Nintendo Switch Early Impressions

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Gus and I have already registered our opinions of the Switch on our podcast, but it’s time to break things down in print.

Now, obviously, Nintendo needed to reveal the Switch in a way that didn’t echo the unveiling of the Wii-U.  I mean, let’s be honest… they didn’t do anything to help that console.  They didn’t convey what it was, nor did they market the damn thing.  But the Switch reveal was quite different.  After all was said and done, we had a great understanding of what the console is, why it has the potential to benefit everyone, and most important of all, how it’s actually supposed to work.  It was the necessary ‘un-Nintendo like move’ they so desperately needed, but unfortunately, the company left their stink all over the rest of their presentation.

At least they started strong.  Right out of the gate, they told us what the Switch’s price point was and what its release date would be.  Everyone was surprised to learn the console would be out on March 3rd, sooner than expected – media outlets a plenty had reported March 17th – but the price point, $299.99, was a little confusing.  Without any context, I think $300 is reasonable, but that’s not the problem.  The problem is that Nintendo probably aren’t selling the Switch at a loss, and they really should be.

You see, Nintendo like to pretend they’re not competing with Sony and Microsoft, but that’s poppycock.  If you’re a gamer that has yet to enter this generation, and someone gives you $300 to spend on a new machine, you’re probably not buying a Switch.  As of right now, Target’s website offers the Uncharted 4 PS4 bundle and the Battlefield 1 Xbox One S bundle for only $299.  All of a sudden, the Switch’s ‘reasonable’ price point doesn’t seem so reasonable, especially since it doesn’t even come with a game.  So yes, Nintendo, you ARE competing with Sony and Microsoft.  To pretend otherwise is… well, pretty much what I expect out of you, you daft, clueless bastards.  And let’s not forget, this holiday, the Switch will also be going head-to-head with the Xbox Scorpio.

So, there’s two things Nintendo should have done for the Switch, and keep in mind these are minimal moves.

First, they really should have included a pack-in game.  2 + 1 Switch seems to be a simple a tech demo; a smattering of mini-games which show off the system’s distance measuring IR sensor as well as the HD rumble feature.  If this title was included with the Switch, people would have something fun to play with their friends right out of the box… which would have been a brilliant strategy if Nintendo had employed it.  People would have been compelled to call their friends over to try 2 +1 Switch on the hybrid machine.  This would have put the console in people’s hands in optimal settings, possibly causing these people to want a Switch of their own… but that’s a future not set to pass.  Instead, Nintendo are charging $50 for their slate of demo experiences… and NOBODY is going to buy it.  No, instead, everyone is going to buy Zelda and play the shit out of it for months… alone.  Now, if anyone wants to get hands on with the Switch, they’ll probably have to try it at a Gamestop, which is probably the LEAST optimal setting I can think of.

OR…

Nintendo could have reduced the Switch’s price to $249.99.  Would that put them at a loss per unit sold?  Maybe, but consoles are often sold at a loss.  Hardware distributors understand that selling at a loss usually leads to a faster growing install base.  One day, their console will be easier and cheaper to produce, and that’s when they’ll be able to turn a healthy profit.  In the meantime, they’ll make a little off software sales and accessories… or in Nintendo’s case, severely overpriced accessories.  Cover the ears on your wallet, because this rundown is going to make it cry:

A Pro controller is $70.  An additional dock – which is basically just a plastic case with HDMI passthrough – costs $80.  A single Joycon controller – that’s just one SIDE – is $50… or, you can get a ‘discount’ if you buy two for $80.  The Joycon straps are $8 a pop.  The controller cradle for the Joycons – that is, a hunk of plastic with a tiny USB charge port – is $30.

Worst of all, Nintendo have finally joined the multiplayer paywall club.  And that… that’s just terrible.  But damn it, if you want to play Splatoon or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online, they’ve got you by the cajones, don’t they?  Now to be fair, I think everyone expected Nintendo would burrow down this rabbit hole one day… ‘because’, but that doesn’t make it any less of a disappointment.  I mean, this was the only consumer friendly thing Nintendo had left… yet they just cast it into the wind like they couldn’t give less of a shit.  And for those of you thinking there’s some other way they can justify their ‘service’, think again.  They’re going to give you either an NES or SNES rom each month, and some of the latter will have multiplayer enabled.

“A rom?  A bloody ROM?!”, you might ask.

Oh yes, a rom.

That’s what their ‘free game’ offerings will be… and at the end of each month, they’ll take them back… unless you want to buy them, of course.  Know what that means?  Nintendo doesn’t give a squatting shit how many times you’ve purchased games through their Virtual Consoles; they STILL want you to buy them again.  The only positive thing I can say about this, at least for the time being, is that we have no idea how much Nintendo are planning to charge for their ‘service’.  If they were smart, they’d make it way less than what Sony and Microsoft are charging… but nah.  Still, the price of this thing is a big question, and they left it hanging in the air.

There were other questions they neglected to answer too, such as, “What’s the launch line-up going to be?”  It wasn’t until the next day we had confirmation of five titles… and boy, did a lot of people express concern about that.  I’ve lived through numerous console launches that had been worse, so I’m not going to complain.  Besides, can you think of a better launch title than Zelda: Breath of the Wild?

“But it’s going to be on the Wii-U!”

So?  Nintendo have only sold between 13 and 14 million units, so for the many that never bought a Wii-U, they won’t care about Zelda being cross-platform.  The people who own a Wii-U won’t care either… you know, since they’re still getting the game.

Despite everything I’ve just shared, I know this may be hard to believe, but, Nintendo know EXACTLY what they’re doing.  We may not like their approach, but every decision they’ve made has been steeped in money.

While casual consumers may look at this thing now and say, “There’s not enough that interests me,” Nintendo doesn’t care.  They know there’s enough demand from fans to keep this thing selling throughout the entirety of 2017, and why?  Because Zelda, Mario Kart, Splatoon and Super Mario Odyssey.  You can argue nobody will care about a port (Mario Kart 8), nor a sequel that hasn’t differentiated itself enough from the original (Splatoon 2), but again, they have a large ‘didn’t previously own a Wii-U’ market to tap into as well.

But will the Switch sell as well as Nintendo and certain analysts believe?

Well, Nintendo apparently plan to have 10 million of these things produced by the end of 2017.  Considering where the Wii-U is sitting, that’s an ambitious goal.  However, there’s a lot of positivity buzzing around what this console can do, so I do expect this thing to outpace its predecessor every step of way.  Certain analysts have guessed that after all is said and done, the Switch will have sold 40 million units.

To that, I say, “Not so fast.”  I don’t think it’s impossible, but Nintendo need to stop being so wishy-washy.

What’s with all the ‘we’re going to continue to support the 3DS’ bullcrap?  They come up with the brilliant idea to market a console that’s suitable for home AND on-the-go usage, and they want to keep its primary competitor on the shelf?  I get that third parties love this machine because there’s 60 million units out there, but not putting the kibosh on the Nintendo 3DS in early 2017 is a mistake, and Nintendo will have to rectify that by this time next year if they hope to bring over the portable crowd.

