Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The deal with digital distribution

Many like to attack Valve's digital distribution service, Steam, as another prospect that could be dangerous to the gaming market. Due to Valve's success, some fear that this may kill competition in the market, and anyone who has taken a high school economics class can tell you that it's not good when you can only get your desired product from one guy.
Though I'm against monopolization (anyone should be, really), there is one thing that I will defend: if Valve created something so successful and innovative, they should be able to use that to its fullest extent. Why should Valve have to limit its own success? If anything, this should push other companies to create rival digital distribution services in order to topple Steam.
Think of Steam like your neighborhood Wal-Mart. Sure, we can argue economics for ages, where one person stands on the side of the suffering small businesses and the other defends the corporate giant. See, the thing with services like Wal-Mart and Steam, is that people flock to these services because they see value in them. If a Wal-Mart springs up in a small community thriving with "Mom & Pop" stores, those small businesses must find a way to innovate their product and prove to their customers that they are still worth the extra few dollars, or the inconvenient drive down the block.
Same with digital distribution services. If Steam really upsets that many people, perhaps a competitor should come up with a digital distribution service that people can see value in. Sure, it's not a difficult task, but it certainly can be accomplished. Or better yet, why not have retailers remind us why (gasp) physical copies are still worth it?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Great Debate

There seems to be a lot of argument among the gaming community, specifically on PC vs. Console gameplay. PC users make the argument that gaming is overall superior to console gaming on terms of controls, graphics, user created content, and (in some cases) better games. As an avid PC gamer, I tend to agree that PC gaming is generally superior. Unlike several PC elitists, however, I do not think that consoles are "the death of gaming" or some sort of "blemish" on the hobby. No, I see PCs and consoles as a different experiences, and I really think developers should start treating them as such.
Many PC gamers use the term "consolitis" to refer to gameplay elements that seem to come from console hardware limitations--sparsely populated hub areas, game environments cut into fractions in order to save on RAM, smaller textures, poor user interfaces, etc. Those that get hatred the most are often console games ported to PC. The most recent example is Crysis 2. Crytek's decision to focus mostly on getting the game on consoles upset a lot of PC users, simply because the series had started and made its name on PC. Crysis 2 was rampant with many design choices made specifically for the console experience, while PC users were left with a port of a sequel that had killed many features that were beloved in the original.
Do I think that console users should not be able to enjoy Crysis? Of course not. Everyone should be able to enjoy games, no exceptions. But at the same time, it's up to the developers to ensure that consumers get appropriate experiences. To those who may game exclusively on consoles, let me try to come up with an appropriate (albeit slightly exaggerated) analogy: imagine that every time a multiplatform game was announced, it was also announced on the Nintendo DS. Now, there's no problem with that, is there? Of course not. Now, imagine that the developer says that they really want to hit the portable gaming audience, and focus almost entirely on the DS version of the game, and then simply port it to the 360/PS3. You'd be furious, right? The game would have been built with touch screen controls in mind, have less than acceptable graphical features, and obviously would not be optimized to take advantage of 360/PS3 hardware.
This is how PC gamers feel. They are disappointed to see games that could be taking full advantage of modern PC hardware being cut back to console hardware limitations, and then simply ported to the PC with no extra work. A recent example of multiplatform release done right was Deus Ex: Human Revolution, in which Eidos outsourced the PC port to ensure that there would be plenty of time to pack in all the features that PC users would expect.
The truth is, PC developers can expect the consumers to upgrade their rigs in order to match the product they are selling, but console developers must downgrade their product to conform to hardware limitations of the console. This isn't a bad thing, it just means that if developers want to win over the PC audience, they need to let PC users know that they care enough to at least try to take advantage of the features of the platform.

New AVGN Video--Nintendo World Championships

I've always been a fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd. His newest video is outside the norm, but definitely worth a watch.