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The Weekly Wrap – 3DS hits skids, Ubi DRM “succeeds”

Saturday, 30th July 2011 11:01 GMT By Nathan Grayson

It’s been kind of a slow week – is what we’d be saying if we were compulsive liars. While the summer game drought snoozes on, news is stealing the spotlight and hurling it into the sun. Here’s what it all means.

Heavy global 3DS price cut confirmed as sales stiff

What happened: Nintendo finally got knocked off its cloud, and it hit the ground. Hard. No, it hasn’t hit rock bottom and it’s certainly not six-feet-under, but you don’t need to be a brain surgeon, rocket scientist, or rocket brain to see the writing on the wall: slashing one-third of a device’s price after only a few months does not bode well.

What it means: Errant VG247 fifth Beatle, fourth Musketeer, and third best-located (for reference: Steph – awesome horse farm, Pat – in a secret underground sky volcano) Rob Fahey pretty much killed with his blow-by-blow analysis. The gist: the price was far too high relative to everything from iPod to PlayStation friggin’ 3, marketing was incredibly narrow and didn’t do it any favors, and – of course – we’re not in pre-App-Store land anymore, Toto. Then the PS Vita ruthlessly took aim at 3DS’ price advantage, and it was sink or swim. In other words, no more treading water for Nintendo. Without a doubt, Nintendo’s approach to the 3DS’ launch was haphazard and soaked in the retch-worthy musk of arrogance. Turning things around is going to be a tall order.

Worse, we have to take issue with perhaps the only argument in 3DS’ favor: core games, more depth, etc. We don’t buy it. Mobile gaming has been quietly growing its own crop of core-tilting titles – and though they may not be up to snuff with dedicated portables just yet, they’re getting there. Between ports of titles like Final Fantasy Tactics, ambitious Oblivion imitators like Aralon: Sword and Shadow, and gobs of interesting indies (Machinarium, Emissary of War from a former BioWare lead, etc), we simply can’t add our voice to that anti-core chorus. Sure, the control method may not be as well-tailored, but it’s good enough. And all other factors considered (price and convenience being chief among them), “good enough” will more than suffice for most.

Ubisoft says its DRM “is a success” due to reduction in piracy

What happened: Ubisoft’s reviled “always on” DRM reared its ugly head yet again – first with Driver: San Francisco, and then in a scare involving From Dust. Predictably, PC gamers were pissed. So, how can Ubisoft possibly justify what appears to be a dogged war against common sense, happiness, and bunnies? Try “a clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent online connection.” Ruh-roh.

What it means: Until we see some hard numbers, you won’t see our skepticism monocles popping off our faces. But even if Ubisoft could definitively prove that it took the wind out of pirates’ sails and – just to make us happy – put Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series out of our misery, we still wouldn’t approve. In what crazy topsy turvy Bizarro Land is it OK to consider something a “success” when a large contingent of your customers despises everything you stand for? Capcom hasn’t been on much of a hot streak lately, but at least they had the right of it on this issue: If your fans start rallying against you, you find a new way of doing things. You don’t just stick your fingers in your ears and then wave your alleged “success” at their expense in their faces. This is simply common sense: If you rub your customers the wrong way, they’ll bite back.

THQ Q1 – Net loss of $38.4M, Red Faction shelved

What happened: THQ had another rough quarter, so it did some house cleaning. With a hammer. Red Faction’s less-than-desirable results stuck out like a sore thumb, so THQ took a big swing right at the franchise’s foundations. Goodnight, sweet destruction engine. And flights of Ostrich Hammers sing thee to thy rest.

What it means: Red Faction’s another victim of the triple-A transition period, and a chilling reminder of how quickly you can swing from overnight success story to over, done, down, and out. For big-budget franchises, a thinning of the herd now seems inevitable. If it’s not a megaton hit, it’s only holding you back. When one wrong move can mean a company’s slow (or disturbingly quick) demise, there’s not any room for second chances. THQ, especially, seems to be learning the hard way. If it’s any consolation, your precious Master Chiefs and Call of Duty dudes aren’t going anywhere. Right now, it’s a good time to be incredibly big or incredibly small. If you’re in the middle, though? Yeah, turns out those vultures aren’t flocking to you simply because of your charming personality.

Mass Effect 3′s FemShep almost certain to be blonde

What happened: BioWare’s FemShep popularity contest ended up being more of a blowout. As of now, blonde FemShep is winning by a Reaper-sized landslide, commanding nearly 30,000 Facebook “likes.”

What it means: Diversity is dead, Barbie’s cruel influence has corrupted everything you love, blah, blah, blah. No, not really. We’ll miss redheaded FemShep, but this is hardly another Reaper plot to end the universe. First off, bear in mind that male Shepard’s default design isn’t exactly Eyecatcher McIndividuality. He’s an actual, factual bald space marine, for crying out loud. These are default designs after all; essentially, they’re blank slates. Hell, they generally end up encouraging people to customize their characters. As BioWare told us, 83 percent of Mass Effect players customize their Shepard.

