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Tuesday Mourning – The Downer Edition

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Michigan lost. I’m in mourning. Except not really, because it was an amazing, wonderful season and that team did the school and its fans proud. Also, subs. Craziness. You know the drill. Mostly I’m just hungover. Off of three beers. I’m not sure how that happens. I’m a lightweight. Anyway. This week’s ramblings consist of a large bag of half empty as Disney realizes what we all already knew, EA demonstrates itself to be as tone deaf as ever, and an MS employee gets in trouble for being honest about the wrong things. But first, something wholly awesome.

X-COM versus XCOM. Adam Sessler of Rev3Games did a sit down with the co-creator of the original X-COM, Julian Gollop, and XCOM lead designer Jake Solomon. As a fan of both games, it’s just neat to see two of the principles behind them congratulate each other on being so awesome. And I’m not even being sarcastic. They are awesome for doing this:

LucasArts Is Gone. LucasArts Has Been Gone. A lot of people felt sad, angry, etc. when Disney announced they were shutting down LucasArts. Beyond feeling bad for the people losing their jobs, I’m not sure why. LucasArts hasn’t been the LucasArts we all fell in love with for a very long time. Here’s a list of their projects. First of all, they’ve barely published anything developed in-house for the better part of a decade and the titles they did have a hand in were largely dogs. Knights of the Old Republic? Bioware. The latter-day Jedi Knight games? Raven. Even X-Wing: Alliance was developed out of house. Yeah, 1313 looked cool in a hands-off demo. Lots of bad games look cool in a hands-off demo. There was a time, and this is going way back, when Colonial Marines looked promising. We know how that went. That Disney is going to license out their game properties to other developers isn’t a new development. It’s a continuation of the status quo. There just won’t be a LucasArts logo on the box anymore.

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EA Opens Mouth. Announces Business As Usual. There was a time, when they were busy destroying Origin Systems from the outside in, that I absolutely loathed EA. Then there was a time they seemed to be doing interesting things, letting Bioware make awesome games, trying new stuff like Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space, etc. And then… well, you know. I pretty much loath them again, to the point where I’m not even sure I’m all that interested in Dragon Age 3, let alone anything else they might put out. So when the company once again became a finalist for Consumerist’s Worst Company in America award, I wasn’t exactly surprised. I was even less surprised when COO Peter Moore stepped up to the mic and promptly made an ass of himself. I could spend the next 2,000 words telling why the company can’t fix what ails them because they don’t even understand the problems they face, but Ben Kuchera already went and did it for me:

EA has become a company that releases mediocre products created by faceless teams. There is no real vision at work, no grand design. Just the idea that free-to-play games and microtransactions are the wave of the future, or at least they better be, because none of the company’s $60 boxed releases are finding much success with either critics or gamers. Lord knows that the latest Madden game will do well, but that’s only because gamers don’t have a choice if they want an official NFL title. FIFA will also likely remain a hit in the global market. So they have that going for them. Which is nice.

Until EA stops sucking the blood out of games in order to make uninspiring sequels, or at least until they begin caring about how much gamers hate their lack of respect for our money and intelligence, this is going to continue. We don’t hate them because we’re homophobes, we hate them because they destroy companies we love. We hate them because they release poor games. We hate them because they claim our hate doesn’t matter as long as we give them our money.

I’m not sure it’s possible to say it any better than that.

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Microsoft to Gamers: Let teh Noobz Eat Cakeses! Microsoft has a Creative Director named Adam Orth. Orth uses Twitter. Microsoft would probably like it if he didn’t. Not because he says things the company doesn’t already think, but because he said exactly what they do think. Via The Verge:

“Sorry, I don’t get the drama over having an “always on” console,” he said, before adding a #dealwithit hashtag. “Every device now is ‘always-on.’ That’s the world we live in.” When pressed on the point, Orth compared the situation to buying a vacuum cleaner knowing the electricity in your house might go out, or using a mobile phone in an area with poor reception.

Microsoft put the muzzle on the guy and disavowed his statements, because… well, they pretty much had to. What Orth tapped into was, in my mind, something of a refreshing vein of honesty and not because I agree with him (obviously). I think his sentiments reflect exactly the sort of dickish tone-deaf, consumer-hostile thinking that goes on at these places. I can’t bother to be outraged because, at this point, it’s expected. It’s the norm. The console will come out. If it has enough of the features I want at a price I’m willing to pay, I’ll buy it. If it doesn’t, I won’t. It’s not worth any more thought than that. As for Orth, if MS shows him the door, I’m sure he’ll still have a promising future at EA.

Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and proceeded to spend over 16 years as a development editor for Pearson Education, publishing books, videos, and digital learning products under the Que and Sams Publishing imprints. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd has also been a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets. Follow him on Twitter @ubrakto or check it out his website at ToddsFoolery.com.

8 thoughts to “Tuesday Mourning – The Downer Edition”

  1. On LucasArts- they had a great, glorious run. That ended quite a long time ago. Like you said, their best years were long since past. It’s not like the company was still making games like Loom, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, TIE Fighter, and so on anymore. Have they even made a good game in this millenium?

    On EA- Kuchera is dead on the money. But I don’t think that EA’s “claim” that it doesn’t matter how much people hate them, as long as they keep ponying up the bucks is wrong. That is absolutely true. If EA continues to realize profit regardless of handwringing and customers- no matter how hostile- still hand over their money because they just can’t live without this year’s FIFA or a new BioWare game, who cares what Joe Public has to say. Don’t be that kind of consumer, the kind that complains about the view while sucking off a corporate cock. Say no.

