All About Gh05t_
As many may know by now, Square Enix is worried about the sales of future software when development costs are at a historic high. Their latest project, the highly acclaimed Tomb Raider reboot, cost the company a whopping $1 million to make. Their projected sales were to hit 5-6 million copies in the first 4 weeks of release, bringing in 80-90 percent of the initial cost. They were greatly disappointed when the game only reached 3.4 million copies in that window. 3.4 MILLION COPIES!!! Thats a lot!, yet it is still considered a failure?
Tomb Raider is the third game in a row to greatly miss the sales mark, following behind Sleeping Dogs and Hit Man: Absolution. EA also experienced losses with Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Dead Space 3, both of which sold considerably, though the latter title sold exceptionally more. With these recent losses and drastically overestimated statistics, Square Enixs long time president has kindly been shown his way out.
On a more uplifting, and quite puzzeling note, 4A, the studio behind the newly released and very highly acclaimed Metro: Last Light, is experiencing high praise, respect and support from its newly acquired fans.
The Metro franchise was purchased from THQ by publisher Deep Silver in January for $5.8 million. 4A completed the project under Deep Silver and did so at a mere fraction of its competitors costs. Former THQ president Jason Rubin shed a little(but not the Last) light on the Ukrainian developers struggles. He is quoted saying:
Lets be honest: 4A was never playing on a level field. The budget of Last Light is less than some of its competitors spend on cut scenes, a mere 10 percent of the budget of its biggest competitors, yet it is lauded for its story and atmosphere.
It is built on a completely original and proprietary second-generation engine that competes with sequels that have stopped numbering themselves, with more engineers on their tech than 4A has on the entire project, yet its tech chops are never in question.
The team at 4A worked under completely unacceptable conditions, by western standards, that translate either to sheer passion or borderline slavery(cept not really). Ill choose to accept the former of the two. Rubin went into further detail saying:
And all of this is compounded by the conditions this Ukrainian team works under in Kiev. The entire 4A studio would fit easily in the (underutilized) gym at EA Los Angeles offices, yet Last Lights Metacritic score blows away Medal of Honor: Warfighter . As undeniably fantastic as competitor Bioshock Infinite may be, the team was given whatever resources they needed to make the title. At the same time, 4As staff sat on folding wedding chairs, literally elbow-to-elbow at card tables in what looks more like a packed grade school cafeteria than a development studio.
I read that Ruben later explained that, if the company was in need of a new PC, an employee would fly to America and sneak it through Ukrainian customs. Power outages were frequent he said. Rubin also shared that the Ukrainian Heating facilities are greatly under par as the government provides all the heat from a central coal facility.
Unfortunately, it breaks down reliably a few times a year for a week at a time. Then 4A works in their parkas and struggles to keep their fingers warm in temperatures well below freezing. That is unless it snows and they get stuck home for a few days at a time because snow clearing isnt up to Western standards.
Rubin began and ended his message with these two quotes respectivly:
To be clear, nothing in this missive should suggest that either 4A or I would like to see any change in the way the game itself has been received or reviewed by press or fans.
If you care about the art of making games then you have to care about more than the final product. The struggle and the journey becomes part of the story. Like sport, you cheer when the underdog comes from behind, and triumphs in the face of incredible odds
I dont quite understand this. I have huge respect for 4A after all of this but I look at developers like Square Enix and Ubisoft with a now wary eye. Now, I have not yet played Metro: Last Light but have indeed seen the Light. And it is quite nice. If 4A could accomplish such feats at 10 percent of these companies costs well what the heck! Why are Tomb Raider and Dead Space 3 considered such failures? What is it that they are doing wrong?
Regardless, there is huge success to follow todays release of 4As new game. What they can do next with that success I look forward to seeing. And experiencing.
As many may know, Nintendo is in a pretty rough spot lately. The Japanese game company had experienced significant financial success with the release of the DS and Wii some years ago with both machines being some of the most successful devices in their respective market. Now, I say financial success because, while the DS had a massive success in hardware and software sales, the Wii fared poorly in comparison to the DS or its console competitors in the way of third-party support. With the Wiis target market straying far from that of Sony or Microsoft, the majority of people who purchased a Wii had only turned it on for the first 6 months, and then a few more times after Wii Fit was released. And now they sit and collect dust or have a Netflix disc perpetually resting in its drive. Now with the release of the 3DS in 2011 and the more recent Wii U, the company has experienced significant loss from supporters on both sides of the industry. The Wii U has been largely passed up by third-party developers for its lack sales, among various reasons, and has suffered in sales to consumers for its lack of software. You can see the dilemma.
