Consoles have ruined gaming.

For the last little while I’ve been very harsh about the state of affairs in gaming, especially in the console space. Specifically with Ubisoft, EA and Activision. Console gaming exploded onto the scene in the last two decades and the 90s was perhaps the most important decade for gaming and gaming innovation both in PC and the console space. Technological leaps and graphical bounds happened during this decade. The Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and Playstation revolutionalized the 3D genre for consoles. I have never before or since enjoyed a console as much as the N64.

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In the PC space, I remember buying an additional 4 Megabytes of RAM when DOOM II came out. I paid about $230 dollars for it. I also paired the RAM with a 16 bit Soundblaster sound card that cost me almost $150. I walked to the Futureshop at the town center with my older brother to pick it up. He was my insurance policy or rather muscle just incase someone was tempted by $400 worth of computer equipment. $400 was a lot of money for a 13 year old. It was an exciting time to be a teenager during those days and to be passionate about computers, computing, and computer games. But those days are long gone and now the Gaming industry has turned in to a perverse capitalist machine. A machine that is more concerned about profit than releasing a good functional product. I’m sorry to say it but the indie gaming industry is not immune to the above statement either.

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These corporations are trying to churn out a game each year in every one of their Intellectual Properties. Recently I even read somewhere that Ubi said they’d like to release a new assassins creed game every year. These game budgets have swelled to millions of dollars, and there are so many people on these projects that the product comes out incomplete, buggy, and usually with a day one patch. The right hand is not talking to the left hand. The reason these games come out like this is because these companies are run by CEOs that have no idea what the game subculture is actually like, and I think they are trying to mimic the model T assembly line that Henry Ford championed but with games. If this happens you can pretty much guarantee the death of the creative and innovative. The industry is sucking the life out of gaming and all the naive kids that accept mediocrity are buying the garbage that these companies are flogging.

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If anything the last two years has been a great example of how not to do business within the gaming industry. Evolve was the perfect poster child of gaming mediocrity masked by the illusion of original content and thought. The game was plagued by repetitive play, then came the DLC content overload. I read somewhere that if you bought Evolve and all the silly DLC that does not come with it by default you would spend about $200 on the game. If that isn’t a cash grab I don’t know what is. Then the broken game of Halo Master Chief Collection was another blunder. The online portion of the game wasn’t playable for 3 months after release. Guess what you consolation prize was for buying a game and not being able to play it? One free week of Xbox Live, ha ha ha, what a fucking joke. Don’t get me started on the actual operating system of the Xbox One, it is broken, and it is broken badly. The online experience is painful at best, there are so many bugs and glitches in it that most online play is met with frustration and anger.

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All this leads me to the Wii U. I was always a firm believer that the only honest company and the only one that cares was Nintendo. Their games, albeit few and far in between, almost never needed a day one patch. You could usually play them straight out of the box, and their DLC prices for Mario Kart 8 were extremely reasonable. They were driven by gaming and creating fun games based on their already existing IPs. I was always a firm believer… but I was wrong!

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Insert the amiibo. The amiibo is essentially an NFC enabled figurine that allows you to recall data associated with said amiibo. Well at first I was ok with these figurines, as they would mean a new revenue stream for Nintendo and the kids would have something cool to put in their rooms. I though it would be a sort of memory card that would hold your characters stats and you could carry it over to your friends house, tap it on their controller, and voila your character appears. Well I was completely wrong. Not completely wrong but overall wrong. You can still do with amiibo’s what I described above, however that is not all that they can do, let me tell you about the dark side of the amiibo. Some amiibo’s unlock game content. Tor example the Toad amiibo unlocks extra content in the game Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. I kid you not, and that is not the worst part either, the worst part is that Nintendo is doing limited runs on some of these. What does that mean? It means you are shit out of luck, unless you want to pay $30 CDN to someone online, where the retail price is $13.99 CDN. What about the coveted Gold Mario amiibo, $50, fortunately the Mario amiibo has 3 versions at this moment so any content locked behind the Mario amiibo can still be accessed with the other two figures. In the end Nintendo has created a black market for their amiibo figures. In my books this is worse than any of the other sketchy business practices that the console industry employs. With that said goodbye Nintendo, and finally, goodbye console gaming. You will wither into obscurity as mobile gaming is gaining traction and replacing the casual console gamer. PC gaming was  and always will be my mistress.

