Tag Archives: Xbox One

A sucker is born every minute

It is a nice expression; it is one that those who live by the rules of ‘opportunity knocks‘ rely on. In slow times you need the occasional sucker to infuse the grounded capital with lose change and they are all for it. Then there is the expression of ‘there is a hustle Smurf nearby’, where the experienced player creates a new account to amass gear from inexperienced players and newbies.

It comes down to the status on how something is seen. Some Investopedia page passed in front of me this morning and woke me up instantly. It linked to Barron’s (at https://www.barrons.com/articles/microsoft-stock-videogame-streaming-cloud-xbox-xcloud-51560373000) where we see: ‘Buy Microsoft Stock Because of Its Videogame Opportunity, Analyst Says‘, the entire setting is like a rewrite of the Divine Comedy, as Inferno is all that Microsoft seemingly delivers on a whole (as I personally see it). They went from an innovative system (Xbox 360) to a flawed concept and in the three iterations we see basic shortcomings that have never been fixed over the space of 6 years.

The beginning is already fun to work with: “Microsoft stock will rally because of its strong position in the videogame industry, according to Evercore ISI” No! It does not have a strong position, Microsoft degraded from 2nd to third position, and they could end up fighting over 4th position. The strongest console of the world got surpassed by the weakest one; the Nintendo Switch system surpassed them as they truly comprehend gaming and gamers. They got there in 2 years; it took Microsoft almost 7 years to get to this stage and ending up decently below 50% of the share that Sony has with its PlayStation. Microsoft games survives through marketing and bad decisions, with the optional good decision every once in a while.

The Microsoft stage of pushing for online, whilst basic shortcomings are frustrating gamers more and more, so when we see: “Ultimately, we believe gaming can become the next major narrative as it relates to Microsoft’s long-term growth opportunity” my response is: ‘Not Really, whilst the exclusive range of games is not impressive, the shared stream (Xbox and PS4) are often shown to be PS4 gems, whilst Microsoft is merely nice (with Assassins Creed Origins being a clear exception). The PS exclusive range is still growing and whilst the larger part of Microsoft IP is done through buying software houses, it has been in history the first step towards a more complete level of failing. There are examples all over the world for over 20 years.

Then the final part: “Materne is also optimistic over Microsoft’s cloud gaming offerings, where gamers can stream gameplay over the internet. Its XCloud service is slated for release this fall“, this is not a given. Microsoft decided to stay very quiet on the entire xCloud during its E3 and in addition, it is a soon a more direct competitor to Google Stadia. With the basic failings that Microsoft has shown to have, the audience is willing to take a look at Google Stadia, new brands have that effect, and it will gnaw directly on the Microsoft slice of the gaming cake. Apple is another contender, but there are still questions on that front for now. In short Microsoft got surpassed by Nintendo Switch, it is at less than 50% of the Sony PlayStation stage and it has disappointed gamers too often in their need for online dependency, a side that gamers do not like to relate to at all. There are enough indication that the next project (Project Scarlett) is more likely than not to hold onto the flaws of Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Its mixed media on mentions given in E3 2018, whilst giving less or no clarity on E3 2019, loaded with one liners that are implied to be connected but are regarded to be seen as separate statements show the flaw of Microsoft to a much larger extent. So as we see that ‘Microsoft is the Netflix of gaming‘, whilst not realising that there is more to that, we might go with the quote: “Xbox Game Pass is described as the ‘“Netflix of video games” and lets Xbox and PC users play a range of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games for $9.99 per month. xCloud will essentially be an upgraded version of this pass, and will work on more platforms, so it will likely cost more than $10” (Source: Inverse)

This entire setting only works well if there is enough bandwidth, in this stage the chance of congestion grows close to exponential as there will be no solid large 5G in many places until 2022, This means that it will be select in the US, Europe and outside these two. So as such the market slice will collapse overnight, Google Stadia will have a similar issue. Yet whilst Microsoft is about the marketing Hype and WOW factor, Google has been playing a more cautious long term game; it will pay off for them. All whilst the solid information that is essential was not given at E3 merely hinted at. It implies that Microsoft has not figured out how to best maximise on the revenue (read: an implied stage to exploit gamers). That in itself is the recipe for disaster. It is like the silent ‘always online‘ push that was tried in 2012 and pushed an angry mob straight towards the Sony solution. I personally believe that Microsoft has not learned its lesson yet and will give more disappointment soon enough. that whilst the bulk of the frustration could have been avoided in more than one place and never was, that alone convinces me that Microsoft might be an option, but it will be a risky one, one that is flawed and dangerous to boot, but then some investors like the rough stuff.

Now we get to the part that Investopedia has (at https://www.investopedia.com/microsoft-s-strategy-to-become-the-netflix-for-games-4691138): “One of the things Microsoft has going for them, unlike say Amazon, Verizon and Google, is a popular gaming console and a host of already super popular games, such as the entire series of “Halo” games. At the recent E3 video-game conference in Los Angeles, the company unveiled 60 new blockbuster games for both its console and PC, including “Gears 5,” “Batman: Arkham Knight,” “Cyberpunk 2077,” and “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.”” Now consider that this list of 4 only has one exclusive and for the most 50% of that list has nearly everyone desiring it on PS4 and optionally PS5 as well. The fact that ‘Batman: Arkham Knight‘ is a 2015 game giving rise to some people not doing their homework #JustSaying.

It is true Gears and Halo are Microsoft exclusives and they do have a large following, no one denies this, yet two titles don’t make for a victory (they also have the Excellent Forza IP which was oddly missing in that list).

Yet overall the entire matter of being surpassed by the weakest console is a much larger issue. The matter of change is upon them and their play is to not do this implies that there is a larger online need and the people a shivering back from that stage. They feel a little more powerless. Even as xCloud is all online, the push to completely be there will backfire, if only to be able to game when the internet congests, a part that too many have not considered to the degree it needs to be considered.

Until 5G and 5G speeds are commonplace, the gamer will be confronted with ISP’s that will react towards congestion through bandwidth throttling, when that happens, you do not want to be in a multiplayer game like Fortnite losing your connection, any promise that this will not happen is bogus from the very start. It is still a tool used, even within the last 24 hours we see throttling in combination with ISP’s all over the world, because it is a tool they need to minimise congestion. The moment throttling hits, the game is quite literally over for these players. So how often does this need to happen for people to trade in their xCloud (and optional Google Stadia) solution?

When that crystalizes in front of you, what will the losses be? I believe that there is a clear future for this kind of gaming, no one denies that, yet until there is a much stronger 5G presence, I am not sure how it will actually properly work (outside of a staged test phase). And for now that stage is for the larger global gaming population 2-3 years away.

