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ESRB Rating Implications – Player Vs. Developers

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Player –

As a younger player I always thought of the ESRB implimintation as something that was oppressing the creativity and innovation uniquely associated with  video games and its players. One of my favorite franchises in the arcade renaissance was Mortal Kombat. Despite my enthusiasm, parents and just about any adult I met during this time seemed to think my opinion was largely unimportant in how I viewed Mortal Kombat and other video games at the time. Make no mistake Night Trap and Mortal Kombat were not the only games getting public and political heat, nearly every “gamer” and “developer” during this time was being belittled and ashamed publicly. Times have sense changed and video games do not hold the same negative connotation they use to, largely because all the studies that have been published to scapegoat and vilify games have failed. Thanks in part to the passionate and active internet community that supports and protects the video games industry from all corners of the world. Personally I enjoy video games that push the boundaries of society and ask harder questions for the gamer to personally answer for themselves. Video games have been and still are much different than movies, music, and books. While there is a tremendous push in the video game industry to make more AAA games cinematic in appearance, it is important to look at some of the important milestones games have made in the past and build off those accomplishments. The ESRB must be considered a tipping point for when video games deservingly entered the stage of politics and in light of scrutiny held on to industry independence. I am proud as a gamer of how far the players, developers, and the industry as a whole has come sense these times.

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Developer –

The ESRB is much different to me now, I do not view it as an oppressive system but as the contractual bridge that keeps very real and depressing restrictions and limitations on games federally. Thankfully there are so many avenues that games have entered now that it would be nearly impossible to regulate them any more than the ESRB already does. It is very important for parents to have a basic understanding of the themes and struggles their child may experience while playing a game and right now they can. I always advocate for parents to watch some small gameplay videos or look up user reviews before purchasing a game for their child, but that is the parents job not the developers. The ESRB enforces consumer awareness and has continually lowered the ability of minors to obtain inappropriate games every year. With the threat of federal regulations looming, all the major game publishers at the time including Acclaim, EA, Nintendo, and Sega, formed a political trade group to debate self-regulatory frameworks for assessing and rating video games. This cooperation between bitter business rivals paved the way for all future video game development, while protecting all developers for the forseable future. Developers now have a choice of targeting certain ratings to be placed on their games and have a neutral party to send them back any critical areas that might have been overlooked. I must admit though paying fines for easter eggs seems like a shady and under the table kind of deal. Perhaps in the future the ESRB will find a more savory ways to communicate with developers regarding this area of production. I think the ESRB offers the perfect amount of limitation for developers and has bred true mastery from those who abide by its regulation.

catch me on Twitch for more walkthroughs, comedy, and discussions http://www.twitch.tv/dirksteel

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DayZ Hits 1 Million Sales

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The one-time Arma II mod turned standalone game DayZ continues to steamroll the world of PC gaming. Developer Dean “Rocket” Hall just announced 1 million sales in 4 weeks – at $29.99 a copy, that gives Dean “Rocket Hall” and his team $29,990,000 (minus Valve’s cut) to play with. Not bad for a game that isn’t even close to finished.

“We’re just blown away with the success of it,” Hall told Polygon in an email. “We obviously knew that there was strong interest in the concept, but weren’t sure whether that interest was just ‘hype’ or whether it would actually translate into real sales. I remember when we finally pushed the button, I had this moment of panic when I wondered if many people would really buy it.”

Sons of Big Bucks: Metal Gear Solid 4 and the Video Game Economy

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Despite its reputation for over-delivery, Metal Gear Solid 4 challenges the player precisely because of what it leaves unsaid. Previous MGS games provided contradictions in message and action that created an exciting tension. They vilified war while valorizing warriors, told the player to kill and then dispensed rewards for not killing, required sneaking only to force discovery through cutscenes.

MGS4 falls mostly silent on these fronts. It offers few, if any, opposites to reconcile. While we have no way to know whether or not these silences are deliberate, we find suggestions in MGS4’s reliance upon a “war economy” context that the omissions have a purpose. This purpose is hardly insular or navel-gazing but relates uncomfortably close to the conversations about ultraviolence stemming from this year’s E3 as well as the trend toward the “gamification” of non-game activities.

Let’s take a closer look.

Substance -> Subsistence -> Indifference

The Metal Gear series prides itself on its unique flavor of stealth gameplay, and its approach to Stealth Espionage Action has evolved over the past 25 years. Action games rarely teach us to handle enemies with subtlety, so each game has had to train its players to sneak rather than to fight.