And this ties directly into that whole ‘third party support’ thing.

Most Nintendo fans will say, “Nobody buys Nintendo hardware to play anything but Nintendo software!”  But a 3DS fan has to be pretty short-sighted to actually believe such baloney.  That system wouldn’t have moved 60 million units if not for third party support.  If you believe otherwise, think of all the people that would recommend Monster Hunter, Ace Attorney, Dragon Quest, Etrian Odyssey, Shin Megami Tensei, Bravely Default, and so-on and so-forth.  Beyond that, history shows there simply hasn’t been a successful console without a fair amount of third party support.

Thankfully, Nintendo has told us they’d like all third party games to appear on the Switch, but they shouldn’t hold their breath.  They’ll continue to see remasters of popular games, but that’s about it.  However, as long as the Switch keeps its momentum at retail, it shouldn’t be hard for Nintendo to convince third parties already on board with the 3DS to switch to… well, you know.  But again, Nintendo can’t wait years for this transition to happen.  It needs to be a year, tops, and then they have to commit to the Switch 100%.  No ifs, ands or buts.

I’ve let Nintendo have it pretty good in this article, but it’s so you, the consumer, will be aware of what the current value of the system is for the average consumer (not great), how the first year and beyond is likely to pan out (better than the Wii-U… slow at first, perhaps hot afterwards), and what things Nintendo could have done if they were truly ‘in it to win it’.  That said, I think the Switch is a pretty remarkable piece of hardware, and we could see a healthy balance of first party Nintendo games, as well as third party titles once those publishers are convinced to make their 3DS games for the Switch as well, or perhaps even exclusively, leaving the old portable behind.

Of course, success really is in the hands of Nintendo at this point.  They need to deliver on games.  No more of this ‘Metroid Space Ball Horseshit’.  Nintendo always say they listen to their fans, and now is the time for them to deliver.

Generation Without Definition

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In preparation for the 2016 in review conversation we’ll be having on the podcast in about a week, I decided to write down a list of all the games I’ve played.  Not just the games from this past year, mind you, but ALL of them.  Didn’t matter if it’s a game from 2002 I was playing for the first time, or if it was an old favorite I was revisiting for the 18th time.  Old games are just as much a part of our ‘gaming makeup’ each year as the new stuff we play, so here’s what I came up with:

Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

Far Cry 4

Absolute Drift

Batman: Akrham Knight

The Witness

The Division

Doom

Uncharted 4

No Man’s Sky

Final Fantasy XV

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Battlefield 1

Dark Souls

Dying Light

Life Is Strange

The Witcher 3 (restarted)

Dark Souls 3

Forza Horizon 3

Gear of War 4

Dead Rising 4

Kirby: Planet Robobot

PvZ: Garden Warfare 2

Mafia III

Street Fighter V

Inside

Grim Dawn (official release date)

Pokken Tournament

Overwatch

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Pokemon Go

Super Mario Run

Skyrim Special Edition

Dragon Quest VII

Earth Defense Force 4.1

Super Mario 3D Land

Contra 4

Grand Theft Auto Online

Grand Theft Auto 4

Super Mario 64

Super Scribblenauts

Mega Man 2

Mega Man 3

I obviously didn’t play all of these games from start to finish.  Some I may have only played for a couple of hours.  But even so, that’s one hell of a list, isn’t it?  Great titles, alright ones, and even a few stinkers, but overall, I’d say 2016 was rather enjoyable.  Still, this list presents a bit of a problem, namely the inadequacies of the gaming industry as a whole.  Forty-three games, and you know what I noticed about them?  Thirty-two are either sequels or stem iteratively from existing IP’s.  Mmhmm.  Thirty.  Two.  That’s insane.  Even if we take older games off my list, we’re still talking close to 20.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with sequels or reboots.  Doom makes a compelling argument for being my favorite game of the year.  Hell, Dark Souls III is up there, too.  Oh, and surprisingly, Gears of War 4 has proven to be quite memorable, as well.  I also don’t care how many times Nintendo throws Mario at me, because he always amounts to a good time.  Point is, I don’t personally mind when studios lean on formulas that’s proven to work them.  No, it’s when they cross that line… when they insist on using that mindset as a crutch, that’s when I get worried.

And I’m worried now.

Gamers routinely say this is the best generation of gaming to date.  Sure, they’ve conveniently overlooked the unnecessary iterative consoles and the sea of unfinished games that’s been released… but vidyagames, right?!

But seriously, I can’t deny there’s been some titles genuinely worth swooning over, but that’s not unique to the here and now.  There have always been great video games, and there always will be.

But from a first party perspective, Sony and Microsoft have been playing things far too safe.  They’ve relied once again on the likes of Killzone, Infamous, Gears of War, God of War, Forza, Halo, Ratchet and Clank, Little Big Planet, Uncharted, The Last of Us, and a handful of others.  These are franchises that also defined the LAST generation of gaming, and while I understand the desire for studios to milk a cow’s supple teats until they’re coughing up powder, they’re leaving the PS4 and Xbox One without identities of their own.

The Xbox 360 was defined by Forza, Fable, and Gears of War.  But what does the Xbox One have?  Sunset Overdrive was largely overlooked, and Quantum Break was disappointing.

The Playstation 3 had Infamous, Uncharted and The Last of Us.  But PS4?  Well, it has Bloodborne… but that’s about it.  Nobody cared about Knack, and while Until Dawn is great, it isn’t a title that’s going to sell systems.  Driveclub has its fans, but still hasn’t managed to evade the stink left behind by its troubled launch.  And it’s not even worth mentioning The Order: 1886 (I didn’t think it was terrible, but it’s certainly frowned upon by most of the gaming community).

So, if video games aren’t giving this generation a definitive voice, what is?

Well, the struggle over resolution and frame-rate, for one.  But outside of that, this generation will likely be remembered for the releases of the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio.  I mean, their very existence could very well change the way consoles are developed and sold from here on out.  I don’t have a crystal ball or anything, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we never saw a Playstation 5.  If each console is only somewhat better than the version before it, a new naming convention could take over:  Playstation Nitro, Playstation Beyond, Playstation Zen, etc.  All only somewhat better than the previous iteration, and yet still years behind what PC hardware brings to the table.

And if I were Sony and Microsoft, I’d start thinking about how big a problem that might be.

This isn’t rocket science.  GAMES should define how we feel about any given generation.  Sure, we’ll also develop an attachment to hardware designs, but games are what matter most.  Unfortunately, the gaming industry has lost sight of that, and that could very well bite console developers in the end.  If Microsoft and Sony want to continue down the path of pushing consoles more than first party exclusives, they’ll eventually be perceived as third-party machines.  If that happens, it leaves the door WIDE open for Steam machines to make another push, and with Steam having almost any third party title you can dream of, and for less money, that platform could finally become a contender in the living room.

And speaking of third-party, it’s pretty clear the AAA heavies have gotten lazy, too.  They’re just too afraid to let go of moneymaking franchises.  People often complain about being bored of the same old crap, but how do these companies respond?