 

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Games and more

Yes, the E3 is upon us, it is now mere hours away and anyone who is into gaming will be hyped to see what comes. It might be about their franchise, it might be about a maker, or it will be a little more generic. No matter how we slice it the next 4 days will be about that is likely to come, what will be hyped and let’s not forget the giveaways, free DLC codes and optionally the speculated hardware.

What makes the headline?

It is important to see the headline in this, and the headline is Google Stadia. We see several sources giving us information, yet the direct impact is there and it is less positive than one might gather. Let’s look at two quotes, first there is Techradar giving us: “A world in which all you ever have to do to start gaming is open up your browser, select a game and start playing – no lengthy download required. This could soon become a reality if Google’s cloud gaming service, Stadia, delivers on its promises – you’ll be able to go from opening a Chrome tab to playing a 4K, 60fps game, in five seconds, no installation required“, this seems awesome, yet I have been around long enough in this business to notice that when someone states ‘look left’ I also ‘look right’. So when I look to the right, I see PC Gamer giving us ‘Stadia 4K streaming will use up 1TB of data in 65 hours‘ and that is not a good thing. Now, we all accept that gaming takes power and resources, yet 4K gaming in a setting where in some countries that could set you back $1,000 per month is not something you want to consider. Here in Australia (no Google Stadia coming here for now), a person pays (when it is not unlimited) $10 per GB, so that adds up really fast in a non-unlimited contract stage, yet with unlimited there has been noise that above a certain usage the download speed gets throttled, so there could optionally be that risk to consider.

Before we start crying, there is the additional info given with “That works out to around 15.75GB per hour of 4K streaming, 9GB per hour of 1080p, or 4.5GB per hour at 720p“, when you have a 1TB contract, which is a lot, you get 65 hours, 110 hours, or 227 hours of gaming. So options 2 and three should be fine, it is a reality to face that 4K gaming is not immediately available for usage for all, and that is beside the setting whether you have a 4K TV or not.

Gizmodo

Gizmodo was a lot less positive (at https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2019/06/is-stadia-already-screwed/), and when we see: “We have an updated guidance here,” he said. “You actually need 10 Mbps to stream at least 720p, but actually, it could be higher depending on specific details of the kind of network situation or your game. And then to comfortably stream 4K—the best experience—we recommend 35Mbps.” It takes out all the wireless 4G players, they can pretty much forget about it and even in the lowest mode there will be issues, even if you are with a major Australian player like Optus, it is the direct impact of bandwidth and it is likely to remain an issue in the foreseeable future, yet only until you get 5G, at that point speed is no longer an issue, total usage might remain, but that is depending on the providers and no one has any clear information at present which makes sense for now.

The writer gives us: “as long as it’s streaming over a broken internet, it’s fucked” at the very end, which is only a truth for today, and even then it is still only a partial truth. Google has been playing the long game for enough time to know that anyone getting 5G will seriously consider Google Stadia, especially Online players in MMO games. It gets to be even better when you consider the Verge who has the list (at https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/6/18655380/google-stadia-games-list-cloud-streaming-service-e3-2019), It includes the newest games as well as other games like DOOM Eternal, Rage 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Final Fantasy XV, Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, NBA 2K, Borderlands 3, Mortal Kombat 11, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Just Dance, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Trials Rising, and The Crew 2. I believe that to be a decent start of any service. There is a little too much uncertainty on pricing; one source gave me $10 per month for a pro license, which is not outlandish when you consider the game list. In addition Google Stadia has started its own game development studio, headed by Jade Raymond. A well-known producer who has earned her marks at both EA and Ubisoft.

In this regard, I believe it might be seen as a rocky start, but not a fatal one, in the long run Google is now set up to remain a force to be reckoned with. I also disagree with the view that Forbes has. Paul Tassi gives us trivialisation like ‘this offers something like Microsoft’s Game Pass the ability to eat Stadia’s lunch‘, which is true, yet Microsoft never fixed their problems, did they? Not in 6 years, and as he gives us: “While Google is indeed starting to develop its own games in-house, it could take years for those to arrive, and there’s absolutely zero guarantee of their quality when they do“, this is true too, yet the failing of quality by Ubisoft has been noted for years, what has he done about it to illustrate that? And when we saw the lack of Microsoft exclusives last year, the mention of ‘their lengthy roster of must-have exclusives‘ should be regarded as work in progress. That few to none part is easily rectified, and even the PS4 had loads of long delays for some of their games and exclusives, with the Ubisoft Watchdogs the delay was long enough to get your wife pregnant and still not being able to play the game until the child was born, so pot and kettle are both utensils of a similar colour in this setting.

Then we get the last overstated statement with: “but with 200 million consoles sold every year and untold number of gaming PCs“, I wonder how he got those numbers, over 6 years Sony sold 93 million consoles, Microsoft is on that same stage at 41 million at best and Nintendo in 2 years got to 34 million, so his math is in the toilet as well, unless he includes the handhelds which is a skewed finding, still there the 200 milllion a year will not be reached, not even close.

I believe that Google is an early starter in a stage where Microsoft hoped to get their Scarlett (whatever they named it in 2018) system, I am not sure it has a real chance, but I have been wrong before, it might work, Google on the other hand still has a lot to learn and optional plenty of promises to break, time will tell where they go, but there is space to succeed, especially when 5G arrives at homes it is then that Google Stadia truly gets an option to earn its laurels, and it is likely to do so.

There is a part that matters, Paul rightfully asks the question: “it’s hard to know how this actually poses a threat to traditional industry staples like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft“, it does not as such, but Google has the option to grow on the side, the fact that many consoles have online and multiplayer issues (mostly due to the software), we see the setting where this failing falls away (having to download massive patches again and again will not be an issue for the Google Stadia), MS Scarlett might have been the initial option, but Microsoft has issues and they have also been in denial of that to some degree (that is my personal view).

As I stated it will be a rocky start, yet those with a good internet stage and a decent income will have this option there as early adopters. For these people they have no interest in walking into a game shop trying to find a game, Google Stadia, like Netflix lets you browse and try and try and try, until you find something you like. It is optionally the stage where gamers are born and is Google Stadia the worst place to start gaming? For years people started their gaming habit on Facebook and was that such a hi-res 4K solution?

