Thursday, June 20, 2013

Playstation 4 Multiplayer is REGION LOCKED? What??

Just saw this on Facebook...

http://www.gamesreviews.com/news/06/ps4-online-blocked-for-countries-without-a-store/

If true, this is pretty disappointing. The press isn't making that much noise about this news and frankly I only heard about this today. Why would Sony want to do this?

XBOX ONE IS BACK IN THE GAME! Microsoft REVERSES all the policies that CUSTOMERS hated!

http://news.xbox.com/2013/06/update

In summary:

- "Always online" requirement removed
- Region locking DISABLED (all games will work on all consoles regardless of regions)
- Game sharing/trading will work again

Gamers made a lot of noise and it made a difference! That's unprecedented and has never happened before, and I never thought it would especially with Microsoft.

Posted this on NEOGAF and will repost it here again, in appreciation of Microsoft's gesture:

=============

http://neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=64887501&postcount=728


I know Microsoft reads on GAF so I might as well put this here.

Thank you Microsoft for listening to all the feedback. As a gamer in the Philippines and part of an Xbox community here, we were all 100% upset with all those policies, particularly the country locking "feature". I just woke up today and all of this sounds like a miracle. I am very pleased with this news and look forward to playing on the Xbox One. All the best exclusives seem to be on your system so it was really heartbreaking originally to hear that there were so many restrictions.

So yeah, I'm really happy about this. It's probably the first time I witnessed in the gaming universe the ENTIRE gaming world (journalists, consumers, maybe even some devs? I dunno) literally pushed Microsoft into DOING THE RIGHT THING.

Once again, Microsoft I really appreciate this. Will buy your system now when it releases.

-----

Oh, and NO MORE REGION LOCKING! That's a BIG win for us outside the USA/unsupported regions!

Friday, June 14, 2013

E3 2013. DAY THREE.

Writing this on the bus, on the way back to the hotel. Expect bad writing and stream of consciousness-style, disorganized text. hey i'm not a journalist! So i dont have to care haha.

I planned on spending this day entirely in lines. You see, E3 has several types of demos:
- The playable demo. Basically it's a kiosk where you can just walk up and play.
- Guided demo. This is where the developer plays the game for you while you are seated with a bunch of other people. Since they can only fit a few people in the room where they do this, very long lines are quite common.
- Stage demo. This is where the developer takes the stage of a very big booth and just talks about their game.
- Press Conference demo. This is where all those wonderful GIFs on the internet were made from.

I have seen one to three, live. The fourth one, well, only on the internet. The press conferences are only for press. And for this attendance to E3 I was doing it as part of a business trip. Long story which I can't get into here.

Anyway, so for the first two days I have been more or less avoiding demo type number 2. The one where you have to line up. That's because I wanted to see the entire convention; I wanted to visit every little cranny of the place. On my first day I made the mistake of running into the Battlefield 4 thing where, while it was playable you still had to line up for a long while. I was avoiding anything that involved lining up.

Today, I just lined up for practically everything. Man, I lost a lot of time. It wastes so much time to line up....
There is one benefit though. You can score some rare swag after a presentation. I guess my goal today was 'get as many collectibles as possible'.

At the start, the first thing I went to was the Forza guided demo. Not that I haven't had enough of Forza by this point. Especially after Microsoft's wonderful pledge of support for Asia. Lol.

I was hoping to get a tshirt or something. I got nothing of the sort.

I found myself falling asleep while the guy talking kept on blathering on and on about car paint and how realistic their paint was. He's turning into Kazunori Yamauchi. Argh. Just race already....

Eventually he does play and I watch him dispatch of the AI like it was nothing. Earlier on he was talking about how the AI was trained by cloud servers. But I just watched him blow past them in two seconds. The only humanistic thing the AI did was try to bump him. Ooookay. Do we really need to pay for online connectivity to teach the computer to do that? The last game I recall with aggressive AI was Grid and I think one of the last Need for Speed games (not Most Wanted). I wasn't really impressed by their playthrough. I did enjoy playing the game myself, but Forza seems to be the type of game that bores me if I am watching someone else play it.

Next, I go again to the Playstation booth. Nope, still didn't want to play Knack. They were doing a Gran Turismo Academy challenge on stage where the winner would get to drive a real race car on Silverstone. They made GT look more exciting than it usually is. I guess it's always better to watch that type of game if there are people cheering and clapping, and if there is running commentary from a well versed announcer.

They should really put that in a racing game.

