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.

 

 

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.

Thoughts on designing a Switch dock

There really wasn’t any good title for this post, and I’m most likely going to make this an incoherent ramble. In my previous post, the review about three Switch stances, I mentioned that that making designs for a game console is damn difficult. Regarding a console itself, the reign’s free as long as the hardware sits in, everything else has to be build for purpose like the controllers, but at the same time they need to be unique pieces that stand out from the competition, adhere to the overall branding and still offer what now are considered as universal necessities from e.g. a controller.  The stuff like four face buttons, two sticks, a D-Pad, and four shoulder buttons are industry standards generally regarded started by the SNES controller and set in stone by PlayStation’s controllers. Pretty much every controller afterwards have included some variation of these, with the Wii probably being the best example of breaking the mould with its standard Wiimote. Of course, there was the Pro Controller that still keeps itself around as a brand, meaning Nintendo continues to use some variation of it still. This is gonna end up as a companion to the review, isn’t it?

With the Switch docks reviewed, each and every one of them had lacked something while beating another in something. The stock official was an absolute waste of space but had HDMI. The DIY one, one of the many that share the exact same design, doesn’t offer the best support for the console on favour of smallness. Pretty much the exact opposite for the stock one, but at least it doesn’t scratch the screen. The HORI one excelled and beats the two other in every respect, except it lacks the HDMI connection. The faults of the designs are intentional, as the designs are driven by their primary idea, the rest be damned. If a design does one thing right and keeps doing it as intended without breaking down in use, its done its job. If it can’t do what it is not designed to do, that’s not exactly a problem.

If this is the case, wouldn’t it be wrong of me to detract points from each of the docks for what is essentially core of their design? The stock dock is intended to be that big in order to accompany the system overall and provide the best stability possible while keeping the glare from the Switch’s screen behind a layer. The DIY stand is meant to be as small as possible, so few sacrifices had to be made to minimise the form and usage. The HORI stand lacked HDMI because it is intended solely for table mode gaming, and had to find a sweet spot between the two sizes to do so in a sensible manner. Who am I to say that thing X in these designs are not wanted or is a terrible direction? As a customer I do have certain expectation and wants from the products. It is unreasonable to expect a car to fly in the sky, but it would not be unreasonable to expect one of these three docks to support the Switch standing in a vertical position. HORI’s table mode stand should have taken this into account, especially considering it is a dedicated for doing just that. It is understandable that the USB-C connector can make this a challenge, as it might have force directed at it from 90-degree angle that could lead to some damage, but that’s where the dock’s design must accommodate this. Such stand could utilise parts that extend or has to be unfolded, like HORI’s stand. This of course would raise the price of the product, as the design time would extend, more tooling would be required to produce the moulds and assembly time would increase. Additions that probably would add to a significant increase in price, at least towards the end-consumer. Hiking the price from thirty bucks to forty or more usually does make or break a purchase decision.

I omitted a fourth stand from the review altogether, mostly because it’s a generic two dollar Chinese stand for everything under the sun, from phones to handheld consoles. It’s flip-flop design is pretty excellent, able to collapse to a flat state and supports Switch every which way you throw it at it. It may not be powered, but its rubber pads keeps it extremely stable and keeps the Switch in place just fine. No wobbling here. It has no power or USB port support, but allows the USB-C power to be attached if wanted. As stupid as it sounds, this cheap hunk of plastic is indeed one of the better overall stands for the Switch and beats even Hori’s stand in overall usability. I’m sure you could just chuck some sort of USB-C hub at it for additional controllers. With some slight modding, you’d probably be able the Nintendo stock dock’s PCB with it after some generous additions to the bottom case, something I should probably look into.

