Tag Archives: Switch

Decision time

I had to make a decision, we all do. For the longest of times, basically since 1983 when I got into gaming, I mostly played as many systems as I was able to buy. First the VIC-20, then the CBM-64 and from there the tracks started. PSX, N64, Megadrive, Dreamcast, Gamecube, PSX2, Xbox360, PSX3, PSX4, Xbox One, Switch and soon the PSX5. I have decided to drop the Xbox as an acceptable system, I am not taking in the hype, I am dropping my Xbox One system with 20+ games. Microsoft has left too much gaming betrayal on the road as I personally see it. 

I will admit that there is another reason, my life of 18 hours a day is over, I now need more than 4 hours of sleep a night, a system has to go and Microsoft lost the toss. Too much overhyping go games (not entirely their fault). To be honest, I got the Xbox One for two reasons. The first was Elite Dangerous and the second one is Subnautica, both are now (and have been for a while) Sony games as well. The disappointing Xbox release list and the stage where both the Last of Us 2 and Ghost of Tsushima are so far above whatever the Xbox offered that the choice was simple. 

Let’s look at the station as it now is, over 6 years Microsoft refused to give in to the old station where we do not need to be online. Former boss of Microsoft stated once “We have a system for offline players, it is called Xbox360”, yet and we noticed it, as games showed issues, I have missed out on well over half a dozen achievements. In addition to the offline part, for some reason (as I showed in a previous blog), the Xbox started to upload, it uploaded well over 50% of my monthly allowance whilst I was not playing multiplayer games or online games. Microsoft help-desk said that this was between me and my internet provider. Really? The Xbox uploads without my consent and it was their fault? The entire Azure push and that is almost halfway through my issues with a console that takes the freedom of gaming and makes it a path of data collection. Then we see the headline ‘Microsoft’s xCloud Will Officially Launch in September as Part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate’, there is nothing wrong with the state or the choices, yet it does not show us the amount of patches this gives and the amount of data you require. Even as my link is not great 60GB in one month dented my data usage, I also see that a lot of places in Europe will see more and more congestion, and less data width (especially rural places). When that pressure gives way in too high a setting, how long until the internet providers start chasing gamers? It was within 4 weeks of the Covid-19 when congestion made YouTube and Netflix lower resolution play, no more 4K movies and streaming was reduced. As the American BS war on Huawei (and China) continues, we will see reduced systems faster and more often. So what will happen to those 4K and 8K games? If it does not come in physical format, how much more congestion will we face? As such it is important to make a stand with other gamers and make a choice, I decided to drop the Microsoft console. It was a choice that happened on several factors, several choices were available and the station that is PSX has shown more promise and have left me with less disappointment over the time that I had a Playstation (1995-2020) than the Xbox One (2015-2020),  in that stage, I am clear in my voice when I see the entire stage, it is clear to me that the most powerful console in the world has no business focussing on directing gamers in a direction we need to go, especially when it gets surpassed by the weakest console currently on sale. 

A stage where we will soon see more weak promises and powerful hype creations, I personally see the stage changing by Microsoft Business needs that has less ad less to do with the joy of gaming and more with other needs. I will admit that I might be wrong, but I feel strongly to go in the direction I believe in and as I personally see it, a Microsoft Console is not that way. Over time I might replace it with a Google Stadia, so as we see the stage entering 2021, I might miss out on a game or two, yet at present Ghost of Tsushima has blown me away, The Last of Us 2 blew me away and I expect that Cyberpunk 2077 will blow me away. That will keep me settled until Q2 2021, when the upgrade to Elite Dangerous (4K) comes through (there is a lot of noise but not an official yes or no), I will be set for the largest part. I am not continuing to rely on Ubisoft as its flaws angered me enough to uninstall those games and I feel certain that the disappointments from that address have more negative news to come for gamers on any console. 

2020 has changed a lot for us and I do believe that Microsoft will hide behind hypes soon enough and give half baked information that can be bend in a few directions, yet the clear station where the games of the Nintendo Switch are more fun and more addictive than anything the MS Console can give us is a larger stage, a stage where we wonder why this system? And whilst Kotaku (at https://www.kotaku.com.au/2020/07/xbox-series-x-exclusives-phil-spencer/) gives us ‘Exclusives Are ‘Completely Counter To What Gaming Is About,’ Xbox’s Phil Spencer Says’ we see the real flaw. An exclusive game maximises what is possible and Sony has them, whilst Microsoft gave them up. If it was on multiple systems, games like God of War, Last of Us, Last of Us 2, Spiderman, and Ghost of Tsushima would not be the breathtaking results they are now. And the list is a lot larger, which also implies that some are merely on par, not beyond. Microsoft is largely lacking such a list, which is different from the Xbox360, The elder Scrolls Oblivion, Fable 2, Fable 3, and a list that goes on a long while, Microsoft threw a system advantage that put them on par with the Playstation 3 and let some bureaucrat set the long term goals into the Microsoft greed well and ignoring the population they were serving (the gamers). So now we see the not entirely unexpected ‘completely counter to what is gaming about’, yes, counter to what THEY are about. Gaming is to set the boundaries of gaming forward, to give us the wow factor that Microsoft has largely ignored. Sony never forgot that lesson, not since the first Playstation. 

As Google learns that lesson, it will see that there is more profit in catering to gamers, than to data facilitators. We will see larger shifts in 2021, but not immediately, the next Xbox will get the limelight as it deserves, yet when the issues start hampering the Xbox and as the people will get to read carefully phrased denials and carefully phrased counters, one by one it will impact the gamers more and as they switch to Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 5, we will see that Microsoft consoles will end up in 4th or 5th position. I doubt that this will happen in 2021, but 2022 yes, that is entirely possible. I predicted the fall behind Switch a year before it happened, but it did happen and I will be right again and at least now I am ahead of the curve and got rid of my system for a fair price, I wonder when others catch on.

 

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Between fact and speculation

There are two parts in all this. The first is fact, the second is speculation, the facts come from what we know and have seen. First fact given by the BBC is that the PS4 has so far sold 108 million worldwide, the Xbox 49 million, which is 3 million less than the Nintendo Switch, The PS4 and Xbox both started in 2012. The Nintendo in 2017, surpassing the Xbox in half the time. As such, that so-called strongest console was surpassed by the weakest console and in 4 hours we get to see what the new PS, the PS5 will bring us. In all this there is no surprise for me, I saw this coming in 2016, and as the Xbox One X showed us the face of Microsoft and their short sightedness, I saw how they would lose the market more and more, even as Microsoft is trying to create hype after hype, selectively giving us missing information, the consumers are waking up to the colossal error that Microsoft has become and I firmly believe that it is about to get worse. If it was up to me I would direct Google and Apple towards alternative paths making Microsoft the system in 4th or even 5th position. I am that mean at times. 