No one in line for Watch Dogs in the Playstation 4 booth.

I line up and watch their demo.

Five minutes in, I was falling asleep. I guess I've seen so much of Watch Dogs already on the Internet that they were running out of stuff to show off.

After seeng Watch Dogs, I step out and I notice the line is a bit short for Infamous Second Son.

The other day, I lined up for Killzone Shadow Fall and I was bored out of my mind.

So I didn't relish going through another potentially boring Sony property. But then again I was wondering if they were offering a free tshirt? I don't buy shirts often so it might be good to add to my collection haha.

I line up and wait for a bit. Eventually I get in.

Five minutes of talking from the developer....

Falling asleep.

Man, my feet are killing me.

Game starts.

Oh, nice cutscene.

Nice cutscene. Ok,....

Shifts to gameplay.

GAMEPLAY LOOKS LIKE CUTSCENE.

Holy crap. I wake up.

THis is the first PS4 game that did that to me. The game looked so impressive that it rivalled how impressed

I was with the Forza 5 demo the previous day. The lighting was so good. The graphics had no jaggies. The animations were okay. You could still see some Playstation 3 jankiness but if I had to numerically quantify it, it's a 9/10 on the quality scale.

I wish they made this game playable on the floor. It would blow people's minds!

On my way out I congratulated the developer and told them that was the first PS4 game that impressed me. He thanked me, then I asked if it is a launch game.

He raises his hands and says, "Launch window, man"

Oh no!

Well, that's game development for you.

Went out to lunch at Stella's which is a restaurant beside Hooters at the convention center. The food was very good, so I went back to LACC feeling that this was going to be a good day, even if I'm gonna spend it in line most of the time, hunting for swag.

Ace Attorney. No line.

No swag.

Dead Rising 3. Epic line.

Okay, I decided to line up. It was quite a wait. Eventually I got in and they started their demo.

Within five minutes, getting sleepy again.

The demo of DR3 was extremely choppy and unpolished. You'd think it was a 360 game. It just didn't feel like it was ready for showing to people. I would have been more impressed if it had some smoothness but i guess it just isnt done.

Also there wasn't anything that really blew me away about it. It was basically DR1 and 2 with a bigger environment. Also the areas were all drab, like the whole thing was set in Africa like REsident evil 5.
THey were highlighting how you can make weapons. Wasn't that in DR2?

You can drive a car. That's okay I guess.

Zombies. There are a million of them. Call in an airstrike....okay.

The sense of humor is slightly lost in this game. The only joke I noticed was the Shark mascot suit. Didn't make me laugh though.

Basically the whole game was brown.

At the end, they gave me a cap. HURRAY! I love Dead Rising 3! (Now I'm a game journalist!)

Next up, Batman Arkham Origins.

I waited over an hour in line for this. Eventually our line was CUT BY THE DAMNED MEDIA. That pissed me off a bit. So I walked out after an hour of waiting.

I regret that a little. But it was Batman. And besides, I probably already know how it plays....

Also, rumor has it that they ran out of swag to give away. So maybe it wasn't worth it to line up anymore.

(Oh geez, you know, Konami was playing that MGS5 track over and over again. Now, I can hear that screaming woman in the theme song in my head! LSS....)

I walk around looking for what else to line up for.

Ubisoft? Lines too long! argh. it's 3:30 already.

Sega? No lines and I've already played Sonic.

Square Enix? I see a line for Thief.

I ended up waiting quite a bit there. Once again the stupid press gets in first, but this time I was together with them in entering. Oh wow, they get to sit down and I have to stand up?

Demo starts. I am bored out of my mind again after five minutes.

By that point i was running out of time since E3 was ending at 5pm. So I had to go back to the bus. And here I am now, writing this blog post.

Microsoft: We don't sell Xbox Ones in Poland. Witcher Developer: What? How Am I Going To Play My Game Back Home?

Hilarious. Apparently Microsoft's ultra draconian DRM just hit one of their best developers. This is the goofiest mistake I've ever heard of.

CD Projekt, Welcome to THIRDWORLDGAMER. Apparently you're one of US! Haha!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Microsoft DOES NOT KNOW what to do with unsupported countries

After the previous news, I decided to message Microsoft myself.  First, to see if I will get the same reply.  Second, to let them know that they actually have customers in the Philippines!  Here's what I got...

So what does this mean?  XBOX Support DOES NOT KNOW if the XBOX One will run on a country that isn't supported by XBOX Live or is in their launch list.  The question is a valid question considering there are a lot of Filipinos who bring back consoles bought in the US.

