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 411mania » Games » Columns

Four Player Co-op 04.03.13: PS4, Square Enix, Blizzard, More
Posted by Stephen Randle on 04.03.2013

John Cash has joined the game.
Todd Vote has joined the game.
Dan Watson has joined the game.
Jeremy Thomas has joined the game.

Greetings, and welcome to yet another edition of Four Player Co-op, the game where everyone wins! Actually, that's not true at all. In fact, only one person can win. It's like Highlander, except not crap. Well, mostly not crap.

Start the game!

QUESTION ONE: Some interesting data out of the NPD this past week. It turns out that in 2012, digital game sales accounted for 51% of all game sales, contributing roughly 7 billion dollars to the wallets of game publishers everywhere. I know we've established that we prefer physical copies of games for various reasons, but with the percentage of digital sales expected to grow another chunk this year, whether we like it or not, are we barrelling down the path that leads to the end of physical game discs quicker than we thought?

John Cash
I wouldn't say "quicker than I thought", but I am surprised by those numbers. I would like to know just how much of that 51% are available only through digital download, though. Minecraft on 360 has sold 6 million downloads on its own after all without being available on physical media. I would chalk it up to the "casual" and everyday person buying stuff for their phones/tablets more than people buying on-demand titles on XBLA or PSN, so I think we have another gen or two of consoles with physical media before it's completely phased out. Which I am fine with, even though we'll still have to pay $60 for a game we can't even physically touch...

Todd Vote
Unfortunately, I think we are. I've even now found myself as a purchaser of a digital game that indeed does have a disc version available for purchase. I bought Arkham City on Xbox Live. But in my defense the game was on sale for somewhere between $10-$15. Maybe that is why there is so many digital sales. When you offer the discounts in digital form, of course people are going to purchase them. My only remaining hope, moving forward is that they don't play this hard drive game now... You know the one similar to what Microsoft did this generation? Where you can get an Xbox for like $200, and it will play... Oh, you want to actually do things with your Xbox? Oh sorry, you will need more memory, luckily for you, we have these 200 gig hard drives available for purchase. How much? Minimal fee plus the rights to your soul, and your first born child. Let's be honest here, even the 20 gig hard drive that most Xbox systems came with was never ever going to be enough, and the fact that they sold the bigger ones for such a criminal price is scary for the digital future of gaming.

Dan Watson
I think this could a good thing long term. This past weekend I had a terrible experience at Best Buy, I don't bother going to GameStop anymore, and there is no incentive to buy at WalMart, Target, or anywhere else. It could be great to purchase new games digitally and maybe at a discount or with special pre-order bonuses. Maybe this is the way that we control rates of games. I don't think the current system is broken by any means but I do feel we have been slowly heading this way for a while. Instruction manuals are nonexistent and packaging is pricy. This is also how those rumors of no used games could really take off. Imagine if the next Xbox is digital only, it would then take away all discs and would be cheaper to produce as well.

Jeremy Thomas
The only industry where the death of physical media isn't becoming blatantly obvious yet is film, and that's because Hollywood is continually acting like a drunken monkey trying to cover every option in sight with its shit (in other words, it can't agree on a single format). I think that we can all agree that CDs are going the way of the dodo in the music industry, right? Well, consider the fact that Justin Timberlake's album (cheap plug: review here!) sold only 46% of its 968,000 copies in digital format. And all statistics show that is about the same proportion for all music. So while people argue that physical games will be around forever, they're actually going digital quicker than music. And that's kind of understandable, since gamers are quicker adopters of new technology than non-gamers. Physical media is in fact on the way out, and it doesn't bother me.

Speaking as the guy who reviews multi-platform games on Steam because he can get them preloaded and start playing at midnight without having to wait in line, I'm finding I may not miss physical media as much as I thought I would. Todd gets 542 points for actually breaking down and hopping on the digital download train. One of us, Todd. One of us.

QUESTION TWO: More PS4 details out of GDC, as Sony continues to press their advantage over Microsoft of having an actual console announced. Some new items to consider: the PS4 controller features digital face buttons and improved rumble, and will be able to charge when the PS4 system is in standby, the basic console will come with a gaming headset included in the box, the PS4 BluRay spins three times faster than the one that comes on the PS3. In addition, Sony showed off the new "dual identity" feature of the system, one being your gaming handle, and the second being your real name, which will not show by default, but will be connected to accounts like Facebook, where people might only know you by your actual name. Anything catch your eye there?

