Weekend Short-Takes: 3/22/13

EA limits 'SimCity' free game apology offer, but includes major titles‏

Simon Wu:

Only EA could have bungled an apology of a horrific game launch. Of course, Dead Space 3 might suffice, but when you originally promise a game from your offerings at large, it’s completely disingenuous when you turn right back around and serve up only eight games. What of Crysis 3? Oh, too popular at the moment for you to give away for free? FIFA 13? Same problem? Yes, do offer a year-old game with a controversy around it that stubbornly refuses to dissipate, as well as a game that you believe isn’t selling well to just try and move some more units.

Max Gruber:

Very generous, EA. I’ll give you that. But that doesn’t help you in repairing the damage that’s already been done. What’s that? Your house is on fire? I’m terribly sorry, but there are no firefighters in your area. Is Diablo reigning death and entropy in your neighborhood? We’re sorry, but the Vin Diesel Friendship Brigade is currently unavailable. Funny jokes aside, if you really want people to ride on your saddle again, I highly suggest watching this.

Alex Miller:

This can't be unexpected to most. While EA's original offer stunk a bit like a guy who is trying to get out of the doghouse by taking his SO out shopping on his dime, this now seems like they are taking that same stink but steering it towards the clearance section. Yes there are some excellent games available, but as the article points out they are not at all of equal value, nor are they necessarily top of the sales chart titles as Simon says. While its nice that EA is trying to make some sort of amends in a real, physical (as physical as a digital download can be) way, getting cheap while you're doing it doesn't really endear you to anyone.

John Riccitiello Steps Down As EA CEO - Why, And What Now?

Simon Wu:

Where do we start? First, the facts: on the face of it, he’s resigning because of poor financials. Now, what else is he not saying? SimCity, that goes without saying; a launch really couldn’t have physically gone worse. Origin got hacked... again. While every platform will inevitably get hacked at least once (looking at you, Microsoft), getting hacked twice is a clear indication that the message isn’t reaching (looking at you, Sony). EA tried repeatedly and failed to mount a successful challenge to Call of Duty’s dominance in the FPS field with the Medal of Honor reboot and the marginally more successful Battlefield. They tried and failed just as hard to challenge World of Warcraft’s total control of the MMO space with SW: The Old Republic. I’d go on, but I think the others want a word or two in edgewise.

Max Gruber:

It is very unfortunate that Riccitiello has resigned as EA’s CEO, and I’m sure everyone is going to look at the things EA did wrong, but we should look back at what they did right. For starters, they did bring in a few new IPs that have really made a name for themselves, such as Dead Space, Mirror's Edge, Crysis, Dante’s Inferno, Skate, Army of Two and Dragon Age—even though Dragon Age was a spiritual successor of Baldur's Gate. They also put out a lot of great games. They may have been dumbed down to appeal to a wider audience, but great games nonetheless. As Simon mentioned, all EA was attempting to do was construct a slew of champions for them to say “This is our game that will permeate the competition”, but failed miserably.

Alex Miller:

If for no other reason, you have to respect Mr. Riccitiello for the way in which he resigned. He accepted responsibility for his mistakes and stood accountable. While I may dislike the way and the direction in which he lead the company, I do have to respect him for that. However, I do wonder what this means for the future of EA. will they continue the current path, with new hands driving down an old road? Or will we see a plan form for the company. I hope for our sake we see the latter, and less of this integration, money grubbing bullshit.

mygaming.co

Xbox 'Durango' leak claims console is 'always connected,' games must be installed to hard disk‏

Simon Wu:

I saw this earlier, and I was concerned. I saw the SimCity fiasco, and now I’m downright terrified. Forgive me, but I’m sure that many among our readership can very easily envision what I am imagining right now: a launch disaster that combines the Red Ring of Death level of PR nightmare with the reason of the SimCity failure. Also, what does capacity to “hold a large number of games” mean? I have a 250 GB Elite console, and after installing about 20 games plus the obligatory 3 DLC packs that they all come with these days, I’m left with less than 50 GB remaining. We already know that games and DLC will take up even more storage because of better graphics and more features, so I expect 1 TB to be the base. Otherwise this strategy is DOA.

Jonathan Tung:

I’m still unsure about what the leak means when it says it’s “always connected,” but if this means that the console is required to be always online in order to work, then I’m probably going to skip this. In addition, I’m assuming that the installation process for the games could be means of some form of anti-piracy, or maybe as a way to curb used game sales. But still, I wonder what will happen when you run out of space on your hard drive. What happens to the game then? Do you uninstall the game and save the disc for reinstallation later, or is this more along the lines of a one-time use thing?

Max Gruber:

The always-online in quotations aspect sends a seismic wave of frostbite down my spinal column. It seems like the Xbox/V Next/720 is truly going to be always-online—if it’s to be believed. First, we had Diablo III trip over its own shoelaces with the Error 37 commotion, and then more recently with SimCity. Surely this won’t end up being a retelling of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, in the sense that after these first attempts at always-online were all failures, and Microsoft flippantly says “Our’s works like a charm, guys!”, the next Xbox ends up being unusable within the first few days. Only the Internet gods can shine down on us and give us a sign that this will not happen.

