Tag Archives: Xbox One

The tail of a prophet

I spoke on all kinds of matters, and I also gave some upcoming predictions. So, on June 17th of 2017 I predicted: “So by the end of 2018 the console offset ‘Sony:Nintendo:Microsoft’ could end up being ‘13:9:2’. This would show Microsoft on how they truly bet on the wrong marketing horses. So I admit, it is a speculative prediction, yet the sales numbers are not that far off and my expected Nintendo growth is not unrealistic“. It was (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/17/after-the-e3/) where I decided to introduce the audience to some of the massive bungles that upper management at Microsoft is involved in. Now, if they replied (read: if, if is good), it would be along the way of ‘it is not our core business‘, or ‘we have all out vestment set to the Azure solution‘. Yet in that view options like Hadoop are already mentioned on the way out, getting replaced by a new flavour of Big Data. Microsoft has Blockchain as a Service (BaaS), but there the adaption is not on the curve they need it to be, so as we see other places become contenders, we realise that Microsoft is too big to just fall over, but as they wanted to be in the generic ‘let’s be there for everyone‘, I see (a personal believe) that those focusing on one part of a business that they are excelling and they are taking away customers left right and centre. Now, this is not a tidal wave, it is a slow process. Yet, in all, the quote I gave now has a serious side. Only last night did I get the news that the Nintendo Switch has hit the 5 million sales mark Compare this to PlayStation 4 Total Sales: 63.4 million and Xbox One Total Sales: 26.5 million (not entirely accurate as clear numbers are hard to find), both released in November 2013. So in 6 months Nintendo closed the gap by a lot. Nintendo is currently committed to get production up towards 2 million consoles a month and this is showing as some analysts (not the group I have the most faith in) have predicted that by March 2018 Nintendo will be expected to be seen in over 13 million homes. So in one year the Nintendo Switch will close the gap with the Microsoft Xbox. My predictions are still on speed to become a reality, yet the given by December 2018 might not be the case. If Nintendo releases the games they have planned on time, the curve will increase and whilst the Microsoft business analysts will bedazzle the people with Scorpio, 4K gaming and other things, the consumers are starting to realise that the people at Microsoft are less clued in on the gamers needs, a thing I clearly stated for close to 2 years (or was that 3 years) and now my predictions are slowly moving into the sunlight for all to see. At present my 13:9:2 is likely to be 12:5:3 no more than, yet Nintendo remains in 3rd place, which was the larger part that mattered. Still this is based on two players with 6 years and Nintendo with less than 2 years by the end of 2018, so even as consoles would have been sold, the Microsoft growth will stagnate as a larger population from their camp will switch to Nintendo and the family friendly games that Ubisoft produces are not helping the plight of Microsoft in any way.

You see, there are two groups and as Microsoft does not care about one of them, it is that group that will drive the dagger home so to speak. It is my personal believe that Microsoft is ignoring the people who bought one and they are realise that to some degree they ended with a lemon. Now these people are not going to jump to Sony, but with the Nintendo wave and the good pricing of that console they will consider the Switch for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so there is a 95% chance that Nintendo will have a great Christmas on a near global level. You see, the group Microsoft neglected is now showing a dusty Xbox One, these people are not going to Scorpio and depending on their gaming prowess, not only will they advocate non-Microsoft solutions and buy a Switch, they will in theory prevent 2-3 other players getting an Xbox as well. So not only will Microsoft be fighting an uphill battle from the day they launch, their new system will be buried by the sales achievements that Nintendo is bringing to the ‘Just Dance’ floor, which will be a growing and is likely to be a Nintendo dominant dance floor. A nice little positive event (read: impressive achievement) for Ubisoft as well. A game that has hit the 25 million mark is showing to be as successful as the Xbox One console at present ever was. The fact that some Microsoft executives are not contemplating suicide is a small miracle to say the least. Perhaps they should have actually listened to the gaming community and not revere the spreadsheet they adhere to.

