Monday, June 26, 2017

SNES Mini Is Coming

Back in April, remember when I posted that everyone should wait until Nintendo issues a statement before they go crazy about an SNES Mini? Well, you can freak out now.

Nintendo has announced an SNES Mini will be made available just before the holiday seasons. Retailing at $79.99, the compact Super Nintendo Entertainment System will be out starting September 29th and will include 21 games. Including the never released Star Fox 2. Yeah. You read that right. Star Fox 2. We've had spin-offs and newer versions of the game releasing with most Nintendo systems, but the fabled #2 never appeared. It will also have Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Oh, and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Who knew that would happen? There's also Final Fantasy III, but I don't know if that's Japan FF3 or NA FF3, which is actually 6. If it's 6, then hot damn - that's a good buy!

Systems are going to be stylized by region to reflect the "retro" look of the systems when they were released. In Europe, it means slightly different colors and markings.

But the big question on everyone's mind is will Nintendo be able to keep up with demand? Last year's Nintendo Mini release was lacking a lot of stock and a growing number of complaints from consumers. You were lucky if you got a system at all. And just when we hoped Nintendo would produce more, they simply ended production a few months ago. Barely 6 months on the market and only a lucky few able to wait hours in lines, or pay scalper prices, were able to buy the system. Nintendo is notorious for being the worst at supply and demand - much to the ire of fans. While it may work for them to drive up interest, it makes the company appear unfriendly to those who want the product. So don't expect Nintendo to change for the SNES Mini. Small stock and long lines are in our future.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Where Was the VR?

One thing you may have notice lacking at E3 this year were VR games. Last year, with the Rift and Vive around the corner, Sony pumped up their show to be all about the VR experience. Even my trip to PAX West (formerly Prime) last year, their booth was all about VR. This year, well other then Bethesda rocking on Doom and Fallout 4, it wasn't a blip on the radar. What happened?

VR got a much bigger boost in interest from investors then previous gimmicks like 3D. Many of us are thrilled that the 3D televisions did not take off, though Hollywood is still insistent on making 3D movies and tacking on a $15 surcharge to the tickets. But unlike it's predecessors, VR has been a very long building process trying to create a foundation. Everyone in the industry knew going in that once VR "launched" to the public, interest would be high at first, slow down, and then we would be left with a solid core to build future content off of. That's essentially what has happened. Rift's and Vive's are still on the market. SquareEnix, Sony, Bethesda, and Microsoft are all producing games centered around VR peripherals. Games such as Star Trek: Bridge Crew are racking up sales and YouTube hits left and right - this is an amazingly fun, team game and I highly recommend it to those who are not VR challenged.

VR isn't dead. Not by a longshot. It had it's big moment when sales began, and now developers are focusing on the foundation that was created to develop new games. The next step for VR is to fine-tune the equipment, make the content worth people's money, and possibly bring it out of the homes and into the real world. Don't count out VR yet. It's got a lot of life left in it. So it didn't make a big splash at E3 this year, and that's okay. It had it's moment in the spotlight last round. Now the real work begins.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

I'm calling it today. We're doing an early rendition of the Weekly Link Round Up, which will be mostly a Weekly Link List Round Up. There are so many top 5, top 10's, top 20's released on various gaming sites this week, that it would be a shame to let them all go to waste. We need to highlight the best, worst, and weirdest ranking lists today! Incoming lighthearted post to perk up your spirits:

- The Top 5 Best Selfies in Video Games. That one is not a joke, and yes it is a real article. Yesterday was National Selfie Day, which is also a real thing. GameRevolution celebrated by focusing on games where selfies make an appearance. On the list is D.Va's intro from Overwatch, and Grand Theft Auto V, which has a glorified "selfie" photo mode. But they focused on a very, um, Trevor image. It's creepy.

- IGN looks at the Top 10 Games that were Missing from E3. In all fairness, a lot of things were left out of E3, such as original/new games. But I'm surprised that a gaming magnet such as IGN was hoping for content from Shenmue 3 and Red Dead Redemption 2. Shenmue has opted to take the Kickstarter route and because of that, it has a much more modest budget to work with and not as big of a backing to produce. Getting that game to E3 would cost time and money the company doesn't have. Even with Sony showing "support" at E3 two years ago by inviting the creator onto the stage, that doesn't mean they are giving them money left and right to develop it. With Rockstar Games, have they ever really played ball at E3? No. They haven't. They do their own thing and that's why we love them. I understand that IGN is trying to drum up readers, but this list is off the mark, even for them.

