The Biggest Stories Of The Week (September 21, 2013)
EA has a new CEO, and no one expected it would be Andrew Wilson
Earlier this week, EA announced that Andrew Wilson was promoted from head of EA Sports and Origin to the top spot in the executive pecking order. Of all the internal names being batted around (especially after Don Mattrick moved from Microsoft to Zynga), Wilson's wasn't one we considered. Our money was on chief operating officer Peter Moore or, if not him, president of EA labels Frank Gibeau.
The reason for our surprise is that Wilson comes most directly from a division that has had spotty success. On the plus side, before shepherding all of the company's sports titles, Wilson lead the FIFA team. He was responsible for FIFA, FIFA World Cup, Euro, FIFA Street, and FIFA Manager. This branch of the business is an unqualified success.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is basketball. NBA Live has been a series of false starts, and even with the title coming to next-generation consoles this fall, we've only just seen gameplay footage (and even that was heavily edited rather than raw). MLB has been dicey because of 2K Sports' exclusive license that expired last year. Whether we see a return to baseball for EA in the coming years is anyone's guess, especially since MLB 2K has been so poor.
Wilson has a lot to prove, and the decks were cleared by interim leader Larry Probst, who closed divisions, pared down mobile and social investments, and made the employment rolls leaner by 10 percent. The culling hasn't quite stopped, and on his first full day as CEO, the company shut down Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. The timing wasn't great, as it sets a bad tone for consumers right out of the gate.
The path is already clear for EA. The company is banking on its two-engine approach, with Frostbite 3 powering everything except sports titles, which will use the Ignite engine. This should provide economies of scale and a knowledge base that the development teams across the globe can tap into. Whether the theoretical wisdom matches the realities of the practice is something we'll only be able to discern over the coming years. Battlefield 4 is the first real test of Frostbite 3, and we'll have that in our hands in just over a month.
For more on EA, check out this week's Game Informer Show, as Matt Helgeson and I break down everything EA.
Valve has three big announcements planned for next week, and one of them is undoubtedly a Linux-powered Steambox
Earlier this week, Valve founder Gabe Newell teased a hardware announcement in a keynote speech at LinuxCon. In addition to the hardware, Newell reiterated his concern about Windows 8 being a closed platform, and chose to extol the virtues of Linux (which is unsurprising given the venue).
Today, Valve posted a teaser for not one, but three announcements that will be coming next week. The website states that users will be added to the design process to help "shape the future of Steam."
Putting aside the comedy behind a three-part announcement, our interest is definitely piqued. What else besides hardware could Valve be considering?
Get ready, because I'm about to head into pure speculation mode. Hardware is great, especially if we're talking about an affordable computer that serves to run a version of Steam Big Screen and can support all (or at least many) of the titles on Valve's digital distribution platform. But if the Steambox isn't a straight PC, at least not how we think of one now, then we'll need to understand what the library will look like (especially if the device is Linux-based and not Windows-based). And assuming that the Steambox library is not a one-to-one match with the Steam library, Valve is going to need to incentivize skeptical PC owners to make the leap.
What sells hardware? Games. Exclusive ones, to be exact. Given that this is Valve, there's little that would surprise me, but the company has a couple of aces up its sleeve. Left 4 Dead 3 is one. Half-Life 3 is a bigger one. This is a long way from "Half-Life 3 confirmed!" but if you're Valve and you're launching a new gaming device, wouldn't you bring out the big guns?
The other thing that catches my eye is the language about adding users to the design process. Sounds very much like a crowdfunding pitch, and Valve has been dabbling in interesting monetization schemes lately. The Dota 2 Invitational prize pot was grown by average users purchasing a $10 Compendium. That seems like a smart test run for bringing in small amounts of funds from a lot of people for non-traditional purposes. If Valve does decide to crowdfund development of the Steambox, I wouldn't expect them to use Kickstarter. They have a platform that people trust already.
I'll be watching the announcements with great anticipation next week, not just as a gamer, but as someone keenly interested in how Valve could potentially disrupt the console market.
