Consumer control over titles coming to Steam?

In hindsight, this was to come. Developer named Love in Space has stated that Valve has halted their title’s submission in order to overhaul Steam to give more control to the consumer on what they see. This isn’t the standard Family friendly control centre Steam currently has, but something more robust.

This seems to indicate two things. First, Valve is taking their hands off as they’ve mentioned previously and accept pretty much anything legal on Steam. This would mean the end developers have to indicate elements in their software whilst submitting to Valve. This would tie directly into the second element, which is the user driven control.

How do you implement it? is the  question.The best, quickest way would probably be to use the pre-existing tags Steam already uses for its titles, but whether or not these would be fitting is an open question. Sometimes, how a tag works for a title is rather obscure, referring to some element that’s not a major part in the title. Then you have the occasional tag that has nothing to do with the title. There would be a need for a far more stricter set of rules in order have a properly functioning control device. While possible that they’ll just use these tags, it’s also probable that something completely new will be used, as the aforementioned developer mentions that there is going to be completely new features that their title requires before Valve accepts it for Steam.

Was there a reason for a system like this? As Steam functions as a sales platform as much as it is a digital console, there is a need to split adult-only material from the more kid-friendly content. The split is similar how kids’ magazines are in one section in store, while all the rest are moved on the side or above the their stand. Another example would be how family movies and adult movies had different sections on a VHS rental store. Wasn’t the Family View already like this? Apparently not, as it seems to only limit what games are shown in the Library section rather in Store.

Seeing how the Internet really likes to rile people up and enjoy the outrage culture for better or worse, these last few years (or rather, last decade or so) has seen movements to accuse games, game developers and consumers for pretty much anything from sexism and racism to political agendas and lack of them. Valve has seen a lot of shit flung at them concerning their new policy, to the point of Kotaku labeling Valve irresponsible for allowing free market to decide on products.

This new feature that is being worked on is a solution that allows the user to censor their own Store page. This all fine and dandy, as this means people should be able to see what they want, ignoring the rest of the marketplace they might deem less of worth or somehow damaging for them or their family. As long as system does not force limitation to anyone else, or even suggest that certain content might be considered inappropriate, it should be passable.

However, it would seem this is a solution coming along way down, as Sekai Project mentioned some of their titles need to be re-submitted, and that they need to fill-in additional information for already passed software once the system has been implemented. Considering Valve has stopped accepting some titles like this for the time being, I’d guess they’re in a bit of a hurry with the system before publishers like Sekai find new avenues to move into. Valve wanting to put accepting software on hold for the time being until they’ve finished the system may be understandable, but it’s not the best approach concerning the publishers and developers who have their titles in this limbo state.

You will hear that this won’t solve any problems. Games that sites like Kotaku considers problematic won’t go away and will be developed and published. However, this is as good as any mediating solution, as the upcoming feature should allow these people can ignore their hated titles as much as they wish.

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Disruptive pricing requires backing behind it

Here’s something I didn’t expect to see Shuhei Yoshida to use anytime soon; disruption. He jokes that that when the PlayStation 2 was released, it had no games to it, though Street Fighter EX 3 was published week before the console was launched.

The PS2 essendtially broke the barrier between previous home media formats like the VHS, Beta and Laserdisc and the DVD by introducing an affordable, competent player to the mass markets. An overnight industry revolution, some had put it back in the day. Sony had a product that wasn’t just cheap, but decently competitive too. It wasn’t the cutting edge player many people nowadays seem to think it was, but it was good enough. In fact, it was pretty terrible, and using the PS2 as a DVD player would kill the laser unit incredibly fast. This was part due to how it worked, and part due to Sony using cheap lasers units for their consoles.

Sony never learned from this. While it can’t be denied that the PS2 gained its initial success from the DVD market, the games themselves later made the console what it was. They were hoping to replicate this with the PlayStation 3 with the newfangled Blu-ray, but that didn’t go as expected. The stupid high price was made fun out of and the BD format took years to mature. It did manage to kill off HD-DVD though, so one win for Sony there. First time they beat someone in a format war, though this was also the time when people said that in few years digital-only content will be taking physical format for a ride. It’s been a slow burn with digital taking over the physical media, more than a decade at this point.

