Saturday, May 18, 2019
By: Patrick "TheLaw" Morris
Welcome welcome welcome everyone welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth Production. Im TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series where I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. This week I've decided to take a rant that I vomit whenever my friends tell me they're going to pre-order a game and turn it into a video. This week we will be talking about Pre-ordering.
If you don’t take anything else away from this video please take this: DO NOT PRE ORDER! Preordering games is bad for video games and with the increased popularity of the medium in recent years we have already started to see a handful of publishers fly just a little to close to the sun. It has happened before and let's not kid ourselves, it absolutely could happen again.
Quick background on me so that maybe I sound a bit more credible while saying what I'm about to say: I graduated with a bachelors degree in economics with an emphasis in public policy and a focus on industrial organization. So when I say that it could happen again I'm not just talking out of my ass this is something that I actually have an education on.
To really paint this picture and give us all a real sense of scale of what's at risk here we have to go all the way back to the late 1970's. Pong was in homes all across the United States and increasingly advanced video game consoles were making their way into our every day lives. Video game were a hot craze and more and more people were interested. As the audience grew then naturally so did demand; and as demand grew suppliers were tripping over themselves to get to market to satisfy that demand. Throughout the late seventies and early eighties the video game industry looked unstoppable. Everyone was wanting to play games and they were always looking for a new games to play. The market was even simpler and more binary back then too! It was a time when one game could be objectively better than another and every developer was looking to be top dog even if it was just for a minute. Whereas today's market has diversified significantly to accommodate different tastes.
Video games got so popular back then that publishers were giving developers insane time constraints the most infamous example being ET for the Atari 2600 having a development window of only about six weeks. And ET is when everything came crashing down, ET didn’t break the industry single handedly the way so many people think it did it was just the straw that broke the camels back. During the video game gold rush as so many publishers were trying to get every idea any of their devs had to market to get that sweet sweet cash out of the players wallets the overall quality of video games was in steady decline. Typically as developers become more accustomed to the hardware they're developing on the opposite happens and the quality increases as they understand how to squeeze more juice from the same fruit. But over time the quality of video games got worse and eventually they were barely passable as games at all and the consumers did what they've been known to do in a capitalist market structure: they voted with their wallets.
After the December 1982 release of ET for the Atari 2600 the video game industry crashed. In early 1983 what was one of the most popular new mediums of art and what seemed to be an unstoppable industry disappeared almost overnight. It was almost as if everyone got on the internet and there was a massive forum post on a subreddit everyone was subscribed to and they all organized together to stop buying video games. Demand dropped to nearly zero and retailers stopped carrying not only games but game consoles. If customers weren't going to buy them then why would a retailer commit valuable shelf space to them. It seemed as though the golden goose had laid its last egg.
But then Nintendo came along and saved us all! Nintendo released the NES and intentionally marketed as an entertainment system so as to distance themselves from anything related to video games. They made the console a drab dark gray to make it not look like any console had previously and even packed in ROB the robot to make it appear as though it was a toy, but really it was just those pesky video games wearing a mask and retailers saw that. Nintendo had to work hard to convince retailers that consumers might have caught on a few years ago but the they either wouldn’t catch on this time or they would have forgotten by now and as a result the big N wound up practically giving the consoles to retailers to get the shelf space. Nintendo's plan was to bring good software to market to subsidize the loss on the hardware, and it worked spectacularly.
It took almost thirty years for the industry to recover and almost as soon as it had made a full recovery and video games were once again as prolific as they had been in the late seventies publishers started to screw it all up in a remarkably similar fashion. Oversaturation leading to an overall degradation of quality has happened to entire genres, where the hell are movie tie in games in 2019? They don’t exist because they got so incredibly shitty that people stopped buying them and now its not a lucrative business. But publishers definitely learned at least one thing from the crash and they've developed a means of circumventing the mistakes of yesteryear while still raking in the profits for minimal effort…preorders.
I am absolutely certain that video game publishers track stats and metrics for their sales figures so as to determine what to invest in moving forward. I don’t have any problem with this its what any sensible person would do when running a business. What I do have a problem with is how they let that information get in the way of the games they're making. If hypothetically a publisher knows that for every 10 preorders 5 of those will turn into actual sales then they know they need to market the game and talk it up until they have hit at least 200% of their sales goals to make the game profitable and achieve what they want it to achieve. Once that preorder goal is hit then the publisher knows they will not only make their money back but they will have made enough profit to consider the game an absolute win. After that goal is hit the publisher puts the games development on life support giving it the bare minimum of what it needs to be developed into what can sometimes be considered a finished product for the consumer and more importantly the preorder people to buy. Once they hit those numbers any incentive for the publisher to put out a good game dies.