The strongest selling point for the new console is its tabled controller, the gamepad. The device could offer astounding new features in gameplay and innovation, but we have yet to see truly new and worthwhile content that supports it. This could easily be waded out with a price drop and a little bit of patience on our part, but time could be running short. The Playstation 4 is almost here. While that may make me sound like a fan boy, the implications of the effect Sonys new hardware could have on Nintendo are pretty strong. Sony is working on bringing true remote play to the next Playstation home console with its current handheld, the Playstation Vita. This kind of technology is already available on the Wii U, allowing players to turn the console on and play a game on the gamepad while someone else uses the television, but the portability and functionality of the gamepad are severely limited.
The Vita supports Playstation 1 games, Playstation 2 games, and is powerful enough to run PS3 software. Sony is working to make it possible to run the entire future library of Playstation 4 games on the Vita through the cloud. Not only would you be able to take the games with you, but the saved progress is saved to both devices, eliminating the need to ever leave an experience. If Sonys plans do work out and they are able to deliver truly whole integration of the PS Vita, the Playstation 4 could largely eliminate any chance the Wii U has of effectively entering in to the next generation not only with the its handheld, but also Sonys vast support of indie titles, which would appeal to parents and casual gamers alike. Although, this may not even be Nintendos long term plan, or rather, possibly shouldnt be. If this does happen, what could it mean for the company?
Many think Nintendo should bring in more third-party support to work on their existing franchises. They have indeed done this in the past, with titles like The legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and Metroid: Other M, and are collaborating with Namco Bandai on the next entry in the landmark franchise Super Smash Bros. Some also think that it would be wise for Nintendo to exit the home console market- like Sega did after the horrid Dreamcast- and focus solely on the future of their treasured property, and develop for Sony and Microsofts hardware. I am a little indifferent towards this idea, but I believe I would support a move like that.
In light of all of this, Nintendo is taking some steps to prevent any more loss and recoup what the last year has wrought.
Much like Keiji Inafune producer of franchises such as Soul Sacrifice, Resident Evil and Dead Rising- Nintendo president Satoru Iwata sees the crippling sense of pride among Japanese developers. Iwata recently announced that he will now be overseeing the operations of Nintendo of America as its new CEO, in addition to his current responsibilities as the companys global president. This is likely in attempt to see just what it is that has set western development above. He also said that if he cannot meet his financial goal for the company in the next fiscal year, he will step away from it. While this could be a great step forward, might Iwata want to take a vacation before coming into all of this.
Another step to increase revenue is Nintendos decision to sell refurbished hardware directly at a lower price than Gamestop, the industries leading retailer. Smart move? Absolutely. Why not turnaround a product for greater income. If Im going to get a used 3DS, which I intend, I would gladly purchase it from Nintendo directly.
In addition to these things, Iwata has stated over the past few days that selling games at the $50-$60 price rang has become a challenge, saying consumers have a higher psychological hurdle to paying a certain sum of money for software,. He adds We try to offer various kinds of software for a video game platform, and the games are improving steadily each year, but these improvements are becoming less noticeable. In short, what one platform can offer will eventually become saturated. I believe this is quite accurate. Perhaps the price tag is why games like 2011s Homefront, with a single player campaign clocking in just over 4 hours, didnt fair so well. Some games should hit the shelves at $30, while others like Bethesda Softworks The Elder Scrolls series could be justified at $100.
The biggest thing Nintendo has done over the past several weeks is announce their absence from this years Electronic Arts Expo. It was easy for me to write this decision off as one made from not having the funds to support such an event, but lets think this through. While Nintendo is struggling financially this decision could be coming from the fact that their target market just cant be the hardcore gamer. While Nintendo can cause the casual gamer to become a more dedicated one with the titles planned for the Wii U, pulling the crowd from Sony or Microsoft just isnt going to happen. I am still confident that this decision was made in part by finances, Im sure its not the only reason. I do question, however, the outcome of this decision. Nintendo has said that they are replacing the show with a small showroom floor event for invited press at E3 as well as a conference with retailers.
Nintendo may have a potentially promising lineup for the next year and a half with key franchises getting their turn at the companys currently struggling hardware, but where will the companys relevance be in the next 3-5 years? I wish the company the best, they are special to so many, but might it be time to put down the gamepad with all of its aspirations and give Link an outing in a more mature manner, or will this just boil down to pessimistic speculation?
Now, with all the negative and potentially negative things happening in the industry, there is also some good. The indie space. Although the Indie space has been going strong for several years now, 2012 was an extremely successful year for it. With TellTales The Walking Dead and Thatgamecompanys Journey receiving higher acclamation than any triple A title last year, the big name developers seem to be having a hard time. These hard times experienced by well known studios are not brought on by the simple success of the independent space, but also their own shortcomings.
