Friday, 30 August 2013

Gaming Juggernauts Are Finally Listening!

Gaming Juggernauts Are Finally Listening

 Yes ladies and gentlemen, the big, brash companies that think they can dictate to gamers what they want with little regard to anything else have finally learnt they can't. I'm not just talking about the E3 backlash that Microsoft received, but it also seems it has had a knock on effect with other companies reacting too.

Customer service economy

Believe it or not, customers have a bigger choice than ever and it is up to companies to stand out in order to receive their custom. More importantly, people demand companies that care about their customers and aren't just seen to want that big wad of cash consumers get at the end of the month. Organisations around the world are employing customer service specialists to improve their overall offering and as a result, improve customer retention.

                 Customer service consultancies such as ShankmanHonig have been sprouting up in 2013

Maybe we got it wrong

Microsoft's success truly went to their head. Being market leader gave Microsoft the temptation to start milking the industry for what it's worth with the Xbox One. They thought,  ''The market love us and we can do what we want'', Wrong! We all know how E3 went. Everyone was gobsmacked - ''how could Microsoft be so arrogant!'', they thought they could get away with it. What they didn't realise is that the gaming community is one of the largest online communities, and one of the most passionate. The gaming community were baying for blood. Customers want to be appreciated, not taken for 'mugs', Microsoft were scared, they had made a huge mistake.

We're Sorry

Since then, Microsoft have done all they can to reverse the massive amount of damage they caused to the Xbox brand, and to be fair to them they have been quite transparent about it. The list of changes are as follows:

  • Used games allowed
  • More powerful GPU
  • Doesn't have to be always online
  • You don't have to use Kinect
So Microsoft have tried to rectify all the negative points regarding Xbox One. But let's not kid ourselves, they still have work to do. They have created a base to work on and now they are starting to create goodwill within the gaming community. In August, Microsoft Studio's CEO Phil Spencer stated that their changes on the Xbox One are part of a "two-way conversation we have with our customers". There you have it, Microsoft are clearly stating they made a mistake and are working on providing better customer service. Recently, Microsoft have said they would offer indie game studios free Xbox one development kits - good PR that will appease the gaming community. If Microsoft can keep this going and become even more transparent with it's customers, they could be starting to turn over a new leaf.

EA Too!?

EA also seem to be pushing forward with a PR push to try and build a bridge with their consumers. EA's origin service has continually been found to offer abhorrent customer service and the gaming community generally see EA as one of the 'bad guys'

One of  the 'famous' EA online support chats.

In recent months however, we've seen EA act in ways that have surprised the gaming community.
Recently, EA participated in the Humble Bundle sale which gives consumers a selection of games in exchange for a donation of the persons choice.

EA offered all these games for charity, with EA potentially receiving nothing from them

Firstly, you have to applaud EA for this, over $10 million dollars were generated for charity and many gamers agreed that it was the best humble bundle to date. EA also launched the 'Great Game Guarantee' which allows people who download digital titles on Origin to return the game within 24hours. What this shows is that they are trying to create a better brand image.

The gaming community can hold a grudge for a long time, but with EA finally reacting and trying to build bridges with their customers, they are heading in the right direction.

So, have they learned?

So, it seems the gaming juggernauts have finally learned, you can't keep milking customers for all their worth, offer shoddy customer service and expect to get away with for years to come. Given the chance gamers will boycott. The arrival of the new console generation provided the perfect opportunity to do this. PS4 was a much more attractive option and as such, people saw it as a perfect time to jump ship. I think it woke up the gaming juggernauts and they finally realised - 'if we want to be here in the long-term, it's time to start taking our customers seriously.'

Do you think things are changing, or is it simply a PR stunt from these gaming giants? Let us know in the comments.

Friday, 16 August 2013

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We're Back!!!

 Yes ladies and gentlemen, after travelling the globe we are finally able to write again. Lots have happened since we have been away, most notably the Xbox One. I will go into more detail in the next blog post, but their change in stance is more significant than we realised.

Anyway, we have some exciting months ahead, what in the gaming world is keeping you up at night?

Thursday, 28 February 2013

PS4 - Its biggest innovation isn't the hardware

This time last week, we were all glued to our screens, drooling over some next-gen hardware we can really get our teeth into. The PS4 was announced to great fanfare and this blogger was impressed with what he saw. It wasn't the hardware that impressed but more, the software.

Look at that logo!

