5 Conclusions: 07/09/18

September 7, 2018

A regular look at gaming-related stories from the past week or so whereby conclusions are drawn from anything and everything. These may be incredibly well reasoned based on events from the week. Alternatively, they may be highly speculative, drawn from very little evidence. More likely, they will be somewhere in between.

Conclusion One: Valve’s new Steam filter crystallises its shirking of responsibility

It’s fair to say we haven’t been fans of Valve’s tackling of mature content on its Steam platform. Rather than engaging in a reasonable discussion with the community about what does and doesn’t justify the publication of any given game, regardless of whether it contains graphic content, Valve decided to allow almost anything on its platform and let consumers pick and choose whether they wanted to buy it or not. While that may seem like a democratic, free market approach, Valve has essentially washed its hands of policing its own platform.

Titles such as Active Shooter (a school shooter sim which was only taken down after public outcry) are presumably fine to put up for sale on Steam now, just as long as they’re tagged with a “Mature Content” filter. Games featuring sexual content can be found under the “Adults Only” filter. In both cases, Valve has asked the developer to state the nature of the non-kid friendly content in a paragraph on the Steam store. It also puts the onus onto players (and presumably parents) to add multiple filters to their searches — increased from three to ten — so their children won’t get exposed to inappropriate games.

Valve has stated that developers who are “trolling” with their titles are being banned, but only a surprisingly small number of them. Regardless, the main take away point here is that Valve still  believes it does not have the responsibility to police the games that it sells, and that it is up to us as consumers to protect ourselves from content we don’t wish to see. We fundamentally disagree with this approach: in our opinion, Valve has taken the cowardly way out — one which will make them the most money, give them the least work to do, and potentially cause the most harm to young or impressionable gamers.

Conclusion Two: 2K Games takes first steps towards total failure.

Loot boxes are a blight on modern gaming. The world recognises this and much is happening to stamp out the use of these random microtransaction gambles by law, regulation and even those who make the games themselves.

Yet, 2K Games has urged fans of its games to contact Belgian authorities and ask them to change their position, which currently declares loot boxes to violate local gaming regulations. In effect, they’re illegal. 2K Games wants that changed.

Loot boxes are a dead man walking. Gaming companies need to work out how better to provide them — which in turn will reduce their profit (for example, publishing the odds of getting something to help you git gud) — or get rid of them. If the companies want to keep them, and fight governments and leverage their gamer fans to do so, then that can only be a path to failure. Right?

Conclusion Three: The Switch remains the best console for quick-hit gaming

The PS4 is currently this generation's best-selling console, but that doesn't mean the plucky Switch can't hold its own — especially when it comes to short bursts of fun. According to a conversation Destructoid had at PAX with the PR overseeing Dead Cells, the Switch version of the game is outselling Sony's offering by a factor of 4 to 1. It seems that the Metroidvania title lends itself very well to gaming on the go and given how well the game has reviewed across the board, it isn't particularly surprising that gamers are picking it up in droves to supplement their commute. It has a "one more go" feedback loop which is frighteningly addictive and as we discovered ourselves it's very easy to lose hours of your life in its randomly generated dungeons.

But it also highlights a big advantage of the Switch — portable play still has a huge place in the gaming community, and the likes of Sony and Microsoft simply aren't competing in that arena. Nintendo would do well to capitalise on their monopoly here, and snap up as many similar games as they can which offer perfect bite-sized chunks of addictive gaming goodness.

Conclusion Four: Microsoft needs to up the pressure on Sony’s approach to cross-play

Sony has so far stubbornly refused to engage with the other big gaming powerhouses when it comes to cross-play, causing frustration from Fortnite fans who want to play with their friends regardless of platform. Their reasoning has veered from it being a matter of money — namely, Sony weren’t happy with something being bought on Xbox and used on PlayStation — to the latest excuse: it’s simply not as good to play Fortnite on anything other than a PS4.

Microsoft has since responded, with Xbox chief Mike Ybarra tweeting that Sony “still isn’t listening to gamers,” and that “all games should be cross play and progression with the right input flexibility and gamer options.”

It’s not really the lit touchpaper Fortnite fans want or need, but it’s a start - and Microsoft (and the famously reserved Nintendo) need to keep up the pressure on Sony to join in the cross-play club.

Conclusion Five: Palms sweaty? Knees weak? Arms heavy? Here’s a fix (for one of them)

If you tend to get a case of sweaty palms when you’re sucked into a high-stakes game of PUBG, you could do a lot worse than picking up a new greaseproof controller on the Xbox One to counteract that moistness. Sounds perfect, right? There’s just one catch: there are only ten of them being made, and you’ll have to win it through the official Xbox ANZ Facebook page.

Still, with a urethane coating applied by hand to each unit, it’s a surefire way of ensuring that if you do pick up that all important chicken dinner, spilling a bit of it on your controller isn’t going to be the end of the world.

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Rob Kershaw

I've been gaming since the days of the Amstrad. Huge RPG fan. Planescape: Torment tops my list, but if a game tells a good story, I'm interested. Absolutely not a fanboy of any specific console or PC - the proof is in the gaming pudding. Also, I like cake.