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Electronic Entertainment Expo 2019

After last year there were issues, several on all fronts, and as Sony announced not to attend, we see the larger question, is there a need for E3? From my personal point of view, Microsoft will not be trustworthy (after their choices between the Xbox 360 and now), making it a Nintendo & Indie show, now, I am all for that and it could be awesome, but that is no longer an actual E3. Also, we will see the front carried by a few titles, yet they did so too last year and the blip verts show many images of what we saw last year too.

So as I use GamesRadar (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNCFmrkqQuY) as a handhold, let’s take a look at what we could optionally consider not watching in person there.

  1. Cyberpunk 2077. Yes, we saw a lot, we saw a lot before and for the most, we have blind trust in CD Project Red, they gave us the goods from the very start ‘You’ll see it when it is ready’ and with the Witcher III as evidence, we have all the confidence that it will be a smash winner when it is finished, the problem is that everyone is speculating or giving ‘I know a guy and it comes at …….‘, but the truth is CD Project RED has not giving a final date, if there is one, it will most likely be given at the E3 2019.
  2. Gears of War 5, it seems to be more of the same, it was never my cup of tea and as such, I hope people will love it, I truly do, but I see it as too much of the same, just like the next HALO which has number 3 and even as 4 player part might be nice, yet after Anthem, and every version connected to it (exception of Fortnite and Overwatch) I have seen enough to last me a lifetime, so the orchestra part was definitely overkill
  3. Another Star Wars game? Likely an absolute must for every Star Wars fan, I am not judging here, merely awaiting to see real game play.
  4. Session, a skateboarding game. It comes from Microsoft, so we will have to await the actual game footage and YouTube video to see what the actuality of that game is, personally I am kind of over all the Microsoft marketing, and we will likely see more on Crackdown 3, the game that was announced in 2014, coming in 2016, and has had delay after delay and is still not out. A game that is years too late, supposed to be AAA and gets a mere 57% from Metacritic, I think it was PC Gamer that gave us “It’s an OK game that could’ve been exciting a decade ago“, so as we were given presentation after presentation on the of Cloudgine for cloud computing support, we see the entire part blown out of the water. This now interacts with my article ‘At the end of a journey‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/14/at-the-end-of-a-journey/) where we see the issue of Tim Stuart, Microsoft CFO giving us: “Xbox CFO on Google Stadia: “Cloud Won’t Match Local Experience”“, yes we said that for decades, making Crackdown 3 a joke at the very least and the years of delay a questionable side in what Microsoft regards as game design.

There are a few more games, some definitely interesting of checking out and a few to race for to the release date shop. Bethesda will be present with another Doom, for the lovers of that type of game a decent must. Ubisoft will try to wet the appetite with more ‘Beyond good and evil 2‘ yet there is no indication that there will be anything playable and GamesRadar as well as a few others have been whispering NextGen, so this might be a PS5 and whatever Microsoft puts on the market with an expected optional ‘always online‘ push by badly facilitating, and lets not forget the massive amount of space reserved for advertisement on your Xbox screen.

Nintendo will be killing the show, the next Pokémon is already making waves at present, so the impact will only increase, and that is merely the beginning, there will be an animal crossing, an exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance for Nintendo Switch, which must anger all the other consoles, as the previous two had quite the impact on gaming. And no matter how others slice it, the Nintendo Store with Switch version of CBM-64 golden games is only increasing the desire to own a Nintendo Switch, the idea to replay the Epyx great ‘Impossible Mission’ is just too fantastic to ignore.

We will get another call to Dying Light 2, yet at present no actual reliable release date as well as third installments of Luigi’s mansion and Borderland, both a reason to watch, both have a following and both have creatively emphasized on fun. There are more and more titles that are looking good (also on the Xbox), the makers of Fallout New Vegas and now part of Microsoft will be bringing the Outer Worlds. For those who remember Fallout New Vegas, consider an RPG, a lot larger, with more options, more challenges and more choices, there is zero chance that this game is not on the wish list of anyone who loves RPG’s, which is fair enough, Microsoft can’t get everything wrong. For Ubisoft it will be an important moment, Watchdogs 3 is on the list and according to rumours it will now be based in London. It is important because the first game became a massive letdown, yet Watchdogs repaired it to a decent degree in number two, not in the least because of the cast of Ruffin Prentiss who did an amazing job. So for Ubisoft the stakes are nothing short of monumental, they cannot afford to mess this one up. As I personally see it the Quality department better have their marbles in a row on this one. Ubisoft will have more if some of the leaks are to be believed. So their show, as well as the Bethesda one are the shows to be in the top ones both seasoned with the anticipation from viewers and gaming fanatics alike.

Gaming is more and more true mainstream, but it is also splintering gamers to a larger degree, in part we can blame people like Fortnite. It is not really their fault, they made genuine innovations, and more and more people nowadays expect that the system is no longer an issue when you are playing with your friends, which is actually no longer a given. With newbies Apple and Google, the interaction of games across platforms becomes a larger issue and no longer a given. Yet the audience is pushing and setting for a stage that remains debatable. Is it fair to expect PC’s and next generation consoles to group play?

The option that Microsoft consoles will interact with PC’s is to be expected, but is that stage equal for PS5 other solutions (Mac systems)? I am not claiming a yes or no, merely asking the question. If anything happens in the 5G stage, it will be that those interactions will find a larger footing, whether it will happen gets a TBA (to be announced) flag for now.

As I said Ubisoft has Watchdogs 3 nearly on ready is a large issue, on the plus side, if they pull it off, the value of the Watchdogs Franchise will skyrocket, mainly because the second in San Francisco was a large step forward from the first. The idea of London is appealing to many in other ways, the American population that needs to adjust to driving on the left lane is going to set the stage of many hilarious moments and the open world of London could be breathtaking. They gave us a great experience in San Francisco, so I expect nothing less than spectacular. It also implies that my idea for Watchdogs 3 could be an optional Watchdogs 4, so let’s just hope that game 3 knocks it out of the park. The only larger question will be Bethesda, they have confirmed that there will be no Elder Scrolls 6 or Starfield, which is nice to know, but Bethesda has a lot more IP so there is likely to be plenty to watch, and to be honest after all the slicing and dicing of Fallout 76, they need a win, a big win would be better.

In all this we see more of the same, the IP has stagnated to some degree, Minecraft (2009), Skyrim (2011), Grand Theft Auto V (2013), Elite Dangerous (2014), Witcher III (2015), No Mans Sky (2016), Fortnite (2017), all great moments of IP. I now distinguish between IP and a great game; they often go hand in hand, but not always. I believe that sandbox games, RPG games and tactical games will overlap more and more and will for the growing population of new gamers to be more and more important as well. We saw what could have been possible to some degree in Ghost Recon Wildlands, but not to the degree that could have been achieved. I believe that this is the IP that Google Stadia can build on.

Say What?

To see this, we need to look at the two stages of gaming. For the most, the games have a combined approach (the image is an analogy), so there are parts in the game that are used and in the core of the game, accessed when it is applicable. Yet another way is to take the Covert Action (an old Microprose game) approach, but now a next generation version. In this version in any sandbox, as we add a new element, the world would actually become bigger, or there would be more to do in that same world.

It was the foundation when I started the design of a game called: ‘Equilibrium, nature versus the machine‘. The biggest elements were finding a large enough play field (in my case Amsterdam), and set the stage where replayability would be more fun, so the stage required a very different approach, so that people could not chase from one point to the other to get a quickest time finale. In addition, I needed to set a stage where it would not merely be some kind of a ‘seek’ game (which is too much of a given when you finish the game more than once). In addition, there is the eye candy bit, so making sure it looks appealing and not repetitive was equally a challenge. For the most Amsterdam filled that bill. Yet, as I was contemplating the foundations for Elder Scrolls 7 and Watchdogs 4 I knew that they all had their hang-ups (not in a bad way), in every case it was what the player (in my case me) relied on, I wanted to change that concept, and in all honesty after hundreds of hours of Diablo 3 it felt an essential first to solve.