John Cash
I will be consistent and say that I don't particularly care about the PS4, but to be nice, I will comment anyway. Of the things listed, what stands out to me would be the controller being able to charge while the console is on sleep/stand-by mode and having a headset come with the console; those seem like things that should have happened last generation, so I will give Sony kudos for doing it for PS4. Hopefully this will force Microsoft's hand and they'll put a headset/chatpad with their next console as well. The other stuff, better buttons, better rumble, faster BluRay reads, all seem like things that just come along from having better technology now compared to 7-8 years ago, so it doesn't particularly grab me.

Todd Vote
Does my Blu-ray spinning faster mean my game is going to play better? If so then that would be the only bit of news I really care about from the above statements. I really don't care if my gaming system links up to all of the social networking sites or any of that crap. Hell, the 360 gives you the option to share nearly everything on Facebook now and I skip it. I don't really care if all of my friends know that I just unlocked the trophy for dragging a woman, hogtied, onto a set of train tracks to watch her die.

Dan Watson
"Concerned" is more how I feel after reading that. It wasn't too long ago Sony was hacked. Imagine if the hackers then hack your "personal" handle and now have access to your Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc. There is just too much at risk here and they haven't really gained my trust.

Jeremy Thomas
Yeah, not really. The dual identity thing isn't a big deal to me because if I want to use Facebook or Twitter I go to my mobile device or even better, the computer that is less than twenty feet away from my console. And the rest of that, while all important advances in technology for the PS4, are nothing that most people will ever recognize (seriously, are you ever going to hear someone say "Wow, I can't believe how much faster my discs spin now?" I don't think so). GDC was where Sony revealed all the greens that went with the steak of the announcement event; just as important a part of the meal, but certainly not what people look forward to.

Dan gets 923 points because he reminded me of something a lot of us have probably forgotten: Sony's going to have to reassure some people that they've beefed up their online security before we can completely trust them again.

QUESTION THREE: Crystal Dynamics has announced that Tomb Raider has had the best launch week sales of any game in the franchise's long history, and in terms of pure numbers, it has reportedly moved over 3 million units (not counting digital downloads). However, parent company Square Enix recently announced a massive restructuring, including their President stepping down, and appeared to lay blame on their North American branch, which was responsible for Tomb Raider and Hitman (which also broke 3 million units), instead of, perhaps, the Japanese branch in charge of the disastrous FFXIV MMO and the game formerly known as FF Versus XIII (now rumoured to be re-named FFXV and being shepherded along by Sony itself). Given all this, is it fair to say that Square Enix has some seriously messed up priorities in terms of what they should be promoting as their tentpole franchises?

John Cash
It's not just Square Enix, its Japanese business in general it seems. Sega is pretty infamous for pretty much this same thing, blaming bad decisions on the American side while not taking care of it on their own side during the Neptune/32x/Saturn catastrophe years. Luckily for Square Enix they don't have a console to support, but they too can become an embarrassment if they mess up their franchises any more than they have, we need only to see Sega and how they've bungled up Sonic.

Todd Vote
Oh hell, blame America, apparently the in thing to do these days. The fact that the American branch is being blamed for the problems, after two huge selling games just made the company a shit load of nickels, really baffles me. I think Square-Enix needs to take a look at things. They keep trying to save Final Fantasy and force that game out and down people's throats. Maybe instead of doing that, they should take a look at what just happened with Tomb Raider... Take a few years off, build something truly special and then blow the collective minds of gamers everywhere. Wait... I forgot it is easier just to blame someone else these days... Yeah, they are apparently doing things right over there.

Dan Watson
The Final Fantasy franchise has been terrible this generation. PS2 saw the last good Final Fantasy game in 12. I think it's time for Square to move on. You have ridden that horse beyond death and now I stead of promoting games that are relevant somewhat (both are remakes or sequels) we are going to restructure and complain?

