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Weekend Whammy: Sony Being Ass-Hats & Game Pass Chat

Welcome back to another Weekend Whammy, my fair folk! This week I’ll be talking about Game Pass being the perfect multiplayer destination, Sony shutting down the PS3, PSP and Vita stores, new research on whether loot boxes constitute gambling and much more.

The recorded version of this is coming slightly later this time around because there’s a wind howling outside and I have two nieces and a German Shepard currently clattering around the house, so any audio right now would have a background track that sounds like a crappy rave mixed in with the occasional scream of a child attempting a daredevil stunt.

EDIT: HERE IT IS!

Weekend Whammy Ep. 4 – Sony Woes & Failing Power Supplies Wolf's Gaming Podcast

  1. Weekend Whammy Ep. 4 – Sony Woes & Failing Power Supplies
  2. Weekend Whammy ep. 3: Sony Being Ass-Hats & Game Pass Chat
  3. Genesis Noir Review – It's All Jazz, Baby
  4. Best of Xbox Game Pass – Skate 3
  5. Weekend Whammy Ep. 2 – More Six Days In Fallujah & Are The New Consoles Any Good?

Genesis Noir ultimately ended up being a gorgeous but hollow adventure that I gave 3 stars. Check out that review over HEEEEEEEREEEEEEEEEEE!

I’ll be reviewing Evil Genius 2 fairly soon, or once I stop giggling at the shark tank traps. Early impressions are quite good, but the pacing is weird. The first few hours are a blast and you’re always doing something, but then the pace suddenly grinds to a halt and you’re just waiting around for stuff.

I’m also planning on covering Outriders and the new Oddworld title. Huzzah! And now, let’s delve into a few discussions, shall we?

Is Game Pass Awesome For Multiplayer?

Is Game Pass the perfect multiplayer tool? During this pandemic multiplayer gaming has become more important than ever as a way of maintaining contact with our fellow humans. But getting together with friends can be tricky due to the cost. If you stumble across a competitive or co-op game you love and want to play with friends you have to try to persuade them to buy it, and while you might be able to get one or two to do that, getting 3 or 4 or more of your mates to spend the cash can be hard. This is especially true if money is tight.

Game Pass has come into its own over the past year for me largely because of how easy it has made getting friends together. I can find fun co-op or competitive games, and they don’t even need to be amazing since I’m not paying full price, and easily persuade my friends to download a copy too and come play with me. Even if they don’t have Game Pass it’s a lot less daunting for them to buy a month of Game Pass or for me to gift them a month so we can get the crew together.

That brings me to Outriders and why I think it has positioned itself very well. Now, I haven’t played the game so I’m not going to talk on its actual quality outside of the fact that the general reception seems to be that it’s a decent shooter. Pre-release hype has been minimal, so it seems to the developers and publishers went the smart route by putting out a demo and not sending out early review code. And then the killer move was putting it on Game Pass during a time when there isn’t much else to play. The icing on the cake? It features cross-platform play, meaning someone on a Playstation can play with people on Xbox and PC as well.

That’s the perfect storm, I reckon. It isn’t a great game, but it doesn’t need to be and it’s perfectly fine for games to just be okay. As long as it’s mostly fun, Outriders could do brilliantly by being on Game Pass AND offering cross-platform play. It’s the ideal game for getting friends together across all consoles, or at least it will be once it gets the server issues sorted out.

My point is I think Game Pass is set up to be the ultimate destination for people who like to play with friends and maybe aren’t hardcore gamers. The prospect of a Series S and Game Pass subscription is already uber-tempting, and stuff like Outriders make it even better because then you can jump in with your PC and Playstation mates as well. And if a group of friends agree to get Game Pass then they’ve essentially set themselves up with co-op and multiplayer games for years to come. That’s pretty cool, in my opinion.

Sony Shutdown Stores

Following the rumours last week, Sony has officially announced that they are shutting down the PS3, PSP and PS Vita stores, but you’ll still be able to download any games you own. However, any games you haven’t bought will vanish, leaving only physical copies which I assume will likely jump up in price.

