E3 2018 – Our Expectations and Plans!

E3 2018 is just around the corner on June 9th, but what can we expect from each show, and will it be good?

E3 kicks off on June 9th with the live presentations!

E3 2018 begins June 9th!

Firstly however, we need to cover our E3 2018 plans! In our Discord community we have a channel with the full schedule and discussion of E3. Secondly, we will be posting pre and post E3 thoughts in our bi-weekly podcast both before and after E3. We may even live-react to a few of the events, but more on that at a later date!

So what can we expect from E3? Well it’s hard to say. Overall it feels like a potentially solid show with few standouts, so let’s see why.

 

EA – June 9th – 11am PT // 2pm ET // 7pm BST // 4am AEST (10th)

 

EA Conferences typically put people to sleep.

Can you say boring? It’s EA at a press conference!

EA is first to bat at the show this year, and that’s probably a good thing. Where EA typically stumbles is in engagement. A very corporate show mixed with online personalities and a lack of really exciting and unexpected news leaves a lot to be desired.

When talking about games, outside of a boring presence, we know Battlefield V is confirmed to appear. Anthem is also a very likely shoe in given its recent delay to 2019. No doubt Star Wars will be teased in some capacity as well after Battlefront II…launched last year.

Oh and of course, FIFA 19, Madden 19 and so on. Maybe some more Need for Speed, it’s hard to say. Of course the jury is still out on if the Nintendo Switch will make an appearance for any of these games after previous comments.

Verdict – A shallow but serviceable event. Just bring coffee.

Microsoft – June 10th – 1pm PT // 4pm ET // 9pm BST // 6am AEST (11th)

Does Microsoft finally have something to show for the Xbox One?

Will Microsoft repeat the mistakes of E3’s past?

Microsoft is in the worst position heading into this E3. After launching Game Pass and seeing its latest first party titles falter, there is only one known first party release in the pipeline. Crackdown 3 was meant to release last year but got delayed to 2018, and this E3 would mark 5 years since it was revealed. Hopefully it gets a date and sticks it this time.

Of course, Microsoft needs more than that. In what is billed as their biggest show ever, and what is now confirmed to be 2 hours in length, they need to come out swinging. Any less, and the Xbox One misses its final chance at meaningful exclusive software. Phil Spencer has been talking a big game for years, but yet to show anything.

Forza Horizon 4 is a lock in for this year, but beyond that maybe a fix to the Halo Collection at long last, 4 years after it launched? Gears of War? Maybe get a RARE IP back in action? There will at least be waves of indies. Microsoft really needs to swing and as this years wildcard, they may just do that. But any less than amazing and it will be time to write the system off.

Verdict – It better be good, but we simply can’t say. Prepare for disappointment.

 

Bethesda – June 10th – 6:30pm PT // 9:30pm ET // 2:30pm BST (11th) // 11:30am AEST (11th)

What big games will Bethesda bring?

Could we see the Elder Scrolls at E3?

Bethesda is planning a short but sweet conference again this year. No doubt they will feature a final push for Wolfenstein 2 on Switch as they did last year with Skyrim. Hey, maybe they can announce a Fallout thing or something?

Of course, RAGE 2 is showing up, a now confirmed and very different game to the original. DOOM 2 is also rumoured (And welcomed!) but it may be a year too soon. Of course The Elder Scrolls is on everyone’s minds now, but that’s not likely this year.

Starfield is very likely however. This mystery IP is due a reveal any time now, as we know nothing except it exists. If it proves a strong title, it could be a show stealer. The short but sweet nature of this show leads me to feel they don’t have much to announce however.

Verdict – It could be good, but there won’t be much quantity.

 

Square Enix – June 11th – 10am PT // 1pm EDT // 6pm BST // 3am AEST (12th)

 

Can Final Fantasy VII show up?

Is it time?

Square Enix is returning to E3! That could be amazing or absolutely horrifying.

