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Here is what has been making news: New Releases, Elder Scrolls Online, Far Cry Bundles, Energy Hook, Assassin’s Creed Pirates, Castlevania: Lord of Shadows 2, PlayStation Network, Xbox One, Halo 4, PlayStation Now, 2014 Indi Games, Battlefield 4, China Lifts Console Ban, Alien: Isolation.
January 12th – January 18th
Monday, January 13th
Nidhogg will be available for the PC.
Tuesday, January 14th
The Banner Saga will be available for the PC.
Legends of Persia will be available for the PC.
Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise will be available for the PC.
AeternoBlade will be available for the 3DS.
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3, PC.
Wednesday, January 15th
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD will be available (in UK) for the Xbox 360, PS3, PC.
Dr. Luigi will be available (in UK) for the Wii U.
Thursday, January 16th
Special Force 2: Demons of the Past will be available for the PC.
Friday, January 17th
Mario Party: Island Tour will be available for the 3DS.
Subscription fee defended
Ryan Dancey, the developer of Pathfinder Online, has been defending the subscription fee for The Elder Scrolls Online, arguing that subscription MMOs have a proven track record for providing steady profit.
Dancey estimates that MMO subscriptions bring in about $100 million every month, although he does admit that the calculations can be tricky. He goes on to state that he believes free-to-play games which use microtransactions hardly bring in even half that much each month.
According to Dancey, “If we consider the MMOs that generate the most revenue in the Western market (North America, Europe, Russia, and Australia / New Zealand) a sizeable majority of the revenue being generated is in the form of monthly subscriptions. The era of MMO subscriber transparency has ended but we can still make some educated deductions about these revenues and subscriber totals.”
When it comes to the best performing MMORPGs in the West, Dancey states, “It’s even harder to estimate how much revenue is being generated from microtransactions (MTX), but it is extremely difficult to imagine that the revenue even approaches 50% of the amount being paid as subscription fees. Half the subscription revenue is coming from World of Warcraft and Blizzard has just begun to dip its toe in the MTX revenue stream.”
Dancey believes that MTX revenue will be increasing over the next few years, although, unless there is a major shift in the market, he thinks microtrasactions will remain a lesser partner to subscriptions when it comes to revenue. Dancey went on to explain, “This may be the internal justification ZeniMax is using to benchmark its budget for Elder Scrolls Online. Skyrim, the most recent single-player entry in the Elder Scrolls franchise, is reported to have sold approximately seven million units, which we can impute translates to something like $210 million in revenue. If the MMORPG can carry that kind of weight, its budget becomes suddenly very rational.”
The concern still remains as to whether a subscription fee for The Elder Scrolls Online is really a good idea or not. Its true that a subscription fee gives gamers some sense of reassurance, removing the concerns of a “pay-to-win” model. However, the console audience continues to feel there isn’t a proven track record of success. Additionally, what is being considered the strength of a subscription model largely comes out of World of Warcraft’s success, and frankly, it isn’t likely we will be seeing anything like that come to life again anytime soon.
Confirmed for U.S. and U.K.
Recently Ubisoft revealed two separate Far Cry bundles, one for North America and one for Europe.
In Far Cry Compilation, the North American version, Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3, and Blood Dragon will be bundles together as an exclusive PS3 release. The bundle will sell for about $40 and will launch on February 11th.
In Far Cry: The Wild Expedition, the European version of the bundle, the afore mentioned games will be included as well as Far Cry Classic, an updated version of the first Far Cry game. The European bundle will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC for £29.99 ($49.40 USD).
If you want to get your hands on Far Cry Classic in North America you may be out of luck. Ubisoft has revealed that it will be available as a digital standalone on both Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network on February 12th for Europe, but now word yet on a North American release. With that said, I would prefer to get my hands on the European bundle rather than the North American Bundle which is exclusive for PS3 and doesn’t include the Classic version of the game.
Coming to PS4 and PS Vita
When the Kickstarter campaign for Happion Laboratories game, Energy Hook, began, it generated some interest among gamers. And why wouldn’t it? It is a Spider-Man like looking game that comes from the creator of Spider-Man 2 video game, Jamie Fristrom.
Once Energy Hook got the funding it needed, development began. At the time development was for Xbox One and PC, however, Sony recently announced that Energy Hook would be coming to the PS4 and the PS Vita.