What’s the deal with the vertical mode?, I was asked in the wake of the review. The Switch isn’t he first portable games console to naturally lend itself to a vertical mode. The first handheld specifically designed for it was the Wonder Swan. Namco Wonder Classic is an excellent example of this, as the game benefits everything by being vertical. Vertical shooting games benefit of this as well, like the ported Psikyo games Gunbird and Sengoku Ace. Screen space is better used and there is no need for separate bars at the sides to fill in the space with artwork or other useless junk. However, due to whatever reason, Nintendo opted not to consider system’s vertical nature at all, as the standard leg does not support Switch sideways, and none of their games thus far have even hinted any sort of vertical usage. This is strange, considering Nintendo usually wants to utilise their system’s peculiarities to some stupid extent. Yet, this self-evident mode has been just dismissed thus far. For all the talk of innovation and moving forwards, they’re missing a dimension of their console that would have opened new possibilities for game design. Holding the Switch vertical in your hands may be a bit awkward, but you can find at least three positions for you hands on the system; hold it from left side only, accessing the stick and C-buttons; hold it high with left and low with right, accessing the left Joy-Con’s action and shoulder buttons, and C-buttons; and holding having your left hand on the left Joy-Con while accessing right’s stick. Of course, the system has not been designed for these, but they’re less awkward that you’d imagine and more comfortable than e.g. clawing the PSP. Of course, the table top mode comes in play in this. Sadly, the Switch has no legs or rubber pads to keep it from sliding to its back, so a stand is more or less required, and only a two-dollar stand seems to be offering a solution for this. This is  simply waste of potential.

Ultimately, the question I want to ask about Switch docks and stands in general is “What are they for?”. Naturally the answer is to provide a standing support for the Nintendo Switch itself in a stationary form and possibly offer support for docked mode. Just like when designing a chair, the end results from this starting point vary just as much as there are people tackling it, but as a simple eBay search shows, it’s just easy to take an existing design and toy with it a bit. Just like a chair example I wrote years back on just how stupidly varied and difficult a single simple design can be in the end, designing a stand for a console has its own harsh limitations. At least with a chair you can trust it being usable for the most part in the far future, excluding the obesity problem this modern world has been facing, but with something like this you’re going to get few years worth of existence before being phased out by the next product down the line. Who wants to put the effort to make the definitive product for anything that’s essentially a flashby, when you could try to immortalise yourself elsewhere?

Guess that’s the same effort that goes into this blog.

Review: Nintendo Switch Docks, Official, DIY and HORI

Designing a game console in itself is sort of stupid hard on itself. There are no real rules to govern them. Sure, it needs to sit nicely and be as stable as possible while in use, offer good airflow and all that, but there are no ergonomic rules to follow. Not even the buttons are required to follow any set standard. The Famicom was designed to look like a toy, with short cords to the controllers and such, whereas the NES could be mistaken for a grey VCR at a quick glance. The Mega Drive was supposed to be cool with its sleek lines and shapes, contrasting shiny bits with stark black plastic. The PlayStation was supposed to sit among other grey AV station equipment, something all the subsequent PlayStations followed. Things like that, but never anything truly set in stone. What if you have some clear-cut necessities and rules determined by use? The Switch has its official docking station that is designed around the necessities to house the console and offer HDMI stance. It’s also far from being the only dock, or stand, the system has, as third parties and DIY groups have put out numerous iterations. I’ll be covering three in this review, covering the best and worst parts of each of them.

Let’s start with the Nintendo official dock.

Your normal waste of space and plastic

I have to say that from the start this has been a disappointing hunk of plastic. It has weight behind it, but that’s because it is just a huge hunk of plastic. The way the Switch sits inside of it, and how the front covers it, means that whenever you move the console up or down the front will have hard plastic pushing against the screen, scratching it at worst. Only at the very base there are itty bitty rubber pads to keep the console in place, which is laughable. You’d imagine there had been some more effort to prevent scratching. At least it guides the console in just the right way, as the USB-C port at the bottom is rigid and does not move.

That’s all the soft bits you have to hold the console itself down. Not the best solution

At the back we have this this cover flap for whatever reason, perhaps to make it look more uniform. It’s really another useless piece of plastic that should be thrown away. You can see the air vent slots there, which don’t really do much. The other vent actually goes through the PCB housing on the right, meaning the heat that it puts out goes directly inside the dock’s most important bits. A single USB and HDMI ports, with USB-C for power. Nothing much to see here. You don’t see any of them here, because I’ve already taken the stuff out and put them into another dock.

You can throw the lid away and replace it with a fan from a third-party

The stock Nintendo dock is pretty terrible. It doesn’t look attractive and is mostly just waste of resources. You could cut its size down by half and not lose in stability or usability. It’s like a last minute idea that just had to be pushed through, a necessary evil. That doesn’t excuse it from being excessive.

The PCB from this went into a DIY kit that’s sold all around the net, from Amazon to eBay and some random Chinese auction sites. I picked this one from eBay for about seven euros.