No doubt we will get details on Final Fantasy XV’s announced 2019 DLC (Why?) and Kingdom Hearts 3 will get its release date at long last. Final Fantasy VII may show up in some form but don’t expect it.

The confirmed Avengers title will likely show for the first time. What this game can be is anyone’s guess but a new reveal would be excellent. Naturally Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Dragon Quest XI will feature.

Also expect Octopath Traveler and Dragon Quest Builders 2 to appear. One as a final push and the other to finally show the damn thing. Of course this is Square Enix, you can expect a random game or two for fun.

Verdict – Probably going to be the high point. Lots of games we know are coming and plenty surprises are possible.

 

Ubisoft – June 11th – 1pm PT // 4pm ET // 9pm BST // 6am AEST (12th)

Remember this horror?

Ubisoft had a good show last year. Can we see it again?

Ubisoft is in a unique position. Of course we will get updates on announced titles like Starlink and The Crew 2. No doubt they will also flaunt Beyond Good and Evil 2 as well, after a big reveal last year.

Watch Dogs 3 is expected, forming a new bi-yearly cycle with Assassins Creed, but no doubt DLC will appear for that. Their VR projects also took a bit of focus last year, so updates would be welcome.

What Ubisoft could show that is unexpected is a mystery. They likely won’t have another collaboration with Nintendo already, nor a new South Park title. This will most likely be an update on the known games and quantities moving forward.

Verdict – Solid but nothing stellar.

 

PlayStation – June 11th — 6pm PT // 9pm ET // 2am BST (12th) // 11am AEST (12th)

PS4 is still riding high.

How can PS4 wow and continue it’s dominance?

Learning from their mistakes of showing stuff years in advance and disappointing us at E3 2017 by repeating E3 2016, they announced their plans in advance.

Sony will be focusing on 4 main games, in what I suppose is a 4 act structure: Spider-Man, Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us: Part 2. With the exception of Spider-Man, making its third appearance, these will all be gameplay reveals and maybe even release dates.

The question is why such a large push for Spider-Man when other games could do with the spotlight such as Dreams? Third party announcements like exclusive DLC, VR news and a few indies will break up the pacing between each big game, but the pace threatens to drag with already known quantities if they hold on them for too long.

PS4 is very much on autopilot now.

Verdict – Solid, but a bit repetitive and unremarkable.

 

Nintendo – June 12th – 9am PT // 12pm ET //5pm BST // 2am AEST (13th)

Can Nintendo wow again?

This could potentially be disastrous.

Nintendo has already stated one thing. Only 2018 titles will show here. That and their main event is only on Switch. 3DS announcements will come in Treehouse Live if any.

With that in mind….eh. This really does seem like it could be lacklustre. Only focusing on the upcoming 6 months of content feels risky, but with Fire Emblem and Yoshi due out this year, one of which we haven’t even seen yet, and a confirmed focus on Super Smash Bros. it can at least be solid. Add in Pokemon and hey it could be great.

But we all knew about those games anyway, some for well over a year at this time. Plus on the third-party front I don’t expect much. This will be the Smash and Fire Emblem show. If neither of those interest you, don’t expect much else. This could just be pessimism, but it feels like an unfortunately low-key second show for their new system.

Verdict – Potential great, if third parties show, and if the game selection is greater than anticipated. Most likely just average otherwise.

 

 

And that’s it. We will see how right we are on the money and if we can be pleasantly surprised after E3! What do you think we will see? As always Happy Gaming, and stay tuned to the NL Inklings community for our takes on the events!

Our first full podcast is live now where we discuss all things gaming from recent events.

This podcast includes the Dark Souls delay on Nintendo Switch, our initial impressions of Nintendo Labo, and God of War being patched!

Plus, hear our predictions on E3 2018. Does the 3DS refuse to die? What does Microsoft have for us at E3 2018?

Check it out below, and Happy Gaming!

