Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 15/02/19
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: American Guitar Heroes - get your cash back ASAP
It’s the end of an era for a previously untouchable franchise. Activision announced in December that it would be sunsetting Guitar Hero Live and in doing so it whittled down the 500+ track library to a mere forty-two. In doing so, it sparked a court case (obviously) which Activision won. But in a show of good faith (or PR damage control, whichever you prefer), the publisher is now offering you the chance to get a refund on any purchases of Guitar Hero Live between December 1, 2017 and January 1, 2019.
The caveat is that it’s only open to US residents who can prove they’ve purchased it. If you don’t have a receipt, you can still file a claim and the company will “attempt to verify eligibility” according to the full details on their website. It’s a sad end to a powerhouse which, alongside Rock Band, gave bedroom rock stars their chance to shine.
If you’re in the US, you need to get your claims in quickly — the deadline closes on May 1st, 2019.
Conclusion Two: The Ice Storm cometh for Activision Blizzard’s staff
Only in a booming games industry could a company with record profits decide that they need to lay off staff. Yet, in a move which has left many business insiders shaking their heads in incredulity, Activision has done just that. With the release of their financial statement this week, the company confirmed that while it expects to make an astonishing $6.3 billion in the last year, it came in below expectations of $7.25 billion.
It seems that despite a slowing world economy and an unsustainable tech bubble over the last few years which was also going burst eventually, shareholder demands caused the corporation to overpromise and underdeliver. The cost? 8% of Activision’s workforce — around 720 jobs.
It’s staggering that a company can be so successful and yet still decide to shed so many workers. One reason for this may be that the restructuring of the business will lead to a much lower tax bill and associated charges, thereby maximising net bookings ready for the next financial year and the insatiable demands of Wall Street investors.
This move is another troubling insight into the workings of huge gaming businesses where a move towards microtransactions, loot boxes and other nefarious methods of milking players for money seems to be the way the industry is moving. Shareholders demand huge returns, and when companies don’t deliver as much as they want, it’s the employees who pay the price.
Conclusion Three: Everybody loves dinosaurs
It’s barely been out a week and yet eagle-eyed players have already spotted, and solved, an Easter egg hunt in Apex Legends. It all started when a Reddit user posted a screengrab from popular streamer Shroud with the phrase “a nessy appears” in the kill feed. Getting over the fact that it should, in fact, be spelt Nessie, everyone’s interest in this perked up once community manager, Jay Frechette, responded in the thread by saying “Let’s just say someone is on to something.”
After some keen exploration it turns out that this message appears when players find hidden dinosaur toys and promptly shuffle them off the inanimate coil. As is the case in the modern age players quickly got together to solve the puzzle. In the end players managed to determine the location of all ten of the wee things, but it turns out that you have to take them out one-by-one as the next one won’t spawn unless the one before it has been taken out. Should you find them all a giant, erm, “shape”, appears in the mists over near the swamps. It’s a fun little puzzle made all the more amazing that to get all of them really relies on players working together and staying alive long enough to see the fruits of their endeavour.
Conclusion Four: Nintendo details plans to win 2019
Nintendo is doing really rather well. Quietly, it's having perhaps the best generation despite starting a fair number of years after Sony and Microsoft, and from a relative position of weakness given the Wii U's relative failure. In an attempt to double down on this success, a Nintendo Direct this week revealed plans to release all manner of godly games in 2019, some of which we had an idea were coming whilst others were totally new news.
So, we have a new Super Mario Maker, effectively a license to print money. Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a release date slap in the summer when no-one else dare release a triple-A game (oh my, is anyone not going to be playing that?), and a remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the non-Hyrule based Gameboy-originating adventure of everyone's favourite non-eponymous hero, Link. Add to that things like Dragon Quest 11, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and GRID Autosport, plus the rest, and Nintendo looks likely to continue quietly winning every day, week, month and eventually the whole of 2019.
Conclusion Five: Mario finally turns those coins into real cash
£78,000. That's how much one 1985 videogame is worth, if it's mint and unopened. But still, that's crazy money for the NES' Super Mario Bros. isn't it? Especially as according to Kotaku, you can get the game for as little as forty quid, but as soon as you recognise how pretty the box is, and whether it's sealed or not - that is when you start to see the value go exponential. You could say that Mario's plumbing skills determine how much the game is worth, with a good seal leading to a big win. No, only me?
Yes, the above copy of the very first Mario game, is worth that staggering amount of money because it's in mint condition, unopened and hidden behind a sticker-sealed box which was only done during the NES' launch window, before the full release across the whole of the USA. Given the game is thirty-four years old, it's done quite well to break what is $100,000, although it has some way to go before it matches comics for resale value...