No man’s sky gave me additional idea’s. We look at it as some kind of failure, but the game is an achievement in many ways. If we accept that the worlds were set to a formula, what happens if we change this world into a formula and let the NoManSky IP recreate that world again and again? Then I considered what could one day be another Watchdog game, in this I wanted to push the envelope in another way. Hence I considered the stage where Kyoto was completely set to the game map, and I mean EVERY street. The game would now be large enough to keep a person busy for hundreds of hours and in the gender setting the game would have 4 versions two for each gender and each gender could get through the game as a criminal or a non-criminal, so the city had a light and a dark side. The interesting part about Japan is the lack of guns (and super strict gun laws) forcing stealth and forcing unarmed combat. As the monkey fist was a brilliant choice in the second Watchdogs, there was the option to keep it in, but also to make other weapons, weapons not to bleed, but to knock out. The nice part is that Japan has about 4 centuries of weapons in their history, so plenty of options. Technology (read: applied technology) is also more advanced (in many cases), so letting the game revolve not merely on the smartphone, but also Google glasses and the fact that in the hard setting there will be no English, gives light to a much bigger challenge. Having to rely on you wearing Google glasses (in the game that is) to read signs and to read instructions in the game to get your local language was appealing for a few reasons. It makes the game a much larger part of you. Adding weather and time constraints adds to the challenge and excitement. We forgot that the ‘you’ in your character was neglected more and more is also a consideration, having to eat and sleep on a regular basis could translate into a larger experience.

Finally the part where the elements come to shine; as we look at the coloured balls, we can see that mixing blue and red would create purple and between blue and dark yellow we would get a moss green. Now consider replacing the colour for a level, in normal mode hacking is one version, yet when we tweak that it is not pressing a button, we could replace the button with code segments that need to be found (and chosen), drastically increasing the challenge of the game, so what is a joy and still a challenge as well as an achievement on normal could be a mind boggling experience on hard and higher. So the smartphone could be upgraded, other versions of the (in game) app, also gives more options and buying an up scaled phone (more expensive) would give the player more destinations where he/she could strike it rich. Yet giving merely more and more is not enticing either, the added plus needs to be balanced with the drag in the negative.

It is what I envisioned in a new Elder Scrolls, adding the old limits. For example a person could not be fighter guild and mercenary (Blackwood company), a Mages Guild member could not be a member of the Thieves Guild and so on, so that at the most 3 guilds could be joined and until one guild had been completed some guilds could not be started. In this setting the game becomes more fulfilling, even in replay, as you start the second game with the Mages guild or the guild of Necromancy would impact your character to a much larger degree. To keep it appealing the setting of what used to be called the red wire challenge, a challenge that is not part of any main quest and happens over the entire stage of the game, so I came up with another challenge, to get there you needed masons, as well as special books (to be found) you could influence the look of the outcome with an Elvish, a Dwemer, the Imperial and the Ayleid version, all having distinct different looks and as the books are to be found in a different locations in every game, the hunt could be on for quite a while. With the introduction of new elements, reverting to an applied extra from Oblivion, So in the game there would be the option for Strength, Intelligence, Willpower, Agility, Speed, Endurance, Personality and Luck to be increased in other ways. Mining would result in additional strength, trading gives additional Personality, and Luck would grow with trade deals, finding mythic loot and so on, so even as the Skyrim approach of Illusion, Conjuration, Restoration, Alteration, Enchanting, Smithing and so on remains, with certain levels of Smithing and/or Mining surpassed the player would also gain additional strength, which gives added value to the carry and stamina numbers, whilst sickness and wounds have a much stronger negative impact. So a stealth master remains with attributes in the same area, any stealth master would have much higher agility giving the player an additional bonus. In addition, the stage of the game as I considered it had additional choices making for a much higher desire to replay the game in other ways and options. And as I went through it, it was the idea of changing the map in another way, As Oblivion was stated to be 40 KM2, Skyrim was stated to be 37 KM2 (this is clearly a: I thought it was bigger moment) ESVII (Restoration) would be no less than 780 KM2, adding to the game in a massive way, yet that also gave the stage where the current approach to a game map would no longer work (assumption on my side), so another approach would be essential. Optionally a two disc solution where the first disc is the install and map disc, the second one would be the actual game disc, yet in that stage the game would require a reserved space of no less than 150 GB (very loose estimate), as such the game would require other checks and balances as well. Whether it ever happens or not does not matter, the entire part is important in another way. When we consider the images I gave where the play world grows with the added segments, that approach would work very well for Google Stadia, so it opens up a new area we have almost never seen before, true open source gaming, a collective of gamers that could add to the game (with permission from the maker) not unlike some kind of a creation club, but in the foundation (the small balls), as a new enhancement is accepted by the game owner, we see that the entire gaming map and experience would grow as well, so over time, we get a largely enhanced game. Consider the merging of Elite Dangerous and No Man’s Sky, so not only do you play Elite Dangerous and travel from planet to planet, each planet could end up having an algorithm that allows to planetary exploration on every planet for the size of the planet, it would make it a game that takes a lifetime to play even in part. Yet what happens when someone created the module to add your own space station in an unexplored location? Consider the option for the gamer to have their own small station, grow it so that the station itself becomes an economic mark on the game as a larger whole. The nice part is that Google Stadia is in a much better position to bring that reality in gaming in the short term, so as the elements of IP are created and offered, we see the optional short term reality that Google Stadia could take sandbox gaming to an entirely new level and that would create the interest of millions of casual and recreational gamers overnight. That is not all, the stated lack of latency and the larger balance (implied) between latency and quality (much higher quality with less latency) only rises the level of opportunity for the Google players in the immediate future. I am not certain how active Google will be at the next E3, yet I believe that every eye will be on what Google can deliver, at that point the game changes for players on a global scale, so when I stated “we do hope that Sony is not stupid enough to follow the short-sighted path that Microsoft is on, they are now merely console number three and optionally before 2021 number 4 out of 5“, in ‘Lifting the Veil‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/17/lifting-the-veil/) I did know what I was talking about and I knew what could optionally happen. Microsoft forgot what the power of true dreamers was (and optionally clueless on what they can still do), that is why Google could be the number 3 choice for a global gaming community soon thereafter, how far they rise depends on how innovative they continue to be, they are up against two titans that actively shaped the world of gaming for well over 5 console generations. So when these new technologies come, we will see a much more driven need for these players to be the best innovator in gaming, at that point it does not matter who leads, the gamer wins and that is just fine by me.

 

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A BAFTA for controllers

Yes, another event is taking place; this time it will be the BAFTA for games that is up for some to grab. The competition has been fierce in the past; I actually did not choose God of War in the Games Awards 2018. I would have given it to Forza Horizons 4, who had blown me away on several fields, even as there was no dispute, it was close, really really close. So as we see the Artistic Achievement mask, God of War wins, not by much as the competition was fierce.

With Audio achievement, God of War wins, it will also win the Music; the soundtrack is overwhelming and amazing. They also have the benefit that AC Origins and Arkham Knight are not on that list; these three are the best soundtracks gaming has ever produced. Bear McCreary, a musician who already earned his stripes with Battlestar Galactica (and several others) is now the one favourite for that mask, as I personally see it.

Yet best game is interesting, with Forza Horizons missing, only God of War remains; in my personal view the others will not make it a nose length fight. Yet all is not lost for Microsoft, with the British game, we see a win that clearly goes to Forza, racing through Britain is just too much fun and too amazing.

I have to pass on debut game; too many are unknown to me, making my voice not a fair one. As Evolving Game, Elite is the one for me. I have skin in the game there, having loved the game since its initial release on the BBC Micro B and my own copy on the CBM 64 (I did not have the BBC Micro B myself). I still remember that day as I had to take a 90 minute train trip to get to the one store in 1985 that had it. When it comes to Family, my view is skewed. I do not think that Pokémon is a family game, it is family friendly, that is true, but true family game implies engagement by all and there I merely see Super Mario Party as the one option, perhaps it is most likely that my view of the Family category is wrong, but perhaps it should not have been given a category that comes across as dubious in its interpretation. As for Game beyond Entertainment, 4 are unknown to me, so I skip that category. The same would apply to Game Design was it not to the fact that God of War is sublime in all ways, so I reckon they will get it. Yet, I am happy to be proven wrong due to a game I had not seen. The same can be said for Game Innovation, yet when it comes to innovation the entire idea of creativity and cardboard to be added to a console and gaming is just so whack that it should win. I never saw the appeal, yet the appeal to see kids fold a piano and then play it making the switch play music is just slightly too strong on the side of magic beating that horse named science. Only Nintendo could ever be that one player who does not know what a box is, and therefore not being hindered by one.

