As someone who has covered videogames as an industry since 2002 off and on for the past two decades – big corporate events and spectacles are something I’ve seen morph from being laser focused on single titles accessible to a select few to livestreamed “events” that draw millions of eyeballs waiting for the next big trailer or reveal. With E3 dead and over The Game Awards have since taken the place as the premiere space for “world reveals” and preplanned P.R campaigns.
It is no secret that the The Game Awards are primarily a platform for upcoming games and surprise announcements to enter the cultural now and become “THE THING” people are sure to talk about for the foreseeable future. Although “Awards” are in the name, the awards are simply a formality- a justification for the spectacle without challenging establishment or up-lifting marginalized communities or even the people who made the games the awards are supposed to be centred on.
The Spike Video Games Awards (the precursor to the The Videogame Awards) literally had the US Military as sponsor in the 2000s. Multiple incidents in recent years have occurred where unexpected people have made their way onto the stage during a live broadcast. This includes YouTubers known for various stunts making right wing dog-whistle soundbites into the microphone, broadcast to millions of viewers. People within the community have speculated that it is possible that the US Military were providing either security directly or consulting on improving security that already existed.
Hey at least Kojima was there (Source: The Game Awards 2016 Stream)
2023’s rendition of The Video Game Awards felt rushed or “off” compared to other year’s offerings. It is expected that the reveal trailers for new titles will be light on details, probably under two minutes and are sometimes just pre-rendered visualizations created by external CGI companies. Those reveals were certainly present but even the select few developers or studio heads who stand next to Geoff Keighley seemed rushed. Whether it is to ensure security breaches like previous years don’t occur, or simply to fit more advertisements and potentially paid promotional placements into the program – it detracted from the very celebration the TGA claims itself to be.
2023 has seen the raised awareness of the actual genocides by Israel’s killing of Palestinians in the thousands in the last few months alone. There are much more important things happening around the world then what surprise announcements were pre-planned for TGA. Not to mention the really shitty things happening in the gaming space. Like massive layoffs continue throughout the Tech industry and gaming industry as a whole that treat talented people as disposable while taking in massive profits.
Back in the winter of 2015 Bethesda released their sprawling open world RPG, Fallout 4 to critical and commercial success. Azzuen O’Connor discovered the series in the past couple of years and after playing through the likes of Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas and catching up on Bethesda’s latest has quite a few critiques about the game. Read on to find out about her journey through the world of Fallout and how the removal of item repair, some narrative flaws and an overabundance of power armor show just how far Bethesda dropped the ball with Fallout 4.
War, War Never Changes
When I first heard Ron Perlman speak these words when booting up Fallout: New Vegas on my Partner’s Xbox 360 I was hooked. Yes, the voice acting for Mister House was bad. But to be fair this was one of my first times trying out a AAA game title in a very long time. And you know what? I LOVED IT. The characters were memorable and you had a clear final objective – find out who shot you, get revenge on the man in the checkered suit and explore your own story along the way.
Now, this may seem odd, but I’ve always enjoyed large scale games that have featured weapon durability – allowing you to repair and maintain your weapons, armor, and equipment. It greatly adds to Fallout’s sense of immersion, allowing me to stay in the game’s world. Yes, I know I’m playing on my couch in my apartment, but still, just like in real life your weapons won’t always be in perfect condition all day every day. You need to clean them, fix them and maintain them.
Hyped To Finally Explore The Wastes On My Own PC
Now like many Fallout fans and my friends I was HYPED for Fallout 4. I thought this was going to be the best damn game out there. Now I did buy the game for myself eventually on the advice of my brother that Amazon was having a New Year’s sale.
I was so excited to start to play it but soon after opening the package, I found out that the little card that came with the disc was a retail key for steam. I nearly cried at the mandatory 40GB install. This was the first time in my 26 years of living I saw a Triple-A game being maxed out on a PC I owned, not on loan, not “borrowing a friend’s pc for a bit. “No, I owned it this was my baby to do with as I please.” I booted it up and was amazed that MY PC could run Fallout on ultra – albeit slightly disappointed they didn’t bring back Ron Perlman for the voiceover for the iconic introductions that I had grown to love since discovering the Fallout series.