“We’ll make our games look better.  Cool?”

But people aren’t complaining about graphics anymore.  That narrative just isn’t driving the industry as much as it used to… at least from the perspective of consumers.  Gamers want better writing, character depth, enemy AI, etc.  But nooooo… all anyone has done is say, “Better volumetric fog, god rays, and particle effects!  That’ll revolutionize everything!”

Ugh.

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Shadow of Mordor had the right idea with the Nemesis System.  It was basic, yes, but I was convinced it was the first baby-step in this industry’s journey to develop better AI… and yet nobody has tried to emulate, let alone best that system since.  Nope, every other game still features enemies that either stand against a single guard post, or walk in the same L-shaped pattern over and over.

So let me ask:  Is this truly the best that AAA developers could pull off in 2016?  Is this REALLY the best generation of gaming ever?  I don’t think so, and furthermore, I think the industry CAN do better.  Not only CAN it do better, but there’s nothing wrong with EXPECTING better, either.  But with so many people literally buying products before they’re finalized, what incentive does this industry have to change its unfriendly business tactics?

Well, consumers have to realize that more powerful hardware isn’t going to solve a damn thing.  If you want better quality products, you have to stop pre-ordering games.  Stop telling studios you’re willing to buy their crap sight unseen.  Also, if you’re not having much fun playing the games being released on the PS4 or Xbox One, playing them on a PS4 Pro or Xbox One S (or even the Xbox Scorpio) isn’t going to change that.  Your gameplay will be enhanced, but enhancement of non-enjoyment is still just that… non-enjoyment.

If you want newer, better IP’s, and advancement in storytelling and AI, then all you need to do is keep those conversations in the public eye.  Keep those narratives strong so AAA publishers and developers can see that they’re no longer going to get away with repackaging the same two or three gameplay formats time and time again.  Make damn sure they know you want more than just:  FPS – The Game / Blasting From Behind Cover – The Game / Stealthily Wipe-Out Poor Enemy AI – The Game / Detective Mode – The Game.

Not that AAA games should be villainized, though.  Again, I still find them to be quite enjoyable.  I’m just disappointed that the industry refuses to broaden its horizons in the ways that are most needed.

The good news?  As long as you’re willing to wander outside the AAA scene, there’s plenty of great games being released by smaller and/or independent studios.  Ori and the Blind Forest, The Witness, Inside, Limbo, Absolute Drift, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, Axiom Verge, Grow Home, Child of Light, Never Alone, Outlast, Trine, Braid, Undertale, Owlboy, Soma… and these are only some of the most notable choices.  And hey, if none of these pique your curiosity, there’s still decades worth of games for you to go back and enjoy.

It’s easy to forget that gaming isn’t a ‘box’, but an art form that we can enjoy… well, pretty much whenever.  Games take a bit longer to digest than music albums, movies, and even a number of books, and as a result, people always feel like they have to play the newest stuff and never look back on the old… and that’s just simply not true.  If you find yourself in a rut, just look at your back catalog or start working on games that you may have missed.  Sure, there are some titles that may not have aged as gracefully as others, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that most hold their own quite well.

 

 

No Man’s Hype

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Everyone knew that at the very least – and the very least is what they gave us – that No Man’s Sky would have us gathering and managing resources so we could make our way to the center of the universe.  Why?  “Because!  That’s why!”  Its real appeal stemmed from a procedurally generated universe, as it promised each player would embark on a truly unique journey.  Nobody would ever share the same experience, and because of the size of said universe, you might not even encounter another player online.

Problem was, the game really didn’t deliver more than the whole ‘procedural generation’ thing.  You’d go from world to world, breaking things down with a tiny ray gun to collect resources, satisfy a multitude of needy ‘feed me’ meters (health, suit, ship shields, ship fuel, ray gun energy, etc.), and craft various other things that are necessary to finish the game.  That was it.  Blast, blast, blast.  Mine, mine, mine.  Occasionally you’d be harassed by drones that serve no purpose other than to slow your game down.  Maybe you’d see an animal or two, meet a trader in an outpost, scan the environment with your info gathering techno-goggles, and not much else… unless you left the planet, at which point you might have a few space pirates trying to take you down.  Rinse and repeat a gajillion times, and that’s No Man’s Sky in a nutshell.

At first, it wasn’t a horrible way to spend your time.  If you wanted a ‘chill’ game that provided something different than the usual loud action most modern games provide, No Man’s Sky could scratch that itch, at least for a little while.  It’s so easy to be fascinated by the one thing this game does that nothing else in the AAA scene has:  Planets are large and any place you see, you can go there without hitting that ‘sandbox wall’.  And hell, you can even look up to the sky, see a planet or two, and say, “Gee, I’d love to go there”, and then actually do it.  Between that and seeing the various styles of world the procedural generation formula could create, it was enough to keep players hooked for hours…

…Until you realize that it’s all basically the same.  All that ‘freedom’ came at the cost of actual gameplay.  Sure, one planet might be red and lush with plants, while another would be dark and rocky… but because the game has to be careful not to strand you on any given planet, you’re mining the same resources no matter where you go.  All the abandoned bases you come across look the same, as well as the space points spread across each planet.  There’s always a trader outpost, some sort of facility to break in to, and some alien monuments where you can learn bits of language.  Once you’ve had your fill, you leave one planet to hop to the next, only to find you’re doing the same shit over and over again, regardless of how each planet’s been ‘dressed’.

Coming to that realization is when I started to feel more and more disgust for the game… because for all the comments I’ve made about Destiny being an empty shell of a game, it’s No Man’s Sky that earns that ‘accolade’.  A lot of others felt the same way, too… and I’m talking about the people that actually tried the game without letting all the ‘Sean Murray lied’ stuff affect their objective opinions.

But that disappointment quickly ruptured into something else… hatred.  Sean Murray made a couple of passive-aggressive remarks at launch and then POOF, just disappeared.  A lot of people were upset that there was no more transparency.  Hell, they weren’t even sure if their $60 investment would amount to something greater, or if Hello Games had simply disbanded as a result of the shame their product had generated.  Couple their radio silence with Shuhei Yoshida throwing the studio under the bus, and it seemed like the future for No Man’s Sky was basically dust in the wind.

And now, out of nowhere, Hello Games have resurfaced to release No Man’s Sky version 1.1.  And to be clear, this was the best possible way to come back to the gaming community.  Sean Murray did enough talking prior to the game’s release.  Anything they said post-launch would have been met with more and more skepticism, so they only thing they COULD have done was shut up, and work on their game.  Now that they have something to offer, they’ve broken that silence.

Good.

So, version 1.1 allows you to claim a home planet, build new save points across planets, build self-owned outposts from uninhabited bases, transportation and even teleportation of materials you’ve collect to freighters in space, create tools which will actually auto-mine while you’re off doing more important things, additional aliens inhabiting trading posts (there’s now two where only one used to be), you can hire aliens to work in your home base, and they’ve even added new, challenging modes that cater to a variety of play styles.  I’m writing off the top of my head here, but I believe there’s a pure creative mode where you can do and build whatever you want, ‘normal’ No Man’s Sky but with the new gameplay features added, and a ‘Survival’ mode where it’s still No Man’s Sky, but with permadeath as a penalty.

