… M E R G I N G.
Sorta. More like Activision Blizzard being bought by Microsoft for about $70 billion. You already knew that though, because your news feed was probably about as filled as mine was yesterday. And now I’m adding this one to the pile. At least I went with a different title, eh?
There are really just two thoughts I wanted to examine, and leave everyone else with the more mundane (IMO) details.
First, this does interesting things for Game Pass. From the Microsoft article:
Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog. We also announced today that Game Pass now has more than 25 million subscribers. As always, we look forward to continuing to add more value and more great games to Game Pass.
Will we really see the next Call of Duty come out as a Day 1 Game Pass release? The franchise has been a cash cow forever, and almost never sees a discount of any appreciable amount. It’s a given that Overwatch will be on there. Probably Diablo 2 Resurrected, along with all the StarCrafts.
But… what about WoW?
My guess is that WoW will remain off of the Game Pass, assuming the merger occurs. It’s cute to imagine the possibilities of a Game Pass subscription taking the place of a WoW subscription, but The Elder Scrolls Online is not currently on the PC version of the Game Pass, and maintains its separate subscription option even for consoles (according to this). Then you would have issues with what happens with WoW Tokens and game time. EA Play is currently included as a free bonus in Game Pass, but that is more of a general subscription service and not something for a specific game.
The second thought came from Tobold’s take on the news:
My take on it: They overpaid. Whatever made Blizzard great back then is gone, and they pay big money for a rather empty shell.
As pointed out by others, Blizzard is really the third wheel to the cash motorcycle that is Activision and King. Blizzard ain’t nothing, but they clearly weren’t the draw here.
It does raise an interesting point about studios and rockstar talent though. Is the current state of Blizzard, and WoW specifically, due to the immense brain drain of talent over the past few years? Greg Street in 2013, Chris Metzen in 2016, Mike Morhaime in 2019, Michael Chu in 2020, Jeff Kaplan in 2021, and
Alex Afrasiabi. The last one was a bit of a joke… but do we actually know what he contributed (beyond sexual harassment)? We would hope nothing, but there are certainly plenty of examples of famous artists with fantastic output that we then pretend is meaningless after finding out how awful they are IRL. Mel Gibson, Keven Spacey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Louis CK, and so on.
Don’t be too smug – Joss Whedon is next, by the way.
Comment bait aside, it’s an open question as to whether WoW can, literally, ever be as good as it was (to us) again. Was it only ever good because of these specific frat boys in this specific Cosby room? Shadowlands represent a new low from a narrative standpoint, and Blizzard’s “reinvent the wheel every patch” systems floundering looks especially amateurish as the flagship burns. Many games are a product of their time, groundbreaking because they broke ground first. So there’s a time, a place, and then there’s specific people too. Can it actually ever be recreated with competent, nameless devs?
I suppose the existence of WoW Classic is a testament to the bones remaining solid, for at least X amount of people. And the present state of FF14 proves that MMOs can still thrive and grow its playerbase years later. But can the latter’s success be attributed to the committee of devs that surely exists, or to specific rockstars like Yoshi-P, aka Naoki Yoshida? Would a hypothetical acquisition of FF14 be moot if it did not include him?
I don’t know. A lot of this may be Survivorship Bias – these individual devs are famous because their games were successful and they made themselves the face of it. Who is the face of Hades? Or Doom? Or GTA5? But perhaps in the final tally, having the right person in the right place at the right time does make all the difference.
And then you get bought by Microsoft for $70 billion.
Last week I talked about how old videogames have undergone a rather surprising amount of price appreciation. I ended with: “Anyway, if you still have a box full of old games in your own closet, now might be a good time to take stock.” I ended up taking my own advice… and guys…
To save you some math, that adds up to $1871. That’s basically a current-gen gaming PC with a RTX 3080 (on sale). Are these “real” prices? Well, Price Charting has links to sold eBay listings with specific prices listed, so… yeah. I ended up Googling why something like Valkyrie Profile is worth so much, and apparently there were only ever 100,000 (English) disks sold, of which it is assumed 70,000 remain functional. In that scenario, I would have assumed something like PaRappa the Rapper would have been worth more, especially the trouble I went through tracking it down 15 years ago.