Speculation

Speculation is another path, yet that is not about the hardware, that is set to the business practices of Activision and Ubisoft. To give you the example, I have been an Elite fan since its release in 1985, In 2016 it was on early release on the Xbox and it was pretty much the ONLY reason I got it. The game is still fantastic and since that point, over 3 years, the game has had a speculated 53 updates, the last one 3.4 GB, Ubisoft released AC Odyssey in 2018 and has a speculative 54updates, the last one 24 GB, almost 800% of the Elite Dangerous one. Activision seems to have a new record, Call of Duty has seemingly a 85 GB patch. That is way too massive and games on the PS5 will end up being larger, a lot larger. Under that given situation, the entire patch system needs to change. Ubisoft especially (Breakpoint 38 GB, AC Odyssey 2 GB) is a setting that gamers will no longer accept, it is a little bit ridiculous that Ubisoft cannot properly test its games. The AC series especially has shown a lack of proper testing, yet that will dwarf in both the PS5 and Xbox X series life. Under the new setting, the makers can hide behind ‘everyone has broadband’ and ‘there is unlimited download’, yet it is clear that rural Germany and France are not on the big internet page and the entire Coronavirus work at home part with congestion all over the place, in the same setting whilst players like Netflix is pushing 4K series more and more, the entire mess of congestion will only increase. Players like Ubisoft will not survive the quality they have brought so far and there is no doubt in my mind that both Sony and Microsoft will have to protect their player sooner rather than later. This is the speculative part and we will hopefully learn more in 4 hours when Sony gives us the works on the release of the PS5. The time of  release is nearing more and more. As I see it, it is a mere 22 weeks away and some will have to save up for both a 4K 125Hz TV as well as the PS5. As I see it, Sony is extremely likely to have a massively great 2020 soon enough and an even better 2021. None of this matters to Nintendo, it will work great on the new TV and they have already surpassed Microsoft, who will need the largest part of 2021 just to break even with the weakest console. They are not in a good place and whatever hype they create, it will not look good, yet that is still speculative of me and I hope to be proven right no later than March 2021. 

Gaming is about to change and we are only hours away from seeing it ourselves. 

 

 

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Change the question

If the answer does not fit the situation, change the question. It is one one of the oldest concepts in political sciences and Microsoft needs to hold onto that thought. Even as we saw a little over two weeks ago ‘Xbox exec insists that Microsoft is no longer competing with Sony and Nintendo‘, we see the setting, but we forget that the Xbox One, the most powerful gaming system was surpassed by the PS4 in the early beginning and has been surpassed by the weakest gaming system (Nintendo Switch) as well. So as Microsoft people are making some claim of “we see Amazon and Google as the main competitors going forward“, they are leaving out that Google Stadia has the option of beating Microsoft as well, leaving Microsoft in 5th of 6 positions. And as I see it, there is no guarantee that Apple will remain in 6th position, implying that in the console war, Microsoft will end up being the massive loser of the lot. 

Reasons (as I believe them to be)

I believe that stupidity (read: non-comprehension), deafness (the lack of listening to gamers) and the short sighted Azure stage all interfered with the Xbox. And that is before people realise that bullying people to go online as well as having a 1TB system and the lacking the options for gamers to replace the drive without nullifying the warranty. All solutions that Sony adhered to in a much earlier stage, after which the brilliant execution by Nintendo (with their Switch) pushed the console to third position, two elements that could have been fixed upfront in 2012, is now the massive anchor chain around the neck of Microsoft games and I believe that it was the board of Microsoft that pushed stupidity, not Phil Spencer, issues that could have been fixed in the month of release never was and now the people are a little fed up with Microsoft and left for happier shores. More importantly, Sony and Nintendo are actually not rivals, they both have packages of software that are not competing, in a more drastic light, the group that has the larger console next to the docking station of the Nintendo Switch is growing fast.

And in all this, the PS5 is coming (as well as the new Microsoft console) leaving Microsoft behind even further, even as some might bite towards the hype creation video’s, there are a lot of gamers that are not willing to trust Microsoft anymore, implying that Microsoft is heading for even more news of dread on a large scale. It is still too early to tell, yet the video’s we see are still part of the hype creation whilst essential facts are left out. For example (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Nl9Aj8N7ew) we see the hype of SSD, yet the size and size options are left out of the equation, all whilst the hype is hiding behind all those lovely downloads, it is interesting how size (which actually matters here) is left untouched. Whilst we see ray tracing and 4K, everyone is forgetting that this implies the need of 50Gb-100Gb per game extra. for example Fallout 4 required 100GB install sizes as a minimum in 4K, so with a 1TB drive it will only hold 8 games like that, or the essential need to reinstall games, especially in RPG, size will be an issue, yet not only that Gears of War 4, for example, required a chunk the size of 103GB so count your chooks and smoke those! And that is before you consider the storage that 8K gaming takes. 

This is merely one source, yet the amount of sources (including Microsoft) is vague on the space available, they give “NVMe SSD (we’ve heard read speeds of anywhere up to 2GB/s)“, just the size of their bloody drive is avoided as much as possible by everyone. Even at this stage, several sources make the claim that the PS5 will have 2TB (which is not enough) yet in the past we could upgrade that drive to our content without invalidating the warranty, and at present you can get 4TB for $650. Yes, I understand that not everyone needs that and that is fine, there are however plenty of gamers who want to upgrade and as the price is now $650, there will be every indication that this price within the first year will diminish by a lot (as it always does), the idea of 4K gaming without space restrictions is a lot more realistic in 4TB than in what the Xbox has done so far (1TB), as such the issues will become cumbersome sooner, not later. 

Microsoft never learned that lesson, all whilst Sony told the users what the needs were and they could upgrade at their own leisure. Microsoft did not see a reason to offer that, because you could buy a second drive, which means more stress on the machine, another cable and more devices, whilst most people merely wanted one device.

The Nintendo (Sony too) never had the demanded requirement to be online, you could sync when you were online and that was a gift to many, Xbox demanded to be online with their little issues (like achievements). So, whilst the Tech Insider gave us last week ‘The price of the PlayStation 5 may top $450, and that could cost Sony the next major battle with Xbox in the console wars‘, I personally have a hard time believing that this is the actual case, the drawbacks that Microsoft pushes for and the benefits that the PS5 give you leave us with the reality that $450 (perhaps $499) is not the worst feeling for all the benefits that Sony offers. 

It is in that same article that offers “More than just a high price, the history of video game console pricing dictates that charging over $US400 for a new game console is likely to result in a sales flop.” Really? When was that? Perhaps you all forget about the Xbox 360, I paid $699 for that one and it was a hell of a lot more successful than the Xbox One ever was, almost 100% more successful. And that was with the 20Gb drive, the 120Gb drive was an additional $119, an amount I was happy spending, giving me all that storage space. The PS3 was initially $599, and that was before I replaced the 60GB for a 300GB solution ($79 extra), Yet, we now need more storage, but that is the consequence of resolution, and that is all before we consider the offline issue. You see in many places internet is a drag, not all the customers of a console live in London or New York, as such there are places where the broadband is an issue (the places are more and more rare nowadays), yet when we consider that the EU gave Belgium (the entire nation) a fine because its internet was too slow, how much fun will streaming and downloading of games bring? And they are not alone (but the group is not that big either), yet these are all issues that Microsoft does not seem to ‘care’ about, they still bully (as I personally see it) people to be online. Good luck!

