Happy new year all, and welcome to… more lists! Well, whilst I start writing for others I thought I’d take a moment to look at the last year and this coming year, and point out trends and ideas that either should be celebrated and copied, or consigned to an early, miserable demise. In the nicest possible way.
2013 should see the entrance of new Next-Gen consoles, as well as the arrival of many games that a couple years ago we thought impossible on our current hardware. That the machines we own have grown so much over the past few years signifies a good need to slow down and enjoy the tech we’ve got, when so much can be done with it, but I digress. There are also sinister goings-on afoot, things which should be kicked in the backside and left on the side of the road, abandoned in the pouring rain, so they never find their way back to us. There’s only so much tolerance we can give them, after all.
Ordinarily I don’t applaud copycat concepts but considering some of these ideas are worth propagating across the industry, I thought that perhaps it was a good thing to include as well. So here are five things the industry should do and five things the industry should avoid in 2013, in no particular order.
Five things the industry should do in 2013.
1. Study MiiVerse and learn from it.
2. Accept that Convenience > Reality.
From FarCry 3′s single-button emptying of an inventory to the simplicity of Zombi-U changing the scanned icons in the world when you’ve already rummaged through something, the push for reality is no longer of any real concern to us, especially when it artificially adds a significant portion of time to our game involved in managing our gear, or checking inventories, or being disappointed by looking into a chest or drawer we’ve already been through to find nothing there. We are playing video games, we’re not in real life, and as such gamers are coming to demand a much more heavy emphasis on cutting out some of the ideas that draw on making games more ‘real’, because it doesn’t take long before we realise – they aren’t. Uncanny Valley kicks in and we’re once again unmoved and unchanged by the games we play, so each attempt to make us have to do something that feels like a hindrance just because oh, you’d have to do that in reality, is just not acceptable. Strip back on the padding and start adding more game content for our $60/£40, and as for Dark Souls 2 – do not yet fear, I think they just want a less secretive storyline this time around. Which is good if you’ve never followed the Kaathe storyline, which is most people sadly…
3. New IP! And revived IP!
Where 2012 began, 2013 needs to go further. Already this year sees a raft of stunning new game IPs, from The Last of Us and Remember Me through to Watch Dogs to Beyond: Two Souls, and my hope is that this will just be the tip of a very deep iceberg. The end of this generation is upon us, with talk that the next X-Box and the PS Omni will be at E3 and scheduled for an early 2014 release, this is absolutely the best time for games companies to be seeding new game franchises for the upcoming battle for market share. We’ve spent years lamenting the demise of new IP, stuck in a rut with sequel after sequel, and suddenly ZING! Similarly, 2012 saw UbiSoft revisit its old Zombi game, and give it a modern twist. That is also acceptable, as it doesn’t come across as cynical and some really old ideas and titles really could use a proper sprucing up for a modern era. After 2012, with Journey, Dishonored, Catherine and more hitting the top lists across the internet, it has become very clear that any suggestion that new IP isn’t wanted or profitable in these dying embers of a generation is, frankly, a load of old rotting cobblers. More of it, so we can leave behind some of the worst excesses of this generation and have a clean slate for the next.
4. Welcome the Ouya with open arms.
2013 will see the first truly budget gaming console released, the Ouya, and this is certainly something that many have been critical of, both in the traditional sphere of games development and by the gaming press. However, I’d like to think that in terms of many of the serious problems with gaming today – budgets and the availability of games on a digital platform – the Ouya offers a truly serious alternative. Now, admittedly it’s an unknown quantity and we’re never really that good at seeing the brighter side of having to pay another £60-£80 for anything, but that’s the cost of two games for a platform that might offer and even instigate changes in the gaming world, from testing the mettle of cloud gaming services to demos and even allowing indie developers an equal footing on the front page next to more popular titles. We won’t really know until the end of 2013 if the Ouya can deliver on all its promises and self-hype, but if developers and the press don’t embrace it then it’s doomed before it’s even got out of the gates; without a popular mandate and the support of the industry it seeks to change, it can change precisely nothing. I’d rather not see another big hardware failure this year if we can help it, thanks so much.
5. Give us better HD Revamps!
Without a hint of emotion on my face, for all the wonderful things 2012 gave us, it was also the year that the term “HD” became a byword for rushed, lazy and frankly insulting updates to classic games that clearly deserved more attention than they got. From Konami’s lazy attempts to Capcom’s Devil May Cry collection, there’s something hideously ugly about the way that the term “HD” is applied to such appalling examples of workmanship, moreso when the original games were and still are great examples of the genre. If there is one thing I want to see improved dramatically in 2013, it is that HD Re-releases are not just cheap, dirty upscaled ports of classic games in order to blind us with nostalgia and raid our wallets but serious, valid entrants into the modern gaming pantheon, where they can stand side-by-side with some of the best games of now and show us that yes, sometimes the old ways are indeed the best ways. Of course, this means companies need to actually invest some talent and money into their HD Update offerings, and whilst I know they have the inkling that this is necessary, I fear it may not happen. But it should. It absolutely, positively should happen, because old games deserve as much respect as the new ones.
Five things the Industry should avoid in 2013.
