17 February, 2014

Gaming Headlines: Wii U third party woes, a generous PS Plus trial, 1993…

Hi everybody. Welcome to Gaming Headlines a look at computer/video game stories from the past week that have caught my eye.

The only surprising thing is that it hasn’t been cancelled
This past week it was announced that Ubisoft’s much anticipated (and already delayed) Watch_Dogs will be arriving on Wii U later than on other platforms (Game Informer). Due to arrive elsewhere at some point between the start of April and end of June it is unclear how much longer it will take to arrive on the system. Third party games are announced as no longer coming to the Wii U with alarming regularity, whilst those that do turn up often have features removed so this is yet more irritation for owners of Nintendo’s console.
There is something of a vicious circle going on with companies cancelling/delaying/removing features from games as they are finding it difficult to shift copies on Wii U, whilst Wii U owners aren’t buying due to cancelling/delaying/removing features from games.

Not all games are struggling to sell on Wii U however with indie title Mutant Mudds Deluxe performing well on the eShop (Nintendo Everything). Whilst sales-wise “3DS is king”, the Wii U version has apparently managed better sales than the PS3, Vita and PC (via Steam) versions combined.

PS4 owner takes out 21 year PS Plus trial  
With access to free games and discounts PlayStation Plus has obvious appeal. For those on the fence about signing up there is a free trial, but when one gamer was given the option to extend his trial he did. Repeatedly (VG 24/7). He finished up with his membership extended until 2035. Unsurprisingly this deal is not widely available.

TVii still not available in Europe and Oceania 
It may have launched in the regions 444 days ago but Wii U owners in Europe and Oceania are still without the TVii service. The TVii page on the Nintendo France site reads:

“Nous vous prions d'accepter nos excuses, le service Nintendo TVii initialement prévu en Europe pour 2013 ne sera pas accessible cette année. Veuillez rester à l'écoute pour des annonces ultérieures concernant ce service dans un avenir proche”.

Maybe there will be better news next week.

The wrong kind of English
Thursday saw the first Nintendo Direct of the year featuring more footage of games we already knew about (X still looks extremely  promising) and some new reveals such as NES Remix 2 (something I’m very much looking forward to). It was also announced that GBA games would finally hit the Wii U Virtual Console in April whilst the first Inazuma Eleven DS game would be available to download from the 3DS eShop after the presentation. But not for everyone…

So why was the UK denied this re-release of the RPG Footy game? No reason was given in the presentation, but Nintendo Life reader “AcridSkull” found the answer on developer LEVEL-5’s site. It seems it is down to a new US voice cast:

“While this was a challenging decision, it was deemed unsuitable to release a game with American English voice acting in a territory in which the franchise has been so firmly established with the British English voice cast and downloadable game size constraints prevented us from including both English voice options”.

The comment about “downloadable game size constraints” is somewhat eyebrow-raising considering full retail 3DS games are available to download from the eShop, but that’s the reason they are going with. If you are a UK 3DS owner who really wants to play the game, the Argos eBay Outlet is currently selling the physical DS release for a fiver.

Unfinished Amiga game looking to come to Steam
A game that caught my eye on Steam Greenlight this week was 1993 – Space Machine. There are lots of games on Greenlight but this fun-looking arcade shooter came to my attention via the story of its development. Originally titled Shenandoah: Daughter of the Stars, it was shaping up nicely for a 1993 Amiga release when a case of unrequited love caused the whole thing to fall apart. Obviously the story doesn’t end there and the full story including that of its return here on Polygon is definitely worth a read.

Well that’s all for now.

10 February, 2014

Gaming Headlines: Dungeon Keeper/Flappy Bird…

Hi everybody. Welcome to Gaming Headlines, a look back at computer/video game stories from the past week that have caught my eye.

So there’s this new Dungeon Keeper out…
The big news this week was the release of Dungeon Keeper for iOS/Android. It’s not exactly unheard of for a video game company to annoy fans, but EA have turned it into an art form. They took popular 1990’s strategy game Dungeon Keeper, created a new instalment for smart phones/tablets and then released it as a “free to play” title.  When it arrived gamers were not happy and reviews were not good with the main problem being that whilst it was free to download, if you wanted to do anything it would cost you.

