Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 08/11/19
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: The PC is the Wild West for Rockstar
It looks like there’s a reason why Rockstar took its time porting Red Dead Redemption 2 to home computers. As many players found out this week after the game was finally released on PC on November 5th, programming for a single console build such as Xbox or PlayStation is far easier than programming for a kaleidoscope of different graphics cards, motherboards and drivers.
Not the most auspicious start for a game which was lauded on console. Rockstar support has suggested that the main error is likely due to out-of-date graphics drivers, but that’s unlikely to be the catch-all fix for the wide range of problems that are being reported. Hopefully these are just teething problems, and we equally hope that Rockstar aren’t planning to bully their staff into ridiculous overtime to get the port up to scratch…
Conclusion Two: The PS5 will be fast and…“affordable”?
More rumours are flying about thanks to Sony’s slick media mill and a dearth of otherwise pertinent information about next year’s PlayStation 5 launch. One of the latest tidbits from T3 suggest that the new console will allow partial installs of games thanks to some snappy engineering and the use of its solid state drive. If true, this would mean that waiting for an 80GB download will be a thing of the past (which would be a massive benefit to game journalists everywhere).
The idea is that the hardware will let you download the parts of a game that are most useful to you first, and the rest at a later point. Want to get a room full of friends involved in a multiplayer mode of a game? Download it and save the single-player campaign until later. Not only will it save you hard drive space, but it means you can get into the action quicker.
This follows on from another rumour from Push Square following last week’s financial briefing at Sony, where it was suggested that the company are aiming for “market penetration”. One rather large leap later, and all and sundry are taking this to mean that the new console will be “affordable”. We’re not going to jump on that bandwagon, if only for the fact that “affordable” means different things to different people — but we would be very surprised if a standard PS5 launched for under £399. And try as we might, we can’t equate four hundred notes as being affordable for most. At best, it’s a moderate outlay. At worst, it’s a parent’s nightmare. Buying a console isn’t the same as popping out for a loaf of bread and a box of eggs, after all. Time to start saving those pennies...
Conclusion Three: With great power comes great responsibility
If you or I were a YouTube sensation with around 2 million followers and lots of money coming in as a result we would feel quite powerful. If our followers were largely younger people wanting to see us play Fortnite really well, then we might feel some responsibility. We’d also probably be aware of other YouTubers and Fortnite players who have done naughty things — like cheat — and suffered the consequences.
Not Jarvis from FaZe Clan though, according to the Metro. No, he used aimbots in the game to show all his followers how you can cheat and as a result, Epic Games has banned him for life from playing Fortnite. Oops — there goes your current job.
The chap is upset by all of this, in part because he apparently didn’t know what the consequences of his actions might be. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, but the terms and conditions you sign up to when playing detail what is allowable and what’s not. Given this, Epic Games has every right to ban him for showing so many people how to cheat, and cheating himself.
It’s hard to sympathise. The guy obviously loves Fortnite — and all that money (as does his mother, who is by all accounts equally distraught). The latter I’m sure he can get by playing other popular shooters, and the former? Well, another competitor like Apex Legends 2.0 or something will pop up meaning Fortnite isn’t the be all and end all. So, we’re just going to sit here and nod our heads sagely in concert with Epic Games given their correct decision.
Conclusion Four: Football is all about the Ultimate Team
FIFA 20 is a huge game. Each year’s variant of it is enabled mainly by a group of gamers who have a console or gaming PC purely for FIFA. For ten years now the Ultimate Team mode has been part of the game and these days it is far and away the most popular and best supported chunk of the title — it could easily (and probably will be one day) a standalone game.
In Ultimate Team you play games against the AI or real people to earn coins. Coins can be spent on players in the transfer market or packs. Packs can also be earned by playing the game to complete objectives, or doing puzzles called squad-building challenges. These packs are essentially loot boxes whereby you have a chance to get Mbappe, or Mo Salah but a much higher chance of getting multiple John Lundstrams. This game mode is FIFA’s version of Destiny, or Fortnite, where EA want you to keep playing the whole year round.
How they do that varies year on year and most years they do things to encourage you to open more packs, spend more coins and repeat the cycle. You see, you can buy packs, too. And boy, do people buy packs.
Spieltimes has taken a look at EA’s most recent financial report and the numbers are staggering. EA has earned in the first half of the current fiscal year $716 million from Ultimate Team alone. In the last financial year Ultimate Team modes accrued $1.38 billion, whilst actual product sales garnered only $568 million. There are Ultimate Team modes in the Madden and NHL games, too, but FIFA and the football version is the biggest component.
Wow. Now you can see how important loot boxes and microtransactions are to EA. Also, the Ultimate Team mode is utterly compelling, meaning they aren’t going to be giving it up anytime soon as aside from the earnings, people adore it. Let’s see how EA manages the crackdown on microtransactions around the world then, eh?
Conclusion Five: PUBG’s time has been and gone
There was a time when you couldn’t get away from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. It was considered the gold standard of battle royale games, and it kickstarted the whole craze around the genre. Of course, since then there have been numerous other titles which have jumped on the bandwagon, notably Fortnite which has become a sensation so huge that it’s embedded itself in popular culture.
But what of PUBG? The once ubiquitous shooter has found itself in the shadow of Epic’s behemoth, something which hasn’t been helped by a somewhat mediocre update schedule which failed to generate the kind of buzz that Fortnite has attracted.
This has unfortunately translated into a massive drop in players, as figures published on Talkesport highlighted this week. Back in January, PUBG’s concurrent players was at almost 1.6 million. In recent weeks, those numbers have fallen to just under 289,000 — an absolutely massive drop of 82% of its player base.
Tencent bought a stake in PUBG some time ago (and wrapped up an awkward court case between developer Bluehole and Epic in whose Unreal Engine it also owns a stake), but despite its vast resources the Chinese firm has struggled to make PUBG competitive. The recent numbers don’t bode well for the game though, and unless something dramatic happens those battlegrounds may soon become wastelands — a potentially devastating end to a game which started a revolution.
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