I’ve talked about this topic to death on the blog, so this entry will be short. Omega Labyrinth got blocked by Sony in the Western market, and probably was one of the last Japanese games that didn’t have to go through the censorship police. Marvelous has been getting the shaft thanks to Senran Kagura to the point the series creator left them, and now they’re rather stuck with Rune Factory 5 and are telling to the public that they shouldn’t expect the game until April 2020. At this point, the Switch or Xbox One should be considered the best possible option for freedom of work, and leave hyper violence for Sony. I assume Sony would like keep things in check in a way that doesn’t pop like a sore thumb and slap you in the face.
Omega Labyrinth Life just got announced, and ‘lo and behold what in the fuck. There’s no reason for the game to have two different logos across platforms, that’s never been a thing in of itself outside versions. There is no other reason for this than Sony practicing their now overt becoming censorship. Omega Labyrinth‘s logo has been pretty great in that it has always played with the whole playish aspect with the sexuality, having a comedic and cute approach to the whole thing and not taking it too seriously. Here, have some bouncy boobs and enjoy it the show. Nothing harmful, nobody has gotten PTSD from seeing joyful tits. Unlike certain 3D modeller at Netherrealms, who can’t sleep due to the horrifying shit he had to watch and use as a reference when making latest Mortal Kombat 11’s visceral violence. Without the whole Omega bit, the PS4 version is just Labyrinth Life. Not even kidding, the PS4 version was cut short.
Best thing of all, the Switch version is basically advertised as This is the real version while the PS4 versions is hit with a slogan You can play this in front of your family! You thought I was kidding when I titled my last post about Sony’s censorship about them being family friendly, but this is really the way things are going with them. I’d laugh at the whole damn ordeal if it was just some bad parody, but it’s almost like some one at Sony took a joke seriously and ran with it. Gematsu has tl’d section what the further differences are between PS4 and Switch versions.
With two versions of the same game on two different platforms, the consumer has some freedom to choose, some agency has been given to them. While politic no little place in video games (one of the missteps Sony’s doing with their whole shtick here) deciding where to buy, what to buy and even how to buy a game can be used as a leverage to make a statement. While the money will ultimately end up with the developer and whoever’s in the middle, the choice given here can also be stated as follows; do you support a company for practicing censorship, or do you support the company that support creative freedom?
Aalt, you’re being facetious here. Of course I am, this is a hyperbolic statement, but no less valid when you consider how hard companies, especially Japanese companies, value raw data. This is probably D3 Publisher testing waters which direction to go in the future to some extent, but also probably just serving both sides of the console chasm all the while leaving something core goodness for the series’s fans. You’ve got some agency in your hands, if you’re interested in making a statement with your wallet here. I doubt many people reading this post has any interest in buying the game proper, but consider the following; would this have happened if the economy would be different, if there wasn’t room to pick and choose what’s on your platform for the sake of maximising profits?
Funny that, this is more solid stuff for Sony using almost racist depiction of American censorship standards; it’s A-OK to show someone, especially a man, being gutted, shot in the head, ripped apart, face smashed in and spine being ripped. R-18, s’all good, maybe even good for teen. A pair of boobs? X-rated and ban it.
If you’re familiar with some of Sega’s (and Red Entertainment’s) prestige IPs, Sakura Taisen, or as known under its official English moniker, Sakura Wars, is a franchise that people sometimes bring up when discussing game IPs that never got a real chance in the West. When it did however, it bombed for whatever reasons. Only the fifth installment was released in the West, and you can imagine how well that went. To make matters worse, if reports are to be believed, even Japan gave a colder shoulder to that entry than the rest of the series. So not the greatest start for this series outside of Japan.
Something like Yakuza had to build its fanbase for a decade before it broke through its barriers toward the larger markets. Initially, it was marketed and touted as the spiritual sequel to Shuenmue but since then it has been allowed to flourish on its own. As a concept, it is more approachable game than Sakura Wars. After all, realistic modern day Japan is more approachable as a concept than fantasy version of Taishō period Japan. While it would be easy to simply Sakura Wars as a strategic RPG with classical oriental motif, the fact that it heavily marries its gameplay to visual novel styled story telling and certain level of emphasize on dating simulation, it is extremely clear why Sega would have worries whether or not any of the series’ games would a success enough in the West.
Despite what the sub-culture would like you to tell, Japanese media cartoons and comics are still a relatively small niche in the West, especially in the US. Sure, they’re probably the most stable mainstream than what it has ever been. Everything from dubbing to free streaming has been made to open the access points for people with interest, but even in Europe certain other forms of media are consumed more despite the how much e.g. France and Italy experienced Japanese classics in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. That was the time when the origin of these shows wasn’t made a huge deal, that their source wasn’t something that used to market. The best example of this is still with the US marketing of the NES and its games, where some have come to argue that Nintendo of America intentionally made people think the NES and its games were American products. Perhaps it was because how well Japan’s aggressive business practices did against US businesses, or maybe just to keep things as a cohesive whole. The source didn’t really matter, only that Nintendo’s branding was there and visible.
Sakura Wars is inherently Japanese to the point of its detriment in the Western market.
My point of Yakuza taking a decade to make a solid fanbase comes is important, as it initially had, and still has, the same kind of wall on its way. However, the constant positive word of mouth and Sega sticking to their guns and releasing all the mainline games, and that one zombie sidegame, and ultimately growing positive press gave the series a pretty good reputation. It also helped that it was called Japanese Grand Theft Auto at some point during the two latest GTA games, which made more people curious about it. more than few fans were made through that.
Sakura Wars has none of this backing it up. While it has a small and dedicated cult following in the West, that’s all it has. Japan on the other hand treats the IP with silk gloves, though later games in the series simply didn’t have the selling power the earlier titles had. Sakura Wars is an expensive franchise to make with all the animated cutscenes, all the voices that need to be paid, the illustrated works and whole multimedia thing it has going on with cartoons, comics, figures and whatnot. It was designed from grounds up for Japanese markets only. It’s cultural ties are its most prominent element after all, specifically designed to invoke certain emotional response from the Japanese consumers. This is similar how Ciel Nosurge uses Shōwa era to directly invoke nostalgia from its older players. The Western audience has no links to this age in any form outside historical oddities. It becomes a double-edged sword in the Western markets.
