The Tuesday letters page worries that next gen games are just too expensive to make, as one reader is concerned about lootboxes and FIFA 22.
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Change of management
I’ll be honest, I think the complaints against Halo Infinite are a bit overdone. Sure, 343 couldn’t organise the proverbial booze up in a brewery but I think the quality of their work is very good. Infinite is definitely their best game amd if it wasn’t for them being so slow with the post-launch support I think it’d be held up as an instant classic.
It seems to me the problems are to do with management more than anything else and while that’s clearly a serious problem it should be something that can be fixed. Although it is weird that this has been going on since at least The Master Chief Collection, with 343 acting like some two-man indie outfit in a way that actual indie developers never do.
But really, just focus the team, fix the bugs that the community tells you about (not just ones you pick at random), add more content and don’t make a battle royale. If Halo’s player-base is going down it’s not because people are pining for another Fortnite clone, it’s because they’re bored of the same old maps and modes, and all the broken promises and bugs.
There’s nothing wrong with Halo Infinite, it’s already a great game. It just needs more of everything, and quicky. The easiest way to save Halo is to fire whoever’s in charge and get the team working on priorities. It’s all there already, it just needs reorganising.
With the mention of that sill Resident Evil Re:Verse game it got me thinking about when we could expect to start hearing about Resident Evil 9. I looked at the times between the last two though and it was about four years though, so not anytime soon – even if they’re almost certainly already working on it.
Then I realised we haven’t heard anything about the DLC yet, or an official announcement for Resident Evil 4. I few more brain cell rotations and I realised it’s absolutely ages since Capcom has announced anything, just that weird dinosaur game where they fall from the sky.
They must have a ton of stuff behind the curtains but it’s unusual for them to be this quiet for this long. I can’t work out if it’s just a coincidence or if they’re saving it up for a reason. Don’t tell me they’re going to get bought out as well!
GC: They might not have shown much of either, but they have officially announced Street Fighter 6 and whatever Pragmata is. You’re right though, they have been very quiet lately.
I have a 12-year-old addicted to FIFA 22 and especially so with the recent upgrade where he can make his team. So I was shocked recently to see a whopping £80 bill on my PlayStation Store account charged to my credit card.
Background: my son never buys anything on PlayStation without my permission and in the past 12 months we’ve only bought one game as he has a 12 month PlayStation Store subscription. Plus, we buy games on disk (I know, old fashioned).
I asked my son and he says he has not ‘purchased’ any tokens. In the game you actively buy the cards and then it takes you to the payment process where it asks for the account password (which he doesn’t know).
The only tokens he uses are ones he gets as a result of playing the game and those you simply add at the end of the game and are instantly credited to buy players, etc.
Is there any way these are somehow not free and are instead charged? And in this case bypassing the card and password checks? If so, then I consider this fraud.
I trust Sony to ensure payments that are managed through its system are followed correctly and there should not be any ‘backdoor’ where these are bypassed. My son still believes the tokens he has used are free. I don’t know, could you help please?
Phoning Sony was a super disappointing experience. The chap said that he looked at the transactions and they are made on the same serial number so as far as they are concerned, these are valid. I however, asked him to validate the payment method was not bypassed and he couldn’t do that, nor could he confirm if someone was able to fraudulently bypass the serial number and make it seem as we used the tokens. To me it’s wrong they can fully administer and goers this as we have no way of proving or checking this or even know their data is not flawed.
Much appreciate any advice you have.
Grateful Father (grown up on C64 games)
GC: We don’t know enough about FIFA to suggest anything (we get in specialised freelancers to handle sports game reviews) but we’re sure a reader can help.
E-mail your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Licence to ill
Of course the first thing EA did when it got The Lord Of The Rings licence back is to make a gacha game… I can only imagine how hard Tolkien is spinning in his grave right now.
Naturally, I hope that they will make a real game as well but I’m not sure who they’d get to make it. BioWare seems the most obvious choice but would they want to make that and Dragon Age at the same time? I can’t see it.
One guess and I’m already out of ideas, except to say that FromSoftware isn’t happening either.
Just writing to tell you that I have had a couple of comments rejected, sorry I didn’t reply to GameCentral’s message a few weeks ago about rejected comments but I had already deleted the e-mails detailing what I
had said. You rejected two messages today.
The first was: ‘Yes, but could I get it running on my printer? Over the years Doom has been ported to various hardware including a printer!’.
The second comment was: ‘PlayStation 5 stock alert at ShopTo. Received email about it today at 10.49am.’
When I posted about free games before during the week or on the weekend they get rejected after a while, this didn’t used to happen. Sometimes free games only appear on the weekend or late Friday and then for 48 hours only so I can’t write into the Inbox to tell people about it as by the time the inbox is on again on Monday the games are not free.
PS: Martial Law is free on GOG.
GC: As you can imagine, we don’t really have anything to do with that, but we’ll try and look into it for you.
The cost of the next gen
To respond to the feature over the weekend about ending cross-gen games, I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon for two pretty big reasons. The first and most obvious is that with the chip shortage next gen machines still aren’t really available to just buy, you can’t walk into Currys or log into Amazon and buy a PlayStation 5 still, and shortages are only now just starting to ease with Xbox Series X. Not to mention the mess the next gen PC GPU scene is in.
That than feeds into the other, probably much bigger, problem… true next gen games are just far too expensive to produce, with even the platform holders like Sony and Microsoft only willing to take the hit on a few standouts to try and push new machine sales. This trend has obviously been going on for quite some time but in the world of 4K gaming it takes many hundreds of developers many years and many, many millions of pounds to produce a single triple-A game, and it feels like with this new generation we’ve hit a tipping point with it.
