The Xbone Is Betrayed As So Much Snake Oil
This week Microsoft, in all their dreadful hubris, have maintained that core gamers will buy anything, including the awful company’s nonsense PR spin. Microsoft shill, Phil Spencer, has indicated that his employer takes the custom of core gamers for granted, stating:
“We believe that if all you want is gaming, you’ll still pick us, at the end of the day. The super core guys, they will buy everything. They will buy all devices, but most people really only do buy one device, and if you’re going to think about what that one device is, we believe an all-in-one system that does the best games and TV and entertainment will be something that’s really unique.
We’re going to continue to innovate, continue to add new experiences, and make it better every single year. Right now we’re eight years into this platform — we didn’t have a single music video [at launch], we didn’t have any entertainment, and now we’re seeing half our usage globally driven from entertainment apps. And so we think the story will evolve and continue to get better over time.”
Goodness knows how Xbox customers ever got on with no access to music videos on their Xbox 360s. Perhaps they played games instead? The idea that what core gamers really need is the exact same content that is required by casual and bro gamers appears to have pervaded all levels of the company, with Microsoft’s own Carl Ledbetter [creative designer of the Xbone] flatly stating that:
“Xbox has always had something to say. It’s always been bold with a strong personality. Xbox One needs to serve our most loyal gaming fans and deliver unique entertainment experiences, so its design has to make an appropriate statement that reflects its capability as an all-in-one entertainment system.”
Given the muddled focus of the console, it is perhaps of little surprise that Microsoft are looking into debasing the currency of their XBL gamerscore by awarding achievements for the passive act of simply watching television through their glorified [and superfluous] cable box. And that is precisely what the console looks like: a cable box. Microsoft’s own Xbone propaganda has gone on to clarify the visual design philosophy behind the console: “The console and Kinect sensor are liquid black so they melt into the background when being used, allowing the content on your TV to dominate the living room.” This is a statement which bodes ill for console owners, given the Xbox 360s notoriously poor hardware durability issues. Xbone certainly manages to completely avoid attracting attention in terms of attractive visual design, so mission accomplished in that respect. The Xbox team really seem to be betting big that potential console owners actually wish for the line between gaming console and DVR device to become blurred, and yearn for console gaming to just “melt into the background“.
This is not to say that Microsoft are doing nothing in the console space however, as Phil Spencer has this week revealed that Microsoft have invested roughly one billion dollars into the development of exclusive games, along with securing exclusive third party DLC and timed third party exclusives. Given the relative paucity of Microsoft’s own internal development resources, one can probably conclude that they have likely spent more money on the latter than the former. It is kind of sad to see so much money being spent without actually contributing anything of positive value to the gaming market. Instead Microsoft are spending their money with a view to impairing the capacity for PS4 owners to be able to enjoy third party software on their console.
Things Looking Up For PS4 Following NeoGAF Twitter campaign
Earlier in the week things were looking decidedly sketchy for Sony’s upcoming PS4 on the DRM front. The state of their console had seemed dubious for a while now as the result of Sony remaining evasive on the question of used games, yet it was Geoff Keighley’s confirmation that Sony did in fact have a used game blocking solution up and running on the PS4 that spurred much of the gaming community into action on the matter. According to Keighley Sony were playing coy whilst evaluating the degree of blow-back that Microsoft received from gamers for the choking DRM regime they are attempting to foist on Xbone owners [with the internal consensus seeming to favour ditching the proposed DRM measures] – which led NeoGAF to formulate a logical response in the form of a respectful Twitter campaign informing key Sony personnel of the gaming community’s strong aversion to anti-consumer DRM.