So does it change anything?  Not really.  It's still a wait and see but things heavily stacked against the XBOne

E3 2013. DAY TWO.

I woke up today with a splitting headache. Took some paracetamol. I think yesterdays fanfare burned me out a bit. I can't stop talking about how far distances are here in LA. You look up a place on Google Maps, it looks so near....then when you're actually in the place where you want to go, holy crap---you have to walk what feels like a football field just to get to a restaurant.

And that's the other thing that bothered me about E3. You know how in Manila it seems like every McDonalds is within reach, and you'll always have access to inexpensive food? Not the case with E3. All the food in the convention center is expensive, and all the food outside of the area is the same deal. If you have to plan to go to E3, be ready to spend some money.

That's the thing. You're spending for the equivalent of walking all that way for a cheap deal and tiring yourself out. Do you really want to get tired when you have to walk the entirety of the LA Convention Center for a whole day? It's no joke. Or maybe I'm just 34 and this is just getting harder for me to do on a daily basis.

Wish I was 22 again haha.

Now I went to the Nintendo booth first.

Mario 3D Land (again)

- I played this game this time and I didn't just watch someone else.
- This Mario seemed more challenging than the last one I completed which is New SMB2 on 3DS. I died a couple of times on some surprising areas which looked easy.
- Mario looks like a CG render now. Maybe Nintendo never needed all that power after all.
- Case in point - no jaggies, no antialiasing, nice shadows for the art style (they didn't need complex shadowing in the first place). Maybe one more level of shadow effects would have made everything even more CG like.
- It's a very bright and colorful game and a welcome change from all the blood and gore of everything else. Yeah, I'm getting sick of seeing gore in games. It's just a tired thing now. Imagine if every show on TV had guts spilling out for no reason. It's really tiring. I'm not against blood just because of any moral reasons; it's really that devs seem to rely on it a lot to say that their game is 'real' and reaches out for the young market (which loves that blood!)
- The art is really pleasant to look at.
- No special gimmick on the pad, which is unfortunate. I don't know if they will put something later on or if pad gimmicks for this game will only be for specific levels. We'll have to wait and see.

Sonic Lost World
- It's a dizzying game, which is good
- More emphasis on 3D movement over just running through the whole level
- Level designs were very creative, so Sonic isn't stuck with just loops and corkscrews.
- THis game had a pad gimmick; you can toss Sonic like an angry bird through certain unpassable obstacles using the Wii U Gamepad.

Bayonetta 2
- Well I wasnt able to play this again, the lines were too long! But I did get a picture with their Bayonetta cosplay model.

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate
- Picked this up and played as Jacky.
- Then some fellow walks up and proceeds to beat me up horribly in two games :( I guess there are no casual fighting game players at E3!
- I said "Good Game!" and my opponent didn't talk to me. Was he salty?

Killzone - Shadow Fall
- Boring, boring boring boring! I sat through a playthrough of the game. They didnt have a playable demo that I could try. It was more of a 'sit there and ogle at our beautiful game'. Maybe this is the case because they're still fixing a lot of bugs
- I was just so bored with this game. I stared at the game's gorgeous rocks; i guess they looked real. But that had no bearing at all on the play.
- It had all the requisite military stuff you get in the yearly COD games. Maybe it's fun for some. I just feel like I deserve a hundred medals of valor already from the US government for saving their ass in hundreds of sorties over hundreds of video games. *sigh*
- I guess the graphics were OK. No jaggies, lens flare up the wazoo. A good showcase for PS4 if you aren't tired of military games yet.

 Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn
- A prettier version of the previous game.
- Looks like an epic grindfest. Prepare to click and click and click....

Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2
- Watched some other guys play this. Line was long
- Graphics look prettier than the first game.
- I had 60$ ready to go in my pocket. Alas, they would not take my money.

Metal Gear Solid 5
- No demo for attendees under my classification. Maybe it is only available for the children of oil magnates at this time.
- They had a trailer which tons of people sit through every time it plays. Konami had a gigantic screen like Square enix but theirs was positioned higher in their booth, which made it look smaller than Square's.
- Keifer Sutherland! Well, his voice anyway.
- Their trailer is well cut, makes it look like a blockbuster movie.

Dead Rising 3
- Very very long line.
- After Killzone Shadow Fall I kinda didnt' feel like sitting through another controlled demo.

Now at this point I realized that most of the sit-through demos end up giving freebies/E3 swag. Ok, maybe I SHOULD have went in there. But the trouble with E3 is you end up indecisive, there's just TOO MANY GAMES at the event.