 

Behind The Game Podcast – Nintendo Online, E3 2018 Predictions, Labo and More!

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (29/04/2018)

Is Football Manager still at the top? Did South Park make an impact as a new release? What indie games shot up in sales or otherwise? Let’s see…

Numbers in brackets 


1: Football Manager Touch 2018 – £29.99
2: Stardew Valley (Up from 3rd) – £10.99
3: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition (Up from 4th) – £19.99
4: Oxenfree (Down from 2nd) – £15.99
5: Rocket League (Up from 6th) – £15.04
6: Robonauts (80% OFF) (Up from 10th) – £2.69 (u+Usually £13.49)
7: Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Up from 8th) – £6.29
8: Sonic Mania (Up from 12th) – £15.99
9: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Down from 5th) – £22.49
10: Streets of Red (Down from 9th) – £6.29
11: Don’t Starve: Nintendo Switch Edition (Down from 7th) – £17.99
12: Celeste (Up from 13th) – £17.99
13: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Up from 14th) – £49.99
14: South Park: The Fractured But Whole (NEW) – £49.99
15: Adventure Pals (Down from 11th) – £10.79

 

 

So what can we gleam from this look into the UK eShop? Well…

Football Manager Touch 2018 has firmly cemented itself as a top seller, making up what will likely be the top 4 for a good while now alongside Rocket League, Stardew Valley and Minecraft. At least until FIFA (Maybe) comes out on the Switch this September.

Arcade Archives remains around the middle of the charts, further showing nostalgia sells, as does Sonic Mania right behind perhaps in preparation for the DLC this July.

Streets of Red maintains it’s place despite no longer being on sale, while Robonauts hugely benefits. Of course Shovel Knight and Don’t Starve continue to drop down, while Celeste and Adventure Pals maintain the lower ends of the charts, with Celeste being a recent return.

Most notable then, is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe maintains it’s position as the sole charting digital first party title, and the only new entry this week is a respectable 14th place for South Park, a full price release of a game from October on other platforms. Maybe this one will pick up steam?

 

And that’s it for this week, so what did we learn? Football Manager is a hit, Mario Kart sells, indies are living the dream and South Park at least charted. Expect Donkey Kong to top next week though as a notable new release.

2017 In Gaming: A Look Back Over 12 Months

2017 has been a bit of wild ride, from new systems, new franchises, a lot of old franchises, incredible highs and some very deep lows.

 

If you were to really take away one from this year in gaming, it’s that new hardware came and really impressed the world.

Where the PS4 Pro was a relatively safe (And some would argue lacklustre) refresh of the PS4, the Xbox One X stormed ahead and probably could just be considered a new generation of hardware of its own. This machine has proven itself to be a real powerhouse, and a lot of people were doubting it, both in part to the Xbox One having lower sales than the PS4, but by no means bad, we should stress, and its high price leading to a question: Who is it for? For the enthusiast it has taken the crowd by surprise.

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Also of note is the Nintendo Switch, a machine so many were down prior to launch, and coming off the back of the Wii U and 2016 had many wondering if Nintendo had a place in the market anymore, including its own software partners. While it had a quieter start, demand was high from the off, and only grew. The real story is how over 10 months the perspective changed from doom and gloom, to “Oh it’s only early success, itll fall off”, to “Itll be dead by Xmas”, to a quieter rumbling of things still left to improve. If that isn’t a turn around, who knows what is.

The 3DS also had a hot year with many in-demand games and its end of life revision in the New 2DS XL being released. The little handheld has some time left in the sun, but no more than a year or two.

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The PS4 had a quieter year, if only because business as usual isn’t noteworthy. 70 million units out in the world now, 4 years in, that’s pretty good. PSVR also hit 2 million despite a lack of compelling software because…price cuts I suppose, but the VR competition is lagging behind, and the market shows a chance of stalling without further innovation and software.