Yoshida seems to be missing something that’s been going over and over in the video game industry with his remarks about the PS2’s launch. An affordable, good enough machine that does its job well, but bleeding edge, will eclipse its competitors. There’s no large science behind it, people just dislike investing into an expensive machine. DVD players around the change of the millennium were stupendously expensive at their highest quality. They were, however, still cheaper than the Laserdisc by that point.

When Nintendo says that they’re not interested in doing or knowing how their competitors do stuff, Sony seems to be ones that don’t really learn from the history of an industry they’re not part of. Yoshida saying that they wouldn’t know how industry manages shift from one console to another spells us that they didn’t look up anyone who had been working with Sega, Nintendo, Atari, Hudson or NEC for some information. It sounds more like they went in cockeyed and hoped for the best. After all, the PlayStation had been the victor of the previous generation, beating both of its two main competitors. On one hand, Sony was in pressure to deliver a proper successor to their maiden console, and on the other hand they knew they had build a consumer base in the video game market that would surely follow in suit. Sony’s history with home media and electronics after was strong at that point, but after that it seems like video games took its toll on the company and they couldn’t compete with the current marker forces.

The Blu-Ray was the only time Sony won a format war, and even then it was more because there were only one other competing format. HD-DVD didn’t market itself very boldly, and most of Toshiba’s pricing was lacklustre to say the least. While it got decent studio backing, that backing came in too late compared to BD. Sony managed to get Warner Bros. support BD in an exclusive manner, and WalMart seeing writing on the wall, stopped offering HD-DVD due to lack of sales. Furthermore, the whole support Microsoft gave to the format to fight Sony’s BD was incredibly poor and never went anywhere. It’s more likely that PS3 didn’t contribute to BD’s win streak one bit. Sony’s history with their formats like the DSD, AVCHD and MiniDisc weren’t all that successful, though I must say MiniDisc still saw some success that should not be understated. Nowhere near the standards of the compact cassette or CD, but still.

Reiterating that you can’t simply disrupt a market with a cheap price. Cheap price in itself doesn’t tell anything about the product outside that you can buy it for less money. Disruption requires meat behind, something more substantial that drives the consumer towards a product. A relatively competent product with lower price than its competitors would be more on point with this. Something that larger amount of consumers can get their hands on and experience the higher fidelity of things is that sort of sweet spot, but it’s not easily attainable. It’s much easier to produce either trash products you can sell for large profit margin even when the price is lower than most, just as it is easy to put all the bleeding edge components into polished designed shell and sell it to high-tier enthusiasts, like hifi snobs, to enjoy.

Capcom to push forwards with online multiplayer

The title of this post is really self-evident, but sometimes its good to check some other invest relations information outside Nintendo. For whatever reason, I always go for Capcom’s. Too bad their latest Shareholders Q&A summary is very short, but there are points on interest.

The current state of Capcom is rather hard to estimate. Originally, they went from an arcade game provider to console game developer, with healthy licensing of their games to PC markets. For example, Ghost ‘n Goblins exist on pretty much every platform of its era, from Amstrad CPC to C64. Capcom has dropped the arcade side almost altogether due to their niche nature. They’re more or less the posterboy of a generic electronic games company at the moment, developing and publishing games across the platforms. This has been their modus operandi for some twenty years now, roughly speaking. However, it must be emphasized that Capcom still considers arcades as one of their main line of business, it being the first thing mentioned in their Company profile video, though for Japan only in form of Plaza Capcom arcade centers.

Fun fact; Capcom still producers PCBs for multiple companies to use in arcade games, pachinko and pachislot machines.

Again, all this is self-evident, as is Capcom’s lip-service that functionality and specifications of each platform differs. Nowadays only Nintendo platform/s have any special specification to it. Modern platforms can be counted with one hand anyway. It’s first a strange answer to a question how will Capcom think the ratio of sales per platform, but it’s not all that different from all other third party companies; one title, multiple platforms. Nothing new on this front, but is also means specialisation per platforms will be nil. Effectively, Capcom’s playing it safe.

Street Fighter will continue as Capcom esports flagship title in the future, for better or worse. They don’t specify Street Fighter V but the series in general. This rarely means anything special, but understanding how SFV has not been the most popular piece, there might be some motion to push the sixth entry into the series at some point SFV has run out of its steam. While SFIV was run in iterations, SFV was split into seasons and updates came to one title. This has cut costs, though it did backfire harshly, with the initial release extremely bare bones and online multiplayer was effectively the only thing going for it. An arcade mode for a game like this, which is effectively bred and born in the arcade halls, really needs to be closer to those roots in all respects than PC or console market demands. This approach has proven to make sales, and continues to make sales.

