Tag Archives: Playstation

Drop the Mike, Ashley!

Welcome to the issues on a man that I do not know. This is not the most straight-forward of starts, yet the man who has been valued more than once and that verdict is several thousand stacks of £1,000,000. The man who owns Newcastle United, which means he gets the swanky seat in the stadium. Now, we can understand that this man founded Sports Direct. When you get enthusiastic about sports, you can bet that it will be part of your life. There is no denying it and as it became a good success, I would state ‘good for him’. Yet, the focus on him started in an entirely different way. It started with him getting in on the videogame action by getting a near 26% stake in the franchise ‘Game‘. That brand did not go well here in Australia, yet I always found it to be a decent store and the people working there knew their games and consoles. I have seen them in the UK as well and a similar feeling remained on that experience. Here it did not go well as they were up against EB Games (who grew aggressively at that time) and JB Hifi that was an established chain of quality stores, so they had a murder competition, they did not make it (for the most). Yet all this is now in play when I read “Mike Ashley swoops on video games retailer after profit warning forced by shortage of Nintendo Switch consoles“, this is a weird issue. We get ‘profit warning‘ in regards to a situation of shortage. Basically the story becomes, we are short on revenue/profit because we can’t get any more consoles, they are sold out, and everyone wants one! Which at present is pretty much the truth of the desire of people and their need for the Nintendo Switch, it is actually THAT amazing.

The result was “Game shares rose by more than 15% to 28p on the news, and later traded at 26.5p (up 9.3%), giving it a market value of £47m“, apart from the 28p not sounding like that impressive, it is the end result of +9.3% that is staggering. You see, I have issues with the entire part where ‘profit warnings‘ are labelled in the way they were. You see, the entire mess (as reported) gives no clue on the actual situation (well, the one as I personally see it), I do not care how people quantify one way or the other; it is the addressing of profit warnings.

I offer in evidence the following pieces

Part 1, Sony (at http://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2017/01/03/uk-2016-sales-chart-2016-game-sales-down-13-infinite-warfare-the-2-best-selling-game-of-the-year/) gives us ‘UK Sales Chart: 2016 Game Sales Down 13%, Infinite Warfare the #2 Best-Selling Game of the Year‘. In this we see: “The major titles of 2016 also disappointed when compared to 2015’s, with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (the second biggest title of 2016) lagging 31.5% behind Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. In other comparisons, Watch Dogs 2 fell just short of the 500,000 copies Assassin’s Creed Syndicate sold in 2015, Steep performed worse than Rainbow Six Siege, Gears of War 4 couldn’t reach the heights of Halo 5, and Final Fantasy XV was outsold by Just Cause 3.” For those who do not talk games, let me boil it down to the first item is that overall less games were bought. In my personal view, the overall quality of games was not great. Even as Watchdogs 2 was a good step up from the previous game, yet many gamers felt too burned by the first game. I believe that the second game was good, it has online and offline options and people were not forced to go online here. Regarding the other title, I am not a fan of Call of Duty, I know many are. the fact that a game like that became ‘the’ game is not entirely on the fact on how good their Infinite Warfare was, it is more that the other games were way below the line. The fact that the last four larger releases this year alone could be bought for 50% down, including the special editions with figurines is also a changing trend. People are less willing to just shell out the cash for games, reviews are more competitive and even though there are really good reviewers, there are a lot more really bad reviewers and they tend to get plenty of exposure. Yet in the end, the games were for a larger extent not up to snuff. The reviewers ‘deserve’ extra attention as some are more and more about the larger players, whilst some of the true gems have been largely ignored by plenty of people. Nioh is perhaps one of the most visible ones. Like Infinite warfare it is a specific game. I actually like this game, but I loathe the challenge it contains at times (they are really hard games). Some saw that is was some Dark Souls games and plenty of people ran for the hills as this is a game for actual gamers, not for wannabe’s. In my view there are several similarities, yet the only thing that the game Nioh truly has in common with Dark Souls III was its graphical excellence.

So here we see two elements that would push any revenue down.

Part 2, Pushsquare. At http://www.pushsquare.com/news/2017/01/ps4_physical_game_sales_increase_as_uk_industry_suffers_blow, we see more confirmation: “Overall sales down 13.4 per cent“, the mere subtitle and the direct impact that matters, less sales overall, this is not entirely correct, but I will get to that in a moment. The next quote is, as I personally see it wrong, but still essential. With “Bethesda’s Dishonored 2, for example, couldn’t come close to matching the success of Fallout 4, while Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV somehow failed to outsell Just Cause 3.” My issue is that no matter how you slice it, Dishonored 2 is a little bit of a niche game, more intent for those who love stealth gaming (me being one), it is graphically superb, the game is a little steampunk in a very good way, but for the most, it is highly original and exquisite in quality. It is not fair to compare it to a game that has millions of followers and has been revered since its original release (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC) on 11/11/11, the date that some will carry with them for all time. An established success that was bought on the console be new players as well as nearly everyone who had the previous version. The game is good for months of gameplay, so a game that sells itself due to 5 years of raving reports. The second is equally unfair. I myself was never a FF fan, but I have always admired the originality and scope of the stories and the near perfection each game brought. Even I am surprised that Just Cause 3 outsold it, perhaps merely because of the over the top explosions and things you can do with the game? I cannot tell what the exact reason is, yet the second part implies that the gamers are diversifying in different directions, changing the gaming requirement. It is almost like there is a new generation taking over the baton of gaming and it has different tastes.

Yet he best is left for last, in part 3 we see Retail Week

The mention (at https://www.retail-week.com/sectors/entertainment/game-issues-profit-warning-as-uk-sales-falter/7022184.article), where we see “The specialist retailer, which posted a slump in its interim profits in March, said anticipated supply in the UK of the latest Nintendo console had failed to meet expectations, negatively impacting overall sales“, is a first issue. In this the mention ‘anticipated supply‘ beckons the question, so did you order enough or not? As the experts, you should have seen the impact it would make. The E3 and other events clearly showed that Nintendo was blowing both others out of the water. In addition we see “alongside ongoing poor sales of Xbox and PlayStation devices“, now we can argue about Xbox for several reasons, so let’s take this out of the equation, the PlayStation part gives the issue. Overall sales of the PS4 and PS4pro are still up by a decent amount, so it now becomes a shifting focus, but I will get to that soon.

For now I will end with the quote “The group continues to actively implement its UK action plan, encompassing improved supplier arrangements, enhancements to the customer experience, further operational progress including cost reduction programmes and disciplined cash management“, yet will not address it yet. Let’s take a look at three more elements.

The first is from the Business Insider which gives us “Sony sold 10 million PlayStation 4 consoles between early May 2016 and December 6, 2016. That puts sales in the neighbourhood of over 1 million sold every month, which keeps it locked in as the fastest-selling PlayStation console of all-time

The second is again from PlayStation Lifestyle with “Taking a deeper look at software last year in the UK, Games Industry points out that nearly 80% of all boxed games sold last year were either on PS4 or Xbox One (up from 66% in 2015)

The last is G24/7 where we see (at https://www.vg247.com/2016/11/14/ps4-console-sales-have-tripled-in-the-uk-following-the-launch-of-the-ps4-pro/) “Sony’s PS4 Pro launched at the end of last week and has had quite the impact on PS4 console sales. According to MCVUK, PS4 sales for the week ending Saturday, November 12, were up 204%. 65% of the total PS4 sales last week were for the PS4 Pro, while the final sales figure for all PS4 consoles was 44% higher than those for the Xbox One.

Now we put the whole together!

We know that sales were massive end of year 2016, especially with a new console and Christmas coming up, all that makes sense. We can also clearly see that overall, the consoles represent the bulk of all game sales. This partially makes sense because that is what we see as flagships in pretty much any gaming store, PC owners have a lot more options to buy in other places and at times a lot cheaper and there is Steam to consider, so that part remains an unknown and as such a much lesser impact to these stores (apart from the selling of steam credit). The fact that the PS4 is surpassing the previous consoles, is debatable (PS2 sold over three times the amount in its life time), yet the overall market trend is that games should be on par and were up by a fair bit last year. So when we go back to the initial start with “Video game retailers have been particularly badly affected by the broader shift away from the high street in recent years, with developers moving to increase their own profit margins selling games as direct downloads“, which we get from the Financial Times (at https://www.ft.com/content/172c3ba1-e880-35e8-9273-957e325cd7f4?mhq5j=e3).

