Thursday, February 26, 2015

5 ways in which game exclusivity is still better than multiplatform

Game exclusivity is something that has really faded with time, as companies try to squeeze as much as they can from their franchises. Still, there are a couple reasons why game exclusivity is still more powerful than the all popular multiplatform even in this day and age. I know almost everybody want all the games to come to their favorite platform, but that isn't as helpful as you may believe. Now without further delay let's see the reasons why:

game pad sega
Real Sega fans remained loyal up until the end mostly because of their first party software, so that's exclusivity for you.
1) Fan loyalty and hype remains stronger.

This one has to do with how gamers picture a game in their minds and how that affects the loyalty and hype they feel for it. Let's see it this way, if a game has been on a platform for several years (sometimes even surpassing a decade) it is kind of a bucket of cold water on your head to see it drift to another audience that may or may not appreciate the game as the original fan base does. This is the same as seen your favorite baseball team suddenly change their name, uniform and state they represent. Even if the team is the same, it wont feel like it to people who had been following the team all of their lives. This emotional attachment/dis-attachment will affect how the game is perceived and how much hype it gets. For example, people have been waiting for Kingdom Hearts 3 for a long time, but one topic of discussion in various forums is that ever since they announced it as a multiplatform production it has lost a great deal of that previous hype.

game developer multitasking
Multitasking is hard, but not so difficult when you are focusing on a certain platform instead of  2 or more.
2) Quality has a better chance.

This one is very simple. If the development team is focusing on one specific platform, that means that all the resources, ideas and quality centered focus will be at 100% capacity since they don't have to divide themselves between different development kits, technical issues, etc. We saw how the multiplatform aspect severely affected the quality in games like Watchdogs and Assasins Creed Unity and that game has always been a multiplatform deal. Now imagine what happens when companies start spreading exclusive material over different plaforms and audiences...Something has to give, and that is quality.

Pacman eats dollars
Contrary to popular beliefs, this isn't always the case.
3) Multiplatform doesn't necessarily mean more profit.

This one goes a little far from conventional thinking if you take into account that publishing a game for multiple platforms can become more expensive than having it as an exclusive. This is because even if the game is identical on all the platforms involved, the audiences are not and this means that the company will have to approach each type of audience in a different way or risk the game flopping on one of them because it wasn't properly advertised. This could had pretty much been the main reason why some companies decided not to release their games on platforms like the Wii U and PS VITA. This is a matter of risk and reward and in some cases expanding the audience of a game doesn't mean that it will sell more, it just means that it will have a bit more availability and that not always traduces itself to sales.

Battle Programmer Shirase
More flexibility means better games, unless they want to scam us on purpose.
4) Exclusive game production is more flexible.

This one is a given. When a game is been developed for a specific platform it doesn't carry the same type of pressure as if the game were a multiplatform production. Game delays are easier to have (and sometimes needed), access to funding is more centralized and demands come from only one group instead of 2 or more (imagine each of the big guys from different platforms asking to have their own little advantages). Game exclusivity does have its own kind of pressure as gamers expect a lot more from the final product, but at least developers have the chance to focus and work in a tighter and friendlier environment.

Hardcore Gamer
I mean the real hardcore gamer and not the "apparently" hardcore one.
5) Game exclusivity is still pure and gamer centered.

Purism in gaming means a game that is not contaminated by any marketing or business related material. This includes games having specific "advantages" if you pre-order the game on a certain store, getting game material earlier or later based on what company made the best deals with the game's publisher/developer and last but not least, it saves the game from been divided in too many different "appeal factors" in an attempt to cater to different audiences at the same time. This "pureness" serves in our favor, because the game is custom tailored for us gamers and not as a generic business-based effort.

There you have it folks. 5 reasons why game exclusivity is still powerful and necessary. Of course this doesn't mean that it is perfect, but at least it still carries those characteristics that work for us and not against us.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A non-objective take into old school gaming

Hello folks. Up until now, I have been trying to be as objective as possible when I treat anything related to old school vs current gaming, but today I think I will go with something a little out of the ordinary and write a little more freely, just as a treat for all of the old school gamers out there. Don't get me wrong, I love many of the games that the previous and current generation have given us, but my criteria about what games are good and what games are legendary is still rooted to my old school background (especially from the 90s up to the early 00s), so now let me share with you some of my thoughts.

Details, details, details...

The first thing I must mention in this old school extravaganza is that I miss all the detail that getting a new game use to give us. With the lack of reliable internet in the 90's and a limited selection of information up to the middle 00's, buying a new game was sort of an adventure within itself. This gave a lesson to gamers at the time on how to use their imagination and intuition to fill the blank spaces that games had (because of technical issues and/or lack of technology). This attention to detail was fed by pretty much everything in sight, from clever game descriptions on magazines/catalogs, awesome looking television adverts, posters, sweepstakes, excellent box art, superb game manual content (like comics strips, detailed explanations, etc) and of course a game presentation that was hellbent on getting us interested in the game's storyline.

If you weren't alive at the time, this is how most trailers used to look like back then... 
(Be aware that this creative trailer is very recent).

