Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: TheGuruReview.net ::

Is Video Game Development Going Truly Global?

July 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The international video games industry owes a considerable amount to the efforts of immigrants from countries like Syria.

Companies like AdMob – founded by Syrian Entrepreneur Omar Hamoui, and later acquired by Google for $750 million – have helped reshape the conventions of game publishing as we know it. Steve Jobs’ own biological father was a Syrian emigrant to the states. On taking that journey, Abdulfattah ‘John’ Jandali unknowingly set events in motion that would lead to Apple’s reinvention of how we play, make and distribute games.

Beyond games there are numerous other examples of Syrian people who have helped better the world through technology, empowered to do so through freedom of travel. People like Sirin Hamsho, a Hama-born engineer who today resides in the United States, and has helped revolutionise renewable energy through her work with wind turbines.

Technology is, of course, progressed by collaboration, and cooperation happens most readily when people can get together. It’s the reason travelling to other countries – be it for a single meeting or a new life – is so often the catalyst for technological change. That’s why most in the games industry go to conferences all over the world; it’s a chance to understand distinct approaches, secure contacts, form alliances and spark collaboration.

When Trump’s long-promised travel ban became a rather chaotic reality, numerous games makers suddenly found their potential severely jeopardised. Suddenly, every US games conference was off the radar of hundreds of developers. No GDC, no E3, no nothing. Studios needing to take a couple of days to attend a meeting with a US publisher had the rug pulled from beneath their feet. Chances to meet new staff and find new partners were thrown into disarray.

That inspired Unity Technologies to conceive the ‘Unity Without Borders’ initiative, which sought to bring 50 developers to the Unite Europe conference in Amsterdam last month. After a selection process, Unity would handle and cover travel, accommodation, visas and anything else needed to afford games makers limited by Trump’s ban to engage with the free exchange of ideas that is the founding spirit of almost any game convention.

Meeting the developers brought to Unite as part of Without Borders, it is clear they greatly appreciate the opportunity. That, perhaps, should be obvious, but there is a sense on the show floor that the effort is about more than one middleware-specific company conference.

Ziad MollaMahmud is a man with many skills. By day he is a .NET developer for web applications, while also doing 3D modelling work in the architectural space. A Syrian based in Turkey, he has in recent years embraced game development, acquiring a taste for AR, which he has explored through modest projects of his own conception.

“This is a very, very good opportunity for me,” MollaMahmud says of his success in visiting Unite Europe as part of Without Borders. “It’s a breaking point in my life, where I can move to a better position and change my way of thinking about the future. I believe coming here will have a very good effect over me and my future.”

That’s not to say MollaMahmud is new to being overseas for his career. He estimates that he has visited some 13 countries during his 20-year career, but with the outbreak of Syria’s civil war – and long before the impact of Trump’s presidency – the ambitious developer started to realise global politics would limit his professional potential.

“It’s not only Trump. There’s a lot of restrictions on Syrian’s travelling and doing other things, and that makes it very hard”

“After the Syrian war started a lot of Middle Eastern countries placed travel bans on Syrians, just because of their nationality,” he says. “I was travelling before – without any visa – but after the war they all started to do these travel bans, and I couldn’t travel to the Middle East. It’s not only Trump. There’s a lot of restrictions on Syrian’s travelling and doing other things, and that makes it very hard.”

Those restrictions – whatever their source or motivation – continue today, and in many other ways that also prevent developers from collaborating. Many Iranian and Syrian studios keen to apply for Without Borders were faced with limitations on web access that impeded their submissions for the initiative. There’s a logic to the internet making face-to-face meetings less relevant today, but when the web you can access is restricted presence at real-world events is all the more important. And that was, Unity says, what inspired the Without Borders initiative.

“In some of their communities – especially in countries like Iran and Syria, where they can’t move around as much – they don’t have a lot of access to a lot of game developers or creators,” says Elizabeth Brown, Chief People Officer at Unity, who has been pivotal in implementing Without Borders. “Coming to a conference not only fuels inspiration, but establishes skill sets, sparks ideas and builds networks. They don’t always have access to a local game development community, so they rely on international conferences to feed them and develop their creations and businesses. When they are limited from going to those conferences, they are super limited. That’s as creators, but also as business owners. Some of them are making their living by making games.”

For Brown, this isn’t just a matter of providing those with a passion for games an exciting opportunity; it is about helping developers put food on their tables. Often, that is incredibly limited for a developer restricted to just their home country, market and development community.

“We don’t have anything like this in Iran,” explains Amin Shahidi, as he glances around the main expo hall of Unite Europe, smiling. Shahidi is team lead, animator and game designer at the Tehran-based studio Black Cube Games, and he’s at Unite thanks to Without Borders. “We don’t have these kind of networks,” he continues. “So in Iran, all the movement of developers is very limited, or even blind. So this kind of event – and the moment of being here – is very, very cool and very, very helpful.”

“It shows us that people actually care about us,” adds Ali Boroumand, a game developer at Dutch studio Ferox Games, and a former colleague of Shahidi’s. “We’re all humans, and we’re all pretty much the same people. So it’s very heart warming to think that, even in hard times, people see game developers as game developers. We’re all game developers, and it doesn’t really matter where we come from. We’re all trying to make good games.

“But before this, we had to rule out contributing to any conferences or studios inside the United States. We couldn’t contribute to anything there, and that’s probably a loss on both sides. And beyond the travel ban, there are quite a few other United States restrictions, mostly on money. Selling games outside of Iran is hard for us.”

Boroumand makes a very important point with regard to what Iranian developers have to offer the rest of the global games development community. Restricting developers’ opportunity to travel doesn’t only harm the game industry in their home countries; it equally detracts from the nations they would otherwise be visiting. Collaborating is at least a two-way process, and the learning, inspiration and innovation it engenders rarely passes only in a single direction.

“Syria, like anywhere, has talented people who can bring a lot of things to games development and all technology,” suggests MollaMahmud. “But we need a chance to open the window and say ‘we are here, you can do things for us, and we can do things for you’. We just need a chance to elevate ourselves and do something not just for ourselves, but for all those that make games. We can help your games when we can travel to you freely.”