Modding weapons in Fallout 4 just like you can mod your own PC! (Image credit: Youtube.com)
I started my adventure and was mildly shocked you started off in a pre- war setting. No worries after a quick Skype call with a friend and some advice from my boyfriend I worked out my stat points. Later on in the story, after I ‘woke up’ from cryosleep and got my first weapon (I think I got the baton first then the good old trusty 10mm), it was time to begin exploring the world, which would be made ever more interesting with no official governing body controlling the post-apocalyptic United States. I figured “meh explore some chat with people loot kill etc.” My first encounter involved a few really nasty bugs (the software kind, not radroaches) – some floor tiles weren’t there, causing me to get stuck in odd areas a few times. But still, I made it into my old town where I met good old Codsworth. After some conversation with the robotic butler, I was told: “go forth and find the Minute Men”.
Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? (Image credit: Youtube.com)
I also first met the most iconic dog in recent memory, Dogmeat. Now I must say I do enjoy the fact that Dogmeat is not just a silly looking face, he can attack and he can carry stuff. Awesome! So, I go forth and find the Minutemen where they’re being attacked by raiders, standard RPG cannon fodder. Kill them rescue the good guys be the hero you know the drill by now. So afterwards I find out we’re stuck here because of one big mean and ugly Deathclaw. “Okay” I thought to myself “this is just going to be one big ugly dude kill him but find out he’s very nerfed you just started, after all, Bethesda usually doesn’t throw you to the wolves so fast.” NO you get power armor, from the get go? This is odd… I thought in most previous iterations of Fallout you worked your ass off to just get a glorified suit of medieval plate armor, maybe they’re giving you the old “here have this taste of power for mere moments before we whisk it away from you.” Nope, that was yours to keep and do your thing with.
How Far Did They Drop The Ball?
Previous Fallout games encouraged you to explore, to do your own thing and to try different types of character builds. The issue was, through, in my eyes, Fallout 4 HEVELY encouraged you to go with the power armor – even so far as providing you a functional power armor set early in the campaign. Another glaring issue is that the main campaign revolves around your character’s quest to save Shawn, your kid. But yet you didn’t really develop a connection with him. You saw him for maybe at most two minutes in the pre-war introduction sequence.
This is when I asked myself: “But why do I need to save Shaun?”
To which the game’s narrative responds: “Well, he’s your kid.”
Finally, I ask myself (and by extension the game): “Kay. But I didn’t really know him, shouldn’t I focus more on finding out who killed my wife?”
I get where they were going with all of this, Bethesda wants the narrative to appeal to your parental instincts to save your child. Your child is the future, in contrast, your wife is dead, game over, period end of statement.
Coming back to the power armor there are more suits of power armor that are readily found throughout the Wastes. This kind of pushes your play-style towards power armor rather than the number of other options available. In previous entries I liked having to repair my items, needing to maintain them in the best possible condition, to make them as effective as possible. In my opinion, Bethesda focused more on making Fallout 4 an FPS-RPG (First Person Shooter Role Playing Game) or to be more specific, an FPS with RPG-like elements. They seemed to want you to focus more on the main quest to find Shaun, to be amazed at the shiny power armor and let me not forget to mention the settlement system where you build up your various bases and maintain them. With settlements, you need to populate them with NPC characters whose only purpose is to be maintained and possibly give you the odd uncommon item.
Pick your favorite perk in Fallout 4’s Perk Screen (Image source: Youtube.com)
I mean sure all of this can get annoying at times, but when the developers remove key mechanics from the game at start; then modders step in and fix things up. Why did we all start to play video games? Just to have fun and get the best possible score? Or to get that one super rare item before any of your other friends did? Was it to feel a deep sense of immersion in impossible worlds? So, how did Bethesda drop the ball on Fallout 4? A faltering narrative that focuses on the wrong major hook, giving players the power armor too soon, forgettable settlements system and the removal of the durability system show that Bethesda dropped the ball pretty far on Fallout 4.
SnipperClips is a physics puzzler designed for multiplayer co-operation for the Nintendo Switch. Despite that rather generic sounding description, it seems to be a stylish and charming co-op puzzler with a unique premise – the ability to modify the shape of your co-op partner to solve puzzles. Despite the game not having any elements that are unique to the Nintendo Switch it looks like the perfect game to play with close friends are family and the Switch’s portability lends itself to games like SnipperClips.
