Posts Tagged ‘ XBox One ’

National Videogame Museum Opens Its Doors

The National Videogame Museum (NVM) opened in Frisco, TX on April 2, 2016. It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. 10:00 AM, to be precise, was the opening of the doors. I was there and I was excited. Obviously, it’s taken a while for me to get to writing my thoughts on the grand opening of the nation’s, the world’s, first museum dedicated to the history of video games (I use “video game” though the museum officially uses “videogame”).

I had arrived at the Frisco Discovery Center, where the NVM is located, at 10:05 with a bit of a hurried step. I wanted to get in with plenty of time to look around as I was meeting someone in 3 hours to hand over some video games I had accumulated that weren’t going into my collection. I knew the doors opened at 10, so I went right in. And found the line. I followed the line outside again and saw just how many had arrived to see the history of their hobby.

There were a lot. The Museum holds about 240 people and the line was well out of the building and along the sidewalk, starting to curl around the build like a human formation of Nibbles.

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One or two people showed up

I stood in line with a mother whose 7 year old son was running around playing with other kids while they waited. Preston was here to see more about video game history, particularly Pac-Man and Galaga. I learned something from Preston’s mother in the hour we waited outside.

Pixels was a good movie. That’s right, Pixels.

Pixels

Yes, THAT Pixels.

Preston saw Pixels more than once in theaters and probably a dozen times at home since it released on blu-ray and DVD. Pixels introduced this young boy to Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Q*bert, and made him want to learn more. He went to Google and began reading about these games and these characters and when they came out. He grew interested not only in the games themselves, but their history.

If a 7 year old boy loves a movie about video game characters, and that movie drives him to pursue the history of the industry, then I have to say the movie did something right. Adults and critics may not like it, but if it stirred the interest and curiosity of children, then it’s a good movie by my measure.

And so, there we were, at the first museum in the nation that would let him explore more of that history. TekForce was present and volunteered to provide music and MC the waiting room that we reached at 11 o’clock. I was able to speak with him a moment and learned that the museum was expecting 1,500 visitors for the grand opening day. In the first hour, they were adjusting expectations to 4,000. They underestimated how many people would come out for the grand opening.

As we waited for our ticket groups to be called there were pictures available to color, music played, and a couch set up with a Wii U and Super Mario Bros. available to play. Kids were having a great time. There was also trivia to win prizes – the question I was present for was regarding Pac-Man’s original name (The answer is Puck Man).

At 11:35, our ticket group was called up and we finally went into the NVM lobby to pay for our tickets to the museum proper. Tickets are $12 for adults, but include $1 worth of tokens for the arcade at the end of the museum. By noon, 2 hours after arrival, I finally set foot inside.

The Museum is divided into 16 stages, all of which cover a different portion of video game history.

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But first, you’re greeted by Mario

 

Stage 1, “Begin” covers the early days of video game history. In fact, with Ralph Baer’s “Brown Box Prototype” on display, it might be safe to say this touches on video game pre-history and then advances through history from there.

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An important aspect of the NVM is that it’s not just exhibits to look at and read. There are a lot of interactive features at the museum, mostly in the form of playable games in the exhibits. Almost every Stage has something you can play.

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Just like the one you grew up with, right?

Stage 2, “Timeline” is the most time consuming interactive option. With screens set up above oversized Super Nintendo controllers, this allows visitors to browse every single video game console ever released to get some information about them. Release year, MSRP, some highlighted games, as well as notorious games, and some of the most valuable on the system can be reviewed. There are 53 different consoles to read about, all of which are on display on the wall.

Stage 3, “Third Party” showcases a number of the third party titles that helped consoles excel with the public. Pitfall, which is playable in the exhibit, Stampede, Megamania, River Raid are on display in their original boxes in a display case while some notable Nintendo entries from Activision share the bottom shelf of the display with Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, Rampage, and more.

Stage 4, “Control” is, quite simply, a full wall with a history of controllers through the years. Multiple controllers from each system are displayed, as well as a disassembled Atari 5200 controller.

Stage 5, “Portable” explores portable games. Game n’ Watch is on display, along with others that pre-dated the Game Boy most think of when “portable gaming” is mentioned.