It's like video game publishers have figured out how to turn on the infinite grind cheat in Tony Hawk, once that shit was on you never paid attention to the what you were doing because why would you when you already knew you were going to win? So what can we as consumers do to combat their new tactics? Well there are a few things and they don’t all involve hostility towards the developers or publishers, in fact some of them are the exact opposite!
First we need to always encourage developers and publishers when they are showing us things we like. If a developer shows some love to a series that we are fans of we need to shout it from the roof tops that we think they are on the right track. If a publisher demonstrates a commitment to releasing a finished product that they are proud of even if it means a delay or two or ten then that’s fine I know I personally would rather wait for a good game than have a bad game now. We all have social media we need to use it to provide more positive feedback to developers and publishers both. We cant sit back and expect them to read our minds, they want the information and our opinions so lets make it easy for them!
Second and this one sounds pretty stupid but you would be shocked how many people don’t do this, when a game comes out and you want to play it then buy it. Don’t pirate it, just buy it. If you cant afford it then wait until you can. I feel so stupid having to say this but when a game is good the artist deserves to get paid and we need to do what we can to make sure they do.
And finally the most obvious of all just vote with your wallet. Don’t sign up to buy the game before it's even out for some minor bonus. Even if you know you're going to buy it even if you're already sold on the game just wait until it's out to buy it. Preorders started as a means of retailers gauging how many copies they needed to order but the last time I can remember having to preorder a game just to make sure I would get it the day it came out was Halo 2. Sure there are outliers like Nioh or Octopath Traveler that are difficult to buy a physical copy of every few years but in this day and age when we can just download the games there really is no reason to preorder. Wait and if you don’t like a practice from the developer or publisher or the direction that game was taken or if it just doesn’t look like your cup of tea then don’t buy it and that will send a message loud and clear because money is what motivates these publishers.
I have a friend, we can call him Luis, Luis preorders any game he is even moderately interested in. Then if he decides hes not interested he cancels the preorder. When Luis does this he is helping the publishers get a better and better idea of how many preorders they can turn into actual sales and how many preoder's they need to reach before they can just call it a day. Be smart with your money and help keep the video game industry healthy so we can continue to get quality games for years to come. Don’t be Luis.
What's your stance on preorders? Do you preorder games? Let me know why in the comments down below I would love to have a thoughtful discussion around this and really anything else gaming related you wanna talk about!
Thanks for watching my video! Don’t forget to check out our gaming podcast HardReset and our movies podcast NoRefunds the podcast that watches bad movies so you don’t have to. You can find everything we do all in one spot over at ColdNorthPro.com links to everything will be in the description down below. Next week HardReset will be guest written by our very own gorgeous Ben Reynolds so make sure to come back and check that out! Now that I've indulged my hero complex I'm gonna go back to playing Red Dead…just go play some games.
at May 18, 2019
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
By: Patrick "TheLaw" Morris
Welcome welcome welcome everyone welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth Production. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. This week we were supposed to have Gorgeous Ben Reynold's guest writing for us but a few things came up so that one is still in the oven so instead we'll be talking about the classic console party and more specifically the one that showed up with the non-alcoholic beer and trivial pursuit and ruined it for everyone. This week we will be talking about the PlayStation Classic. Lets get right to it.
Classic consoles seem like such an obvious idea and they are one that several third parties and shitty chinese knock off companies started doing way back in the mid 2000's so it still amazes me that it took so long for the heavy weights of the industry to become so interested. But once the apex predators perked their ears up and decided to do the idea dirty a market for these tiny plug and play consoles appeared seemingly overnight. Nintendo launched the NES classic in late 2016 then the SNES classic in late 2017 and consumers were absolutely bloodthirsty for a nostalgia trip that they were sure wouldn’t remind them of the fact that games from way back when weren't nearly as good as they remember. I should know I'm one of the idiots that bought both of those consoles.