In this there is debate, yet he part no one touches on is how the expectations were set, what they were weighed on and on the given image that sales were down, which had been an upcoming known for close to 2 quarters of a year. The part that the Financial Times gives us is that direct downloads are playing more of a role nowadays. It actually impacts the industry in 2 ways. Apart from buying directly, the additional issue is that consoles have a premium service; most gamers take that because of online gaming and the fact that both systems offer at least 2 free games a month. Microsoft was initially really bad with that (lousy games or games everyone had), they are still not great, yet this month it includes Lego pirates of the Caribbean, which is actually a nice and decent game (and not a large download in console terms). Sony beats Microsoft here hands down with titles like Until Dawn and Life is Strange. In all this both offer decent free games, with a bonus for Sony people as their account will also enable them to get free games for their Vita handheld, all that for around £50 per year, the premium service sells itself to both consoles without any difficulty. All elements that shows the impact of a bad year of games, not consoles, the overall quality of games gives rise to people deciding to just download an average game instead. The interesting part that even as Ubisoft lagged in a few ways, the one game what was awesome in many ways, ‘For Honor’ actually did not do that well, which is a mixed signal that multiplayer games are wanted, yet without a strong one player side, it tends to not make the cut in a top 10, which would be unfairly devastating on the makers I think. All elements that the analysts in this case should have known and realised and as such, when we see ‘would not meet expectations‘, my question becomes: “the expectations of whom and on what foundations?” Now we get to the part I skipped.

With “The group continues to actively implement its UK action plan, encompassing improved supplier arrangements, enhancements to the customer experience, further operational progress including cost reduction programmes and disciplined cash management” I wonder what we are being served.

  • Did they call short because they did not keep an eye on running costs, what arrangements would be needed with suppliers? Were they not up to scrap?
  • Even more customer experience? Were the current settings and anticipations of the competitor not up to scrap?
  • Disciplined cash management? Is cash not managed correctly?

The feedback we got from Game, directly below the image of a sort of smiley ‘Game CEO Martyn Gibbs on the merits of in-store gaming arenas‘ is one that leaves us with the thoughts that Game is going down because they are not on the ball of the game, and the game is passing them by? So in all this Mike Ashley merely flying in to pick up a bargain? In this he better realise fast that Game has an issue and more than one potential issue in play, he also needs to realise that the Games market is a shifty one and in the years before the publishers see clear to push a bigger load to online sales in the next 5 years (depending on where you live), we better consider that top games is a market in motion and it is likely to see a shift that Microsoft and Adobe made some time ago on PC’s, it is not a change that gamers are currently happy with, but it is one that the next generations of consoles will likely face, the game shop is seen as the middle man and they are trying to cut it out to maximise it for their own need to please whatever stakeholders they report on. It is early days now, but in 5 years it won’t be.

In the aftermath we actually need to look where I normally do not go. It is the Telegraph, in this case the business section, where (at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/06/30/game-warns-profits-will-substantially-expectations/) we see the generic parts like “following its third profit warning“, we know that Christmas was weak (to some extent), yet in equality when you consider the previous information, the issue is not entirely just ‘weak Christmas‘, it is merely a much stronger competition to some extent and the fact that the cost of living in metropolitan UK seems to be ignored by analysts and those who speculate on how it would (read: should) be. The issue that is stronger is “The shares nosedived to just 21p on the back of the profit warning, valuing the business at £35.6m only two years after it was floated at 200p a share by US hedge fund Elliott Advisors” as well as “Elliott cashed in £101m at the time of Game’s stock market listing by selling a stake and made a further £59m by dumping a further 10pc of its stake just three months afterwards, despite agreeing to a lock-up period of six months” which now also implies that Game got played and not in such a nice way. Yet the bulk of all the sources do not give any clarity of the part that Elliott Advisors was playing, even the Financial Times steered clear of that part. In this, I am now also questioning the setting as given to Game and its senior management. Even as CNBC is giving the notion that Paul Singer, CEO of Elliott Management is just the best invention since Frozen Yoghurt (if we are to believe places like Forbes, CNBC and the Wall Street Journal), I wonder what price we can see the UK pay for getting played to the extent it is getting by the US Hedge market, in that regard should we allow for any US company coming in under false pretences and flood the market so that they can drain the profit quickly and walk away? It seems to me that they tried that in the Netherlands with Akzo Nobel, which had the great benefit of Elliott Management failing (for now), but it shows the extent that as a shareholder Elliott Management will go to get their profit, it seems to me that Game was not nearly as lucky and the fact that the different levels of publications left that side seemingly in the dark corners of ‘them not printing that part‘ is also upsetting (to me even more upsetting is the part that the Telegraph actually did get that info out). The fact that Game has been seemingly under exploitative attack does not diminish the issues as given by some of the publishers by the quotes, Game got caught out, which under the current size and the possible level of possible losses is a dangerous place to be in.

In all this, I am aware of things, but not as much as a person like Mike Ashley would be, so is this his triumph with Game, should we see this as a mere quick victory to see if he can get more out of this than Paul Singer’s place did, or is it an actual rescue and grow attempt? I am not implying one or the other, but as you see the presented evidence, there are a few issues with Game and I believe as such they were set up as the weak runt in the market, whether this will happen twice in a row is something I have no way of telling and I am not implying anything wrong, immoral or illegal. The entire mess is not completely shown by some players and that is what seems to be the actual issue. I remain in an attempt to be protective of the places that feed my need for gaming and there is a positive in having a diverse and competitive market. It guarantees to some degree I get the best games at the sharpest price, which is what every gamer wants, there is no exceptions to that rule.

 

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Approaching death of Scorpio

Do you remember the day when gamers were all looking forward towards the initial presentation of the Xbox One? Perhaps you do, perhaps not, what became the issue is that the person, who disappeared soon thereafter was talking about mandatory online presence, news of no longer getting second hand games also came to light and the gamers shouted in outrage. The changes Microsoft had to make were not small, the business managers of Microsoft at that point actually got scared and the consequence was that Sony became the undebated ruler of the next generation console.

Sony made a few errors, but they were small and some have been rectified. For the Xbox One it is an entirely different matter. They have gone to some extent from bad to worse and there are decent indicators that Scorpio will continue on that downward spiral.

The article in the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/27/project-scorpio-xbox-chief-microsoft-plans-console) gives some highlights, especially on the speculation of native 4K gaming, yet in other uncertain terms other elements are not addressed.

Since the Xbox 360 the gamers lost the ability to play offline, with the option to keep their achievements. Now there is a cumbersome need to change settings. Sony had the same issue, but has rectified this, although the gamer needs to click two additional times, offline achievements can be viewed. Microsoft has been unwilling to reset to the Xbox 360 options in that regard. More important, the issue seen only a few months ago shows that Microsoft without consent has been uploading massive chunks of data into their Azure cloud. Within one week I lost 50% of my monthly bandwidth allowance ($60 damage). The press has not looked at this at all, the press remains silent on non-consensual uploads and the Microsoft helpdesk plainly blamed my ISP for this (what a load of rubbish). In that frame, my less diplomatic view would be that Microsoft has become a data lady of ill repute.

The fact that Microsoft remains silent on storage is equally a failure. They should have figured out that some gamers have much higher needs and we should agree that this is not for everyone, the option that gamers would want to get a larger hard-drive from day one (even if they have to personally upgrade like it is the case with the PS3/PS4), the fact that Microsoft remains pushy towards clouds and mineable data is a large issue, especially as this constitutes backwater thinking on the part of the developer. Lessons that Microsoft could have seen and learned from Sony 5 years ago, and with 4K gaming, you better believe these patches will continue to grow into several gigabytes per game. In comparison, I have as per this morning 4 patches waiting requiring 29GB storage, do you think that will get less on 4K? You only need to look at a few Ubisoft games (specifically the size of their patches) to realise that the storage requirement will grow faster and faster. A 2TB drive will not satisfy the need of the gamer, let alone a 1TB drive. Microsoft as ben aiming for data control too soon and to stringently, an error that could be the death of Scorpio, in that regard Death on Release date is not that far fetched at present.

In addition, we read that Phil Spencer makes the biggest blooper of all. The quote: “it may be possible for some teams to add extra gameplay content only accessible to Scorpio owners”. So those who recently bought an Xbox One or Xbox One S will face a system renewal within a year. So not only is he resetting gamer needs, he is basically downgrading the current generation console from a gamers point of view, because gamers want 100% of the game they play, not some restriction. In this he gives extra ammunition to Sony, so he might get a nice Christmas hamper from Kaz Hirai himself.