Paul Tassi asks good questions and they are real questions that need answering, but he also overlooks (as a hard-core gamer) on something he forgets. When a person wants to do 4K gaming, he needs a console or a PC, when you see the cost of a good 4K system; you have the risk of cardiac pressure issues. With Console, will you go Sony, or Microsoft? The fact that Google is now option 3, but not set in hardware is a choice, an option, one that was not there before. So what is needed? An internet connection and a TV, yes when you look deeper it is a 2 choice system, now with option 3. He is right, there are issues (for now) and I believe that with the arrival of 5G many issues will resolve itself immediately, yet at that point, will Google be standing as a survivor? I believe that with the right games it will and that too is the setting for the E3, how much more support for Stadia will we see. It seems that Ubisoft is on board and so is Bethesda, yet how many more players will commit to Google Stadia? That is where Google Stadia could win making unique or remastered good games. There are dozens who could become Stadia hits, 3 generations of games that are still regarded by some as excellent games, some are even legendary.

We will just have to see and wait how it all unfolds, there is plenty of space for a new player in this game and it also means that some of the other players will have to up the ante to remain a choice with consumers, which is equally a good idea.

Then there is another reason, for well over a year we have seen the stage: “a higher-end Xbox One X replacement as well as a less-expensive entry-level machine“, yet there is a host of issues especially with Microsoft, can the entry model update to high end? If that is not possible will we see any other impact on gaming? Will Microsoft keep their bully to ‘be online’ issues. Will Microsoft force advertisements on their consoles (like with the Xbox One)?

Microsoft has lost so much credibility (as I personally see it), the fact that the correlation between entry model and Google Stadia is so high that plenty might consider Google over Microsoft and I think that they know this. Another issue is how close Microsoft streaming service ProjectXCloud is next to Google Stadia, all issues that will optionally come head to head in the next 4 days. We can lose time reading on speculations or wait, I decide you need to wait and even better watch the live shows on YouTube.

The biggest issue will be on the last day, Nintendo have amazed nearly all with the Switch and all they have done in these two years, now that the larger games are due this year, it will be a sight to see, at the very end one or two little spoilers. It seems that Sony has gotten themselves in a little spot of hot water. Tom’s Hardware (at https://www.tomsguide.com/us/ps5-120hz-ps4-cross-save,news-30268.html) gives us: ‘120Hz Display Support‘, this is really good news if it was not for the fact that most 4K TV’s, even the ones from Sony do not support this speed yet, so yes the PS5 will be a sight to see, when you  get the TV that supports it. Then there is crossover play, so you can continue your ps4 games on ps5 forth and back (switching between consoles so you do not lose anything like friend lists and game saves, this is really good news, and a nice feature to have when you get the console in 2020. I have my mind set on that and do away my Xbox One completely, the one game I bought it for is on Sony as well now so there is no reason to keep it around any further, especially when it options me to remove Microsoft from all considerations, it is not like they have been considerate.

Even as it is about the games, I do hope to see some hardware as well.

See you all on the flip side, and don’t forget to seek the YouTube streams of the E3, missing out is such a drag.

 

 

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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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The BS of Software and hardware

 

We all have that moment where we wonder where ethical boundaries are. Where is the boundary of deceptive conduct, where is the boundary of profiteering and who knows what a moral centre is?

From my point of view Microsoft skates on every boundary not really giving a damn, especially giving a damn and regards towards their consumers.

The consumer has been deceived for a long time, Microsoft will never call it that, but Computerworld (at https://www.computerworld.com/article/3342416/new-non-security-win10-patches-fix-numerous-bugs-but-wheres-version-1809.html) gives us: “you’ll only get them if you manually download and install them or if, in Windows Update, you click Check for Updates. That’s a deception I’ve railed against for months, but apparently somebody at Microsoft thinks that being a seeker – clicking Check for Updates – gives the updater permission to install these lurking patches, without notification or consent.

In addition Variety gives us in part more with “New hardware sales dropped 6.1%. That drop, GameStop says, was because of 2017’s strong Xbox One X sales, but was also offset by strong growth in Nintendo Switch sales. New video game sales dropped 8.3%“, with an added “Microsoft has seen the following growth as a result of Xbox Game Pass“, which is in all honesty an awesome deal for any gamer, especially as the price would be great at twice the amount, there is no denying that. Yet every indication I have seen gives me the clear indication that the 8.3% drop might be including the Game Pass offer as that is also new video game sales. You see all those new mighty titles that were added with the launch day premise is part of new software sales making the hardship of Microsoft a lot harder than we thought it was. Tech Central adds to this with ‘Microsoft’s Surface sales edge $2bn despite chip shortage‘, you might think it is good, Yet as a surface is set to $1350, the math gives us less than 1.5 million surface pro systems sold, which on a global scale is really bad news. When I expect my own IP to do at least twice that amount, the entire stage of Microsoft is just faltering on too many levels.

Their approach to gamer exploitation (too much advertisement on the console home page, leaving much less space for game icons to start, the never ending pushed Microsoft advertisement on our consoles without the option to switch it off, the news giving us Nintendo Switch Sales Pass 32 Million in under two years, whilst the estimated lifetime sales of the Xbox One is now around 41 million (in 6+ years), that so called ‘strongest console in the world‘ equaled now by the weakest console, exact numbers are unknown as Microsoft is no longer giving us exact console sales numbers.

We saw only two weeks ago on how all surface laptops and tablets are getting massive discounts, sales are not good. From my point of view, Microsoft played a very dangerous game and comes up short. The short selling of hardware, below essential needs to push for accessories, consoles that are too shallow, with a mere 1 TB whilst the going need for basic use passed the 2 TB point two years ago, no corrections were ever made. When we take a critical look at the Financial Express article (at https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/technology/satya-nadella-bullish-on-microsoft-surface-sales/1472634/), and consider “Revenue in personal computing was $13 billion and Surface is now almost a $2 billion business for Microsoft” most will ignore the hidden parts of too few Surface systems sold, the increased discounts making revenue interesting, yet profits would decrease to almost zero. It is the stage of badly expecting the needs of the consumers. It goes from bad to worse when we see VentureBeat giving us: ‘Microsoft really doesn’t want you to buy Office 2019‘, with the added “Microsoft today launched a marketing campaign pitting Office 2019 and Office 365 against each other. The goal? To prove Office 2019 isn’t worth buying — you and your company should go with Office 365 instead.” It is product versus SaaS, and they want Software as a Service to win (likely for tax reasons which is purely speculative from my side). There is also the need of more and more commitment, subscription versus one off sales. So when we see: “Office 365 includes fully-installed Office applications — the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But those apps keep getting better over time, with new capabilities delivered every month“, it would initially make sense to get the subscription. Yet I do not want to be online all the time, having to connect is just too much of an inconvenience when I travel and all the excuses that Microsoft hands us are not getting accepted by yours truly. As for the bugs, we need to be fair here, MS Office is so huge, a bug free version is pretty much out of the question, the issue is, does it actually impact you? The few bugs that bug me only happen in extreme situations and I have for the most used Office 2012 without any hitches. If there are ugly bugs, I never really stumbled on them, another reality we need to accept, but it is not about acceptance.