- WhatCulture is gracing us with their presence with a list of the Top 10 Hotly-Anticipated Games Still to Come in 2017. No surprise here, all but 1 game is a sequel, prequel, or spin-off. That being Cuphead, a whimsical action platformer that looks like an animation straight from the 1940's. But at this point, 2017 can officially be called the year of game sequels. On the list there's Super Mario Odyssey, Wolfenstein II, and Ass Creed Origins. It's nothing really spectacular - I was hoping WhatCulture would throw in some twists to this list!

- Games has an...interesting article that only applies to game studios in the UK. Six Ways to Make the Most of the Video Game Tax Relief. In 2014, a coalition was launched to help provide tax relief and subsidies to gaming studios throughout the country to help boost business and create more jobs. So far it's working. As more developers settle in the UK, knowing about the tax relief can help improve their work environment and make use of the start-up help that so many need.

- Twinfinite will hit your nostalgic button today with a list of the Top 100 PS2 Games! The downside is that this list has no ranking, but maybe that's for the best. 100 games is A LOT, especially for the PS2. Narrowing down the list to only 100 is a feat on it's own. And it opens up the debate for people to talk about which ones are the best of the bunch! The list includes Dark Cloud 2 (one of my favorites and I'm glad that others see it too), Amplitude, Bully, Disgaea, and Psychonauts. What do you think are the best games for the PS2?

- Kotaku spent some of their time at E3 this year, asking attendees which video game character they felt would make a great roommate. An important question! With answers ranging from Mega Man to Nathan Drake, there are an endless array of options on who would be the perfect roomie.

- Sega has announced Sega Forever, a collection of classic Sega games that you can play on mobile. The best part, it's all free! Starting Friday, you can download their app and play a selection of Sega titles on the go. Every two weeks, the company plans to add more games, and it sounds like it'll be a rotating selection with some titles dropping to add in new ones. My thumbs are ready to test Sonic's speed limits!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Twitch Now Sole Provider of Blizzard Competition Streams

While Twitch has been a partner with Blizzard for multiple eSports competitions over the years, particularly with Hearthstone (courtesy of Geico) and recently Overwatch, two two companies have made the relationship official. From here on out, all eSports streaming for Blizzard games will be handled by Twitch.

Through 2018, Twitch will be streaming over 20 events and competitions for all Blizzard IP's, including Starcraft II and Heroes of the Storm. Both games are widely popular in South Korea and bring in millions of revenue. Twitch will be streaming regional and global events, including the Starcraft World Champion Series. Blizzard will still have their own stream for gamers through their platform. But Twitch will be the sole third-party provider.

There are also additional perks! If you are a Twitch Prime/Amazon Prime member, exclusive in-game items will be made available over the next year and a half for Blizzard games. Overwatch players can expect a gold lootbox starting next Tuesday. All the more reason to sign up for Twitch Prime if you haven't yet. Or if you already have an Amazon Prime account, simply link the two and you are set. Blizzard has always played well with Twitch, and the additional perks are a nice bonus to those who already subscribe to Amazon. It's another, good outlet to keep fans engaged and bring in new faces.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It's True: Atari Is Making a New Console

Famed video game console maker Atari is planning to release a new system, the first in over 20 years. You read that right, and we are mostly certain this isn't a joke. Last week, a website for the AtariBox popped up with a teaser trailer. Since then, people have been speculating as to what it could be. Is it a re-release of a classic Atari console? Is it something new? Is it someone pranking us? Will it have that wood grain we all know and find stylishly unappealing?

Atari CEO Fred Chesnais spoke with VentureBeat to confirm that yes, the company is making a new system. But he didn't provide much details beyond it using PC components and that they were still working on the design.

Since Chesnais' purchase of the company in 2013, he has been steadily putting the Atari name back on the minds of consumers. More recently it has been focused on the mobile market, helping develop and produce phone games. You can see product placement for it in the upcoming 'Bladerunner' movie.Chesnais feels confident that a system from the developer would be coming in at the right time. If it's a retro-console similar to the mini-Nintendo, they would have an instant hit. Hopefully they'll have more then 2 consoles at a store and not BE like Nintendo. We will find out more in the coming months/years.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sequels Rule the Roost

E3 is done! I hope they plan to open up passes next year for the public again, because I am camping those like a mofo and jumping in. While the content on the show floor looked amazing and it was great to see so much more of the event as it happened, the major developer presentations were just okay. I know some people are raving about how Nintendo won, or Sony won. But really, did anyone "win" this round?

