Microsoft Needs Games – Can EA help?

Microsoft has a games problem. Put more accurately its problem is the lack of exclusive titles for the Xbox One platform while competitors Sony and Nintendo have a healthy library of must haves. Polygon ran a well written article yesterday describing this very issue in great detail. Microsoft is falling behind competitors Sony and Nintendo, and if the trend continues it runs the risk of being seen as second rate when it comes to console gaming.

Phil Spencer certainly has his work cut out for him as Microsoft’s executive Vice President of gaming, a title he was given back in September of 2017. In an interview with Bloomberg last year, Spencer spoke of the need to grow and increase the amount of investment. Microsoft has not released their sales figures for the Xbox One, but the Polygon article mentions analyst estimates for the Xbox One to be in the vicinity of 35 million units. Sony’s PS4, on the other hand, is sitting on an install base of 70.6 million units. At a 2-1 disadvantage, Spencer’s words on the need to grow the platform carry an incredible amount of weight to them.

In light of all this, the decision for the Game Pass program to include new releases from Microsoft game studios is a start to try and help the pendulum swing back towards Xbox, but the problem still remains the software offerings. For 2018 the confirmed exclusives for the Xbox One include Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3 while the PS4 counts among it’s exclusives God of War, The Last of Us Part 2, Spider-Man, and Detroit: Become Human. I don’t  know about you, but seeing that small comparison makes me glad I bought a PS4 as opposed to an Xbox One. Again,  this is Spencer’s number one problem for the Xbox One – How to get quality exclusives to drive hardware sales and increase the install base.

Microsoft needs to act, and fast so the 2-1 gap doesn’t get any wider. This is where the rumors of acquisitions stemmed from. It takes time for internal studios to develop exclusives. The quick way to bolster a library would be to acquire a company that already has either a cadre of studios working on titles, or IP to pull from. One of the bigger names linked to a possible acquisition is publisher EA, but other names floating around include PUBG corp. There are definitely reasons to be skeptical that this will go through, mainly that the last time there was a rumor of Microsoft looking to buy EA it turned out to be just that, rumor and speculation (this was in 2009). Another reason would be the anti trust implications  such a deal would present since this would create a pretty massive gaming giant. Still it should be interesting to see how this all turns out.

2018 – What am I looking forward to?

2017 was one of those years in gaming that we as consumers and gamers do not see very often. Nintendo released a new console, the very fun to play Switch, that took the world by storm with its novel design and supported by an amazing library of software – a new Zelda and Super Mario game? where do I sign? Consumers and outlets who had previously written off Nintendo as no longer a contender in the console market (the Wii U was not very good) are now talking about the video game company’s resurgence; It’s an amazing story for the company that originally saved the video game market following the famous crash in the 80s.

Aside for a resurgent Nintendo, it seemed like every month in 2017 gave us a reason to rejoice as lovers of video games:

In January Capcom took one of it’s flagship series back to it’s horror survival roots with the surprisingly scary Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Not only was it a fun return to form for the series, but the VR support was surprisingly very well done considering how VR is still very much in its infancy when it comes to fun ways to integrate it in games.

February gifted us Horizon Zero Dawn, an original IP from Guerrilla Games that surprised many people with what it offered in the way of story and gameplay from a studio not known for such titles.

March was the release of the aforementioned Nintendo Switch with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a release title – a game that revolutionized the Zelda formula and went on to win multiple award. We also got Nier: Automata, itself a contender for a number of year end game awards.

April gave us Persona 5, In May we got Injustice 2, Tekken 7 dropped in June, July was Splatoon 2 and Pyre; We got a Hellblade and a good Sonic game in August as well as a new Uncharted title; Assassin’s Creed Origins dropped in October along with Super Mario Odyssey and Wolfenstein 2; and in December PUBG FINALLY got a full release (yawn).

All of this just to say, 2017 was stacked. Like really stacked. It should absolutely go down as one of the best years in gaming.

Well 2017 is gone and now it’s 2018. What am I looking forward to this year? Well if you read along further I’ll tell you what I want to play this year.

