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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 2-24-10: Heavy Rain, Sega All Stars, Bobby Kotick Wants Your Soul

Posted by nfinit on February 24, 2010

Our friend and joy-crushing psychopath Bobby Kotick is back in the news again, and as ripped whole cloth from sourced at cited from Gamasutra’s coverage of his recent DICE keynote speech he’s willing to admit that perhaps saying he wished to boil down the process of making games from the virtual sweatshop process as it currently stand and convert it to an actual, legal sweatshop probably wasn’t a good idea:

Aware of recent criticism of some of his remarks to investors — remarks about taking the fun out of making video games and working in an environment of skepticism, pessimism and fear, to name a few — Kotick says that too much brashness means “you can come across as being like a dick.”

He particularly addressed his ‘taking the fun out of video games’ comment: “I wanted to somehow come across in a humorous way that… it wasn’t some Wild West lack of process exercise.” Nonetheless, he says, he regrets how it was misconstrued.

And that in retrospect maybe Activision should have approached Harmonix to handle the genre they basically created instead of handing Guitar Hero off to the Tony Hawk guys and inadvertently killing rhythm games entirely:

Kotick’s also made another significant miss: choosing the wrong acquisition among the Guitar Heroco-creators. “We knew about Harmonix… [who had] lots of good ideas, but nothing that was really commercially viable,” he said. Activision instead acquired RedOctane in 2006.

According to Kotick, Activision believed if they gave the franchise’s development to Neversoft, great games would result. But he said that if they had also gone to Boston to talk to Harmonix, things might have turned out differently, and “it would probably be a profitable opportunity for both of us.”

However, despite all this Activision wants studios to know that they are still in the business of buying out companies and wringing them dry of cash nurturing their creative spirit.

It’s vital for Activision to be “respectful of the independent cultures” of individual developers within a company, he adds. Creating a culture that “fosters independent thought” will result in great games games — although he agrees that it’s not always possible when balanced with the needs of a public company.

“You can’t always do what you’d like to,” he says — but there is a middle ground.

In two deals, ex-Activision execs, perhaps fighting against the creative/financial balance, formed new companies — JAMDAT and Pandemic — both of which were sold to Electronic Arts for large amounts of money. The exec joked, to much mirth in the DICE audience: “We’re a great mother ship… if you want to sell out and move on, there are definitely other companies to talk to.”

Which is to say, Activision has not only  killed the golden goose that is Guitar Hero, they’ve cooked the entrails into a stew, made sausage casings of the intestines, skullfucked the corpse, and sewed Red Octane’s tanned and treated skin into a dress made of the husk of other dead gaming studios.  All of which means that Activision, much like Nosferatu or Buffalo Bill Gumb, needs new blood, stat.

This is terrific news if you own stock in a development studio, as it’s time to get paid!  But for a bloodthirsty industry-destroying mercenary, Bobby Kotick isn’t exactly freewheeling when it comes to buying out companies– after all, this is the same guy declined the chance to buy Blizzard for seven million dollars.  So you’re going to need a good idea before Kotick will bite, and if you can manage to sell a $10 plastic doohickey for sixty bucks more than current MSRP, all the better.

All of which is a convoluted way to incorporate this week’s Wallet Abuse Wednesday gimmick– How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?, rated on a scale of 1 to 5 Psycotic Leering Plastic Guitar Koticks (PLPGK’s)

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat let’s begin.

Deca Sports (DS)

When I first glanced at this title in this week’s rundown I was immediately excited as to the prospects of a handheld followup to the seminal Saturn track-and-field game, Decathelete.  Nope, it’s a completely unrelated DS port of an abhorrent Wii minigame collection from 2008.

ScreenShot Image

The timing on this is weird– obviously Hudson is hoping to get some lift from the buzz surrounding the Vancouver Winter Olympics, but why release a summer games cart?  Why not release Bi Sports, place it on a ski slope and force the player to shoot a rifle between every event?  Also you’d get some crossover sales from confused GLBT supporters.

