Gamers are stingy. Picture the scene: every year outside an Apple store around about September time, there are huge queues for the latest phone that will change people’s lives and improve their standard of living (as the marketing effort would have you believe). All this for the bargain price of £600. What amazes me is that 12 months earlier, people were lining up for the phone they currently have in their pockets. They are paying a premium price for a menial upgrade every single year.
Now look at the new consoles released last November. The PS4 is a runaway success, with close to double the sales of the more expensive (at the time) Xbox One. Scrub for a second that the Xbox came with Kinect. Scrub the fact that the console is slightly weaker hardware wise. And focus on the one reason why it hasn’t been selling as well as the PS4: price. The Xbox One was a good £80 more expensive in the UK, putting a lot of people off purchasing one, and instead going for the cheaper PS4. My main issue with this – and we also saw it in the previous generation with PS3 – is that gamers don’t seem willing to spend more than £400 on a new games console.
In my opinion this is hurting the games industry as whole. With a lot of countries now recovering from a recession, it’s clear that both Microsoft and Sony were not willing to make a loss on their next generation consoles. But what this has created is consoles that barely run games in 1080p and at 60fps. This is causing heated debates on a lot of game forums and websites over which console is the more powerful. But this is overlooking a bigger problem: this generation of consoles is underpowered. Even the PS4 is unable to run certain games at high framerates ( The Order: 1886), or at high resolutions ( Battlefield 4). This should be a standard that ‘next-gen’ consoles should be achieving, but we can’t keep expecting to pay 300-odd quid for these machines and then expect them to outperform or match high-spec PCs. If we can spend £600 a year on a new phone, why can’t we spend £600 every five to eight years on a new console that is truly worthy of the label ‘next gen’? David King
The difference being that you don’t buy consoles on monthly contracts, of course. And when you upgrade your phone, your old games come with you. Ultimately, though, the inner workings of the day-one £600 iPhone purchaser probably isn’t something the world will ever understand completely.
“We can’t keep expecting to pay £300 for these machines and expect them to outperform PCs”
With the recent influx of early access games I’ve been thinking about how there’s a certain ‘sweet spot’ with getting involved in them. The risks of jumping in too early are obvious – you risk burning yourself out on a title before it becomes feature complete – but equally I find myself becoming anxious about buying a product too late and finding myself joining a community that’s either past its peak, or else has been so involved with the development process for a game that they understand it on a deeper level than I could ever hope to achieve. With DayZ, for example, there is not only a large community that has developed a deep understanding of the fundamental logic of the game, but there is also a risk that its slow development means that when it finally reaches version 1.0 that there might not be any interest left.
Will the fanfare of a 1.0 release be enough to resurrect the hype of a game that showed promise in its alpha stages, or are many of these early-access games peaking in
popularity months or years before their final release? Personally, I’m optimistic that there are enough players out there like me who want to wait for the complete experience, but equally I’m still worried that with many of these games I’m going to find myself jumping onto an empty bandwagon.
Jon Porter It’s still early days for early access, but put it this way: it didn’t do Minecraft too much harm, did it? At least your new Atlas headset is already feature complete.
High street lowlifes
So Activision’s Eric Hirshberg says preorders are down across the industry. I’m not surprised in the slightest, but I don’t think he sees the whole picture. He says it’s because we are increasingly buying games digitally and that boxed products are so widely available that there’s no need to guarantee yourself a copy. He’s missing a trick, I think.
The experience of buying a game from a shop is horrid. If you’re not having your purchase mocked, you’re being upsold some own-brand tat or pestered to sign up for some loyalty scheme or other by some (understandably) desperate member of staff. Videogame retail has always been bad, admittedly, but now I have other options – not just from digital downloads, but online stores like Amazon too – I find myself only going to a high street shop when I’ve got something to trade in.
Retailers and publishers need each other, and in their rush to help each other out in these difficult times they’ve lost sight of the fact that their first priority should be the customer. The current trend seems to be for retailer-exclusive content that’s tied to preorders. I assume you saw that JPG of all the Watch Dogs special editions that were available from retailers around the world. I get what’s going on: it enables the publisher to make the retailer feel special for getting stuff no one else is getting, then lets the retailer offer the customer something they can’t get anywhere else.
The thing is, by its very design, this stuff can’t be special at all. Something that’s being made for only a fraction of a developer’s entire audience is bound to be superficial. An alternate costume, a weapon skin, maybe an XP boost – it’s all nonsense, really, and getting it doesn’t make me feel special, it makes me feel like a mug for falling for it. Hirshberg can blame market forces all he likes, but perhaps he should get his own house in order before passing the buck to the world at large.
Justin Linham Was there ever really an incentive to put your name down early? The last game we remember being in short supply on day one was Resident Evil 4. Still, if it means we can one day look forward to having to endure one fewer upsell at the till, we’re all for it.
Fear of a wack planet
I was delighted to see No Man’s Sky on the cover of E270, but I noticed that some others weren’t. Looking online I saw a host of complaints about Hello Games’ latest being a load of indie rubbish that couldn’t possibly live up to the enormous amount of hype that it has generated. The latter could, with respect, be said about any in-development game that has ever featured in the magazine. It’s the former statement that really makes my blood boil, though.
Why are people so intimidated by indie games? They seem to think their precious hobby is somehow under threat, that the existence and success of games like Fez and Gone Home means that the likes of
Battlefield and GTA will no longer exist, that EA and Rockstar will start making walking simulators and pixel-art puzzle-platformers. I just don’t get it. Ubisoft is making smaller games like Child Of Light and Valiant Hearts, but it’s still making an Assassin’s Creed every year like clockwork and investing in new things like Watch Dogs.
I love a lavish blockbuster just as much as the next man, but I’ve also fallen head over heels in love with a lot of games made by small studios, in the past couple of years especially. Surely all that matters is a game’s quality, and not how much it cost to make?
Jonathan Baker Well, you’d think so. It’s difficult to imagine most traditional game companies investing in something as ambitious and risky as No
Man’s Sky, but for as long as the little guys keep pushing at the limits of games, we’ll keep celebrating them in these pages.
I’m seriously beginning to wonder why we in the UK have to pay the price so that US gamers can get a better deal, though I know that this problem is not limited to gaming and extends to various products. I do believe that we are being let down as consumers in the pricing department. I understand costs regarding shipping have to be factored in, but as I have some knowledge of the cost of import/export I do not believe that the price difference is warranted. A UK game can cost £50 to £55, which is $85 to $90, but US gamers pay a mere $60, which is equivalent to £35. This is an astronomical difference. I do not believe that our US cousins would ever accept this, but as usual we here in the UK allow it to go on. I love the medium, but I feel that people are missing out on worthy titles because of their expense, and publishers are missing out on income by not making games more affordable. I believe something will have to give eventually.
Adnan El It already has, with the death of the middle tier. It’s an age-old problem, and there’s always VAT to consider, but that doesn’t account for, let alone justify, such a large difference. Apparently US store accounts are easy to create and offer games at cheaper rates, although clearly we could never condone pursuing such avenues.
Turtle Beach’s Atlas headset (RRP £119.99) is compatible with 360, Xbox One and PC setups