E3 2017 is going to be marked as the year of sequels and remakes. What's more annoying is that all of us are going to buy the content. I am ready and waiting for the South Park sequel, as well as Mario Odyssey and the Crash Bandicoot re-release.

The fact is that franchises work and sell because they are something people are familiar with. It's why we have a billion CSI spin-offs, so many Marvel superhero movies in the making, Resident Evil 7, and more Mario games then you probably don't know all of them. Why do people like sequels and prequels? What keeps us entertained seeing the same thing over and over again?

Part of it is comfort in knowing what we are going to get out of the product. When we play a game for the first time, whether it's The Last of Us or The Legend of Zelda, and we love the results, we treasure those feelings. We want future games to be able to capture those same emotions. That's what sequels are about - eliciting those same tones to cause us to react favorably towards the product. We want more Mario games because of the joy they provided us when we were kids - and Mario titles excel at capturing nostalgia. We want more Resident Evil with the unexpected fear and scares, because no other title has frightened us as much as RE. Even when the sequel isn't very good (sorry RE6, but I do mean you), we still want it for those nostalgic feelings the game creates.

This feeling of sticking with the known, not testing the waters, is why we have so many copy/paste stories. Can you remember the last time that we've had an original game with new plots that we haven't seen before? Look at war games: Call of Duty, Battlefield, Men of War, Company of Heroes. Is there anything unique about these titles, other then the developers behind them? Even the box art for each title looks incredibly similar. Why? Because there's comfort in knowing what to expect. For as much as I praise Horizon: Zero Dawn, it's still a mash-up of dystopian stories that have been told before.

This isn't to say that sequels are a bad thing, but it does provide a pretty bland environment when gaming can be so much more. For a medium with no boundaries, it seems content on following Hollywood for it's sequel trends.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

It's the Weekly Link Round Up! All the news, reviews, and weird stories about video games on the internet this week. Even though it's been flooded with E3 content, there were a few gems to pull from the rubble. Here's what we've found:

- Niel deGrasse Tyson is making a video game on 'Space Odyssey.' I really don't need to say anything else. It's deGrasse. Making a video game. Coolness level 100% achieved! Go check it out and fund it!

- may not always have the best stories, but this one is worth a few minutes of your time. Political writer Amanda Marcotte recently interviewed Patrick Markey, co-writer of the book "Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Wrong." The book is a sensible review on age/generation gaps and the looming stigma of video games. They also dive into the Golidlocks effect; the idea that every generation thinks what they are doing is right and everyone else before or after has done, or will do it wrong. Video games are stuck in this field when it comes to discussing it with older generations. I did not expect this to come out of, but there you go!

- EnGadget tackles the topic of video game violence, and how it has changed over time. As games have evolved and become more immersive, so has the gore. And developers are taking greater care to ensure the content they produce isn't as evil as politicians make it out to be. Jessica Conditt speaks with a few developers and their responses are very interesting.

- DigitalTrends checked out some of the hit, well, trends from E3 this year. Some of them are obvious, such as the jump-slow motion aiming thing that Horizon has made popular. Others are silly. Like bears. Apparently there were bears all over the place at E3 this year. In games. As plastic props in booths. People in costumes on stage...dancing. E3 is a strange place.

- Speaking of Bears, the W Hotel brand has launched a mobile game called Belle to Bear. The game is similar to Frogger and is being used to market their newest hotel in Bellevue, Washington. Players must guide a bear through obstacles such as trees, rivers, and bees, to make it to the hotel. There is currently a competition underway. The 5 highest scores will receive prizes, including a complimentary 3-night stay at the hotel.

- Did you know there is a Tour de France video game? Yeah. I didn't either. Announced in a press release yesterday, the 2017 game is now available on PC, PS4, and XBox One. Like most sports games, you can create your own racer, customize, and create your own racing team to compete with others online. There's probably an in-game betting system as well, because sports game. I just didn't know this was a thing. Anything can be a game these days!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Konami Buffoonery: The Legend Continues

When you thought Konami couldn't do anything worse, after ousting Hideo Kojima and steadily transforming the business to a mobile-only outlet, they had to go and pull another "dumb." According to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review, Konami Japan is apparently blacklisting former employees to ensure they no longer work in the industry.

Because...Konami is a dick? I really don't know why they would do that. Not only is it counter-productive to motivating the team that they should do better, but it also prevents new talent from considering your company for work. Knowing that Konami is going to blacklist you if you leave or if you're fired, then why bother working for them?

