The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 14
Welcome everyone again to another Week In News Review. This week, I will be looking at Sony's missed opportunity at exclusivity with Limbo, Randy Pitchford's belief that Duke Nukem Forever was of a similar quality to Half-Life 2, Polytron's decision to not release a new patch for Fez, THQ's closure of a QA studio and subsequent re-consolidation in Montreal, the apparent demise of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and Uniloc's lawsuit against Minecraft developer, Mojang amongst other developers/publishers. As you can see, I'll be covering a lot this week, so sit back and relax as I give my take on some of the biggest news stories of this past week.
Monday July 16th, 2012
On Monday, Game Informer ran an article revealing that Sony narrowly missed out on a possibility to have the exclusive rights to Playdead's Limbo. However, Sony had made it a point that they wanted control of the IP going forward, which Playdead was not willing to do. As a result, their deal broke down and the game was released on Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade service a full year before reaching the Playstation Network.
The biggest part of this story is not that the deal broke down between Sony and Playdead, but rather that Sony is making a point to control the IPs of games that appear exclusive on their console. One has to wonder if seeing several key exclusives from third party go multiplatform has influenced Sony's dealings and attempting to ensure that what appears on their console as an exclusive stays on their console as an exclusive.
On a side note, after this news hit, Tim Schafer took to Twitter to express his take on ownership of IP. He made some interesting points about what IP ownership can mean for developers' ability to make games as they wish. Yet he also made this argument attempting to draw comparison between a retail release and Xbox Live Arcade title in terms of the amount of TV exposure they received (which is off base, considering no XBLA game has ever had a TV commercial to my knowledge).
Tuesday July 17th, 2012
On Tuesday, Destructoid put up an article discussing comments by Randy Pitchford, who compared the pacing of Duke Nukem Forever to that of Half-Life 2. He also added that he thought the reviewers that gave the game a very low rating did so because they want gaming to become a really high form of art and were thus disappointed by the game's low-brow humor. Duke Nukem Forever has a metacritic score of 54 on its best reviewed platform, PC.
I honestly can't speak from personal experience with this game, as I've avoided it like the plague. I haven't done this because of reviews, but because I thought before they released it that it looked like a terrible game. Everyone that I've talked to that has played it has said that my assessment of the game was fairly accurate, siting pacing issues, antiquated gaming mechanics, and borderline neurotic attempts at humor.
That said, I like Randy Pitchford, but in this instance, I think he is trying to defend the game they released. He has to do so, because they have stated that they intend to create more games within the universe. This comes off as damage control to me, and doesn't soften the blow of them releasing a bad game. If they want to get me interested in a future title, they need to refocus, and make a game that they like and feel comfortable with, rather than having to force out a product that was 14 years too late to the party.
Wednesday July 18th, 2012
On Wednesday, Destructoid posted an article in regards to Polytron deciding that they would not release a follow up patch after their first patch resulted in game data being lost for approximately 1% of those that had played their game. This decision was made because of what Phil Fish referred to as "thousands of dollars they would have to spend on a new patch, and they still owed Microsoft for the privilege of being exclusive to their console." Meanwhile, Giantbomb released an article the day before that revealed that Microsoft had allowed Polytron to release the first patch for free, waiving what is apparently a $40,000 cost to patch a game. On Saturday, Microsoft released a statement saying that they were willing to work with Polytron on the cost of a patch again.
Let me preface this by saying that I'm not a fan of Phil Fish. From his comments about Japanese game developers, to later saying "Gamers are the worst ****ing people," he's done nothing to endear himself to me. That being said, this comes off as another issue where Fish is blowing things out of proportion in typical megalomaniacal fashion. The first patch cost him nothing to put into use, but it had a flaw in it that deletes the game save of anyone who has beaten the game. So another patch was necessitated for those users, but rather than pay to put a new patch into effect, he is making a play for pity and turn people against Microsoft who is charging him to implement a patch on their console. Yet, according to Microsoft's statement, they're willing to work with Polytron again as far as how much they will charge for the patch. Pardon me as I fail to see the issue for Fish.