In all this the article is a good read, not just for fans of the Microsoft console, but more or the competitors (read: Sony) for the elements that have not been raised or discussed. The fact that the console OS requires more than half a dozen upgrades and improvement, just to get back to the decent levels of the Xbox 360 is one issue, the idea that we might see a mandatory push to Azure is also a danger that Phil needs to put to rest real quick, because a large group of gamers are not in places where unlimited bandwidth is an option, and that is in the better locations. When Microsoft learns the hard way that 7 US states and chunks of Japan and Europe wont facilitate those data needs, they will need to adjust their scope again and again. This whilst the gamers get to suffer limitations and outages for a console that will be pricey to say the least.

All issues that have been known in advance if those at the top had done their homework. Now, we should realize that the console will not be here for some time to come, but at this point, if the hardware specs are not upgraded (like the laughable 1TB drive), getting enough consoles sold by the end of the year will be a stretch and I reckon that within 4 months the gamers will face limitations they have never experienced before, which will push the console down in sales faster and harder. All elements that could have been avoided 2 years before launch. When we consider that the better games will require 50GB-100GB of data space, the idea that a 1TB drive with an operating system would only have space for 5-8 games could be the most laughable part yet. In that regard, those who love their RPG games (Witcher 3, Fallout, Skyrim) could see a special marketing deal of the Scorpio console with 5 games because that is all the console has space for. I agree that this is me being mean, but Microsoft has been warned by gamers more than once. The fact that we have enough evidence that they will not learn or listen is a mere consideration to drop the Scorpio from your wish list until such time comes that they clearly clean up their act and please their customers, not the need of others business groups to keep certain power users on a monitored online presence. This is how I see it, and this is what you need to consider before you waste too many of your hard earned coins on an announced console that comes with too many limitations even before the system ships on day one.

Oh, and the news (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/27/xbox-chief-netflix-video-games-episodes-subscription-downloads-phil-spencer),  how much bandwith and storage will that require? Not to mention upgraded Netflix on 4K, that poor 1TB storage system will unlikely make it past the second month. Yes, Scorpio might sound revolutionary, but not for the gamer.

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The end of diversity?

We are seeing a push in the gaming world, one that is coming before the next gen follow ups are here. Before the PS4Pro is maturing, before even the Xbox Scorpio is launched, we see new games that are told to be another style of Far Cry (Horizon Zero Dawn), another Dark Souls (Nioh), another Sniper Elite and in that same trend more sequels and more prequels. Yet, the overall game time seems to be dwindling down. Resident Evil 7 for all its amazing changes and story line, the game can be played in 10 hours, with speed gamers (not my cup of soup) doping it in less than 2 hours.

The same people who trolled No Mans Sky, pointing at absurd newscasts by writers trying to score exclusivity points and airing utter BS video’s with ‘scientific’ reviews whilst the game offered well over 50 hours (to get the 100% achievements) of gaming fun. That game gets trolled! In equal measure they all praise Tomb Raider, a game that could be completed in 12-15 hours. The quantity and quality of games falling more and more when considering the cost of games in dollars per gaming hour.

Now, let’s get back to the mention of Far Cry 3. For me a pivotal point as the first one on Xbox 360 was the only game I ever traded in because it was such a bad game. I had never done that before and I had not done that since. I steered clear of the second game and I only played the third one when it was offered on either PS Plus or Gold Live (I forgot which one), that is when I learned what an amazing game Far Cry three had turned out to be. So as Horizon Zero Dawn is ‘tainted’ to be some Far Cry/Tomb Raider game, some people get nervous. Are they doing it because of the references, or the lack of play that Tomb Raider offered?

Dan Silver of the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/20/horizon-zero-dawn-review-a-stunning-but-barely-evolved-rpg-contradiction) states “At times Horizon: Zero Dawn, the latest title from Dutch studio Guerrilla Games, those behind the Killzone series, feels uncannily like prophecy rather than escapism” as well as “in truth, there’s no real freedom here to play any role other than that proscribed by the game’s writers” and in conclusion “the RPG elements of Horizon: Zero Dawn are undercooked and ultimately unnecessary, or a sneaking acknowledgement that its action is so good players will want to jump straight into it – but both sentiments have a ring of truth“. The last one gives the part that matters with ‘both sentiments have a ring of truth‘, this is the can of worms I see.

Now let’s state this up front: ‘I have not played this game yet!

The game gets released in a week and what YouTube offered via Guerrilla Games shows a game that is well worth the time and also worth the effort. It is the image shown by Guerrilla games and there is no doubt that they are showing the more enticing parts. Yet the fight in the dark showed that there are more sides to the game, there is a mandatory intro part and there are parts that separate acts, so that you cannot take some ultimate short cut. All very acceptable in gaming.

In that same manner I saw some 15 things to learn before you buy Mass Effect 4 and I never bothered to watch the whole list. Speculation and listed ‘innovation’ from demos by people who are not involved with making the game. The only part that was interesting is that the launch was done between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, which is not surprising. At this point, in light of the Microsoft Console Unconsented Data Collections that are currently happening, I have switched off my Xbox One for now, which is annoying as I love Elite Dangerous and SubNautica, but fortunately one of them will be released on the PS4 in the coming quarter.

Yet, in the same air of originality I want to play the remastered version of System Shock (also coming to PS4). I feel that my drive is the ability to play this game in what is now possible. In that same trend System Shock 2 makes me equally anxious to replay what I loved so much. There is a list of games that give me this feeling, mainly because they were the originals. These games drove the existence of other new games. Games that were not bad, in some cases great, but it is the original game that drove us towards these games. Yet the creation of some games were uncanny, some made games with vision. Just like the maker FTL games who saw Asteroids and Moon lander and decided to create Oids (very addictive in those days). They were already famous with Dungeon Master and less known was the space explorer and trade game Sundogs, but overall they were true visionaries in games. So was the game the Sentinel on the Atari ST, which was later relaunched (with an awful cover story) on the PC. Cover story or not, they gave the game with the sentiment that the original had with the amazing bonus of the music made by John Carpenter, which was a bonus you should never deny yourself.

It is the decades of experience that made me design the story for a new single player Elder Scrolls (Elder Scrolls: Restoration), which is still on my desk. It gave me the idea for a New Ultima game, yet none of this is original. Our minds allow to create what we loved in the face of what we see now, which is re-engineering at best, it is not creation as such. It might still be the foundation of a great game, yet it is unlikely to become a great game without proper evolution of what initially was. It will appeal to the original lovers of the game with an updated following of those who never played it. Yet as greed comes around the corner, what we hoped to be great (example: Dungeon Keeper on the tablet), becomes a hoax that is soon after hated by all who loved the original. In that same fuel we might love a new Dungeon Keeper 2, a new Magic Carpet and a new Populous. In a similar trend, remaster these originals to Tablets could still work (when we kill the greed driving entities connected to them). Games like Flood were fun to play and the history of games is full of examples that people could and would enjoy if given the chance to play them again.

The issue of diversity rises again and again as we see the failure of true innovative gaming. Far Cry 4 gave us that as it tried to upgrade Far Cry 3 and as I personally saw it fail. In that Far Cry Primal is to some extent equally a non-winner. I phrase it like that because the game has good sides and it is not a bad game, yet the curve and growth allow for more escapism, whilst not giving true challenges in gaming. The issue with the ‘duplicated’ map is not even on my radar because anyone who could memorise a map like that has perhaps different issues to work with. The Ubisoft failure checklist is as I personally see it their biggest problem. In addition, there approach to include more and more might generalise gaming, yet I feel it, it is also reason these games lose more and more success ratings.

This is clearly in contrast with For Honor, which is reviewed as not a great single player game (some advised against getting the game for that reason), but at its core it is an overwhelmingly amazing multi player experience. So far having seen several video’s some at amazing resolutions, For Honor seems to deliver the best multi player action that 2017 is likely to offer. Which early in the year is quite the statement to make.

In all this Horizon New Dawn is still a force to be reckoned with. The biggest threshold now becomes, how many hours does the game offer and have they given thought to replayability. So as we replay Diablo 3 again and again with different characters, we see other games failing in that attempt, or succeed only to the smallest degree. Skyrim is perhaps the only one who offers decent levels of replayability, although we can all accept that the need to surpass level 70 to get to the legendary dragon achievement is still decently beyond ridiculous.

As we accept certain needs, values and requirements, there is always the danger that my view is the view only I would appreciate. In that I disagree, as I have heard similar views from others, some to a smaller extent and some to a larger extent. As I see the replayability option grow, I see that games like SubNautica will score high with the gaming community when the full game is launched on other platforms, seldom have I ever seen a game where the evolution of a game keeps on coming as it now enters the 4th wave of evolution and additions. It is to the same degree that nearly all RPG fans agree that the Witcher 3 is pretty much the most perfect RPG game ever created and as Project Red still has a future RPG (we hope) on the development table (read: Cyberpunk 2077), most gamers are looking forward to what 2018 and 2019 will bring.

