Experienced Points: Quality Still Matters

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Sep 26, 2018

Filed under: Column 113 comments

My column this week shares my personal recollections of the gaming crash of 1983, and then uses that as a jumping-off point for talking about how modern games are sacrificing quality for monetisation, and how maybe that’s a really terrible long-term strategy.

In the column I mention this theory I’ve been nursing that sales of a given franchise suffer from a delay-by-one effect, where a terrible entry might not hurt sales until the next one comes out. The idea is that there are a lot of people who buy games without checking the critical reception, so if they’re in the habit of buying a Shoot Guy title every time one hits the shelves, they’ll still buy Shoot Guy V: Lootbox Boogaloo even though it’s getting panned by critics. They’ll have a lousy time and find something else to play. Then when Shoot Guy VI: Nostalgia Overload comes out, they’ll skip it despite good critical reception. From the publisher’s perspective, the lootbox-based game did well and the back-to-basics sequel did poorly. If this is the case, I am very worried the publisher might learn the wrong lesson.

I’m really curious if this happened to the Hitman games. Did the embarrassment that is Hitman: Absolution sell well despite the fact that it was barely a Hitman game? Did the sales of Hitman 2016 suffer despite the fact that it’s one of the best entries in the series? If sales did suffer, was the game being punished for the sins of Absolution, or for the obnoxious decisions to tie your single-player progress to an always-online server?

I have no idea how I could go about investigating this. The numbers are foggy for several reasons:

  1. Publishers don’t share their sales figures. Sure, we can use Steam Spy to look at ownership numbers and active players, but the PC is a small slice of the gaming audience. A title might have fantastic sales overall but have Steam sales suffer due to a bad PC port. Or maybe the “4K 60FPS or GTFO” enthusiast crowd will create a bump in PC sales that isn’t reflected on the other platforms.
  2. Publishers use sales projections to confuse investors, consumers, and sometimes even themselves. Tomb Raider 2013 was apparently the best-selling entry in the series and yet the publisher was disappointed. We can’t use publisher projections or reactions to gauge success because their public reactions often have nothing to do with sales numbers and everything to do with scapegoating and managing stockholder expectations.
  3. Not only don’t we have access to sales figures, we also don’t have access to marketing budget. Did Shoot Guy VI sell poorly because the previous game was bad, or because the publisher lost confidence in the franchise and shoved it out the door with no marketing support?
  4. Like I said at the end of my Wolfenstein II series, critical reception is often a little fuzzy. A poor entry might get past critics who have to binge-play the game before release, but then over the following months the buying public begins noticing flaws that suck the joy out of the game. This ties into another side-research project I’ve been thinking about involving looking for games with a large delta between critical reception and public reception on Metacritic.

The information channels are just too noisy to extract any real data. Heck, even if I had access to the publisher’s private data, I’m not sure I could work it out. On top of the factors I just listed, you’ve got things like the state of the economy, release dates, and genre burnout. Maybe Shoot Guy VI sold poorly because it was terrible, or maybe it was actually the best of the series but it released too close to the more-popular Gun Man 7. Maybe the public is just getting sick of crime drama revenge shooters.

This is bad because if you’re a non-gaming executive then the only tools you have for judging the quality of your own products are sales and Metacritic. Not only are these two information channels noisy to the point of being nearly inscrutable, they’re both post-hoc reactions. It sure would be nice if you had some way to judge the quality of a game before you decide to spend $100 million on marketing it. It would be nice to have some way to know if it was worth missing a ship date for more polish. But how can anyone expect you to know how good a game is? What are you supposed to do? Play it? How can a serious business guy like you be expected to judge these murder simulators made for teenage boys? That’s just crazy talk.

This industry desperately needs a Walt Disney. I understand that uncle Walt wasn’t necessarily the nicest guy in the world, but he really understood what the public wanted and how to give it to them.

 


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113 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Quality Still Matters

  1. Dev Null says:

    It’s fun to read your different perspective, given that we’re essentially the same age. I never had a console (though I was absurdly jealous of friends who did, and occasionally got to play with one) but I did have a PC in the house from very early days (courtesy of the employee discount from my mother, who worked for an offshoot of IBM.) As such, the games I started out with were the Infocom text adventures. And they were so solid that they lasted straight through the crash of 83, at least as near as I could tell. I know that I, at least, saved my lunch money to buy every new release they came out with straight through to the end, and Wikipedia tells me that they didn’t die until at least `86. I honestly don’t think I’d ever even heard of the crash of 83 til reading this article.

  2. Narkis says:

    sales of a given franchise suffer from a delay-by-one effect, where a terrible entry might not hurt sales until the next one comes out.

    Yes! So much yes! People don’t really care about what the critics say. Only other critics and the industry does. People very much care about their past experience. You can fool them once, but that’s that. They’ll not keep giving you their hard-earned money after they get burnt. And I’m not sure if there’s a way to undo such damage done to a franchise, but it definitely takes more than one good entry to erase just one bad entry.

    It’s not just about gaming franchises either. The same thing happened with Star Wars and DC’s movies. But no one else seems to get this, and I can’t understand why.

    1. Lars says:

      And to wich critics would you listen to? A lot of bad / not-so-good games get good reviews because they are part of a famous series. Examples: GTA IV, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain, Final Fantasy XV, …

      GTA IV didn’t hurt the sales of V. GTA V was a mayor success. Phantom Pain didn’t hurt the sales of Survive – Survive was just that bad.

      1. Redrock says:

        I thought Phantom Pain was pretty good, despite the story woes. Certainly not comparable to New Colossus or GTA IV.

        1. Lars says:

          It was a pretty good sneaking game from the gameplay perspective. But from a Metal Gear I expect more.
          I hated every character of the story. Miller, Ocelot, Emmerich and Snake were complete assholes.
          The main antagonist was a lame gestapo type guy.
          The Sahalantropus was more advanced than REX 20 years in the future.
          A lot of the story strings didn’t end. They just stopped. Example: It’s not clear why Emmerich betrayed the MSF. The Paz “ghost” was just stupid, especially withe big reveal in Mission 51.
          You were forced to do missions again in higher difficulty to proceed in the story.
          The Easter Eggs weren’t as good.
          In this Metal Gear game, the player was forced to kill – no way around it.
          The base was empty. After Peace Walker I highly anticipated to explore my base freely, but it was just an empty shell.
          Menues without mouse support on PC.
          You couldn’t see anything in those sandstorms. So you stopped and waited for minutes.

          But yes: The gameplay very good.

          1. Redrock says:

            Seems like we’re on the same page here, then.

          2. Karma The Alligator says:

            Yeah, I imagine Liquid was really pissed off. He had the best Metal Gear, lost it somewhere, and then had to make do with REX in MGS1.

