Raising the Price of Games
How much should we pay for games? New AAA titles I mean. Is what we are currently paying - approximately Â£40, but dropping - too much? Whatever the answer, it looks like we are going to be paying more. On Wednesday, some top dogs from Take-Two, Activision and THQ suggested top new releases on next-gen consoles will retail for $59.99 or more.
Now, filtering that across the pond, expect to pay Â£50 for your next-gen GTA, Halo or Mario. How do I feel about this? Well, I keep hearing about the increasing costs that next-gen development will bring, but is this rise needed or is it more about margins?
This argument goes around in circles. The industry will cite developer closures, rising production costs, more hours of entertainment for your pound than music or film and the fact games have consistently been around about the same price for over a decade as reasons that make this hike a necessity.
Then there are those that believe it's all a ruse for extra profits - they cite the number of zeros on EA, Take Two and Microsoft's latest financials, and the fact that every time a next-gen comes along, it provides a sneaky excuse for higher prices. For these people, prices should go down, not up.
I'm not going to sit on the fence. I think games probably need a small increase in price, for many of the reasons cited by those who campaign for them. But, accompanying a hike in price, I think a new royalties model needs to be implemented that filters more of those massive profits down the production chain to developers. Take a small bit away from retail, take a small bit away from publishers, and development will thrive.
Then there's always the possibility of government help for the games industry in the UK, as is the case in France. This week, Roger Bennett, director general of ELSPA, the European Leisure and Software Publishers Association, called on the government to support the games industry within the UK on a similar level to music and film. Currently, our best talent often have to go abroad to get work. With a little more money going towards development, we can keep the UK one of the global hot-spots for fantastic creative electronic entertainment.
Of course, gamers won't mind paying Â£50 for a fantastic game. But if the difference in quality between a Â£40 (or even cheaper) PlayStation 2 game and a Â£50 PlayStation 3 game is negligible, then the casual gamer will stick with what they've got. I remember paying my dues in a game store when Final Fantasy X came out at Â£45. The amount of returns we got on that . . .
Games Doing Great in the UK
As if fate conspired to bring all the news together this week to support some grand, pertinent point, it was announced that the Nintendo DS has become the fastest-selling console ever, with sales topping some 87,000 units in the first two days at retail, and that Polyphony Digital's PlayStation 2 exclusive racing title Gran Turismo 4 has claimed top spot in the UK all format charts, selling over a quarter of a million units to clock up the fourth biggest opening week ever.
There is money to be made in this game people. It makes me shake my head with disdain that developers and publishers are folding all over the world. It makes me bow my head in shame that some of this money isn't filtering down to UK development talent. With records being smashed left right and centre, it's time to protect the creative geniuses behind our beloved passion. Where's all the money going?
Come on Orson!
Something that caught my eye this week was the suggestion that games are yet to have their Citizen Kane moment. You know - the game that redefines what we think we know about having fun electronically.
It's an interesting subject. Is it even possible, in today's sequel-heavy, risk-averse industry, to have one unique product that is so radical in its approach to gaming that it determines the methods and techniques employed by developers for years afterwards? Probably not, although I would love that thought to be a simple case of hack cynicism.
I guess the only thing that has come close was Mario64, which brought 3D platform gameplay to the masses. Every game had to be 3D afterwards. It was groundbreaking in terms of camera use, level design and character use. Will games have this epiphany of what it means to have fun? I bloody well hope so.
CGI Game Movie in 'I'm Getting Excited' Shock
Ahh, Final Fantasy VII. The only game to ever make me cry. Yes, I've admitted it. I cried when Aeris died. Dropping her lifeless into that cold, blue fluid stuff (I can't exactly recall whether it was water or some 'nature style back to the earth goop'), was even more emotional than when E.T. finally buggered off home. It didn't help that I'd spent half the game leveling her up so much that she was the best character in my damn party. And now they're making a movie out of it. It's called Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and almost made blood seep from the corners of my eyes with excitement when I found out about it. Old news I hear you cry. Damn right - I can't fool anybody these days. But did you know producer Shinji Hashimoto had given a small interview about it?