I skip several but then halt at Original Property, which only as it ends up being slightly flawed Subnautica wins. I have been testing it since its early release and it is by far the most immersive (submersive too) and innovative (as well as original) survival game. The fact that it is almost all on water makes it weird, strange and it never stops being weird and challenging.

For me personally the Performer mask should be Christopher Judge as Kratos in God of War his performance of Kratos is iconic, yet the voices: Danielle Bisutti as Freya, Jeremy Davies as The Stranger and Sunny Suljic as Atreus are all worthy nominees. I believe that the voice of Kassandra failed in AC Odyssey, not due to the actress though, which is a shame for her, because all nominees clearly worked their asses off to get the top achievements in the games, this is one part where the software makers can intervene and slightly screw it up, yet in God of War the work on any level remained 5 out of 5 all over the board giving 4 nominees a clear advantage.

As for EE mobile game of the year, there is no way of telling. An audience will vote personal and emotional giving Pokémon go the home field advantage, but in the end it will be anyone’s guess and Fortnite is on that list too, so I wonder if that voice will be impacted by the PC and console gamers, I actually do not know. I am not surprised that I did not elect Red Dead Redemption 2. I was never into Westerns. I do acknowledge that everyone tells me that it is the best single player experience ever, but so was God of War, so was Forza Horizons 4 (if you are a racer). You see, some might hide behind the marketing of ‘the most powerful console in the world‘, yet when the awe is not in the hardware, but in the excellence of game design like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We see it when the least powerful console overwhelms you with graphics, music and gaming experience. When the noise of ‘jing jing’ when you switch on a console does not do it, but your heart flutters when you hear the ‘Yahoo!’ of Mario grabbing another Power moon and your mind races where more can be found. When you get that part, then you also understand why Microsoft ends up having their most powerful console in the world in the number three position of consoles. And it gets to be worse for them soon enough (optionally). When the people at Google realise what makes gamers tick, they might end up being a mere number 4 contending party in 2021. It is the adaptation of a French expression; I think it came from the French revolution. The adapted expression is: ‘Change is valuable it turns the leaders into underdogs’; it is a lesson that Microsoft will just have to learn the hard way. Their unwillingness to listen to gamers is coming at a very steep price and it will look optionally a lot more expensive soon enough.

How does that matter?

It matters as we see the gamers move to other consoles, at times keeping the old console around, but the funds (if they have any) will go towards the games that they are drawn too, Microsoft seemingly forgot about that. They pushed for backwards compatibility so that could ride on the coattails of the Xbox 360 a little while longer, but that too will lose steam and the game awards as well as the gaming Bafta gives us where the need for new games was at, and in that respect God of War truly delivered, the fact that a Sony Exclusive game is a nominee in most categories also gives us a tale of where Microsoft dropped the ball (yet again), and now Google Stadia is just around the corner biting into the multi gamer and streaming services fruit that Microsoft thought they had secured for themselves. I admit that they went about it the right way and anyone into gaming and online not getting a Game Pass is pretty much insane, yet that horse has other jockey’s and Google as the late arrival is about to walk into the ring.

We will be ready with Irish jokes as the awards will be presented by Dara O’Briain on April 4th, so we should hope that Milton Jones walks in to have a bit of a go at Dara on stage, but that is just wishful thinking.

I like game awards as it shows to some extend what games achieved and who were the ones teaching us what gaming can be about. We tend to look at the large games, the large players, yet in that world we might not have noticed Minecraft, a labour of love that became an addiction for millions, for many it still is. In this day and age it seems impossible, but who has played Subnautica? When you look will you suddenly realise that you missed out on something? That is actually the best art of the show, until one award night I had never heard of Threes! That can happen to us all, and for those seeing that one game that makes you buy a console, that is the moment you open another door to multiple worlds.

Game awards also give rise to new directions, at present more often than not instigated by small indie developers, but pushes like that can be game changers. Even as I contemplated an entirely new direction for changing difficulty levels in a game like Watchdogs 3, I suddenly considered that this path had never been considered ever before (optionally a slight exaggeration), and it could have an educational impact as well. The added value goes towards the replayability that a game has, changing the value of a game and the bank for your buck. Now, we can all agree that not everyone might like it that was and that path is not for every franchise; yet the realisation that no one has ever taken it into that direction is also food for thought, especially when you realise how many games have been published and I have been involved with and around gaming since Mirrorsoft.

And in finality, this is the first year that where it is my feeling that the Gaming awards had a better impact and was appreciated better and more than the academy awards, implying that the ascending star for gaming will continue for some time to come.

 

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The Saint’s parcel

Today it is December 5th, in the Netherlands that means it is St Nicholas day. It is the Dutch version of Santa Claus, but with a difference. The story goes back to the Greek bishop of Myra, what is now known as Turkey (270-340 AD). Saint Nicholas is the patron Saint of children and the day preceding his birthday (6th December) it is the evening of presents and all the kids (until a certain age) will receive a present.

As you might imagine the week before all this, things can get really hectic, especially in the toy stores, on a global scale when we see Thanksgiving, St. Nicholas and Christmas, the numbers given to us by power retail ‘Cyber Monday Breaks Record, Becomes “Biggest Sales Day Ever”‘, these numbers makes sense as moments like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other deal moments with discount sales is what people look for globally so that they can show their kids that there are happy times, even if it is just for a day or two. Variety gives us (at https://variety.com/2018/gaming/news/nintendo-switch-sales-holiday-sales-figures-1203038569/) even more. With their headline ‘Nintendo Sold $250 Million in Products from Black Friday to Cyber Monday in U.S.‘, they are showing a setting that is awesome.

More important it is their e-commerce sales of games that is partially taking the cake with the statement: “The Nintendo Switch is now the best-selling Nintendo console in U.S. history for that five-day period, surpassing even Wii system sales, the company announced Wednesday.” Even as we see “Nintendo’s overall goal for the financial year of 38 million units sold, though analysts are still predicting it will fall just short, hitting about 35 million“, yet in all that the analysts are eager to avoid the one setting that matters, in under two years the Nintendo Switch is about to equal the lifetime sales of the Xbox One, a number that is very impressive as the Xbox One had 300% of the time frame to get to this point. And overall the entire Microsoft issue is expected to hit a few more bumps in the road. Software was the key in all this and Nintendo does comprehend quality software. The curve is changing for the better for Nintendo as their demo stations are all over game shops like EB Games. Parents can see how amazing it looks and as the kids are having a go at playing kart and playing Mario Odyssey, we see (as I saw) that the parents are getting a smile on their faces. It is a family friendly system, where violence is limited to a paint gun with a colour. And as we see the greats (Diablo 3) added to the Switch, we see an amazing list of games titles we see a system that is more and more overwhelming when it comes to quality gaming. A game setting where quality is not the silly notion of high level graphics, no! Quality gaming is the level of fun you get out of it and Nintendo is turning heads around and for the first time in history Sony is starting to get worried as the setting now is that this year Switch surpassed the Sony PlayStation. Now that does not means that Sony is number two, they have well over 250% in number of consoles in the field, yet the fact that Nintendo is closing the gap slightly and surpassing Microsoft has never been seen before in the age of gaming. I loved my GameCube (I still miss Mario Sunshine even today), I loved the games I had and when I saw that the Wii was backward compatible I did not hesitate, yet the Switch is showing to be up to the challenge of equalling this in quality gaming. In this we see that Nintendo is getting it right and even as I questioned the stupidity of analysts with their ‘predicting it will fall just short‘, I believe that their entire setting is bogus. Nintendo has the goods and is showing it has equaled the challenge gaining on the larger advantage that Sony has and surpassing what was once the great Microsoft console and the most powerful console? It might be, yet when it offers a mere 25% of the family fun, I wonder what some people choose.

Now, we do not state that the Xbox cannot deliver the goods, yet we have always known that Nintendo was a family and younger player system. Now that we can be on the road, play on TV (via dock) and have access to some of the most addictive games (Diablo 3, Mario Kart, Skyrim, Minecraft, Rocket league) and so many more titles we need to wonder what the others did wrong.

Well they didn’t!