Equally, there’s an obvious creative opportunity for any studio looking to bring distinct aesthetics and approaches to the global market.

“Iran has quite a long history,” says Boroumand, who is presently based in Sheffield. “The Persian empires have been around for a few thousand years, so Iranian art and Iranian culture is pretty rich in that respect. Games of Iranian art and Iranian influence can bring something to the rest of the world, definitely; something that isn’t often seen.”

There’s an irony to all this, of course. Trump’s travel ban has afforded the Unity Without Borders teams an opportunity to visit a conference they may never have seen had the US President not targeted the various nations blacklisted. For MollaMahmud, however, the irony of opportunity born from limitations runs a little deeper. Buoyed by his experience of attending Unite, he can be remarkably optimistic about a situation that had s dramatic impact on his life.

He believes the horrific Syrian war, which broke out just a couple of years after he returned to live in the country, offers an ultimate example of the potential opportunity hardship can bring game developers.

“After the war is finished – and I hope that is soon – I believe there will be a very good opportunity in Syria for all kinds of business, including game development and software in general,” he considers. “The war will leave a country that will have to start from scratch. Now there are millions of Syrian refugees outside of Syria. It’s really bad to be a refugee, and I believe a lot of refugees are ready to seize the opportunity – having learned many new things – of heading back to Syria.”

Forced displacement is no better than placing mandatory travel restrictions, of course, but in a strange, counter-intuitive way, migration from conflict could represent what freedom to travel can bring in terms of advantages.

“The war, I hope, will finish soon,” MollaMahmud repeats firmly. “Then a lot of people will come back to Syria, and help build our country from scratch. I always say that Germany after the second world war, for example, started from scratch, and they have built a very good, very beautiful, respected country. Then more of us can make successful games.”

MollaMahmud isn’t suggesting that the development of a healthy national games industry justifies a war; not at all. For one, there are more important things than the games industry to consider when a country emerges from conflict. But if Syrians can pool the experience gained through their peoples’ diaspora and establish a game industry to rival Germany’s, it would contribute a great deal to that renewal and rebuilding.

Movement of people can push technology like little else, for the benefit of everyone involved, regardless of their home or country of origin; Apple and AdMob are proof of that. War will likely exist forever, but its horror doesn’t preclude it from being used to inspire positive movements large and small.

Nobody is calling for the forced displacement of people for the benefit of the game industry, of course. But based on the enthusiasm and appetite for learning of every Without Borders developer at Unite Europe, it’s apparent that supporting thoughtful freedom to travel benefits us all.

Courtesy-GI.biz

With The Success Of The Switch Has Nintendo Changed It’s Gaming Strategy

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Two years ago, Nintendo looked like a company faced with a common dilemma; change, or die. Its strategy of sticking firmly to the traditional platform holder business model while trying to skirt around the Teraflop arms-race between Sony and Microsoft had gone magnificently in the Wii era, but as Sony fixed a generation’s mistakes and reclaimed its crown with the launch of PS4, Nintendo faltered.

The Wii U had perhaps the most disappointing commercial performance of any console from a major player in the industry’s history; meanwhile, assessments of the 3DS could not ignore the fact that, while selling very well in its own right, the handheld significantly underperformed its forebear, the DS.

This happened against a background of Nintendo’s actual creative output firing on all cylinders. Critics and (diminished) audiences loved the company’s games; indeed, it was clear from the output on the Wii U and the 3DS that the firm’s long-term future as a creative powerhouse was secure, with big, bold titles from new young creators taking centre stage and wiping away any fears raised by Shigeru Miyamoto’s musings about retirement plans. The problem wasn’t software quality; the problem was that the platforms on which that software was appearing seemed to be in terminal decline.

It’s a little early to announce the halting of that decline just yet – if the Switch really does end up beating the Wii U’s lifetime sales in its first year on the market, then we can talk about that – but the narrative has certainly changed since Switch stormed onto the market. Between the success of the new console and the voracious demand (matched to anaemic supply) for the NES Classic and its just-announced SNES successor, the story of Nintendo now isn’t about decline at all. Rather, some of the more excitable commentators are already wondering aloud about the return of the Wii boom years, and even the more moderate voices are being swept along in the enthusiasm.

The call for Nintendo to “change or die” has largely disappeared, since the company seems to be on track to prove that it can survive without changing very much at all, thank you very much. Without the “or die” clause, it’s an exhortation that loses much of its power, and with the loss of that power goes all of the attention that was formerly being paid to Nintendo’s most tangible effort to change: its commitment to smartphone games, through a long-term deal with Japanese mobile game firm DeNA.

Last year, that was all anyone wanted to talk about in relation to Nintendo. Pokemon Go, although not a Nintendo title, was the phenomenon of last summer and seen as proof of the incredible prospects for Nintendo IP on smartphones. The arrival of the firm’s own games on mobile was so hotly anticipated that notorious videogame curmudgeons Apple even changed the way the iOS App Store worked especially to allow “pre-orders” of Super Mario Run. A success in downloads but a poor performer in revenue terms, Mario Run was soon followed by a well-received successor, Fire Emblem Heroes, which performed much better commercially, though still without troubling any of the big beasts of mobile gaming in their roosts atop the revenue charts.

Then Switch launched, and it felt like the whole world lost interest in Nintendo on smartphones. The company has at least two smartphone games in the pipeline this year, and on paper they should be generating a lot of buzz; Animal Crossing is arguably the company’s best-loved casual franchise and its ‘play a little every day’ structure is a perfect fit for mobile, and it’s reportedly to be followed by a Zelda mobile title later this year. Yet you could hear a pin drop in coverage of these upcoming games, while the appearance of even a logo for a resurrected franchise in the company’s E3 broadcast has generated acres of coverage and discussion.

This is not, in itself, surprising. The games media has struggled for a decade with the fact that the huge audience that plays mobile games simply isn’t interested in reading about or discussing games in the same way as the console and PC audience. What’s a little more concerning, though, is that Nintendo itself hasn’t had much to say about mobile games of late. Audiences are fascinated by the Switch and the Classic consoles right now; the billion-dollar question (quite literally) is whether Nintendo itself has also lost some of its interest in smartphones as its more traditional business has returned to health.