Slightly out of frame on the PaRappa case? The $9.99 sticker from whatever family-owned game reseller I found it in. I should probably research how to remove that before listing.
Time will tell if I actually achieve any of these prices. I went ahead and ordered some packing supplies and am committed to actually listing at least the pictured games. There are actually 17 more not shown, but next eight combined are $362, and then it starts getting into the ~$20 range where I’m not sure it’s worth my time. Real shame that something like ICO or Tenchu is only worth $12.
Seeing the physical Xenogears disks did give me a slight twinge, but I am very much in a post-ownership mindset. In the case of Xenogears specifically, I actually own it legitimately on PS+ (should I ever re-subscribe) and have it
illegitimately digitally backed up in other locations. It’s not worth “buying” for $112 just to keep it in a box another decade, especially given the high likelihood that my son and/or uncontrolled climate change will accidentally ruin it.
There was a Reddit post recently titled “I just sold my childhood for $600.” Bunch of photos of multiple old consoles, stacks of games, and so on. Nice vicarious nostalgia trip. Open up the comments section and the most upvoted replies are roasting the OP saying he got swindled, and that his collection was easily worth $3500 or more. Really?
For giggles, I went to Price Charting and looked up… Chrono Trigger:
Now, some of those top numbers are clearly ridiculous collectors items that rich people buy and sell for
money laundering dick-measuring reasons – the rarity of sealed copy of a 27-year old game becoming a thing in of itself. But… uh… guys. I sold my own childhood collection back in 2012 for $375. One of the items? Chrono Trigger with the box and instructions intact. Probably wouldn’t count as “Complete” since I taped the poster to my wall back in 1996, but still. Worth about $300 by itself today.
I’m not going to go through my full list, but for comedy purposes:
- Chrono Trigger + box + instructions = $300
- Secret of Mana = $54
- Super Metroid + box + instructions = $120
- Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past + instructions = $45
- Final Fantasy 3 = $78
- Super Nintendo console = $76
That’s $673 just on the SNES side. Granted, everything else not listed was less expensive. Nothing was worth much on the Genesis or regular Nintendo side. Did see that Super Smash Bros Melee (Gamecube) was $54, which is about what I paid for it back in college.
I’m not even saying that I regret selling those games when I did. That was almost 10 years ago, after all. If you look at the price graph, Chrono Trigger was selling for $42.50 at the time. Plus, I was starting a new phase of my life:
What brought all this up to me again is that I am moving to a new apartment this week. While rummaging around in long-forgotten closets, I came across my NES and SNES collections; the wave of nostalgia nearly rendered me unconscious. While I did act on the daydream of plugging the consoles back up in college one time, these pieces of electronics haven’t otherwise seen the light of day for almost a decade. Was I really going to pack them up and move them to a closet in the new place? Would my theoretical future child have the slightest bit of interest in daddy’s ancient consoles in 2020’s era of (mobile) games? Hell, would these things still even work?
Bit prescient there, eh? I wrote that in 2012. My son will turn 3 this year, so it will be closer to 2025 before he’s playing videogames, I reckon. But sorry, kiddo, you’ll have to play Chrono Trigger on an emulator and not a then-$900 cartridge.
Anyway, if you still have a box full of old games in your own closet, now might be a good time to take stock. Some of them have apparently appreciated very nicely. For some reason.
While technically old news, Amazon is bankrolling a Fallout TV series. The newer news is that it starts filming this year. The guy behind Westworld is doing the first episode, and… well, if say much more, this paragraph will be longer than the original article.
Fallout is one of my favorite gaming franchises of all time. I have played all the major releases, including less popular ones like Brotherhood of Steel and, ahem, Fallout 76. It really wasn’t until the release of Fallout 3 before I realized that that was the sort of experience I had been waiting my entire life for: post-apocalyptic hoarding simulator. I didn’t need to have a quest to be motivated to explore a cave – the possibility of extra duct tape and aluminum cans was enough. And chasing that similar sense of satisfaction fueled my drive into and through practically every survival game that has been released.
I have zero clue how in the world they will translate Fallout to the TV screen.
