Week In Review: 3/28/14 – EA Loses its Crown, inFamous Takes down Titanfall and More Layoffs
Welcome to the Week in Review, a feature where Dan Oravasaari and Alex Osborn will break down what happened over the last week and discuss what it means to the industry as a whole, and to you the gamer.
Dan: For the last two years, EA has been deemed the worst company in america by The Consumerist, a site that polls its readers into voting ranking some of the biggest companies in the world. This year, barely necking out of being the top pick for a third year, EA lost to Time Warner Cable, one of the US’ biggest telecommunications companies.
Even though EA did not win this round again, their position in the consumers mindset goes to show the realities behind the consumer ideology. Even though a significant number of consumers are unhappy with their service, and have been for years, they are still able to move more titles than many of their competitors. Based on the sales figures from VGCharts, Battlefield 4 has still been able to move almost 9 million units, while still far from the 16 million estimated for Battlefield 3, it is still well above the norm.
This just goes to show that, while some consumers will be irate about the poor quality of their products, many more will still continue to fund products regardless of history or word of mouth.
Alex: The fact that Electronic Arts was “awarded” worst company in America the two consecutive years prior is absolutely ridiculous. There are plenty of other corporations out there that are worse than EA. Sure, the publisher has managed to botch a lot of game releases as of late thanks to online-based DRM (SimCity, I’m looking at you) and pushed games out before they’re ready (i.e. Battlefield 4) but Electronic Arts is hardly the worst company.
Let’s also not forget that this is the same publisher that worked with Respawn to launch Titanfall, one of the biggest and most popular releases of 2014 thus far. Sure, it may not be available on PlayStation platforms, but you can be sure EA and Respawn are eyeing PlayStation 4 for the inevitable sequel.
Alex: Warner Bros. and Rocksteady have done an admirable job at bringing gamers a solid series based on a pre-existing IP. How did they manage this? For one, the Arkham franchise is not some cheap movie tie-in or half-baked cash-grab; it’s a wholly unique take on the Batman universe that treats the source material with the care and respect it deserves.
Hearing that Electronic Arts hopes to emulate this approach with its Star Wars games is fantastic news, especially when considering how many shoddy movie tie-ins we’ve seen based in George Lucas’ sci-fi universe in the past. Knights of the Old Republic is a shining example of how to do it right, and I really hope we get more Star Wars titles along the same vein. I’m really excited to see how DICE’s Battlefront turns out. Here’s to hoping the online isn’t a complete mess at launch.
Dan: I do think the Batman series is a great example of how to expand on an existing IP in the right way, but I do worry that people are only seeing the success and will try too hard to copy it. Rocksteady’s Arkham series has done phenomenally well, but it was an IP that fits amazingly well into a gaming structure and had enough backing by Christopher Nolan’s film adaptation to keep people buzzing. The Star Wars series does have some potential, but the world is so massive and fans tend to be more disjointed, as there is no exact titular character for everyone to rally behind. Luke Skywalker is the protagonist, but his array of friends and enemies each have an expansive story that has drawn in their own set of fans – Boba Fett anyone?
This means that while many people will love the ability to use a Walker on Hoth, there will be fans who would rather use a lightsaber, or fly around space as a smuggler. So, does this mean we need a game with everything? No, that has been what the MMO space has been for over the last few years, but I think EA needs to realize the franchise needs to be broken up and only joined by spaced out threads.
Dan: This news was actually quite surprising on some levels, especially the fact that inFamous was able to dethrone Titanfall, a game that has been surrounded with buzz since it was leaked before E3 last year. Part of this, of course, has to do with the fact that Titanfall has already been in the market and will have to compete with the day one sales of new products, and inFamous is one of Sony’s flagships – so, we will have to see how the trends play out before saying too much. But, given that inFamous isn’t generally considered to be a type of title that would pull the same numbers as a product made by the original Call of Duty developers, it goes to show the power of the IP and PS4 gamer’s need for AAA titles.
Alex: With inFamous: Second Son being the big exclusive headliner for PlayStation 4 for the first half of 2014, it doesn’t surprise me that it has done so well. There’s been a lot of pent up excitement for the game, and considering the popularity of the PlayStation platform across the pond, I can see why it managed to outpace Titanfall this past week.
The spike in console sales is also nothing to gloss over, as it’s clear a number of gamers were holding out on purchasing the system until Sucker Punch’s latest was available alongside it. There’s also that pesky issue of demand right now, so I’m sure sales figures are dictated more by how quickly Sony can meet demand rather than consumer interest in the product. Gamers want PlayStation 4s, it’s just a matter of Sony getting enough of them on store shelves.
