Most games take years to develop, but Minecraft developer Mojang plans to make one over a single weekend. Announced on Wednesday, Mojang intends to livestream a new game’s creation over 60 hours and is partnering with the Humble Bundle team to raise money for charity. This latest announcement follows in the footsteps of other innovative Mojang projects which could only take root in a field as open to creativity as the game industry.
Starting Friday, February 17 at 10 A.M. Central European Time (1 A.M. US Pacific Time) Mojang will begin work on a brand new title. The company will answer questions via Twitter and promises “silly incentives” for reaching donation goals. Eager fans can even get involved now and vote for the genre and theme of the prospective game on Mojang’s website. “Of course, you?ve always wanted to play a Shoot Em?Up Dating Simulator with a Candy Land World War II theme. Choose wisely!” warns the company.
From the very beginning of Minecraft, when the company literally consisted of just one man, Mojang reached out to connect with their fans in novel ways. As Minecraft’s popularity exploded, rather than pulling back and becoming a more traditional developer Mojang pushed ever further. They created Minecon, continued to update Minecraft while simultaneously working on smartphone and 360 versions, and used Minecraft to help renovate Sweedish public housing. The 60-hour game project comes less than a week after Mojang founder Notch reached out to Double Fine’s Tim Schafer about a possible collaboration on Psychonauts 2.
Only in the game industry could a single company as small as Mojang reach out and engage other developers, their community, and fans in such an effective manner. Seemingly every project it undertakes exemplifies something special about games. Only the game industry would tolerate, let alone encourage Notch to reach out and offer to help an older and more experienced game maker — traditional media tends to focus on older artists aiding up-and-comers, likely to avoid embarrassing the more experienced talent.
How could a film or book allow public housing residents to design neighborhood improvements? Mojang allowed fans to design replicas of their areas on special Minecraft servers, and then allowed residents in to redesign everything from parks to road placement. Only a game could so effortlessly engender community participation in a large project like that. Traditional media would have relied on posters, radio and TV ads, cost tens of thousands of dollars, and produced minimal citizen involvement — Mojang did better for the cost of a handful of servers.
Time after time Mojang exemplifies the best and most exciting elements of this industry. The small developer’s uncanny ability to foster a sense of community and then use it to accomplish something unexpected — be it a massive convention or small charity drive — shows that, despite what common wisdom on internet message boards holds, the game industry still allows its best and brightest to express their creativity more than any other medium.
The Wasteland 2 Kickstarter has already more than exceeded its goal of $900,000. With 25 days still to go, it’s approaching $1.5 million in pledges, a figure which will ensure the game lands on Mac and Linux in addition to PC. It’s nice to see a game like Wasteland that is nearly 25 years old get the opportunity for a sequel thanks to a new method of funding, but this particular Kickstarter may result in more than just a (very) long-awaited sequel being made.
The latest update on the Kickstarter, written by inXile boss Brian Fargo, recounts a story of how Fargo was kind to a young neighbor of his 20 years ago. He used this as the launching point to talk about a Kickstarter initiative he’d like to help start which he is calling Kick It Forward.
“And speaking of goodwill it occurs to me that we can harness the power of Kickstarter in a more meaningful way,” Fargo wrote. “Fan funding is bigger than me or Wasteland 2 as I have remarked before. The development community has come together to support us in ways that I didn’t think possible and our power as developers will ultimately come from us sticking together.”
Noting that “both gamers and developers have so much more strength than they realize,” he said he will be pledging money made by his Kickstarter-funded game to future Kickstarters. This won’t be money that fans have donated — there’s no need to worry about seeing your money go to a project other than Wasteland 2 if you pledge. Instead 5 percent of profits generated by Wasteland 2, tentatively set for release in late 2013, will be sent to other Kickstarter developers.
The details of how other projects would be selected or what would happen if they fail to reach their targets were not shared. There is plenty of time for those details to be worked out, though, and in the meantime Fargo said he would have a badge created which other Kickstarter projects can make use of to indicate they will also pledge a portion of their future profits to other Kickstarters.