Killer quote: "To be honest, all of the staff was burnt out after we made the original Final Fantasy VII! But as you know, Final Fantasy has both a game part and a movie part - and as we made the movie part, we decided to make it longer, because it's so connected to the game part."
Check the rest of the interview, along with Hashimoto-san's thought's on the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 2 here.
I CAN'T WAIT FOR THIS FILM!!!!!! AHHHHHH!!
Hah-ha! Bet you weren't expecting some news on World of Warcraft were you? Well...
On Friday Blizzard... lovely, sweet Blizzard, told the world over 1.5 million goons have subscribed to their little fantasy game. The highest number of players online at once was more than 500,000. Half a million! Can you imagine half a million people all playing the same game at the same time? Can you imagine half a million people doing anything all at the same time?
It's a landmark. A boundary has been broken. Blizzard has proved MMORPGs can be hugely popular, profitable and, might I add, bloody great fun. So popular in fact, that the damn thing has sold out everywhere, I'm reliably told. Although, my mate, who I allowed to have a bash on the game for a few hours, has managed to find a copy online. He's one of us now...
However, this popularity does have a downside: Server congestion. Fortunately, Blizzard is planning to allow you to transfer characters across realms, hoping that this will lessen the problem. Great stuff - something you should have been able to do from the start. Not only does it allow you to play with friends who might be on different servers to you, but maybe that lvl 50 Rogue you have might now be able to negotiate Ironforge without threat of falling into the Great Forge because of too much lag.
Not that Blizzard employees have smiles permanently slapped across their golden faces. Last week it was revealed they had cancelled over 1000 accounts that had been found guilty of farming; that is, for the lay person, players who make gold in game and sell it on for real money.
This is perhaps in the games best interests, but really flies in the face of what MMORPGs represent: player created communities, social dynamics and great fun. If some idiot wants to spend his money on WoW gold, let him, it's all part of the game. A game, I might add, that costs just under a tenner a month to play. I mean, I'm not complaining that one of my guild mates charged me ten percent interest on a 60 gold loan for my mount, am I?
By the way, if you can't understand why anyone would want to spend their time playing a game that involves bashing crabs with a stick for hours on end, watch ONLINE: the WORLD of WARCRAFT. It's a short documentary by David McQueen and Michael Ballard which explores the addictive qualities of the game through interviews with a few US players. Killer quote two: "How does the game end? The game never ends."
This Week's New Releases
This week European gamers can finally get their hands on Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube (unless you have imported it months ago). If you've read our review you'll know that we can't recommend this enough. Games like this come along very rarely, so you'd be a fool to let it pass you by. It is worth buying a GameCube solely to play this game, it is that good.
If of course you simply refuse to buy a console that is "for kids" and are waiting for the PlayStation 2 version, there are a few other titles worth taking a look at. Act of War: Direct Action has been receiving some solid reviews and should be of interest to RTS fans, and Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 looks to be one of the games of the year, possibly even taking the WWII FPS title from Call of Duty (The PC version that is).
If you must torture yourself, DRIV3R makes an appearance on the PC this week. We have no idea how this port has turned out, so it might be worth a gamble, but the lack of press on the game would suggest it is one to avoid. Championship Manager 5 finally hit store shelves on Friday, but is anyone interested any more? Everyone knows that the true successor to the last version came in the form of Football Manager 2005, but you never know. Maybe the new development team managed to better what was already brilliant.
- Act of War: Direct Action (PC)
- American McGee's Scrapland (PC, Xbox)
- Blitzkrieg Strategy Collection (PC)
- Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30 (PS2, Xbox, PC)
- Champions: Return To Arms (PS2)
- Championship Manager 5 (PC)
- Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 (Cube)
- DRIV3R (PC)
- Duel Masters: Sempai Legends (PS2)
- EyeToy: Monkey Mania (PS2)
- Fight Night Round 2 (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Mario Party 6 (Cube)
- Painkiller: Black Edition (PC)
- Rayman: Hoodlums' Revenge (GBA)
- Resident Evil 4 (Cube)
- Rugby 2005 (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Sentinel: Descendents in Time (PC)
- Silent Hunter 3 (PC)