So if some places see the light by opening their eyes, we hope that a specific place (Electronic Arts) will take steps to avoid to get the repeat label ‘A Cancer That’s Eroding The Market‘ (by Kotaku), where the quote ““A cynically motivated skeleton of a non-game, a scam that will take your cash and offer nothing in return,” writes Escapist’s Jim Sterling, “A perversion of a respected series, twisted by some of the most soulless, selfish, and nauseating human beings to ever blight the game industry”” is at the heart of the matter of despicability. You see, there are plenty of other games that could make the jump, yet as I see it, when such a game still acquires 4 star ratings, we know that the game is rigged and the provider of these games are trusted less and less. There is a certain failing when we see 136K people gave it a 5 star rating. Not with the push for money spending this game offers! Yet it is a similar population that is crying ‘foul’ with the 50+ hours that No Mans Sky offers and the fact that no extra cash was needed. When you look at the initial videos, the game was to the greatest degree what was promised. We have seen actual issues with the game and most of them were all patched away, none of the patches have been over 150 Mb, whilst the Ubisoft patches that did not solve too many issues surpassed Gigabytes in size. Hello Games with only 11 people achieved something amazing, but that is not what this is about!

I reckon that games like No Mans Sky are likely to be at the rear end, some of the last games that had true diversity in them. It can be the Horizon New Dawn is equally a game offering diversity, but the reviews call that in question to at least the smallest degree. Prey by Arkane Studios shows some originality, but when you play, there are elements that give a Bioshock view, a Dishonored view and more than one source is making the reference to System Shock. It led me to the question, when is new diversity no longer diverse? When we see the architecture and internals, there is a Bioshock feeling to it all (even though this is not under water). When we see the first person abilities with alien powers we see a glimpse of Dishonored. And it is the wrench start that gives us other references. They might just be winks to games like Half Life, it does not make it less diverse. Yet it takes more time and more game play to see actual diversity, so I wonder if we are seeing the end of it. As we play games and wonder about the replay of the Mass Effect and Fable Trilogy, is that the part we now hunger for? That feeling we had when we took another path to see Bowerstone Old Town evolve in a place not with gardens, but muddy with thugs?

Perhaps we want to do the journey one more time, because no matter how we slice it, both trilogies had an amazing storyline and it shows that the TV station FX had the best slogan of them all: ‘the story is everything‘. This is the side we desire and System Shock delivered like no game ever did ever before. Dungeon master had the long term challenge based on the shallowest of reasons (get to the exit). We saw again and again that storylines do the job. In that, a game I never cared for (Final Fantasy series) did deliver way beyond my comprehension, so I am very aware that this game has plenty of reasons to be adored by millions. So as I see it, it might be the equal view that shows us that a game like Prey will deliver on its own merit.

I wonder whether diversity without a decent story has a chance, just like great stories without diversity. In that last example it is the Assassins Creed line that is the best example. From my point of view it is the glitches that killed it, but diversity is equally a reason. When we consider these points, we see that the old great games are still optional winners. They offered originality, diversity and challenge. The response that remake (even 20 years later) is no diversity at all is true and I agree for those replaying it, but for those who never played it before it will be plenty diverse. Now we can depend on that element, as well as the essential element that it is the personal desire to replay a game, yet how does that get us to the never completed remake (at present) game called Midwinter? In the old days, being able to do all these different things on the Atari ST was truly amazing, but those moments have been surpassed long ago by Far Cry 3, so where is its need? We can see that plenty of people would love to see the remake of Paradroid 90, a game that should work easily on tablets and as such it could be a nice way for Andrew Braybrook to increase his retirement fund by a fair bit, because absent a few little issues, the game was near perfect and playable to the largest of extents. I always regarded Loderunner, the ‘1984 game of the year’ in a similar way. I actually had to take the day off (read: sickie) one time as I had been playing all night and continues playing through the day, when I finally made it to level 151 I saw the very first level again yet now at a higher speed. With 80+ lives left I started again until I had enough, I stopped before level 200, exhausted with millions of accumulated points. Best gaming day ever, I was deaf and blind to whatever happened around me and the biggest workout for my Sharp TV ever (in those days).

Perhaps it is that feeling I desire, a feeling many gamers desire, but I do not think so. I believe that the challenges we saw in the past (Mass Effect trilogy) were almost equalled, but never surpassed by anyone, System Shock falls into that category, so do the titles Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Master (1+2) as well as the 1985 original Elite, which was released on the PC, MAC and Xbox One as Elite Dangerous. The fact that the Elite Dangerous group on Facebook gets dozens of images added on a daily bases for places seen and Elite statuses achieved, shows that this game enhanced and surpassed its own limitation due to limited hardware in 1985. That alone gives rise to the remake of other games. Bullfrog games are likely to top these games, yet the quality that Origin games (Ultima series) offered then and could offer now boggles the mind. In light of what Bethesda Elder Scrolls crated offers a view to remade games that would be overwhelming, whilst not needing to be an Elder Scrolls clone, the challenge of Britannia and the Serpent Isles (Ultima locations) have massive levels of original, never remade options here. The fact that Ultima 4-7 has a deep philosophical drive is equally good as the bulk of RPG games never emulated that part to the degree the Ultima series did. In an age of Intellectual Property, the gaming industry has millions up for grabs, the question is how well this IP has been maintained and at what price are the owners willing to part with it?

This leaves me to the final game that can make it on several fields. In this day and age where the people are eager to have their kids learn abilities through gaming, I cannot remember when, but in the 80’s I was handed a game by Epyx, that was an isometric game where you had to program a droid to walk around scan and avoid obstacles. It was called Chip Bits but never saw the light of day. We can agree that it was a geeky game, but in this day and age where the user age lowers with every iteration of computer hardware, it seems to me that teaching a skill like that could change the implementation curve (and it was truly original). So we are looking at two groups, the ones that were great and the ones that for the silliest of reasons never made it to the final stage. As we see the ease of releasing IOS and Android games, we see a fountain of possible revenue on many levels and the best part is that the starting obstacle is low enough for most toddlers to pass. Even as we see the success of all these mini consoles with dozens of games being released and most of them initially sold out in every shop, is this such a leap? We know that plenty of games have been redone and in some cases surpassed, that is for the games some publishers deemed worthy for release. I remember Psygnosis and the only reason that Lemmings got released because the Marketing manager had nothing to do, literally ‘had nothing to do‘, and those who remember the game might also remember the success it became in the end. So what about the games that didn’t make the cut? Of what about the games that were not that highly regarded initially? ‘Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?‘, an educational game that can easily become a tablet mega seller. Yet, what about the Castles of Dr Creep? Remapped that game might make for a nice puzzle game. So many options, but in itself, there is too much remake on the horizon, which returns me to the initial question:

Are we seeing the end of diversity in gaming?

The answer is yes to a certain extent, but that does not need to be a bad thing, because the limits that we saw in games like Soul Reaver are those we can easily surpass nowadays, meaning that a game that was 20-30 hours on the first PlayStation, could be a 50+ hours game on the PlayStation 4 (and equal systems), giving us plenty to game and plenty to enjoy, whilst the question whether it is diverse enough remains a valid question; one we need to keep in the back of our minds. This remains a valid stopper for a game like Rampage world tour, but is that equally true of a game like Crusader: No remorse? That answer hangs with the evolution the game goes through, meaning that it requires added diversity, showing again that diversity is a gaming currency which decides success to some degree, but it gets added value as the story and challenge are high in the game.

 

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Another online danger

It seems that we the consumers are soon in danger of being left out in the offline cold. You might not realise it, you might not even worry, but your money, your payments online are finite!

You see, not only are the events of last week troubling (not the UK election mind you), the consequence of allowing this to move forward unanswered could be a costly one.

With online presence there is the additional danger of non-online absence.

For this I will emphasize it with one example. The game is from Enix and the title is ‘Order of War: Challenge‘, if you had bought it from Steam, then you have a possible issue, because the game has been wiped of your account. Now, this is not a massive issue of today, this is an issue from the sheer point of view called ‘You paid for it!’ and now it is no more and you can never play it again. An important fact is that this issue played in 2013, so you might wonder what gives!

That is an excellent question. I for one would not care too much for Steam, I never did. Yet the issue of yesterday is now quickly progressing towards issues out today and even more important those who are out tomorrow and after that. This goes far beyond the wiping of a ‘Silent Hill Playable Demo’. Some changes are made because the circumstances changes, which is fair enough. That is not the true issue (even though the Silent Hill fans who missed out would be miffed).