“Imagine the potential if another Minecraft comes along via Kickstarter and produces millions of dollars of investment into other developers,” Fargo said. “This economic payback will continue to grow the movement way beyond the current system. I hope others will join me with this idea and make this a true shakeup.”
It’s hard not to like this idea — any project which succeeds on Kickstarter is doing so because of the fans’ support; there would be no profit to speak of in the first place if not for the generosity of the Kickstarter community. Generally speaking, the games being pitched on the site are a sort that publishers have no interest in (at least not without heavily modifying things so they are no longer true to the creators’ vision), so Kickstarter-funded game developers will have that in common and would hopefully want to support others in that position.
While we may not have seen a Kickstarter for a new Shenmue pop up, there are a number of projects that still appear to be worthy of funding. If other developers were to begin kicking in to ensure these games are made, it would only improve the chances of gamers seeing more innovative titles that publishers are unwilling to take a risk on.
It was ten years ago this month that Grand Theft Auto III was released. It was preceded by two games and two expansion packs, yet it wasn’t until III that the series became the influential juggernaut it’s known as today. Its open-world action led to countless clones and essentially started a new genre; now you’ll have the chance to play that monumental game on your phone.
Rockstar has announced it plans to bring GTA III to a select number of iOS and Android devices. On iOS, only iPad 2 and iPhone 4S will be compatible. Supported Android phones include the Droid X2, HTC Evo 2, LG Optimus 2X, Motorola Atrix, Samsung Galaxy S2, while Android tablets include the Acer Iconia, Asus Eee Pad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. These are only the devices that will be supported when the game launches later this fall; more may be added later.
There is a Grand Theft Auto game on the iOS App Store already, Chinatown Wars, but that uses the top-down perspective seen in the first two GTA games. To think we’re at a point where a phone can play a game my PC used to struggle mightily with (unless I kept the camera pointed at the ground at all times) is incredible.
The only potential problem here is mapping the controls to a touchscreen interface. Rockstar did as well as it could with Chinatown Wars, but controls were an area where the DS and PSP versions were decidedly better — it was no fun having your finger slip off the virtual analog stick or missing one of the buttons because of the lack of feedback you’d get with a physical button.
Assuming this sells well enough, hopefully we’ll see Vice City, San Andreas, and the other GTA III series games end up on iOS and Android, too.
In addition to the GTA III port, a limited-edition action figure is being released of GTA III’s silent protagonist, Claude. (His name is never mentioned until he makes an appearance in San Andreas, a prequel, though a reference to it can be found in GTA III data files.) You’ll get his standard cargo-pants-and-bomber-jacket outfit and the prison jumpsuit he starts the game out in, as well as a variety of weapons to slide into his hands like a bat, knife, sniper rifle, assault rifle, and grenades.
The 1:6 scale action figure was created by Sideshow and is priced at $149.99. Rockstar Social Club members can sign up here by October 16 for a chance to win one for free.
The GTA III port hasn’t been priced. Chinatown Wars currently goes for $9.99.
An official list of supporters for the much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act, better known to many as SOPA, shows that the videogame industry is in the bill’s corner. That’s not to say every company in the industry has come right out and said as much, but many of them do at least support it by proxy as members of the Entertainment Software Association, the game industry’s trade association. The ESA has made it official that it supports the anti-piracy bill which many fear, if passed, will censor the Internet and stifle innovation.
The bill’s name might make it sound noble enough — stomping out piracy is good news for everyone except those who illegally download and distribute copyrighted content — but there are numerous reasons why opponents believe it should not be passed. Among the most important of these is the vague wording with which the bill is written, a serious problem for a piece of legislation. There are countless articles, videos, and infographics devoted to the subject, but at its most basic level it threatens to result in sites being shut down, startups facing potentially unfair legal action, and pervasive censorship as websites — including social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook — seek to prevent their users from sharing anything that the website in question could be held accountable for.