The Dutch give us that around 180.000 houses will get 9 MB.sec maximum, so there is that, and I believe that there is a group that is between that and the 30MB/sec minimum of streaming, and that is before we consider the additional issues of going online and updating your profile or download patches. Or perhaps you want to consider “Many rural areas of France have slow and unreliable internet connections” and lets not forget that these are the better places in Europe to be in. We still avoid Germany and a few other places, so in all, there is a group of Europeans that are not regarded as gaming material by the Microsoft standards, they can be happy with the other two players, as such they will not be unhappy, but it shows just how far behind Microsoft is, they could have fixed their issues a long time ago and for them issues will be harder soon enough.

So as we change the question from the price of a console (‘Xbox Series X Vs. PlayStation 5: Microsoft Is Still Holding A Huge Wild Card‘ source: Forbes), to who will have the infrastructure to enjoy their console, Microsoft is not doing that great at present. So even as Forbes gives us: “Sony has been struggling to get its build price for the PlayStation 5 below $450“, all whilst we see that the PS4 Pro 1TB (on Amazon is $319), whilst the launch date was set to $399, in a stage where we now see a new console, well over twice as powerful with an SSD drive and a few other issues, in that setting $500 is not the weirdest price and even as Microsoft beats that, the downside that the issues that Microsoft has not fixed is still dragging their gamers down (as I personally see it).

As I see it, Sony has over time done what Microsoft seems to refuse: ‘How can I include the most gamers towards our Sony console‘, they achieved this to a much larger degree by allowing for larger drives (at the need of the gamer) and set the policy towards off-line gaming without having to mess up achievements or other needs, Microsoft never properly fixed it, all whilst the Xbox 360 had that in perfect working order (like the Playstation then). So whilst Microsoft needs to consider a switch (pun intended) from the board of director choice of console towards a gamers need for a console, we see that their need to change is massive and at present missing, they are much more in the need of some hype creation whilst the gamers miss out too much and that is not including the lack of exclusive console games.

No matter how we slice it, the Sony consoles have an advantage and Microsoft has too much to catch up on, we will see how 2020 ends and as both systems gain traction over 2021, we will see who ends up being the winner, my money is on PS5, price difference or not, when the first issue hits the Xbox Two (or Scarlett), the people will start running towards the Sony solution fast and hard, there will always be those who worship the Xbox and that is fine, dedication is part of the gamer credo and as such there will be enough people going for the Xbox Two, yet the population of the Sony system is well over twice as large, with backward compatibility on both systems, the numbers on the Sony side will unlikely be the one dwindling down, the fact that the PS4 games work and they will now work in 4K mode, will imply that there will be a dozen games that will be replayed under those conditions. The idea of my replaying my Fallout 4, God of War 4, Skyrim, Horizon Zero Dawn and several others can now be admired in 4K is appealing. Yes, I know that the Pro and the Xbox One X had these options, yet buying a new console and a 4K TV was not in the cards, in addition, I was really happy with my PS4 original edition, now I will (have to) upgrade both, especially as I can now get a 4K TV for well under $400, which is a lot cheaper than it was in 2016 (almost 1/3rd the price), so well worth the change.

When we change the question we can look at the old axiom, we can have something cheap, fast or better, but we can only select 2 of the 3, I believe that in gaming, most people will select fast and better quality and accept the price that comes with it, because when the numbers pan out, I will have used my PS4 for almost 7 years and in all 7 years without any issues at all (one small one in the very beginning), only now 7 years later am I in a more essential need to upgrade my 2TB drive, that is a very good run (and deleting 1-5 games makes sense in this day and age). All whilst I had that issue on and off with the Xbox One since I had it past 2 years, so as such the PS4 was efficient and banked on my needs, other systems should take a lesson from that.

Cheap system – Expensive system

Fast system – Slow system

Good Quality – Bad Quality

What will be your needs? And in the end, will the two choices you make hinder or help you, in finality, how will you feel when the choice you made hit you in a less nice way?

When I look at those questions, I am left with the personal conviction that Sony wins, which is actually a large issue when you compare the PS3 and the Xbox360, Microsoft gave up the benefit that they had and they only got surpassed near the next gen console release dates, an advantage they lost completely in one generation of console, we seem to forget that. Which is weird because even today, the Xbox 360 is still played by some and the games have always been decently amazing, even by today’s standard in gaming (not referring to resolution). It took Sony nearly everything to keep up with the Xbox360, a field they need not worry about with the nextgen systems and optionally even less with what comes.

Now Microsoft needs to wonder if they can get close to the Nintendo Switch, an issue that the PS5 is less likely to have, that is how I see it and whilst Microsoft hides behind ‘Xbox exec insists that Microsoft is no longer competing with Sony and Nintendo‘, all whilst the reasoning should be how can we become part of the larger population again, we see the optional stage where Microsoft is no longer worthy of real consideration, a sad day for gamers indeed.

 

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Changing the headline

It started (for me) around 6 hours ago when Emma Boyle at Techradar gave us ‘Ubisoft is aiming to create more unique games with an editorial shake up‘, which sounds nice, yet the initial problem for Ubisoft will be to make proper games, an initial essential requirement. As I see it, Ubioft lost their edge and now they are using PR and marketing to make it into ‘Ubisoft is aiming to create more unique games with an editorial shake up‘ (at https://www.techradar.com/au/news/ubisoft-is-aiming-to-create-more-unique-games-with-an-editorial-shake-up), proper games are made not merely by innovative designers and thinkers, but it requires a team of methological thinkers to properly test the game, they need a few wild cards to make sure that ‘stupid choices’ are optionally caught. We are now all about the results of The Division 2 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint, yet the fuming disasters of Assassins Creed Unity are still not forgotten. All whilst Far Cry 4 was more of the same (not a flaw and not the worst idea), yet the short sighted impact of Ubisoft needs to be seen where the bungle of a title is best prevented, at the very top (Yves Guillemot). I have had my issues with Yves Guillemot, yet he does have a proper business instinct and that is something that Ubisoft needs as well. The eyes are now all on Watchdogs: Legion which is approaching release and the idea, concept and work on it is pretty amazing. It takes Watchdogs in another dimension, one that we have not seen before (as far as I know) and it could make way for an entirely new Cyberpunk line. Yet the story is merely one part, it is the release and the initial feel that matters and to be honest, with previous blunders, I would feel more relaxed if they delay it to fix things BEFOREHAND, than give us some lame excuse afterwards, because that is marketing for you, get the money first. 

Consider the fact that I was able to initially ‘design’ a new Watch Dogs 3 (playing in Okinawa) in less than 8 hours, setting the initial stage for close to 50-100 hours of gameplay and with the setting of optionally 4 storylines, all set in hypermodern (slightly futuristic) Japan. Each of the storylines was different and a separate play through of the city with other approach options. Taking lessons from past successes and failures to give the people a new experience. And I got there by ignoring the storyline and setting a free roam stage where you could fall into choices. 

Yet Polygon gives on the 17th (at https://www.polygon.com/2020/1/17/21071083/ubisoft-editorial-team-changes-paris-serge-hascoet-yves-guillemot) ‘With all its games looking the same, Ubisoft shakes up its editorial team‘, there we see the words of CEO Yves Guillemot “blamed on a lack of differentiation in consumers’ minds“, it is actually simpler than that, when you try to build game that pleases all, you end up with a product that pleases none, as I see it, it is really that simple. And as I personally see it, the quote: “Ubisoft chief creative officer Serge Hascoet will remain in charge of Ubisoft’s editorial group, but that he will be given more subordinates and they will be given more autonomy, so that he is able lead from a broader perspective rather than directing individual projects himself” sounds nice, but will it work out that way? It is merely internal marketing of another kind (I am not laying blame on Serge Hascoet). Ubisoft is in a difficult place and this preemptive setting is merely good for the stage if Watch Dogs: Legion misses out too much, if this goes sideways (which I will not initially expect), the value of Ubisoft will diminish 30%-60%, which would scare the shareholders to no degree.

