Archive for the ‘Indie Games’ Category

I’ve had some interesting feedback and additional thoughts from my previous article on how PCs being put into console form factors, with controller-friendly front-ends to mimic the console experience while still offering PC flexibility under the hood.

One bit of feedback is very fair comment. What if you (more…)

While consoles have traditionally been hugely subsidized, typically sold at a loss early in their lives, and at a profit late in life, neither the Xbox One or the PS4 is being sold at a loss.  Rather, they’re being sold approximately at cost.  Heck, with a year of cost reductions under its belt, by now the PS4 may even be sold at a profit.  Microsoft committed to selling the Xbox One at cost even prior to launch, and you see that manifesting with game bundles and targeted sales as the cost to make the Xbox One gradually decreases.  In the U.S. (often used as the global benchmark), the Xbox One has been sold as low as $329.99 without Kinect, and as low as $449.99 with Kinect and three games.

BTW, don’t take my word for the fact that these consoles were sold approximately at cost when they launched, here’s a link:  http://www.shacknews.com/article/82167/report-xbox-one-costs-471-to-build

Meanwhile, the cost of the PS4 has actually gone *up* $50 in Canada as the Canadian dollar weakened by 10%.  The Xbox One did not follow suit, and is actually the cheaper console in Canada now.  So it seems clear to me that Sony is determined to not sell the PS4 at a loss, or even at cost if it doesn’t have to, and that Microsoft is determined to sell the Xbox One at cost at the highest.

I don’t begrudge either company their decision, each makes sense given their position in the competitive landscape.  But if the entirety of Sony is looking to SCE to deliver profits (as Engadget and others have reported: http://www.engadget.com/2014/12/09/sony-leaning-on-playstation/) that means Sony’s going to give Microsoft the ability to catch up to the PS4’s early lead.  Just as Microsoft had the PS3 on the ropes in that generation, but focused on profitability for the Xbox 360 rather than crushing the competition, so too is Sony seemingly focused on profitability with the PS4 rather than crushing the Xbox One.  I expect the end result to be the same (a tie).

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I’ve bounced back and forth between gaming on consoles and gaming on personal computers throughout my life.  In the late ’70s my family had a game console that just played a Pong-like game (no cartridges or other ways to change the game).  Then we got a proper game console in the early ’80s, the legendary Mattel Intellivision.

That was followed-up by a Commodore VIC-20 personal computer, though, not another game console (in part because the game console industry died out in 1983).  After that I saved up my allowance and bought a used Commodore 64 with my allowance when I was in grade 8.  I was all-in for personal computer gaming.  I liked the greater complexity offered by a keyboard, such as strategy games.  My family later got a Nintendo Entertainment System, and even a Super Nintendo, but the NES (and later the SNES) went only marginally used by me.  I preferred to game on my Commodore 64, and later a Commodore Amiga.  I played a computer version of the board game Risk on the C64, and Sid Meier’s Civilization on the Amiga, amongst many others.  Super Mario, for all its strengths, really couldn’t compare to that for me.  With the benefit of hindsight, had I had “Military Madness” for the TurboGrafx-16 or Dune 2 for the Sega Genesis, I might have found console gaming a bit more appealing.

But I was about to find it more appealing anyway.  I switched to console gaming for the Atari Jaguar.  Yes, the Jaguar.  I loved Alien Vs. Predator, Tempest 2000, Iron Soldier, Theme Park, and Hover Strike, amongst others.  I really enjoyed that system and was happy with my purchase, despite its lack of commercial success.

But personal computing was about to win me back, in a big way, and for the first time it was on an “IBM Compatible” (as PCs were known at the time).  One of the games I had loved on the Commodore Amiga was “Star Control”.  I couldn’t resist playing its sequel on an MS-DOS PC.  I played it, and its sequel Star Control 3, and put hundreds of hours into each of them.  Had I known that Star Control 2 came out on the 3DO console (in a version widely seen as the definitive one) I might have got one of those instead, especially since I didn’t own a PC and was borrowing a roommates.

Consoles were about to win me again anyway.  The Dreamcast.  Ah, the Dreamcast.  Who could resist Sonic Adventure, Hydro Thunder, Toy Commander, Jet Grind Radio, Shenmue, and so much more?  Not me!  A couple of my favourite Dreamcast games were also available on PC, namely Star Lancer, Railroad Tycoon, and a roller coaster game or two.  But I enjoyed the ergonomics of playing them on the console, and particularly with Railroad Tycoon my roommates and I had fun playing the game collaboratively in the living room.