Overall then, hardware wise, it has been a fantastic year with every company really on top of their hardware game.

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On to software then, the success stories really come from Sony and Nintendo, with Sony opting to front load its year with first party releases and major third-party titles before dropping off and letting the maligned GT Sport and third party deals flood the latter half of the year. Additionally, press events like Paris Games Week and E3 left a lot to be desired. People can only see the same game so many times without a release date.

Nintendo maintained a steady stream of games for both systems throughout the year. Critical and commercial darlings flooded their hardware and third parties developer some strong showings for once, despite a lack of desire to do so early on. Furthermore, gamers proved receptive to the software, with titles like Splatoon 2, Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey setting records for their respective franchises.

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Microsoft once again limped along on third-party offerings, but majority of sales were on PS4. Furthermore the cancellation of exclusives like Scalebound and closure of notable studios left the future in question, as well as delaying what few exclusives were planned to next year. Maybe it will pick up then.

The indie scene proved to be on fire with once again the Nintendo Switch dominating the stories there with very high indie sales. Steam fell behind in this regard and Sony seemingly lost interest, but the quality on display this year has been unmistakable.

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Third parties as well proved a force to be reckoned with. If we ignore EA, as Mass Effect was a mess and their later games proved less than welcome with bad business decisions. Games like Nier, Nioh, Sonic Mania, Wolfenstein 2, Assassins Creed Origins, Mario + Rabbids, all proved surprise hits. Sure there were duds like Sonic Forces, but third parties not only showed renewed passion in their work, but renewed creativity.

Interestingly 2017 saw huge backlash against micro-transactions and lootboxes in gaming, as companies attempt to push them harder and harder into the core structure of games. This perhaps will be evidenced next year if more games opt to do this, and maybe this indicates a boom in the indie scene. Certainly “AA” games like Hellblade have shown they have a place, and companies like Square Enix have renewed interest in mid-range titles.

 

2017 will likely go down as a highlight year for the renewal of an industry that seemed to be struggling with staying fresh. Many companies came back from the brink and brought their A Game, and while there were some very loud duds from some, and some fresh controversy, it doesn’t drown out that regardless of what platform you choose, you had a fine year.

Except maybe Steam. I can’t see wading through that as fine. Seriously, sort that out Valve.

 

You’ll need to forgive me about this being a shorter piece. There isn’t much to say for this year beyond “It was really good”. Barring the issues around lootboxes later in the year and EA being EA…it’s been a fine year all around! So until next time, Happy Gaming!

Behind The Game: Games of the Year!

Rather than do a numbered list, we will just be posting our favourite games of this past year.

 

In reality, a lot of games I played this year were from years past, but I have picked up plenty of 2017 titles, so let’s dive right in, in no particular order of course.

There will be some close omissions, and a fair few popular games are ones I haven’t simply had the time or money to get around to playing this year, such as Persona 5, but I am most definitely aware of their impact and deserved praise.

 

Sonic Mania

Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch

Developer: Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games

Publisher: SEGA

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We reviewed this game and gave it glowing praise, granted it isn’t perfect, as a testament to what makes a great, fast paced, replayable 2D Adventure. Be it the stunning visuals in all their HD Pixel-y glory, or the jazzy retro soundtrack from Tee Lopes, there is something for any fan of platformers to enjoy. If you want some retro 2D goodness, this is where you go.

 

Chicken Wiggle

Available on Nintendo 3DS Systems

Developer: Atooi

Publisher: Atooi

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From the 2D wizards at Atooi under Jools Watsham we have Chicken Wiggle. This game is certainly a welcome addition to the ever-expanding 3DS family that flew under everyone’s radars amongst all the Switch hype this summer. The gameplay is charming and simple, but buried within is the incredible level creation tools used to create the game with different objectives and the ability to share your creations with other players. Give this one a go if it’s your fancy. This is the prime level creation community game for 3DS!

