Xbox Boss Departs on Eve of Xbone Launch
One is not privy to the designs and contingency planning of Microsoft, but surely it is not a happy omen for them when the head of their Xbox division departs for equally sallow pastures on the eve of a major hardware launch. The last time a console manufacturer lost its boss ahead of a major launch was when Sega dismissed Bernie Stolar as the president of Sega of America ahead of the Dreamcast’s launch – and we all know how that turned out. Not that one wishes to compare the Xbone to the Dreamcast, as, with any luck, it will remain viable for far shorter a period than Sega’s perfectly decent grey-white box of dreams [wishful thinking].
Xbox boss Don Mattrick has stepped down this week ahead of the launch of Microsoft’s Xbone. Mattrick, long credited with steering Microsoft’s game division onto the path of profit, was allegedly offered his pick of positions as either CEO of Zynga or Electronic Arseholes, seeing as he is the only man on earth douche enough to seamlessly transition into the shoes of either John Riccitiello or Mark Pincus. Mattrick has opted to go with Zynga, where he will allegedly earn 19.3 million dollars in his first year on the job, including both pay and stock options. This announcement was enough to see a beleaguered Zynga’s shares rise by five percent on Wednesday.
Steve Ballmer himself offered a glowing eulogy to Mattrick’s time at Microsoft:
“Since joining IEB [Interactive Business Group] more than six years ago, Don and his team have accomplished much. Xbox Live members grew from 6 million to 48 million. Xbox 360 became the No. one selling console in North America the past two years. We introduced Kinect and have sold more than 24 million sensors. We released fantastic games, and, most importantly, we expanded Xbox to go beyond great gaming to deliver all the entertainment people want – sports, music, movies, live television and much more.
The consoles are incredible all-in-one devices with built-in services that consumers love, including Bing, Xbox Live, Internet Explorer, SkyDrive and Skype. And, just as important, Xbox Games, Xbox Video, Xbox Music and SmartGlass light up Windows PCs, tablets and phones.”
Gamers can all thank Don Mattrick for enriching their lives with Bing, meanwhile, contrary to earlier reports, Mattrick’s empty position looks to be filled by Julie Larson-Green, the chief creative force behind Windows 8.
Lame Duck Nintendo Continues to Offer Excuses
The week began with a rather amusing interview with Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata being published, wherein he continued to offer up excuses as to why it is prohibitively difficult for an international purveyor of
children’s toys video game consoles to offer a product that is not crippled and cruelled by regional restrictions – a sentiment which rings particularly hollow given that Nintendo is the only company that is continuing to support such practices.
“From some people’s perspective, it might seem like a kind of restriction. However, we hope people can appreciate the fact that we’re selling our products worldwide [unlike the other two console manufacturers?]. There are many different regions around the world, and each region has its own cultural acceptance and legal restrictions, as well as different age ratings. There are always things that we’re required to do in each different region, which may go counter to the idea that players around the world want the freedom to play whatever they want.
I hope that game fans can understand that the industry isn’t doing this solely out of business ego, there are some reasons behind it [like money!].”
Apparently Nintendo is an industry of one – perhaps Nintendo’s entire management team is suffering from amnesia and still think that they are in the post-crash world of 1985? To be perfectly fair, this interview was conducted three weeks ago, before Microsoft’s dramatic about-face; yet the interview, surfacing when it did, has done an excellent job in illustrating just how out-of-touch Nintendo’s policies truly are. What makes Iwata’s weasel-words all the more bullshit, is the fact that Nintendo’s Gameboy, Gameboy Colour, Gameboy Advance, and DS were all region-free consoles, with Nintendo’s 3DS being the company’s first region-locked handheld. Nintendo now stands alone in their support of regional restrictions.
Double Definitely Not Fine Now!
Lusipurr.com has long been looking forward to the day when the industry sees its first high profile Kickstarter failure, and while after this week we will continue to wait for such a happy juncture, we are now just that little bit closer thanks to Tim Schafer’s Double Fine and the Kickstarter that kickstarted this whole sordid affair. It seems almost poetic that we are back to where we started before all the hype and bluster surrounding Kickstarter began; with Tim Schafer approaching gamers for alms, armed with naught but bad excuses and a sob-story.
This week Schafer has announced what everyone had already suspected – that the production of Double Fine Adventure [now Broken Age] has run out of funding, and that his genius fucking plan to fix this freaking mess is for Double Fine to sell the first half of the game on Steam Early Access in January, and then use the proceeds to pay for the rest of development. Schafer might consider renaming the project to Broken Game.
Lusipurr.com is proud to reprint in its irresponsible entirity Schafer’s annotated master-plan to get Broken Game back on track for Lusi-readers’ reading delectation [remember folks, gamers gave this man almost 3.5 million dollars!]:
“Hello, Backers of Adventure!