To be clear, I’m not implying that Nintendo is about to abandon its deal with DeNA or stop working on mobile titles. The toothpaste is out of the tube and can’t be squeezed back in; Nintendo is a smartphone developer now, and it will remain such in future. This is, rather, a question of focus and priorities – and corollary to that, a question of how much flexibility and latitude Nintendo’s mobile teams will have to play with its IP.

It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if the success of Switch had rekindled opposition to mobile within Nintendo to some degree. The business approach of Super Mario Run, which was more like a classic Shareware game than a modern F2P title, spoke not just to a desire to experiment in the space, but also to a deep-rooted suspicion and dislike of the F2P mechanics which dominate mobile games. That Fire Emblem Heroes ended up using F2P systems was partially down to being a game more suited to those systems, but it also suggested that Nintendo was learning from its mistakes in this new arena.

It seems probable, however, that many of Nintendo’s designers (who are unusually powerful within the company, compared to most other firms in the industry) were not terribly enamoured of the lessons they were having to learn. When it was a matter of ‘do this or the company is finished’, they might have begrudgingly worked within the confines of the F2P model that has proven so successful elsewhere; with Switch selling faster than the firm can produce consoles, the argument that this is not necessary will have welled up again.

This is more than just the old “but I don’t like F2P” argument, which is tired and dull and has done the rounds so very many times. In Nintendo’s situation, there’s a genuine case to be made regarding how much they’re willing to risk the future to secure the present. The resistance to F2P within the company comes in part from discomfort with the sharper practices that are clear in the business models of some other mobile gaming firms, but also from a genuine desire to protect the value of its IP.

Nintendo, after all, is essentially a vault of extremely valuable IP which both provides the secure foundation for the firm’s existing business, and relies on that business to maintain its value and relevance. Safeguarding that IP – perhaps the second most valuable library in the world, after the Walt Disney Company’s vast holdings – is absolutely crucial to Nintendo’s long-term future. The responsibility to pass the IP library on to the next set of hands in better condition than it was received is something that senior staff at the company take extremely seriously.

If Nintendo really has improved its fortunes in the console market, and the mobile space is now seen as an interesting new venture rather than a lifeline from drowning, the calculation changes entirely. Mobile may not lose focus (not much, anyway; a little is perhaps inevitable), but the push to accept F2P systems with which its designers aren’t entirely comfortable has lost its inexorable nature. How Nintendo engages with mobile in general and F2P in particular is now going to be on its own terms.

One consequence of that is likely to be that Nintendo’s games, while successful and profitable, never really challenge the top of the mobile revenue charts – which tend to be occupied by games that take an approach to F2P that, in Nintendo’s eyes at least, is likely to damage the IP by association. (It’s notable that for all the revenue flowing through mobile gaming, the only IP created in the space that seems to have any broad value beyond fuelling direct sequels is Angry Birds, a game that wasn’t F2P in its original incarnation.)

Nintendo’s experiment with mobile isn’t over by any means, and in the long term it remains a hugely important. It still wants to succeed, but the parameters of the experiment have changed. For the resurgent Nintendo, mobile must now match the company’s needs, and not the other way around.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is The Gaming Industry Going Through A Nostalgic Summer

July 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

I had been repeating that this summer for games offers little outside of some decent Nintendo titles.

“You keep forgetting Crash Bandicoot,” said my retail friend.

I laughed. “Sure, it’s a nice piece of nostalgia,” I reasoned. “But it’s hardly going to set the market alight.”

“Pre-orders are brilliant,” came the reply. “We’ve upped our order twice. I think it’s going to be the biggest game of the summer.”

I shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve written extensively about the marketplace’s current love of nostalgia, and that trend only seems to be accelerating. In the last two weeks alone, we’ve seen the news that original Xbox games are coming to Xbox One, the reveal of the Sega Forever range of classics for smartphones, and now the best-selling SNES Mini.

The trend isn’t new. Classic re-releases have been standard for over a decade. However, the recent surge in nostalgia can be traced back to the onset of Kickstarter and the indie movement, which brought with it a deluge of fan-pleasing sequels, remakes and spiritual successors.

The trend reached the mainstream around the 20th anniversary of PlayStation, with Sony tapping into that latent love for all things PS1. And today, nostalgia is a significant trend in video games. Look at this year’s line-up: Sonic Mania, Yooka-Laylee, Super Bomberman, Wipeout, Crash Bandicoot, Thimbleweed Park, Micro Machines, Metroid II… even Tekken, Mario Kart and Resident Evil have found their way to the top of the charts (even if they never really went away).

It’s not just software, either. Accessories firms, hardware manufacturers and merchandise makers are all getting in on the act. I even picked up a magazine last week (on the shelves of my local newsagent) dedicated to the N64. This is the industry we live in.

Nostalgia has manifested itself in several different ways. We’ve seen re-releases (Xbox Originals, Sega Forever, NES Mini, Rare Replay), we’ve seen full remakes and updates (Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 2), plus sequels and continuations (Elite Dangerous, Shenmue 3). We’ve seen a plethora of spiritual successors (Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained, Thimbleweed Park) and we have also witnessed old-fashioned game elements re-introduced into modern titles (split-screen multiplayer, for instance).

It’s not just games. We’ve recently seen nostalgia-tinged TV such as Twin Peaks, Stranger Things and X-Files, plus the cinematic return of Ghostbusters, Baywatch, and Jurassic Park. Yet this trend isn’t so new for film and TV (or music, either). And that’s because they’re older mediums. The demand for nostalgia tends to come from those aged 30 or above, and with video games being such a young industry, we’re only starting to see the manifestation of this now.

It’s perhaps also more significant in games because of just how different the experiences of the 1990s are to what we have today. In terms of tech, visuals, genre and connectivity, video games have moved so quickly. We simply don’t get many games like Crash Bandicoot or Wipeout anymore, which makes the demand for them even more acute.

