An era of hamfisted franchises

Using very sources or examples is never really a proper thing to do, but recently I can’t help but to feel that as of late more and more companies have been trying to expand their franchises at the cost of the core audience. I don’t mean the usual memetic way, but at the expense of the franchise themselves.

Take both Star Trek and Star Wars as an example. Hell, throw in Ghostbusters in there for good measure. I’m not wondering what the hell happened, because we know what happened in both cases. With Star Trek, we first had the Abrams’ reboot films, which weren’t great to any degree. He didn’t care about the franchise, he didn’t get it. Whatever he did wasn’t in the spirit of Trek and it showed on-screen. The same applies to the second movie, revisiting the same beats for characters like Spock being essentially reset to his original form in the first movie. The PR team directly lying to the audiences about the villain disn’t do any favours. After all, trying to remake what is considered the best of Star Trek movies is a tall task, something the writers and directors weren’t up to. Into Darkness is considered the worst in the series for a good reason, even if it hamfists the usual Trek message in like a truck. Third film may be a fan favourite from the reboot timeline, bu that’s little worth when the movie itself made the least amount of revenues.

All this is really ramps up with Star Trek Discovery, the least viewed Trek if we go by what Midnight’s Edge’s latest Trek video. The overall reaction to it has been less than favourable, but this is not surprising. Les Moonves micromanaged the show to the point of failure. He didn’t care for the franchise, but saw the potential in it to make money. What he or the rest of CBS’ staff didn’t seem to realise that failure would mean further losses on the long run. Any person running a franchise with fifty years of history and a cultural position will tell you that you don’t play the game for short-term gains. The Next Generation‘s later seasons, and the subsequent series didn’t dabble in current politics too much. Instead, good storytelling was at the front with the occasional thematic comment, much like how the Original Series had gone. Deep Space 9 had few episodes that were about racism and culture, yet these were woven into the story in a significant way. The same can’t be said about Discovery, which sadly pushes the politics over the story to the point of the main character Michael Burnham being unable to do anything wrong and comes out the most unpleasant main spot character across the franchise. Pretty much everything was driven by political ideology, with Klingons being turned into representation of political views.

Star Wars suffers from this same approach. Rather than tell a good story, a fitting story for the franchise, Episode VII gave us a terrible story that only got worse in the next mainline movie. The current Expanded Universe has seen vehicles for further one-sided agenda both in books and comics in a similar manner, and it all shows in the falling revenues.

There is no respect towards the franchises or the stories in either camp.

The best stories in either Trek or Wars have been fantastical character pieces. The comparisons of current politics have always been present, but largely in an allegorical method or as motif that is woven in to the overall fabric. You may not notice them, but your brain sure does. This is where so many modern stories fail. For example, the struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire is an allegory to certain war with small and technologically weak group fighting a large and overpowering enemy, the Viet Cong against the United States. However, that isn’t emphasized to any degree within the Sequel Trilogy outside the setup.

The First Order from the new movies abandon this altogether and simply makes them sci-fi Nazi Germany, both in action and visuals. This lack of any sort of subtle approach undermines whatever the writer wanted to say to the point of making the First Order seem like Saturday morning cartoon villains, especially in Episode VIII.

The difference between the two isn’t just that Nazi Germany, or Nazis overall, aren’t just largely irrelevant nowadays as a political power, but also shows the fundamental misunderstanding of the franchise and its visuals. This applied to the older Expanded Universe as well, which explain clearly how the Third Reich marched into the cinemas. Abrams can tell us he is a fan of Star Wars how many times he wants, but the end result shows that he isn’t up to the task to write a good Star Wars movie like so many other before him. The same applies to largely almost every piece of SW fiction produced under Disney rule. It is understandable that Disney didn’t want to start making movies based off the Thrawn Trilogy or the like, as that would have meant they’d need to pone up some money for the original writers. The less they have to tie themselves to pre-existing stories and can make whatever the hell they can all the while milking fans’ affection towards characters like Thrawn, it’s all good to them.

Except when their movies are bombing and toys are barely selling. Disney is now trying to course correct the franchise with their next mainline movie, despite being adamant that nothing has been going wrong. Hollywood PR mandates a studio to keep their shit straight and tell nothing’s wrong, until sometime later they can just admit everything being gone to hell and silently try to fix stuff. It’d be better PR to admit they’ve gone wrong and are looking into ways to correct the matter. You’ll never see a studio do this though.

Trek is also taking a new direction, trying to capitalise on the success of The Orville of all things. ST Discovery‘s second season trailer already shows that they have a new direction, with emphasize on more adventure and fun, with Lower Decks being a straight out comedy from the writer of Rick and Morty. While we shouldn’t pass a judgement on series that haven’t even aired an episode yet, but an educated guess about their intentions isn’t hard to make. Discovery, by all means, has been a failure. Rather than looking at what makes a good Trek show and how to go on about it, CBS has opted to see what the direct competitor was doing and wants The Orville audience. Doing comedic Star Trek isn’t the way, doing proper Star Trek and not whatever Discovery ended up being should have been their first course of action, but that’s not how business is done when blind data is looked at without any consideration to the franchise.

Maybe all of these companies should look into making new IPs rather than bastardise existing ones to function as their vehicles. The Orville did it, against all the odds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blizzard against their core audience

A lot has been said about the events in recent Blizzcon at this point. I do recommend watching a version of Diablo Immortal‘s reveal, like this one with Youtube chat enabled at the side.