Earlier Metal Gear games use punishment to enforce stealth. Get seen in the original Metal Gear, and Snake won’t be coming home. Remaining unseen here does not imply a pacifist’s touch. The first three games in the series don’t care too much if you kill… only if you kill too loudly. Metal Gear Solid comes closest to acknowledging a bloodless run in its end-game ranking system, as the highest rank in the game, Big Boss, only becomes available with minimal kills.

Metal Gear Solid 2 changes this formula by rewarding the player for non-lethal stealth rather than enforcing stealth through punishment. End-game goodies such as the stealth suit and infinite ammo items require holdups rather than simple game completion, and you can’t holdup a corpse. To this end, it gives the player the M9 Beretta tranquilizer gun which puts enemies to sleep temporarily rather than permanently.

Metal Gear Solid 3 adds to this reward-based enforcement of stealth by giving the player more non-lethal tools, most notably CQC. By joining MGS2 and incorporating non-lethal stealth into its game design, it effectively creates a double game. Both MGS2 and MGS3 require different strategies depending on how lethally you play, thereby creating the sense that lethal Snake and non-lethal Snake actually have distinct characteristic differences.

Narratively, thematically, and interactively, then, non-lethal gameplay has become a heavily consequential element of the Metal Gear Solid experience. The choice between different playstyles contributes to the sense of contradiction and tension noted before. The games are exciting because they are not merely pacifistic or hawkish but both at the same time.

Spot ArtMGS4 dispenses with this contradiction entirely. Throwing back to MGS1’s sole recognition of pacifism via end-game rank, MGS4 offers fewer clear rewards for playing non-lethally. Each player can acquire almost any end-game goodie through other means, whether through the password system or by merely purchasing them from Drebin. MGS4 is also the first game to supply players with a catalog of emblems unlocked for different playstyles, diverging from previous games by encouraging violent and non-violent playstyles equally.

More disturbingly, though, it offers no clear punishment for killing either. MGS4 communicates its ambivalence to the player almost from the start. After surviving a tutorial sequence that sees Old Snake equipped with a pilfered AK and a Stun Knife, the player encounters Otacon’s Metal Gear Mk2. MGS2 and MGS3 opened by equipping the player solely with non-lethal sidearms; MGS4 presents both options at once as Otacon gives Snake both a lethal Operator handgun and Mk22 tranquilizer. When fighting the Praying Mantis PMC soldiers during the following action sequence, Old Snake’s choice of firearm does not matter. The battle is just as easily won by killing at it is by knocking out enemies.

A third option exists, of course. Old Snake can forego the moral question and slip through combat unnoticed, but this creates extra difficulty when encountering resistance and militia fighters. If Old Snake doesn’t participate in combat, they won’t trust him, making his forward movement more difficult. Through these means, MGS4 doesn’t punish players for lethal combat, yet it does punish players for avoiding conflict entirely. It doesn’t matter what you do to the PMC soldiers, but you’d better do something.

MGS4 renders Snake’s handling of the BB Unit bosses moot as well. Players can receive the Solar Gun, an easter egg from Kojima Productions’ Boktai/Lunar Knights series, after non-lethally defeating the BB Unit’s Beast forms. However, the individual soldiers still die whether Snake finishes their human forms lethally or not.

As if MGS4’s moral silence on killing weren’t troubling enough, the game also makes the gains from helping resistance fighters dubious at best. Helping rebels in the Middle East and South America does little more than convince them not to shoot Snake. This is more to Snake’s benefit than theirs since most players, when entering the resistance fighters’ ranks, take the opportunity to help themselves to the militia’s ammo and healing items.

MGS4 makes Old Snake’s alliance with the militias further one-sided when PMC platoons repeatedly destroy the groups whom Snake helps. In Act I, Snake helps the resistance fighters gain ground slowly, the sounds of flak and shrapnel ribboned with group cheers of “We did it!” Ultimately, however, they are decisively murdered by the BB Unit, after which a nursery-like corporate chime announces that the proxy battle has been settled.

In Act II, Snake contributes more dramatically to the militia’s cause as he rescues POWs, infiltrates enemy bases, and sabotages communications equipment crucial to the PMC’s operation. Snake and the resistance fighters part ways during the militia’s assault on the PMC’s main base. The outcome of that fight becomes clear during Snake’s escape atop Drebin’s APC. As our heroes gun through the areas previously traversed, we see not a single resistance fighter — only PMCs remaining in their roost.

Spot ArtMGS4 complements its narrative tones of futility with Drebin’s role as representative of the “war economy.” Drebin himself is a morally indifferent figure, in his words “neither enemy nor friend.” He sells arms to PMCs and resistance fighters alike, and he acts anonymously, not even owning his name. Hundreds of near identical “Drebins” across the world share his occupation and identity. His only distinguishing feature is his license number, 893. He is a “green collar,” one who profits off war without having a stake in the outcome, and he rightly identifies Old Snake as a green collar in turn.