But even after riding that short bus two years in a row I was still a believer in the concept and saw these things as fun little collectors items with ever increasing price tags that I just didn’t know how to say no to. In September of 2018 I woke up one morning to a stupid news story on reddit that Sony had a classic console of their own in development, like the dummy I am I immediately preordered this thing at the low low price of only $100 while only knowing five of the twenty games that would ship on the console none of those being a Spyro or Crash game. Then in October the full game list was revealed and it was what one could easily call…the gaming equivalent of a flaming bad of dog shit left on your neighbors porch; there were a few bangers making for a fun experience but ultimately you're still left with a burnt up bad of dog shit.
I cancelled my preorder and within weeks of it's release the PlayStation classic was $60 which was still to much for even someone as stupid as myself to pay for this console. But then a couple months ago when walking through Best Buy I saw the Classic console on sale for the fire sale price of $40 and still nobody in that store was stupid enough to buy it…nobody but me that is!
So here we are, these are my thoughts on the PlayStation classic.
From the moment I opened the box the console was practically screaming at me about what an idiot I was for having made such a stupid purchase. This product is without a doubt the single worst unboxing experience I have ever had. The packaging is a box inside a box inside a box with the console mounted front and center and once removed you then have to carefully unfold the box so as not to ruin it (I did buy this thing primarily as a collectors item after all) to be able to reach in and pull out the controllers and cables from their Anne Frank-esque hiding place under where the console was so proudly displayed. After what is no joke a multi-minute unboxing I finally had everything out and was ready to set it all up. Setup was easy but then again so is disappointment so there are a few things easy things the PlayStation classic really nailed.
The game selection on this thing is terrible! The exceptions being Final Fantasy 7, Resident Evil, Tekken 3, Twisted Metal and of course Metal Gear Solid. There are twenty preloaded games and none of them (aside from Jumping Flash) are particularly bad, they're just not representative of what a transformative console the original PlayStation was for the medium of video games. When I think back to my PlayStation 1 days I think of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Crash Team Racing, Gex, Ape Escape, 102 Dalmatians, Toy Story 2, Star Wars Episode 1, Gran Turismo, Tony Hawk, Tomb Raider, Need For Speed, and Driver. It was a console full of iconic games that could have made for one of the best classic console offerings to date but instead we got to play Destruction Derby, Cool Boarders 2, and Intelligent Qube. Again I'm not saying those are bad games but it just leaves me with the feeling that Sony played the JV squad and benched the varsity team and expected nobody to notice.
I've said it before in casual conversation and I think I have even said it on our podcast, but games from the fifth generation of consoles have aged incredibly poorly and the PlayStation 1 games in particular have aged especially poorly due to the consoles relative lack of power when compared to the Nintendo 64. In my opinion console generations come in cycles of two, one generation to introduce something revolutionary and another generation to refine it. The NES was all about bringing games back into the mainstream with 2D games and while I don’t want to step on anyone's nostalgia feelings most NES games are pretty bad and very obviously a result of developers learning something new. But then the SNES was the NES but just better and devs really had a handle on what they were doing and were able to fully realize the vision that was started on the NES. Then the PlayStation and N64 came out and we were back at square one but with 3D games. Most games from that first generation of 3D consoles weren't good and they have aged horribly. Making a PlayStation classic and filling it with games that are anything but the absolute best the console had to offer is willfully putting all the worst parts of the fifth generation of consoles under a microscope for everyone to remember in 2018 and 2019.
But it's not all bad. These classic consoles are intended to be a conversation piece as much as a game console. They're for a short trip down memory lane not a primary method of consuming video games. And part of that is presentation. The NES classic and the SNES classic were remarkably representative of their larger counter parts making them feel much more authentic and the controllers were almost one to one recreations of the originals. At the launch of the NES and SNES classics I was really only disappointed by one thing and that was the controller ports. It looked like Nintendo had a ton of the old connectors used in the bottom of the Wii mote just lying around and repurposed them for the classic consoles. It was a very minor flaw but a flaw none the less. Not only did Sony match the build quality of and accuracy to the originals that Nintendo offered but they actually outdid Nintendo in one aspect by using a standard USB A connector for the controllers and then building a custom plastic housing to make it look like the original proprietary plug when plugged into the console. It's a really cool attention to detail that I wish had gone into every aspect of the product.
Would I recommend the PlayStation classic? Well that depends. At $100 the answer is a firm HELL no. At $60 I would say you better have a lot of disposable income and very little desire for this thing to do anything meaningful for you. At $40 I would ask if you’ve ever played Metal Gear Solid before and if the answer is no I would then ask if you have a GameCube and can buy The Twin Snakes on that, if your answer is still no I would say go ahead and buy a PlayStation classic for Metal Gear Solid alone. Other than playing Metal Gear Solid for the first time ever or making a stupid video essay for 50 some subscribers on YouTube there is no good reason to buy this stupid console.