They made a choice and they continued on that path, Microsoft thought what it had to compete with Sony and they did not end up doing that, they soured their own milk from the very beginning in policy and hardware, they refused to listen to their gamers and they are still losing traction in the process. Even as some corrections and some really good ideas have been launched (Game Pass), they have too much to catch on. Nintendo remained on the family fun and family friendly path and they merely gained speed, and within a year they pushed for a speed that would surpass Sony annual sales and they seemed to have done it in 2018 (the official numbers are not out yet). However the consoles and the quarter of a billion in online store sales in under a month is now showing to become the monster truck of revenue. So as I personally sneer at “Nintendo stock hit a five year high of $58.45 a share this year, only to shed more than 40 percent of its value this month, with a year-low of $33.90“, I see clear numbers that do not support the actions and recommendations of these analysts. The titles Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2 represent 40 million copies sold. This implies that every Nintendo Switch has at least one of these games and that is an amazing result. Now set this against a company like Ubisoft (as a mere example) with Assassin’s Creed, 100 million copies over 11 titles on 3+ systems, Far Cry, 25 million copies over 6 titles on 3+ systems and Watch Dogs with 2 titles on 3 systems, 10 million copies sold. These are all decent games and when compared to four titles on one system, we start seeing the first part where the others seem to be getting it wrong. That is the comparison that some analysts do not seem to grasp. In addition, the close to flawless results against other titles on other consoles show and we have not even started with the millions of players playing Pokemon on Nintendo handheld systems.

On the day of Saint Nicholas we look at these kids and we see the overwhelming need and desire for gaming, consoles and handhelds. For the next 4 weeks it will be about that group and I predict that Nintendo will be looking at another half a billion if the previous record is anything to go by. It is likely that Boxing Day sales will add to that revenue surpassing my prediction. Clever grandparents adding an optional $30 gift card for their grand-kids to get several games cheap on boxing day sales, adding even more to the Nintendo profit coffer.

Even Forbes gave me the thumbs up (virtually that is). They had the top purchase mention with Nintendo as one of the titles and the PS4 as the most talked about, no mention on Microsoft. Even as Apple got a few mentions, the words ‘Microsoft’, ‘Surface’ and ‘Xbox’ were absent in that view (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbes-finds/2018/11/12/5-best-headphones-under-100/#47cb25aa5239), in addition the aggressive discount that the Nintendo gives with their Switch plus Mario Kart in the Netherlands is seeing its own fair share of mentions. If the feast of Saint Nicholas has one drawback then I would think it is the longer absence of board games. Playing a game like monopoly whilst unwrapping a present whenever one player passes go was heaps fun. There was the tension which name was drawn and as present by present was opened; whilst we played monopoly and had hot chocolate milk (it is cold in the Netherlands in December) was a level of fun I still miss.

Yet, we must not forget the hardship either, and there is a lot of that and a lot more coming; in the last year over 50,000 children died in Yemen from hardship, disease and famine. I expect that in 2019 we will see that the 2018 numbers will surpass the passing of 100,000 children. The children are too young to face what other children have to go through in other places, yet we adults cannot afford to do that. If I had to forego my optional Nintendo Switch for one child in Yemen to have a decent meal, I will end up not playing a Nintendo Switch for some time to come, even as the child still dies and I merely prevented it from dying on an empty stomach, I would do so. Even as the peace talks are being held, I fear for the lack of progress, as this is not in the interest of Iran. It is still progressing on arming Houthi; it is still facilitating via Hezbollah and the children are merely in the way there. From my point of view Europe is enabling it as they want their nuclear accord, an accord that is not likely to be the value of printed paper, the Iranian missile tests can be considered proof in this. In this part Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is actually in a very dangerous place. Even as he is with an ally, as the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, we see that the danger is twofold. As more and more US politicians are seemingly ‘bashing’ Saudi Arabia, yet they seem to ignore the danger that Hezbollah is there, we see the start of imbalance, and as this imbalance continues, so do the events in Yemen killing even more children. The hollow words like ‘Iran has praised Yemeni peace talks scheduled to take place soon‘, they want their version in charge in Yemen, not the elected one and they are willing to let millions of kids die to get that done. So whilst the US gives us “The United States has displayed pieces of what it says were Iranian weapons deployed to militants in Yemen and Afghanistan“, whilst at the same time US politicians are unbalancing their allied commitment to Saudi Arabia, we see that in the end it is a political stalemate with the lives of all the Yemeni children in the balance and there is no reasonable chance that the children there will get a better deal out of it.

So as we see the independent giving us the goods and the stage of truth last week with: ‘US struggles to find footing on Yemen, as Iran increases influence‘, we see (at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-yemen-civil-war-iran-influence-saudi-arabia-bombing-trump-weapons-houthis-rebels-a8661546.html) that the US and mostly its politicians seem to have lost their perception on the larger game. the quote “The US Senate, angered in part by the White House response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, on Wednesday voted in a surprise move to advance a bill that would cut American participation in the Yemen conflict“, the emotions towards a previously unknown journalist (and ignoring all those imprisoned and dead journalists in Turkey) is setting the stage of enabling the Iran agenda. Vetoed or not, it will up the pressure on Saudi Arabia and in all this, the populist pressure is one that historically has turned anti Saudi more often than not, increasing the larger issues towards Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in other directions as well.

In all this does America even know who their allies and enemies are? The question is more important than you think, as we see on the feast of Saint Nicholas that millions of children in Yemen are abandoned. So what did this have to do with games?

When you watch your child play some Call of Duty game and you realise that it is not Battleground 5, it is not Call of Duty, or Fortnite, but it is the game ‘Holy Defense’, created by Hezbollah to let gamers and players kill ISIS members. When we are treated to: “Hezbollah has developed a 3-D computer game to capture the minds of its youth, while showing them a good time.” When you see your children play this free downloaded game in Europe and America, how much safer was the Nintendo Switch with their family values to begin with?

I agree that this is not a fair remark for Sony and Microsoft and they are not part of this in any way, but when it comes to First Person Shooters, can parents even tell the difference anymore? And when it is getting to close to the factual truth, can they even perceive how many children are getting killed in the process whilst Yemen is facing delay after delay? Should that not be the central issue on the day of the patron saint of children?

 

 

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The last stretch?

The E3 is now 4 weeks away, we see more leaks and a few confirmations. Most confirmations are to counter the ridiculous statements we have seen in the near past. Statements like: ‘we could see a first announcement of the new PS5‘, utterly ridiculous from the first moment it was voiced. The PS4 and PS4Pro are doing just fine at present, there is no need for new hardware, especially with all those games that are coming. Places like the UK Daily Star, who gave us ‘THE SONY PS5 console is coming – eventually – but some BIG E3 2018 news revealed this week could give us our biggest hint yet for when Sony will release a PlayStation 5 games machine‘, with ‘eventually‘ they cover their setting of utter stupidity. It is basically on the same level as ‘If we have unprotected sex the coming year every night, you might end up being pregnant at some point‘, it is on that level we need to see this. As stated previously, the Nintendo Switch will release 28 games between now and August 2018, that is rather huge, some of these titles have been revered for the longest of times, so the current owners are already hyped and if that was not enough, it is also hyping those who want one, so that is working for Nintendo at least twice over. In that regard, another source gave us earlier this month “Microsoft Won’t Release Xbox One Sales But Claims There’s Been Growth … as a key indicator of our success and will no longer report total console sales“, the upcoming degradation to third position has shaken Microsoft to the core, even as we accept ‘There’s Been Growth‘, the issue remains that there will always be growth, there will be an interest in buying an Xbox One, it is not a bad system, merely a flawed one and in that regard, it still has games, good games too. What is remarkable is the entire setting change within Microsoft. You might remember on how it was not a gaming system but set as an ‘entertainment‘ system for the whole family, which bites even more when you realise that some top boxes offer well over 100% more storage, so the ladies can get all 6 seasons of Sex in the city, whilst the partner can hold onto his entire NHL annual season games. Yet beyond that, when we dig deeper, we see that Microsoft fumbled yet again. In this case I must stand up for Microsoft in its defence (just a little), the market was suddenly overwhelmed with all kinds of Fetch options and recording of TV shows. It took a bigger leap as some offer Netflix, Stan, National Geographic and ABC iView whilst it will not count towards the data usage, which for the Netflix addicted is the sales pitch of the century. The fact that some offer mobiles a special deal that now includes a set top box is just a bonus. Microsoft will not be offering the Xbox One X for a mere $80, will they? That is not their fault, it is my personal belief that those offering these deals know what the data value of a consumer is, and this started merely a year ago, years after the console was released.

