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Najeeb's Gaming Report - Issue #3

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This is my weekly newsletter focusing on major developments within the Gaming industry. You can follo
 

Najib El Kihel

April 10 · Issue #3 · View online
Startup and Tech curious, with a focus on #Gaming. Runs a weekly Newsletter on this particular industry.

This is my weekly newsletter focusing on major developments within the Gaming industry.
You can follow me on Twitter here.
Najeeb

Issue #3 - 10 April 2017
Industry News
After the presentation by Digital Foundry that only focused on console specs, the big question (other than software) is pricing. It is clear that Scorpio will be more expensive (and powerful) than a PS4 Pro - currently at $399 - which easily takes the console out of the “mainstream category”. A hypothetical $499 Scorpio can’t compete with a $249 PS4 Slim, maybe not even with PS4 Pro whose price tag puts it on the Mainstream / Premium fence. How big is the market for such a premium device like Scorpio? This is a tricky question for Microsoft.
More details about pricing and software to come during E3 in June.
These comments from Microsoft raise interesting questions regarding the cycles of console releases going forward. With PS4 Pro and Scorpio, many have suggested that this could mark the end of console generations, often characterised by a change of hardware architecture, limiting backward compatibility and offering no forward compatibility. 
- If console manufacturers plan to stick to console generations, then it’s hard to imagine Scorpio not only closing the gaps with Sony in terms of sales, but also luring developers away from the PS4 - the lead hardware for this generation that also has a much bigger install base than the XboxOne.
- If console manufacturers decide to shorten cycles and enable forward/backward compatibility (by maintaining the x86 architecture for future hardware), then it is possible to imagine a scenario where Scorpio becomes the lead hardware for developers. It is however hard to imagine this second scenario until Scorpio’s price makes it affordable to most console players ($399 and below).
After launching its desktop app (based on the Curse client) a few weeks ago, Twitch is integrating more gamers’ habits with an integrated shop. While some games requires installation of third-party clients such as Ubisoft’s Uplay or HiRez’, the majority can be launched directly within the Twitch Desktop App. It’s a long shot for Twitch to challenge Steam and its near monopoly position but it does offer an interesting approach to game purchases, as the buyer would (in most cases) have gone through streamed content of the game prior to purchase. At first, Twitch will likely curate games itself to avoid some of the issues Steam has with ‘fake games’. But if Twitch was to open up its shop to developers, its reliance on gaming content could put it in better position than Steam in fighting those fake games.
The service is aimed at solving the discoverability issue for VR Games: the subscription enables players to play 5 games a month, which means they do not have to pay full price to try out new VR experiences. If Viveport is successful, I believe others in the VR space could follow this subscription-based model: VR has so far been a medium that limited itself to short experiences (often up to two hours) and this could carry on for the foreseeable future until the technology reaches maturity - in terms of technology and install base.
This is the type of decisions that makes one think: “I understand where you’re coming from but you will probably create more harm than good”. Atlus understands better than anyone that in a JRPG, story is often a crucial aspect of the game. But with those streaming guidelines and the threats that come with them, it will most likely create bad publicity for the company and make streamers reconsider streaming any part of the game altogether. What’s the point of starting a full playthrough of a game if you can’t technically complete the game for your viewers? This isn’t publicity worth having just to prevent a few spoilers popping here and there.
There is no doubt that the objective for Activision Blizzard is to create a great game on mobile. I can’t help to think that this is also an attempt to solidify the Call of Duty franchise overall on all platforms. While it has remained extremely popular on consoles (best selling game of 2016 in the US), Call of Duty has also seen a sensible decline in sales year-on-year, facing great competition from EA’s Battlefield 1 (which took the 2nd spot in 2016 US rankings). Having a great Call of Duty game on mobile and potentially link it to new episodes on consoles/PC could help the brand going forward.
Despite a sharp decline in Monthly Active Users since last summer’s madness, Pokémon Go continues to attract an extremely high number of players. The biggest phenomenon in gaming History also took the BAFTA (British Academy of Film, Television and Arts Game) award for the 2016 “Best mobile/handheld game”. Another big achievement - this time for Nintendo - was the stimuli Pokémon Go gave to Nintendo 3DS and Pokémon Sun/Moon sales. The type of symbiosis that Activision-Blizzard would hope to nurture with Call of Duty on all platforms.
Blog Posts
I’m sharing this post while disagreeing with the core message. While there have been few examples in recent memory of games (e.g. Batman Arkham Knight, Assassin’s Creed Unity) that had so many technical issues that it made them looked ‘unfinished’, games have also ever been increasing in complexity. I believe it is totally unrealistic to expect games in this day and age to hit the shelves without any issue. Some games are also simply better than others. Mass Effect Andromeda may have not met the expectations of many, it remains nonetheless a fully playable game from start to finish without any major problem. It is only commendable from Bioware to try fixing some of the highlighted problems to improve its product/service.
Bonus
I actually like Peter Molyneux a lot, the reason being that - in my humble opinion - he was one of the very few in the gaming industry that was not afraid of sharing his vision for the future of gaming. I vividly remember him talking about Project Ego (which became Fable) at E3 2001 and how he wanted to push the boundaries of RPGs. There is no denying that sometimes he mixed vision with deliverables his team was not capable of achieving, but his vision was always fascinating and could inspire others to think bigger and push the medium forward.
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