Don't worry, I did score some swag. I jsut doubt I can get absolutely everything.

I'm trying to remember, but yesterday there was a game I played that had some swag but you could only get it if you do something in the game. Hmm, can't remember. I guess the game was forgettable?

Middle of the day - my wife tells me that Microsoft is not going to support the entirety of Asia until 2014.

Huge bummer.

Huge HUGE bummer.

That ruined my day. Seriously. I mean, I really liked the games I tried at their booth yesterday. And now they don't want to sell it to me. Argh.

That's it Microsoft, I officially hate you guys. What you're pulling with the Xbox is completely wrong.
I guess no more Forza for me, as beautiful and awesome as it is. :( No more Killer Instinct either. Man, this E3 is spiralling downwards....

Later in the day I had to fulfill a certain business related objective....so I ended up walking again some seventy billion miles in LA....if it isn't the taxis that wil kill you in this place, it's the very Earth itself that will swallow you whole.

Now, there was about an hour or so left before the time I decided I should get back to the hotel. I wanted to go back. I was bloody tired.

But hell, I said. I want to do one more thing. Get one more piece of 'swag'.

Went to Nintendo booth. The 3DS booth was giving away Nintendo rarities.

Girl at booth says, Line is very long, come back tomorrow.

Argh.

Ok Im going home now.

No, I am not going back until i get something.

Oh, look, the Gran Turismo 6 booth.

Yeah, I hate Gran Turismo with a passion. But apparently by default they're my new racing overlords, since Microsoft would rather take their business elsewhere.

The line isn't very long either. Hmm.

I line up at the Gran Turismo booth.

Hmm, they're giving away hats! I ask the guy about it at the booth. He tells me, 'to get a hat, you have to beat a certain track, with a certain car, under 1'08"00 '. That'd be the Silverstone short circuit, with a Nissan Z.

Oh no, not this business again, I thought. Yesterday I had entered a game booth thinking I'd get an item and not getting anything anyway, because of the stipulation that you had to 'do' something in the game to go home with an item.

But I was already in the middle of the line by this point. So I thought, might as well.

When I finally got my turn to play GT6, I mess up and end up restarting the GT6 menu. All the other racers in my block had already started to go for the lap time. So basically, I was losing time to get a good lap time since my PS3 has to start over from the first GT6 menu screen.

Because of this, I wasn't able to pick Manual transmission anymore. Going through the menu would take too much time. Dammit I wanted that hat.

Eventually after about a minute I was starting my run. My car skids out on turn 1....another unfortunate incident! This is not a very good day for me.

Eventually I post my first lap time.

1'07"333

Thanks for the hat, Sony.

MICROSOFT XBOX ONE ABANDONS UNSUPPORTED COUNTRIES

Following the news of XBOX One 2014 release in Asia, some people have more or less confirmed that XBOX One WILL NOT WORK in unsupported regions.

Even if before you live in an unsupported country like the Philippines but buy original games and make an XBOX Live account for the US and SG --- THIS WILL NO LONGER WORK!

I REPEAT!!! Methods for playing the XBOX 360 will not work on the XBOX One.  Considering that XBONE has to be online at least once every 24 hours, the console is good as dead in gray markets.

NICE KNOWING YOU MICROSOFT.  I had fun with the XBOX 360 but time and time again, you remind us why you don't want our business.  Perhaps unsupported countries are not rich enough or refined enough for your tastes but the fact exist that there is a market out there that you are completely throwing under the bus.

Yes, our money is better spent elsewhere.  PS4 & WiiU  See you on the holiday 2013.





Blog Article Hints Xbox One Itself May Be Region Locked (May Not Work if you live in an unsupported country)

Just helping Google spread the word on this problem (hopefully search engines / spiders catch this)

This article I posted earlier possibly implies that the Xbox One won't work if it is located in an unsupported country. 

The new device will only be available in select Asian markets – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and India – pegged as high-growth markets for the region’s booming gaming industry.  This year, the Xbox became the top-selling console in Asia, according to Mr. Bowman, with revenues growing 20% year-on-year.

You know, they should probably go back to Geography class. Those four countries don't all represent Asia. Why don't they just label them as 'Outside United States' countries? Why say 'Asia' when they don't even include all the countries here as well?

The Xbox One Is Now Dead in Asia

Great job Microsoft. You've just effectively said you only care about the US market.