So when we go back 3 years (for the comparison), take a look (at https://www.onmsft.com/news/xbox-one-more-all-one-home-entertainment-ever), where we see: “Where media entertainment and television integration were the first talking point announcing the Xbox One, they are now on the back burner. Gaming has taken its rightful place as the emphasis of Microsoft’s gaming console. At E3 Microsoft didn’t focus on anything related to cable television or media streaming, they focused on their library of games, and gaming features such as Xbox One backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360. And that’s smart of them to do, but that doesn’t mean the Xbox One isn’t a home entertainment system. In fact, it’s even more of one than when it was initially announced“, which is all true and fair, yet as I basically stated about 2 months BEFORE that date, when you rely on a 1TB drive, whilst for the consumer the difference between the 1TB drive and the 2TB drive was at that point no more than AU$27, meaning that the difference for Microsoft would be a lot smaller, so why be so stupid to settle on 50% storage? I believe that their sense of pushing people into the Azure cloud never faded, it merely bites them now as we see data collecting abuse (Cambridge Analytica is one among many). That set off the gamers in the same way that ‘always online‘ did, and there is not denying it, it hurt Microsoft bad. Now, do not think for one minute that Sony would have been any better, because it took a while for them to back paddle the offline achievements, but they did and Microsoft did not (well only partially). From my point of view to some extent, the Xbox One offered in some ways less than the Xbox360 did.

Even Nintendo Switch would at some point make an error or two, but in all this the Xbox was the worst, even as we see news left, right and centre, and we see gossip on those same three paths, I am trying to see the reality and report on that. Yet in the end, we are still unsure what big whoppers Microsoft will offer during the E3 and that really matters. Even as we now see that Sony and Nintendo are ready to hit it out of the ballpark during their presentation, we still do not know how ready Microsoft is, because that is at the heart of the mounting pressure; The Daily Star gave us last week “It’s a great time to be a gamer and to be a part of Team Xbox. We’re hard at work on exciting plans for E3, from what will be a great briefing filled with new games to the fan experience at the Microsoft Theater. This is our biggest E3 yet, and we look forward to a great week for gamers“, it sounds cool but there is no beef on the bone of rumours, so we will have to wait another 4 weeks.

In all this I am not alone, more and more professional gamer sites and magazines give responses like ‘Microsoft has a lot of pressure to compete with Sony’s fantastic line-up‘, that is the crux of it, Microsoft cannot hope for a homerun, it desperately needs one at present that is for certain. In this, places like Techradar give us: “Now that the Nintendo Switch is so beloved and Microsoft can boast the most powerful console on the market, we’re hoping to see Sony pull out all the stops for PlayStation this year“, Sony who started and still embraces ‘For the players‘, seems to be ready to do just that. That is the setting that Microsoft is up against. when I look at their victory there is no way around Minecraft 4K, that is not a joke, for those addicted to Minecraft, seeing the 4K version on Xbox One was jaw dropping, in equal measure Forza Motorsport 7 will boast and deliver. Honest to god, what I saw (the short part I did see), I could not tell the difference between watching an actual F1 race on Blu-ray and Forza 7 4K. So they have the goods, and there is no way that it will not drive sales for Microsoft. From what I did see, whether you are a racing fan or not, there is no way around Forza this time around, only the foolish and the dead are unlikely to purchase that game if they have an Xbox One X. Yet, will it be enough? We will know in 4 weeks, for now, there is the smallest chance that Microsoft can turn the downturn around, but it will not be cheap and they have no further room for error, because the moment we see an actual first announcements of the PS5 (I reckon in 2020) and Microsoft has not mended its way, it will no longer be seriously considered by anyone but the devoted Microsoft fans, which remains fair enough.

It is up to Microsoft to figure out whether they are in their final stretch, the only real advice I have for them is to boot their marketing department and actually start listening to the gamers, not the Azure department, the Microsoft cloud needs and whomever else could benefit, because it did not bring the Xbox department anything at all (speculative on my side). Putting Phil Spencer on top of all this was a good first step, in 4 weeks we will see what the Xbox Owner gets to play between June 2018 and December 2019, we should hope for the best for more than one reason, because from my pragmatic view, as I see it, when Microsoft properly ups the game, Sony will be forced to do the same and that is good for every gamer in the world. In that Nintendo remains the wild card, they do what they it is that gamers want and they really got it right this time around (referring to the WiiU vs Nintendo Switch),

No matter what system you are on, there will be huge announcements for every system, which is always good and those who have more than one system will have to decide on which system to buy their games more, or less. It is in the end, the gamer’s choice!

As For the E3, the spaces are set, Sony rocks the western hall, see the image below , it is right next to Nintendo, which has half the space Sony has, so that will be one hell of a bottleneck. I wonder if the media will be there asking if people have both systems. Nintendo has two more attached stands, just like Sony. An interesting setting is that Big Ben Interactive is there too, as is NVidia and at least a dozen others. In the South hall, also below it is different. Most large ones are pretty much the same size, except for Square Enix and Bethesda being slightly larger. Microsoft has a tiny presence there, but it has its own venue as stated by some ‘across the street’, There was no mention of any Microsoft at the West hall at all, implying that their small presence in the South hall is merely some stations for playing. The images are nice to see and to behold some of the names there, what is clear is that Sony and Nintendo are ready to take this to the next level, especially in light of how unrealistically expensive floor space on the E3 is. Yet the best source of released info is the site of the venue itself (at https://www.e3expo.com/).

 

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A sickly gamer?

The Guardian had an interesting article on Monday. It took me a while to get there, because I am intricately familiar with the subject and the issues. The name of the game is gaming, and in the article titled “‘Dangerous gaming’: is the WHO right to class excessive video game play as a health disorder?” has the interesting question.

So as we read (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/feb/05/video-gaming-health-disorder-world-health-organisation-addiction), which holds: “included “gaming disorder” in its draft for the next edition of its diagnostic manual, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which is due for final release this year“, we need to wonder. In the first what constitutes a disease, when is something actually a disorder and more important, is it the first step in getting this label added to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 5, with an update which is supposed to come out at the end of the year. Even in the academic field there is doubt, which Netta Weinstein, a senior lecturer in psychology at Cardiff University voiced with: “I just feel like we don’t know enough yet and we feel we know a lot“. This is merely one voice. This part is important, as we see the following that matters: “the WHO was initially exploring excessive use of the internet, computers, smartphones and similar electronic devices, but determined that the biggest concern was gaming“, in addition we see: “The authors write: “These features clearly have their parallels with substance disorders and recognised behavioural addictions, such as gambling disorder“. They decided to make a dangerous step. As I personally see it, they are comparing apples with oranges, dumping the load into a basket named fruit and walk away. That view is not just supported, by others; Nena Weinstein gives us (paraphrased): “we found very small correlations, if at all, of symptomology with broader life wellbeing. So we actually didn’t find, for example, that symptoms correlated with health directly. It might be that something that we think of as addiction is actually just engagement and enthusiasm“.

That is the part that matters, gaming is about engagement and enthusiasm, now we can agree that some people go overboard. I for one have spent 5000 hours (not all at in one sitting mind you) in the Fallout universe and close to 3000 hours in the Elder Scrolls universe, I just love my RPG’s. The fact that this comprised a total of 5 games makes this the best value for money ever. I have played plenty of other games, and they were fun too. The fact is that the world is changing in several ways, a fact that the researchers are also ignoring. I also like the opposing view given by Prof Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University. With: “The bottom line is problematic gaming. Whether you call it ‘gaming disorder’, whether you call it ‘gaming addiction’, there is a small minority of people out there where gaming has completely taken over their lives“, he has a point there. I have more than once gone so deep and enthusiastic into Minecraft, so when I suddenly realised that I was really hungry and getting tired, I looked up to notice that it was 03:50 in the morning and I remember the sun being up when I started to play. This happens, and it rarely happens, but still it happens. The fact is that the body reminded me and I did not ignore it. I was less positive about his remark: “in extreme cases some people have played themselves to death, though such incidents are extremely rare“, this is a case I remember, some league of Legend player, high on energy drinks playing 23 hours in one stretch. When it happens once, or perhaps less than half a dozen times on a population of 8 billion, it is not a case, it is an extreme outlier. We could in the worst case state that the proprietor had a duty to set a maximum usage of lets state 12 hours per 24 hours. Was that point ever raised?