You see, all this got started with ‘‘We won’t be war profiteers’: Microsoft workers protest $480m army contract‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/feb/22/microsoft-protest-us-army-augmented-reality-headsets ), you short change consumers, mislead people on a global scale through carefully phrased words and you have an issue with a defence contract? It is even worse when we see “Workers say augmented reality headsets provided to US army risk ‘turning warfare into a simulated video game’“, it is from my point of view that these people have no or almost no comprehension of warfare. The images are those of warfare and terrorism, if we can diminish that impact on US soldiers, why would the Microsoft employees resist? In addition, in the shown concept image, if the mini-map keeps them alive, for Zen’s sake give it to them. When I see the lack of ethics that Microsoft has shown with their concept of what is perfectly acceptable and legal, the response ““We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” reads a petition being circulated inside the company, a copy of which was published on Twitter on Friday afternoon. More than 50 employees had signed the letter as of Friday afternoon, according to an employee“.

The response fails on two levels. In the first the augmented lenses are not a weapon, it is a tool and we can go as far as calling it a tactical tool that could give an edge on military and police. Consider the chance that these glasses prevent any innocent person to get shot as they were unlucky enough to get in the middle of it all. In the second part as we accept ‘how our work is used‘, we need to also accept that these employees knowingly and willingly were involved in exploiting consumers; you cannot get it both ways. And if they accept that then they have to be willing to go out and state: “We knowingly exploited consumers as this is part of our income and optionally our bonus!” If that would be the case and whilst the architectural flaws remain in the Xbox One, the lack of connectivity in the Surface devices, I really believe they should shut up or get out. It is their choice which of the two they select.

 

Now, I will accept that for some civilians the expression: “Under the terms of the army contract, however, the devices will be used to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy”” is awkward and harsh. The Pentagon sat on a live grenade a little too eagerly. The tactical setting should have been: “Under the terms of the army contract, however, the devices will be used to create increased awareness of the area, to be able to see hostile actions before they could have normally been aware of them and to decrease the chance of civilian casualties through people caught in that area without any feasible option to avoid harm.” Basically the same setting yet phrased a little different (Microsoft knows all about phrasing, do they not? In addition, the entire quote “The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game’, further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed” is open for debate. When you fire and actual firearm, the noise, the blow back of the weapon, it will not feel like a video game, not in the least. I also have an issue with ‘is designed to help people kill‘, the device does not give you skills to kill, it does give the imagery that could avoid one getting killed in the process and that is still an important factor. Add to this the need to keep civilian casualties at zero whenever possible, the part that this enables if a clear stage that a better equipped soldier gets a better chance in keeping 100% of the civilians out of harm’s way. Interesting that these so called ethically high ground Microsoft employees never gave that much thought. Although, seeing my Xbox One icon bar where 50% is used for advertisement as well as the push for more subscriptions is also an ethical debate, especially when the person who paid for a gaming console has no way of switching that part off. In that frame of mind, the Microsoft employees are actively promoting psychic assault, did they consider that part?

I wonder just how convoluted a person needs to be to walk away from half a billion dollars, a device that could save lives, it is interesting that that was a side that no one gave any attention to (media wise that is).

I am not stating that there is a negative side to this device that would be ludicrous as well. Yet if DARPA had not gone to the length it did to get us in 1970 ‘ARPANET, a pioneering network for sharing digital resources among geographically separated computers‘, we would not have the internet and we would not have e-commerce, did they consider that?

These Holo-Lenses might start in defence, yet they can go so much further. Rescue operations (finding life signs in natural or unnatural disasters), medical solutions that give surgeons direct layered information during an operation. In a large hospital not a big thing, but in small rural places, it will be a life saver. All issues that cannot come because these places do not have the billions needed to fund it, the military does and the visionary on these projects can see what else it can be used for. So when we get a couple of Microsoft sissies cry for a ‘ethics review board‘, they should consider the millions that do not want to face forced advertisement on the device they bought, or a diminished device that requires all kinds of accessories and storage to be regarded as actually functional. Their consumers have rights too, but that is apparently not in their frame of mind.

It seems to me that Microsoft has two filters, one for when things are really good and when for when that is not the case. It does fit the style of the military (making them a good match) where clothing is only available in two sizes, too large and too small. Go figure!

Have a great Friday! (60 hours until Monday morning)

 

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Updates

First of all

So whilst Microsoft is trying to rephrase their weak position through: ‘We are continuing to look at engagement as our key metric for success and are no longer reporting on total console sales‘, yes try to sell that whilst you have been all aggro on boasting boosted numbers for decades. Now that Xbox is about to become the number THREE system, they are running scared. The Nintendo Switch is now at 32 million, which surpasses the previous total number of Xbox One consoles sold, but they are currently allegedly at 41 million consoles sold, which means that there is only a 9 million gap until the most powerful console in the world degrades to the bronze position. Nintendo sold 14 million consoles in the last quarter alone, so that gives light that this is the last quarter with Xbox in the number two position, optionally the last month. Yet, I admit, my expectation of passing Microsoft by January 31st was not met, I was wrong. Yet the total number of consoles sold in the last quarter is still an amazing feat by Nintendo and it also shows that even as I was not correct in the end, my view was a lot better than all the market analysts.

The writing is on the wall.

I personally believe that some analysts have been setting the stage for shorting the stock of Nintendo. The question becomes what the law states. You see, when we look at the definition of shorting stock, the most generic version is: “he or she borrows shares of a company from an existing owner through his brokerage, sells those borrowed shares at the current market price, and pockets the cash“, yet in this case, the premise is not entirely that clear, with ‘he or she borrows‘ we need to consider that shorting the stock was done as a service for a third party, giving rise to the sale at tremendous profits. At present I seem to be wrong, there is no evidence of a setting to allow for a short sell. Yet the predictions that were made last year were so wrong, in so many ways that the overall findings would lead me to this path (there are others too). So is it just me? I would actually agree with this, was it not for the fact that the level of wrongness regarding Nintendo was so profound.

The state last year (Oct 2018) was given with ‘Nintendo Delivers Record Quarter, But Misses Estimates‘, so the stock tumbled a little less than 2%, in all this, whilst within a year the total lifetime sales of the Microsoft Xbox One were completely by 67% at that time, in addition, the software sales were almost globally ruling software top ten lists all over the place. We can argue that the ‘missed estimates’ were so ludicrously unrealistic that the entire matter had to be looked at, now we see the last quarter alone delivered 14 million consoles, which is almost 50% of what Microsoft achieved in sales between 2012 and 2016, four years versus three months, so how were estimations missed?