Imagine if some US developer would make a fantasy RPG set in a romanticised version of the American Civil War with romance partner elements akin to Dragon Age. Whatever its success would be in the US, both European and Asian markets would not have any connections to the era and treat it as some kind of self-centered, bolstering product. Similarly, a British developer could make a similar product of their great colonial days, and it would have the same reception. This would be similar how Sakura Wars presents its idealised fantasy version of the Imperial Japan that no longer exists.
This carries even to the music of the series, with its main theme is a mix of Super Sentai opening song and 1949’s Aoi Sanmyaku‘s theme. Most of the character songs later in the franchise has been intentionally designed and composed to be nostalgic period pieces with characteristic twists. However, the main, ‘Geki! Teitoku Kagekidan’, or ‘Attack! Imperial Floral Assault Troop,’ has been the most repeated song in the franchise and is the most iconic representation whenever the series represents itself. Project Sakura Wars, the upcoming game, even uses a new variation on the song, further emphasising the fact that this is a new game.
Compare the two song here;
The main difference is in the lyrics while keeping the base composition the same. Perhaps I should also emphasise that the Japanese title of Project Sakura Wars is translated as New Sakura Wars. Again, culturally the song hits the times, as it was used to introduce melodic composition back to Japanese mainstream, and was Kohei Tanaka’s first major video game work, and helped him to further his career. I must admit I have an enormous soft spot for Kohei Tanaka’s works, and probably should count as one of his fans. I even have GaoGaiGar DVD box with his signature on it. (He was surprised and asked if I had seen the whole series, and was rather touched to hear that it made me a fan of his other works as well.) Sakura Wars music is one of the more important works for him, and has been used to describe his body of works in Western conventions. But I digress.
With only one low-selling game in the West, Sega’s best bet to market this game in the West is to tie itself to Sakura Wars’ popularity and status as a prestige franchise within their home market. The series has always shown strong national and historical pride despite its fantastic nature, which probably will rub some small groups the wrong way. Unless this time the rule is that North Americans and Europeans can’t show national pride, but others can. The gameplay elements, with its strong emphasize what Sega has coined as ‘dramatic adventure,’ naturally will get the dating sim label, which still carries the whole ‘dating sim=porn game’ stigma that’s been around since the early 1990’s. To the same extent, no matter what the hardcore VN fans tells you, the general perception is still ‘VN=porn game’.
Still, as a certain Youtuber told me in a chat why he didn’t get into the series was because, and I quote; “Does that actually have gameplay? I sat down once for an hour and they just wouldn’t shut the fuck up.” “Oh gee, another PS2 RPG!” This isn’t all too rare a reaction to the series from the two decades I’ve followed the series from the sidelines. Sony made a similar notion, as an yet unnamed company tried to localise the ports of the two first Sakura Wars, but were rejected by Sony when they categorised the series as text novels due to sheer amount of text compared to the game play.
Yakuza is the game franchise that showed Sega that inherently Japanese products can succeed in the West. With their newfound courage and willingness to serve a niche audience is always welcome, and perhaps there’s some hopes that they’ll keep expanding if the series becomes a cult hit. Then again, Yakuza visually doesn’t look cartoony and sticks its legs into more realistic graphics and setting over girls with magical powers controlling robots to defeat demons. One more thing that makes it easier to sell. Nevertheless, there is a niche for the series. If Fire Emblem can find its niche despite its low acceptance first, all Sakura Wars needs to do is to be present and have a new entry available.
This isn’t enough as is though, it also has to stay true to its nature to keep that niche. Capitulating to trends, removing game play elements, censoring anything either during development or in overseas version or removing any cultural motifs among numerous others will impact how that niche will view the game, thus affecting how the word of mouth will treat the title. They also need to do translation and localisation in-house and follow Yakuza‘s later steps, as Sakura Wars; So Long My Love has the usual NISA quality of translation and buggy coding. The PS2 version came with two discs in the West, one with faithful translation with Japanese voices, and one that had NISA’s less-than-accurate translations with extremely subpar English voice acting. The Wii version is based on the second NISA-fied disc, so you might burn it. Sadly, the Wii version was the only version released in Europe, making Sakura Wars initial entry in the PAL region doubly worse. Then again, starting with fifth game in the franchise might not be a good idea. A soft reboot on the franchise probably was the best move outside complete modern remake of the first game.
There is hope for Project Sakura Wars to be best it can, seeing the development team is using lessons learned from Yakuza how to present the game, but it was also mentioned that battles would be easier to go through in order for new players to have a better time. This interview with Famitsu is rather good representation how carefully the new entry is approached, but perhaps it also the text between the lines is telling how they’re putting more effort on story segments over gameplay, which will only raise the wall for the mass audiences. People who play games for stories, games like Persona 5, probably would like their direction.
Sega will have to deal with Sakura Wars being inherently anime and Japanese, which are probably its biggest obstacles in the larger markets while being one of major selling points to sub-culture niches. The best way to build toward an expanding market is up start with a cult-hit. I wish this series would see some decent success in order to ensure further longevity of the franchise and more localised entries, despite its niche status in the West. It’s an expensive endeavour for Sega, but perhaps the market niche is large enough now for this new Sakura Wars to bloom in spring 2020.
In the meanwhile, you can visit Japan and play that Pachislot machine.
Nintendo recently released their Nine months financial results briefing for fiscal year ending march 2019, and it is overall nothing surprising to read. However, in comparison to Wii’s four million unit sales in December 2009, Switch is still lagging despite its high spike of sales in December 2018. Why did the Wii see so many units sold? New Super Mario Bros. Wii. What gave Switch sales the dominance over Xbox One and PlayStation 4? Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
People still snicker at the Wii, ignoring the amount of sales and install base it had. The economy ten years ago was in the trash and people didn’t exactly have the money to buy things as much as we do now. Effectively, currently anything sells due to the good overall health of the economy, even if there are some signs of its starting to go down a bit. Wii’s strategy to disrupt the market with a cheaper, less-powered device with software that would hit the consumer wants both in and out the consumer market was a massive success. The Switch being a hybrid console could have lead to a similar position, but the software’s not quite as much there as it could.
