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First Eleven's Free

Given that attention is more important than price on the Switch eShop, I’m impressed by the marketing-through-discounts done by QubicGames.

In addition to periodically putting their older games on sale, QubicGames often offers launch-window discounts on their new titles - if you already own a QubicGames-published game. This basically means they can send launch announcements for their new titles to people through the news channel for the game they own where it won’t get buried in the huge list of games coming out every week - but in a way that is less annoying, because it’s a coupon and not just an ad, and it’s positioned as a loyalty reward rather than just a devaluing of the game.

It’s a clever system, and it got me to purchase Space Pioneer during its launch window (and I’m really glad I did - but we’ll talk about that game later). But of course this only works once you own one of their games - so it is important that they still do regular sales as well. I didn’t know about it until I picked up One Strike on sale, and for all I know there are a bunch of other publishers doing the same thing whose ecosystems I just haven’t entered.

But now, QubicGames is doing a much more aggressive push to get people on board - over the second half of December, they are giving away ten games as long as you own a QubicGames game. The magnitude of this promotion has gotten a lot of attention, resulting in people online pointing out that one of their games is free-to-play, meaning you can get the games without spending any money at all.

The giveaway is structured such that as long as you pick up a given day’s free game, you are eligible to get the next game for free the next day - but all the games are also on sale, so if you miss a day you can cheaply get back on track. And the final game is not yet announced, so the mystery encourages people to do so even if they fall off near the end.

This is going to get a lot of people owning QubicGames games, feeling good about the publisher, and in a position to be marketed to for future titles. Clever stuff.

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Capsule Review: The Touryst

A brief but charming action adventure that casts you as a tourist vacationing on a series of small islands. Explore peaceful environments, perform odd jobs, and investigate an ancient mystery. The relaxed atmosphere and varied gameplay are enjoyable but a few difficulty spikes damage this effect. Gameplay consists mostly of walking around islands talking to people and seeing what there is to do.

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Why am I still excited when a game has an arcade...

Why am I still excited when a game has an arcade with playable games in it? I find myself going “Ooooh, video games!” having completely forgotten that I am already playing a video game, one I chose to play instead of the many, many more arcade-like ones to which I have constant access.

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Capsule Review: New Super Lucky's Tale

A simple and cartoony 3D collectathon platformer. Play as Lucky Swiftail, anthropomorphic fox seeking the missing pages of the Book of Ages to reunite with his family after an attack from the evil sorcerer Jinx. These pages are the game’s main collectible gating progress through the game and are earned by exploring colorful and inviting levels and completing a variety of challenges.

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Persona 5 Action, not Persona 5 Musou

So like - I knew that Persona 5 Scramble was gonna be awesome. But that’s because I’ve played Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes and Fire Emblem Warriors and I know that when modern Omega Force makes a crossover Musou game, they are deeply respectful of the source material and they find interesting ways to incorporate it into the Musou formula, often in ways that improve both. They don’t just, like, reskin Dynasty Warriors and call it a day.

But not everybody knows that, and outside of its fan base Musou in general has a reputation as samey and shallow. Plus, back when “P5S” was being teased and nobody knew what it was yet, there were hints that it might be a Switch port of Persona 5 and a lot of people got excited for that possibility. So when the reveal was Persona 5 Scramble, a crossover Musou game by Omega Force, a lot of people were very disappointed.

Persona 5 Scramble thus had an uphill battle to fight. But it’s been doing a really good job managing expectations.

First, it was probably the right choice not to call it Persona 5 Warriors. As compelling as that title would have been to players like me, for other players it’s better to avoid baking the Dynasty Warriors expectations right into the name.

Second, Atlus and Omega Force have been aggressively marketing the game via many trailers. Early trailers focused on gameplay that is clearly not just Dynasty Warriors and is strongly influenced by Persona 5. This resulted in write-ups saying things like “Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers – the upcoming action role-playing game from Koei Tecmo and Omega Force – isn’t just some Dynasty Warriors-style spin-off. As evidenced by the title’s most recent livestream blowout, Scramble is actually an in-depth sequel to Persona 5.” The trailers keep coming, showing off gameplay systems and the game’s cast of beloved characters, and the response is always something like “The game continues to look like much more than your typical Dynasty Warriors-like experience, meaning it’s one we’re hotly anticipating as we head into 2020.

The game is being seen as an action-based sequel instead of a lazy cash-in spin-off. And as much as I already knew what it was going to be, and as frustrated as I am that this sort of marketing push is necessary for people not to just say “DYNASTY WARRIORS BOO!” and shut down when they hear “Omega Force”, I recognize that this is really good marketing and expectation management. It gets past the unfair, inaccurate perception people have and paints a clearer image of what the game actually is - to the benefit of both the developer and the game’s potential players.

And I’m hoping it’ll help change Omega Force’s reputation, and future Musou crossovers won’t need as huge a marketing budget to get a fair shake.

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Capsule Review: Cat Quest II

A cute and simple action RPG set in a world populated by anthropomorphic cats and dogs. Wander around a 2D Zelda-like overworld getting into quick fights with randomly-spawning enemies, descending into mini-dungeons and clearing them of enemies, and doing quests for NPCs (that usually involve killing particular enemies). Like the previous game, the story is more about setting a light and gentle tone and atmosphere than creating narrative depth (and there’s no need to be familiar with the first game’s story to enjoy this one).

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Backward compatibility would make moving to the PS5 much easier

PlayStation wants to move its established community from PS4 to PS5 quickly. Here’s PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan, as quoted by gamesindustry.biz:

These are gamers who are networked and sticky and engaged and passionate about PlayStation to an extent that we’ve not seen in previous generations. As we move towards the next-generation in 2020, one of our tasks – probably our main task – is to take that community and transition it from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5, and at a scale and pace that we’ve never delivered on before.

He goes on to talk about how impressive the PS5 is, and how easy it is to develop for, and how great its games will be, as well as how PlayStation itself is improving its internal organization. But I was really hoping he’d talk a bit about how the transition will be made appealing to the existing community. To me, the obvious thing is to make the PS5 not be a hard break from the existing PS4 ecosystem.

When the PS4 came out, I was very disappointed to learn it wouldn’t have any backward compatibility. I’m sure this saved money during development, and of course it meant that old games could be sold to us again as “classics” or via PlayStation Now or whatever, but it still seemed like a mistake. It meant that the PS4 wasn’t just an upgrade to the PS3, the way the PS3 had (originally) been to the PS2 and the way the PS2 had been to the PS1. For the first time, a new PlayStation console came with an entire separate ecosystem. Its value wasn’t enhanced by your existing investment in games and the community. It wouldn’t replace your existing console. It was more analogous to buying a Nintendo or Xbox console to supplement your existing console. And in that case, suddenly it’s a lot less obvious that you shouldn’t just buy one of those instead.

It was a while before I bought a PS4, and longer before I was confident I’d been correct to do so (and my PS3 is still hooked up next to it). If the PS5 wants me to be more confident that I should move over to it quickly, it should at least play every PS4 game, disc and download alike. Similar compatibility for games for older PlayStation consoles would be even better, and while I personally don’t do much online play, cross-play with gamers on at least PS4 seems like it would help too. There are rumors (supported by a patent) that the PS5 will in fact be backward-compatible (though perhaps not for the unusually-architected PS3) but it’s unclear yet whether this is true and whether it would mean we could reuse our old discs and downloads. Guess we’ll still just have to wait and see.