So, does this resolve the issues the game had at launch?

This is one of those ‘the answer must come from within’ moments.  Because if mining and hopping around a planet is all you want out of No Man’s Sky, then sure, this patch is going to make for a substantially better experience.  The fact that you can actually do more with your resources than fix, fuel and fly is going to appease you, making this the ‘Sci-fi Minecraft’ you probably wanted from the get-go.  However, if you actually wanted a world that’s brimming with life and activity, then you’re going to dislike the experience just as much as before.

I’m in the latter camp, because what really sold No Man’s Sky to me was not just the chill playtime it offered, but a universe that actually looked… well, alive.  That’s what No Man’s Sky really needs.  Not this base building crap, but ships making space and the skies on any given planet look busy.  We need alien races that do more than sit or stand behind a counter waiting to sell you stuff, and more importantly, THEY need to have some sort of history.  There need to be factions that unite or rebel, and that needs to be seen and felt based on the solar system you’re visiting.  How about seeing some miners in some of those caves?  Or just some aliens in space suits hopping around a planet’s surface just for the hell of it?  How about seeing more wildlife?  Some of these ideas are a personal wish list, but others were blatantly shown in early advertisements and shown off in early footage.

Oh, but don’t tell the ASA.  They have apparently made a ruling on whether or not No Man’s Sky’s ads were misleading or not, and they basically said, “Nope!  All’s good!”

Anyway, there’s an even larger problem with these improvements:  They completely go against the game’s core objective, which is to ‘get to the middle… you know, because, just do it’.  No, patch 1.1 basically wants you to settle on a single planet and whittle tens of hours away on building a home and research facility.

But the first argument that’s come up when I’ve discussed this with friends who are savvy about video games has been, “But, Minecraft doesn’t really have a real end game.  People just create or play the survival mode, and they’re more than content just staying in the same little world.  So, why should people get pissed at No Man’s Sky for doing the same thing?”

Well, the simple answer is, “No Man’s Sky is not Minecraft.”  It never was.  It never will be.  Minecraft is about surviving in a given area… period.  A world is generated, and it’s your job to create and adapt so that you can have food, shelter, and whatever weapons are required to fend off the dangers that come at night.  What you’re doing is playing a ‘stay put, and make this your home’ survival game.  There is no end goal.  Not even an arbitrary ‘get to the middle of the whatever’ sort of thing.  No Man’s Sky, on the other hand, is a completely different beast.  The point is to gather resources not only to survive the harsh conditions of any given planet, but so that you have what you need to keep moving.  How much different could the objectives possibly be?

And a lot of people fall into the trap of comparing No Man’s Sky to Minecraft, not just the friends I speak of.  And, not to offend them or anyone else, but why is there any compulsion to compare them at all?  Is it because they don’t fall into the typical mainstream classification system of third-person/first-person shooter, stealth, RPG, or racing game?  They’re survival games, and that’s where their similarities end.  Hell, Don’t Starve has more in common with Minecraft than No Man’s Sky does.

So what does this Foundation Update tell us about No Man’s Sky and the ‘vision’ that Sean Murray and Hello Games had for it?  Well, I think it tells us an awful lot… just not what people want to hear.  Honestly, I don’t think No Man’s Sky was ever going to realistically deliver everything they had shown us.  Sean Murray got a case of Peter Molyneux brain – wanting his ‘baby’ to be everything a standard development cycle could never provide – but at the end of the day, No Man’s Sky would be lacking that ultra-idealistic vision, and the game would disappoint.  No Man’s Sky probably could have been more at the time of release, but I think an unrealistic wishlist kept this team’s focus away from building an actual game.  So, once time and money was up… well, we saw what happened.  “Here’s our universe of nothing.  Get to the middle.”  And now that they’re trying to ‘fix’ the game… are they working towards finishing that original design they had showed off a couple of years back?  Nope.  They’re instead building whatever they feel they have the time and resources for, original intent of the game be damned.

I’ve seen people online actually recommend re-buying No Man’s Sky because update 1.1 is THAT different.

Guys…

You’ve been burned once already, OK?  Don’t be a sucker two times over.

Like most other games, people bought this thing sight unseen.  No Man’s Sky was pre-ordered so much, you’d think it was going to be the last video game ever released.  No reviews, no actual day 1 gameplay, no word of mouth… just people buying a game based on hype.  Hype that was created by Sean Murray, Sony, and of course the media.  Ain’t that a vicious circle?  Company wants to sell you something, the company catches the media’s ear, the media reports to you, you get excited, and because you’re excited and want more, the company continues to upsell, the media continues to act as a shitty marketing echo-chamber, and you eventually decide to buy shit without even knowing what it is.  If you were to temper your expectations and hold on to your money until a game is released, this cycle would break.  The major players in this industry would have to adapt.  And, if they can’t get you to bite on a game BEFORE it’s released, what would they have to do?  Make a game that’s actually worth your time and money in the first place, right?  Right.  Otherwise, their product would be dead in water.

Last but not least, the Foundation Update has been poised not as a ‘hey look, our game is better’ patch, but an ‘our game is going to GET better’ patch.  That’s right.  They’ve dropped this as sort of the new ‘foundation’ for the game, and they’re going to build off of this.  This is, somehow, supposed to make us excited.  Maybe it would if this were an early access game we paid $20 for, but it isn’t.  It’s a game that was shown off on Sony’s E3 stage, had appeared on Colbert’s late night program, and was subsequently sent to factories so discs could be pressed, placed inside plastic cases, and shipped to your local retailers.  For $60.  Sean Murray had been told by Geoff Keighley – who’s an epic douche for not telling everyone how problematic this game seemed mere months prior to launch, by the way – that he should probably pursue an early access route, but nope.  Murray said, “LET THERE BE A $60 PRICE TAG!”

And so it was.

And so it was hyped.

And so.

You.

BOUGHT.

And now, because they delivered a modicum of substance in a single update, people are getting excited that No Man’s Sky is going to be some great game again?  Have you learned nothing?  And what good does rebuying the damn game do, anyway?  Let’s say you spent $60 at launch for this.  It was only a matter of weeks – IF THAT – before Gamestop was offering something like $12 for a trade-in copy.  So, let’s say you traded this game in for $12 in store credit.  You essentially paid $48 to rent the game for a little while.  It’s now $28 at the time of writing on Amazon.  So, Foundation Update and all, if you rebought the game today, your total investment in No Man’s Sky would be $76 plus tax.  If it wasn’t worth the $60 before, do you really think it’s going to be worth $76?

A little reason here, folks.  A little reason.

