Weekend Short-Takes: 6/28/13

Square Enix Leadership Changes, Focus Shifts From AAA to Mobile

Max Gruber:

I’m really starting to question where they’ll be heading towards in the future, especially with this article. I think Square Enix is in a state of desperation, especially when you factor in that they are taking “extraordinary losses”. They’re really looking for ways to climb back up the ladder to the top spot, but the ladder is broken, and their hopes will fall before them. I also think Square Enix is in a state of realignment right now, looking at what works, and what doesn’t. They have their Console division, with upcoming titles like Thief, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and XV, Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD Remake, Kingdom Hearts III, and the game I’m excited about—especially considering that Jason Schreier of Kotoku said that he loathed the first two titles, but is excited, albeit cautious and optimistic, about the third game—for the next year: Lightning Returns. All interesting and/or promising titles. But what about their Mobile division? Well they had a few Final Fantasies in there, but they’re doing terribly, due to how overpriced they are compared to other, more successful titles like Angry Birds. Along with that, they had Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, which I’ve heard is doing terribly due to certain... monetization hooks. So, we’ll have to see what happens to them in the future.

Jonathan Tung:

The moment you realize that one of your favorite gaming devs has decided to switch gears and move away from console gaming, you can pretty much jump to the conclusion that said company is either going to succeed or fail miserably, that is, depending on their future actions and so forth. That said, I have extremely low standards in regards to Square Enix on the mobile space, especially since some of their most recent titles have felt more along the lines of shameless pay-to-win games (such as Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, for example). That said, if they think they have what it takes to create the next Candy Crush Saga or Angry Birds, then so be it.

thelifestream.net

Bethesda not interested in social, mobile, has nothing in development for Nintendo platforms

Simon Wu:

And now for the complete opposite reaction to mobile platforms. I actually think that if Bethesda could get over the obvious hangup over poorer graphics that the WiiU provides, they could have a compelling argument for at least rereleasing their fabled RPGs on it. This would be one of the better usage cases I see for the gamepad; it would be your Pip-Boy or rucksack, with seamless and dynamic access to inventory management, maps, and quest info, all touch optimized. That would actually be pretty neat. As for mobile and social, I see nothing Bethesda can offer on those platforms, and given their previous titles, their culture is not aimed towards this field.

Max Gruber:

Not surprised that they are avoiding everything related to the words “casual gamers”, but it makes you wonder what will happen to them in the long run—especially when entertainment software have not been selling as well as they used to years ago. It’s hard to see them staying away from mobile or social games in the future. A part of me thinks that they’ll cave at some point and say, “Oh alright. We’ll make games for your phone and tablet, if that’ll shut you up.” EA have said that they’re moving away from console gaming and more towards mobile games, yet they still have games for the home console.

Taj Gillani:

I see nothing wrong with this. Bethesda is right, they do know what they’re doing in terms of console discs and there is no reason for them to look beyond that at the moment. However, I do feel like they are developing a Wii U title behind their backs. It’s probably more of an experiment than anything else at the moment, a foray into Nintendo waters, but in development nonetheless.

Alex Miller:

Well done to Bethesda. In the current gaming world I almost feel like staying put, really focusing on what one is good at is just as brave as pioneering a new genre. Because of the pressure seemingly placed on these large developers to make casual and mobile versions of their AAA games (a formula which almost always leads to subpar ripoffs) I see Bethesda as standing up for quality control. Some might say that this is a refusal to innovate, yet I see it as a channeling of focus, a focus which has thus far (and I think will continue to) kept them at the forefront of the RPG genre. We might see less games out of them, but if they continue to consistently churn out GoTY contenders every couple years thats fine by me.

More Xbox games on iOS and Android? Not so fast says Microsoft

Simon Wu:

And now the third road of going mobile. My wait for the Vietnam War Age of Empires 4 must continue, it seems. In the meantime, Microsoft is forced to walk a very uncomfortable line. On the one hand, it could publish games that really have promise like Halo Spartan Assault on iOS and Android. But this would have the effect of snuffing out their fledgling Windows Phone ecosystem by removing one of the major incentives of the platform. On the other hand, if they don’t, they will miss out on potentially millions in revenue of willing and paying users, in the hope that Windows Phone might gain more traction. Thus far, their approach has been the latter: only Kinectimals has been released already on other platforms.

Alex Miller:

I think Microsoft is going to have to stick to their guns here and hold on to their first party titles. While they could certainly make some serious money by releasing these games cross mobile platform, they are not in the position where they need this profit. There games are better spent building out their Windows Phone games library, creating more reasons to choose Windows Phone and help it claw out some market share. I definitely see these games as a market share building tool, not a standalone path to profit. Hopefully for Windows Phone Microsoft feels the same way.

kotaku.com

Microsoft reveals Xbox One headsets aren’t included with base system [updated]

Simon Wu:

I feel like I’m in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Or perhaps Freaky Friday is a better analogy. Sony and Microsoft have completely switched sides; last time, it was Sony talking big and making brash statements about owning the next-generation. Last time, it was Sony who priced their console above the competition and was duly punished for it by the consumer. Last time, Sony did not bundle a headset with its console and the 360 won over for including one, quality and clarity notwithstanding. What does all of this mean? Well, let’s analyze this like a Mastercard commercial:

Console: $500
Extra Controller: $60
Two games: $120
1-year Xbox Live Gold: $60
Headset: No, not priceless, just an undetermined amount of even MORE money.

