This week it has been revealed that the inevitable has finally happened, and Bowser has finally taken total control of the Mushroom Kingdom. OK, that is not strictly true, but it very nearly almost is. This week it was announced that Reggie Fils-Aime would be stepping down as Nintendo of America’s President and COO, to be replaced in both roles by Doug Bowser. Reggie has been a very complacent President, that is to say when he is not actively working to prevent Nintendo customers from obtaining JRPGs. He can be gregarious and knows how to roll with a meme, but the other side to that coin is that he utilises his affable facade to get away with some of the most obvious corporate lies in gaming. In short, he will not be missed by TDT. Doug Bowser is an unknown quantity, so it is worth giving him a shot. That said, he is a former EA man, so hopes are not especially high.
Bowser had this to say on the occasion of Reggie’s retirement:
It has been my great fortune to work with and be mentored by Reggie for four years at Nintendo of America. And rest assured, we will continue to build on his work to evolve and expand our brand, furthering Nintendo’s global mission of creating smiles. There are millions more of those to come.
To be honest this pretty much sounds like more of the same. This is even more apparent from Nintendo of Japan president Shuntaro Furukawa’s comments on the matter:
I really appreciate everything Reggie has done for Nintendo. Inside and outside our company, Reggie is known as an exceptional leader. We are grateful that he is leaving the business in good shape with strong momentum. While we will miss him and we wish him the very best in his retirement, we are also pleased to have such an able successor ready to step into that role. Doug Bowser and the rest of the team will ensure a seamless transition and continued momentum for Nintendo.
The message being delivered is clearly one of continuity. Doug Bowser is being hired to continue the work of Reggie. Nintendo of Japan were apparently very happy with the job being performed by Reggie, and they want their customers to know that they will be getting more of the same with Doug Bowser. It will be a seamless transition in fact. This is not to say that Bowser cannot do a better job. Despite having a similar corporate mindset to Reggie, that does not mean that Bowser will be similarly averse to JRPGS and Japanese content in general. His lies will probably be just as patronising though.
Microsoft to Become a Third Party Developer
Right now there are some very credible rumours that Microsoft is currently in talks with Nintendo to bring the Xbox Game Pass to Nintendo Switch. Microsoft never has the stomach to do something properly. They lack the gumption to grow an idea organically, and instead try to use their deep pockets to bypass anything even vaguely resembling hard work. They cut a cheque instead of paying their dues.
By swinging their big money-dick around Microsoft’s OG Xbox console was able to beat out Nintendo’s GameCube for second place in the sixth console generation. Then in the seventh console generation Microsoft were able to take first place for the majority of that generation – yes, the Wii sold more units of hardware, but game sales for that system completely flatlined, pretty much relegating it to an unofficial third place. Then the Xbox One released, and due to a series of comical fuck-ups Sony’s PS4 absolutely crushed Microsoft’s console right out the gates. Years later the Nintendo Switch was released and yet very quickly it has almost managed to catch up to the Xbone. The Xbone still has a modest lead over the Switch, but every week the Switch sells more games than the ‘Bone, and since Microsoft’s business model is based around licensing third party software this cuts pretty deep. The Xbone is a stagnating platform.
So Microsoft have taken two steps forward and one step back. Many other companies would take this in their stride and do better the next time around, hell, the Xbone is selling nowhere near as poorly as the Wii U, but to Microsoft this setback was unacceptable. Microsoft has no stomach to rebuild following a modest setback, no, they want to dominate every single time because that is what mega-rich companies do simply by dint of their deep pockets. This is not how the game industry works.
Console fanboys are usually the minority of console owners, with the majority of potential console owners being uncommitted gamers looking for the best deal currently on the market. Microsoft do not have the stomach to compete against Nintendo and Sony in order to attract customers to their hardware, and so right now they are looking at making the transition from a physical platform to a digital platform.
Right now they are in talks with Nintendo to release a Game Pass app on the Switch, but in the fullness of time they probably also plan to have similar apps on iOS, Android, Smart TVs, and even Playstation consoles. Access to all physical platforms means that they will no longer have to attract customers to their own physical platform, which means that Microsoft will no longer have to entertain the pretense that they are not an evil company, which sounds perfect for them. They can take a monthly tithe from anyone who is interested in the Haloes and the Forzas and then just focus on being evil, which is what Microsoft is good at.
Bioware Will Probably Close Down in the Next Year
It seems very likely that Bioware is about to end up in exactly the same situation as Lionshead found itself at the start of this generation. Lionshead was a studio which specialised in producing Western style RPGs. At its time of acquisition by Microsoft the company was fine with this, as they specifically wanted a studio to produce RPGs. But all things change, and eventually it became Xbox company policy to only produce ‘games as a service’ type games. Lionshead was tasked with making a ‘games as a service’ type game, but failed to produce a viable product, and the studio was subsequently shuttered.
Much like Lionshead, Bioware was acquired by EA because they were a popular development studio which specialised in producing RPGs. Much like Microsoft, EA’s business has shifted away from the development of single player games, and they now only want their subsidiaries to produce ‘games as a service’ type games. Now just like Lionshead, Bioware has produced and absolute stinker of a ‘games as a service’ type game, and if Anthem bombs on release, which seems likely, then Bioware will be left in basically the same position as Lionshead.
The reviews for Anthem are in, 42 of them to be precise, and the game’s metascore is sitting at a flat 60 out of 100. This makes Anthem Bioware’s lowest rated game, a full twelve points lower than the 72 out of 100 awarded to the much maligned Mass Effect: Andromeda – and Mass Effect: Andromeda bombed so hard that EA thought nothing of swiftly decommissioning the game’s developer, Bioware Montreal. If Anthem fails then EA will likely see to it that nothing remains of Bioware. This fact does not seem to be lost on Bioware employees, as the post mortem that Kotaku conducted in the wake of Mass Effect: Andromeda seemed to hint that employees were aware that the continued viability of the studio would depend on the reception of Anthem:
There are still small teams maintaining Star Wars: The Old Republic and piecing together the next Dragon Age, which was recently rebooted, but the bulk of BioWare’s staff in both Edmonton and Austin are now on Anthem. And there’s a sense among BioWare employees that the company’s future is inextricably tied to this game.
People close to BioWare, along with many other developers I’ve talked to in recent months, worry that commentary from some of YouTube’s loudest voices has eliminated nuance and made companies like EA seem like Disney villains.
Right now the game is living on borrowed time, and Bioware will have to hope that they can attract a large enough audience for it to be viable before EA loses patience and shuts everything down. It has happened before where a game [Destiny] has launched in a disappointing state, but was later patched into a more enjoyable product and went on to be very profitable. Destiny released to a Metascore of 76 out of 100 though, and it had quality Bungie gunplay underpinning the less than ideal content. By contrast Anthem‘s metascore is a full sixteen points lower, the graphics and flight mechanics are good, but the gunplay has been described as middling.
Bioware shooting mechanics have always ranged from mediocre to middling, but their games have succeeded on the past strength of their worlds and stories [which are largely absent from this release]. What this means is that Bioware have a whole lot more lifting to do than was ever the case with Destiny, but they are unlikely to attract enough of an audience to buy themselves a sufficient grace period to fix the game in the way that Bungie did. A mid-70s score might hurt a game, but a low 60s score will likely be sufficient to obliterate the game’s sales. It is the kind of score that even has diehard Bioware fans questioning whether to buy the game. Interest in the game has flatlined even before the negative reviews came in, and even if the reviews were very good the game might have still struggled to build its audience. The coming weeks will show us whether Bioware are able to defy the stars, but things do not look good for them. Rest in peace Bioware.