Posts by Tag / TOPIC: Consumer Experience (49)

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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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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.

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Five Bucks a Month

Let’s review. What does five bucks a month get you in mobile gaming?

On Apple platforms, five bucks a month gets you Apple Arcade, which is a curated library of games still rolling out but supposed to total over a hundred this fall - and several of the games out so far are well-reviewed. There are no ads, no in-app purchases, and no behavior tracking. Games can be downloaded and played offline, though you can also share your progress between devices via iCloud. Games can be shared between up to six family members and can be played with popular game controllers.

On Android platforms, five bucks a month gets you Google Play Pass, which is a curated library of over 350 games and utility apps that are already out (and apparently more to come each month). Many of these games and apps are quite well-regarded. They also have no ads or in-app purchases and can be shared with up to five other family members.

And in Mario Kart Tour, five bucks a month gets you the Gold Pass, which gives you some in-game items and features in a single game that still also requires a persistent internet connection for its always-on DRM and which still also has a microtransaction-backed gacha-based unlock system.

I think it would have been obvious the Gold Pass was a bad deal anyway, but the timing of the announcements here casts it into really sharp relief. It’s so disappointing to see Nintendo fall to such sleazy depths, and I really hope it stays contained to mobile. I’ve still got Mario Kart 8 on my Switch and I’ll be playing that instead.

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