Hardware that kicks Nintendo while they're down

Early on during the reveal  Sony made sure they had answers to their competitors. Firstly, showing you can stream the PS4 onto the PSVita whilst spending time on the loo. So effectively, Nintendo's big innovation and a possible system seller can now be done of the Playstation 4. Everyone at Nintendo took a big gulp. It's all about  the great exclusive titles now for Nintendo. Other reveals include a sensor on the controller which seemed somewhat tacked on, but it will be interesting to see if that can be used in a way that really enhances gameplay. How about that share button? I think for certain games, it's a great addition.  Think of sharing something whilst playing Fifa. Scoring a stunner or seeing a funny glitch always makes me chuckle but I can't usually bothered to record it and post it on Youtube. The instantaneous aspect of the share button is a welcome addition,

In terms of the system specs, they were pretty decent but that's not what excited me about the console reveal.

The Networked Gaming Society

It's clear that Sony are looking to create a console that will be considered the perfect device for gamers who are part of the community - a powerful console with a tailored experience. Being able to see what your friends are playing and actually watching them play is a good idea. The idea of helping them and giving support is not so great. I personally find watching other people playing video games as extremely tedious. I think a lot of people will shun that idea, but most of all creating this tailored experience is very interesting. During the presentation it was announced that Playstation will learn and show things that are tailored to your tastes. Amazon have done this a while now for their tailored hompage and Sony can do this by creating tailored product and offerings. Sports fan? you're homepage will show special offers, videos and games relating to sport titles

All that data

With all that data coming in Sony can sell the data to second parties or offer developers the chance to learn how gamers experience their games. The second point is crucial as Sony are looking to create a much easier console to develop for. Sony can provide developers with videos of how gamers play that certain game which will allow developers to see things that wouldn't previously be able to see. The Playstation console could be the developer's console as well as the gamer's

The Gamer's Console

All I could think of is this could be the console for gamers. The online service will, in my opinion remain free which is key because the WiiU's online service is unspectacular and Xbox Live remains a paid service. I expect the new Xbox to be focussed around the living room and being the main box for families. That's fine, but Sony have picked up on this and addressed it by stating, 'if Microsoft want to have the living room, lets have the gamers.' It will be interesting to see what Microsoft reveal, but I expect to be a much more casual console. Sony don't have the same financial power so it makes sense for them to target the core rather than the family hub.

And Then, The Games

In terms of graphics and innovation, most of the game reveals were pretty unspectacular. Knack was the first game showcased on the PS4 and it didn't really inspire. Killzone Shadow Fall certainly looks good but my jaw wasn't quite reaching the floor. I'm not worried though. The first next-gen games always don't look that jaw-dropping and we normally have to wait a year or two to really see the console flex it's muscles. Capcom's new IP, Deep Down, was the only 'game' to look truly next-gen but I think we all knew that the video shown wasn't actual gameplay.

Deep Down (Capcom)
The stunning looking 'Deep Down'

A Fresh Start

Sony wanted to start fresh with the Playstation 4. They chose the right time to announce it whilst giving them time to drip feed the gaming community with news all the way up to its release. The main concern is the price. It won't cost $599 which the PS3 debuted at, but a price similar could prove problematic. I think we can all say, over to you Microsoft.

A thing about GTA

Is it just me, or does GTA5 look like a next-gen game?  All the videos and screenshots look far too good to be on current gen consoles. That's not to say it won't be out on current-gen consoles, but all the media about the game, screams next-gen.

Can current-gen consoles really produce something this good?

Friday, 15 February 2013

Wii U in Dire Straights.

This article kicks off the beginning of a 3-part article looking at the three new consoles. With the PS4 being announced next week, Nintendo are in trouble. The Wii U hasn't taken off as they would have liked and with new consoles coming, Nintendo should be seriously worried. In fact, latest reports indicates that Nintendo sold less than 100,000 units with a figure of 59,000 being mooted. This is shocking for a new console and Nintendo should seriously be worried. The Wii U is already being sold at a loss, presumably because of the high cost of the controller.

This is a graph for Nintendo fanboys so that you can somewhat grasp what kind of shape the company is in. I know you go on Nintendo fan pages and see the upbeat version of a press release about the Wii U sales but they just aren’t great. There also isn’t much to indicate they will get better any time soon. The above graph is what the net sales & net income (in Yen) looks like for Nintendo over the last 4 years. 
Iwata (Nintendo’s CEO) has said there will not be a price mark down. That almost goes without saying. A price markdown in the 1st year or even 2 is likely a sign of collapse with any console. Nintendo lost almost a half of a billion last year and it looks like they will make a slight profit this (fiscal) year. If they don’t, who knows what the future holds. I understand the profits were really high in the past which makes the incline even sharper.  I know you might not want to think it but what you are seeing is a near catastrophic collapse of a company. 