According to Nikkei, two months ago an unnamed Kojima Productions executive applied for Kojima to join ITS Kenpo. ITS is a health services company that focuses on those working in the video game industry. The application was denied as one of the board members is also on the board with Konami.

Former employees are also finding it hard to work just about anywhere if they try to use the "Konami name" anywhere on their resume. One person said “If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job." "One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant."

If any of this is true, that's got to be an ethics violation that could lead Konami down some very treacherous legal proceedings. And given how many gamers have turned away from the company after the Kojima incident, this is more reason for fans to leave the company behind entirely. I mean,  EA is not a great company to work for and tends to release a lot of half-ass products without much thought. But at least they don't blacklist former employees to prevent them from getting work anywhere so they could, ya know, SURVIVE. Konami is on dangerous ground right now and will have a difficult time regaining the faith of consumers.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How to Be a Video Game Streamer Part 4: The Hard Truth

If you've been following along so far, good for you! You are on your way to setting up and running your own gaming channel. And if you haven't, be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to start your journey.

Streaming and creating videos about you playing video games can be a lot of fun. And a lot of hard work.

What if your channel doesn't take off? What if you don't get tens of thousands of subscribers to your Twitch feed? What if you don't get any donations so you can quit your day job and do this full time?

Welcome to the reality check. Part 4 is going to focus on The Hard Truth. And what is that truth?

Not everyone can be internet famous.

That may seem obvious, given the billions of videos that are on YouTube right now, and many have no views. But when you are gearing up and jumping into streaming for the first time, you're excited! You are doing your best and giving it your all, knowing, and hoping, that you'll make money to do it full time. You don't think about how there are already thousands of well known streamers that people already donate to monthly and won't be able to give money to others. You don't think about the other hundred's of thousands of streamers (yes, there are that many now) who do this day in and day out and never gain new fans. You don't think about how competitive the market is for streaming to obtain viewers in hopes to get their attention, and their money. You just want this to work and have fun doing it.

"Streaming is so easy," they say. It's not.

For every one successful Markplier you have a hundred thousand streamers that have 0-10 followers and no reach. Being internet famous is no different then Hollywood famous. There are millions of actors and actresses in the world, but only a handful reach that notoriety of being infamous where we know their names. And being famous is completely random! Sometimes it's from hard work. Other times you catch a lucky break and another famous person/streamer talks about you and bam! You're on the front page. More often then not, fame is accidental. It happens when it happens and you can't guarantee it. Otherwise, we'd all be internet famous and no one would be making money from streaming.

Fame can also be fleeting. For those who were able to grab onto that 15 minutes, they worked hard to keep it. Most people will let it slide and your fame is gone. It's here and out the door a moment later.

What I'm getting at is, you may not be famous from streaming. You may not reach the same level of success as PewDiePie. And that's okay! You don't have to be like the others to enjoy streaming.

One of the best ways to keep yourself from falling into pits where you feel like you're failing, is to set modest goals. Be humble. Be yourself. And be honest with your work. Don't try to aim for 100,000 subscribers in your first month on YouTube. Go for 10. As your fan-base grows, so can your goals.

And while you are being honest, think about your personality. Are you a likeable person? Do others find you funny or entertaining? Do people enjoy being around you because of your comedic nature? It can be very difficult to force comedy. If you don't practice daily, you better have a natural talent for being charming. Audiences don't want to watch a streamer who is "faking it." They want genuine people with natural charisma to latch onto. The streamers that are successful are the ones that are the most like their real-world selves and not characters. If you don't have that natural draw, then streaming may not be a good fit for you.

Does that mean you shouldn't stream? No. If you enjoy it, do it! I don't have thousands of fans, but I still like to stream, I still have people that follow, and we have a great time chatting with each other. My goals are very modest and I don't expect to get monthly donations. All I want out of streaming is to have fun and meet new people through gaming. If it means that some days I talk to the void and no one is watching, that's fine. There are other days where I get a full house of viewers it's a great time!

Now it's not all doom and gloom. If you do want to play games for a living, and get paid for it, there is another route to take that many "streamer" articles overlook: Quality Assurance. Game studios are always looking for people to test their products. Your job is to play these games to find problems that need to be fixed. You are getting paid to break games. If you are the type of person who is inquisitive, that likes to find new ways to play a game, and have people tell you that you are a perfectionist, you'd probably make a good QA. This can range from studio to studio on the types of positions that are available. Some only hire QA's as needed for temporary work. Others need full-time QA's (MMO's and MOBA's).

