Weekend Short-Takes: 10/4/14

EA promises that Battlefield Hardline 'will work' at launch

 

Simon Wu: 

I should hope that this game actually functions as designed. It's a pretty damning indictment when a publisher simply has to promise "the game will actually work this time." Battlefield 4 was the exact problem with the annual release schedule for non-sports games made manifest. This leads me to my other main point: for all of its bluster and influence that it wields over developers and the industry, the gaming public is pretty docile when it comes to what matters most: the bottom line. Sales ultimately were in line with industry trends; it has currently sold about 10 million units, down from 16 million for Battlefield 3. While that might seem like the threatened gamer boycott and hatred might have had an impact, it is probably more attributable to FPS fatigue: Call of Duty saw a similar slip from 27 million units with Black Ops II to 23 million for Ghosts. 

Alex Miller: 

It's fairly damning that you have to promise that your product will actually function. However, with the mess that was the Battlefield 4 launch, this is something EA executives will have to say time and time again to try and win back some faith. I know I ended up not buying Battlefield 4 because it took too long for it to get into a functional state despite my interest in it. Hardline seems rather gimmicky from the start, more akin to a match type in multiplayer than an entire game. EA really doesn't need any other potential barriers to people buying this game, so as open a dialogue as possible is a good thing. However, saying 'trust us, we've actually tested it this time, it'll be fine' might not be enough. 

vg247.com 

Japan is just a symptom of Xbox' problems

 

Simon Wu: 

Less than 30,000 units sold in nearly a month of availability. Retailers must not even be able to find their stock of the consoles; they're probably covered in too much dust. Yes, it is true that the Xbox is the odd one out in a market where the only other players are Japanese, but what exactly does home field advantage mean? It means that the console manufacturers understand the developers and are able to have better working relationships with them. This is not just because of cultural understanding and language; studies show that physically being closer in proximity helps increase benefits from collaboration. If we look just across the East China Sea, however, reports indicate that over 100,000 units were sold in China in the first day alone. Not only that, the console cost $700 (USD) with Kinect is even more than the price that Americans and Japanese refuse to buy the console for. It's also over three times as many units moved in one day than Japan has sold in a month. 

Alex Miller: 

I think the article was spot on in pointing out one of the major issues with Microsoft's focus with the Xbox. For many users around the world not located within the US or the UK, much of what Microsoft touts as the desirable, extra features that make their console worth getting simply aren't available. For much of the Xbox 360's life, certain streaming services weren't available. On the Xbox One, Microsoft spent a lot of time and money advertising tie-ins with the NFL and Fantasy Football, despite the fact that this was applicable literally nowhere else but in the US. Last generation Microsoft owned the US, and they needed to as this was central to their business model. Now, with the success of the PS4 in America as well as elsewhere, Microsoft can't simply rely on the US market to prop it up while it does it's best in other markets; it needs to do better in these other markets in order to compete. The Chinese sales numbers Simon quoted above might just be the evidence of such actions, as Microsoft winning the race in the potentially lucrative Chinese market might be key to them finding another major stronghold. 

polygon.com 

As Its Dominance Wanes, Angry Birds Studio Cuts Staff

 

Simon Wu: 

Once again I am left shaking my head as the tech bubble claims another casualty. No, it's not game over for Rovio by a long shot, but for some reason financial analysts with no conception of how this industry works keep expecting these one-hit wonders (read: Zynga, King Digital) to see unbelievable exponential growth based on one IP for years to come. And that's simply not true. Rovio did better than most; they snagged some great cross-licensing deals with Star Wars that kept it going just a little bit longer, and even managed to get some physical merchandise out as well as a movie deal. My thoughts go out to those who will lose their jobs from this, but certainly not for those who had their dreams of an IPO crushed. 

Alex Miller: 

This boom and bust cycle in mobile games has me wondering: does the increased percentage of one-hit wonders in mobile gaming mean we will see more or less variety? On one hand, having to be new and different means app developers need to make sure their app provides something that the audience hasn't had before or else their work is likely to go unnoticed. Couple this with the lower barrier to entry when it comes to making these games and you might think that this means we are getting more creativity in mobile gaming than elsewhere. However, the flip side is that because most of these companies can't avoid a sophomore slump, if they can even make it to a second title, we don't see as many big companies in mobile gaming, and as a result we see less funding than for AAA titles. Now, having witnessed the state of AAA gaming in the last 5 to 10 years, I understand that money does not equal variety or creativity. But it certainly helps. 

polygon.com

Analyst expects Call of Duty to continue sales decline

 

Simon Wu: 

As mentioned in my response to the first article, sales have dropped by four million units from Black Ops II to Ghosts, despite being available on two new platforms (X1 and PS4). I do buy the analyst's argument that since Hardline got delayed, there is some room for Activision to take advantage of a temporary monopoly in the FPS space. First, although Battlefield consistently sells many millions of units fewer than Call of Duty, as seen in the first article, they are still nothing to blush at. Secondly, Hardline is a spin-off entry of the main series, which probably will dissuade many fans of the core series (not that they weren't already disgruntled enough with BF4's launch catastrophe). For example, just look at Forza Horizon, which was a free-wheeling take on the otherwise very traditional race simulator Forza Motorsport. It sold 1.75 million units compared to 4.25 million for its corresponding "regular" entry Forza Motorsport 4. 

Alex Miller: 

I think the most significant excuse for this decline may very well be the hangover from a console launch, where not everyone has the new system and those who don’t have it don’t want to buy new games for their old console because of plans to get the new one. However, excuses aside, the market understands something that many gamers have pointed out for years now: Call of Duty fatigue is a real thing. Yearly release cycles, while incredibly profitable, drive people away little by little as they are getting nothing new. A bold move Activision could attempt (which they won't) is to take one of the three studios they have making Call of Duty games and give them a full rotation on something other else just to see what they could make. I'd wager we might even get something fun out of it.

polygon.com 

live2rock13's picture

A lot of games in the past had their respected bubbles of popularity. In the late 90's ('97-'99), it was the turn based JRPG's the likes of FFVII and Parasite Eve. In the early 2000's ('00-'04), it was WWII games. In the mid 2000's ('04-'06), it was horror games. In the late 2000's ('07-'09), it was the rhythm based music games. Now the FPS military shooter bubble is bursting. Call of Duty and Battlefield will still be around, but they will not be as popular or as profitable as in their prime.  

Whiplash's picture

@live2rock13
But what will be the new trend now that the FPS genre is in the decline? Me personally, I think RPGs are on the rise, since every game and their cat have something RPG related in some capacity. Fighting games, racing games, survival horror, MOBAs, FPS/TPS, casual games, RTSs, even RPGs are getting more RPG elements in their games.

Solifluktion's picture

Wow, they promise their 60€ game will actually work? This is some revolutionary stuff right there.

It would be funny if it still didn't work despite their promise.

live2rock13's picture

@Whiplash

I personally think the open world sandbox genres. I personally would love it if developers competed with each other to see who can build the better world. Imagine the next Grand Theft Auto with the map size of Just Cause 2. EPIC!

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