Access from within the United States to certain websites could be blocked, but as a means for stopping pirates this would be ineffective as sites could still be reached by typing in their IP address. More seriously, an intellectual property holder would, if SOPA passes, suddenly have the power to shut down a website’s advertising and payment processing far more easily than many feel is reasonable. With this power, websites could easily be crippled, and the sort of freedom we’ve come to expect from the Internet — which has become an essential tool for education, communication, commerce, and political action — would be greatly diminished. And that’s not to mention the steps search engines would have to take to “disappear” offending sites, among many other aspects that the bill’s adversaries say are simply not right.
The Entertainment Consumers Association, a non-profit group that advocates the interests of gamers, has summed up some of their significant complaints about SOPA:
It strips current laws by now making Internet companies, which used to be immune, liable for their users’ communications. This means that Facebook, Youtube, WordPress, Google and more are now on the hook for what you post.
It gives the US Attorney General, with court order, the power to seize websites that possibly infringe or partially infringe copyright. There would be no due process and no chance to defend yourself before the seizure. The mere accusation can get a website taken away.
It violates Net Neutrality by ordering internet providers, advertising companies and payment systems to block accused websites with technology that just doesn’t exist.
It threatens users by imposing fines or jail time for posting even derivatives of copywrited work(s). A video of your karaoke, playing the piano, video game speed trial would now all be punishable if a copyright holder decides to enforce it.
Needless to say, many find the videogame industry’s support of the legislation disconcerting, as the ESA represents Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo of America, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Capcom USA, Sega of America, THQ, and more than two dozen other companies (Activision being one notable exception). Piracy is undoubtedly a major concern for the industry; publishers argue it has harmed software sales and used it as the reasoning for why they ignore certain platforms at times. Piracy’s impact has led to many games becoming more online-centric, even if that isn’t always identified as the reasoning for that shift.
“As an industry of innovators and creators, we understand the importance of both technological innovation and content protection, and do not believe the two are mutually exclusive,” the ESA said in a statement regarding its support of SOPA. “Rogue websites — those singularly devoted to profiting from their blatant illegal piracy — restrict demand for legitimate video game products and services, thereby costing jobs. Our industry needs effective remedies to address this specific problem, and we support the House and Senate proposals to achieve this objective. We are mindful of concerns raised about a negative impact on innovation. We look forward to working with the House and Senate, and all interested parties, to find the right balance and define useful remedies to combat willful wrongdoers that do not impede lawful product and business model innovation.”
While the latter portion of the statement suggests the ESA would like to see the bill modified, its name nevertheless remains on an official list of supporters (PDF) of the bill in its current form. Destructoid notes this is the same ESA that called for support from gamers in the Brown v. EMA/ESA case that made it to the Supreme Court last year. Many it feel it is hypocritical, to say the least, to ask gamers for support when the industry was under fire but then to openly support a bill that would hurt those very same gamers not even a year later.
One of Double Fine’s best games was its very first one: Psychonauts. It combined the developer’s signature humor with some solid platforming action to create a game that was critically acclaimed but didn’t sell as well as it should have. Mac gamers can now finally get their hands on a copy designed to work on Apple’s operating system, and those with a copy on PC can enjoy some new changes and features that have been made available today.
Double Fine has announced that, thanks to a partnership with Dracogen Strategic Investments, Psychonauts is now out for Mac OS X. The Steam version (which costs $9.99) supports SteamPlay — in other words, the same copy can be played on either Windows or Mac. Alternatively, you can find it for the same price on the Mac App Store.
Steam users with the game already installed will find a new update brings with it several welcome changes and additions. Achievements and cloud saves have been introduced, and the difficulty of the Meat Circus has been toned down — though you wouldn’t guess that from the facetious Tim Schafer quote in the press release:
“We are really excited to finally be answering fans’ requests for a more difficult Meat Circus,” he said.
Additionally, Double Fine has released a new, free iOS app — the Psychonauts Vault Viewer — that allows you to watch all of the Memory Vaults from the game on the iOS device of your choice.
After it failed to be a big sales success, there wasn’t a great deal of talk about a sequel following Psychonauts’ release in 2005. It has since become a cult classic. The rights to the game reverted to Double Fine this year following comments from Schafer last year where he stated he was ready to make a sequel if the right publisher could be found. An outpouring of support for the developer’s moves today could only help that cause.