That this is all marketing (to some point) is seen with: “Guillemot said Breakpoint had “been strongly rejected by a significant portion of the community” and that it “did not come in with enough differentiation factors, which prevented the game’s intrinsic qualities from standing out.”“, how about the fact that it was littered with bugs? There is a reason why people are happy to wait 12-20 weeks and pick up the game for 75% less, bugs are a main reason. The lack of quality has driven the massive day one release buy to a soft interesting week 5 or later buy. You can only remain with a setting of special editions with optional additions when you do something about the quality, and that had remained absent. As such I hope that the Watch Dogs: Legion delay is also so that it can be properly tested. I also oppose to some degree the statement “the company needed to leave more time between the launches of its live service games so that they aren’t cannibalizing one another’s interest and audience“, yet too many games at the same time is an issue, but it is not merely about Ubisoft, the game designers ALL want to capture the audience, even as they all know that the consumer in this day and age can only afford one new game, the stage is still set to getting them all. So as we then get into comparing Breakpoint against Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, we saw how Activision kicked the hell and nearly all life out of Breakpoint, that danger would have been a lot less if it had been properly tested. Activision also took a stand, as we take notice of “Modern Warfare’s single-player campaign focuses on realism and feature tactically-based moral choices whereupon the player is evaluated and assigned a score at the end of each level” (source: GamesRadar). Making of forcing a choice is not debilitating, bad testing is, that simple truth hit Breakpoint at least twice over, and as such if became the failure it is (as I personally see it). In all this, the power of better testing will enable ALL games from Ubisoft and making sure that the release date is not what marketing it makes out to be, but when development states that it is ready is a second part in all this. They forget that in the end it is the gamer who wants it and as CD Projekt Red has proven twice over, it comes when it is ready, and as I see it their 93% rating proves them right, which opposes 57% from Breakpoint and it sets a different precedent, it makes the gamers wonder if Ubisoft is still a AAA developer, a question they never really asked before, as I see it Watch Dogs: Legion will push that question to a larger degree in a much larger population making the 60% loss more and more direct, in this I am trying to remain an optimist, the losses could be larger.

The clear message becomes, that Ubisoft better get it right with Watchdogs, if that fails several franchises could be up for grabs for very little, because that is also the curse of shareholders, they will sell, as long as they break even in the deal and for now, that is not the case.

I for one would be a little sad, Ubisoft is a French company, to see a non American (or Japanese) company be this successful was an interesting side, it opened others to the idea that good games did not need come from either two countries (CD Projekt Red also proved that) in all, France has too much on the anvil and they could win and remain or lose a lot, it is not a great place to be, but the two elements I gave out could limit losses to some degree and there is no fault or damage to shift a release date, that is just junk others thrown into the mix. 

And it is not over for Ubisoft, as we see how top title after top title is making an impact on Nintendo Switch, there is a lot from Ubisoft that does have a massive following and they could again. Consider FarCry III on Switch, and even as some are already on Switch, they were not the greatest Assassins Creed games (I still do not regard Assassins Creed IV an AC game). More important, as we see Witcher III on Nintendo, where is AC Origins? It was a masterpiece, could that not be transferred? It is easy to look at transfers, but it is also the cheapest way to repair a software house (and it optionally gives low cost and high yield revenue). In addition the setting where a games might take up to 100 hours, yet the main story take no more than 20 hours, making it an unbalanced equation. Set that against a speed run on Witcher 3, which is not my favourite game mode by the way, taking a player no less than 25 hours. As such we should take notice that there is an optional shortfal in some Ubisoft games (not in AC Origins, or AC Odyssey though), as such there is a lot more that Ubisoft can do, especially in Watch Dogs: Legion and as I personally see it, they better do that BEFORE the game is released, not as some lame DLC excuse (free or not). All this is coming to roost at Ubisoft even before that new Microsoft contraption and the Sony PS5 are released. It shows just how much Ubisoft needs to get fixed and not in a marketing way. They actually remained in the game longer than I anticipated, but as far as I (and others) can tell, they are running out of options, so whether we see an obituary of Ubisoft in the coming year, or a revitalisation is up to the big chair, the quality of games is not something they can short change the gamer on again, they have done that too often (as I personally see it) and the entire “but we fixed it” will not hold water, not this time, there are too many competitors at present.

Their first-person shooter is up against Activision (80%), their RPGs are up against Guerrilla Games  (90%) and CD Projekt Red (92%), and several other games are up against Santa Monica Studio (94%). It goes on and Ubisoft needs to see that they are not alone and that others are winning the gamer share that Ubisoft once had, it is the direct result of sub-standard delivery on quality all that whilst we see that there is no other group that is so into gossip like gamers, mistakes like this become the setting of failure within hours of day one sales and there is a larger group no longer running out on day one, they are largely becoming week 2 buyers (at best)  when it comes to Ubisoft games, as I personally see it, when a gamer gets to spend their cash once on a new game twice a year, that new game better be really good. 

That is the setting that Ubisoft faces and marketing will not save them this time. As to what the new headline should be, I leave that up to the reviewers who took over from me, I looked at games for 13 years, I gave a view of games to two generations and even as I still love games, it had become time (in 2000) for others to take over, yet I never stopped looking at games with a critical eye (yet enjoying them became my number one priority). No matter what story you see published, Guillemot must be realising that his time is over, I will admit that even as For Honor was never my cup of tea, it was unique and amazing as a title, even as it was a multiplayer title, Ubisoft outdid themselves that time around. I recognise that there are plenty of games that are not my cuppa tea, yet that does not stop me from admiring excellence, for Honor delivered, and they are not alone. 

As I stated, changing the headline would give us the real issue and I think the headline should be ‘If we had only given more time to testing out product‘, it might end up being a lousy obituary, but the truth tends to be that, lousy and hard hitting. In the end, we will need to wait until later (after Q2) 2020 to see where Ubisoft is going and what the optional gamer will buy from that point onwards. Yet this is all happening whilst some of the others are solely focussed on getting their one games out. So no matter how we personally see it, Ubisoft is in a vice and they basically put themselves there, considering that AC Origins was a 2017 release. When you get articles on ‘Here are the best (worst) <insert title> bugs‘, you have an actual problem and with 2 years of bugged titles, something should have been done a long time ago, especially as I personally see it that this issue has been around since 2012 to an increasing degree (I will abstain from the ‘to a larger degree’) expression. I understand that NO GAME is absent of bugs, Ubisoft merely has too many of them and for the most they are all over the web and YouTube, so it is not merely my view, as per illustration have a look at the funny parts (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykcA3yKPolY), it is merely the tip of the iceberg and we all know what happened to the Titanic when they wanted their drinks on the rocks.