The instant reaction of the fans can be summed as negative, if we’re diplomatic about it. After few applauds, some of which are always warranted or given by the staff around the group, there is no cheering. The sound of disapproval is silent, and Wyatt Cheng, the presenter, feels the pressure. He didn’t expect things to go this badly.

Blizzard’s core audience is PC gamers. Mobile may be  branch of PC gaming, but the core audience is fundamentally different due to the user interface and culture around them. A person playing a high-end PC game is not exactly interested in shoving thousands of dollars into Fate/Grand Order. By making their big announcement a mobile game to an audience that doesn’t want to play their favourite franchise on a mobile phone. This sort of announcement should have been a supplementary one alongside something more important, not the main dish itself.

The Diablo Immortal QA is a travesty, full of non-answers. Around the mid-point, a fan asks if there are plans to bring this to PC. There are no plans to bring it to PC at this point, which nets booing from the audience. Rather than taking this professionally and simply not react to this, the presenters directly counter the audience by asking if they don’t have a mobile phone or a tablet. This is the very moment Blizzard loses the audience and their fans. Their stance, attitude and reservations are on the edge thanks to the very silent reception of cinematic trailer. Simple business presentation rule in events like this is never to attack the consumer, especially when they are your core audience. You want to keep them happy, you want to tell tales that would put you in their favour. By asking if they don’t have phones to play the game with is the exact opposite what you should be doing.

Even if the audience had phones to play with, how many of them have a phone that can run modern mobile titles? Mines only few years old and some of the new ones just crap on it. Some don’t own a smartphone at all, instead opting for a standard mobile phone. Tablets had a big boom at one point, but not all people own a tablet, opting for a laptop or just not having a need for one.

No, it’s not an off-season joke, but this is a downhill road they can’t recover easily.

Following Capcom IR relations post, the reader should have a grasp why Blizzard wanted to do a mobile game. The possible revenues from that market are larger than the ones on PC or consoles. However, just like with Capcom, Blizzard has to fight a battle against money-making trains that sink pretty much everything around them. The aforementioned F/GO prints money every single day. It’s easy to see Blizzard thinking they can grab the market with a well-known IP, and by having a company that has a history of doing mobile games they most likely consider themselves to have money in the bank. NetEase is rather infamous developer in that they push micro-transactions in their games harder than most other companies to the point of being exploitative. Even the Chinese Diablo fans seem to be livid about this.

However, just as Capcom recognizes they lack the skill and know-how with mobile games, the situation seems to be the exact same with Blizzard. They will gain some whales to gain money from, but whether or not the game will turn out a title to rival big name mobile games is something only time will tell. Blizzard can only hope that it will.

The mobile market is already seen loads of Diablo-like games, and it would appear NetEase has opted to basically reskin an existing game of theirs,  Crusaders of Light, to serve as Diablo Immortal. While Blizzard tried to response to the audience in regards of this in an interview with IGN, they don’t dismiss this, but effectively dance around the issue. What’s one more game into the fray going to do, even with a recognizable IP?

Diablo Immortal‘s cinematic trailer on Youtube is one of their most disliked trailer, sitting at 17k likes against 437k dislikes. The number is skewed, as Blizzard has opted to moderate comments and the like/dislike ratio, which you can check via Socialblade. People have also been archiving the page. This isn’t anything new, the same thing happened with the Ghostbusters trailer.

Considering this sort of aggressive moderation is being done, Blizzard is not aware of their position as a product provider. The lifeline they have is their consumers. Blizzard doesn’t consider its core consumers’ wishes or wants, but they will monitor you if you play Overwatch and ban you if you misbehave in social media. Does Blizzard even care that they have a PR disaster in their hands? Probably not. As with many other things on the Internet, this one will probably be a blip and nothing more. Fans who disavow Blizzard will probably be back if Diablo 4 gets officially announced. A rumour is going around that they pulled Diablo 4‘s announcement because the development has been a mess. They missed their chance for a one-two punch.

Ultimately, this is both target audience and service failure. The target demographic of Diablo Immortal is not the same as with Diablo 3 or other long-running Blizzard franchise. By opting not to announce Diablo 4, even if was in a state where they could not show anything outside some concept trailers or such, it would have served better for Blizzcon, the place where the core audience came to. Their core audience response at the event leaves little room for guessing.

A response like this howls

Of course, this being being the biggest thing in games news for the week, there have been people who defend a million dollar corporation from fans hurting their feelings. After all, this is their IP, they can do whatever they want with it. Just like consumers can decide what to do with their money. This has gone from one extreme to another, but calling dissatisfied consumers as Nazis is few steps too far. This is business about entertainment, and consumers have all the rights to decide whether or not they want to purchase or boo when they get slapped in the face.

 

 

Music of the Month: Rock the World

After spending good three days of building my new PC and troubleshooting things that have been popping up now and then, I completely forgot that I was supposed to write something for Sunday. That’s not the only thing I’ve forgotten lately, due to being so damn tired. Enough excuses, let’s get this on the roll.

So, whatever plans I might’ve had are more or less out of the window thanks to people ordering more and more stuff from the place I work, meaning the speed and production amounts have been upped ever so slightly but enough to push the proverbial breaking point of the manufacturing process. Rather, I’ll have to approach things by case-by-case basis and hope that I don’t put things out too late. Well, I’ll be doing Mega Man 11 at some point.

As such, I’ll use this opportunity to comment on the previous post about Capcom’s IR materials. It’s a long post in comparison to most and has quite a lot of hot air, but something that needed to be covered. Rather than spouting what Capcom says, here’s my personal take what Capcom wants to do in the future; high-end games.

