Free-Fire Fandemonium for February

DY: It’s time for a bit of Free-Fire Fandemonium and with me is Josh Allen of…

Josh helped me select the new name for this column (he said that the previous title, Two Gamers Talk had all the personality of a wet noodle.. and he was right).

JA: he usually is. it’s funny how that works.



DY: Plenty of stuff to get to, and we start with some surprising Microsoft news. Microsoft recently announced that Quantum Break will be the first game to be “Cross-Buy” between Windows 10 machines and Xbox One. They are hoping to make this a feature for games on the Xbox One Platform, including third-party games. Do you see this making XB1 more popular, or a feature that is “Nice, but not a System Seller”.

JA: Probably “nice, but not a system seller.” They’re not the first kids at that party; the difference is that their “other” platform is the most ubiquitous in the world, while Sony treats theirs as a red-headed stepchild. The reality is, anybody who has both an Xbox One and a PC capable of running the newest games is probably not playing the newest games on BOTH.

DY: Yeah. I was surprised that XBox reps were taking heat online for announcing the PC Version just weeks before the game’s release. I think there was a little bit of “Fanboy Elitism” there. Especially because it’s a free copy of a game for another platform.

JA: I just don’t see how it’s supposed to be a benefit. the PS3/PS4 cross-buy/cross-play functionality with Vita serves a purpose, if an underutilized one: play your game at home, then take it on the go with you. Xbox One cross-buy is…what, “play your game, then move to the PC when the kids kick you off the TV for Spongebob”?

DY: That’s a good point. I kind of wondered if it was trying to move people off consoles to Windows, considering there’s already apps for streaming windows to televisions and Xbox One to PC. Get the gaming fight off what’s considered “other people’s territory” (consoles) and onto territory where they are more familiar (PC’s)

JA: That’s bad business, though. because Microsoft doesn’t get a cut of licensing fees with PC games. They tried that with “Games For Windows” and it bombed, horribly. Console software, they wet their beak on everything.

DY: We’ll have to see where it goes to understand Microsoft’s moves.


DY:Moving on, In the recent quarterly call, Activision/Blizzard head Bobby Kotick said that Activision is aiming high for revenues from eSports. He noted that NFL fans watched about 7 billion hours of nationally televised games (in aggregate), and compared it to the 14 billion hours of playing Activision/Blizzard and 1.5 Billion Hours of watching eSports. He mentioned the 11 Billion dollars that the NFL teams would earn (from TV rights, merchandising, and ticket sales), and said that they look at the lens of business opportunities like the NFL and other pro leagues. Do you think that he actually believes there is such an untapped market? I’m.. doubtful… to put it mildly.

JA: e-Sports IS big business in other markets. Are they going to get NFL dollars from day one? Ha. But is there growth potential there? Sure. It’s already a big deal on the Asian subcontinent. Piggyback on China loosening the console restrictions and with a population of a billion and a half, that’s a market that could be hungry for e-Sports.

DY: Considering they just bought Major League Gaming for below $50 million, that should say a lot for where the American market is however…

JA: The American market for e-sports is kinda like soccer, to be honest. It’s “the next hot thing” but it may take a generation. Or three.

DY: As a soccer fan, that made me cringe. Thanks. (insert 😛 emoticon emoji here)

JA: Just sayin’. America’s been projected as a sleeping soccer giant since the ’90s. Hasn’t happened yet.



DY: An 8 Bit Mind’s talked about Street Fighter V’s rough road to release. While they are getting better in the server side connection, there have been numerous complaints as well about missing features expected at a game’s release. (namely, the eight player lobbies and characters being rolled out one a month). This sounds like an unforced error that could have been rectified by a small delay. Why do you think they resisted giving the game the bit more time it probably needed? This sounds like a directive from above “We WILL release on this date whether it’s ready or not”

JA: Some of that is an incubation thing, but some of that is the continued encroachment of “freemium” gameplay into the console space. expected features missing? probably incubation. Character creep? Well, the surest way to keep people playing your game well after release is new content, and for a fighting game, new characters is about the easiest content there is.

DY: Yeah, one commenter on the blog said they were aiming to mimic something like League of Legends which are adding new heroes all the time to shake up the environment.

JA: League of Legends is far from the only one that does. Marvel Puzzle Quest adds several new characters per month. Marvel Future Fight routinely adds new characters. It’s not just a way to concretize engagement, but it’s an ongoing revenue stream.