Total: somewhere over $785 depending on how much the headset costs (6% tax factored in)

Max Gruber:

Once again, another reason for many to get the PS4. It just shows more and more that Microsoft isn’t waging war against Sony, Nintendo, Valve or Apple; they’ve waged war against the consumer ever since they first mentioned the used game DRM policies and the always-online function for the X1. And I know people will say that it doesn’t apply in this situation, since they’ve “removed” those policies, but it still does. If some random person approaches you, points a gun to your head and demands you to fork over your money, but then holsters their gun and kindly asks you if they could borrow some money, would you trust them? Of course not. And, now that the X1 will not have a headset shipped with the device, it means that, like Simon wrote, we have to pay for even more things than just the console itself.

Taj Gillani:

For those set on buying an XBO, this won’t deter them (unless the headsets are north of $50). For those who are still looking at both systems and unsure which to buy, this is another coup for the PlayStation PR folks. Not only is the PS4 cheaper, but it comes standard with added features for multiplayer! I feel like I’m shopping for cars, and I just found out that the cheaper one is actually better.

Jonathan Tung:

And once again, Microsoft finds YET another way to screw their consumers over. Not only do these headsets not prepackaged with the Xbox One, they are also incompatible with the Xbox 360 in addition to other non-Xbox One products. Even worse, third-party companies are charging a premium for their headsets, which could appear as if Microsoft is supposedly scamming their customers: forcing them to pay an additional premium for whatever they need, a similar tactic employed back when the Xbox 360 was first released. Also, I highly doubt that anyone would be willing to use their Kinect as a mic when playing online, especially when you happen to be playing in the exact same room as your fellow siblings/roommates/relatives etc, all of whom are making a loud enough ruckus to irritate your fellow players online.

Alex Miller:

Well Microsoft, you’ve done it again. While I understand the desire (at this point a need really) to keep the price on the sticker from rising any higher, one of the cornerstones of the Xbox 360s success has been Xbox Live and the social gaming environment it allows. While I think the Microsoft headset actually looks nicer (I feel that in-ear design from Sony will be nothing but a pain, imagine the 12 year olds in your head rather than just yelling at it) it is upsetting that they couldn’t find a way to package it in. However, the reason I said you’ve done it again at the beginning is not because I believe in, as Max bizarrely calls it, Microsoft’s “war on the consumer”, but that this is another example of Microsoft failing to properly communicate. They are apparently working on an adapter to allow you to use current 360 headsets, crappy as they are, with your Xbox One. While this would set an interesting precedent going against their stated policy of no backwards compatibility for accessories, this makes more sense. While controller technology has changed over the last 7 years, a headphone is still a headphone. Hopefully this come to pass and will be cheap, because if it is Microsoft doesn’t lose much here. However, if they price the headset and/or the adaptor at ridiculous levels, they might find themselves in yet more trouble.

arstechnica.com

Sony Sacrificed the PlayStation 4 Camera to Beat Microsoft on Price

Simon Wu:

Again, lack of Microsoft communication.. Demonstrate the superior and various usage cases for Kinect and why it should be an integrated part of the system, like perhaps voice chat... so we know why you didn’t bundle a headset. And it’s not as if Microsoft isn’t capable of doing this. Their recent Windows 8 tablet ads bashing functionality gap on the iPad have been pretty excellent. They need to give us a value proposition on the $100 price difference and explain how the PS4 experience is weakened by the decision not to include it.

Max Gruber:

This was a really smart move from Sony to win a lot of love from gamers all around the world, and it really was the reason why they won E3 for a lot of people. If they had kept it bundled with the PS4, it would been on parity with the X1, which would have seen more people getting the X1 than the PS4. It astonishes me how much they’ve evolved from the current generation of consoles to the future, and that’s saying a lot.

Jonathan Tung:

Meanwhile on the other end of the next-gen spectrum, I applaud Sony for choosing to make the PlayStation 4 camera an optional accessory, especially if this was done to keep costs down. Despite this minor setback (not like we really care or anything), I still find this to be a smart move, especially when some of your customers barely have enough to pay for additional accessories that they would rarely use (such as the PlayStation Move, for example).

Alex Miller:

This is where I differ with some of my colleagues. I have said since we learned the specs of both consoles that the Xbox One does more for you, and this is a perfect example why. Though the Xbox One may be more expensive, it is because Microsoft has put a lot of work into crafting a new and improved console that genuinely does more for the user. To make the Kinect optional would have hamstrung these efforts, leading to just a slightly beefed up version of this generation’s console, which is how I see the PS4. Apple computers are expensive, but there is a reason (beyond just the blatant brand upcharging): they want to sell a certain experience and would rather it be more expensive and better than cheaper and crappier. Its the same thing here, quantity over quality, and I know I’d rather shell out a little bit more for the real next generation. If I wanted the same thing with better specs I’d just build a PC.

ign.com

Whiplash's picture

@Alex

When I was writing about how Microsoft was "waging war against the consumer", I meant that Sony doing nothing—as sad as that sounds—actually had a greater meaning than the likes of Microsoft.

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