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Awaiting next week

Whatever happens, will happen. You see, the E3 is on next week and in this it will be the week of gamers. We will see presentations from the big makers and they will either wow or BS us. The interesting part is that this is the one week in the year where we either do not care or we cannot tell the difference. You could tell a little better if you are actually there, but that is not for all to do, unless you live in California that is.

The big players will give us on Saturday the 10th the EA press conference, the day after it will be for Microsoft and Bethesda to ‘wow’ its public. Monday will be Ubisoft and Sony, followed that day after by Nintendo and several small presentations with two unannounced AAA games. There is a chance that the new GTA expansion Gunrunners will take one of them. Tuesday till Thursday, from 19:30 (LA time), we will get the Giant Bomb Live (whatever that is). During those days we will get additional presentations some like Shadow of War (Shadow of Mordor 2) is set, and we will see demonstrations of games (titles not given, other than the platform they are on) and the rest is about seeing the stands and watching what wealthy gamers can enjoy in person. It is the chaos all gamers desire. There are already games in place, games by marketeers. You see Ubisoft is in a difficult position. When we see: ‘New Assassin’s Creed: Origins Leak Shows Main Character, Pyramid, And Bonus Content‘ we see a title that implies that either the issue of Ubisoft not knowing how to deal with security, which is a problem. Or, what is more likely is that its marketing department is dipping its toes in the water trying to see the feedback. The second is more likely as this is pretty much the last chance Ubisoft has to recapture the audience it lost from this franchise and that is a large audience. The fact that it is safer nowadays to just wait 8 weeks and buy the limited editions with 50% discount gives you the idea of their loss. In the old days those boxes would be sold out even before the first day of release was even close to happening, Ubisoft lost that much. The EA presentation is a hard one. When we consider what is confirmed, than they do have an issue, however, they might have surprises for us, which most tend to have. For EA it is a hard one, because they are kicking off E3 2017. Bethesda did such an amazing overwhelming job last year that EA is in a tough position, I am not writing them off, but until we see a gossip part of something truly amazing, EA might not rock-da-house so to speak. Bethesda comes the next day with several titles that will capture the minds of gamers. Several of them are all about shooting; at least one will be about shooting, stabbing and killing Nazi’s, so Blazkowitz is expected to be nearby. The Evil within 2 is announced through rumour, which is a nice surprise. After giving us a different kind of nightmare a few years ago, we will get to see what will make us fear what is under the bed this year. In addition Elder Scrolls online players will get to see more, so there is that to look forward to. The latest rumour is that there is a small chance that we will get a first glimpse of the new Elder Scrolls game, and a smaller chance that a tease for the next Fallout will hit our eyes in roughly 3 days 4 hours and a few minutes. We got a fistful of teaser last year with the upcoming god of War last year from Sony. The title is still not out, so we should expect to see more of that game, hopefully updated with an actual date of release. For the PS4pro fans, we should be hopeful to see David Braben show off the PS4 edition of Elite Dangerous, as this version is out on June 27th, which is less than 2 weeks after the E3. This E3 will be a lot more about DLC’s, so the Blizzard fans will get to see loads of upcoming stuff. The list of people awaiting the Diablo 3 addition is larger than the LA White pages, so this is something we hope to see the official release date on. Another reason to seek YouTube on the E3 events is to see the floors. When you realise that the booths of Ubisoft, Bethesda, Microsoft and Activision are the size of a department store, you know you will get to see unique things that the non-visitors will envy you for; especially, when you start forwarding the ‘selfies’ with a larger than life Butcher (Evil within, 2013). This is just one of several halls described, so when I say that the E3 is the gamers place to be, I am understating the need to be there by a fair amount. It gets even wilder when you realise that in another hall, the Sony stand is larger than the Bethesda and Microsoft combined, so we will very likely get to see a few more things regarding all things PS4pro.