Well, if that's the case, I'll take my business elsewhere. I'm very very disappointed.

http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2013/06/11/microsoft-plots-2014-launch-for-xbox-one-in-asia/?mg=blogs-wsj&url=http%253A%252F%252Fblogs.wsj.com%252Fdigits%252F2013%252F06%252F11%252Fmicrosoft-plots-2014-launch-for-xbox-one-in-asia


Is it time for Microsoft to hire better PR people for the XBOne?


Here the President of MS Interactive Entertainment says that if you don't have an internet connection, just stick with the XBOX 360.  Um...you're supposed to be launching the XBOX One and drumming up support for that.  Yes we know that the Internet changes everything.  Yes we know that internet adoption rates will continue to rise.  But my goodness...couldn't you have said it any better?


And that's not enough...



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

E3 2013. DAY ONE.

[Note: my internet here in the hotel is really slow since it's just free. That said, I won't be able to upload too many videos/pictures yet. Will update this very soon with those pics/vids]

I'm on the free shuttle bus leaving from E3 2013 right now. E3 is every bit as unbelievable as they say it is in myth and legend. This E3 is possibly the craziest, with two big console launches happening at the same time. Here's some of my quick impressions.

BATTLEFIELD 4

- They have this really cool mode called 'Conquest'. Well, in the demo they let me try, it involved two teams. One was China and the other one was the USA. China had occupied one building and the USA had to take over the building

- Graphics wise there's a lot more carnage going on while you're playing. This is the most apparent upgrade from the previous versions.
- Gameplay wise well, you know what to expect and it's exactly the same as most FPS games. This will probably gear towards the competitive gamers who are into multiplayer FPS.

- I didn't get a very strong impression from this game. Though I did listen in on some players who seemed to be BF vets and they liked how you could drop in tanks at will.

KILLER INSTINCT

- After my lunch break at Hooters, I passed by this little restaurant which surprised me because they had some sort of arcade cabinet. At first I thought it was Street Fighter IV. Turned out, the Killer Instinct developers had set up a unit for demo play
- There were a few people at this particular play area, maybe because most of the people were fixated on trying the game at E3 itself. I gave it a spin and talked with the other players there
- The first thing that struck me about the game is the ART STYLE. The art is very, VERY good. It's obviously inspired by Street Fighter but they took it to a whole other level. Despite having a lot of details, the art looks really clean and sharp.
- The animation is excellent in this game. THis was the biggest surprise for me after having played other western fighters like Injustice and MK9. The animation felt Japanese styled but it had its own unique flavor. It doesn't have the awkwardness of Ed Boon's fighters.
- The combo system is really nice. There's a way to stagger your opponent so you can score more than the usual number of hits. I didn't figure out how to do this but it was nice to watch other players pull it off.
- The game has combo breakers which adds a whole new level to the fighting game genre. Here the combo breakers can be done a lot of times unlike in Injustice, so long as you guess correctly
- They had KI running with Xbox 360 Mad Catz sticks. I asked them if MS will allow older sticks and their official answer is that it's not up to them (it's up to MS). I really, REALLY hope they make old sticks back-compatible.
- The game feels very good and responsive. If you know Ryu's simple HK, MK, Hadoken combo, it works and feels exactly the same way here when you use the Ryu clone character, Jago.
- This is the first game that made me seriously rethink all my negative feedback for the Xbox One. The game just felt really, really good, and it really looked next gen. The framerate was locked 60 and it was going at 1080p, it just looked very arcade quality, like the type you'd see in a high end arcade even with a regular HDTV.
- The art, the art, the ART! It just killed me.

Mario 3D World

- I didn't have the opportunity to play this but I did watch. It has a nice 4 player mode where all the characters are onscreen at once.
- The top-down perspective was really sharp, and it actually made the game look very competitive to its 'current gen' opponents (Xbox One and PS4)
- The lady at the booth said that the multiplayer levels were different from the single player? I'm not sure about her answer. Maybe it's best to check on the big sites for the answer to that question.
- I'll try this out tomorrow. Just too many people there at the Nintendo booth today.
Bayonetta 2
- Graphically competitive with PS4 and Xbox One games.
- I'll try this out tomorrow.
Knack
- For some reason, this game didn't look very impressive. It reminded me of Kameo. Not that Kameo is a bad game. I did enjoy that game when it came out. But for this one, it just felt old. Something about the graphic style didnt strike me as well.
- I need to give this game a second chance. Will try it tomorrow.