During the 5 hour Tree-house live-stream two Nintendo employees attempt to take on a handful of stages from SnipperClips. It starts out adorably enough with the pair of shapes – one yellow & one purple – forming a heart together and progresses from there. Basically when player 1 overlaps player 2 a button can be pressed to cut out the material from the other player. Throughout the course of the 12 minute demonstration we witness the partners work to sharpen a large pencil, attach a paper elephant to a balloon and score a three pointer thanks to a well placed basketball net. It is unfortunate that the pair gave up one particular puzzle that – at least to me – appeared to have more than one solution.
So what audience is perfect for SnipperClips? Well indie game aficionados? Yup check, folks who love indie games will gobble up this game but there is also one important audience that Nintendo helped bring to the gaming space along with smartphone companies – casuals gamers who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in the Nintendo Switch. For some reason, gods know why, the Big N decided that they should oppen their conference with “1… 2… Switch”, a game that doesn’t require players to look at the television or Switch screen at all.
They instead relegated SnipperClips to an end sizzle reel where if you’d blink you’d miss the like three seconds of gameplay shown at the end of the conference. “1..2.. Switch” simply confused people, and at one point more than one friend of mine thought the reveal of “1…2..Switch” was in fact a live action reveal for Red Steel 3, until further into that game’s debut trailer. Nintendo’s reason for spending so much time on a glorified party game with very little traditional game elements instead of a title like SnipperClips which while not making the best use of the new technology, offers a compelling gameplay experience that is easily understood and immensely adorable and would have resonated well with casual gamers in my opinion.
Word came out earlier today that retailers in the European Union have until the end of this month – just 7 days from now – to get their final orders in for Wii U hardware. None of this has been confirmed by Nintendo themselves but at least one twitter user corroborated the original GameSeek report that broke the story. With six months to go before Nintendo’s next generation console – code named NX – launches and no official reveal in sight this whole situation should be a little concerning.
It is not uncommon for console manufacturers to ramp down production after the launch of a successor. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was discontinued just this past April, staying in production for 3 full years past the Xbox One’s unveiling. In some cases the end of production can actually occur prior to the launch of a successor console – as an example Nvidia stopped manufacturing the Original Xbox’s GPU in August 2005 just 3 months before the debut of the Xbox 360.
Nintendo’s prior history with discontinuing consoles isn’t as cut and dry as its competitors, however. They haven’t shyed away from dropping an obvious failure like the Virtual Boy, which was discontinued just six months after its initial launch in August 95. But other, more successful, Nintendo consoles have had a much longer life, even alongside their successors – the GameCube wasn’t sunsetted until late February 2007, giving the console an additional 4 months on the market alongside the Wii before Nintendo finally pulled the plug.
The house of Mario has traditionally sold it’s hardware at a profit, however the expensive Research & Development and hardware costs of the Wii U GamePad have been eating into Nintendo’s bottom line for sometime. Wii U is the first Nintendo device in recent memory that has been sold at a loss and with declining sales an argument could be made for ending the production of the console if Nintendo has enough in-stock to meet their projected demands until the NX has a strong foothold with the company’s faithful customer base.
What is a bit odd in this particular situation is that Nintendo isn’t announcing the end of hardware production at its’ partner factories but rather telling retailers in the European Union to place orders for hardware within a weeks’ time. Traditionally Europe hasn’t been the strongest of the three major markets in terms of units sold – those honors shift between North America and Japan – but Nintendo’s pattern of discontinuation of hardware has always occurred either after a successor has been released into the market for a matter of months or at least announced and demo’d publicly.
Even when Nintendo discontinued the GameCube in February of 2007 and stopped producing new titles for the machine, then Nintendo’s long time marketing Guru Perrin Kaplin took the chance to re-position the remainder of GameCube stock as an alternative to expensive next-gen consoles for players who are new to console gaming.
“I mean, I wasn’t the first to buy an iPod. By the time I bought it, it came to a price where I wanted it to be and looked the way I wanted it to look. So we’re not selling GameCube to the people who are hardcore players and want all the gadgetry – we’re going after the people who never really bought a system before now it’s finally at a price that they can afford for their family.”
The NX Question
With all of this history taken into account there is still one unanswered question that remains shrouded in secrecy: what are Nintendo’s plans for the NX? The facts are that they confirmed its existence and announced its March 2017 release date, a year before its scheduled launch. Now with news coming forward of the Wii U’s hardware discontinuation in Europe, the company is about to enter the holiday season with no shelf presence for its existing platform or its successor.