We see at present more and more news in both camps. One showing that Microsoft is more and more successful for the Scorpio, some show that Microsoft remains stagnant and are now setting $50 price drops and one source gives us “Only 13% Of Hardcore Gamers Plan On Buying An Xbox Scorpio“, which is a number I feel uncomfortable with as I expect that number to be at least twice as high. Yet between the expected buyer and the actual buyer there will be a gap and the results of Nintendo show that gap to likely be widening on a nearly daily basis. In other news, a few months ago we saw (at https://mspoweruser.com/project-scorpio-fails-impress-american-gamers-according-nielsen/) the title “Project Scorpio fails to impress American gamers according to Nielsen“. This fact is a lot more interesting were it not for one given part. When we consider the quote “Phil Spencer has to prove to gamers that they need to upgrade. The only way to do this is to show mind-blowing graphical upgrades and flood the internet and television with advertisements of the device” we need to wonder about the job Nielsen has in this. You see, ‘mind-blowing graphical upgrades‘ might seem nice, but in the end it is about good gaming and that has not been delivered by many games, not to the degree it needed to be. In the second, the part ‘flood the internet and television‘ might be to appease their other customers, but it does nothing for the gamers, only the badly informed consumers and that market has shifted a lot. It has shifted because people bought the WiiU and some of them are now hurting by the Xbox One, not in the smallest part because of unwanted and non-consensual uploads by the Xbox One into the Azure cloud. We are becoming more and more data savvy and the Microsoft helpdesk telling me (read: they really did) that this lies solely with the internet provider is a party line so stupid, it makes me want to vomit. So from the side of Microsoft, we see their hardware, their policies and their shortcomings, they sold out the gamer three times in a row with one console. that and the ignored part by Nielsen on how much of a blasting success the Switch was gives us more and more light that properly informing an audience is a loaded canon to say the least.

Now, I am willing to say that my data is not completely up to scrap. When we consider that several sources who give clear Sony sales records need to guess and get other data sources to compile the Microsoft numbers. The fact that Microsoft has been remiss (or pushing dates of publishing numbers) is one tactic to keep the diminishing group of Scorpio pre orders in the dark. The first set will be immediately sold out, that was never in question, but the three subsequent pushes are the ones that are in play. The war for Christmas is on and even as I have illusions regarding Nintendo winning that, there will be loads of Ps4pro’s and Scorpios on the list of plenty of kids. The A$650 might seem nice, but in the end, as people realise that storage remains an issue, having the A$675 2TB edition would have been the smarter move. Oh wait, that one does not exist because Microsoft did not consider the gamer in any of this, just their Teraflop speech laced with 4K resolution. That evidence is shown by Microsoft when we see “While Forza Motorsport 7 hasn’t been released yet and it won’t be out until October 3rd, the official Microsoft Windows store has listed the download size for the game and it is a gigantic 100 GB” (source: gearnuke.com), a factor I mentioned before, so as the 1TB drive loses around 300Mb for the operating system and store parts and so on, the gamer soon realises that there will only be space for 7 games in 4K. So how long was Microsoft going to hide that disaster? When you have to reinstall 3 games within 6 months and get the patches, how long until you get to be in an aggravated state of irritation? A clear issue that the Xbox One had and even as Microsoft had the ability to diffuse the situation, they decided to not do anything, which is another battle they lost to Sony and one that might drive more gamers towards the additional Nintendo pile of those who want to enjoy a game. This now also fuels the previous blog on digital rights (one that Euro gamer made me start after their video), because in that setting a physical copy on disc becomes more and more important to every gamer. Yet this is not all, it is the largest factor in gaming that is now starting to push the envelope to the degree that Microsoft will not be happy about. With the announcement of ‘a Nintendo Switch version for Fear Effect Sedna‘ just today will be coming to Switch pushes the bar as Microsoft is losing their exclusive range of games faster and faster. This is a known bar that both Sony and Microsoft pushed as much as possible, now that some iconic titles are also coming to Switch; the results will have an impact on all consoles (it will impact Sony to a much lesser extent). Even as I personally believe that some titles will not make a person not buy a game, but could push a gamer to get the Nintendo Switch on the side. This action results in more and more hazard points for the continuation of Microsoft consoles as a growing group of people are now cancelling pre-orders. Now, that is not an entirely accurate statement. Let me give you the ‘down low‘ on it. Last month has given more and more forums the issue where people came with the same issue “my Xbox One X pre-order was cancelled for no explainable reason by Target“. There seems to be a separate play going on. Some players never cancelled their pre-order, it seems that some players who wanted to make quick solid revenue are now confronted that their infrastructure cannot deal with the sudden ‘need’ of thousands of players and their systems seem to be unable to keep score to coin a phrase. So here Microsoft is wrongfully set in a bad light as other systems cannot deal with the infrastructure of some consumer chains and Target does not seem to be the only one. I believe that there are people having second thoughts, which will always happen. I believe that the ‘converted’ curve of Microsoft is a lot lower when we consider actual ‘converted’ gamers. So there are those numbers to consider as well. The backup in all this is that as cancellations happen, sales numbers might regionally shift and this is happening in the height of Thanksgiving and Christmas, so there will be a larger lash back to consider in January, but that will be a story for another day.