        2. The Rocketeer says:

          The bigger crime was giving MGS4 good reviews. I wish I’d held on to my old copies of Game Informer, or that they had the text of that review in their online archive (I checked but couldn’t find it); I remember realizing at the time, when I was a much bigger fan of the series, that the review was essentially content free. The text was effusive but vague, a paean of a few hundred words of broad generalities that could be reapplied to basically any game, whether you’d played it or not; the general thrust of it seemed to be, “The finale to that thing we all know is out, and this is the kind of thing you’ll absolutely love if you’re the kind of person that absolutely loves this kind of thing.” They gave it a perfect 10, of course. I guessed they were scared absolutely shitless of the backlash an MGS4 review risked generating, and were desperate to head it off.

          And then I played the game. Oh boy.

          1. RichardW says:

            I unashamedly love MGS4 to this day, despite its flaws. Might’ve taken a lot of retconning to get there but overall it was a fairly satisfying finale to the series. The amount of tools and abilities available to you in that game is still staggering, it’s just a pity there weren’t more opportunities to engage with them considering the cutscene to gameplay ratio.

    2. Liessa says:

      Some publishers do belatedly seem to be learning this lesson and trying to head off the ‘delayed reaction’ in advance, e.g. EA playing up the lack up of lootboxes in its newer titles. The problem is that in EA’s case – and probably many others – they’ve pulled this shit so many times that no one believes a word they say any longer. I’m not saying Anthem will be a failure, but it honestly wouldn’t surprise me given the general skepticism and lack of hype around it – it certainly doesn’t seem to be generating the same kind of positive buzz as, say, Red Dead Redemption 2. I think we already saw the same effect in action with ME: Andromeda; while the game itself had lots of problems, the fans were already suspicious and skittish after the ME3 ending debacle, and therefore willing to call out a lot of minor flaws that they might have forgiven otherwise.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      I really don’t understand why more people don’t look at reviews. You could find reviewers whose tastes are close to yours, and get really good information. You can also do what I do, and just hit the “sort” buttons on Steam, to see what the people are saying, who gave the lowest scores and the highest scores. (Does it seem to be bashed because of some consistently-noted technical problems? Is it only getting good reviews from people who have different preferences than me?) Why would people spend $60 and upwards, and then spend tens of hours (or more) playing a game, without taking 15 minutes to skim player reviews on…Steam?

      Crap; I just realized after writing this, that the PC market has more readily available review data, from both professionals, and from other players. Console gamers only have the pros, and those might not match what they personally want out of a reviewer.

      1. Duoae says:

        To be honest, you don’t even need to be a genius to read reviews of critics that don’t align to your tastes and unattended whether a game will appeal to your tastes. ?

      2. Blake says:

        I’m someone who never bothers to look for reviews online (unless I’m trying to find a couch co-op game to play with a friend). My disposable income is high enough that if I buy a game and don’t like it, I just stop playing it and go back to my huge pile of shame (one day I’ll try out ZombiU that I bought at launch of WiiU, I’m sure).

        Most of what I buy are RPGs on console, and strategy and indie titles on PC. I’ll also buy lots of things from series I enjoy (Mario, Zelda, etc) or solid games from developers I like (pre-ordered Spider-Man because I love all the Ratchet and Clank games for example).

        If I enjoy a series and they make a mediocre game (like Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty or Final Fantasy XIII) that won’t stop me buying more, but if a series shows consistent bad quality I’ll be out.
        One of the big red-flags for me is annual titles, apart from the fact I probably haven’t finished the last game yet, I just can’t imagine them having time to do anything well in that time.

        In short I’m the sort of consumer Shamus was talking about where bad games can stop future purchases.

      3. Gautsu says:

        I can’t speak for PS 4 and Switch but the Xbox store has reviews built right into each title. You still have to sift through them with a valid eye, but it is just as easy as leaving a review through Steam.

    4. Cilvre says:

      I agree to that in that I as a consumer will ax off an entire series due to a bad game or bad choices thrown into the game by the publisher. So far EA is the biggest one still on my sh!tlist, so sucks for the good dev’s getting published by them, but I have been avoiding all EA games.

    5. Abnaxis says:

      Honestly, the problem just in general is that there’s zero trust anywhere. I don’t trust reviewers; I sure as hell don’t trust advertisers or publishers. Just about the only thing I trust is seeing someone playing the game on Twitch, and even then there are only so many hours in a day I can chill and watch Twitch.

      Seriously, screw research in an environment where everyone has a financial incentive to mislead you. I don’t remember the last time a game was even on my radar before a month after its release, and I don’t remember the last time I bought one for full price.

      So yeah, every once in a while I’ll buy a dropped-in-price game that winds up disappointing me because I didn’t spend a full day looking for the unicorn of a credible review, but I’m sure as hell not ever paying full price on AAA titles precisely because of this nonsense.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        As someone who mostly buys games at least 2-3 years after release I have the benefit of the dust having settled and some sort of gestalt opinion having formed in that time between reviewers, critics, players and the mad oracles channeling the spirits of the damned, also, all the patches and usually all of the DLC are already released by that point!

  3. Lars says:

    To be fair: Tomb Raider 2013 didn’t reach the Most Successful Entry mark until 2015. The crucial time Christmas 2013 till summer 2014 (read: full price) was disappointing for Square Enix. And these Ultimate Next Gen Super Editions of this game do count for the same.
    I didn’t bought it until early ’16 for 20€ on PS3.

    And something inside me hopes that Shadow of the Tomb Raider blows. Rise was such a disappointment, especially with the Trinity bullshit story-line. TR 2013 Development by Crystal Dynamics (The guys behind Legacy of Kain and Legend), Rise: Development by equal Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal, Shadow: Developer: Eidos Montreal (The guys behind Deus Ex Mankind Devided). Every entry did get high critics marks till now.
    Not sure they shift focus for the better.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Eidos Montreal as in the guys befind Thi4f? That doesn’t bode well.

    2. RichardW says:

      There’s definitely been a significant drop in the positive reviews for this latest entry, which after having finished it I’m unsure if I agree with the general sentiment. It’s a VERY iterative sequel, adding stealth mechanics to the franchise and not much else apart from a more awkward user interface and even more obnoxious gear gating (outfit gating?!).

      That said, Shadow is arguably the closest this latest reboot has come to the spirit of the original games. Compared to TR 2013, Lara kills ridiculously few enemies in this one. There’s much less emphasis on third person shooting, with hours potentially passing by between gunfights in some parts of the game. The main focus is on actual tomb raiding, exploring the environment / hubs and solving puzzles. It was actually quite shocking how little combat there was, with only one brief segment in the middle where Lara gets pushed to far, you don’t really see her taking on waves of enemies at any other point unlike the other entries.