There have been a ton of leaks coming out of Foxcon factories, the supply chain and development sources, to pretty much confirm that the Nintendo NX is a hybrid / dockable device that can be used either on-the-go or while hooked up to a television. If true then the NX is probably one of the worst kept secrets Nintendo has ever held so tightly to their chest. What is of concern here is that none of Nintendo’s recent decisions surrounding NX or to some extent the Wii U fit with the company’s history of hardware launches or the end of an existing console’s lifecycle. This whole strategy seems very concerning for those of us watching Nintendo, but here’s hoping it is a direction that works.
This fake 3D printed proto-type sure fooled a lot of people, us included.
As August continues, a number of game jam events are scheduled to take place. These game jams are giving opportunities for smaller indie developers to showcase their skills and network with others in the gaming community, all while enjoying a fun atmosphere.
One such event in particular taking place is Rainbow Jam ‘16. This is a game jam, in the Scottish community, starting August 20th and continuing until September 4th. What makes Rainbow Jam special is their focus on the LGBT+ community and diversity in gaming. Their goal is promote safety in the gaming community and for developers to create freely and openly without fear. They also have a goal of creating future meetups and opportunities for communication locally in “various Scottish cities”
According to the itch.io page, the theme for this game jam was selected by getting suggestions from participants and then the top category was voted to be the theme used for the games created, this year the theme is “Identity”. The top games in each category will then be awarded prizes. To participate in the jam, you do not have to be a certain nationality, sexuality or gender; everyone is encouraged to join the celebration and use whatever skill they can bring to help create. Submissions are made through itchi.io and participants can work in teams up to four or individually.
The jam was started due to the feedback and discussion from the Facebook group Scottish Rainbow Game Dev. and they are looking for more sponsors and participants for the jam and possibly for future jams. You can join or learn more about this open game jam at the website https://itch.io/jam/rainbowjam16.
This game jam is just one example of how to encourage diversity and new talent in the gaming industry. New voices, ideas and styles can mean a breath of fresh air and more choices for not only publishers, but for consumers as well.
I can’t help but get excited towards the end of the month because we get to find out what free treats both Microsoft and Sony have for subscribers. Next month’s line-up of free software for the Xbox One & Xbox 360 is not only underwhelming but also proves the thousands of players who cry out for “AAA titles” that they should be careful what they wish for. Just because a title is from a AAA developer or costs more than another indie title doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to cater to every Xbox Live subscriber.
Case in point – the inclusion of WWE 2k16 – here we have a game made by a AAA publisher (published by 2K Games and developed by Visual Concepts) that isn’t going to offer much for those of us who don’t follow the beat’em up soap operas of wrestling. I’m sure it can be fun to play casually and maybe try some online matches but the majority of features I’ll probably never touch or truly appreciate.
Here is a summary of WWE 2K16 available from Steam:
“The authority in WWE video games returns with WWE 2K16! The newest addition to the flagship WWE video game franchise will deliver fun, authentic and hard-hitting action, including returning fan-favorite features and game modes, new innovations and more! Play as the greatest WWE Superstars, Divas and Legends of all time. Includes all DLC content!”
Authentic hard hitting action? Okay, yeah. I can get behind that. Returning fan favorite features and game modes? Nope, I’ve never played a WWE 2K title before so I wouldn’t know what was so great about the last entry. Play as the greatest WWE Superstars? I followed wrestling for maybe a few months in my teens 15 years ago, clearly if I downloaded this game next month it’d just waste space on my hard drive.
What’s that I hear you say hypothetical reader? The service offers more games? Of course, the Xbox One will also receive Orochi Warriors3 from Tecomo Koei. It is an action game where characters from the Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors and guest characters from Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive attack hordes of enemies on a variety of battlefields in a similar fashion to the existing Dynasty Warriors games. In fact, Orochi Warriors could almost be considered a “best of” collection considering most of the levels actually come from Dynasty Warriors 7. This one sounds like it might have a little more appeal than WWE 2K16 considering it not only introduces players to the mechanics of the Dynasty Warriors series but is also seems to be a great way to check out characters from other series you might not have played.