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Again, there are playable games set up here as well. However, one of the most notable items features in this display is the Barbie Edition Game Boy, which is an unreleased prototype Game Boy Pocket. Supposedly the deal never went through and only two of the systems, along with a gaudy carry case, were made.

Stage 6, “Crash” is ironically my favorite exhibit, despite its dark days in gaming history. It deals with the video game crash of 1983. The first thing I liked was the introduction plaque does detail that the cause of the crash is much more complicated than the simple examples often cited, but not without being self aware of these rumors. Poor E.T. still appears in the stage’s image, even though it’s acknowledged the game was not the cause.

What I really liked about this exhibit, though, was the “going out of business” store front. With various 80s items such as Pac Man trading cards and bubble gum under the glass, a Top 5 sign for the week’s hottest games (which includes E.T., I might add), and a sign indicating the store is going out of business, it’s a very nicely done presentation.

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I promise I was also NOT the cause of the crash.

Stage 7, “Rise” presents the return of video games, stronger than ever, on both computer and with the Nintendo Entertainment System. A lot, and I do mean a lot, of set ups are here to play and interact with.

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At this point, as you venture through the museum, you’ll find the bathrooms. Not exactly something you’d think worth mentioning, but this is the NATIONAL VIDEOGAME MUSEUM, so of course the bathroom entries are worth mentioning with their clever indication of “Men’s” and “Women’s” signs.

 

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Women’s

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Men’s

Stage 8, “Create” presents games moving from just being games and actually involving the user in the creative process. Games like Mario Paint are on display, but I wasn’t able to spend much time hands on (there were a lot of people here, remember?).

Stage 9, “Invent” presents a theoretical game studio’s office. Games adorn the shelves, a PC and work station are present, various articles and news clippings are framed on the walls.

Stage 10, “Transmit” discusses the rise of online gaming with various Blizzard entries, Quake, and two terminals that visitors can use to communicate and send a webcam image to each other on either side of the exhibit with.

Stage 11, “Listen” details music coming into games more with entries such as Parappa the Rapper and, of course, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution.

Stage 12, “Unplugged” is likely to surprise many visitors with the various board games that were released based on video game properties. Frogger, Q*bert, Pac-Man, Legend of Zelda, and more are all on display.

Across from “Unplugged” is an exhibit showcasing various items. Systems, the Pokemon series, rare and valuable games, this section is an eclectic mix of things that didn’t belong to a single exhibit, but are definitely fun to look at.

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Before venturing to the next stage, there’s also an exhibit with various pieces of merchandise, including the wearable Mega Man helmet.

Stage 13, “Family” accurately portrays a family living room from the 1980s, with a console hooked up for play on the television, a fake plant, wood panel walls, and a Dogs Playing Poker painting on the wall! There are even family photos on display.

Stage 14, “Sanctuary” depicts a teen’s bedroom. Bear in mind, the NVM is in Frisco, Tx, so if you aren’t a Cowboys and Rangers fan, forgive the decor!

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A Pac-Man throw pillow, 80s movie posters, a record playing 80s music, and a Mario phone. It’s worth noting that the visitor I caught in this picture….still had trouble with the NES Zapper hitting the ducks in Duck Hunt.

Stage 15, “Respect” isn’t an exhibit so much as an art display. A cube art mural of Ralph Baer hangs near the conclusion of the museum tour.

Stage 16, “Bonus” is a collection of framed posters, displays, arcade machines, and a life size statue of Gabriel Belmont. Along the wall next to Stage 16 are a line of consoles, all of which had someone playing them. I did get to finally play a bit of Bonk’s Adventure on Turbo Grafx-16, though. Above the consoles is a mural with a number of recognizable video game characters.

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Stage 16 leads to an 80s style arcade to conclude the tour of the National Videogame Museum. The lights are dark and lit more by the neon marquees and the screens of video games than overhead light and it was packed with a person on just about every cabinet. A machine is in the arcade to give tokens for dollar bills in case your 4 tokens from entry aren’t enough to get your gaming fix.

Finally, you exit the arcade to find yourself in the gift shop. I didn’t look at everything, but overall they had some cool items in there. Some books particularly caught my eye and they were all priced reasonably compared to Amazon.

