Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 22/02/19

February 22, 2019
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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: Microsoft can’t handle criticism

In a week where one of the most anticipated games of the last few years — Anthem — is released, it seems that Microsoft is trying to get ahead of the relatively mediocre reviews by lashing out at journalists who dare to comment on the game’s faults.

On Wednesday, the corporate VP of Xbox Mike Ybarra tweeted a snarky comment that people were “whining” about the game, and said that a reviewer who didn’t know how to perform a combo in Anthem was “embarrassing”. For some reason, he also linked to an article which was unrelated to the review he was taking aim at.

 

Fortunately, for the sanity of every game journalist on the planet, the internet didn’t take kindly to a Microsoft exec ragging on someone justifiably criticising a game, and the response was probably not what Ybarra was hoping for. It seems that there was indeed some confusion about certain parts of the game, which the studio has now addressed — thereby justifying the criticism in the first place. Furthermore, it is absolutely not for Ybarra, or indeed Microsoft, to complain if a player cannot work out how to play their game properly. This isn’t the 80s — we are well past the days of hundred-page manuals being bundled with game discs. Gamers expect to be taught the mechanics on the fly, and from the very beginning. If a game fails to do so and the player has at least an average level of competency, then the issue is with the game, not the player, and certainly not a reviewer who decided to vocalise their thoughts in writing to help others make an informed choice.

Ybarra didn’t stop there — less than an hour and a half later he tweeted again to say that “modern reviews should be watching streamers play a game, doing the demo, listening to what your gaming friends think - and if it seems like something you will enjoy then great.”

So in short, it seems that here at JDR we should be ditching the written word in favour of a load of gameplay videos and making sure we agree with our friends. The cynic might suggest that Ybarra’s stance is based on Microsoft not making anywhere near as much money from written reviews as it can from streams, and not being able to farm out enthusiastic “influencers” to market their stuff. If you want our thoughts on Anthem, then click here for our review.

Conclusion Two: We all hope the Princess is in another castle

In 2004, at E3, an absolute legend was created. Reggie Fils-Aime told the world he was all about kicking ass, and taking names, whilst Nintendo was the one who would be making games:


This was a literal megaton of an intro, around the time Nintendo went all amaze with the Wii, the heady days of the DS's success and more. With Reggie at the helm, hell, what chance did anyone else have?

Soon he became the President of Nintendo of America and has been one of, if not the, face of Nintendo in the west for the past fifteen years or so. Until now, or April this year.

Reggie is retiring, and the world mourns. It should - he is the videogame exec that did it, somehow winning hearts and minds of gamers in a way that only Eastern executives had done before, and perhaps paved the way for Phil Harrison, Peter Moore and Andrew House (plus many more to be honest).


Whilst it's sad - and honestly rather odd that the gaming community can be sad when a business leader moves on - what's perhaps more concerning is who is rising to take over the North American compartment of the brilliant behemoth that is Nintendo. Doug Bowser, yes, BOWSER. When he first joined Nintendo some folk had a concern, or two. Check out this picture of him:


Let's hope neither the photo, the name, nor anything else is a portent of doom...

Conclusion Three: Google will shake up the gaming world in March

At Jump Dash Roll we've been thinking for quite some time that Google is doing something gamey, and will be looking to do that something really rather well at the time of launch. It seems the official announcement of whatever this might be is coming soon, March 19th to be specific.

Google tries pretty much everything, and whatever it does it has the budget, capability and experience to do well, even if it ultimately fails. Google+ is a great example of the latter, their recent online learning offering a current attempt to do something existing well, and in as non-commoditised way as possible, with Gmail being perhaps the de facto example of Google doing something non-core (at the time), but doing it remarkably successfully.


Gaming then, and specifically game streaming. Google has tested this through Chrome by way of Assassin's Creed Odyssey. It's called Project Stream. So what's this they're going to announce? My guess is a full-on game streaming solution, in partnership with one or more studios and possibly a catalogue provider, like Steam or Epic maybe. It will probably also be free, with some other money-making model involved just like all of Google's output.

Gaming is a difficult business to crack, and if you're providing games to people, you have to beat the existing marketplaces. All PC games, streamed — who else could do it, aside perhaps from Amazon (in a less elegant but equally brutal manner)? But if Google want to bother, and they have already streamed one of 2018's best games in their RAM-sucking browser? The world is their oyster.  

Conclusion Four: PC and console gaming just got a little closer

One of the oft-cited bugbears of the PC gaming market when compared to consoles is the latter’s lack of support for modding. Games like Oblivion, Skyrim and Fallout have all enjoyed huge mod support on PC which has improved the original games far beyond the developers’ original vision for them.

So, console gamers had plenty to celebrate this week when Paradox Interactive announced that, alongside Microsoft, they were launching a modding initiative for the Xbox One. In an interview with Gamesindustry.biz it was revealed that gamers will soon be able to download and install mods to their console which were originally created on PC. The best part? There is no pre-approval or manual approval needed to do so.

 

Previously, mods which were uploaded for the limited number of console games which did support them, such as Fallout 4, had to go through stringent checks and approvals — in this case, by Bethesda — before they could be secured, copyrighted and released. The new Paradox Mods service will bypass all of that, allowing player-created mods to more easily reach console gamers and further closing the gap between console and PC gaming. Any move which works towards harmonising gaming rather than creating barriers (as Sony tried to do with Fortnite cross-play before it caved) is welcome indeed. The first game to make use of the new service will be Paradox Interactive’s own Surviving Mars. We hope it’s a stellar(is) success.

Conclusion Five: Scalebound (may be) bound for the Switch

Or so the rumours swirling around this week would suggest. PlatinumGames’ dragon-themed open world RPG was cancelled two years ago by Microsoft in circumstances which still haven’t fully been understood. The Bayonetta developer has gained a lot of fans over the last decade and Scalebound looked set to bring a host of new ones into the fold until it was cast aside. Until now.

If the reports at both Nintendo Insider and VG247 are to be believed, there may be a resurrection in the works. As well as the two print rumours, an editor at Game Informer also made a cryptic reference to a returning game on the Switch which was previously considered dead and buried. Could all of these rumours point to Scalebound making a comeback?

It’s pure speculation at the moment and the Switch is far less powerful than the game’s original planned home on the Xbox One. But if PlatinumGames could make it happen, then Nintendo may just have pulled off the coup of the year. I mean, just look at what could be:

 

Glorious.

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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.