However, the spike the Switch saw last December was solely due to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The Wii U, despite having the initial version of the game (and let’s be completely frank; Smash Bros. Ultimate is effectively just a souped up port) the hardware and the software library were abysmal. 3.32 million units within four weeks for one title is something other companies can barely dream of, often citing hundreds of thousands of sales made throughout a year or so. It should be noted that Smash Ultimate also sold more than any other entry in the series, with Melee and Smash Bros. for Wii U having the least sales. Nintendo 3DS, despite its lacklustre success (or maybe even slight failure compared to the DS’ userbase) sold about three times Smash Bros. units than the Wii U.
Ten years ago, both the industry and the press weren’t exactly friendly towards Nintendo or its software. Despite it being the era of Retrosploitation with titles like Mega Man 9 being a thing, the industry and media lambasted that there wasn’t any space for 2D games, people didn’t want that. The Wii wasn’t powerful enough console to run the latest games and that its games weren’t wanted. Even Nintendo themselves were wrong in this. The sales the Wii made with New Super Mario Bros. Wii. showcased that there was, and still is, a strong demand for 2D games, even when Nintendo trips with them to some degree. NSMB on the DS was the start of it all, and the stupidly large amount of sales Wii’s Virtual Console made were stupidly insane.
2D games sell. The tale from the late 90’s and 00’s that 2D is dead and have no place are time and time again shown wrong in sales numbers. Even titles like Octopath Traveler makes waves by being high-profile 2D game. Another title that kicked a franchise back into the general consumer’s awareness is Mega Man 11. Despite being a budget title all things considering, its sales have been impressive and have effectively given Capcom the boost to seriously consider reviving their old franchises, as I’ve discussed earlier.
There is a way for the Switch to effectively make Wii level sales. However, that would require using the same mindset and tactics the Wii utilised, which would mean using the same tactics and mindset the DS utilised, which would mean using same the tactics and mindset the NES utilises, but Nintendo’s more often than not unwilling to return to their Classic Era arcade roots in this manner. Look at the lack of success of the N64, the Game Cube and the Wii U how that often goes, or in case of an extreme, the Virtual Boy. Actually the Wii U is probably even worse failure than the VB. You don’t become the top selling console in the market by having the most powerful console on the market; you do it by having a library that the consumers are needing to consume. Want isn’t enough. 2D Mario is the perfect example for this, as Nintendo, Miyamoto himself and the whole of industry considered 2D Mario effectively dead after Super Mario 64. The few re-releases here and there did some good, and the DS hit around.
PlayStation 2 is the best-selling home console to date. How it managed that is a combination of effectively making the DVD market in Japan overnight (it was the cheapest DVD player despite being rather poor player in overall terms) and how both of its major competitors made mistakes with Dreamcast and GameCube. Granted, Sega pretty much fucked up everything after they started ignoring Western market during Mega Drive, but we’ve covered that few times already. Xbox didn’t enter the fray until later, and by that point the PS2 already had most of its success ensured thanks to how much games were rolling unto the platform, despite being a bitch to code for. Sony wanted to repeat some of this with the PS3 by using Blu-Ray discs, but that wasn’t cutting it. We won’t be seeing another success like the PS2 due to the massive changes in how consumers use and purchase media, and how Microsoft and Nintendo are playing completely different game than what they were almost twenty years ago.
However, the console generations have repeated the Atari and the NES model of sales more often than not. You could even say that his has become a sort of mantra for the blog throughout the years; The software matters, not the hardware. The Switch is able to make Wii like sales if it hits the same core the Wii and the DS did. Despite I see it becoming one of the best arcade ports platforms we have currently, these are still ports and that’s not enough. The industry and the red ocean market of video games have a certain view on what kind of games AAA titles are, and how they sell. It’s not exactly positive, all things considered. Now consider what would happen if even half of the budget of these titles would go into developing 2D games with the same mentality.
Sadly, that’s not going to happen, because it would appear the mentality for 2D games is still stuck in mud. If it’s not full-blown 3D, the price isn’t really worth it. Mega Man 11 didn’t get a physical release for the Switch in Europe because of this. More and more games of 2D nature are relegated for digital releases only, further downgrading their status. While digital distribution is becoming the standard, there is a view where stores are chock full of mediocre to terrible 2D games from various developers and publishers, and throwing one more amidst of this sea of dregs doesn’t serve them.
Will the Switch overcome Wii at some point in the future? It will, if the software is there. It’s not exactly an uphill battle at this point, but rather a battle against Nintendo’s own internal wants. After all, you can’t just do whatever you want when you’re providing entertainment like this.
Screw the blog personality for this post. We’re doing this in-person. Shigsy had an interview with Bloomberg, where he warns other video game developers about greed. This is rich, coming from a dev who can do whatever the hell he wants rather than doing titles that the market has yearned for some time. It’s no secret 2D Mario titles sell more than 3D ones, but they’re too much work and bothersome to design. He’d rather have games developed like a school project.
Shigsy doesn’t really say anything especially worthwhile. His criticism on F2P and lootboxes echoes so many others, and you can read between the lines how there is irritation about mobile games with gacha are making tons of money. Fate Grand Order or whatever it was is making millions per day, supposedly. Shigsy saying the fixed-cost model hasn’t been a success is bullshit though. Something that has worked for pretty much everything thus far doesn’t suddenly become unsuccessful just it seems to be under fire now. Sure, Shigsy talks mostly in context of mobile gaming. Nintendo tackling mobile games has been criticised for good reasons, as the market is widely different from console game market. It’s like entering a market selling pizzas with hamburgers. There is a reason why Nintendo’s IPs on computers has always been handled by other companies, like Hudson with Super Mario Bros. Special.
Shigsy clearly likes the idea of subscription based gaming, like how Netflix is for movies and TV shows. To him, how games have been sold thus far seems to have failed despite gaming has become larger than Hollywood through it. F2P games with in-game purchases is greedy way to make profit to him, but this is business. You make money the best way you can. Subbing services on the other hand would still have the consumer pay a front fee to access titles to begin with, but just as with Netflix and other of its competitors, the question about what games would be available. Nintendo’s upcoming service for the Switch is abysmal in this, as the game variety they’re offering is extremely limited. A subbing service requires to have extremely wide variety of titles, and having something else than the same NES titles over and over.