Can it last forever? Or is this destined to be another gaming gold mine that gets picked to death? It’s difficult to say. Nostalgia isn’t like MMOs or futuristic shooters. This isn’t a genre, but an emotion ‘sentimental longing for a period in the past’. In theory, the clamour for old games and genres should get broader. In ten years’ time, those brought up on a diet of DS and Wii will be approaching 30. They’ll be reminiscing of the times they spent on Wii Sports and Viva Pinata. And the nostalgia wheel turns again.

Nevertheless, what we’re starting to see now is changing expectations of consumers. No longer are they pandering to every Kickstarter that promises to resurrect a long lost concept (sorry Project Rap Rabbit), and they will not tolerate a nostalgic releases that fails to deliver (sorry Mighty No.9). Lazy ports or half-hearted efforts will not win you any fans. If you want good examples of how to do it, look at Nintendo with the inclusion of Star Fox 2 in the SNES Mini, or the documentaries hidden in Rare Replay, or the special PS1-style case that Sony created for the new Wipeout. This is the games industry and the same rules apply. You cannot get away with rubbish.

Of course, big companies can’t live off nostalgia alone. Nintendo can’t build a business from just re-selling us Super Mario World (even if it seems to try sometimes). These moments of retro glory can often be fleeting. Will a new lick of paint on Crash Bandicoot revitalise the brand and deliver it back to the mainstream? It’s not impossible, but unlikely. More often than not you see a brief surge in gamers reminiscing over a time gone by, and then the IP drifts back to the era from which it was plucked. Musical comebacks are often short-lived and movie remakes are, typically, poorly received.

Yet there are exceptions every now and then. Major UK 1990s pop group Take That made its big comeback in 2006, but it did so with a modernised sound that has seen the band return to the top of the charts and stay there for over 10 years. In 2005, the BBC’s Doctor Who returned after 16 years. It was faster paced and far more current, and it remains a permanent fixture on Saturday night TV.

And last year’s Pokémon Go, which stayed true to the IP whilst delivering it in a new way and through new technology, has elevated that brand to the heights not seen since the late 1990s.

“Nostalgia is a seductive liar, that insists things were far better than they seemed. To be successful with it in the commercial world, you need to keep that illusion alive”

They say nostalgia is a seductive liar, that insists things were far better than they seemed. To be truly successful with it in the commercial world, you need to keep that illusion alive. You must create something that looks and sounds like it comes from a different era, but actually plays well in the modern age. And that’s true whether it’s Austin Powers or Shovel Knight.

Indeed, nostalgia isn’t always about the past, it can help take us into the future. One unique example comes in what Nintendo did with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. The company altered the traditional Zelda formula with that 3DS game, and made it more palatable to fans by dressing it in the same world as 1991’s A Link To The Past. It worked, and set the company up to take an even larger risk with its seminal Breath of the Wild.

If the SNES Mini taught us anything, the clamour for all things 1990s remains strong. For developers and publishers who were smart enough to keep hold of their code from that era, they may well reap the benefits.

However, there’s a broader market opportunity here than just cashing in on past success. There’s a chance to resurrect IP, bring back lost genres, and even rejuvenate long-standing brands in need of innovation.

It’s a chance for the games industry to take stock and look to its past before embarking on its future.

Courtesy-GI.biz

GTA V Still Riding High In England

July 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

GTA V unit sales dropped 10% this week (in terms of boxed sales), and yet the game still returned to the top of the UKIE/GfK All-Formats Charts.

It was a very poor week for games retail in general, with just 171,389 boxed games sold across the whole market. The lack of new releases is the main reason for the drop, and that’s a situation that won’t be getting any better during the course of the summer.

The only new games in the Top 40 are 505 Games’ Dead by Daylight at No.16, Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood at No.23 and Ever Oasis at No.28.

Although the data shows a difficult week, there were a few positives. Dirt 4, after a disappointing first week, is showing some resilience. The Codemasters game is now at No.2, although sales did drop 49% week-on-week.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is back at No.5 with a 45% jump in sales, driven by an increase in available Switch stock, while The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had a 68% sales jump (but still sits outside of the Top Ten at No.12).

And Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands returns to the Top Ten after a 31% sales boost, driven by price activity at games retail.

Elsewhere, Horizon: Zero Dawn, which was No.1 last week, has dropped down to No.8. The game had been on sale for several weeks, but now it has returned to a premium price point. Tekken 7 has dropped to No.10, while Wipeout Omega Collection, which was No.1 just three weeks ago, has now fallen to No.14.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is e3 Leaving Los Angeles

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The organizers behind the Electronic Entertainment Expo are considering taking the show away from its traditional home at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

During a roundtable interview, ESA CEO Mike Gallagher said his organisation might explore other possible locations if the center fails to upgrade and modernise its facilities, GameSpot reports.

The exec specifically hopes to see increased floor space and a smoother route between the West and South halls, currently separated by a length corridor. If these expectations are not met, E3 may be hosted in another venue – and, by extension, away from Los Angeles.

E3 2018 is already booked in for June 12th to 14th next year, once again at the convention center. The venue will also host E3 2019, but no decision has been made for 2020.

The ESA has previously attempted to hold E3 at an alternative location. In 2007, the show became the E3 Media and Business Summit and was around Santa Monica. This was part of an attempt to make it more industry focused, capping the attendance to shut out bloggers and non-industry professionals, as well as bringing the costs down for exhibitors.

However, the experiment proved to be unpopular and E3 has been held in the LA Convention Center ever since 2008.

In stark contrast to its 2007 decision, E3 officially opened its doors to the public for the first time this year, selling 15,000 tickets to consumers who wanted to attend the show.

GameSpot reports the ESA has now revealed attendance for this year’s event came in at 68,400 – boosted in part by those public tickets. The 30% increase over last year’s 50,300 brings attendance figures close to the 70,000 peak seen in 1998 and 2005, according to IGN.

The ESA has yet to confirm whether it will sell public tickets for E3 2018. Gallagher said his team is gathering feedback from attendees – both industry and consumer – before confirming how the show will be structured next year.