This being DIY, I’ve added those soft pads to keep the console from shifting around to any extent

In terms of size, it is one of the smallest docks for the Switch, and it of course brings some stability issues. The dock itself sits down just fine, but due to the design necessitating taking the main connecting parts from the stock dock itself means that the Switch will rock back and fort just slightly enough to make you worried. While the idea to make this DIY dock portable, it should have a base that extents whole of the main body of the console. This would have made it a very clear choice for all situations. The extensions could have been optional or foldable for added portability, but either option would have raised the price. Then again, perhaps not a bad idea.

It is very bland overall, but you can always paint it or add stickers. The HDMI and other USB ports are on the other of the dock

You really get what you pay for. You are required to do some work because it is DIY, but taking the Switch dock apart and installing the PCB into this one takes about five to ten minutes. The airflow is better in every respect and the ports are easily accessible. It’s a very straightforward dock, which can be made even better with some additional work. It is DIY after all, no reason to just leave as-is if there are additional ideas how to make it better. The only major problem is that the Switch, as mentioned, does wobble a bit while sitting on it, and this can cause some stress to the USB-C connector, as it is rigid as ever. Well, those added softpads help a lot.

Everything’s black. It’s then again, everything is black

Sure, it has more mass and size than the DIY dock before it, but considering it has a folding design means it is carries easy. It’s air vents on the back do not obstruct airflow at all either. The Switch sits on the console without any real wobble despite having no locking mechanism present. This is because of the two rubber pads put on the dock that keep the console in place just fine. There is no moving accepting level like with the stock dock. The USB-C connectors moves back and forth instead, meaning it takes more stress to break it accidentally. This is a grand design choice and shows how HORI understands some of the more important details that the Big Three often miss.

When folded, it also covers the USB-C connector, adding protection

The dock sports four standard USB ports, meaning each of the four players can plug in their own USB controller, though none of them are USB 3. Sadly, HORI’ s PS3 controller’s don’t work with it. USB-C port means you can charge the console on this dock as well, or just use it to play any game in portable mode. The dock has multiple angles that will do the job more than fine. This would be an excellent dock to the point of replacing the Nintendo’s official one, except it has not HDMI port. While this is a dedicated portable mode stand, the addition of HDMI capability would have made this probably the best dock the Switch has. Now, that goes to many of the other variants that recycle Nintendo’s official PCB in their housings. Well, it does advertise itself as Portable Table Mode on the cover, so perhaps it is a bit unfair to harp on the lack of HDMI. Despite having a folding design, it just bulky enough not to fit with any of them smaller Switch carry cases. Still, far more portable than the base dock.

Another losing point is that it has no support for vertical mode whatsoever. You can put it sideways and have the whole contraption sitting rather awkwardly and somewhat unstable on the table, but it’s far car what it should be. HORI missed this altogether, which drops the dock’s overall score a bit. Sure, none of the other docks to either, but this is supposed to be dedicated tabletop mode dock.

This isn’t recommended. I’m pretty sure adding some sort of additional leg to the bottom that can be folded out or something would be easy to implement, but haven’t got around seeing how to mod it in yet

Out of all these three, there really is no one better over the other. They all lack something, while beating others in some aspect. It all depends which mode you enjoy your Switch the most. If you’re all about portable mode, Hori’s tabletop dock is your best choice. For TV play, you could do worse than the small DIY dock. Ranking it higher than Nintendo’s own product may seem cheap, but the sheer bulk is its downfall. I have to say that it is disappointing that none of the docks I’ve seen thus far have not taken vertical mode into account to any significant extent, meaning playing games in that mode is still difficult.

I’m really starting to get tired of all of my electronics being black, grey or white. Where’s the use of colours? All we get nowadays are LED highlights and such. I miss the 90’s colourful devices

Let the consumer make the decision

I’ve often criticised modern video game developers, saying that they lack the tact of their predecessors both in and out of industry. One thing that has been an age old golden rule; don’t attack your customers. However, this latter part of the 2010’s has seen the media itself come after its consumers, like Gamasutra with their Gamers don’t need to be you audience article, which was echoed in numerous other outlets at the same time. For example, now beaten to death event where one of the staff members of Battlefield V outright told the consumers and outlets that if they didn’t like the direction where they were taking the series and the title, they always had the option not to buy it. A corporation shouldn’t really remind its consumers that wallet voting is the best way to make their voice the most heard, especially when some sort of controversy or contest is going on, as this effectively ended up in the game being delayed and the game overall taken to a slightly different direction.

