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The gaming E-War is here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Ferrari Mario (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fingers crossed everyone!

 

 

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After the E3

I tend to not take Kotaku as a source (not for any negative reason), yet they have been hammering the nail on the head, even as they did not say it.  Their part ‘the losers’ starts with an image of the Xbox with the text ‘I witnessed the most powerful console ever‘, yes, hiding behind a technical detail whilst there is no proper space to store it is always a bad idea and I was happy to call the Microsoft presence literally a ‘waste of space‘ in my previous E3 article, so far I stand by it. Consider that the most powerful console has only 50% of storage space compared to a MacBook pro, which cannot do that level of gaming. Consider (taken Seagate 2.5″ drives as an example). The shift from 1TB to 2TB is $30, the shift from 2TB to 3TB is an additional $60. I do acknowledge that the 3TB drive is 8mm thicker, yet the dimensions of the 1TB and 2TB are identical, so twice the size for a mere $30 more, this is what makes the Xbox a joke. Sony might do the same, yet with Sony, you get the run on how to change it and there are good guides to show how to replace the hard drive. Plenty of gamers shelled out the additional $120 to get the space, with Microsoft it is not an option.

Now for the hardware, the Switch showed what fun was like and it has the games and more coming to keep us all happy. Both Sony and Microsoft failed us a little there. Now Sony was more about games, which is good and they just released the PS4pro, so this is not an issue, whilst the way they did it shows long term commitment, which is what gamers like. Now we see a changing market with any PS4 next to a Nintendo switch and it is a good day for gaming. Another visible event is that some of the better Xbox One exclusives are now making their way to Sony, so whilst the Sony exclusives grow, the Xbox exclusives list is starting to shrink. In addition, although not confirmed, the consoles Sony vs Microsoft was at 2:1 in 2015, some sources now give this a 6:1 setting. The PS4 has gone through the roof, with sales now surpassing 60 million consoles, meaning that they have surpassed the PS3 and could surpass the PS2 sales by 2018. I think it is a stretch, but part of me hopes so. Part of me can go towards Steve Ballmer with an ‘I told you so‘ state of mind. The weird think is that neither Mattrick nor Ballmer are stupid, they are decently intelligent and the conclusions I got to did not take a rocket scientist, which beckons who is drawing their marching orders and why are they on some track to force people to push data towards the Azure cloud? Why endanger your console market in this way?

By the way, pretty much NONE of the E3 attending press took a decent look at that, even the Guardian avoided the storage issue, which is a question for another day.

The only questionable part in it was the Bethesda Creation club. I think that it is not just about making money. The developer gets a share (as I understood it), so those with really good mods could stand to make $1-2 per quality mod. Now, I am not much of a mod fan, but there are a few really good ones and I would not begrudge the maker those $2 if need be. It would in addition up the ante for mod creators to become even better, which is not a bad thing. Finally, in some respects, a game like Fallout 3 (PC) went from awesome to beyond legendary, just because of some mods. Now, it might not be for all and that is fair enough, yet if your perception of a 90% game becomes a 98% game through the additional $2-$4 because of 1-2 mods, is that such a bad thing? It is up to the gamer to decide that, but I believe that there is some validity in the option. The validity is for them to come with it and for us to embrace those professional mods, or to ignore them. It should not impact the foundation (the original game) you bought.