      I’m.. curious to see where it’ll go next. They’ve essentially resolved all of the established personal motivations and larger conflicts of the series, for better or worse, but did a poor job of setting Lara up as “the tomb raider” so it feels like they couldn’t really continue this storyline any further without a major revamp. It’s bizarre how poorly they’ve managed the brand, completely losing sight of the traditional iconography the series has, instead trying to establish some weird survivalist theme that never really worked.

  4. guy says:

    It’s instructive that as part of Nintendo’s bid to revitalize the market, they introduced the Nintendo Seal Of Quality, so consumers could check the front of the box to know whether Nintendo had determined the game was worth buying.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      I heard that back in the NES days, the Nintendo Seal of Quality meant the game wouldn’t set the console on fire or something like that.

      1. guy says:

        It basically meant the game worked and met Nintendo’s content standards and generally was not so terrible it was going to end up in landfills of unsold copies.

        The fact that this was actually useful information worthy of putting on the front of the box is pretty sad.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      It’s even more instructive that the Seal of Quality was a complete marketing gimmick. It simply meant the game completed basic functionality testing and the licensor had played by Nintendo’s rules to get the game on the console. Not that the game was in any way good.

      1. guy says:

        The crash happened because things got so bad “completed basic functionality testing” was not a thing people could rely on. Hence the utility of a marker.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        It also meant Nintendo would be taking as much as 70%* of the earnings from that title from the third-party developer, as well as dictating how many NES titles they could publish in a year. And if they didn’t like it, they didn’t have to publish on the console with 80-90%+ of the market share. At least until Atari/Namco division Tengen seriously challenged the Seal of Quality model.

        *I remember this claim in the gaming press at the time, but it was from Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine, whose editorial stance was unapologetically critical of Nintendo’s business practices. I’m inclined to treat it with some merit though, because most major publishers at the time were primarily focused on arcade games, and home console ports were just a secondary market to them. A little bit of extra cash was probably preferable to no extra cash, but not necessary for the company’s survival.

  5. Erik says:

    Right, like how Watchdogs 2 was a great improvement over Watchdogs 1, but because a lot of people where very dissapointed in Watchdogs 1, Watchdogs 2 barely got any sales.

    1. RichardW says:

      Or the tragedy that is Alien Isolation, cursed to pay for the sins of Aliens: Colonial Marines, it was released barely a year later with lawsuits still ongoing against Gearbox. The people at Creative Assembly must have felt pretty bad about that one, let alone Sega, who didn’t look into how their funds were being spent for the SIX YEARS that AC:M was in development.

  6. Mephane says:

    There have been enough hints at the direction the industry will take regarding monetization. The good news is, if these speculations are correct, loot boxes won’t be an issue for long. The bad news is, instead of optimizing the gameplay towards pushing people to buy loot boxes, they’d then optimize the games towards keeping people busy for as long as possible, and locked into specific platforms, publishers through an extensive use of a new form of platform-exclusivity, not tied to any particular piece of hardware, console manufacturer, but publishers, digital distribution stores etc.

    I am talking about the possibly upcoming Games-As-A-Service on steroids, Netflix-style subscription-based cloud gaming systems. Rumours are that the next console generation (i.e. XB2, PS5) will be the last generation of fat-client systems before they will all turn to cheap thin-client hardware (possibly actual smartphone hardware) that can do little more than stream video down and your control input up to the servers on which the actual games run. Then instead of just being annoyed about having to install Origin or UPlay or whatever mediocre piece of Steam-wannabe software, you’ll have to pay a subscription to each of them in order to play these games.

    And heck, video streaming is relatively new and I am already so utterly fed up with all the platform and even region-specific exclusivity bullshit, where everyone and their mother wants to lock you into their platform now in order to watch the movies they secured some exclusive deal for, and where even knowing that X is on Netflix doesn’t even tell you whether it is in your country*.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of video streaming and I see why one would want the same for video games, both from a business perspective but also as a customer, but the same issue applies here as it does for Steam vs Origin vs UPlay etc:

    I want a single place for all of my stuff. And I don’t want to play twice or thrice just because the stuff I like happens to be split awkwardly between platforms. And last but not least I don’t want to deal with the headache that is multiple accounts and the knowledge that at least some of these platforms will be crudely hacked together UI, UX and security nightmares.

    ——————————–

    *This may just be speaking as one of those so-called “millenials” who have grown up with the internet and global markets as a normality, but the concept of country-specific products is ludicrous to me outside of a very small subset of stuff that is illegal in some countries but legal elsewhere (e.g. certain drugs). Heck, it’s often less of an issue for physical goods which may just have a larger shipping fee if it has to be brought across the Atlantic, which is only fair. But for any purely digital good, it’s utter madness in my mind for stuff to not be available unless you are physically located within a certain set of coordinates.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      …everyone and their mother wants to lock you into their platform now in order to watch the movies they secured some exclusive deal for, and where even knowing that X is on Netflix doesn’t even tell you whether it is in your country.

      And the kicker is that the ONLY reason that film/tv series/whatever isn’t available in your country is because of behind-the-scenes market bullshit that only benefits one specific company over another. Well, with games the different hardware platforms make porting a game over that bit more difficult, but why do those vastly different platforms exist in the first place?
      But hey, see also: films released in cinemas first before turning up on streaming services or DVD, books being published in hardback for a few months before the cheaper paperback comes out*.

      Just variations on a theme.

      *and this still applies when you’re buying Ebooks that have no physical copy!

    2. default_ex says:

      What you describe currently exist. Amazon’s FireTV stick is a ubiquitous example. Runs Android, the Amazon stuff is just a ‘Launcher’ (akin to KDE, Gnome and the like) as well as a skinning service to give everything an Amazon themed skin. You can root them, replace that Launcher with Google Now, Pixel, Trebuchet, Nova or whatever launcher you like, load it up with your favorite google apps (open gapps packages work to get them bundled together in nice compatible easy to install packages), load up the play store and download your streaming game service of choice. Don’t even have to worry about gamepad compatibility, it’s out of the box loaded with a fairly good bluetooth and USB gamepad API that works with the Android stuff just fine.

    3. Mephane says:

      Bonus rant: At the beginning of the month I saw several news articles listing some movies coming to Netflix in September, including Black Panther. I didn’t see it in cinema and was really looking forward to this. Alas, it still hasn’t appeared, and I fear that this is a regional thing.

      So due to this utter bullshit I cannot even rely on what news sites are reporting because it is all regionally different.

      This is another case of these anti-consumer decisions where the pirates get all the goodies for free, and paying customers get a sub-par experience, or even nothing at all.

