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Will Consoles Last Forever?

We talk a lot around here about how the current AAA or Die model cannot sustain itself long term. A few company execs have hinted as much of late but Ben Cousins, the general manager of Ngmoco and formerly of EA DICE, Sony, and Lionhead, has come right out and said it at a Keynote at GDC Taipei.

Mobile gaming is going to kill consoles. Forever.

These are all flowery predictions but Cousins really believes it. He’s been a strong advocate of the Freemium models and when he says stuff like this it does give one pause.

“There’s a potential for mobile gaming to kill console gaming,” he began. “I’m talking about a significant reduction of market share with no chance of return. There are two ways this can happen — either people can move from consoles to a new device, or the market can expand without you. An example of the latter might be the social game space, which as exploded beyond the reach of traditional consoles. Already in Japan, just two social and mobile game companies, Gree and DeNA, generate more money than the entirety of the console software industry.”

You can call this the words from a guy with an ax to grind or one who is now working for a company, Ngmoco, that lives in the Mobile space, but those details are accurate. Gree has turned into a freaking monster.

“I believe that sometime during the next console generation, globally, both the revenue and the market share for games will be larger in mobile than it is for console. I believe Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo won’t produce dedicated hardware past the next generation. … Further, I believe traditional game companies like EA will be purchased by existing digital companies, or close entirely.”

Again, this is all Nostradamus tinfoil hat stuff at this point but we are, right now, sitting in the middle of a crossroads in the gaming industry. Actually, it’s not even a crossroad it’s more like an off ramp and if companies don’t take that ramp they’ll fall off the road.

So as the Big 3 gear up for new consoles that a lot of people don’t even feel that they need, you have to wonder what the gaming landscape is going to look like, say, five years from now and how this is going to affect the entire industry — from buyers to distributors to…even the media.

Jumping the Shark Episode 131

My apologies for not posting this earlier, but there’s a new episode of Jumping the Shark kicking around, episode 131 to be specific.

Todd was in Vegas, so he didn’t join us, but Tom Chick did. Having missed Tom at E3, it was nice to get him on the show. Tom always brings a lot of upbeat energy to the show and it’s hard to not get pumped up when talking to him about games. Plus, Tom plays a lot of things, so whatever we’re playing, chances are he’s played it too and the discussion rarely lags.

This week was no exception as we covered Lollipop Chainsaw, LEGO Batman 2, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, Gravity Rush, the Tom and Bruce Kickstarter and various board games about French cities and space battles. We also get to the bottom of how in the world Tom knew about Red Hulk.

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All the E3 News That Didn’t Fit

This the last time I mention E3, promise, unless to say “I played this at E3″.  There are a few things I didn’t mention because my work ethic has flagged since returning. Also, I’m not sure everything requires a mammoth post. I’m sure that the people making the game think it does, but that doesn’t make it so.

With that in mind, here’s all the stuff that didn’t fit in past posts, or that I didn’t get to.

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IGN: not a place to go for tabletop coverage

Carcassonne - nothing to do with France, and actually about River Valleys, apparently

Today, I saw that IGN had published a piece entitled “10 Of The Best iPad Board Games“. I expected an opinion piece. I expected to disagree with a lot of the picks. What I didn’t expect, from what I’d assumed was a professional and reliable source, was a lazily written article full of nonsense and factual inaccuracies.

Here’s a few:

  • Small World is not a game many people would place in the Ameritrash genre
  • Carcassonne is a game loosely themed around the French city of Carcassonne, not building a river valley. Nor is it co-operative.
  • Games are expensive in the UK, but premium Fantasy Flight titles retail at £60-70, not £100. And most of the iPad games on the list cost well under £10.
  • Neuroshima Hex does now have online multi-player, after a two-week old patch.
  • The interface on Ascension is generally acclaimed as being superbly smooth and well-designed, not “convoluted”.
  • Under no definition of the word “tough” does Puerto Rico qualify as “the toughest German game to play”
I’m angry and upset that when a major games site decides to spend a bit of time covering board games, this is the best they can manage. Nascent gamers, attracted into my favourite hobby are going to read stuff like this and either be put off or, at best, learn a bunch of rubbish about popular modern board games.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #130