In the end, do not just take my word, find the E3 events and watch the presentations. Those will show you for one what you missed out on and it will also be a first step in creating your upcoming Christmas wish list. So far the last three years have shown me what was coming and how much I was unaware of the games I really wanted. One presentation is unknown to be there, but the Subnautica early release on Xbox One was overwhelming. Not just as a game, but as the game grew and as we got more and more, the game will become an absolute must on the PS4, which is expected to be released in September 2017. Oh, and the E3 is not just software, hardware players like NVidia will also be present, so any new hardware development for PC graphics will be visible too.

So as we are awaiting the arrival of next week, for those who are a little over the bulk promises from political parties, the escalations in France and Germany’s move from Turkey, there is the option to just get into gaming and see where that leaves your sanity. In addition, as you get deeper into Call of Duty, you might find yourself more and more imagining these Nazi’s to be ISIS fighters; there is no war like the present I say. So as I leave Activision with the idea of a free DLC, so that we can practice. I also leave you with the comment of Josh Hutcherson in Red Dawn, where he states: “Dude, we are living Call of Duty and it sucks!

That is to make you aware of the difference between gaming in a lazy chair and an actual theatre of war. Because as we seek a little escapism from reality, which is good for the soul at times. We should not forget that the deadly reality is on several doorsteps; in addition, the implied changes I suggested yesterday were partially implemented by France less than 24 hours later. What were the chances of me predicting that? I offer the thought that this was not a game and the changes required in Europe seem to be adopted in France, which is good as they lack a level of security that the UK has due to the fact that it is an island. In addition, the BBC (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40195212) gives us more on Youssef Zaghba and more important, the fact that Italy placed Youssef on the SIS2 list, which now beckons the call on how Youssef actually entered the UK. If it was though the Netherlands (Ferry) or the smaller airfields like Rotterdam or Eindhoven, the question becomes how diligent are these checks? There are a few unknowns, but it seems that within Schengen, certain unchecked issues are now an actual security concern. So as we see certain implied accusations, we need to wonder whether Youssef was on SIS2, and if so when was he added?

These are all issues awaiting us for next week, one is all about recreation, one is about anything but recreations and the rest falls in the middle. We can argue, or have a conversation how the terror curve is an inverted recreation curve, yet in all this; the one element that I raised yesterday is now coming to the forefront. I mentioned that we need to think in new ways, we need a new approach to tackle intelligence solutions. The one part they all ignore, or philosophise around it, is that the better game designers have been developing at the edge of hardware possibilities and software creativity for years, a few literally for decades. It is not the worst idea for some of the larger players in the field of security find a way to have a serious conversation with some developers in regards to how creative solutions in data parsing could be found. Some of the larger developers have been doing just that for a decade or more.

As I stated, and I stand by that ‘we need to stop looking in the same direction and regard any box to be obsolete, we need to start being creative to the application of data and technology‘, it is that approach that got me to solve the NHS IT issue. The foundation took a mere hour to ‘solve’.

To those doubting me (always a valid option), I now have a few dozen I told you so articles where what I stated and those following learned came with a difference of weeks, not hours. So I reckon I have made my point a few times. When it comes to the upcoming elections, my larger fear is that Corbyn succeeds by swaying the people to dive the UK in a deeper debt, one that it cannot overcome for decades, it leaves the UK too vulnerable. So consider your choice, and also consider the bleeding hearts of Amnesty International. As they proclaim on loss of rights in Paris, they seem to leave the people in the dark on the dangers that France has faced a few times and how these dangers for now persist. There is a time and a place for everything, and for the most I have never opposed peaceful protests, yet these tend to escalate fast, and it only takes a few people to escalate it beyond proportions. In a time when a man attacking people with a hammer near Notre Dame is just another moment of extremism, is the question, should we protest now, at a time when groups get targeted by extremists? There is nothing stopping them to do this online, via Facebook or Twitter. As stated, it is not about the protest it is about the timing in the light of events as they are happening in Europe. Perhaps my thoughts are wrong on this, and you are welcome to oppose that. Yet with the amount of attacks, with the dangers as the flood of extremists is not known, do you want to be the person starting a peaceful protest, only to guide those who agree to a dangerous life threatening situation?