The issue is found in the mobile and console games out now and more important those released after tomorrow.

Let me give you an example.

The mobile/Tables environment has a game called ‘Dungeon Keeper’. Many of those who loved that game when it was originally released on the PC went nuts the moment that game reappeared. Yet, in hindsight this new game was a massive failure on many levels. The game had actually destroyed the image the masterful game maker Peter Molyneux had built. The game is now all about delaying events and forcing people to make very expensive purchases online in the form of Gems. As micro transactions go, this game is the one example why micro transactions should be illegal. A nice view is given at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpdoBwezFVA. Yet compared to the pc edition of the second game (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DJmS7prcmE), the mobile game is horrendous.

Now we have an additional side, I cannot tell when this happened, but several people (including me) have only had access to the game once in the last two weeks, there have been ongoing server connection issues. In light of the issues that have been mentioned in the past there is now a matter for other cause. You see, if there is an issue with a game, if you had purchased enough gems, the issue at hand is not just that you are forced to a server, the fact that the server is no longer there and the player can no longer play gives weight to the question whether there should be legal consequences for those eager to sell a micro transaction relying game. Can something offered as ‘freemium’ but will only work smoothly when purchases be made, should that game be allowed to be non-functional?  Should the makers not offer an offline side to the game? That is at the foundation of what is wrong. The danger of consumers paying for something that can be removed as soon as the exploiters no longer consider the product to be viable and it stops working for various reasons.

What are those reasons?

Well Dungeon Keeper is a first example. The fact that a server is down is one thing, the fact that the server cannot be reached for two weeks is an entirely other matter. Which leads us to the question, should games that only have online server options be allowed? Beyond that, when gameplay is removed, are those who paid for additional gaming experience be entitled to credit vouchers?

This is the loaded question because basically it is payment for a service, which should be regarded as temporary, however, was that clearly communicated to those buying the service? Now we have ourselves a different video game altogether!

You see, this part will be a growing issue as people are dependent on downloads and could storage of games that are not played on a daily basis. There is the added consideration that these providers never did anything wrong as they might have specified that in the terms of service, yet who reads them? This is not a business agreement, or isn’t it?

Let me move on (for now to another example).

Now we have (or better states we used to have) the PlayStation 3. It has the option of PSN and PlayStation Home. PlayStation Home was discontinued, but what about those people who have spent money for years on the locations there? There had always been an implied assumption that there would be PlayStation Home in PS4. Clearly implied is not correct, too many sources stated most options in silence. Then when the PS4 came it was initially incomplete and in 2014 the verdict was final, no PlayStation Home on the PS4. And recently PlayStation Home was also removed from the PlayStation 3. There was no fault here, there was never any clear agreement that PlayStation Home was to be ported to the PS4, but to lose it on PS3 would never be an acceptable option to those who like it.

I thought it was a cool place, it was partially useless, yet it had the option of being a playful marketing tool. Trailers, unlockable extra’s for games and so on, there were even a few decent games in that environment. Because it had channels so that people could chat, it was something that is out there that would forever be an option. Now it seems that Sony is mostly rejecting the social media, or it is partially doing that. PlayStation home is not the only place, the profiles are a second part, but here we are forced online and in an almost ‘anti-social network’ situation.

This is where the wheels come off the wagon, you see there is another side to all this!

This all links to the previous as there is a real danger that someone at some point will deactivate a service, then what? There is currently an uneven, unequal and a dangerous push to force people online. There is now a second part that has massive consequences for gamers on a global scale. I have made references with the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) before, and it seems that several other sources are now on the bandwagon regarding the dangers here, gaming is only one aspect (and not even close to the biggest one, but because of the global setting of gamers a lot easier to spot). It is not just the ‘profile’ issue, that is the least of it all, but it is a driving force around it. More important, the cost of being ‘online’ could soon be another matter altogether.

It would be too simple to state that the TPP is just a bad consequence of a group of utterly incompetent politicians, mostly staying presently at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but that would be not entirely correct either. You see, their inadequacies resulted in a group of industrials to change the premise on Digital Rights Management (DRM) on a massive scale. For the most, I have mixed feelings. I believe that it is perfectly legit for a corporation to protect their product from being illegally copied. Now, the internet providers (ISP’s) are all about bandwidth, so as such, they like people who copy movies, they love it even better when people copy Blu-rays, because 100,000,000 people going for 2-3 blu-rays every night is a massive amount of bandwidth. There is to the smaller extent that a DRM is all about setting up who can legally use something and who cannot, but that seems to be the smallest tip of the iceberg.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald gives us ‘http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/politicalnews/trans-pacific-partnership-will-push-medicine-prices-up-review-finds-20150303-13sxty.html‘. This is not entirely correct, but not wrong either. If we take this quote “The leaked treaty text also reveals new American and Japanese proposals designed to enhance the ability of pharmaceutical manufacturers to extend and widen their patents on drugs and medicines“, it is the word ‘extend’ that is the issue. Because some pharmaceuticals are all about prolonging, we see more and more new patent additions to give any drug a longer exclusivity, which means that generic medication will be less and less of an option. There is in addition the quote “Jeffrey Bleich, accused Australian consumers of habitually stealing copyrighted content and of being some of the worst offenders with amongst the highest piracy rates … in the world“, that statement makes Jeffrey Bleich an idiot to some degree (not the worst he’s ever been called), because his peers in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden say exactly the same and he should properly investigate these matters before making those statements.

Now, he was not being too bright (or massively misinformed) and a mere voicer for large corporations, which is to some degree his job I reckon, but he could have been a smudge more thoughtful in that regard. You see, the American side has been utterly stupid for a long time. Because it was always American first, then ‘whomever is left’! We have seen that in Movies, Music and games. Although music not as much. It started in the mid 80’s when Greed took over and American corporations were utterly clueless on global corporate actions from day one. I am not just talking about Games, or movies (even though they are the most visible ones). No the utter consumer disrespect shown by Ashton-Tate, IBM, Lotus Development Corporation, Oracle, Novell and Adobe was beyond belief in those days. You would actually look forward to meeting with Macromedia, WordPerfect and Corel to see that humanity in IT was an option. Now many of them changed tunes over time, the movie and games industry stayed behind for a long time, it is only recently that the US is seeing that the money of their blockbusters are coming from outside the US in some cases in excess of 75%. Now we have ourselves a ballgame! Now we see the shift some are making, but in other ways.

You see, there is a reason why some people have an aversion to buying a game at 40%-70% more. In my early days, I had no options, a game advertised in the American magazines at $19.95 would cost me $69, that’s a not so nice 300%, so America changed the environment from the very beginning. Even today, Australian gamers will pay 40%-70% more for a new game. Now, we will see casual mention on how it is all about shipping. Well guess again. PSN (PS4) was offering games on day one in a shop for $89, On Amazon it was $59 and guess what, the download in Australia was priced at $99.

How do these elements link?

There are two parts. First the quote by Julian Assange “The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states. This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies“. It is actually not that far a stretch, you only need to consider the legal disagreements between Apple and Samsung to see the dangers here.

After which the following claim is made “The leaked text shows that this agreement is more about corporate power than “free trade”. Investor-state dispute settlement is really a form of corporate sovereignty“. That part can be found here (at https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/WikiLeaks-TPP-Investment-Chapter/page-1.html).

Basically, in there you can find the issue “where foreign firms can ‘sue’ states and obtain taxpayer compensation for ‘expected future profits’“, this now reverts back to the earlier mention of games, movies and especially music. A false dimension of revenue has been maintained by corporate ‘baboons’, claiming ‘loss of revenue’. Relying on incomplete information from Napster, Kazaa and a few others players in the peer to peer networking solution. They basically went on the premise, one download means one sale lost. I believe that this was never a reality. People might download and listed, but would never have bought the bulk of it in the first case. That same premise of certain lacks is seen when we see the quote “Attorney-General George Brandis has signalled his intention to introduce more stringent copyright laws to crack down on online piracy“. In that regard the attorney general does not seem to strike too high on the academic scale of logic (on any given day for that matter). I posted an article on September 10th 2014 called ‘Changing topics?‘, in there the issue is better shown, you see it is not just about copyright, because that could have been dealt with quite easily. It was about Malcolm Turnbull’s anti-piracy forum. You see, if copyright was truly the issue, which would have been easy. But in that event the words ‘revenue‘ and ‘bandwidth‘ were very much skated around. Telstra was extremely cautious (and eager) to steer clear of that because in the case of Telstra, monitoring bandwidth, people actually stopping copying movies will cost Telstra billions! Now we see the consequence!

