What do we mean when we say “big-budget” videogame? This. Put simply, if EA’s latest revival of its long-running military shooter franchise doesn’t move at least three million copies from shelves, Medal of Honor’s getting shelved again.
“I’m not going to be able to do another one,” executive producer Greg Goodrich told the New York Times in reference to the three million sales figure.
For obvious reasons, then, game publishers have begun to seek out supplementary revenue streams in order to make up for the fact that major titles cost so many arms and legs to develop that the end result is an entire nation of stump people. DLC’s an especially popular example, although subscription fees, in-game ads, and tons of tiny microtransactions also help to level the playing field.
Medal of Honor’s success notwithstanding, however, the question arises: Is this business model sustainable? Games aren’t getting any cheaper to create, and as technology improves, even deeper pockets will be needed to fund top-of-the-line videogames. In the words of one of the brightest minds of our time: “Ruh-roh, Raggy!”
If you've somehow managed to avoid the avalanche of controversy pouring down on Medal of Honor, here's the gist: you can play as Taliban in the game's multiplayer. Not “the insurgents.” Not “the guys who look suspiciously like Taliban but totally aren't, no really.” Nope. This time around, Medal of Honor's ripping its inspiration straight from the headlines. That, however, didn't fly with GameStop's stores in military bases.
According to a memo received by Kotaku, the decision to pull the game was made “out of respect for our past and present men and women in uniform.”
“As such, GameStop agreed to have all marketing material pulled by noon today and to stop taking reservations. Customers who enter our AAFES stores and wish to reserve Medal of Honor can and should be directed to the nearest GameStop location off base,” it read.
“GameStop fully supports AAFES in this endeavor and is sensitive to the fact that in multiplayer mode one side will assume the role of Taliban fighter.”
Usually, this is where we make some kind of opinionated and – we like to think – well-informed comment. However, seeing as we haven't served, we'd like to ask the following question: Men and women in the military, what are your thoughts on this? Is it as touchy of a subject as GameStop makes it out to be? Or is this just another example of political correctness gone too far?
Hell, it's about time. Wait, wrong game. Still though, Battlefield 2 came out before Twitter or Facebook hit it big, the iPhone became the tech toy everyone loves to hate but still owns anyway, and even before this snazzy, updated-on-a-regular-basis version of MPC.com came to be. So, for obvious reasons, it feels like we've torn an eternity's worth of pages from our media-centric calendars while waiting to catch a glimpse of DICE's next non-spinoff Battlefield sequel. Fortunately, the finish line's finally in sight.
Via an announcement about Medal of Honor's Limited Edition, EA gave its first official confirmation of Battlefield 3 – and with it, the Battlefield 3 beta. So, how does one nab a spot in the highly anticipated test? Yes – you, in the back. With the shirt that has “Captain Obvious” written all over it. Buy the Medal of Honor Limited Edition, you say? Why yes, you are correct!
Oddly, the Limited Edition will make the same attack on your warchest – $60 – that the standard edition will, and as a result, seems to be the only version listed by many retailers. Aside from the Battlefield 3 beta key, it also packs a little extra heat in the form of a few bonus weapons.
Really though, if a slightly shinier virtual pistol is a deal-breaker for you over Battlefield 3 beta access, you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror, because you do not exist.
E3 who? EA recently threw its own summer videogame announcement shindig, with blackjack and hookers three brand new, previously unannounced PC games. So then, let's dive right into the deep end, which some might argue EA's gone off with Darkspore.
Remember Will Wright's intelligent design sim Spore? Yeah, well, forget everything you knew about it and replace it with Diablo. Yep, Darkspore's an action-RPG to its very DNA, with its producer going so far as to say it's all about “loot.” Thing is, your loot pinata enemies won't be exploding into swords and gold when you take a swing at them. Instead, they'll drop more limbs than a defective Potato Head doll, which you'll then glue to your own creature, probably resulting in a monstrosity so ugly that it'll even give The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's character creator a run for its money.
Speaking of Oblivion and its world where lizard people even manage to be better looking than humans, Morrowind and Oblivion lead designer Ken Rolston trotted out his new game, an open-world RPG with an all-star dev team. Renowned fantasy artist Todd McFarlane, writer R.A. Salvatore, and – coming literally out of left field – baseball star Curt Schilling, who founded the development studio, are all heading up a title called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Apparently, it will bring “a new level of intense action combat to the RPG genre” in addition to presenting a large, detailed world. Sorry, Elder Scrolls V, we're seeing someone else now.
Last but not least, if – instead of “Disney classic bunny bird rainbows!” – the first thing you think of when you hear “Wonderland” is “disturbingly high bodycount,” then you'll be happy to hear that American McGee's taking another crack at good ol' Alice. Titled Alice: Madness Returns, the game picks up ten years after the original game's conclusion, and begins with Alice still haunted by the death of her family and – as a result – completely insane. So basically, move over, Tim Burton. Here's how it's really done.
All three games are set to launch in 2011, and – as you've seen – none of them are Mirror's Edge 2. Oh well. We'll keep on dreaming.
Hey, rest of the videogame industry, you might as well pack it in -- or at least stop making passes at the fantasy genre buffet and loading your plates up with clichés. Why? Because Dragon Age is officially a franchise now, and unless BioWare suffers a huge sophomore slump, your efforts are going to look silly by comparison. So, what’s on the table for Dragon Age 2? Well, here’s what we know so far:
First up, BioWare’s ready to unfurl one of its trademark 60-hour yarns, but this time, the role-playing powerhouse is breaking free from its usual mold. Dragon Age 2 tells the decade-spanning story of Hawke, “a penniless refugee who rises to power to become the single most important character in the world of Dragon Age.” Obviously, rags-to-riches has been done before, but we’re more interested in what BioWare’s going to do with a game world that’s actually affected by the passage of time.
