Do Game Enthusiast Make Games Worse

Its not unusual to hear the complaint that games are getting worse, and I can’t say I disagree with it. Some games released that are so bad and buggy it would make early NES games blush, yet no one seems to question if it’s the consumers who are the cause of this. What if its the game enthusiast, the kind of people who must have every title day one, who are sending the wrong signals to these publishing giants and making games worse. Today, I want to present the ways the gaming enthusiast may be ruining videogames.

Fanboyism

As you may be able to tell from this site, I am a big fan of Nintendo’s games; however, I often find myself at odds with Nintendo fans. Nintendo fans often see the company as doing no wrong and will defend Nintendo’s poor decisions. When it was revealed that the 3DS game Metroid Samus Returns would have hard mode locked behind amiibo, some fans rushed to Nintendo defense. Let’s not kid ourselves; Nintendo’s practice of using amiibo of locking features behind amiibo is scummy. Nevertheless, Nintendo fans defend this action and say you can’t criticize it. “It’s just extra content.” “You don’t have to buy it.” They never question if its OK for Nintendo to lock features that are already in the game behind dumb toys. Nintendo can do no wrong.

And I’ve seen other attacked as well. For instance, if you complain about Nintendo’s bizarre features, such a Splatoon limiting map to specific times, fans will circle the wagon to defend a multibillion dollar company. It’s a “design choice,” they’ll claim. Yes, these odd quirks Nintendo puts in are intentionally, but that doesn’t mean they are good. I’m sure if these guys bought an empty box with Mario on it, they’d call it a design choice and tell me how it’s definitely worth $60. Sony and Microsoft have their own cult that defends everything the company does. Who cares if Playstation Plus is more expensive. Who cares if it’s a cheap cash grab. Who cares that Sony is making you pay for what use to be free. It’s worth it.

Day One Purchases

The trend nowaday is to rush out and buy a game the second it’s out. Now, I have bought games day 1 two, but by doing so, we are telling these company what they are making is good when we know no better. Take Mass Effect Andromeda. The game was universally panned by fans for it’s numerous flaws, not least of which is the stunted and awkward animations. But if you look at the NPD charts, the game actually sold really well. In the month of March, the game was the third best selling games for the month and seventh the month after. The game eventually fell off the charts, but was the damage already done? I’m sure the game’s quality hurt long term sales, but will EA look at the game as a success because of early adopters who bought the game before these problems were evident.

By buying every game that comes out day one, companies are encouraged to continue the same practices. Enthusiast, by buying every game, tell companies that what they are doing is great. Why should the companies improve when, to them, consumers liked the product.

That said, the companies aren’t entirely blameless in this regard, especially with this influx of preorder bonuses. Sometimes it’s a pointless trinket, but other time its content in the game that you have to preorder to get. Regardless, companies are trying to find more and more way to sucker you into making a purchase rather than waiting to see if the game is even worth it. Yet enthusiast buy it hook line and sinker. Can you blame companies for doing this when consumers with more sense than money lap it up?

Collector’s Edition

One of the biggest scams in gaming that is being ignored is the collector’s edition. Rather than selling you a game at $60, now the company can sell you the game. Sure, you’ll get a trinket they are selling cost far less than the inflated price, but it’s worth it I’m sure. Collector’s editions are even more devious than DLC because they seek to extract more money from the most dedicated consumers. It also creates a sort of scarcity that makes it seem like the product has more value when in actuality what you are getting is worthless. The best part for the company is no one is criticizing it like they are with DLC. Why do you think almost every game nowaday has one? It will only get worse.

Backlogs

Another thing that has never made sense to me is this idea of a “backlog.” That you have all these games you own but haven’t played. Perhaps I’m just cheap, but why buy a game when you can’t play it? And you send the same message to the company through your purchase. Alternatively, you could not buy the game, wait for impressions, and they make a decision when you can play it. Instead, the enthusiast has to gobble up every game that comes out. As a result these companies know they can continue the same poor practices and not improve the quality of the product because enthusiast will buy the game up like hotcakes.

 

Closing

In essence, what these companies are doing is rather than make products reach a wider audience, they are milking more money out of the enthusiast. These companies love your backlog. They love when you buy a game the first day. They love when you buy a collector’s edition for $40 bucks more than the MSRP. And the more enthusiast buy into these practices, the more these companies do it. And I can’t say I’m totally blameless. Lord knows I’ve committed these sins as well. But the longer we play ignorant and ignore these issues, the more developers and publishers will employ on these loathsome practices.