So as my tail is considering the tale of a console that was designed not fore gamers, but for players. Microsoft needs to sit down and make some clear considerations on where they went wrong and how they moved from second place to a possible degradation to initially position three, all because three factors that could have been directly avoided were ignored for (as I personally see it) other business needs.

A harsh situation that again, as I personally see it, is all the doing of Microsoft self and they only have themselves to blame, a market shift in merely 2 years. I wonder who they’ll blame when the numbers become crystal clear at the end of the next financial year. Perhaps it will give us a new console in 2018, the Microsoft EOFYbox, free with every Microsoft Surface Pro IV.

 

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Drop the Mike, Ashley!

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

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

I offer in evidence the following pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now we put the whole together!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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After the E3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Approaching death of Scorpio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The end of diversity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we seeing the end of diversity in gaming?

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

 

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Alphabet Soup

I have been away for a little while. I delivered my final paper on Friday after a 34 hour stretch, mainly because I have the unequaled ability to doubt my own work any given moment. This is weird, because when it comes to data and data systems, I can see through the fog of implied BS in ways most cannot fathom. In that same way, I am now seeing a weird transition by Microsoft that has the ability to endanger its own customer base, which might be a new low in their list of achievements. After a day of attempted rest whilst I faced 44 degrees (summer in Sydney), the Guardian treats me (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/03/skills-shortage-harming-uks-ability-to-protect-itself-from-cyber-attacks). There is something either incomplete or not matching here. The article by ‘Rajeev Syal and agencies’ is actually quite good, it gives us “the role of the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for coordinating information protection across government, remains unclear“, which is in one way awesome because of the admitted issue, a little less so when you consider that his has been going on for over 6 years. You see, those people still got paid, and the admission of non-clarity for that amount of time should validate a few additional questions to those occupying postal code SW1A 2AS. So, when you are in front of that Downing Street fence, which separates the Prime Minister from the common riff raff, it will be the building on the right! One of the interesting quotes is: “The threat of cybercrime is ever-growing, yet evidence shows Britain ranks below Brazil, South Africa and China in keeping phones and laptops secure. In this context it should concern us all that the government is struggling to ensure its security profession has the skills it needs.

I would add to that is the fact that those nations tend to hold employees accountable for cyber losses, which might not be fair but it is apparently wildly effective. In the cyber industry a decent dose of paranoia tends to keep people cautious and on their toes, which does allow to explain the situation the Commonwealth at large finds itself in, not just the UK. One of the gems in the article was “The report said the Cabinet Office’s ability to make informed decisions about security is “undermined by inconsistent and chaotic processes for recording personal data breaches”“, that is just one factor. The fact that Microsoft has been uploading gigabytes of data (per person) from gaming consoles, without consent and whilst Microsoft is in denial blaming the ISP for this event, the question the press at large has not considered asking Microsoft. Why do you need 6 GB of data from a console playing a single player game? There is no way that this is about ‘enhancing‘ the experience.

newzoo-games-market-segments

This is about collecting data and in addition, there is no divulging on what exactly is being uploaded, the fact that it is done without consent is another matter and there is no record on the system. If one victim had not shown me the $60 additional fee he got for 2 weeks of unknown uploading, I would not have believed it. The fact is that this person had mobile broadband was a kink in the attempt to keep the uploads unnoticed is one that Microsoft had not considered and as such we need to consider that an Xbox User needs to realise he is facing an estimated $1400 a year in additional fees upload fees, how affordable is that console now?

So is this about money, about data or about privacy? The issue is that worldwide 15 million were sold by November 2015, whilst the US has roughly 8.5 million of them. So a sizeable chunk of the 6.5 million outstanding consoles are in the UK and whilst Microsoft is not revealing the sales numbers, likely as the humiliation against the PS4 sales is too great, we also need to wonder in light of the upcoming Scorpio (the Xbox One plus plus) edition, the light of so much uploads without consent is an issue, because in the first the people did not get a choice and the second is that there is no way to tell what was uploaded, how much privacy information. In that light, we need to look at not just what is done, but what actions need to be made against these large corporations and I am willing to bet the house that these ‘inconsistent and chaotic processes for recording personal data breaches‘ involve groups giving protection to Microsoft to some degree creating chaos. In addition, I wonder if GCHQ is aware on what Microsoft is pushing into its Azure cloud via Windows 10, what level of privacy breaches is Microsoft involved in?