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

I like the odds of this, as track-and-field videogames are trending well in the videogames news cycle right now, thanks in large part to 2 of the dozen known Stadium Events NES carts popping up on Ebay last week.  Also, there’s a huge backstock of DDR powerpads lying around that could be easily converted to use for a Track and Field revival.  You wouldn’t even need to upgrade the graphics in the DS game to sell on the PS360, just say that it’s an artistic choice paying homage to the classic style, and boom, 5 million sales at $120 bucks each.  If the Wii guys ask why you’re trying to sell them powerpads when the Wii Balance Board is laying right there just call it a yoga mat and hope they don’t pay attention.  After all, they’re the same people who went and bought a billion copies of Guitar Hero III Wii.

Endless Ocean :  Blue World (Wii)

While the Biathlon teaches us that everything is improved with the inclusion of rifles, the Endless Ocean games taunt us with the knowledge that this game would be approximately a hundred thousand times better with the inclusion of a harpoon gun.  I mean just look at this smug motherfucker

Don’t you just want to put a harpoon in him right now?

I never paid much attention to the first game, but it would appear this version at least is actually an JRPG disguised as Pokemon Snap.  Which is a pretty tricky way to introduce the soccer mom market to higher level gaming concepts. It would be pretty neat to see this same idea incorporated into other mainstream-friendly games, like maybe hiding Ikaruga inside the inventory menu for Madden 11.

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Not bloody likely, as this is produced and published by Nintendo itself.  Also there’s just no way to brodude up the concept of taking pictures of fish enough to make the idea palatable to Activision’s primary market– Maybe you could sell Activision on a game based on throwing dynamite into fish-infested lakes, but the ATF would probably have issues with bundling sticks of TNT for sale at Best Buy, even if you make the blasting cap a separate pre-order bonus.

Heavy Rain (PS3)

Allow me to entertain the thought that, despite last week’s diatribe, Heavy Rain might not suck, and that it may it fact be a good videogame.

After all, I’d be remiss to cite Metacritic scores when discussing something like Aliens vs Predator while ignoring Heavy Rain’s, which at the time of this writing is just a tick under 90% and featuring a passel of perfect scores.  And it’s entirely possible that my beef with Heavy Rain stems from the fact that, as someone who does not yet own a PS3, I cant’ actually play the stupid thing.

But there is a common theme to those review scores– namely, that they hail the game’s story but sidestep the bit where there’s little to no actual game involved.  And that’s not a problem in and of itself, after all we’ve seen time and time before in Metal Gear Solid and Shadow of the Colossus and Resident Evil that a game can do a lousy job of presenting itself as a competent game, but still be a worthy and entertaining videogame.  Also goodness knows we could use better storytelling in games in general.  But I still believe all of us– gamers and developers– would have been happier with Heavy Rain the movie instead of Heavy Rain the videogame.

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

While at first glance selling a poorly rendered CGI movie as a $120 videogame is tempting, you run into the issue of finding an appropriate plastic doohickey to bundle the game with.  Maybe you could sell a DVD remote to control Heavy Rain II with, but how far are you willing to push the Wii audience before they realize they’re using a DVD remote instead of their own remote?

Hello Kitty: Birthday Adventures (DS)

At first I was going to say that researching Hello Kitty games scares me because of the very real threat of tripping several FBI search flags, but hen I realized that they make Hello Kitty vibrators personal massagers now, so what the hell.

Turns out it’s Puzzle Bobble.

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Very high.  Nevermind the inherent profitability of repackaging Puzzle Bobble to a world of unsuspecting soccer moms– it’s a scientifically proven fact that you can put a Hello Kitty face on anything and someone out there is going to buy your product.  It doesn’t even have to be a product that’s remotely connected with how your game is played– pack in a dozen Hello Kitty paper napkins and call it Hello  Kitty’s Birthday Adventures Birthday Party pack.

