Wednesday, January 16, 2008

DELUSIONARY Game Journalism 101 - Rob Fahey from Gameindustry.biz

The following article is a great example of the DELUSIONARY writing that often goes on in the gaming industry.


Read the article above first, and then, read what I have to say below.

Rob Fahey, I'm sure Microsoft-bashing will win you a Pulitzer. It just never goes out of style.

That was probably the worst gaming-related article I've ever read recently...just another example of game journalism written with heavy, nostalgic anchors to the past of console gaming, and some delusionary ideas of how console gaming is today.

That said, I will say this: To believe that Sony is in a position to take the lead from the Xbox 360 is a completely crazy idea nestled in the belief that "they've succeeded before, they're likely to succeed again!". When have we heard that said before? I recall E3 2005 and these same 'game journalists' were saying the same thing. "The Xbox 360 won't win. It doesn't have a next-gen optical disc drive. It's too expensive. The Playstation 3 can render photorealistic sweat....just check out the real time videos of Tekken 6!"

How I laughed later on when we saw the REAL screens for Tekken 6. What was funny wasn't Namco's work, though...it was remembering how stupid and easily gullible these game journalists can get when it comes to Sony's hype train. And the fanboys who also fell for it were equallly as laughable (if not, more so, because of their inability to think for themselves and realize that they were being taken for a ride).

Now the mantra is different: "Because of the 3 Red Lights of Death, the Xbox 360 is destined to fail....Because Microsoft didn't show [us important gaming journalists] anything at CES [which, *I'M SURE* is *SUPPOSED TO BE* a video gaming convention [/sarcasm]], Microsoft is destined to fail in 2008. Because Microsoft doesn't have a cute plumber or appeal to ages 7 and below, they are already a failure and can't beat the Nintendo Wii."

I'm SURE Microsoft cares what you think, Rob Fahey. Meanwhile, right now, they're swimming in console software sales like Scrooge McDuck, are practically overwhelmed on a daily basis with more subscriptions to Xbox Live, and are scrambling to take care of the 3RL problem thanks to the newer Falcon units.

Month after month for the past year, Microsoft has dominated the software charts, and I won't be surprised when December NPD figures get released, Microsoft's first party and third party games will surpass the competition yet again. It's not only a determinant of success for today; it practically guarantees success in the future because it will convince third parties to stay with the platform, which is what really matters in any console race. With consoles, software sells hardware. It's never the other way around.

Regarding the increasing number of subscriptions to Xbox Live, as a gamer I've definitely felt this because whenever I log in, it's noticeably slower than in previous months. Xbox Live has never encountered this many users, and while others may see this as a disaster, I see it more as a triumph. Because Microsoft has finally achieved the goals that they were aiming for with Xbox Live, which is mass acceptance. They've finally done it. Over the years I've read (again from these self-proclaimed 'professional game journalists') that Xbox Live will never gain mass acceptance because it's a paid service. Fast forward to today, and Sony's free online gaming service for the Playstation 3 is lagging behind Xbox Live, not just in subscriber base but also in terms of overall services and features. Over time, I've seen the network become better able to cope with the massive traffic; and in recent days, the issues have practically disappeared. So begins the new era for Microsoft's gaming console.

As for the 3 Red Lights of Death (also known as 'the last best hope for Microsoft bashing'), while it is true that it remains to be seen if Falcon will fix their issues, at least some steps have been taken, and with the better warranty that Microsoft is offering in officially supported territories, I don't even understand why this Fahey guy is complaining.

Microsoft has a 17.7 million unit lead against Sony. Shipped or sold? Does it matter? Would a retailer buy a console to sell from Microsoft if they were only planning to put it in the basement? Slower console sales compared to previous years? Is that bad news, or is that simply a case of spin? 17 million consoles out there is no joke. Show that to any third-party worth their salt and they just KNOW they have to make games for your platform.

Furthermore, regarding Microsoft not showing much at CES...do they really have to show anything? Personally, I applaud the fact that they're being more careful with releasing news and information on new games. Because there's nothing worse than to show off a 40% complete game and have it written off by these 'intelligent' game journalists for 'framerate issues' (with their obligatory 'this game sucks ass' canned paragraphs.).

Then there's the 'cars and guns' argument. Is Rob Fahey talking about the games industry and its market, or is he talking about himself and his own tastes? The fact is, those games do sell, and they do have a market. The software figures for the past few months tell the whole story. Interest in first-person shooters and racing games is at an all-time high; that's just the way it is whether he likes it or not. Even his beloved Playstation 3 only has 'cars and guns' to show for. Resistance, Unreal Tournament 3, Motorstorm, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue....yep, cars and guns. Even the much heralded Metal Gear Solid 4 due to arrive some time this year, involves guns in some way. So I don't understand, what's with the hate for 'cars and guns'? Is it a matter of personal taste? Why should anyone take Rob Fahey seriously when he's obviously only writing about himself? He writes:

"On the software front, Microsoft seemingly remains convinced that there is a single "mass market" which can be attracted by building a handful of games in key areas. The reality is very different; the "mass market" is merely a collection of a huge number of niches, and it's this vast diaspora of tastes which Sony has been excellent at providing for. The PlayStation consoles have played host to a bewildering variety of software for different gaming tastes, and that's why they achieved mass market success - simply funding a few JRPGs and deliberately "quirky" titles isn't going to emulate this. An overhaul of how Microsoft approaches software development for its platforms as a whole may be required to nurture that kind of game library. "

And yet, the existing (and future) lineup for the Playstation 3 does not really deliver 'a bewildering variety of software for different gaming tastes'. Most of its games right now are also First Person Shooters and Racing games, and it also has only a handful of JRPGs in existence and in development. Is Rob Fahey writing for 2008 or is he writing for 1998?

Oh right, the Playstation 3 has Final Fantasy 13. Which is considered the impregnable fortress of the Playstation fandom. And yet, Final Fantasy 13 doesn't even exist except in concept videos/CG. I will never understand why most game journalists keep on falling for it. An RPG that does exist today, Mass Effect, doesn't get enough recognition (and instead only gets called out for its two sex scenes), while a game that only exists as a non-playable video gets heralded time and again as the second coming of RPGs. I wouldn't be surprised if FF13 gets 10s all over the place, only because it makes a game journalists' job easier (do they really have to play the game? They just have to give it a perfect score, no one will check whether they really played it.)

The problem with Rob Fahey and with most game journalists I've read articles from these days is that they're living in the past and cater to older fans who sometimes stare wistfully to the Far East all the time. I think people like Fahey and the rest of his ilk should realize that there's an entire market out there that has probably never even played a previous Final Fantasy game, whose first RPG will be something like Mass Effect or Lost Odyssey. If the writing was less about the game journalists themselves and their own ridiculous fandoms and about what gaming is today and where it's going, then maybe I'd respect them more and listen to what they have to say.