Tag Archives: media

Embargoes and Appetites, Simplified

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

This is how publishers should begin looking at their launches: Players with set time and budget concerns are looking for reasons not to buy a game, and the better your game works at launch, the more reasons we have to pick it up.

There is always a choice to be had, even if that choice consists of playing the things we haven’t yet finished. A bad launch takes you out of the running, and stressed-out players may almost be happy to see you go.

This is another reason why pre-ordering games is a terrible idea, and waiting to buy is so smart. If you’re not locked into a purchase you can simply buy another game, or wait for things to become more stable. There are people who ran out to pick up Unity yesterday only to get to work and read the reviews. Or worse yet they opened it, played it and are now stuck with a product they can’t return.

A simpler way to read yesterday’s rant.

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Assassin-in-the-room

Polygon’s Quality Control is a fantastic short-form podcast hosted by Justin McElroy in which video game reviewers (primarily from Polygon) offer insight to their review of a particular new release and answer listener questions.

On today’s episode, Polygon Reviews Editor and guest Arthur Gies elaborated on his review of Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

Upon reading Gies’s review, I was taken aback by the lack of mention to the E3 hubbub surrounding Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio’s comments regarding the lack of playable female avatar’s in co-op:

It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.

I posed the following unabridged question to Justin via email:

“Arthur seemed to avoid the elephant-in-the-room regarding female playable characters in co-op. While Polygon (and Arthur) has/have made sexualization and representation an impetus for review scores in the past (see Bayonetta 2 (albeit, on the opposite side of representation)), why was this not addressed? Did Arthur feel that female representation did not affect AC: Unity’s overall review? Did he feel the damage had already been done and no more worthwhile discussion could be added? Or was it that Arthur simply wanted us focus solely on the end-product, sharing the detail we may miss when distracted by the elephant?”

Arthur’s response, time stamp 8:20, edited for clarity:

I mean Arno is the character in the game. And I don’t think women are treated particularly well in the game; It’s certainly not even close to the most egregious misstep that I’ve seen in a game this year with regard to that kind of subject matter. And honestly, the game has so many other problems to discuss that at a certain point I feel like I’m running out of reader patience or attention span to get to the heart of the statement that I’m trying to make.

With Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the traversal problems that the series has had for years and the massive technical issues and a really underwhelming story are all things that undermine Unity very seriously. I could go on at length at various things in the game that bother me but those are the most substantive things that hurt the game. It could still have been a fantastic game despite the absence of women in it as playable avatars. [If that were the case], that might have been a discussion I could have had, but that wasn’t as material as everything else.

Thanks for the time and clarity, Arthur.

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Embargoes and Appetites

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

When a game’s embargo isn’t up until the day of launch you need to be careful. If it isn’t up until a few hours after the game is launched you should probably run screaming the other way. That’s not a signal that the game may have middling reviews, that’s a signal that the publisher is trying to sell copies before the word hits the street.

It could also meant the game is still being worked on, but any embargo past midnight the night before is sketchy as hell. It’s a way to weaponize embargoes, and the best thing to do is to hold off until you can read about the game in detail.

[…]

You should always be on the lookout for these situations. The earlier a review hits, often the more confidence the publisher has in the game.

Earlier this year, I commented that Nintendo “gambled for positive reviews two weeks before launch”. Looking back, this was definitely less of a gamble and more a projection with confidence.

From a publisher’s perspective, I understand careful consideration over embargo dates. However, if a consumer cares deeply about a reviewer’s opinion, there should be no problem in waiting for a trusted opinion. The day-and-date state-of-mind is poison.

This does not, however, address the problem of protection from broken product. This is not film or music— botched playback would never escape manufacturing; a bad bounce would never escape the studio. Pre-orders for products so deeply rooted in real-time mechanics and engineering, notoriously subjected to time crunches and annual release dates, cannot wisely be considered for pre-order without subjection to reviews. While I implore patiently waiting for reviews on this type of product, release date and post-release date embargo lifts, as Kuchera implies, are cowardly and bullshit.

Pre-release embargoes are important, as is our appetite for new product.

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‘How Reviews Impact Those Who Create’

Speaking of reviews, here’s a interesting follow-up from the side of developers.

Brian P. Shea, IGN:

Ultimately, reviews should never be viewed as the final word on a game. Instead, they’re guidelines for readers to apply to their own personal taste. If a review gives a game a 7.0 and cites poor multiplayer a one of the game’s issues, but you don’t intend on playing the multiplayer, you can synthesize that review and conclude that you might be very likely to enjoy the game more than the critic – and that’s OK.

A worthwhile read but I maintain that a 7.0 persists as a flag. It is likely going to deter consumers from a $60 gamble “to apply their own personal taste.”

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Hard-Working Schlubs

Jeremy Parish writing on his 2-dimensions.com blog:

Video games are made by hard-working schlubs, and they’re written about by hard-working schlubs, and both categories of schlub do so in service of the hard-working schlubs who do their schlubbing so they can afford to buy video games. We’re not so different, you and I.

Great perspective piece on 10+ years working in the gaming press. I have Parish, in part, to thank for where I am today. From one hard-working schlub, schlubbing to afford to write about video games on the side (because I can’t help it either), to another hard-working schlub: Thank you.

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Social Justice Warriors?