The moral of the story is that if you want better games, you need higher standards. Maybe we shouldn’t be buying games day one. Maybe we shouldn’t be putting money down on DLC. Maybe we should take more of a hardline approach with this games and demand higher quality. Gamers always want to complain about the actions of these companies, but we never think about what message we are sending with your purchase. The point is that if we want better games, we shouldn’t be buying everything that comes out. We shouldn’t be buying it the first day. And we sure as hell shouldn’t be buying collector’s editions.

If you want better games, make better purchases.

June 2017 NPD Analysis

From VentureBeat

June Results

  • Total: $765 million (up 7 percent from $712 million in June 2016)
  • Hardware: $231 million (up 27 percent from $182 million)
  • Console software: $343 million (up 1 percent from $339 million)
  • PC software: $32 million (up 2 percent from $31 million)
  • Accessories: $159 million (down 1 percent from $160 million)

Total video game spending in June 2017, which includes hardware, software and accessories, increased 7 percent versus year ago to $765 million,” NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said. “Accessories was the only category to see a decline in spending.

The increase in hardware sales seems to be driven by stronger sales of the PS4 and the Switch (which wasn’t released this time last year, obviously). What the analyst doesn’t mention is despite multiple new games this month, software sales for consoles increased only 1 percent. This seems to be a flattening as the 8th generation consoles wind down. The Switch contributed to an increase in software sales, so sales of the PS4 and the 3DS are likely down this month.

Software

  1. Tekken 7
  2. Injustice 2
  3. Grand Theft Auto V
  4. Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy
  5. Arms
  6. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  7. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  8. Overwatch
  9. NBA 2K17
  10. Horizon Zero Dawn

The NPD combines SKU together, rather than report an individual game. This means exclusives are further down the list. This is especially true for Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy and ARMS.

One thing to notice is, despite the multiple SKUs taking the top spots, Nintendo has a very strong presence. Nintendo Switch lacks the install base of other consoles (and PC), yet Nintendo has 3 of the top 10 best selling games. One of them is a brand new IP. We may very well see a situation in a year or two where Nintendo dominate the best selling games charts similar to the Wii and DS (which was the reason for the change to reporting multiple SKUs)

We’ll get to Crash below, but here is what the analyst had to say about the game:

“Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy had a strong debut, reaching number 4 on the month’s top-seller chart despite having only two days in market,” said Piscatella. “Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy is the first Crash Bandicoot franchise game to debut in the top 5 since Crash Bandicoot: Warped, which launched on the Sony PlayStation in November 1998”

Hardware

“The PlayStation 4 was June’s best-selling hardware platform, driven by the Slim PlayStation 4 system in Gold with 1TB HDD,” said Piscatella. “It was the best performing June for PlayStation 4 unit sales to date.”

The analyst statement aligns with total software sales. Despite strong sales for PS4, overall software sales only grew 1 percent. This is in spite of the large library of games on the PS4 and Nintendo propping up sales with their new system.

However, I don’t think the Gold system alone was the reason for the increase. Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy is also a reason for the increase (if not the main reason). As the analyst mentioned above, Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy is the first time the series topped the charts since 1998. As I mentioned before, Crash Bandicoot did very well in the late 90s and later fell off due to quality.

The rule in the console market is that games sell software. So when you have a major hit like Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy doing incredibly well, it’s no surprise that sales of the PS4 would also go up. A Gold PS4 with a 1TB HHD may be nice, it’s just a shiny box without any games. Thus, I think Crash was the catalyst for the PS4’s strong sales. 

Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy And Nostalgia Buck

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you nostalgia sells. Look at the numerous remakes of old movies coming out of Hollywood nowadays. Video games are no different. Look at Sonic Mania. Consumers are incredibly excited for the title despite the lackluster track record of the series. Given this, it’s bizarre when Sony’s global head of marketing Jim Ryan says he doesn’t understand why anyone would want to play old Playstation 1 and 2 games:

When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much. That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?

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SNES Classic: Why Nintendo is Making It

Earlier this week, Nintendo announced an SNES. When I saw it, all I thought was, “why?”. Despite the rumors, I didn’t think this product would exist. Why cease production on one product having not meet demand to make a similar product. I believe there is more to this story than Nintendo has let on. So let’s examine why this product exists.

Reasons That Don’t Make Sense

There are a few ideas and thoughts I’ve heard online (and some I thought myself) as for why this product is being made. Before discussing the reason Nintendo made this product, I want to address some reasons I don’t agree with.

The obvious answer is that Nintendo just wants to make lots of money. If money was the sole reasons, then why would Nintendo kill the NES Classic, a product that Nintendo has not meet demand for? Nintendo would be better served more NES Classics than making the SNES version. For references, the NES sold 61.91 million while the SNES sold 49.10 million. If Nintendo was just trying to make money, then it would make more sense to meet demand for the NES Classic before making this.