Capcom mentioning Monster Hunter specifically in the same breath gives a strong hint that the inside-view of the what esports can be split into two; the tournament community and online multiplayer. Effectively, SFV’s esport scene outside tournaments exists on the online multiplayer, and its by all means the same as any other multiplayer. Pointing this out seems like something self-evident again, but stopping for a moment and pondering that esports is effectively a step away from any sort of multiplayer must be made. Before the concept of esports, competitive playing was more than enough to encompass the same thing. However, for whatever reason competitive playing wasn’t enough and a more marketable term was coined. Esports, after all, is about the money it can generate rather than the competition itself. Just like sports in general.

This idea continues with the Switch question. The investors clearly would like to see more games on the Switch due to its sales, while Capcom itself would like to push for more esports, ie. competitive multiplayer games.

It is clear that Capcom wants to push Monster Hunter here, despite it being rather poor example for competitive gaming. However, its sales and the amount of players it has online exceeds pretty much everything similar Capcom has done, effectively making the example Capcom wants to push. Of course, it doesn’t fit the bill all that well, but it fits well enough when you consider the meaning behind either competitive or esports; the multiplayer aspect. People have a skill to make anything into a competition, and even co-op game like Monster Hunter is viewed in this light with hunting times, style and such. Competitive Monster Hunter wouldn’t be in the spirit of the franchise, though an asymmetric gameplay mode, where one of the players would control a major monster, would be an interesting idea, but in practice would probably yield less than optimum game session.

Effectively, Capcom’s future aim seems to be more online multiplayer, be it disguised as esports or not. Without a doubt this means social game on mobile devices and expanding on the online multiplayer aspects wherever possible. Online multiplayer is an old concept by now, but considering how many Capcom games ultimately lack one, it just might be that they find themselves designing more games towards dedicated multiplayer than one-player titles.

However, Capcom does seem to have enough sense to choose their battles properly and not force titles like Mega Man 11 have such modes. Please, don’t come up with some sort of forced multiplayer aspect in MM11.

It should be noted that Capcom’s stock has been a steady rise since Q2 of 2017. It has its usual dips and rises, though midway March it had it had a slight downwards trend. It would seem that Monster Hunter and multiple other titles that consumers seem to be keen on has raised their margin. Their analyst section also recommends buying stocks at a neutral range, outside Credit Suisse Securities JP ltd. considers Capcom to underperforming, and in terms of expanded electronics industries they probably are right. However, Capcom is in a spot where they are rather leveled out.

Remember when we checked Capcom’s sales data last time few years back? It hasn’t changed much since then, though it has an addition of Dragon’s Dogma. Resident Evil still reigns supreme, followed by Monster Hunter and Street Fighter. It’s still heartwarming to see some of their older, classic titles listed, despite them effectively being dead, like Commando and 1942. Wouldn’t seeing those revived as well, in a modern form or another.

New faces of Mega Man

In an interview with Venture Beat, the producer of Mega Man 11 Kazuhiro Tsuchiya tells that the reason why there was no new Mega Man game for such a long time was because there was nobody to helm the ship. As much as Keiji Inafune gets shit flung at him because of Mighty Number 9, he was the force that made Mega Man happen for solid decades. Despite that, he was but one man, and games at this scale are never a single man effort.

Tsuchiya’s assertion that the atmosphere within the company wasn’t right, that nobody wanted to tackle the challenge to make a new Mega Man. It is without a doubt partially because Inafune’s rank that held the series in place, but just as much corporation’s own politics played in the mix. We’ve seen from Capcom’s own titles they’ve released that their library’s style has changed little by little this past decade.

For Koji Oda, the director of the game, it was the Casshern situation; if he’s not going to do it, then who will? Oda’s right in that social media and fans overall have been pining for a new game in the series.

However, would Capcom allow a new game just like that? Highly doubtful. Mega Man‘s 30th anniversary celebrations probably was the largest reason why the Mega Man 11 got greenlit, especially after the reception all the leaks and trailers the Man of Action Mega Man cartoon have been less than favourable overall. Banking on the core fans going balls deep into anything carrying a franchise’s name is not the best idea, not even for Star Wars or Metal Gear.

