Nintendo all they needed to catch up this year, optionally (yet unlikely), surpassing Microsoft by December 2018. Even then Forbes gave us “However, Sony needs to keep an eye on the Switch, as it may become an increasingly attractive system for publishers, as development budgets continue to rise across the board“, a truth, not a threat to Sony any day soon, because the environment has been created where the PS4 player happily has a Switch on the side and that is nothing either Sony or Nintendo opposes to, in the end the realm of gaming fun is served much better that way and even a Sony might lose some software sales, the big titles from Sony will be bought regardless, so there is no threat there. The only one hurting in that process will be Microsoft, it needed its exclusive big bangers to have avoided that, and it did not deliver.

So even as this is all about the Nintendo drive, we need to see that there is an impact on the first two consoles and there is where we see the difference, it seems that the Sony player likes co-existence a lot better than the Microsoft one. I have no rational explanation for that, some of them are kicking for the Switch on the side, the larger bulk is a ‘Xbox One’ only community, perfectly fine for that, but the gamer in them is hurting and Microsoft was not there to counter it. The better part of weird is that Xbox had at least two options for exclusive gaming, one that would have drawn in millions, but for some reason (reason unknown, and from a non-settled source) that path was not taken. In addition, the setting that the Xbox One has the ability to take on Mobile games and in addition more PC games was also left to the sides. Even as I have no idea where it fell (might have been outside of the grasp of Microsoft) the exclusive titles list could have been boosted. The idea that you might not have to buy an expensive PC rig to play Eve Online on the Xbox One is not that far-fetched and getting a boost to the 500K subscribers would not have been a small achievement for CCP games either. So why was it not done? That is unknown, perhaps it will happen, but so far we see nothing and that is extremely detrimental to the health of any console, it is also a path that the Switch would be unable to walk anyway. The remastered list of the Xbox is not that large, which is shame, especially when the Xbox could potentially get to PC games in the way the PlayStation cannot, an opportunity missed perhaps?

In all this, it does not stop Nintendo, but with titles like Eve Online it drives the ‘co-existence’ option that Microsoft desperately needs, because Microsoft has two issues, one is to stay ahead of Nintendo (an option no longer feasible), and in addition stopping people moving away from the Xbox One, which optionally could be averted top some extent. In finality, whatever Microsoft does, there is every chance that they too are driving the sales of the Switch and that is just fine by Nintendo. They merely wanted a console for real gamers, a promise they have been keeping ever since it launched and since it was revealed to the audience at the E3 2017, we will just have to wait what the Nintendo show has to give, which this year will be a pre-recorded video instead of a live broadcast, will air at 9 AM PT on June 12. That comes out to 12 PM in New York, 5 PM in London, and 2 AM, June 13th 2018 in Sydney. The wait is almost over!

Fingers crossed everyone!

 

 

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In awe of Ares

The independent is throwing its readers a curveball with ‘The survey comes after it was revealed that a new political party with access to up to £50m in funding has been secretly under development for more than a year‘, it is change, change of a kind that makes us wonder if politicians are getting there ‘inspiration’ form somewhere else. This is not about that, this is absolutely not about politics. This is about the curveball.

Santa Monica Studio, they awed us two years ago at the E3, where we were treated to a teaser, one that made our jaws drop and we were nowhere near ready to see the real deal. That happened 48 hours ago, 48 hours since we woke up, in optionally the most overwhelming way. If you missed it all, you missed a lot. For those not entirely aware, let me explain, let’s take you back to 2013, when the people on the PS3 were treated to ‘the Last of Us‘. It was a game that surpassed whatever came before, the end of a console treated to the diamond of diamonds. Now take that feeling, multiply that by 3 and that is what you will feel with the normal God of War 4 edition on a normal PS4, I haven’t even seen it on a Pro with 4K yet. The beginning is simple yet still overwhelming, the graphics are beyond awesome and the music and sound effects give it an entirely new dimension.

So here we are he who took the powers of Ares, god of war. Now we are in the setting of Norse mythology. The initial intro to the game, the movement, the draughr, Balder and a few others are just overwhelming. When we dig deeper into the game we get to certain points that this is still very much a God of War game, yet there is also evolution. even as button mashing got you most of the way previously, this time around you need to be a little clever, button mashing gets you killed again and again (and again). It has the chests and it has health parts, slightly different, but still in spirit basically the same. Some chests now come with puzzles and a few are a little trying. It is all a step forward. The graphics throughout the game remain overwhelming and are beyond awesome. The tactics are a little more essential, yet it remains a God of War game. Christopher Judge, the (in)famous Teal’c from Stargate takes the axe from the predecessors and gives Kratos soul in a way that is amazing, the deepness of voice and the entire embodiment of Kratos slayer of gods comes to life with Christopher Judge, a stellar performance.