To give a short run about what the whole thing was about, Battlefield has always sold on its more realistic take of warfare (within video games). The trailer shows a female character with a rather high-tech artificial limb going on a battlefield of World War II, and while such thing may have occurred, the statistical reality of that is absolutely minuscule. Well, completely impossible if it was a bionic enhancement, but I’ve read some disagreeing info. Outside this being an highly implausible scenario, the game’s demo more or less confirmed something that other series have done time and time again and rarely succeeded; we want the other game’s audience. Fortnite has been mentioned many times to be the target this new Battlefield target, changing elements of the series to fit this new mould to some extent. For any business, it is at least twice has hard to gain new customers than to keep the old ones, and trying to go half-cocked way in trying to do both is not the answer. Or you could be Patrick Söderlund and make this completely unrelated but politically much more rosy issue and tell your consumers not to buy the game. Unsurprisingly, after this debacle Battlefield V‘s release date was pushed back and the game is seeing further additional work to get it back into the Battlefield formula to a larger degree, but seeing how the game play itself suffers, not to mention the whole approach how the game has been designed, I’m not trusting that the game will come out at the top and satisfy any real consumer base as such. For context, give this video a look for the review for the demo.

Damage control is important, but it should really come from somewhere else than telling your consumers off. Well, I’m guessing we all know the reason why Söderlund is no longer with EA, nothing hurts a corporation more than losing massive sales due to single person fucking PR up.

Söderlund has not been the only person to tell his customers off. Total War: Rome II has been patched for some year now with increasingly more and more questionable changes in regards of historical authenticity. Scratch that, supposedly Creative Assembly’s stance is that Rome II is authentic, but not accurate. This is standard bullshit weasel worlds and the situation should have never achieved this point. What the patches have done is that the number of female generals with darker skin tone have seen a raised percentage, which would seem to contradict historical records. However, the thing is that the patch that changes the percentages are over half a year old. The current controversy is about Creative Assembly telling their consumers to stop playing the game, or mod the patches out. Again, it’s easier to give this a spin the narrative to something that’s politically more palatable than having a PR catastrophe at their hands. One Angry Gamer has a rather decent article on the debacle, but do keep in mind that it is somewhat one-sided.

I want to reiterate that no corporation should tell their consumers to piss off. The end result is that they will and they will go to the competitor, or simply go without your product. Especially with video games, which are a non-essential luxury product nobody truly needs, and there are always alternatives. Even in an industry that is at the top of the entertainment ladder, losing one big sale can damage a property to a point where it is simply cut off. Look at what happened to the sales of the most recent Mass Effect and where the series is now. A franchise once dead in the water is rather hard to resurrect, as it requires winning back the old audience first and foremost, and to make a splash in general. Despite the slow change of mass demographic throughout the years, the fact is that any product that is aiming to sell widely should stay universal. When brands get into politics, it automatically cuts a section of your consumers off intentionally. Your competition will only gain consumers through these actions. Your conscience might have it good, but not if your company starts going under. Imagine if something like Cif, the window cleaner, was announced as the choice of -insert politician and party you dislike here- and the company producing Cif now openly supports whatever political agenda or message they have. I’m making a wild guess a lot of people would trade brands if they would, for example, become pro-Trump in their next ad campaign. While this sounds like the issue is only on the business side, both Battlefield V and Total War: Rome II were affected by decisions unfavoured by large portion of their consumers who enjoy historical authenticity and accuracy. The results of going against the consumer has visibly affected the games’ contents negatively and their reception has seen a downfall. This can be seen especially in the reviews of Rome II on Steam, where it has seen a drop from Positive to Mixed. This is about a game that came out five years ago no less, so before the consumes were really enjoying the game as it was. Creative Assembly’s stance and message has also caused a consumer backlash, resulting their other games being rated downward on Steam, though there is no real reason for this outside consumers just getting back at the company. This is, however, nothing out usual, sadly. Rather than trying to force a round peg through a square hole, perhaps it’d be best to cater to different audiences with different products.

Perhaps it is the current economic situation, devs and companies can make choices like this. There are less threats overall, and pretty much everything is selling. Perhaps certain levels of recession where products are required to be worth the money invested is needed, and consumers have to select their purchase choices with higher rigor than normally.