You see, America is figuring out that it cannot deal with its own ISP’s and they definitely cannot deal with the others like Telstra, Tele 2, Com Hem, KPN, TDC and a few others. They are doing it stepwise and the TPP will give them some options. Now back to that term that is laughingly referred to as ‘expected future profits‘.

One source states: “Losses to Video Game Makers Due to Piracy: $8.1 Billion“, based on what numbers? ISP’s state they cannot monitor. Then we get “Pirated Software Impact to Businesses: $63 Billion“. Again on what premise and how?

Well the first one gives us: “Video game piracy of hand-held games leads to the loss of about $8.1 Billion a year, as losses due to pirating of Sony PSP and Nintendo DS games between 2004 and 2009 lead to worldwide losses of nearly $42 Billion“. Here we see an interesting side. These are only two consoles. More important, these consoles have again and again limited legitimate access to games released in US and Japan again and again. So is this truly about piracy, or is the decision as seen here “Monster Hunter 3rd is the best-selling PSP game ever in Japan with 4,780,000 copies sold. Its PS3 HD remaster sold an excellent 500,000 copies as well, yet neither version is scheduled for an international release“. By the way, is the maker not guilty of discrimination? Let me be frank, I will not and have never condoned pirated games. I believe in getting a game and playing the original (I rarely buy games, so when I do, I will go for the VIP options that an original game brings). So, is this about piracy, or about segregation?

That part is harder to prove in the business case. The source “Business Software Alliance, “2011 BSA Global Software Piracy Study,” May 2012” is an issue. I cannot be certain how they got to $63 billion, but with so many illegal versions of Office, that number seems a lot more plausible. It is funny that there, US and China are the biggest transgressors representing a little less than one third of the entire lost stack. The UK is set at 1.9 billion and Australia less than a billion, yet how were these numbers achieved, through ‘rough’ estimation perhaps?

Now we get to the monkey’s banana moment “Losses due to Music Piracy: $12.5 Billion“, which is stated “According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)“, yes, they wanted the number to be as high as possible, because it made bad productions and louse representatives look a little better. In addition, some of these numbers cannot be decently vouched for in any way, shape or form. It boils down to well over 500 million CD’s, in a numbers game that number on a population of 7 billion seems small, but here is the kicker, that same source had the following, which I found illuminating: “In a survey of over 6,000 people in Finland between the ages of 7 to 84, researchers found that on average each person who downloaded pirated content online had about 2,900 pirated music files and 90 pirated movie files. The researchers who conducted the study believes that downloaders have more music files is due to the ease of downloading pirated music. According to the study, downloading movie files require faster internet speeds, more digital storage space, as well as a higher technological ability to playback movies“.

The term ‘each person’ now becomes really interesting, because 90 movies boils down to 360 Gb, and 2900 songs come to an rough (very rough) estimation of 14.5 Gb. A person downloading that much would be visible on the ISP counter. You see, you buy bandwidth monthly and downloading this much, as well as watching online and perhaps stuff they no longer have, you are looking at $80 a month, however, only 6 years ago, I paid $70 for 25Gb. you see how the picture changes? That is centre here. By the way, if you think that 25 Gb is little, consider that I have only hit that maximum once during my entire contract with my ISP and that was because on a Friday my system decided to update Windows 7, Office 2013 and my Adobe Master collection, which was quite the resource drain that evening.

Your online presence is now a danger in more than one way. In the first more and more ‘providers’ are forcing us to save on the cloud, forcing us using bandwidth. Now, I understand the first download, but many systems are now gearing towards less memory and more reliant on cloud drives. Which was my issue with the Microsoft Xbox One even before that system was launched.  Are those not streamed services? More important, my issue there was that once a service is disconnected, would we just lose it all overnight? Consider your movie and TV series collection. What happens when your old versions of Star Trek, Dexter and Game of Thrones are discontinued?

In addition, if online presence is essential for our services to run, how will that be monitored? I only need to refer to the Sony hack, to give you a first fright that certain owned items could be lost by a mere scripted command. Again, a situation the consumer is not ready and not prepared for. Now, in the case of PlayStation Home, there is some understanding that certain services will be lost, could a local copy have solved it? (I am asking, not telling). There are unresolved issues, mainly because the new technologies move so fast and to be quite honest, some considerations are new, we never had to make them before. We the consumer must accept that some parts are lost to us at some point. Yes, I loved HERO on the Atari 2600, but to expect that game to function 30 years later is not that realistic either. In that regard, we have attached to software (especially games) to the same extent we hold onto a book. They are not the same, which is a simple reality.

But the dangers of online remain, or do they? In that regard, the issues I raise are mostly about time. We see the failing of a game and losing out on what we spend within a year totally unacceptable, yet in that same notion, we should find peace in the notion that nothing lasts, it is all a mere matter of time. Yet, there we see a partial solution, we cannot realistically expect the provider to give ‘eternal’ support, but is a local version (no servers) after a while, or before the service is pulled a possible solution? That I have yet to see and it is not that far-fetched, because in the end, with the amounts of products and the change of IP, that part is slowly but certainly becoming an essential step to consider, especially in light for the business model of any software corporation. Consider you the player with your game of Halo, or Gears of War. I reckon that at some point, you will accept that online mode falls away, but how would you feel is the single player option falls away too, especially if you still have the console or PC to run it on?

A gaming dimension that will fall away at some point, but are we ready to let go of those moments? Now consider that your console/PC can no longer link to the service, even though you have the original disc. In the new DRM, it is entirely possible that no online verification means no playing the game. This is the certainty that we face and the TPP will push us there a lot faster than you realise. Should you doubt any of the last part, then consider the site gog.com. It holds some of the most brilliant games ever created (sold at very low prices), people still revere these games and many of them (especially the original dungeon keeper) will find a place in the heart of gamers. Moreover, several of these would make fine console games when adapted (higher graphics in most cases). I believe that the MSDOS Dungeon Keeper could be a hit 3DS game (like many other games on that site), even today.

Gaming is not about the latest game (decent graphics and sound aside) it is about joy and the games on that site are most pure joy to play.

Now you might all think that this is about games and many of you readers do not care about games, but now consider that same step when you look at your Office 365 account and the fact that you are pushed away from a version that works perfect for you (like the nightmare Office 2007 users faced in the past). There is an abundance of programs that offer a similar scary outlook.

Now translate this to collections you do care about. Your music, your TV shows, perhaps even your digital books. Do not take the word of those stating that it will not happen, because it will, it has happened in the past, it is happening now and it will happen in the future. The DVD and book on your shelf are a touchable item, that part is (if you treat them properly) secure, something online can be lost by merely removing a server or damaging its data. If someone states that this can never happen, then look at Sony, they experienced that event first hand.

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No Press, No Facebook!

So, another day in the life of you, the reader, me the blogger and us, the victims of big business in a way that neither of us expected.

Why are we in a stage of No Press? Well, I cannot confirm this for the UK, Canada or Europe at large, yet in Australia it started last year, the second week of November.

Most did not ever bother to look at this, but one I found (at http://www.cinemablend.com/games/PS4-Doesn-t-Block-Used-Games-Game-Rentals-60480.html) wrote the following: “A new last minute reputation management troll-rumor has surfaced online in an attempt to curb Sony’s momentum leading up to their big launch later this week“.

This is a hilarious ‘sucking-up-to-Sony’ response! So what actually happened?

In the two weeks before the launch of the PS4, Sony decided to change the terms of service (at https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/legal/software-usage-terms). I gave the information to Channel 7, Channel 9, Channel 10 and the Sydney Morning Herald.

NONE!
I say again NONE of them did anything about it. There was a flaccid message (to follow shortly).

So what is so important?

Sony wanted to start putting in place several issues to enforce DRM and to end certain practices. As the PS4 had not launched yet, they could not be too vocal about it, which meant that those claiming to be journalists had a duty to look into it, especially as these changes affected well over 80 million consumers globally. So either journalists only care about the boobs of Rihanna and on how people prefer fake boobs (of course, the possible silicone in a chest is always more newsworthy then the silicon chip that holds an economy).

So what is the exact issue?

Two points from the terms of agreement

  1. 3. You must not lease, rent, sublicense, publish, modify, adapt, or translate any portion of the Software.
  2. 1. You must not resell either Disc-based Software or Software Downloads, unless expressly authorised by us and, if the publisher is another company, additionally by the publisher.