That is part of all the issues because there is no issue with skill shortage, especially when cybercrimes cannot be properly monitored as everything is in a cloud environment, a US driven cloud environment I might add. Before those in Whitehall start to snicker on the premise of gaming, perhaps those are reminded that as we see in Newzoo (at https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/global-games-market-reaches-99-6-billion-2016-mobile-generating-37/), the gaming industry is a $100 billion plus field and the UK has shown its teeth in this field for the longest of times.

q2_2016_newzoo_global_games_market_revenue_growth_2015-2019

Yet the makers are now creating an unfair advantage (and without consent) on mineable data allowing US companies to take the highest road at the least cost. In all this they have the ability of selling spiked lemons, impeding the industry outside of the AAA American companies’ even further. That is all before we see the dangers of cloud intrusions and the damage organised crime can inflict. And any of those people claiming that this cannot happen, I would advise those people to take a look at the Sony track record of getting hacked. There are too many unknowns, but the fact that a lot of this is done without consent is perhaps the most damaging one and so far, it seems that skills shortage in the UK is not even the most debilitating one. When you consider this quote: “The government ignored its own advice by failing to carry out a business case for government security classifications system, which was meant to deliver £110- to £150m-a-year in benefits, MPs said“, a quote that is not in question perse, yet the fact that the games industry surpassed $100 billion, in this the UK could stand to corner up to $30 billion, I am decently certain that ‘£110- to £150m-a-year in benefits‘ won’t be getting close to covering it any day soon.

The losses and the growing loss of industries in several sectors are leaving the UK with a diminishing amount of options in an industry that will the first and almost the only one growing its production, manufacturing and development base. All items that would have the effect of spicing the coffers of her majesties treasury by a fair bit, that is of course not the bottom line, but it is the icing on the cake and those who had to live by ‘let them eat cake‘ have been doing so without any icing for nearly a decade. And that is all before Google has decided on the next step that could bring them an additional 6-13 billion (13 billion would be most advantageous forecasted model), a jump that will affect software and hardware evolutions in a few ways for the next decade as 5G gets a hold of these new devices and opens the field for even more devices and concept solution. A change few had seen coming and less of them thought the change was realistic, some hold that opinion even today, it’s a sad world, I know!

In that atmosphere the Cabinet office and MP’s are deliberating on Cyber needs and skills whilst their train is already 3 stops delayed and they have no idea what is awaiting two stops ahead, meaning they are already one train stop behind and that is just delay through inaction. So as we are looking at the last part given, where we see: “A National Cyber Security Centre spokesman said: “The government has been clear that the newly formed NCSC is the UK’s definitive authority on cyber security. In the four months since becoming operational, the NCSC has transformed how the UK deals with cyber security by offering incident management capabilities, fostering technical innovation to help prevent attacks and providing real-time cyber threat information to 3,000 organisations from over 20 different industries”“, yet in that, where is the turnaround? You see, as we see linked to all this: “New generation of ethical hackers aims to impress recruiters“, we see: “Defence experts have long warned of the growing menace of cyber-crime and now they have good reason to believe the threat is being given priority treatment“, yet we do not see: “Last year’s Cyber Security Challenge was fairly fanciful. It involved a bio-hazard attack and a threat against a minor royal. This year, the challenge is more grounded in reality. The contestants are asked to find evidence of large corporations gaining an increased advantage by uploading personal data without consent for advantageous data mining“, that no less a threat and it seems that government parties on a global scale are actively avoiding this. You see, we agree that organised crime and batches of exploiting hackers must be stopped, yet for the longest time, the party’s involved are ignoring the ‘legal‘ crimes and how it is shifting the balance of cyber power. slowly but certainly towards the 5 big players leaving the field barren for nearly all other innovative corporation hoping to grow into that field and as the field is limited to 5 players we will lose out on actual innovation and we are left with the iterative field we have had for slightly too long. By the way, this goes far beyond games, this field is now intersecting a very different field. Consider the paper ‘Big Data Framework for Analyzing Patents to Support Strategic R&D Planning‘, by Wonchul Seo, Namhyoung Kim and Sungchul Choi. In this paper they set in the abstract “In this paper, we propose a big data framework to process and analyse large-scale patent data. The proposed framework consists of four layers: an aggregator layer, a storage layer, an analysis layer, and an application layer. These layers are designed to collect patent data, store the collected data, analyse the data, and present the results. The primary objectives of the proposed framework are to provide a patent analysis service platform based on big data technologies, and to support strategic R&D planning for organizations“, now consider interfacing that with a database that has the goods on 270 million devices using Windows 10. Does it still sound so strange? The gaming industry might seem juvenile to the people in Whitehall, but even they cannot be stupid enough to ignore a $100 billion plus industry. So as Microsoft is uploading data and no one is asking questions, we have to wonder why the questions are not asked, more important, the fact that ‘without consent‘ is not addressed is even more worrying, especially with the cyber players in town and the fact that anyone actively ignoring a few billion in revenue tends to not have a career after that comes out.