On the PlayStation Blog, Fristrom explained what Energy Hook was, staying, “Well, imagine a 3D swinging game like Spider-Man 2 had a love child with ‘points-for-style’ game SSX. You swing from rooftop to rooftop, pull off mid-air tricks, run along walls, and rack up points and energy for doing it. Because: it’s future. And that’s what the extreme sports of the future look like. You have gravity beams and gravity boots and jetpacks and can do awesome stuff.”
With regards to Vita support, Fristrom said, “PS Vita is my favorite handheld. There’s no handheld like it. Nothing else comes with dual sticks, and Energy Hook wants those dual sticks! It’s a very expressive game that wants precision controls. A touchscreen is not enough. I daresay it’s going to be the first, decent, 3D swinging game to hit a handheld.”
We don’t have information on whether the game will be cross-save and cross-buy between PS4 and PS Vita, however, Fristrom did confirm that the game will launch sometime this year.
Received its first update
The first update was recently launched for the mobile spin-off of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag titled, Assassin’s Creed Pirates.
The update, according to Ubisoft, has new missions, achievements and exploration available to players. It also includes a new map, Nassau, new campaign, and ten new side quests. A new social feature has been added that lets you view and measure up with your friends. Additionally, the game’s difficulty has been raised to accommodate more seasoned Assassin’s Creed gamers.
The Nassai map has been described by Ubisoft as the most challenging area of play yet. New defense and dodge mechanics offers more lively ship vs. ship combat. You also can now destroy cannonballs in mid air.
Even without the update, Assassin’s Pirates is an interesting nautical adventure, now with the challenge boosted a bit, the game should be even more entertaining.
Expanded combat and exploration
In the beginning of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, there is a scene that is intended to draw attention to how Gabriel Belmont, once virtuous, has come to embrace his transformation into the lord of darkness, Dracula. The scene is a bit gruesome as he is locked in a room with a young family and has a need to feed.
Dave Cox, Konami producer, explains, “We’re doing a game about vampires so we want to do some nasty, vampiric things. The family at the beginning, we did that because up to that point you’d played as a bit of a badass and then we just give the player a gentle reminder that you’re actually a really nasty piece of work.”
As you progress through the game, Dracula’s powers begin to return and he starts to grow stronger. As this happens your options for combat and exploration also grow. The Blood Whip is Dracula’s primary weapon in the beginning. It doesn’t take too long to acquire the Void Sword. While it is a bit weaker than the whip, it does come in handy for draining life from enemies in mid-combo. Both the sword and the whip can be upgraded and enhanced. The Mastery system offers upgrades for specific attacks based on how often you use them, which encourages a variety of approaches.
Several hours into the game you acquire a close-quarter melee weapon, the Chaos Claws, which gives you the ability to break the defense of heavily armored enemies. With the combination of light, heavy and ranged attacks, your combat will have a feeling reminiscent of Dante’s on-the-fly weapon switching in DmC and Kratos’ juggling attacks in God of War.
Cox states “It’s about testing combos to find weaknesses. We wanted to get away from spamming an attack button and so the Focus System is designed to promote skilful play … You’ve really got to think about what you’re doing.”
Besides the expanded combat system, there is a whole lot more exploration in the game. The ability to trigger switches to negotiate between the castle setting and the modern day city also allows you to use the abilities gained in one area to help your progression in the other area.
Cox explains, “We felt a bit more liberated this time around and so we have taken a few more risks. I think that when we were making the first game we were kind of afraid and that fear held us back a bit, this time we’re really pushing the boat out and try some new things.”
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has potential to give you a broader, less linear adventure. The game should have a great deal for its fans to dive into when it launches February 27th.
Best selling games for the holidays
Sony has recently revealed the games that sold the best on the PlayStation Network in December, 2013. They split the data up so it is listed between game types, and this is what they revealed:
The top five best selling PS4 games, from first through fifth, were: Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Fag, Flower, and NBA 2K14.
The top five best selling PS3 games, from first through fifth, were: Minecraft, The Walking Dead: Season 2-Episode 1, Grand Theft Auto V, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Castle of Illusion Staring Mickey Mouse.
The top five best selling PS Vita games, from first through fifth, were: Terraria, Tearaway, Guacamelee!, Spelunky, and Rainbow Moon.
The top five best selling PS3 DLC for games, from first through fifth, were: Minecraft – Festive Skin Pack, The Walking Dead: Season Two – Season Pass, Call of Duty: Black Ops II – Apocalypse, Battlefield 4 – Premium, and Call of Duty: Ghosts – Season Pass.
