Double Fine Are Now Against Steam Sales and Indy Bundles
It is small wonder that Double Fine must approach gamers with cap in hand to seek alms in order to see their games through development, given the stunning breadth of business acumen that they have at their disposal. Apparently the industry’s least accountable Indy studio is now staunchly against Steam sales and Indy bundles [of which Double Fine has been no stranger in the past], because they view them as being part of a race to the bottom in terms of pricing structure.
Double Fine COO,
Metroid Bikini Justin Bailey, has this week outlined the studio’s opposition to sales and bundles on the basis that they put undue pressure on developers to lower a game’s pricing in order to boost sales, preferring instead to see Indy games adopt a premium pricing structure.
“I think what indies really need to watch out for is not becoming the new casual games. I don’t think that’s a problem from the development side. Indies are approaching it as an artform and they’re trying to be innovative, but what’s happening in the marketplace is indies are being pushed more and more to have a lower price or have a bunch of games bundled together.
Double Fine wants to keep indies premium, you see that in our own games and how we’re positioning them. We fight the urge to just completely drop the price. That’s one of the things we want to encourage in this program. Getting people to stick to a premium price point and to the platforms that allow you to do that.
Our biggest interest is to have a vibrant indie ecosystem, our thought is the best people to provide that are going to be the indies. We’d like to help make other indies successful, keep them independent, and have a place where they can go and in turn, help out other indies. That makes the ecosystem stronger.”
The reality of this malign force pushing Indy games to lower their pricing is quite simply business 101 – once game sales have stalled following release, it then falls to the parties concerned to increase the value proposition of said game in order to attract consumers who may not have had any intention of buying the title at full price. Double Fine are quite simply getting riled up about the existence of marketplace competition, which is a typically anti-consumer approach favoured by entitled smarmballs like Tim Schafer.
This is not to say that the so-called “race to the bottom” is not something to be concerned about. Any studio which develops a reputation for dropping their prices early will find it increasingly difficult to have their games sell at launch, but to then cite this as proof that sales and bundles must always be regarded with hostility is to fundamentally miss the point. It is not as though game sales have ever been able to damage the initial pricing of AAA games, and, on the contrary, in spite of their involvement in Steam sales the pricing pressures on AAA games always seems to threaten increasing the price at launch. Game developers would do well to protect the pricing of their wares for perhaps their first four to six months on sale, yet there comes a time when game sales will hit a point of diminishing returns, at which juncture Steam sales are a fantastic way of promoting additional game sales. It really matters very little that Double Fine seem reluctant to engage in traditional industry competition, seeing as they are very much the odd man out in this regard. One fully expects Double Fine’s conduct to mark them as hypocrites some time in the near future.
EA Apologises for April Fools Tweets Mocking Wii U
Apparently society’s inability to take a joke has now deteriorated to the point where a spot of levity is bound to draw condemnations even on April 1st, a day widely recognised for its tradition of japes and tomfoolery. Then again, it was perhaps not the smartest move to publicly ridicule a potential partner when they are occupying Nintendo’s current doldrums – and especially not when the jokes in question serve to make an indisputably valid point about how badly Nintendo fucked up on the design of the Wii U’s hardware. Nonetheless, that is precisely what happened on April Fools day when EA’s Frostbite Engine Twitter account launched a three joke hilarity strike on Nintendo’s ailing console:
“Good news, we have finally fixed and optimized our ‘netcode’. Uses quantum entanglement for Zero Latency connections. Exclusively on #WiiU.
Frostbite will power #HalfLife 3, coming out summer 2014! #WiiU exclusive.
Frostbite now runs on the #WiiU since it is the most powerful Gen4 platform, our renderer is now optimized for Mario and Zelda.”
Of course, being the bureaucratic nightmare that it is, it was not long before these tweets were deleted from the account by EA, and Peter Moore apologised for the content of the tweets, denouncing them as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘stupid’. Unacceptable, stupid, and [inversely] true.
“Our apologies to partners @NintendoAmerica & fan @FrostbiteEngine ’s poor attempt at April Fools not condoned by EA : unacceptable/ stupid”
The temporary existence of these tweets is absolutely fascinating. Not because they have opened our collective eyes to to the failure of Nintendo’s Wii U hardware, but because it informs us an awful lot about the current culture of EA, and the prevailing attitudes toward the Wii U fostered therein. In that sense this situation is very similar to Microsoft’s Adam Orth debacle, which is to say that when a particular sentiment becomes normalised within the culture of a particular work setting, workers often seem to become blinded to the potential ramifications of expressing this view in an external setting. From this we can glean that EA is not only not making games for the Wii U, but rather views the Wii U as something of a punchline to a joke. That being the case, one truly wonders at the extent to which this mindset is reflective of the mindset of third party developers as a whole. It is all very bad news for the third party prospects of Nintendo’s Wii U.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Collection Outsells Lightning Returns
When Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Collection outsold Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII in Japan at the end of last year people spoke semi-jokingly about the game’s prospects of beating a new mainline entry in the Fianal Fantasy series on a worldwide basis – this is no longer a joke. The sales of Lightning Returns have stalled at approximately thirty thousand units shy of a million, while a HD collection of decade old games has gone on to smash through the million unit mark and demonstrate that there is still significantly more interest in the Final Fantasy series than recent sales would suggest.
The combined sales of the PS3 and Vita versions of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD collection currently sit at 1.09 million units sold, which contrasts very favourably with the 0.97 million units of Lightning Returns sold across PS3 and Xbox 360. When Final Fantasy XIII initially released the PS3 version heavily outsold its Xbox counterpart, yet only by a ratio of about 2.5:1. This time around the PS3 version of Lightning Returns has outsold its Xbox counterpart by a margin greater than 5:1, making that version of the game the most significantly under-performing aspect of the game’s release. Interestingly, this calls into question the wisdom of Square Enix’s ongoing support of the Xbone console with titles like Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III now that the Xbox crowd seems to have soured on Square Enix games, and the Xbone itself is off to initially sluggish sales.
In all fairness to Lightning Returns, it is priced at twenty dollars more than Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Collection, meaning that in pure dollar terms Lightning Returns is still the bigger entertainment launch of the two games. Also, it must be said that Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Collection features the ability to cross save, meaning that people who really love the game [like Lusipurr] are able to buy both versions of the game, artificially boosting sales that way. At any rate it is truly surprising to see the game enjoying so much support thirteen years after its initial release on the PS2.