On top of that, Dragon Age’s roughest edge, its graphical style – which was actually so rough that its nearest living genetic relative is a piece of sandpaper – is getting a complete overhaul. Or at least, that’s what we’re expecting from BioWare’s proclamation of a “new visual style.” Combat, meanwhile, is seemingly taking a turn for the visceral, with “dynamic new combat mechanics that put you right in the heart of battle.”
For now, we’re gonna have to take BioWare’s Executive VP of Press Release Writing’s word for it, but with a big blowout scheduled for next month’s Gamescom gaming convention, we won’t have to wait too long to judge for ourselves.
The game’s slated for a March 2011 release date. Odds are, after we’re done playing it, we’ll be able to identify with Hawke quite well, seeing as – if it’s anything like Origins -- we’ll probably lose our jobs, friends, and social lives to it and become penniless. That “most important character in the world” bit, though? Not so much.
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy not too far from here, someone tried their hand at a massively multiplayer Star Wars game. Unfortunately, unless living the life of a tentacle-haired cantina dancer eternally stranded in a barren hell that just so happens to share some location names with Star Wars sounds right up your alley, the game was something of a disappointment. Taken on its own merits, yeah, it was all right. But it wasn’t Star Wars.
So, how do you convince gamers who’ve been burned once to abandon their lives as Night Elf Mohawks and take up lightsabers once again? Easy: you hire on BioWare, creators of what’s arguably the best Star Wars story since “Empire Strikes Back.” That, however, cracks open a whole new can of worms. Does a BioWare epic – let alone KOTORs 3-8 – have any place in an MMO? What about dialogue trees? MMOs are a fertile soil for social interaction, sure, but chatting up NPCs is another story entirely.
It’s with those questions and plenty more that we took Star Wars: The Old Republic for a test drive during E3. So, how’d it fare? Find out after the break!
We still have nightmares about the first Dead Space, but you know what scares us even more? The prospect of not being able to play its upcoming sequel. So when EA appeared to have fired Dead Space 2’s PC iteration out the airlock, you can bet we got a bit choked up about it.
Turns out, however, that the mega-publisher up and changed its mind for some reason, which is a-okay with us. As such, EA’s updated release schedule now has Dead Space 2 penciled in for a Q4 2010 release on consoles, handhelds, and – yep – PC.
Excited? Good. You should be. But just remember: In space, no one can hear you scream. Your neighbors, on the other hand, can. Our expert advice? Pull out your binoculars and look through your neighbors’ windows to make sure they’re not doing anything your panicked cries might interrupt. Wouldn’t want to disturb them, after all.
It's no secret that game publishers and developers typically aren't very fond of GameStop and the used game business in general, but rather than sit around and complain about it, it looks like Electronic Arts has finally found a way to cash in on second-hand titles. Starting in June, EA will block players who buy used copies of sports titles out of online multiplayer.
"It's quite simple -- every game will come with a game-specific, one-time use registration code with each unit sold new at retail," EA explains. "With your Online Pass, you'll have access to multiplayer online play, group features like only dynasty and leagues, user created content, and bonus downloadable content for your game including, for example, a new driver in Tiger."
If you pick up or rent a game where the code has already been registered, you'll be given a 7-day trial, after which time you can choose to purchase a $10 pass. The Online Pass will give online access to multiple users logged into the console where the it was first activated, so on the plus side, you won't need to fork over $10 for every gamer in your household.
"This is an important inflection point in our business because it allows us to accelerate our commitment to enhance premium online services to the entire robust EA SPORTS online community," EA said.
When Infinity Ward's Jason West and Vince Zampella left Activision / Infinity Ward, many of us wondered, just how bad could things possibly be? Well if you believe Activision's side of the story "We treat our developers extremely well" said COO Thomas Tippl.
"If their games are successful, they are compensated better here than anywhere else. We've been paying our talent millions of dollars for their work. Our setup provides a win-win opportunity. We ensure your work will reach a wide audience. Therefore, we have attracted, and we will continue to attract the top talent in this industry."
If getting paid millions of dollars could be considered "being treated extremely well", then I guess they have a point. But that doesn't explain why the Infinity Ward's quit count is up to 10, with many of those rumored to be moving over to an EA backed competitor called Respawn Entertainment.
It will be interesting to see just how many end up jumping off the Modern Warfare bandwagon in the coming months, and if it ends up creating a viable competitor for the Call of Duty series. After all, Palm is made up of ex-Apple employees who never managed to launch an iPhone killer.
So is it talent, circumstance, or both that make a game great?
While it’s still technically “early 2010” by our arbitrary standards, we’ve reached the point where Battlefield 1943’s absence on the PC is starting to grow more conspicuous by the day. The BF 1942 reimagining has been out on consoles since last July, after all.
Fortunately, the wait may finally be coming to an end. “Soon our PC fans will also be able to get in on the action that Xbox 360 and PS3 users have been enjoying since July 2009,” said DICE while pinning a medal on its downloadable title for becoming the fastest game ever to reach 1 million units sold on Xbox Live.
Will the game retain its hotcake-esque allure when it makes the jump to PC, though? Well, we’re thinking that depends on whether or not PC gamers are able to muster the sheer strength of will needed to pull themselves away from the multiplayer narcotic that is Battlefield Bad Company 2. And honestly, why would they want to?