I do not proclaim to be wise enough to have the answer here; I am merely going on common sense here. So as we get towards and through next week. Perhaps at that point will the information be shown that I was right or wrong? I am happy to be wrong, I am less happy that me, myself and I setting the wrong stage costing the lives of others. That is fair too, is it not?

So as we see the throne of games evolve over the next week on the stages of politics, policies and PlayStation, we need to try and identify, what is marketing and what is BS marketing. The difference will impact the lives of many. It is easy to shrug it off when it is a $100 video game; it is less entertaining when it causes 15 years of austerity. I’ll let you decide on how fair that is, when in doubt, see austerity in action by watching the news on Greece!

 

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What did you expect?

This all started with an article in the Guardian last December, in the air of ‘it was a day plus one before Santa‘, the title ‘Game shares fall 40% after profit warning‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/23/game-shares-fall-40-percent-after-profit-warning-xbox-one-ps4). You see, none of this should be a surprise to anyone. When we look today we see all these ‘what will come in 2016‘ articles (read: multiple) and that is JUST the Guardian, not even a serious gaming source. Another article kicks of one of its paragraphs with ‘E3 WILL BRING SURPRISES‘ and then it reverts to the mundane “This year, we can expect Nintendo’s new machine and plenty of VR games but, beyond that, little is known. And that’s just how we like it“, if that is so, then why waste space on it in January whilst that event is 22 weeks away. Ignoring the event for no less than 10 weeks would not have been out of place. That article ends with ‘A YEAR OF BIG GAMES‘, where we see the quote “but most exciting for gamers are the big sequels“, with several mentions of games that had been delayed from 2015. What they all forget is an element the mentioned article will give you.

So let us take a look!

The subtitle is as good a place as any to start. It states ‘Gamers failed to buy enough games for new consoles to make up for a steep fall in demand for older formats‘, so how about giving the reality of the games which means the subtitle should have been ‘Game developers fail to deliver quality, they failed in many cases on delivering on time, some delayed until 2017, creating a new level of gaming uncertainty‘ that subtitle would have been on point. Assassins Creed is one of those titles, Unity failed massively, the reason for mentioning it is because Syndicate did not become the success it could have been mainly because of Unity. A game that used to be sold out on special editions is now getting flogged for $50 including art book, statue, extra missions and soundtrack. A game sold at 33% of the initial value, new in box. Yes, I give you right now that Syndicate does not deserve to be regarded as a failure, but it remains a non-success. It still has an amount of glitches and issues that go back all the way to brotherhood, they have never been addressed. Mass NPC issues remain and the list goes on, yet again, the graphics department delivered, sound delivered too. There are in mission issues, yet for the most they did work OK, in a few cases they were actually decently brilliant. Yet in all this the NPC issues rose. For example, I can get attacked and the police does not act. I pull a knife and they all start shooting, even in my own (read: liberated) areas. The fact that they act on me is one thing, the fact that they do not act against my attackers is another thing. It becomes even more a joke when a fellow Rook NPC keeps on pulling his knife against my kidnap target alerting the police who now has a go at me too, all scripted screw ups that were not addressed. Yet overall the latest AC is not a failure, in the same light that I placed the Ubisoft business model in the past, planning for non-failure also means that you will never get an exceptional success. Perhaps Ubisoft will catch on at some point (one would hope, would one not?)

But this is not about Ubisoft, they are just one element in a group of many.

The quote: “However, independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said he was “staggered” by Game’s profit warning after John Lewis boasted of strong sales of computer games earlier this week. “We had just begun to wonder if Game Digital might be a good recovery stock,” he said. The department store said gaming and console sales were up 180% in the week to 19 December, picking them out as one of its Christmas bestsellers“, but based on what was this? Special in house deals with 2 games? Places like EB Games are offering new 1TB consoles with 4 or 5 games that is quite the Christmas pick. Oh and what are the numbers? When you normally sell 10 consoles 180% really does not amount to that much. I would think that Nick Bubb would have done his homework a little more meticulously, or perhaps staggering was a factor after he learned that £2290 is not something that gives price to 180% (I am not saying that I know their sales numbers, but I am asking why no one else is making a clear investigation there). And on what margins are those placed? A £299 console is one thing, one with 3 games at £279 is a good deal for the buyer, but it equally means it is a product without margin for the shops.