The press release on today’s announcements is inordinately funny, so I won’t rob you of the opportunity to read it for yourself. Find it in its entirety below.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA ? September 12 — Double Fine Productions, Inc. announced today a new Mac version, new PC update, and new companion iOS app for one of its premiere titles, the award-winning Psychonauts.
As of today, Steam users may download a free update to their Psychonauts game which includes–for the first time–achievements, cloud saves, and a slightly modified Meat Circus.
“We are really excited,” said Double Fine President Tim Schafer, “to finally be answering fans’ requests for a more difficult Meat Circus.”
Mr. Schafer was probably joking about that last part, as Meat Circus, one of the original game’s most difficult sections, has been made slightly less punishing in this update.
“Mostly because I’m getting older and it’s hard for me to press buttons that quickly. Hey, don’t forget to mention the achievements!” Schafer added, unnecessarily, because we already mentioned that feature.
“What about the part I paid for?” asked Steven Dengler, CEO of Dracogen Strategic Investments, which is a private investment firm interested in making cool things happen, and not a clan of evil dragons, plotting to take over the world like it sounds. Double Fine has partnered with Dracogen to bring Psychonauts to the Mac OS X. The Mac version is available now on Steam and the Mac App Store, as well as several different online digital retailers.
“I have been a fan of Psychonauts and Double Fine for a long time,” continued Dengler, “and I’m extremely happy to be helping them bring their games to new platforms like the Macintosh. All hail the supremacy of Dragons!”
To show how excited they are about their first ever Apple product, Double Fine has also produced a free Psychonauts companion app for iPhone/iPad. The Psychonauts Vault Viewer lets players view all of their favorite Memory Vaults from Psychonauts (even the ones they never found) on their handheld iOS device. Every vault from the game is included, plus newly-recorded audio commentary from Tim Schafer and Scott Campbell for every slide of every vault. The app is available now in the iOS App Store.
“Excellent,” Said the dragons. “Everything is moving forward as planned.”
There are certain guarantees in life. For me, one of them is that anytime a Humble Indie Bundle or a big Steam sale pops up, I’m going to spend some money. At this point it’s become a reflex; I may not have time to play whatever it is I’m going to buy, but when you can get quality games for so cheap I find it hard to say no. These events may only come a few times a year, though at any given time you can head over to Steam (or GamersGate, Impulse, et al) and find any number of games heavily discounted. Roughly two dozen games are on sale on Steam right this very second, including Arcania: Gothic 4 for $4.99 (75% off), the Cities in Motion Collection for $13.99 (65% off), and Sniper Elite for $2.50 (75% off). This is great news for gamers, right? Games can be picked up for a fraction of their regular prices, developers make some money, and everyone is surely better off. Or are they?
I’ve picked up on some buying behavior of mine that’s had me questioning that line of thinking in recent months. Having not played Braid in quite some time, I thought about buying the PC version and playing it when I’m stuck with only my laptop. A quick visit to Steam showed it costs $9.99, a price that it is more than fair for such a terrific game. Yet rather than go ahead and buy the game right away, as I ordinarily would be happy to with an indie game I already own on another platform, I decided to wait. “It might be on sale soon,” I told myself. Next time I logged into Steam I found out I already owned Braid (no doubt as a result of some previous Steam sale), rendering the decision to wait a moot point. Yet it isn’t the only time I’ve found myself interested in a game that I decided to wait on in the hopes of it eventually going on sale; since buying an iPad recently, I checked on the price of Civilization Revolution every day, only to be rewarded with a big price cut after a few days. A similar situation played out with Ticket to Ride where, after a week or two of waiting, it was made available free for a day.