There is one quote from Oda that must be given a high emphasize;

Inafune’s departure was a big part of it. His leaving Capcom left a void, and people were hesitant to step in and become the new “Mega Man guy.

This, dear reader, is the power a face has. Inafune, by all means, was father of Mega Man, the carrying force of the franchise, someone who would drive it onward, someone the consumer can latch unto and associate with. An inanimate product in itself needs some sort of association with something positive, be it a good time with a friend and a bottle of Coke, a friendly dentist recommending an Oral-B electric toothbrush or some representative from a corporation talking about something you love.

These two have been largely unknown to the public in terms of being a face. Tsuchiya was a programmer on Mega Man 7,  but as usual, nobody gets glory as a programmer despite being one of the most important roles in game development. Perhaps his most known title is Asura’s Wrath, where he was the producer. Oda’s worked largely on Resident Evil titles, mainly as director with remakes. He was system planner on the original and got Special thanks in Street Fighter Alpha 2, but Shinji Mikami always took the spot as the face of Resident Evil in every regards when he was still with Capcom.

Because these two are now heading Mega Man, there is a marketable face again. They don’t come from scratch, there’s already something we can associate them with. If Mega Man 11 ends up being a massive success, and the fan expectations for it are massive, one of them or both will end up the successor to Inafune’s place as the face of the franchise, someone the consumer can reflect upon.

However, just as I said that Inafune leaving was just part of the equation, so are the sales, if not even more so. Oda saying that the sales figures for Mega Man Legacy Collection were the driving force behind Mega Man 11 being put into development jives with what I’ve been commenting on for these years; data matters extremely so for Japanese game developers. When there is established data and form, it is easier to get through the execs to get something done. A simple thing like having a name’s localisation into a correct form from may take numerous already existing sources to assure executive powers that its worth it. A single name. To assure Capcom’s higher rank of being allowed to put a new Mega Man title into production has required more than solid sales numbers. It has required fan feedback of all kinds being collected and presented in proper form.

Mega Man as a franchise didn’t go kaput only because Inafune left, but because its sales potential had been waning most of the 00’s. The consumer is a fickle thing, first claiming that Capcom is just rehashing franchises by making a title after a title to satisfy market wants, but then is being criticised for not having new titles for the franchise. I doubt its just the sales data of Legacy Collection that was presented for the execs, but also the data of sales from previous digital releases. After all, Capcom’s a corporation that must make profit. Making games that would have meager sales is not exactly in their favour. They’re not here to make art, but cold hard cash through commercially viable products.

I would argue that Mega Man‘s absence has done it good. Call it the Godzilla effect if you will, where an absence of a product for number of years will allow the market view reset a little bit and most of the baggage previous movies have delivered have managed to level out. It’s much easier to make a new entry after some time have passed with rejuvenated interest. However, there are times when something can get so hyped and becomes so expected that it simply can’t meet the expectations for whatever reasons. Star Wars Episode I is probably the example of this. Disney really screwed up by making Star Wars mundane, but that’s another topic.

Will Mega Man 11 deliver? At this moment, it looks like something that can probably excel decently. It’s not exactly what could be described a pretty game, some of the animations still look janky and the Double Gear system seems rather generic way to try forcing a gimmick into the game. It’s not something the franchise hasn’t done before, but can they make it work with the standard formula? Will the stage designs be excellent? Will the music be up to the standard?

And of course, there’s how Capcom is releasing the product. They intend to make most of it, but if you’re European and want the game for the Switch, you’re out of luck. There is a petition up that asks Capcom to release the game in physical format, but seems like the interest isn’t there. This isn’t the first time Capcom of Europe makes less than ideal decision.

Inspirational changes, Dead or Alive

Seems like every time we get a new Dead or Alive, something about it gets a rise from people to whatever direction.  For better or worse, DoA gets decent amount of press whenever a new entry gets announced, but mostly always for the wrong reasons. DoA Extreme 3 got marred in the press for both having cheesecake and for not being published in the Western regions, making it the best selling title Play-Asia ever had.

With the announcement of DoA6, you’d think things would’e been gone as usual. Well, in a way they did, with part of the consumers wondering what the hell was going on, and part celebrating titillation getting toned down significantly.  Because of eSports, of course.