DragonBall Fighter Z
This game looks incredibly fun and I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on it. I was a huge fan of the anime growing up, and recently got back into it with DragonBall Super. I am primed and ready to drop countless hours into this game and recreate some of the epic fights from the series. Also to stay true to spirit of the show, I will spend 20 mins powering up against my opponent before any fighting actually happens all the while yelling furiously. I am stoked.

Shadow of the Colossus
When the remake for the PS4 was announced at E3, I became very excited. I know that the game was remastered for PS3 previously, but this is going to be a complete remake from the ground up for the PS4 hardware. This game is going to look beautiful and I’m going to feel all the awe when encountering the colossi in all their PS4 remake glory.

Final Fantasy XV isn’t the only game that’s known for it’s long development cycle. Development began in 2007 and the game was released in November of 2016 for Windows; This year will see the title release across all consoles and I cannot wait to get my hands on this one.

God of War
Kratos is back! You cannot stop the ghost of Sparta, you can only delay him for a time(I mean that in the sense that you cannot stop a force, please Sony don’t delay Kratos). Kratos has already felled the pantheon of God in Greek mythology, now it looks like he is gearing up to do the same to the Norse gods. Oh and his son is with him. I am very interested to see how this mechanic will play out and also to see what exactly Kratos has been up to all this time. Hopefully his son’s AI doesn’t get in the way.

Darksiders III
Now there hasn’t been any official word on this (at least not that I recall reading) but I do believe that this is still slated for a 2018 release. I was a big fan of the first two Darksiders (Death more so than War) and am looking forward to playing as the 3rd horseman of the apocalypse. Fury may quickly become my favorite as her gameplay mechanics seem like they may be very different from both War and Death.

Kingdom Hearts III
Ok ok, I know what you’re going to say and yes there is a part of me that is skeptical on the release of this in 2018. But I am a hopeful fool who wants badly to believe that we will finally get a numbered sequel to Kingdom Hearts II. Don’t break my heart Square Enix; Don’t you dare! Kingdom Hearts fans want, no, NEED this game this year. We can’t handle another decimal based, upscaled, re-skin of KH II. Do the right thing here.

Mega Man 11
When the Capcom community team showed us a bunch of gameplay and other insights for Mega Man 11 on Twitch, I was hooked instantly. I like the new art style and am a fan of the blue bomber’s new aesthetic. I’m a long time fan of this series so it goes without saying that I am on board for this in 2018 … especially after Mighty Number 9 failed to live up as the spiritual successor.

Project Octopath Traveler
I don’t know much about this title beyond the fact that it is 2D-3D styled RPG for the Nintendo Switch that was announced last year as part of their direct. I am intrigued by it and definitely want to know more about it.

Spider-Man is the greatest super hero ever. Period. There is absolutely no discussion to be had here; Fight me. This game looks fantastic and I cannot wait to step in the shoes of everyone’s friendly neighborhood web head. My body is tingling just thinking about it. I want it.

2018 may not be the year that its predecessor was, but there is most certainly enough titles scheduled for release this year to keep me busy. All of these games make me excited for a number of reasons and I cannot wait to get my hands on all these titles. Give them to me NOW!

The cost to bring back Marvel’s first Family?

The answer to the question presented in this post’s heading is $52.4 billion in an all stock deal. That’s a lot of cheddar, but Disney has deep pockets and can afford it. This is far from a done deal however; the agreement needs the approval of anti-trust regulators before it can be finalized, and we saw back in November the Justice Department move to strike down a deal involving AT&T and Time Warner that would have made the former one of the biggest telcom behemoths out there. So for now it seems Disney is slowly taking over the world little by little, but we’ll have to wait and see how the dust settles from this huge shakeup.

For now though, allow me to nerd out over what this possible acquisition can mean for Marvel (films and comics) if the deal gets approved.