DY: Shifting gears a bit, or considering the next topic, throwing a change-up… With pitchers and catchers having reported as I write this, I sigh a bit inside, as I realize that there’s only one console based platform available if you want a graphical major league baseball game, that being PlayStation 3 and 4 with MLB 16: The Show. Even for a dedicated sports simmer like me, I would love to see more competition in the baseball field. Will we ever see competition for MLB The Show, and a good baseball game on the Xbox side of things?

JA: Yes, and no, respectively. Well, let me walk that back. Yes, and eventually, if EA decides to resurrect MVP. 2K doesn’t have the exclusive third party license anymore, so it doesn’t matter that Microsoft sold their soul to the proverbial devil to entice EA to play nice with Xbox Live.

DY: I don’t know if EA can be trusted to make a good baseball game anymore. Look at the debacle with NBA Live. Or is that debacles, plural at this point?

JA: The NBA franchise was trending downhill for a while before the Live debacle, and was clearly the inferior product. MVP was the baseball equivalent of NFL 2k – critically and commercially acclaimed, but cut off at the knees at the height of its power by licensing shenaniganry. They’re iterating with hockey and football and improving the product with both, but it helps that there’s no direct competitor in either to hold up a mirror to their offerings. basketball, on the other hand, is in the shadow of NBA 2K, and there’s enormous pressure to catch up all at once. That never ends well.



DY: Talking about things that haven’t apparently ended well… it’s safe to say that the resumption of the Guitar wars hasn’t gone to plan. Both Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live are reporting disappointing sales, and caused layoffs at their creators (Mad Catz for Rock Band 4, and the Activision office that made the new Guitar Hero game). Can we say that the Guitar Wars are over and done?

JA: I don’t think so. I think both of those titles should be viewed as platforms rather than franchises going forward, and to the extent that Rock Band is suffering, I think that has more to do with the dick-shootery Microsoft engaged in with the Xbox One prior to release than anything Harmonix have done wrong. Activision made the questionable decision to forego DLC in favor of essentially play-your-own-MTV; if that were working the way they had hoped, I’m not sure they’d be as fussed about software sales, partly because free money, partly because word of mouth would spur those sales.

Rock Band….look, Harmonix did almost everything right on the backend, there. Your DLC from previous games in the franchise follows you, assuming console brand loyalty, and you can even use your existing instruments The problem for Harmonix is that a huge chunk of their playerbase was on Xbox 360, and hardware sales numbers suggest that Microsoft drove off a significant chunk of their market with their dick-shootery. So if you have a vibrant, engaged userbase that suddenly finds itself on the other side of the line, that doesn’t mean they’re gone. It means you need to figure out how to recapture them, especially with Rocksmith’s rise to prominence. If they could have figured out how to migrate people’s DLC cross-platform, we might not be having this discussion.

DY: I’m just worried that Mad Catz seemingly took a major blow, as they lost several key executives and about 40% of the workforce.

JA:Mad Catz has been in a weird place in the last two generations. They went from being the largest third-party peripheral maker for GameCube, PS2 and Xbox to being shut out of the market almost entirely because the hardware manufacturers are using proprietary wireless tech, and how do you talk people into buying your corded pad over the snazzy wireless official stuff? That means they have to stretch some looking for their next hit. Sometimes that works, sometimes it…doesn’t.



DY: Finally, and you KNEW this was coming… This is more of a rhetorical question than anything, but considering the very checkered history of the last two ports to PC, is there any reason why people should buy PC versions of WB games? Mortal Kombat X had issues, and is not getting some content or the “Game of the Year” edition, Mortal Kombat XL, and enough electrons have been spilled chronicling the broken, buggy nature of Arkham Knight for PC to light Times Square for a year. So.. is there any reason to buy the next games in these series for PC?

JA: Sure. The reason would be, if you don’t buy them for PC, WB will focus on the consoles, where they sell well, and the PC ecosystem shrinks. It IS a Catch-22, because if you buy the games there’s a non-trivial chance you’re buying a steaming pile, but…you didn’t ask me for a GOOD reason.

DY: So, your options are a cattle prod to the gajoolies that you PAY for.. or nothing at all. Actually, if I retitle this column (again) next month, “Cattle Prod to the Gajoolies” sounds like a great idea. I’m kidding. I think.

JA: I thought that was your band name in Rock Band.


(thanks as always to Josh Allen of .. for the time. )