With that out of the way this brings me to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 picks for next month which honestly out class the entire Xbox One line-up by a long shot. First up is Spelunky an older indie darling that tasks players with navigating procedural generated caves for loot. If you want an easily approachable title that can provide hours of fun, make sure to add this one to your library. Also included in August’s Games with Gold is Beyond Good and Evil HD, Ubisoft’s update to the 2003 original. Players take the role of Jade, a photojournalist turned heroine who uncovers a deep space conspiracy. It is honestly one of the most enjoyable puzzle platformers from the late 2000s era and shouldn’t be missed.
August’s Games With Gold line-up just goes to show you that just because a title is “AAA” or has a high price-tag it doesn’t mean that it will have the wide appeal outside of niche audiences. In this writer’s humble opinion the Xbox 360’s picks of classic & well received older titles is the way to go for the gratis games.
Sitting in the massive crowd at Sony’s E3 press conference was surreal, when the event wrapped up my hands were shaking and my heart pounding but in the back of my mind it felt like there was something left unsaid. In the world of games journalism you have to take every leak, slip of the tongue and rumor with a dump truck of salt and even then that isn’t enough skepticism. Here is a quick run-down of three of things that the internet told me I should have expected to be announced.
#3 – More Details About The Final Fantasy VII Remake
Square Enix and Sony shocked the world with a remake that fans have been requesting for nearly two decades last year. This year? Everything was oddly silent, not a word was mentioned about Squeenix’s trilogy of titles that will spin the tale of Cloud, Aerith and Barret in a new direction. Instead we got a generic zombie shooter that used the same two enemy models over and over that could have passed for any of the countless Day-Z ripoffs on Steam.
#2 – An Update On Shenmue III
After not one but two successful crowdfunding drives for Yu Suzuki’s next chapter in this long running franchise and we didn’t hear anything this evening,, not even a glimpse in a one of the brief sizzle reels. Sony answered the prayers of Dreamcast fans fourteen years after the console exited the market with a hail marry announcement no-one could have expected. As one of the announcements that “won” E3 for Sony last year it was odd that Sony’s executives were so silent on this one.
#1 – Read Dead Redemption 3
A lot of people expected this one given the fact that the game’s “Map” leaked a weeks back. Hell, even some have joked that they’ve seen horses and cowboys walk out of Rockstar’s offices. Once again Rockstar has proven that they can still skip one of gaming’s biggest events simply because we will all be listening whenever they have something to say.
What do you think of my list of disappointments? Let me know in the comment and be sure to keep checking Broken Joysticks for more E3 coverage.
Covering major gaming conventions takes a lot more effort, equipment and time management skills then the regular posts that we produce on this site.As I am writing this post I am sitting in the Calgary International Airport waiting for the first leg of my trip to Boston, MA and I thought I might give our readers a bit of insight into what it takes to cover a major convention with thousands of attendees, dozens upon dozens of exhibitors and only one chance to get everything right.Read More
It is undeniable that the annual Games Developer Conference (or GDC) is a spectacular event. Once a year sharp & inquisitive minds involved in various facets of game development, marketing, business, and journalism converge on the Moscone Center in San Francisco California for a week of hands-on demos, networking and panel discussions. Broken Joysticks is by no means a large player in the games journalism space, so just how did a small scrappy site like ours become the journalism underdogs at this year’s conference?Read More
Capcom’s Street Fighter V has been available on Windows PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for little over 24 hours and players have already found a way to “restore” animation changes to fighter R. Mika’s introduction.
For the unaware, as I was until I came across the modification on twitter this morning, in pre-release versions of SFVR.Mika would slap her own ass during her V-Trigger super move activation animation. Months later in December 2015 fans noticed that these few frames of animation had been removed from recent trailers prompting the following statement from the game’s developers:
“Those changes came up internally. We decided to remove that because we want the biggest possible number of people to play, and we don’t want to have something in the game that might make someone uncomfortable.”
The above quote is from none other than long-time Street Fighter producer, Yoshinori Ono. The development team felt that the sexualized butt slap animations could be offensive to members of their fanbase and ultimately removed it before releasing the game. In my opinion Ono-San and his team made the right call in removing this animation.