I’ve gone on for over 1700 words about this museum and don’t think I’ve scratched describing it. I was hopeful for this endeavor after visiting the “History of Videogames” exhibit at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, WA, but this is far beyond what was presented there.

The one thing I’d like to see NVM add if they are ever able to expand in size is to build a display library for every system. The curators, I believe, have only brought out a small part of their overall collection. I would love to see a glass display shelving every Atari or NES title in their boxes. In time, seeing every video game on every system lined up on shelves, their spines facing out would be truly a sight to see.

If conclusion, if you’re in the DFW area in Texas and have time to get to Frisco, the National Videogame Museum is well worth your time. I only had a couple of hours available and don’t feel like it was remotely enough time. I’m looking forward to going back with friends when they come into town, but I might have to sneak an extra trip before they make it.

My only hope is that they get repeat business and are able to stay open for a long time to come. Video games have become a huge part of our culture, both in America and across the globe, and it’s great to see a museum preserving and sharing their history.

 

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – More of the Same? That’s Okay!

This week, Ubisoft officially announced the next Assassin’s Creed game would be titled Syndicate and confirmed it would take place in Victorian era London. As has become standard for the Internet, responses ranged from eager anticipation to bemoaning a release of yet another Assassin’s Creed game that is essentially the same game repackaged with a new coat of paint.

The first Assassin’s Creed was released in 2007 and in the past 8 years, there have been 9 entries in the main series with an additional thirteen side games, as well as comics, graphic novels, a short film, animated shorts, and soon a full length feature film starring Michael Fassbender. It’s hard to argue that’s not a lot of games in 8 years. It is.

Focusing on the main series, 9 entries is essentially a new entry in the main series every year with a little short of here and there to squeeze an extra in that cycle time. This has led to some gamers seeing Assassin’s Creed as old, dull, boring, or a cheap rehash of the same game with nothing new. Some would prefer more creativity and true innovation in each sequel with longer cycle times while others are happy to play the games as they are each year.

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With the exception of when they’re released buggy as all get out.

Essentially, Assassin’s Creed has become Ubisoft’s Call of Duty, a franchise that uses the same engine and same gameplay with each installment allowing for short cycle times and fast turn around getting the product out. Personally, I’ve played every installment except for Rogue and have yet to play Unity. I own it, I just haven’t gotten to it yet. I actually acknowledge it’s the same game each time with a new location, but I’m actually okay with that. It’s not exactly a new phenomenon in the game world either.

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8 games in 9 years with only two missing an annual release.

The question, though, is whether or not this rehashing with a few new bells and whistles is acceptable or not. Personally, I’d argue it is.

Assassin’s Creed is Ubisoft’s tentpole movie if they were a Hollywood film studio. Paramount Pictures has a proven track record that year after year they will make millions of dollars on sTransformer, though I’d actually take any Assassin’s Creed plot over Transformers films myself. Essentially, Ubisoft knows they’ll make money with each installment with minimal development time and minimal investment. It’s a low risk, high return on investment game.

Some will feel that’s bad from a perspective of the art and craftsmanship of a team making the games, but I again point to Hollywood. Not every movie, nor every game, needs to be a critically acclaimed artistic achievement. Some are summer blockbusters you enjoy with popcorn, talk about for the weekend, and maybe watch again later on DVD, Bluray, or Netflix. Maybe you make your child watch/play through it one day.

The reason I compare it to the Hollywood tentpole movies is that it serves a similar purpose. It keeps revenue coming in and allows Ubisoft to continue to operate and take chances with other games. For every wildly profitable Assassin’s Creed they publish, they can take chances on smaller games and new IPs like Watch_Dogs, Child of Light, or Valiant Hearts The Great War plus games like South Park The Stick of Truth. Ubisoft isn’t a one trick pony milking their only cash cow. They’ve made a lot of games. 76, to be precise, of varying types just between Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II, for example.

If the profits weren’t rolling in from the blockbuster title each year, would we have gotten Child of Light or Valiant Hearts at all? Valiant Hearts was already a labor of love that almost didn’t get the okay to be made. And while, yes, Ubisoft doesn’t make award winning game after award winning game, it’s still good for them to be doing some exploration with other ideas and genres. Plus Watch_Dogs likely wouldn’t have been made at all if it weren’t for Assassin’s Creed’s success. That game had its share of complaints as well, but I wager the second is going to be a huge improvement much like the leap from Assassin’s Creed to its first sequel and may give Ubisoft two flagship games to generate revenue and allow for more experimentation with other games as well.

