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Posts Tagged ‘PSN’

Last week, LucasArts announced they’d blow the dust off their venerable adventure games catalog, offering an ongoing selection of hits via Steam.  Of course, gamers everywhere rejoiced, and the immediate questions were all positive: ‘what other platfroms will these be available on?’ and ‘what other classics will they release next?’

The announcement came on top of Major Nelson’s release of this summer’s Xbox LIVE Arcade schedule.  They’re mining some classics as well, with remakes of LucasArts’ own Secret of Monkey Island and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time as well as a re-release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

These announcements, and the fanfare surrounding them, show what a compelling revenue stream a publisher’s back catalog can make.  And it makes very good sense.  It takes a much smaller team and significantly less expense to prep an old, critically acclaimed gem for re-rerelease on a new system, even in the case of a full refresh like this week’s stellar Secret of Monkey Island remake.  Gamers that might just be discovering that IP through Telltale’s new episodic Tales of Monkey Island series can go back to the original and see what made these characters and the whole SCUMM system so endearing.  

Publishers don’t need to put any expense or energy into packaging these titles and bringing them to retail.  When the games are strong enough, as is the case with LucasArts’ catalog, they don’t even really need to market them very much.  The enthusiast community will do it for them.  Essentially, a rerelease of a true masterpiece is a pure profit play for a publisher that put in all the years of hard work building a great library.

As long as publishers don’t turn the valve too far and just start releasing every piece of crap title they’ve ever produced, I hope to see a lot more classics coming down the pipe.  In this still very sequel-heavy business, re-releasing the early gems from a series a few months ahead of a new installment could be a very wise marketing spend.  For instance, Ico  and Shadow of the Colossus should hit the PSN store a few weeks before The Last Guardian hits the shelves.

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E3 is once again upon us (albeit in its retooled, min-E3 format).  I won’t cover every single announcement here – there are plenty of up-to-the-minute industry news sites on the blogroll at right, so set your RSS reader and fire away.  But a week like this always has a few thought-provoking surprises, and presents a good opportunity to take the industry’s pulse.  It’s like halftime, leading up to the holiday season endgame.

There’s a lot to be excited about in Capcom’s lineup this year, with Street Fighter IV promising a return to form in offense-geared, fast paced brawling along with a hot new 3D presentation.  It’s a big, big development for Street Fighter fans, but I’m actually more excited about the return of the true blue bomber in Mega Man 9 on the Virtual Console and PSN.

For this installment, Capcom went back to the series’ roots and opted for the graphics and sounds of a classic NES game.  In an industry that’s constantly pushing the hardware for higher frame rates and jaw-dropping visuals, it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone opt for the look and feel that just plain fits the character best.  Mega Man 7 (on the SNES) and 8 (on the original PlayStation) were both good games in their own right, but just didn’t have that classic Mega Man charm, as anyone that played through Mega Man 2 would attest.

The decision from a big studio to go lo-fi for the latest entry in their flagship franshise is a subtle, but important development.  It’s an artistic choice, to create a similar experience and evoke the same feelings as we had playing through the glory days of the series.

This is the second awesome videogame quilt picture I've run.  Please send more.

This is the second awesome videogame quilt picture I've run. Please send more.

I’d love to see future installments of classic franchises explore what made them great in the first place.  And while we’re at, why not breathe new life into the classics we’ve already played through a million times by adding more content?  Wouldn’t it be cool to pick up a Double Dragon game where part 3 left off?  Or play through the NES port of Maniac Mansion, with running commentary from the (reunited) original development team?

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It’s a real rarity to see insider games industry coverage from our dailies here in NYC, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the all the attention that local think tank the Center for an Urban Future generated for their study, “Getting in the Game.”

You can grab the .PDF at their site (and it’s certainly worth a read), but the Cliffs Notes of the report boil down to a very logical conclusion – and a somewhat obvious one, if you follow the industry closely: “The fast-growing video game industry represents a promising opportunity for New York City’s economy, but the sector faces significant challenges and still lags well behind established gaming hubs like Seattle, Los Angeles and Montreal.” The coverage wound up in every reputable game blog (naturally), but more importantly, it made the cover of at least one of the dailies, and Sewell Chan posted on it in the excellent NY Times City Room blog.

I’ve always been a bit puzzled by the lack of a big game development scene in NYC, indie or otherwise. The creativity and talent is here, and the post-bust Silicon Alley community is keeping up with the west coast Joneses when it comes to attracting VC funding. We even have a few superb full-time games journalists residing in the 5 boroughs.

As the report shows, the handful of publishers that have set up some sort of base in the city (Take 2, Atari, and a few small developers) are mostly staffing marketing and C-level operations out of New York, and leaving the development to guys out west/across the pond/anywhere but here.

The fastest-growing entertainment industry can’t stay confined to the west coast forever, but a mass migration to NYC is no inevitability either. The same day that the Center for an Urban Future study went public, the office of Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue announced his state’s new incentives package for entertainment industry investment, with a ton of language specific to the games industry. Not to be outdone, Boston kicked off their inaugural conference focused on wooing more developers to the city last year, with a similar event in the works for 2008.

It’s great to see individual cities pushing for more developers in their locale, but what’s getting lost in the mix here is just how much the industry, as a whole, would benefit from moving a few creative eggs outside of the Bay Area basket. Just as Austin, TX filmmakers developed their own look and feel and the Atlanta Atlanta hip-hop artists pioneered their own sound.  What would their games play like?hip-hop scene became a powerful force in music, the infusion of local developers from all over the map could lead to the discovery of some hot, undiscovered talent.

Services like Steam, Xbox Live, WiiWare and PSN now eliminate the most expensive parts of distribution, so as long as the ideas are good enough (and the developers are savvy about interacting with passionate gamers), the sky’s the limit.

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Earlier this week, Nintendo’s long-awaited WiiWare indie game download service launched in the US, to surprisingly little mainstream media coverage. Perhaps it’s GTA4 hangover, or editors planning to cover WiiFit next week didn’t want to run two Wii-centric features in consecutive weeks, or maybe it just didn’t seem like big news in light of PSN and Xbox Live’s beating Nintendo to the punch by more than a year. Either way, it’s pretty big news for a number of reasons:

  • WiiWare is a decidedly “new Nintendo” move. Bite-sized, casual games from garage band developers are the very embodiment of the “blue ocean” strategy that Reggie Fils-Aime and the rest of the current Nintendo higher-ups operate under. The old guard at Nintendo (the ones that insisted on cartridges for N64 games over CD’s, and limiting the number of NES games they would allow any one publisher to make in a year) would have rather died than put games from indie microdevelopers on their precious system
  • While Nintendo already had the Virtual Console in operation, WiiWare’s debut means all three of this generation’s consoles (and both of the portable systems) have dedicated channels for instant delivery of retro games AND original downloadable content. Nintendo was the last holdout (and a significant one, considering how quickly their installed base is swelling). This could have serious ramifications for retailers, especially the ones that draw heavily from used game sales. How long before the new DLC reality spooks GameStop investors?
  • Thus far, a weak library of third party titles has been the most legitimate gripe consistently lobbed at the Wii – and rightfully so. The Little White Wonder’s seen way too many shoddy ports of last-gen games and minigame collections for its own good. WiiWare has the potential to reverse the trend. With quality titles available for a fraction of typical retail prices, how long can the market last for shovelware at retail prices?

As I write this, the questionable Summer Sports is $40 at GameStop, while $10 on WiiWare will get you Lost Winds, a gem of a game whose novel platforming and gentle, innocent storytelling reminded yours truly of the hauntingly beautiful Ico. Seriously. I rest my case.

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