Putting A Hit On Mafia III

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Mafia III was poised to be an excellent open-world game that provided something different than the typical ‘small brains in a big, modern city’ theme.  No, we were to be treated with a documentary styled look at New Bordeaux (a fictitious New Orleans) in 1968, where racial tensions are more than just boiling over.  For the most part, Hangar 13 and 2K Games delivered a fantastic story and one of the most refreshing settings I’ve ever seen in an open world game, but there are far too many other issues that, for some reason, critics and gamers alike have been happy to ignore.

But not I.

In order to reach as many gamers as possible, Mafia III was released simultaneously on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.  There had been controversy mere days before release, as review outlets had confirmed they wouldn’t receive their review codes until day 1.  Needless to say, it was a troubling sign, as developers/publishers tend to mostly do this when there’s something about the game they don’t want you to see.  There are exceptions to this rule, however, as Doom had showed us earlier this year, and furthermore, 2K have been showing this game off plenty.  So, it had to be ready, right?

Yes and no.  There’s no denying we have a ‘complete’ product, here, but it sure as hell doesn’t reflect how a AAA release in 2016 should look and feel.

If we were to judge this game by its graphical style alone, to say it’s a mixed bag would be a bit of an understatement.  The image looks slightly blurry, fine textures as seen in cinematics disappear once you’re in the open world, cars look like plastic, the skybox looks like garbage, and water never looks as crisp on the surface as it should.

But the problems this game has go much, much deeper than that.

Lighting glitches constantly.  You can be standing in a room by yourself, and turning the camera will cause a flicker effect that completely breaks your immersion.  There are times I’ve been standing still, and have noticed the lighting on certain objects in my FOV flickering for no apparent reason.

That skybox I was talking about?  It’s hideous, yes, but it wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t constantly drawing attention to itself.  When day turns to night or vice versa, it happens in a matter of seconds.  Same thing happens with the weather system:  It’ll be bright and sunny one moment, and seconds later, it’ll be dark and pouring.  They would have been better off just disabling all the fancy weather, settling instead for a slow and simple rotation between day and night.

Far too often have I loaded into the game’s world where most textures have yet to render.

The game has been crashing for people on each platform.  This could have been a minor inconvenience if you had the ability to save whenever you want, but the game is strictly checkpoint based.  Oh, and there’s no fast travel, either.  So you could spend 5 minutes driving from one location to the next, only to arrive, get through most of your objective and then… BWOOP.  Game over.  You’ll have to start back at your original location and drive to your mission point all over again.

Playing on the PC has brought some unique problems to my attention.  Everyone went crazy when they learned the game would only push 30 fps on day 1, but a patch was released a day later to address this.  You had the option to select 30, 60, or unlimited frames per second… problem was, the game is so poorly optimized, you’d need a PC from the future to hit 60 with all settings maxed out.  I play on an i7 4790k 4.0ghz, GTX 970, and 16GB of RAM… and 60 fps just wasn’t happening.

However, I’m not sure I’d want the game to hit higher frames.  Some of the game’s physics are seemingly tied to frame rate.  Lincoln’s coat ruffles realistically as he stomps the pavement in New Bordeaux at 30, but increasing the frames cause the animation to speed up.  Who knows what else in this game is tied to the frame rate, but I decided to stop pushing this game to its limits.  I have no desire to find out.  It’s glitchy enough without pushing past 30.  And you know the sad part?  You can REALLY tell they didn’t work on this for PC, because there’s barely any difference between the lowest and highest settings.

The actual mission structure seems uninspired, too.  This isn’t a technical issue, but it’s one that keeps the game from being as fun as it should for the length of time it wishes to keep you hooked.  There’s just not enough variety in gameplay.  Go here, beat up this goon, go there, beat up that goon, take out a really bad dude… repeat this process one more time, and you’ve just taken over a district.  That’s all there really is to the game.  Rinse and repeat over, and over, and over…

It’s a shame the acting and story in Mafia III are so damn good.  Driving also feels great, as does the gunplay.  I’m not a ‘stealth mission’ sort of guy, but it works well enough for me in this game that I keep challenging myself to see how far I can go without tipping the bad guys off.  Unfortunately, there’s so much other stuff that’s holding this game back from being something better, than I just can’t help but ask… Why?  Why was the game released in this state?  Another 6 months, maybe a year, could have made a huge difference.  Mafia III could have been one of the best open world games we’ve ever seen… instead, it’s a repetitious, glitch filled mess.

This.  This is why gamers are continually losing faith in the companies that provide content for them.  This is why more and more gamers on the internet as spreading the word about not pre-ordering.  And you know what?  Gamers are right to recoil in disgust.  So many reviews out there are praising this game for story and gameplay… and there hasn’t been enough emphasis on what’s wrong with this title.  Should a great story and great acting overshadow such severe flaws in game design?  I don’t think so.  Hell, it’s why I’m winding down after only 9 hours.  I just can’t push through the rest of this game unless 2K makes things right.  And let’s not compare this game to the likes of GTAV, which I’m aware had a much larger budget.  Thing is, games don’t necessarily need a large budget to release in a solid state.  CD Projekt RED completed The Witcher 3 AND advertised the shit out of it for less than one hundred million dollars.  GTA V, on the other hand, spent well over two hundred and fifty million… so much bloat.  A game like this could have, and should have been better.

Keep this in mind, folks.

No Man’s Lie?

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Even prior to release, No Man’s Sky had seen its share of controversy.  Sky TV had engaged the developers in a three year legal battle over use of the word ‘Sky’… because fuck if I know.  Hello Games have settled that dispute, although no details have emerged as to how.

Also, less than a month before the game was to hit retail, Dutch company Genicap claimed they own the “Superformula” which No Man’s Sky uses for procedural generation.  According to The New Yorker’s Sean Murray interview/article from 2015:

The problem nagged at him, until he found an equation, published in 2003 by a Belgian plant geneticist named Johan Gielis.Excerpt from The New Yorker’s “World Without End”, 2015

Well, Johan Gielis is the Chief Research Officer at Genicap, allegedly holds the patent for the formula, and did not authorize Hello Games to use it.  That, um, doesn’t sound good for Sean Murray.

But then it happened.  No Man’s Sky was released to the masses, and everything should have been just ducky… but it was less than 24 hours before the internet exploded with rage.

A gamer on Reddit had found a star system that was previously discovered by another user, so he messaged this person to arrange a virtual meet-up.  After lots of searching and even more confusion, they couldn’t find each other.  Even though they were on the same exact spot on the same exact planet, they found themselves alone.

This news spread like wildfire because Mr. Murray had gone on record many times confirming players would be able to see each other in game.  However, Murray had warned that the chance of this happening was very, very slim.

“People keep saying to us, ‘Yeah, but what if I knew where they were?  Would I go there?’  And it’s like, yeah, but they are going to have to stay there for quite a while while you get over there.  And then once you get over there you might land on the same planet and then you will say, ‘I’m on a planet the size of Earth and I am on a mountain.  Where are you?’  Which is, I know, a weird thing and it’s a daunting thing.”

Is there any question in regards to what he’s saying?  He’s saying yes, people can cross paths, but when you take into consideration the size of the universe, as well as the size of any given planet, it’d be like finding a needle in… well, the universe.