So you tell me, is the water still too murky or are the players murky about the actions taken?

And when we see the marketing responses like ‘to give the players a better gaming experience‘ or ‘uploading is not with us, that responsibility lies with your ISP‘, you better be able to answer the question why the ISP is dumping all that data on the Azure cloud, because ISP’s tend to not do anything they aren’t paid for and they tend to not do anything without consent, as the retaliatory claims and penalties tend to be much too high. So when the alphabet soup gives us Avarice, Build-up & Covetousness. Is the alphabet soup about protecting against cyber-attacks or trying to minimise corporate losses?

They are both victims, but one does not include the other, I’ll leave it up to you to decide who remains a victim in the long run.

 

 

 

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Taking Xbox to Court?

Microsoft seems to have done it again and if the evidence holds up, there will be a powerful backlash towards Microsoft which will have interesting repercussions for Sony. Now, we have seen this all before and even I have a few issues with this all, which was until the following evidence was presented.

  1. The Broadband 4G modem had been exclusively used for the Xbox One.
  2. Security was properly in place (as far as I have been able to confirm)

The following had happened:

Without consent, the Xbox One has seemingly uploaded the following amounts of data:

Date Uploads Date Uploads
2017-01-13 339.1 MB 2017-01-21 591.0 MB
2017-01-14 445.1 MB 2017-01-22 277.6 MB
2017-01-15 242.3 MB 2017-01-23 607.5 MB
2017-01-16 268.8 MB 2017-01-24 210.6 MB
2017-01-17 113.1 MB 2017-01-25 358.8 MB
2017-01-18 793.6 MB 2017-01-26 493.5 MB
2017-01-19 251.6 MB 2017-01-27 482.4 MB
2017-01-20 332.0 MB 2017-01-28 65.2 MB

 

According to the mobile provider the uploaded files are all labelled Windows Azure – support large files download? When calling Microsoft, the help was not any better, the lady was trying to be nice, yet not really aware of what she was talking about. Her response was: ‘we have no influence on uploads, that is the responsibility of your ISP!

So, as the Xbox is uploading, that is suddenly the worry of the victims ISP?

So far the player has only played Fallout 4 without DLC’s, Diablo 3 and the Ezio Collection (Assassins Creed), all these games were played in single player only, so there is absolutely no reason to upload at all. What is even more disturbing is that there are no checks on this part, the mobile provider data so far matches the times that the system was in use for gaming and the times the uploads were happening.

What Microsoft would not be realising, which was a former Microsoft executive referred to as Don Mattrick, who tried to be funny with: “Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360“, yes and as orders were cancelled all over the place Xbox suddenly had a new boss. This all started in November 2015. Well as we seem to gather Microsoft is at it again and they haven’t been thinking this through as per usual (that is, if the facts handed to me and collected are correct), because some gamers are now facing a $120 a month additional bill, so year one for these gamers would be 12 * $120 + $450 for the console, making this device at $1850, three times more expensive than any other console. I think Microsoft forgot about mobile broadband users, they just get additional hardship. What is the issue is that all this is happening without consent and as far as the absent help from Xbox support has indicated, without the ability to switch it off. You see, there are plenty of places where broadband is an issue and those people are depending on mobile broadband and at $10 per 1 GB it adds up really fast.

So, even as Microsoft has now changed this approach (again), would customers have a case to get a full refund for console and all purchased games? Let’s not forget that Microsoft has done a 180 degrees turn on their ‘online requirements’ twice now, as well as it seems the requirement to be online to upload, which in light of single player games should result in several additional questions by parties involved.