Yet the big UK player Game should have known that this issue is a lot more clear, so the statement “Game said a 20% rise in sales of games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 had not offset a 57% slump in sales of older Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games” is a mere given, something they should have known going into the holiday season. You see, many big titles have been delayed, what was coming before Christmas is now coming in March and in a few cases in April. Big titles have not been the success they were supposed to be and in all this So when another article in the Guardian one day later reports “According to the industry body Ukie, sales of new boxed console games in the UK fell 6.3% in 2014 to £935m, and were overtaken by the 17.6% rise in sales of digital console and PC games to £1.05bn“, we should ask the question that Stuart Dredge might have been trying to hide within the text. The issue is “The Steam Winter Sale has gone live today, Dec. 22nd, and runs until January 4th“, yes ‘in sales of digital console and PC games‘ translates to Steam sales for PC games, a place where games were down by 50%, in several cases even down by 80%, so as many game shops have a non-return or exchange policy for PC games (which does make perfect sense), people are happy to download a few 4GB packages (in some cases not more than 2) and store that on their multi-Terabyte drives and the list included discounted games like Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid 5 and Just Cause 3. So, when we know this, the ‘staggered’ response by Nick Bubb comes across as extremely insincere. Perhaps he did not do his homework? How can a person in that field not be up to date as to what Steam does and how that impact the shops, you see Steam has done this before, so it can’t have been that unexpected.

In that same issue we have places like Game and EB Games. In some cases they rely on fans who want their new upcoming Dark Souls 3 (the apocalypse edition) and that game will likely sell out in mere minutes, yet the dangers when a shop is losing space to a stack of Charing Cross editions, because the previous version was so bad is in equal measure not that weird a surprise.

There is still one other part that links to this. You see, we all play the way we can, some only play the way that they can afford and Microsoft has been dubious in several actions, the issues now arising from the Windows 10 update give more towards the fear that at the earliest moment Microsoft will close the valve on ‘pre-owned’ games, a side people rely upon because the average working family no longer has a spare £50 for a new game. Hell, most people in London are hard pressed to have £50 for simple things like food, so how is the drop in revenue such a big mystery?

The UK (as well as many other places on this world) have been dealing with a sliding cost of living crises. It has been around for 2 years and too many people are ignoring this fact, in any normal household games will be the first one to vanish from any budget consideration, which gives rise to the growing need of places like Steam, because between no gaming and playing a game 2 years old at £5, people usually tend to know what to do. The interesting side is that many of those games do not need the latest hardware, actually, those steam consoles will support the bulk of those games on high quality settings, so the Nextgen consoles are losing their footing, a fact that someone like Nick Bubb should have been aware of straight of the bat.

Are you still confused?

Open your wallet, consider your bank account (your present balance) and now go to any gaming store and get a new game. How many of you will actually do that? As I see it, 40% cannot afford it, 60% does not want to do this because they either do not care for games (which is fair enough), they have other bills to pay (which is fair enough too), or they are waiting for one of those delayed games, because they can only afford a game 3-4 times a year. These are given situations for well over 80% of the people in the UK, in addition it is a similar size in most of the EEC nations, so why exactly are we surprised on these sliding scales? I cannot answer why many readers are surprised (many might be genuinely surprised), but we should ask a few serious questions when retail gurus like Nick Bubb are absent in comprehension. In that case we should be asking a few other questions.