Monster Hunter World and Resident Evil 7 have been big hits, and Capcom seems to think it is thanks to the games having high production values across the board, especially in the graphics department. While the term artisanal design was thrown in there, it ultimately means very little if not expanded. Effectively it means master craftsmanship and how something is worked by hand to perfection, but how well that applies to Capcom’s titles is up to interpretation. They are infamous for dishing out game sequels after sequels, though this has been on the slower end as of late. Game development has gotten more expensive with each generation and they feel it. Each title has to be bigger and more successful than the previous. The two aforementioned titles fit the bill perfectly, something Resident Evil 2‘s remake and Devil May Cry 5 do too. While the games will have something the consumers will have to scratch their heads over with, Capcom is putting a lot of money and time into them, hoping to get return in their investment. MHW is regarded a cornerstone within the company in terms of success, and they want to replicate that.

Furthermore, Capcom is surprised by the success of Mega Man 11. Without a doubt it has come as a surprise, and the Man of Action Mega Man cartoon basically exists to drive brand recognition, especially among younger consumers who have no previous experience with the franchise. The initial sales have been very positive and the reception of the game has more or less followed the same pattern. Above all, Mega Man 11 is a PR victory for Capcom and does go against their set idea of high-end games, something consumers should be somewhat happy about. MM11 was relatively cheap to develop, which probably served more to its favour than most think. It also shows that games don’t need to be at their highest ends in order to make a mark. Capcom probably took notice of this, as they’re also noticed the good sales the Mega Man X collection was having.

This has lead them to consider reviving some of their old IPs and the upcoming Capcom Belt-Action Collection is probably is part of the whole deal to see what sticks to the wall. Sadly, Capcom doesn’t have the licensing rights to some of their best beat-em-ups, but at least the collection has the first ever home port of Battle Circuit, something long-time Capcom and CPSII fans have been waiting for. When’s Wazrard getting a proper home release? Does this mean fan favourite IPs will be revived? Naturally, no. First three people who I saw commenting on the post said Breath of Fire, but I don’t see that being very likely. Firs being that BoF was never a great seller and that they have better options to fill the RPG quota if they want to. However, the one thing that is in BoF‘s favour is that Capcom recognizes themselves relying on limited genres, with fighting games, action and horror taking the top spot. Capcom has to diversify its selection at some point, but that may go toward mobile gaming.

According to the materials, Capcom has been making loads of money in the smartphone market, but still don’t have much success in there. What does this mean, exactly? They’re not the top dog and despite the few titles they manage to get money out, the competition is making bigger bank. This is largely an Asian thing, as the mobile game market is absolutely bonkers huge there, eclipsing both console and PC market without any margins of error. It’s no wonder companies like Blizzard want to release a game into the market like they were horny teenagers with free access to the corest of hardest porn. We’ll get to Blizzard’s PR disaster with Diablo Immortal on Wednesday, it’s a damn good example how not to do consumer service. But this is Capcom, they don’t give a damn about the mobile market in the West, as Asia’s the gold mine and they don’t have the tools or skill to mine money. Maybe Capcom wants to see if they can do something else in the market, or maybe they’ll put more effort into expanding genre selection on consoles and PC. That’s why testing waters with cheap releases and collections is important to them. I’m not saying you should go buy MM11 or any of the collections in hopes to gain BoF Collection, you should always buy only what you think is the best value for your money. More RPG related stuff Capcom has been putting out might sway them more, or showcase how something similar makes good sells. Like most Japanese companies, Capcom seems to be data driven. Showcase them data and examples to support your claim or suggestion, and it has geometrically highest chances of getting through.

Whatever Capcom puts into production and announces within the next year will be based on the success and methods MHW and Mega Man 11 have laid out when it comes to consoles and PC. Mobile, well, we’ll have to sit tight and see.

Capcom’s future; more DLC and possible resurrection of sleeping IPs

I was supposed to do this one few weeks back, but work’s being hell as we come closer to the annual end of the business year for the company. Working like a dog has its downsides.

Anyway, Capcom Investors Relations, Annual report. Maybe we should note that in their statement of corporate philosophy, the core statement is to create entertainment culture. Video games may be Capcom’s main business for sure, but movies and arcades are part of that too. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I’m dropping a tl;dr read version at the end.

Kenzo Tsujimoto, CEO of Capcom, makes a statement that what made Street Fighter a globally recognized brand was the movie they invested in, not the games themselves. This is an interesting point to take, and if taken as face value, further enforces Nintendo’s old tactics of cross-media advertising. All the Super Mario cereals, cartoons and the like were there to make the brand recognizable in order to have the main dish, the games, in the consumer head space. Hollywood may think they have the jackpot when it comes to entertainment, but when it comes to games, no other media can replicate the feeling of doing it yourself. This applies to sports as well.

The 4 billion yen Capcom invested into Street Fighter the Movie netted them 15 billion yen. That’s no slouch. Tsujimoto continues that despite movies only getting few weeks of attention in the theatres, each new home release and licensed showing, like on television, always extends the time public is being exposed to the brand. It’s easy to see why Capcom would continue to invest into the Resident Evil movies. While they may not be all that great, they’re further putting exposure to the brand.

The games are still the main point, and Tsujimoto’s take that having something else to exist along the games’ three years of development is important to keep consumer interest relevant. The reason why so many game franchises fail to garner expanded audience attention is because there is no expanded media around them. You can argue that games can makes great sales on themselves and having targeted audience is great, but that really doesn’t expand the market all that much.