There’s nothing wrong with being a smart consumer and waiting for a good deal, yet the frequency and steepness of the discounts seen in these sales (and Humble Indie Bundles, where you can pay any amount you wish for a handful of games) may be hurting the value of games. That’s precisely the pointed raised by GOG.com managing director Guillaume Rambourg and marketing boss Trevor Longino in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
“Selling games at too high a discount – one often sees discounts above 80% off here and there – sends a message to gamers: this game, simply put, isn’t worth very much,” the duo said. “Of course you make thousands and thousands of sales of a game when it’s that cheap, but you’re damaging the long-term value of your brand because people will just wait for the next insane sale. Slashing the price of your game is easy. Improving the content of your offer when you release your game, that’s more ambitious.”
This issue is now of greater concern to GOG as a result of the website’s recent shift from focusing exclusively on classic titles to also selling new ones. While the site does offer weekly discounts on games, the reasons the two attributed for its success are the bonuses and extra it offers, its DRM-free offerings, and quality customer service. “GOG has always been trying to add as much value as possible into their offer; and we hope more gaming companies will follow this direction,” they said, noting the “the best way to support a publisher or developer from a financial standpoint” is to buy a game on day one.
Rambourg and Longino also claimed the discounts are harmful to gamers, and not just developers and publishers who hope to be able to sell their games without the assistance of steep discounts. “If a gamer buys a game he or she doesn’t want just because it’s on sale, they’re being trained to make bad purchases, and they’re also learning that games aren’t valuable. We all know gamers who spend more every month on games than they want to, just because there were too many games that were discounted too deeply. That’s not good for anyone.”
There is another side to this debate, part of which they did acknowledge: “There’s a counter argument to that, of course, which is that sales encourage people to try games that they’re not sure about. And there’s a certain truth to it, but I think that you need to reach a happy medium between giving someone a chance to take a risk without feeling like they’ve gotten a bad deal, and pricing things so cheaply that you tell gamers, ‘this game I made isn’t worth very much.’”
There’s no denying these sales do impact the way some gamers go about buying games, as my example above (which I know is true of others) illustrates. Those who would suggest all that matters is developers ending up with some money have somewhat of a point. However, an indie developer with only one game on the market, for instance, may not be able to afford to keep all of its staff around during the months when prospective customers are waiting for a sale. By the time a sale comes along six months later, it may have been forced to lay off some of its staff.
Rushing to have a sale shortly after release is an equally risky step, as it could alienate the gamers who decided to spend full price on the game at launch. Whether or not you classify that as the risk of being an early adopter, those people may decide to wait for a sale next time the developer releases a game.
Rambourg and Longino are right that there must be some sort of balance that can be established between discounting the game to drive sales and not hurting interest in the game at full price. Judging by GOG’s sales, the 40%-to-50% discount range is what they feel provides “plenty of incentive to pick up a game if you’re interested or if you just think you might like to try it because you’re not sure about the game, but not some crazy 75% or 85% discount that damages the long-term value of a game.”
Whether that is, in fact, the right sort of discount for digital games, there is still the matter of when those sales should take place. Developers don’t want to do it so soon that they run into the scenario laid out above where early adopters feel burned by their full-priced purchase, nor do they want to wait so long that those who may make a purchase during a sale lose their interest and move on to something else.
I do think it’s clear there is a devaluing going on as a result of these sales. Not everyone may be impacted by them, and even those who are (like myself) will still buy plenty of full price games, but developers should certainly be thinking about the long-term effects when considering the short-term benefits a big sale can provide.
Electronic Arts is the winner (loser?) of The Consumerist’s annual Worst Company in America tournament this year. Following a round of nominations and weeks of head-to-head, March Madness-style voting, the Redwood City, California-based videogame publisher was named the top vote-getter in the finals today in which it was squaring off against Bank of America.
Before going any further it’s important to note this is an Internet poll, and as such can’t be taken as an actual indication of what the population believes is the worst company around. Yet even with that caveat in mind, it’s hard to fathom that a company responsible for making games could be loathed so vociferously.