And games are not out of the woods yet, not for the near immediate future. Yes, most of us will run towards No Man’s Sky the day it is released (in around 22 weeks), but consider how we as gamers (millions of us) find fun and joy in a $20 game named Minecraft, or on the Tablets on a $5 game named Blockheads, how long until the analysts are catching on the hyped inflated games galore for PC and next gen is a massive marketing mesh that is short term, based upon a turnover need from the initial 21 days of release? We will always want games like Skyrim, Fallout 4, GTA, Diablo 3 and a few others, but that list is a lot shorter than those marketeers will admit to and the large players remain in denial. Hoping on a new shooter online where people do nothing more that run and ‘super jump’ on all levels like it was the first version of Unreal Tournament. How long until that gets boring and old? The remake Doom might be the first one that infuses life into that group, a mere original gems in a mountain of too many fake crystals.

Yes, we will see a few games we all want, we will see games that we thought we wanted because as games developers rely on hype, they are equally extremely unwilling to give out review copies until AFTER the game is released, because it would hurt numbers and the press at large (the real one and the gaming press) tends to be too often in need of advertisers to actually do something about it.

Finally we get back to Ubisoft, but now for very different reasons. You see, they are offering something called a ‘humble bundle’, which one place stated costed $1. I cannot verify this, but the offer (regardless of price) includes:

  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist ($10 or more)
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier ($10 or more)
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction
  • Beta access to The Division

One source implies that the price is open, but if you paid a few bucks more (like $11) you got a few additional beauties. I was never a Rainbow Six fan, but a huge Splinter cell fan and even only those games at $11 is an impressive deal, so when you consider this, when you see that PC gamers are offered a steamy steam life with excellent not so new games, in a price range that most people could afford, how is the 40% drop in shares of Game still a mystery?

The gaming world is in an uproar, because they did not tap the vein of quality when they should, they did not press forward for true non-annual innovation when they could, leaving marketing to make the call on hype, instead of truly addressing their fan base needs. An expensive mistake that has led to the downfall of the biggest players (EA and Ubisoft), gamers are realising more and more that indie developers will bring what they desire, a great gaming experience; and only now is the press at large considering that the need of advertisement revenue and the need of their readers base is not aligned, the question becomes how will this be addressed?

I do know that when the press is relying on a ‘staggered’ Nick Bubb for gaming, too many people might be looking in the wrong direction.

 

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Sandbox games

The first time I saw the title I thought it was a new brand for the younger player. It is an easy to make mistake, we see sandbox, we remember the hole in the ground, or the large box wooden square filled with sand in the yard where we used to play as kids. Yet, this is not it. Sandbox games are true open world games, even more important, the true sandbox game lets you change the world you are in.

Well, a first sandbox game would be the Sim city, made by Maxis. It is likely the first one that allowed you the player to change the world you were in. I remember the game in its old days, it was 1989 and I was already reviewing games. I saw it as more than just a game, yes, the core was a game. You could not change landscapes in the first edition but the start of open choices was there. I saw and reviewed it as more than a game. It had the foundations to be a learning tool and a Planological simulator. What happened when you build houses by the lake? When industry gets to close and so on, how to keep the balance of commerce, industry and residents as you grew your town larger and larger? The game was addictive, it was fun and it had an educational side. The game was a great success and it was the sequel SimCity2000 that truly brought the wave of open editing.

Some define the true sandbox game to be without a goal. I feel the same way, which is why most of my favourites are not sandbox games, but open world games, with Bethesda games being pretty much the pinnacle of open world games. Yes, they do have goals, yet in Oblivion we see how the goals can be ignored and you as an adventurer can just go on your merry way. This is almost true open world. It comes with the usual downsides and glitches, but for the most, Bethesda, makers of Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas kept an openness to the games that make them as close as ‘sandbox’ as possible. Yet the ‘changing the world’ in almost its most founding form makes those games fall short and we are left with one overwhelming winner, namely Minecraft.

I reckon that this is the reason it is such a success. The game offers true openness; you can go on your merry way and as you mine, build and explore the world will shape according to your actions. It is one of the most compelling versions of gaming, because it is the one game where you are for the most, only limited by your own imagination. This makes it in my mind such a compelling game, it all comes to maturity as the game was released on PS4 yesterday and as per today it will be available for the Xbox One, making it one of the widest released console games ever with over 100 million registered users on the PC alone. This shows that a good game will outperform a graphic game EVERY time. Yes, according to Gamespot, only 14.3% has bought the game, yet the Xbox 360 has already sold over 10 million and the PS3 edition surpassed the one million mark. Now we will see how the NextGen gamers react and they get a treat, because who already have it on their other consoles will be able to buy it for $5, which is an awesome deal.