So whether you’re like me and love some stabbin’ each year or you’re tired of Assassin’s Creed entirely, I think it’s worth remembering that so long as the games are bringing in a profit, it’s quite likely that we all could benefit from it allowing Ubisoft to bring other games forward in the future.

How Resident Evil’s Horror Could Survive

Capcom has been going in new directions with Resident Evil for a while now with mixed results.  After being one of the most well known series in the survival horror genre with Resident Evil 1-3 and Code Veronica, Resident Evil was always an anticipated release when a new installment was announced.  The Resident Evil REmake and Resident Evil 0 were well received on GameCube and a Resident Evil 2 REmake is one of the most fan requested games out there.

But with Resident Evil 4, Capcom switched to over the shoulder gameplay rather than the old clunky “tank control” scheme, yet 4 was still highly praised despite getting away from Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus.  That warm reception wasn’t waiting for Resident Evil 5, which followed Chris Redfield and his new partner Shiva in Africa where the T-Virus’s origins were first discovered and Umbrella as fans came to know it was born (which las plagas from Resident Evil 4 still factored in).  Resident Evil 5 split fans as the game seemed to get further away from its survival horror roots and go more towards an action game.  Resident Evil 6 had fans hopeful with the apparent return to a city devastated by a new outbreak similar to Raccoon City, but while the game started with more familiar elements of survival horror, it started showing signs of action. When the game picks up with Chris Redfield, it’s more of that action game style with giants stomping through cities and battles of 2 men against tanks.  The final chapter takes it even further with motorcyles outrunning tanks and jumping over helicopters and a plane crashing into a city before a fresh outbreak of a new virus.

Resident Evil has been going bigger and bigger like a Hollywood action film. Explosions are more frequent than tense jump scares as Capcom has sought to pursue a more broad audience.  Left in its wake are the faithful fans who still long for survival horror like Resident Evil was built upon.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 is supposed to be a return to survival horror while still using the over the shoulder model and hopefully Capcom gets it right.  We’ll see how that pans out in February 2015, but in the meantime, here are a few things that I think Capcom should do with the series to get it back on track.

1. Start over but continue forward
Fans are familiar with the established characters of Resident Evil.  Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, and Albert Whesker are the familiar faces the series follows, but that may also be detrimental at this point as well.  These characters are likewise familiar with these events. While they tried to give Chris some PTSD elements, he’s overall able to push through and Leon has become so hardened to bioweapons he’s pretty much a specialist specifically for such operations.

For that reason, I think it’s time to get away from bioweapons being common and time for the old cast to step aside for new characters.  For Resident Evil 7, I would set the game about 5-10 years after Resident Evil 6.  After the incident in China, almost all nations around the globe unified to outlaw the research on bioweapons and aggressively hunted down any cells still continuing work from the days of Umbrella (and Neo-Umbrella was just a ridiculous name).  Essentially start the game in a world where the events of Resident Evil 1-6 are a dark mark in human history but no indication of such things have been seen for years now.

Set the game anywhere you like, though I would likely pick a more remote country – perhaps somewhere in South America. Perhaps an Interpol task force or a drug taskforce infiltrate a compound on information of a major drug production operation.  During the infiltration, something goes wrong and only a handful make it into the facility (yes, mirroring the set up of the original Resident Evil).  As they begin to investigate the facility, they find out a group has been doing research from the ground up based off Umbrella’s T-Virus and have successfully recreated it.  Thus we are thrown back into a game where the protagonist is just as terrified as the player is when creatures start coming at them rather than cool and collected and the player is dealing with claustrophobic corridors, zombie workers, undead dogs, spiders, rats, or whatever creatures you like, and a few mutants as well.  Perhaps you can even bring back a new version of Tyrant if you really wanted.

The key point is to get back to basics of the plot and have this scenario be completely new to the characters in the story so they have reason to be terrified.  Sure, people would have still heard of these things, but even 5 years after the China incident, a 25 year old operative would have been in college and possibly less than concerned with such events.  It yields itself for fear from the characters and if done well, that fear will be passed on to the player as the new research can be completely unknown and with enough variations the game can keep players unsure of what to expect.

