Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekly Roundup - September 8-14, 2013

This week was capped by an out of the blue announcement from Sony that they are launching a home console version of the Vita. Also, Valve announced a new family sharing feature for Steam, the Grand Theft Auto 5 world map was possibly "leaked", and the Starcraft Universe mod hit it's Kickstarter goal. All in all, a fairly exciting week.

Sony Announces Vita TV
Leading up to the Tokyo Game Show, Sony announced that they were developing the Vita TV, a micro console capable of playing handheld Vita games on a television. While many people were anticipating that Sony would make some sort of Vita related announcement, this one really came out of left field. Almost immediately, comparisons were made to the OUYA with many suggesting that Sony is trying to tap the more casual market. As I mentioned in a recent post (Strange Brew), I think that OUYA's market is much more geared towards the modding enthusiast as opposed to casual gamers. If the OUYA and Vita TV are competing for the same market (which I don't think they are), the much higher price point of Vita games (around $20 higher) will immediately put the Vita TV at a disadvantage. In all, I think that Sony had to admit defeat on the Vita or dramatically shake it up. The Vita TV will, hopefully, mean a larger base for Vita games and thus entice future development; a good shake up by Sony here.

Vita TV - Japan Only (at least for now)
Linked to the announcement of the Vita TV was that it would only be available in Japan. Naturally, the western market erupted in anger and Sony quickly clarified, stating that release in Europe and North America would come at a later date. I think it is smart for Sony to test their new device in their home market first. The Vita is failing by almost any metric and to commit to a worldwide launch for a Vita product could be a financial disaster. Manufacturing for only the Japanese market will allow Sony to test the waters and accurately determine if they are on the right course to breathe life into the Vita. Sure it is annoying that the Western world won't get their hands on the new console, but I would much rather see a high quality value added system later rather than a bomb now that draws funds away from other development.

Steam Family Sharing
Family sharing is pretty nifty feature that reinforces Valve's commitment to not screwing over customers. Essentially, the feature allows for users to share games with each other with some restrictions. Ultimately, the system could be exploited by some people to provide a means to play games without paying but I suspect this will be the vast minority of users. In a stunning break from the paradigm, Valve has essentially said that they will open up their system and potentially allow some sales loss from the minority to provide a convenient feature to everyone. PC gamers have embraced Steam as the top digital distribution platform and I think it is great that Valve is giving some love back.

GTA5 World Map "leaked" (...or was it?)
The Grand Theft Auto 5 world map was made available and, in short, it's huge. I don't think the map itself is all that interesting of a story in that most people could have guessed that Rockstar would continue the pattern of designing massive playgrounds. Instead, I think that the real story is Rockstar's complaining about this supposed "leak". Indeed, I would not be surprised to find out that the leak was, in fact, a carefully timed reveal orchestrated by Rockstar themselves to build hype for the game pre-release. By posturing as pretty upset about this leak, headlines for an otherwise mundane reveal are much more likely to contain spicy language and entice more reads. While this technique isn't all that malicious, I think consumers should nonetheless be vigilant and, as always, do their best to make informed purchasing decisions.

Starcraft Universe hits Kickstarter Goal
Starcraft Universe is a free fan modification that turns Starcraft from a RTS into an MMORPG. The cool thing here is that Blizzard has given their blessing where other companies would have given a cease and desist order. Finishing up with just over $84,000 the mod should have enough funding to create a high quality first act and will certainly be worth a look. Congratulations on hitting the goal and kudos to Blizzard for supporting the community.