The top five best selling PlayStation Classics games, from first through fifth, were: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2), Metal Gear Solid (PSone), Final Fantasy VII (PSone), Crash Bandicoot (PSone), and Final Fantasy IX (PSone).
And finally, the top five best selling PlayStation protable games, from first through fifth, were: 101-in-1 Megamix, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, and King of Pool.
Fix on its way
Many of Xbox One’s social functions, such as Achievements, friends lists, and the party system were all split into separate applications, making them a bit tricky to use. Recently Microsoft revealed that the first major update they were focusing on was sorting out the messy social functions. The separate applications do make for a cleaner looking interface, however, using the functions can be very cumbersome.
Marc Whitten, an Xbox executive, explained that, . “The feedback we’ve gotten is pretty valid; some of the social stuff is hidden or harder to use than it was on the Xbox 360. So you’re gonna see us come out with an update where, well, we’re going to fix those things. As a person who’s been pretty involved in building Xbox Live for the last decade, I take it pretty seriously when people say it’s harder to get into a party, and the defaults aren’t right, and I don’t like the model.”
Whitten went on to say, “So what I’m trying to do with the team is kind of theme some stuff up. Let’s take an update and really go through a big list of what we’re hearing from customers, what we know is broken with the architecture, areas that we want to improve or complete. I think that’s a theme you’ll really see us push on–that Live experience.”
In addition to the clunky social features, Whitten suggested that the Xbox One’s ability to stream gameplay could be a ways off yet. He states that Microsoft will be speaking more on that function at E3 2014.
Director steps down
Kenneth Scott, art director for Halo 4, has stepped down from his position at 343 Industries, the Microsoft-owned Halo house. Scott isn’t leaving completely, he will be continuing to work with 343 Industries as a visual design consultant on a remote basis.
Nicolas “Sparth” Bouvier, a long-time colleague and collaborator of Scott’s, will be taking over as art director on the Halo series. Bouvier also worked on the Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed franchises.
Before his work with 343 Industries, Scott had spent 1998 through 2008 working at the Doom studio id Software. He began working on Halo at the Microsoft studio in January 2009 through November 2012. It is assumed, given his new consultant position, that Scott will continue working on the new Halo game for Xbox One which is said to release sometime this year.
Can your internet handle it?
According to Sid Shuman of Sony, if you want to have a “good experience” with the PlayStation Now streaming service you will need a 5Mb/sec internet connection. Understand that 5Mbps does not mean megabytes (MB), it means megabits. This means that if you can achieve consistent download speeds of 1MB/sec, you should be ok. Be aware that real-life connection speeds advertised by your internet service provider is typically a little bit lower then what they state.
Shuman believes that for “most games” 5Mb/sec should be enough, however, Sony does intend to monitor, tweak and alter its recommendations following launch of PlayStation Now beta later this month.
With regards to image quality, Shuman states that “pixel counters and graphic aficionados might spot some minor concessions in the visual department, such as compression artifacts.” He adds that the image will be “consistent” with Remote Play on the Vita or HD internet.
The cloud streaming technique is built upon Gaikai, purchased by Sony in 2012 for $390m. The service will allow you to rent titles on an individual basis, however, Sony will also offer subscription packages similar to Netflix. Pricing details for the service haven’t been openly discussed yet, however a Netflix package currently starts at about $8 a month.
The upcoming hits
There are some lesser-known hits on their way this year which you may want to keep an eye out for. Remember, every big gaming developer began as an indi developer at some point. Keep an open mind and support indi developers when you can. And frankly, it is looking like this is the year for indi developers.
2014 will have some great indi gaming goodness within it. For example, Crypt of the Necrodancer can be played with a Dance Dance Revolution dance pad. Reason enough to check this game out. The game’s beat detection algorithm transforms your music into a dungeon that can be explored within the game. Do be aware though that you have to keep up with the beat of the music as you explore .. interesting concept. This one could be a hit for sure.
Another possible indi hit is titled Escape Goat 2. The original Escape Goat was a puzzle, platform, magical barnyard animal game. This sequel to the game has a redesigned art style, new puzzles, new traps and naturally, plenty of magic. There will also be a level editor for the game in the works, allowing you to design your own challenges.
