Saturday, November 16, 2013

Weekly Roundup - November 10-16, 2013

Even non-gamers couldn't help being inundated by this week's biggest news story: The PlayStation 4 has officially launched. I am excited for the next generation but less so for the current titles on offer. Also this week, the Burial at Sea DLC for Bioshock: Infinite was released, an auction date for 38 Studio's assets was announced, Blockbuster is closing its doors, and Black Friday deals were leaked.

PlayStation 4 Launches!
Bad reviews, bad connections and good blood? Anyone who follows gaming couldn't escape the news that the PlayStation 4 launched in the US on November 15. The next generation has officially begun (unless you count the WiiU). While a plethora of news came out surrounding the launch, three points resonated most. First, most of the launch titles are not particularly good and are receiving mediocre reviews. This isn't too big of a surprise as launch games suffer in development for a ton of reasons (namely the pressure to have the game out and done by launch with limited development access to the new hardware). It's disappointing to be sure, but doubtful to be a long-term trend or impact anyone's holiday buying decision. Second, the PlayStation network has been experiencing extreme latency issues. I'll put this one in the no-brainer category, everyone is testing out their new toy and naturally circuits are jammed; this will sort itself out in a few weeks and I expect Microsoft to experience similar issues. Finally, Microsoft issued a congratulatory message to Sony on their launch. I'm sure this was corporately motivated in some way to drive goodwill sales but it's nice to see nonetheless. As much as Sony and Microsoft want to 'win', it is good to see a bit of respect.

Mixed Reaction to Burial at Sea
The first episode of Bioshock: Infinite's DLC released to mixed reviews. Many gamers are excited to revisit Rapture, the setting of the first Bioshock. Most of the negative reviews have cited a lack of combat, a flimsy story, and the steep $15 price tag. Positives have included the numerous nods to fans of the series, the breathtaking revamp of familiar locales, and deft implementation of Infinite's mechanics in the Rapture setting. Admittedly, I have yet to complete Bioshock: Infinite so am holding off on the purchase, but must say the price tag is a severe negative for what amounts to a couple hours of gameplay. I can't help but feel that this is creeping into the dangerous territory of gouging the consumer.

38 Studios Auction - December 11
The 38 Studios saga continued with the announcement that the postponed auction of their assets will take place on December 11. I won't go into the specifics of the whole ordeal, but it really is shame that the water turned brown so fast. I am curious, however, whether the Kingdom's of Amalur intellectual property will actually be worth much. Despite the chaos surrounding it's launch, the game is actually half-decent and the lore it brings could be a reasonably valuable commodity. On the other hand, I wonder if it will be considered tainted by some and thus lower interest. In any case, the auction should close another chapter in this seemingly never-ending story.

Blockbuster Done
Dish Network, owners of the Blockbuster video store chain, have announced that they will be permanently closing all of their remaining North American stores by January. This represents about 300 locations and is pretty much the final nail in the coffin for the era of physical movie rentals. Blockbuster will still be active on digital distribution platforms but faces stiff competition against established brands like Netflix. I have mixed feelings about Blockbuster closing its doors. On one hand, I have fond memories of renting a game for the weekend as a child. On the other, Blockbuster had a reputation for poor service and undoubtedly overcharged for the service they were providing.

Black Friday Deals Announced
As a Canadian, the closest thing I can compare Black Friday to is Boxing Day (December 26). In a dash of rampant consumerism, people literally camp-out to avail themselves of door-crasher deals on a myriad of retail items. While every store seems to have one ridiculous deal (usually limited to a few per store), I find most of the other "sales" to be tame. Saving a few bucks here and there is great but I don't think the hype that goes around Black Friday has been justified in over a decade. You won't catch me sleeping out front of a store in the cold of November just to get my hands on a 10 dollar discount for the latest Assassin's Creed game.