Hope you all are doing well and the weather is starting to warm up! Winter has come and gone, and I am game for some good sunshine!
Today's post will be focused on the video-gaming world, and how corporations (to many of us) still make decisions that defy common understanding.
LucasArts has been around for a long long time, and have released many classics that gamers will gladly reminisce about. The Secret of Monkey Island, the TIE-Fighter/X-Wing franchise, Republic Commando, and Dark Forces are among the masterpieces this venerable studio has crafted. Granted, LucasArts has not recently released games to critical acclaim or financial success, such as the Kinect Star Wars atrocity, and The Force Unleashed II which underperformed in sales. The Knights of the Old Republic franchise was jointly created with Bioware and Obsidian, and I don't think the current MMO by Bioware will be affected by LucasArts's closing.
Before we jump to the conclusion that Disney has totally mis-understood Star Wars 1313, it's worthwhile to remember that the company serves its shareholders, who are in it for their portfolio. Video-game production is an expensive gamble and it seems that CoD style FPSes are what execs like, and a game based on bounty hunting doesn't seem to hold the same mass appeal (Prey 2 has been indefinitely delayed). Plus, we have never seen what else the studio has showed to the Disney execs, which could have been horribly bad for all we know, but I find that doubtful.
External licensing is our only hope. Who knows if a reputable game developer could come around and acquire the rights to Star Wars 1313?
Xbox 720: Always Online?
I'm not a Xbox gamer, but I find recent news rather troubling.
News has emerged that the Xbox 720 would require an online connection to play, and it will automatically stop the game if the console was brought offline for more than 3 minutes. This rumored feature was "confirmed" when Adam Orth, Microsoft's Creative Director, brashly tweeted his disbelief over doubts on the always-online feature (even using #dealwithit). Microsoft has since apologized for his behavior, but have avoided dealing with the always-online issue.
Wifi and broadband have greatly expanded the digital frontier, but always online features have not been popular in the gaming world. Diablo 3 (and perhaps SimCity) is the archetype of online DRM done poorly, but still managed to sell like hot cakes and apparently still has a million regular players. As a gamer, I feel extremely uncomfortable that my ability to play a game is governed by my access to the internet, a factor that is external to my own person. Server overloads/crashes, server maintenance, internet disconnections, bandwidth issues, moving houses, router malfunction...these factors are outside of our control and should not govern if I can play a product I have bought.
Sadly, always-online gaming looks set to be the future. The sales performances of always-online games have not been disappointing, with Diablo 3 and SimCity as fine examples. Also, the sales of single-player only games have been a mixed bag. While Skyrim continues to enjoy a wide fan-base, Square Enix has experienced poor sales from Sleeping Dogs, Hitman Resolution and Tomb Raider. Although the games listed here may have succeeded/failed to reasons unrelated to online-DRM, sales figures do not suggest that having always-online will damage profits as long as mass appeal is maintained.
And again, corporations make decisions that ensure cashflow. The always-online feature would allow them to obtain a captive audience, who would be ripe to purchasing for digital services you provide exclusively through your distribution system. Also, as long as the Xbox 720 has strong video game releases and capable hardware, it is hard to see it failing just due to its internet connection requirement. (at least Microsoft won't be getting my money)
Did Microsoft wisely decide on an always-online Xbox 720? Or are we on the cusp of an event where offline gaming would prevail? Or would we see a bifurcation of the gaming audience into the online/offline groups?
Time will tell.