Japan manages to keep its brands relevant through numerous comics that adapt the games. These comics can run anywhere between few specialised chapters to years. Considering how much Japan reads, this is relatively traditional way to keep things in the consumers’ minds. In the West this doesn’t work as well, despite the latest Mega Man comic being excellent. The problem of course was that there was no Mega Man game to make use of it.

While this multimedia approach seems like done deal and what most companies do to some extent, this isn’t so. Vast majority of companies are more or less ignoring the world wide stage when it comes to their IPs. The few game based movies we’ve getting here and there have been less about expanded media and trying to capitalise on the Comic book movie boom that’s been so successful. These have been more or less failures, but as said, the brand just has to be kept relevant in the consumers’ minds. Twitch and word of mouth are good ways to get into the core consumer market’s mind, but this does not expand the market itself. This is Red Ocean, where companies cannibalise each other. Electronic games industry has to expand their market in order to survive and advance, and Capcom’s approach to expand the awareness of its brands into movies series like Resident Evil is doing just that. This is why we are getting the Monster Hunter movie. The game has a strong brand recognition, part of Capcom’s Big Four million-sellers, share the title with Street Fighter, Resident Evil and Mega Man.

Capcom notes that during the last gives years since 2014, the operating costs have risen. Monster Hunter World‘s success has increased revenues, but overall the trend isn’t exactly healthy. Capcom had almost a ten-year slouch between 2005 and 2015, and it is noted that sales declined in 2010. With constant major releases since 2014 has seen raise in net sales and thus in income. All this really means that Capcom has to keep releasing new and well developed titles at a constant pace, something that applies to every game company out there. More importantly, this does no mean the games have to be high budget, but we’re going to get to that a bit later. With Capcom internally reforming itself since 2015, things have become more rosy. This would sign that Capcom has somewhat new internal direction, which has resulted in successful titles like Resident Evil 7. Of course, the cost and workload of new titles on new hardware has been on a rising trend, but that’s to be expected if the company intends to push graphical and interface boundaries in their usual pace.

Hauhiro Tsujimoto, the COO, mentions that he intends to continue on Single Content Multiple Usage strategy. For example, Street Fighter V is a title like this, where the the base game is expanded upon rather than creating creating an additional, new title. He also mentions changes in the mobile market and specifically uses the term over-reliant when mentioning gatcha. Using lottery in the same context however would signify that in countries where any form of lottery is considered gambling and require governmental approval, these titles may be breaking the law. Tsujimoto also mentions that he experts esports to still have a rising market, something I do not share with him, considering the aforementioned SFV and Marvel VS Capcom Infinity have not exactly being mass successes compared to their rivals like Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Capcom’s further strategy to grow franchises as global brands is very similar to Sega’s on outer appearance. The major part of this is simultaneous launch of games across the world. Capcom has also taken steps to listen more to the consumer feedback, and uses how they approached Monster Hunter World‘s PC port’s problems solely based on user feedback. Beta testing was also important in making the title. All these have been more common among PC gaming, but considering how much modern consoles are dumbed down PCs, this only to be expected.

Another example with more robust examples is SFV. Server problems, continuing improvement of the game, expansion in esports scene and pricing strategies have all served the game more or less in a positive light, though the overall perception of the game is still questionable.

All this really amounts to Capcom aiming to iron out issues before launch and concentrate on consumer feedback whenever possible. The idea of One content Multiple Uses however does signify that Capcom will rely on digital distribution further, meaning future Capcom games of this caliber will be used as a base platform and you won’t be buying a full, one-package deal game, at least not on launch. SFV had an updated retail version with most additions included, but whether or not we can count that as a true new version of the game is somewhat an open question.

This also shows in Capcom’s financial strategy. Kenkichi Nomura, the CFO, mentions that Capcom intends to enhance their development environment and Digital Contents business. While this does not mean Capcom will cut production of physical goods, it does signify that the aforementioned plan most likely will be carried out with further titles in the future. However, digital titles do have longer lasting power thanks to them never really vanishing from digital stores, unless license runs out or the company goes down.

The most interesting bit of Nomura’s notions is in What is the status of Internal reserves and fund procurement?, where he states that game development has been on the rise since current-generation and multifunctional game consoles arrived. While it is natural for higher spec machines requiring higher development costs, singling this out is strange. Does this mean multifunctional consoles have some inherent in their nature that raises development costs?

Overall, it would seem Capcom wishes to further streamline their development process and eliminate  stuff that would only cause costs. Usual business, nothing special to see here. However, Digital Content will have further emphasize still.

Of course, Capcom can’t compete in the field without original content, and that’s something they wish to emphasize.

The three titles showcased are Devil May Cry 5, the remake of Resident Evil 2, and Mega Man 11. DMC5 is the weirdest example, mostly boasting about the RE Engine and how engaging the IP has been across mediums. It would seem that this is more a showcase piece towards the fans at its core over everything else. In contrast, Resident Evil 2 is used to showcase of constant releases of their flagship franchise. Both emphasize the level of realism in their own ways, making both of them graphical cornerstones in the presentation, and how proper utilisation of both recognized brands will make a mark on the industry.

Mega Man 11 however is the most interesting of the three. The foundation for Mega Man 11 was diversity; all the members had different histories, different views what Mega Man was and had a wide variety of experiences from young newcomers to industry veterans working on it. It is specifically mentioned that the game may not look technologically advanced, but is designed to play extremely well. Or as they out it, it is loaded with techniques that could be described as “master handicraft”.