The PS3 and PSP stores will vanish on July 2nd, and the PS Vita will close its digital doors forever on August 27th.

This isn’t a huge surprise; I think we all suspected the stores would shut down eventually. But it’s still a sad moment that raises questions about game preservation, and indeed Sony’s handling of the situation. There are still some developers actively creating games for the PS Vita, and yet according to them, they had no prior warning about the store’s closing which has rendered their in-development games useless, unless they attempt to rush them out. Lilymo Games was one such studio, and co-owner Colin Moriarty also revealed on his podcast a few weeks ago that they actually bought a Vita testing and development kit from Sony a month or two ago. At the time of discussing this the closure of the stores was merely rumour.

Apparently, developers also reached out to Sony when the rumours initially began circulating a few weeks ago, asking if there was any truth to them. Sony never answered.

Vita developers have been a passionate bunch who have helped keep a piece of Sony tech alive, along with the dedicated fanbase who still own and play their Vita’s. It’s a shame that Sony seems to have treated them so callously, forcing studios who have put money into developing Vita titles to either cancel their projects and accept the monetary loss or rush the development in a bid to submit the game before the July 12th cut-off, at which point the game would only have just over a month on the store. Personally, I would have expected Sony to give developers, at minimum, six months of warning, but a year would have been ideal.

According to a report by VGC, an estimated 2,200 digital-only titles will be lost once the stores close, including 630 games on the Vita and 730 on the PS3. Currently, these games will essentially be dead outside of the original master code and anyone who owns them already. It brings up the question of game preservation once again, and whether the industry as a whole should try to make plans for keeping older titles alive.

It should be pointed out that game preservation is not anyone’s responsibility as such, especially Sony since they only provided the storefront. And yet while it’s nobodies specific responsibility, it’s still a worthwhile endeavour. The idea of so much hard work and art being lost sucks. And while it’s true that the original creators likely have the source code for their games (although that gets lost surprisingly often) it’s fair to assume most of them probably won’t re-release or remaster it anytime soon. So what should we do?

Well, there are a few possibilities. Obvious ones might include the developers of these games simply making their code available for free or a very small fee, putting it out into the wild and wishing people luck with getting it running on whatever hardware they choose. Of course, this assumes the developers aren’t planning on doing anything with the original game, but it would be a nice way of letting old titles live on with minimal effort on the creator’s behalf. Then there are dedicated game preservation groups that mostly run due to people’s sheer passion.

Xbox leads the way at the moment purely thanks to its backwards compatibility, letting us playing heaps of old games on your new systems. Of course, there are flaws there too and missing games, but it is still leagues better than Sony.

And then, of course, there’s good old piracy. I won’t let; I pirated loads of games when I was a lad and before I eventually realised that games represented a lot of work and money. The topic of pirating digital goods has always been a tricky one when it comes to debating ethics and morality. Personally, I’ve always had a weird relationship with it, being absolutely happy to download the entirety of Game of Thrones because I wasn’t going to subscribe to HBO for the sake of a single show. But then, I also bought each series on Blu-ray since I was enjoying it.

In this specific instance, I wouldn’t blame anyone for pirating PS3, PSP and Vita games. Yes, it would technically be stealing, but the vast majority of those digital-only games are never going to see the light of day again, and piracy is at least a way of keeping them alive for future generations of not just gamers, but developers, too.

NEWS

There has been a few bits of cool news this month, kicking off with the fact that Insomniac has released the Ratchet & Clank (2016) 60FPS for PS5 early. You can go and download it now if you have the game. And of course, the game was free for everyone all of last month, so hopefully, a bunch of you have grabbed it. According to the boffins over at Digital Foundry it’s a near-perfect 60FPS implementation, making a fun game even better.

Bloober Team have said they plan on remaining independent, having previously been looking at selling or merging with a bigger company. The news came in a report by Polish site Bankier, (as translated by VGC), “The company has decided not to continue discussions with potential financial and industry investors interested in acquiring a majority stake due to the high risk of losing its overriding strategic objectives. At this stage it would be incompatible with the culture of the organization, and would significantly limit the potential growth of the company’s value in the coming years, especially taking into account the projects implemented and planned.”