It’s trite for Shigsy to argue for Nintendo wanting to bring their games to widest possible audience via mobile games. If Nintendo truly wanted to do this, they’re start doing third party games for Microsoft and Sony. That’s not going to happen, so what they’re really about with mobile games is cross-platform advertising. Show people who play games on mobile phones how great titles Nintendo has with selected IPs, and maybe some of them will be interested enough to jump the bandwagon with Switch.
This has been Nintendo’s strategy with across media platforms and consumables before as well. All the cartoons, toys, cereals, comics and so on were only to promote Nintendo’s games and consoles. Mobile phone games are the exact same thing, as their primary value is to advertise the brands and IPs instead of raking money on themselves.
I’m almost baffled how Shigsy thinks there isn’t already a culture of paying for valued software. Your normal everyday person doesn’t have thousands or millions to blow money on games. Hell, most people don’t even put hundreds into games. Outside some stupidly obsessed people, consumers have a very strong tendency on purchasing products they deem worthy. Nobody simply blows their cash on whatever kind of products if they can help.
Considering Nintendo of Japan seems to has jack shit understanding about global market, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t one of Shigsy’s and Nintendo’s brain farts how consumers act. The main reason why Fire Emblem and Famicom Wars never hit the West before GBA was because Nintendo’s staff thought Americans didn’t like strategy games, despite PCs being filled with them. Then again, this probably is partially true due to how most successful strategy games have been on PC, and we’ve seen, Nintendo didn’t deal in the PC market. Nevertheless, Advance Wars became more popular in the West than in Japan. Then you had Nintendo’s official, can’t remember who, proudly mentioning how Japanese children loved to craft and play with cardboard. Honestly, Nintendo’s corporate culture in this sense has their heads deep in their asses. This line really should be read that Shigsy wants a culture where games he values would be purchased. I bet he is still salty about Donkey Kong Country being the breakthrough title for the Super Nintendo.
Consumers already have a habit of paying money for applications and software they deem worth the money. Trying to act like this is not the case goes against reality. If this is some sort of jab at piracy and how Nintendo has been fighting against ROMs and the like as of late, it further shows how out of loop he and the rest of the company is. Virtual Console was a massive success to the point of titles outselling new games Nintendo was putting out. There is a market for these older titles, hence why people are willing to pirate and play ROMs. This the same reason why the Classic Mini systems are selling like hotcakes. By not offering a way for consumers to purchase and access them is effectively shooting yourself to the leg and not offering software people are willing to pay for. This isn’t any goddamn rocket science. The habit Shigsy wants consumers to have is already there, but they’re not willing to provide the software. On the contrary, they’ve killed all avenues to obtain these titles. Furthermore, piracy has promoted products far more than any other field; it is not an outright negative impact in itself. A pirated title is not a lost sale, as the case often is that there was no intention to purchase that title in the first place. Comparison with music streaming is false equivalency but its the best Shigsy can muster. You can’t play games Youtube either, so into the trash with it.
Does changing things into Netflix-like subbing service change anything in this? Of course not. If the library of games is lacklustre compared to other similar services, or even outright stores, you won’t see customers subbing. The price has to be low enough to warrant subbing to it as well, and lose all rights to the games. Never underestimate customers’ will to have ownership over what they’ve paid.
EA and loot boxes sure opened a whole Pandora’s Box. The video and computer game industry has been dabbling on the edge with parental and gamble-help groups, but it was more or less time for the whole thing to blow up at someone. While all this has become more or less mainstream in the current market, and people putting most blame to smart phone games’ microtransactions, the whole thing does lead back to EA in the first place.
To make long story short, EA implemented a virtual collectible card system in UEFA Championship League 2007, which replicated a real life CCG. The system was essential, as you got your characters via this system. It was all virtual at this point, as there was no need to exchange real money for these cards. This system was then later implemented into FIFA, when their UEFA license was up. Andrew Wilson implemented the same system into FIFA 2009: Ultimate Team, with the player now able to pay for these cards with real money. This is where it turned into gambling, as now it was necessary for the player to pay money for further progression, but that progression was up to chance. Chance that EA completely controlled in their closed system, where they could rig the game however way they saw fit. Of course, none of these cards had any value outside the game itself. Skill Up has a more complete history on this model he called Wilson lootbox, and it’s a highly recommended watch. Pay-2-Win model is more or less here to stay.
The game industry listens to what sells, just like any other. Numbers and data is what brings in the hard earned cash. On the occasion, a publisher puts outs a prestige game, a trophy piece, something they can call art. The rest, on the other hand, are all about the hard cash. Just like Hollywood in many ways, with the Marvel movies being Call of Duty of cinema. Sure, it’s fun to a lot of people and makes a lot of money, but is creatively bankrupt and doesn’t stand much closer inspection. It’s not hard to see the game industry wanting to grab whatever further profit they could, just like any other entertainment industry.
Hence, the expansion of Pay-2-Win model spreading far and wide. Sure, it’s easier to pay some buck or two for an in-game item, when the game is free. However, predatory tactics and abusing consumer weaknesses is part of the industry here, as these games more or less stifle your progression without additional purchases, sometimes to a point that you simply can’t proceed further due to in-game stats being against you. Few bucks here and there does stack up quickly, and a buck a day is already thirty bucks a month. With the occasional sales, you suddenly find yourself having paid more than fifty, or if you’re one of those whales these systems abuse, hundreds if not thousands.
The industry regulated itself according to the profits gained, and the statistics gained from various games have allowed the companies to find a sweet spot with the freemium, Pay-2-Win model.
This sort of regulation is lacking, as it completely ignores the consumer. Chris Lee, a Hawaii rep. has proposed a legislation to curb down predatory gaming practices. US is not the only one to take notice of the landslide Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) has caused, as French senator Jérôme Durain has also issued a letter to the French online gambling regulator ARJEL, which addresses some key-note, like the lack of transparency in drop-rates. PEGI itself has already taken stance on virtual gambling, where a game with such elements automatically getting 12 as age rating, and can go easily up two 18. Pokémon games dropped their Game Corner due to change in this stance around 2006, as that would’ve meant the age rating would’ve shot upwards, limiting their main consumer base.