 

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Bones and Boobs in gaming

Gaming has two sides, the hardware and the software side, or as some might call it the boobs and bones of gaming. We will look at the boobs later (desert always comes last), yet the bones are another matter. Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2019/06/04/there-are-tough-times-ahead-for-the-playstation-4-and-xbox-one/#3ca33e3562b4) gives us ‘There Are Tough Times Ahead For The PlayStation 4 And Xbox One‘, I do not really agree, and if so then mostly for the Xbox side, but the man makes a decent point and that is always a good reason to contemplate an article.

Bones

Even as he makes the case, I believe him to be wrong on certain matters. The numbers only partially support him. In case of Microsoft, they had a good run on the Xbox360 and they had decent sales even beyond the Xbox One launch. The reasons was that those with too small a budget decided to pick up a pre-owned console as those prices went down by a lot. Even today, people still buy Xbox 360 games, which is pretty astounding. The premise holds true for the PS3, from day one the PS4 was the child to have and for the next two years there will be plenty of people upgrading from PS4 to PS4 pro as Sony will be dumping the prices for that puppy. The market will slow down, but I believe that Sony has a good foundation to work with, Microsoft a little less so.

Nintendo remains the larger question in this. They are still ascending by leaps and bounds and even now we see in Forbes (three weeks ago actually) ‘The Nintendo Switch Just Topped The PS4’s Lifetime Sales In Japan‘, and that sounds overwhelming, yet the global numbers with PS4 on 97 million and Switch on 35 million gives the equal global sales towards the Xbox, but not the PlayStation. It has only been two years, whilst the other two have been around 7, the Nintendo Switch is still gaining momentum and it is doing so faster than last year. The fact that two of the most enticing (and addictive) games are free helps matters. With Fallout Shelter and Gems of war being great games to play on the Switch, we see a larger appreciation of the console. Nintendo upped the ante by handing all those with an online subscription (less than $40 a year), we see that they all get access to the old games from Donkey Kong, Metroid and Super Mario Bros, with dozens of additional games, all for free for those with the online account. It is one of the most enticing deals you will find in console land. As such the Switch goes on and on and on. That and the pre-owned market makes me oppose the view that Dave Thier has to some degree. the part that is also in debate is “I could even imagine PlayStation 4 sales recovering after the PlayStation 5 comes out and people realize they can still get good use of the old machine, which is likely to see a price-cut“, I believe that he setting is sound, yet I have seen Sony Marketing in action, as such they will cut prices on all options long before the sales recovery issue becomes a real issue for Sony. With exclusive titles like Last of Us 2 (2020), Death Stranding, Sekiro, Ghosts of Tsushima (2020), there is everything to look forward to and besides the fact that there are still plenty of people without a PS4 (or Xbox One for that matter), many of us (including me) still have not upgraded to the PS4pro (a budget issue), for many mainly because we have no 4K TV and that is the big factor (equally so for the Xbox One X), so as Sony starts bundling it’s console with a 4K TV, we might see another rush to upgrade. With several brands (including Sony) offering 55” or larger 4K TV’s for less than $1000 at present, the push for package deals will be very alive at the end of this year pushing the options of additional consoles right up to 2020 at that point the PS5 (and whatever Microsoft has) will become an optional issue. We have seen that many day one people held on to their previous console. I still have the PS3 and Xbox 360; I just never expected that the 360 would be higher regarded than the Xbox One (by me). These are all elements that play a part, as such I partially oppose the view Forbes gave us and I believe to be handing out the correct version (I have been proven correct often enough).

I agree with his slowing down part, but not to the degree he expects it, and the additional factor is not the slowing down, it might be: “New consoles pose question marks for the industry, and people are inclined to wait for answers before making large purchases“. I believe that to be the correct statement, but there was one other factor, it is 4K gaming and that is slow because the larger group of gamers does not have a 4K TV at present, as 4K will be the bees knees this Christmas, we will see a push to a much larger degree and Sony has an advantage over Sony here. It is how I got my PS3 and I never regretted that, especially as that TV was dirt cheap in those days, I expect Sony to do the same caper this year (and other brands as well), which is as I see it the larger stage for the difference between Dave Thier and me, as well as the large purchasing part, there is no ‘wait for answers‘ anymore on 4K TV, as such it optionally prevents a larger slowdown on the consoles and to be honest, you need to see Xbox One 4K with AC Origin to believe just how amazing 4K can be, it blew my socks off let me tell you that; and yes it was on a Xbox One X. Ubisoft & Microsoft actually got that part truly right.

Boobs

Yup, we got there, or as the Bloodhound Gang would state: ‘Hooray for Boobies‘ Yet the software is always a happy place for any gamer, whether it is Minecraft or Spiderman, seeing stuff in 4K is always reason to cheer. So when we look at value how angry do we need to get? When we are confronted with a AAA game (triple A game) we think it will be about quality, but it is not. It merely means that the game comes from a ‘mid-sized or major publisher, typically having higher development and marketing‘ and as I see it, it will be mostly about the marketing. So here comes Ubisoft who as far as I can tell is the only one who truly mangled and downgraded the IP of two franchises, namely Assassins Creed and optionally now Far Cry.

In comes a hard truth: ‘AAA game development has been identified as one environment where crunch time and other working pressures that negatively affect the employees are particularly evident‘, a given that is handed to us by Tweaktown and GamaSutra. In Tweaktown we see: ‘Ex-Ubisoft dev reveals the grim reality‘ with the quote: “it’s more like a mechanized assembly line than a dream job“, this might be a true stage, yet in all this it is not the creators, it is its board of directors as well as their marketing department. Like several software makers, setting a realistic goal is not something either department is any good at; the horrendous Far Cry 5 is clearly evidence of that. I completely disagree with the ratings that IGN (89%) and the 81% that Metacritic gave, I fall in line towards Digital Trends and their 60%. There should be a stage that games like that can no longer be called AAA games when its rating to become this below average. I even have some reservations on the games I traded in for this new version (at $23). Far Cry 5 infuriates me; they really had to do a better job. Not the graphics guys (gals included), graphically Montana is so overwhelmingly amazing that I would be willing to move to Hope County with the next available flight (if there is a decent job there). The story is something I leave in the middle. It is over the top, but there is a side that is actually enticing and you haven’t felt hatred until you are getting a tattoo on your chest by John Seed, the characters (even the over the top ones) are impressive. It is the game play itself that got to me in a massive way. To name just a few:

  1. Planes that touch a tree top dead in their track and in some cases end up on the ground in perfect working order without a scratch.
  2. Like the screaming eagles in Far Cry Primal (one every other minute) the stage comes when planes are there and they are there all the time, I have shot down enough to make a nation go bankrupt, but not for the Seed family, they merely seed more planes (or is that conceive?) And it is not merely me; I found hundreds of posts of gamers irritated by that, it seems that some people at Ubisoft are unwilling to learn.
  3. Spawn, not the Todd McFarlane hero, but the spawning of opponents. In a bunker scene (trying to avoid spoilers), the troops started spawning in front of me, which is a big no-no! This all indicates that the game was either never clearly tested, or the test results were ignored, either way that is an easy 20% degrading on any 89% score, so we are already on 69%. The fact that these issues were never addressed one year down the road implies additional failings on the Ubisoft front.
  4. Ballistics anyone? I love my sniper rifles, it gives me an edge and even in a bunker, the rifle can be a huge advantage, even if you only have 35 bullets to work with (unless you find more ammo). So when that rifle suddenly does not kill with a head shot, but only knock of the helmet, I am speechless. You see, anyone who knows their weapons would know that a helmet is protecting in nature, but the impact of a .50 that travels at 3,029 feet/second giving an impact of 13,350 ft-lbf (foot pound force) does not merely take off the helmet, it rips of the entire head. Now I get and accept that Ubisoft is not giving us that image, but to not see a headshot as an immediate kill is just stupid and silly. That should be 35 instant kills, even in the chest the power alone will crush the chest to death, and no Kevlar thickness in the world will stop that.
  5. The enemy avalanche. I get that throughout the game, it becomes more and more taxing, but the boss fights with wave after wave, where topless people keep running after 5-7 shots is just silly. And it is not 2-3 we get thrown into a stage of dozens and Ubisoft is unable to learn that wave after wave gets to be tedious and actually does not make a game better. Now there is an arcade more and I am not touching it, arcade is arcade and there the rules tend to be slightly different, which is fair enough. Yet in the normal game, Ubisoft makes the same mistakes we saw in Far Cry Primal and Far Cry 4. What was Far Cry 3 has become less and less (as I personally see it).

There is a lot Ubisoft got right too and the extra’s (like the Vaas outfit) and particularly the outfits you get when you have another Ubisoft game is cool, an immediate reward for those who have other Ubisoft games like the Rainbow six outfit is actually really cool to see (I did not have the game so it did not unlock for me), but the effort towards its gamers must be recognised. The bubbleheads (for in the car) if you have certain games is also cool and gives a little extra a fact that has always mattered to gamers.

Tweak town gives a lot more, but when I read: “When people realize they’re just one very replaceable person on a massive production chain, you can imagine it impacts their motivation“, I see it and it might impact, but that is an HR problem, not on my watch here, it is an element I care not for at present. There is also: “How do you get the right message to the right people? You can’t communicate everything to everyone, there’s just too much information. There are hundreds of decisions being taken every week. Inevitably, at some point, someone who should have been consulted before making a decision will be forgotten. This creates frustration over time” that is an issue, it is management that is either not there, not properly ready or even worse, it is ignorant. That also gives light to the connection of testing, an issue that Ubisoft has had for at least a decade. The experience that even now in Far cry 5, the event of looting a corpse and switching the weapon they dropped are nearly always overlapping, making a quick grab for ammo impossible and at times even disastrous. An issue not fixed since Far Cry 3. The article (at https://www.tweaktown.com/news/49863/ex-ubisoft-dev-reveals-grim-reality-aaa-games-development/index.html) had a few more items, but it was less important for me in this case. Gamasutra (at https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/282922/AAA_game_dev_lifestyle_is_unwinnable_says_veteran_game_designer_Amy_Hennig.php) gives a few more items, issues like: “There are people who never go home and see their families. They have children who are growing up without seeing them” get a different rating, it is either a lack of time management, or slave labour, one is a choice the other is criminal; you tell me which is which. Yes, I trivialise the issue here, but at some stage you need to recharge and if you decide not to do that, you burn out. It is the quote: “It’s pressure that rolls downhill and piles onto those behind the industry’s biggest releases, forcing them to go above and beyond to meet rapidly approaching deadlines” that hits pay dirt, they either haven’t learned to neuter their marketing department, or the board members have forgotten what realistic time frames are. Either way it tends to stop proper game testing and that is how we get a screwed up product and we have seen that from AC Unity onwards, Ubisoft has had way too many events like that. As such as we see the quote referring to ‘over-expectant publishers‘, the view we see matches mine pretty much flawless. If you cannot control your marketeers with their hype creation, you fall flat and you get the pressures that should have been avoided in the first place. The evidence is there too, for example Project red with Witcher 3 as well as Cyberpunk 2077. There no one is fussed about the 2020 release, we all know that they broke the mould with Witcher 3 and we want to see that again, we the gamers are willing to wait for excellence, mainly because it has become such a rare thing. A 93% rating comes at a price. It is the oldest stage of sales.

You can have something cheap, something fast and something good, but you can only chose two of the three elements, so the product ends up arriving slow, becoming a bad product or an expensive one, which of those three can you live with the best? Of those three the late arrival is the best (my personal view), but as far as Ubisoft goes, they got that choice wrong more than once, because they were unwilling to delay the release late, costing them points all over the place. It is me not liking Odyssey that requires me to quote Samuel Axon who wrote a massive story on ArsTechnica. He ends with: “Odyssey was not a perfect game. But it was the perfect game to win back this series superfan. It’s so good, I want to go back and replay older games in the series—even some of the bad ones—just to examine and appreciate the evolution“, I get his vision yet it is not my view on the game and that is fine. Ubisoft does not need to appease me, it needs to protect its IP and there we might not see eye to eye on the matter. This is fine, I am merely one view and that too needs to be taken into account, Samuel clearly had another view on the take and I accept it because the article (at https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/03/i-played-11-assassins-creed-games-in-11-years-and-odyssey-made-them-all-worth-it) is an absolute must for any Assassins Creed fan.

When I look back, no matter how much we like to stare at the boobies, when they are not the ones (or shape, or size) you hoped to see, the interest fades really fast (unless you are a hungry baby) and that is the core for Ubisoft, the absolute essential part was proper testing and fixing (optionally with a day one patch) is something they seemingly have not been steered towards for too long and it shows. As I see it, they efficiently massacred two IP’s at present; the question becomes what will happen with Watchdogs 3? When we accept (I do) that the second was way better than the first, I fear for the third, because they need to get it right. I only got Far Cry 5 well over a year later when it was sold at a mere 17% of the full price gives rise to what we are willing to pay. When you consider that this was a game with a budget close to $100 million and a rising amount of gamers will no longer consider it at full price, and even as it made $310 million, how much money did Ubisoft in the end miss out on? Going home with $200 more is still good, but what could they have gotten? I wonder if they learn this lesson too late, perhaps it is me and perhaps I expect too much from the gamers of today. I merely chase excellence in gaming, and a game that is created substandard will not ever give a feeling of excellence, which is sad on many levels, especially when someone forked out an 9 figure number.

Just consider that GTA5 made $6 billion so far, Red Dead Redemption had a $725 million opening weekend, and that list goes on, all games that have a 90% score of better. It shows when we see that (according to VGChartz) Far Cry 5 seemingly sold less than 4 million copies, God of war far beyond 11 million, and that is also set toUbisoft being on three systems, whilst God of War was on only one system. I see it as the main difference between a 70% game and a 95% game. A difference of 250% or better in sold copies. I reckon that Ubisoft needs to focus on quality a lot more than they are currently doing and that view is shared by global player on an increasing larger scale endangering Ubisoft initial revenue more and more.

 

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Lifting the veil

Keith Stuart (the Guardian) gave the first reliable light less than 8 hours ago when he treats us to: ‘PlayStation 5: Sony gives the first details of its next generation console‘. We see a lot of digital techno babble (for the non-technical readers), what is important in first light is a positive and a negative. The positive is seen with “a custom graphics processor based on the forthcoming AMD Navi family, which will be capable of real-time ray tracing“, implying that the new PS5 is only inches behind today’s top graphics cards and on part what the PC could maximise in 2020, that is indeed a graphical leap that has not been seen before. Then we see “an eight-core CPU based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen processors“. This is good in a number of ways but let’s not blindly focus on the 8 cores. In the end gaming is about good games. What does seem to be implied is that Ubisoft has a unique option at present, it could get ahead of the crowd with a massive leap if they do their homework and if they focus on the result and not listen to whatever idiot is the voice of the shareholders and/or marketing, because that will end them right quick.

