What happened: Love. Loss. Danger. Passion. A scene in which Jackie Chan punches a number of people and then apologizes about it because that is the true essence of comedy. Wait, no, the opposite of all that: console wars. But it may as well have been the first thing, because that’s how people treat it.
What it means: Depending on who you talk to, Microsoft is still “winning,” which – in this case – means about as much as it does when Charlie Sheen says it. That is to say, this console generation doesn’t have (nor does it need) a clear “winner,” and that’s a good thing. Instead, we’re seeing a neck-and-neck marathon that’s forcing everyone to at least try to diversify (see: Kinect and Move, etc), which means that buyers are the real “winners” in this particular battle. Obviously, we’d like to see this trend continue, but Microsoft’s odd lack of, well, anything for 2011 is a bit worrisome. Here’s hoping someone at Microsoft HQ realizes they forgot to push the giant red “MAKE GAMES” button, says “d’oh, silly me,” and gets the whip cracking on those two guys who tighten up graphics on level three again. Without them, this industry is nothing.
What happened: After years of half-committing to the inevitable digital future, GameStop finally realized it liked its heaping stack of cash enough to put a ring on it. In what probably wasn’t an impulse buy, GameStop bought Impulse, Stardock’s thoroughly broken-in digital distribution platform.
What it means: Competition is rarely a bad thing. For a while, however, Steam’s status as king of the hill was pretty much set in stone. Now, though, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting. After all, that smoking crater where your local mom ‘n’ pop game store used to be ought to tell you something: GameStop plays for keeps. Second place simply isn’t an option. Let’s not forget, however, that Valve is as crafty as it is well-entrenched. In the long run, it’ll be one hell of an arms race, and both storefronts will benefit. On top of that, this only solidifies PC gaming’s return to the spotlight, which – among other things – means more exposure for some of the most wonderfully creative developers in the business.
Metacritic ditches plans to assign scores to developers
What happened: Metacritic thought it’d be a good idea to rank people. The entirety of human civilization disagreed. Unsurprisingly, Metacritic backed down.
What it means: Well, had this actually become a common practice, developers’ entire careers could have ended up hinging on a freaking number. “Oops, you’re a 67. We don’t hire your kind around here.” On top of that, the whole system for assigning scores in the first place was incredibly flawed, identifying individuals based on the results of collaborative efforts. See the problem there? Fortunately, Metacritic did, and its games editor was very frank and forthcoming about it. All told, we can’t help but admire Metacritic’s goal – to give credit where credit’s due in an industry coated with unclaimed blood, sweat, and tears – even if its execution was way off the mark. Really though, this also provides a good opportunity to take a step back and examine the meta score system in general. Yes, it provides a convenient snapshot for shoppers short on both time and money, but is it a substitute for being properly informed? Of course not. It’s just a shame that much of the industry seems to have forgotten that.
What happened: Sony Online Entertainment definitely didn’t make it out of this week in one piece. As part of a streamlining process, the Everquest creator pointed 205 people toward the unemployment line and gave espionage MMO The Agency the “no Mr. Bond, I want you to die” treatment. Sadly, the game obliged.
What it means: Building up steam in the MMO market is extremely hard. Even more difficult, however, is establishing any sort of staying power. MMO players are a notoriously fickle bunch, but that bridge goes both ways. Sure, they’ll jump ship to your game without a second thought, but they’ll jump right back as soon as they pulverize your launch content and get bored. As time passes, the market only favors established MMOs more and more, as they’re better able to grow and evolve over time. It seems, then, that major players like SOE have a challenge ahead of them: adapt to new business models or start making cuts. SOE, unfortunately, chose the latter.
What happened: Rovio’s Peter Vesterbacka fired back at Nintendo, placing a slingshot-borne Disagreement Bird right between the Japanese giant’s eyes. The gist: mobile games aren’t some giant asteroid hurtling toward the industry. However, if console developers don’t start making games worth their hefty price tags, they’ll still end up extinct.
What it means: Regardless of your thoughts on Angry Birds, it’s hard to deny that Vesterbacka makes some good points. Today’s mobile games are filling the gaps that lumbering big-budget giants can’t, and it’s not surprising that larger publishers like Nintendo feel threatened by that. Vesterbacka, however, pretty much hit the nail on the head when he said, “Is that our fault? No, that’s their problem. There is no reason why, when you do digital distribution on console, you couldn’t do frequent updates. It’s just a legacy way of thinking.” As a result of things like that, mobile games aren’t killing consoles. Rather, they’re forcing console developers to be better, smarter, and faster. Sorry Nintendo, but how is that bad for us again? We don’t really follow your argument.