Last Rebellion (PS3)

It’s hard to find concrete information on Last Rebellion, as Nippon Ichi’s own trailer for the game seems more interested in showing off the game’s cutscene art than the actual game, but judging from Destructiod’s 10 minute gameplay slice, it would appear to be a fairly standard JRPG where you fight your enemies via selecting a menu of places on that enemy where you’d like to hit them at and then await the random number generator to do it’s job.  There doesn’t even appear to be separate animations for attacks, just particle effects that randomly appear on the afflicted body parts.

Which is all to say why this thing is on the PS3 and not something that could actually sell to fans of hardcore niche JRPGs, like maybe the 360?  Also its’ 2010 and I just typed out the sentence

Which is all to say why this thing is on the PS3 and not something that could actually sell to fans of hardcore niche JRPGs, like maybe the 360?

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Decidedly low.  Wierd Japanese shit is way outside of Activision’s core competencies,  and the brodude PS3 audience would likely take exception to the fact that the FMV cutscenes rarely actually animate. However, NIS could be acquired for roughly thirty dollars and a bottle of cheap hooch , so maybe Kotick will buy out the parent company if for no other reason than there’s probably money to be made in selling Disgaea-branded vanity pets in World of Warcraft.

Lovely Lisa and Friends (DS)

Remember the part where I said I was afraid of accidentally being placed on an FBI watchlist?  Yeah, fuck you people.  I am not going to run the risk of appearing on Dateline for the sake of Wallet Abuse.

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

For all I know, this is already published by Activision, and if it’s not there’s at least an even chance that Bobby Kotick would willingly pay off the developers of said game simply to go away and never be associated with his company.  What I’m trying to say is that this game is the gaming equivalent of an STD, only instead of genital warts everyone involved is sent to federal prison and stabbed to death.

Metal Slug XX (PSP)

Otherwise known as Metal Slug 7, Widescreen Edition.  Which is to say that it’s a very competent Metal Slug game.  Also SNK has decided to leave PSP Go owners for dead, the only way you can download MSXX is to pirate it, which everyone will do anyway.  If you’re one of those weird PSP owners who actually engages in retail media, it’s only twenty bucks, which is quite reasonable and  half the insane amount NIS was trying to ask for that Prinny Metal Slug ripoff everyone also downloaded and stopped playing five minutes later because holy shit Prinny’s too fucking hard.

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?


Zero.  Kotick might be evil and dumb, but he’s not dumb enough to attempt to buy something freely available with a firmware hack and a google search for “metal slug XX torrent”

Pony Friends 2 (Wii)


Things I wonder about Pony Friends 2:

* Was someone already making My Little Pony games and the license not available?

* How hard would it be to reprint Pony Friends 1 discs as Pony Friends 2?  Would anyone notice?  If they did, would they say anything?  It’s not like there’s a pressing need for a Pony Friends 3, it seems like you could just go ahead and burn that market and make an extra couple mil minus the cost of printing new boxes.

* Do little girls who own ponies also play Pony Friends games while riding ponies?  If so, is that perhaps the most perfect event that could possibly happen in one person’s life?

* Are unicorns involved?  If not, why?  Is there a separate Fantasy Pony Friends as to not offend Fundamentalist Christian parents who don’t want to expose their children to magical beasts?

*What the fuck is going on with this game?

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

High.  And not because Pony Friends 2 is cheap and easy to sell, but because you can pack in a riding crop with this game and instantly open up a market for people who might be into BDSM but are too afraid to actually visit a sex shop.

Risen (360)

Three things you need to know about Risen for the 360:

1:  The PC version is supposedly quite good

2:  The 360 version is a glitchy, poorly-reviewed mess

3:  Divine Divinity II: Ego Draconis is only $40 brand new right now.  Please do not buy this game.