The puzzlement is supported even further with: “That’s Nintendo’s most profitable Q2 in eight years and a solid increase from the $211 million it booked last year.” It is in that light that I had an issue with the predictions in the last year. From my point of view Nintendo smashed almost every record, yet the stock is not reflecting that, giving rise to a few issues, but as a non-trader and a non-economy educated person, I cannot give the weight to that thought, yet the thought remains.

And now that we are treated to: ‘Nintendo cuts Switch sales forecast despite strong holiday season‘ the matter should be set, yet I am not convinced. Even as we see 14.5 million consoles up to now the last two months are unlikely to give them the 5.5 million consoles they need, they expect to get 2.5 million consoles and that seems achievable. I am not convinced that the 5.5 million consoles cannot be met, merely because Microsoft is on the ropes and there is no marketing, no advertising to reflect that. In this aggressive expansion universe it seems odd that Nintendo is not taking up the gauntlet to that degree.

They drastically improved visibility, especially compared to the WiiU. They have the titles that have a large appeal across the board and the people who do play the Switch love the interactions. In addition the shock news of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and the fact is that it is exclusively to Nintendo Switch is not merely news, it is equally a shocker to Sony as well, as this was the kind of stuff that Sony needed to prevent from happening. The fans (including me) loved the first one on Xbox 360 and as we see the foundation of the original Gauntlet added to the DC and Marvel Universe, we get a game any comic book fan would love to play and nearly everyone that was one did and loved it. So to get this exclusively to Switch is a dealmaker as well as a record breaker. I doubt that this game will be out in time to get the next quarter sales up to the degree it needs to be upped, but it will soar sales of Nintendo yet again (optionally not in time to make the 20 million marker).

So did Nintendo do it wrong? I am not convinced, they made huge mistakes in the WiiU era and seemingly repaired all those flaws in the Nintendo Switch stage, no matter what estimates were not met, we now see that Nintendo Switch has gotten to 45% mark of the PlayStation 4 lifetime sales in under 2 years which is quite the feat as Microsoft got nowhere near that result, ever!

In second place

This is given to us by the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/31/italy-slips-into-recession-for-third-time-in-a-decade-economy) it is in the setting of the same wall with more writing. It was to be expected as Italy has a whole range of economic anchors and downfalls. Yet I had hoped that Italy would have been able to stagnate their economy; alas they do not get to be that lucky and recession is the result. The problem is that this could also adversely affect France at present. It is (according to the Business Insider) yet at present the recession there is most likely, yet not a certainty. No matter how it wields, the French President will have to make a few committing jumps on several levels and as the stage between the US and the EU is polarising France will be on the side of the French needs, which by the way is not on par with American needs, so the Europeans have that to look forward to in the next 5 weeks. It is also the Italian part where we see failings, the Guardian gives us: “The deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio, the head of the Five Star Movement, said the recession was proof that Europe’s budget rules should be relaxed to allow Italy to stimulate its economy back to growth“, which is the larger mistake. That approach did not work for the ECB and now the EU nations have a 3 trillion Euro anchor around their necks, adding debt will not have any true influence on the economy. the entire spending spree is now to be the anchor that drowns the 27 EU nations sooner rather than later and that is the overbearing part why Brexit was essential, the moment the UK is cut form that, the entire mess evolves too fast for anyone to correct for. The entire mess on four economies, where the one (UK) leaves and two (France and Italy) have merely a recession to offer, which means no options at all leaving it all to Germany who has enough for the ace of spades to be handed to them again and again. Germany avoided recession as it grew by 0.1%, which means that they only defeated the recession on the academic principle. It still means that the German economy is stagnating and that is not a good feeling when you are a German. So whilst we now see a whole parade of blaming the UK on making matters worse through a chaotic Brexit, I merely state that these idiots only have themselves to thank. If they had done something about the lack of transparency at the ECB as well as muzzle Mario Draghi from spending 3 trillion euro’s, money they never had, the situation would not be this dire (as I personally see it). The fact that the Business Insider also reported: (at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/europe-economic-gdp-growth-data-heading-to-recession-2019-1) “Junk bonds went through the roof. Total issuance of junk bonds from non-financial companies (rated BBB) went parabolic, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, as more highly rated bonds declined“, it is directly linked to the problem, that market went up by €100,000,000,000 in the last year alone, so this time if there is another meltdown (like 2008) and it happens, Europe will not see the fallout as it happened in Wall Street. No, this time around Europe will be the cause of it all to a much larger extent, so the impact on Europe will be beyond disastrous. Whatever quality of life there is, the Europeans can kiss it goodbye for decades. They could quite likely desire the time of harsh austerity, how is that on forecasting quality of life?

In combination

The EU is in a bad place and it has been reflecting all over the place. You see, last November we were treated to: ‘CPPIB is shorting $750 million worth of EU stock, making it one of the most active short-sellers in Europe, data show‘, more important, it gets an added “Unusual in that Canada’s biggest pension plan also tends to hold ‘rather long-term’ positions“. It seems a perfectly valid place to be in, especially when we see that so far that pattern seems valid. We see the additional “the CPPIB has nearly doubled the number of its disclosed short positions since last year, to 23 from 14. That places CPPIB 14th on the list of the most active short sellers in Europe“, as stated before, I can see the presence, and in this case I cannot explain it (merely because I am not knowledgeable enough to do so). Now, as we see the recession hitting Italy, followed by France soon enough, we might see the reflection on how the gains for the CPPIB could be one of the most profitable ones they have ever had. Even as there is still a little doubt, the firm holding ‘$356.3 billion in assets’, might soon be growing to a half a trillion wealth management colossal. With the positions becoming winners as Talend SA, Wirecard and PostNL falling like a brick in free flight, we see that the CPPIB is lunging forwards through growth (for now).