Drebin and Old Snake cement their relationship in a Faustian deal. Drebin will outfit Snake with ever more powerful weapons in exchange for Snake’s footwork in retrieving guns from the battlefield. Snake scavenges; Drebin profits; Snake gets paid in materiel.

Through Drebin Points, MGS4 further enforces its indifference toward player choices between life and death. It doesn’t matter whether a PMC soldier falls dead or chemically dosed; what matters is that he drops his gun for Snake to collect. Likewise, though Snake must aid the militia for his safe passage through their territories, Drebin Points decrease the value of an individual soldier’s life. Even though Snake needs the militia itself for his mission, individual militia troops are worth more to him dead than alive because he can harvest their hardware. MGS4 communicates this element most powerfully after the BB Unit erases the militia near the end of Act I. Snake and the player are not invited to mourn their late comrades’ passing; rather, they are invited to trundle over the corpses and gather guns.

The sum of these parts gives MGS4 a moral texture very different from previous games in the series. It doesn’t matter whether or not Snake kills, but he should fight PMCs for his own advantage. The causes that he aids while fighting the PMCs are ultimately lost causes, while Snake has even less attachment to the humanity of individual soldiers since their deaths are literally his profit.

Spot ArtIt is an uphill struggle that ends not at a summit but a drop-off cliff. There’s no way out of the fight, and there’s no way to preserve the illusion offered in earlier games that Old Snake — or the player — is a killer with a heart of gold. MGS4 reduces us beyond soldiers to something worse, something we cannot truly respect: mercenary graverobbers.

Drebin and the Video Game Economy

Many players note (with displeasure) the changed pacing that occurs during Act III. The adrenaline combat highs of Acts I and II disappear in favor of the softer visual tones of humid Eastern European nights, after which the human power struggles disappear completely. PMCs and resistance fighters alike fade away, leaving behind inhuman Dwarf Gekko and less-than-human Haven troopers. This design decision becomes more intelligible when considered in the context of MGS4’s theme of indifference and the “video game economy.”

Little is more characteristic of a Metal Gear Solid title than turning game content into a commentary on video games themselves. In this regard, at least, MGS4 is no different from its forebears. Its design choices become more consequential when they feed into MGS4’s meta-commentary on video games. MGS4 uses Drebin Points to establish a “video game economy” in order to manifest, through game design, the narrative’s “war economy.”

We recognize this “video game economy” intuitively. We receive points as rewards for specific actions, and we exchange these points for further access to the video game. It’s the same system of exchange that underlies games as diverse as Final Fantasy 12 (with its License Grid) and Resident Evil 4 (with its weapon upgrades).

MGS4 uses cues typical of the video game medium to signal when we have performed rewarded actions. Prior to meeting Drebin, the player sees a tally of acquired ammunition on-screen whenever Old Snake picks up a weapon; as well, the player hears the traditional item pick-up sound effect. However, this interface changes after meeting Drebin. We see notifications not only of the type of ammo collected but of how many points that pickup earns. The item-pickup sound effect is augmented with extra chimes, as well, as MGS4 happily chirps every time we complete an action that earns points. We even get a special extended chime when we acquire an especially valuable weapon.

Spot ArtThese elements reinforce the correlation between the video game and war economies. While we immediately recognize the point ticker and sound effects as video game communications, we also recognize the point ticker as a Receipt of Good Exchanged. We hear, in the reward chime, a cash register’s jingle.

MGS4 truly begins its meta-commentary on video games after Act III when Liquid Ocelot takes the Sons of the Patriots nanomachine system offline. When he does so, state soldiers, militia troopers, and PMC employees literally cannot fire their guns. Without the SOP system, there is no war. Without war, there is no war economy. Yet the video game economy remains. Drebin’s narrative role as a weapons supplier should logically disappear since no one can buy weapons. His only customer is Old Snake — the player — whose line of credit comes not from the narrative but from the “video game economy” itself.

MGS titles prior to MGS4 use video games as a mediator between the player and their narrative universe. Sometimes, as in MGS2, the distinction between the video game and the narrative — the window and what we see through the window — collapses. We see such a collapse midway through MGS4.

Spot ArtMGS4 makes this transition with a clever sleight of hand. Act IV is an extended meditation on the fact that the MGS series is, at base, a video game. We open with an emulated return to MGS1’s Shadow Moses Island. By identifying this emulation as Old Snake’s dream, MGS4 suggests the onset of self-awareness through subconscious means.

