Sat, May 21, 2011 | 10:22 BST
The Weekly Wrap – Modern Warfare 3 leak, PSN’s return
UNLIMITED DRAGONS. That is what happened this week. Also, the apocalypse or whatever, we guess. Head inside for the major headlines from the last seven days.
What happened: Modern Warfare 3 sprung a leak the size of a Dragonpocalypse, but that was neo-future-eons ago in Gaming News Time. The real story here is Activision’s lightning-quick response, which dodged the usual industry pratfall of “we don’t comment on rumors and speculation” and stoked the hype train’s flames even further with teaser trailers and full acknowledgment of the game’s existence.
What it means: Leaks happen. A lot, actually. Typically, publishers cope with them by sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming a tune that’s equal parts obviously false and frightfully stuck in the past. And really, we have to admit that such a method holds great appeal. After all, flushing months of work and thousands of marketing dollars down the toilet because someone blabbed sounds like the business equivalent of a root canal performed by Wolverine and Edward Scissorhands. That is to say, highly unpleasant. But – in today’s leak-prone, miss-a-beat-and-get-left-behind world – it’s also sometimes necessary. Activision, at Kevin Butler creator Eric Hirshberg’s suggestion, bit the bullet and did what needed to be done. The publisher absolutely made the best of a bad situation, and that’s an extremely progressive (not to mention needed) mentality given the prevalence of Internet anonymity and unnamed, hopefully trench coat-clad “sources.” Other publishers take note: this is how it’s done.
What happened: After a long period of alleged death – not to mention vocal demonization by detractors – PSN was given a second lease on life via some form of holy magic. You know, like Harry Potter! Or that other guy. The online service also returned from the brink bearing gifts – specifically free games and extra PS Plus subscription time, among other things.
What it means: Foremost, PS3 owners can play online games again. That’s, you know, sort of a big deal. For obvious reasons, Sony’s taking its time with the PlayStation Store, which should nevertheless be back and reinforced with a laser defense grid next week. The free games and extra subscription time, meanwhile, are nice goodies, but unless they’ve been patched to include all sorts of “forgive and forget” propaganda, we doubt they’ll be enough to make gamers drop their pitchforks and torches. In the short term, Sony’s going to have a nightmarish E3 this year, and how it carries itself there will set the stage for the rest of the year. As for further out, who knows? Sony’s previous track record with this fiasco doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but the console-maker’s dug itself out of some downright Sarlaac Pit-esque holes before. And so, for your benefit, we’ve consulted our magic eight ball with this very conundrum. It says “yes.”
What happened: Valve mass-mailed the gaming press to narrowly dodge a bombardment of appointment-scheduling calls, emails, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, and intricate pieces of sky writing. The development titan announced that it’ll be an E3 no-show in the most literal sense; it won’t be “showing” anything.
What it means: Basically nothing. All Valve “showed” via appointment last year was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it snippet of Portal 2. However, it also piggybacked on Sony’s conference and made a number of rather large announcements. So – to everyone who suddenly decided Gabe Newell and co have decided to stop making games forever – you can breathe easy. We highly doubt Valve’s sitting this one out entirely. But if it’ll make you feel any better, we promise to relentlessly stalk Gabe during the show and ask him all sorts of incredibly invasive personal questions. We were planning on doing that anyway, but now it feels a bit less like a crippling mental illness.
What happened: While discussing the always red-hot topic of PC piracy, Fable III lead combat designer Matt West admitted that secondhand sales on consoles may outpace gaming’s greatest hive of scum and villainy over time.
What it means: It’s not exactly a New Thing to see a developer harping on used game sales. In many development circles, burning down a GameStop is seen as a rite of passage. However, such a direct comparison to piracy – a similarly all-consuming devourer of potential developer income – is very striking. Even so, piracy and second-hand sales are two extremely different things. For instance, piracy is, you know, illegal. Secondhand, meanwhile, is a perfectly acceptable result of a free-market economy. If you own an object, you’re well within your rights to sell it off or what have you. Used games are here to stay – at least so long as physical doesn’t entirely give way to digital, rendering the show Hoarders far less interesting (“He has two iPads in his empty, sterile pod room? Utterly filthy!”). What counts, then, is how developers and publishers react. So far, we’ve seen initiatives like EA’s Project Ten Dollar attempt to make used purchases significantly less attractive. Also, we have to imagine that some developers’ recent, slow-but-sure strides back into PC-centric development in part stem from this trend.
What happened: BioWare’s not messing around. Mere months after Dragon Age II’s debut, it’s already gathering a party to delve into the depths of Dragon Age III’s development.
What it means: We regularly claim to be unabashed fans of precisely two things: poetic justice and Dragon Age. This story has both! Happily, Dragon Age III emerged from the woodwork via a listing for environmental artists. That’s just… it’s perfect. Now if BioWare can just pass the series’ guards a few copies of “What Mages Look Like for Dummies/The Ostensibly Blind,” we’ll be golden.