Alternatively, Nintendo may be making this product because the Switch will be sold out this year. Nintendo wanted some other product to sell. Ignoring the fact that the SNES Classic will be sold out too, I don’t think this is the reason either. Rumors of the SNES Classic came out immediately after the NES Classic was discontinued. Nintendo likely made the decision before the Nintendo Switch was a rousing success.

Why Does the SNES Classic Exist

In 2014, President Iwata stated that Nintendo’s strengths were its IPs

For more than 30 years now, Nintendo has been creating various IP for its game software, and as new iterations of the franchises are introduced, the value of each IP is strengthened. Today, there are many fans for each IP, and each one has different consumers with different lifestyles.

Therefore, it is natural that the best way to communicate our IP to each consumer also differs. We choose the most appropriate method to try to maximize the number of people who encounter Nintendo IP and, as a result, we will further expand the gaming population. This is our basic strategy.

When Nintendo presented this strategy, they presented it in terms of mobile gaming, yet this strategy is not exclusive to mobile. Nintendo later presented that the company would be working with Universal Studios. Additionally, Nintendo has discussed working on movies and animation. The strategy is not exclusive to mobile devices.

In Iwata’s own words, the point is to “choose the most appropriate method to try and maximize the number of people who encounter Nintendo IP.” So, why could this not also related to products like the NES Classic and the SNES Classic? Nintendo’s IPs are their games, so exposing customers to the older games is another method of “encountering” Nintendo IPs.

This theory is supported by comments from Gamestop managers. Before the official announcement, one reporter interviewed various Gamestop managers who had been told of the systems in a behind closed doors event. One comment stuck out. They stated, “With these plug-and-play systems, they want headlines and foot traffic, dude.” The author adds this may be his opinion rather than Nintendo strategy. Nevertheless, his statement coincides with Nintendo’s actions with both the NES Classic and SNES Classic. And boy, there were headlines for this system, including sites like Fox and The Verge.

The Future of the Classics

When looking at any product, it’s easy to look only in terms of profit generation. Companies sell products to reap profits, but Nintendo, like with the mobile games, is using a product to market their IPs. Naturally, Nintendo is going to make the SNES Classic to turn a profit, but profits are not the prime directive of the product. The point is to get Nintendo IPs to as many people as possible so they’ll turn around and buy Nintendo consoles.

All in all, I don’t think this is the last time we’ll see a “Classic” system. Once the NES Classic became a hit, the systems became a dedicated pillar of Nintendo’s IP push. My expectation is that Nintendo will turn the “Classic” products into a consistent mainstay. Nintendo could release a N64 Classic, a Wii Classic or even re-release the NES or SNES Classic. Nevertheless, as long as they generate foot traffic and headlines, we’ll keep seeing plug-and-play systems from Nintendo.

NPD May 2017 Analysis

We’re back with NPD data for the month of May. April was missed as I wanted to get some E3 related articles out. But we’ll press on with May.

From Venturebeat

May Results

  • Total: $542 million (down 11 percent from $610 million in May 2017)
  • Hardware: $147 million (up 7 percent from $138 million)
  • Console software: $271 million (down 20 percent from $339 million)
  • PC software: $12 million (down 48 percent from $23 million)
  • Accessories: $112 million (up 1 percent from $111 million)

“Total video game spending in May 2017, which includes hardware, software and accessories, fell 11 percent versus year ago to $542 million,” NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said in a statement. “Spending growth in hardware and accessories was offset by a decline in software spending driven by a lighter new release slate when compared to May 2016.”

Total spending saw a decline primarily from weaker software sales. The biggest reason seems to be Overwatch which released in May 2016. The game sold significantly well on release and is still selling. According to a press release from Activision Blizzard, the game sold 7 million units by June 2, 2016 (specifically states players). It would be hard to top this.

Software

  1. Injustice 2
  2. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe*
  3. Grand Theft Auto V The
  4. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*
  5. Prey*
  6. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  7. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadow of Valentia*
  8. NBA 2K17
  9. MLB 17: The Show
  10. Overwatch**

“Video game software dollar sales in May 2017 fell 20 percent versus year ago to $271 million,” said Piscatella. “The new release slate of May 2016, led by Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Overwatch and Doom proved a challenging comparable.”

As I mentioned above, sales declined due to Overwatch being a huge hit last May. Injustice 2 was the big hit this month, but it couldn’t compete with Overwatch. Venturebeats noted that Injustice 2 beat out Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and was the 9th best selling game of the year. I point this out because Nintendo fans love to cite Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as evidence for more Wii U ports. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sold so well because Mario Kart always sells so well. Any other Mario Kart would have dominated the charts similar to Overwatch and Grand Theft Auto V (just look at sales of the Wii version). In fact, Mario Kart isn’t in the top 10 best selling games of 2017 (while Zelda is). If anything, it proves the Switch can’t succeed on Wii U ports.