Hyper Light Drifter captured the imagination of thousands of gamers on Kickstarter, surpassing its goal significantly. It is a 2D action role-play game contrasts a colorful world with a haunting, somber tone, underscoring the game’s deeper mysteries. You play as a collector of lost technology and knowledge, a drifter. As such you hack and slash your way through ancient, long forgotten corners of the world as you search for the treasures left behind.
The Iconoclasts offers up an exciting world ready for smashing. You play as Robin, a badass mechanic who smashes her enemies with her trusty wrench. If this game has the same high quality standards of developer Konjak’s other games, it will be worth the wait and a must purchase game.
Jazzpunk is a game that will have you committing corporate espionage and exploring a bizarre Cold War-era world with a wide assortment of tools with which you can harass the unsuspecting public. It is a game about adventure, in particular, first-person adventure through an alternate version of the late 20th century. The game also offers up an offbeat style and sense of humor like none other. This is another one to watch for and snatch up when it releases.
Quadrilateral Cowboy, yes this is a cowboy simulator, well sort of. You actually are a computer hacker who wields a laptop rather than a six-shooter and rides a motorcycle rather than a horse. This is another corporate intrigue type of game set in the long gone days of tape decks and CRT monitors. You will be armed with fancy, newfangled, hacking device with which you will bypass and breach the most advanced security systems of the day.
Radio the Universe is a mix of classic Zelda-like action and dark sci-fi, giving us a haunting blend of game play that will amaze. You will be armed with several items such as a short-ranged teleporter, a shield, and a variety of weapons. With these items you guide a heroine through a labyrinth of traps and mechanized enemies. And the dark side? Well, as the Kickstarter page notes, “Players who die in-game, die in real life.”
In Rain World, you play as a … well, I’m not too sure just what that creature is, a slug-cat? A worm-otter? At any rate, as one of these odd creatures, you will be tasked with navigating through maze-like environments while you hunt lesser creatures. Be wary though, you don’t want to become a snack for the lizard-like predators who also exist within the environment. You can try to survive it alone, or you can join up with your friends in coop play and traverse the ecosystem together.
Finally, Routine, an interesting indi game that has you investigating the disappearance of all human life on a lunar research station. As you can imagine, those who disappeared didn’t just walk off out of boredom. The apprehension experienced as you search for clues is underscored by the sounds of bleeps and bloops from the old-school technology in the station.
These are but a few of the upcoming indi hits to watch for. Support the indi developer who doesn’t use big name publishers to distribute their games. They could well be big name developers someday.
Later this month, according to the DICE support site, those headaches you have been experiencing in Battlefield 4 may be resolved. A patch is currently being finalized, although which specific problems it will address is not yet clear.
DICE has launched an investigation of a host of problems that continue to plague Battlefield 4. One of the problems which is affecting all platforms involves a “desynchronized” world where objects have different states for different players. Other problems plaguing all platforms include frame rate drops, some players not taking damage when shot, and rubber-banding.
Despite numerous patches and updates, Battlefield 4 has suffered through a host of issues since its release last fall. Most of the more pronounced problems currently seem to be affecting the PS4 version of the game however. As a result of all these issues, EA has landed itself in a class-action lawsuit. There is no current word on how that lawsuit is going but I’m pretty sure as soon as information hits the airways, we will be updating you.
Ubisoft and others profit
Ubisoft saw its stock value rise by 7.3 percent in Paris shortly after China announced that a decade-long ban on video game consoles had been lifted. On that same day, Nintendo shares reached a two-year high.
The 14-year ban was lifted, at least temporarily, while the country draws up new rules. The ban was originally enacted in 2000 over concerns that consoles could physically and mentally harm the development of children. It remains to be seen if lifting the ban will prove to be lucrative for companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.
It is likely that the increase in Ubisoft’s share value is due to the news that Xbox One sold 3 million units and PS4 sold 4.2 million units. Such strong sales surely benefit Ubisoft and other developers.
Runs in 1080p on next-gen consoles
Sega recently revealed that the new survival horror sci-fi game from Creative Assembly, titled Alien: Isolation, will run in 1080p on the Xbox One and PS4.
It isn’t yet clear if the game will run in 1080p natively or if the consoles will be up-scaled to that resolution. Sega stated “Right now, we’re definitely aiming for native 1080p.” Although they wouldn’t confirm if this was locked in for the final game.
Alien: Isolation will launch this fall for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. However, Sega has no plan for a Wii U release according to a recent tweet from the official Alien: Isolation Twitter account. There is no reason given for why the Wii U will be left out. It is possible that the install base of the Wii U is the reason.