Hours can range, and sometimes the studios are pretty flexible with you so if you need to work a second job or go to school for day classes, you can. And in a number of cases, your temporary QA job could lead to a permanent position. A number of today's gaming developers will tell you that QA is a good start into this job market. It gives you baseline experience in the development world. Yes, you'll have a boss. Yes you'll have to follow the company's rules. But you know what's awesome about it? A steady paycheck. And some companies will offer temporary insurance for QA! YouTube can't give you that. If you want to have a career in game design, this is a good route to go.

Well, I hope you found this 4 Part series helpful on your journey to become a video game streamer. Remember, be humble. Be honest. And find what you love about streaming and hold onto it. Don't lose that feeling; it will help you get through the hard work. Oh, and don't forget who gave you all this helpful advice should you become internet famous.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

E3 Major Conferences Round Up

In previous years I've had the luxury of being able to watch the streams live and comment on them almost immediately. Yeah, that didn't happen this time. I was at a convention and regret my life choices. So I was stuck waiting until I was at a desktop, because screw streaming to your phone on hotel wi-fi, to watch the madness unfold. Instead of going from conference to conference with each developer that showcased these past 3 days, I'm going to lump them all into one post for easy digesting.

Let's look at what the big guns have to show off this year!

- Microsoft: This E3 is all about Project Scorpio; now officially called the XBox One X. At least they are consistent about their naming nomenclature. Releasing November 7th, the system will retail for $499 USD while the original XBox One (S) will drop to $249. Launch titles to look forward to: Forza Motorsport 7 and, well, that's all they really focused on. But Forza is still a big deal for gamers, so they didn't need to do much else to push it. Other news from MC: Minecraft will get boosted to 4K for reasons, and the new BioWare game Anthem was featured. The presentation held some old and new things, but nothing really awe-inspiring. A number of the games mentioned are not exclusive or rehashes of past games in a different wrapping. It wasn't a bad presentation, but it wasn't great either.

- Sony: Last year Sony showed off some new games, talked about VR, and wowed us with a bitchin' looking God of War. This's pretty much the same thing, but better refined. It was more God of War, DLC for Horizon: Zero Dawn, Spiderman, and VR. Meh. The only big freak-out news was that Monster Hunter would come to PS4 and it looks glorious. But let's not hold our breath here. This was pretty subpar as a presentation and showcased nothing that would convince a person to buy a PS4. You can see The Verge's 5 minute wrap-up for the full breakdown.

- Electronic Arts (EA): The company is trying really hard to get us to buy into Star Wars: Battlefront. After mixed reviews from the latest revival, EA spent the last half of their presentation focusing on Battlefront II, which will expand the full Star Wars legacy of episodes 1-6, and multiplayer maps will be free to download so you can continue to keep playing the game. Most importantly, there will be a single player campaign. And it better be good, EA. Don't make it a 3 hour throw-away. EA also focused heavily on sports games, because it is what they do best, and that's really the bulk of their presentation. The other games mentioned, Anthem and A Way Out were blips on the radar that became overshadowed by sports and Star Wars.

- Bethesda: Other then trying to get us to continue to buy more re-releases of Elder Scrolls, the company did do another bump for VR - this time for Fallout 4 and Doom. Yeah. Doom is going VR. That sounds amazing and scary at the same time. Both titles are expected to be out by the end of the year. The company is also releasing Creation Club, a hub for modders that will allow people to access limitless content through all platforms, including Nintendo's Switch, to add content to their games. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus looks stellar and seems to have a very strong story to drive the content, outside of the typical war games. The company has never been afraid to dive into the political and social foray, and Wolfenstein is coming out at a time when we need it.

- Ubisoft: AssCreed. AssCreed. AssCreed. Oh, and Beyond Good and Evil 2 is a prequel. But mostly AssCreed. I think most of my memory of this presentation was wiped out by Beyond Good and Evil. We've been waiting on a sequel for 15 years, and the trailer came out of left field. No one was expecting it. I re-watched the presentation and was still floored by it. And I think the internet-wide freak-out will be enough fuel for Ubisoft to realize that yes, they need to continue with this project. Scrap it, and you'll have mutiny on your hands! So I don't really remember what else happened. Another South Park trailer, along with a phone game. More Far Cry 5 development. Skull & Bones, a "new" title that uses the Black Flag framework for more piratey goodness. That's about the jist of it.

Nintendo Direct starts at 9am PST today! Don't miss out.