 

Real fresh game

This may be a localised phenomena, but in the early late 90’s and early to mid 00’s there was a consensus that ‘a real game’ was something that had it all; great graphics, voiced characters and an expansive story, while gameplay was kinda a secondary thing. Pretty much what modern Triple A gaming has become, which should make sense, as people who grew up in that era are now making games. This was also the era where arcades died, and simple games seemed to be relegated to the Internet as Flash or Shockwave titles, and to few collections released on consoles. This mentality wasn’t anything new, it can be argued that it stemmed from the mid-90’s 3D and FMV craze, which was also driven by the fact that Saturn wasn’t exactly allowed to have 2D titles on it in the West, in favour of 3D. The idea of something being old and past its time was something that few would argue against, despite some companies putting outs absolutely fantastic 2D works out during this time, like Castelvania: Symphony of the Night and the Street Fighter III series.

This doesn’t exactly hold water nowadays anymore, with the whole retro scene being popular and all that. Old stuff is not regarded as junk any longer, but rather something of value. However, it is clear that what has replaced the old-and-busted mentality is raw mentality of value. By this I mean that the games that were considered as ‘real games’ have now become a sort of gold standard, not necessarily just Triple A as I mentioned, something that simply seemingly has more value. Take the whole thing with 2D and 3D Mario as an example, where Nintendo themselves clearly consider 3D Mario a more valuable title and type of game. Those titles get the budget and big bang releases, the effort and the marketing. 2D Mario on the other hand gets repackaged and overall just doesn’t have the same respect towards it. Perhaps this is because the 90’s 3D craze did leave a scar of sorts on gaming overall, with PC culture furthering things with its hardware fetishism. For whatever reason, a direct 2D game rarely can be just games, despite some smaller titles on the indie stores fighting against this trend. Very few 2D title follows the arcade original examples of almost pure distilled gameplay, and have opted to ‘expand’ the content their offer.

By expansion I don’t mean something like expanding the game’s landscale, more levels and such. It’s a case where a title suddenly gets a full-fledged story scenes, extending the game’s length by interrupting the play and other elements trying to find ways to add more ‘content.’ Content’s the wrong term, but close enough for our use. Take Mega Man 7  and Mega Man X as examples. On the NES, Mega Man games had no story sequences outside opening and ending, with one or two Dr. Wily reveals. Three stops in a whole game is not a whole lot, when nowadays you have to sit back more than thirty minutes just to play Pokémon. Changing gameplay elements is another, as Mega Man as a franchise has constantly kept itself next to what the era tried to be about; X added armour collecting trying to mimic RPGs, Legends jumped to 3D as that was the trend, Battle Network revised the whole shebang and followed the collecting/trading card scene, Zero remodelled the series with darker tones and heavier emphasize on story (something each X-series game did as well) and the with action-adventure in ZX/A titles. Then back again to the roots when retro was at its raviest. It didn’t exactly work as intended, as the franchise was put into ice until this year, essentially.

To use a more modern example of trying to expand an existing game series with more ‘content’ would be Umihara Kawase. The first three games are very style-pure titles. Direct to the point, stage by stage. The series expanded itself in a natural way with completely new stages each time with slightly reworked mechanics. Sayonara Umihara Kawase added new characters with gameplay gimmicks to stop time or similar function, which honestly didn’t sit too well with the series’ puristic approach. However, the latest title in the series, Umihara Kawase Fresh does what pretty much every 2D game did in the 90’s; adds more ‘content.’

Rather than having stages, narration here calls it an open world game, which works much better as a descriptor than metroidvania. Because of this change, the game’s progression is now based on Time Attack and Quests, and rather than having environment being your best ally and threat, failure of contacting enemies is not punished my losing a life or confused state, but by gaining damage to the Hunger meter. This drastically has changed how the game is approached to a decree. Then again, this title does carry Fresh in it, which more or less means Sayonara was the last of classic line of Umihara Kawase games. These changes exist solely to add more value to the title and differentiate it from its predecessors. It has more stuff to play, more stuff to extend the play time with necessary plot scenes and other sequences and now you have to managed two different gauges rather than just try and clear a stage. It’s a whole open world.

Can a game stay at its purest anymore, or does it need to have all the bells and whistles bolted to it in order to sell better?

This would seem to be the case. A game that has a puristic approach to video games seems to be left behind in terms of value to the point of being relegated to digital-only title. If it’s not a title like Sonia Mania Plus that has already showcased how well it can sell, there seems to be surprisingly little on the way. While physical releases seem to be going the way of the dodo, but we still got time before that happens, especially if people are waking up what digital ownership really means.