Welcome to another edition of the Game Ranter Banter. Five of our writers take a few minutes out of their busy schedules to give their opinions on some of the most compelling and controversial recent news stories of the game industry. This week, the Game Rant team discusses the season pass for Gears of War 3, the latest PS3 price drop, the Yakuza franchise’s continued growth, EA’s incessant needling at Activision, and the impressive scope of Batman: Arkham City.
Our readers are as knowledgeable and opinionated as our own writers, so here is the place for all of you to discuss these stories as well as any others that may have piqued your interest throughout the week.
You Shall Not Pass
When Epic Games unveiled its version of the Season Pass for Gears of War 3 it seemed like a real turning point for the industry. With various developers, including Rockstar Games, trying out different versions of a Season Pass pricing scheme, it seemed like it would take one triple-A title before the floodgates opened. While Activision’s Call of Duty Elite is a similar style of DLC pricing, it justifies its price tag by offering much more than DLC.
Epic Games has a much harder hill to climb, and a ton of fans left confused by the announcement of the Gears of War 3 Season Pass. But, if this works, and enough gamers buy into the assumed “deals,” it could completely change the landscape of DLC. Yes, gamers will be able to buy their DLC, upfront, in bulk, and at a discount, but they won’t know what they are getting. Is the Season Pass the new Online Pass?
2011: The Year of the PS3 Roller Coaster
This past year has been a roller coaster ride for the PS3. Riding high on the 2009 $299 price point, the company was off to a great start – until the infamous PlayStation Network hack left millions of members scrambling, canceling credit cards and meticulously checking bank account balances as well as credit reports. At that point, many were skeptical as to whether or not Sony (one of the largest and longest-running electronics manufacturers in the world) would ever be able to recover customer confidence – not to mention attract new consumers.
However, those concerns were shortlived, as the recent $250 price point has once again brought the system within striking distance of consumers who may have thought HD gaming was out of their price range – putting it in an especially intriguing position for the 2011 Holiday season. Recently, my best friend, a casual gamer who hadn’t even heard of Nathan Drake until two days ago, picked up a PS3 – without ever even considering an Xbox 360. The PlayStation’s Blu-ray player and free online services made it a no-brainer for him at $250. Now, having spent a mere 2 hours with Uncharted 2, he’s already planning on picking up the upcoming Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – as well as a few other games. With all of the high-profile releases in the coming months, there’s little doubt that there will be plenty more future PS3 owners out there who are going to be picking-up their first HD console very soon.
Milking The Franchise You Sai?
Earlier this week, Toshihiro Nagoshi announced his plans to release two new games in the Yakuza franchise: Yakuza 5 and Yakuza: Black Panther 2. While the franchise has always been a quality one, some people believe that the announcement of these two games is just SEGA milking the franchise. Yakuza 5 will presumably release on the PS3, making it the fourth title in the franchise to release on the on the current Sony home console. This belief is not unfounded, as both Yakuza 3 and Yakuza 4 released only a year apart from each other, no doubt playing into Yakuza 4’s reviews suffering from critics feeling it too similar to Yakuza 3. Even the spin-off title Yakuza: Of The End also released just a year after Yakuza 4 (though that title has yet to see a release date outside of Japan).
But the question is, if this is milking the franchise, why should it matter? The Yakuza franchise has offered solid games since its inception back on the PS2. Even if they are making an abundance of titles a la Call of Duty, it’s not like the franchise has ever been terrible. Even Yakuza 4, which some thought played too similarly to its predecessor, was still a quality game. It contained the same great gameplay and storytelling as past Yakuza games, though this time unlike Yakuza 3, the Western release did not suffer from cutting of content SEGA thought Westerner’s wouldn’t enjoy. If a franchise has to be milked, it’s a good thing it is the Yakuza brand. Look at Mario – there are countless games starring the lovable Italian plumber, but no one cares because they’re all great games. If Yakuza 5 can once again bring the great gameplay and storytelling the franchise is known for, then gamers shouldn’t really have a problem going back to the streets of Japan again.
EA Really Needs To Shut Up
It seems as though every month EA has something new to say about Activision and the Call of Duty franchise. “They’ve jumped the shark.” “We want them to rot.” “They’ll be dead in a few years.” I’m not even really into the FPS genre, but I can safely say EA’s antics wouldn’t get me interested in their product.
I’m reminded a lot of the console wars back in the 90s. Back then, Nintendo ruled the roost for years. Then Sega came along with the Genesis and flat out said “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t.” A bold statement, but the difference was that Sega backed it up by showing off just what the Genesis could do, and it blew the NES out of the water. What has EA done to prove that Battlefield 3 will be better than Modern Warfare 3? It sounds more like they’re relying on the fact that they’re competing with Activision to drive interest, rather than actually doing anything to prove that they deserve the attention.
There’s an old saying that fits this situation fairly well: “The smallest dog always barks the loudest.” If EA really wants to start a competition with Activision, great. More power to them. But if they really want to prove that their franchise isn’t a small terrier going up against a big Labrador, maybe they should stop barking so damn much.
Batman? Batman??? This Industry Needs An Enema!
It’s not easy developing a blockbuster title these days. With games getting bigger, richer, and more highly scrutinized, it seems that developers are getting into the habit of just scrambling to cover all of their bases before a game launches. And then there’s Rocksteady Studios. After surprising everybody with Batman: Arkham Asylum, it seemed that no matter how good their follow-up would be, we’d be ready for it. But the more I learn about how much is going into Batman’s next adventure, Arkham City, the more I’m starting to wonder how much I can expect from games in the future.
The concept of a 25 hour-long campaign was enough to convince me that I’d have to return and finish Asylum, but now we know that was just the tip of the iceberg. With challenge modes, the possibility of four playable characters in total, and now an incentive to replay it all over again, Arkham City just keeps getting bigger and bigger. All that extra gameplay means more bang for your buck, but is a game this size something we should come to expect in the blockbuster-or-flop games industry? I’m all for the bar being raised by every major developer, but part of me wonders if Rocksteady is just an entirely different breed of company. Only time will tell, but either way, Arkham City seems like it’s going to land some heavy punches this fall.