Courtesy-GI.bz

Will Doom VR Be A Successful Game

June 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Doom is getting a virtual reality (VR) mode that will up the frights and will probably have you clawing at your face.

You know Doom, everyone knows Doom and people are always trying to play it on things that it was never meant to go on, like cash machines and cars, for example.

Doom was born for VR. The facefirst run and shoot game will lend itself very well to the format, and we can admit to wanting a go on it.

There is a reveal trailer, and Doom VFR certainly looks, smells and bleeds like the Doom we have come to know and love. The trailer is marked as unsuitable for some viewers which if you ask us, makes it sound like a perfect trailer for Doom. It is quite a bloody thing, it is certainly exciting, action-packed and violent.

“If you flinched the first time you saw a meaty Mancubus charging at you in last year’s critically acclaimed Doom, wait till you get up close and even more personal with rampaging demons in Doom VFR,” says Bethesda Softworks. “Doom VFR is a new virtual reality game from legendary developer id Software, coming to PlayStation VR and Vive platforms.”

Bethesda and ID Software, the companies behind Doom, said that VR has opened up fresh opportunities for both them and the games that they are aiming it at.

“Developing a Doom game specifically for virtual reality has provided an exciting opportunity to not only surround players with the world of Doom like never before, but also let them experience and explore the UAC and Hell in new ways, playing as new characters with totally unique tools and abilities,” said Robert Duffy, CTO at id Software.

The game’s director, Marty Stratton, explained that Doom VFR gives the fans what they want. “Since the hallmark of any Doom game is combat, we’ve made it our top priority to ensure moving, shooting and killing demons with overwhelming force in virtual reality is as brutal and rewarding as it is in the Doom experience that fans have been enjoying for the past year.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Will The US Video Game Industry Grow To A 28 Billion Dollar Market

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

According to the 18th PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2017-2021, which covers a number of major industries (not just games), the total video games revenue in the US is expected to grow at a 6.3% CAGR rate to reach more than $28.5 billion by 2021. The research firm notes that the PC games sector looks a bit rosier than consoles in the next few years in terms of growth. While total PC games revenue in the US is set to grow from $3.7bn in 2016 to $5.0bn in 2021, at a 6.6% CAGR, consoles will only grow at a 2.8% CAGR, hitting $9.4bn in 2021.

Consoles’ slowed growth “can be attributed to the increase in digital full game downloads which is mostly offset by a decline of physical console game sell-through revenue, which is set to drop by a 4.3% CAGR during the forecast period,” PwC noted. At the same time, the PC sector is seeing “healthy growth” in the online/microtransactions department – online PC revenue is expected to climb at a 7.0% CAGR to $4.2bn by 2021. PwC said that much of this can be attributed to the ongoing success of F2P, more subscription services and the rise of eSports. Digital sales on consoles are getting stronger and stronger as well, expected to grow at a 9.8% CAGR to hit $3.7bn by 2021 – but as noted above, the decline in physical is still offsetting much of this growth.

Virtual reality continues to draw lots of attention across the industry, and according to PwC, the segment should grow at an impressive 64% CAGR to reach $5bn by 2021, or roughly 17% of the entire US games business revenue total. The firm estimates that dedicated high-end VR (Rift, Vive, PSVR) should climb to an installed base of 13 million by 2021, while the overall VR headset installed base will reach 68 million. Additionally, “Portable dedicated headsets – a new category of self-contained headset that will emerge from 2017 designed exclusively to render VR experiences – will have an installed base of 5.3mn by 2021 (CAGR of 87.5%) because of their superior capabilities compared to smartphone-based devices, and ease of use,” the firm said.

While games as a technology have been the driver of VR, PwC expects VR content revenues to be driven by non-gaming experiences like VR video, which will “grow at a CAGR of 87.8% to represent 58.3% of overall content spending in 2021. It will surpass interactive experiences and games revenue…in 2019.” PwC remarked that established media like Netflix, HBO and ESPN, would play a big part in driving VR content along with major game publishers; that said, “expect smaller developers like Jaunt to get an increasing share of this content revenue as they act as the technical partners for both the big studios and non-specialist start-ups.”

The other smaller, but quickly growing segment that should boost total industry revenues in the US is, of course, eSports. PwC expects the sector to grow at a 22% CAGR to reach almost $300 million in 2021. Streaming advertising is the lion’s share of that total at $149 million, but sponsorships, voluntary consumer contributions and ticket sales all add to the pie as well.

“The US is the largest market in revenue terms, having overtaken South Korea in 2015, although the latter will stay far ahead in terms of per-capita revenue,” PwC explained. “The development of eSports has grown at a breakneck pace in the US over recent years, receiving perhaps its biggest boost into the mainstream when ESPN began covering major events on both its streaming and regular channels – most notably the August 2015 final of The International, a tournament for Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2). In September 2015 the company even advertised for an eSports general editor, in recognition of the specialist knowledge required to cover the discipline comprehensively.”

Streaming sites are still the dominant medium for eSports viewing, however. Amazon-owned Twitch is said to rank behind Netflix, Google (YouTube) and Apple in terms of peak internet traffic, PwC noted. There’s no doubt that eSports is capturing the attention of major corporations and advertisers. “Companies are moving in swiftly to sponsor both teams and events, with fast-moving consumer goods companies like Coca-Cola, Doritos and Snickers all forging a niche…

“Notably, in September 2016 the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers bought the long-time franchise Dignitas and Apex, which offers a guaranteed spot in the League of Legends circuit. For the 76ers, the purchase offers an opportunity to diversify into a market that is particularly popular with the protean 18-24-year-old market and get a named presence at eSsports tournaments, while their newly signed-up players can also live-stream and create content under their parent owner’s banner. If the space continues to grow exponentially, sports teams such as the 76ers that become early movers will have the upper hand – as well as a usefully sized stadium for hosting tournaments. Certainly signs are positive here, with the NBA in February 2017 announcing plans to create a new league based around the game NBA 2K.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Does The Nintendo Switch Represent The Future Of Consoles?

