Archive for February, 2008

Take a deep breath – this post isn’t *entirely* about the EA/Take 2 offer. If you actually have been living under a rock for the last week (and Liquid Architecture would never discriminate against subter-mineral dwelling Americans), Steve Totilo at MTV’s Multiplayer blog has a good digest, and Nick Wingfield put together a very thorough run-down as soon as the news broke.EATake2

As far as day-of coverage goes, I was a bit surprised to see the New York Times piece, coauthored by the almost-always-stellar Seth Schiesel and Captain Dealbook Andrew Ross Sorkin, identify Take 2 as a “mercurial one-hit wonder.” That HAD to be a Sorkin contribution , ’cause Seth has at least heard of Bioshock, the Sid Meier’s series, 2K Baseball and other non-GTA, non-Rockstar Take 2 games.

I can understand why mainstream media latched onto EA’s offer so readily – it’s a genuinely big story, even though no deal is complete… yet. EA’s a superpower, and GTA is definitely a super-franchise. Besides, it’s an M&A story with quite a bit of money at stake, and every business reader can make sense of that, even if they couldn’t pick Mario out of a lineup.

jellycarThe downside is, coverage of the not-quite-deal sucked all the air out of the room for the more important news, in my opinion: EA’s Blueprint division announcement. Blueprint shows a commitment to lo-fi, indie-developed games from one of the world’s biggest publishers. Combined with announcements from Nintendo and Microsoft at GDC regarding snack-size game delivery channels (WiiWare and Xbox Live Community Games, respectively), low cost games from garage band developers are a bona fide industry trend.
Unlike the EA/Take 2 business, this is real big news that WILL impact the industry immediately. I’m excited to see what this new batch of developers brings to the table, and how bigger developers augment their retail products to keep our interest. As the Escapist pointed out, easier access to development can’t be a bad thing.

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Endless OceanFor all the good press the Wii gets, you hardly ever hear about third party Wii games moving anywhere near the clip that the big N’s games sell regularly. No More Heroes developer Suda 51 made some waves when he pointed it out (then abruptly “clarified” his comment), but as a consumer, it’s hard to get up in arms over this.

Nintendo got updates to its big 3 franchises out in a timely fashion, and they’re all fantastic. By all accounts, the best stuff out there for the system so far. And if Japanese sales are any indicator, they could have another hit on their hands when Wii Fit comes stateside. All tolled, 11 of the 14 Wii games that sold more than a million copies are homegrown Nintendo titles. But the House that Shiggy built isn’t entirely unsympathetic.

In their third fiscal quarter report (released last week), Nintendo pointed out that first-party games also dominated the DS sales charts early in that systems life cycle, but some clever third-party development has normalized that library over the last year and a half. In fact, the DS probably wouldn’t be the king of the mountain if not for nifty games like Capcom’s Phoenix Wright series, Advance Wars, and genre-benders like Hotel Dusk and the soon-to-hit-stateside Proffessor Layton.

Endless Ocean logbookEveryone should be breathing a little easier with last week’s release of Endless Ocean for the Wii. It hits all the sweet spots that Nintendo’s Wii games have: it’s exclusive to the Wii, sports a simple control scheme, and most importantly, appeals to the elusive “non-gamer” that’s driven the surge in Nintendo hardware sales lately.

Quite simply, Endless Ocean has “It.” Honestly, it’s tough to really call this a “game.” Endless Ocean has objectives and rewards, but I wouldn’t a call the scuba dive excursions “missions” exactly. The progress just doesn’t seem to matter much here, and this is a rare case where that’s a good thing. Endless Ocean’s more of an experience. The sea floor exploration, minimal HUD, and rhythm of your scuba create a calming, even therapeutic feeling.

EOA few minutes into Endless Ocean, I was reminded of a recent interview with Chris Taylor, a developer at Gas Powered Games: “When I ride the lawnmower I don’t think about steering and cutting grass… I think about life. I think about work. I think about things I have to do. I recharge – charge my batteries up.” Just like mowing the lawn, I found myself drifting away, barely even thinking about the game.

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