Some people have mentioned that Fallout might be well-positioned to capitalize on the cultural zeitgeist of the day, e.g. the dangers of unrestrained jingoism. But that actually seems more like a problem: it’s going to seem too on-the-nose despite the source material always having those elements of dark irony. Vault-Tec running unethical experiments on their customers doesn’t quite cut the same way when we have Facebook and other social media doing similar things in the real world.
This is to say nothing on what sort of tone they will go for. I could easily see a Fallout TV ending up more of a slapstick apocalypse romp, with Bottlecap mines, Fat Man launchers, and Stimpaks magically healing broken limbs. Or I could see them trying to leverage more of the darker side of the series, Father in the Cave and similar tragic pathos. But in the latter case… where does the Nuka-Cola, caps as currency, Pip-Boys and the like come in? Super Mutants and Mr. Handy? If you aren’t including that sort of thing, I’m not sure what the point of it is being branded Fallout.
I just don’t see it. The world of Fallout could support little mini-arcs World War Z-style (the book), but an overarching narrative? Or even following the events of one of the games? New Vegas probably has the most coherent plot and story beats, especially if they include some of the DLCs. Well, maybe not the one where your brains are scooped out and you end up getting a teleportation device. Fallout 4 is a more modern tale, especially with the notion of synths and the philosophical questions surrounding them… but also prominently features teleportation by the end. It works in game form, but I don’t see it getting a pass on the screen.
God, I just imagined the first time they bring up a VATS-like effect and aim a Railway Rifle round at someone’s eyeball. There’s no way this doesn’t end up being goofy nonsense. Which I guess will be on brand, but nevertheless feels like the worst of all possible worlds. Which… is also on brand.
Amidst all the gaming sales this holiday season was a surprise. A most unwelcome one.
First was the surprise that the PC version of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake (FF7R) even came out. I was so giddy when the original news came out in 2015, but that giddiness has been tempered by years of self-restraint from not purchasing a PS4 to play just that game, and the constant endeavor to avoid spoilers. Somehow that avoidance must have led me to disregard news articles that the PC version was coming out. The fact that FF7R is an Epic exclusive also didn’t even register. But that’s because…
Secondly, seventy what-the-fuck dollars?!
I understand that FF7R is by no means the first to try to raise the hitherto $60 price ceiling of games. Many games of this new console generation are trying the same, including major franchises. It does seem a little weird that the PC port of a game that came out 1.5 years ago is trying to sell at a premium price though. Especially since one could purchase the PS5 version of the same PC bundle (main game + DLC) for $39.19 straight from the Playstation Store. That’s the winter sale price, of course, but there are cheaper options at GameStop and presumably other retailers.
I also understand that gaming companies have technically been raising prices this whole time via DLC and microtransactions and battle passes and deluxe editions and so on and so forth. Some have made the argument that it is because of the $60 price ceiling that game companies have employed black hat econ-psychologists to invent ever more pernicious means of eroding consumer surplus. That argument is, of course, ridiculous: they would simply do both, as they do today.
What I do not understand is gaming apologists suggesting inflation is the reason for $70 games.
Sometimes the apologists make the argument that games have not kept pace with inflation for years. One apt example is how Final Fantasy 6 (or 3 at the time) on the SNES retailed for $79.99 back in 1994. That is literally $150 in 2021 money. Thing is… gaming was NOT mainstream back in 1994; the market was tiny, and dominated by Japan. When you are comparable in size to model train enthusiasts, you pay model train enthusiast prices.
Gaming has been mainstream for decades now. Despite ever-increasing budgets and marketing costs, games remain a high-margin product. FF6 may have sold for $150 in today’s dollars, but FF7 sold three times as many copies for the equivalent of $100 by 2003*. So how does an “inflation” argument make sense there?
“The costs for making games have increased!” I mean… yes, but also no? Developers like to pretend that they need bleeding-edge graphics in order to sell games, but that is clearly not the case everywhere. For one thing, indie developers have been killing it with some of the best titles this decade with pixel graphics and small-group passion projects. Stardew Valley sold how many copies? Remember when Minecraft sold for $2 billion? Not everyone is a big winner, but the costs of game making has only increased in specific genres with specific designs. Do we really need individually articulated and dynamically moving ass-hair on our protagonists?