So the PlayStation classic that Sony released turned out to be a huge missed opportunity. Had it had better games and access to a dualshock controller it could have been a really great console but Sony was clearly just trying to push out a quick cash grab as opposed to making something that could stand as an honorable tribute to a great console. It's a shame it had to happen this way but now that the only really heavy hitter that can be fairly easily emulated left to get a classic iteration is the N64 at least we don’t have to worry about Sony leaving another flaming bag of dog shit in the form of the PS2 classic in our local retailers.
Were you as stupid as me and bought a PlayStation classic? Let me know how the fooled you in the comments down below. While youre down there let me know what you think of this classic console fad and if we have come to the end of it or not.
Don’t forget to check out our website ColdNorthPro.com for everything we do all in one spot. You should also subscribe to our gaming podcast HardReset and our movies podcast NoRefunds the podcast that watches bad movies so you don’t have to, you can find both of those on most major podcast services. I will be back next week talking about why I don’t preorder games so until then just go play some games.
Saturday, May 4, 2019
By: Patrick Morris
Welcome welcome welcome everyone welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth Production. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. Don’t forget to check out our podcasts HardReset and NoRefunds and everything else we do all in one spot over at ColdNorthPro.com. Today is Star Wars day so this week we will be talking about the future of the galaxy far far away, lets talk about Star Wars video games.
Now I want to come out and say very clearly that I don’t consider myself a huge Star Wars fan, I enjoy Star Wars for what it is but ultimately I don’t enjoy it as much as a bunch of people that eat sleep and breath Star Wars. The movies are pretty good but theyre no where near as ground breaking as so many people say they are. The books are fun and the comics have been really good but where Star Wars has done it's best job capturing my attention is in the video games. And because video games are the medium that I think is the best for Star Wars it goes without saying that I havent been really satisfied with Star Wars in quite some time.
In 2013 EA signed a deal with Disney that basically gave EA control over the development and publishing of Star Wars video games for ten years. Now in 2019 we are rapidly approaching six years since that news broke and what was supposed to be the second golden age of Star Wars games has turned out to be two very okay battlefront games and continued support for The Old Republic MMO. What we as the audience were expecting and what EA has delivered so far have been two very different things. A near universal love for the franchise across so many different demographics combined with the power, connections, influence, and resources held by EA would surely lead Star Wars video games into a new age of innovation and prosperity right? Wrong!
EA should have been out contracting third party studios to develop radically different types of Star Wars games concurrently to be able to release at least one or two big budget Star Wars games every year. What should have happened is Dice should have been put on Battlefront, Respawn on Jedi Fallen Order, Obsidian or Bioware tasked with KOTOR 3, Insomniac on a character driven adventure spin off, Bandai Namco put in charge of Rogue Squadron 4, and so many other experimental projects. That’s what should have happened but what actually happened was less…ambitious.
Don’t get me wrong despite all of their flaws I have actually been a pretty big advocate for Battlefront and especially Battlefront 2 and you can see the video I made all about that right here (LegalSpeak In Defense of Battlefront 2). Those games have been fun for what they are and I have poured many hours into both, and I am definitely looking forward to Jedi Fallen Order later this year. I don’t mean to say that the games are bad, what I'm trying to get at is that EA is not the publishing house that should be handling the Star Wars license and hopefully come 2023 Disney wont be renewing their contract. So who should handle Star Wars video games after the dark times? After the empire?
Once this whole EA debacle is over I think what will most likely happen is another of the major publishers in the industry will be signed to take over all development and publishing of Star Wars games, still effectively outsourcing almost the entire operation just to a different publisher. So who should take over? There are only a handful of publishers in the world big enough to handle a property as big as Star Wars those being EA, Take Two, Activision, Sony Computer Entertainment, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Ubisoft. Obviously Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are out because Sony and Microsoft would limit which platforms Star Wars games can reach and while I don’t have any contacts at Nintendo something tells me they wouldn’t be particularly interested. EA is also immediately out because I'm not making a video theorizing about how EA will get to keep Star Wars. Which leaves Activision, Take Two, and Ubisoft. Activison is arguable the second most money hungry publisher in the industry and as a result I would speculate that Disney will steer clear so as to avoid making the same mistake twice. Take Two Interactive would be an interesting choice but I think they lack a certain uniformity and standardization that Disney has been obsessed with maintaining in Star Wars recently. I'm amazed that I'm saying this but I think Ubisoft would be most likely and also best realistic option for Disney to choose.
