Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 17/11/19

November 17, 2019

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: Xbox Game Pass is brilliant

Seriously, Microsoft is doing the game library thing with aplomb. New games, old games, lots of other games. All available for a monthly fee of varying amounts, but starting at £3.99 per month. Unless you fancy the Ultimate subscription for 3 months at just one pound of your hard-earned cash for each of those months? Alongside that is 6 months of Spotify Premium, a month’s EA Access and some Discord Nitro access. 

Image result for new games coming to xbox game pass

It’s a hell of a deal in and of itself, but when you think about the 100-plus games you can play too, well, it becomes a bit of a no-brainer. Microsoft is going bigger all the time on Game Pass, suggesting it will be an integral part of their strategy to beat Sony in the console arms race once the PS5 and Scarlett are launched next year. Keep your eyes on this — the first real Netflix of games? Hell, yes. 

Conclusion Two: Tencent should be prepared to hear “no” from Nintendo 

When we reported back in May that the Chinese conglomerate was in talks with Nintendo to allow the sale of the Switch in China, there was also the understanding that Switch games would be available to the public for purchase. All well and good, but the venture got off to a rocky start as the country’s notoriously stringent regulatory system meant that the console struggled to get a foothold, while Arena of Valor, a hugely popular game in China, flopped when placed on the Switch in front of US audiences.

Tencent has since changed tack. It is no longer content with “only” allowing Nintendo access to China’s gaming market. It now wants to utilise Nintendo’s expertise to help build its own consoles while — and this is the crucial part — also using Nintendo’s characters to help shift its own games.

According to a WSJ article published this weekend, a Tencent insider said,

"What we want is to expand from China, and one target is console game players in the US and Europe. We hope to create console games with Nintendo characters, and learn the essence of making console games from Nintendo engineers."

If true, that last sentence should ring all manner of alarm bells at Nintendo. The Japanese company are notoriously protective of their IP; the seal of approval on Nintendo games is hard-earned, so the idea of farming out the likes of Mario and Link to be used in a sub-par console title is likely to be shut down hard

Unless there are some seriously persuasive folks at Tencent — a conglomerate which has reached unprecedented size by buying up other companies rather than having its own specific focus — then we can’t see Nintendo agreeing to let their property star in flop games. That’s something Nintendo prefer to do themselves.

Conclusion Three: What exactly is Stadia launching with? Very little, it seems

We had high expectations for Google Stadia when it was first announced, even if we did take some of its claims with a pinch of salt. Our very first episode of Jump Chat Roll covered streaming in general, commenting on how the technology was untried in a consumer environment and that bandwidth availability would be key to its success. You would think that with these challenges, getting other stuff right at launch would be a no-brainer. An easy win for a company with the money and sheer number of employees and partners as Google has. 

Apparently not. During a Reddit Ask Me Anything post hosted by Google staff, it turns out that there is a lot that isn’t going to be shipped with Stadia on launch day. Some of the notable absences include:

- StreamConnect / State Share / Crowd Play. These are worryingly missing, given that they are what set Stadia apart from standard online play - the ability to join a friend’s game was one of its selling points. The first Stream Connect-supported game won’t be out until the end of the year, while you’ll be waiting until 2020 for State Share and Crowd Play support.

- Chromecast Ultra support.Incredibly, the firmware needed to support Stadia will only be shipped with Stadia-bundled Chromecast Ultras. If you have one outside of that bundle,you’ll have to wait until after the launch to receive an update to make it Stadia-compatible.

- Stadia controllers. We talked about this previously — if you pre-ordered,there’s no guarantee you’ll have your bundle by launch day. You might be able to log on and use Stadia with your phone or browser, but you may end up having to play with a mouse and keyboard.

- Achievements. Apparently these will be logged, but they won’t pop up and you won’t be able to see them until “shortly after launch”.

- Buddy Pass. The ability to give a friend a three-month free pass to let them join you playing Stadia games was another big selling point, but now you won’t receive this until around two weeks after launch (possibly longer). Given the amount of other features that aren’t coming out on November 19th, maybe it’s for the best.

There will only be twelve supported games at launch, including Red Dead Redemption II and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but there are plans to add fourteen more by the end of the year, including Borderlands 3

It seems that the AMA’s purpose was damage control, to temper expectations of what would be coming with the Stadia launch and to prepare customers for the worst. In that respect, it absolutely succeeded. What this says about Google’s ability to manage a potential console-beating service is another matter, however. 

Conclusion Four: BioWare has no plans to give up

You have to roll with the punches to survive in a competitive market, and BioWare has become something of a punching bag over the last few years. Whether it was the divisive nature of Mass Effect 3's ending, the banality of Mass Effect: Andromeda or the buggy, hollow mess of Anthem, the studio has taken a beating from all sides. Much of it was deserved, but only because players knew that the games BioWare were putting out were simply not indicative of the fantastic quality that we'd come to expect. A BioWare game used to be a cause for celebration. It was usually a thrilling, narrative-led bundle of joy from which dozens of hours of fun could be gleaned. In recent times though, BioWare has become synonymous with "average".

The studio plans to change that. In an article from Kotaku, insiders have given an indication that not only are there plans to overhaul Anthem entirely,but that a new Mass Effect is in development alongside Dragon Age 4 (though as we mentioned previously, this is likely to be three years away). A new iteration of Anthem is the most interesting aspect here though, given that sources on the project —referred to as Anthem Next — suggest that loot, quests, social interactions and even the entire game map are all up for an overhaul.

was launched as a competitor to Destiny 2, a move which didn't sit well with BioWare fans who were expecting something more in line with the RPGs they'd been used to the studio producing.But it seems that BioWare itself wasn't happy with the end result either, so is planning to rip up the blueprints and start again. Just as Bungie learned from the mistakes of the original Destiny, so too might BioWare take Anthem's framework and mould it into something that people are more interested in playing.

With Dragon Age 4 years away and a new Mass Effect barely even into the brainstorming stage yet, we sincerely hope that any new iteration of Anthem succeeds.For all its faults, BioWare has its heart in the right place, and we would hate to see EA decide to pull the plug on a beloved studio.

Conclusion Five: Take 5 is taking 5

It’s not far off two years since the very first Take 5 article was published on JDR. Each week, without fail, we have rounded up the weird, wonderful and downright bizarre news from the gaming world before giving our own unique take on it. 

However, as we approach the end of the year, it’s a great time to take stock of our inventory and focus. We’ve introduced some wonderful new regular content - such as the Jump Chat Roll podcast - as well as maintaining regular columns like our monthly Mobile Roundup. As we look to continue to shake things up and bring out more occasional columns and opinion pieces, we have decided to suspend Take 5 for the time being.   

This will therefore be the last Take 5 of 2019. If and when it returns, it may be in the same format, or it may perhaps be wearing a new and shinier set of clothes. We know that many of you enjoy the column, so we have lots to consider — don’t consider this a permanent goodbye, but an opportunity for us to give the news roundup format a full bill of health before releasing it into the world once more. Thanks for stopping by!

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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.