Week in Review: 4/25/2014 – The Naughty Dog House Empties and Sony Pisses Off Vita Owners
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: Given that I don’t know too much about Mr. Wells, I can’t say too much about his departure from Naughty Dog. According to his Linkedin account he has only been with ND since 2012, so it is also difficult to say how much of a hand he has had in development for any of their recent releases. But, given the number of people leaving the studio, there does seem to be an issue of sorts. Voice actor Todd Stashwick, who has already made an appearance on the Uncharted reveal trailer has also been recast, so there does seem to be a massive restructuring of some sort going on. Given how much I have loved the work done by ND over the years, I have to admit that this whole thing leaves me concerned.
Alex: I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the game is being reworked from the ground up. Stashwick, who coincidentally is now working with Amy Hennig over at Visceral on a new Star Wars game, not only did voice work for the teaser, but also did a significant amount of mo-cap for the game, all of which presumably has been thrown out. The initial vision for the game has likely been scrapped, so what was originally teased at the PS4 launch event isn’t what we’ll be getting when the game finally does launch.
I have no doubt that the game will still be great; it’ll just be a long time until it hits store shelves. Those hoping for gameplay footage at E3 I think will be sorely disappointed. We’ll be lucky if this game is out by the end of 2015.
Alex: There isn’t a whole lot to make out of this headline aside from the fact that two new IPs could very well be coming from a couple of Sony’s American-based studios. We know Santa Monica Studio is working on something new, so perhaps Entwined or Kill Strain is the name of its next major project. One thing is for sure, though, E3 is fast approaching and Sony needs to debut more exclusive first-party content for PlayStation 4. Dan, do you think we’ll see the company deliver some major triple-A game reveals during its E3 presser in June? I really hope it isn’t just another indie showcase again.
Dan: That is funny that you ask that, as I just get the feeling that Kill Strain is going to be some indie title, as it just would seem to oddly placed next to Killzone on Sony’s AAA roster. But, as there just is not enough information out at the moment, it could go either way. Entwined I think has a better chance of being a AAA product, as its name is arbitrary enough to be almost anything at this point. But, regardless if either of these titles will be a AAA product or not, I’m sure Sony will have some big things to show off at E3.
Dan: If you haven’t been following the news, it seems that a number of PSOne and PSP titles suddenly became usable on the Vita. Then almost as suddenly and out of the blue, Sony turned off their access once again. No one knows why and the weird thing is that it really makes no sense. There is the obvious issue that they might not be tested, so there is concern that they may not work properly. But, as numerous people have already been using the games, I have yet to hear about any issues.
So, I can’t really put my finger on this, unless Sony is waiting to do something big and just jumped the gun. What do you think Alex?
Alex: I honestly don’t know what to make of this. It’s a puzzling series of events. I can’t imagine why Sony would want to limit gamers’ access to its backlog of classic titles. Like you said, perhaps the company still wants to test them a bit more before making them readily available in the event that they still don’t work properly. I just hope all of this content is eventually made available for streaming via PlayStation Now.
Alex: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Japanese gamers love their handhelds. The reality is that there just isn’t enough Japan-centric content for PlayStation 4 yet. Sure, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and a handful of other titles cater to that crowd, but these titles are also available on PlayStation 3. I suspect we’ll see many gamers in Japan stick with their PlayStation 3s well into 2014 and possibly into 2015. Don’t forget that Persona 5 is coming to the region later this year as a PS3 exclusive. Until games like Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III are ready, don’t expect PS4s to start flying off shelves in Japan.
What do you think is the reason behind PS4’s semi-sluggish sales in Japan?
Dan: I couldn’t have said it better myself. The PS3 has been getting so much more love than I think anyone could have expected this far into the launch of the PS4, that gamers are simply able to wait. In Japan the PS4 just launched not too long ago, so you would have hoped that it would still have a great deal of buzz surrounding it, but Sony’s catalog just isn’t there yet. And, as you said, the PS3 is cannibalizing a significant number of the major titles on the next-gen platform, so any ground that is made by big releases is only undercut from the start.
Dan: This is one of those titles that has been at so many events, that my hype for the game had diminished slightly over its release. So, I decided to wait and see before picking it up and I am thankful I did. We just finished the livestream for the game on Thursday, and within the 2hr window that we usually cast, I saw the game from beginning to end. It did look like a ton of fun, especially if you have someone to couch co-op with. But, ultimately I had already seen what I needed to see out of the game and was disappointed that the game I had been seeing at numerous events was so short.
Alex: I applaud Octodad for its creativity, but this just isn’t the kind of game that caters to my interests. The hilarious, stupid fun that you get from this title is totally worth the asking price, so long as you go into the experience knowing full well that’s what it’s all about. It is a shame it’s so short, but at the same time, a game like this probably benefits from its brevity. Comedy can easily overstay its welcome. I’ll take short and sweet over drawn out and uninspired any day of the week.
This week could have been better on almost all accounts. The continuing news coming from Naughty Dog and the Uncharted PS4 project is difficult to ignore and is something that is worrisome for the beloved IP. At the same time, Sony opens up the gates on numerous PSP and PSOne titles to the Vita, only to flip the switch back and piss off a great deal of their handheld gamers who are already starving for quality games. Also, over in Japan, even though the PS4 sales are going up, it is still being beaten by much older hardware this close to launch.
The only positive news we have received is the potential that Kill Strain and Entwined will be something, and what that something is, we have no clue. Past that, Bandai Namco did announce a few titles JRPGs getting localized for English speaking audiences, but ultimately that benefit is limited to that niche audience. So, I would say that this week is lucky it got a score as high as it did.
Overall Score: 4.5