However, PEGI doesn’t regard loot boxes themselves as form of gambling as such, neither does ESBR. This may change in the future, as Belgium has taken a stance already on loot boxes being gambling due to mix of money and addiction. Geens notes that the change he drives will take some time, as he needs to go through the rest of Europe in order to achieve his goal. If the issue is taken to larger European Union, and is being backed by a number of countries, things may get hot for game developers and publisher who rely on microtransactions and loot boxes.
There has already been some rippling effects. EA’s stock took a dive after the Battlefront II (2017) managed to garner all this negative attention, with the snowballing effect. While this probably won’t effect much, it is still a notable change. PUBG developers also have stated that they would not add anything that would affect the gameplay in terms of microtransactions or loot boxes. Bungie’s Destiny 2 and numerous other games have been under more specific scrutiny about their systems of progression, with Bungie even cancelling a stream to discuss their experience scaling fiasco.
The direction we’re going with video games regarding gambling is a two-bladed sword at best. One one hand, the industry has taken advantage of the weaker section of the their consumer base. Those who can’t handle themselves yet or understand the monetary values they’re putting into microtransactions and loo boxes have had it easy. Perhaps making payments has been streamlined a bit too much, with reports of kids spending thousands of dollars of their parents money being less than uncommon. While it is up to the parents to oversee their children, we should also look into the design of things.
On the flip side, more governmental control over any industry does lead to over-control easier. Furthermore, actual virtual gambling games may suffer from this for being put into a same slot, if legislation is not accurate enough in its description, or includes simulated gambling that does not include real life money. While mahjong simulations have rarely, if ever, managed to reach Western shores, games may seem these simulated gambling elements removed in favour of lower age ratings, or in worst cases, of they somehow become completely unacceptable. It also makes it so much more easier to put further restrictions on other aspects of games even further regarding whatever, be it violence or depictions of humans. German rules are already harsh, and it would be discouraging to see any similar legislation spreading about.
It’s a thin line the game industry is threading on, but as they say, The greedy has a shitty end.
Every hundred posts on this blog I turn things around and take a good look at the customers and take the providers’ point of view. Y’know, for a change. There 809 posts on this blog currently, including this one, so I’m slightly over the mark point. Nothing unusual, I sort of stopped following how many posts I have after the second hundred was fulfilled. Kinda laughable.
In recent weeks I’ve been wondering how little people care about others’ work. Without a doubt we care about the work our friends and close ones do, and tend to go our way out to agree that certain jobs are just undervalued and these workers get criminally low wages. Nothing new under the sun, we’re a selfish lot.
I’ve come across this more than once, especially from people who consider their job to be of utmost importance. The people at high places, if you will. Some who consider their work to be culturally significant to the point that society could not function, or that their contribution to how healthcare should be run (rather than working in healthcare itself) makes them somehow above some rotting welder.
Welder, who in the end, is responsible for your every day safety in cars, elevators, staircases and even to you home piping and certain structures. Or the cleaner who has to go through every nook and cranny when you leave the office and cleans your desk and windows, the same cleaner who has to deal with your shit you leave in the hallway. Or any other people who build and design the stuff you use every day and never give a thought about. Why should you, in the end? You never see them, you rarely interact with any of them. Perhaps it is this lack of contact and having no real information how terribly awful conditions some work places have, comparatively speaking. You’ll curse whoever it is who is responsible of taking care of your water running and keeping it clean, yet do we ever give any appreciation.
That is not to say all invisible jobs are out of the way. Cleaners are an example of people who we do see, but do we even say hello to them or wish them a good day? Small gestures like this do matter and make people feel worthwhile.
As astonishing it may sound, but there are so many people who don’t know how to clean. While having a coffee break, I had a chance to listen an old veteran giving a lesson to few new aspiring professional members of the cleaning industry. An extensive knowledge on chemicals is required and how they react not only with each other, but with oh so many materials that’s it not even fun. Especially when the Western standards of cleanliness are at their historical high. That, and the fact everybody seems to wait the work be done in record time without cutting any corners, really should make anyone appreciate these poor bastards a bit more. A documentary film Bread and Roses gives some insight how little cleaners are valued, and while it does concentrate on the situation in change of the millennia Los Angeles, things aren’t much brighter elsewhere.
But the customer is always right and providers should fulfill the customer demands. Well, until the provider points out how stupid the customer is and how he is unwilling to pay enough for the work and materials required, or demands a work that could not be done with the equipment and facilities at hand. And of course, they just insist on at least trying, for them. Anecdote be damned, but again a good example would be a random customer who brought his supposedly aluminium built oil base from his Volvo. The very moment he produced it in front of our staff, we could say it could not be done. The shine and colour was not that of aluminium and we would only fuck it further, if we tried fixing it. I don’t know what the hell it was, but it was magnetised alloy for sure. Working on a material you have no idea what it is composed of most likely will ruin the piece, and naturally said he was well aware of this. Well, when he came back and we showed how his piece had gone to hell thanks to the metal structure collapsing under normal TIG welding, he went on the usual customer rant on ruining what was his.
Again, how could have he known? Nobody gives a damn about what their furniture or cars are made of, as long as they’re sturdy, safe and look good enough. Damned be any worthwhile values. That is a customer’s right of course, and providers can bamboozle customers as much as they want. An informed customer wouldn’t let that happen, but who gives a damn if we’re screwed over little if we seemingly get what we want.
I had a series of posts some time ago on how we really should start appreciating each other’s works a whole lot more. We could go in a circle how one field of profession requires another set of multiple fields to exist right beside it, but that’s rather useless. Anyone with some brain cells left should already know that one man can’t do everything. The simple fact that the screen you’re reading this from requires multiple production lines to produce the plastics, glass, electronics, metals, someone to make the moulds, producing the pieces, someone to design it, someone to test build it and so on and so on.
All this goes for all customers. We’re all woefully ignorant on other fields. Sometimes out of simply not knowing they exist, or just don’t give a damn about them. However, just remember this little bit next time you think you’re undervalued; your life hangs on few centimeters of welding of few millimeters thick each day in multiple occasions, and nobody around you who is dependent on those same small seams never even realise these welding exist in the first place. You’re blindly trusting that the man who never gets thanks from anyone else but his boss, if even then, to do a job enough to keep you safe.
