Posts by Tag / TOPIC: Consumer Experience (49)

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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.

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Further Early Thoughts on Google Stadia

It’s a few months later and Google has done nothing to position Stadia as streamer- or esports-focused, which seems to kill my previous speculation. Also, they’ve revealed pricing details and as explained by Shamus Young, they are nonsensical.

My view of Google Stadia has shifted from “it might be a reasonable service for which I am simply not the target audience” to “probably a bad idea that will fail unless it pivots significantly.”

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No Cloud Saves for Animal Crossing: New Horizons

It’s being reported that the upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons will not support cloud backups for its save files “to avoid manipulating time, which remains one of the founding concepts of the series.” (Source, translation.)

It’s bad enough that Nintendo doesn’t allow you to back up your own save files manually and makes a paid subscription the only way to protect your data from hardware failures, damage, loss, or theft. That’s already anti-consumer.

But if they’re going to do that, then once you’re paying money for the privilege of backing up your data from playing your game on your console, no game should be able to opt out. It’s ludicrous to charge you for a service and then tell you “Nope, this particular developer didn’t feel like you should get to use the service you’re paying for on the product they sold you.”

Supposedly, developers need “a good reason” to opt out of cloud backups, but in practice the reasons we’ve seen so far usually aren’t good at all. But what I find interesting about this one is how paternalistic it is.

It feels similar to the argument you sometimes hear against the inclusion of easy modes, that somewhere a player might play on easy even though they’d enjoy the game more on hard, and preventing this possibility is somehow worth blocking other people from enjoying the game at all. I don’t care if some player out there uses save backups to finish their insect collection faster or whatever - why on earth is preventing that worth blocking all players from backing up their save in a game that’s intended to be played for months or years?

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Whenever I browse sales on the Switch eShop, I...

Whenever I browse sales on the Switch eShop, I find myself looking at interesting-seeming games and trying to remember whether I’ve looked them up before. Some games go on sale repeatedly and I end up researching them multiple times because I don’t recall that I’ve already decided not to buy them at that price.

So, here’s a new feature I’d like to see - a “below my price threshold” view on sales. Whenever you browse the shop, you can mark games as “not interested at this price”. Then when you go to the “threshold” view, it only shows you games that are currently at a price lower than you’ve ever marked them. So that game that’s been 15% off a few times, but doesn’t really look like your thing? It won’t clutter up your screen again next time it goes 15% off and make you try to remember how you felt about it, but it will show up again when it goes 50% off. (Alternately it could let you specify a price threshold manually - maybe you know you don’t want that game unless it’s 75% off.)

It’s a little hard to explain this concisely and probably not useful to most casual consumers, so I can’t imagine it ever really taking off, but I’d use it a lot.

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Unrewarding Rewards

Here’s another pet peeve: when games forget that something is positioned as a reward and get stingy with it.

I was thinking of this recently because of Hyrule Warriors. Similar to Fire Emblem Warriors, it has a system where you can scan up to five different amiibo per day and for each one get a semi-random reward of in-game currency, materials, or a weapon. Characters from the game’s actual franchise get special treatment, but any old amiibo will give you something.

Currency is generally the worst reward in my opinion, as that’s the easiest resource to farm in-game. You can get different amounts of it, though, and 50,000 rupees is nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, one of the possible rewards - which I have gotten several times - is one rupee.

I normally have about one million rupees on hand. One rupee is basically worthless. It would almost be less insulting and frustrating if you got nothing at all.

This might be a reasonable outcome if everyone just got five pulls on this slot machine every day. I think I’d still rather balance the rewards so the expected earnings were the same but there weren’t any duds like this, even though you’d still probably get something decent from five pulls. An engagement reward shouldn’t be insulting.

But pulls aren’t free. They are a reward for buying amiibo and an attempt to add value to them as a platform. (Even if Nintendo has largely abandoned this.) I bought a figurine expecting to be able to use it in a variety of games, I go to the effort to fire up the game for the day, go to the amiibo menu, and physically pick up my amiibo and put it on the controller - and the game blows me a one rupee raspberry in response.

I’m glad they figured out this was a bad idea. This “reward” was dropped from Fire Emblem Warriors, and the smallest amount of currency you can get from an amiibo there is five hundred.

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