The Geek Twins

As you can see from the above info-graphic from The Geek Twins, there is a plethora of characters whose movie rights reside with Fox. All of these would revert back to Marvel should the deal get approved. The means that Marvel’s first family can be brought into the MCU, and that my friends is a very good thing – the Fantastic Four movies have not been very good and the latest attempt to reboot the franchise was just awful. Marvel Studios will be able to do the heroes justice so we can finally get the Fantastic Four movie that we deserve. On top of the possibility of a good Fantastic Four movie comic book fans might just get to see the team get their own title again. With Fox owning the movie rights there was little incentive for Marvel’s publishing arm to have an ongoing title for the Fantastic Four because it would essentially be free advertising for Fox’s properties. Sure there are Future Foundation titles and Johnny Storm and the thing also grace the pages of Marvel’s comic offerings, but a Fantastic Four titled, ongoing book is something fans have been missing and this deal brings that possibility back on the table. Major points

Mutants > Enhanced humans. Did anyone else think it was really dumb that the MCU couldn’t use the term ‘mutants’ when referring to Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, and had to instead refer to them as ‘enhanced humans’? Yea I thought so. That all stems from the whole movie rights thing with the X-Men property. With the X-Men rights back, we can now refer to the characters accurately as mutants (because of their, you know, mutation!). It may be a small point to most others, but this little semantic issue always irked me and I’m glad we can correct this. Moving on.

The freaking X-Men and all mutants associated therein! We have the X-Men back! This makes me very happy because I so badly want another X-Men movie that doesn’t stink – maybe an Avengers vs X-Men movie? I may be in the minority here since the 2012 crossover event met with a lukewarm reaction overall, but at the very least it was a decent story that could translate well to the big screen if Marvel builds it up slowly similar to how it is working towards Infinity War. Oh and remember how *SPOILERS* Wolverine dies in the comics? (if you didn’t know about that, well it’s been 3 years ) Marvel can find some way to resurrect Earth-616’s favorite berserking canuck because we all know no one ever truly dies in comics, unless you have to stay dead because you don’t want to promote a popular character’s upcoming film prospects. Movies amiright?

The news of Disney purchasing 21st Century Fox is big news indeed. It will create a huge entertainment giant that will have the power to shape the entertainment landscape. Can this be a bad thing? Possibly. Right now though, I am allowing myself the momentary indulgence of imagine all the awesome things this can mean for my nerdy self. Hopefully reality doesn’t come crashing down.

Breath of the Wild wins Game of the Year

The Game Awards 2017  have come and gone, and Nintendo reigns supreme with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild winning the coveted Game of the Year award. There was a large part of me that was worried though. I thought that fan favoritism would sway the vote to a title that I personally do not believe should be a game of the year, but the goddesses of Hyrule made sure that Zelda took its rightful place. 

If you haven’t yet played this game then you need to get out from under your rock and play it. It takes the open world formula and applies it to the world of Legend of Zelda in such a way that it completely changes what it means to be a Zelda title. I mean, if you want to talk about re-inventing a series then this game is one you need to play to experience the evolution of a series. I know that the naysayers and haters  will say that all this does is apply the open world formula to the Legend of Zelda series, and the short answer is yes it does apply open world gameplay to Zelda; but it does so much more when you actually look at it in the context of a Zelda title, and it does this in such a polished way that if this game didn’t at least get a Game of the Year nomination then something is seriously wrong. Every little piece of this game is so well thought out and planned – is that a lightning storm? put away your metal weapons unless you want to get electrocuted; Want to get across that lake to a chest? oh hey, let me use my magnesis and make a bridge out of these steel beams. Playing this game for a short while shows you just how much care was given to it to ensure the final product was top notch. The only criticism I can personally levy against the game is that it is light on story. For any other title this may be a huge issue, but for a Legend of Zelda title I don’t see it as such a negative. My reason? The basic story of Legend of Zelda has always been the same – Link saves princess Zelda from the evil Ganon. There are only so many ways to retell the same narrative, and I for one am glad that they kept the story simple and instead focused on all the little details of Link’s interaction with the world at large. 