I will admit that 6.3 is badly phrased (a big no-no in any term of service agreement), but in this form it specifically targets one area of usage, which where at blockbusters one could rent a game for a week. An interesting try before you buy approach (not debating the validity or invalidity of this).

It is 7.1 that is the big issue, by agreeing to this (if you do not you lose your PSN account and online abilities) you confirm that you will not resell your games or buy second hand games. This was the big killer for Microsoft in the beginning in addition to the fact that this issue hits 80 million consumers. How is this not in EVERY newspaper? Perhaps their bosses where in the act of ‘hustle for advertisement coin’ (whoring seems like such a harsh word here).

When we look at Eurogamer (at http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-11-12-sony-reiterates-you-can-sell-and-share-your-ps4-games), we see the following: “Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida added on Twitter: ‘If you are concerned about our new European TOS, we confirm that you are able to sell or share your disc PS4 products, including in EU.’” This is the flaccid response I referred to. If this is the case, then WHY make it part of the terms of agreement? Because Sony lawyers are perhaps cheap? (They really are not!)

We do not doubt the words of the Sony CEO, yet his word can be changed in a simple board meeting, the terms of service is a legally binding document between the consumer and the corporation offering the device and the service. Why am I the one person explaining this ‘oversight’ to the press?

This is a massive issue! The impact on the software industry would be felt in several countries. The fact is that many shops are in business only because they make a few extra dollars of second hand games. If not, new games would have to rise in price. Also, there is, especially in these economic times a large group depending on cheaper game solutions. A pre-owned game, which is at times at least 50% cheaper than the new alternative is one way for some to play a few games. The simple truth is that many cannot afford a $120 game, more often; their parents also are not in possession of such spending sprees, which makes the pre-owned game market an essential part to cater for a sizeable chunk of these consumers.

The second issue is the one that we see evolving now.

I was confronted with this almost two weeks ago, but something about the list of changes seemed so horrifying that I decided not to upgrade. This is still evolving and there are genuine concerns. Yet, what is the actual truth?

If we look at the Bull (at http://thebull.cbslocal.com/2014/08/07/facebook-crosses-the-line-with-new-facebook-messenger-app/) we see the following:

  • Facebook can change or alter your connection to the Internet or cell service without telling you.
  • Facebook can send text messages to your contacts on your behalf.
  • Facebook can record audio, and take pictures and videos, at any time
  • Facebook can read your phone’s call log, including info about incoming and outgoing calls
  • Facebook can read your contact data, including who you call and email and how often
  • Facebook can read personal profile information stored on your device
  • Facebook can get a list of accounts known by the phone, or other apps you use, it can connect all your accounts and Intel together.

It is in part the worry I had when I was looking through the rights I had to agree to when installing the Facebook Messenger app, which I decided against. If I lose my messenger history, so be it!

If we consider the Sydney Morning Herald (at http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/smartphone-apps/facebook-is-forcing-messenger-app-on-users-and-they-arent-happy-about-it-20140729-zycfb.html), we see the following quote “CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed during last week’s earnings call that the company eventually wants to monetise Messenger and the app will eventually ‘overlap’ with payments, though, as TechCrunch notes, he acknowledged the company still has a lot of work to do before users will see payments cropping up in the app“. It is fair enough that people will get to pay at some point. At that point people can return to the old Yahoo Messenger, which has forever been free!

My issue here is that there is a lot more visibility here, yet why this is not the lead with every news channel as this affects BILLIONS of people is also a little beyond me.

There is of course the other side. Is what ‘the Bull’ stated true? I am not stating that they were lying, but the android permissions are at times a little out there. This view is actually reinforced by CNBC (at http://www.cnbc.com/id/101911170).

The confusion seems to have stemmed from Android. “The app when you install it, it explains in a list what it needs permission to do, and this is the list that frightened a lot people initially,’ Simons said. ‘That doesn’t mean it sort of willy nilly goes about contacting friends or recording you as you go about your day using your phone camera,’ he added.

I cannot disagree with this view, yet the truth is that just like with Sony, we agreed on something, we made a binding pact and that what is and that what could be are now intertwined and as such it is not about handholding, it is about clarity! When Big Business forces you the consumer, they will be precise (example: ‘we hereby charge you $11,732.34 to be deposited within the next 10 days‘). Yet when they would like something from you, they hide in ambiguity (example: ‘we can change all your savings into a fortune, deposit all today and the larger returns could be yours quite soon’). So, how large a deposit, how much larger, how soon? These answers would not be forthcoming until AFTER the deposit I reckon.

So where do we stand?

When we consider the issues that have plagued the tech savvy population, like the TPP, Sony, even government spending seems to be missing on the glasses of those ‘considering’ themselves to be Journalists. Another bash of that seems to have missed the larger view in news (at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/05/federal-spending-transparency-money-missing/13485581/).

The first quote is “the data that does exist is wildly inaccurate, according to the Government Accountability Office, which looked at 2012 spending data. Only 2% to 7% of spending data on USASpending.gov is ‘fully consistent with agencies records,’ according to the report“, which makes me wonder who is keeping track of the deficit and how much larger could it be?

The second one is “The Department of Health and Human Services failed to report nearly $544 billion, mostly in direct assistance programs like Medicare. The department admitted that it should have reported aggregate numbers of spending on those programs“, which reads like, if we aggregate numbers, you are less likely to find anything and we can hide it under a total header. Failing to report on half a trillion is a big thing, it is well over $1000 for every resident in America.

So, does that mean that the deficit of the US is a lot larger? That would indeed be news as it would put the US in a peculiar financial position, or better a position they no longer hold. I am not stating that I am right or that I am wrong (both are an option). It seems that the papers and newscasts we get bombarded with every day seem to become more and more selective on what they consider important. One article affecting 80 million (the combined population of Australia and the UK) as well as the new issue which hits over a billion people does not seems to be important. The last news of last week is one that does bear scrutiny, yet to get something from USA Today and not the Guardian or any of the Australian news bringers does pose questions.

The Facebook issue will hit us for some time and it might result in something different. The issue linked to this is whether Android has a registration system that bears scrutiny. Android has its own faults (also not too overly reported on by journalists) and just pointing the finger at Facebook is also not entirely the right thing to do.

There is also the difference on what some will do and what some could do. It is the ambiguity that is slowly getting to more and more people.

So what should the journalists be doing and what should Facebook not be doing?

 

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First day peril

What do you do when you like a game? The initial answer is to buy and play it. Yet, this was not the case in the past and there are now growing issues that allows for the creation of a situation where might soon be the case again.

In my youth I had hundreds of games on my Commodore 64, many of them were less hindered by original packaging. I knew it was not quite right, but I did not think I was breaking any laws. Reasoning? I did buy original games, however many of them were not for sale and would never be for sale.

When I look back at my second computer I was happy to have bought the Commodore 64 with a 1541 disk drive for the price of almost $1500 dollars, those were the days! I also bought four games in the first 3 weeks. Loderunner by Broderbund, Suspended by Infocom, US Mail by US Gold and the Flight Simulator 2. The FS2 was the big one at $200, the other games were $90 each and I do not regret buying these games. US gold was a low level entry into flying, the FS2 was a high end flight simulator with all kinds of maps and Infocom was a challenge unlike any I would play for a long time. Loderunner was the odd duck in that list. I got so hooked on it that I had to take a sickie, so that I could play through the entire game in one go (no save and continue options in those days), all 150 levels, level 151 was the first level on a higher speed. It took the best part of a day and most of the night to get through it all. When I stopped I had well over 65 million points, 80 lives and no physical energy left, those were the days. In those days I also learned the hard way how distribution exploitation worked. The games that we all read about we could never order and the some games were 200%-500% more expensive in the Netherlands then they were in the US. So for a long time, there were no games to get. I remember these issues, because I was truly happy to get the original game (Ultima 3 by Origin) 2 years after I had already finished the game. This is however not about the legality of gaming.

This is about gaming itself. When I go through the ages of the games I bought on the CBM-64, Atari ST and CBM Amiga. The games had a massive amount of value. This only increased when the Nintendo N-64 and the PlayStation arrived. I am talking about good quality graphics (for those days) and the amount of game time a game offered. The Ultima series offered weeks of fun (if you are into RPG games), Ultima 3 on CBM-64 and Ultima 4 on Atari ST. I will go one step further stating that this last game had so much depth and story line that it is still for the most equaled, but not surpassed on today’s RPG games. If you are into a more active role in gaming then we had Boulder Dash, Ghosts and Goblins, Sentinel, Green Beret, Iridium and Rambo, each of these games offering well over 20 hours of gaming pleasure. Not to mention the pleasure you got from replaying at times.

