I roped one of my good friends, Josh into a monthly chat about news in the gaming world. I originally called it “This back and forth”, but that was horrible. I’m not sure his suggestion was better. Read on!
(DY) Joining me for the January news back and forth is Josh, who is the head honcho and editor over at GameNikkiInExile.com.. we have a lot to get to, but first off, we have to come up with a better name than back and forth for these things, don’t we? (JA): What’s this “we,” kemosabe? I have a better name for them. (DY) Dare I ask? (JA) “Foz’s Training Wheels.” (DY) Ouch. So, before this turns into even MORE of an “Insult Foz”-fest.. let’s get to the news. Question 1: Fear the Occulus, or Fear the Price Tag?
(DY) First up.. The Occulus Rift started accepting pre-orders this week, and despite having demand overwhelm its servers at some points, the $600 price point has several analysts wondering if the Rift has priced themselves out of the market. Do you think the high price point has depressed the VR market when it was going to come out big? (JA) Not really. When you start talking about peripherals, and particularly multi-platform peripherals, you’re still talking about an enthusiast-driven business model: the early adopters. In the console space, VR as a major player is something that’s going to be much more price-sensitive, but Oculus RIft ain’t the one-size-fits-all there. Sony’s got Project Morpheus in the works and Microsoft has…something. Rift coming out at $600 is primarily a case of the “firsties tax.”
(DY) Not to mention the HTC Vive (who comes up with these names anyway?) (JA) Marketers who think the public is smarter and more imaginative than they actually are, generally. “Let’s come up with a name that evokes (thing)!” “What do you think of when you hear (name created to justify continued employment)?” “(blank stare)”
anyway, TL;DR: the PC space is largely enthusiast-driven. Early adopters buy the hot new video cards because they gotta have it, and sales subsidize the eventual price drops. VR on PC will be no different. Console has a different set of pressures, and Sony and (hopefully) Microsoft should be receptive to those.
Question 2: “Microsoft’s not playing the numbers game?”
(DY)Speaking of Microsoft and Sony, I came across an editorial on GamesIndustry that chastised Microsoft for not releasing sales or total base numbers. I can somewhat understand why, they don’t want to be seen as Sony eating their lunch, but can’t you read into that by the fact they’re NOT willing to release the numbers (and the fact that Rise of the Tomb Raider barely cracked a million sales during it’s X1 exclusitivity period before it’s coming to Steam?) (JA) It’s a no-win situation. If you release numbers, there will be those who’ll criticize shipped versus sell-through, and if you don’t release numbers, there will be cynics who assume that means Sony is eating your lunch. Releasing numbers is generally a chest-thump move; investors tend to get the skinny in quarterly earnings reports, so those numbers needn’t necessarily be made public to serve a business purpose. I’m not sure Rise of the Tomb Raider’s numbers are reflective of Xbox One sales. More instructive would be to look at the release window and see what the competition was. Most video game sales happen within 2 weeks from launch. That’s why you get the WE RULE EVERYTHING press releases from Rockstar for two weeks after a GTA launch and then don’t hear much after that. They’ve done the damage they’re gonna do. Question 3: “Amazon Prime vs Best Buy vs Gamestop”
(DY) You brought up something that reminds me of something we discussed in the preparation for this conversation, Amazon offering 20% discounts on pre-releases and games within 2 weeks of release to Prime members. You reminded me that Best Buy had something a little similar as well. How does Gamestop fight for those “Two weeks after release” sales, other then being the main place to trade in your games? (JA) There’s an argument to be made that offering better trade values than the competition is a value prop in itself. Many people subsidize new game purchases through trades. That’s not to say there’s nobody out there who’ll drop $60 (or $48) on whatever they want without considering the cost, but GameStop wouldn’t be in (profitable) business if there weren’t a sizeable group of people who play a game until they’re bored with it and trade it for the new shiny. That 20% discount from the competition is a perk, no doubt, but new game sales aren’t GameStop’s bread and butter.
(DY) I know we’ve had discussions in the recent past about what Gamestop does when the used games market starts drying up and at least some of the console market moves to a more Steam-like market with digital downloads. I feel like the answer is “Shrivel up and die”, but they have several years of the current generation at least. (JA) GameStop has already started to pivot. They sell digital downloads in-store, and you can trade your existing stuff towards those purchases. What I can see happening to GameStop is their having to abandon mall real estate for cheaper digs, and they could always embrace their FuncoLand subsidiary and start being more of a vintage store if current-gen stuff truly started to eschew retail entirely… but I don’t see that happening until console digital games start getting priced like Steam games… and to this point, neither Sony nor Microsoft (nor Nintendo, really) seem inclined to allow the $60 MSRP to get undercut on a regular basis digitally..