This graph courtesy of Ron Workmans blog, ( highlights the trouble Nintendo are in. in the past 4 years sales and income has plummeted. The 3DS has taken a battering due to smartphone's and Nintendo's hope that the Wii U's innovative controller would lead them to the heights of the orginal Wii has not come to fruition.

The Big Worry

Some might say the Wii U has been out for a matter of months and therefore, they should be given more time to sort things out. It's clear to see now though, that Wii U will never reach the same popularity as the Wii did. The Wii did so well because of the innovative motion controller. Nintendo have gone for the same strategy but this time the casual gamers are nowhere near as excited as before and this,for me, provides the killer blow for Nintendo.

One year advantage?

The reason I really worry for Nintendo is that they have blown that year advantage. An opportunity that Microsoft used for the Xbox 360 to get some sort of foothold. Nintendo should have had a number of stellar games out during this year, yet Wii U owners have very little games to shout about.

The Position

What perplexes me is that they have a console that can't really be called next-gen or current-gen. Yes, it's slightly more powerful than the Xbox 360 and Ps3 but what about when the PS4 and next Xbox arrive? These devices will technically wipe the floor with the Wii U and will provide Nintendo with the same problem the Wii had once the hype died down. 3rd parties will be reluctant to release games on it while they focus development on the more powerful Sony and Microsoft consoles. The casual market is open to all now and Microsoft and Sony will make sure they take advantage of that market from the beginning.


Sony are going to hit next-gen hard with the PS4 and my next article examines this. That being said, Nintendo have got it all wrong. They never wanted to compete with Sony and Microsoft directly in technical terms, but the level of innovation doesn't catch the markets attention as it did with the Wii.

My Prediction

  • Nintendo start a big marketing push to combat the release of new consoles. Expect big games with a big marketing budget. Don't expect a price drop.

  • The next Xbox will pick up where the Wii left off and target the causal market leaving Nintendo in its wake.

  • The future looks bleak with both the Wii U and 3ds struggling too find a position in the market which appeals.

The next few years will be bleak for Nintendo. They might have already reached the point of no return. Will they be the next Sega? Leave your opinions on the comment section.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Next Gen: The Generation of Casuals and Blockbusters

As you've noticed on this blog, my posts are starting to focus on the next generation of console's. Looking back, this gen has seen some new trends. The casual market has really picked up with the Wii and Kinect. However, there has been question marks regarding the longevity of the casual market. Wii's sales quickly took a nosedive while Kinect and Move have been criticised for the lack of games that really utilise the technology. We have seen the rise of blockbuster titles that have smashed records and put video games's on par with movies. This article looks at why the next generation of consoles will focus on blockbuster titles and improving the casual market.

Companies investing in blockbusters

As is seemingly the case with every new generation, costs rise as developers invest more in graphics, sound, research and marketing. Publishers are looking for the next big thing, an existing franchise or a new IP that can last a whole console generation. The risks are high but the rewards can be huge. It will mean that we will see a lower number of games coming out, with a focus on a few big budget, blockbuster titles. In the first couple of years of the next console cycle, expect to see new IP's look to quickly establish themselves.

Next-gen game Watch Dogs has all the hallmarks of a blockbuster title.

Along with the new IP's, the successful current franchises will continue to sell incredibly well. The next Assassins Creed trilogy will continue on next-gen consoles and so will Call of Duty. These are cash cows that don't look like dwindling.

Of course, expect Activision to invest heavily in the COD franchise

Simply put. Publishers will be less inclined to invest in lots of different games. Instead they will hedge their bets on a fewer number of blockbuster titles.

The Casuals are here to stay

Disney Infinity was announced a few days ago and is set to combat the extremely  popular, Activision owned, Skylanders series. The concept sees video games crossed over with real action figures. Unlike Activision, Disney have access to a wide range of Disney, Marvel and Star Wars characters. The casual market will eat this game up. Although the game is set to be released on current-gen consoles, expect it to be on next-gen consoles when they are announced.

Disney Infinity will capture the casual markets attention for years to come.

Developers and publishers will continue to find concepts like this that look to keep the casual market engaged. The problem with party games such as 'Just-Dance' and 'Wii Sports' is that the casual market got bored of these titles quickly and therefore, there wasn't longevity when it came to usage. Just Dance rolled out the sequels to great success but eventually people will get sick of it, the market for these types of games are already saturated. Games like Disney Infinity will add DLC and extras to maintain sales and interest of the casual market for years.

What new trends do you think will arise from the next generation of consoles? Let me know in the comments below.