I hope you are all catching on at this point, because the question that follows should be ‘Why are there not more sandbox games?

This is indeed one of the questions that linger in the wake. The answer is actually less simple. The line between the Bethesda RPG games (open world) and Sandbox games is actually a lot finer than most consider. Some will consider GTA (Grand Theft Auto) and Fallout to be sandbox games, I do not! The option to change the world is not there, which makes it open world in my book, but that line is really not that big so it is an easy mistake to make. I also think that NextGen systems now allow for large true sandbox games to be made and time will tell how this will continue, because allowing for the limit to be ones imagination is a lot harder than you think and Minecraft had it just right!

There will be a truckload of open world games to come and many will allow that to be enough, but when will they come to NextGen? That is at times the question. We will see the next massive sandbox game to arrive in 2015 when No Man’s sky is released yet is that the only one? There could be a host of re-engineered games going all the way back to Midwinter on the Amiga/Atari ST, which could be seen as the initial Far Cry 3, but then without a storyline or missions. Far Cry 4 is coming soon, yet again; this is open world and not sandbox (from my definition). In my view that small margin is important, yet both versions will allow for immense gaming pleasure, so do not let the label ‘sandbox’ or ‘open world’ to stop you from having fun, because I personally feel that the old title ‘RPG’ (Role Playing Game’ was too often ignored by players, who thought that these games were dull. I think that Minecraft is one reason why people feel more and more drawn to the Open world and RPG gaming.

There is also another side to the sandbox; we are seeing it at present the most clearly in the Elder Scrolls online. I had mixed feelings; first of all it is a daring undertaking to get there, so Bethesda should get a large applause for even attempting it. Yet, there is an overwhelming shortfall. You see, Oblivion and Skyrim both had their quirks (read plenty of bugs), but for the most, they could be addressed and many of them are not fatal (but extremely vexing at times), yet unlike the Assassins Creed series, there has been a massive amount of improvements and as such Bethesda has shown an A-Game programming approach throughout their releases. Here is the first kicker: a monthly subscribed MMO is not a bad idea, yet with World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online and Destiny (to be released soon) we are confronted with a version of gameplay that is more expensive than a Foxtel subscription, which is not what a gamer wants, especially after paying $100 for a game or $115 for the limited edition, add to that the fact that most gamers are left with less and less time playing and additional fees for internet and such, the pickings tend to get mighty slim.

I had an idea for a new Elder Scrolls named Elder Scrolls 6: resurrection, which I committed to a document and is already well over 20,000 words for the setup. It allowed me to reconsider the RPG and their approach to location. Instead of a system with new locations, some gaming franchises have grown to the maximum extend, not just because there are several version, but by the way they approached it all, that we see a world that had evolved beyond the simple markers of the box. The first game in this is the Ultima series, as the gamers passion grew, so did the need for the reality of the location. I personally thought that Oblivion was part of that fulfilment. What if ‘Sosaria’ could be completely mapped according to these lines? I personally feel that The Elder scrolls gave us that notion and Skyrim made that notion grow more and more. What if they had changed the premise, not into an MMO, but by evolving their maps and mapping approach? What if, the engine on the disk is not just a map, but an evolved mapping system, like an automotive mapping system that allows us to grow where we are and where we go? That was at the foundation of ES6 Resurrection, not by just ‘adding’ Elsweijr and Valenwood, but to transfer the maps from both Oblivion and Cyrodiil (added to ES6), so that the game grows upon the complete map. So, the map gets transferred to the hard drive of the console. Consider the game where we could literally run from Solitude to Haven (Valenwood). It would become more than just a simple RPG; Tamriel would become a growing iterative entity where you can live, run, swim, quest, and off course grow. Let’s not forget that if we properly scale the maps, we would get an RPG world where we can literally spend days by just travelling (if we do not use cart, coach or fast travel). Not unlike the Ultima fan, is that not close to the reality of a Role Playing Game that gamers dream of?

