With the holiday season in full swing, gamers are seeing a ton of new releases as publishers cash in on the consumer frenzy. Trying not to get lost in the shuffle, this week the Galactic Starfighter add-on for The Old Republic went live. It's pretty fun but probably not enough to woo players back. Also this week, Ultra Street Fighter 4 gets a release date, Battlefield 4 is broken, the VGX awards are broadcast, and Steam hit 7 million concurrent players.
Ultra Street Fighter 4
I know a lot of people won't care about this news but I put it first because I am hyped for this game. Capcom announced that Ultra Street Fighter 4 will be launching for the Xbox 360 and PS3 in June 2014 (in time for EVO). Personally, I feel that this is a bit tight in terms of lead time between launch and the biggest fighting game tournament, but early versions of the game are already being tested in arcades and top players around the world are getting a chance to provide feedback so it won't be a totally blind experience. Five new characters, overhauls of core mechanics (delayed wakeup!), and a ton of balance tweaks mean that Street Fighter 4 will feel fresh while continuing its reign as the best fighting game out there. On a side note, I am a bit disappointed that the PC version won't be out in time for EVO (it will probably see an early August release), but I am glad that they are working to get it done for a close release instead of it being a crappy afterthought of a port.
In other release news, patch 2.5 for Star Wars: The Old Republic went live last Tuesday. The biggest new content is the addition of fully controllable space crafts in 12 on 12 player versus player action. I got some time with this new content and feel it is a pretty entertaining addition to the core game. That said, I doubt it will be enough to attract players back who forgot about this game a long time ago in a state of mind far far away. For my full impressions, check out my article on Geek Binge!
Battlefield 4 Broken
Since Battlefield 4 launched on October 29, the multiplayer component has been plagued by all sorts of issues. In short, inadequate server power coupled with buggy code have led to rampant lag and outright disconnects for the majority of players. While these issues are common for multiplayer games at launch, it's expected that they should be rectified within a few weeks. The fact that they are persisting, tells me that EA either rushed the game out the door (inadequate testing) or is trying to save a buck by not investing in enough bandwidth. In any case, EA went on record stating that all future Battlefield 4 content would be put on hold until the base game is stable. Following this announcement, shares tumbled for the publicly traded company as investors voiced concerns that a delayed release of new DLC would negatively impact the bottom line. Stock prices recovered a bit on Friday but confidence in EA is obviously shaky.
The rebranded Spike Video Game Awards (now VGX) is set to take place tonight. These awards are the closest thing the industry has to an Oscar and are renown for surprise announcements and new teaser trailers. I think the term "mini-E3" is justly applied to this event. As for the awards themselves, they are predictable and generally cater to the whims of advertisers. This year's glaring example is Tomb Raider receiving a nomination for Game of the Year with the show clearly receiving sponsorship money from Square. Tomb Raider is a decent game but shouldn't be on the shortlist for the top of 2013; if it wins, expect severe backlash by gamers as the VGX fades into obscurity.
Achievement Unlocked - 7 Million on Steam at Once!
While this news was inevitable, it's amazing nonetheless. 7 million people playing games on Steam at a single time is a testament to just how popular the distribution platform is. The definitive source for digital PC games, Steam has reshaped the way that publishers distribute, and consumers buy, games. Steam shows no signs of slowing down and is largely responsible for brick-and-mortar stores less prominently featuring PC games. This isn't a bad thing as Steam has shown just how ridiculous of a cut of the sale price these stores were taking. So congratulations Steam! Keep up the good work and gamers will continue to support you!