They have the option for a truly new Watchdog and optionally a few more of their franchises, but only if they focus, the next AAA rated at 65% could end them if they lose focus; the fans have become weary of Ubisoft and what they market and subsequently not produce. A similar stage is there for Bethesda, even as they have a lot more credibility. They have the products, but they need to have a much better QA team. They will not survive a second Fallout 76 that much is showing to be the gospel of gaming. When we see the specs of the PS5 we cannot even imagine what FromSoftware will be able to pull off, but we cannot wait to see. There are more players, especially with the implied God of War 5, even if they merely get an equal to god of War 4, people will sleep in front of gaming shops to get the game at first light, and so far we know that these makers always surpassed the previous versions, so we cannot wait.

Yet this gets us to the other place, the one negative one. You see, we might hype behind “a solid state drive“, yet the ugly truth is that space is expensive in solid state mode. Even as the current price of $975 for a 4TB drive is a lot and that price will be 30% down in 2020, the truth remains that 2TB will not cut it and we do hope that Sony is not stupid enough to follow the short-sighted path that Microsoft is on, they are now merely console number three and optionally before 2021 a number 4 out of 5. We get that we might start at 1-2TB, yet as long as the space is there to upgrade to 4TB the fans will be OK with it, selling that item short is the most dangerous path one could be on and 3mm makes all the difference. Even as Microsoft Marketing is trying to launch hypes around Xbox Two, they have already lost the faith of so many gamers that the stage now is set to them trying to repair damage in the first year of console release; this is totally difference form both Nintendo and Sony who are now steaming ahead at full throttle. Even as we get the Sci-Fi versions of what the Xbox Two might be, too many people are no longer willing to trust Microsoft at present and that is hurting them at the starting bell for a lot more than they are willing to admit to. I only they had actually listened to the gamers, we are not willing to trust them with their words: ‘We listened to gamer and this is what we came up with‘, they will bully always online, they will bully their Microsoft Azure needs. This is the consequence of doing what shareholders tell you and disregard the customer, it is a failed model and I have seen the fallout of that for well over two decades in the field.

So whilst others need to worry about the market share they lose against Nintendo and Google Stadia (optionally against Apple too), Sony has decided on the path that gamers desire and with one optional flaw they are on track to surpass themselves. It gets to be even larger if initial social media plans come to fruition, yet there is no evidence that this is in any way happening. what is interesting is that the winning path of Sony is pushed to a much higher level whilst Microsoft is still clinging to “Securely store player data, dynamically scale your gaming experiences to more than 50 regions, and save money as your game grows with Azure” and even as some give us: “Google may have stolen the show at this year’s Game Developer Conference with its Stadia cloud gaming reveal, but Microsoft is hard at work on its own service, xCloud, that it’s already testing now. At a GDC developer session yesterday, Microsoft representatives from the xCloud team gave us a little more detail into how games designed for Xbox consoles will translate over to mobile devices, where players might be used to either a Bluetooth controller or on-screen touch controls“, some need to see a reality, not only are they outgunned against Google (Stadia), the fact that the fact that I do not accept any Xbox game to be played on a mere 6” mobile, we now see that the entire concept of ‘gaming’ is seemingly slightly alien to Microsoft. This is all about stored player data; this is about data and facilitating for the capture of it.

Do you really think that I could ever enjoy Forza Horizons IV on a 6″ screen? That game is the reason why people buy a 75″ 4K TV in the first place. So not only is Microsoft failing its gamers, their own marketing department is failing both. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of games that play nicely on a Mobile, some games can be played at any place and screen (Fallout Shelter, Gems of War), but the premise to make it all go to a mobile display is almost insulting to the people who went all out and created Forza Horizons IV for the big 4K screens.

This matters!

This matters as it shows the people that both Sony and Nintendo have been on the right track all along, the Nintendo sales figures show that, the head start of Sony shows it and now the top two will vie for their audience and even as Sony is ahead, it cannot relax one moment, Nintendo is too good at what they do and it is what the gamers want, Sony knows that too.

for now we see the PS5 for what it is, an optional beauty to replace our PS4 with, the fact that it is still a year away (optionally 17 months) is not something we are sorry about. The PS4 gives loads of entertainment to all its users and is highly likely to do so until the PS4 hands over the baton to the PS5, that is how it works and even then the PS4 will keep gamers happy for the longest of times, just like the Nintendo GameCube did whilst people were buying the Nintendo Wii in force. For that too is gaming, it is like our favourite pair of shoes or wallet, we hang onto it a little longer than we should, we grew attached to the device that brought so much joy, something Nintendo accepted and Sony forgot just a little too easy.

 

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They did what?

Newsweek is bringing out the news, news that had me rattled. The story (at https://www.newsweek.com/saudi-arabia-bans-47-popular-video-games-general-commission-audio-visual-1028013) gives us ‘Saudi Arabia bans 47 popular video games including ‘Assassins Creed,’ ‘Deadpool’ And ‘Final Fantasy’‘. For a moment I could not fathom why video games would be banned. Now, even as Deadpool is unlikely to be my choice of game ever. It does have a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ approach to gaming, which gives it a positive flair. Yet overall, even as I loved the movies, I never read the comic books, so there is a gap there and I reckon that the comic book fans are most likely the ones who would want the game.

So, I was intrigued to learn what the reasons were. The article merely gives me “The kingdom’s General Commission for Audio-Visual Media said Monday that 47 games will be banned for violating rules and regulations“, pretty much all the media gives the same setting some of them give other titles, even though as far as I could tell, none gave the full list. All of them set the stage that the game ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is the starting point for the decision involved. Now, I do get the fact that censorship remains strong in Saudi Arabia, the fact that this is the first year that the cinemas are open, the movies are still all to be screened before allowed in the cinema.

The National (at https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/after-suicide-in-saudi-arabia-parents-urged-to-do-more-to-curb-gaming-effects-1.746328) had another side in all this. Here we see one of the Saudi fathers in question giving us: “A Saudi father has blamed the suicide of his 12-year-old son on an online game that he said “broke the spirit” of his child. But therapists and gaming experts say the onus is on parents to step in“, I feel sorry for the loss of that father and the other parents. Yet in this part, even as a gamer and gaming expert for decades, I do not agree with the response. Yes, parents need to step in at time, yet the setting given against that father is unrealistic. You see, for a large portion of the world, gaming is life. Let me explain that, so that you do not get the wrong idea. Our lives are bettered through social interaction, at times we also need our own space to unwind, to relax and let the brain work things out. Gaming allows for all that. The multiplayer games allow friends and schoolmates to compete and sometimes cooperate in games like Fortnite and online RPG’s. By ourselves we can escape our place for a little while and seek comfort elsewhere. I myself can lose myself for hours in Minecraft by myself and feel really awesome after an hour or so, games have that ability. The nice part of Minecraft is that you can play it at times without even thinking, a version of virtual Lego that allows you to create, explore as well as destroy spiders and skeletons. Now with the ocean world addition the game just become more than twice the size it already was. It is great to game at times. All these games are positive reinforcements, no matter what the game is. You might be scared of every corner in Bloodborne; you might see the cliffs and not know the next move like a Tomb Raider should, or sneak through the corridors removing the henchmen of the Arkham Knight. None of them are negative against you and for the most they are positive parts. Even in Assassins Creed where you are correcting great injustice through killing mind you. You are one against an army! It is a challenge and at times even more. The cultural references and the additional scenes in Assassins Creed Origin were overwhelming, making it a learning experience as well.