Someone on Digital Foundry made a good point recently that it wasn’t the new hardware that was going to be the constraining factor for games that would be a significant leap forward, it was literally finding the manpower and the finances to manage the projects and produce the software. A situation I don’t think the video game industry has been in before?
The other quirk is that each console generation actually has sold a similar number of units, PlayStation 4/Xbox One is around 160 million as was PlayStation 3/Xbox 360, so the player base isn’t actually getting larger despite increasing costs (let’s park Nintendo since they haven’t directly competed since the GameCube).
I do worry about the future given the second point. It is surely unsustainable now. Is the subscription model or cloud gaming gonna save the day? I don’t see it… things like Game Pass and PS Plus will just lead to publishers and platform holders trying increasingly intrusive means to monetise their subscribed player base. Like what we are hearing around NFTs, live service games, patents for in-game adverts, etc., etc. The future looks very bleak.
GC: You make a good point in terms of the cost of making high-end games this gen. We assume you mention Nintendo purely in terms of hardware power though, as they had the highest selling console of the Xbox 360 generation and may end up on top for the last generation too.
Having been a big fan, and supporter of the Sony PS Vita I decided to delve further back on time and purchased a PSP 1000 model.
Have GameCentral, or it’s loyal viewers got any game recommendations? I’m a fan of all the retro compilations, but am open to try anything of any genre.
Tony ‘TR’ Rushton
GC: It’s a long time since we played a PSP but some of our favourites include Patapon, LocoRoco, Jeanne d’Arc, Persona 3 Portable, Every Extend Extra, Half-Minute Hero, Lumines, and R-Type Tactics.
Long term prospects
I am a bit late to the Square Enix fire sale discussion but given that Babylon’s Fall just achieved the unenviable accomplishment of having zero concurrent players I thought I would pipe up on both Square Enix’s future and the future of live service games in general.
Personally, I do not think they are gearing up to be sold. In fact, I think it is the exact opposite in that they are attempting to fend off a hostile takeover (or even bankruptcy) by dumping their Western developers for just enough money to cover the Avengers’ losses. Clearly they are in trouble at the moment and are struggling to remain profitable and were desperate enough to accept such a low offer from the Embracer Group.
There is obviously money in live services, which Fortnite and a few others have proven, including Square Enix’s own Final Fantasy 14, but I have always struggled to see how other companies can break into the market enough to turn a profit. Clearly the point is they do not need to break in that far to make a profit and if they break in big they will make a lot of money, which is why it is appealing. Chasing the model however seems to be a recipe for large failures to the majority of companies.
The biggest hurdle every company seems to fall at is the very first. They seem to focus so heavily on getting money out of the players that they forget to entice the players into their game in the first place. Pulling players away from established games like Fortnite is really difficult. Fortnite is free and every (pre-)teenager and their friends are already playing it. You need to be very appealing for them to switch over, especially if you want them to pay to switch.
The Facebook film made a point of talking about how Facebook had zero barriers to entry for the first two years, that it would build the platform as large as they could before monetising it. Live service games need to do similar things but on a shorter time frame. Even Fortnite did not intend to be what it is now. I have never played Fortnite, but I suspect it made itself as appealing as it could possibly be at first, because it was failing and Epic were desperate to just get something, anything back.
Then there is the second hurdle of actually keeping players long enough to earn money from them. The games need a strong core game and a promising pipeline. Halo Infinite had the first and is failing at the second, whilst most games like Avengers and Anthem fumble the initial game release and that ruins their pipeline plans. This is even true in part in the likes of Destiny, which was successful.
Publishers need to stop seeing Destiny’s bodged launch as proof that these games can survive without being perfect and instead see Destiny as being very lucky. That its players (including myself) didn’t know any better and were quite forgiving of the game’s failures due to the strength of its primary gameplay loop.
Another factor is how many gamers are always looking for the next big thing. If a game does not grab people hard from the very start there is little chance for it to grow and become profitable later. And with the likes of Game Pass it is even easier for players to move onto something new. There are far fewer people playing a game because it is all they have. And most people in this group will be children already playing Minecraft, Fortnite or Roblox.
This then circles back to the original problem of how does a game manage to get money out of players quickly without just scaring them off straight away? Or without being seen as dishonest by adding in microtransactions after the review period? Unless publishers manage to solve this quandary we could very easily see a number of big companies, like Square Enix, fall into financial difficulty by chasing the live service train.
GC: Square Enix are not in financial difficulty; they had their highest ever sales figures last year.
I read somewhere that there are people who have completed Elden Ring without being hit once. Others have apparently beaten it blindfold. How the hell is any of that possible? And please don’t tell me to git gud!
GC: You don’t have to, but they did.
Your reader who was looking for the free upgrade for Dying Light 2 to the enchanced edition will be very disappointed. This update was for the original Dying Light not Dying Light 2!
GC: Actually, it was us that added the ’2’. People are often very vague about game titles in their emails, so we assumed he meant the sequel.
This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Gadfly, who asks what you feel is the most overrated video game ever?
It doesn’t necessarily have to be viewed as a classic but what general consensus do you disagree with the most, when it comes to highly rated games? Why do you disagree and were you surprised to find out that you held a minority opinion about the game?
Do you often find yourself disagreeing about games in this way and if not why do you think it happened in this instance? Can you see what it is that others liked about the game or is it completely unappealing to you?
E-mail your comments to: email@example.com
The small print
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