Capcom has a thing for technologically advanced games and they’re not afraid to use it in their PR. Pushing boundaries has been their thing for a long time now as a company, but at some point this meant that games that could not really push boundaries were put on the back burner. Mega Man games do not require to push the hardware to the maximum anymore, and titles like Mega Man X8 arguably suffered from trying to make a big-budget Mega Man game. It would seem that the success of Mega Man 11 has made Capcom take notice of this, it being lower on the budget and relying on visual design and style over raw graphics power. Reawakening dormant IP is Capcom’s keyword for MM11, and if they were to follow in suite, Capcom could have a one-two punch strategy with high-end games accompanied by less costing games with higher emphasize on core design. Without a doubt the upcoming Capcom Beat-Em Up collection is testing waters whether or not they should dabble in that genre again.

This coincides with Yoichi Egawa’s foundation to produce World-Class quality and profitability. He puts Capcom’s thinking to simple words; first, if the game isn’t good, it won’t sell; second, if you don’t pursue global brands, you won’t survive in the game industry. Considering Capcom had a slouch where their game simply weren’t all that great, this would ring true. Capcom is also one of the few Japanese companies that truly try to keep itself on the global market, and ultimately modern Capcom has surprisingly low amount of Japanese exclusive titles. They were also publisher for titles like GTA in Japan, meaning they’ve been dabbling on trying to introduce Western games to the Japanese market as well.

In addition to this, Egawa wishes to create hot mobile titles (in which manner is open to question) and address development of esports and long-term sales model. This would combine with his wanting to further enforce online-multiplayer. Long-term sales can be tied to the Digital Content method discussed previously, whole esports and multi-player is directly tied to competitive scene. He specifically mentions having artisan pride in developing games, something which further has emphasize on how Capcom wants to approach their titles at this moment in time. Capcom, however, is still a corporation intending to make profit, but it would seem that they are a corporation wanting to make profit with master craftsmanship level products, but they can’t do that without proper personal and budget. Thus, hiring and training has to be considered.

As for Social sections, Capcom has initiatives to hire more non-Japanese and women. They have installed a system that enables workers to have childcare leave and shortened work hours in order to allow them to spend more time with their child after birth. This also extends to men, and there a number of male employees who have taken up on this chance. Capcom states that 21% of their workforce and 10.3% of their manager staff are women. None of this should matter in terms of business, only that they drive business up. This is PR however, and part of this PR is that Capcom has follow the General Employer Action, which sees women consisting 20% of the newly graduated staff and have at least 15% manager women. While this would fight against the idea of best first, it is probable that Capcom’s training program will level the new workforce across the board. Successful business tends to run on pure meritocracy, but it nice to see Capcom extending its child leave program across the board. How Japanese corporate culture sees this is another issue altogether.

Part of the social strategies Capcom is enacting attempts at revitalization of areas across Japan. This includes helping with events and business by paying money to advertise on buses and such, using Capcom’s characters to promote regions and include arcades in given areas. Similarly, Capcom has managed to cut out environmental loads via Digital Content and further promoting power saving methods across the company, but the most important bit can be found in their aim to reduce environmental impact of their Pachislot machines. If you follow any pachislot manufacturer long enough, you will see parts and gimmicks being redressed and recycled. There has also been a slight trend to tone down the flashiness of pachislot machines, which would save power further.

With that all the way, Capcom’s risk management pretty much covers everything discussed thus far. Expanding market, making their IPs more global, developing regions, stabilise revenues and so on. The weirdest bit is to expand on VR, but this most likely coincides with Capcom’s wishes to cultivate a VR game market in amusement equipment business, meaning arcade-specific VR titles. This probably is better option than to dedicate workforce on home-use VR.

There are few statistics that are interesting relating to risk management; used game sales in Japan are on a downward trend, mostly likely due to longer development cycles and increase of digital content, and arcades have seen ever so slight increase in users. Is there a generation that wishes to be play more outside of their home in Japan? This would require further studies and statistics to say for sure.

Further risks and responses are Capcom usual; create sequels or remakes on obsolete games, expand market and boost brand recognition if core consumer disinterest becomes relevant, expand game sales periods with sluggish sales, and establish recurring cumulative revenue models and expand to different media if decrease in users is met for more boost brand recognition. Risk assessment section is probably one of the more important parts, as it has to be straightforward, cutting away most of PR bells and whistles.

Capcom’s analysis on the game market shows that they see console and PC market overlapping. This is due to the overlap of titles released across the two, whole mobile market is its separate thing. The continuing rapid growth of mobile market is still present, but Capcom hasn’t had the best success with their mobile games due to their over-reliance on gatcha and the way how smartphone gamers tends to jump between games. Furthermore, Capcom’s lack of know-how in the market is marked as one of the reason why they’ve been failing on mobile while PC and consoles have seen increased revenues.

Capcom’s constant move towards more DLC in their One Content Multiple Uses philosophy comes from sheer sales data; DLC has taken over package game sales as of 2017 and is estimated to increase with time. Mobile market is estimated to rise on a similar manner, though it should be noted how fierce the competition ultimately is; vast majority of smartphone users that make revenue for the company reside in Asia. However, in terms of best growth was seen in PC market, mainly in China and other Asian regions, but unlike with smartphones, the rate of growth is estimated to slow down. The Western view of markets are a bit skewed, and what we see in Capcom’s analysis’ that Asian PC and smartphone markets are on the rise and making more profits than their bread and butter console games consumer market. Furthermore, Capcom intends to capitalise on esports’ rising popularity and they are intending to see it to rise as a valid new form of sports in order to further their sales in competitive titles like Street Fighter V. In addition, Monster Hunter World is effectively cornerstone in current mindset Capcom has, despite their initial hesitation whether or not it would be a success. The same level of emphasize on graphics and polish should be seen in future titles, like the remake of Resident Evil 2, though clearly Mega Man 11 is buckling this trend a bit.