Yes, EA has certainly done its fair share to draw the ire of gamers. Origin has been condemned by many as an unneeded hurdle for playing PC games, a copy of Steam that does a poorer job and offers nothing in return even when its usage is mandatory. Others deplore the way it has monopolized the football market, acquiring the exclusive rights to the NFL and effectively killing off the excellent NFL 2K franchise while failing to innovate with its annual Madden releases. There are those who detest the way in which it sells downloadable content. Online passes have been a frequent target of criticism, and it was EA that pioneered the concept with Project Ten Dollar. The company has acquired a number of developers and been accused of forcing them to compromise or alter the way they develop games, or worse yet closing them down. Online servers for its games (even ones carrying online passes) have been shut down more rapidly than they should be. Most recently, Mass Effect 3 has been surrounded by controversy whether it be for the availability of launch day DLC that some felt should be in the game for free or because of the allegedly terrible ending (which almost certainly was the driving force behind EA coming out on top in this tournament).
Even if all of these points are accepted as fact, there is no way EA or any other company in the games industry should be beating out Bank of America or many of the other companies in the tournament. (Walmart, GameStop, PayPal, AT&T, and Comcast were among the 32.) It’s difficult to even begin to pick out examples of the things Bank of America has done to make it more worthy of this dishonor. But however dissatisfied you may be with how Commander Shepard’s story concluded, false foreclosures are surely a much more serious matter.
This is not to say EA is or isn’t undeserving of gamers’ hatred; I do feel the reaction to Mass Effect 3′s ending was over the top, I don’t blame EA for snatching up the NFL license even as someone who greatly preferred the 2K games, and I think Origin might be pretty good some day. But especially when it comes to matters of objecting to downloadable content or the games it puts out, you are more than welcome to not spend on your money on those things — no one is forcing you to be nickel-and-dimed, as EA and others are accused of doing. Yet those in the games media who choose to point to how silly EA winning this tournament is are guaranteed one thing, and that is to be accused — baselessly, I might add — of being bought off or bribed by the publisher.
Again, feel free to dislike EA and its business practices all you want while keeping in mind that EA is a business (and accordingly does want your money) and that it doesn’t owe us anything (regardless of whether or not that is a smart long-term business decision). But also remember that this is, after all, the videogame industry, and to suggest that a bank with a deplorable track record is worse than EA is not an indication of bribery or blindness, but an attempt to put all of this EA hate in perspective.
Netflix subscribers will find their movie selection gutted tomorrow, as the service removes thousands of movies and TV shows due to the end of its contract with the premium cable movie network Starz, which, while providing only around 5% of the overall Netflix library, just happens to offer some of the more popular content.
The same thing happens to online game providers, from Netflix-like streaming services like OnLive, to more traditional digital distribution platforms like Xbox Live or Steam. With all this uncertainty one might be tempted to simply stick with physical media, but despite what its ardent defenders will tell you, the physical media sold by normal retail channels comes with a finite lifespan. Regardless of whether you stream, download, or buy optical discs, no game you purchase will last forever, and any streaming service will face periodic mass delistings like Netflix as contracts change every few years. Meaning downloadable game services may offer you the best chance of playing your favorite game thirty years from now.
Though OnLive hasn’t shaped the way we play games in the same way that Netflix changed the country’s viewing habits, the game-streaming service will one day have to cope with losing valuable content like Netflix. The value of the service to customers changes with every contract signed or partnership ended. While the same could be said of more traditional digital distribution services like Xbox Live Arcade and Steam, which allow users to download their purchases, those platforms utilize a set of robust policies that minimize damage done to their users — when a title disappears from either of those providers, those who previously purchased the game can still download it at will. Some may choose to wash their hands of digital distribution all together, but data degradation on physical media may very well render your disc-based games unplayable long before they’re removed from Steam’s catalog.
The ever moving pace of technological development turns the simple act of playing an older game into a trial. How many players purchased Chrono Trigger in 1996 and still have their SNES ready and TV connected? Does anyone still keep a 5.5-inch floppy drive connected to their machine just in case they just so they can play the original version of The Secret of Monkey Island at a moment’s notice? In principle, purchasing games stored on physical media means that one will have access to that game anytime and anywhere in perpetuity. In practice, it means hunting down the right hardware in the attic or basement (assuming you still have it) and overcoming numerous other challenges like how to hook a SNES or Genesis up to a modern TV. Even after one goes to all that trouble, the media, be it cartridge, disk, or CD, which stores the games has a very finite lifespan. Most NES cartridge batteries died years ago, along with most floppy discs, and a good portion of CDs or DVDs. Steady and perpetual data degradation cannot be stopped. A small number of hardcore gamers may choose to jump through the hoops necessary to preserve game data and maintain hardware, but most won’t. The troubles don’t justify the gain when we live in age where five or six dollars will allow you to play most (but by no means all) classic games on modern hardware via digital distribution.