DriveClub

- I was in line for this game. I looked at other people playing and you know, honestly, at that point I thought it wasn't very impressive.
- Something about DriveClub feels a bit barren/old. I think it's the track design. It felt very bare and empty and they didn't use enough colors or interesting stuff to look at while you're driving.
- I gave the game a chance though. I thought some of their iconography looked good.
- Upon driving, the very, very FIRST thing I noticed----was the horrific JAGGIES. This game, a PS4 exclusive launch game, was riddled with jaggies!
- The jaggies were on the road textures, they were on the car....and they used this nasty texture for trees and grass which just felt last gen.
- I could get over that quite easily but there is one thing that really offended me when I played the game. The gameplay.
- The gameplay/driving model seemed to me as if there are very specific points on the track where you hit the brakes. If you hit it in the right spot, the car will "auto-turn" or steer correctly. If you hit it in the wrong spot, the car will just careen off into a wall. They didn't nail the driving model in this alpha build.
- I had two laps so I had two chances to get a feel for the game. On my first try I had a lot of crashes because of the weird driving model. ON the second lap I finally figured out 'how' it drives. But it feels weird and wrong. I did crash once on the second lap, though.
- Overall I was really disappointed by DRIVECLUB. I wanted this to be my first PS4 game but I guess I'm lucky to be at E3 to actually try it. It isn't very good. Just play an existing current gen driving game, you'll get the exact same experience.

FORZA 5.

FORZA. 5.

- THIS is my game of show so far!
- The graphics on this game are incredible. I can't stress it enough. The graphics are insane.
- The car has practically no jaggies, and even if they are, they're much more negligible compared to Driveclub. And the car graphics blow away Forza 4.
- The color on Forza 5 is extremely sharp and the lighting they are employing makes the cars look more impressive than previous racing games on any system.
- The driving model/gameplay feels like the previous Forza games, but I really like how the rumble is on the trigger. It's something you have to experience for yourself to truly appreciate.
- The city render that they used on the demo track is unbelievable. They put in some lighting there that I've never seen on any other game, period.
- I don't have any other thing to say about Forza other than it's the kind of game that will make you rethink 'graphics don't matter'. In this one, they do. And it feels like the kind of game that will justify your investment by tenfold.

For me, the Xbox had a very strong showing here. And so did Nintendo. For some weird reason Sony's showing was not as powerful as I'd expect. I'll give their booth another day (maybe I was too tired). I want to support Sony, I really do. I love their no-DRM stance. But their games lineup does not feel good enough. They need a game that will just jump at you when you see it.

Nintendo's Mario 3D world and Microsoft's Forza 5 just really stand out. That's my point of view as a hardcore player. It remains to be seen what the casual players will think. But for Day 1 I'd give a big bump to Microsoft, their development strengths have really increased when it comes to consoles.

One last thing:

It's too bad that Gran Turismo 6 is on PS3. I took a short look at it. They put it on the outside of the convention center, which was a little strange. I'd think they should highlight it on the show floor. BUt I guess they want to show it to everyone, not just attendees.

The thing about GT6 is when you watch it it completely feels like GT5. They did NOT pick a good demo track for this (Silverstone?!) I wish they picked a more scenery-laden track to show off better graphics for it.

First impression day 1 scores

Microsoft
8/10 - they lose two points for DRM but all 8 points are gained for everything else

Sony
7/10 - they got a lot of points for no-DRM stance, but lose practically everything because of the lack of a key game

Nintendo
8/10 - Their first party offerings showed that they can survive even without other companies. And they have the most family friendly games which is good for the industry.

Overall I can't picture an E3 as insane as this. I need a second day to see everything. I will try more of Sony's PS4 games. I feel maybe I'm judging them too early. But I walked around their area for a good hour and found nothing that really jumped out at me. Even their Driveclub booth was put in this horrible area on the side of the convention center which made their game look like a B tier title. I don't know what Sony was thinking by doing that.

Other stuff:
- The Microsoft controller is as good as it looks in pictures. And it feels amazing.
- The PS4 controller is solid. I'm glad they got rid of those old triggers.

=================

The E3 experience - impressions
- I wish the entrance fee wasn't 799$. It seems it's not as fun by yourself as it would have been if I brought some friends with me.
- The food is ridiculous. I wanted to buy a few bottles of water and they were 2.50$! By contrast water in the supermarket is .25.
- Thank God the E3 organizers provided shuttles. Taxis will kill your wallet here.