The SWOT analysis is pretty much everything we’ve covered thus far; Capcom’s main strength is in strong quality development of titles and their own IPs, but at the same their weakness is reliance on specific genres. Overall, Capcom mainline library of current games has a limited scope in these terms, and they are more known for their action titles than anything else. Another weakness is of course the lack of any major success in the mobile market. However, the opportunities Capcom sees is in the decrease of competition, meaning that the titles they put out like Monster Hunter World have no direct competition. There are no games like MH that would be on the surface. Expansion of esports and VR are soon a market possibilities, though with the lacklustre expansion of VR market overall puts this into question. Main threat is noted as the diminishing consumer presence due to the increased presence of entertainment in general. The ways we entertain ourselves nowadays has changed since two or three decades ago, something the electronic games industry should consider a threat in terms of general market. Of course, in mobile gaming the sheer amount of firms and titles released is Capcom’s main concern, especially with them lacking in software and skills in the market.

tl;dr version

Capcom intends to increase brand recognition via movies and other forms of entertainment. There’s going to be more DLC in the future, as Capcom has taken the philosophy of One Content Multiple Uses. The success of Mega Man 11 has made Capcom aware of the their sleeping IPs’ values. Monster Hunter World will be used as an example how to go onward with business in the near future. They also intend to expand in esports scene to promote their games and wish to see esports recognized as legit sport. They suck at mobile market and still want a nice slice of that pie. They have an upwards trend in profits since 2015, and they intend to keep it going with titles they consider to be high-end and have a high-cost.

 

 

March of the working robot

Ever since the industrial revolution revolutionaised the mass production of goods, machines have replaced manual labour slowly, but surely. The utopia where machines have taken over all manual labour is still currently a pipe a dream, but ultimately it may come to pass, if technology and all related fields keep advancing. The rudimentary tool AI that drives most current industrial robots may seem simple, but that too is mostly a question of time.

Hobbies and industries have evolved remarkably in the last hundred years, even more so in the last thirty or so years. If you wanted to make your own model kit from scratch, you needed to amass the materials and begin to cut and assemble them properly. Nowadays, that work has been relegated to a 3D printer, which simply accepts a model it needs to extrude from its nozzle. This is what essentially what’s at the core of this mechanisation of labour; one man and one machine. This is why some schools around the world have begun emphasizing skills relating to future-world jobs, like coding, in order to ensure that no child would lack the basic skills to survive in the thought modern world. Whether or not this is the best approach is up to the question, but it is undeniable that mechanical workforce is slowly but surely making their way in regions where you wouldn’t believe them fitting in. As is the case, these things usually stat out small and then build from that.

To use welding as an example, welding started out heating two objects and then adding third material to weld the objects together. It was revolutionised when modern welding via high current became a thing. Welding rods made things simpler. That evolved further into feeding a constant wire with protective gas. For some time now, in some cases the human element has been almost completely removed and a robot arm welds as instructed. The human element is there to correct the machine, maybe finalise the product, but not to work the seams the robot is responsible for. The 3D printer mentioned above is this exact same phenomena, and the same thing has been moving towards every field. Objectively speaking, we do not have a need for sculptors nowadays, when all you need is some 3D skills and an access to a CNC machine. A router with a fine tip will always be better than the human hand.

All this is more or less self-evident, but what about work places that require more human touch? Numerous stores have already installed self-service counters for customers to go through, needing to employ fewer workers. Phone service are a classical example, though not all of them work as well as they’re intended to. The issue is of intelligence, as machines don’t have general intelligence that would work and understand. Current AI can compute meanings from library of definitions, but none of them truly understand what’s told to them.

Human touch can be replaced, or at least mitigated to some extent. For example, Paro the Therapeutic Robot made its rounds few years back when every news source showcased how it helped old people with things like stress. The seal shaped robot would require some care to be given, like petting and talking sweet things to it. If left alone, it would begin to whine. Though according to the site, if you hit it, it will learn and cease repeating that action, something I doubt many people would want to be replicated with any living thing. In case of lack of contact with, well, pretty much anything when it comes to old people’s homes sometimes, a robot that responds to your actions does seem like a good alternative, at least for some time. It’s like how some people get a large pillow and put a picture of their cartoon wife on there. It might not be the same as hugging and sleeping with a real being, but human mind is plastic enough to convince itself about a lot of things, like communism being a good idea.

With time, the intelligence of machines might achieve the level high enough to at least understand limited topics. A robot cashier for example wouldn’t need to understand anything beyond what the consumer is bringing to it, scan the products and request a payment. Such robot should be relatively easy to build even with modern technology and would save companies money in salaries. Robots could even fill the shelves, given that numerous warehouses already run on automated vehicles that move things about without much human assistance.

The industrial revolution had its Luddite movement, and Neo-Luddites are a thing. Technology may make life easier and work cheaper, which often is the argument against it; it takes away jobs from the people. Car replaced the horse, and welding robot replaced the welder. This of course always opens new job fields; now somebody needs to make the cars, but the tech evolution has now machines building machines to work. The argument of course is easy to understand, but at the same time technology has always moved like this. Often a tool to make work easier and less strenuous is acceptable to most, but the idea of their job being replaced by something inanimate raises eyebrows. Sure, some fields like medical doctors won’t be replaced anytime soon, though as mentioned, as the fields evolve things won’t look the same. If we want to give all jobs like this the absolute back limit, it would be when general intelligence is created, that is AI which is one human level of intelligence. From there, nothing’s a limit anymore. At that point, not even coding needs to have a human input.