And this guy was probably drunk or had a terrible headache from night long drinking. Makes you hope he didn’t fuck up. Better not look at the seams at all, on the second thought.
With Cuphead raising such questions as What is gameplay? and Is easymode bad? we really do see something lurking inside the media. As little as any of us care about John Walker’s ignorance, the question is valid in its own way. As humans we tend to describe the same thing in different ways, sometimes expanding and taking away details depending on whatever, but his insistence that gameplay is a wrong word for interaction with a game. Then I guess putting a game into a console is gameplay, as that is interacting with the game. Smartass remarks aside, gameplay is a term that was originally used to describe the system of functions that the player would play with within a game, and because electronic games are a continuation of children’s play culture, this term has then trickled down the evolutionary ladder of games towards tabletop and other sort of games with play as an element. Interaction is far too large term, and nobody in their healthy mind would use anything like it to describe something so precise.
This leads us to Ben Kuchera’s post on Polygon, where he has missed the whole point of games. Using books and art galleries as his point of comparison is missing the point. Kuchera is comparing apples and oranges at best. Because a game like Cuphead has more in-common with sports parkour and card games than with books and art galleries, his comparisons lack any sort of oomph. Yes, a game expects basic competence from the player to be able to clear a level before you see the next. It is, after all, a game. You don’t win at a game, unless you know how it is played and are skilled enough to play. You don’t get freebies in Solitaire either.
Easy Mode is something nobody should have anything against, as options are just that: options. That is not the case of Skip Boss Button. Electronic games are self-tiered tournaments of sorts. You can not advance in a martial arts tournament further if you lack the skill and discipline to follow the rules and execute your desired moves. Similarly, in Street Fighter you have to have enough control over your character to defeat each opponent to advance further. In a 2D action game like Cuphead, bosses can be seen as a similar opponent to any normal Street Fighter fight, with the exception that a stage is a warm-up. Of course, it just may turn out that the stage was harder than the boss, but there are always healthy exceptions. Skipping a Boss effectively negates the need of any sort of skill, and while the idea does not have anything wrong in it inherently, it really does tell you how little some people are willing to put effort.
My notion of effort in this isn’t about getting good, though it certainly is a part of it. Much like any other product, not all games are for everyone and not all games are meant for everyone. I would use a food comparison here, but it wouldn’t be apt enough. The one I used previously, about how no game with multiple players allows one to advance without excelling, is what applies here. While in a single-player games cheating does not cause any harm to anyone, it would go against the structure of the game’s play and how it’s planned out. After all, games are virtual spaces made with restrictive rules that the player plays according to and with. A game that allows its structure and rules to be broken without any consequence often turns into a dull and wasted game rather fast, mostly because skipping play is essentially just not playing it at all. If you’re not intending to play the game, you might as well find your pass time with other titles that challenge you a different manner, or other forms of entertainment and play. After all, just like with pasta sauces, some games are more chunky and demand more active jaw work than runny ones you could just use intravenously.
The problem, quite frankly, is not that a game is too hard and that the players can’t see its “art,” as Kuchera puts it. The problem is that they’re not appreciating the art. If anything is art in video and computer games, it’s the mathematics, coding, the set of rules and design, the thing that ends up being called gameplay. Not the graphics, the sound, visual design or any other part, those belong to other schools of arts. The art of games is the art of designed play, and much like other forms of art, this one challenges us both mentally and physically. Why? Because electronic games are a form of play and without that play, they’d be virtual spaces of content to see and watch but never to be played with. The pathetic thing about all this is the fact how Kuchera and other supposed journalists like him want to remove a section of this art and force it to become something mundane and have no legs to stand on its own. Variety is demanded and required.
Do I contradict myself there? Regarding this blog yes, but I can always entertain the argument of games as art whenever necessary.
Kuchera then goes in a tirade of personal achievement how nobody’s stopping you from fast-forwarding a television show, but again misses the point; games aren’t television shows. Not that anyone who would like to review a series or a movie would use fast-forwarding, that’d be skipping on the content.
Games are about learning and using information learned. If you make a mistake, you should be learn from that and not make that mistake any more. Any sort of pastime we have with any sort of game, be it cards or miniature tabletop figurines, there are always rules that we abide to and learn new things we screw up. Of course, there is a group of people who are just unable to do this, but you can’t please anyone. You can never create a product of any kind that would be universal to everybody. Someone will always bitch about it, so might as well make it as good as you can the way you know it’ll work the best. While it is up to the provider to provide the piece for the consumers, the provider can always choose its targeted customers. There are other similar products out there that will suit the consumers outside your targeted demographic better, and if there isn’t… well, that’s a niche someone else can step in fulfill.
Or you could carry some personal responsibility and step up the game.
The concept of quality is somewhat twisted among modern consumers and manufacturers. Not because there are not high quality products or the like, but because there is a certain kind of veil that goes between product quality. Granted, this veil does exist for a reason, as the consumer shouldn’t have a need to see behind the curtains in which the his product are made of. Then again, it would be better if companies would be far more transparent in everything they do rather than protect less than favourable practices.
Companies must keep the quality of their product at a certain level. While advertisement and promotional speeches often tell you that they’re aiming for the best possible quality, that’s not exactly the case. I’ve discussed the subject of things being good enough in the past, and this is the core of if all; Quality, Time and Resources are tied to each other, and extending one of them extends the other. While there are numerous versions of this triangle, I’ll present here the simplest one out there.
You can pick only two, and depending on the product you may only have a chance to hit one spot.
If you go for a product that’s done quick and with as little resources as possible, you’ll end up with a product with low quality. If you go for a product with fast production time and of high quality, your resources will go out of hands. Most often this just means you need to put a whole lot more money into it. If you want something with as little resource expending as possible but still maintain high quality, the time the product will be made under will increase and in the end, it’s probably a very low priority product then.
Everyone would wish to balance these three in their daily lives, be it at home or at work. We all make decision if we want to, for example, put the time and effort into washing our dishes properly, when there are other things to consider as well.
