Interplay Resurrects Black Isle Studios
There is a lot of power in words. It is a rarely mentioned fact that words can be deployed to devastating effect to grant or withhold status, which itself proves much more ephemeral than it appears at first glance. The hollow and threadbare husk of Interplay provided ample proof of this when announcing the reformation of Black Isle Studios this week, a studio which has already been stripped of all of its valuable IPs before now, and one which will see no return of the alumnus which called it home during Black Isle’s late 90s hey-day.
Interplay boss, Herve Caen, this week stated that, “It really feels like getting the band back together”, which is an odd thing to say when the only returning member is the drum machine. Caen went on to claim that, “we’re seeing opportunities not available to us before. Given our unique position, expanding online and mobile platforms, and renewed interest in our proven properties, I see an incredible success potential for Black Isle Studios.”
Quite what Caen means by Black Isle’s “proven properties” is something of a mystery, given that every last one of them is currently owned by other companies. The lion’s share of their output utilised properties licensed from Wizards of the Coast, which includes the critically acclaimed Planescape: Torment. Meanwhile, Interplay has in recent years sold off the rights to the studio’s only wholly owned quality IP, Fallout, to Bathesda, who recently saw to it that Interplay were stripped of the rights to pursue the the development of a Fallout MMO, leaving them with literally and figuratively nothing left in their arsenal. So, what then is to be gained from molesting the remains of a cherished RPG studio? While the majority of game blog comments have been properly sceptical about the prospects of this announcement, there has nevertheless been a large minority of commenters who appear to be regarding this move with cautious optimism – a position which rests on no factual basis whatsoever. This one has imminent fraud written all over it. One would be inclined to eat his own hat if the coming months do not see a Kickstarter touting the development of a “spiritual successor” to Planescape: Torment. And hats are not for eats.
The Amazing Announcements of Square Enix
For months now Square Enix staff have been hinting that the gaming world has not seen the last of the well-received The World Ends With You property, which has created quite a stir. This likelihood was seemingly bolstered with the release of Kingdom Hearts 3D, which granted a major narrative role to the characters of the TWEWY universe. Finally, this week Square Enix launched a countdown site which to many put beyond doubt the fact that a TWEWY sequel announcement was imminent, owing to the site’s use of the TWEWY visual style and remixed musics from its soundtrack. It turns out that the countdown page did relate to a TWEWY announcement, specifically an iOS port of the 2007 DS original. Square Enix really are the masters of fan trolling.
This was not the full extent of Square Enix announcements however, as this week they also announced the pricing and availability of Final Fantasy Dimensions. Anyone with even a passing interest in Square Enix and iOS gaming is no doubt intimately familiar with Square Enix’s extortionate price-points on the platform, yet even someone well-prepared for SE gouging is likely to be shocked at the asking price of Final Fantasy Dimensions at thirty American dollars all up, or twenty pounds if you live in Her Majesty’s blighted land of Muslim holidays. At this point it really is quite difficult to understand quite how Square Enix is able to engender just so much fan loyalty.
Gamescom: Nintendo’s Wii U is Looking Decidedly Underdone for a 2012 Launch
With Nintendo’s Wii U thought to be mere months from its worldwide launch, Gamesradar has reported this week from Gamescom that the console is looking decidedly underdone at this late date. Side-by-side comparisons of Ubidrek’s Assassin’s Creed III reveal the PS3’s version to look significantly more refined, yet the visual prowess of the console is not the most concerning question plaguing the console, rather it is the system’s stability itself that should be of most worry to gamers. There have been myriad reports from Gamescom of the system overheating and crashing amid demonstrations of Assassin’s Creed III and Rayman Legends, which is an eye-opening occurrence scant months before the Wii U’s alleged launch.
The system’s control capabilities were also of concern to Gamesradar, with mention that the Wii U’s Pro Controller experienced severe lag, and was inoperable from distances further than three feet from the system, at which point it would make more sense to have the gamepad corded. Moreover, the makers of Sonic & Sega All-stars Racing confirmed that the hardware continues to be revised at this late date, and that they still do not know whether the controllers will feature rumble. On a more positive note, the Wii U’s tablet controller was confirmed to be working as advertised, yet there remains no one to have seen it function without first being tethered to Nintendo’s new console.
It is almost unthinkable that a console that is releasing in calendar year 2012 would not have its final hardware pinned down at this point, as a sufficient quantity of units has to be produced for the system’s launch. It is possible that hardware specifics have been locked down, and that Nintendo’s launch developers simply have not been made privy to the system’s final hardware specifications, yet if this is not the case then such a development would place the Wii U’s 2012 launch in some doubt. Alternately, Lusipurr has suggested that Nintendo may be content to create a deliberate scarcity of units in order to sustain demand, and thereby safeguard the RRP of the Wii U. After all, Nintendo has promised investors that the Wii U will not be subject to any near-term price cuts a la the 3DS. At any rate, one might suggest that both Nintendo and their fans would benefit from the company delaying the Wii U’s launch into the new year.