Everything Is Fine at Crytek
Guys, everything is fine at Crytek, seriously. Sure, their employees have not seen a paycheck in a while, but company president and CEO, Yearly Cervix, has explained at length that not paying employees is all part of Crytek’s five-point plan to make the transition into becoming an online publisher of tree-to-play games. Granted, Crytek has had to massively scale down the size of their operations this week, but one is certain that this is all part of their plan to secure the future of the company.
This week has seen Crytek essentially slough off two of its international studios: Crytek UK and Crytek USA [one has got to love the sense of character and whimsy that Crytek instills in its external studios]. Crytek USA was largely comprised of former Vigil staff [of Darksiders fame], and had been working on Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age. Development of the game has now been relocated to Crytek Frankfurt, and the studio is to lose all employees save for a small team dedicated to the task of CryEngine support. Crytek UK on the other hand has been sold to Deep Silver, along with the rights to the Homefront series, thus securing the future of Homefront: The Revolution. Crytek UK was comprised of Timesplitters developer, Free Radical Design, which itself was comprised of Rare’s Goldeneye team. The studio has now been renamed to Deep Silver Dambuster Studios, missing a golden opportunity to resurrect the old Free Radical name, which still holds currency to many gamers.
“As we look to cement Crytek’s future, this strategic deal with Koch Media would allow us to continue with our ambitious goals to become an online publisher. With Warface, Arena of Fate and Hunt, we believe we have the perfect portfolio and teams to make that happen. We would like to thank all our staff – past and present – in both Nottingham and Austin for their contributions to the company, and we wish all the very best to anyone who may no longer be under the Crytek banner moving forward.”
The upside to this outcome is that Crytek might be able to finally pay their remaining employees, however, [given the fact that Homefront‘s original developer went out of business, Homefront‘s original publisher went out of business, and Crytek is only hanging on to solvency by the skin of its teeth], the potential downside of this arrangement may entail Deep Silver succumbing to the Homefront curse.
EA Partners with Microsoft to Repackage Older Games for EA Access
EA’s latest bid to transform the medium of gaming into a subscription-based service was unveiled this week, going by the name of EA Access, and who would not want to enter into a service-based relationship with the two-time recipient of the ‘worst company in America’ golden poo? The service essentially operates like Playstation Plus, if Playstation Plus limited itself to a handful of shitty EA games. This move actually makes a lot of sense for EA, seeing as they are a company that specialises in the production of iterative annual titles, which hold their value about as well as a newspaper. This way when a title is no longer selling EA is able to add it to their subscription program, and use it to secure a reliable annual revenue stream.
The service is priced at five dollars per month or thirty dollars per year, and the initial selection of games on offer consists of FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Battlefield 4, and Peggle 2. EA’s latest scheme has been lauded as offering tremendous value by the likes of Cnet and Destructoid, yet one party who is skeptical about the value proposition is Sony, who presumably wishes to avoid a scenario wherein every publisher has their own subscription service.
“We evaluated the EA Access subscription offering and decided that it does not bring the kind of value PlayStation customers have come to expect. PlayStation Plus memberships are up more than 200% since the launch of PlayStation 4, which shows that gamers are looking for memberships that offer a multitude of services, across various devices, for one low price. We don’t think asking our fans to pay an additional $5 a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer.”
Obviously there is an element of monopolistic self-interest which comes into Sony’s decision to tell EA to take a hike, yet the ability for publishers to create their own subscription services serves as a huge disincentive for studios to make their games available on Playstation Plus, so EA Access actually stood to detract from and compromise the experience and value offered to existing Plus subscribers. EA Access is something which stands to benefit the mindless thralls who are big fans of EA’s iterative franchises [yet not such big fans as to purchase these games when they are first released], yet the program appears to represent a negative value proposition to PS4 owners on the whole, ergo it is entirely appropriate that Sony should rebuff EA’s intentions. Regardless, EA Access and the Xbone are a match made in heaven, so one hopes that the Xboners enjoy having subscription access to old and awful games.
Nintendo Remains Deep in the Red
The release of Mario Kart 8 and a strong E3 showing has helped to bolster the sales of Nintendo’s beleaguered Wii U across a number of consecutive weeks, yet critically this was not sufficient to avoid posting another horrific result for the quarter: a ninety-seven million dollar loss. Given the modest hardware which powers the Wii U, it is absolutely unthinkable that this huge loss could be down to selling the console at a loss. More likely this simply represents the costs inherent in maintaining industry-leading development teams who are tasked with creating software for a console with low software sales.
The good news for Nintendo is that by the end of June Mario Kart 8 was determined to be an unqualified success, selling 2.82 million copies. The bad news for Nintendo is that Mario Kart 8 constituted fully sixty-four percent of Wii U software sales for the quarter, which came in at a paltry 4.39 million units of software. That is why Nintendo is hemorrhaging money. It also does not help that despite Mario Kart 8 mitigating Wii U system sales, system sales for the quarter were still relatively soft at 500,000 consoles sold. Nintendo is still sticking to their prediction that they will sell 3.6 million Wii Us for the year, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how this can happen. If Mario Kart 8 was unable to get the system selling in line with Nintendo’s expectations, then it is difficult to see how the release of Smash Bros. and holiday sales will be able to pick up all of the slack.