And this wasn’t the only time he reinforced the existence of this feature:

Even in this video:

So, does this make Sean Murray a liar?  Some people certainly think so, and to be honest, the evidence IS pretty damning.

Despite the mounting evidence, however, apologists have been coming out in droves.  So, let’s analyze their positions of defense:

“It’s not a multiplayer game!”

I know that, and in fact, most others do, too.  Sean Murray has told us this time and time again.  However, he specifically likens multiplayer to the likes of FPS’s and MMO’s.  Sean and Hello Games have also clarified that even though players will be able to see each other, they won’t be able to pal around and play the game together.  The things you interact with in your world is for you and you alone.  Your paths will cross and that’s it.

So, the fact that this isn’t a traditional multiplayer experience doesn’t negate the idea that these two should have been able to see each other.

To make matters worse, Mr. Murray started to mislead people on Twitter, likely to stave off the sea of doubt beginning to flood his inbox:

“We want people to be aware they are in a shared universe.  We added online features, and some Easter Eggs to create cool moments.”

“Two players finding each other on a stream in the first day – that has blown my mind.”

“We added a ‘scan for other players’ in the Galactic Map to try and encourage this happening.  We wanted it to happen – but the first day?”

Well, no, they didn’t find each other… but these comments were meant to make people believe that they had.  This is not how Mr. Murray should have presented himself to hordes of potential customers who felt they had been lied to for nearly three years.

“The back of the case, as well as the Steam listing, show this as a single player game!”

Package art had actually said otherwise, until they decided to sticker over it:

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So they intended to advertise online play.  Of course, they’ve tried to assure us the printing of the online icon was a mistake, but that reeks of PR nonsense.  Sean Murray advertised being able to see others in the game… and just prior to release, he changes his tune to ‘no multiplayer’, and just out of sheer coincidence a piece of information on the case had to be stickered over?  Come on.  We’re not fucking stupid.

And besides, this argument is missing the point entirely.  This isn’t about whether or not the game is technically multiplayer, or whatever.  It’s about a developer who may have been lying to people for the sake of inflating sales.

Keep in mind that Sony, as their publisher, has a lot of control over what the product messaging should be.  Why is this important?  Well, No Man’s Sky had been cherry picked for hype because Sony’s release schedule – as far as AAA exclusives were concerned – was thin.  I imagine Sony spent a bunch of their money to get this game completed as fast as possible.  But even so, it took three years since its initial reveal to bring it to retail.  This game was also never intended to be sold at full price ($60).  To me, it seems like Sony, who was desperate to get additional exclusives under their belt in 2016, is responsible for driving up the price.

That’s right.  You’re getting a game that was probably meant to be $40, for $60.  Ain’t that great?  So, at the end of the day, Mr. Murray may not have lied just to inflate sales, but to keep Sony happy, too.

“Maybe they were having server issues.”

This could be a valid response.  Players have been experiencing numerous crashes since launch, and some have linked this directly to server issues (turning the internet off seemed to resolve things).  One could also speculate that when push came to shove, explorative discoveries (systems, planets, etc) would prioritize higher than player-to-player ones.  But again, instead of clarifying what may have happened, Sean once again muddied the waters with mixed messaging:

“There are way too many people playing right now.  Maybe some of you can just log out?  Decide amongst yourselves plz.”

“It is a testament to how amazing our network coders are that Discoveries are still working at all.”

But then…

“For instance over night we hit 10 million species discovered in NMS… that’s more than has been discovered on earth.  WHAT IS GOING ON!!!”

So are your problems severe enough to hinder Discoveries, Mr. Murray, or not?

“Well, Mr. Murray did say some pvp stuff might make its way into the game later on…”

And?

They MIGHT incorporate a planet that’s designed after Jurassic Park.  They MIGHT incorporate a planet loaded to the brim with zombies.  They might, they could, they would, they should, blah blah blah.

When you decide to spend $60 on a game, you don’t do it because of what MIGHT appear in the game.  You do it based on what’s going to be there on day 1.  A number of people bought this game because they were led to believe there would be sparks of magic, not unlike Journey, where you’d find another player and have a ‘moment’.  Not because of hype, and not because they were delusional.  No, because SEAN MURRAY told them so.

My Message To The Apologists?  Stand Up For Yourselves!!!

Guys, don’t apologize this away.  You can still appreciate a game while being realistic about the shitty things that come with it.  In this case, when it comes to buying games, consumers have little-to-no protection.  Nobody’s going to bat for us after we’ve been had, so we have to look out for ourselves.

As it is, companies show us very little of their products prior to release, and that’s misleading enough.  But when a developer actually does interviews and sells you on a feature that’s not actually in the game, guess what?  The store isn’t giving you your money back… unless you settle for half in trade at Gamestop.  And that’s only store credit.

You have to decide what’s most important to YOU.  If the game entices you enough despite the controversy, then buy it.  If it doesn’t look to deliver what you wanted, don’t buy it.  If you don’t want to support an alleged liar… don’t buy it.

And I’d like to make one last thing clear before signing off.  I’m not out for blood.  I don’t hate No Man’s Sky.  As a matter of fact, the concept intrigues me enough to pick it up on PC.  I personally don’t care about the reality of this feature.  I never expected I’d run into another person anyway.

But that doesn’t mean Sean Murray’s feet shouldn’t be held to the fire.  They absolutely should be.

I’m going to go into total speculation mode here, and guess that the No Man’s Sky team very much wanted this feature to be a part of the game on day 1.  However, Sony worrying about their lack of exclusives this generation, likely told them to get the core game out of the way and worry about the rest later.  If true, that means Sony’s actually pulling the strings.  Even so, Sean signed the contract.  That makes him liable.  Furthermore, he could be giving straight answers instead of being vague on Twitter (and, at the time of this writing, he’s been offline for about two days).

However, I hope this is all just a misunderstanding.  I hope it really was just a matter of the servers being overloaded… but only time will tell.

Listen Up, Fanboys

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E3 was supposed to be Christmas for gamers.  Sure, the conferences exist mostly to appease investors, but this should have been the one time of year internet hate mongers set their differences aside, treat each other like human beings, and rejoice in a weeklong celebration.  Instead, what I’ve seen is a resurgence of the console wars, and it looks even sillier than it did at the beginning of the generation.

Since when did ‘fan’ become synonymous with gnarling your face and spitting the most putrid bile imaginable?  Like, why is this even a thing?  From where I’m sitting, it seems like all it takes is a difference of opinion.  Forget context, forget reason.  Hell, a number of the attacks I’ve seen on the net are completely unsolicited.

Is this really where we’re at?  We’ve struggled for decades to show the world that gamers aren’t childish… and for what?  To ultimately prove that stereotype is true?

Bravo, ladies and gentlemen.  Bravo.

Now, I’m not blanketing my anger over the entirety of the gaming community, but for those of you that have engaged in pointless cock-measurement contests – and you know who you are – I feel a reminder is needed.

