Who Will The Steam Box Be For?

Valve can do no wrong. Half-life, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead, Portal, Counterstrike, DotA are all great game series developed and published by Valve Corporation. They’ve earned the trust of the video game community because they’ve arguably never put out a bad game. Hence the consensus regarding their infallibility but perhaps none of these are what they are best known for. That honour now lies with Steam.

Steam

Steam is a video game platform primarily on PC, initially serving as a central source for purchasing video games digitally which went on to become more. Steam evolved into a hub, supporting a vast community of gamers, friends, groups as well as offering reliable cloud-based saving and access to user generated content (mods) through Steam Workshop. Your game purchase and saved data are no longer linked to your local drive but to your Steam account, assuring security in the event of hardware failure. However all this is very PC centric, so Valve’s three announcements across the week of 23rd September 2013 focusing on bringing Steam to the living room is very intriguing. For those unaware, Valve on Monday announced Steam OS, on Wednesday a Hardware prototype and Friday a very special looking controller. All of this is part of their initiative to permanently establish their platform in the living room to presumably compete with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo’s home consoles.

The Steam Universe is Expanding
The Steam Universe is Expanding

But who is this for? That is the biggest question at the moment. As IGN’s very own Justin Davis put it: “I don’t understand who Steam Machine’s appeal to“. it’s true. It’s very hard to appreciate the market a Steam Machine would be targeted at. The PC community won’t need it because they obviously have functioning PC’s. Console Gamers have their consoles and if they wanted to play PC games, why not just get a PC? However I believe there are a lot of people that need the existence of this box and can form a substantial consumer base. Their reasons may be different but essentially it boils down to the same thing –  a simple access point to both gaming experiences in one place.

1. being a PC gamer generally means you have a costly Windows machine that can upgrade components independently. It does not necessarily mean you use that technology for anything outside of games. Stripping away all the additional parts of the desktop setup you do not need such as Windows OS, Microsoft Office, a display and peripherals is a substantial cut in cost. A linux based operating systems is also more powerful than other OS’s so lower performing tech can match the power on a windows machine for a proportion of the price. If all you want from a PC is the gaming aspect, instead of upgrading your rig it would make more sense to purchase a Steam Box instead as it is also upgradeable. It’s cheaper and directly streamlined for your desires. 1. You want a PC only to play PC games, so why buy a Desktop for more when you can buy a Steam Box for less?

2. Sharing a personal computer at home could mean you do not have access to it at all times. Here’s a potential scenario (my scenario). My dad, as a software engineer works 8 days a fortnight 8am-6pm from home. The vast majority of the day I do not have access to PC games. Instead of buying my own desktop setup, I could either purchase a low end steam machine and stream from his computer while he’s working or buy a higher value Steam machine and not be dependent on my fathers PC at all. All other functions I have access to with my cheap laptop or Ipad or even Iphone. It’s only the games, or more importantly Steam that I’m after. On top of this I get to play on a big TV instead of a smaller display. This situation can be extrapolated to siblings, couples or roommates. If one has other priorities outside of gaming that prevent the other from doing so, the Steam Machine is a perfect get around. 2. If you share a PC, instead of buying your own one, get a cheap Steam Box and stream directly.

3. Big Picture is a colossal argument against the purpose of Steam Machine. “Oh you want to buy a steam console? you got a PC? Then here you go: (hands over HDMI cable.)” Sure this point has been made over and over but there are some important aspects to big picture that prevent it from scratching the same itch. If your computer is upstairs and living room TV is downstairs, you’re going to need a damn long HDMI cable exposed across stairs and corridors in order to access big picture. Not only is that unsuitable, it’s down right dangerous. Even if the PC is in a study or another room, big picture is not accessible. There are a lot of gamers that also report issues with frame rate when using Steams big picture. A pop up or notification can bring you out of your game, needing you to get up and go to your PC to deal with it. Needless to say it’s not perfect. It’s just hassle a low priced Streaming box from Valve would avoid. 3. Gaming PC owners who simply cannot put their computer in the same room as their TV.