Nowadays we have a lot of easy access to websites, blogs and videos that feed us with all sorts of information which is awesome, but feels somehow different. You see, back in the old school days, players received information in the same way that you could get drenched while running outside on a rainy day (raindrops = information). Now on our present times, the rain of information doesn't fall on us because we actually live in the rain cloud, which can sometimes make us feel a little overwhelmed. This overflow of information dampens our ability to use our imagination in order to cause our own hype and to get immersed in the game way before it releases because we are confronted with so many digested opinions that we start taking things for granted. We are not allowed to see games with the illusion of a kid anymore and this is not because we are older, but because there is no space for it on the current gaming market. Now speaking of such market...

Videogames motivational pic
It was that simple...

Convenience and simpler social gaming.

Back then, from the moment you got a gaming gem on your hands, you knew that you had plenty of time to finish it before the next big thing got into stores. We used to have the luxury of been able to just sit there and play without worrying about trends or what our friends were playing. In the end, any group of gamers would just get together and talk about what games they were playing (sometimes ending in a borrowed game fest), rather than been in the constant struggle of trying to be in the same page (playing the same game, because of its online feature). Be aware of the fact that I love playing online, but it sometimes feel like games are been thrown at us at a machine gun's pace and this puts us in a tight spot where we have to choose between finishing that game we were playing or just jump ahead to the newest online experience with the rest of your friends. Its a personal satisfaction vs social gaming war that can sometimes affect our gaming experience.

Final Fantasy XV traffic jam

Chaotic, but fun game releases.

From high school and up until halfway through college, my friends and I experienced what I used to call "gaming road trips". This kind of thing happened because game releases were kind of random, rather than controlled by the standardized schedule we have now. Many times, our gaming group was not aware that X game was going to be released, so once we got that piece of information we rushed to the cyber cafe to see what was is all about and if we liked it, we made a road trip to the nearest video game store (which at the time was a 40 minute drive because of heavy traffic) and get the game. The cool part is that sometimes we didn't just went directly to our homes in order to play, but kept on going on our little road trip, which really fed our sense of expectation up to a point where we woke up very early on the next day and basically played till we dropped. That type of experience is kind of hard to replicate on our present day when most games and updates are released on Tuesdays (except for Nintendo who does it on Fridays). It just doesn't provoke the same excitement as it used to because it feels a little too structured for the old school gamer mindset as the random factor is taken away from the equation. Some of my friends tell me that I have to understand that this is done in order to make it easier for retailers, but I still believe that it was better in the past.

Paying user vs free user

A pristine online gaming scene.

This one is really important because this is one of the main things that has changed. I remember that back at the day I played a lot of MMORPGs and online games that were either legitimately free to play or just a pay to play experience. This doesn't mean that micro-transactions were not existent at the time because they did exist, especially on free to play games. That free to play business model of the past was based on a different kind of payment-reward system where the "merchandise" in question was basically special equipment that made your character look cool, items that gave some little extra conveniences like moving a bit faster, items that temporarily boosted your stats/skills/crafting/experience points and stuff like that.

This whole argument can be summarized in the following way. If you had the dough you could get your hands into some nice treasures, but even if you had those awesome angel/devil wings on your back, had a special pet/mount with you and a skin for your armor that made you look like you were some kind of final boss, you still had to work your way up or else you would be just another cool looking noob. There was no easy way up and progress within the game was way slower than it is now, but once you got to play the game you could go through everything without skipping parts or having to pay for content that was already in the game. This made for online games that had stronger communities which looked for one another in a full online game experience that was not involved into any pay to win schemes.

Resident Evil Doors Loading
Believe it or not, this "opening doors" effect became a whole argument when the HD version of the Resident Evil remake was launched on PS4 and Xbox One.

Games were not criticized using boring raw logic.

At the time, one of the things that made gaming to be so special was that it was a hobby that did not took itself seriously. We could have the wackiest of game characters, stories that felt like they were written by someone who was doing acid and we just didn't care at all. In that day and age, we as gamers saw fiction for what it was and we didn't felt the need to force logic into it. We went through the "opening doors" loading screens of Resident Evil, played as a magical jester that flew through your very own dreams in Nights, spent hours trying to solve the piano keys puzzle in Silent Hill, ran through an island trapping monkeys in Ape Escape, destroyed each other using weaponized cars in Twisted Metal, walked through virtual worlds without a single clue of what to do next on Myst and so on without even flinching. For us, each and every one of those game worlds had their own kind of beauty so we fully appreciated each of them.

Nowadays gaming criticism has become softer in what needs to be scrutinized and stricter with things that are not important. I've read and heard complaints about a character that looks "too unrealistic", cutscenes that are "too slow", stories that are too "farfetched" or "weird" and the list goes on. I really think that critics should stop this because games are supposed to be a ticket out of reality itself and not a carbon copy of it (at least until we manage to make a holo-deck or something). Game criticism is a good and necessary thing, but we need to point our guns to the things that really matter like game content, game design, shady practices and stop picking on trivialities.

Wrapping things up

To end this little mind to the past that I have taken you through, I must say that I believe in change and I do understand that things evolve over time. What I don't understand is why sometimes (like in the case of gaming) the people behind such a strong industry insist on eliminating the good things even though those good things still represent good profits. Taking the cheap-ass way may work for a while, but ultimately, small details like the ones previously mentioned are the criteria that separates common games from extraordinary ones and little by little gamers are waking up to the fact that gaming could be a lot better than what it is now and that we need to go back to thinking that improvement comes by adding, not subtracting.

Have a great day/night people, game on!