An all-star roster of games journalists joined Adam Rosser on BBC Radio 5 live’s Game On for a discussion on the “social justice warrior.” Some of my favorite moments below:

Pat Garratt, VG247:

I’ve seen many squabbles on the Internet and they do sort of go the way of the dodo. I think what we are actually seeing is this section of the gaming community is about to be pushed out. I think that’s why their so angry. It’s literally like taking a toy away from a child. If you actually take a toy away from a child, they just completely freak out. This is exactly what is happening, I think.

Dan Person, GamesIndustry.biz:

There’s an awful lot of psychology and studies into this idea of the online personality; This idea of the power of anonymity, and the keyboard warrior and what that kind of does to people when you take away the consequences of actions in that way. That’s still a relatively new area of study. The Internet is certainly, in human terms, a very recent invention.

I think when you get unfettered and unregulated communities of young, let’s face it, mostly men who are operating in this way without any kind of adult or intelligent supervision, they can become very quickly violent and vile and unpleasant. That echo chamber can accentuate that effect. And then when somebody comes into the playroom and says, “hey guys. You know you should stop doing that and perhaps behave like adults,” there is often that phase of tantrum, basically. And if those children happen to be handling a large blunt object, then that can become dangerous.

Keza McDonald, Kotaku UK:

The Internet gamifies people. It turns you into someone who’s not a real person. You’re some imaginary thing on the end of a Twitter handle. It makes it easier for people to behave inhumanly towards you. Anyone who basically decides to do cultural criticism of games that goes beyond just the assessment of software will probably come up against people who ask them, “why can’t you just talk about the game?” Again, for these people, games are systems that are self-contained and for them the community and the world of gaming is also a system that is self-contained. So as soon as you start trying to place it in a real world context or you start talking about it in a way that they’re not used to, I think that it really confuses people and upsets them.

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The Metaphorical Grocery Store

Chris Plante, Polygon:

Two groups are at opposite ends of this moment:

One side has folded its arms, slumped its shoulders while pouting like an obstinate child that has learned they are getting a little brother or sister but wants to remain the singular focus of his parents’ affection.

The other side has opened its arms, unable to contain its love and compassion, because they understand they are no longer alone.

This week, the obstinate child threw a temper tantrum, and the industry was stuck in the metaphorical grocery store as everyone was forced to suffer through it together. But unlike a child, the people behind these temper tantrums are hurting others. It’s time to grow up. Let’s not wait until next week to start.

I am very happy to see writers Auerbach and Plante echo each other’s sentiment of “childish rhetoric.” I’m even happier that Plante is escalating this conversation to include the reality of the situation.

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If not Disneyland or Nintendo…

Jordan Shapiro, Forbes:

Disney characters are not as familiar to my kids as they were to me when I was their age. Perhaps it is because they have tablets, gaming consoles, and laptops. Their pop culture universe is dominated by Minecraft, Mario, Clash of Clans, and Pokemon. YouTube gamers are celebrities to them. While they (and I) enjoy those new Mickey Mouse shorts on the Disney Channel, we rarely set out to watch something because of the Disney brand.

I love Disneyland. Probably more than most. So much so that my NaNoWriMo novel took place within the gates if the Magic Kingdom. I have long dreamt of becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer; brainstorming, collaborating, and bringing to life grand new experiences for park guests. The idea of immersing myself in work that turned imagination into reality (even if it meant laying the brick myself!) always sounded… right.

However, I had an eerily similar thought last night. After setting down my copy of Console Wars by Blake J. Harris, I asked myself if I’d rather work for Disney or Nintendo?

Nintendo is full of characters I grew up, full of characters I love. Being born in 1985, the year the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was brought to North America, Mario, Mega Man (Capcom aside), and Link (rather, the name I chose) were the characters that ushered me into the world, and I them. These characters had no personality, just a mission and they need me to achieve it. They required immersion and connection.

Being raised in a world where the participatory nature of video games was quickly becoming the norm, I’m not sure how much observing a character or watching the moral to a story unfold actually affected me. I was obsessed the Aladdin’s Genie because he made me laugh, but until I really understood the nuances of storytelling and scope of reality (probably somewhere in mid-high school), I’m not sure I really identified with any Disney character. I just knew I wanted to be the good guy.

After spending the weekend enjoying Mario Kart 8 with my fiancée, I thought about how much joy the characters of the Mushroom Kingdom brought me; I thought about how excited I was for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, or how I would jump at the opportunity to buy the next Luigi’s Mansion installment, or how I wish Nintendo would launch a Princess Peach and Daisy centric title.

Don’t get me wrong, working as a Walt Disney Imagineer or in Nintendo’s Treehouse sounds like more than any fan could ever ask for. But given an equal opportunity at both, I’m not sure which I would choose. I don’t think I’m the only one from my generation who sits on this fence.

In a connected society full of massive, customizable, open worlds and bite-sized mobile games, will post-millennials fantasize about either? If we live in a perpetually fantastic world, does reality become the new fantasy?

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Study: Video games causing spike in music composer employment

Study: Video games causing spike in music composer employment
GeekWire

I can’t help but feel Austin Wintory’s Grammy nomination for the Journey OST will help inspire others as well. However, a paycheck is nice too…

SoundCon found that the number of composing jobs remained flat until 2009, when growth in the space took off. As the graph above shows, SoundCon found that the dramatic increase was largely due to the arrival of Apple’s App Store and the Facebook Application Developer.

– GeekWire

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