original

4. “I just want to turn my console on, grab my controller and start playing.” How many times have you heard this from a console gamer with regards to PC gaming. Heck that’s what I kept saying until this year. Well if the Steam Machine can provide that low entry-barrier, then it could potentially steal them away from Microsoft and Sony. Though it might seem improbable, I would argue that a well designed, simple to use console from Valve would get huge attention from console gamers. Steam sales, better specs, previously unavailable PC games all contribute to attracting the attention of a console gamer. You can buy AAA games cheaper, download and install that game after one purchase on any Steam Machine, there will be INSANE sales every day and even more insane sales every six months and this is a better device than both the Xbox and the PS4 that can be upgraded whenever you want. Add to that Steam Family Sharing, allowing you to access to 10 friends gaming libraries with no cost, this becomes a no-brainer when directly compared to the HD twins (or I guess triplets now). 4. Compared to other consoles, The Steam Box is just better. If it’s not complicated or too expensive, fanboy-ism aside why wouldn’t a gamer switch?

This is what Steam Machine looks like. Get it?
This is what Steam Machine looks like. Get it?

5. The Controller! Did you see that thing? If not, look down. Very few people have played with it yet but if what Valve is saying is true and it can function as effectively as a mouse and keyboard, then this is a huge factor to consider. Take me for example. Why do I play games on my dads PC? Three reasons. 1. Cheap, awesome Indie games. 2. Steam Sales and 3. Real Time strategies. One of my favourite gaming series of all time is the Total War’s. I would never buy a Total War game on my PS3 even if it were available because it would be the impotent, castrated version thanks to the dualshock. You need access to that many buttons, quick drag of the mouse and accuracy in pointing for it to be as compelling and fast paced as it is during the real time battles. Same thing applies to Starcraft, Company of Heroes and really every Real Time Strategy. Very few have been successful on consoles because of the limitations of the controller. If I could play these games on a console like Steam with a controller designed with this function in mind, I wouldn’t need a PC. I wouldn’t even look back. I prefer playing on the PlayStation for everything apart from RTS’s despite the drop in quality because I prefer that relaxed and easy setup. I believe there are a lot of console gamers and PC gamers that would migrate to the Steam Machine if it was a true midpoint between the two. Access to the entire console as well as PC library with a crazy hybrid controller could marry the previously independent worlds. It’s also very new. There hasn’t really been anything like it before and this will attract attention if only for the novelty of it. Then if it’s good the attention will stick. 5. If Valve’s crazy killer controller is as effective as they say it is, it will entice console gamers to play PC games on Steam Box. Also it’s cool and new.

Steam Controller
Steam Controller

Everybody is right. It is just a PC. But that’s what makes it great. It’s a computer for my TV that doesn’t need a desk and a desk chair and windows and a mouse and a keyboard and blah blah blah. No, this takes what makes PC gaming great and removes the limitations. If it is everything Valve is promising I see a future where the primary gaming experience is the Steam Box, then Microsoft and Sony are left to adopt the Nintendo approach of being the secondary console due to it’s first party games library. However Microsoft does not have an exclusive library large enough to sustain itself as a number two machine. Not to mention Steam’s OS will be capable of most multimedia streaming.

Playstation Network and Xbox live are not competitive at all with the value offered on Steam. The only thing keeping them going is the divide in gaming location, i.e PC-TV and exclusive games. A Steam Machine would officially remove that gap. Though it may be a slow grind, gamers are not stupid and will switch to the platform that is treating them better, treating developers better and not forcing your experience to match the vision of the console publisher. Valve is pushing how open everything will be. Linux is open source so Steam OS is open source, the hardware is hackable, the controller is hackable, Steam Workshop allows user generated mods to be played and put up. Everything is open to the benefit of the gamer. Going back to my starting point Valve has earned the trust of the community and up to this point has done no wrong.

