Posts by Tag / TOPIC: Consumer Experience (55)

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It turns out that more people are playing...

It turns out that more people are playing CrossCode on Xbox Game Pass than on Switch and PS4 put together. This is wholly unsurprising.

On console and on mobile, subscription models mean that price is no longer a barrier for individual games. Once the monetary cost of trying a game is literally zero, players are far more willing to try way more games. And it’s clear that the greatest beneficiaries of this are weird indie games that players wouldn’t otherwise be confident enough to spend money on.

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Economic Vocal Minorities

On top of all the ethical problems with whale-hunting via loot boxes, there’s also a game design one: it’s allowing the design of games to be twisted by the habits of a small fraction of players.

From Ofcom: Less than 6% of UK children, 4% of adults have purchased loot boxes:

“[O]nly 4% of UK adults who play video games say they have ever bought loot boxes in free-to-play titles, and only 4% have bought them in premium games. Meanwhile, 6% of game-playing children – defined as aged five to 15 – have spent money on loot boxes in free-to-play games, while 3% say they have bought them in premium titles.”

In most cases, it’d be laughable to change a game’s design to significantly worsen it for 94%-97% of its players to accommodate the habits of the other 3%-6%. But when those habits are “spend more money than the 94%-97% put together”, that’s what happens.

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Apple Arcade Seeks Engagement

From Apple Cancels Some Arcade Games in Strategy Shift To Keep Subscribers:

“[Apple] scrapped development contracts with multiple game studios earlier this year . . . . [A]n Apple Arcade creative producer told some developers that their upcoming games didn’t have the level of ‘engagement’ Apple is seeking. . . Apple is increasingly interested in titles that will keep users hooked, so subscribers stay beyond the free trial of the service. . .”

I was a little worried things would move in this direction, but was hoping they wouldn’t. As helpful as it is to set up an ecosystem where games can’t rely on IAP and developers don’t have to think about price, the subscription model does easily lend itself to optimizing for engagement, which causes its own problems.

I’m really hoping they’re at least looking for more complex metrics than just daily active users or something.

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So if you start Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive...

So if you start Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on a Switch where you also have a save file for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, you get an optional bonus: you can start the game with 100,000 G.

This kind of reward has always confused me. It’s not, like, a Rex outfit for Shulk or something, which is a pattern I’ve seen in other games that makes sense to me - a cosmetic reward that’s a nice touch for the people who can get it. Instead, it’s just a big pile of currency - which means this is a balance question.

Positioning the extra money as a reward implies they think the game is better if you start with it - in which case, why don’t you start with it by default? Or even if this is a case where some players would probably enjoy it and others wouldn’t, then why only give that choice to people who have already played a sequel to this game?

One way or another, I feel like the game has been (very slightly) worsened for one group or another in order to enable a reward that potentially has significant effects for early-game balance and pacing. I feel like the intentions here were probably good, but the results are just kind of weird.

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DualSense is a Privacy Risk

Sony have announced the PlayStation 5 controller - rather than being called the Dualshock 5, it will be the DualSense. An apt name, considering its main new feature is “a built-in microphone array.”

The responses I’m seeing to this so far are universally positive. I guess people like the idea of not needing a headset for voice chat. I’m much less optimistic about this - to be fair, I don’t do much voice chat in console games, so it wouldn’t matter much to me as a convenience feature, but I also find it hard to imagine it working well. How would a microphone in the controller pick up voice while not also picking up the TV, the button presses, and ambient noises?

But let’s assume Sony has somehow solved those issues and this actually works well as a replacement for a cheap headset like the one bundled in with the PS4. I still don’t want it. The nice thing about a headset is that you decide when to have an active microphone. You decide when it’s plugged in or disconnected, when it’s turned on or off. A microphone built into the controller is just always there and you don’t have control over it.

In an era where we have legitimate concerns about being spied on by our phones, home assistants, and other smart devices, we don’t need to worry that our game consoles have joined the club.

Thankfully, the reports so far indicate that the DualShock 4 will be compatible with the PS5. I’ll continue to use mine. I won’t use a DualSense unless there’s a way to physically disable the microphone.

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Entitled Developers

So like, I love Nintendo and everything, but this is also the company that decides there is One True Way to play their games to justify forcing you to unlock all characters in an otherwise tournament-ready game one by one, or selling you an expensive controller and then not letting you use it while destroying accessibility by unnecessarily requiring motion controls, or preventing you from backing up your own saves, selling you a save backup service, and then not letting you use it, or requiring an online connection to experience certain content even if playing alone on a portable console.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about entitled gamers, but none about entitled developers. I don’t know what else to call it when a developer feels like they can decide for you how you get to enjoy the games and services you’ve purchased from them and hobbles those games and services in ways that cause real problems for communities, accessibility, and preservation all to stop players from having fun in an unapproved way.

See also: Atlus pretending Fair Use doesn’t exist and dictating terms for using gameplay footage and screenshots (perplexing after their previous backpedaling on the subject), many developers tracking player activity even outside of their game, and on and on.

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Standalone Steam Soundtracks

Given my music purchasing habits, it’s frustrated me more than a few times that many indie games only make their soundtracks available for purchase as DLC on Steam. This was fine for games that I happened to buy on Steam, but I have had to resort to double-dipping on a game I already had on a different platform. It was worth it, but still silly.

So I’m really glad Steam finally made soundtracks available as standalone purchases a couple of months ago. And today, I finally made use of this ability for a game I’m playing on Switch. Feels good.

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I wish it were standard practice for...

I wish it were standard practice for cross-platform games to allow sharing save files across platforms.

I played Dragon Quest Builders 2 on PS4, and now I find myself wishing I could relax by puttering around my end-game Isle of Awakening in handheld mode on my Switch. But I don’t want to play through the entire game and grind out all the Tablet Targets and scavenger hunts again on Switch just to get back to that state.

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Roadmap Roulette

So, like, I understand the economic realities that have resulted in games launching unfinished and then getting substantial post-launch updates. I did complain about how this devalues physical media, but I’ve mostly made my peace with it. However, I am a busy adult with a substantial backlog who basically doesn’t have time to replay games. And the more interested I am in a game and the more I’m anticipating it, the more I care about getting the best and most definitive experience of it. So for games whose release I’m actively following - if it launches with a roadmap of major updates scheduled over the next year, for me that basically means the game actually launches a year later.

But that’s all fine. Like I said, I get it - there are a lot of reasons (especially for smaller studios) that this Early-Access-lite approach makes sense. And it’s not like I don’t have other games to play in the meantime. What isn’t fine is when this happens with multi-platform games and all the roadmaps and update announcements just talk about the game getting the update and don’t say on which platforms and it’s unclear whether the update is rolling out at different dates or skipping some platforms entirely (especially when you find out that, say, the PC version is made by the primary developers and the console ports are handled by a third party with much less transparency) so you don’t even know what the trade-off choice is.

Most games that are on Switch and something else, I’d rather play on Switch for the portability - but it’s often bizarrely difficult to find whether the updates that came to the Steam version have come to the Switch version, are going to come to it at some unknown date, or are just never coming at all. And so I end up just… never buying the game.

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