Is this post about personal fears regarding the job market? No, but the observations and discussions I’ve been making during the last seven years alone shows that industries with reliance on hard manual labour probably will see drastic changes in short period of time in the near future. It all depends on the worldwide macro-economics, as such change would need a driving force behind it. As much as some people hate to admit it, both World Wars advanced sciences and technologies in leaps and bounds, and we’ve been enjoying fruits of those labours for some time now. The Cold War drove space tech another set of steps, but after that there hasn’t been much driving us forwards. Well, outside the information warfare that’s constantly raging without us knowing or seeing it. I doubt we’re ever going to achieve post-scarcity world like in Star Trek,

The robot work revolution is not all that relevant in our time, but it’ll get there at some point, if we’re lucky. With all the cuts in education and downgrading everything surrounding it, it’s more likely that future workforce may be able to dabble with their phones more than to calculate how much grams of drugs you should get.

Retro Fighters’ Brawler 64 controller review Part 2; New Parts

Be sure to check the first part of the review here.

I’ll just assume you’ve red the previous part or overall know the issues that Retro Fighters’ Brawler 64 controller had. Mostly, it was the left shoulder button issue, where rocking the stick to the top left would lift it and make it move. don’t expect major revisions on any other department.

Let’s spend any time on the front for now, let’s jump willy nilly into the insides of it and see what changes were made to the mould to fix issues.

Whoops, forgot to take off that Turbo Button from the old shell

First of all, their solution was the expected one; retooling. Retooling is to change mould just enough to use it further for with minimum costs. This in itself is nothing to scoff at, as it usually saves time and money from the consumers’ pockets. At first, the differences in the shell are apparent, mainly that the extrusions for the build-in vibrators have been removed. They added to nothing else but teeny tiny weight, but it would have been nice to have build-in rumbling that could have been toggled on or off via a switch. No unnecessary expansion pack uses. This really would have added to the value of the controller.

The second change is in the shoulder buttons, which actually use leaf-switch mechanic to spring back up. If you look at the bottom of the L-Button, the one at the top right corner of the photo, you can see that it has no hook on it. The R-Button has it and so does the old mould. This is part of the solution in order to fix the problem I mentioned in the first paragraph. Now that the button is not restricted to stay in its slot, it can freely move about. This of course raises the question if the button can raise itself from its resting place, and it can. You’d need to deliberately lift it off though, but accidents happen. This is a solution, but without a doubt not the most optimal one. This shows signs of hurry and stress, something all designers can relate to, but this solution, despite fixing the problem itself, does degrade from its overall value. It’s a hatchet job at best.

Let’s take a look at the back half of the shell then.

For better or worse, they are clearly labelled 1 and 2 for our pleasure. Similar to the front half, there are no brackets for a vibrator motor. More importantly, the extremely lacklustre expansion lock has been upgraded and fixed. On the original, on the right, you can see the lock mechanism being in an angle, making inserting and pulling expansion packs out rather tiresome and at best infuriating. Now that the lock sits straight, the whole ordeal is as smooth as you’d expect it to be. This is a definitive plus.

The main difference between the new and old halves seems to be that the controller’s front half seems to be slightly raised in order to keep the stick from bumping into the L-Button. This has necessitated to include new A, B and C Buttons. I first expected the A and B to stand more raised from the surface, but this was not the case. However, quality often showcases itself with the smallest details, and the C-Button’s new moulds were not up to standard.

The C-Buttons are completely uncleaned. All that junk, both at the base and on the notches that guide them into their proper place, had to be cleaned with a knife. While this wasn’t a major deal, backers who opted to change their shells themselves might’ve found themselves slightly puzzled why their C-Buttons were jamming. Granted, Retro Fighers did post a Youtube video how to change the parts, but a customer shouldn’t have to shave plastic off from their spanking new buttons they just received three weeks later than everyone else in the world. I build models, so this wasn’t a problem, but knowing people already asked about this tells you how backers weren’t happy with this.

When put together, the controller doesn’t look any different from the old one, outside a different sticker on the back, so I’ll just recycle a picture from the first part here.

With the new parts installed, there are no buttons or stick interacting with each other and remind you that you overpaid for the controller. Yes, considering Retro Fighters had to put out new parts to fix something like this and didn’t deliver on the promise of full N64 support due to something they never explicitly stated, the controller remains as second option at best despite being better than the stock N64 controller in almost every way. The stock N64’s controller might be a bit awkward even after all these years and its stick is pretty janky piece, but its construction and build quality leave no room for guesswork. The same can be said of some other peripheral controllers released for the N64, some of which I’d like to get for the sake of comparisons, though putting money into a system I don’t play on a regular basis would be unwise.

However, I must admit that despite all the issues it has, it does make a good backup or secondary controller. If you can find it on sale, change the Not Recommended status into Worth Considering and hope that Retro Fighters have put more second versions out there than the first ones, and that they’re willing to change parts if you end up with the first version somehow. Otherwise, I can’t recommend this controller, it’s just not up to par standards-wise.

Two steps forwards, one step back with video game censorship

This isn’t exactly a topic I intended to cover this soon after the whole Dead or Alive 6 PR fiasco. Tecmo sure has tried to rebuild their trust with the disassociated core audience with their latest update, but the damage from the initial barrage of news and statements is hard to recover from. Now, Sony’s stepped in for the third time to practice censorship on their platform. The brand that has been selling with the image of being the choice for an adult and mature electronics entertainment user is now a platform more prone to see your title being affected if the content has a sex-positive stance than Nintendo.