When we see the impact markets where the fun of wealth comes through the investing towards the gloom of failure, there we see profits soar, profits for those selling short that is. This is not the end or the beginning of the end. As France is setting the stage to move directly into a recession we will see more and more short selling profiteers and as France stumbles, the eyes of all will focus on Greece. Even as we are given ‘Greece moves towards ending austerity with rise in minimum wage‘, it is hard to predict the outcome. It makes perfect sense to do this and when you realise it is significantly less than half of what an Australian would get over that same period. It makes us wonder how the Greeks had been able to keep themselves alive. I personally hope that the view of Alexis Tsipras works out the way he thinks it will, the case is viable, and will it work? Only time will tell at present. Yet it is also a dangerous place. That is seen with: “A glimmer of light emerged on Monday as borrowing costs on 10-year bonds dropped to a four–month low and Tsipras announced that the government would imminently be issuing a five-year bond“, we get the logic of essentially needing to borrow, but Greece is in a much too dangerous place and those bonds could backfire in a terrible way, I believe that the bond issuing was done too early, in a time when there is still too much to lose. In that I actually hope that I am wrong, yet my track record towards predicting these events have been too often on the nose and that worries me to no end.

In this Bloomberg view supports mine (at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-07/all-the-risks-besieging-europe-bonds-are-spilling-over-into-2019), the headline ‘All the Risks Besieging Europe Bonds Are Spilling Over Into 2019‘ gives that. Even as the view does not include Greece, the overall risk will be hitting all EU nations (as well as the UK). There are two parts to this, the first opposing me is the view “The risk of spillover from Italy is in our view overestimated,” by Arne Lohmann Rasmussen, head of fixed-income research at Danske Bank A/S. Both that as well as the positivity that he thinks that Spain brings is set on realism, the man is a professional, let’s not forget that. Yet on my side we see: “What happens in Italy is still likely to be felt in its Mediterranean peer, albeit not to the extent of the euro-area debt crisis earlier this decade” this is the Goldman view and I believe t is more accurate, more important the doubt and worrying nature of these investors will make them sketchy and shift happy on a few levels, so when Italy is hit, France will get a beating as will Greece and it will affect Spain too, depending on their economy optionally a lot less and there we get back to the academic non recession of Germany, that 0.1% in the plus, when that gets hit negatively it will escalate the Mediterranean issues by a lot more hitting Spain for certain and hitting the others harder. It is merely my view, yet I believe it to be the correct one. For how much is unknown, I have no idea and I am not willing to guess. We will see a lot more by the end of March. It is at that point where we see what the actual impact will be, at the point the people will decide to either enjoy a little sunshine or make sure that they can avoid the winter of their bank accounts, in Europe these options have become mutually exclusive, an impact that will hit tourism in Greece and Spain in more ways than one. At least the Greek prediction that their tourism will level off in 2019 is decently realistic, which opposes the view: ““2019 will be Greece’s year,” according to DER Touristik, the largest travel company in German-speaking countries” one that is wishful thinking at best.

 

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It’s all about the funny, not the money

I made a prediction almost a year ago, and it is still decently on target to being met. I made the prediction in ‘All eyes on Nintendo‘, the article I wrote (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/04/06/all-eyes-on-nintendo/), In April 2018, I made the prediction that Nintendo Switch would become the number two console and they are nearly there, I also stated: “I have no doubt that Nintendo will take that spot, it is merely the fact that, at present, it will not happen before January 2019“. The fact that one third of the entire global lifetime Microsoft Xbox market was equaled in the US alone in 21 months, less than two years. In October we were given by PC Magazine “the latest sales figures from Nintendo confirming its hybrid console has now sold 22.86 million units“, that was almost two months ago and there were three large festivities on approach. And as we add the partial overlap with the 5 month challenge of: “The news comes from an article in Japanese daily newspaper, Kyoto Shimbun, where Furukawa also briefly touched upon Nintendo’s 20 million Switch console sales target for the same time period” we could almost conclude that they hit the mark, yet Microsoft did not sit still and that device is still selling. Still, within 5 weeks we will see whether my prediction holds, it will be a close call to equal total global sales in 24 months, whilst Microsoft has had 6 years to get there. As the gaming shops have playable Nintendo Switch consoles in their store and as we can first hand experience the addictive fun that the Nintendo Switch brings, we see that it does not look good for Microsoft. Some sources are already claiming that the Nintendo Switch is the bestselling console in US history, a bold claim and interesting if it is supported with the right data. Microsoft and their Xbox remains at a steady climb, now at around 40 million in total life time sales, it is almost the same for Sony, but with well over twice that amount sold, It is Nintendo who is shaping the curve with an actual monthly increase for now, even as it is merely 100,000-150,000 more per month, which is twice the monthly amount Microsoft has been selling, they were still catching up to Microsoft. I reckon that close to the end of the year the damage done to Microsoft by Nintendo will be a little more clear, yet I personally saw that in the time that I was in a games shop 3 Switch consoles were sold versus one PlayStation and zero Xbox consoles, yet that was in my particular window and that is not representative, even though it supports the indication given by me 8 months ago.

Even though VG Chartz (at http://www.vgchartz.com/analysis/platform_totals/) gives us a global setting of Xbox One at 41.26 million versus Nintendo Switch at 24.13 million, I believe that the total number of Nintendo should be closer to the 30 million mark. You see, if I am wrong (always a valid consideration), than it implies that the statement from Furukawa gives rise to his goal being off by a decent amount, it will no longer be the case of the Nintendo Switch not being able to meet the 20 million mark, it would lose out to close to 20%, which is a really big deal. In addition, the 20 million mark had been hit in August, so with one additional quarter and the holiday seasons (plural) that the 4 million mark seems too low, yet we will know in a week how the scores ended. Also we saw that over September, VGChartz gave us 900K Nintendo’s versus 400K Microsoft consoles, so in that light, my prediction is eerily on the mark and we might see that even though my call for January 2019 might have been a little too enthusiastic, the numbers are clear, in 2019 Nintendo advances to the second place and Microsoft with its most powerful console has degraded itself to a mere third position.

We can argue that there had been too much damage and Phil Spencer had to get through this moment no matter what, it is clear that as I personally see it, not listening to the gamers was the biggest mistake and accounted to the largest fall. For Microsoft to actually listen, the Nintendo Switch would still be a threat, but not to this degree and it would still be in a situation trying to catch up to the other two, Microsoft merely made it easy for Nintendo and that is not the fault of Phil Spencer. To change this, he has to make a few hop, skips and jumps. Yet overall Microsoft could pull it off, its game pass is a good move and should not be underestimated. In addition, Forza Horizon IV is considered by me as the best game of the year. I believe that God of War deserved to win in many ways, yet oddly enough my vote went to Forza.

You see, just as the entire Nintendo formula made it an instant winner, that Formula should also be administered to games. So there is me, and I loved the God of War, been a fan since the very first game. I was never a racing fan, I am no Microsoft fan (my reviews show that), yet whenever I see Forza, or better stated FH4, I want to race, the game makes me want to pick up a controller and race, even me as a non-racing fan. That pull is so strong that it is important to acknowledge it. FH4 is a true winner and even as in the scores the God of War was a little higher (and deservingly so), I felt it was important to weigh a game, a game I love to play against a game I want to play at the mere sight of it, FH4 did something remarkable there, that needed to be recognised and that is why I gave it my vote.