    On Microsoft- Is it really surprising to hear that from a company representative? Such an entitled, dismissive response…but likely not one that is uncommon on the Microsoft campus given its industry and the sort of folks that work there. Microsoft’s response is also no big surprise- bullshit, meaningless phrases like “customer centric”- please, there is nothing “customer centric” about requiring a constant internet connection so you can make sure that your buyer isn’t playing a used game or a pirate copy.

    These companies and their tone deaf, out-of-touch leadership attitude that belongs on a car lot and not in a media industry need to burn, and we need to be the ones lighting the matches by refusing to buy their products. I’m ready to refuse both the PS4 and the new Xbox if they and the publishers that release games for them continue to be abusive and disrespectful to the customer. Are you?

    1. On EA, that’s the thing. They’re not making money. Their share price nose dived awhile ago, with no end in sight. They’re floundering. Yes, people are still buying their junk, but not in the numbers they need to make their business model work. (At least, as I understand it, only half paying attention.) As far as I’m concerned, this is the market working.

      As for the MS and next-gen, it’s like I said, if it has enough of what I want at a price I’m okay with, I’ll buy it. If it doesn’t, I won’t. I would say odds are that I won’t, but I’m making no pledges to that. I’m not crusading against them. Xbox Next, PS4, next-gen games… I really can’t say I care if they’re awesome or not. If they are (by my standards), I’ll be there. If they’re not, I’ll focus my attention on something else. I don’t have the energy for anything more, ya know?

      1. I hear you, and that’s kind of why I’m ready to just jump ship- so my mind isn’t even on whatever it is they’re doing. The time is right for something really disruptive to happen (Steam Box?) and completely upend the industry- I’d rather be on to that. What’s going to be “awesome” to me are new gameplay concepts coupled with a return to traditional gaming values, in both senses of the word values. I also believe that one day cats will live with dogs in perfect harmony.

        EA’s shares are likely tanking because they’re overspending and overprojecting. If they go into a shareholder meeting Q1 and say “We will sell 5 million copies of Dead Space 3” and then in Q3 they’re saying “we did not meet our projection and only sold 3 million”, that causes shareholders to jump ship and push the stock price down. Even though they still sold 3 million copies of a game. It’s screwed up, there’s been such an unrealistic, unsustatainable inflation in the industry in terms of its potential earning that it literally has nowhere to go, this point, but down.

        They are still making money. What they will likely do rather than say “oh shit guys, we need to listen to the customer and ditch the freemium/online passes/DLC models” is to change how they project and budget. It’s more of an analytical change instead of a business model one. I call it “fudging the numbers”. I see it all the time in my line of IRL work.

      2. I’m very much with you on the upcoming consoles. I’m sorely disappointed in what I’ve seen of the PS4, and believe it or not, I’ve never owned a 360, nor do I anticipate buying whatever the next Xbox is. I’m not a fan of Microsoft, and it’s actually incredibly annoying to have people claim I’m not a real gamer because I don’t own a 360 or have any interest in Halo etc.

        I have the Wii U, and I thoroughly enjoy it, even if I am concerned it’s going to be a repeat of the Gamecube, a fantastic console that will never be fully taken advantage of or realized beyond a handful of titles. In the 23 years I’ve been playing Nintendo handhelds, I’ve never regretted them, and the 3DS is just carrying on the tradition for me.

        My point being, like you, if the new consoles offer me something intriguing at a price I’m comfortable with, then game on, but thus far, I could care less about the PS4 and Nextbox.

  2. Mr. Brakke, as a fellow Big 10 alum (Iowa), I was pulling for your Wolverines last night. Such a young, talented and undisciplined team. Hopefully, enough talent sticks around long enough so they can gel into something truly great, or at least make free throws and find some consistency. It was fun to watch them in the tournament, and I raise my glass to their season.

    The MSFT twitter-bacle was humorous. I am with Mr. Barnes, based on the PS4 hardware-less “unveiling” and what we know of Durango, it really feels like more of the same from the console manufacturers. Bring on the Steambox, or something to upend the status quo and inject some true innovation into the market. I will wait for that moment while traversing the Midwest on my flying pig (like I said, I am from Iowa).

  3. I REALLY hope that MS sticks to its guns about the ‘always-on’ thing. That way I can have a very clear reason not to buy one.

    I’m super interested to see what Sony does now that MS has sort of put its cards on the table on this issue. A few months ago the common wisdom on this issue was that neither Sony nor Microsoft would go this route because it would create a wedge issue for consumers to vote with their wallets.

    On the one hand Sony could make a stink about choosing to do right by the consumer and not go ‘online’ and try to steal back some of MS’s customers. More cynically, they could also now go to the dark side if they think it will somehow improve game sales or whatever the logic for ‘online’ systems is, since they don’t have to fear MS not doing so.

    Either way the ball appears to be in Sony’s court now.

  4. On EA and Dragon Age. I don’t know how I feel about it when the most hyped up thing for Dragon Age 3 that I’m marginally excited for is multiplayer. I really really love the multiplayer for Mass Effect 3. But I hope that it’s not situated in an area that MP had in Mass Effect 3. I’m totally down for playing a coop horde mode with magic with friends (but I might be on the wrong side here, I really liked the combo system in Dragon Age 2).

    On Microsoft, the transparency was a bit too… transparent? Unless this was some sort of sick game Microsoft is playing to test the waters on the prospect.

  5. For me, the official death of Lucasarts was about the loss of the potential for them to make a comeback. Yeah, their “library” has been garbage for the last decade or so, but the fact that they still existed kept up hope. There was a chance someone inside the company would produce the next Grim Fandango or X-Wing vs TIE Fighter. There was the chance that they would remember what they were all about in the 90s and restore some glory to that wonderful logo of theirs. With Disney’s announcement, that hope is gone, unrealistic though it was.

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