Yohei Shimbori of Tecmo had an interview, where he states that the new DoA was inspired by American comics and movies. He wants people who play the game feel proud, as he puts it, while playing the game. Sidestepping the issue why should people feel proud while playing a game, the reason why things are changing in the first place is because during EVO tournament 2017 some of the DoA fans felt embarrassed. Whether or not these fans were the players or not is not mentioned.

The issue, of course, is how sexy the characters are. These fans they interviewed wanted the game to be cooler. The problem of course is, the game already looks cool.

Shimbori’s logic and source is sound. American mainstream cape comics certainly have moved away from showcasing the human physique in demigod form in favour of more realistic depictions and detailed suits, though at the same time the sales of these comics have tanked thanks to low quality of the comics themselves in general. Shimbori wanting to take inspiration from these comics, following similar path seems to be the right way, emphasizing on the suit fashion. While Shimbori emphasises on female characters, this is true across the board, especially with Marvel comics.

A major attraction for Dead or Alive has been its visuals and fun factor not found anywhere else. Taking that visual side away and replacing, for example, Kasumi’s now iconic outfit with an extremely generic blue-black full-body outfit looks lazy, detracts from her unique look in the gaming market and clashes with her intended original design. The cherry blossom petals and other moves don’t fit the character anymore, now that she’s wearing a supposedly more combat-sensible suit.  Let’s make a look at her DoA5 and DoA6 versions.

Wait, they gave DoA6 outfit high heeled sandals? While I may be talking about her iconic outfit, it was not her initial default outfit. It’s from completely different design perspective from the DoA6 design, and a direct comparison would be like apples and oranges. The iconic design doesn’t exactly render well in the modern style DoA is going for, as its intention originally was to be semi-cartoony to begin with. It clashes with the semi-realistic take. It would have been better to update that design rather than going completely away with it, as now we’re getting what’s supposed to be cool. Funny enough, if DoA6 is supposed to be less about the curvatures of a woman’s body shape, they failed. With skintight leather, it’s all about the curves. It may not be as sexy, but you might as well have her fight in black and blue body paint. It’s not exactly cool either in the sense Shimbori’s intention are.

Furthermore, majority of the DoA fans like the series’ aesthetics. DoA5 had a slight backlash against its style and take, but the dev team took this to their heart and tweaked things a little. Character models have been an issue with fighting games recently anyway, from banana hair and punched face Ken in Street Fighter V to pretty much everyone in Marvel VS Capcom Infinite, especially potato faced Chun-Li. However, DoA has always aimed follow the Virtua Fighter route with simple yet striking design, with their own flavour of fan service and certain level of risque that’s unique to it. In essence, one of DoA‘s winning elements has been its visual design that gives just enough glimpses with rather anything more. The sheer amount of outfits in previous titles has kept the players busy unlocking stuff as well.

The end problem of course is that DoA‘s fame and money has been made with Japanese influences, something the fans and core audience are attracted towards to. The loss of Soft Engine, an element that was part of the visual nature of Dead or Alive, feels cheap at best. Dev team’s emphasize on trying to make sweat and damage to be more a thing sounds more what you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat title. The audience that is there doesn’t want the game to look brutal, but to look beautiful. I doubt many Japanese fans want to see Kasumi’s face pummeled into mush, outside ryona fans.

There’s also the magical words of making the game more accessible, as mentioned in this IGN Live E3, with one-button combos to be a thing. DoA and VF controls have been the simplest out of all mainline fighting games, and simplifying them to this point seems like gimping it. Devs can claim that it simply adds a layer to the game, but that’s never been the case. It’s just to make one or two combos a constant.

This seems like a major step away from the series roots and nature. All this is ultimately to attract the expanded audience, or the audiene that considers the series problematic, sexist or otherwise offensive in content. The idea of expanding market is all good and fine, but not at the expense of the brand and franchise itself. At this rate, they should’ve rebranded the franchise altogether, or even better, start another fighting game franchise to run along Dead or Alive, much like how Tekken has Soul Calibur.

In the end, the devs are going to do whatever they want, eSports interviews and all. Perhaps the end battle of DoA5, where tacticafully black clad Kasumi fights her iconically clothed clone was a prelude to come. Forget exciting and interesting new design, we’re in an age of homogeneous coolness.