The systems worked out to serve Origin or Steam customers after a delisting may not function for every title. In all likelihood, our collective Steam libraries are unlikely to make it to the end of the decade or beyond without losing playability on a handful of titles, but the convenience is worth re-buying old favorites on the cheap once a decade or so. Though critics of digital distribution make a fuss about the ability to play a game indefinitely, standard industry practices already place a de facto time limit on all games purchased. Meanwhile, the supposed “long-tail” of streaming services is subject to the whims and desires of individual publishers and their relationship with service providers. Maybe you won’t be able to download the same purchase of Dead Space 2 from Steam in twenty years, but will you jump through the hoops of finding a non-red ringed 360 capable of interfacing with a futuristic 4320p display, or track down whatever streaming service happens to host the game for the time being and subscribe? Players shouldn’t be forced into making a decision like this, but the business realties of the industry are more than enough to surpass any pro-consumer idealism, and they heavily favor downloadable digital distribution.
Welcome to 1UP Presents #3 — it’s behind schedule, the last issue, and the most expensive. Restrain yourselves. But it’s actually kind of awesome.
A couple months ago, 1UP editor-in-chief Jeremy Parish and I decided that we’d close out our print magazine experiment with the third issue. He started it as a pet project about six months ago, and it never really made much money or practical sense, but it was a fun thing to do on the side, so Jeremy spent many off-work hours organizing the first two issues, and handed me the third.
Since it was the last one, I wanted to go out on a high note, so I spent pretty much all my spare time over the course of the last couple months making it as good as I knew how. That meant cramming in a bunch of research-heavy features (that I feel are some of the best we’ve ever done, in part because we got very lucky with interviews) and giving the issue a theme to make it feel different from most game magazines.
We ended up with “The Sketch Issue,” carrying that concept from the cover (which features a sketch from The Last Guardian director Fumito Ueda) to the feature headers (which were all drawn by OK Totally artist Andy Helms), to a sketch gallery in the middle of the issue (featuring 40+ original sketches from industry artists that we’re going to auction off for charity at the end of November), to a flipbook in the upper-right corner of the issue (drawn by Papo & Yo developer Minority).
Issue three is also a lot thicker than previous issues (100 pages, up from 58 in issue two and 38 in issue one), and thus more expensive. Yeah, it sucks when you compare it to newsstand magazine prices, but at least the paper quality is a lot nicer (which really helps make the sketch gallery look nice) there are no ads (which allowed us to do the flipbook), and it’s a really heavy chunk of paper.
1UP Presents #3 will be available indefinitely (along with the first two issues!) from MagCloud, and you can buy it at our online bookstore. Alternately, you can wait a little while and read the stories for free on the site. However you choose to consume it, enjoy!
In This Issue
- Fumito Ueda Profile
Sony’s not ready to open the floodgates on The Last Guardian, so we went in-depth with the man behind it with three Ueda interviews, a visit to Team Ico’s studio in Tokyo, discussions with coworkers and those who know him, rare concept art, and new trivia about him and his games.
- How Japan’s Earthquake Changed its Developers
Six months later, we look at the impact of the Tohoku earthquake on the game industry — what teams altered their games out of sensitivity, how developers plan to work differently moving forward, etc. — pulled from 20+ interviews with developers currently working in Japan.