  7. Asdasd says:

    ” I think it’s darkly hilarious that he admits that loot boxes are “unfortunate” while still defending their use. ”

    Veering towards forbidden topics, but this is the way that TINA is deployed in many discourses. It’s lizard-speak for something along the lines of “we’ve cottoned on to the fact that you’ve cottoned on to the fact that the way we do things is despicable, so we’re not going to try and tell you that what we’re doing is super great anymore. That phase is over, and now we’ve moved on to the bit where we agree that it’s all very regrettable but we’re here now and we have to keep doing it anyway because [reasons].”

    1. BlueHorus says:

      ‘Look, we’ve just spent 7 million dollars making Shoot Guy XVI: Rocket Launcher Fists and you’re not willing to pay my RRP of $85 per copy? We’ve got to make that money back somehow! We’ve been forced to use lootboxes and day-one DLC just to make back our budget – and it’s YOUR fault!
      I mean, what do you want us to do? Change our priorities? Spend less money? Abandon our Company Assets?
      We’re making a luxury good that you don’t have to buy, in a competitive market, after all. Help us out.’

    2. MadTinkerer says:

      “You… You don’t seriously expect us to go back and do things the way they were successfully done in the past, do you? You don’t seriously expect us to act like the customers are in charge, do you? You don’t seriously expect us to simply make products and sell them for a profit instead of selling access to live services?

      *sigh* You’re right. It would be better if we did exactly that.

      It’s such a shame we don’t have a choice in the matter.”

  8. Joshua says:

    I was 6 years old in 1983, so I never realized that the video game crash was a thing until decades later. You wouldn’t know it by looking at arcades, which was my primary exposure to video games at the time. I do recall hanging out with a friend playing E.T. a few years later and thinking the game seemed really bad though, and this was at an age where I wasn’t the best critic of game quality.

    I think you can use the “delay-by-one” to explain the recent Star Wars “Solo” movie box office bomb though. There were enough people upset at The Last Jedi (which is a flamebait topic enough) to deliberately skip out on Solo, which wasn’t getting a ton of reviews past “It’s Ok” from critics anyway.

    1. guy says:

      I don’t think that was a big factor with Solo; people who liked The Last Jedi were still decidedly unentheused even before any reviews.

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        Can confirm, I liked The Last Jedi and have no interest whatsoever in seeing Solo.

        1. Blake says:

          Double-confirm, I quite liked The Last Jedi, but couldn’t get at all enthused about Solo.
          I don’t know if it was Star-Wars overload (I go see every Marvel movie after all), but there was definitely a large aspect of not caring about backstory.

          Even Rogue One which I did go see and enjoy just didn’t really get me excited beforehand.
          Sometimes I almost feel like maybe Star Wars and prequels don’t mix.

          1. guy says:

            I watched it and liked it mostly as “more Han Solo”. I didn’t really care for the origin story bits* but was quite onboard with just having more of Han being Han. I think they made some significant errors in implementing the Heist Movie structure, like they’d had two Han Solo heist movies and decided to make one movie out of them and messed up both in the process, but the moment-to-moment quality of each individual scene held up well enough to push the total experience into the realm of good and I don’t regret seeing it in theaters.

            *frankly I liked what I’d gotten from bits in the EU I’d read better anyway; with Han being a stellar if oft-disciplined academy student who threw away a promising career to save Chewie because deep down he does care

    2. PPX14 says:

      I think we shall see if this is really in play when Episode IX comes round. Although Solo itself might have harmed that.

      I imagine there just wasn’t really quite the market for SW character origins stories, to make a film with an even bigger budget than the main episodic ones, especially for original trilogy characters. Should have made a game instead of a film.

      Saying that, I don’t know how Rogue One fits in with that. Maybe it had the delay by one effect on Solo?

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I imagine there just wasn’t really quite the market for SW character origins stories

        This. Nothing says ‘milking a franchise’ quite like churning out endless origin stories and/or spin-offs. And I bet the well-publicised Studio Shenanigans* during the making of Solo didn’t help.

        But as you say: Rogue One. I was genuinely surprised – and a bit saddened – by how well that film did.

        *eg firing the directors and bringing in new ones.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          What was wrong with Rogue One?

          1. BlueHorus says:

            To me it was a fanservice-filled story that didn’t need to be told, latching onto another story that we already know, and filled with callbacks and other things we already know. Who cares where they got the plans to the Death Star from? That thing was always a silly idea.

            A great example is the scene near the end of Rogue One with Darth Vader fighting rebels in a white ship corridor. The costumes and setting are almost exactly the same as in A New Hope, and it even ends in a cameo from CGI Princess Leia. To me that was just fanservice; it didn’t even add to the story of the film itself.
            …and, if that’s what you like, then sure. I’m certainly not going to tell you you’re wrong.

            But to me there’s a wealth of really different, interesting things you can do with the Star Wars universe* that aren’t just rehashing the same old same old. Forget the Millennium Falcon. Leave the Skywalker family. Rethink the Lightside/Darkside dynamic** of the Force. Weird aliens! Robot uprisings! ‘Yo Mama’ jokes!***

            But Rogue One saddens me because it seemed to do well by NOT doing it differently; it just added a little bit more onto what was already there. Thus encouraging the famous Space Fantasy franchise to keep their thinking well inside the box and not use too much imagination.
            Eh, at the end of the day its just my 2 cents.

            *think KOTOR I, KOTOR II, hell, TLJ, maybe even the Solo movie? Haven’t seen it.
            **Remember the old man from KOTOR I who made a massive mistake in his backstory because he was in love? But wouldn’t change it? And was still a good guy, even though he thought the Jedi were too simplistic? Now that, to me, is much more interesting than Death Star plans.
            ***No, not really.

            1. Viktor says:

              See, while I agree it didn’t need to be told, and the focus on the backstory of every random element from the original movies has been an issue for a while(Palpentine ending Ep III scarred is the most egregious example IMO), I would definitely say that Rogue One avoided a lot of the pitfalls you’re describing. It was a completely different tone and ending than any of the previous movies, the Force was mentioned but never really showed up, no Jedi at all, and we got multiple people whose moralities didn’t fall squarely in the Dark/Light boxes. It’s not perfect, but it was definitely closer to what I enjoyed about the EU than almost anything else that Disney or Lucas ever did.

              1. Olivier FAURE says:

                Yeah, pretty much that.

                I liked it because, compared to The Force Awakens, I had no idea what was going to happen next in any of the scenes.

              2. Abnaxis says:

                This sums up my stance quite succinctly. I liked the relative absence of The Force in the movie, and the way it was sort of treated as a set of unsubstantiated superstitions by the general populace.

            2. Blackbird71 says:

              Who cares where they got the plans to the Death Star from?

              We already knew where they got the plans – Kyle Katarn infiltrated an Imperial base and retrieved them under Mon Mothma’s orders. Oh, right, EU…

              To me that was just fanservice; it didn’t even add to the story of the film itself.