Update: Someone recently said to me.. “Consoles haven’t ruined gaming we’re just getting old.”. Nah, I don’t believe this at all, I still play games, I just play them on the PC where there is variety in gaming and the prices are not ridiculous. Also I can pinpoint exactly when consoles ruined gaming, this happened as soon as they became online capable. As soon as online capability was no longer a pipe dream for consoles DLC became a prevalent presence of the profit margin for gaming. This was true for the Xbox 360s and the PS3s. With the newer generation of consoles the Ubisofts and EAs took this a step further, now these companies would release broken games and with the online necessity of the Xbox One and PS4 they would patch the games as they see fit. This multi-billion dollar industry needs to be regulated, there needs to be a set of standards. Everything else has a lemon policy, and software should as well.

Update 2: COD Black Ops 3 was recently announced and with it further proof that gaming is just a cash grab for the industry. I haven’t for a long time nor will I ever again suppor this franchise. Check out the price.CaptureI rest my case!

 

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The state of Video Game affairs in Canada.

Ever since the inception of the $69.99 price point for video games here in Canada, I’ve been very loud about how we the Canadian consumers are getting ripped off. This is very evident if you walk into your local Best Buy, which I did on the weekend. You will see that some game pre-orders are 59.99, others are 64.99, and then you have most at the 69.99 Price point. Nobody has officially come out and said that the price hike is due to the exchange rate, and there is only online speculation, which is sound and logical. Personally I think the 69.99 price hike it is due to greed as there is no consistency in a price point between software publishers, aaaaand a 10% exchange rate difference should yield a price closer to $65 not $70. Funny that when the US dollar was trading at less than the Canadian dollar we were still paying the same as the US.

More recently the PS4 hardware price was raised and went up from 399.99 to 449.99, an additional $10 profit for Sony per PS4 sold in Canada. The Xbox One however maintained it’s original price. A few weeks ago Microsoft announced a Kinect-less Xbox One that will be selling at the 399.99 price point. I was curious to see what the price would be for this in Canada. To my dismay I learned that this Kinect-less Xbox One can be pre-ordered on the Best Buy Canada site for 399.99 as well. Interesting that a hardware manufacturer is willing to take a slight hit on their hardware but the majority of software publishers have actually increased their profits beyond the point of the exchange rate. Sorry it’s not interesting, it’s very greedy. I would like to thank Microsoft for showing us Canadian gamers some love. Just like they did when they lowered the 360 price in Canada first.

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Best Buy Canada screen shot.

Right now I’m going to pick on a single game that I have a slight problem with, Wolfenstein The New Order. One thing that irks me about a title like the new Wolfenstein, is that it does not have any multiplatyer, online or co-op game play aspect to it, yet they warrant charging 69.99 for the software. This game at best should be 49.99, even with the 10% exchange increase… but I digress. To be honest I was going to pick this title up when I learned of it, until I also learned that it is a purely single player game and that it would be selling at $69.99 CAD.

So the question everyone should be asking is, does a 10% exchange rate difference warrant a 17% price hike? And will the price drop once the exchange rate balances out?

For your consideration, below is a historic look at the USD to CAD exchange rate. Ranging from 1990 to now. See that huge spike prior to January 2000, this is where I purchased Turok 2 for the N64 and taxes in it cost me about $120, ouch.

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On the other hand PC prices are more forgiving. This is partly due to the fact that Steam and others like Greenman Gamin deal in US currency. Dealing in US currency reflects the true pricing and not this inflated cash grab.

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There are ways to get around this ridiculous pricing on the Xbox One. I’m not sure if this is possible on the PS4, but let me know if it is. If you buy digital on Xbox Live and use PayPal to pay for your purchases, you can temporarily switch your Xbox One to the US region, purchase the game and then switch back to your Canadian region. Online users have reported this as working. This way you pay what the game is actually worth, except for Wolfenstein.