“Dungeon Keeper barely waits until the tutorial is over before making it very clear it’s free-to-play in name only. The rooms you task the imps with building all take time to excavate and you’ll quickly find that even the smallest can take several hours unless you spend gems to speed things up. And of course once you run out of gems your best way of getting more is to pay for them with real money (Only £69.99 for 14,000!)”

“This is shameful, and if anybody's proud of the horrible thing, they deserve nothing but scorn for being so pleased about actively contributing to the continued long-term harm such short-sighted and damaging games will do to this industry. This business model, built entirely on aggressively exploiting a bubble before it bursts, can bring nothing but illness toward an already unhealthy market”
The Escapist

EA pointed to 5 star reviews from users as proof that people liked the game. However (at least with the Android version) this is misleading. As reported here by USgamer whenever you go to make a in-app purchase you are prompted to rate the game. At this point the game makes the ludicrous claim that 5-Star reviews will help provide free updates. Furthermore there are only two options “1-4 Stars” or “5 Stars”, select the former and you are prompted to e-mail your feedback on how they can make the game a 5 star one. I suspect there were many a strongly worded e-mail sent off to that particular e-mail address.

An alternative to microtransactions
Whilst EA have their own ways of making money, Elite Systems (the company behind  the recently funded via Kickstarter  Bluetooth ZX Spectrum) have apparently found a different way of boosting their bank balance. Speaking about the recent Kickstarter campaign GamesIndustry International report that “the final hours were mired in controversy after it was claimed that many of the developers whose 8-bit games feature in the associated emulator app had never received agreed royalties”.

Elite Systems first brought Speccy games to the iOS appstore in 2010 via collections and in some cases standalone apps. Apparently these developers were offered 50% of the profit from each sale but have yet to receive a penny, whilst one developer is said to have never actually given permission to sell his games in the first place. Elite Systems are said to be planning to fix things within 28 days and for the moment have removed the apps from the store.

Meanwhile The Your Sinclair Rock’n’Roll Years have highlighted that this is not the first time something like this has happened with Elite Systems by posting a scan from a 1986 issue of Popular Computer Weekly here on their Facebook page.

The rise and fall of Flappy Bird
Also annoying people was iOS/Android game Flappy Bird. Released in May last year it suddenly shot up the charts this past week. Why everyone suddenly became aware of it is uncertain, though the USgamer review is probably right to suggest this YouTube video [not work safe] played a big part. Around the web criticisms included the difficulty, overly simple gameplay, pipe and floor graphics looking suspiciously similar to Super Mario World and general “why is this game doing so well, it’s rubbish?” type comments. I can’t say the game particularly bothered me. It was a free download after all. However by the end of the week the developer decided he’d had enough and removed the game (Twinfinite). Of course plenty of clones are still available…


TVii still not available in Europe and Oceania
It may have launched in the regions 437 days ago but Wii U owners in Europe and Oceania are still without the TVii service. The TVii page on the Nintendo Deutschland site reads:
“Wir entschuldigen uns dafür, dass es uns nicht gelungen ist, den Nintendo TVii-Service wie geplant 2013 in Europa zu veröffentlichen. Bitte achten Sie in der näheren Zukunft auf weitere Ankündigungen bezüglich Nintendo TVii!”.

Maybe there will be better news next week.

Amazon’s console starts to get interesting
Amazon recently announced plans to launch a games console priced under $300 “ offering the streaming and download of games, music, movies and TV content” . It held people’s attention for about 8 seconds before they shrugged and went back to whatever they were doing before. However this past week it was announced that they had purchased Double Helix Games (TechCrunch). Double Helix Games are the developer of the most recent Killer Instinct game and whilst that won’t be showing up on Amazon’s machine, it does seem the Kindle maker will be putting in a bit of effort when they launch their console.