So here we are now 24 hours post release and fans have moded in the pre-release version of Mika’s animations. Fans adding moded content that goes outside of the original scope of a developer’s vision are nothing new – there are whole new lands for Skyrim and even a nude mod. But despite some rather lengthy outcries on Twitter this does not amount to videogame censorship. Yoshinori’s decision to remove an ass slap from a fighting game in no way represents the suppression of any kind of dissenting opinion or information. The Street Fighter V team removed a sexualizing and degrading animation that focused on a woman’s body and now portions of the gamer demographics are up in arms. It’s almost like this has nothing to do with this particular game at all, considering the removal of R. Mika’s animations don’t affect gameplay at all, and have everything to do with objectifying bodies.
To those who still think that Capcom has censored your brand new fighting game, chill out for a second, because there is a lot of great content to be found in Capcom’s latest fighter. Clearly the developers intentions were to remove the animation as this change was made during the game’s development as it did not fit with their vision for the title. Claiming otherwise is not only going contradictory to Yoshinori’s statement but also makes it apparent that perhaps this whole thing isn’t about Street Fighter V but how we view female bodies in videogames?
In the end, this modification adds nothing to the game.
This guest editorial was written by Zoey Wolfe, whom you can find on Twitter @CustomRetrofit
“I’m a woman, baby, can’t you tell?” The first time I heard Fallout 4’s native Robot to Female transsexual, KLE0, speak those words, I was stunned. My jaw, as cliche as this is, actually dropped. Was this going to be a very unfunny joke? Had I paid 60 dollars for the privilege of being insulted by Bethesda’s mediocre writing team? Or was it possible that against all odds, and previous experiences, a miracle would occur and a Real Live Trans Robot could be my friend? I was curious where they were taking it.
When you first enter Goodneighbor, Fallout 4’s hamlet of misfits and rogues, you are greeted with a minor cutscene where the mayor stabs a man in the town square over a mere trifle and then welcomes you to town with a smile and handshake. Goodneighbor is just that kind of place, one that grants freedom with one hand and proffers a knife with the other.
Call it yearning for nostalgia, call it reliving the old days but after writing and producing the Halo Online preview that went live today I decided to dust off my Xbox 360 from the back of my entertainment center. After I signed up for a trial for Xbox Live, as it had been at least a year since I last played my Xbox 360 and was ready to see what my favorite multiplayer Halo title had been up too in the past nine years.
What greeted me after logging in was a literal ghost town. Yesterday on a sunny Sunday afternoon only 150 people where playing Halo 3 on Microsoft’s last generation console. The matchmaker couldn’t find me a free for all game, so I wasn’t about to try any of the exotic gametypes like VIP or Juggernaut. Instead I opted for the long time Halo staple, Team Slayer. After waiting 15 minutes to be placed in a match the servers finally found 3 other people and threw us all onto The Pit. We played out the entire match even if finding each other in the expanse of the training complex was a rare occurrence. I think in the end everyone had less than 5 kills before the match ended and I put the console away back in the corner of our living room cabinet.
It’s not surprising that a game that is almost nine years old doesn’t have a strong online community – as time passes people simply move on. There have been three major Halo releases since Bungie’s swansong to Matcher Chief debuted in 2000. 343’s first Halo title on the Xbox 360 had reports of low server populations even a full year before Halo 5 would debut. With less than 2000 people playing that game all the way back in 2014!
Of course almost all of the content to be found in all 4 previous entries in the Halo franchise is accessible on the Xbox One via the Master Chief Collection, but at the time of writing I don’t own one of those.
Goodbye old friend, it’s sad to see the death of a shooter but I send you off with a Salute, at least we got to enjoy one more game together.
Kickstarter is often a place where you can find interesting and odd things. But it’s also a place where you can go to get a lot of money and not do a lot. It’s both great and evil at the same time. This project is a wonderful example of what can be a disaster on Kickstarter. Started just a few days ago “Star Wars Open World RPG” is a project started by “Devin” a 20 year old man from Grapevine Texas who just wants to make an open world star wars mmo to answer the question “Ever wonder what if would be like if you were a Jedi with no boundaries, and could explore the galaxy freely?”
I remember a time when you couldn’t get computer games any way but by going out to Funcoland, or another store to buy them. In those days places like Funcoland had bargain bins, whole large bins full of games that were often rightly called shovelware. Most of these games would have fit right in on todays overcrowded indie game sphere, with the one difference that they had a box. Digital distribution has killed the bargain bin box, but not what lived inside it, it’s found a new home on Steam, and to a greater extent the twice annual steam sale.