There will always be issues with any videogame, so has this game its little snippets of frustration, but the overall impact of the game is what I would regard it a 97% game, Metacritic gave it a 95% rating, what means that it should be regarded as a must for any PS4 owner. Even as you play the game, you feel a little lost at times, wondering where to go next. It is not a bad feeling, you get a clear view of your surrounding and it is close to breathtaking. The people at Santa Monica really outdid themselves, and not just them. In equal measure Bear McCreary, famous for his soundtrack work on Battlestar Gallactica truly shines. His music adds to the game in several ways. I wonder if anyone would be able to play the game on a TV with a sound bar, the music is that amazing. I am actually listening to it on YouTube whilst writing this. I hope that it will be a download option soon enough (or a soundtrack for sale). So in nearly all matters the game shines. So why am I using ‘nearly’? Well in the beginning as you have the options to better your character with outfits and upgrades, you are a little in the dark and in the beginning of the game optionally accidently wasting resources on the wrong parts and it is a merely a small loss, yet it makes for a great replay. This is perhaps the only small flaw in all this and it is so small a flaw that not heeding my words in this is just fine. Yet as you play the game you are almost overwhelmed by what you see and when you think that you’ve seen it all, you get introduced to Alfheim. If you consider that Midgard is the forest in midwinter, then Alfheim is the forest in spring and everything is in full bloom, a second whiff over being overwhelmed and I haven’t even seen the subsequent parts yet. Whilst I have been upgrading my skills and my weapon, the monsters have been becoming a lot stronger too, so the opposition is not getting easier and you the player are forced to thinking a little more tactics and no mash buttons, it is essential to making it through. It is almost like Santa Monica Studio saw the setting of Dark Souls and borrowed an idea or two, which is not a bad thing at all. In this, I found that the avoidance by Kratos is not completely flawless and it makes for a more challenging fight, all defence and no offence being pointless in the end. It makes a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things and God of War is more than the jackpot. If the next Last of Us is anything to go by, we are witness to a new level of gameplay, one that the Xbox cannot match, because Ubisoft will not be able to match it. That is not an attack on Ubisoft, it truly is not! They have shown with AC Origin to up their game by a fair bit. Microsoft was just not ready (read: awake enough) to up the game for gamers other than their ‘most powerful consolestatement. Now with the God of War first released, and the Last of Us 2 teasers making us desire more and that is whilst we know that there is every chance that Death Stranding will surpass them both, a Kojima special that does not ill to the other two titles, but we know that Sony is about to up the game for gamers a fair bit and that is merely the top of the 2018 iceberg.We have no idea what we will see in 7 weeks at the E3 2018.

That whilst Windows central ‘treats’ us to: “Ever since the Xbox One launched in 2013, Microsoft has revealed clothing items and other merchandise which were either E3 exclusives, competition rewards, or simply gifts for employees. Luckily, it seems like that’s about to change because a merchandise store is coming soon“, perhaps with a lack of exclusive games that is all they can offer?

Even as Bethesda has been giving us heaps of amazing options, the bulk of the gamer’s desires are set to Elder Scrolls 6 and an optional Fallout 5, and/or Fallout 4b. Bethesda is like Monica Studios and for the longest time they have delivered, even today Skyrim is still played, 6.5 year later, that is the trademark of the truly great and satisfying game and God of War 4 is a welcome addition. It is behind GTA5 the highest Metacritic rating ever and the people of Santa Monica Studio have all the rights, the reason and the ability to feel pride, be proud and enjoy the reverence they will receive for the rest of the year. In this they are sharing the warmth of reverence this year (optionally) with the makers of Spiderman for PS4, another exclusive title, which is now sold out on amazon. So the pre-orders of a game released in September 2018 are already sold out, so in that part Santa Monica Studios is just one player driving the Sony gaming force forward and the competitors have nothing even close to matching that.

Even as I am drawn to return to play God of War, I know that Santa Monica is likely to have a few interesting twists on their bow of confusion. So it will be essential to meet up with Morrighan, Crone of War. She can enlighten me to the opponents that Kratos may face. The Celts were always masters of the skull cleaver and I need to be alert and ready to whatever Santa Monica Studio will throw at me next. The life of a gamer, always trying to remain in synch with the game and with life to get the best results, only the truly great game makers allow us to do that.

When we consider the path that this game series has taken, the path seems obvious, but it is not, the upgrade and evolution of your weapon have options so it can enhance your strength or give power to the weaker side of you that in itself is also brilliant. If you are a range fighter of up close and personal, both have options to give you a much better chance of survival and in the end, you cannot really afford all the upgrades all the time, so choices must be made which makes the game even more challenging and rewarding when you get to the next point. That in itself is also a new victory for the series. The map reveals even more new sides, but I will steer away from that so you can experience that for yourself, making the impact even better.

In the end the God of War treated us to something special two years ago and now we are overwhelmed with what they have actually achieved, no small feat for any development studio, laurels well earned. Even if you are not into the hack and slash games, this game brings a new game, that overwhelms nearly all your senses that alone will be worth buying it for.

That is the curveball, the delivery of something special and again Santa Monica Studio surpassed our expectations, an art that politicians have been lacking for decades, perhaps they should actively listen to Kratos, Ares and Morrighan, nothing less will do at present.

There is one part that politicians can take away from all this. It is not the expected that makes you shine, it is the ability to exceed our expectations that truly matter, isn’t it funny that the one article that they looked down on for three decades (video games) have been able to deliver just that? I see it as the combination of art and imagination and God of War got it right on all counts.

 

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