They could do better, but in the end, they’re bucking on already past trends.

Open the Valves, full Steam ahead

Sometimes, Valve manages to surprise the cynic in me. Just as I mentioned that they should open the doors for free market, it seems that’s exactly what Valve did. Of course, it was received with both positive and negative press, with negative pretty much calling out Valve for allowing games that could have offensive content. Kotaku, for example, takes their usual stance all about wanting to keep games with gross content, as they put it, out of Steam. Furthermore, Kotaku’s beef with Valve being a reactionary corporation when it comes to controversies is old song by this point. Most corporations may go their way to appease sections of the consumers, but in this day and age where practically everything can cause an uproar and everything is offensive to someone in some myriad way, corporations can’t exactly be but reactionary.

This whole deal is interesting and dumbfounding, to say the least. For number of years, gaming snobs have wanted the electronic games industry to grow and mature. No medium is free of the growing pains of vast, endless multiple points of views and political leanings. For a rough comparison, banned games equate to banned books. This is especially important if we are to take games as an art, as simply banning or removing art because the subject is something you dislike or disagree with infringes the free expression of the artist.

Of course, the opposition of Valve’s new policies take the business view on things whenever it pleases them. Steam having games with content other developers don’t like shouldn’t matter to them. If their product is superior, they should be at ease of mind. The free market will tell what’s more demanded. Of course, it could always turn out that doing politically or otherwise controversial topically charged games might not sell well in overall terms. If the developer and/or publisher wishes to move their games off the platform because Valve has allowed games with offensive content in their mind, they can always move away to GOG.

After all, censorship and limited freedom of speech is something that can be easily expanded to serve only one master.

This is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Brands, such as Steam, should not partake in politics of any sorts. Valve’s stance of keeping trolling titles (how in the fuck would you even define that properly in hard-down legal form) and illegal content off their service is enough. The market will handle the rest. Simply because content exist for consumption does not mean one has to go their way and consume it.

Is it immoral to allow content that might be considered offensive on Steam, politically or otherwise? The question is No, considering Steam already has games with content that does offense someone. Valve’s Weik Johnson has the right stance; they’re not the one to decide what developers make. If we are to promote equal treatment of all, it is required to mean equal treatment in all terms, including games that have offensive content of any kind. It is up to you as the consumer to decide whether or not it is consumed, not by a committee, a busybody soccer mom or another developer.

Another criticism Valve has got is that this means they do not stand up to values, or more accurately, the values of the critics have set up. Just as morals, values are up to each person. Cultural values and morals set up by the society are ultimately what matter the most, not the ones sections of the Internet want to be upheld. In effect, it is equally morally reprehensible to allow one offensive content but not the other. Valve’s ultimate morals lay in what makes the most profit, and free market is the best way to make a buck.

Whether or not Valve is finished with underestimating their consumers with this is an open question. It can be expected them to flip flop on the matter in the future, especially when take into notion how vague their new stance is. What is illegal changes country by country, and there is always the remote possibility they’ll simplify things and use all of them. Somewhat unlikely, seeing Valve has always tried to stick with the US legislation and have a history of arguing against foreign laws to an extent. What is acceptable varies wildly, especially in places like China.

Secondly, trolling, as mentioned above, doesn’t exactly hold water. It is extremely subjective and sounds like a scapegoat wording that they can enact on a title whenever they find it applicable. Titles like Hatred may get hated out of the platform due to its content, as it was removed from Steam Greenlight. It took Gabe to get it back. The title’s developer certainly did use trolling as part of the marketing campaign, yet the title is nothing short of fully fledged isometric shooter.

For better or worse, Valve’s announcement on the subject does touch upon this. To quote the post; we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling. While this could be viewed as slightly concerning, this sort of extension of corporation’s own decision making is expected. This allows Valve to cover their asses whenever its applicable while supporting the freedom of game development and publishing, as weird as it sounds, considering anyone could do that outside Steam on PC already.

In the end, all of Valve’s announcement ends up being PR speech. It’s not exactly virtue signaling either as much as itch.io’s Leaf’s tweet on the matter. How things will go down in practice will probably be a very different story, though only time will tell. Claiming that Valve has dropped any responsibility or the like is childish bitching, as the responsibility has always been with the developers and publishers, and even then to the extent of the law.