This brings me to another point, why the heck are we paying full price for video games sold to us digitally? Games that have no resale value and do not impact sales of new software. Yes we have to consider the bandwidth and server storage, but come on we have effectively eliminated the need to print a cover, press a disc, mould a case, ship to a distributor, ship to a retail store, have to travel to said store…. etc. You get the point. So why is digital the same price as physical, it makes no logical sense. An incentive in a form of a discount for digital distribution would be most welcome, and would push digital over physical.

I understand the 64.99 price hike but going to 69.99 is just plain greedy. I’m not sure who is setting these prices, weather it’s the distributors or the retailers. One thing I know for sure is that the Gaming industry is run by dinosaurs that do not know how to adapt to new and emerging technologies and like the music industry is driven by corporate greed not profit.

Winter is coming! …the next gen consoles have arrived.

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If you haven’t seen the two part Southpark episode which merges the console wars and Game of Thrones, I suggest you do so right now.

The only console I picked up this generation was the Wii U… why you may ask, because there really aren’t any games that are interesting enough on the new consoles at the moment that would prompt me to buy either a PS4 or Xbox One.

And this….

2350457-grand_group_artwork_-_super_mario_3d_world… I love Mario games. Mario 64 was my and many other peoples favourite. Super Mario 3D World looks like it might deliver that experience again. Mario Sunshine and the Mario Galaxy franchises didn’t really do it for me, they felt like cheap imitations of Mario 64. This and the Zelda series are what interests me.

As for the PS4 and Xbox One, all these exclusives they have can be replaced and are replicated on the PC just fine. Killzone is essentially Crysis, Forza is any other racing game you can find for half the cost on Steam or Origin, and anything that does interest me will be coming out on the PC. Titanfall and Tom Clancy’s The Division are scheduled to make an appearance on the PC as well. With the PC versions I will get superior controls (mouse, keyboard), if I wanted to do some gaming on the couch with a controller I could also do that, graphics will be better, frame rates will be higher, and more that likely I’ll pay $20 less for the game on the PC than the console. After all the consoles are slimmed down and less powerful versions of a PC. So buying these games on the PC is a no brainer.

The PS4 is a gaming device, that’s it, to be honest there isn’t really anything next gen about it. All SONY did was update the CPU, GPU, and RAM, and voila you got yourself a PS3.5. It’s a bit underwhelming really. As far as the graphic differences between the PS4, 360, PS3, and Wii U. They aren’t that much of a big deal as you would think. Distance and screen size make a big difference in this metric as well. IGN recently did a comparison of these systems graphical capabilities, I took a couple screen caps from that video. Have a look…

Out of the 4 systems the PS3 has the worst graphical capability, the Wii U and 360 are right on par with each other, where the PS4 has the sharpest graphics of all of them. Look at the screen with the Assassin perched on the tower, on the PS4 the foliage and water ripples really stand out in this scene. Yes the PS4 has graphical superiority, but I’ll tell you this, I play this game on a Wii U and a 55″ TV screen about 12 feet away. It looks really good on this system as well. Like I said the PS4 next gen is a little underwhelming.

If you troll the internet you will hear about the superior graphical power of the PS4, in numbers the hardware looks better for the PS4 than the Xbox One. I agree. However the PS fanboy train is forgetting a few things here about the Xbox One, I wouldn’t rule it out just yet. The Xbox One has it’s CPU and GPU clocked higher, it has esram which brings it’s RAM data throughput closer to the PS4, also GDDR5 runs at higher frequencies, but it also has higher access latencies. And finally Miscrosoft has a cloud render cluster which can offload some of the processing that the Xbox One has to do to servers which the developers can utilize. The RAM is really a non issue in my opinion, in the days past of PC gaming a Radeon HD 5870 with 1 GB of GDDR5 RAM highest achievable graphical setting was high. Unless of course you had 8GB+ of DDR3 system RAM, only then you could achieve ultra graphical settings. This means that the GDDR5 and DDR3 RAM worked together to achieve this feat. So stop the fanboy train, because the PS4 and Xbox One are graphically closer than you think. Also let me remind you of the superior hardware the PS3 had compared to the Xbox 360, yet the 360 pulled ahead in most games of the PS3. One thing to note is that the PS4 has better developer tools this time around, apparently they are closer to PC dev tools than the tools of previous PlayStation versions. This is where the Xbox One is lagging right now, and this is why you see Dead Rising at 20-30 frames per second, why COD Ghosts and BF4 run at 720p. Give it some time and the gap will disappear.