FH4 is merely the start, if Microsoft wants to turn the helm around, it needs to make choices it needs to make hard decisions and it has to ACTUALLY start listening to the gamers, if they do not, they are lost and in addition, whatever comes next will receive a lot less consideration than before. For now, for the beginning of 2019 it will be up to Microsoft to find a path to return to that second place, because if they do not, their own marketing will become a joke, proclaiming yourself to be the ‘most powerful console’ is nice, but like the older console names 3DO, it does not pay to pave the road about it, it merely leaves the console in a state like a sepia photograph, remembered fondly for a moment and then forgotten as people move again into the now of things.

The formula was not complex, it was actually quite simple, Nintendo got it and they got it right, Microsoft was able to get almost every element in that equation wrong, which is an achievement, but not a good one.

 

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Battle of the giants

The Guardian has released a list of the best games of the year. As a Sony lover, I expected to see god of War and it is there, we also see Microsoft’s Forza Horizon 4, which ought to be there too. I was never a racing fan and still that game blew me away, so there!

We also see games that never were my fancy; Monster Hunter World is not a game I tried as I was disappointed with the grinding that the 3DS version gave. I admit that the graphics on the new consoles looked amazing, yet i felt no need to try. Ni No Kuni 2 is not a surprise and the absence of Bethesda is no surprise. I am quite frankly amazed on how many times Bethesda dropped the ball in this quarter alone. I have no idea what got them hit with the stupid stick this many times. Red Dead Redemption 2 is there too and my only surprise is the remastered Shadow of the Colossus. I actually did not expect it to show up, as I saw Dark Souls Remastered. If we look at those two, they deserve to be there, and even as it hits the mark, they do have the benefit of having a long time to be the original, when we look today, it is much harder to find an original game, as such these two might be regarded as having an unfair advantage.

I also missed titles that should have been there. first there is Spiderman, it is not merely the best Spiderman ever made, it is graphically perfect, it has the clear feel of a Peter Parker adventure and it is true to a Marvel world, as such I expected it to be there, right next to God of war, two games that made Sony to be the Huge success it became in 2018. The Xbox One misses out due to exclusivity, and I am in conflict with myself over Assassin’s Creed Odyssey not being picked, there are reasons it should be there and optional reasons for it not making the cut, yet I feel the balance scale is still on the side of it being there. I believe that in this case the DLC is added reason for it making the grade this time around as well (the cultural DLC of life in Egypt last year was a stroke of genius, you walk through it seeing just how much as a gamer you missed out on, making the replay 150% more satisfying). As a PlayStation lover (an important distinction), I need to side with Keza MacDonald on this one. Her statement: “This game is a beautiful experience. As driving games go, it’s the best I’ve ever played“, in the end, God of War blew me away as well, it was such a rush to see a game propel to the size it did, yet in the end, there is every chance that Forza Horizon 4 might end up being the best game of the year, it will be a title well deserved. In all my opposition to what Microsoft calls ‘good business‘ and their view of gamers, this one they got right, well done Microsoft!

If gaming is perception and presentation, just to call the attention, we need to stop and take another look at Bethesda. Even as the media titles have been ‘protective’ like ‘Bethesda Accidentally Leaked Personal Data of ‘Fallout 76’ Customers Looking for Help‘, as well as ‘Bethesda’s attempt to fix a Fallout 76 blunder leaks angry shoppers’ PID‘, we need to be mindful, accidental or not. Personal data is out there, possible due to an overreaction by Bethesda. Many consider Fallout 76 to be a failure; I am slightly less pessimistic calling it ‘work in progress’. That is the nature of the beast, when you tackle the online gaming, things go pear shaped, not merely because of the dangers of online resources, the mere consideration that 4 eager gamers can ask more of a system than 23,665 programmers can correct for, it is a mere truth of the online stage. And it was my personal feeling that after Tamriel in an online stage, Bethesda would have learned enough to get it much better from day one, they did not!

So it is unlikely that Bethesda is going home with any prices and awards this year (however, there is still Legends, and optionally blades).

Why look at this?

Games are not merely games, when a person buys a game; he or she pays for both an experience, as well as a stage of engagement. It is hard (read: impossible) to merely see AC Odyssey, without going back all the way to Masyaf and the very first Assassins Creed (if you played it as early as then), this is why AC2 and AC brotherhood are still seen as the path of perfection that AC Unity devastated. I got this Ubisoft punishment device (see image), just so I could explain it to the skull of Yves Guillemot as graphically as possible (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

We have had plenty of reasons to get mad at Ubisoft for a whole range of reasons and now we see a growing group of people angered with Bethesda. I say one optional flop does not make a raging crowd, yet the views, visions and YouTube’s out there say different. As for perception, this game (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWwyhymcDxI) was one of the first 5 games I ever bought (3rd or 4th), I still think fondly of this game, even after 34 years. I got the Broderbund title as it got the IBM joystick award (in those days there was no proper game reviewing). It was an instant success. When you get emerged in a game, your world changes, and you tend to focus on fun and challenge. This is not unique for me; this is for anyone who loves games. Now we can hardly perceive this, yet I still remember the challenge that level 5 was initially. For many, their first console, the first game they truly got involved in, that title they will carry in their hearts for the longest of times, they will judge other games by that game. For many it will be on all systems, others will judge it per system (which is fairer anyway). So the new gamers will hold a light to any new game, comparing it to FHIV, AC Odyssey, Super Mario Odyssey, and Red Dead Redemption 2. That is the nature of the beast and when we find the developer lacking, they will get slapped around by these gamers (poor poor Yves Guillemot). Yet when a developer gets it right, when they deliver beyond the over marketed title (like AC Origin) they also get the benefit of powerful acknowledgement (as they are entitled to that too). For me (in the Mario universe) it started with Super Mario 64, and until we got Super Mario Sunshine, it had the crown, even later as we saw Wii and WiiU, Super Mario Sunshine still ruled and now we see the optional crown going to Super Mario Odyssey (I only played the demo so far).

So when we see this, when we realise that best game of the year is also smitten with what they made before, we see a difference, another measurement. So in that light, I do hope that the rumours of Samus Aran and her trilogy for Nintendo Switch will be true. So far in 14 years no one ever surpassed the fun and challenge value that Metroid Prime delivered and I loved Metroid Prime 2: Echoes to that same degree. So to get that on Switch will up the ante for any game developer. The fun, the challenge and getting to the conclusion of the challenge is everything to the gamer, Nintendo has forever understood that part of gaming to a much better degree than any other developer (Bethesda had a good grasp of comprehending people on the past).