As I peruse the current steam sale a title catches my eye “Angels Fall First” is an indie tactical, infantry, first person shooter, set in space, where you fly your ship in first person too. Whoa, that’s a mouth full, all of that costs 14.39 (20% off today!) and that’s just one example of hundreds. This one happens to be in early access and absolutely screams feature creep, but it still caught my eye. Why? Well it had the right price tag (for me <15$) a laundry list of features and a flashy splash image that was featured in today’s deals. It’s that kind of exposure that can mean a huge infusion of cash to a developer and major media coverage for an otherwise sleeper game. This has created a get rich or die trying type of culture in today’s indie game sphere where a game can go from being unknown to a major hit in just a few days, with no publisher or PR. The end result of this is that we get a lot of games that might not have ever seen the light of day going up on steam and getting a lot of sales during these twice annual times of deep discounts.
The Sale Now
Steam sales started out as something great. Twice a year Valve thanked their users by throwing them some pretty extreme sales on titles. The result was a great way to get your hands on games you might otherwise never play. It also had the perhaps unintentional side effect of giving huge boosts to several indie developers. The steam Green Tags have become legendary 20% 40% 70%, steam even has a tab for games under 10$ and games under 5$. The psychology of the sale keeps us buying, but is it really worth it? Its clear that Steam is playing its audience here. Steam knows at what price point people buy, and how much they have to discount a game to get it out the door in quantity. I remember the first time I saw a game on steam listed at 50% off, it was normally a 50$ game, and that green tag was just too much resist, despite having never intended to buy the game for various reasons, I put the game in my cart and bought it. Why? Because it was 50% off, I played about 20 minutes of the game and then got bored, never to play it again. It now sits in my library with literally hundreds of other 10$ titles that I buy on impulse because they are 10% off, and then install and play for 30 minuets or an hour then never touch again.
I don’t think cheap games have to be bad, I got more play time out of Terreria that almost any other game ever, and it’s been on sale for as low as 1$! I also have plenty of 60$ games in my library that haven’t been touched. It’s really a question of quantity and availability. I have over 300 games in my steam library and somewhere in the neighborhood of half of those have never been installed. Now you chalk a few of them up to things like the full Valve pack which I picked up on sale (40% off!) and humble bundles (2$ for 5 games?|!!?!?!) but a lot of those games I would never have if it wasn’t for the steam sales. The sum total of those games represents enough capitol investment to purchase lots of new computer parts, or invest elsewhere.
On the other hand, I also have some games I doubt I ever would have noticed if they hadn’t been on sale. Dungeons of dreadmore, Recettear, and Oblivion fall in to this category. In 2011 I purchased all three of these in various steam sales for <20$ total for all of them. All three of these games have >100 hours of play time in my library. They all together cost about 15$ during that steam sale. That same year (the same sale even) I also bought Supreme commander 2 (>30$ and also 40% off) and that game never even got installed. It’s a great good and a terrible evil. While I have a lot of games, the more games that I have it seems the less inclined I am to play some of them.
Quality vs Quantity
The quality of the sale has also decreased recently, the most prevalent games get 10% discounts and the smaller indies get larger ones. Im not sure im ever going to play Doorkickers, but you can bet I have it in my library. Why? Because in 2014 it was on sale for 5$ and I thought it looked kinda neat. Turns out its basically a mobile tactics game, and really not up my alley at all. If I had bothered to do any research like I would have if I had spent 20$ (the games MSRP) I would probably have known this and been fine and not bought it. Instead I saw a green price tag with -75% on it, and decided I need the game regardless of the content.
And so dear readers we arrive at our conclusion, and that is Caveat emptor (buyer beware) because Steam is an amazing platform for equalizing million dollar PR budgets and 0$ PR budgets. That of course creates an obvious problem. Those games with million dollar budgets also had three year (or longer) development cycles, whereas the others might have been put together in 6 months or 6 years, and not subjected to playtesting or quality control. Quality of the sale has also gone down as the number of sales has gone up. When you have 4 sales a year you have to find at least 4 sales worth of items to sell. While I appreciate the recent abolition of flash sales, which were clear bait to get you to come back to the sale as many times as possible, but I honestly think its time for Steam to evaluate how its running its sales, and maybe cut down to one a year.