Many people have thought Microsoft might acquire Bloober since the Medium was a Microsoft exclusive.
I don’t like Bloober Team much, and indeed I gave The Medium a fairly lukewarm review, but do appreciate their desire to stay independent, which is rare these days. We typically see developers getting snapped up by big companies, and while I’m sure it’s awesome to for those devs to get financial stability, it’s always worrying to see an industry getting compacted into just big, huge companies.

Maneater is getting some DLC called Truth Quest. The developers chose to reveal this on the 1st of April, naturally sparking a bunch of debates over whether it was real or not. Happily it is.

“The team has been hard at work on Maneater: Truth Quest and we’re excited to announce the first details on the downloadable content that so many fans have been asking for,” said Tripwire creative director Sean McBride. “We’re aiming to give players more of what they loved from the original Maneater, with the ability to grow bigger, explore an entirely new region off the coast of Port Clovis, and evolve further tools of destruction […] we pick up where we left off and join Trip Westhaven and the shark’s journey down the rabbit hole of conspiracy and military cover-ups as you eat, explore and evolve through these uncharted waters.”

Looking back now, I was far too harsh on Maneater and recommend picking it up if you know what you’re getting into. I think I was trying to be a more critical, serious reviewer, but with some reflection, I realise that just isn’t me. Maneater isn’t a good game from a more objective view but provided you need what you’re getting its heaps of fun. I’m glad to see it getting DLC, and I’m even more glad to know it must have done well enough to warrant said DLC.

Finally, a new study from researchers at Wolverhampton and Plymouth Universities looking into the effects of loot boxes and their possible links to gambling states that loot boxes, “are structurally and psychologically akin to gambling.”

The report claimed that roughly £700-million is made from loot boxes per year, and just 5% of gamers who purchase loot boxes make up for 50% of that revenue, around £350-million. Of that 5%, the report says that a third of them are problem gamblers.

“Conversely, there is no evidence that higher loot box spend is correlated with higher earnings. Our
research, therefore, demonstrates that games developers, unwittingly or not, appear to be generating
outsized loot box profits from at-risk individuals (these are likely to include both people with gambling problems or problematic patterns of video gaming) – but not from wealthy gamers”

The report also concluded that of the 93% of children who play games, up to 40% have opened up loot boxes.

Dr James Close said that, “We have also demonstrated that at-risk individuals, such as problem gamblers, gamers, and young people, make disproportionate contributions to loot box revenues,”

Ultimately the report draws the following conclusions and issues a recommendation, stating that, “Any legislation regulating loot boxes will require careful consideration. Drawing from experiences in other jurisdictions, we present a series of recommendations for future policy. Prospective policy should include provisions for clear definitions of loot boxes, game labelling and age ratings, full disclosure of odds presented in an easy-to-understand way, spending limits and prices in real currency, and finally, obligations of gatekeepers (i.e. developers, distributors, content providers) for
the trade they enable and profit from.”

“Finally, we conclude with a stark warning: in the rapidly evolving world of video gaming, legislation
against loot boxes is liable to be quickly rendered anachronistic. Longer-term mitigation of risk –
from the potential dangers of a broad range of psychological nudges, potentially liable to cause
unsustainable levels of spending in vulnerable individuals – will require increased provision for
consumer protection, child-focused data protection policies, more research, and educational packages
that mitigate against these dangers and harms.”

I’ve been arguing for years about how I believe loot boxes to be akin to gambling, so it’s nice to see further evidence that agrees. Indeed, the report also recommends considering labelling games with loot boxes as being for adults only, something I agree with. I have no problem with the existence of loot boxes on the whole and even enjoy them a little in the right situation, but I do believe that the typical loot box (where you spend real money for a random result) is close enough to gambling to warrant similar restrictions.

Right, that should do for this week. As always if you want to help support the site you can drop a comment or even head over to the Support the Site page where you can toss me a few pennies.

Take care, everyone.

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