So, what’s it this time then? The Western release of Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal will have its skinship mode removed in the PlayStation 4 version, as stated by XSDEED. This is not their decisions, but Sony has wished this to be removed, i.e. they have issued a demand that if this mode exists in the game, it won’t be allowed to be on the platform. Someone at Sony hasn’t played much attention, as this kind mode has already existed on previous Senran Kagura titles without any word from them. It would seem that someone in power has a level of dislike towards Japanese video games with certain kind of fan service elements to them. Furthermore, thanks to GTA’s Hot Coffee controversy, no game can have material that’s not approved remain in the game code. If Sony demands complete removal of Skinship mode, it means XSEED has to spend extra cash to remove all vestiges from the code, which may affect some other parts of the game if not done properly. Hopefully, all they need to do is to dummy out the directory files in order to impact the game’s code least possible amount.

Before this, Sony had banned Omega Labyrinth Z from getting a Western release. They disapproved the title, despite it had successfully gained ESBR and PEGI classifications. PQcube, the title’s publisher, had already had most, if not all, of their translation work done for the title and were ready to release it. Because of the ban, PQube lost time and money, probably necessitating them to choose titles with less risque nature to them and avoid niche titles at least for a time. In order to port the game to e.g. Steam, it would probably take an extra $10 000 to happen, something the company may not want to throw in.

Around a week after screwing PQube, Sony delayed Nekopara Vol1, a visual novel about catgirls, got delayed worldwide. The title was slated for Summer 2018, but searching for the title on PSN gives no results for it. However, going into Nintendo’s Game Store and looking up Nekopara there gives a definitive result. At face value, it seems Nekopara never came to Sony’s platform while Nintendo had seemingly no problems with it. Delayed until further notice, but fans of the series probably have picked this one up elsewhere already, like Steam where they can patch it.

We understand the logic just fine; these titles’ fan service is in nature that does not conform to overall Western values. These three titles are inherently Japanese and do seem over-the-top in their nature of handling the characters every which way. Nevertheless, this exact aspect is part of their charm and have their audience. Omega Labyrinth Z does not have the luxury of having a Steam port like Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal. If fans want the game as intended and on console, they are required to import the Japanese version.

The issue of these characters being too young or the like has been discussed to death, even on this blog. I’ll always point out that this is digital and no human being is present, there is no exploitation or damage to done to anyone or anything. Dead or Alive Xtrme 3 is probably the best point to start with, and all these really raises the question if Sony themselves something to do with it not being published in the West and not just Tecmo wanting to showcase their sensibility towards loud fringe factions. If someone takes offense in how things looks, they can vote with their wallets and not buy the title.

Of course, the discussion that’s always sidestepped in the official circles is that this is taking away the intended artistry from these games, especially in case of Senran Kagura‘s, when an intended function and mode is removed. Sony and other corporations easily fling claims about games being art and such to gain image victories and promote the idea of games being larger than life entertainment like movies and music, which in reality all are rather mundane and at equal footing. When it comes to business and trying to stick to certain kind of ideologies, these words are flung out of the windows. They are pretty words, but that’s what they all are in the end. The industry, and the Red Ocean consumers, have been trying to sell the idea of games as art for so long that some of them take it as face value, but whenever a game is cancelled due to its content, censored because it might offense somebody or because the platform owner simply doesn’t want it for some reason, we are reminded that we are discussing an industry that is business and first and foremost.

Then again, perhaps we should consider games as art in its very classical form, where art is is just extension of craftsmanship and artisanal skills. Someonebody orders something to be made, a painting for example, giving the person money to pain what’s demanded of them and the artist fulfills the request. Art historically hasn’t been trying to express some deep emotions or find oneself, but to fulfill the customers demands and requests the best they can. No, it’s not commercial art, its art as it has been historically. Here we can argue whether or not the consumer should have the veto whether or not the artists, i.e. the developers and publishers, can put in their games as consumers are the one purchasing the end-product, but that would never succeed. The platform owners are just middle-hands, but they clearly have some sort of word what’s in and what’s no already, so the onus originally seems to be on whoever pays the biggest bill, often the publisher.

Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo directly in their wake, should take after Valve and allow free market to reign on their system with consumers being the end decider what’s successful and what isn’t. I’m as surprised as you are, didn’t see that coming. It’s almost crazy to think that Nintendo has been trying to make their platforms appear more mature with titles like Bayonetta, while Sony’s taking steps backwards.

28/10/2018 Addition

As it turns out, it would seem Japanese developers are also required to censor their games from the get go on the table if they want to have their titles on PS4. A Twitter user uitachibana has some comparative examples between platforms, where PS4 versions have more risque scenes effectively blocked by a bright light. Visual Novel developer Light has come forth about Sony’s new policy, forcing the developer to censor their title in order to be released on the platform. Sony’s strict and aggressive approach on anything risque or sexually adult oriented content has prevented their latest title, Silverio Trinity, being published right after new year because Sony is not willing to approve the title.

The worst part of all, the developers have been instructed to plead their approvals in English, meaning that Sony of Japan has relegated this to another party, probably inside of Sony of America. This would effectively mean whatever agenda and politics this party wants to enforce across the platform, they can. The language barrier alone is large to both directions, and it is very clear that whatever party is in charge of the censorship doesn’t care about cultural differences or consumer wants.