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

With the announcement that Activision passed on the chance to buy Blizzard for a pittance before World of Warcraft set Blizzard’s asking price roughly on par with the GDP of Bolivia, I don’t know that Activision could afford not to buy Risen devs Pluto 13 if they asked to be bought out.  The problem would be finding a way to sell the game for twice the standard MSRP– however, Activision could simply do what they’re doing with Starcraft III and make people buy the game three times before they can play the entire thing.  Since Risen sucks and no one wants to buy it anyway, no one will notice and thus no District Attorneys will catch wind.

Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing (everything)

You ever get one of those friends who you grew up with in high school and it seemed like you were going to be best friends with this person for the rest of your life and you make plans when you get out of school to maybe open a business together and that friend has been with you for so long and you’re so close with them that they seem like your other half?

And then you go off to school and lose contact with that friend for a little while and when you get back it turns out that friend is now a toothless meth addict?  And what’s worse, he won’t have the dignity to just fuck off and die, but keeps trying to clean himself up and every couple months tries to convince everyone he’s got his act together this time if you can just loan him a couple bucks to help him make rent?

Yeah, Sega. It’s sort of like a toothless meth addict friend who won’t fucking die.

Which is why Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing doesn’t particularly piss me off– The Sega I grew up with has been effectively dead ever since the Dreamcast was killed off and Sonic games started appearing on Nintendo consoles– it’s just embarrassing and time-consuming.  I mean, Sega’s been reduced to going hat-in-hand to Microsoft to ask for permission to use something, anything from Microsoft’s Game Studio to make this game more marketable to the 360 crowd, which is how you wind up with Banjo-Kazooie in the title of the 360 version, or how you wind up with a plastic steering wheel in the PS3 version.  It can only be assumed that Nintendo would rather not harm the value of its own intellectual property and that’s why there are no Nintendo-exclusive characters or features.

And it’s not even like you’d rather see the characters used in Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing in their respective games instead.  No one wants to see Ryo Hazuki in a new Shenmue, because we all full well know that post-Dreamcast Sega would fuck it up.  I keep bringing this up, but these are the same guys who fucked up NiGHTS for the Wii.  This is not the Sega you want to trust with a new Jet Set Radio– In fact, if Sega were going to do anything with these characters, you’d almost rather see them in a title like this where they can’t further piss away their respective legacies.  One wishes that Sega and Sonic All-Star Racing would have come along before the tragic mistake that was Golden Axe Beast Rider was released.

As far as the game itself?  It may well be decent, the development team is Sumo Digital; they have a lot of experience in Sega mascot mashups and arcade racers, although the lack of review scores is troubling as the game is supposed to be released… well, today.  But I ask, does it particularly matter if Sonic and Sega All-Stars racing is a good game?  It’s a kart racer.  The market is lousy with perfectly competent kart racers, and the only platform where this would sell well, the Wii, already has a Mario Kart game.

How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

While one wonders exactly what Activision would want with a kart racer full of Sega characters, it does raise the intriguing question as to what Activision staples could be included in the followup.  Judy Nails vs Ghost from Modern Warfare 2?  Tony Hawk driving a hoverboard version of the Ride skateboard?  It’s too good of an idea not to explore, and you can make the game controllable through one of those cheap RadioShack R/C car remotes with the wheel on the side.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s World Championship 2010 Reverse of Arcadia (DS)

I cant’ really discuss this game without addressing the absurdity of the name “Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s World Championship 2010 Reverse of Arcadia”.

Let’s break this down.