In my view I had adjusted the map of Cyrodiil from a 3×3 to a 9×9 grid, so everything would be 300% larger in actual space. The imperial city would actually become 900% larger and the other towns would become larger, yet not that much, it would be the map where we see the massive difference and it would take a lot longer to get from one place to another, so we would at times be actually exploring Cyrodiil. One of the largest missions would be to truly rebuild (Kvatch), yet you the player would not (it seems a bit silly to manually rebuild it). Yet to quest and find people, workers and to see Kvatch rebuild over many months (actual many months of gameplay), is what would have set this RPG apart from all other games. Quests to influence the look of Kvatch as well as what would be in the city, so the player influences whether Kvatch was to be a mere larger city or to make it the jewel that rivals the imperial city. Yet the main mission would remain in Valenwood and Elsweijr.

This growth would transform the Elder Scrolls from open world to something so close to a Sandbox game in what I would call a true unparalleled level of gaming.

You see, soon game developers will see that the dollar only gets you to a certain place, gamers will pay the $149 for such a sizeable game, but the long term of $19 a month will stop them sooner rather than later because the bills need paying and the student population will be left with less and less sooner still. Then what will they play?

You see, this is the response from Elder Scrolls Management: “And it’s important to state that our decision to go with subscriptions is not a referendum on online game revenue models. F2P, B2P, etc. are valid, proven business models – but subscription is the one that fits ESO the best“.

Is that thought through? It seems that you also need Xbox Live Gold in addition on the console, which is not free. They state that it is ‘only’ an additional annual $60, which might be true in the US, but in Australia it is $90, which is again 50% more, so did they think through the numbers and when they consider the established competition, did they see the danger, threats and weakness of this model? The additional outrage which we quote from the gaming site Kotaku shows an additional weakness to their model “Tomorrow night at 10PM AEST, players who have purchased The Elder Scrolls Online but have yet to set up a recurring subscription or entered a game time code will no longer have access to the game. The issue with most players making their objections heard in the Elder Scrolls Online forums over the past couple of days isn’t the subscription itself — the minimum $US14.99 monthly fee comes as no surprise. What is surprising is that Zenimax Online is pre-authorizing users’ credit and debit cards the full $US14.99 (or more) fee” (at http://www.kotaku.com.au/2014/04/players-upset-over-the-elder-scrolls-onlines-subscription-system/), which shows more than just a small issue. The game lacks the comfort of the solo play, which is comfort the RPG gamer loves. Yes, they are all for teams at time, but like me, many love just to be by themselves and just explore the great digital unknown. The MMO seems to lack that ability, apart from the reported rampant troll issues (actual trolls, not the well-known harassing player trolls).

Al this leaves us with the larger bad taste that there is more and more noise of people leaving the Elder Scrolls Online style and replay either Oblivion or Skyrim. My model allowed for that and in addition would have almost guaranteed loyalty for at least two more instalments, as well as a league of income from additional DLC options. It is a missed opportunity for Bethesda/Zenimax.

Yet the hungry new developers can also learn from the missed options as can current established brands. Consider the current/new Mass Effect universe where we see a new reach of places that become additions, the same could be stated for Neverwinter (from Neverwinter Nights), the earlier mentioned Sosaria as well as the Fable series. This is the final side of the sandbox game. You see, creative freedom seems to breed a mix of addiction and loyalty that cannot be broken. I found it driving me back to Minecraft as well as Oblivion again and again. It also seems to prove the strength of the Diablo 3 approach and the weakness of the Elder Scrolls Online choice.

When we look deeper at the quote “but subscription is the one that fits ESO the best” might be true for their board of directors, but it clearly leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the players, when they move towards the next solution, their board will feel what a deserted franchise feels like, a feeling that Mojang (makers of Minecraft) is unlikely to experience with their simple but genius approach.

 

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