Additionally, in my March NPD analysis I noted how the analyst hyped Horizon: Zero Dawn and Mass Effect. Now, these titles sit at spot 12 and 15 respectively. On the other hand, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild remains in the top 10 at 4, and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, too, sits at 6. Despite industry hype, these games are fading out.

“The launch of Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadow of Valentia pushed May portable software spending up 10 percent versus year ago,” said Piscatella.

I’m pointing this out as more an interesting factoid. Nintendo achieved a certain rhythm with Fire Emblem. The fact that the game increased portable spending by 10 percent is impressive.

Hardware

“Hardware spending grew 7 percent compared to May 2016, to $147 million,” said Piscatella. “Nintendo Switch continues to be the primary catalyst for hardware spending gains, as it has since launching in March 2017.”

I’m sure Sony fans are jumping for joy over the PS4 outselling the Switch, but there is more to this story. The NPD analyst confirmed the reason for the increase was due to Switch. Hardware spending grew only $9 million from May 2016. If we assume the additional $9 million was just Switch, that would mean the system only sold 30,000 (9 million divided by the $300 sticker price). For comparison, the Switch sells over 20,000 in Japan every week. Furthermore, the US gaming market exceeds Japan’s, but even if we assume the Switch moved 80,000 units in May, this would account for $24 million in spending. The real number is most likely higher. This means Sony is seeing a decent decline in sales over the prior year. Sony’s victory is due to the Switch’s low supply. The real figures may be bad for Sony.

“On a time-aligned basis over each product’s first 43 months in market, the combined installed base of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One now exceeds the combined installed base of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by 29 percent,” said Piscatella.

For references, the point of time they are comparing to was around 2009 in the heart of the Great Recession. Hardware spending should be up. I believe this line may be a buffer from bad news about PS4 and XBox One.    

Liked it? Hated it? Please let me know in the comments below. 

Kickstarter Campaign Project Rap Rabbit Failed

Project Rap Rabbit, a Kickstarter Project based on rhythm games like PaRappa the Rapper, failed to make its funding goal. The project only raised 162,000 pounds, only 19 percent of its original funding goal.

From the latest Kickstarter update

Your excitement for Project Rap Rabbit has been wonderful to behold, but today we must sadly accept that our crowd-funding journey must end here. We knew that sourcing funds for a high-quality rhythm-action game would be tough, and though we knew that Project Rap Rabbit would be an incredible game, unfortunately, we weren’t able to do enough to prove that to the wider world.

We sadly are not in the position to be able to fund further production for a future crowd-funding relaunch involving a title deeper in development, and wouldn’t want to scale back our vision. As a result, work on Project Rap Rabbit cannot continue at this time.

There are two things that come to mind with this Kickstarter

1. There was no demand for a PaRappa style game

 

 

Despite the designer’s best intention, perhaps games like PaRappa the Rapper died out because fans didn’t want them anymore. These games had a limited run on the PS1 and were niche games even in their own time. I’m sure there are plenty of fans who would kill for a new rhythm game like this, but the Kickstarter shows these fans are a minority at best.

2.This is the end of Revival Kickstarters

It’s true that a major reason this Kickstarter failed is due to limited demand for this game. Nevertheless, it’s otherwise unheard of for a retro revival Kickstarter to not only fail to meet its funding goal, yet Project Rap Rabbit miss it by a staggering 80 percent. This is in stark contrast to the other retro-style Kickstarters that blast past their initial funding goal.

There is a general fatigue with these kinds of games. Developers promise the world, but rarely do these games deliver. The game’s developers promise the moon and the stars. However, the projects take forever to release and are often inferior to the game they are trying to emulate. The newest indie darling Yooka-Laylee failed to deliver on its promise of a “Rare-vival.” On Metacritic, the game scored an average score 73 from critics and scored even worse with users at 6.6. After so many failed attempts, potential backers are done with these types of projects games.

It may be a long time until we see another revival Kickstarter project if we see one at all.

What The Major Console Manufacturers Need to Do at E3

E3 is finally upon us. It’s finally Christmas, and we wake to all the presents under the tree. Now, most games media focus on who will “Win” E3. The new outlets award an arbitrary trophy to a company for what they show. But at The Video Game Accountant, I’m more interested in who has the best business prospects. Since the goal of E3 is to showcase your products, here is what I think the console manufacturers need to do to profit.

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