In the darkness there are monsters

Yes, there are monsters too; in this case it is one person. It is Philipp Budeikin. The information on him is sketchy to an extent. He is a former psychology student who was expelled from his university for reasons I have not found yet. According to his own claims he invented the game in 2013. In more than one source we (BBC was one of them) he gives it to the press that his intention was to cleanse society by pushing persons to suicide whom he deemed as having no value, they were he referred to as “biological waste”. This is new; this is the first time where someone with psychological skills was out to make children destroy their own life. The game known as the ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘, the game allegedly instructs challengers to participate in a series of strange and disturbing challenges. These can include live streaming self-harm and staying up late to watch horror movies (source: The New Arab). The challenges are stated to grow increasingly extreme, until they are reportedly instructed to kill themselves as part of the 50th and final challenge. Apart from any person doing that, or being willing to do that. The fact that someone is willing to go this path (I refer to the game maker) is just weird and insane. In addition, the fact that this person was intentionally and knowingly targeting vulnerable people and the fact he is merely facing 3 years in jail is equally an issue. I will be the first one to sign any petition to ban this game for life on a global scale. This is not about the freedom of expression; this is not about freedom of speech. This is about protecting children! I have seen weird games in my lifetime. The most offensive game I saw was on the Commodore-64 in the late 80’s. It was a game called ‘Paki bang’, an offensive game where you have to shoot Pakistani’s. You got 1 point for every Pakistani you shot and -1000 for every Caucasian. It was offensive and I walked away within a minute, a game with absolutely no redeeming values, little did I know how bad could turn to worse. In my life, the setting where children are intentionally targeted by someone with psychological skills is just too unnatural; the setting clearly makes Philipp Budeikin “biological waste”, as he states the value himself. I do like and agree with the response that we see in The National. With “Omar Sharif, owner of Geeky Lizard, a gaming community and store in Dubai states: “But it’s the job of parents to make sure that kids are engaging in healthy online habits”“, I believe that to be a truth, online has many positive sides, but it has negative sides too. Parents need to be aware what their children are up to, it might not make sense at times to parents, but there is a difference between kids shouting at their friends in competition and collaboration in a game, against the setting that they are given a challenge to physically and emotionally harming themselves. We can argue that children do not always realise this, but the setting of protecting ourselves form harm is coded in our DNA, we tend to not act in self harm, the fact that ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is stripping away these defences is an issue and the ‘defence’ given by some with “But therapists and gaming experts say the onus is on parents to step in” is not one that I can agree with. The fact that this ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is not hunted down on every server by government and hackers alike is much larger issue. This setting is so unnatural that parents would not have been ready. We all should have stepped up and made sure that any server having this software got hacked and all its data removed any way possible.

In the end, the Saudi government will need to make another ruling here, it might not be immediate, but in the long run it is perhaps essential to consider the reason for any games banned other than ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘. In the end, we need to realise that Saudi Arabia has strict rules on what is allowed and the event that caused the death of two children was the one step that caused a clamp down on certain matters. Saudi Arabia has a sovereign right here. Gamers might not like it, but it is a reality. Even as we might not agree with the verdict on nearly all but one game getting the “Saudi Arabia today banned dozens of video games that it says lead children to harm themselves” label of non-approval.

Time will tell on how things evolve, in the end, we need to realise that it is a list of 47, whilst most consoles have hundreds of titles that were not banned, let’s make sure that we do not forget that part of the equation either.

In other gaming news

The predictions I have given in the past regarding Butterfingers Microsoft versus Eagerly Innovating Nintendo is taking a stronger turn, unofficial numbers (and not from a reliable source I must add) have implied the setting that Nintendo has now approached the 2/3rd marker. It is about to pass (or has just passed) the line where since the release of the Nintendo Switch (March 2017) now equaled two thirds of all the Microsoft Xbox One sold in its life cycle (since November 2013). In less than 18 months it has reached the speculated 2/3rd marker (It is hard to be precise as Microsoft is no longer releasing total consoles sold). It might be because the ‘most powerful console in the world‘ is getting surpassed by the weakest one, but that would be speculation on my side. I see it as the price for being short sighted and narrow minded, not to mention the inability to listen to their customers. 3 elements that became the alleged cause on a lessened revenue path for ‘the most powerful console in the world’.

That moment is still important, it is the clear message that it is all about playing the game and Microsoft has not been doing that. Even as Forbes gave us merely 4 days ago “Microsoft continues to surprise us with strong support for backwards compatibility and an equally remarkable offering with its subscription Xbox Games Pass as it quickly becomes the Netflix of video games” (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2018/07/14/xbox-one-vs-ps4-vs-nintendo-switch-the-state-of-the-console-wars-in-2018/#21fbe2571a8e), yet it is interesting that Forbes seems to be so protective of Microsoft, ignoring that the ‘the Netflix of video games‘ does so with a massively inferior storage system. It talks hard against Sony (validly I might add), and acknowledges the ‘Nintendo has had a remarkable resurgence‘ with the added ‘but investors are still spooked about the system‘, is that not interesting on how soft Forbes is on Microsoft? so as we get ‘will investors ever give Nintendo a break?‘, which might be a valid statement, yet it is not properly set in the dimension against the Microsoft failures (four times over), as well as ‘and will Sony stop being such sore winners?‘, which is a fair call, yet the question is how many are truly hurt by no cross playing? In the past it was never an option and we all wanted it, Sony might not be ready on a few levels, but the Sony remark is still valid, correct and acceptable, so why be so soft on Microsoft, because they are getting a beating from Nintendo? I do not recall such sentimental considerations when Microsoft Word took WordPerfect to an abattoir and gutted it completely. It was not about consideration then, so why is it now?

I am still uncertain whether Nintendo Switch will surpass Microsoft before New Year’s evening this year. The delay of 2-3 big titles are largely the cause of that, yet in light of the amount of games released, there is good cause for joy around Christmas time for Nintendo. At that point it does not really matter whether the Xbox One life cycle sales gets surpassed no sooner than Q1 2019. What matters is that gamers get to play games, perhaps it will wake up the board of directors of Microsoft to rethink their choices on all the times that they fumbled the ball, because one fumble was enough to end a console in the past (with the exception of the Sega Dreamcast, they lost because Sony was willing to be the marketeer with deadly intent). Or perhaps the fact that Microsoft advertises in Forbes? I might be speculating on the three steps on a certain Wi-Fi enabled print ad, but that does not take away the setting that we see the valid existence of ‘its subscription Xbox Games Pass‘. For me that setting comes across as someone telling a leprechaun to go screw an elephant, to which the leprechaun responds: ‘with what?

Having a small drive tends to be not so memorable. #PunIntended

 

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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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