So when we see that the reality is that we will optionally be able to replay those titles via the Nintendo Switch Virtual Console, we see that Nintendo has a long term future as well, as these titles can capture the older hearts, as well as new players giving them a lot more bang for the buck. Nintendo rules these waves, we see this with the latest addition Super Smash Bros (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWo9wfsnj7M). It is Super Smash Bros that gives the main dish as a desert. When we realise that the impression of fun is not merely looking good, it is about getting it right, it is in this view that looking perfect will always lose against getting it right.

It is that distinction is also important when you look towards the best game of 2018, even as a PlayStation fan (a bias that is forever important), we see that Spiderman PS4 got it right, Forza Horizon 4 merely got it right better. So Microsoft on a game type that I am not really a fan of; justly wins with a title by getting it right the best. Even as God of War was perfect, exceeded everything they made before, we might compare it to why Super Smash Bros got 94%, yet in the end, the game that blew us away more will take the cake and candles in all of this. FHIV might never be in my collection as the One versus One X is just to distinct here (for now), yet the fact that whenever I see FHIV, I get the desire to race, as a non-racer, that impression is extremely distinct; it is why my vote went that way. To capture the heart of a player that has another game style is an achievement that we all seem to forget. Just like Super Smash Bros has the ability to get all kinds of people to pick up the game and play against as many people as possible, we see the impact of excellence in gaming through fun and the joy of getting there. Nintendo mastered that ability a long time ago and whenever we see any other game getting there, we rejoice.

Far Cry Primal got close and then dropped the ball by being ‘predetermined’. Far Cry 5 never got there by offering everything and becoming nothing at all, the God of War got there through the people who knew the originals, giving us a new track, another path in almost perfect graphics and with a rating of 94% they did excel, set that against the 92% of Forza Horizon 4 and in my state of mind, there would be no contest, game over for Microsoft Studios, yet that was not the case, challenge and fun, they merely got it slightly better. Even as we see that they got Best Racing Game and Xbox Game of the Year (which was not really that much of a challenge this time around), they are still on track to get Ultimate Game of the Year, Best Sports/Racing Game and Best Audio Design, it is my personal opinion that they would optionally lose the third one and anyone who has heard the soundtrack of God of War is likely to agree with me. As I see it, Forza Horizon 4 gets to be the Ultimate Game of the Year; at least that is how I personally would vote.

The annual award is a battle of giants, some excelled for a long time, some excelled in every way and some merely competed to some extent. What is important in not merely who wins, and who gets nominated, we see that the winners will impact what we see in upcoming 2020 games and that is important to realise.

As we will anticipate on the coming of the Trilogy on Switch, some might wonder why. It is not merely the FPS part, it is open (to some extent), it is a challenge and it is an adventure, even in 2002 when it was released, even with the more ‘advanced’ graphics that the Xbox and the PlayStation 2 had, they could not touch Metroid Prime and its 97% rating. That small disc, holding a mere part of a DVD blew away all competition and with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes at 92% it did so again, and those who loved gaming want to get that feeling again. That is the impact that fun coated in challenge, or is that challenge coated in fun? Whichever way it is presented it creates gamers and it creates desire within a gamer. The ultimate game of the year can impact that future of where we will look next, what we will try next, even if it is not our cup of tea. When it hits the mark we will all order a pot of it, not merely a cup. That is one part that the game makers understand, and they are eager to get into the sweet spot of gamers there.

Should you think that gamers are selfish, think again! Digital trends reported less than 2 weeks ago: “Grandma Shirley — had left expressing her doubts at living to see The Elder Scrolls VI, a petition was created on Change.org to have her immortalized in the game“, gamers care to this extent, especially when they share a connection to a game, so I think that Bethesda needs to be truly stupid to not consider this, and to be honest Bethesda has been overly considerate in the past, not for personal gain or marketing, their actions regarding Erik West (Eric the Slayer), and there are more examples. Bethesda has forever been trying and aiming to get it right and to a larger extent, they have, so I was puzzled on how they got Fallout 76 so wrong. I merely cover it with ‘a work in progress‘, which in light of the approach is probably as correct as it gets (for now).

Gaming is for me not some state, or an escape. It is a world you become a part of, not replacing reality, but having it on the side. Making it part of the 24 hours a day you have, not replacing the 24 hours you should live in. Some choose sports, some choose a passion (or passion itself) and some hike, trail and be out in the open. Gamers do the gaming thing and when developers get that mindset right, the games will propel in excellence, it is a lesson Nintendo learned early on and they are still able to surprise us. In this Bethesda and Nintendo are optionally more alike. They both got it wrong (WiiU/Fallout76), yet as Nintendo Switch is now the golden mark of excellence, we might get the same from Bethesda (with whichever titles comes next) and that too is gaming, when the challenge is met and we get that satisfying feeling of a new challenge and we look forward to every second that comes next. That ‘Oh Yeah!‘ moment (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB8BLMMVFLg) when you see that they are got it right. Gaming has had plenty of these, which is why developers are getting additional chances. Witcher 3, Mass Effect 2, Diablo 3, Skyrim, Metroid Prime, GTA5, the Last of Us, Golden Eye, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The list goes on and will remain growing after tomorrow, because any developer that flops now (Far Cry) will optionally be able to hit it out of the park at a later stage (Far Cry 3) and that is gaming too, to be there and live through the successes, even after a massive failure (AC Unity anyone?)

Gamers can afford to wait as there are plenty of players offering the next golden egg, or is that the next golden eye? And with results like God of War, Forza Horizon 4, Ni no Kuni 2, and Subnautica I personally believe that the future of gaming is in good hands. No matter who gets to be called the ultimate game of 2018. There has been 45 years between Pong (1972) and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017), it was never about who had the best graphics (Minecraft 2011 is evidence of that), any category can win, any style can win (Rock Band 3 2010) and it opens us optionally to playful directions we might never have considered on day one of that game (Limbo 2010).

Personally I love the yearly gaming awards for reasons mentioned earlier, but for the most, for me it is about to consider a game that stood out in one way and merely missed out on that game initially having something to look forward to, which in my clearest case was Far Cry 3, the previous versions were not up to standard and therefor I never considered it, which gave me in the end more joy than I bargained for, exceeding expectations can end up being that rewarding.

It will be Monday morning in 60 hours, so try to take a moment and play a game this weekend, even if it is for merely an hour and it is something as simple (and highly addictive) as Minecraft.

 

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