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Tag: rhetorical questions

Price of iPhone Games Not Necessarily the Issue

While eating lunch today, I stumbled across an article on MSNBC called “Will the people pay for quality iPhone games?” It was an interesting question, and one I often wonder about both for myself and for the gaming public as a whole. We have heard Andrew say a few times on the podcast that he simply cannot imagine spending “that kind” (any kind?) of money for games on that type of platform. Meanwhile, Jeff and I tap away at things like wurdle.

In the article, Andrew Stein, director of mobile business development for PopCap, says:

We need to be cognizant of some of the competitive pressures, but at the same time our games offer huge value to the consumer. We’re not interested in devaluing the brand by pricing it at 99 cents. It is a premium experience. We do invest a lot in our products. We take the time and do it right.

I can somewhat get behind and understand the logic of that kind of statement. It can be incredibly tough from a development standpoint to put any type of time and energy into a product and then be “forced” to “devalue” the product just to “compete” (though one could argue that any of those words and their possible negative connotations could be replaced with ones with positive connotations such as “given the opportunity” to “undercut” the competition so they can “showcase their talent and gain a leadership foothold”). While plenty of terrible games are made, I would not imagine trying to take anything away from a genuine product with geniune effort. I understand the balancing act that needs to happen, and it seems like PopCap does, as well.

However, then we get a quote from Steve Palley, who MSNBC lists as “founder of iDevice game-review site SlideToPlay.com and former Editorial Guru for Vivendi Games Mobile”.

We want better, more expensive games, but not enough people are willing to pay for them to make them profitable. It sucks. For now, the main use case for the majority of people who buy iPhone and iTouch games is the one-to-five minute ‘gameplay snack.’ They want novelties and amusements, not gameplay.

I am horribly confused by this statement. For someone coming from a game development background in some capacity (being employed by Vivendi) and now a part of the general enthusiast press, this seems to contradict itself. We just heard from one person in game development that they want to create these expansive environment and gameplay experiences, which Palley backs up… but then goes on to say that it is simply not what people want.

If that’s not what people want, why on Earth are you wasting your time, effort, and ultimately money to produce something that no-one wants?

We have had a similar situation on another handheld platform, which goes against everything that was anticipated. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (a new game in a well-established, always-high-selling franchise) is having trouble pulling in the numbers on the Nintendo DS, one of the best-selling systems in the history of the industry with a ridiculously large installed-base throughout the world.

An incredibly well-reviewed game from a multi-million-selling franchise on arguably the most successful system in the history of the industry with a highly-visible advertising campaign is having trouble selling? What’s going on here…?!

Analyst Michael Patcher has popped up a lot in gaming blogs and news stories as of late, so while I feel slightly ridiculous bringing these points up again if you have already read them, I promise you that it all pulls back to the bigger question in the end. Patcher states in a later Gamasutra article:

… “we can’t say that Take-Two made a bad game or marketed it poorly,” he says. “Instead, they created an M-rated game for a largely E and T audience, and those DS owners who are legally allowed to buy an M-rated game are not particularly interested.”

While things may change over time (as Take-Two insists they will, with Chinatown Wars having long-legs), for the time being it appears Take-Two made a great game for the wrong market.

I don’t see any difference from iPhone game developers making huge, immersive, “expensive” games… for an audience that just wants to play a Tetris clone for thirty seconds.

E3 Press Conferences: 5 Questions

So yesterday and today were the press conferences / media summits / whatever they are for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony (in that order). As to be expected, I followed along with all the live-blogging, checked out the audio/video feeds later on, and read as much as I could possibly read.

After having a little bit of time to reflect on everything that’s been said and shown, I came up with five major questions I wanted to put out there… more so as rhetorical questions than anything else.

Question #5: What’s with Nintendo and all the mini-accessories?
Seriously, what’s going on? First we had Wii Play and the extra remote… that made perfect sense. Mario Kart Wii came with the little plastic wheel that really doesn’t do anything beyond hold it upright for you and I can’t figure out how on Earth Jeff is able to play that way and win. Then came WiI Fit and the balance board. Next comes Animal Crossing with the WiiSpeak and Wii Sports Resort with the Wii MotionPlus. Is this all calculated on Nintendo’s part, combined with how well the Wii version of Guitar Hero III (with, obviously, its own required peripheral) has done? Is it how they’re able to complement their enthusiast+mainstream media attention? What’s so special about this generation? While it’s true that they’ve done similar things in the past (look at the NES era with things like the U-Force, NES Advantage, etc.)… something seems different about today, and it’s irritating me that I can’t see through them.

Question #4: How well-integrated will this 360/Netflix setup be?
The main gamertag on our 360 is my own, which is set up for Gold. The Netflix account is under the woman’s name, whose 360 gamertag is only Silver. How tightly integrated is this going to be? Will I be able to tie our household’s existing Gold gamertag to our household’s existing Netflix account? So long as there’s not someone sitting there literally checking each name against each name against each gamertag and so on and so forth… it should be OK. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be…

Question #3: How did FUNimation get to be so big with the gaming companies?
If you know anything about my main gig, you’ll know why I’m asking this. How weird was it to see FUNimation’s name right up there with all the big movie companies for Sony’s video service rollout? We’ve discussed FUNimation’s rise in the domestic anime industry in great detail over on Daizenshuu EX (both in the general website updates and our podcast), so I’ll leave the rest of the discussion for over there.

Question #2: How will “Animal Crossing” evolve and innovate?
The biggest complaint we had about the “first” and “second” games (yes, I understand there was an N64 game in Japan) was that once you paid off your mortgage to Mr. Sleezebag Nook… there simply wasn’t much else to do. Sure, you could make sure you got all of the fruit trees, you could talk to your neighbors, and you could catch all the fish… but there was hardly enough “end-game” content (can you even call it that with this series?) to keep us around for a ridiculous amount of time. So Nintendo, are you going to just re-release the same game yet again? We already know we’ll be able to talk to each other with the new WiiSpeak, and it sounds like there will be a good amount of group-based communication available to us… but what are we actually going to be able to / have to DO? We’ll just have to wait for more information on the game…!

Question #1: Is backwards compatibility dead?
Sony had announced that come September, the current 40 GB will be discontinued in favor of a reversioned 80 GB, which itself will take on the same feature-set as the current 40 GB… which, if you’re playing along at home, means you lose your PS2 backwards compatibility for good. Nintendo did not mention Virtual Console at all (OK, fine… that’s paid emulation), Microsoft did not mention Xbox Originals at all (OK, fine… that’s also paid emulation, but at least you can still pop those discs in if you have them), and Sony is pulling PS2 backwards compatibility entirely.

What do you think about this? Is backwards compatibility still relevant? Does anyone really care? As you may have heard at the end of our first podcast episode, our topic for episode numero dos is going to be just that… backwards compatibility. We definitely have a lot to say on the matter, but we’re eager to get your thoughts in ahead of time so we can share them on the show.

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