Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 13/09/19
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: Kojima has out-Kojima'd himself
Tokyo Game Show kicked off from September 12th but for many people there is only one thing at the top of their minds: Death Stranding. Hideo Kojima, the game’s creator and a man who isn’t known for editing his excesses, has decided that the lack of information about the game is something he needs to fix at the convention. As such, there will be two gameplay demos split over two days, totalling roughly eighty minutes (yes, 80). The first is below, the second is due tomorrow:
But that isn’t all. Kojima is planning on releasing a trailer alongside the gameplay. A normal game trailer may be one to two minutes long. For the auteur, that is simply not sufficient to get across the monumental importance of Death Stranding. No, Kojima’s trailer is going to clock in at a whopping 49 minutes. That’s longer than an episode of a standard network show, such as Twin Peaks or Lost, and will likely be more confusing.
Make no mistake, the Metal Gear Solid creator is going Full Kojima on this one. We can only hope the end result is as bizarre, fantastic and utterly bonkers as expected.
Conclusion Two: Loot boxes aren’t welcome in the UK
Back here in Blighty, in a rather unexpected move the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee this week ruled that loot boxes were akin to gambing. As such, they have advised that they should be regulated as such and therefore prevent children from purchasing them.
Regular readers of this column will know that JDR is very much in favour of loot box regulation, given that loot boxes feel like nothing more than a cynical ploy by publishers and developers to programmatically dupe people into spending money on mere chance. Loot boxes are sold in-game for real money, with no guarantee of the contents. If they were just earned, this wouldn’t be an issue — but when you part with cash, it’s a completely different matter. This is why the committee has advised the government to regulate.
This doesn’t mean that the UK will do so, however. We can expect a fight from the industry should the government move to regulate. However, Belgium has already ruled against loot boxes, prompting companies to remove them from games rather than having to obtain a gambling licence, so there is precedent in other countries. We hope that the government takes note of this advice and acts accordingly — though with the chaos of Brexit, this is likely to be pushed to the back burner for the time being…
Conclusion Three: Final Fantasy VII Remake may not be that Final after all
Final Fantasy VII Remake is looking spectacular. Truly incredible. A new trailer was released at Tokyo Game Show and, as you can see, it's far removed from the blocky 3D sprites of 1997.
However, for all the polish and updated combat systems, a big question hangs over the game — namely, when will it be completed? You see, Final Fantasy VII Remake is being released in instalments. The first episode, which by all accounts is the size of a normal Final Fantasy game, is set entirely on Midgar. The game is fleshing out the story significantly and making some of the side characters more integral players in the narrative, which is great. The problem is that Square Enix don't know how many chapters there will be, or when they will be released after this first one comes out on March 3rd, 2020.
The game is something of a double-edged sword for fans then. On the one hand, there's a spectacular reimagining of a much-loved game, which is dragging its archaic ATB combat system into the 21st century while simultaneously expanding on the lore of the original. On the other hand, we're only getting part of that story, with no idea when it will be completed... or if it ever will. Square Enix aren't shy about cancelling projects if they need to. Final Fantasy XV suffered this indignation when three of its four planned DLC releases were cancelled last year following a big financial loss for the company. If the same thing happens to Final Fantasy VII Remake after the amount of hype that has built up over the last few years, fans would never forgive the studio. We can only hope that Square Enix sees this one through to the end.
Conclusion Four: Apple vs Google: whoever wins, we ... win?
Alongside the iPhone announcements on Tuesday, Apple stated its intent to get serious about mobile gaming with the launch of Apple Arcade. This subscription-based service launches on September 19th for £4.99 a month and features unlimited access to over a hundred games, including some which are exclusive to the new platform. There will be no ads and everything will be unlocked.
Exciting, right? Well, it gets better. Google wasn't going to let Apple take all of the limelight — it also announced a new subscription service this week in the form of Google Play Pass. It will cost £4.99 a month, and will feature a curated set of apps, including games, all ad-free and unlocked. There is no release date for this one, however.
Two giants of the tech sector facing off in a similar space, both potentially vying for the gaming market in a Netflix-style subscription service that lets you binge all the apps you can? Apple Arcade's stronger focus on gaming may put it ahead at the minute but we have no doubt Google will release further details which will pull it back into the game. Either way you look at it, it's a win for players.
Conclusion Five: Street Fighter — the next Olympic sport?
We might not quite be at the stage where eSports are competing at the Olympics, but that dream took a step closer to reality this week. Intel has partnered with the International Olympic Committee in the Intel World Open, an event which will see both Street Fighter V and Rocket League tournaments set up for countries to compete in, ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.
According to Forbes, Japan will join seven other teams who need to win qualifiers in early 2020 in each game. The finals will be held on 22nd to 24th July, with a prize pot per game of $250,000. This isn't the first time Intel has promoted eSports: the Winter Olympics in 2018 saw Starcraft II take centre stage. However, from an audience accessibility point of view, the frantic vehicular football game and one-on-one fighter make far more sense. In both cases, it's easy to see what's going on and who is winning, compared to the involved strategy of the space RTS.
The bottom line is this: the more that eSports become validated in collaboration with events like the Olympics, the more likely it is that they'll become popular, televised sports across the globe, and not just in a few countries like South Korea. Japan, the country where video games first became mainstream, is the perfect place to push the agenda. Let's hope the UK fields a decent team.