Stuff to do tomorrow
- Give Sony Booth a second chance.
- Spend more time with smaller game booths (indies)

E3 2013 (Day 0): Can XBOne survive DRM?

The thunderous applause that greeted Sony when they announced that they will support used games marked just how disastrously wrong Microsoft’s consumer research and public relations have been.

Yes, Sony STUNNED the crowed.  This is this console generations MEGATON and GAME CHANGER.

Perhaps it may be safe to say that Microsoft has lost the next generation console war even before its system actually gets out of the door.  I’m not saying that no one will buy the XBOne (A crude but it’s a rather catchier name compared to XBOX One) anymore.  What ‘will’ happen is that Microsoft will no longer be the market leader nor will it reach the same installed base as the Sony PlayStation 4.

For potential consumers (who may be interested despite the DRM debacle) are this means:
  1. Wait for a massive price drop (which is bound to happen the moment sales projections in the first quarter of sales do not meet the expectations of Microsoft)
  2. Only buy the games that are worth something --- (I guess we won’t be seeing my little pony in the XBOne but its more worrying that ‘niche’ games like Japanese RPGs will not come unless its going to be one or two produced by Microsoft themselves à speaking of which where is my Lost Odyssey 2 Microsoft?)
  3. Just buy - for those who are rich enough to get all systems.  (I certainly don't fall in this option.)
But I suppose Microsoft should be used to that…  A part of me does not want to believe that Microsoft is ‘caught off guard’ by the reaction.  I’m sure there are smart people in their team who have seen the disaster that was Sim City and Diablo III.  But Microsoft’s attempt at Digital Rights Management(DRM) won’t be the first and it won’t be the last.

DRM is the HOLY GRAIL of any company that produces software, video or audio.  MAKE NO MISTAKE, DRM is also lingering in the minds of Sony --- they are masters at marketing and have won the hearts and minds of the console gaming market but they will never forget the ‘PROJECTED’ sales that they know they will lose from used game sales, game re-use and piracy.   Those losses are just estimated losses but the prospect of gaining those sales is tempting enough to keep the thoughts of DRM always around.

Microsoft as of late have been wrought with ‘wrong’ moves --- from Windows 8 now to the XBOne.   But what can be perceived as wrong moves by the consumer market can also be seen as a long term strategy for Microsoft.  It’s a costly mistake / decision but if viewed in the long term context might be worth it.  The question now for MS is if they are committed to actually seeing the XBOX brand in a long term light.  
Microsoft may seem fickle, axing things left and right, but who knows maybe there is more to this than meets the eye. (I know I sound like an MS apologist but who cares?)

The problem Microsoft had with the XBOne DRM is how they handled it.  

Every time DRM is introduced there will always be resistance amongst consumers.  Take a look at the early days of STEAM where the PC gamers were up in arms with the thought of losing their game discs.  Take a look at Adobe and their implementation of the cloud subscription of the Adobe Creative Studio. 

NO ONE WANT’S DRM FROM THE GET GO.

It will only work depending on how well you market it.  And that is the real failure of the XBOne.  It’s not the games, not the console but it was all in the marketing.

Microsoft introduced DRM WITHOUT GIVING CLEAR ADVANTAGES TO THE CONSUMER.   
Throughout the past few weeks, I keep on asking what’s in it for me?  A question that Microsoft continues to dodge which again is a point against their marketing and PR team.

The ONLY advantage I seem with a potential DRM is lowering the game prices (WHICH THEY HAVE NOT ANNOUNCED).  The percentage is unknown but since DRM is in place the projected losses from game trades and game sharing should have been lessened right?  If the SRP (of $60 USD) for physical disks includes projected losses…logic dictates that prices should go down should a fraction of the projected losses be addressed with DRM.  Microsoft’s lack of response on this issue just makes you wonder if they plan to continue selling the games at USD60.  In that case, they lose again because if Sony offers the same price point and the possibility of selling the game at USD40 or less then in avertedly the cost of the PS4 game to a consumer falls around USD20 --- unless you’re the gamer who wants to KEEP all his games.  (Unlike me who ends up getting annoyed at the clutter.  YES I do sell my games after we've played them for extra cash to buy new ones or simply because I'm running out of space.)

Another marketing blunder MS has is their failure to present or highlight an alternative to disk games.  If they are absolutely certain that they will not back down from DRM, they should have highlighted their online store for online downloads.  But an online store is once again a problem since the lack of physical media and third party liaison should lower the price of a digital download.  Instead, MS (and Sony AND Nintendo) intend to keep the price of digital download the same as physical game sales for the sake of not angering their retailers.  Again…MS is stuck between a rock and a hard place but nothing that an expert marketer should be able to remedy.