6 nominations,  3 wins. Breath of the Wild staked it’s claim in 2017 and helped Nintendo make an unlikely come back in the world of console gaming. I loved this game, and had so much fun with it. It felt like true evolution for the series as a whole and was a technically sound title overall. Like I mentioned before, this game was my personal pick for Game of the Year and i truly believe that it was a well deserved win.

Random side note, if Player Unknown’s Batttleground had won I would have been seriously heated.

Game of The Year Thoughts

As we near the end of 2017 there is recurring thought that is not lost on game writers, critics and just lovers of video games in general. 2017 has been chock full of amazing releases. No, that is not just hyperbole; Just look at all the releases from January onward and you will see how lucky we are to basically have our pick of amazing titles and experiences:

The first quarter of the year gave us releases such as Resident Evil 7, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Nier: Automata. It also gave us the Nintendo’s long awaited console the Switch along with the revolutionary The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The second quarter saw the release of Persona 5, What Remains of Edith Finch, the surprisingly fun fighter Arms, and the Crash Bandicoot remastered trilogy among others. In quarters 3 and 4 we saw Splatoon 2, Final Fantasy XII the Zodiac Age, Pyre, Hellblade, Sonic Mania (who knew we’d ever see another good Sonic game again!), Metroid: Samus Returns, Cuphead, Mario + Rabbids…you get the idea; 2017 was full of amazing games up and down the board for all tastes.

One of the knock on effects of having such a strong year for releases is that come Game of the Year time (like now) there are quite a few contenders that one can easily make the argument for, and The Game Awards, an annual ceremony hosted by Geoff Keighley, put together a strong list of candidates for 2017’s top prize…well mostly a strong list in my opinion. 4 of the 5 nominees are strong contenders – I mean anyone can easily make a case for Horizon Zero Dawn, Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Pesona 5. Player Unknown’s Battleground though…for game of the year? ehhh.

Now don’t get me wrong, PUBG is one hell of a multiplayer experience and it did things on steam that perennial favorite DOTA 2 hasn’t done. For those who haven’t heard of PUBG, something of a rarity if you ask me, the game was released to Steam early access back in March of this year by Bluehole. The game is a battle royale style game that pits you against 99 other players (max) and your goal is to essentially be the last player standing to get that oh so sweet chicken dinner. How you do this is up to you; you can hide and hope no one finds you, you can scavenge for weapons and gear and take the fight to your enemies, or you can play a more methodical game that combines the two strategies. In any case the goal is the same, stay alive. Oh yeah, there is also the caveat that as players get eliminated the map’s area of play becomes more constricted – if you’re caught out of the playable area when it contracts, you lose. Sorry lurkers, can’t hide forever. The game is incredibly fun.

So why the issue with it being a game of the year nominee? Well, the first thing is that the game is technically not a full release. It has been in early access since March and only now in December (late in month I believe) will it get a full release. That’s one point of contention, the second is that the game, as is, is still janky as hell. There is quite a bit of work that needs to be done to make sure this game is polished up and ready for it’s release and I just don’t think that, as it stands, it should qualify as a nominee for game of the year.

Games that are nominated as Game of the Year exhibit a number of qualities that show they are deserving of the nomination. Beyond playability, gameplay and fun factor, the technical aspects of a game should also be looked at. Game of the Year is the whole package, not just a piece of the package despite how massively popular and widespread that one piece is (in the case of PUBG). There is no denying the effect PUBG has had on the industry; back in October the title crossed over 2 million concurrent users on steam and looking at the steam charts now shows that the number has only grown (recent day trends show that at it’s peak there are about 2.5 million PUBG concurrent players). The title has even inspired other games to start implementing battle royale style modes. The effect is being felt industry wide and that is a testament to PUBG and Bluehole. I just don’t think that you can rest your hat on that one argument for Game of the Year when it falls short on the other aspects compared to the rest of the titles nominated.

As for me? When the Hold Up a Sec guys start talking game of the year, I will be going to bat for my personal favorite of 2017 and my nominee for Game of the Year. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. What do you think?

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