5 Conclusions - 22/06/18

June 22, 2018
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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: Sony’s power play for loyalty will backfire

The dispute over cross-platform access to games — specifically Sony’s stance in preventing gamers from playing with their friends on other consoles — took another turn on Monday. Games such as Fortnite can be played freely on Xbox One, PC and Switch with cross-platform matches. However, PlayStation 4 owners are only able to match up with friends who have either Sony’s console, a PC, or mobile platforms. To really rub in the salt, items you purchase through the PlayStation network for the game cannot be moved to different platforms either.

Now it seems there’s a clear reason for this, at least according to the former president of SEO John Smedley, who tweeted on Monday:

btw when I was at Sony, the stated reason internally for this was money. They didn't like someone buying something on an Xbox and it being used on a Playstation. simple as that. dumb reason, but there it is.

The tweet has since been deleted, but it is likely to fuel further anger amongst gamers who feel that Sony are punishing people who are using their console, while friends on Switch and Xbox have no such restrictions. Sony are unrepentant, however, and their follow-up response reported by the BBC did nothing to ease tensions:

"We're always open to hearing what the PlayStation community is interested in to enhance their gaming experience," it read. "With 79 million PS4s sold around the world and more than 80 million monthly active users on PlayStation Network, we've built a huge community of gamers who can play together on Fortnite and all online titles.

"We also offer Fortnite cross-play support with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, expanding the opportunity for Fortnite fans on PS4 to play with even more gamers on other platforms," it continued. "We have nothing further to add beyond this at this point."

As Smedley himself tweeted afterwards: “if we keep the pressure up this problem goes away.”

It isn't just Fortnite being affected — Minecraft was released on the Switch yesterday with cross-platform support for everything except, you guessed it, PlayStation.

Sony must surely know that the gaming community doesn’t take kindly to being caged off for no reason other than profiteering, and it will only ultimately hurt their sales if people turn to a more “open” console to game with their friends — especially given Fortnite’s popularity. We fully expect a U-turn from Sony on this position in the coming weeks.

Conclusion Two: Gamers officially have their own disease — now await the backlash

We covered this when it was being mooted back in February, but it’s now official: Gaming Disorder is an actual disease. The World Health Organisation has published the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, and after review it appears that gaming disorder has been deemed a significant enough affliction to make it into their catalogue.

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However, not all professionals in the field are convinced it is a correct addition. Anthony Bean, a director at a Texan non-profit mental health clinic — The Telos Project — told CNN that many gamers use gaming “as a coping mechanism” to deal with more serious underlying issues, such as anxiety and depression. As such, he believes that “gaming disorder” is actually a symptom  rather than an illness itself. Citing the organisation’s lack of familiarity with gaming as a whole, he said that medical professionals who cannot distinguish between Minecraft and World of Warcraft as two entirely different gaming experiences risked overlooking why patients played either game to begin with. The former is “an online social interaction”, he said, while the latter is “more of a cosmetic survival mechanism”.

Bean also stated that addictive behaviour can be applied to almost anything if rigorous studies aren’t applied when considering a new diagnosis, and that this new inclusion is akin to opening Pandora’s box, given that watching too much TV, working too hard, and so on can all be considered behavioural addictive activities.

What could this mean for the industry? Well, litigation for one thing. If clinicians consider games to be harmful, the floodgates could well and truly be opened for industry bodies to get sued. The WHO has set a dangerous precedent here, and we will be monitoring its progress closely.

Conclusion Three: Valve blinks first in loot box crackdown — others will soon follow

The loot box controversy shows no sign of abating, and indeed appears to have forced one of the world’s biggest game publishers into backing down. On Wednesday if you played Dota 2 or CS:Go in the Netherlands, you’ll have been greeted with this message:

The Dutch authorities don’t like the idea that the content of loot boxes is not only determined by chance, but tradeable outside of games. This contravened their Betting and Gaming Act, and it seems that Valve were handed an ultimatum: remove the illegal mechanism or risk being fined 10% of its worldwide turnover. This is Valve, don’t forget, and that figure is significant.

The deadline for doing so was June 20th, coincidentally the same day that Valve removed the option for buying the offending loot boxes. They have vowed to fight on against the ruling that loot boxes are gambling, but they are likely to be on the losing side.

We’ve already covered how China and Hawaii have instigated legislation and it seems that Belgium feels the same according to the BBC. They have already seriously harmed the success of Star Wars: Battlefront II and Shadow of War, changing both games into mediocre experiences driven by greed. As publishers and developers start to feel the sting in their wallets, and as that sting promises to hurt a lot more than removing the maligned items from their products, we can only conclude that this is the beginning of the end for loot boxes.

Conclusion Four: A new Switch TV show will be a smash hit

Two of the biggest players in their respective industries — Nintendo and Disney — are teaming up to make a TV show. Looking like a cross between Gamesmaster and Family Fortunes, the show is currently titled Nintendo Switch Family Showdown and pits families against each other using the eponymous console. According to a press release from Nintendo, tasks could include “searching for collectibles in Super Mario Odyssey, competing in head-to-head matchups in Mario Tennis Aces and participating in dance-offs in Just Dance 2018.”

It’s launching on the Disney Channel, Disney XD and DisneyNOW app this summer, and could prove to be a massive promotional hit for both companies — assuming that the challenges are as engaging for the viewing population as those competing for prizes. In that respect, there is absolutely no guarantee.

Conclusion Five - Switch pirates could be banned for life

Nintendo appears to be making headway in its ongoing battle against piracy. Reddit user SciresM reported that the company was taking countermeasures to prevent its console from being hacked and from copied games being played on it. To do this, the Switch will look for an encrypted certificate for a game containing a specific, unique piece of data when that game connects to the company's servers. If it cannot find the certificate, it will prevent the Switch from connecting.

That isn't all though, since it appears that before the game check is performed, Nintendo will check whether the console has ever attempted to connect to the network using a pirated game. If it has, the entire console will be blocked from connecting to the Nintendo Network.

Essentially, if you decide to play a pirated game on the Switch, you risk being blocked from any online play on that console in the future. While this seems like a harsh approach, the company is struggling to protect its IP at the moment, especially given there is a hack available that cannot be fixed without creating an entirely new version of the console and firmware.

The Reddit post makes no mention of how this would affect offline play and, in typical Nintendo fashion, the company hasn't acknowledged that this anti-piracy system even exists. But if you're planning on modding your Switch to play copied games and you enjoy playing online, you may want to reconsider your choice.

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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.