This Week’s Departures or Updates:
Alex: It looks to me like Sony is going through a major transition phase right now with its first-party studios. Trimming the fat and bringing in fresh blood is a healthy way to institute change, so long as the ultimate goal is to evolve and improve. It’s clear something’s going on over at Naughty Dog right now, as the leadership on Uncharted 4’s development has changed hands quite a bit these past few weeks, including the departure of director Justin Richmond. Here’s to hoping it’s actually for the best. As far as Sony Santa Monica losing Seth Killian? I just think it was time for him to move on.
Evolution Studios and Driveclub is a whole other can of worms entirely. Sony assures us that the game is coming along nicely and we’ll get release information soon, so keep your fingers crossed in the hopes that it doesn’t end up becoming a complete disaster.
Dan: To be honest, I am getting more and more depressed every time a hear about developers leaving projects or getting laid off. The fact that Justin Richmond left Naughty Dog and development on Uncharted 4, strikes me as incredibly odd, especially given the recent departure of Amy Hennig from the studio. There are very few teams in the world that have the same level of talent and prestige as Naughty Dog, and Uncharted is obviously going to be a Sony flagship title in the future, so it is difficult to comprehend why there have been so many drastic changes as of late, unless Alex is right and this is just a push to keep things fresh.
In regards to Col Rodgers leaving Evolution studios, we all would like to wish him and his family the best. Family is one of the most important things in life – godspeed.
Dan: This sounds like a fairly feasible idea, especially since the PS4 doesn’t have backwards compatibility. The only real issue I would see is that doing a conversion from PS3 to PS4, for such a highly developed product, is the difference in architecture between the consoles is drastically different. This means that the game would have to be guaranteed to pull in enough sales for a converted version to warrant the work needed.
Thankfully, I honestly think Naughty Dogs runaway PS3 hit would do remarkably well on the PS4, especially if they added in more content. It could work as a nice stop -gap while we wait for Uncharted 4 and would give Sony a cheap AAA product to put in their library to compete against Microsoft’s Xbox One.
Alex: I’m convinced it’s coming. We saw Square-Enix pull a similar move with Tomb Raider earlier this year, and seeing as how The Last of Us really pushed PlayStation 3 to its limits, I can definitely see some merit in optimizing the game for next-gen hardware. There are plenty of Xbox 360 gamers out there who jumped ship and now have a PlayStation 4. These guys may never have had a chance to play TLOU, so getting a super smooth version of the game in native 1080p with the DLC packed in would be an amazing package for these folks. I definitely think it would be worth the effort, and this summer sounds like the perfect time to release it.
Dan: This is one of those games that I have heard about for years, but have never really gotten around to playing. Now that it is on the PS4, PS3 and Vita, there is a better chance of me picking it up, but even still, I am not sure if I will. As it is becoming even more difficult for indies to compete for time with the great PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection. Sadly, as nice as it is to have so much indie support on the PS4, the ability to keep getting free games is a premise that is hard to compete with, especially since gamers have limited time and money.
Alex: I can totally respect Fez for what it is and how insanely creative Phil Fish had to be to put this puzzle platformer together; however, it’s just not my cup of tea. I played the demo back on Xbox 360 when it first launched and had some fun with it, but since a game of this ilk really isn’t in my wheelhouse, it didn’t grab me like it did so many others. That said, the fact that it’s reaching a wider audience is absolute fantastic, and there’s no doubt in my mind that PlayStation gamers who enjoy puzzle games will absolutely adore this unique experience.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition
Alex: I’m amazed that we’re still seeing more and more of these games, despite the fact that virtually every entry in the series is the exact same thing. Then again, I guess it totally makes sense, seeing as how fans flock to Call of Duty year after year. While I can’t get excited for more Dynasty Warriors, I promise I won’t look down upon you if this new Complete Edition has you salivating in anticipation.
Dan: Honestly, I still don’t see the draw of these titles, as I find it incredibly boring to button mash your way through mobs of enemies. But, given that there is a following for this franchise, and having a diverse catalog can only help push consoles, it is surely better to have it than not. If you are salivating in anticipation though, please don’t forget to wipe up.
This week wasn’t terrible, but given the crazy week gamers had last week, and the news of more layoffs and departures, it is hard to get over excited about it. Thankfully, we did get some really good announcements/leaks from Ubisoft regarding the future of Assassin’s Creed with Unity and Comet, some good sales figures for Sony and a highly anticipated indie title finds a home on the PS4/PS3/Vita – so we weren’t left empty handed.
Overall Score: 7.0