Steam's 2013 Summer Sale
Steam’s 2013 Summer Sale

So who is the Steam Box for? Essentially it will become for everyone. initially it will appeal to the enthusiasts that just want everything, then to console gamers who want PC games but not a PC, then to PC gamers who want to carry on playing PC games but do not want to continually update and maintain a more expensive, unessential setup. After that it has the potential to merge the two markets and be the central gaming experience for all gamers. That is who the Steam Box is for.

The next few years just got exponentially more interesting. Valve has officially thrown themselves into the ring. Three huge companies, all far larger than Valve are already fiercely competing with each other and just launched or are about to launch brand new consoles. They will likely do everything they can to keep another player from joining the match.

But hey, everybody loves an underdog.

Rocky-Balboa-rocky-12062422-1024-768

 

Mert Hussein

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What Have Sony’s First Parties Got in Store for PS4?

 

At E3 2013, Sony announced that their first party studios are collectively working on 20 Playstation 4 titles for release across the initial year of its cycle; 12 of which will be brand new IP’s. On top of this, Sony Worldwide Studio’s President Shuhei Yoshida announced that every single first-party Sony studio is working on PS4 titles. This is ambiguous. It could mean: parties are working collaboratively, working on PS3 ports or helping out other developers release their games. Below is a list of what has been confirmed from each of these 12 studios and what else is likely. Please note the speculations in brackets are purely my opinion, however I believe them to be solid predictions.

 

Sony E3 Conference

 

  1. Guerrilla Games – Killzone: Shadowfall
  2. Evolution Studios – Driveclub
  3. Sucker Punch – Infamous: Second Son
  4. SCE Santa Monica Studios – The Order: 1886Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture,Hohokum, Unannounced Title
  5. SCE Japan Studio – Knack, Unannounced Title, Unannounced Title
  6. SCE Bend Studio – Unannounced
  7. SCE San Diego Studio – Unannounced (Probably MLB 14: The Show)
  8. SCE London Studio – Unannounced (Probably Singstar or Playroom)
  9. Guerrilla Cambridge – Unannounced
  10. Naughty Dog – Unannounced (Probably Uncharted 4)
  11. Polyphony Digital – Unannounced (Probably Gran Turismo)
  12. Media Molecule – Unannounced

 

Infamous: Second Son from Sucker Punch Productions

 

As for the 20 first-year, Sony internal games, this list is incomplete and we are still waiting on more information from Sony. Also there are “games” that are open to interpretation as games and exclusives. More explained below:

 

  1. Killzone: Shadowfall
  2. Driveclub
  3. Infamous: Second Son
  4. The Order: 1886
  5. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
  6. Hohokum
  7. Knack
  8. Playroom
  9. Singstar
  10. Planetside 2
  11. DC Universe OnlineFrom here on out these are predictive speculations:
  12. MLB 14: The Show from Sony San Diego
  13. God Of War title from Sony Santa Monica
  14. Uncharted title from Naughty Dog
  15. Gran Turismo from Polyphony Digital
  16. The Last Guardian from Team Ico which is a sub-team from Studio Japan
  17. A new IP or title from Project Siren which is a sub-team from Studio Japan
  18. A new IP from Guerrilla Games
  19. The Dark Sorcerer from Quantic Dreams
  20. Lily Bergamo from Grasshopper Manufacture, uncertain whether or not this will come to the west.

 

So there’s your 20. A lot of these are cheats or technicalities, i.e: DC Universe Online, Planetside 2, Playroom and Singstar. However Sony will certainly use these technicalities to boost the appearance that they are supporting their new platform by personally releasing numerous titles. Some of these are not even first party but will probably be published or supported by Sony Worldwide Studios. Across: E3, Gamescom, Pax Prime and now Tokyo Game Show Sony has been and will continue to steadily stream out their PS4 game announcements. We still have at least 5 more first party announcements to be made, especially that of Naughty Dog and Quantic Dream. However what must be stressed is that these should be big spotlight announcements and will be overshadowed by the release of the console itself. More likely is that these will be revealed at an event post console-release such as at the Video Game Awards or the next E3.