Next, I'd just like to address his complaints about owing money to Microsoft in order for the game to appear on their console. Microsoft has made no secret about the fact that they require all games that appear on their Xbox Live Arcade service to have a publisher. Fish was adamant about the fact that he wanted Fez to appear on consoles rather than PC, so he knew that he would have to have a publisher. Somehow he did not realize that in having a publisher, they would receive a portion of the revenue generated by the game. So again, I don't feel sorry for Fish in this matter and wish he'd just stop complaining.
Thursday July 19th, 2012
On Thursday, Game Informer posted an article revealing that THQ had closed their Arizona QA (quality assurance) studio and would be re-consolidating in Montreal. They made a point of the fact that they would be allowing for some employees who were willing to move to retain their jobs at the Montreal studio. This news came less than two weeks after THQ pulled a reverse split of their stock and now appear to have saved their company from being delisted by NASDAQ.
Let me preface this by saying that it's never good to see people lose their jobs, and I hope those that are not retained are able to find new employment quickly. However, this appears to be a good move on the part of THQ. By getting rid of an outlying studio, they are able to limit their costs and make their business model more efficient. With the future still being uncertain for the company, a move like this is a positive step toward ensuring that the company is able to survive.
As for their stock prices, today was tenth and final day in a row that they needed to sell their stock at over $1 to avoid being delisted. THQ's stock closed today at $5.16. So, for the time being, the company is free to operate without worrying about being delisted. Going forward, they have some great games lined up. So hopefully they'll be able to continue making great games.
Friday July 20th, 2012
On Friday, Kotaku reported that Square Enix was cancelling Final Fantasy Versus XIII. This report was based off of information gathered from multiple unnamed sources that said that the company would not be making a formal announcement due to the possible effect it would have on the company's stock price. The game was first announced in 2006.
This was an unfortunate, but not entirely unforeseen bit of news. The game has been in a state of development hell since it's initial announcement, with very little ever having been shown. Many fans had been excited by the possibilities of the game, as it appeared to have a darker and more mature tone. On the bright side, Square Enix had said they would not work on Kingdom Hearts 3 until they were done working on Final Fantasy Versus XIII.
As an interesting side note, if this was supposed to be the last Final Fantasy game of this generation, that will mean that this will be the first generation of consoles to not have a critically successful Final Fantasy game. This would reflect the current state of Square Enix in terms of making traditional RPGs, as they have been struggling to find their niche in the modern realm of games. As someone who appreciated the Final Fantasy series in the early days, this disappoints me, and I hope Square Enix can figure it out for the next console generation.
Saturday, July 21st, 2012
On Saturday, Kotaku reported that Mojang, along with Halfbrick, Gameloft, Square Enix, EA, and Laminar Research have all been sued by the company Uniloc for allegedly violating one of the company's patents. The patent in question is for "a system and method ... for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data stored on an electronic device." From the looks of things, Uniloc was granted a very vague patent and is now attempting to leverage it against companies as a means to get them to settle with them rather than pay court costs.
I'm honestly sick of reading about this sort of patent trolling going on. The purpose of patents is to allow a company a set amount of time in which they hold a monopoly, allowing them to recoup research and development costs. With software patents, the patent should only be granted if the the software performs a specific process and must detail the specifics of what the patent is for. These vague patents being issued make a complete joke of the system and are an affront to the free market. I hope that each of these companies is able to fight this suit so Uniloc doesn't see a dime. I also hope that more people will contact their representatives and demand patent reform, particularly as it pertains to software.
That's all for this week's Week In News Review. I hope you enjoyed it. Next week will be the last one that I write before the end of my 31/31 challenge. I haven't decided whether I'll continue to post this series or not, so if you enjoy it let me know.