In the end Nintendo did what it always does, it did something different, which is why I did not care about the WiiU and the failure I personally see it to be, from those ashes came the Switch and it rocks, going to the edge can get you big failures and massive hits, and the Switch could become their greatest hit yet, good for Nintendo! Yet, in fairness, there are media that really do not agree with me and that is fine. International Business Times was all but creating a shrine in the honour of the Xbox One X. The BBC is on my team when it comes to the Nintendo. They raised the issue that mattered for Nintendo; can the 100M units of Wii be equalled? I believe so! Now the Wii was backward compatible with the GameCube, which was my reason for getting it on day one, beyond that the Wii was a nice machine, yet it lacked a decent array of games. They let me down a little there. The Switch is already surpassing the game titles in the first year, compared to Wii 3 years, so they have that in the bag. Nintendo has in equal measure a few new IP options which can really make the Switch a phenomenal success. So from those points of view, the option of surpassing the 100M consoles seems like an easy mark. Even if the economy does not take a turn for the better, choosing between a Switch at $450 without 4K beats the Xbox One X at $500 with 4K gaming by close to 300%. So by the end of 2018 the console offset ‘Sony:Nintendo:Microsoft’ could end up being ‘13:9:2’. This would show Microsoft on how they truly bet on the wrong marketing horses. So I admit, it is a speculative prediction, yet the sales numbers are not that far off and my expected Nintendo growth is not unrealistic. Now, in the off season, the Switch is adding roughly a million users per month. I expect that the European summer, the upcoming games and upcoming festivity days could set it to a total of 10 million by the end of the year. If the economy kicks off a little stronger, it could go to 12 million, which means that in one year the Switch will equal the total Xbox One systems in the field. As more games come to switch, the added active users will fuel growth even stronger. Good games and word of mouth tends to do that, don’t take my word for it, and just look at the PS2 and PS4.

Yet, what more can we expect with the E3 behind us? Both the critics and people gave Super Mario Odyssey best of show, which fuels growth even more and it won by a substantial margin. Assassins Creed Origin did not win on any console or PC, they all had a different winner which was nice to see. Super Mario Odyssey also became best platformer, which is not really that big a surprise and again There was no win for Assassins Creed, which when we consider the stages of completion of the different games not too bad a negative. Again Nintendo got the best title for Strategy game. In this case ‘Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle‘, so as the laurels are handed to Nintendo in several ways. IGN wasn’t the only one with a voice, Gamesradar saw another part my way, they to just announced Ubisoft as the winner of 2017. It was a fair call and two brand new IP’s definitely boosts the score for Ubisoft. Gamesradar also shows one element the others did not, the lack of Indie developers. In regards to the PlayStation and the fact that this month Elite Dangerous will make it to PS4 is actually a big thing, it is one of the three top space games and now on PS4. The second is the remastered RPG original System Shock. Nightdrive Studios has enhanced a true original and so far has been able to capture the original suspense that System Shock brought us. The third one is unconfirmed from sources not that reliable, yet if true, Unknown Worlds with their open world RPG Subnautica will make waves. I reckon that the last two might bring additional hype to the Switch if they ever adapt those two for Switch. Games radar concurs; Nintendo is a winner, Xbox a loser. It is a harsh world for Microsoft and they might want to seriously consider in 2017 what their intent truly is, but as stated now the 4K and ‘strongest console ever‘ marketing gets them some media, yet in the end they poisoned their own customer base.

I think in the end it was a great E3, partially because Ubisoft and Nintendo amazed me with actual new stuff, which is what gets any gamer to the station ;-). I feel less negative about Bethesda than some of the ‘professional’ critics. Not sure why so negative as Bethesda delivered plenty, just some of their focus is VR, which might make them the legendary winner next year. In addition their new power puncher Prey was released a month before the E3, so there is that to consider. Finally there are more DLC’s coming for those games many love, so overall, we should not be too grumpy towards Bethesda.

So as the dust settles, we now get to wait another year for the next presentation of marketed hype by all the players. I for one will be very interested to see my own projection of Nintendo upcoming future. They have 5 optional new IP’s at their back and call and if they get 3 up and running, the run for Switch will grow more than even I predict which would be nice too. In the end, I am happy that the Nintendo message ‘it is about fun‘ that got through stronger than the need for 4K, which gives hope for gamers all over the world. For me personally, the moment it is a financial option, the Switch come in, perhaps a trade for my Xbox? I do hope that Nintendo will give us Pikmin, and Metroid Prime one and two, because those are the games I miss, and I will happily buy them again for the Switch, good gaming is just that, more good!

 

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