Yet Another Xbone 180
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Microsoft has perpetrated yet another 180 degree reversal of policy this week. After spending weeks reiterating the company line that the Xbone console would not ship with a complimentary headset, Microsoft has now committed a stunning about-face, leaving one to wonder what the console even stands for. Microsoft’s Xbone now occupies the very odd position of having supported two starkly different positions on virtually every policy detail of any note, which is no doubt making for some decidedly confused messaging to the prospective Xbone customers that Microsoft wishes to court. It seems very likely that many people will continue to believe that the Xbone is a DRM-constrained console that will not ship with a headset, due in large part to the Xbone’s own confused narrative.
Microsoft have also confirmed this week that their Xbone will not require multiple Gold accounts for family members sharing a console in order to access the Xbone’s expanded online feature-set, and this is just as well seeing as basically every online service will be inaccessible without one – regardless of whether such restrictions are justified or not. It has long been known that the Xbone will require a Gold account for players to be able to access services like voice chat and Netflix, but just this week Microsoft confirmed that a Gold account will also be required for the Xbone to be able to utilise its much-touted feature of recording five minutes of gameplay and being able to post it online. The Xbone is also set to require a Gold subscription for a feature known as OneGuide, which gives players the ability to stream TV content through their console.
The PS4 is also set to charge for online multiplayer when it launches, but will not require a Playstation Plus subscription in order to use services such as cross-game chat and Netflix, nor will one be required for the PS4 to record fifteen minutes of gameplay which may be posted online. Incidentally, fifteen minutes of gameplay also tends to be the approximate duration of ‘let’s play’ videos on Youtube, making the PS4 uniquely suited to the task. Further, free-to-play and MMO titles [such as Final Fantasy XIV] will not require Playstation Plus subscriptions in order to play online. At any rate, look forward to Microsoft next week announcing that their game recording feature will be free after all – because they are consistent like that!
Nintendo Pleads Exceptionalism
Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata has this week bemoaned the fact that the expectations of Nintendo fans are continually becoming “higher and higher” which has caused Nintendo some “challenges“, a sentiment not unlike Reggie Fils-Aime’s infamous “Nintendo fans are insatiable” quote. It appears to be Iwata’s belief that Nintendo games continue to become better and better, which is why jaded Wii U owners have become ill-content at receiving such pearls of gaming magnificence as New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, and fuck all else in the console’s first year on the market:
“I would say that the people’s expectations about what will come next from Nintendo is becoming higher and higher, so we are facing more challenges than ever – that’s true.
But it’s nothing new for Nintendo. Nintendo is a company that has never stopped progressing, and when it comes to the fan-base, of course, we have to sustain that, but we are always trying to expand that.”
Contrary to Iwata’s profoundly unrealistic belief in the company’s portfolio, the Wii U’s gaming library remains a barren wasteland with the exception of the cheap and cheery New Super Mario Bros. U [and its Luigi side-content]. The reason that he is facing “challenges” is because his company’s output is clearly not up to par, and the perfectly reasonable expectations of fans are not being met. If Iwata is labouring under the deluded belief that the hopelessly conservative Wii U game releases on the horizon constitute Nintendo game development scaling new heights of excellence, then he is likely to be sorely disabused of that fancy in short order.
In qualitative terms, the most interesting Wii U developments remain Platinum Games’ August/September release of The Wonderful 101 and Monolith’s 2014 release of X. In terms of games likely to actually shift units of the Wii U however, there is nothing on the horizon until 2014’s Mario Kart 8 and the blandly named Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U. Then again, perhaps it is unfair for gamers to expect any more from Nintendo, given that they do not wish to actually sell any more Wii U consoles until Christmas.
Bravely Default May Still See European Release in 2013
When Nintendo Co. Ltd. this week listed in their financial reporting that Bravely Default was coming to Europe in 2014, many of the people who were highly anticipating the game were understandably dispirited. This news stood to deprive not only Europeans, but potentially Americans also, as a delay in one region may have possibly led to a delay in the other, given the assumption that translation work is being carried out by Nintendo of Europe. Surprisingly, toward the end of the week this seeming delay was contradicted by a tweet from the official Bravely Default Twitter account. When queried about the apparent delay to the release of Bravely Default, the Twitter account unambiguously stated:
“The release of the edition in Europe is 2013.”
It is wholly possible that this particular Twitter account is operated by a junior employee without access to the most up-to-date information on the game, and this may be especially the case if it is indeed Nintendo themselves who are performing the localisation – yet it is equally possible that Nintendo simply got this wrong, as the list of release dates in question was authored by the Japanese arm of the company. Alternately, this could be a simple misunderstanding caused by one party referring to the calendar year and the other making reference to the fiscal year. At any rate, the release window for Bravely Default in both Europe and America is now completely up in the air.
In other Square Enix news, the company appears to have indulged in some creative accounting this quarter [albeit in a relatively transparent fashion]. Readers may remember when last quarter Square Enix posted a steep loss of twenty-one million dollars – well, this quarter Square Enix have posted the loss of a mere five million dollars, a result which would be heartening if not for the fact that they also racked up ‘extraordinary losses’ of 16.2 million dollars. ‘Extraordinary losses’ usually entail unexpected losses caused by natural disasters and the like, yet Square Enix appear to be using this heading in order to write-off their own self-inflicted losses incurred when Yosuke Matsuda went on a cancellation spree upon his ascension to the role of company president. Square Enix’s reasoning for this move is as such:
“SQUARE ENIX HOLDINGS CO., LTD. (the “Company”) hereby announces that it has booked an extraordinary loss for the three-month period ended June 30, 2013.
1. Detail of the Extraordinary Loss
In response to the latest environmental changes in the game industry, the Company has implemented a change in its development policy, and conducted a comprehensive review on work-in-progress game titles for the three-month period ended June 30, 2013. As a result, the Company has decided to book a loss on evaluation of content (approximately ¥1.6 billion) as an extraordinary loss.
2. Impact on Financial Results
Booking of the extraordinary loss does not require the Company to revise the forecasts of its consolidated financial results for the six month period ending September 30, 2013, and the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014.”
Extraordinary indeed! If Square Enix could but label all of their losses as being ‘extraordinary’ ones, then every quarter they could report all of their revenue as being one-hundred percent pure profit! Given Square Enix’s weak financial position, it is perhaps no surprise that after a generation of constant Final Fantasy XIII sequels, we are now to endure a generation of constant Final Fantasy XV sequels, as evidenced by their trademarking of “A World Of The Versus Epic“. Meanwhile the the co-director of Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy XII, Hiroyuki Ito, languishes making smartphone card games. Iteration ho!