 

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Available on Nintendo Switch

Developer: Ubisoft Milan/Ubisoft Paris

Publisher: Ubisoft

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Another game we have written about before, this time in the form of a Behind The Game examination, Mario + Rabbids is a game that admittedly drew me in to tactical RPGs. My wallet cries already. Where other games have lost me on overcomplicated mechanics, Kingdom Battle strives ahead with simple but in-depth mechanics, and a true to form presentation backed up by Grant “Noggy” Kirkhope (Sorry Grant, but Twitter doesn’t lie!) and his traditional jaunty tunes bringing each world to life. This is a game full of surprises and well worth picking up, even if it can beat you down without mercy!

 

Metroid: Samus Returns

Available on Nintendo 3DS Systems

Developer: MercurySteam

Publisher: Nintendo

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MercurySteam may have a history with Metroidvania titles, but nothing quite does their talents justice than Samus Returns. Sure the game can be difficult, very difficult at times, and it’s structure being based on Metroid II Return of Samus maybe doesn’t give it quite that open-ended Metroid feel we are used to, it is still a fantastic atmospheric and well-developed title, with unique twists to really make it stand out amongst its 2D Metroid brethren. Even just as an action game, you can’t go wrong here.

 

Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy

Available on PS4

Developer: Vicarious Visions

Publisher: Activision

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Crash is back, and it is truly fantastic. Faithful (At times to a fault) remakes of the original trilogy from the PSone days, this is a trilogy available on PS4 that any PSone, platformer or retro fans want to nab. Difficult, charming, and true to the spirit of the originals we remember, this is the return the Bandicoot deserved. They even threw in some little bonuses and attention to details that fans will appreciate.

 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Available on Nintendo Switch and Wii U

Developer: Nintendo EPD

Publisher: Nintendo

Breath-of-the-Wild-Walkthrough

So full admission going in to this: I’m not a huge fan of 3D Zelda. Something about the slower starts really turns me away. Up to the release of this game the only one I beat was The Wind Waker HD. So to my surprise, the speed at which this game lets you begin, let’s you learn and progress entirely at your own pace and gives you this huge captivating world you want to explore, even if the rewards aren’t all worth it. There are annoyances, but like many games above, this simply captivated me into continuing, just to see what was over the next ridge. This is a game I can safely say will give you an experience totally unique to you.

 

Snake Pass

Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch

Developer: Sumo Digital

Publisher: Sumo Digital

snake-pass-key-art-no-logo

One thing I always adore in games is a unique idea, and this is no different. How do you do a platformer….without the power to jump? Simply put, you use a snake. Snake Pass caught my eye from day one just as something different. Another charming almost throwback to the past, with the unique challenge of learning the physics and how Noodle works to explore the levels. There are plenty of optional challenges should you desire them, especially going for 100%, but impatient sorts will find themselves in a bit of a tangle. Stick with it though, and you’ll soon see what makes this such a gem.

 

Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!

Available on Nintendo Switch

Developer: SFB Games

Publisher: Nintendo

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Yet another game that caught my eye due to its unique premise. You and a friend, or yourself on your own I suppose, co-operate and communicate in short puzzles that test your cunning, wit, and inevitable use of innuendo to refer to certain strategies. This is a game I am very happy to see get more content, if only for simple fun with friends. This is the top co-operative game this year for me, and nothing beats the blushing, laughter, and sound of gears turning in your mind when you sit down and play with friends for a few hours. You’ll be hard pressed to keep a straight face with this as your friend asks you to “Snip” them!

 

Super Mario Odyssey

Available on Nintendo Switch

Developer: Nintendo EPD

Publisher: Nintendo

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Another for us platformer fans. Of course a successor to Super Mario 64 would be great but I had no idea I would be sinking 40 hours of my time, over a few nights, to get 100% in this game. I was unprepared for the variety, the creativity, the sheer joy at even simple actions, in a game that both looks back, and pushes forward. What it has is unique and incredibly solid mechanics and worlds, and only rarely loses focus with the sheer volume of content. This is a game you will come back to in years to come and still find new ways to approach things.