 

Needless to say this is an exciting time. With a bunch of third party AAA games coming out as launch day titles such as Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag and Watchdogs, First party games releasing across the next year and still more games to be announced, the next console cycle looks like it will get off to a good start.

 

Let the future hold more parallels to the wonders of the past.

 

Mert Hussein.

 

Man, Spec Ops: The Line is Awesome

So after constant reminders that Spec Ops: The Line is not as it seems (a bro-shooter clone) and when the game becoming free with Playstation Plus, I finally decided to give this bad boy a go. A little back story here, I’ve been having very annoying health problems lately and ended up in hospital again. This time it was only 3 days compared to my previous 3 weeks. To anyone who has never been in hospital, something happens while you stay which makes your brain go numb. Perhaps it’s the repetition of the day or staring at the plain white walls but as soon as you leave, you feel incapable of focusing on anything for extended periods of time.

That’s where Spec Ops came in. After a nice long shower I sat down in front of my TV and started scrolling through my backlog. Nothing really spoke to me as it would be a waste to commit to these epic story driven games without my concentration being at its fullest. So I went with Spec Ops, for what I thought would be a nice, simple, third-person shooter I could mess around with until I was ready to dive into Mass Effect 2. For the first hour or so, that was pretty accurate. Then the story kicked in and boy was it good.

I’ll try to avoid spoilers as much as I can but know that 2K Games saw the story Yager Development was going for and trusted them. As you plough through the sandstorm infested desert of Dubai in search of victims and answers, your player, Captain Walker discovers Dubai, the war and most importantly his mission is not as it seems. Voiced by Nolan North, Martin Walker is an intriguing Commander of Delta Force, consisting of himself and his two men; Lugo and Addams. The conversations that ensue between these three men throughout the game are never wasteful filler and always contribute to the moral justification of your quest. Although Spec Ops presents choices that don’t affect the story per se, they are often morally ambiguous and difficult to choose, forcing you to think about it personally and not just as a player.

Spec Ops choice

The combat is fluid and satisfying. You control a single player but also give orders to the other two, such as:  “take out that sniper” or “flash bang those men.” Lugo and Addams are also competent AI that support your assault or defence. Lugo is an effective long shot while Addams resembles a demolition man with heavy weaponry, leaving you to choose your arsenal to fill in the gap. The trio offer a dynamic play style which isn’t repetitive and is relatively flexible. I truly felt part of a tight team while playing.

The game also looks beautiful. The glossy buildings, infinitely stretching desert and artificial intelligence design all make the play through an enjoyable experience. While the lip sync seems consistently off, the voice acting is spot on and very compelling. Yet another great performance by Nolan North. The soundtrack is also complimentary to the story and is presented interestingly through the radioman, who chooses what you will hear. The game avoids many war music clichés, except Ride of The Valkyries, by Wagner during a helicopter attack, made popular in Apocalypse Now. After this I was almost waiting forCreedence Clearwater Revivals: Fortunate Son but fortunately, it never came

spec-ops-the-line-minigun

Watching your team go through hell and become progressively rougher brought back memories of the first Die Hard movie, wherein you could visually notice John Mclane’s vest getting dirtier and dirtier. But there is no expectation for everything to turn out well. This game is dark, unexpectedly so. It’s also very brave, as you will shoot “innocent” people and a lot of American troops and other details I will not go into as you should experience it for yourself.

Spec Ops: The Line is truly an underrated gem which deserved peoples time and attention. The developers clearly put a lot of effort to make this a unique shooter experience through its story. Unfortunately the title is terrible and doesn’t resemble the game at all. All footage of the game also demonstrates simple shooting mechanics and guns instead of focusing on what is special about this game, it’s narrative. I would recommend this title to anyone who looks for great plots in video games and also enjoys third person shooters.

Here’s to hoping for a sequel with a better title.

Xbox One launches November 22nd. How does this change things?

Microsoft has announced the Xbox One will launch synonymously on November 22nd 2013, across 13 territories, including North America.