So I think Ubisoft will take over Star Wars and honestly of the options that arent completely pie in the sky I think they're probably the best ones to do it. Over the past two decades Ubisoft has taken the Tom Clancy IP and made it into something that everyone can enjoy. In case you missed it you can find my video on Tom Clancy games right here (LegalSpeak Tom Clancy Games). TLDR: Tom Clancy is an IP that acts as an umbrella for several different series that exist within the same universe. People who want a single player story focused experience can play Splinter Cell. If you want a co-op squad based third person shooter play Ghost Recon. Are competitive PVP games your thing? Well luckily Rainbow Six Siege has you covered. And if you just cant get enough of that shared world borderline MMO loot grind well Division and now Division 2 have it in spades. All of these games are distinctly different but still look and feel like they're cut from the same cloth. Ghost Recon is developed by Ubisoft Paris, Rainbow Six is from Ubisoft Montreal, Splinter Cell is from Ubisoft Toronto most recently, and The Division is developed by Massive Entertainment. Ubisoft has orchestrated an unparalleled level of cohesion of cooperation for their studios to share resources all across the globe which has led to the Tom Clancy franchise being an absolute force to be reckoned with.
But just like every other publisher and developer Ubisoft has been known to drop a real bomb every now and then. It happened with Rainbow Six Siege and again with For Honor. Both of those games were huge disappointments when they launched, they werent quite on par with something like Fallout 76 but at launch they were bad. But looking at those games now they have come a really long way and have thriving dedicated communities. This didn’t happen magically it happened because when those games launched they were a bummer and the fanbases weren't shy about communicating their disappointment in very specific detail but instead of abandoning the games or selling a bright blue leather jacket for $276 Ubisoft took the feedback, rolled up their sleeves, and got to work on making the games better. And now those games are completely unrecognizable from what they were when they first launched. Ubisoft has actively demonstrated a commitment to developing a good game and fixing something that didn’t satisfy their fans. Ubisoft has done the unthinkable and turned a failing game around on multiple occasions.
Now if crafting distinctly different games with a similar look and feel a la Tom Clancy doesn’t sound like exactly what Disney wants for Star Wars I'm not sure what you think they do want. And to add to that if a commitment to a failing game to turn it around and make it the game players want doesn’t sound like the exact opposite of what EA would do I'm not sure we are talking about the same EA. And in all fairness Battlefront 2 has made a huge turn around but that's almost entirely Dice's doing. Ubisoft has demonstrated through Tom Clancy and their other IP's that they have exactly what Disney is looking for in a Star Wars handler, and honestly if in four years Disney announces that they have signed Ubisoft to take over the Star Wars license for video games I would actually be pretty happy. Ubisoft is the second best thing that can happen to Star Wars video games right now…the SECOND best thing.
We can all dream right? With respect to Star Wars video games my dream is the resurrection of LucasArts. If Disney were to bring back LucasArts and handle publishing and contracting developers in house on a case by case basis Star Wars games could really spread their wings and fly again like they did in the early to mid 2000's. Remember the days of KOTOR, Battlefront, Republic Commando, Jedi Knight, Rogue Squadron, Racer, Starfighter, Empire at War, Force Unleashed, and even Droidworks? The Golden age of Star Wars games and they were all put together on a game by game basis from different development studios with unique talents and strengths to offer. Disney if you really wanna make this Star Wars game fan happy bring back the same strategy the gave us the first golden age of Star Wars games…bring back LucasArts.
What do you think Disney should do for Star Wars games after the EA contact expires? Should it go to Ubisoft, come back in house, or should they do something I haven't even considered? Let me know in the comments down below. And while you're down there let me know what your favorite Star Wars game is, my number one is definitely Rogue Squadron 2 but I harbor a secret love for the Phantom Menace tie in game on PlayStation 1.
Thanks for watching everyone, don’t forget to check out our gaming podcast HardReset and our movies podcast NoRefunds the podcast that watches bad movies so you don’t have to! Both of those are right here on YouTube and on most major podcast services, links are in the description below. Next week LegalSpeak will be guest written by our very own gorgeous Ben Reynolds so until then…may the force be with you. Always.
at May 04, 2019