From there I got an Xbox, an Xbox 360, started this blog, and then an Xbox One.  Console gaming had won out, right?  I loved each of those systems, after all.

Well, not so fast.  I’m a little conflicted.  And the Alienware Alpha is why.  For 35 years I’ve (more…)

It could be a new age for Windows Phone in Canada. For years the global third-place smartphone OS was actually fourth place in Canada thanks to surprising residual strength for homegrown option BlackBerry. BB may be on the ropes everywhere else, but it still had some resonance here. Windows Phone was further hampered by Nokia’s Lumia phones not getting broad release here, often signing carrier specific deals (and often with Rogers). When Windows Phones got broad carrier release, they sold better (look at the Samsung Ativ S, a minor player globally, but a major player in the Windows Phone scene in Canada due to being released on all of the “big three” carriers).

Even if you were willing to pay full price for a device, Nokia wouldn’t sell it to you even if none of the carriers jumped on board. Want the Lumia 1520 phablet? Import it from the U.S. (for a version that will work on some Canadian carriers) or from Mexico (for the version that would work on all Canadian carriers). And expect to pay a huge markup.

Things have changed. Microsoft is now (more…)

Well, I tried

Posted: 2014/11/20 in Indie Games

After about four years of daily blogging, I reached my limit. The busy season hit at work, and it was game over for me keeping up a daily pace. However, you can’t keep a good blog down. Going forward, I’m going to start posting about things that interest me. Video games, cell phones, cycling, TV/movies, you name it. It’ll be eclectic, and it’ll be at times sporadic, but it will continue.

The recent Microsoft layoffs, 18K in all and the largest in company history, has got a lot of media attention. I often wonder about the value of something like this. It may fatten up the bottom line, but will it do so enough to justify the bad press? In any big organisation there’s a lot of turnover, and you can eliminate a lot of positions just through a hiring freeze as people retire and move on to other jobs.

And yet, you have to put them in perspective. Sony (for example) has laid off thousands of people several times in dribs and drabs, is that any better or worse than one big layoff? And Nokia had laid off thousands, and likely would have continued to if they hadn’t been purchased by Microsoft. And a lot of the layoffs are on the non-smartphone side of the business, where they’re going to continue offering devices but don’t need so many people to do so much future development.

The part that bewilders me is the (more…)

One of the things that excited me about the Xbox One was its ability to control your television and cable box. At launch, in Canada, it could only control your TV, but they did relatively promptly roll out the ability to control your cable box as well. I know that it’s not as relevant in some countries, such as the UK where cable boxes are rare (aside from Sky TV customers), but I’m in Canada where cable TV penetration has long been extremely high due to our rugged country, and massive distances between towns, making terrestrial broadcasts very difficult.

I’ve now tried it extensively. Am I still excited? Well, yes and no. I do like that (more…)

Microsoft’s done something interesting with July’s free “Games With Gold” offering. They held over “Max: The Curse of Brotherhood” for a second month, and added “Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition”.

If you have an Xbox 360, and are considering these games, then suddenly an Xbox One just got about $30 cheaper for you. Guacamelee! STCE was free for Xbox One owners day-and-date with its release, meaning anyone considering this game for the 360 won’t have it yet (though there may be some PS3 owners who had the earlier iteration of it).

This is an interesting strategy because you get to keep these games as long as you maintain your Gold status. Even if your Gold status lapses, but you later renew it, then you regain access to all Xbox One games you got via Games With Gold. This is in stark contrast to (more…)

Keen-eyed viewers will notice that I haven’t exactly been posting up a storm, lately. In real life I have a business to run, and this is our busy season and it’s really time I focus on that (and family, and chores, and all the other non-optional elements of life). That said, I read an article on Kotaku that inspired me to comment. Actually, it was the comments to the article that inspired me the most.

The article was Video Games Didn’t Make Me Gay, But They Did Make Me Proud, which I found to be an insightful read in and of itself, but it was this comment that really got me thinking:

You mean unprotected? I’m surprised there aren’t more safe-sex initiatives in games, now that you mention it. Seems like the sort of thing that social and mobile games would be particularly good at.

There’s more than just sexual pursuits where this happens, though. In how many movies or video games do you see (more…)

Ever seen “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray? This is like that, but with power armour. It reminds me a bit of what “Starship Troopers” ought to have been, as the book that movie was based on featured power armour even if it was conspicuous by its absence from the film.

The movie isn’t lighting up the charts, and that’s a shame because it’s surprisingly good. Love Tom Cruise? Lots of him here. Hate Tom Cruise? You’ll get to see him die tonnes of times. Like hard-hitting action? Check. Like smart storytelling? Check. It’s (more…)