 

Splatoon 2

Available on Nintendo Switch

Developer: Nintendo EPD

Publisher: Nintendo

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Rounding out one of my favourite years in gaming so far is Splatoon 2, a game that manages to pull me back in for an hour or two a week just to mess around with the new content. Fun, colourful, and an improvement over the original, this is my multiplayer game of the year and for good reason: It’s simply fun. Not only does it capture the perfect “One More Round” mentality, but it keeps itself fresh week after week, and the sheer abundance of modes means every time you play, you’ll catch yourself trying something new. This takes an already unique concept one step further by simply giving you more bang for your buck.

 

 

Those are just 10 of my favourite games from this year. Of course I intentionally left out re-releases like Mario Kart and Mega Man, but some genuinely amazing games were also up for consideration.

I’m very glad to have had an amazing year in gaming with both big and small companies providing the good stuff in a multitude of genres and it’s a shame I can’t play them all. I have an ever-growing wish list of 2017 games I still want to pick up and play!

Yes there are the usual suspects, but one can’t forget this year for me has been a year of unexpected gems, and indie developers absolutely bringing their A game.

As always if you enjoyed this or have any other games you personally loved this year, please let us know on social media and give this article a share, and I will see you next time. Until then, Happy Gaming!

 

 

The Problem of AAA Development: Money and Vultures

The news of EA buying Respawn Entertainment (May they rest in peace) has spurred a thought: Is AAA game development actually sustainable?

 

So EA closed Visceral in late 2017, suddenly but to the surprise of no one. As it happens this was just yet another in their hit list: Be it studios swallowed whole or internal studios biting the dust.

Now EA, not long after disbanding Visceral and their single player Star Wars project, has bought Respawn and the IP for Titanfall.

Titanfall 2 was actually surprisingly awesome, and it even made a little marketing push on having no DLC, no micro transactions, and just being a solid game you got the entirety of with one purchase.

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And EA, the publisher, put it right in between Call of Duty, and it’s OWN Battlefield 1, effectively cannibalizing its sales. We now also know with this acquisition that Titanfall 3 is a thing in the works. Taking bets as to how that will turn? Well let’s look back at Dead Space.

 

EA wanted Dead Space to be a multimedia thing. It didn’t happen, but the first two games sold really well. Dead Space 3 however, needed 5 million sales for a future, and had micro transactions and modes added that frankly had no place in a game like that: Sales tanked, Visceral got moved to Battlefield Hardline, that didn’t do too well, and now they are gone.

You can probably tell what Titanfall 3 will be like can’t you? Oh, and the developers get bonuses based on how well the games review. Money talks apparently.

 

Respawn is just yet another studio with talented staff, good IP and a drive to make good games snatched up by proverbial vultures. When, and it isn’t a case of “If”, Respawn is closed by EA, it will be for not meeting expectations. But what are those expectations?

activision

Let’s look at Activision’s Q4 2016 sales figures:

 

Activision Blizzard confirmed during their Q4 2016 Earnings Call that the entire company, across Activision and Blizzard titles, made over $3.6 billion just from in-game content sales. In-game content sales includes Call of Duty Points, Overwatch Loot Boxes, and more.

Link

Now let’s look at Take Two:

“We’ve said that we aim to have recurrent consumer spending opportunities for every title that we put out at this company. It may not always be an online model, it probably won’t always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board,” Zelnick said.

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EA themselves have quoted games as a service model as a key driver.

 

Let’s be honest though, is this shocking? No. Businesses exist to make money, but the more staff they have to hire, the more the consumer demands better graphics, the more capable the hardware for games becomes, and the longer games take to make, means bigger budgets, more wages, and ultimately, a need to sell more copies. Far, far more.

