August 2010


Here at Game Theory, we’ve already discussed the topic of used games and their effect on the industry several times. But with a recent Penny Arcade cartoon and news post bringing the issue to the forefront of discussion yet again, we felt it was worth exploring some of the misconceptions about the market effects of used game sales.

Wednesday’s Penny Arcade comic refers to the used game market as “a kind of parallel economy.” This implies that the used game market and the new game market operate completely independently of each other, never crossing paths. In reality, the two markets are closely tied. In fact, the mere presence of the used game market can help prop up game prices in the new game market.

(full article)


In recent years, there has been no shortage of game developers leaving PC exclusivity behind because of the threat of piracy. It’s not hard to see why, with overall PC game piracy rates north of 70% according to some estimates (and running even higher for some individual games), making it hard for even the biggest games to make money on the platform. Consider that Modern Warfare 2 was both the best-selling game of 2009 on consoles (pushing 11.86 million units worldwide) and the most-pirated game of 2009 on the PC (downloaded 4.1 million times from torrents, with legitimate saleslagging way behind“).

Yet the console market shouldn’t necessarily be any better. The Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 can all be hacked via hardware or software to run pirated copies of games downloaded from torrent sites. So why are download rates for the PC versions of such illegal torrents “often five or ten times higher than the console versions” according to a recent study?

(full article)


So, you think you’re hot stuff because you can beat the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 without warping or continuing? You think finding all the chaos emeralds in Sonic 3 and Knuckles means you can take any platforming challenge out there? You think your no-deaths run of Battletoads means you’ve got mad platforming skillz?
Kid, you ain’t nothing unless you’ve conquered these incredibly punishing indie platformers. Without the constraints of a mass market audience, these downloadable or browser-based PC titles are free to present unreasonably tough run-and-jump challenges without fear of pissing off scaring away the lowest-common-denominator players. Good luck… you’ll need it.

So, you think you’re hot stuff because you can beat the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 without warping or continuing? You think finding all the chaos emeralds in Sonic 3 and Knuckles means you can take any platforming challenge out there? You think your no-deaths run of Battletoads means you’ve got mad platforming skillz?

Kid, you ain’t nothing unless you’ve conquered these incredibly punishing indie platformers. Without the constraints of a mass market audience, these downloadable or browser-based PC titles are free to present unreasonably tough run-and-jump challenges without fear of pissing off scaring away the lowest-common-denominator players. Good luck… you’ll need it.

(full article)


Much has been made of the “race to the bottom” pricingon the iPhone App Store, which makes it hard to sell a successful app for more than a dollar or two. But I didn’t really realize how pervasive this problem was until I downloaded The Incident, a simple survival-platformer game that involves dodging and climbing heaps of junk falling from the sky. While I enjoyed the old-school graphics and sound effects, I found the gameplay to be a little dull and shut it off (probably for good) after only half an hour of play. Despite the game’s $1.99 price on the App Store, I still went away from the experience feeling like I had been ripped off.

Believe me, I know how ridiculous it sounds to be complaining about the value of a game that sells for less than $2, especially when there are dozens of worse games retailing for $60 or more on store shelves right now. This kind of impulse purchase isn’t exactly going to put me in the poorhouse, after all. Furthermore, at an adjusted rate of $4/hour, I realize that my short experience with The Incident was a better value than many other things I could do with my time.

Despite this, I can’t help but feel disappointed and a bit regretful with my purchase. Part of the problem, of course, is the structure of the market itself. No matter how good a  game is on the App Store, chances are there’s a free alternative out there that approximates the experience relatively well, or at least provides a comparable distraction for less money. To overcome the huge perceived value gap between free products and even cheap products, the paid version has to be a whole lot better than anything that’s available for no cost.

(full article)


How long should a video game be, exactly? It’s an endlessly-debated topic that got more attention recently when dozens of game developers weighed in with their thoughts. The consensus opinion seems to be that dozens of hours of gameplay are not, in and of themselves, a requirement for a good game, and thus one deserving of your money. Many developers argued that shorter and smaller games like Braid, Portal and Limbo prove you can offer a wholly satisfying gaming experience within the span of only a few hours.

