Sat, Jul 02, 2011 | 13:58 BST
The Weekly Wrap – Sony’s shuffle, violent games law fails
Keeping with the spirit of the week, VG247′s going free-to-play. We’re selling Pat’s beard via microtransactions. News, however, is free. Catch it all after the break.
What happened: Sony shouted “change places,” and execs scattered every which way. Or maybe everyone fought to the death using old prototype PS3 banana controllers. We’re not really sure how it works over there. Regardless, former SCEE head Andrew House took the reins to SCE’s entire international operation, and Kaz Hirai dove for the comfy beanbag marked “chairman.” Ken Kutargai, meanwhile, came up short and stormed out, mumbling “Man, who needs those guys anyway? My perfectly rendered ducks are the only ones who understand me.”
What it means: According to the Internet, hackers took a boot to Sony’s precious hideaway, and now – like a bunch of ants – execs are dashing around to pick up the pieces. Problem is, Sony’s not a purely reactive ant hill; it’s carefully structured company. As such, our friendly neighborhood Rob Fahey put to rest any notion of post-apocalyPSN shenanigans. The short version? Sony’s clearing out its old guard of engineers-turned-execs in favor of silver-tongued masters of one almighty language: business. After the bleeding-edge hotrod that is the PS3 stalled at the starting line, it’s not at all surprising.
Certainly, the prospect of savvy, sweet-talking businessmen taking over where – at least, stereotypically speaking – honest, hard-working console-makers once ruled doesn’t spark the nicest gut reaction. On the other hand, the PS3 – to this day – is riddled with user-unfriendly annoyances (Installs! Firmware updates! The slow erosion of your ability to love!), so we’re looking forward to a focus on something a bit less obtuse.
What happened: If you’re reading this website, you probably don’t think that videogames are Satan’s latest attempt at tempting your children to become awful delinquents who watch PG-rated films and sneak out after 7:36 PM. But some people do, and one of them once played a robot from the future whose defining personality trait was murder. The world is a strange place. Anyway, the whole Katamari of clashing ideals and agendas rolled into the Supreme Court, which finally shot the darn bill down. For now, anyway.
What it means: If this bill had passed, it’d have set the gaming industry back so many years that it’d probably have been devoured by a dinosaur. In essence, it would have allowed certain games to be equated with the likes of pornography, which – for obvious reasons – wouldn’t fly at the majority of US retailers. And if, say, Wal-Mart’s not going to give your game the time of day, then you may as well put the thing out of its misery long before its abysmal sales become the source of yours. No, M-rated games wouldn’t have been outlawed, but money talks, and this bill would have given it a comically oversized megaphone. In short, thank goodness for the First Amendment.
Better still, protection under the First Amendment should – barring some Phoenix Wright-worthy loophole – prove powerful enough to keep the gaming industry safe from further attempts at government “regulation.” After all, videogames now occupy the same hallowed legal halls as books, movies, and television. Singling them out for “objectionable content,” then, is to stir the hornet’s nest and pick a fight with everybody. Granted, where there’s a will, there’s a way. For now, though, folks like senator Leland Yee have no choice but to harmlessly walk away grumbling about “rights of parents” and limiting their ability to actually, you know, parent in the same sentence.
What happened: Capcom dropped a Raccoon City sized bomb when it confirmed that Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D lacked the ability to delete save files. In response, retailers like EB Games Australia refused to let the game infest their shelves altogether. Meanwhile, pissed-off gamers – somewhat fittingly – pissed all over the game, turning its Amazon review section into an ugly mess. Capcom then did an awful clean-up job with an explanation that attempted the “woooo, technology is confusing and hard” angle on a crowd of tech-savvy Internet geeks.
What it means: Is Capcom declaring war on the second-hand game sales market? The Internet seems to think so, but there’s another side to the story that warrants consideration: The Mercenaries 3D is kind of a half-assed product. It’s a bite-sized minigame appetizer for Resident Evil: Revelations’ main course, and boy does it show. It’s entirely possible that – in the process of pushing this thing out the door – Capcom simply didn’t care enough to include a crucial feature. The game’s absurdly barebones in every other way; what’s to say the same quick-and-dirty philosophy didn’t rear its ugly head here?
Regardless, retailers completely flipped, which just goes to show how utterly reliant on second-hand sales that market can be. After all, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D isn’t even a particularly significant title. Put simply, we don’t imagine Modern Warfare 3′s waking up and frantically hugging each of its money bags after dreaming of this game. But that didn’t stop EB Games, GameStop, and HMV from treating it like a ticking time bomb seconds away from exploding on their shelves.
What happened: That email you recently received stating that your credit card info, address, and beloved pet cat had all been released onto the Internet’s back alleys by a band of power-mad hackers? Yeah, you can thank these guys for that. LulzSec spent 50 days as the gaming industry’s new boogieman. Then the shadowy organization abruptly descended, well, back into the shadows. More shadows than it previously had, though – just to be clear. By our calculations, it could very well have doubled its shadow count.
What it means: Well, evergreen online force-to-be-reckoned-with Anonymous claimed to be picking up where LulzSec left off, but so far, the so-called “Anti-Sec” movement has yet to ripple back into the gaming world. For now, then, it’s back to business as usual after hackers ruled the headlines for months on end. We highly doubt, however, that this is over. It may not be LulzSec or Anonymous, but the gaming industry’s proven itself an easy target, and 15 seconds in the spotlight – ill-gotten or not – are hard to resist. Hopefully, though, LulzSec’s tear was enough of a kick in the pants to ensure that the gaming industry doesn’t get caught with its guard down again – or at least, not to this degree. On that front, only time will tell.
What happened: After a long period of coy mystery mongering, Bungie finally took the wraps off its Aerospace program. In a nutshell, it gives awesome indie games a chance to shine – instead of being crowded out by social and mobile titles with marketing bucks to spare.
What it means: This is all kinds of interesting, but gamers pretty much wrote it off as “Not Master Chief on a guitar-powered rocket-cycle. Next!” For one, it’s a major developer nearly assuming a publishing role for smaller developers, which – taking Activision into account – creates some sort of weird Russian matryoshka doll scenario. For another, this seems like a backdoor entrance into the mobile and social space for a triple-A dev like Bungie, whose resources are currently focused full-steam-ahead on a larger game. Meanwhile, many major developers are still sleeping on both spaces despite their obvious enormity, so taking initiative by helping out smaller, quicker teams will put Bungie on the map and miles ahead of the competition.
Also of note: hardcore gamers’ cynicism toward mobile and social gaming is pretty much notorious at this point, but a few nudges from revered sources like Bungie might change that. And really, most “gamer’s games” that light up App Store sales charts do so on brand power alone (or, in Gameloft’s case, shameless theft). Bungie’s program, on the other hand, promotes a more quality focused scene – at least, assuming it can draw an audience. Fingers crossed, anyway.