Jeremy Thomas
This is eighty-ten different ways of being ridiculous. Now, obviously Tomb Raider and Hitman may have had more sunk into them in terms of investments which would give them some mitigating factor to blame the North American branch over the Japanese branch, but if they consider 3.4 million copies sold "weak sales," they need to seriously re-evaluate their expectations and operating costs. Square Enix comes off to me like the idiot who spends their life savings on lottery tickets and when they make $4,000--more than anyone should ever expect to get from buying lottery tickets--they blame the tickets instead of recognizing that they spread themselves far too thin.

All I know is that if this costs me Tomb Raider 2, I'm going to be pissed. Square Enix was already in serious danger of losing me due to their massive mistreatment of the Final Fantasy franchise, but now that their incompetence is affecting other games I like, I start to wonder: were the glory days of Square just plain luck?

Also, Dan loses all his points for suggesting Final Fantasy 12 the last good FF game. We would have accepted 10, 9, or even as far back as 7, though.

QUESTION FOUR : And here's something that anyone could have told you, but this time it comes straight from one of the directors of Diablo III. It turns out that they vastly underestimated the effect that having auction houses would have on the quality of their game. It seems that having a place to monetize items based on a system of random drop rates may have shifted the focus of the game away from the true purpose (you know, killing Diablo) and into some weird economic modelling simulator. Here's an actual quote: "I think we would turn it off if we could". Care to offer the D3 guys any condolences? Or maybe just "I don't like to say ‘I told you so', but…"

John Cash
I had previous experience with this auction house stuff, to a lesser extent, playing Lord of the Rings Online. A buddy talked me into trying it, and I told him I'd only play when he played, which turned out to be a huge mistake, because the way he played was he farmed stuff to craft, the sell the stuff crafted for inflated prices, only to build a guild house. Instead of, y'know, fighting orcs and cave spiders and stuff. So I didn't mess much with the D3 auction house. My condolences to Blizzard for pretty much everything D3; from auction abuse to underwhelming gameplay to having to try to live up to their own hype.

Todd Vote
In my best grumpy cat impression: No!

Dan Watson
No, in fact, this company honestly ruined a strong series and I offer no sorrow or sympathy to them. Thanks bastards for killing another childhood favorite.

Jeremy Thomas
I call bullshit on the fact that they didn't realize how an auction house would change game balance. These are the guys who have warehouses full of data from World of Warcraft's auction houses, and you don't need a lot of data to realize that there is a significant portion of the game that revolves around the auction house in that one. I know people who spent all their time in WoW just doing auction house shit instead of actually going out and raiding, questing or PVP. You know people like this too, Quizmaster. We all know people who did that. It's not a secret and all Blizzard had to do was take a quick look at the WoW forums to realize what was gonna happen with Diablo. (Although to be fair, if I was Blizzard I wouldn't want to look at the WoW forums either.) So no condolences, no "I told you so." Only "tough shit, dumbasses."

No sympathy for Blizzard, and frankly they deserve none. Hey, maybe now they'll actually try and come up with a new franchise! Who am I kidding, Titan is going to turn out to be WoW 2, isn't it.

BONUS QUESTION: Between baseball's return and BioShock Infinite, I forgot to come up with something for here. Fill this blank space as you will:

John Cash
I will take this opportunity to ask all who read this to visit Speed Demos Archive. It's an archival website dedicated to posting the fastest game completions on the internet, everything from a Super Mario Bros speed run that clocks in at under five minutes to things like 12 hour Baiten Kaitos speed runs, there's most likely going to be at least one game you want to see on there (700+ runs I believe.)

Todd Vote
It's Wrestlemania weekend! And I may be missing the big show due to having to travel this weekend. You know what, I'm actually not that bummed out about it. This is by far the most predictable mania in years, in my opinion. the one match I am looking forward to on the card is Taker vs. Punk. But even with that, the journey is what interests me, because the outcome of the match is not in doubt at all in my mind. Just sort of a blah Wrestlemania card, wouldn't you say?

Dan Watson
Not much going on, hope everyone had a good weekend and solid week.

Jeremy Thomas
Yay, time for me to shamelessly buy the Quizmaster's vote! Hey folks...do you listen to podcasts? If you do, then you should check out The Wrestling News Experience After Dark, in which Stephen Randle talks about wrestling and more! And if you don't listen to podcasts, you should make an exception to this one! And join us in the chat room so that I have someone to argue with!

Please wait…Host is calculating scores…



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