Through flashback sequences back in the main game, MGS4 begins rewarding Drebin Points for actions that are more clearly interactions with the video game rather than with the fictional world. When Old Snake picks up weapons from the battlefield and sells them to Drebin using the Metal Gear Mk2 as courier, MGS4 dispenses Drebin Points for interacting with the virtual reality. Logically, Old Snake should receive no payment for remembering experiences from MGS1 during his return to the Shadow Moses heliport, yet MGS4 rewards the player Drebin Points simply for enjoying a reminiscence about an older video game within the current video game. The rationale of currency exchange through a “war economy” more overtly becomes the exchange rate of a “video game economy.”

Act IV’s combat also detaches from the established war economy. Dwarf Gekko replace human PMCs as Snake’s primary enemies. These targets are decidedly more video game-like than the PMC or militia troops. Dwarf Gekko are ciphers without personality, little vectors of movement that the player needs to gun down. They are stripped down video game fodder reminiscent of the crystal targets from MGS1’s and MGS2’s VR Missions. Haven Troopers likewise predominate as video game-like enemies. Before Act IV, they appeared previously as targets to take down indiscriminately during Act I’s ambush in the hotel, Act II’s stalking sequence, and Act III’s bike-and-gun chase. Each sequence forces the player to confront them as targets that must be taken down without the same kind of equivocation as is possible toward PMC and militia troopers. They serve the same role during the fight against Crying Wolf in Act IV and during the entire Outer Haven sequence.

Spot ArtAs cyborgs, their nanomachines force an immediate disintegration of their bodies and armor upon death. While this design choice fits their narrative role, it also emphasizes their identity as video game rather than narrative targets. Traditionally, video games do not waste memory space by preserving the on-screen representations of destroyed targets. While the bodies of dead human characters during previous acts ultimately disappeared, they did so subtly in order not to break the illusion of corpses heaped upon a battlefield. Haven Troopers disappear with more flamboyance. They flare blue, catching our eye’s attention, and making us more aware of them as video game targets that disappear after defeat as is traditional.

MGS4 continues this trajectory until its climax fistfight atop Outer Haven. Following the Screaming Mantis fight, a ghostly projection of Psycho Mantis calls attention to the player’s physical hardware. He observes the lack of a memory card and even comments on whether or not the player uses a DualShock3 or Sixaxis controller. Old Snake becomes overwhelmed with Dwarf Gekko, cipher enemies, right before Otacon destroys the architecture for the video game economy itself.

Spot Art

Coda

Taken as a whole, MGS4 uses its remarkable departures from traditional series themes to achieve ends that are entirely characteristic of the Metal Gear Solid series. It denies players the usual tension underlying the decision to kill or not to kill, and it couples this omission thematically with the “war economy.” It uses game design to express the “war economy” through the “video game economy” by giving both the same form: Drebin Points. Finally, it strips away the war economy altogether, leaving the player only the “video game economy” of scored points until the shell that houses the video game economy — the AI system — dissolves.

MGS4 does not merely advance an indifference to the value of human life. It calls attention to the means by which we become indifferent to human life.

Parting Shots

We come, then, to the hardest question: so what? How do these observations, however close or distanced from creative intention, apply beyond the virtual world of their birth?

The way that MGS4 encourages gun-lust echoes a dominant face of contemporary game design: “gamification.” Gamification refers to the decision to reinforce people’s actions with piecemeal rewards that produce a feeling of artificial accomplishment. It is a Pavlovian trap — one that we love to fall into.

Gamification appears well outside video games. Organizations assign point systems on everything from commission-based sales to improving an individual’s health to buying soft drinks. Walk into any gas station convenience store, and you’ll likely encounter dozens of instances of gamification from purchase reward points that you’ll register online to social gaming perks that accompany snack sales. This is gamification. It gets people to participate in activities that they otherwise wouldn’t. The rewarders generally don’t care about your hoard of points, however, and they’re more interested in what your participation in the “game” creates — revenue.

It is easiest to observe what others do, though, without seeing how we rhyme the same actions. Video games themselves become gamified when we add secondary prizes on top of whatever metric the game uses within its own code. Achievements and player Trophies act as incentives to get players to complete games they otherwise wouldn’t touch twice. It works, too! Don’t think that I earned a Platinum trophy for Shadows of the Damned because I was having a good time. Several of my friends will buy video games specifically to plump their Gamerscore, will play ultimately forgettable games like Burger King’s Sneak King simply for the Achievement points alone.

Spot ArtGamification gets people to buy games that they otherwise probably wouldn’t buy. Drebin points get MGS4’s players to kill and betray NPCs that they otherwise wouldn’t notice. Both, in parallel ways, fuel a “video game economy.”