Yu-Gi-Oh:  Okay this is fine, provided you can wrap your mind around the idea that it’s 2010 and there’s still enough interest in Yu-Gi-Oh for Konami to still be making videogames about this series and not, say, Contra.  Which brings up something that bugs me about modern children’s franchises– back in the 80’s, the half-life of any given children’s media franchise was about a year and a half.  GI Joe, Transformers, He-Man, MASK, what have you, never lasted very long in their original form, and were usually never rebooted until well after the current kids had grown out of the fad to begin with.  Yeah, a lot of this stuff got revivals in the 2000’s, but we also forget that for the better part of two decades that Transformers was largely forgotten save for a small insane fanbase that refused to move on and was somehow still profitable for Hasbro and Takara to release stuff for.  Meanwhile Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon have waxed and waned in popularity, but never really went away, and more amazingly, they seem to keep the exact same age demographic while the kids who grew up with that franchise largely moved on.  The really hardcore Transformer guys never really stopped being Transformer guys, meanwhile the Pokemon guys managed to lead healthy lives unencumbered by childhood fandom.  I don’t know if this some wierd adjunct of the way 80’s kids grew up vs the way 2000’s kids grew up, but I have a feeling that the fact that Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh never went alway also meant that it was impossible for those kids to have a fucked up nostalgic love for their respective franchises– they grew up and saw their younger siblings become infatuated with what they themselves were infatuated with at the same age and realized it was all sort of dumb.  Meanwhile for 20 years the only thing the Transformers guys had was that godawful 80’s movie that they managed to convince themselves was a transformative cultural event.  But I digress.

5D’s: Not quite insane yet, as this somehow does not denote a previous 1-4D’s.  This apparently denotes one of the several Yu-Gi-Oh reboots, this time the main guy drives a virtual motorcycle.

World Championship:  Which denotes that this is a videogame based on the Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s World Championship but somehow not the real World Championship as this is still a videogame based on the anime, so the World Championship as depicted in the anime.  Okay.  Insane, but not quite yet batshit insane.

2010: Denoting that there were either previous Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s World Championship games, or that there are planned future World Championship games.  For those keeping track, we are now working within three nested franchises here:  Yu-Gi-Oh, Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s, and Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s World Championship.  That is officially batshit insane and it’s quite clear that Konami lost all oversight of the Yu-Gi-Oh division years ago and it’s entirely possible this entire division is operating out of a long forgotten biodome somewhere in Siberia left to its own devices.

Reverse of Arcadia: We have now evolved beyond regular batshit crazy insane and have moved on to the sort of full-on eating-the-flesh-of-still-living-loved-ones insanity that can only be reached by either severe emotional trauma or repeated exposure to experimental psychotropic drugs.  We can now assume that there won’t just be multiple 5D’s World Championship games, but multiple 5D’s World Championship 2010 games.  Also there may or may not be a regular, non-reversed Arcadia game lurking out on the horizon like some mad nightmarish beast of the id.

My my calculations there are now well over five billion permutations inherent in the mind-warping logic that brought us to the point where we see Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s World Championship 2010 Reverse of Arcadia on store shelves.  Well played, Konami.  Historians will be dissecting this series of events for generations to come.
How Likely Is Bobby Kotick to Buy Out Your Studio Based on This Game?

activision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoatactivision_bobby_kotick-480x380-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Provided Konami would be willing to let go of the franchise, pretty high.  Collectible card games are evil moneysinks and the added villainy that Kotick could provide to that mix would be too much for him to pass up– Just imagine, not only could he make it so the only way to buy more Yu Gi Oh cards was to buy a box with every Yu Gi Oh videogame sold, but he could use the company’s expertise in developing a Modern Warfare CCG.

NEXT WEEK~!

Vic Ireland cannot stop LUNAR SILVER STAR HARMONY~!

BAD COMPANY 2 is so brodude it should come packaged with a popped collar

BATTLE OF GIANTS: MUTANT INSECTS is too good of an idea to be on the DS

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8 Responses to “Wallet Abuse Wednesday 2-24-10: Heavy Rain, Sega All Stars, Bobby Kotick Wants Your Soul”

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    Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series Episode
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    http://www.freenice.org/tubes/viewvideo/27292/movies/yu-gi-oh-the-abridged-series-episode-36.html

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