(DY) Probably a lot more variety like Steam too. Sony and Microsoft have to let the reins slack a bit I think. (JA) I think there’s still an internal industry fear of a reprise of what happened in 1984 when the reins went completely slack and shovelware ruled the day. That’s not to say there aren’t shit games these days, but if you let the shit games take over your digital storefront when you think the world is trending towards digital, you might rue that move. Question 4: Slow end of 2014, what does it mean for consoles and PC’s?
(DY) Speaking of the current generation, this was not a great end of year hardware wise, as console sales were flat, down a couple percent year over year, but that was nothing compared to the year over year drop of personal computers (over 10% lower from 4Q 2014). What, if anything can we put that on? I mean, you could blame detatchable tablets for depressing the PC market, and mobile market for cannibalizing the console market.. or is it just there wasn’t a Killer game for consoles, and the rush to be “Windows 10 ready” is over for PC’s? (JA) Mobile and console are kind of their own space, no matter what anybody who says “NINTENDO NEEDS TO MAKE MOBILE GAMES” thinks. Those are different games played by people who are looking for different things at different times. Nobody’s playing Marvel Puzzle Quest “Instead of” Fallout 4, for example. I think it’s partly a factor of no, or few, must-have titles in the second (third?) year post-launch for the consoles, and hardware prices that have been weirdly resistant to lowering for the last decade. Do you remember the Dreamcast hitting $199 and even being available for $99 before the PS2 launched? How long did it take the PS3 and 360 to hit that price point despite the conventional wisdom that $199 is the “mass market” point?
(DY) Forever and a day.
(JA) and even then it was generally the “gimped” model which was unheard of a generation ago. You might get a REDESIGNED model but it was generally feature-competitive with what had been more expensive previously. Look at Wii Mini ditching GC backwards compatibility and wifi, PS3 mini having a 12 GB HD, like 1/10 the size of its big brother despite the mandatory game installs, 360 ditching internal hard drives for 4 GB of flash memory, and the beat goes on.
(DY) And now I’m imagining a PS3 Mini in a gimp mask. It’s not comfortable in my brain.
Question 5: “Konami. Am I Right?”
(DY) Transitioning to the gaming industry’s new favorite punching bag.. Metal Gear Online’s beta came to a shuddering halt one day after it came out, as a glitch allowed people to buy “MB Coins”, an in-game currency, without actually spending money. Considering Konami’s recent history, should this be a matter of concern for the game when it comes out of beta, or should we all be digging the schadenfreude of the thing?
(JA) When done properly and not as a PR stunt, betas exist for a reason. Finding stuff like this is one of those reasons. If the beta is basically feature-complete and being used to try to drive excitement for three weeks before the game actually comes out, yeah. That’s a concern for Konami… but I’m not sure they have a ton of shoulders to cry on right now, either
(DY) I’m just shocked that they didn’t you know, stress test this before putting up the beta. Rule #1, if you’re taking money, you’re held to a higher level.
(JA) See, you SAY that, but from the sound of things they weren’t actually taking money. They may have WANTED to, but…
Final Question: “Foz is confused?”
(DY) And speaking of Betas and things being confusing, can you tell me what the hell is up with the new Hitman game? PS4 pre-orders were cancelled because “the configuration of the game has significantly changed”. Two months before release, that cannot be a good thing. (and they confirmed a 3/21 release date still). To me, this is a giant red flag saying “INCOMPLETE GAME AHOY! ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO REENTER HERE”
(JA) Short answer, they changed what the game was planned to be. It’s no longer a $60 game, it’s episodic. given that, preorders became unnecessary. The game may be incomplete, but switching from the traditional format to episodic gives them the ability to hit the target date and still have some breathing room on the back end. The question becomes how many episodes and what the pricing will look like.
(DY) Good point. And finally, I sent you this link earlier.. because it just broke my mind slightly. A cross over between DLC King “Payday 2” and.. Goat Simulator. That’s right, they got goats in payday 2, and payday 2 in Goat Simulator. Is this peanut butter and jelly, or something like waste oil, uranium and nitroglycerin?
(JA) I think Goat Simulator is kind of brain-breaky enough that it doesn’t matter what you cross it over with, really. you’re either going to be into it or you’re not. (DY) I can understand that on the Goat side, it’s already a mind trip, but this has to trip a mental circuit breaker or two for folks who love the “Shoot cops” game play of Payday 2 Anyway, thanks Josh, we’ll do this next month, and hopefully I’ll come up with a better name for these chats. Maybe Two Gamers Talk. It’s better then Foz’s Training Wheels, at least.
(JA) I dunno. The grasshopper climbs the mountain to seek wisdom. Foz’s Training Wheels sounds apropos to me.
David "SirFozzie" Yellope is the operator of the "An 8 bit mind in an 8 Gigabyte World". (an8bitmind.com) While not QUITE yet at the stage of waving his cane and telling the kids to "get off his lawn", he does admit he owns three canes.