2. Over the shoulder, under pressure

The over the shoulder perspective worked well in Resident Evil 4 and has worked well ever since on its own.  Slow moving zombies are easy to get headshots on when you’re able to aim reliably.  But 6 headshots only kills 6 zombies if there’s a dozen shambling towards you and your 6 shooter is slow to reload or worse, you only have 20 bullets to your name and have no clue what’s in the next hallway.

That’s a bit key to survival horror in my opinion.  Limited resources and inventory management.  In a game like Resident Evil 4-6 where you’re moving forward, I understand the need to suspend disbelief and have magical storage units that hold items, but having a dozen guns on your person is a bit much.  Bring back the limited inventory and the storage chests with their own limited inventory.  If the facility we’re in is designed so it makes sense, don’t even have the storage units share inventory and make players have to go back to retrieve what they stashed.

That sense of “did I bring the right weapon and do I have enough ammo” helps build tension as you open one more door or go down one more dark set of stairs.  In Resident Evil 6, having “enough” ammo was okay because you’d be able to blast through the zombies or monsters and collect more ammo from their body to keep blasting away.  In the old Resident Evil games, realizing you were at max capacity on two weapons and just found three more boxes of bullets actually instilled a bit of fear because “Why are they giving me this much ammo? Oh no, what’s about to come after me?!”

3. Bruce Lee doesn’t train zombie defense
This one is a problem we brought upon ourselves.  In the old tank control Resident Evil games, we were always grumbly about having to wildly swing a knife when we were low on ammo.  Why couldn’t we side kick a zombie in the chest? Why couldn’t we have any form of hand to hand combat?

Well, we eventually got it and it honestly made the games trivial enough that survival wasn’t a big deal.  Even without the abundance of zombies dropping ammo, you could conserve a lot by taking two shots and then giving a round house to splatter a zombies head, or deliver a running bulldog worthy of Rick Steiner from WWE.  If you can take out monsters without guns, why worry?

Having this be a new recruit on the team would make the idea of going hand to hand against creatures willing to bite your face off a bit outlandish.  And if they’ve only gone through basic hand to hand, they aren’t in a position to reliably fight off these creatures anyway, giving a reasonable excuse for removing the feature and putting us back to relying on our ever diminished ammunition and somewhat unreliable knife, or maybe a collapsible baton this time. Just cuz…

4. We can still acknowledge our favorite characters

Just because a new character is green behind the ears and about ready to soil himself over this horror he’s stumbled into doesn’t mean we can’t give him some reassurance now and then.  After managing to find a radio, you could get word out reporting what you’ve found.  Later on, your next opportunity to try and make radio contact could be none other than Leon Kennedy, Jill Valentine, or any other of the familiar characters. While not on site with you, they could offer some insight and advice to the new character, encouraging him to keep it together and make it through this alive while they marshal resources to get there.

5. And don’t go straight into the same problem again

At the end of the game, why not have the problem unresolved and even escalating?  Why not have the protagonist stop the researchers at the facility in this game only to radio into HQ at the end to tell them he’s found there are other facilities set up and something worse.  Our final scene could show that the virus has already somehow been spread to contaminate a nearby city.

And that easily sets you up to go right into Resident Evil 8 with an outbreak in a city just like Resident Evil 2.  And again like Resident Evil 2, why not go even worse than Leon’s predicament? Why not have a protagonist that isn’t part of any organization or organized force? Perhaps a retired police officer, or even just a random citizen trying to survive this.  You could have your new character from the previous game arrive and split the game between the two like the old games used to at times and you could again have our established characters remotely involved or arrive late.  For that matter, I’d have them running clean up and just a few steps behind to contain the situation before it gets out of hand so all their specialized skills and knowledge aren’t enough to prevent the horror from breaking out again.

I’d even consider it worth thinking about having each game take place with a new character who may come into contact with familiar characters, and only rarely have the game mostly focus on familiar characters arriving to work in a new location.