During this year’s E3, Warren Spector gave increased legitimacy to concerns that video games have become not overly violent, but overly cruel. Violence in video games does not necessarily correlate with violent actions, but something seems off when video games offer scenes of sadism and cruelty as a reward for playing well. These concerns only focus on what these video games feature. The conversation does not yet consider that the gamification of games — the gamification of virtual cruelty — will be how we, as gamers, agree to participate and make those goals our own. Hunting Trophies and Achievements, we can look away from both the experience and the representations of violence that video games provide, much as Old Snake and MGS4’s players set aside prior concerns of the morality of killing in the search for Drebin Points.

To wrap up: Sigmund Freud, looking at the rich hoarders who created wealth disparity in Victorian Europe, famously identified the hoarding instinct as “anal retentive.” The desire to grab and keep money, in other words, was the adult version of an infant’s refusal to poop. This suggests more than the idea that the discontent of the 99% could be assuaged by providing the 1% with laxatives. It openly calls the stuff we hoard waste, filth, merde.

In gaming and consumer cultures increasingly defined by Gamerscores and Trophies — invented incentives to keep us chugging through MMOs and mediocre games — we might do well to ask ourselves what Old Snake does not: why are we hoarding and to what consequence?

https://i1.wp.com/www.1up.com/media/03/9/4/8/lg/539.jpg   James Clinton Howell

James Clinton Howell is an insurance customer support specialist with a variety of passions. He has an MA in Poetry from the University of Southern Mississippi, owns and runs the Japanese-English translation company DELTAHEAD Translation Group LLC, and serves as editor for the online literary journal Town Creek Poetry. His poems have appeared in the Journal of Truth and Consequences as well as The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol II. He has written extensively on the Metal Gear Solid series for PlayStation: the Official Magazine and provided localization support for MGS4 and MGS2: Digital Graphic Novel. He translates German, Old English, and Old Norse, and he is a Cisco certified network engineer.

His current video game projects include an annotated video walkthrough for earning the FOXHOUND Rank in Metal Gear Solid 3 as well as a farewell vidcast to Metal Gear Online. He publishes on YouTube under the username ShockleyHaynes. He lives in Chattanooga, TN.

Up At Noon : New Batman Arkham City: Harley’s Revenge DLC Footage

Zone of the Enders Sequel Confirmed

During a promotional event for the Zone of the Enders HD collection in Japan this week, Hideo Kojima revealed that a new sequel to Zone of the Enders is on the way.

According to Kojima, Kojima productions has begun work on the game, which is currently being developed under the code name Enders Project. The game is in an “early prototyping phase” as staff members test the capabilities of the studio’s internal Fox engine. Currently, the studio is making character models and “converting them into Fox engine assets.”

Enders Project Concept art

The original Zone of the Enders was released in 2001, followed by sequel Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner in 2003. The Zone of the Enders HD Collection is set to be released in Japan on October 25th. An international release date has not yet been announced, but be sure to check out the details released earlier this year for a full rundown.

Here’s Every ‘Leaked’ PlayStation All-Stars Character

By IGN

Here is a list of unconfirmed but probable Characters[1] in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. Images or mentions of all of these Characters were leaked in some form or are already represented in the game.

Character Evidence
Leaked by voice actor Eric Laden.
Cole McGrath inFAMOUS
Leaked by Paul Gale Network, Sandover Village is a stage from the franchise as well.
Jak and Daxter Jak and Daxter
Said to be a possibility by Paul Gale Network, would tie with new film being distributed by Sony.
James Bond James Bond
Possibly seen in developer image.[2]
Nariko Heavenly Sword
Leaked by Paul Gale Network, RPG-7 is specifically mentioned as coming from these games.[3] Also, Eric Laden Leaked details.
Nathan Drake Uncharted
There is a stage from the franchise, will probably be a duo with clank.
Ratchet Ratchet and Clank
More commonly known as Sackboy or Sackgirl. Dreamscape is a LBP stage and the LittleBigPlanet games are some of the highest selling SCE games this console generation. This makes the character inclusion highly likely.
Sackboy LittleBigPlanet
Snake is a playable character in all of the MGS games so far. More commonly known as ‘Solid Snake’, but in MGS4 donned the moniker ‘Old Snake’. ‘Naked Snake’/’Big Boss’ are also played by the same voice actor. All of them are a possibilty as voice actor Eric Laden only leaked that David Hayter would be a voice in the game. He is in Smash Bros so comparisons will be rife.
Snake Metal Gear Solid
Possibly seen in same developer image as Nariko, could be NPC though. Allowing for the possibilt of an ICO influenced stage. [4]

What Makes a Game Worth Buying at Launch?