May 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

It’s a fact often stated, but no less true for the repetition, that videogames as a whole owe a great deal to Nintendo.

Time and again over the past 30-odd years, Nintendo has defined and redefined core parts of what a game, or a games console, is meant to be. It hasn’t always been the first to invent an idea, but so often it has been the first company to take a rough idea and turn it into something so accessible, so useful and so necessary that, in hindsight, it ends up feeling obvious.

The D-pad, the analogue stick, the handheld console, the 3D platformer, the often copied but never equalled Mario Kart formula… Even when Nintendo’s innovations haven’t been immediately well-received, as was the case with the Wii’s motion controls, they’ve still had the power to shift the course of the industry. Thus, when Nintendo launches something that appears to have inertia behind it, it’s best to pay attention.

It’s fairly certain that some of the touches that made Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so magical will start showing up in other open-world games over the coming years, for example. Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the debt that BOTW itself owes to many other open world titles; Nintendo is a very productive part of an ongoing discourse within games, both receiving and creating ideas, not some wizened sage on a hilltop passing down gems of insight to the unwashed masses. Often its greatest innovations have been built upon foundations laid down by others; it’s just that Nintendo turns out to be a pretty damned fine architect, given such foundations upon which to work.

Few would deny that Breath of the Wild has been a landmark software release; quite a number of you, though, will likely consider it a bit too early to consider Switch to have earned a place in Nintendo’s grand hall of hugely influential products. The console is off to a roaring start, with its second month sales (and ongoing stock shortages) demonstrating very high demand. While next month’s big title, ARMS, is an unknown quantity – it could be an amazing driver of console sales or a damp squib – July’s Splatoon 2, a sequel to the company’s biggest new IP in years, is absolutely certain to drive demand for Switch further into the stratosphere.

That’s all well and good; but yes, it is still early days. The console is yet to complete its first quarter, let alone its first Christmas; projections are good and anticipation is high, but talking about the influence of Switch at this point feels a bit like counting chickens and planning an extensive chicken dinner menu based on eggs still far from hatching. There is, however, one further factor to take into account – the word of mouth around Switch, which is almost uniformly positive and which has a characteristic I’m not sure I’ve ever seen with a console launch before.

The unique thing about the way in which people discuss Switch is this; people who have played games on the console are frequently and vocally adamant that this is now their preferred way to play games. There’s a bizarre level of clamour for games from other systems to be ported to Switch, because the console offers a preferable way to play for so many people. Nobody is actively dumping on PS4 or Xbox One in these comments; rather they tend to be wistful “oh, how I wish Persona 5 (or whatever) was on Switch, I’d much rather play it on that.”

There is, no doubt, some degree – however small – of simple excitement with a new shiny thing reflected in these comments. However, combined with the strong market demand for the console, it does make one wonder: is Nintendo on to something quite revolutionary here?

It’s clearly struck a chord with a pretty wide audience, and the appeal of the Switch form factor is playing a major role in its early success. It’s absolutely true that, as a general rule, games sell consoles, with the hardware itself being of (distant) secondary importance, but with Switch representing such a major overhaul of the whole console paradigm, there’s certainly some extent to which the hardware is selling itself.

A couple of months before Switch launched, I argued that one of the reasons for the console’s design – and for the much less successful attempt at executing a similar concept with the Wii U – is that the number of young people who have a large TV in their home is declining, most notably in Japan, as people turn to smart devices and laptops for a large portion of their media consumption. This limits the market for consoles, especially for those which are concerned largely with ultra high fidelity graphics on very large, up-to-date TV screens. This trend is less advanced in other territories, but it does exist, and may catch up with Japan.

That may explain part of the appeal of Switch, but I don’t think that market is the one getting excited about the console right now; early adopters are largely going to be people who own a high-end console (or consoles) and a high-end TV, with those who don’t own a TV being a market Nintendo may tap later as its success grows. What I think we’re seeing instead is a slightly different, albeit related trend; people are used to their media being mobile, and that makes the existing console paradigm a little frustrating.

Many of us rolled our eyes slightly at Nintendo’s painfully lifestyle-marketing-agency videos of people turning up to parties with Switch consoles, but in truth we have all become accustomed to bringing our media experiences with us, sharing them easily (often by simply handing over a phone or tablet to someone) and never feeling tethered by them. That applies within the home as much as outside; watching an episode of something on Netflix on your TV until you feel a bit tired and decide to finish out the episode on your smartphone, curled up in bed, is pretty much how a whole generation finishes its weeknights right now.

In tapping into that, Nintendo may have created something that’s going to change our expectations about how we interact with games. That capacity to treat games as being just as untethered and portable as other media is a bigger change than many give it credit for, as is the capacity to link the undocked consoles together easily for local multiplayer – an absolutely enormous part of the appeal and success of the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable consoles in Japan, where school and college kids getting together to play Pokemon or Monster Hunter in public social spaces was a pretty huge thing for many years.

The question is, if Nintendo is really on to something massive here – and if it is, then those slightly eyebrow-raising projections showing the Switch selling in volumes comparable to the Wii might not actually be so crazy after all – what is the impact on the wider market going to be? How do Microsoft and Sony react to this?

If Switch is as big a success as many people seem to expect, it’s quite likely that it’ll precipitate a major internal change of direction in its competitors’ plans for the future – just as previous successful innovations by Nintendo have done. There are various models a future Xbox or PlayStation could pursue in order to give a comparable experience to Switch without sacrificing their cutting edge performance; a tablet-style console with a dock housing a much more powerful GPU is perhaps the most obvious example.

The crucial thing is to deliver a console that has a portable experience on a par with its tethered-to-the-TV experience; a lower pixel count and perhaps some toned down graphic effects, but essentially the same game, just as playable and fully featured, available to pick up and play anywhere you want, whenever you want to be away from the TV.

It’s a model that’s likely to make sense to more and more consumers as behaviours shift away from the monolithic television-centric media experiences of previous decades, and if Switch is a breakout hit (and perhaps even if it’s only a moderate success), it’s a model to which both Sony and Microsoft will need to think very carefully about their response.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is Nintendo’s Zelda Going Mobile?