Curiously, Hello Games’ Sean Murray, one of the developers behind PlayStation Network (PSN) downloadable hit Joe Danger, was one of the few that disagreed, arguing that games can indeed feel too short if they’re not designed correctly. To Murray, games are “much more than a beginning, middle and end. It’s about experiences: Learning new skills, exploring, challenges and competition. The longer those last, the deeper the experience.”

(full article)


First, the good news: Fighters Uncaged Prodcuer Luc Verdier recognizes that there have been too many casual, family-oriented games announced for the Kinect thus far, and says the game is his attempt to fix this. Now the bad news: based on a recent demo of the game at GamescomFighters Uncaged utterly fails in this attempt.

As you can see in this live demonstration video, the movement recognition for Fighters Uncaged is far from perfect at this point. Punches can be completely finished and retracted in the real world before they even start in the game, making it hard to string together quick combinations of moves. In fact, Verdier said combos in the final game would actually be activated using a quick-time event system, asking players to string together preset poses for an unblockable chain of attacks. A similar match-the-on-screen-pose system is already in place to dodge or block incoming attacks, and feels incredibly unwieldy.

(full article)


We already said this when we talked about the multiplayer gameplay in the upcoming Wii version ofGoldeneye 007, but it bears repeating: This is not your Goldeneye N64 game all prettied up. In fact, an eyes-on walkthrough of the game’s Jungle level at Gamescom this week showed off just how much first-person-shooter game design has changed in the last 13 years.

The changes were incredibly apparent right from the start, when the developers guiding the demo sneaked up behind a guard and took him out with the kind of close-quarters combat neck-snap you might expect to see in every bit of pop culture ever (but not the original Goldeneye). Taking out two more guards with headshots ensured that the alarm wouldn’t be raised and the game could remain a Splinter Cell-style stealth experience for at least a while longer.

(full article)


Ubisoft’s entry into the already burgeoning Kinect casual sports game market was roughly 60% complete in a demo at Gamescom this week, so the game was still looking pretty rough around the edges. Of the six different sports available on the menu, only downhill skiing and boxing were available to play.

The skiing game was enjoyable enough, detecting slight variations in my lean to guide the on-screen skier down a pretty basic hill. The experience felt much smoother and more natural than similar games designed for the Wii balance board, which I usually find a bit twitchy in skiing simulations. I liked how the game recognized a low crouch as a way to improve aerodynamic speed, and how swooshing my arms at any time resulted in a satisfying ski pole push. Aside from some frequent graphical glitches (which made my skier look like he was showing off the bottom of his shoe), the demo was a great proof of concept.

(full article)


Okamiden on the DS manages to capture the painterly art style of the PlayStaton 2’s (and then the Wii’s) beloved Okami while also adding a heavy dollop of adorableness to the mix. This really comes through in some of the animations, such as tiny wolf god Chibiterasu’s darling backflip attack, or the way he flails his paws in mid-air, Saturday-morning-cartoon style, before he falls from a collapsing bridge.

Okami‘s trademark magical paintbrush is back in the DS game, of course, and the short Gamescom demo showed it being used to manipulate the world in some of the same ways as the original game — slashing rocks and obstacles in half, circling trees to make them bloom, and building bridges across gaps. Using the stylus to do all these things feels a bit more natural than awkwardly painting with the Wii remote, but was essentially similar.

(full article)


Amidst so many Gamescom titles that seemed to tread familiar ground, Ubisoft’s From Dust stood out with its impressive technology and wholly non-violent gameplay. We had a chance to speak with creative director Eric Chahi (who you may know as the creator of Out of This World) and producer Guillaume Bunier about their unique project.

Joystiq: Our first question is for Eric: What have you been doing all this time? Why has it taken you so long to make another big game [Since 1998’s Heart of Darkness, by our reckoning]?

Chahi: I did many things. I did some landscape painting, I made a software editor to improve syntax and sentences, and also I traveled to many places, [such as] the desert and an active volcano, which has been a really strong source of inspiration for From Dust.

So why come back to video games after doing all those things?

Chahi: Because I had many ideas that accumulated and I wanted to make them real, so I decided to create a new game. Since maybe 2004 I knew I wanted to do something, but it takes some time to let the idea to mature. From Dust really took root in 2006. [I wasn’t working] full time since then, but after I presented it to Ubisoft, it took a while to form a team, etc.

(full article)


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