So this is where I now stand. Awaiting two additional pieces of evidence. Should they arrive, the plan as the victim wants it is to prohibit Microsoft to continue sales of their devices until the forced uploads are deactivated, as well as reimbursements have been made. I do not think that this has any decent chance, but I will lend my support to all this. Microsoft has been playing their game via third party ‘players’ and as such there have been a few things rising to the surface. I personally believe it to be a harassment approach by Microsoft ‘to be online or else‘. I tested that with the Ezio collection. I went offline and played the game, so far after two days, after restarting the game, the achievement begotten whilst off line did not update. An issue the Xbox 360 never had and actually until recently it was not an issue (so this might be the side effect of something else). As I see it, the same day our victim suddenly say his annual Xbox one usage cost go up by a potential $1440, so we can agree that Microsoft, as per their usual self decided that profit at the expense of anyone else is preferred to a situation where the needs of the customer were respected, especially after the backlash that the first attempt had given them, again, awaiting those two pieces of evidence.

So far all contacts with Microsoft have been with the given air of ‘Well, everyone has unlimited broadband, don’t they?‘, which is nice until you get confronted with the most dangerous of obstacles, the disagreeable landlord, which in this day and age is not a good person to cross and that tends to happen more and more often, yet that is not what this fight is about. We are dealing with consent and undocumented consequences that doubles a person’s internet bill, through means that were not even essential. Off course that is not regarding the need Microsoft has to keep a record and copy of everything you are doing on your console, which by the way is well over 1000% of what multiplayer bandwidth would require, so there too are questions that need to be addressed.

From my point of view, apart from the financial damages that some players are now facing there is:

  1. How can uploads without consent be allowed?
  2. How can 2 single player games trigger a 5.8 GB upload in 15 days?
  3. The reference that the Mobile operator gave was: ‘Windows Azure – support large files download’, all uploads have that same title!
  4. Why is there no logging of uploads in the Xbox One?
  5. Which files and what exactly is being uploaded?
  6. Why did this suddenly start at midnight Friday January 13th 2017? (Which reads equally weird).

These are questions that matter, the reason is that without certain facts, there is absolutely no guarantee that this isn’t merely a hijacked router, which I have been able to prove that this is not the case to some extent.

Questions remain, you see, that part is given by the following sources: “They have clearly mentioned that their commitment to the UK is unchanged. In particular, those customers in Microsoft’s UK data centres should continue to rely on Microsoft’s significant investment plans there“, as well as “Microsoft highlighted that they have more than 5,000 highly qualified people working in fields including support, marketing, gaming, communications, cybersecurity and computer science research in the UK. Also, they have built a global centre of excellence for the development of artificial intelligence and other computing disciplines“, which we see in MS Power User (at https://mspoweruser.com/microsoft-re-affirms-its-commitment-to-the-uk-data-centre-expansion-plans-are-still-on-track/), now we need to realise that these are statements from a spokesperson, which means that that we are misrepresented without being lied to. I know, it’s a harsh world. Yet ‘5,000 highly qualified people‘, whilst seeing ‘marketing, gaming, communications, cybersecurity‘, could clearly imply that these are employees and it is not impossible that 40% of that workforce is not working on or connected to Azure. You see, the issue is when we see “Global Data Center Market Strategies, Analysis and Opportunities 2017-2023: Amazon (AWS), Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are in a Class of Their Own“, which we see in Global Newswire. The question that these parts lead to is whether it is possible that:

  1. Microsoft is trying to get an advantage on its capabilities and is trying to maximise the load of their Azure data centres, someone had the bright idea to use gamers for that and the people who tend to be useless in the technical field (read: senior management) forgot about the fact that not everyone has unlimited broadband and that some people (all over the world) pay per gigabyte and after a certain point that gets to be very expensive.
  2. Because the test requires that all (read: unknowingly) must participate, there is no option to switch uploads off, leaving us with the mess in option 1.

Now, this is for now speculative, but in light that I got this scoop and the media is ignoring gaming issues, just like the Sony Issue of 2012, so I am going ahead, so mind you, this story will be updated and there will be a part 2 when the rest of the evidence arrives, which could spark an official request against Microsoft with the Australian ACCC and the British CPS, and if Microsoft is proven not to be the evil organisation that they have been too often, than I will report that too, because just and fairness go both ways, and because it must rain on the just and unjust alike.

So stay tuned!

 

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