So here it is: How come that a new PS4 game named Infamous: Second Son only offers 15 hours (1 play through) at $109? I did this in one weekend and I am not the best when it comes to action shooter games. This is at the heart of gaming now. Marketing gives us the ‘flim-flam’ of graphics, the storyline is decent, but the amount of play time is basically in the basement. With the engine in place, they could have offered an easy 10-20 hours of additional game play, so why are they not giving the consumer that? More important, as this is the first year for the new PlayStation, why is Sony not taking a better look at the games that are slowly pushing people to the Xbox One?

Yes, I did read that Sony is happy about the 6 million consoles and they think they are the clear winner now. This is an error that could prove to be fatal! Consider the PS2 (over 150 million), the PlayStation (the first one) over 100 million. The PS3 only sold 80 million, which is roughly the same as the Xbox 360, so 6 million consoles is no victory. The current lack of releases, the delays and now the released games are not the incentive Sony should be hoping for.

There is an overall lack of quality gaming and both big players (Sony and Microsoft) need to get their thinking caps on and consider the implications that a lack of quality brings. No matter how secure you make your system, people have almost no money to spend and spending $100 for something that represents less than a day of fun will not cut it. People (read students) will find a way around it. They do not just want to play games, they are quite right to demand value for money and that is what is found lacking more and more, no matter how good the graphics are.

I understand that an RPG is not for all, but then consider the amount of time it took just to finish the very first Tomb Raider. The second Tomb Raider took almost the same amount of time, each offering well over 300% of the fun that current games seem to bring (including the latest Tomb raider). Next gen consoles are one, but a regression of gaming quality is not what we wanted to see. This evidence can also be seen when we see the launch of remastered games from one console to the other one. The fact that Banjo had a huge following was shown as many bought the game on Microsoft Live Arcade (I reckon many of them former N-64 owners). So when we consider the games of Rare (a truly rare high quality developer for the Nintendo) and the need for gaming, compared to the pale imitations of games we see nowadays, I cannot stop wondering who is behind the lacking vision of some games and why some games just do not make a decent quality cut.

This last part can be countered or defended when we look at what I regard to be a questionable game. Metal Gear Solid 5, Ground Zero is an introduction game that is coming out this week for $50. Now, I still consider MGS4: Games of the patriot to be one of the best games the PS3 ever released and it was released in the first year of the PS3. With MGS5 however, there is a video out that completes the main game in only 10 minutes (when bypassing cut scenes and side missions), it is at http://www.gamespot.com/articles/you-can-finish-metal-gear-solid-5-ground-zeroes-in-10-minutes/1100-6418384/

I get that MGS fans might have missed their favourite character, but can anyone explain how a game can remain interesting when the main mission is so small? It comes down to a $300 an hour game and that is asking us to hand over cash for all the wrong reasons.

Gaming is taking a turn for the worst for now. Yes, better games will come, but how? We see more and more games relying on micro transactions. Either, you pay $3-$5 for additional outfits, weapons and downloads that give you additional missions at $5-15, yet when we add this to the base game, does the consumer still get value for money? In this day and age of economic hardship, that is the true issue that counts for families having a console and that demand is not being met, not even close. There is a reason for giving the spotlight to Metal Gear Solid in this case. The fact that a franchise that had a game that ended up being regarded as the best on a console twice is not a fluke. MGS on PS1 and MGS4 on PS3 showed that the makers knew games; they understood their gamers and they drove a console forward. It is slightly worrying that the bosses at Sony behind the PS4 have not been on top of this, because games do not appear overnight, it took more than a year of planning. When we see the amount of delays now, we can only conclude that someone was not paying attention and we are all paying the price for that.

So what will happen to console gaming next?

I do not pretend to have the answer here, but consider the releases and the marketing we saw on new Sony games, then consider the amount of time Infamous is offering us; what else will we learn after the fact?

In the end, good games might come, but realise that the two anticipated games (Thief and Infamous) are mediocre to fair at best. Sony still has the lead in regard of number of games released, yet, if the next one is found to be mediocre then Microsoft could take the lead in next gen gaming. Let’s not forget that the 360 became a contender because of the games they offered, the tables could turn on Sony with this system before the end of 2014. My personal belief is that Sony could pull through; it just takes some quality daylight (pardon the pun) to make all the difference.

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Fifth in a trilogy!

Yes, there is a new PlayStation and it stands to reason that Ubi-soft would be there trying to cash in on a relic item. Yes, it is time to use the Assassins Creed brand to pass of some buccaneer’s game.
First, let’s look at the good part. The graphics! There is no doubt that the graphics are of an entirely different level. This game, in that regard stands out, or perhaps better, the PS4 does. They took Abstergo to another field and I must admit that this part works out. So as we get into the game we see the first Island which is the intro; it shows one small flaw which AC always had when you try to manoeuvre a running person. I reckon that this is just what it is and that is fair enough. So, we see the intro where we climb, where we look and synchronise. Yes, it looks like an Assassin’s Creed game. Now we go into that ruddy Prince of Persia approach and we have to run after another person and of course we miss and we synchronize. The first irritation comes. Now we go towards the sneaking which is fair enough and we slaughter. That is the intro! We now know how to proceed.  I have no issue with this part. It is not the worst part in teaching a player the controls of the game.

We swim to the boat and the next stop is Havana!

So here we need to deal with the graphic people of this game. The intro showed that they were good, but here we have evidence that they cheated! I accuse those graphic designers that they traveled back in time, the used their Handycam to film Havana and then they just rendered it. It looks THAT authentic. It must be said, graphically the AC series never disappointed. This is just way beyond that! Walking through the streets is a joy. We now get the repetition of viewpoints, which in truth is the one repetition I do enjoy. We see groups of dancers that we can hire (that is what they seem to call courtesans in Havana in 1715 apparently) and there are others around. We need to save pirates, to get them to become part of the crew and we need to chase shanties like the pages of an almanac. The one idiotic part I truly hate! At least in this game they are much clearer to see. We see the return of the pigeon nests for assassination jobs. We have seen it all before and there is no new part so far. Beyond the graphics this game is to be regarded as redundant! The stupid part (as I see it) is that if Yves Guillemot had thought this trough (always blame the guy at the top), he could have made it into a legendary pirate game! Veering away from the AC logo, whether it was Abstergo founded or not could have made this a truly great start, now it is a faded repetition at best. The unworthy end of what was once a great brand. I get the issues they have since Watchdogs has been delayed, but this could and should have gone a lot better. So, as I moved through several chapters, I see the missions for what they are, utterly repetitive! Apart from the graphics there is nothing to different this from Assassins Creed 3, which was already a letdown of what was once a great brand.

If I go over all of this, then what was unique has evolved into nothingness. My reasoning in this is? Well, when you try to get all kind of groups into one game, you end up pleasing no one at all. This is what I personally think had happened. Instead of pleasing a group, they wanted to please the AC group, the Prince of Persia group and the slice and dice group.

The reason why this angers me is because this could have been a truly great game (and it currently does NOT deserve the 89 rating Gamespot gave it). Consider this could have been a Pirate RPG. The elements are mostly there. This could have been the true Pirate game that Sid Meier wished for (but was stopped from making due to the technology in the 80’s). There is another side to all this. That side is actually Gamespot. I do not always agree with their ratings, but for the most they are within a certain scope. This rating is way overboard. Perhaps the relentless advertising of this game on Gamespot (whenever you refreshed the browser window) had something to do with it. I am not kidding! For weeks Black Flag was the ONLY trailer we got to see. Perhaps their deck was stacked?

It related to all this because the hype for a fake game had to be maintained (for the shareholders).

What could have been the start of a third line of RPG, one that would show Bethesda that they are not alone in the RPG field, turned out to be slightly less than mediocre. Ubi-soft had turned the coward card (IMHO)! This is likely due to an age where the billion dollar company needs to appease the shareholders (who mostly are clueless on games). That wild step, if they had taken it, might have been proof why Ubi-soft had become so big. And it could have been a legendary launch for the PS4. Yet, no! It had to be bland and repetitive. I reckon that Watchdogs might soon be the last big hit if the game actually delivers on the hype that we were shown. Because from what I saw, Ubi needs a big win in a massive way. However, no matter what, the one team that did truly deliver in this game was the graphic team. They are the only reason that this game stands out at all.

There will be another consequence for them. If the game ‘Thief’ does indeed deliver next march, then those who turned to the AC game because they loved Thief, will walk away from the AC ‘brand’. If that happens, what will be the consequence for Assassins Creed as Ubi-soft did not step up to the plate when they were supposed to do? Time will tell!

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