In case you’ve forgotten, we’re on the same team… all of us.  So much time is wasted in Sony vs. Microsoft debates, and there’s so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin.

How about the fact that this isn’t a two horse race?  Why do people tend to forget about Nintendo?  I know they haven’t done very well with the Wii-U, but it’s still a great platform to play great games on.  Some people even prefer it.  And let’s not forget about the PC, which plays pretty much all third party games and even has some exclusives that can’t be found on consoles.

I don’t think I’m being too idealistic here, either.  If you want to know how dumb it is to compare consoles, just remember that most of what we play are the third party games.  And you know what the conversation centers around when we talk about them?  The games themselves, right?  When you meet up with friends, you might say, “Have you played the new Doom?  It’s freaking awesome!”  They’ll probably nod their heads and say, “Yeah man.  SO much fun!”  Know what they’re NOT going to say?  “Yeah man, totally!  I’ve been playing it on my PS4, and guess what?!  MY DYNAMIC RESOLUTION BUFFER IS BETTER THAN IT IS ON THAT CRAPPY XBOX!”  These conversations don’t happen.  They just don’t.  And when performance IS discussed, it’s because there’s glaring issues that go wayyyyy beyond hardware capability.

See what I’m saying here?  It’s all about the GAMES.  But, since you console warring trolls – again, you know who you are – can’t help but feed your superiority complex, I have a message I want each ‘side’ to consider:

Xbots – You fools.  You damn fools.  Sony fans have been giving you the business for years.  I imagine you’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to show the world you’re classier, more mature… and yet, the moment you felt victory within reach, you lost your minds.  No, really.  You did.  I don’t think you understand just how stupid you’ve looked since the Scorprio was revealed at E3.  It’s been like watching William Wallace’s army in Braveheart when they mooned their enemies… except instead of the ‘freedom’ battle cry, you’ve been banging on about teraflops.  Who cares about freakin’ teraflops?  I don’t.  And you know what’s funny?  Most of you don’t even know what a teraflop is.  All you’ve been doing is parroting the latest buzzword.  And besides, your victory is imagined anyway.  You’re comparing two consoles that have yet to see the light of day.  If that doesn’t make you feel sheepish, then you have a severe lack of self-awareness, my friends.

Sony Ponies – Yeah, the Xbots are coming off like a bunch of delusional lunatics right now, but to be fair, this is how your fan base has looked throughout the entirety of this generation.  900p or 1080p, 30fps or 60fps… who gives a shit?  You act like hardware performance is the most important thing in the world, but if you really felt that way, you’d buy a PC.  It’s really that simple.  Why compare nickels to quarters when you can get those dolla dolla bills, y’all?  And, I know what you’re going to say, too.  “Not everyone can afford a PC!”  True.  Consoles are less expensive than a PC.  There’s no denying that.  But I see a ton of you excited to drop at least another $400 on the Neo… after having already spent $400 on the OG PS4.  That’s $800 in a single generation… just for hardware.  You could have spent that money up front to get a machine that was capable of Neo-like graphics a while ago.  “But Sony are for the players!”  Nope.  They’re not.  They’re the same as any other major corporation out there.  They’ll smile in your face while they reach for the wallet resting in your back pocket.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my PS4, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with bowing at Yoshida’s feet.

And while we’re talking about console fanboys being a little too mouthy for their own good, there’s a couple other camps that also need to be addressed:

Nintendo Fans – You are, undoubtedly, the nicest fan base of the bunch… but some of you take your affection for this brand wayyyyy too seriously.  Yes, Nintendo is a great place to play great games that can’t be found elsewhere.  But some of you straight-up pretend that games on other platforms aren’t any fun.  I totally get that we’re inundated with annual franchises and iterative formulas, but I still – and this is coming from someone who loves Nintendo – find plenty of great games to play.  Unfortunately, some of you believe it’s your job to hype the company up, and feed their bottom line by supporting every shitty business decision they’ll ever make.  Folks, on occasion, it’s OK to hold Nintendo’s feet to the fire.  You won’t lose your fan badge.  I promise.  Complaining is the only way to keep major corporations reasonably ‘honest’.  Do you really think having DLC in physical form is a good idea, especially in such short supply?  How about the short charge life on the Wii-U gamepad’s battery?  Have gimmicky controllers ever made any of their games better?  You don’t have to shy away from these issues.  I’ve made my feelings quite clear on Nintendo’s business practices (read here and here), and yet, I still enjoy their games.  I still consider myself a fan.  Crazy, right?

PC Master Race – With a name like ‘master race,’ you’d think some level of ACTUAL superiority would come into play… but oh, the hypocrisy.  You act like gaming on a PC puts you above the squabbles of console fans, yet you actively seek opportunities to fight with them, to let them know how much better your rig is, and likely has been for years.  But at the end of the day, you’re no better than those people, especially since you fight amongst yourselves over which brand of GPU is best.  I see hateful AMD vs. Nvidia arguments far too often, and I’ve only been actively looking in on those conversations since the beginning of 2016.  This year, PC has been my platform of choice, but your community is by far the most negative.  Outside of those pitiful GPU battles, you also come off as spoiled brats who won’t spend more than $5 per game.  Oh, and you try way too hard to justify piracy.  As gamers, we should all want to ensure devs get paid for the games we’re about to enjoy.  I get you want a better deal and all, but even without taking advantage of Ebay-like sites, pricing on PC games have been WAY better than anything I’ve seen in the console market.  There’s zero need to steal stuff.  So, when you cry a game isn’t within your insulting price range, I’ve got zero tears to shed.

Look, at the end of the day, we’re all gamers.  Is it really worth arguing over minor fluctuations in performance?  No.  Of course it isn’t.  For the most part, we’re still playing the same exact games.  There’s only two times off the top of my head where I felt a noticeable difference because of a change in platform:

Dragon Age Origins – Its battle system was designed around a keyboard and mouse, and unfortunately, that means the console iterations had to suffer.  Having played both PC and console versions of Origins, I can tell you that playing on a PC is almost like playing an entirely different game.  I’ll never play this on consoles again.

Diablo III – Oddly enough, Diablo III’s situation is precisely the opposite.  While the mouse and keyboard configuration worked well enough, hacking-and-slashing at a thousand clicks a minute wasn’t very comfortable.  In Blizzard’s quest for more money, however, Diablo III was eventually ported to consoles.  Not content with following in the steps of Dragon Age, Blizzard worked hard on ensuring the game felt nice to play on a controller.  Well, not only does it feel nice, it is, in my opinion, the definitive way to play the game.  Not sure they’ll ever convince me to play the PC version again… unless they patch in controller support at a later date.  Seriously Blizzard, why haven’t you done this yet?!

I’m sure you guys have some other examples where gameplay itself can change from one platform to the next, but point is, these are exceptions to the rule.  So, stop your squabbling.  You’re wasting your time on that ‘mine is better than yours’ crusade.  The cold, hard truth is that each platform comes with its own unique set of flaws.  So, when you make it a point to attack another ‘side’ of the equation… well, you know what they say: “Don’t throw stones in a house of glass.”