Weinstein goes on in the debate on why few get addicted. Well, because there are many types of players and there are in equal measure many types of games. We can argue that in my case one style could lead to addiction, but I have a life with other elements too and even as I might spend a large chunk of my weekend on my console, I have lived for the longest time requiring no more than 5 hours of sleep per day, these days are now alas over (hence less gaming), but choosing the fun of a game over wasting money on alcohol in a bar, wasting it on fake smiles in a casino seems that I have taken a healthier life style. The entirely other side is that I even had more time in the kitchen, making my life even better by making myself a nice steak with a salad, a pasta salad or even a nice Bambi-burger or sourdough. I would not go hungry. My only little squandering would be to ignore my Nespresso and go to the Coffee place up the hill (roughly 723.4 metres) and get myself a yummy cappuccino, extra-large of course, sometimes even splash out and have a big breakfast there on Sunday. A walk in the fresh air, sunshine optional and preferred, good food, caffeine for the veins and after that groceries on the way back and the rectangular entertainment from console or Blu-ray, a life of relaxed bliss!

The package could be seen as addictive, gaming is merely one element in all of that. So as people then go with the mention of ‘all that gaming‘, tell me to just watch some TV. So how does that work? Constant badgering from advertising whilst you get hammered by two screwed up reality settings from places like ‘My Kitchen Rules’, or even worse some ‘married at first sight’, so it’s not that the divorce ratings weren’t high enough, we now get some reality TV show where ‘experts’ know what we need, want or desire? How fucked up is the TV nowadays? It is the second part where I oppose her view. With; “at least some elements of modern video games are closer to gambling. The newly popular and increasingly controversial implementation of “loot boxes”, where players pay real money for unpredictable rewards, is increasingly drawing the attention of regulators“, she only has a partial point. As far as I can tell, this was introduced in gaming by the Mass Effect series (I apologise if I am incorrect). You see, that is an option, but the game gives clear warning that you can earn these boxes by playing. Yet some people cannot go that distance. So like Ubisoft who allowed you to unlock all elements of Assassins Creed multiplayer for less than $10, people had no interest to unlock the abilities, they want it all from the start, a level 1 steroid character. So yes, you can buy chests for real money, but the ones I saw have always allowed you to get those chests by playing the game, it merely takes a little longer to get them. The second element that she is not lingering on is what is in such a loot chest. The loot chest is very much like a CCG (Customisable Card Game), each package will cost you around $5 and the 10 cards will give you 1 rage (or legendary), 2-3 uncommon and the rest are common items. So basically after the first 10 packages you only buy them to get the remaining uncommon, rare or even the legendary cards. Loot boxes work in the same way. That origin actually comes from a CCG game called Magic and was introduced by mathematics professor Richard Garfield and introduced to consumers in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast. So, now as it is in video games 25 years later, now they want to regulate it? Oh please, go cry me a river, will you?

Yet Weinstein raises a gem of a point with: “concern about comorbidity (when a person has more than one condition): “We need to know that it is about the gaming itself, or we’re treating something that’s not the actual problem.”“, she poses an excellent issue. You see if we accept that gaming is escapism, knowing what it is escapism from, that becomes the golden question and that is not easily explained.

Prof Mark Griffiths brings another side to the table. With: “I can’t think of a single [case of] addiction where there aren’t any other comorbidities. The addiction is usually symptomatic of other underlying problems. If you’re depressed and therefore you drink heavily, then you treat that with antidepressants“, you see, in that view, if these people escape into gaming, they still might not have a gaming addiction, they merely escape to it and we see the dangers of a wrongful diagnoses. So in the time where the depression is not seen and as these people ‘are cured‘ by gaming less the depression could take over leading to additional harm and even fatality. The problem (as I personally see it) is where is the trigger, the threshold where ‘addiction’ is set at. It is a grey area that cannot be correctly quantified as there are other elements in play. As I see it, it too often relies on what others think is ‘too much’ and that is equally dangerous. The parent who grew up playing outside and as such, junior should be outside, not playing on his console. Do they realise he was playing with school friends in an online 4v4 battle? They are talking to one another on the headsets, so they are still communicating were they not? Our comprehension of several elements is shifting, as a gamer I see the shift, but the people around me do not (want to) comprehend that. It is icky, it is geeky, they do not care.

That part is equally ignored and that is a worry too.

You see social media made the bucket of issues larger, but the level of comprehension beyond using the tool has not increased. That is the danger, usage without knowing what it implies, means or ratifies. Consider the articles like: ‘5 Ways to Generate More Exposure for Your Content Through Social Media‘, to improve your personal PR, or ‘How to Scale Your Social Media Exposure‘, that whilst the people trying to grow followers and to be ‘cool’ have no concept of ‘engagement’ and the use of common sense for that matter whilst exposing themselves to all kinds of risks. Those people will happily sit in any ‘gathering place‘ and remain in negative judgement of a gamer. I remember a nice issue in 1996 in the UK. I was in a bar taking a rest from the ECTS (7 morning presentations on newly released games will do that), so as I was sipping coffee and nodding to someone I knew in the business. He was talking to some girl who was way too good looking for her own good. So when he mentioned he was into gaming, she walked away as he was nerdy. So as she walked away, she had no idea that this was the guy who just made 1.5 million pounds ending with 4 times that much at least over the 3-5 years that followed. You see, even as more and more people are no longer stigmatising ‘gaming’ and ‘gamers’, the issue is that most do it because it is now a $120 billion market and money is money, no matter how you slice it. The actual issue of ‘addiction’ cannot be set for various reasons because it relies on other elements on how you still function when you are not gaming. How you see the world when you are merely shopping for groceries, enjoying a movie, setting in a corner chumping down on ice-cream or engage in conversation with friends. Those are elements that matter and if you can still relate to non-gaming issues with enthusiasm (like how ambulances in Kabul are an excellent way to move C4 from one place to another), we might wonder about the scepticism in all of it, but for the most that person is still OK and unlikely to be a true game addict.

Wasn’t that what mattered?

You see, it is actually the end of the article that had the truffle that mattered; no pig was going to get that one! With “The significance of the WHO’s decision will depend on your point of view. Griffiths admits it’s “a vindication for three decades of research”. Trade bodies such as Ukie naturally resist suggestions that anything their industry produces could be harmful“, this part could actually become the invalidator to his work. Prof Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University seems to forget a few parts. In all this, I have been connected to games and gaming from before that. Gaming had several triggers over the last 30 years. First there is the arcade machines versus the home consoles (and home computers), there is an issue with any emerging technology and the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 are just over 20 years, before that it was all about home computers and the lasting time of a game was no more than one day of game time with only Loderunner to be a larger exception. Even in PC’s larger computers with larger games would be able to get finished in no more than 50-70 hours, and again there is an exception now, it was Diablo. Longer lasting games did not really get to the surface until multiplayer came out and it was not until the Unreal engine took off that people hid for a lot longer behind their computers (overly generalised). Now we can argue that those collecting games were indeed addicted, but were they? What data was there on them? I reckon that it was not until the sixth generation of consoles came out that we have the foundation for some level of actual addiction. Yet when we got back, we forgot the arcade machines. How much money did you pour into those machines? Was it to complete Donkey Kong? Was it to be in the top mention of Space invaders or Pac-Man? Does that make you addicted to gaming, or merely a person trying to pass time or dealing with OCD? I am not sure if I can give the right answer, but between generations 4 and 8 (1989-2012) the market has been in technological turmoil and that is disregarding the massive technological leaps PC’s had made over those years. I feel uncertain that with so many changes in a market that has not stopped running, how can anyone be correctly seen as addicted? For example, who would not spend their entire weekend finding the secrets that Tombraider brought in the first instalment? Who did not run to the shop (and claimed a sickie) the day that Tombraider 2 was released? Who did not drop their jaw the day Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots started on their PS3? That game can still hold up to the most that the PS4 brings to the table today. One view was: “The game has been considered one of the best games of the seventh generation of console gaming and among the greatest of all time“, a view I very much agree with. When perfection, art, challenge and achievement come to the table, the view we have changes, because exceptional quality keeps us at the screen. Just look at all those 4K nature movies Bing Lee sets on the TV’s they really want to sell, that’s not addiction, that is admiration/amazement. So in that all, I think that there is a case that Prof Mark Griffiths might not make the mark on this ‘addiction’ addition, there are just too many variables. And even if we recognise that an unhealthy devotion to games might be worth investigating, it would be to find the underlying cause to it all as Dr Netta Weinstein justifies. In that she is completely correct, so as we realise that Jo Twist, the UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) states the correct part with “We are very concerned about the inconclusive nature of the research and the evidence that WHO is using to base this potential classification on“, she could have (as not seen here) stated the matter a little better than what we got to read.