1. Kickstarter. It is not your friend.
2012 saw the explosion of Kickstarter in the gaming consciousness, and it’s been impossible to ignore across the year, however as exciting as it was in the first six months of 2012, by the end of December most of the public had rather burned out of the concept of Kickstarter. Sure, games are getting funded but rarely anywhere near the vast over-funding that projects once enjoyed when we were excited by it. The overexposure of the website, coupled with some very critical analysis of its service as well as cynical-looking projects from industry figureheads who clearly should have the power to find that funding from elsewhere, has led to the excitement turning into one of sight boredom, that we’re expecting more than nice ideas and concepts now. We want to see demos, we want to see actual additions and proper long-term goals and we want to feel part of a big whole, not a cog in the financial wheel with no actual power. We want to be excited, and that’s becoming harder when people see it as easy, free and guaranteed financial security for their project. Less big-name projects on Kickstarter may at least help us see the wood for the trees and discover things in the murky undergrowth worth cultivating, otherwise the garden will be choked with weeds.
2. Kinect. Please, please, please, please avoid.
If I saw anything in 2012, it was the death and subsequent annihilation of any promise the X-Box Kinect might have had, in the wake of easily its most disastrous year game-wise. Microsoft had promised core games for core gamers, and it did everything it could to deliver on that promise – of course, there was no condition that these games had to be good games, and they really were not. With some of the most shameful abuses of licences to some titles which were practically unplayable, the Kinect suddenly was exposed for what it was – empty promises, a technological revolution that was neither fuelled by technology or revolution, leading it to be one of the most stupidly pointless additions to any console in the last thirty years – yes, worse than the Sega CD and 32X. Microsoft may want to keep pushing it, but I think we’ve all as gamers and critics come to the inevitable conclusion that this device offers nothing to the industry above novelty value and motion sensing that works with dancing games, but very little else. A grotesque, expensive monster and one of the most laudable PR disasters of recent years, I have a feeling that Microsoft and the X-Box would very likely be “Better Without Kinect”…
3. PR – At least until you understand that it stands for Public Relations!
2012 saw more and more PR Gaffes than we could really rationally discuss – from UbiSoft’s Yve Guillemot saying that new IP was bad right now, to EA’s John Riccitiello constantly putting his foot in it and even Sony doing it damnedest to doom the Vita before its release, and quite frankly I think – speaking as a gaming writer and blogger – we’re all a bit bored of it by this point. Oh look, they tell us what we want because they’ve already spent millions on this idea and we argue we don’t want it and they have to apologise and say they were misquoted, or we misunderstood. It’s about time that Public Relations was about public relations, not cynical and at times vulgar press releases, because that is a press release. And companies of the gaming world, if you are concerned about your heads, execs and presidents going out into the world and speaking to the press, worries they might drop you in it, may I introduce you to the marvellously cheap silencer of the universe, guaranteed to really make your lives that much easier. It’s called Gaffer Tape. Please feel free to send any checks for this wonderful advice my way and I will then promptly buy more of your products. Just stop the bad PR stunts and comments. By any means necessary.
4. DLC and DRM. The Piracy Issue is pretty much over.
Last year we saw a significant drop in piracy numbers. 2012 overall saw a further fall in piracy numbers, leading me to write about how the issue is no longer about monetary recompense, but taking a moral stance. Pirates are doing this now because they feel the industry is abusing its customers and that it’s a perfectly valid fight to take on. Without DRM, and day-one DLCs and rubbish, cut content DLC, these moral warriors also no longer have a leg to stand on, no moral high ground on which to be able to urinate all over the hard work of the industry. Convenience, Steam and consoles allowing cheaper digital sales (mostly!) have been lowering the piracy ratio for some time, and now to fully nail the coffin shut on the piracy issue, it’s time the industry also accepted its own part in inspiring and encouraging the pirates themselves, and began – like UbiSoft has recently announced – to start phasing out some of these stupid security measures and attempts to nickel and dime the consumer. DLC is a good idea as long as it is meaningful, additive content to the actual game. No-one argues DLC is bad. But how it has been used is bad. It’s time to go backwards to fuller, uncut-content game release so we can all move forwards once more.
5. Seriously, stop the Nintendo hate. Right now. Stop it.
I think this will be a recurrent theme every year, but let’s start a tradition where we tell the industry, the press and analysts like Michael Pachter to stop the unnecessary lies and beatings on Nintendo. Really, is there any need for this now? Nintendo have proven their financial worthiness, with massive reserves and a stable financial future that sends Sony into a jealous rage. They have proven with the Wii-U they actually can introduce new concepts and technical ideas, that progress isn’t always more power, but changing things up a bit. They have proven over many years and with many franchises that their true net worth and value is enormous, and that they can continue to pump out and identify quality gaming products – Xenoblade Chronicles, various other JRPG content and funding Beyonetta 2 where no-one else would demonstrates a commitment and focus on content that many lambast them for not having. Nothing, when you look at the facts, suggests that Nintendo are teetering on the edge of failure – rather, the exact opposite is true, and after two decades of hearing this fallacy every week of every month of every sodding year, it’s time to change the damned record. Nintendo are here to stay. DEAL WITH IT!