Nintendo actively markets their online store eSHOP.  Recently, I was sorely disappointed with the news that Ace Attorney 5 will be a digital download only.  Capcom sited several reasons which is at the heart of every publisher.  AA5 is a niche game.  The previous AA titles did not meet the enormous expectations or ROI that Capcom has set on it --- so they want to cut their losses by no longer creating a physical game (create cartridge, print materials) and the logistics of this distribution to retailers.   So there --- AA5 is now just a mere download but hey --- at least its coming I guess… 

Nintendo sure knows how to make their customers happy...

Nintendo includes the Club Nintendo points for every sale of a 3DS physical game, mostly the ones published by Nintendo.  (Forget the fact that this is just locked to North America at the moment.)  These points encourage gamers to buy the physical copy for the sake of getting free game downloads and actual physical collectibles from Nintendo.   GENIUS IDEA!!!  GENIUS!!! Unfortunately the Big N hasn’t capitalized on this that much yet.

Now can Microsoft do the same thing?  Can they actually TELL consumers what’s in it for them if DRM is here to stay.  Because if they can’t figure that out then can either pull the plug on the XBOX group (which is making money but NOT THAT MUCH money for MS anyway) or pull the plug on their DRM plans because clearly they were not ready to implement such a thing.

DRM is not to be taken lightly.  It is a big shift and in general people hate change.  Several companies have failed in their DRM initiatives (EA, Blizzard, etc etc) but the ones to actually get it right  will reap great rewards (Apple, Steam).   

Your move MS...  You may have lost the war but I'm waiting...

The question now is how resolute is Microsoft in seeing this through. 

Sunday, June 02, 2013

E3 Preparations. Part I.

Cleaning out my digital cameras. I think I'm going to need all the space I can get.

Got my luggage all set and ready....still thinking if I should bring this laptop or just get a new one there....

Staring at Google Maps the other day, figuring out how I'm going to commute (!) in Los Angeles. It terrifies me a little.

Taking a cab will set me back 20$ a day or more, so the bus seems like the best option to get around.

Unlike here in Manila, where there's a mall every few kilometers or so, it seems places in the United States are so gigantic. I'm not sure how much walking can get me anywhere!

I also haven't figured out how I'll get online....there's free wifi i suppose. The hotel wifi is so expensive...


1 week to E3

In about a week I get to fly all the way to Los Angeles to witness the most epic battle of the video game corporations, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. I've made a lot of preparations so far. Going to another country is a lot of 'work' but I am glad that I'm just going there as practically a tourist. It's a bit exciting.

I don't recall an E3 where two big console makers actually will release something in a few months at nearly the same time. Yes, MS and Sony did do that somewhat back in '05 - '06 but the atmosphere with this E3 is really different. They're both under pressure to start the next-gen NOW. And as we've seen with the last generation, whoever releases first has a huge advantage. Sony delayed their PS3 release and that hurt them somewhat. They used exotic hardware specifications and that did not win them any favors with game developers. On the Microsoft side, they released too early and that gave their console a LOT of hardware problems. I was a victim of the RROD as most 360 owners are, and I'm not going to forget that easily. Honestly I have a hard time trusting Microsoft at this point, after the whole RROD incident. From what I've read before, it was more important for them to be first, so important that they disregarded the quality of their product because they thought they could just replace it for users anyway. While that was true for all the lucky gamers in the United States with their unbelievable return policies with stores, that wasn't exactly true elsewhere. Here in the Philippines it is an incredible hassle to return a defective item. Stores aren't just going to give you another piece of hardware; they will ATTEMPT to fix it, even if they don't know what they're doing, just to save money. Without any degree of official support, you can't really blame them for that policy.

And I think that is another thing that has to be addressed by the industry now. We're not living in the 90s anymore. Games are EVERYWHERE. I can't believe how many requests for Candy Crush Saga I get on my Facebook---and these are from people I'd normally think wouldn't play games initially. Gaming is practically ubiquitous now, thanks to phones and tablets. So console makers can't really just see their market as just the hardcore players anymore. Everyone in today's generation plays games. The technology has changed. The game has truly changed...

So when I go all the way to E3 I hope that that shift in consumer behavior will be a positive one for hardcore players like myself. The hope is that Sony and Microsoft will understand these new trends and see the opportunity in them. They have to compromise somewhere if they want their market to become wider in reach.