Each week of gaming news is a beautiful snowflake. Oh, Kinectimals demo and Rock’s interest in a new Doom movie, let us count the ways. Also, here are some other things.
What happened: Via some form of electronic time travel wizardry, the details of Game Informer’s next big scoop escaped onto the Internet milliseconds after being announced. We don’t question these things anymore. At any rate, Mass Effect 3’s getting in touch with its RPG roots, bringing back all sorts of familiar faces/face-like-appendages, and skipping over multiplayer for now.
What it means: After Mass Effect 2 went all Rambo and Dragon Age II brutally murdered our ability to love, many began to wonder if BioWare was attempting to shy away from its more in-depth RPG sensibilities. This, however, seems to suggest otherwise. It’s also nice to see that multiplayer’s out of the picture for the time being. It’s not that we don’t want it, mind you, but we’d much prefer that BioWare focus everything on a satisfying crescendo to Shepard’s space opera instead of bouncing back-and-forth between that and coming up with a creative way to pun “Krogan” into a killstreak. (We were thinking “Krogannihiliation.”)
What happened: EA: “We’re making a new SSX.” Fans: “Yay!” EA: “But it’s this gritty thing. There’s also a flying squirrel suit.” Fans: “Boo!” EA: “Wait, no. Did we say ‘gritty’? We meant, uh, look! Bright colors!” Fans: “Using our considerable mental faculties and verbal eloquence, we have collectively considered your offering and ascertained a verdict. Which is all to say: yay!”
What it means: SSX: No Longer Deadly Descents seems to be aiming for a sweet spot smack dab in the middle of gritty survival and over-the-top zaniness. From what we can tell, the name change isn’t indicative of a real shift in the game’s development. Rather, it’s a slight rearranging of priorities. The Deadly Descent mode is, after all, still a major part of the package. It remains to be seen, then, whether these two disparate elements go together like chocolate and peanut butter or chocolate and fish. As people who’ve lost many a friend by way of never shutting up about SSX, our fingers are definitely crossed for the former.
What happened: EA CEO John Riccitiello’s a man who knows what he wants. Right now, it’s pretty obvious: he’s hoping to mount Call of Duty’s head on his wall. So this fall, he’s going on a little hunting trip. His weapons: Battlefield 3 and more money than you could ever imagine. Go ahead, try. Nope, still not enough.
What it means: A couple things. For one, big-budget videogame marketing – like the rest of the sector – has been getting bigger and more extravagant for years, and it doesn’t look to be stopping. And while we’re all for planting our face in a giant vat of popcorn and watching some promotional fireworks, we can’t help but feel a little disappointed. After all, Riccitiello made no bones about: Battlefield 3 has been “designed to take [Call of Duty] down.” Publishers have this strange obsession with beating Call of Duty by being Call of Duty, and that’s a war without a winner. Franchises stagnate (or even regress), and customers get to choose from an army of “me-too” clones. We’re all for big explosions and bigger budgets, but if they ultimately put the triple-A sector in a position where creativity is too much of a risk to be viable, then maybe it’s time to rethink this approach.
What happened: GameStop didn’t leap aboard the tablet bandwagon so much as it boldly defied societal conventions by becoming the first retail chain to drop down on one knee and marry a bandwagon. (Their children will be little iPads with wheels.) Similarly, the rumor mill spat out a juicy piece of gossip in the form of a potential Sony tablet that might be PlayStation-certified.
What it means: You can bandy about your “but it’s just a big iPhone” argument all you want, but the fact is, people like tablets. (Also, look at it this way: tablets are big smartphones in the same way swimming pools are big bathtubs. The extra real estate makes a pretty damn huge difference.) At any rate, two major players appear to be throwing their substantial weights behind the craze, although really, what Next Big Thing isn’t Sony supporting these days? (Smartphones? Xperia Play. Motion control? Move. Etc, etc.) GameStop’s comment about “immersive” tablet games is also interesting – if only because of its myriad potential meanings. Obviously, something like Infinity Blade would probably fit the bill – especially considering GameStop’s “higher price” line – but Swords and Sworcery is also incredibly immersive, but for different reasons. At any rate, we do love staring intently at tiny and mid-sized rectangles, so we look forward to seeing what comes of this. We do, however, fear the notion of “exclusives” in the inevitable Tablet War to come. Tablets cost more than consoles. We’d rather not have to pony up if we can avoid it.
What happened: Apple’s apparently plucked either one or two major employees from the traditional gaming industry’s over-ripe vine: former Nintendo UK PR head Rob Saunders and Activision UK PR big-wig Nick Grange. The dainty white glove of war, it seems, has been gently drawn across the face of gaming as we know it. Apple’s done playing around.
What it means: Between this and Apple’s recent insistence on crashing the gaming industry’s biggest parties (see: GDC and E3), we think it’s pretty safe to say that Apple fully understands just how huge of a force games (especially those of the mobile variety) have become. Change is afoot, and Apple stands to gain the most from it. Some traditional companies – Sony, for instance – seem to be attempting to roll with the punches, but others like Nintendo are holding onto their old ways for dear life. We can’t honestly say we know exactly where all of this is going (our crystal ball doesn’t get the best reception), but we’re sure as hell going to enjoy the ride.