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Part of this is the “$60” price tag of games. One time purchase, that’s it. No more money for the publishers and developers. So what do they do? Find a way to increase monetization: A constant stream of revenue. Lootboxes, In-app purchases, DLC, it all goes straight to them. But it doesn’t stop at covering costs, it continues to making as much money as humanly possible, often with minimal effort and some very dodgy practices.

Take Call of Duty: WWII for instance. The game has lootboxes, with a twist. Others can see what you get, with the aim of seemingly spurring jealously.

According to redditor cuzseile, who uploaded the video, the supply drop exists in the game world but other players can’t steal it, which you’d expect. But cuzseile reports other players can see what you get from a supply drop

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The psychology of reward and feeling good is at full use here, akin to gambling, and of course, Activision also has that patent, where matchmaking can be based on pushing you via losses and other players into purchasing lootboxes.

Publishers have leapt to the furthest end of the spectrum in seeking additional monetization. Honestly, as many have noted, if the game was free it could easily sustain itself on in-app purchases just on player base. Any game could in theory. In practice though, its not just a case of making ends meet as they claim: Now it’s predatory, and now it is about milking as much as possible.

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Even smaller studios, to loop back to the start of the article, are in need of money. It is why studios are bought up: They need publishers, and a source of income. Why wouldn’t you take that opportunity if presented? But the publishers typically twist and gut the studio into their vision of maximised profits.

 

Personally, I would be fine with a $10 price increase on games. That could go a surprisingly long way to meeting costs and break even points. Sadly though, the big publishers have already tasted the blood in the water, and won’t settle for the more market friendly lesser revenue.

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AAA gaming is a vulture. Or maybe a parasite is more apt? Either way, it swallows creativity whole, and turns studios most people knew and loved of all sizes into factories, producing not games but products.

As an aside, during my time studying Games Design at university, this is the model we were taught: Not to produce games, but products. Plan ahead from the mere conception of a game to form ways of further monetizing, be it DLC, removing content to sell later, or in app purchases. This is something I heartedly disagree with. Yes, in-app purchases have a place, mostly in free games, but not in a title already paid for.

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The games industry is a ravenous beast, hungry for the taste of as much revenue as possible, and all the talent it can absorb to get that revenue. As consumers want more from games, studios need to fund that. They turn to publishers who want as much money as possible, then in a few years see more hardware come out, games look better, cost more to make, and the cycle continues.

 

The industry isn’t unsustainable, at least not yet. It needs change. Perhaps the biggest problem is that it is noticeably cannibalising itself, breaking down what talent it has and the bright futures and ideas of many, in the sake of the now, the money, the gain, and it isn’t looking to the future, where games are solely predatory and more expensive than ever, without any reason to be that way.

I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it forever: Minimal Effort, Maximum Profit.

 

As always if you enjoyed this article leave a comment with your thoguhts, share with your friends, and happy gaming!

 

 

Behind The Game: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

As a fun concept, I thought we could take the lead-up to, and release of, a game and see how it shaped up commercially, critically, and with the fans! 

First up: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle from Ubisoft!

 

Marketing

Mario + Rabbids has had a very turbulent run up through its development. Initially leaked simply as a Mario and Rabbids crossover, it drew ire immediately, only compounded by later details like being an RPG, then a strategy RPG. The developers later revealed that this reduced moral, as the incredible pushback against the game, which they believed and cared for visibly post-reveal, was a demoralising worry to many staffers.

Compounding this was promo art and even internal slides revealing the schedule for the game, with a 3-month marketing turn around. What began to many as someone seemingly joking, became very real, and almost unanimously the concept of the Rabbids was a boiling point of contention, let alone working with Mario in an RPG.