I have already talked about the current state of Nintendo, but huge names such as EA and THQ are taking some hits as well. Some bigger than others. In the past two years EA has been labeled as the worst company America on The Consumerists list. They have shut down some of their major franchises, Dead Space and Medal of Honor, caused a massive debacle with Sim City and its always on internet requirement, and continues to get attacked by the consumers for their lack of well anything good. Although we continue to buy their games
The company, along with a host of others in the industry, has also experienced massive layoffs over the past year. What is next with this industry giant?
On another note, even with the success of its past few releases, game company THQ has gone bankrupt, and forced to sell all of its properties. Since late 2011 we we have seen the release of Saints Row: The Third, The Darkness 2 and Darksiders 2. These games received exceptional acclaim by both critics and players but were unable to hold up the company financially. We are seeing now that the former company is also largely in debt. Very largely in debt.
With all of this happening on the larger side of industry, the interdependent space just continues to shine. Companies from all corners, supporting all genres are experiencing huge success and working on their second, third, or even forth game. While the state of triple-A development is wholly uncertain and leaves us a bit weary for the next few years, my big question is: What of the indie space? Might we see them start to take the place of the THQs and Capcoms. Whether it be through the steady increase of commercial success or through the joining of companies? I think this could very well be the case. In time, of course.
A good friend of mine asked me to write an article for a magazine she is publishing as a fundraiser for her ministry. She just wanted something short, about anything... this is what came out. I have used a couple of quotes and topics from all of my blog posts thus far along with a lot of new stuff. So, here is the unedited version of what was put in the magazine.
What weve done/What were doing
A look at what has been perceived of and what is true about an industry misunderstood in finding itself by tyler barrett
Video games are just toys. A video game is nothing more than a childs play thing that consist only of whatever convolutedness lies between flying bullets and falling blocks. The medium as a whole is immature and has been poorly developed of over the years. These are the things many people who dont play video games think and, to a significant degree they, and possibly you, are correct. Skepticism and criticism towards the medium has been enforced by the medias influential view on the surrounding controversies, the huge redundancy of the FPS(First Person Shooter) genre, excruciatingly laughable film adaptations and by the hordes of consumers that simply and illiterately state their love for a game by describing it as awesome or epic. Any ill thoughts about the video game industry are largely taken and heard with anger, but by many passionate players they are taken with concern and understanding. I am one of those.
You see, the video game industry is maturing, it is evolving and whether those outside of the video game fold choose to accept it or not, it is impacting the culture of this generation and those to come in an unprecedented way. But ours is still a young medium and seen as foreign to the most anyone who didnt keep their Nintendo Entertainment System after college.
Lets take a look at Walt Disney, arguably one of the greatest and most beloved story tellers of all time. Or hearts cuddle up with a blanket and mug of hot cocoa when we hear the soft sweet voice say Oh its alright, he can call me Flower if he wants I dont mind. They fall apart when Simba crawls under the strong, always loving arm of his dead father. They are joined in hand as Christopher and Pooh skip down the street as the last page turns to the first again. Walt Disney my not have been directly involved in all of these special memories but they would not have been if it werent for him.
Now look at Shegiru Miyamoto. You may not know him by name but you most certainly do by his works. Shegiru Miyamoto is the creative mind and heart behind equally beloved names like Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and Metroid. He has played a roll just as important in the past few generations as Disney did in his time. Like the timelessness of the classics produced or inspired by Disney the nostalgia in the hearts of millions of players from the early days of gaming is unparalleled. Some of the most treasured moments from this generations childhood come from what happened after we blew out that plastic cartridge and sat behind the television until we were called for dinner.
Since the early days of gaming, which could help back up the criticisms I have mentioned if that is all someone knows about it, the video game industry has progressed with leaps and bounds in regards to technology and quality of content that even developers find hard to fathom, and it continues to move ever further. But regardless of its advances and contributions to society, the medium is still very young and ill received by many. Literature and music are timeless, film is well established and greatly respected while video games, they receive continued scrutiny in the same way film did in the 1950s. I find this incomprehensible for our time.
The games we as gamers play are not just head shots and tight asses as you may be so well led to believe, there is real substance and quality experiences to be had within them. However, the potential of the medium is rarely met. In the past, when truly gripping narrative experiences were produced, they were hardly received. Today that is changing as the industry sees a growing desire for experiences that mean more than a high score and getting new loot, as it were.