              It wasn’t “just” fanservice; it was also a contradiction with the original canon. In the original Star Wars (“A New Hope”), it is clearly stated that Leia’s ship intercepted a transmission of the plans, not that the ship received a physical handoff personally witnessed by Vader himself. Leia and the Tantive IV should not have been anywhere near that battle. The original story required at least a level of plausible deniability that the plans were not aboard the ship; otherwise Leia’s blatant defiance to Vader’s face becomes absolutely ridiculous. It’s like walking into the kitchen to find your toddler covered in milk and with cereal all over the floor, and him trying to claim that he did not just try to make himself breakfast; the cat did it (and you don’t have a cat).

              More than that, we see in Empire that Vader can fling around large objects using the force; why couldn’t he have just reached out with the Force and pulled the data disc to him? Fanservice? No, the whole scene at the end of Rogue One was more of an insult to fans’ intelligence than anything else.

              1. PPX14 says:

                Totally agree on both points. But this is a film in which the callbacks are about as subtle as a parody, might as well watch Family Guy Blue Harvest, it’s more interesting at least.

                TFA and Rogue One are like fanfiction the main difference being that I nearly fell asleep in the latter.

            3. PPX14 says:

              Remember the old man from KOTOR I who made a massive mistake in his backstory because he was in love? But wouldn’t change it? And was still a good guy, even though he thought the Jedi were too simplistic?

              I always think of him whenever I see the “Kotor 2 subverts the usual Light vs Dark story”. Jolee Bindo was there in original Kotor with that message!!

          2. Syal says:

            At the end there’s an antenna they need to align to get their message out, but the entire planet is covered by a shield with one entrance; not only should the antenna already be aligned, there is no reason to allow it to move in the first place. Combined with the extremely loud “antenna misalignment” message, I can only assume it’s designed specifically to haze newbies.

            Also there’s an Imperial tank with no legs.

            1. Dev Null says:

              Well the antenna had to move; otherwise what would they do with the controls on the inaccessible and dangerous stretch of roof?

      2. RichardW says:

        According to Disney CEO Bob Iger, they’re going to slow down with Star Wars after Episode 9… thank the maker. I don’t think Rian Johnson is going to get a trilogy all to himself anymore and the other spinoff movies in the works look like they might be getting axed.

        1. PPX14 says:

          Thank goodness. I managed not to see Solo, and I intensely dislike all of the Disney “SW” films in concept as well as execution, but still seem to go and watch them to see what they are like, and because my friend likes them.

    3. Viktor says:

      TLJ was one of the best Star Wars movies out of the entire series. Solo bombed because it was terrible and told a story no one was interested in. I follow multiple people who saw Solo, each of them advised everyone to skip it for being trash.

      1. RichardW says:

        TLJ is the most divisive movie in the entire franchise. I personally hate it more every time I think about it. That film’s polarizing reception absolutely played into Solo’s fortunes, it alienated a lot of longtime fans. That said, releasing two Star Wars films within months of each other wasn’t a great move either.

      2. Joe says:

        I wouldn’t call Solo trash, but I found it boring with too much fanservice.

  9. Darren says:

    Man, reading your description of finding a bargain bin full of crappy titles you wouldn’t risk $5 on is giving me Wii flashbacks. Some of my fondest console memories are from the Wii, with Mario Galaxy 1/2, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Metroid Prime Trilogy being among the best games I’ve played in the last decade or so. But by the end of the Wii’s life cycle, it was utterly choked with dreck, and even Nintendo couldn’t seem to figure out how to deliver quality titles (Skyward Sword, anyone?).

    And I think it fits with your delay-by-one effect. The Wii sold astonishingly well by aiming at a wider, more casual audience, but that audience couldn’t be convinced to buy many games at all, and people who did want more games for the system had to wade through a sea of garbage to find anything worth buying. When the WiiU rolled around, poor marketing combined with a sense that the Wii had ultimately failed to deliver quality seemed to sink the console, even though Nintendo made more of an effort to bring titles favored by a more hardcore audience.

    1. SpammyV says:

      I actually quite enjoyed Skyward Sword, but I agree in general. There’s a lot of interesting games that are kind of locked away on the Wii now due to a lack of success or interest in them or the platform.

      Deadly Creatures remains a fun brawler with some incredibly imaginative level design. Crystal Bearers builds itself around a mechanic and goes hard on being a side game unlike the rest of the Crystal Chronicles franchise. There’s the enormous leap between Red Steel and Red Steel 2 that makes you wonder how both were made by Ubisoft. The massive tonal shift between The Conduit and The Conduit 2. At least the No More Heroes games got enough of a good reputation with their Suda 51 weirdness that the franchise isn’t dead.

      1. Darren says:

        Don’t get me started on Red Steel 2. That game was criminally underappreciated.

        1. Ed says:

          Red Steel 2 is an unsung masterpiece, perhaps the greatest/most immersive use of 1st person I’ve ever seen on top of being an utter blast. It is deeply upsetting to me that it was a sales failure, and it is entirely due to a combination of the wii motion plus requirement and shamus’s delay plus one theory.

  10. Wiseman says:

    I actually went out and watched the documentary that you suggested in the Escapist article on ET on the Atari 2600. Then I began reading further into the video game crash of 1983, and some people dispute that it had much to do with the quality of games being made. Rather that national retailers overstocked on the most expected games, and when sales came up short, the companies were obliged to take it back, meaning they lost money on their best selling games. I ain’t too sure that’s true or not since most people who discuss the issue bring little evidence forth, but this video intrigued me the most.

    Shamus, do you know whether something is wrong at the Escapist? I can’t manage to get a confirmation e-mail from the site to validate my account.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yes, I have it on good authority that some server stuff is being done today. They’re still working to bring the technology out of its 2 year coma and this is part of that.

      Hopefully I can announce more soon.

      1. Chris Robertson says:

        Wow. Yesterday when trying to read the article on Escapist, I was receiving 504 Gateway error pages on Cloudflare. Today, just a page stating the domain doesn’t exist. I wish them the best with these resuscitation efforts.

        1. LCF says:

          Same, I can only get a “we’ll be back” message.
          I hope they do.

  11. But isn’t the point of adding loot boxes to Shoot Guy V so you won’t have to spend money making Shoot Guy VI in the first place?

  12. Echo Tango says:

    Aaaaaarrrrrrgggg! Why the hell did they name it “NBA 2K19”? It’s exactly the same number of letters, but now it sounds like a cheap, stupid marketing scam.

    1. newplan says:

      I had that same thought then realized that the studio that makes the game is “2K Games”.

  13. T-rex says:

    Imo one of the reasons CDPR is doing good is that their CEO(at least on of them) actually plays games, not only watches the sale figures go up.