Xbox One - release date November 22nd

Sony previously announced that its PlayStation 4 will launch November 15th in North America and November 29th in other territories. This means the PS4 will be out 7 days earlier than its competitor the  Xbox One in USA and Canada, however both consoles will be available at least a week before the all important Black Friday.  On the other hand, Microsofts decision to launch simultaneously in Europe, Australasia and South America means the Xbox One will be available a week before the PS4 elsewhere.

Microsofts decision to do this may seem illogical due to their home ground clearly lying in the United States and Canada, however releasing before the Playstation 4 in Europe and Australia can be attributed to their approach towards winning these markets. Microsoft launching every European Xbox One pre-order with a digital copy of Fifa 14 supports this theory. Since the early days of the first Playstation, Europe has consistently been Sony’s playground and Japan its home market but this approach by the American giant could be their first real attempt to change this status quo.

By launching in 13 territories instead of Sony’s 32, odds are Microsoft will be better prepared to meet demand in these markets, and perhaps even supply in larger quantities than Playstation 4’s. doing so for countries such as UK, Germany, Italy and other European launch countries could sway gamers console choice when they discover which is in fact available on the day.

Xbox One - Day One Launch locations

As for North America, it seems Microsoft is confident with Sony leading the next-gen wave, allowing them a weeks head start. This could be a reflection of Xbox’s dominance in that market. Perhaps the mindshare of Xbox is so powerful, the earlier launch will not affect their own performance. Alternatively, the importance of Black Friday and to launch before this date, November 29th, is far more urgent than beating any competition. The idea behind this being buyers will wait until the Black Friday sales to purchase and also the core gamers do not have to compete with general consumers for access to a console, thereby satisfying both groups.

Xbox One/PS4 Exclusives

With each new decision and each new conference, the competition between the next generation of console gaming increases in intensity. While Sony won gamers hearts early on with their strong February reveal and E3 conference, Microsoft has been carving their way back into gamers minds. Small factors such as launch days and bundles may affect some purchase choices but ultimately it comes down to games. Titanfall, Infamous Second Son, the Order 1886, these will shape the sales of these consoles and win gamers over.

The Game Of Thrones Game Everybody Wants… Or Do They?

Game of Thrones is great. It’s hard to argue with this statement. Whether its the TV show or the book or both that have grabbed a hold of you, chances are you want more. So why not a video game? How many times have you been staring at the screen or pages wishing you were there and a part of this fantastical world? Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, has proved that a franchise incarnated in books (be it comic books) and born again in television can also be a hit as a game. So why is it Game of Thrones games seem to always be terrible. First there was the PC strategy “A Game of Thrones: Genesis” followed by Action RPG “Game of Thrones” and next is the upcoming Social Network game “Game of Thrones: Ascent” and I know you shouldn’t dismiss something before it even comes out but this just seems like the wrong direction to take.

What would it take to finally get that golden Game Of Thrones title that fulfills on all fronts and finally satisfy that need to be involved in that world?

Maybe I’m alone on this. With Atlus’ Game of Thrones title only bringing in around 160,000 sales globally, it could easily be interpreted that there is not enough demand for any A Song of Ice and Fire game. Perhaps the masses are satisfied with the books and show and do not want a game to interfere with that narrative. However I do not believe this is true. If a game can stand on its own merits without relying on ties to other mediums, such as television for a player to understand the backstory, that game can be both great and successful. With the ever growing acclaim for the HBO show and the rediscovery of George R.R. Martin’s novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, I am certain that if a poignant Game of Thrones video game were to be released, it would generate the demand it needs. So why hasn’t one already been created?

The game cannot undermine the show or books, has to be relevant without parroting what you already know and has to be able to stand on its own. That’s a tough collection of demands for a developer to comply with and for a publisher to invest in. Also, everything else produced on A Song of Ice and Fire is so amazing already, how do you add to that without taking away from it? There are a lot of challenges to overcome and factors to consider if a developer is to do the a franchise justice.