The Twitter campaign sought to draw attention to the issue by utilising the hashtags: #PS4NoDRM and #PS4USEDGAMES, and experienced much in the way of early success, with the targeted Sony execs expressing their appreciation for the enthusiasm of Playstation fans. Gamer hopes were then further buoyed by the fact that several of the Sony executives started to joke about the DRM issue on Twitter by accompanying Tweets regarding Death Ray Manta‘s release on Vita with the hashtag: #DRMonVita. If key figures within Sony feel confident in joking about the matter, then it would seem likely the DRM issue has probably been decided to the negative. One final favourable piece of confirmation came in the form of a NeoGAF post by a Playstation insider, which simply stated:
“I do want to warn that these decisions do flipflop (as evidenced by what i posted earlier this week vs now). I’m not 100% on this. The people I know aren’t 100% on this. Some suit can come in and fuck the entire thing up. So I wouldn’t go running around screaming “HAHA SONY ISN’T DOING IT!” I just wanted people to know that as of now Sony has flipped their position in response to the shitstorm microsoft got hit with.
So don’t let the “just be quiet until E3” people sway you. If you don’t like something, say something. Twitter is amazing for being able to talk to people in these corporations. YOSP will even respond if it’s about something he can talk about (he is currently not responding to ANY questions about Used game… but you can bet your ass he is reading them).”
Kickstarter Doubles Down On Fineness
This week the outward manifestation of Tim Schafer’s ego cum development studio, Double Fine, has taken the sadly precedented step of launching what will be their second Kickstarted project before their first Kickstarted project has even made it to market. This places Double Fine in line with inXile, who managed to secure near-record levels of funding for their projects: Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera. With rumours now rife that Double Fine’s first Kickstarted project, Broken Age, has run out of development funds, Lusipurr.com’s own Lusipurr is right to point out that this move bares all the hallmarks of taking out a new credit card to pay off an existing credit card.
The increasingly troubling aspect to this latest move by Double Fine, is the sense Kickstarter is fast becoming the de jure preferred funding model for any independent game developer with a celebrity game designer working under their roof. The original rationale that companies like Double Fine were capitalising upon was the dubious folk wisdom that it is “impossible” for “games like these” to be made anymore, on account of publishers being unwilling to fund them. This just does not seem to ring true for Double Fine’s follow-up, Massive Chalic, on account of strategy games still being able to secure publisher backing, as evidenced by the recent release of Double Fine’s own Iron Brigade [a game that was directed by Massive Chalice‘s project lead, Brad Muir]. That does not seem to matter anymore though, as these companies have begun to regard fan funding as an entitlement.
On a more positive note, it would appear that Shadow of the Eternals, the Dyack-led reformation of Silicon Knights under the banner of Precursor Games, is all but dead this week – with the studio confirming that they have no likely alternate funding arrangements for pursuing the project. In order for Shadow of the Eternals to reach its ludicrous funding goal of 1.5 million dollars, the Kickstarter page would have to generate more money for each remaining day than has previously been generated on any day outside of that game’s launch, so, while it is disappointing to see so many people donate money to these frauds, it would seem that Kickstarter dupes are at little risk of being materially harmed by these clowns. When asked in a Reddit Q&A session about whether the game would still go ahead if it failed to reach its funding goal, Precursor Games COO, Shawn Jackson, responded:
“Since we do not have any other source of funding, it is unlikely.
We will entertain all options to make this game a reality because we believe in this project. However, we can’t be sure a publisher will share our vision for interacting with the community during development or this would work in the traditional model.”
When asked about Precursor Games’ astoundingly poor decision to not only hire Denis Dyack, but to also have him serve as the clear focus of the game’s Kickstarter campaign, Jackson replied:
“(a) We hired him because he’s a valuable asset to the team. (b) We intend to show people the real Denis Dyack through his interactions on the forums and videos. Denis has made many successful games and ran independent studio for over 20 years. (c) We didn’t anticipate a backlash because we actually know Denis as the person he is.”
An asset is only valuable if it contributes positively to the well-being of the company as a whole. Denis Dyack is toxic, and has obliterated any chance that Precursor Games had of reaching their unlikely funding goal. At any rate, it looks as though one can look forward to more stories about “the real Denis Dyack” before this doomed Kickstarter has run its course.