This becomes a whole lot more complex when you must consider multiple projects and expenses. Any corporation that wishes to provide products for consumption have to juggle multiple triangles, or multiple elements of each triangle. To use translation in video game industry as an example, it often ends up in the Resources-Time section, where quality is not emphasised in favour of allocating that into other sections of the production.
NIS America is an example of a company that has managed to ignore Quality most of the time and have introduced questionable translations, additional bugs that did not exist in Japanese versions of the game and removal content. An example of this would be in Ar Tonelico II; Melody of Metafalica, where a mandatory boss battle locks the game up at a certain point.
As such, a company policy towards the public often states how their quality are the highest possible quality where in reality the product is balanced between the aforementioned elements in order to have a product on the shelves making money faster. This also means that the worker must adhere to the level of quality they’ve set. This sounds counter-intuitive, especially in the craftsmanship industries, but it is a necessary level. It is far too easy to get sucked into your own work and begin to burn your own self, and surrounding resources, for the sake of quality that goes wasted.
A product that has gained its quality by burning its creator, time and resources may serve the consumer to some time, but that level can’t be maintained without sacrificing something elsewhere. To use translation as an example again, a translator can’t sit on a translation until it has become what he considers perfect. A product that sits on the production line excess time due to some element, be it translation or whatever else, costs money each day. This is where having an acceptable level of quality steps in; it protects both the worker and the company.
What about the consumer then? For the consumer this is something he rarely thinks about. A literary work like a book or a visual novel that has thousands upon thousands of sentences in it is allowed to have certain amount if typos, misspells and textual errors. Content and information errors are of different things. The consumer does spot these errors more often than not, be an extra e in a word, lacking some alphabet or sentence starting with a lower case letter. Nevertheless, they are acceptable in overall terms. The worker hates the errors and would rather have them straightened out, and the corporation might recognise that this would raise the bar higher, but in the end the effort that is needed to achieve a certain kind of perfection of quality costs the damnest amount of money. Unless you can just issue a small, simple patch on your website without extra costs.
To use an analogy of this, achieving perfect emulation of a game console is rather hard. Most people who use emulators don’t care that the games they are playing on these emulators are not running the same way as they were intended on a real console, but care little because the quality of the emulation is good enough. As long as its playable, they’re satisfied.
In order to achieve perfect emulation of a more complex machine, the requirements stack up the closer you get 100% emulation accuracy. The last few percentages towards cycle-perfect emulation square from each other, and for modern systems it is currently simply impossible due to emulation requiring many times faster CPU than the original console’s.
Similarly, achieving perfect quality towards requires increasingly high amounts of resources and time. A steel product that needs to have a mirror shine to it takes its shape in a very short time, and the bulk of the work is spend in sanding and then buffing the surface in order to get that wanted finish. Of course you could just throw some reflective coating on top, or anodise the surface, but the end result wouldn’t be the same.
There are times when we just cut the cord and be done with things. This applies to every work. Still, the best thing is, in the future we’ll have more experience and better technology to increase that quality without putting any more resources or spending more time with it.
There is an excess of video and computer games nowadays. Games are a luxury items from the get go and have always cost a high sum, especially computer and NES games in Europe. The amount of games released per system seems to to grow with each generation with the ease of digital publishing. However, there are fewer games that carry impact on the industry or the consumer crowd, partially due to how large the marketing push for Tripple A titles are getting and partially due to sheer amount of them. Despite the overwhelming amount of games released, some with extremely questionable quality, there won’t be next Video Game Crash. The core gamers will see to it.
A classic gamer seeks to build a library. Not just digital titles in your Steam subscription. That’s what mostly separates a modern gamer from an old-school one. The use of money also applies here. A Steam user builds a backlog so much faster and easier than an old-school gamer who picks what games he purchases and why. Valuing a single game in its entirety, if you will. There is a significant difference between purchasing a game from a store and… whatever the correct term is for getting a license to use game software in Valve’s digital console. The same really applies to GOG to lesser extent. The simple physicality of it all is a significant separation enough, though there is more to it, like owning a copy of a game rather than just having a right to use it.
It is harder and more expensive to collect a proper library than one in digital form. It’s not uncommon to see Steam users that have thousands of games in their Steam library, most of which are barely ever launched. Most of these games come from sales and bundles. It is a common practice to sit idly and wait for games to drop in price, and Steam’s sales have become rather expected even within the user community. These games that just sit in the library really have no value to the player, thus the overall perceived value is low and fetches low amounts of money. This sort of attitude really seeps into other titles easily, where the expectations of low prices has become a standard across the board.
This is a problem of sorts. It twists the market results quite a bit, and when everything is eventually available at a bargain price. The Tripple A titles saw a decline in sales from 2015 to 2016, and the trend seems to be continuing. This directly reflects to the fact that these high budget, highly hyped titles simply do not meet with the consumer demands. This really should tell something to the developers and publishers about their products and about their approach for them.
For these reasons, about 38% of game consumers have stated intending to purchase fewer games than previous year. With an increasingly number of titles in one’s software availability, putting more resources into something you won’t be able to consume and enjoy really seems stupid as hell. We’re getting to a point where people have more games than they can play in their lifetime, even if they were to become full-time gamers.
It doesn’t help that with emulators and such we have the access for most of the games produced. There is an excess of games, but that’s market for you.
Perhaps because of the excess itself one should practice a more moderate approach in their purchasing habits. Considering digital games are pretty much always online, unless if it’s a licensed game, there really is no reason to purchase a game at launch or at sale. While library collecting is a part of the whole high-end game consumer culture, this should not displace the act of playing these games. With digital games it can’t be argued that someone is buying them for value either, as digital games can’t be sold onwards as such, especially not on Steam (which is why Valve had to change the description of their service.)
The fact is, the fewer games you have, the more you’ll be ending up playing those individual games, and thus your library will be end up being far better curated. Switch’s current library isn’t anything to call home about, especially so if we’re only counting the physical titles, but the more reason to practice this self-limiting, selective purchasing. All this really maximises the amount of time a consumer should be spending with an individual game. There is something in common with the idea of practising one motion a thousand times rather than practising a thousand motions once.
It is also easier to appreciate a game when you’ve spent enough time with it. If you’ve ever experienced lower-income households where money is tight, each luxury item is valued. This applies to each and every game purchased, despite their quality. Thank God rental videos and games was a thing, so people could test games before committing to a purchase before widespread use of the World Wide Web.
