This is a largely symbolic entrance for a very small market. Just to provide some statistics, the 360 as of February 2014 has only sold a measly 1.6 million units in Japan. Sales were so lackluster that many retailers stopped carrying the console in stores. In contrast, the PS3, which launched a full year later, sold over 6.3 million units... and that estimate is only for April 2011! It most likely is close to double digits now if not already. It's generally understood that this is Sony and Nintendo territory, and the difference will be made up by Microsoft in the US. The problem this time is... the PS4 is outselling the Xbox in the US. That was the main surprise in the most recent NPD numbers, despite the launch of Titanfall. Of course, we can continue to note that the PS4 is in many more markets than the One, so Microsoft better get a move on. As I understand it, there's plenty of stock piling up in the US...
I don't know what to say about this: since Japan is finally getting the Xbox One after waiting almost an entire year, I could see Microsoft doing well for a while, no thanks to the sudden popularity of Titanfall after it was showcased at TGS last year. However, there are several things to keep in mind here: one, Microsoft hasn't really done so well in Japan in the past (save for the occasional Idolm@ster game), and two, Japan has now moved on to playing their games on cell phones (and with titles such as Kantai Collection and Puzzles & Dragons managing to dominate the market over the likes of Mario and Pokemon). With Japan now moving to smaller devices to get their gaming fix on, Microsoft is going to be in the fight of their lives if they want to survive in this brave new world.
In a market where a new Halo game isn't considered a major release, Microsoft is always going to struggle. The focus on multiplayer and connectivity just doesn’t fit in as well with the more single player oriented nature of Japanese gaming. However, Sony have jumped the fence and trampled Microsoft's American money garden, so you would think that, amongst other things, Microsoft will be trying to claim something from the traditionally Sony or Nintendo run Japanese market. How well the second wave of Xbox One releases go will go a long way in determining the success of this console generation.
Well China are no strangers at all to building entire towns that are unpopulated simply for the sake of doing so, least of all Macau, which has at this point managed to out-Vegas... well, Vegas. So, to have an entire 10,000 seat arena dedicated to video gaming is not a bad idea in and of itself. But it's one thing to simply tune in to Twitch and watch a stream being commented on. It's another thing entirely to buy a ticket and pay for transportation and lodging in another city not for a con, but just for an event to watch gamers compete. While this does go hand in hand with the relaxation of the console ban in China, I feel as if MLG would have been better served by arranging a deal to use a multipurpose indoor stadium.
The fact that MLG is interested in hosting an actual video game arena in Hengqin seems to be beneficial, especially in a time where eSports are quickly growing popular day after day, especially since the League of Legends Grand Finals were watched by 32 million people worldwide. I could see how a facility of its own kind could prove to be beneficial in the short term, but depending on whether or not the eSports bubble bursts, I cannot honestly fathom what a video game arena could also be used for when not in use. However, given the fact that China is home to approximately 40 million gamers, I think this could prove to work in the favor of the locals.
In theory, from a legal perspective, this means that the FTC has evaluated the deal and has found that the deal, as it stands right now, will not significantly harm consumer choice and competitiveness for Americans. They most likely came to this conclusion because of the dozens of small VR startups that were created immediately following news of this acquisition. I do have to imagine that they also considered the market power of Oculus, now backed by Facebook, and found it to not constitute a serious threat to competition, but I'm not so convinced, seeing as Facebook has simply doled out cash to buy anything that gets remotely popular these days to preserve its practically monopoly status over mainstream social networking in the US.
I suppose the option for Google or Microsoft to buy up their own VR startup means that there is still technically competition in the market, though the flag bearer status Oculus Rift had gained in the gaming community in terms of VR means it will be hard for any other VR product to compete directly.. How this pans out for VR in the long run, and whether we will see it enter the mainstream or not because of this deal will be interesting.
At first glance, I thought Ubisoft had finally lost it with the weakening of stealth in favor of four players counter-attacking their way through hordes of enemies. But upon further consideration, this actually has me quite interested and possibly even excited. I'm thinking about GTA V's Heists, and think that if AC Unity has something similar, this would actually be fairly innovative. For example, infiltrating the Bastille. Perhaps each player has an important role to play in a different aspect, in a different area of the fortress. They all need to remain undetected for the mission to succeed, while also making sure they synchronize their actions: opening the door too soon will raise suspicion, but taking too long will put your teammate in a compromising position as they have to exit cover and wait.
I definitely like the idea of "heists" in Assassin's Creed, but this game mode also got me thinking of another favorite of mine: Splinter Cells Spies vs. Mercs mode. The coordination and sneaking required in this game time kept me coming back for more, and it was because of the little things. As Simon mentioned above, coordination will be key to make sure actions are executed in the right order. But beyond just that, everyone who has played Assassin's Creed knows there is always that moment when you realize you’ve messed up and your going to have to haul ass to get out of there. Imagine, then at that moment, a fellow Assassin drops from their over watch position and silences the guard just about to raise the alarm, and ever living hell, on you. You didn't know they were there, but your friend decided you might need some cover. That feeling of relief is hard to fabricate, but I think many organic, exciting moments just like that can come from this kind of gameplay. I can't wait to hear more.