Posts Tagged ‘Development’

There are people sitting around a conference table determining how best to monetize fun. It’s been obvious for years that games are often consumer products that exist as a way to separate us from our hard-earned money, and we accepted this relationship because we place such a premium on our own entertainment. However, there comes a point when a line is crossed and those idealistic dreams we hold dear–that games are more than cash vacuums–are dashed. GameStop, the corporation that serves as the gatekeeper for so much of the retail sector, has disclosed plans to invest in the development of games. Those pre-order bonuses that dangle precious content above our heads like a carrot taunting a hungry donkey may be influenced by GameStop if their goal is realized.

GameStop CEO Paul Raines spoke to Time about their plans in a recent interview. “I do foresee a world where we can help facilitate create [sic] great content,” Raines admitted. Pre-order bonuses have been used as an incentive to rope in those who crave an undiluted experience for some time, although the origin of such content has never been fully revealed. There was no way to know if the development team was behind such practices, or the marketers who control the outward message. We just knew that certain content was being held hostage unless we ponied up our money before a game was even completed, and had to stomach this questionable practice if we desired a complete game. Any illusion about who controls the strings has been dashed with this revelation from Raines. It’s GameStop that not only wants said bonuses, but is willing to facilitate their creation.

This is a troubling truth to swallow. Regardless of the warning signs that the biggest, most heavily marketed games were birthed from a place of greed, I still had hopes that labeling them as consumer products was cynical. A game is a work of art, so much more personal than a washing machine or dustbuster, that I refused to believe what was staring me right in the face. Those pre-order bonuses that separate a game into so many pieces that it’s nearly impossible to get everything out there could have been created for any number of reasons. Granted, I can’t think of any altruistic reason why Watch Dogs would be sliced into so many bits, but it was at least possible that such things were designed with the best interests of players in mind. Well, it’s safe to wave goodbye to that state of mind. If GameStop is influencing development, there’s no happy explanation for what this portends.

Any illusion about who controls the strings has been dashed with this revelation.

I should note that GameStop isn’t going to force those who man the register to try their hands at coding. Said Raines, “We will not be involved in the artistic or creative process.” That’s a mild relief, considering GameStop is in the business of, well, business rather than creation, but that doesn’t change what’s going on behind the scenes. We know that GameStop wants to be involved in pre-order bonuses, wrestling control away from those who have devoted their lives to developing games and putting it in the hands of those who just sell them. “When you think about the business of gaming and the cost of developing games, we think there’s an opportunity to put capital at risk with publishers and developers in exchange for exclusive content that would be distributed through our online platforms, in stores, our download business, et cetera.” said Raines.

Did GameStop have a hand in this Watch Dogs’ fiasco?

It’s clear how GameStop would benefit from this practice; people would spend their money at the specialty retailer rather than elsewhere, giving them money in advance of release to secure a copy the day it comes out. And, as Raines said, the developers would win in this deal as well. “The upside for developers will be much stronger guarantees around distribution and audience with our loyalty program and so forth.” That sounds good, right? Except for that part of guaranteeing distribution. If a developer doesn’t agree to work with GameStop to create DLC, would that put the distribution of their game at risk? I have no idea if that’s what Raines meant or not, but the implication is certainly there, and limiting distribution unless developers churn out pre-order content sounds like a terrible situation for those who design our games.

Furthermore, you may notice that one part of the pillar is completely ignored in this scenario. What do consumers get from GameStop meddling with our games? If we shop at another store, or decide to buy a game after release rather than blindly plunking down money before we know if it’s any good, we miss out on aspects of the game. Sure, there are certain situations when pre-order bonuses are offered later on for everyone if they’re willing to shell out more money, but that’s a poor solution to the problem. Games are expensive. When your choice for all of these bits and pieces is to either shell out money before a game is released or spend even more money for downloadable content, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to look elsewhere. There are so many excellent games for less than $ 20, that aren’t designed to drain every dollar bill from our wallets, that it’s hard to stomach supporting such business practices.

But it’s easier for me to say we should ignore such distasteful ideas than to convince others to follow suit. Like I said earlier, we are being held hostage by these corporations. Even though the industry is more diverse and exciting than it’s ever been, smaller developers can’t replicate what their bigger competitors are churning out. And when Evolve, Alien: Isolation, Destiny, every UbiSoft game, and countless other projects are in the habit of nickel-and-diming us, we either have to find our entertainment elsewhere or swallow what they’re serving. It’s a bad situation, and with GameStop’s open involvement in securing exclusive content, it’s only going to get worse in the future. I can’t force others to follow my lead in how to deal with this problem. However, there comes a point when we have to take a look at how we’re being treated. And if we decide we deserve better, only then can we enact change.

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[UPDATE] Microsoft has released a statement on the matter, saying that it has not in fact scrapped the plan to allow all Xbox One retail units to be used as development kits.

“The comments today were inaccurate. We remain committed to ensuring the best possible solutions for developers and hobbyists to create games for Xbox One. We will share more details at a later date.”

Today at the Develop conference in Europe, Microsoft announced that it has scrapped its previously announced plan to allow any Xbox One retail unit to be used as a development kit. The program is dead before its first birthday, as Microsoft originally announced it in late July 2013.

At the time, Xbox corporate vice president Marc Whitten (who has since left the company), said, “Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development.”

But not anymore.

Xbox Advanced Technology Group’s Martin Fuller told a group of media today, including Digital Spy, that Microsoft has “no plans” for the feature. “We were in the early stages of Xbox One looking at the idea of a retail kit that could be turned into a development kit, and vice versa,” he said.

“In the end, although that was a very admirable goal, it hasn’t happened unfortunately,” Fuller added. “Can’t tell you the specifics of exactly why not.”

Asked to give more details about why the move was necessary, Fuller said, “As far as I’m aware there are no plans. I’m not aware of the reason why we didn’t manage to do that.” We have reached out to Microsoft’s official Xbox PR team and will update this story if we hear anything back.

This is not the first time Microsoft has reversed an Xbox One policy. Last summer, the company changed a series of Xbox One policies in response to consumer feedback. In addition, the company announced just two months ago that Kinect would no longer be sold with all Xbox One units.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Veteran Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski’s new shooter Project BlueStreak will be developed not behind closed doors, but rather out in the open. Bleszinski wrote on Twitter that fans should follow the game’s Twitter account to see developer Boss Key Productions make the game in “real time.”

“Transparent development era FTW,” Bleszinski wrote.

Project BlueStreak is the working title for the sci-fi game, which will be published by free-to-play powerhouse Nexon. Bleszinski went on to tease that we’re going to find out more about the game and the team making it later on today.

Asked when more information about the game will be released, Bleszinski said to a fan last night, “tomorrow.” A subsequent tweet from the official Boss Key Twitter account says that the company will announce some of its staff, which includes “new faces along with some familiar ones.” The tweets suggests some of these people have roots in the shooter space, as the tweet includes the hashtag #ShooterLineage

Boss Key is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, near Bleszinski’s home. It is also just about a 20-minute drive from Bleszinski’s former company, Epic Games, which is based in Cary, NC.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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