Conclusion:

I’ll admit some of this might come across as just re-visiting Resident Evil 1 and 2 with new characters and a new location, but I think that’s almost what Capcom should do at this point.  By going forward without a reboot, it lets fans of the series continue on while also introducing those old games’ style of survival horror elements to a generation that never played the old games.  A generation of gamers never played the Playstation entries and likely have no interest in doing so, which would make this a new experience for them while nostalgia would likely make these worthwhile, yet still different enough, to be interesting for old players.

Xbox One Error: Leveraging Lara Croft against Nathan Drake

Microsoft dropped a bit of a bombshell on everyone at Gamescom this year when they announced Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider sequel ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ would be an exclusive release on Xbox One.  Gamers predictably reacted less than unanimously in favor of Microsoft’s announcement.  Why would gamers be upset?  Isn’t console exclusive titles par for the course?  Well, yes and no.  There’s a few reasons this was a bad move for Crystal Dynamics but equally bad for Microsoft.

For the week of August 9th, VGChartz has PS4 sales at 9.4 million units (though Sony stated at Gamescom it has sold over 1- million now) against the 5.1 million units Xbox One has sold.  For that same week, not a single Xbox One title appeared on the global top 10 software chart.  To be fair, PS4 only had one title, but it was #1 with ‘The Last of Us Remastered.’  PS4 is doubling Xbox One sales globally and even outselling the console in the US, which has traditionally been Xbox One faithful as it’s Microsoft’s home turf.  In fact, more than a few weeks, even the WiiU has sold more units globally than Xbox One.

It’s clear Microsoft is feeling the need to lock in some major titles and gain some ground in the latest round of the “console wars” and it’s looking for a strong system seller to help gain that ground.  WiiU has seen a surge after E3 with some strong titles announced and Mario Kart’s release for the system.  It’s no secret that a handful of strong games can really move systems.  However, Rise of the Tomb Raider is not the game that can launch Xbox One back into the game with a vengeance.  In fact, I think the announcement further hurt Microsoft.

Microsoft has erred and made misstep after misstep since Xbox One was revealed.  With the unveiling spending the vast majority of their time talking about television connections that many users outside the US would be unable to benefit from, television productions they’d be working on with Steven Spielberg, and sports sports sports (that gamers outside the US wouldn’t really care about), Microsoft concluded the system’s unveiling leaving gamers vocal about feeling left out in the cold as an afterthought.  It didn’t help that there were features announced that made gamers very uncomfortable.  No more used games and a heavy handed DRM policy set the Interwebz ablaze with outrage over Microsoft trying to control gamers and dictate how much they actually owned what they purchased.

E3 came around and it was time for Microsoft to right the ship and get gamers back on their side. Instead, they continued to insist their vision was the future of gaming and their system was designed with their vision in mind.  Angry Joe even asked Major Nelson directly about turning off some of these features and was told with quite certainty that it wasn’t so easy to just deactivate these systems.  The Kinect would be always on, you had to be always connected or at least check in once per day for your games to function, there would be no disc after installation and used games would not be an option unless possibly paying for an activation code which rumors had spread of costing almost as much as a new game.  Microsoft tried to promote the idea of sharing one’s games with friends so friends didn’t have to buy it, but full explanation of this feature, which some believed to be a glorified demo program, was never given.

Some gamers defended Microsoft, pointing to Steam and its frequent sales (which will bleed you dry faster than buying new games because, honestly, how do you say no to some of those deals?) as an example of what Microsoft was trying to do.  The problem, however, is Microsoft never indicated anything of the sort.  And therein lies the problem with Microsoft’s build up to the launch of the Xbox One: they had the most disastrous public relations team in recent memory.  It wasn’t necessarily that their plans were bad, but their legal caution and double speak, their reluctance to commit to answering gamers’ biggest concerns and questions, and their overall attitude that they knew what gamers wanted more than gamers came off extremely arrogant and seeming like they were hiding something.  There was no sense of a clear vision and a road map into the future they were wanting to go towards that they were willing to share.  And that makes people nervous.