The consumers within the market will make their voice heard on the matter, and that is ultimately what matters, despite what different sociopolitical factions like to think. Let capitalism function as intended.

Then there’s the point that none of that matter jack shit if the gameplay is not up to the level. That is what matters the most after all.

Sony’s shifting gears

Sony’s John Kodera gave a statement to Washington Street Journal that the PlayStation 4 is at the end of its console life cycle. This, combined with Sony stopping physical Vita game production outside Japan, is all about the momentum inside the company. Nobody’s surprised that PS VR is selling less than expected, VR has never been popular enough to make a breakthrough as its always expected to. We were told that the new technology will make VR more viable, but that’s the story we get every single time. VR requires a proper paradigm shift in terms of technology and how its presented before it’ll catch on. 3D TVs were in the same boat. I guess Star Trek‘s holodecks would be the pinnacle end point of both techs, but I doubt no company wants to invest money into hardlight or holomatter technology just yet.

Sony’s strategy for the future doesn’t seem all that rosy. Switch is controlling the market from two ends, and Sony effectively handed out the handheld end to Nintendo. As much as some people love their Vita and titles on it, the system was bust the very moment Sony themselves ported Gravity Rush as a franchise to PS4. The writing was on the wall for the console before it, and I’ll assure you the console won’t get a great swansong. It’ll drift and die slowly without a fanfare.

Vita could’ve been a great system. Sony’s mishandling reminds me of how Sega managed to screw their systems over post-Mega Drive. However, PS4 has not been lacking in mishandling department either, with the system having less significant titles and seemingly having a very bread-and-butter approach. Nothing about the system stands out. Xbone has the same thing going on for it, but at least neither systems are Wii U.

Will Sony come up with a hybrid console? While it is in their nature to respond to Nintendo’s shifts in how they approach the market, with Nintendo often doing the very same thing, the big question is whether or not Sony is willing to completely abandon their high-end, high-spec consoles. The Switch is not more powerful than its 8th generation competitors, yet it hits the sweetspots with its library in most cases.

The whole deal why PlayStation even exists was to put better technology in use for a game console. Ken Kutaragi’s want to create a system stemmed from his disliking of the Famicom’s sound. Each PlayStation, ever since it was supposed to be a Super Famicom add-on, has been driving some sort of media revolution and put high-end tech into the console. Original was driven by a CD and extremely good audio, before they gutted that out. Sure, PC-Engine was the first CD-based system with Mega Drive having Sega CD, yet both of these were marginal success at best. This was mainstream success with 3D graphics at the forefront. PS2 can be said to be the main cause for the DVD revolution and rapid shift from VHS, as it offered a cheap drive with further capabilities. PS3 again pushed the notion of sound and graphics, and introduced Blu-Ray, but at this point the competition had severely changed. PS4 doesn’t have anything for it, no new media, no real graphics overhauling. Everything’s become mundane and standard. All these have concentrated on bringing the multimedia experience to the living room.

Sony’s whole business, from sound to televisions to gaming, has been living room centric. Certainly, they’ve made numerous high-end portable products, yet they’ve never managed to achieve their Walkman glory days. Their corporate politics and customs are reason for this, and current paradigm with formats won’t allow Sony to create such devices any longer. Sony has been a company of engineers, after all. Modern technology requires as much, if not even more, emphasize on the digital engineering with coding and such.

If Sony intends to continue on with producing a console for a television set, it needs an edge. Cutting edge technology in terms of graphics only carries so far. New IPs help only if they’re great, but as people are spending less time watching traditional television and everybody is having something in their pocket with a screen. A hybrid console could be a solution to them, but copying Nintendo’s approach would be a harsh hit on Sony’s ego.

The whole five to six years of consoles is, of course, utter bullshit. A console’s life cycle is as long as the support its given. There are no real reasons to simply kill one off if it has consumers. South Africa enjoyed Sega’s Master System and Mega Drive long into the 1990’s and even early 2000’s, before their official support was killed off. The original PlayStation simmered along the PS2 for a good while, as did the PS3 with PS4. This is a discussion I’ve covered to death, every time news about a console’s death comes out in fact.

E3’s just around the corner anyway, so it is possible Sony has something in store for the consumer in the hardware department. Hopefully it’s something worthwhile.