That is merely $0.04 on the matter (due to the FTSE Crash my $0.02 devaluated whilst writing this).

 

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That sinking console feeling

I stated it in the past, I was even going to be cautious on the numbers, yet the banging buck that the Nintendo Switch is bringing, is now completely bringing down the house. Last November, numbers were given out by certain sources (not Microsoft) that the total Xbox One sales had surpassed the 31 million mark. It had taken well over 3 years to get to that number, yet Nintendo has now clearly surpassed the 14 million mark in less than a year and the sales numbers are still rising, rising a lot faster than even Nintendo expected, the forecast now is that in two months the 17 million mark will be reached, meaning that in a little over 1 year the 50% mark against Microsoft is reached. Even a Microsoft marketing is still hiding behind ‘the most powerful console‘, other publications, especially in the UK are now getting on the bandwagon I proclaimed six months before the very first Xbox One was released and the technical flaw is only getting worse, especially with the space that 4K games need. This is not a David versus Goliath, this is now becoming a fight between one that is trying to be the coolest (and apparently the most powerful one) against one that is about having the most fun. So when you consider the price your ego is trying to cost you, what would you do?

Now, there is no way they get close to the Sony numbers any day soon, but the long term view for the Switch is that this console could potentially equal the total sales over time. This is becoming more and more realistic as the list of PS4 players who want a Switch on the side, that group is actually growing rapidly, and it as massively surpassed the group of people who had a PS2 and any kind of Nintendo on the side. So even as there is no threat for the PS4/PS4pro, there is now a clear indication on where Sony would need to grow its software arsenal, mainly because from the past as it was, Nintendo is re-establishing itself as the family fun system that the GameCube and Wii used to be, in this Nintendo is getting more attention from parents at present, a dilemma that Sony would want to fix fast and with quality fun based games.

There is an additional jump, with some of the more power pounding games like the original Dark Souls, Skyrim and their unique label with a new Pokémon RPG, there will be less and less reasons not to get the Switch, or optionally a Nintendo Switch on the side. I saw the winner it would be when the Switch was presented in the world premiere, but even I am amazed at the rush to sales it became. I knew that Microsoft would take a rating loss, but that the Switch console is now optionally closing in on the current total sales of PS4 over time is something that I did not see coming, of course the fun part will also be on how Microsoft moves into third place on the console market around 2019, at that point I wonder what excuse they will use. Perhaps they will blame the Azure Cloud resources, let’s face it, the Xbox One is uploading Gigabytes of console data to it, whilst Microsoft support stated that this issue is with our internet provider. So as we can see that it will take Nintendo a while to get there, the vibe is that they will actually pull that off. If they add and re-master Metroid Prime 1, 2 and 3, this closing gap is almost a certainty, because over time none of the consoles ever got a game franchise like that produced. As Nintendo is now starting to embrace remastered games and is also looking into the PS2 range, whilst the makers are potentially upgrading those games, other developers will see options and larger fortunes by remastering some of those golden oldies (Dark Souls is already announced). I will go one step further, if Nintendo gets their fingers on some of the Dreamcast titles, for example Soulcalibur and Fur Fighters (which has always been a personal favourite, but not the PS2 edition, that one was mucho yuck), they could increase their market share and increase it faster. So there are over 600 games on the Dreamcast and over 1800 PS2 games. So, if only some of the 95%+ games are remastered, the Switch owners could end up with a decent amount of games from the ‘totally addictive‘ and ‘blowing my game mind on fun‘ category and that is before the older PC game makers consider what an opportunity the Switch is for them as well. Not to mention all the IOS and Android developers, who would be able to add a large chunk of players. They could also gain speed by offering the cross platform choice like Minecraft did. So Owners of one platform could buy the new platform version for a mere $4. I updated from PS3 to Xbox One and Xb360 to PS4, for $8 instead of $24, that is a real saving!

With the Switch, Nintendo did not just break the mould in gaming, it could potentially replace it with a titanic sized golden statue named ‘opportunity‘, because the events as given now don’t just show just how Microsoft missed the calling, it in equal measure could potentially show that Sony needs to up its game high to not fall victim to closing gap of gaming fun aimed populous, a fight that we have not seen before. The first PlayStation became well established before Nintendo could grow to a better placement, now that people are realising that it is about the quality of the game. Even as I found it hilarious that the Switch supports up to 2TB, whilst the ‘most’ powerful console with 4K gaming cannot get past 1TB. How you like your Xbox One X console now? We clearly see that Nintendo is laying down the gauntlet for both Sony and Microsoft, we can see that in numbers Microsoft is pretty much done for, but the fact that that little Mario will in the future get closer to what Sony has (closer not catch up) is something the markers could not have foreseen.

So where is the evidence?

Well, most of it has been reported by the Guardian, IGN and a few other gaming sites, some of the numbers are from Statistica and VZCharts. It is my personal view that gaming is about fun (challenging fun at times), it is not about 4K gaming, although we all agree that the identical game on 4K and Switch will look better on the 4K system, there is no denying it. Yet that is where Microsoft marketing is hiding, and whilst we can all agree that Assassins Creed Origin in 4K is an amazing feat, which it is without any reservations, the issue that the Xbox One will support in 1TB around a dozen games in total before it runs out of space, there are already articles out where gamers ran out after 14 games. Considering that Forza, Gears of War 4 and Halo 5 are around 100Gb, whilst several other AAA games are somewhere between 70 and 85 GB, I am surprised they got to 14. The utter stupidity of saving on a drive twice the size for a mere $15 is shown in the most gruesome way. If only Microsoft had done what Sony does and let the gamers upgrade the drive themselves, this issue would be close to non-existing, but now it is and it is happening whilst Nintendo is moving in, and it is moving in with the optional storage that is twice their size, it gives the gamer and the consumer confidence in that brand, something Microsoft should have realised a long time ago. I foresaw this and wrote about it (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2013/05/24/spin-dryers-by-microsoft/) almost 5 years ago, that was long before there was a 4K option, the issue was already clear at that point. That point alone gives clear evidence that Microsoft does not really care about its gamers, merely about their revenue and their Azure cloud, that alone should anger people and that is why Nintendo is catching up so much faster than anticipated (this is a personal assumption). You see, you might have the most powerful console in the world, but when its management team ignores its user base, that contraption will end up on the side of the road like an Ford Edsel, catching dust, rust and leaving the gamer without trust.

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Merely a year ago

I just looked at an article that made me a little uneasy. You see, I was contemplating a few days ago, as Facebook reminded me that ‘No Man’s Sky‘ was released a year ago. I had shared a photo, that’s how I got remembered. So much has happened in that year. I still love the game; I do not play it that often, mainly because the makers introduced a few ‘deadly irritating‘ glitches and screw ups in the game. For the most I have been highly protective of the game and the makers. The game remains awesome and I still believe that they are sitting on multimillion IP value here. Like all others, I saw the initial E3 trailer, I was seeking like most on what the game had to offer and that is when the legendary night with Stephen Colbert came. Most of us were hooked instantly. From that moment on, and from the moment that IGN had the No Man’s Sky month, I took a step back. You see, SEO’s started to ride the NMS-Express. More and more outlandish claims got on the internet and scores of gullible gamers just took it at face value. Even the Catholic Church sites used NMS to propel their websites. But months after that, the truth came out; we got to see the ACTUAL game. There were two that stood out on YouTube. I think it was Johnny and Ian who made them, I think that Johnny gave us the play through whilst showing he was pretty bad at playing this game from the moment he started playing it. Now, I am willing to accept that playing and live commenting is not the best way to get any hold of a new game, which is fair; the other amazing thing they did was starting the game 50 times, and turning that into a video showing us the massive difference worlds could have. This was the trailer NMS should have made, but OK. In the end, it does not matter.

Now we get to the issues. The amount of people who brought back the game was a little out there. I heard mountains of complaints. I had none. You see, these people walked on a hype, not knowing what they were buying and even Sony was ‘pro consumer‘ whilst most of the people did this to themselves. They all (read: most people) believed the hyping media whilst there were too many mentions from Sean Murray that were distorted. Now, the game has a few small bugs, so did Assassins Creed Unity, the difference? The patch from NMS was 65Mb; the one from Unity was 12GB. The difference between a glitch and a mismanaged game! NMS was not mismanaged. Now, the makers of NMS are not without some due scolding, and I will get to them in a moment.