Arguably one of the most difficult decisions to make while conceptualising a Game of Thrones video game is the genre. A Song of Ice and Fire’s lore is so rich and dense, pretty much any genre fits but what genre fits best? That’s a trivial question because everybody has different tastes, so the real question is, what is the Game of Thrones game you want? Do you want to play out your own characters narrative personally or do you want to rule the seven kingdoms and command your armies? Listed below are the options that are, in my personal opinion, most befitting the role. I would greatly appreciate it if in the comments you could select the choice that you want the most or if I have left out what you desire, tell me your alternative.

1. Role-Playing Game: e.g, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

2. Role-Playing Game: e.g, the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

3. Computer Strategy Game: e.g, a Total War style game

4. Massively Multiplayer Online RPG: e.g, Guild Wars 2

5. Real-Time Strategy: e.g, Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings

6. Graphic Adventure: The Walking Dead Game

7. Other Alternative: give your genre that you would like to see and an example of a game from that genre if one already exists.

Another challenge with A Song of Ice and Fire game is that the narrative already told is so powerful and complex, it connects with the reader or audience on a personal level. The characters matter to you. So do you want to actively play as those characters and risk severing that bond or follow a parallel plot to the story already laid out. Another alternative is, of couse, Prequels! Everybody loves prequels. Who doesn’t want to play as Robert Baratheon facing off against Rhaegar Targaryen on the Trident or playing as Rhaegar himself and rewriting fantasy history. The point is there are so many options within options that they might drown out the game. How could you possibly please everyone? My goal with this article is to discover if there is in fact on overwhelmingly popular choice and if there is which is it.

So the next list to choose from is the narrative you desire:

1. Play as a pre-existing main character and follow out their story in the current setting

2. play as a pre-existing main character and rewrite their story with choices you make

3. play as a new hero that enters the world in its current setting

4. Play as a new hero in a completely different region of the world

5. Play in the past as a pre-existing character you read and here stories about (e.g. Aegon the Conqueror)

6. Play as a house (e.g. Stark) and control the future of your legacy through politics and war.

7. Other Alternatives.

Finally it would be interesting to speculate which development team would be best suited for the task. Of course it would depend heavily on the selected genre of the game but it could be fun to throw around some ideas:

1. Creative Assembly: developers of the Total War series

2. Telltale Games: developers of the Walking Dead Game

3. Bethesda Game Studios: developers of the Elder Scrolls Series and Fallout 3

4. Gearbox Software: developers of the Borderlands series

5. BioWare: developers of the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series

6. Blizzard Entertainment: developers of the Warcraft series and World of Warcraft

7. Other Ideas.

One final suggestion, and bare with me on this, is Atlus. Now I know they failed completely with their last Game of Thrones endeavour, however it’s worth noting that Atlus did not develop the game, they published it while outsourcing the development to Cyanide. Also they were not the only publishers of the game, so Focus Home Interactive share some of the responsibility.

Atlus has a great track record with fantasy RPG’s, including the Souls, Persona and Disgaea series. It’s also worth pointing out that failing at a Game of a Thrones game might make them perfect for succeeding at a one, since they know exactly how not to do it now.

I want this game to happen. I love the books and The HBO series, which is objectively the greatest thing on TV right now and I cannot wait for Season 4. The only thing missing is a top tier video game. I want it. I just hope I’m not alone.

Cheers,

Mert Tutkun

Why All the Hype for Titanfall?

Titanfall. The word itself denotes the power to take down what is great. So why all this hype for another first-person multiplayer shooter? We already have Battlefield, Halo and of course Call of Duty, as well as countless others. However, for those who have seen the gameplay videos and demo’s, it seems you cannot escape the magnetic pull of Respawn Entertainment’s original intellectual property.

Mechs, Jet Packs and Parkour.

Mechs, Jet Packs and Parkour.