Midnight launch

By Chris Pereira 1UP.com

Gaming can be an expensive hobby, particularly if you’re keen on picking up games as they are released. With your typical console game going for $60 at launch and there being no shortage of quality titles to play, those costs can quickly add up, making it difficult to keep up with the latest releases. But there are more factors than merely price which can make gamers hesitant to buy games when they first come out including a perceived lack of value, eventual complete/Game of the Year edition releases, and patches which make games into better experiences for those who opt against rushing out to a midnight launch.

1UP readers on Facebook and our boards responding to a question about purchasing games at launch offered up a wide variety of reasons for why they are not keen on always being early adopters. While there were those who do still buy games as soon as they are made available, a high percentage of answers indicated there are only a limited numbers of exceptions where they are willing to do so.

Money was a commonly cited reason to wait, and rightfully so. No one has an unlimited supply of disposable income to spend on games, and as Snuggets noted, the cost of living and increasing gas prices make it difficult to drop $60 on a single game. Getting older also makes it hard to spend as much money on games, both because moving away from home can be expensive and because adult responsibilities don’t leave as much time for gaming.

That cost becomes even more difficult to justify when games routinely go on sale soon after they are released. Mass Effect 3 is a good example of this. After being released on March 6, it was available on Amazon for $30 on April 24. It was only a one-day sale, and you can blame whatever reason you want for that, but it doesn’t change the fact that a AAA release was available for half price in less than two months. It’s a similar situation to Black Friday; games released in the weeks prior to it can be had for incredibly low prices, like getting Battlefield 3 and Batman: Arkham City for $28 as Anthony Feliciano said he did. Those deals may require more effort to take advantage of than the usual sale you see in the Sunday flyers, yet knowing a game released in October or early November could potentially be had for $20 or $30 cheaper in late November may be more than enough to delay an immediate purchase. The same can be said for the inevitable price drops that seem to come sooner than ever before. In the case of PC games, things like Steam sales and indie bundles seem to be devaluing games and feeding into consumers’ desire to wait for a deal rather than paying the initial asking price.

There will always be fans willing to pay extra to get a game they care about as soon as possible, but price cuts and sales as steep as ME3’s are not helping to incentivize the purchase of games at launch. And developers and publishers most certainly do want you handing your money over at launch (if not sooner).

One way retailers are able to attract some gamers is by doing something to mitigate the cost. OhJTBehaaave brings up pre-order deals that can’t be passed up, such as Amazon offering a $20 credit toward a future purchase. “For instance there’s a $10 pre-order credit on Max Payne 3 that I might jump on because I really want to play that game on its release,” he said. “Otherwise I totally have enough of a game backlog to wait for games to reduce in price… which happens rather quickly these days.”

Although he said he would be buying Diablo III on May 15 even if he knew it would be available for cheaper soon after, EmperorCesar brought up a good point in mentioning how some companies’ games hold their value better than others. Blizzard is a good example of this, and Call of Duty games also tend to stay at their original price longer than most. But Nintendo with its evergreen titles may be the best example of all: New Super Mario Bros. for DS, released way back in May 2006 for $35, continues to be sold for that price at GameStop. Mario Party 8, released in May 2007, is $45 (used!) at GameStop and $48.84 on Amazon despite a sequel being released in March. If there’s a Nintendo game you want, sales aside, you’re unlikely to get it for cheaper unless you’re willing to wait a very long time.

UltramanJ mentions special deals helping to persuade him to splurge on a game at launch from time to time. To get gamers to put their money down early, stores will offer pre-order bonuses like physical items or in-game content, the desired implication being that they are only obtainable by pre-ordering. While that might be true of the physical items, it’s becoming more and more well known that in-game pre-order bonuses will be sold as downloadable content at some point down the line. Mortal Kombat‘s “klassic” character skins and fatalities come to mind as one example. Because these were spread out to different retailers, obtaining them all was initially an expensive proposition. Some turned to eBay to obtain them, with some auctions going for as much as $100. This happened before it was announced all of the bonuses would be sold in a DLC bundle for only $4.99. Knowing that a free pre-order bonus will only be available for an extra fee at a later date might convince some to put $5 down at GameStop ahead of a game’s release. But others see that DLC price as an acceptable cost because six months down the line they’ll still be coming out ahead as a result of the game itself costing much less.

Pre-order bonuses were one of three reasons vakthoth said he could see for wanting to buy a game at launch. The second was the game in question being an especially anticipated one; Portal 2 and Skyward Sword were noted as the only games he bought at launch last year. The third reason is if you’re the type to be very social about your games where you like to discuss the latest and greatest with friends. Time_Prophet said that’s what prompted him to buy games at launch as a kid. Nowadays the hot topic online changes rapidly — Mass Effect 3 and its ending, for example, were quickly devoured and dissected, and people have since moved on. That’s not to say no one is still talking about it, but by and large the conversation has run its course.