In 2005 the PlayStation 2 was graced with the gripping epic Shadow of the Colossus, telling an unforgettable story of love, loss and deceit. Today the game has sold around 1.5 million units.
In 2007 Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games brought us a game inspired by the writings of Ayn Rand. Levine gave his sick and twisted take on the Rands views of objectivism, delivering plays on ideology, religion and a cultures obsession with superficial beauty and independence in a way video games rarely see. Today, Bioshock has sold approximately 5 million copies. Levine and Irrational have also just released the spiritual successor to the famed Bioshock, titled Bioshock Infinite, which many seem to think is a jab at the founding fathers and the ideas which have built this country. This could very well be with its antagonistic faction, the Founders, being written as religious zealots forcing their hand on the people of the floating city of Columbia, depicting a fictional America. The game delivers hyperbolic plays on most of the countrys early struggles, including slavery and racism. This opens up an entirely different discussion, however, that should be saved for another day, after I have played it.
In 2004 Jonathan Blow started to put himself entirely into his work. His emotions, his shortcomings, and the experiences that have led him to where he was in life at the time. Braid tells a twisted, construable story of how a man deals with his biggest failures and mistakes. Braid has sold over 450,000 copies since its release in 2008. With this sales figure Braid may seem unsuccessful if compared to the former titles, but this is an indie game. A group of just several people worked on Braid for four years before its completion and with its release Jonathan Blow and his team helped push forward the power and potential of indie developers, making the independent space the the next powerhouse in the industry. Today, indie games like Journey and The Walking Dead are giving even triple-A titles a run for their money, receiving much higher acclimation by players and critics alike.
As you see, there is a growing want and need for maturity in the industry, and it is moving in that direction faster than we had anticipated. Although sales are still a bit on the low side, summer 2012 saw the release of Papo & Yo by Vander Caballero and the small studio, Minority Media. In Papo & Yo you play as a small boy as you traverse an old town conceived in your imagination, solving puzzles with a small yellow toy and a large red monster. Feeding the monster and finding shelter for it builds a relationship, making it easier to get him to do what you need. The monster will get angry, though, and try to kill you, which makes for an intriguing dynamic.
You may think this just sounds like a normal platformer with an odd little gimmick, but that is because video games are rarely looked at for anything more than the surface level experience they can offer. Like Blow, Vander Caballero put himself entirely into his work. Papo & Yo is an allegory, sharing with us Caballeros experience of growing up with a physically abusive father. This level of maturity is still new ground, however, and the media, the players and the parents of the kids that play these games find it to be wrong or dangerous to put something like this in a game.
And that brings us back to the struggle film saw in establishing itself as a respectable medium. Why is it okay to watch a man defend himself while his inmates attempt to rape him, or a lonely cabby brutally murder several men to save a young prostitute with whom he has fallen in love. The Shawshank Redemption and Taxi Driver are two of the most beloved and respected films of all time, not because of high budget action sequences or frivolous sex, but because they deliver griping human experiences. This can be true with a video game.
The experience received and genuine emotions felt from a game like those mentioned are unique to the medium. I think Phil Fish, creator of indie game Fez, said it best when he said that Its the sum total of every expressive medium of all time made interactive, how is that not its awesome! You could never receive emotions in the same way from a book or movie as many did once the camera panned to see the broken, disgusted look on little Clementines face as you chose to kill that cannibal in The Walking Dead or when, after all Your struggles, You lay down in that soft hospital bed to end it all in Lone Survivor. The reason that these experiences are unique and could not be adequately delivered in another medium is because YOU did them. You are given the choice whether or not to help that cannibal or to share your food and water with the sick and dying. Just as the developers put what they can of themselves into the initial game, it comes down to you. Little Clementine isnt looking at Lee, the games protagonist, she is looking at you. You did those things.
Freedom of choice is where the industry currently is, and has been for some time, offering what some call player authored experiences. But seeing the true depth in this kind of entertainment is still a long way off. 2012 was an amazing year for the industry and nobody sees the growth of the medium slowing down any time soon. With the gaming and film industry treading on new ground and forming a new relationship the possibilities are ever expanding.
Although all of these things are wonderful news for the industry, the maturity and depth we see in the video games to come are not only dependent on industry developers, lazy and ignorant parents play an equal roll in the industries future.
Early last year I was given a game because my friends parents, with his little sisters in mind, didnt want it in the house. Heavy Rain is about a serial killer and the intertwining relationship of four characters, one of which is a woman. Later in the game, while playing as the female character, you are forced into a tough situation and must choose to give a lap dance to the antagonist or try and fight your way out, which could lead to detriment later in the story. Even later, two of the characters meet and, depending on how you have let the relationship develop over time, have sex. How far it goes is left to you, but the player must keep in mind that ever choice in a story with 53 different endings will greatly affect every dynamic. This game is by no means for children, and it was smart of those parents to get rid of it. The game is, however, an absolutely wonderful story.