- Sketch Gallery
As part of an auction for Japan earthquake relief, we rounded up original sketches from the following industry artists and printed them in the issue: Vigil’s Joe Madureira, Square’s Isamu Kamikokuryo, Soul Calibur V’s Takuji Kawano, El Shaddai’s Sawaki Takeyasu, Grasshopper’s Goichi Suda, Akira Yamaoka and Kazutoshi Iida, original Crash Bandicoot artist Bob Rafei, Halo 4′s Frank O’Connor, Spelunky’s Derek Yu, Supergiant’s Jen Zee, Junction Point’s Shawn Melchor and Scott McSorley, Namco’s Katsuhiro Harada, Minority’s Yann Penno, Epic’s Demond Rogers and Chris Wells, Specular Interactive’s Andrew Rai, BioShock Infinite’s Robb Waters and Ben Lo, Ninja Gaiden 3′s Masahiro Nose, Shank’s Jeff Agala, Borderlands’ Scott Kester, WayForward’s Eric Oliver, Capybara’s team, Twisted Pixel’s team, Q Entertainment’s Takashi Ishihara, and Team Meat’s Edmund McMillen. To top it off, staff from Ready at Dawn and Twisted Pixel drew their interpretations of Team Ico’s characters for a tribute gallery.
- Paper and Discs
Emily Morganti looks at the state of the game manufacturing industry, and how it’s holding up in the face of digital distribution, with photos showing how games get made.
- How Deepak Chopra Made a Video Game
Tracey John visits Chopra and Curious Pictures, developer of Deepak Chopra’s Leela, and finds a studio that at one point considered making their game for Nintendo’s Vitality Sensor.
- The Tony Hawk Experiment
Andrew Hayward digs into what happened behind the scenes with Robomodo’s risky attempt at making a skateboarding game using an actual skateboard.
- The Man Who Created Street Fighter
Takashi Nishiyama comes out of hiding in his first interview to discuss his time at Capcom, what it was like running SNK’s game development division, and the state of things at his current company, Street Fighter X Tekken developer Dimps.
- Why Gamecock Failed
Evan Shamoon gets former Gamecock head Mike Wilson to open up for the first time on why things went south for the indie publisher, including a look at an early investor pitch presentation Wilson gave to get the company off the ground.
- Silent Hill 2: Survival Horror’s Swan Song
Bob Mackey interrogates Akira Yamaoka, Jeremy Blaustein, and others about Silent Hill 2′s risky design.
- The Story Behind LMNO
We close things out by reprinting Matt Leone’s favorite story that first appeared on 1UP back in November 2010.
For those who don’t want to scroll back up, here’s another link to buy the issue. It’s glorious!
By Matt Leone
Electronic Arts has been more and more focused on the digital aspects of the industry over the past five years, having just recently relaunched the EA Store as Origin. So it comes as incredibly strange news that an EA Sports retail store is being opened in, of all places, a North Carolina airport.
EA Sports brand marketing VP Chris Erb revealed the news in a Forbes interview. The first store will be opened this fall in the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport located in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“As pervasive as digital is, there’s still an offline component to acquiring new customers that remains important,” Erb explained. “Our approach is to be creative and innovative with whatever we’re doing offline, and ensure that it connects with our digital strategies.”
EA Sports will look to open up two additional stores following the Charlotte location over the course of the next year. Shoppers will be able to try out and buy EA Sports games, as well as other merchandise, as shown in the rendering above.
According to Erb, “As we look to expand the overall sports game audience, it’s important for us to create environments for people to get their hands on our products and experience how much interactive sports experiences have evolved over the past few years.”
The notion of opening a retail location dedicated entirely to the EA Sports brand — as opposed to partnering with, say, GameStop or Best Buy to set up kiosks dedicated to the company’s games — is unusual. Placing the first such store in an airport is even more bizarre. Even GameStop seems to realize that digital is the future, so I can’t help but wonder what convinced EA that these stores can be a success. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how things turn out and if EA can afford to keep them open long-term. There was no indication if future retail stores would also be located in airports.
One company that likely won’t mind having these stores around is Nintendo, which faces the unenviable task of educating consumers on what the 3DS and Wii U bring to the table, two systems that can’t easily be explained without going hands-on. Provided the stores are big enough, Microsoft and Sony probably won’t mind having kiosks set up for Kinect and PlayStation Move, respectively.