    1. Lars says:

      But it’s not guarantied. Randy Pitchfork CEO of Gearbox plays a massive amount of games. But most Gearbox games disappoint on different levels.
      Kevin Bruner ex-CEO of Telltale Games is a gamer, a developer and a game designer but couldn’t foresee the downward spiral of the quality of Telltale’s games.

  14. Redrock says:

    Hitman Absolution is a bit tricky – despite all of its crimes against the Hitman franchise, it sits above 7 in user scores on Metacritic and has “Very Positive” reviews on Steam. It was a decently fun and quirky game in its own right, and I say that as a Hitman fan. I think Hitman 2016 was mostly hurt by its episodic nature. I suspect a lot of people decided to wait and see, and by the time the season was finished it got lost among a flood of other games. Hell, I still haven’t played past episode 3,even though I remember liking that game very much.

    1. Distec says:

      For me, it’s this and the always-online requirements. Unless you’re Half-Life 2 Episode 3 (RIP), I’m more likely to wait and see how the whole package shakes out rather than consuming it piecemeal.

      But that’s moot since I am never going to buy a single-player game that needs an active internet connection. And the idea that I may (and already have) missed out on time-exclusive content that has disappeared really sticks in my craw. These weren’t seasonal events like in an MMO; just really obvious “You better buy this game NOW or miss this content FOREVER!” ploys that made me resentful.

      If they could package the most recent Hitman into an All the Content, None of the Bullshit edition, I’d spend $40 on it. Because the meat of the game itself looks great! But as it currently stands, it’s not even on my Wishlist.

      1. Redrock says:

        Yeah, the Elusive targets kinda annoyed me too. I think the game is still great value without them, especially the current GOTY edition. But it’s certainly grating and I suspect ot could’ve put a lot of people off. And, to be quite fair, there’s a certain lack of character in Hitman 2016, not just compared to tge madness of Absolution, but also compared to Blood Money and Silent Assassin. They made it just a bit too sterile, I think.

    2. Blake says:

      I played through Absolution. As a Hitman game it wasn’t the best, as a video game I’d be happy giving it a 7, I don’t beat most games I played but I enjoyed enough to play through it all.

      As for Hitman 2016 I really really enjoyed it, and also only think I played 3 levels.

    3. Wolle says:

      The CEO of IO Interactive recently gave an interview to a Danish newspaper. He said that the sales of Hitman 2016 were disastrous at launch, but really took off after all the episodes had come out, so at least some people went back to it.

      He blamed the bad initial sales on the episodic nature of the game, so they’re not doing that for the sequel.

      He didn’t mention Hitman Absolution at all

      1. Redrock says:

        Huh. I got something right, seems like. Maybe I should start a gaming blog.

  15. John says:

    I read reviews now, but once upon a time I did not. When I was a kid, most of the games I got were gifts. On the rare occasions when I bought games with my own money, they were typically games I had already played in the arcade or at a friend’s house. When I got older and had a little more money to spend, I tended to buy games that were (a) sequels to games that I liked, (b) made by people who had made games that I liked, or (c) obviously similar to games that I liked. It wasn’t much of a system, but it worked pretty well for a long time.

    I didn’t get seriously burned until sometime around 2002 or so, when I bought Guilty Gear X: Advance Edition. I’d been pleased with fighting games on the GBA up to that point. Despite the limitation of having just four buttons, the GBA had excellent Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha 3 ports. I’d heard good things about the Guilty Gear series, so when I happened on Advance Edition in a Gamespot I took a chance. I regretted it almost immediately. The art was terrible. The character sprites were tiny and everything was oddly brown. Worse, the game was fundamentally broken. Computer-controlled characters did nothing. No punches, no kicks, no special attacks. They didn’t even move. I won every game, but it was the least satisfying gaming experience I’ve ever had.

    Up to that point I’d been reading about games on the internet in a very casual way, mostly to learn about interesting upcoming releases. After the Guilty Gear incident I started reading reviews.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Somewhere in here, there’s a joke about how even the AI couldn’t figure out Guilty Gear’s controls.

  16. Dreadjaws says:

    In the column I mention this theory I’ve been nursing that sales of a given franchise suffer from a delay-by-one effect, where a terrible entry might not hurt sales until the next one comes out.

    Theory? I thought this was a well known effect. It is more evident in movies, though. Spider-Man 3 made more money worldwide than Spider-Man 2 despite being a worse film, and that’s because of the expectations the previous film generated. Solo: A Star Wars Story had such a small box office gross that it’s very likely a flop, and it happened because of all the negative reaction to The Last Jedi, the previous Star Wars movie.

    1. Redrock says:

      Ehh, I think Solo bombed because the idea was just too unappealing both for fans and newcomers and the trailers looked boring. Don’t forget that all The Last Jedi detractors, myself included, are still a vocal minority. Most people loved it.

      1. ZekeCool says:

        Yeah, TLJ is an excellent movie. I didn’t care to see Solo because we already have an origin story for Han Solo, it came out in the 70s and it’s called A New Hope. Who cares who Han was before that?

        1. Viktor says:

          Exactly. In A New Hope, Han is drunk in a dive bar and hiding from a drug dealer he owes money to. There is no backstory needed. No one has ever looked at a dude in a dive bar and said “Gee, I want to know how he ended up here”.

          1. Mr. Wolf says:

            Yet the EU wrote stories about literally everybody in there.

            1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

              And a lot of this stories are good, including Solo’s origin and adventures.

        2. Blake says:

          This * 10.

          I was more curious to see what Lando was like outside of those few scenes a few decades back, but not enough to go see Solo.

          Super keen for the next actual Star Wars movie though.

        3. Redrock says:

          To be fair, Solo was surprisingly a decently fun flick, reminded me of Firefly and Serenity a lot. Hell, I think I would’ve liked it more if it kept all the same plot beats and even character traits but changed the names and looks just a bit to not be Star Wars. You don’t get a decent space western that often these days. So it was a good executiion of a bad idea.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Vocal minority? Blu-Ray sales paint a very different picture.

        1. Redrock says:

          Not really, no. Yeah, it sold less than Force Awakens, but that’s in line with the box office. And not accounting for digital sales. It was on the way to outsell Rogue One last I checked, so its performance is in line with expectations and not indicative of any boycott or whatever. And, again, I’m one of those people who severely disliked TLJ, but I’m actually pretty negative on the new trilogy in general. It sucks and doesn’t have a story to tell. But it pays to admit when you’re in the minority, there’s nothing wrong with that.

          1. Dreadjaws says:

            I’m not arguing about the quality of the film. This isn’t about being in the minority. I’m pretty lukewarm towards Star Wars, I don’t really consider myself a fan. I’ll watch the films if they’re around, but I don’t go out of my way to do it, and I’ve never seen any of the numerous TV shows. I don’t care about TLJ one way or the other. In fact, I disliked Rogue One far more, despite the fact that it seems to be universally beloved. So I guess I am in the minority, but for an entirely different discussion.