What the next generations parents allow their kids to play will have a profound effect on the industrys future with media always taking their side in reinforcing the notion that a video game is for a child and that they are what make our children angry. When a father comes home and hands his 11 year old son a copy of Grand Theft Auto 4 or Mass Effect for the XBOX he just got for Christmas, who do you think is attacked verbally through the media. It is never the parents of the kids that will one day become violent. It is the developers or the industry as a whole. You see, stories are trying to be told and art is to be shown within the experience, but when a child is allowed access to a product that is clearly labeled and advertised for adults, not only is the depth of a persons work lost, but the child is exposed to something that is quite beyond their capacity.
I understand that parents dont have time to adequately monitor the content their children consume, so let me help put it into perspective. Now-a-days, when a game like Mass Effect or The Witcher is rated for blood, strong language, strong violence, sexual content and nudity, that is quite accurate. Would you bring your child to a bar? Where people fight, drink, curse and, on occasion, have sex. I would like to assume that a parent wouldnt want their 11 year old boy interacting with people and getting involved in situations like that. Well, in games like Grand Theft Auto and Mass Effect, you do. The technology the industry has today should not be underestimated. While the majority of those things are frivolous and unnecessary in games like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row, they are all in context and presented with great choice through groundbreaking artificial inelegance in Mass Effect. The game received very heavy scrutiny when the first installment in the series was released back in 2007 for the fact that you can have sex in it. But the people bashing the game have never played a title like it before, let alone the one in question. You, as a player, are given immense amount of choice to build genuine relationships with the characters; you are not trying to bang as many chicks as possible in one of the levels.
Video games, as previously quoted, are the sum total of every expressive medium, ever. One video game can tell the story of five novels, portray a living, breathing world in a way only film has been able to do, and deliver the sensations and emotions that music has invoked for centuries. All of these things are not lost or wasted in what some think to be a mindless medium, they are delivered with care and passion, just like any other work of art.
Now please, I am fully aware of the stereotypes placed on the video game industry and the things that back up those stereotypes, but the same is true with every medium. Books have that overused formula seen in young adult novels, film has seen far too many summer action flicks and trashy comedies in the past decade, music has Ke$ha, and video games have the greatly fatigued FPS genre. There is a place for these things and a level of enjoyment to be had; I mean, there are times that watching a ridiculously convoluted robo romp is just what I need after a long day at work. Even still we know well the works of Charles Dickens or Jane Austen, of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Martin Scorsese or Alfred Hitchcock. Video games are just coming into their own as a medium respected for its work and messages given through those works. I think even more respect is to be given to writers like the ones I have mentioned for seeing this through and pushing the industry forward with their passion and vision. The creative space offered in video games is vast and powerful and is just being tapped into. I cannot wait to see what is to come as the next generation of platforms surface and bring ease of development and a depth in character realization as the industry has never seen.
So, several topics have been covered here. I hope I have shed some light on the state of this ever expanding medium and its workings. I assume a lot of you are parents and hope you heard well what I have to say. Like I said, I understand it is difficult to monitor your kids in this regard, but thats what the ESRB rating is for. Its for you. I hope that next time you buy your kid a game, this has helped you to not only think twice about what you are purchasing for them, but also to think twice about what you are purchasing for them. Just as in any medium, there is a lot of bad but also so much quality and substance.
My Recent Reviews
May 15, 2013 11:00 pm GMTGh05t_ posted a new blog entry entitled What Is Happening With the Money???
May 5, 2013 4:05 am GMTGh05t_ posted a new blog entry entitled David and Goliath
May 1, 2013 6:31 pm GMTGh05t_ began Following Routine
May 1, 2013 6:31 pm GMTGh05t_ began Following Until Dawn
May 1, 2013 6:31 pm GMTGh05t_ began Following Among the Sleep
Apr 8, 2013 5:41 pm GMTGh05t_ posted a new blog entry entitled What We've Done/What We're Doing
Mar 27, 2013 5:55 am GMTGh05t_ posted a new blog entry entitled Lights! Camera! Press the Start Button!
Mar 16, 2013 6:10 pm GMTGh05t_ posted a new blog entry entitled Sony's Approach to Potential
Mar 13, 2013 12:56 am GMTGh05t_ reviewed Lone Survivor and gave it a score of 8.0
Mar 7, 2013 5:24 am GMTGh05t_ gave Lone Survivor a score of 7.5