What happened: EA’s overlord of opinions (and, you know, Business Stuff) saw the writing on the wall. The industry entered its latest period of puberty a boy, and when it finally emerges, it’ll be Mothra. “Let’s be realistic,” he said. “Consoles used to be 80 percent of the industry as recently as 2000. Consoles today are 40 percent of the game industry, so what do we really have?”
What it means: Whether EA’s masterfully steering its ship through this storm or pulling a Titanic, Riccitiello at least has the right of it. Times are changing, and so is gaming. Hell, the Wii basically proved that the five-year hotrod race console cycle is going the way of the Dodo, so gamers are fooling themselves if they think the next Xbox and PS4 are going to charge in and save hardcore gaming from evolution’s brutal efficiency. Like it or not, survival-of-the-fittest rules the day. And as Riccitiello pointed out, iDevices crawled onto land, grew thumbs, and turned the gaming world on its head in the blink of an eye. Honestly, though, this doesn’t mean the industry’s output is getting better or worse; there’s just more of it. To quote a very wise man, “Game’s the same, just got more fierce.”
Well, assuming the hardcore sector continues to evolve apace. So it’s disconcerting to hear rumblings that Microsoft and Sony are hitting warpdrive on their new machines simply because Nintendo’s adding another member to its crazy, semi-dysfunctional console family. “I think it’s sending the message that the new transition is going to happen,” said Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. Our question: What new transition? This isn’t how the industry works anymore. Sure, we’re all for shiny graphics and quantum-giggleflop eyelash physics, but old habits die hard.
What happened: Australia’s ratings system finally grew up. There are still some kinks to work out, but at the national level, this thing’s a done deal. Now Australia will learn a shocking truth: Ubisoft’s Petz games aren’t the industry’s entire output. The actual figure’s closer to 65 percent.
What it means: This is an incredibly promising step forward. Years of setbacks made it seem like R18+ would always remain just out-of-reach, but what was once a daunting maze of red tape has now become refreshingly straightforward. Going forward, amendments to the reform guidelines must be considered, and then individual states will decide whether or not to accept the resulting set of guidelines. On the one hand, it’s taken far too many years to reach this point, but it’s still definitely a matter of better-late-than-never.
Granted, the move to roll the R18+ Katamari right over MA15+ is still kind of a slap in the face to the medium. Games aren’t limited to Dora the Explorer and Gears of War. There’s a middle ground, and removing options in the name of “clearer choice” for parents reeks of taking the easy way out. For now, it removes a roadblock between Australia and a real adult-centric sector of its gaming industry, but it’s also proof positive that there’s still plenty of work to be done.
What happened: We replaced all our burnt-out lightbulbs and bought adorable coats for our demon tentacles in preparation for the long, Darkness-less winter ahead. Yep, Jackie Estacado’s not-so-triumphant (unless you count waking up crucified in the world’s sketchiest hotel as “triumphant”) return has been delayed.
What it means: This, as per usual, is only the beginning. So long as the gaming industry continues to aim all its biggest guns at the fall shopping season, there will always be publishers that dive out of the way at the last second. In other words, expect more delays. A lot more. Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted 3, Skyrim, and their ilk have nothing to worry about, of course (except that they’re all releasing in, like, the same week), but games that have yet to master the subtle art of money printing will start dropping like flies. And then we’ll all still complain that there are too many games to play, but continue to whine that mobile and social games are killing our hobby.
What happened: Mega Man Legends 3 was announced as a game for the fans, by the fans. Then it got canceled. Capcom blamed the fans. “Ruh-roh?” You don’t know the half of it, apparent talking dog mystery solver.
What it means: Foremost, the blue bomber’s seen far, far better days. First, Mega Man Universe fell into a development black hole and never emerged, and now Legends 3 is nothing but an ugly memory. The worst part? Capcom was finally trying to do something interesting with its robot-master-mashing mascot. After years of plodding sequels and spin-offs of spin-offs, Universe and Legends 3 attempted to carve out their own niches. Then Capcom mega-canned them. And now? Silence. When next we see Mega Man, it may actually be 200X.
What happened: Our own Brenna Hillier – now confirmed lion-tamer and suspected President – grilled BioWare about all things FemShep. If you read only one thing this week, make it this. (Unless you are currently looking at a sheet of paper that reads “Cut these wires to disable the bomb.”)
What it means: BioWare may have seemed a bit cagey about initial promotional materials forcing FemShep out of the spotlight, into a Mass Effect relay, and to the other side of the universe, but it made a good point: without social media, FemShep’s rise to prominence probably wouldn’t have been possible. Yes, the “18 percent of everyone who plays Mass Effect plays it with a female character” stat was disappointing, but things are looking up. BioWare’s made a few missteps with non-heterosexual-male-centric content in the past, but it’s also been quick to dust itself off and turn things around. Here’s hoping future marketing for BioWare games in general – not just Mass Effect – continues down this path. Also, BioWare, if you’re reading: Elcor Shepard. Please, at least consider the possibilities. The wonderful, wonderful possibilities.