Infinity Ward, the developers behind the Modern Warfare franchise created a near perfect experience with their first instalment in the series: Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare. Gameplay mechanics were fluid and addictive. It was finally a shooter not set during World War II . The multiplayer was the first great online experience of the new generation. So how do you make sequels that improve on a game already so good? Well, the answer kind of turned out to be you can’t. Nobody will argue that Modern Warfare 2 and 3 weren’t equally as great multiplayer shooters, however there was nothing new in the gameplay. Why was this? Well, Infinity Ward had already established a user base in the 10’s of millions and became the biggest video game franchise. It would be near impossible to significantly change the game without upsetting a substantial number of these players. Sales already dictate those buying Call of Duty are happy with the small changes made from game to game, as number of copies sold consistently increase with each new release. On the other hand, Battlefield continually adds to their online experience through map evolution throughout a match. But this didn’t revitalise the FPS genre the way it desperately needed. this is where Titanfall comes in.

The tale of Respawn Entertainment is an interesting one. After two senior employees of Infinity Ward, Jason West and Vince Zampella, were fired in 2010, they founded a new Studio, Respawn Entertainment. Now, 38 of the 46 Infinity Ward employees that resigned have joined Respawn. With the original premise of what made Modern Warfare so great still in the minds of West, Zampella and the rest of the staff, they could now craft a new Intellectual Property (IP) that could finally break the mould of the worn out first-person shooter genre.

What was always lacking from Call of Duty? For me, every time you moved in a way preventing you from shooting, such as climbing over a wall or up a ladder, I felt vulnerable. Titanfall solves this issue completely with Jet Packs and Parkour. At no point does it seem you have to stop movement to access a function in this game. It may just be me blanking, but I cannot think of another video game that has jet packs and first person controls. It’s been a sci-fi dream for years and finally it’s coming to a shooter.

Jet Pack attack

Jet Pack attack

What else? Well how about giant mechs for example, or Titans as they’re referred to. No longer are you restricted to infantry-only combat and vehicular battles as in the case of Battlefield. No, in Titanfall you become the vehicle and when you leave your vehicle, it protects you and fights with a mind of it’s own. Yes, you’re Titan becomes a giant, iron Direwolf. This creates three different playing modes in a single match: the pilot with a jet pack, inside a Titan, or with your Titan following you and acting for itself. Also, you don’t have to pick one before a match starts. You go through them during the game itself, truly adapting and responding to the enemies tactics.

And finally, there is no unnecessary campaign being offered that could take time away from development for the multiplayer aspect of the game. Sure a lot of people enjoy or even love the campaign for Call of Duty and Battlefield but it’s the multiplayer that sells units and creates ecosystems. From what Respawn and EA are saying, the multiplayer will in fact unfold a story for the player, however they haven’t commented on the specifics of how this will happen.

To summarise, Titanfall is a desperately needed new IP from a talented and experienced team that offers fresh, new, innovative gameplay mechanics that will dramatically evolve the way first-person shooters are played. It’s the most impressive looking launch window game arguably since Super Mario 64. To see such an exciting game being released so early on in the next console cycle is refreshing and interesting. Although Titanfall will only be on Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC, this may mean future sequels of the game could come to Playstation as it is technically not an exclusive. This of course depends on Respawn and EA’s agreement with Microsoft.

If you are not excited for Titanfall, I would suggest watching more footage because the more you see the more you want. To this point, it is the only thing that makes me question not buying an Xbox One as it would be devastating to miss out on this titan of a game.

Why Retail Game Stores Will Die Out

I’ve been working in a British retail game store for around a month now. It’s the store I’ve been going to since I was a kid and I always loved going there. Seeing all the different games and sections was always so much fun. It was like a library but not boring. However, since working their I feel more aware of the issues surrounding retail game sales.

It is becoming more and more apparent how damaging pre-owned games are for the industry and more specifically to the developers. For those of you unaware the reasoning for this is simple. When a store sells a pre-owned game the only cost for that product, excluding overhead costs such as electricity, is the price they bought it back for. Seeing as that’s usually less than a quarter of the selling price, it’s big profit. Let’s use The Last of Us as a demonstration. When they sell a new copy, a certain percentage of that goes back to the publisher, in this case Sony Computer Entertainment, which then pays its developer, Naughty Dog or has paid them in advance. The rest of the profits are shared between the console manufacturer (Sony), distribution, marketing, and of course, the retailer.