            What I’m arguing about is the undeniable fact that its status as a divisive film is having a clear impact on the franchise. The Force Awakens was divisive, and that had a negative impact on Rogue One. Rogue One was popular, and that had a positive impact on The Last Jedi. TLJ was divisive, and that had a negative impact on Solo. Solo seems to have been better received, which might have a positive impact in a future film (I say “might” because there are other external factors at play now with behind-the-scenes political fights that could play a large role).

            Remember, we’re talking about Star Wars here. It’s not just any franchise, in which “lack of interest” is an option. While people can and will claim their dislike after watching one of these films, there has to be something very wrong for people to decide not to go see one.

          2. Shamus says:

            I’m also in the group of people who aren’t crazy about TLJ. As someone who’s really into things like tone and story structure, I found the movie actively frustrating to think about. I was basically okay with it when I left the theater, but the more I thought about the plot the more confounding the writing choices became and the less sure I was about what the writer was trying to say.

            I’ve stayed out of the conversation because of the whole culture-war angle surrounding the debate between haters and fans of TLJ. I don’t really care about that stuff, and in fact I think it’s a symptom of a larger and more complex problem about the confusing way Johnson wrote the script. I keep wanting to do an analysis of it, but:

            1) I think to do it properly, it needs to be done as a video essay, and I don’t have time for that.
            2) No matter how many disclaimers I put up, some people will see this as taking a side in the stupid culture war.
            3) Movies aren’t really my wheelhouse. Complaining about games keeps me plenty busy these days.
            4) Lots of people are happy with the movie because it did something “different”. And yes, it did do that. And yes, Star Wars really did need a shot of “something different”. An analysis saying “The series needed to be changed but not like this” is a little vague. I feel like the automatic retort would be “Okay Shamus, what do YOU think they should have done?!?” And I don’t have a good answer for that.

            Still, it really is an amazingly unsatisfying movie for me.

            1. Joshua says:

              We would *LOVE* an essay from you about it. I’ve seen far too many video criticisms that have good points but then inevitably jump into needless political territory by dropping the “SJW” or “Mary Sue” terms. I think there’s plenty about the movie to criticize regardless of whether or not you thought there were political perspectives injected into it.

              I think a lot of the conceptual ideas brought up were really good ideas, but done really badly. For example, I think it’s bad when such a red-meat, chest-thumping movie like Top Gun handled the idea of a Hot Shot pilot being problematic in a much more understandable way. My $.02 of course.

              You want to get rid of some of the baggage and take the films in a new direction? Fantastic! Just DO it, don’t TELL us about doing it in a way that comes across as condescending to the long-term fans (I wouldn’t call myself that devoted, but plenty of people are). I had some issues with Rogue One, but the actions of Cassian Andor at the beginning of the film tell us that this is going to be a story about how some of the Rebellion are not very morally scrupulous and think the ends justify the means. We don’t need a blatant aside where Andor makes fun of the idea of some kind of virtuous rebellion. It’s cliche, but show, don’t tell.

              I was excited to see the trailers talking about “it’s time for the Jedi to end”, because Luke has become introspective and realized the problems we saw in the prequels between the Jedi and the Sith, and maybe both of those orders should fall by the wayside. Instead, we get that idea from Kylo Ren of all people, who then goes on to act exactly like a Sith.

              So much wasted potential in my opinion.

      3. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

        There are a lot of reasons why Solo flopped, and alienating part of the auditory is one of them. A lot of people lost interest in the whole franchise after TLJ, or even TFA. And some people developed Star Wars fatigue, because Disney barfing new movie every year, along with enormous amount of merchandise crap.
        I tried to compare this case to some game franchises, but it doesn’t work, because markets are too different. But there is some drop ind pre-orders to new Fallout, whatever it called, compared to 4-th.
        Also, “vocal minority” is just a label, used to trick audience, that detractors’ opinions is irrelevant and inadequate. It’s used responding to criticism of almost any flawed or bad movie or game. It was used, when people complained about ME 3 ending, it’s used in Fallout 4 discussions, etc.
        Some people (10-20% maybe) don’t like TLJ to some degree, some people (10-20%) like it, and other 60-80% is somewhere in the middle.

        1. Redrock says:

          I don’t really think that the term “vocal minority” is about that. Quite the contrary. Oftentimes an opinion can seem to be more widespread than it really is. The dreaded SJWs are also a vocal minority, just like the people who didn’t like TLJ. Most people? Most people don’t really care enough to argue about magical guys and gals with laser swords on the internet. Sad, but true.

          1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

            I understand the meaning of the term. I’m just implying, that it used loosely to discard any negative opinions sometimes. And I agree that most people don’t care, also implying that they have different opinions on movie/game/whatever, that fall into the range (not enjoy, enjoy) and don’t go to the extremes like love or hate. It’s like normal distribution, where we don’t know where exactly median lies, but we can guess based on information from right and left parts of it.
            And in case of TLJ we have RT audience score floating around 50% point, almost same amount of praise and criticism videos on youtube, etc. So, we don’t know how many people like it and how many don’t, but there’s no evidence to call people who don’t like TLJ a vocal minority.

            1. Gautsu says:

              To add to other’s above opinions, I would love to see an essay from Shamus about the Last Jedi, not least because I feel so many of my problems with the movie mirror Shamus’s problems exposed in his Mass Effect retrospective. Like he has said many times, writers are not interchangeable.

              I have 2 large problems with the movie: 1) That so much racist, sexist, misogynistic vitriol was heaped on the movie that any kind of nuanced, non-flattering breakdown of the movie’s problems became impossible due to emotions flaring on both sides of the divide. And that (2) Media completely used statistics to create a story that fed into my number 1. Of about say 100 close friends, family members, and co-workers who saw the movie and discussed it with me, only 5 liked it and only 1 could not agree with the points I raised about why I disliked it. That would seem to say that in my circle it would have about a 5% approval rating versus the 53 or so on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet I can admit that my small polling is not representative of the entire movie going audience and say yes I am probably not in the majority of my opinions. Like Redrock said above most people probably don’t care enough to argue over space wizards. But the critics who liked the movie painted a smear against those who didn’t; Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB were manipulated by racists and misogynists and we should stand by the CinemaScore value of 90+%.

              This happens to be the only movie I have ever left reviews for on both of those platforms, and I don’t appreciate being lumped in with people who see differences as something bad or to fear. Secondly CinemaScore’s poll of 10,000 moviegoers is in no way more accurate than my poll of 100 friends. It’s a small drop in the bucket compared to the millions who actually saw the movie.

              The first thing my college statistics teacher told my class was that statistics is using math to tell lies. That’s why we have 4 different ways of figuring out an average of numbers.