Tokyo Game Show
- Sony shows off the Playstation App
- Sony discusses more about Vita TV
- Interview with Suda51
- The crazy sights of TGS Day 1
- Sony is projecting sales of five million PS4 consoles by March 31, 2014.
- Sony expects to start streaming PS3 games to PS4 consoles via Gaikai in 2014 (in North America).
- Sony is waiting for the right time to reintroduce The Last Guardian.
- The crazy sights of TGS Day 2.
- An interview with Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima.
News from the homefront
- Still no clarity on whether we'll see a Majora's Mask remake.
- The League of Legends 2013 Championships are now underway.
- Red 5 has suspended Firefall's PvP and will be retooling and relaunching it.
- Next-gen versions of some titles will be out before the consoles you can play them on.
- Criterion has pared down its staff as it works on a new project.
- There's a new Kickstarter for a spiritual sequel to Mutant League Football, but it's off to a slow start.
- Free games! Ico and Liberty City Stories for PlayStation Plus and Rainbow Six Vegas for Xbox Live Games with Gold.
- Keiji Inafune's Mighty No. 9 will be coming to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.
- Major League Gaming has announced the teams that will be competing in its Dota 2 Championship.
- Blizzard is removing the gold and real money auction houses from Diablo III.
- MechWarrior Online is out of beta.
- Brenda and John Romero will be leading a new masters degree program at University of California Santa Cruz.
- Nintendo will be giving Balance Board owners a free, month-long Wii Fit U trial.
- The original Wii Sports games are being re-released in HD a la carte.
- Grand Theft Auto V made $800 million in sales on its first day and broke $1 billion worldwide before the end of day three.
- A Delaware Court temporarily blocked the Activision buyout of parent company Vivendi.
- Ouya continues to be troubled by abuse of its Free the Games program and has now changed the rules.
- Sony says that the PlayStation 4 will enable gameplay capture via external devices, but says that details will be coming later.
- Former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi, who brought the company into the digital world, passed away this week.
- A powerhouse team of Sean Vanaman, Jake Rodkin, Nels Anderson, and Olly Moss have come together to form a new studio called Campo Santo.
- Sony has explained how disc-to-digital upgrades of cross-generation games will work.
- Atlus' parent company (Index Corporation) has been acquired by Sega Sammy. Fear not, though. It seems that business at Atlus will continue without interruption or change.
- Grand Theft Auto V on PlayStation 3 works better as a retail disc than a download.
- One of the biggest Kickstarter failures, Neal Stephenson's Clang, is all but dead. After bringing in over $500,000, there is nothing to show for the effort.
- Double Fine's Broken Age is in internal alpha.
- Hideo Kojima has detailed the differences between current- and next-gen versions of Metal Gear Solid V.
Previews and Reviews
- Batman: Arkham Origins (Preview)
- Dark Souls II (Preview)
- Crimson Dragon (Preview)
- Strider (Preview)
- Deep Down (Preview)
- Danganronpa (Preview)
- D4 (Preview)
- PlayStation 4 Playroom (Preview)
- Metal Gear Solid V (Preview)
- The Wonderful 101 (Review)
- Grand Theft Auto V (Review)
- The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (Review)
- Divekick (Review)
- Infinity Blade III (Review)
- Angry Birds Star Wars II (Review)
- Card Hunter (Review)
Announcements and Release Dates
- The Battlefield 4 beta will begin on October 1 for those with early access on October 4 for everyone else.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies will be released on October 25, 2013.
- Ducktales: Remastered is getting a disc-based release on November 12, 2013.
- A new Riddick game is coming for iOS devices.
- Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story designer Yasumi Matsuno has a new iOS game in the works.
- The Astronauts announce horror title The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
- Developer Ice-Pick Lodge is working on a hide-and-seek-meets-horror title called Knock Knock.
- A free-to-play Soul Calibur game is coming.
- Breath of Fire's creator is preparing a new iOS game called Blade Fantasia.
- Tecmo Koei is bringing a new Deception title, new Atelier titles, and more to the West.