On the Road to Nowhere
This week Nintendo have been hard at work on their World Apology Tour (TM), with Satoru Iwata making a big song and dance about taking a fifty percent pay-cut for a measly four months, and then bowing to investors for a full three seconds – as though that is supposed to magically absolve him and his company of gross incompetence. In short, this week has played host to this year’s version of “prease understand” – and as far as contrition goes, this is somewhat less satisfactory than ritual suicide.
According to Iwata Nintendo made their poor choices because “[W]e’ve been preoccupied with a fixed idea of what a game should be like. The game industry is at a turning point amid new developments like the rise of smartphones” – and that is a fair point, because it is not like the gamiest and most conservative of the eighth generation consoles is currently making a mockery of the Wii U’s weekly sales! Nintendo also believes that the reason that the company has done such a poor job in marketing their gaming products is because marketing got divided between pushing the 3DS and pushing the Wii U [?!!] – because it is not like Nintendo have had experience in marketing multiple pieces of gaming hardware since 1989!
There is no cause for alarm however, Nintendo fans, because Nintendo has fiendishly devised a three-pronged plan to turn around their ailing business. The first part of Nintendo’s plan is to release a Nintendo app for smartphones – not one capable of playing games [or even mini-games] mind, but an app to advertise Nintendo products. Iwata admitted that it would be difficult [read: horrible] for people to use, but fuck it, it is going to see release anyway because it is what Nintendo’s investors asked for [Nintendo will tell themselves].
The second step in Nintendo’s cunning plan is to develop software to enhance the user’s quality of life through ‘non-wearable technology’ – for your health! Essentially Nintendo have decided that the reason that Wii Fit U has been selling like a dog’s bollocks is because physical balance boards are so last generation, and thus plan to develop a non-physical fitness gimmick in order to double down on what already is not selling!
The third and final step to Nintendo’s master plan is to make gamers realise that Nintendo’s Wii U gamepad is an absolutely indispensable gaming peripheral. To this end they will develop software which makes use of the gamepad’s NFC capabilities [because buying toys appeals to such a broad cross-section of gamers], release DS games on the Virtual Console [because DS games make a better case for the gamepad than any software developed expressly for the Wii U], and create a new ‘quick start’ menu which displays on the gamepad upon start-up [which should be a laugh, given the Wii U’s achingly slow operating system performance].
Nintendo’s predicament is delicious in that they brought it upon themselves, and not merely through their incompetence, but through their quickness to walk away in embarrassment from their former supporters in order to drink Kool-Aid with the Kool kids! Traditional Nintendo fans did not exactly propel the company’s fortunes to meteoric heights during the GameCube era, but they did serve as a reasonably solid base to continued relevance for Nintendo. When Nintendo found success with the casual crowd they did not attempt to walk a balancing act between their traditional supporters and their new fair weather friends, but rather they looked after the interests of the former while throwing the occasional bone to the latter – an approach which saw many gamers walk away from Nintendo. Now Nintendo would probably be very glad to have that solid base that they had during the GameCube era, yet many of those customers have taken their business to the competition. Worse still, Nintendo neglected to ensure that the Wii U had a strong line-up of enticing software at launch, all but ensuring that lapsed Nintendo gamers felt no sudden pang to return to the fold. Now their console smells like death.
Microsoft Looks to the Past to Govern Their Future
This week Microsoft have spent up big to acquire the dying star that is Gears of War for the dying star that is the Xbox brand. Epic Games must be as happy as a Motok at a barn-raising to be able to trade in this this donkey for cash-dollars to a creatively bankrupt Microsoft, who attribute much of their Xbox 360 success to the debut of the original Gears of War. Gears of War‘s success was initial and massive, yet the resolution of Gears of War 3, along with over familiarity towards the brand and repetitive gameplay saw Gears of War: Judgement sell a mere 425,000 copies during its first month on sale.
It seems dubious as to whether Epic would have wanted to resume the series over the course of the eighth generation, so it is probably a good thing for diehard Gears of War fans that Microsoft swooped in when they did. The series will still be overseen by new Microsoft employee and longtime Gears of War producer, Rod Fergusson, and will be worked on by Black Tusk Studios, who had to throw out the original game that they were working on in order to accommodate this aging series.
This is an acquisition which really serves as a testament to Microsoft’s creative laziness. The Xbox 360 era was all about Gears of War, Halo, Forza, and Fable, and now the Xbone era is set to be all about Gears of War, Halo, Forza, and Fable – they are serving up this dross like so many Happy Meals. Sony has been busily developing new series to supplement the old, while Microsoft jealously guards Gears of War, because that is all that they have ever known. Sadly for Microsoft however, Gears of War is looking increasingly like yesterday’s news. If Microsoft puts their marketing dollars behind the franchise then in all likelihood it will still sell somewhat successfully, yet it seems unlikely to shape the gaming landscape as it once did – people have begun to tire of knee-high walls.
Square Enix Lies About Tomb Raider Parity
Last week Lusipurr.com brought readers news that the frame rate of the Xbone version of Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition suffered heavily in comparison to the PS4 version, yet the intervening week has demonstrated that the differences are far more pronounced than originally expected. The frame rate is still largely as expected, with the Xbone version regularly dropping to a low-20s frame rate during fire fights and maintaining a 29.84 average frame rate to the PS4 version’s frequent 60fps performance and 50.98fps average frame rate, yet the Xbone version also comes replete with an assortment of further graphical compromises. It has been revealed that the Xbone version features many lower resolution textures, and frequently adopts a 900p resolution during cutscenes in order to maintain frame rate. Further, it has become apparent that the Xbone version uses a much lower quality of anisotropic filtering, and sports many of the game’s alpha effects [transparencies such as smoke and steam] at half resolution, or not at all.
In response to these findings Square Enix have opted to come out and compound their initial lie [of omission] that both versions were full 1080p by adding the much more blatant lie that the visual elements are exactly the same on a 1:1 basis.
“Both Xbox One and PS4 gameplay run at native 1080p, the assets from one platform to the other are the same as all source assets were shared 1:1 (textures, models, particles, etc.).”
This is clearly not the case, and the majority of gamers did not even have to wait for the Digital Foundry verdict to diagnose the vast majority to the Xbone port’s flaws, as they are visible to the untrained eye. Precisely why Square Enix/Eidos have decided to come out and blatantly lie about the quality of the Xbone port will likely remain a mystery, though, at a full $60 a pop, they may have figured that it would be a hard ask to get Xboners buying the game if they knew just how undefinitive Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition actually is on the Xbone console.