May 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Zelda will be the next Nintendo IP to get the mobile treatment, according to sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal, with the new title expected to follow the Animal Crossing later this year.

The WSJ’s sources indicated that Animal Crossing is expected to launch in the second half of calendar 2017, with The Legend of Zelda to follow. However, the sources said that the order of the releases could still change, with Zelda arriving first.

With games based on Fire Emblem and Super Mario Bros. already released and Animal Crossing on the way, a version of Zelda was arguably inevitable. However, the success of Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch has bolstered public interest in the IP; in its recent financial results, Nintendo said that Breath of the Wild had sold 2.76 million units on Switch by March 31, despite the console only selling 2.74 million units.

One crucial detail that remains unclear is how the Zelda mobile game will be sold. Nintendo has talked openly about its reluctance to implement a traditional free-to-play model with its iconic franchises, opting for a free-to-try approach with Super Mario Run that ultimately carried a $10 in-app purchase to unlock the full game.

However, in March this year Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said the company was disappointed with the revenue earned from Super Mario Run. Fire Emblem Heroes uses a more typical version of the free-to-play model, but a Nintendo representative described it as “an outlier.”

“We honestly prefer the Super Mario Run model,” the company said. Whether that holds true for Zelda on mobile remains to be seen.

Nintendo and DeNA, which is involved with the game’s development, both resisted the WSJ’s request for comment.

Courtesy-Fud

Square Enix Is Giving IO Interactive The Boot

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Square Enix is dropping IO Interactive, the Danish studio behind the long-running Hitman franchise.

In a statement released today, the Japanese publisher said the decision was part of a strategy to “focus our resources and energies on key franchises and studios.”

The withdrawal was in effect as of the end of the last financial year, on March 31, 2017, and resulted in a ¥4.9 billion ($43 million) extraordinary loss on the company’s balance sheet.

Square Enix has already started discussion with potential new investors, the company said. “Whilst there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will be concluded successfully, they are being explored since this is in the best interests of our shareholders, the studio and the industry as a whole.”

IO Interactive was acquired by Eidos in 2003, just before it launched Hitman: Contracts, the third game in what was already its signature franchise. Eidos was acquired by Square Enix in 2009, and it has launched four games in the time since: Mini Ninjas, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, Hitman: Absolution, and Hitman, last year’s episodic take on its most celebrated IP.

The bold new structure implemented in Hitman saw the game’s missions being separately on digital platforms, with various live events and challenges taking place between the release of each one. Square Enix originally planned to give the entire series a boxed retail release, but that never materialised. It has never disclosed official numbers regarding the sales figures for Hitman, either as a series or for individual episodes.

However, the series’ ámbition was widely appreciated within the games press – it was named 11th best game of 2016 by Eurogamer, for example, and was Giant Bomb’s overall Game of the Year. When we talked to IO studio head Hannes Seifert last year, he described the pride his team felt at the “new feeling” the game created, and made it clear that plans for Hitman extended far beyond a single season of epsiodes.

“When we say an ever expanding world of assassination, it means we don’t have to take everything that’s out there, throw it away and make a new game,” he said. “We can actually build on that. Just imagine after two or three seasons, you enter at that point in time, the amount of content will just blow your mind. That’s where we want to be.”

Seifert stepped down as IO’s studio head in February this year. He was replaced by Hakan Abrak, IO’s former studio production director.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is Digital Rights Management On The Way Out?

May 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Two years ago, Cory Doctorow joined the EFF’s campaign to eliminate DRM within eight years and he claims that he is on target to do that thanks to tractors

Talking to the DEF CON hacking conference, Doctorow said that the farmers and the Digital Right To Repair Coalition have done brilliantly and have a message which is extremely resonant with the political right as well as the political left.

The entertainment industry seems to oppose extending the DMCA to tractors and if Big Content, which is very proprietary towards laws that protect DRM, thinks that it is silly then it acknowledges that there are cases were DRM is bad.

“They really feel that they lobbied for and bought these laws to protect the business model they envisioned. For these latecomer upstarts to turn up and stretch and distort these laws out of proportion has really exposed one of the natural cracks in copyright altogether,” he said.

Doctorow one good thing which will come from Brexit, is that the UK will renegotiate and reevaluate its relationship to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other directives.

“The UK enjoys a really interesting market position if it wants to be the only nation in the region that makes, exports, and supports DRM-breaking tools,” he said.

Courtesy-Fud

nVidia Shows Off GameWorks Technology

May 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nvidia has revealed a few more details about its GameWorks Flow technology, which should provide fluid effects for realistic combustible fluid, fire and smoke simulation.

Following in the footsteps of Nvidia Turbulence and FlameWorks technologies, the new GameWorks Flow library provides both DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 implementations and can run on any recent DirectX 11- and DirectX 12-capable GPUs.

The GameWorks Flow uses an adaptive sparse voxel grid which should provide both maximum flexibility as well as the least memory impact. It is also optimized for use of Volume Tiled Resources, which allows volume textures to be used as three-dimensional tiled resources.

Nvidia has released a neat simulation video of the GameWorks Flow implementation in DirectX 12, which shows the fire and the combustion process with an adaptive sparse voxel grid used in both the fire and to compute self-shadowing on the smoke, increasing both the realism and visual effects.

Hopefully, game developers will manage to implement Nvidia’s GameWorks Flow without a significant impact on the performance.

Courtesy-Fud

Is The AAA Game Model Sustainable?

April 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The AAA model in increasingly developing into a market in which only the biggest companies can survive – and even then the design of these titles will become more stagnant.

That’s according to Boss Key Productions founder and Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski. Speaking to attendees at Reboot Develop today, the veteran games developer discussed the “really, really weird spot” blockbuster games have found themselves in, and pondered potential solutions.

“AAA is starting to feel like the American restaurant scene,” he said, referring to how increasing globalisation means every major city usually has the exact same chains and franchises when you’re looking for a place to eat. “They’re not bad, they’re not great, they’re just there.”