My goal today wasn’t to just sit here and sling a bunch of shit talk your way, so please, don’t take it like that.  Instead, I’ve merely attempted to show you all how foolish you look when you behave like children, a look which gamers simply do not need perpetuated by people who aren’t secure in the financial decisions they’ve made.  Game on, everyone… but please, let’s do it quietly, or at the very least, positively.

Possible effects of Brexit on the games industry: a tentative list

As you probably already know, UK and Commonwealth citizens voted in a referendum on 23rd June to leave the European Union. This is predicted to have widespread effects on various economic and political issues, though as for what the precise effects will be, nobody knows just yet. The new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will have anywhere between a couple of days to approximately 6 months to trigger Art. 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which is a fancy way of saying the UK will hand in its resignation letter to the European Union; after that, the terms of Britain’s “Brexit” will be negotiated for a maximum of 2 years. The reason why nobody can say for sure what the precise effects of Brexit will be is because it all depends on this negotiation period; it could be that very little changes, or it could be that Britain retains its “European-ism” purely by way of its geographical location.

Brexit could potentially impact a variety of serious issues, such as migration, trade deals and laws on farming/environmental protection, so it might seem a bit unusual to ask what the effects may be on the video game industry. However, this could potentially affect people’s livelihood and major hobbies, so it is worth pausing for thought on how the industry could change – or indeed how it may escape unscathed.

POSITIVE: distribution of employment/studios may be on a more equal footing

For gaming production companies based in the United Kingdom, such as Rockstar North, membership of the EU made it much easier to communicate with its subsidiaries/sister companies also based in EU Member States. In addition, hiring EU citizens above, say, US citizens was a little bit easier, due to the freedom of movement rules in the EU which remove the need for work visas to employ such members of staff. You could argue that this skews such studios towards being more Eurocentric; there is now no incentive to bias operations and employment towards fellow Europeans, and we will see a wider mix of influences on the work produced by these companies, as they begin to employ more US, Australian etc nationals.

NEGATIVE: not as easy to employ EU citizens at UK companies, and vice versa

Imagine you’re a Brit and you aspire to work at Ubisoft Montpelier on the next Rayman game, or you’re intent on moving to Finland to work for Rovio on the next Angry Birds expansion. Before Brexit, you could be rest assured that there’d be no need for visas or any sort of residence permits to stay in the country you’d have to move to. While for those with language skills, a high level of formal education or perhaps a partner in their country of destination, a visa may have been easy to get, this still cuts through a layer of red tape that would otherwise be there. However, in a post-Brexit world where freedom of movement has been restricted, this extra level of bureaucracy would suddenly become necessary. While if a company really wants to employ you, this may not be such a big deal, a lot of companies may be bothered by the extra paperwork and simply favour an employee from France, Spain or another Member State, where this alternative candidate is of comparable talent to you or even slightly less competent for the job. This could make British production companies and British game production staff quite isolationist, and at its worst could lower the quality of output that affected companies can maintain.

POSITIVE: UK’s less Eurocentric focus may forge better links with US/Japanese studios, breaking down market barriers

Those eagerly waiting on Persona 5 will already know the story: both Japan and the US have a fixed release date, while Europe does not. In fact, it was only last week that the game definitely coming to Europe, through Atlus (which doesn’t have a basis in Europe) partnering with Deep Silver once again after its partnership with NIS broke down. It could be argued that these difficulties arise because markets are quite insular; the business benefits from trading within Europe and finding your employment basis therein don’t create the ideal arena within which to break down Transatlantic or East/West boundaries. It could be that the loss of these benefits would create the impetus to shift focus elsewhere. If the UK forges some generous agreements with the US or other countries in the aftermath, they could see the UK as the perfect hub for opening more international offices, resulting in quicker European release dates for some games; it’s also possible that such agreements could make importing games from the US/Japan cheaper.

NEGATIVE: importing within Europe could become more expensive and game versions could change

My fellow eBay bidders will appreciate that buying from the UK or neighbouring countries whilst in continental Europe can be a cost-effective way of getting hold of rare gems. The UK is a surprisingly cheap-ish place to find older PAL games thanks to CeX and its ilk, and while postage fees can run a tad higher than when I buy games off German sellers, it tends to be competitive compared to buying from Austria, for example (you’d think it’d be cheaper as Germany’s neighbour). The fraying of the common market with the UK could put an end to this, as import fees are slapped on and shipping instead becomes comparable – from the UK to Germany and vice versa – with importing from the US.

Furthermore, Europe has traditionally had 1 version of a game, with different censorship labels slapped on depending on the country. Older games had a language select screen; newer games detect which language the system is set to and adjusts accordingly. Some games are admittedly English language with subtitles regardless of location thanks to budgetary constraints. A notable exception to this is NES carts, which are split into PAL-A and PAL-B (UK and Italy being A, alongside Australia, with the rest of continental Europe being B). What we could see more of, if a closer US-UK trade tie develops, is the UK instead getting the US version of some games. It might also get its own separate version of games. With the latter option, this could either be a positive or a negative, as there would be more versions for budding collectors to buy, if their collection is international. As a clear negative, it could mean that those living in mainland Europe who can only speak English, and are not fluent in the language of the country they are living in, may find themselves unable to play the local versions of certain games if the English language component is removed, instead having to import a UK, US or Australian version. A lot of this is very speculative or even unlikely, but the possibility of the UK uniting with the US on gaming matters, to the extent that we become an NTSC country, is impossible because of what NTSC/PAL variation actually means: see here for an explanation. This inability to make a clean swap may complicate game production matters and slow production down.

NEUTRAL: censorship changes

It’s worth mentioning that censorship is unlikely to be affected very much by Brexit. The reason for this is that the European standard, PEGI, has not been especially restrictive as its own measure. It has instead been national certification standards that tend to border on the draconian in their stringency, and there’s no reason to believe these will soften post-Brexit. Taking Germany as an example, it is the FSK that mandates that selling 18+ games requires ID even through online sales, and that PS Plus membership requires entering your ID details into the PS Store system. Furthermore, it is the FSK and, in the UK, the BBFC which have had serious gripes (understandably so) with games such as Manhunt 2. Since PEGI tends to act as a bare minimum standard, even leaving PEGI completely is unlikely to create much of an impact in the UK, unless the UK suddenly becomes extremely liberal in its assessment of games. If we cast the net wider and consider the whole “video nasties” era of film censorship in the UK, it is highly unlikely this will happen, to the extent it is not worth considering too heavily.


In conclusion, there are a large amount of potential knock-on effects on the gaming communities in UK and mainland Europe, assuming that Brexit is going full steam ahead. This remains a speculative list though, as a picture is emerging of a bunch of politicians finger-pointing, with no clear policies on the horizon. Once Art. 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has been triggered by the next Prime Minister, either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom, we’ll start to get a better idea of how all industries, never mind the games industry, will be affected. Until then, we can enjoy the gaming benefits (or downsides) that are part and parcel of the UK being a Member of the EU.