Now, we get to the article. The first issue I have is the one with their comparison. My addiction to the other game goes back to 1984. With “not to mention dozens of minor tweaks that bring No Man’s Sky closer in line with a space simulator like Elite: Dangerous“, these are worlds apart. Making any comparison is like stating that Apples and Kiwis are the same because they are both fruit. I love both (Elite a lot more than NMS after 32 years), I would state that NMS is the artsy approach to the universe, where Elite: Dangerous is the scientific view. In Elite trading is serious business and even as you can live by simple rules, getting the big bucks requires cunning insights and a willingness to be dealing in banned substances and goods. All this whilst a few billion planets have an economy based on what they are and as such what is rare on their planet and what is in abundance, a game with a market with dozens of goods and commodities. In Elite you need to learn how to dock, in NMS you merely press rectangle. They allow both to exist in the gaming universe; I feel that you can appreciate both. With “Progress is still slow and inventory management is still a complete slog, lessened somewhat by a couple of tweaks that allow for quicker recharging of weapons and tools, but still cumbersome and annoying” Sam White does touch on a truth, yet as the game progresses and the multi tool evolves, you get loads more done. As your ship gets bigger you get to haul a lot more. More important, as you evolve your suit you get to do things for much longer able to find loads more.

Now it is time for me to scold Sean Murray a little. He added to the game, with bases as all, yet he also flawed in a few ways too. This is best seen in the ‘hard-core’ and ‘permadeath’ parts. Sean, you nice guy you, you need to realise that the ship you just fixed, ordering annoyingly to fly into space is getting them killed instantly. Did you realise that? An empty ship should not be interesting to pirates and in hard-core, your first fixed ship, getting that person killed because a wave of 4 pirates can never be beaten by any ship just repaired. Did you not consider that? Setting a freedom from pirates until after the second jump would have been better. Getting them to deal with one ship instead of 2 waves of 4 is no way to appreciate the game. I can go on a little longer, but you get the idea Sean!

Yet in the original game (normal mode), where I have the punching power of a titan, all looks good. Most improvements are indeed that improvement. Yet the one part still a little off is the fact that a planer will for the most 2 of the minerals we need (apart from the red, the yellow and the green minerals). The fact that most planets need a lot more minerals (optionally not all near one another) is one that I never encountered, even by the long terms exploring on foot I did. The issues I mention might be small but they matter on the immediate players, who are actually missing out because you made the improvements for the people who have been there for a long time. Get one of them to go into permadeath mode, starting again and hear them scream in agony. Now, we all had that the first time and it forced us to be clever about things and that is a really good thing. Yet after hours, finding your ship, fixing it and then getting blown up one minute after take-off is a little too insulting.

The one thing me and Sam White will not see eye to eye on is “No Man’s Sky will likely never outrun the inevitable monotony that comes with procedural generation“. I saw this game as seeing what amazement the environment could behold. I accept that watching life evolved pineapples was a stretch, but still places that were fun to watch. There is a partial part that this game has levels of repetition if you are chasing to the centre of the galaxy, yet with ‘the inevitable monotony I tend to not agree. I accept that there is a truth in it, but the makers could evolve and add to the initial versions, oh and the fact that you need to play a minimum of 8 hours for one achievement, whilst the entire Tombraider game can be done in under 12 hours gives options to ponder what is actually inevitable. The monotony part does apply when you are merely chasing to the centre of the galaxy and getting your achievements (which for the larger extent is not that hard), yet when you see it what it hides, the arts and the views that so many combinations bring, we need to accept that the game it is not about the ‘prescribed monotony’ but the ignored art of getting the place to look the way it does when it runs. As monotony goes, take a look at Minecraft, monotonous or not it remains close to the most addictive game ever made. Still, NMS has options to evolve towards more options, more gameplay and more challenges. So even as I cannot deny that there is a level of monotony, the way it is stapled to the game is one I do not agree with. This was never going to be some fast game arcade game, which is pretty awesome, because Elite is not like that in more than equal ways, yet now both moving towards options and growth is what they both deliver, whilst no other game has been able to provide for is ignored. With Elite giving us now options in engineers and planetary landings, an option that the game never before offered. In the end, I still believe that No Mans Sky is still an awesome achievement. At times I see it as some version of Minecraft with actual awesome graphics. With the base building I can settle in one place and explore, yet the reality is that to grow I need to mine and acquire minerals, the fact that some are at times spread over planets is a little too unrealistic, but that is what the game gives us.

Still, as I see it, by many media No Man’s Sky is one of the worst clear covered games I have seen in a long time. From my personal view the game was too often reviewed in weird incomprehensible ways. In this Metro is one source that should be looked at. With: “The simplest description for No Man’s Sky is a space trader, in the style of the original Elite, with elements of survival games such as Rust or Don’t Starve. You start the game after crash-landing your spaceship, with no clue as to who (or what) you are and how you got there” (at http://metro.co.uk/2016/08/12/no-mans-sky-review-where-no-one-has-gone-before-6063429/). Is it a trading game? I do not think so! It has trade options, it has exploration options. They are true with ‘You start the game after crash-landing your spaceship, with no clue as to who (or what) you are and how you got there’ which can be seen as a blessing or a curse. You do get clear jobs to do, like fix your ship, find certain minerals, but yes, that part is fair. Yet, the issue that many of the media had was seen with “You’re then immediately given the choice to either explore the universe at random or to follow a story path at the behest of a mysterious alien intelligence named Atlas“. The fact that the reviews do not give the amazing differences per world is a little mystifying, the fact that life forms can be so outrageously different and that some see YOU as food is equally an issue, especially when you are out in the open and you are dinner. The upgrades brought good things and a few lesser items, yet overall NMS is still an excellent game for those who appreciate. It is very different from Elite: Dangerous and that is awesome, because that has a serious trading side and the exploring part is largely different and very little artsy in Elite: Dangerous. If it comes to fighting NMS compares to Elite like Need for Speed does to Gran Turismo. If you are a serious race freak, Need for Speed is not the game, merely a warm up entertainment and that is fair, it is not what NMS proclaimed to be, merely an option that it had (one that needs tweaking mind you).

The gaming world needs both games because science without art is tedious; merely art is at times aimless. It is how you personally see it and that is great about both games. These two games are not what they tell you to be, they allow you to let the games grow to what you would like it to be, which is ultimately extremely rare in the world of Gaming. The fact that Hero Games still rolls out parts in this game is also awesome and shows commitment to a game that I refuse to see as a failure, merely a game that was largely misunderstood as I see it. Now, many gamers are not into these two games, just like they have no patience for games like Fallout or Elder Scrolls. That is fair enough! They hold life in their hands and they believe that a game like Forza or Fifa is the fulfilment of their gaming life and I believe that is fine too. Gaming is so personal, what you like, dislike or evade is all yours to decide and none of your reasons are invalid, it is merely what pleases you that matters and some will still decide on merely one title like Zelda, which is good too! Yet in the case of NMS, the largest blow was by the media to cover what they did not understand, that is the part I still find a bit offensive. In this The Guardian has not done this, Sam White has his own view and even as he do not agree with certain parts, he is not misinforming you, which must be pointed out as well. In this one element every player of the game should love is the part where we see “30 hours of new story content”, so a free addition, which amounts to 2.5 Tombraider games (valued ad $229), so as we see the push forward, getting No Man’s Sky is turning out to be one of the best buys for a long time.

If there is one mismanaged part on the media side, than it is the fact that the media at large basically did not understand the game, or is that comprehend the gameplay? To cut it short, the wrong people looked at the game and valued it wrongly, that is just what it is at times and there is no coming back from that. We could give the example that the media was saying that they ‘found inspiration in cooking their family and their dogs’, whilst it was about that they ‘found inspiration in cooking, their family, and their dogs’. It seems like a small difference but in one case (the wrong one) you’ll be eating alone for the larger part of your life.

It might be seen as a failing by Hello Games, which is not an unfair assessment to some degree, yet in that same light, something like NMS had never been made before, which is important because this game is unique, it will remain unique and I doubt if anyone can repeat something like this to the degree that had been achieved. This is merely my view and you need not agree with it, I am not trying to convert you, merely giving my view. So try the game, do not try the game, I merely hope that you remain true to gaming and embrace the games you actually love to play. The joy of gaming is pretty much that simple.

 

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