It’s the same with AAA, which he says has become a “category of eight games that are getting repeated over and over again”. He brought up a slide depicting best-sellers such as Uncharted 4 and the Call of Duty games, stressing that these are “great games” but cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce and market.

He added that it doesn’t help most consumers view many blockbuster franchises as “the name you know” and are “too scared to take the risk on new IP”.

“$60 is still a lot of money to ask people for,” he said. “And to ask them to make that bet multiple times per year? Gamers are picky, they’re smart.

“This is a nearly unsustainable model, unless you’re an Activision, 2K or a Sony.”

His advice to developers still looking to make their mark is to aim for what he referred to as “Double A”, which he considers to be “games that look and play great but pick their battles in terms of budget and marketing”. Examples he offered included Warframe, Rocket League and Rust, with Bleszinski noting that most successful ‘Double A’ games are digital and/or free-to-play.

In terms of finding funding for such games, he pointed out that “there’s a lot of money in Asia” – his own studio, Boss Key Productions, has partnered with Nexon for its debut game, LawBreakers. This title is also designed to be ‘Double A’, and won’t have a full $60 price tag.

Bleszinski also warned that developers only have one shot to make a new IP, referring to the team at Raven Software: “They made a great game in Singularity, but it ultimately didn’t do well because of the marketing, even though the ratings were great. And now they’re one of the multi-headed hydras behind the Call of Duty series.”

He recognised that the collaborative model used to create titles like Call of Duty and many Ubisoft games, combining the efforts of teams from around the world, is effective but not one he’d ever want to be a part of.

His talk later branched into virtual reality, which he likened to lucid dreaming – something he has apparently spent years trying to master. In fact, VR has helped him hone this elusive skill: “I’m a better lucid dreamer when I wear a sleep mask because I think I’m wearing a headset.”

He stressed that high-quality graphics are the key to immersion in VR, adding that “the best VR looking experiences I’ve had are built in Unreal Engine 4”.

“I’ve not paid to say that by my former employers,” he laughed. “Unity is a good engine but when it comes down to it, you can’t beat Unreal for visual fidelity.”

The issue, as he puts it, is great graphics cost money. Bleszinski is currently pitching a VR project but struggling to get the investment required to make the finished product look as good as it needs to. He observed that shareholders are “only giving out a little money”, which is why the industry is seeing a lot of tech demos coming from the VR space.

He also likened the current trend of wave-based shooting games – such as Raw Data and Robo Recall – as the equivalent of ’80s arcade games such as Galaga and Robotron, adding that he’s confident VR will expand beyond this just as the arcades did.

Bleszinski acknowledged that there are plenty of barriers to overcome before virtual reality is adopted by the masses. Complicated setups, especially for room-scale VR, are particularly off-putting. He referred to his parents that didn’t even set the clock on their VCR – they just wired it into the TV and plugged it in – adding: “Why would they set up VR?”

He continued: “If I were Oculus, Facebook or Vive, I would have kiosks at every major retail location, and a tech team that comes round to set it all up properly”.

“But like all technologies, it’s get better, it’ll get faster. But give it a little bit of time.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is A Smaller Version Of The Nintendo Switch On The Horizon?

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The Nintendo Switch straddles a line between the Mario maker’s portable and home console businesses, but it remains to be seen if Nintendo intends to follow the upgrade cadence of the former or the latter. According to a Bloomberg report, analysts from Citigroup Inc. are expecting Switch hardware refreshes more in line with the DS and 3DS than the Wii and Wii U.

Among the first big changes expected by Citigroup is a smaller version of the Switch to arrive in stores during Nintendo’s next fiscal year, which runs April 2018 through March 2019. While the current Switch is portable, it is decidedly bulkier than Nintendo’s previous handheld systems.

“Although the Nintendo Switch can be used as a handheld device, we think smaller children could struggle to use it comfortably in that format due to its size and weight,” Citigroup analysts said last week. “Accordingly, we think Nintendo will launch a lighter, dedicated handheld version of the Switch, possibly to be called the Switch Mini.”

Losing accessories like the dock for hooking the Switch to a TV could facilitate a cheaper dedicated handheld version of the hardware, but Citigroup did not speculate on a price for any sort of Switch Mini. However, the analysts did say it could sell 6.7 million units by the end of its launch fiscal year. They added that the standard Switch is expected to have an installed base of 25.7 million within the same timeframe.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Blizzard Entertainment Wins Cheating Lawsuit

April 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Blizzard Entertainment has asked for $8.5 million in damages from Bossland, a German company that makes and sells cheats and hacks for its most popular games.

This is the latest and probably final step in a legal complaint Blizzard filed in July 2016, which accused Bossland of copyright infringement and millions of dollars in lost sales, among other charges. Cheat software like Bossland’s Honorbuddy and Demonbuddy, Blizzard argued, ruins the experience of its products for other players.

According to Torrent Freak, Bossland’s attempt to have the case dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction failed, after which it became unresponsive. It also failed to respond to a 24-hour ultimatum to respond from the court, and so Blizzard has filed a motion for default judgement.

The $8.5 million payment was calculated based on Blizzard’s sales projections for the infringing products. Bossland had previously admitted to selling 118,939 products to people in the United States since July 2013, of which Blizzard believes a minimum of 36% related to its games.

“In this case, Blizzard is only seeking the minimum statutory damages of $200 per infringement, for a total of $8,563,600.00,” the motion document stated. “While Blizzard would surely be entitled to seek a larger amount, Blizzard seeks only minimum statutory damages.

“Notably, $200 approximates the cost of a one-year license for the Bossland Hacks. So, it is very likely that Bossland actually received far more than $8 million in connection with its sale of the Bossland Hacks.”

Update: The court has granted Blizzard’s motion for default judgement, ordering Bossland to pay $8.56 million in damages.

That number was calculated based on 42,818 sales of Bossland’s products in the US. The court ruled that the German company should not be allowed to sell Honornuddy, Demonbuddy, Stormbuddy, Hearthbuddy and Watchover Tyrant in the country from now on, as well as any future products that exploit Blizzard’s games. Bossland will also have to pay $174,872 in attorneys’ fees.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Next Page »