Which brings us to our next point: customization. In this age of personalization – be it in social networking, music services, or even your morning coffee – games are embracing customization options in a big way. If you don’t like your character – if it doesn’t represent your background or who you are – change it. The world’s a gigantic, incredibly diverse place. The only way to really cater to everyone is to let them do it for themselves. We’re not saying that game designers should take this as an excuse to ignore everyone who isn’t white and currently wearing Axe bodyspray, but things aren’t as dire as they may seem. A default character design is hardly representative of a game’s entire direction.

EA responds to Dragon Age II Steam disappearance, blames Valve’s “restrictive” TOS

What happened: Mommy and daddy kept fighting. Shortly after Dragon Age II’s “Legacy” DLC made its way into the wild, the game proper mysteriously disappeared from Steam’s virtual shelves. Except there’s really no mystery here – no convoluted conspiracies or “aha” moments. Valve’s new terms of service are to blame, plain and simple.

What it means: Except not, because there’s a lot more to it. For one, EA’s now looking to “to work out an agreement to keep our games on Steam.” Really, though, both sides are being overly controlling to the detriment of their customers. EA’s just trying to look like the knight in shining armor while Valve keeps its cards close to its chest – just like it always does with everything ever. So EA pipes up first, blames mean old man Newell, and then promises to fix it all. Really though, both companies are equally at fault, and gamers are the ones suffering for it. Sadly, this is just another byproduct of a gaming world ruled by increasingly proprietary networks and communities. Steam, Origin, Call of Duty: Elite, Battle.net, and their ilk – separate, but hell-bent on doing things their way and their way alone.

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6 Comments

  1. NinjaMidget

    Nathan, your writing style is just plain awesome:

    “secret underground sky volcano”

    Wonder what goes on inside your brain! In other news, great sum up of the week!

    #1 3 years ago
  2. TheWulf

    Of course, what Ubisoft doesn’t mention is that whilst piracy numbers may be down, sales figures show less sales than before the use of DRM due to less sales to PC users. Ubisoft doesn’t seem to be too popular at the moment and almost every PC gamer I know of is just skipping over their games.

    And a line that essentially says “PC gamers are filthy pirates.” from them isn’t going to do their popularity any favours. Their stockholders are going to have a rude awakening in this regard.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Telepathic.Geometry

    Nice write-up Nathan. Hats off.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. hitnrun

    “A clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent online connection.”

    i.e., your game sucked and no one played it.

    Less disparagingly, this post explains everything you need to know about piracy and DRM. Short version: pirates and customers are different markets. You have no one to blame but yourself for low sales, and pirates have no one to blame but themselves for increasingly casual- and console-oriented AAA games.

    And of course, commenting on DRM is not complete without reiterating: it does not work. At all. Pirates can download any Ubisoft title day-and-date. Therefore, if authenticating via a broadband connection has a negative connotation with piracy, there are other factors involved (see link).

    #4 3 years ago
  5. blackdreamhunk

    wow publishers looking to screw pc gaming over how they can I bet million that Microsoft and Sony is be hide it!!!!

    even EA wants to screw you up!

    EA: We can remove your purchased game in Origin

    If you scour through the internet, you might find a handful of articles describing how evil EA is as a gaming corporation. Well, maybe this is the latest reason you can take account for.

    Looking at the fifth line of EA’s Terms of Service, it has been carefully stated that:

    “We reserve the right to change and update Content and Entitlements without notice to you. If you have not used your Entitlements or Account for twenty four (24) months or more and your Account has associated Entitlements, your Entitlements will expire and your Account may be cancelled for non-use. Once you have redeemed your Entitlements, that content is not returnable, exchangeable, or refundable for other Entitlements or for cash, or other goods or services.”

    Origin is a carbon copy of Steam, that is brought to you by EA. And their newly launched marketplace involves purchasing items, in which in this case, video games. So, if you comparing the TOS, and using the service to buy your games, you can get an idea that EA will delete what you have been buying after 2 years. Provided that you didn’t use ‘em within the time range.

    Now, tell me Battlefield 3 fans, did you buy something with your hard earned money just to lose it in the end?

    http://myona.com/2011/07/31/ea-we-can-remove-your-purchased-game-in-origin/

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Phoenixblight

    @5

    Most DIgital retailers have this clause in the TOS. D2d, Origin, Onlive all you have to do is login, so if you don’t log in within 2 years they delete your account. Moral of the story take 2 seconds to log in. Except Onlive, they lease their games for 3 years so you have to rebuy it after that point.

    #6 3 years ago

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