Posts by Tag / TOPIC: Consumer Experience (43)

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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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My Nintendo Selling Ads for Ice Cream

I’ve mostly become numb to the huge pile of wasted potential that is My Nintendo, but they’ve managed to surprise me today. The North American reward store is now selling advertisements for an ice cream store. They want you to spend platinum points to buy these.

The only reason I can imagine anyone buying these ads is because there’s basically nothing else to spend the points on and they expire obnoxiously quickly (in a loyalty program!).

It’s always frustrating to watch Nintendo let good ideas languish, but this is actually straight-up insulting. I almost want to just skip ahead to when they inevitably shut the program down.

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Marvel’s Spider-Man: Game of the Three Years Edition

It’s not just patches that devalue physical media. Game of the Year (GOTY) bundles that include DLC via vouchers do it too.

Marvel’s Spider-Man was released by Insomniac nearly a year ago as of this writing, and it’s received a number of patches, free content updates adding new costumes and such, and three chapters of story DLC.

A Game of the Year edition bundling the DLC was announced a couple of days ago. But rather than re-press the discs with all the updated content present, it looks like it’s the same disc as always, along with a voucher for the DLC.

So anyone buying this “complete” game has to enter a code into the PlayStation Store and wait for the DLC to download. (I assume the updates as well; if they didn’t re-press the discs for the DLC I doubt they would have for the free updates.) They won’t be able to re-download any of this when the store’s not accessible.

And my favorite part? The cherry on top? There’s a tiny disclaimer in the bottom-right corner of the cover reading “DLC voucher expires 08/28/2022”.

The voucher expires after three years. There could certainly still be copies of this on the shelf then - this is the game used to sell the PS5’s performance, after all. Any copies of this bought after that point ARE JUST THE BASE GAME.

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You want decay in your game? Require an online connection.

To me, it feels weird that games aren’t subject to the ravages of time but real life is; apparently to Randall Munroe it’s the other way around.

If you want to go back to an old game world and see simulated change and decay, you can always revisit a neglected Animal Crossing town.

For real decay, check out multiplayer servers for old online games. It’s like a memento mori for games with kludged-in online/multiplayer requirements.

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The problem isn't loot boxes; it's whale hunting

I’m not very optimistic that the right regulation will come out of this whole loot box controversy. For one thing, it’s very hard to write a law that prevents evil loot boxes while not preventing similar things that aren’t evil. But even if you solve that - loot boxes aren’t the real problem.

The real problem is the reliance on “whales” to monetize games. This causes games to be designed to be bottomless money pits to exploit vulnerable users. Loot boxes are just the current favorite way to build a money pit; there are many other strategies and if we block loot boxes designers will pivot to those other strategies.

If we wanted to actually solve this through regulation, we need to start from “How do we prevent whale hunting?” rather than “How do we prevent loot boxes?” I don’t know how to write either one of these laws, but even if we figure out a really great loot box law, we’re treating a single symptom rather than curing the disease.

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If I haven’t played it, it’s new to me!

I love how finding a new-to-me genre opens the door to a wealth of games featuring already-polished formulas.

Like, I didn’t check out Picross until Pokémon Picross and then I immediately dove into the Picross e series which I still haven’t run out of. I didn’t play any Musou games until Dynasty Warriors 8 and I don’t think I’m ever going to run out of those. And most recently, I tried Horizon Chase Turbo on PlayStation Plus, really liked it, and now have a trove of Out Run clones to explore (currently I am mostly hooked on Highway Runners on my phone).

Being late to the party is awesome.

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I have such mixed feelings about Tetris 99.

Tetris 99 launched as a Nintendo Switch Online exclusive. Since it was an online-only battle royale, you needed the online subscription to play anyway, so this didn’t really hurt anyone - and making it free to subscribers was a win for Nintendo’s somewhat-maligned online service. It got even cooler when they started doing periodic tournaments that rewarded My Nintendo coins.

But then things got confusing. The game received a DLC expansion called the “Big Block DLC” which added two offline modes. Naturally it didn’t make sense for these to only be available to online subscribers, so the base Tetris 99 game download was no longer exclusive and could be downloaded by anyone for free - though if you didn’t have an online sub, it was useless to you unless you also shelled out ten bucks for the DLC. And if you did have the sub, this game that had initially been a special gift now had additions and improvements you wouldn’t get without spending more money.

This is a weird structure that damages the positioning of Tetris 99 as a nice bonus for getting an online sub, and Nintendo hasn’t really offered anything to replace it (even the NES releases have been getting rather anemic). To me it reads like the initial Tetris 99 release was a low-confidence experiment, and once the game was a hit the developer is now trying to make more money off of it in ways that the original setup didn’t cleanly enable.

Now another wedge is being driven between Nintendo Switch Online and Tetris 99 - and this one’s even more confusing. The game is receiving a physical release that includes the DLC and a one-year online subscription and (at least in the US) is priced the same as those two things put together (the DLC is ten dollars, a year of online is twenty, the physical Tetris 99 that includes both of these is thirty).

One hopes that the DLC content is included on the game card and it isn’t just bundled with a code - otherwise, the card itself is basically just a dongle and the internet is required for it to be any use at all. But even if it is on the card, it feels weird to me that the game forces you to buy an online subscription. If you wanted to play this game online anyway, why attach it to a piece of plastic that makes the game harder to play because it needs to be in the game slot? And if you didn’t, why would you pay triple the cost of the offline modes for it?

At this point it would make so much more sense for Tetris 99 to just be a ten dollar game with all its content, including an online mode that naturally requires the online subscription to play. And I suspect that the main reason this isn’t how it’s structured is due to the legacy of how the game launched - as a free Nintendo Switch Online bonus. The unusual and high-profile nature of that launch surely got the game a lot more attention than it otherwise would have - it seems entirely possible to me that it would have failed without that early boost, given how many simultaneous online players it needs to have to be successful. But it’s made things weird now that it’s trying to monetize further.