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After the tragic loss of the original Jumping the Shark #129 and the subsequent (and awesome) Cackowski-Schnell One-Man Jam that replaced it, the gang gets back on track this week by reminiscing about the week that was at E3. We talk games. We talk fashion. We talk fine dining. And we talk who would win in a battle royale between dinosaurs and plankton. (At least two of these things are true.) As this posts I’ll literally be on a plane bound for Vegas, so I leave you in the steady hands of the writers here who actually -you know- write stuff. Have a wonderful week everyone. Hopefully I make it home without being destitute and hooked on crack. No promises.

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Detonator is Augmented Reality Against Land Mines

Detonator is an augmented reality game for iOS devices that uses Vuforia to allow players to interact with installations spread throughout London. The purpose: to raise awareness about the Mine Ban Treaty and the handful of countries that have refused to sign.

Without playing Detonator, I obviously can’t say how much knowledge the game imparts, or even if those enthralled players are aware of the significance behind the numbers. Still, this is the sort of awareness that I would like to see more often in gaming.

You can see more projects and information at the blog of Sahar Fikouhi.

Gravity Rush Impressions – A Tragedy

I wasn’t planning on picking up Gravity Rush, the first retail game for the PS Vita that isn’t a port, an extension of a franchise, or otherwise forgettable. It’s a game- and brand- designed from the ground up for the floundering  platform. It leverages the handheld’s strengths while presenting a full “console” experience, as was promised by the Vita’s press copy. I tried the demo Monday night, I was at Gamestop Tuesday morning with a pile of trade-ins, and I left with a copy of the game.

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The Axeman Cometh – The Walking Dead Ep 2 at E3

The most disturbing thing about seeing Telltale’s next episode of The Walking Dead wasn’t the gore, or the tension or the fact that it took three swings of an axe to handle a particularly grisly deed. The worst part was the meat.

No, not human flesh, but the smell of smoked turkey legs sitting in two giant warmers on the other side of Telltale’s booth. When you’re walking around E3 and all you’ve had to eat was a Fiber One bar and a bottle of water, the smell of smoked meat is enough to get your stomach growling. Having that smell then associated with zombies and the consumption of human flesh is an extremely uncomfortable association, especially when you then attempt to take said turkey leg and eat it while not thinking of it being someone’s arm. Oh well, a man’s gotta eat.

Warning, Episode One spoilers to follow…

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E3 Summoner Wars Report

I had the pleasure of finally meeting George Rothrock, Playdek Director of Product and Business Development, at E3, and he brought along an iPad running a build of Summoner Wars. Truth be told, the opportunity to meet George face to face would have been enough for me to take time out of my schedule, but an opportunity to see Summoner Wars ahead of its late June release? Come on. I couldn’t pass that up.

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The Manifesto of Tom Francis

Tom Francis holds a relatively unique position in the world of video games. His words are read by thousands upon thousands of people through the pages of PC Gamer, but he has also spent two years working on Gunpoint – a game for which I am genuinely excited. He has the bright-eyed enthusiasm typical of new developers, while still bearing the keen awareness of mechanics (and sometimes jaded cynicism) that comes from analyzing games for a living.

Whether you are a critic, a developer, or just a player, I highly recommend reading the manifesto of Tom Francis. Some of the highlights include:

“A game that lets you be creative shifts the balance of power from the designer to you, and that’s when games explode into something more complex and fascinating than any other medium.”

“I’ll never intentionally restrict when you can save your progress, I’ll never require you to do something repetitive to earn a reward, and I’ll never make a task take longer for the sake of bolstering play time. All those are crutches to hold up bad design, and bad design should be left to collapse.”

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