I’ll talk about the usual gaming stuff in a minute. I feel a bit of a heel for titling a post as a celebration after what happened in Boston yesterday. This is gaming blog and that’s a tragedy that I’ll only speak of to say that what terrorists –those born within our borders or those without– want is to create fear. You want to beat these people? Keep living your life the way it works for you. Don’t let them make you afraid to walk down the street or board a plane. They are few. We are many. Also, this.
Anyway, the celebrating part is a personal note because I’m happy and excited and that only happens like once or twice a year. (No, not really.) If you’ve been listening to JtS for the past year, you’ve probably heard me drop Michelle’s name here and there. For awhile it’s felt much too small to call her my girlfriend. It was a situation in need of rectification. I had a ring and a plan and it all almost came apart when, after a nice one-year anniversary dinner, we were attacked by a flock of (two) wild geese. I was afraid for my life, but I had a job to do and my bravery must have impressed because now I’ve got myself a fiancee. I’m a happy, lucky man and there’s no question I’ll be marrying above my level.
So… wooooo! Now, let’s talk games. (Thank you for indulging me.)
Bill Harris vs. Ubisoft. Bill Harris brilliantly compares the game industry to the oil industry:
The oil companies look at their business, which is suddenly struggling, and realize that they can make plenty of revenue to support operations if they just focus on proven reserves. It’s efficient, it matches the scale of their infrastructure, and it’s focused.
This goes well, at least at first. Then a proven reserve is discovered to be smaller–quite a bit smaller–than what was previously projected. Then another.
How does this oil company adapt? It can’t. It has no new wells that could have larger reserves than estimated. It’s fixed costs are enormous. As soon as the proven reserves have dried up, they have nothing left.
Ubisoft CEO Yannis Mallat, in an interview with Game Industry International, unwittingly counters:
The in-between, the belly of the market, is the one that just collapsed in a way and disappeared,” Mallat said. “Meaning there is no room for B-games, if I should say so, which proves the point of quality. I think that companies that put quality and consumer value as a primary focus, as we’ve been doing at Ubisoft, will enjoy great success.
There’s a distinction here in that Mallat is talking specifically about game consoles, but nonetheless, I’m calling it for Harris in a 12-round TKO. It’s going the full tilt only because these publishers are going to spend the next few years staggering around the ring, refusing to acknowledge they’re punch drunk. (Oil. Boxing. Mixed-metaphors are awesome!)
Why? Because, as Bill outlines, they don’t have a choice. They’re too heavily invested in this model. They can’t just shift gears like that, so they’re doubling down and trying to tell us that it’s about quality and consumer value when those are not in any way related to the size of the machine pumping out the game. It won’t work. In a world where Square considers Tomb Raider a disappointment for selling 3.5M units in a month, the strong will be the smallish-to-medium size publishers and developers making games on reasonable budgets with reasonable expectations. Or, as Bill says much better than I have:
Meanwhile, far away, the wildcatters have a bonanza of opportunity, because the big oil companies have abandoned plenty of smaller and even medium-sized pockets of oil. With extremely low costs to drill, if they find even a small amount of oil, they can make money. And if they keep costs low, they can do this again and again with very little risk.
Go read the whole thing. It’s fantastic.
New Arkham Game. Not so Steady. Let’s see: Project announced with just a few months’ lead time. RockSteady, developer of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City is not at the helm. Prequel. Why do I think this news is not such a good thing?
I’m an Idiot for not Kickstarting This. One of the knocks I’ve heard about Kickstarter projects is that many of them are just bringing back old gameplay without modernizing. I don’t agree with it, but you could argue FTL as an example of this. As witness for the defense, I call to the stand Project Eternity:
This is not re-treading old ground. This is taking forgotten ground and making it new again using new tools and new ideas. It’s a shame it took this long for ideas like this to get traction in a non-indie project, but how great does this look? Pretty great. I’m simultaneously excited for this game and ashamed of myself for not getting in on the Kickstarter out of pure forgetfulness.
ShadowRun in June? Wha?!?!?! Speaking of projects I neglected to Kickstart for all the wrong reasons (not being able to remember anything for more than 39.4 seconds), Shadowrun Returns returns Shadowrun to the world this June. Yes, June. As in two short months from now. So, yeah, this:
Speaking of not seeing that coming, people are upset that the game will be on Steam because Steam is a form of DRM and Harebrained Schemes promised they would, like, be so totally DRM-free. They’re getting around that promise by making the core game download available from the website sans DRM, but if you want any community content, that’s going into Steam Workshop. I will now list for you the reasons that this is a terrible idea and Harebrained Schemes should be ashamed of themselves…
(Hint: That’s the end of the post, because I could not possibly care less.)
*Originally published at NoHighScores.com, 4/16/2013
*Updated 2/23/2016 (minor text updates)