              Thus instead of half of the viewer’s just genuinely not liking the movie, internet news and media sources turned into clickbait articles lumping all of the people with legimate problems with the films story, narrative structure, plot issues, pacing, and what not, just became people who hated it because it featured a diverse cast full of strong women.

              Star Wars didn’t kick off the idea of blockbuster movies, but it cemented the idea started by Jaws. It has become so entrenched into popular culture that it’s hard to find someone who has never heard of the force, Jedi, lightsaber, Yoda, or Darth Vader. And thus the fact that nuanced criticism has not been given on the last movie makes me sad. We were able to talk about the prequel trilogies flaws. I loved the Force Awakens, placing it number 1 in my list of Star Wars movies, but I have had discussions with those who dislike it based on its similarities to what had gone before. Maybe someday the same can happen with the Last Jedi.

    2. WarlockOfOz says:

      Maybe Shamus is using theory is the ‘this idea is supported by a lot of evidence and can be used to make predictions’ sense :)

  17. Thomas says:

    I enjoyed that article, it made a lot of sense out of something I’d never really understood.

  18. Gordon Wrigley says:

    I watch all of this loot box, vendor store / subscription, forced multiplayer crap going on in the AAA space and I smile to myself.
    If we are really lucky then EA, Activision and Ubisoft will all go bankrupt.
    But regardless when the dust settles, over here on PC we will still have the indies and with a massive smoking hole in the side of AAA the indies should see even more of a resurgence.
    So you know… let it burn.

  19. MadTinkerer says:

    Even for people who read / watch reviews, if you try to consume a lot of one kind of media, or even a wide variety of media, there’s just no way to keep up with all the reviews on top of consuming the media itself. As a result, some franchises (and most new works) get treated with close scrutiny, and with other franchises: Shoot Guy 3 already proved that it wasn’t worth the money I paid, so even if Shoot Guy 4 is good, I’ll wait for a sale because the Shoot Guy publisher owes me for that time I paid full price for a crappy game. And why not just play Shoot Guy 2 again instead? The disc is right there on the shelf!

    Actually, this could be one of the motivations for turning everything into services: consumers can’t treat individual products in a franchise like individual products if you’re holding the entire franchise hostage via a single online service.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      “no way to keep up with all the reviews on top of consuming the media itself”
      I feel like this the wrong way of thinking of reviews. If you’ve got limited time (or money), the only sensible thing to do, is to try and spend your limited resource on the thing that looks like it will be worth it. Reviews (professional, or from other customers) are a fast way to find out, if a new game / TV show / movie is worth spending your full time on. Sure, there’s no way to keep up with all of the reviews, but reviews still take less time than trying to keep up with the primary media itself.

  20. Jason says:

    I know this isn’t something you have any control over, but the escapist site appears to be down. All I get is an error message from Cloudflare with a 504 gateway timeout error. The error message says I can view a cached snapshot of the site, but that doesn’t appear to be working either. http://www.isitdownrightnow.com shows that it is down as well. Is it working for anyone else?

    1. Husr says:

      I can confirm that it’s also not working for me.

    2. Syal says:

      For a site called I Sit Down Right Now, I was expecting more shock. And possibly awe.

      1. Jason says:

        I sit down right now at my computer and I can’t read the article this post is about.

    3. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Looks like it could be a host issue. Seems like their provider might have pulled the plug. The domain itself is ok, it’s registered until 2020 or thereabouts. But whatever the domain is currently pointing at doesn’t exist.

  21. Shamus, quick thing you might want to bug the escapist about–I tried to leave a “comment on facebook” on your article and I got an error and it didn’t post. I think there’s a bug in their Facebook comments plugin, but I don’t know how to tell them.

  22. Remember that discussion a few days ago about fast travel and maps and such?

    Take a look at the just released Pathfinder: Kingmaker.

    It has a world map, it shows terrain but as it’s not open world you can go everywhere. What is interesting is that you still “fast travel”, you can get events on road that you can try to avoid. You need to camp to rest.

    And it shows the paths you have taken, so you can see where you have traveled. It will even tell you if you have visted a place (and how along ago, in-game time).

    The game is placed in the Pathfinder universe, Chris Avellone is a writer for the game (he’s worked on Fallout 2, Planescape Torment, Never Winter Nights, KoTOR 2, Alpha Protocol, Fallout New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny, Torment: Tides of Numenera.

    @Shamus, perhaps Pathfinder Kingmaker might make a good “series” of articles for you? It seems to do a lot of things right, but also a few things wrong or things that could be improved (so you’ll be able to do constructive criticism).

    1. Decius says:

      Kingmaker seems rushed to me, and the patch notes for the hotfixes and the bugs I’ve found seem to confirm that testing was omitted for time pressure.

      It’s brave enough to let you make bad decisions that will kill you much further down the line, which I do respect, but it also has stupid difficulty spikes (in the mandatory-to-progress quests; I’m forgiving of side quests being available before you’re able to complete them).

  23. MechaCrash says:

    The thing about games doing well but the publishers not knowing why reminds me of a Jim Sterling video about why complaining works when boycotts don’t. I think it was when he was still with the Escapist, so it’d be on that site, which is currently down and unsearchable. But the short version of his argument is that developers will essentially use a dartboard to determine why games don’t sell. Like if the PC version of Shoot Guy VII: The Quest For More Bullets sold incredibly poorly, then the suits could have a big list of reasons to choose from but just shrug and say “well maybe PC gamers don’t want crime drama revenge shooters,” but listening to feedback reveals that no, people would’ve been happy to buy it if it didn’t use SecuFORCEvo with two activations, and also you couldn’t customize the controls, and it ran at five FPS if you were lucky, and it wrote quicksaves to your boot sector, and loading a checkpoint save caused your pants to fall down.

  24. Ravens Rage says:

    Probably nothing you can do about it, Shamus, but . . . I’m getting this error when I click the link to the Escapist:
    “This domain does not exist.”

    1. Zaxares says:

      I’m getting the same error. Then again, the entire Escapist website seems to be down, so it might just be one of those “try again later” situations.

  25. omer says:

    >This industry desperately needs a Walt Disney.

    Like saturo iwata and shigeru myamoto?

    golden age hollywood in general was run by people that were aware and involved in their products and their audience.

  26. Decius says:

    An assumption I saw but didn’t see examined:
    What percentage of video game buyers also consume media that contains reviews and critiques?

    I read this blog, and that’s about it. If a title on Steam catches my eye and I don’t know if I want it, I’ll look at the Steam reviews and skim the top positive and top negative reviews to learn what people liked and didn’t like.

    But I don’t see the “gaming press” reviews as a way to make purchase decisions, because I assume that all of the professional game reviewers are in a mutualistic relationship with game publishers.

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