The Last of Us

However when selling a pre owned game all of the other shares in profit are cut out leaving it only for the retailer. This is in fact their greatest profit margins, making up approximately 40% of their gross icome. They are so dependent on the sales of pre owned, they have installed systems on their checkout counters informing the employee when there are pre-owned copies of the game the customer is attempting to buy and how much cheaper that is. When an uninformed customer hears “you can get this for £5 less” of course they’re going to grab that copy instead. The employees, i.e. me, also have a target for selling pre-owned instead of new, which stands at around 60%. This is high. If I do not meet these standard I can be given a warning which can lead to disciplinary action which can lead to termination.

That’s why you’ll often see signs encouraging you to trade in your brand spanking new game within a week or even a day. It’s because that copy can be sold at only a couple of pounds below the new price yet make them almost twice the profit. Normally this entire strategy would be deemed clever business planning, however when a company’s entire sales approach is damaging the supplier of their product, it creates an unhealthy relationship which cannot go on forever.

Trade in

All game publishers know this. That’s why Valve saw the opportunity and created Steam, a digital distribution platform for PC. If you are a PC gamer and are unaware of Steam, first of all where have you been for the last 5 years? And secondly you should definitely check it out, as Steam is living proof that digital games can be sold at a significant lower price than at retail. It also means your game and saved data are tied to your steam account instead of your PC. So if your PC dies, you still have all you need to carry on playing when you get a new one. These are easily transferable qualities to consoles and PlayStation Plus is a great example of this being implemented with their online storage using the cloud.

Steam's 2013 Summer Sale

Microsoft knows this. Sony knows this. Nintendo knows this. That’s why Microsoft tried to jump the gun with the Xbox One and make it necessary for you to authorise your game every 24 hours, which would subsequently cancel out used games functionality. However, this approach was premature, evidently from the sudden and, in my opinion, unexpected outcry from the public. On top of this, Microsoft would be shooting themselves in the foot as they do not yet have the distribution reach retailers have, to sell consoles. Sure, they are starting to enter the retail world with their own chain of Microsoft stores, but at a worldwide count of 43 stores, all of which are in North America, this would be a near impossible source of distribution. So why not Amazon? They sell consoles? True, but again worldwide they do not have the reach that all the retailers accumulated do. Amazon, for example does not have an Australian retail website.

This would be the main difficulty with cutting all ties to retailers. The future will undoubtedly be Amazon and self distribution but until that’s collectively large enough to supply the launch demand of consoles, retailers will still exist and games will not go fully digital. Sony knew this. That’s why they supported used games at their E3 press conference. They also know that this will eventually happen by itself. When PlayStation Network versions of games become cheaper comparatively to retail, gamers will switch to only digital downloads. Games should already be cheaper digitally. There are no distribution costs, fewer advertising costs, they do not have to pay the retailers for stock placement and for sales. It’s logical and good for business. Just not yet. Undercutting retail prices such as Gamestop’s would jeopardize their relationship before Sony is prepared to distribute consoles and get their message out without them. Sure the mom’s and pop’s and grandpop’s may be unaware of how to download games but as our world gets ever more computer literate, this problem will solve itself.

Some say what if they started a used car like scheme? I.e, you sell your copy of the game back to retailers who then ship it back to publishers, who then negotiate on pricing and sharing the profit. But this is a long, complicated and unnecessary process. Digital will ultimately get rid of all pre owned or even hard copies of games. Mobile and tablet games are already like this, as well as PC games with Steam. The only platforms still supporting retail sales are Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo consoles. My prediction, within 5 years, or halfway through the next console cycle, there will be a sudden shift in digital game prices, and thus sales.

Xbox One/PS4

What do you think? How do you see the gaming industry changing? Will digital take over or are people still in need of hard copies? Should Microsoft have stuck with their original message or did they have no option but to switch? Please comment below.