Part of that is due to the frequency of noteworthy releases. The past three months alone have seen Vita and its launch games, Mass Effect 3, The Witcher 2 for Xbox 360, Prototype 2, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Ninja Gaiden 3, Silent Hill: Downpour, Yakuza Dead Souls, Street Fighter X Tekken, SSX, Syndicate, Asura’s Wrath, Twisted Metal, Resident Evil: Revelations, The Darkness II, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning released — among others. And this isn’t even the busy part of the year; each fall the number of big releases seems to grow and it becomes an impossible task to keep up with them all. For those who want to be social about their games or are only interested in what’s hot at the moment, that means certain titles that might otherwise be day-one purchases get left behind.

“If I want a game, I buy it when it comes out. If I don’t buy a game within the first week or so, I’m likely to never get it at all because I just really don’t want it that much and have something else to play,” Dub_Z said. “Even if they were everyone else’s AAA GotY 1-2 years ago, by the time I’m in the mood for something new to play, and see them cheaper… they seem kind of outdated and even less ‘must have’ than they were when they were the cutting-edge game-of-the-week. Nowadays, I’d rather use the money to get DLC for a game I play on a regular basis, or for a $10-20 downloadable game that I want to play on day/week one and doesn’t require as much rationalizing, budgeting, or impulse control.”

Batman Arkham City Collector's EditionThe availability of collector’s editions is one thing that CloudStrife_ca said he can find difficult to resist as he doesn’t want to risk having one he is interested in become rare (and therefore more expensive) if he doesn’t buy it. Of course, this is a gamble in and of itself as anyone who has wandered into a store that sells games has likely stumbled across a pile of limited/collector’s editions of games that did not sell as expected and have now been heavily discounted.

Although I personally don’t like the idea of a game’s value being determined by the amount of content it contains, there were several people who noted game length and replayability play a significant role in deciding what is worth purchasing for $60. “If they are worth their launch price… so no, not very often,” tyfighter80 said in response to the question of whether he still buys games at launch. “All the AAA shooters and adventure games I most often rent from GameFly and buy them cheap if I think I’ll replay them a few times.” Luminaire28 said he expects to get “50 or more hours of playtime even if the developer goes out of business” if he’s going to spend $60 (but, like seemingly everyone else, he has exceptions to that rule; in his case, BioShock Infinite).

“There are very few games I buy at all anymore, let alone day-one purchases,” sdwoodchuck said. “For me, that shift has less to do with rapidly dropping prices and increased content packaged with the game down the line, and more to do with the fact that most games now aren’t the sort I can spend a lot of time with. You look at your average blockbuster release, and what you’ve typically got is a 10-15 hour single-player campaign and frequently a basic competitive multiplayer mode. While the latter does add replay for a lot of folks, it’s not something I typically get into, so I don’t feel as though I get my money’s worth when I spend release day prices on a game that I only spend a couple days with.”

On the other hand, multiplayer is one reason Anthony Feliciano said he will pick up a game at launch, presumably because that is when the online community will be most active. He also pointed to games where spoilers can be an issue, specifically mentioning Mass Effect 3 as one he purchased because it seemed as if details of its ending were everywhere. Back on the subject of multiplayer, between this example and the people saying they expect a lot of value from their games, you can begin to see why publishers are frequently insisting that developers find a way to incorporate multiplayer into their games.

Xenoblade ChroniclesSeveral people, including San_Andreas and JC_Lately, said niche games are the sort they will pick up right away. This is because these games can become difficult to find in stores after launch, something which is not at all the case with AAA games. On somewhat of a similar note, PoliticalGamer said he will go out of his way to buy games at launch that he considers a “miracle to have been released,” citing Tatsunoko vs. Capcom as one such instance where he did that. I imagine it’s a similar sentiment which drove many people to purchase Xenoblade Chronicles upon its release in North America.

Considering this is all a matter of how people decide to spend their hard-earned money, it’s hard to say anyone’s rationale is invalid or wrong. But two reasons that ring truer than many others were brought up by zachwor. “Many games have been adding downloadable content, season passes, and multiplayer to games that wouldn’t otherwise have it, in order to combat used game sales,” he wrote. “Why would I spend $60 for a new game [and] spend an additional $30 to $40 for more content when I can wait six months to a year to get the ‘full experience’ in a game of the year package that costs $40 to $50?” And it’s a very valid point — Capcom in particular has demonstrated numerous times it will put out a game and then release a more complete edition at a later time, Super Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 being two examples. Other companies, like Bethesda or Rockstar, will package a game with its DLC and re-release it under the guise of being a ‘Game of the Year Edition,’ either at the original $60 price or sometimes for less.