Look it’s a new Mega Drive (kind of)
Finally here’s a picture of Mega Drive Megatron:
Yep this rather cool looking release from Takara Tomy/Sega has the Decepticon leader transform into a Mega Drive (known as a Genesis to North Americans and Wikipedia users). More pictures can be seen here on Seibertron.

Well that’s all for now. More waffle next week.

03 February, 2014

Gaming Headlines: It Begins

Hi everybody. Having decided I really should be writing *something* I present to you the first Gaming Headlines, providing a look back at the best (or not) computer/video game stories of the past week. Let’s get started…

Lazy bum starts new feature on blog
Dave from largely forgotten about blog Possibly Interesting has started a new weekly feature looking at computer/video game news from the previous week. The format seems to be largely stolen from TJR Wrestling’s daily news updates and the feature is expected to fizzle out and die after the third instalment. Dave is said to be expecting mass indifference to the arrival of Gaming Headlines and will no doubt soon be wishing the feature the best in its future endeavours.

So did anyone buy Scorpion as DLC for Injustice?
Remember the fuss when it was announced that Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion was heading to DC Comics brawler Injustice: Gods Among Us as DLC? With the many, many DC characters that have appeared over the years but were not in the game, a lot of people questioned the need to grab a character from somewhere else. Actually some shouted quite loudly about it. So was Scorpion a waste of developer NetherRealm Studios time? Er… apparently not. Last week began with Mortal Kombat Online reporting that the spear-throwing ninja spectre was actually the highest selling DLC for the game. If a number of people were voting with their wallets it seems that number was actually quite small. Whilst exact figures aren’t given and—as the site notes—anyone with a DLC Season Pass got Scorpy whether they wanted him or not, it’s still quite surprising given the anger originally shown in some quarters.

Nintendo trying something else
There were a lot of Nintendo news stories  last week including the usual “Wii U is in trouble” reports which will no doubt crop up again in future weeks, but the big story was Nintendo’s idea to start making more money. No they’re not planning to re-open their chain of love hotels but are  introducing a third platform focussing on “Quality of Life” (story here on Wired). Not a games machine, it will be targeted at a different market: the non-gamers who picked up the likes of Wii Fit or Dr Kawashima's Brain Training (as did plenty of gamers I should note). Anyway here are a couple of diagrams that don’t really explain it…

None of this helps out the Wii U but trying something different could be a success. The last time Nintendo decided they needed a “third pillar” it gave us the original DS and that worked out OK for them. It did mean the death of the Game Boy line however, so could launching the Nintendo Treadmill lead to the 4DS being the only option for fans of Nintendo games next generation? Well no, but I was trying to find a way to transition to…

DS games are coming to the Virtual Console
Speaking of duel-screen handhelds (see what I almost successfully did there?), games from the original DS are coming to the Wii U Virtual Console (Nintendo Life). With the Wii U’s touchscreen gamepad it makes sense, though initial reaction from fans has been along the lines of “why not on 3DS too?” seemingly forgetting you can just use the actual game cards on it. There’s no launch date yet but considering the 3DS and Wii U are still waiting for previously announced PC Engine and Game Boy Advance games respectively, expect the first DS game to hit the service in early 2017.

New PS Vita hits the UK soon
Something that does have a release date (at least in the UK) is a new slim Playstation Vita. Already out in Japan (since October last year), it can be picked up in UK shops from 7th February. The new PCH-2000 series model features a lighter re-design, longer battery life and… some other differences… I guess…. I dunno. To be honest I lost interest when I saw the £180 price tag. If you’re interested there’s a unboxing video over at IGN, though upon clicking it, it turned out to be an advert for some soy sauce.

TVii still not available in Europe and Oceania
Back to Nintendo. It may have launched in the regions 430 days ago but Wii U owners in Europe and Oceania are still without the TVii service. The TVii page on the Nintendo UK site reads:
“We would like to apologise that we were unable to bring the Nintendo TVii service to Europe in 2013 as originally planned. Please continue to keep an eye out for further announcements regarding this service in the near future”.

Well that’s all for this week.