Roll around E3, and the game is the opening act for Ubisoft. Shigeru Miyamoto rocks up on stage and the enthusiasm from the crowd, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, and those watching sparked a change. They showed lead developer Davide Soliani in the crowd, in tears at the immediate reaction to the enthusiasm around his creation, and then came the trailer. At that moment the charm, the humour, even (mostly) the fear of the Rabbids evaporated. Those opening 15 minutes of Ubisoft at E3 showed the commitment and passion into the game and the drive to do it right. Then the game was shown off alongside Nintendo, and press previews began pouring in, and the tune changed entirely.

While previous stigma against the Rabbids will likely never disperse, the gentle trickle of information, constant display of charm and humour, and numerous instances of the dev team explaining how, and why this game exists, what it means to them and what they want to achieve, relieved and resonated with the audience.

 

Critical Response

Critical response has been promising, with numerous previews from E3 and other events praising the depth and challenge of the game, including the simple yet deep combat and skill tree. Also of note is the fascination with characterisation and visuals, noting how it feels like a Mario game gone wrong, matching the invasion of the Rabbids.

The game has struck a chord with critics for opening a genre such as strategy RPGs to new fans in an accessible and fun way, with the game’s humour sticking with many critics noting how crazy the game is, but how well it all sticks together, cementing the pre-reveal concern based on limited information as a needless concern.

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Upon release, the game scored exceptionally high reviews, especially given trepidation pre-release. Praise was aimed at the visuals and depth of gameplay, as well as surprising amount of content. Praise was also piled onto characterisation, an aspect many felt was weak in the Mario series of late, and of note, the Rabbids being reduced from the hated screaming punch lines in search of a joke, to actual personalities, often riffing on the Mario series counterpart.

 

Fan Response

Initial response to leaks was ire, chiefly for pairing Mario with the much maligned Rabbids, seen as flat comedy shoe ins. This persisted even as details trickled out, until E3, when along with critical reception, the opinion switched (ha) completely, minus, again, some disdain to Rabbids. High points include visuals, the effort and complex but simple gameplay, and many likened it to a beginners XCOM.

Some internet dwellers have been caught saying they will pick up the game even though they hate the Rabbids, showing that a book by its cover is one thing, but another is to see the contents, as many were put off just by the premise.

General community response is one of enthusiasm, for a project that was originally considered a hoax, this is perhaps the most promising aspect of the user response. For the developers especially, the relief must be extraordinary, as the community turns to the game as a tent pole release in both a unique genre but in concept and execution.

 

Upon release the game was still held in contempt by some who refused to see the Rabbids beyond their Wii era screaming, which is typical of any release with any existing character, as nothing is without detractors, but the buzz has been great, and of amusement, fun, and shock at the overall quality of the product, and how competent it stands for both strategy fans and now as a unique Mario RPG alongside existing series within the franchise such as Paper Mario.

Sales

This is already the fastest selling, and best-selling, non-Nintendo published title on the Nintendo Switch. And the word of mouth has been astounding. Certainly the genre isn’t for everyone, but sales have shown a strong appetite not just for a new Mario adventure, but a unique take on a tried and true genre. The rewards are being reaped for all the effort poured into this gem. This is a game that will easily sell later in life for the system both as a game on its own, and because of what it offers.

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The Future

The future is certainly bright for both Ubisoft and Nintendo, if nothing for strengthening the relationship between the two companies and the possibility of future franchise crossovers from both sides. As for Mario + Rabbids specifically, it has been new wind for the Rabbids as more detailed characters, and a new successful spinoff for Mario, entering the tactical genre.

The two major possibilities are more crossovers, perhaps letting Ubisoft take command with some of their specialised genres with Nintendo characters, or Nintendo doing the same in reverse. Certainly though, one can expect a sequel to Mario + Rabbids, when all the additional content into 2018 is said and done.

 

Frankly, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is fantastic. An idea so crazy that it was reviled on sight until the passion seeped out onto a stage and the world just stopped and stared: It not only legitimizes Nintendo’s trust in Ubisoft, and their talent to make incredible games, but also the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. This is a very meaty book.

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