Personally if I were to go with the PS4 or the Xbox One, I would pickup the Xbox One just for the features alone. Price is not an issue, I’m adult with an adult job which comensates me just fine for the work I do. The controller is more comfortable, the integration of Kinect 2 and voice commands is more next gen than just a GPU, CPU, and RAM upgrade. As a home theatre enthusiast the whole media centre idea appeals to me more. Xbox live has proven to be a superior online gaming platform to PSN, however we’ll see how the new PSN integration fairs. Finally the future game lineup with the Xbox One is a little more interesting.

Today I will be picking up Super Mario 3D World. I’m going to be like a fat kid in candy store, essentially in a euphoric bliss.

This is one mans opinion, like it or hate it, that’s my $0.02.

PS4 is failing, COD hasn’t changed, and BF4 is back on track.

ps4-rhombox-croppedAs of this writing the PS4 is having a little trouble. Their PSN network has crashed twice so far, units are arriving DOA, and some units have bad HDMI ports.

I hope for all the gamers out there, this is an isolated event and the 0.4% failure rate remains at that. We won’t know the full story till next week though, the first 72 hours is critical, this is the burn in stage. This is where people really put the system through the cycles, and if the quality is sub par it will come out during this time. Also real world use differs from the lab. Temperatures and environments differ from house to house unlike the lab/factory setting. This is not to say that PS4 will fail, if we learned anything from the 360 launch is that if handled correctly despite it’s problems it can still succeed and Sony needs this win, last time I checked they were deep in the red. Also Sony is loosing $60 per unit sold, which they hope to get back from PSN subscriptions and game licensing. Similar to what MS did with the 360 last generation.

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Recently here in Canuck land, Best Buy and Futreshop had a amazing trade in deal. If you brought in any old used game into the store you could trade it in for a brand new copy of either BF4, COD Ghosts, or Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag for the PS3, 360, or Wii U. I took advantage of this offer and got myself a copy of COD Ghosts and AC IV BF. Black Flag is a decent adventure game, something one would expect from the franchise. COD Ghosts on the other hand is the same old with a new setting. It’s absurd how this franchise is being milked for every last penny. It’s the same run and gun garbage of COD past, nothing has changed, level design is basic, and it is still full of newbs. This game doesn`t even pose a challenge online anymore. They need to do something about this franchise and shake things up. Once again I was very disappointed with this.

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Finally let’s talk about Battlefield 4. The PC launch of the game was abysmal, network lag, server crashes, and stutter. Plagued with problems reminiscent of the BF3 launch it was unplayable. Before launch there were promises of the new and improved Netcode, which was supposed to improve online performance. This was not the case. There were problems when playing online, sometimes it would appear that one would get shot around corners, it seemed that there was too much network lag. Sometimes the game would crash at random intervals, and servers would also crash at random intervals. I gave up and put the game down. Then came two weeks of server updates, and on November 14th a 1GB client update. What a difference the update made. Online play is now smooth, enemies are no longer appearing from nowhere, and the game is finally competitive again. Once again I am able to play the Battlefield franchise which I have been playing since the first version “1942”, in college on a LAN environment. If you’ve never played the BF games I suggest you give them a try. They are a squad based, scratch that… squad oriented cooperative games, you have to work together. If you play the lone gun man like in COD you will go down faster than a teenage girl on prom night. The only advice I have to you in this game, is always play cooperatively, this makes the difference between winning and losing.

See you on the Battlefield.

UPDATE: It looks like both systems have their issues after all. XBO has Blue-Ray drive issues. Glad I bought a Wii U. I think Nintendo is the only company that can build a proper gaming console. I’m really sick and tired of this beta culture.