The second point zachwor made had to do with patches. “Especially with developers and publishers emphasizing release windows over polish, why would I want to buy a game that NEEDS two patches in order to play properly?” he asked. “If anything, people are being punished for buying day one with a worse experience than someone who picks up the game six months later, after developers have pushed out necessary patches fixing stuff that shouldn’t have been broken in the first place.” Those who purchased Skyrim on PlayStation 3 know this all too well. The PS3 lag issues aside, it’s also now a better game — updates have improved the game and added new features, such as Kinect support on Xbox 360 and the Steam Workshop on PC. Skyrim is hardly the only instance of this happening; Konami recently announced Silent Hill Downpour and the Silent Hill HD Collection have patches in the works to correct issues with framerate, audio sync, and auto-saves.

Considering how negative an experience it sounds like it is to buy a game at launch, one would hope developers and publishers would strive to do things differently, such as not rushing games out the door. Even if more gamers decide to wait until after launch to pick up the latest games, what companies are unfortunately more likely to do is find new ways to extract additional money out of those who are willing to put up with the many downsides of purchasing a game at launch.

Blog 9 {{STAND BY FOR ASSIMILATION)) Jedionston Rolls with IGN

This blog was submitted to IGN Community Blogger E3 2012 Contest MyIGN Blog CaptainDirk

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XBOX 360 deal: $99 with 2-year Xbox Live Gold Subscription

By Erik Kain

Microsoft has confirmed rumors that it will be releasing a $99 Xbox 360. The console will come with a Kinect and a 4Gb hard-drive, as well as a two-year subscription to Xbox Live. Just like mobile phone contracts, anyone who sings up for the plan will pay a monthly fee ($15) and face a cancellation fee of $250 if they cancel their subscription before the contract is up.

As PCWorld points out, once you’ve figured in your subscription fees the entire package will cost you $459. You could save a pretty big chunk of money just buying everything upfront. If Microsoft releases its next-gen console in 2013, you might also get stuck with an out-of-date console subscription.

But I think this misses a couple of things. First of all, so what if the Xbox 720 comes out in 2013? Not everyone is an early adopter. Anyone buying an Xbox 360 in 2012 is by definition not an early adopter. If you’re buying an Xbox 360 now, you’re probably not the target audience for the next-gen consoles anyways. For these consumers, a 2013 launch date is hardly a problem.

 

Second, it may be more expensive over time to purchase the $99 Xbox 360, but you can spread those costs out over two years. For many people, $15 a month after the initial $99 is simply way more affordable than buying the system upfront, even if the eventual cost is higher. For many gamers with limited resources, the additional cost is offset by the convenience of spreading the payments out over time.

It’s actually quite brilliant if you think about it, and may be the future of console gaming. Microsoft and Sony both want their consoles to be more than simply gaming machines. They want to put full-featured home entertainment systems into your home, where you’ll listen to music, watch movies, and play games all from your Xbox or PlayStation. Right now, a big barrier to accomplishing that goal is the price-tag.

But wait – the price of an Xbox 360 or PS3 has come way down over the years. Why is this a problem?

Actually, it’s probably not anymore. Current-gen consoles are actually very affordable now. But when Sony launched the PS3 in 2006, the 20-gig model cost $499. That’s a hefty chunk of change for many people. With even more powerful and expensive hardware baked into next-gen consoles, one imagines that pricing is going to be a huge issue for console manufacturers. Finding the right price-point isn’t easy.

Subscription-based models solve several problems at once. They lower the financial barrier to owning a console for many gamers, but they also allow console manufacturers to launch next-gen consoles at a lower, but still profitable, price point. This isn’t such a big deal with current-gen hardware, but in a year or two it may be the answer.

I’m willing to bet that this $99 Xbox deal is as much a way to keep selling the soon-antiquated system as it is a test-ground for the next-gen Xbox. I’m also willing to bet that if it works, Sony will come up with its own similar deal. Which means that it’s quite possible subscription-based consoles are the way of the future. This could, theoretically, lead to other innovations.

For instance, right now consoles only upgrade their aesthetic design – the way they look, their size, etc. – and their harddrive capacity. This puts them at a natural disadvantage to mobile devices which upgrade constantly. With a subscription model, it’s possible that next-gen consoles could upgrade other features more regularly. People could upgrade to the upgraded version and get a discount by extending their subscription.

This might complicate game design. From a game development perspective, it’s nice to have a console with static specs. PCs vary widely in power and speed, but all Xbox 360s are essentially the same. Still, it’s possible that a new standard could emerge.

What do you think?

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Z! True Long Island Story Episode # 65

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