Jump ahead more than a year later and Microsoft walked right into the same scenario with this announcement for Rise of the Tomb Raider.  They announced it was going to be released exclusive to Xbox One in holiday 2015.  People were stunned and confused.  Tomb Raider was, and has always been, and multi-platform title. The original Tomb Raider was on Playstation and PC.  Later games were on PS2 and Xbox.  PS3 and Xbox 360.  And most all of them on PC.  The Tomb Raider reboot was on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC and the Definitive Edition sold on PS4 more than 2:1 against Xbox One sales.  Yet Microsoft was announcing that they had struck a deal with Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix to make the sequel exclusive to their system in 2015.

Gamers have become a savvy bunch and they, and gaming press, were quick to latch on to Microsoft being careful to include “holiday 2015” or just “2015” in their comments about the exclusivity.  It became frustrating, however, when they were asked directly if this was a timed exclusive and Microsoft representatives would only repeat the press release lines of “exclusive to Xbox One in holiday 2015.”  It was the same “something to hide” sensation they had given with E3 the previous year.  Eventually, a few days later, Microsoft would acknowledge they didn’t have an exclusive deal in perpetuity, but gamers were already irritated with the announcement.  Even Xbox faithfuls in some forums were baffled by the decision and many simply felt it wasn’t right to take a multi-platform game and lock the sequel into an exclusive agreement, though many on both sides were willing to grumpily accept it as a timed exclusive.

Needless to say, many gamers were upset with Microsoft over this situation and I don’t really think it was entirely the exclusivity.  That was a large part of it, for sure.  PS4 owners bought a lot more copies of the Definitive Edition than Xbox One owners and their reward was “sorry, you can’t have the sequel” from what the initial announcement indicated.  It gave the impression that Microsoft was not willing to invest in developing games so much as throwing money at developers to try and buy their way to victory.  It just felt like a cheap shot, or as most comments I read put it “a dick move.”

I can’t help but wonder, though, if Microsoft would have come out better in the whole deal if they would have just come clean and been up front and honest out of the gate.  Announce that holiday 2015 would see Rise of the Tomb Raider release first on Xbox One as a holiday exclusive and leave it at that, perhaps throw in a tongue in cheek remark about Lara having teamed with Xbox One to show “that other guy” how adventuring is done.  It was made pretty clear this was their way of competing with Uncharted, why not just admit that in a smile and wink kind of way?

Sony has really excelled with their marketing and PR this generation.  They’ve joined the gamers in taking shots at their competition, though I think Sony does it far more playfully than their fans tend to.  He took a shot at Square Enix saying they wanted Tomb Raider to be uncharted – not on the charts – by limiting it to the smaller installation base.  He took a shot at his own company saying he thought they were revealing nine PS Vita games at Gamescom, but it was actually nein.  He even recently commented on twitter that PSN had released “PSN Outage: Remastered” as the remaster of the 2011 network issues “in glorious HD” with the DDOS attacks PSN suffered this weekend.  Some may find it to be taking issues too lightly or attacking his competition, but I think it’s gone a long way to make Sony feel like “one of us” among gamers while Microsoft has come across more and more as the greedy corporation that cares about money instead of making fun games.

Regardless of Microsoft’s strategy and the public’s perception of them with Xbox One, Rise of the Tomb Raider is not a system seller.  Sony has been pushing to present major announcements and exclusives to their system.  Bloodborne, The Order, Uncharted are all Playstation exclusives.  They revealed the Hideo Kojima/Guillermo del Toro Silent Hills project with a playable teaser available for download at announcement.  They’re still presenting themselves as a huge partner to indie developers.  They’re coming across as a company that has learned from past mistakes and understand what gamers want.  Microsoft seems like they’ve lost sight of their system as a gaming console in their push for all-in-one entertainment.

I’ve admittedly never been an Xbox fan and I’ve always felt Microsoft has made a chief focus of their strategy to be “throw money at it until we win,” so this feels like more of the same, but that doesn’t make me feel justified or righteous for my opinion on them.  A weak Xbox One will likely lead to a complacent PS4, just as a strong Xbox 360 forced a struggling PS3 to step up what it had to offer.  The disappointing thing in this is they’ve recently announced lay offs and their forecast for original IPs exclusive to their system remain slim.  Microsoft needs to put their money into some system exclusive games that are new for them rather than paying off third parties for limited time sequel exclusives.

Essentially, Microsoft needs to find the right developer or do it in-house and find their Mario Kart 8.