Those of you who have been following along in the documentary know about the design vs. money tension we’ve had on this project since the early days [Schafer managed to deplete a record amount of backer funding within the early days of the project?]. Even though we received much more money from our Kickstarter than we, or anybody anticipated [$400,000], that didn’t stop me from getting excited and designing a game so big that it would need even more money [this man manages the ENTIRE company!].
I think I just have an idea in my head about how big an adventure game should be, so it’s hard for me to design one that’s much smaller than Grim Fandango or Full Throttle [The vintage Schafer game, Full Throttle, is actually surprisingly short – the reason being that Tim went dramatically over-budget, and the entire middle of the game had to be cut!]. There’s just a certain amount of scope needed to create a complex puzzle space and to develop a real story. At least with my brain, there is.
So we have been looking for ways to improve our project’s efficiency while reducing scope where we could along the way. All while looking for additional funds from bundle revenue, ports, etc. But when we finished the final in-depth schedule recently it was clear that these opportunistic methods weren’t going to be enough.
We looked into what it would take to finish just first half of our game—Act 1. And the numbers showed it coming in July of next year. Not this July, but July 2014. For just the first half. The full game was looking like 2015! My jaw hit the floor [whoopsy-daisy!].
This was a huge wake-up call for all of us. If this were true, we weren’t going to have to cut the game in half, we were going to have to cut it down by 75%! What would be left? How would we even cut it down that far? Just polish up the rooms we had and ship those? Reboot the art style with a dramatically simpler look? Remove the Boy or Girl from the story? Yikes! Sad faces all around [Oh no! That must have been so bad for you, Mr. Tim Schafer!].
Would we, instead, try to find more money? You guys have been been very generous in the tip jar (thanks!) but this is a larger sum of money we were talking about. Asking a publisher for the money was out of the question because it would violate the spirit of the Kickstarter [Tim Schafer is the spirit of Kickstarter!], and also, publishers. Going back to Kickstarter for it seemed wrong. Clearly, any overages were going to have to be paid by Double Fine, with our own money from the sales of our other games. That actually makes a lot of sense and we feel good about it. We have been making more money since we began self-publishing our games, but unfortunately it still would not be enough.
Then we had a strange idea. What if we made some modest cuts in order to finish the first half of the game by January instead of July, and then released that finished, polished half of the game on Steam Early Access? Backers would still have the option of not looking at it, of course, but those who were sick of waiting wouldn’t have to wait any more. They could play the first half of the game in January [exalt the rebirth of Broken Game, saviour to all downtrodden indy devs who employ a mere several dozen staff]!
We were always planning to release the beta on Steam, but in addition to that we now have Steam Early Access, which is a new opportunity that actually lets you charge money for pre-release content. That means we could actually sell this early access version of the game to the public at large, and use that money to fund the remaining game development. The second part of the game would come in a free update a few months down the road, closer to April-May.
So, everybody gets to play the game sooner, and we don’t have to cut the game down drastically. Backers still get the whole game this way—nobody has to pay again for the second half.
And whatever date we start selling the early release, backers still have exclusive beta access before that, as promised in the Kickstarter.
I want to point out that Broken Age’s schedule changes have nothing to do with the team working slowly. They have been kicking ass and the game looks, plays, and sounds amazing. It’s just taking a while because I designed too much game, as I pretty much always do [and who’s fault is that?]. But we’re pulling it in, and the good news is that the game’s design is now 100% done, so most of the unknowns are now gone and it’s not going to get any bigger [imagine if Double Fine had entertained the crazy notion of drawing up a design document BEFORE they went cap-in-hand to Kickstarter…].
With this shipping solution I think we’re balancing the size of the game and the realities of funding it pretty well. We are still working out the details and exact dates, but we’d love to hear your thoughts. This project has always been something we go through together [so it is everyone’s fault now?] and the ultimate solution needs to be something we all feel good about.
In the meantime, I’m hoping you are enjoying the documentary and like the progress you’re seeing on Broken Age. I’m really exciting about how it’s coming together, I can’t wait for you to see more of it, and I feel good about finally having a solid plan on how to ship it [only sixteen months too late]!
Thanks for reading,
One hopes that readers will forgive this quote-tastic indulgence, but one feels that Tim schafer’s blithe attitude regarding his squandering of backer-funds is really something that has to be preserved in its entirety for the ages. This is the one single passage of text that we may [hopefully] be able to look back on in ten or twenty years time and say “this is why Kickstarter failed“. Tim Schafer’s gleeful lack of accountability is both perversely delightful and infuriating by turns. This man does not deserve gamer charity, and Double Fine is not a company deserving of support.