Alex Miller:

I honestly feel like a broken record at this point. But I’ll say it again: the always online Xbox requirement story is bullshit. It's not going to happen folks. As the SimCity launch has shown, and as I've always said, we are not at the point in terms of infrastructure where we can successfully support that kind of connectivity. EA is a big company that made a mistake with SimCity, but Microsoft is one of the biggest multinational corporations in the world, and as Devices and Entertainment makes up a bigger and bigger part of the company every day, they know they can't risk that division's cash cow for any reason. There is no conceivable scenario where an "always connected" requirement makes sense for Microsoft. As for the playing from a hard drive, I think it'd be cool to not have to switch disks, but I also know that just as we won't have always online requirements, we will still have physical media, for a while anyways, and that requires some form of disk drive.

vgleaks.com

Steam Early Access lets gamers buy and play titles still in development‏

Simon Wu:

This is how Steam can lead traditional hardcore gaming. This is why I have good hopes for the Steambox (hoping the cost goes down quickly). They see what Kickstarter is doing. They see the new model for publishing games (and books too) these days, where quite often developers (or authors) will offer a beta version (or draft) for a much discounted price, as a thanks for supporting them early on. We really saw the first good implementation of this with Minecraft. Once again, I remind readers that the big console corporations have done a version of this before, just far more bloated and costly: multiplayer betas anyone? You buy a totally unrelated game that they predict won’t sell very well, and tack on a beta to a much more popular game to shore up sales. For the full $60.

Max Gruber:

I really love this idea Mr. Gabe N. has conceived. It’s sounds so wonderful to test out a game while it’s still in development. It’s like being a tester for the game, only it’s not restricted to actually having to be in the studio itself to test out the product. Not only that, but if the actual people testing these games are very vigilant on providing feedback to the developers, I can see a bright future for gaming—providing that they listen and address them in earnest.

Alex Miller:

I am very much a fan of removing as many barriers between content creator and content consumer as possible. It allows creators to interact more directly with their fans, to make the product that much better and refined. It's for this reason that I love things like Kickstarter, which allow developers, authors, artists, and others to bypass the traditional routes to creating their product. This new venture by Steam is in this same vein and I love it for it. While many won't take advantage of this, those that do will be those who are passionate and want to help make the best possible product. I am definitely excited to see how this system grows and progresses.

valve.com

Microsoft execs' Xbox Live accounts hacked, investigation still underway‏

Simon Wu:

I do now have to officially revoke the distinction earned by Xbox Live to this point that it remained the only major unhacked gaming platform. I can also see now those people who said Xbox Live should not be paid crowing with vindication. While their protests will fall on deaf ears assuredly, the more important thing is that this appears to be limited in scope, unlike, for example, Sony. Microsoft dodged a very, very big bullet here, and it can be very thankful that the perpetrators were only interested in making a statement, and not going for maximum damage and theft.

Max Gruber:

First Sony was hacked, now Microsoft is “it”. Thankfully, these hackers hacked into a network that’s controlled by one of, if not, the largest and most powerful companies in the U.S. I’m sure Simon will comment on this, but I’m sure this was done solely for “the lolz”.

Alex Miller:

I wouldn't be so quick to dethrone Xbox Live Simon. From the report given in the article it seemed more like personal data was stolen from an external source and then used to enter Xbox Live accounts, not the other way around as was the case with the multiple entries into PSN. This makes me think that it was more of a targeted attack (prank maybe) than an actual flaw in the network security. Regardless though, as Simon said this was incredibly limited in scope and while some may claim this as their ultimate evidence why you should never pay for Xbox Live, I'll look to the fact that this minor incident is the only time Xbox Live has faced something like this in its near decade of operation. I'll take my chances.

tuttogratis.it

michaelkirschner's picture

To add to Miller's point of why an always online Xbox is bs you have to think about this in terms of business strategy, as the world continues to move towards a singular globalized economy the international market (outside the United States from the perspective of Microsoft) will be very viable, we saw this with movies and music for the past few decades and now we are seeing this with video games. If Microsoft or any other video game company wants to tap into the Latin American, Asian, African, and Eastern European markets they are going to have to be aware that their infrastructure does not even come close to that of North America or Western Europe

However as Max Gruber says I too am worried that eventually an always online connection will be required, and what happens when the servers are shut down years later? My cousin was smart enough to have the foresight not to throw away his Nintendo 64 and all the games for it, if he feels like it he can always dig the N64 out of the closet and play some Starfox, Goldeneye, or Ocarina of Time without have to worry about the servers still being online. Many years from now those servers for the games you once played will be turned off, just as the servers for Xbox Live are off, but of course you could always just buy the re-release for your current system. 

Milleniummaster18's picture

Welp, I burned out on criticism for EA. I already said what needed to be said. Looking forward to their next disappoin- *ahem* endeavors.

Funny how we're hearing frantic rumors about the new Xbox and the PS4 doesn't get that many peeps. That's a good thing, for the Xbox. They will get more complimentary media coverage once they unveil their machine while Sony desperately squanders its money on advertisements for its console. I suppose that's the disadvantage of coming out first, eh?

You see, when it comes to analyzing a certain move made by a company, I try to include a wide spectrum of possibilities. What I'm thinking right now about Steam's move is that, while grand, it can go wrong with the wrong state of mind. Developers can't pander to every whim of the community, for a plethora of reasons (community sabotage, to mention one); likewise, you can't discard every suggestion made by the public. Only those developers who have strong backbones and are focused will be able to produce something that succeeds in pleasing all the involved parties.

One more thing, take out the "purchase" part out of the Early Access and you've got a more stable model. A game developer can do without a constantly fluctuating number of "stockholders".

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