Collecting a library of games does not necessarily mean the consumer doesn’t have appreciation for the games he has, though without a doubt less than a person who has gone through nook and crannies of his own library.
This excess and the possibility to even collect a large library of games is taken as self-evident. While I did mention that another video game market crash is not likely to take place, an implosion is not. Steam’s Greenlight and Kickstarter have been full of titles that never went anywhere or have questionable quality at best. Anyone can become a game developer if they so choose to, but very few indeed can become good game developers or even successful ones.
I’ve said this before, but this is the first time in gaming short history where we live in an era where you can purchase most major titles from past consoles on your modern one. Not only a new game is competing with its contemporaries, it’s also competing with highly venerated classics. There are very few games that even intends to stand up to the challenge, and sadly there are those who are in for the simple quick-cash and nothing of worth or intending to push an agenda for the sake of it. Eventually, all this will reflect in sales and direction the consumer goes. When one-third of the consumers seem to go back to their untouched game library and rather than investing in new titles, that’s time for some alarm bells.
Games cost money to make and buy, and it would seem that it would be the right time for both consumers, developers and publishers to take a good look how they are spending their money.
This and the two previous posts would’ve formed good ol’ fashioned Monthly Three I put into indefinite hiatus, though this time it’s more or less on an accident of sorts. All in all, these should’ve been one long post.
A franchise has to have quality that is expected of it or higher. A fluke here and there is expected, but overall speaking a title in a series has to deliver at least to its core fans. When it comes to games, each and every title seem to be important and a drop in sales will be taken seriously. Seeing how the game industry barely understands how to hit the Blue Ocean market (making games easy or dumbing them down for “accessibility” is laughably weak method,) it is understandable how a franchise can fail miserably when its quality is weakened by newly added elements that are supposedly aiming to expand some aspects of the franchise.
I’m not really sure how Mass Effect got where it is now. As a franchise it was hailed as one of the stronger new franchise introduced during the Seventh Console Generation. Overall, it had a good balance between hitting the census of the consumers of the era (economics have changed quite a bit during the last decade) to the extent of Mass Effect being considered as one of the bigger franchises in the industry on par of the likes of Metal Gear. These are of course up to contention, to my knowledge no Mass Effect game has not been perfect enough to be considered for pachislot conversion.
However, as things tend to be in the industry, game sequels seem to get more attention from those who put the money down on these things. Mass Effect 3‘s colour coded ending has become infamous, but if the rumours are to be believed, EA was the one that put their boot down with the deadlines and BioWare had to relocate the “real ending” to DLC. Whatever the case is, Mass Effect 3‘s ending (and some argue the whole game) is below the average quality the consumers expected from the franchise. The ending is just one of the examples why Mass Effect 3 was panned by the core fans, mostly regarding contradictions in the setting, and inconsistencies regarding BioWare’s statements during development and how the game ended up being.
And a franchise it really is. While here up North we barely get anything relating to the spin-offs or licensed products, Mass Effect 2 and 3 had a huge ad campaign in magazines, television and in stores. Comparatively speaking, game ads have all but dried out from the general media, telling more about how they’re marketed and what the targeted consumers are than about their success. However, pretty much all fans of the franchise I’ve known have talked me about the mobile games, books, comics and whatnot. Even a movie based on the franchise has been under works since 2010, but very little has come of it.
It’s no wonder Mass Effect would go to a small hiatus. The trilogy had come to its more or less natural conclusion and the final part didn’t exactly match up what was expected. At times like this companies tend to take a small break and return when there is renewed interest. However, it would seem the franchise has now been put in ice for the time being due to the lacklustre success of the latest game, Mass Effect: Andromeda. While we can debate the finer details why the game performed worse than expected, the first bit that sounded alarms bells with yours truly when with the announcement of the game running on a new engine, which means you will see, hear and feel Mass Effect like never before. That’s a direct quote too. Clearly they missed the part that games need to play better than any of these.
Andromeda took five years and forty million dollars to develop. That sort of money and time is expected to deliver higher profits and far better reception. Alas, they the developers couldn’t even put a gun the right way in. Then you have issues of gameplay being worse than its ten years older progenitor and animations being absolutely all over the place and the plot’s not all that good either. Effectively, pretty much everything that should make a game great is sub-par. Andromeda overall shows how lack of quality control and professionalism, opting for making whatever brew you think would work the best.
It’s no wonder after an abysmal entry, the games went under hiatus. Sadly, Andromeda is probably the best example of current Tripple A games in the industry. One has to wonder where did the money go during the development. It doesn’t show up in the final production. When a franchise’s fame has taken a hit two times in a row, with the second making pretty much everyone who was involved a laughingstock, it is a good idea to take a step back and put the things on hold.
To use an example with Godzilla, Toho has put the franchise into ice three times over. First one was after the second movie when they had no idea how to continue properly onwards, though I still want to see Bride of Godzilla? realised in some form. The second time was in the 1970’s when the movies stopped bringing in enough profits, though the quality had dropped a lot since then. 1995’s Godzilla VS Destoroyah was supposed to end the franchise in Japan and have Hollywood continue it, but alas that was not to be. Godzilla was brought back fast in 1999, after the American attempt failed, and then was put back into ice after Godzilla: Final Wars. 2014 saw a new American Godzilla, and 2016 showcased us what I’m going to call a the bets modern Godzilla made in form of Shin Godzilla.
When a notable franchise like Godzilla returns after a significant hiatus, it is usually with a new take that is intended to make an impact. If a new Mass Effect game would be done right now, it would carry the baggage of Andromeda for the worse. As much as fans would like to see a game made right away to remedy the situation, sometimes it’s better just to wait for things to settle down and let time give more perspective on things. Whatever was done, be it due to corporate or personal interests from the developers’, the game took a sledgehammer to the franchise and damaged it. A hiatus also allows the developers and publishers to look into other options and possibly put resources into new IPs, though my personal trust in EA or BioWare has never been worth mentioning.
What is apparent that whatever happened during production of Mass Effect: Andromeda, it’s clear that the no research was done on what the consumers really wanted or needed, and that’s probably the worst offence a provider can do; not giving a jack shit about the consumer.