And that’s where the “iT’s iNfLaTiOn” folks really lose me: who gives a shit about these corporations? I wrote about this 8 years ago:
As a consumer, you are not responsible for a company’s business model. It is perfectly fine to want the developers to be paid for their work, or to wish the company continued success. But presuming some sort of moral imperative on the part of the consumer is not only impossible, it’s also intellectually dishonest. You and I have no control over how a game company is run, how much they pay their staff, what business terms they ink, or how they run their company. Nobody asked EA to spend $300+ million on SWTOR. Nobody told Curt Schilling to run 38 Studios into the ground. Literally nobody wanted THQ to make the tablet that bankrupted the studio.
Why should we take it as a given that PlayStation 5 games cost more to develop? A lot of things in the economy actually get cheaper over time, regardless of inflation. Things like… computers and software. Personnel costs may usually only trend upwards, but again, someone else made the decision to assign 300 people to a specific game instead of 250. Or to scrap everything and start over halfway through the project. And somehow these companies continue making money hand over fist without $70 default pricing. So I find it far more likely that the price increase is a literal cash grab in the same way the airline industry added billions in miscellaneous fees after their bailouts and “forgot” to remove them after they recovered. Basically, because they could. Some informal industry collusion helps.
In summation: fuck the move towards legitimizing $70 MSRP. That 14% price hike is not going to result in 14% better games with 14% deeper stories and 14% more fun. In fact, it’s probably the opposite in that you will just afford 14% fewer games. And unless you got a 6% raise in 2021, you are already eating a pay cut on top of that.
Oh well. Waited this long for FF7R, so I may as well wait some more.
Just like 2020, but with a little extra.
Aside from the still-raging pandemic, this has been a rather banner year, personally. Had some grueling work projects to grind through, but where they have passed, only I remain. For now. I’ve applied to some other places that are paying 30% more for the same job description. I’ve also taken up options trading as a side hustle, mainly because I got lucky with GME in January and now I’m an expert. I beat the S&P500 this year but also spent considerably more time developing ulcers in the process, so who knows with that. Think I might stick with something easier, like cryptocurrency.
Family is doing great.
Now, it’s time for what you really care about: my personal gaming habits for the year. First, Steam.
- Battle Brothers
- Card Hunter
- Trials of Fire
- Dead in Vinland
- Ring of Pain
- Dishonored 2
- Fate Hunters
- Dicey Dungeons
- Dream Quest
- She Remember Caterpillars
A bit more than the seven games I played last year, but many were kind of one-and-done. Or perhaps more accurately “tried-and-dropped.” One of the standouts is Valheim, which continues to get updates. I have not played any more Valheim since I stopped though, and I am content to wait until its full release (whenever that is) before paying attention again. I was also very impressed with Trials of Fire, but perhaps not enough to play it again after sinking 13 hours into it. Really liked Ring of Pain too.
Next is Epic:
- Axiom Verge
- Ape Out
- Magic: Legends
- God’s Trigger
- Crying Suns
- Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel
- Death Stranding
- Loop Hero
Epic’s twice-yearly $10 coupon insanity is finally driving me to spend more time in their ecosystem than any others. That and all the free games, but the coupon really sells the sales. I’m presently splitting my time between Loop Hero and Inscryption, with both being rather fun. Hades won all sorts of awards, but I was content with just beating it once. Griftlands was compelling for a time, even above other decking-building roguelikes, but it’s hard to stay as engaged when an average run is 7+ hours. Death Stranding is on the list for getting more attention, and I suspect I am still in the tutorial even after three hours of
Amazon Prime deliveries hauling literal garbage around the haunted landscape.
Finally, we have Game Pass:
- Monster Sanctuary
- Star Renegades
- Deep Rock Galactic
- Second Extinction
- Slime Rancher
- Monster Train
- Halo: Master Chief Collection
- Solasta: Crown of the Magister
- Curse of the Dead Gods
- Library of Ruina
- Medieval Dynasty
- Subnautica: Below Zero
- Into the Pit
- Tainted Grail: Conquest
- The Riftbreaker
- One Step from Eden
- Crown Trick
Laid out like that, were the 25 listed games worth $120ish to access during the year? Eh, maybe. Looking back, it’s clear that I got more overall value in 2020. Then again, presuming that I would have paid to play some of these games, I probably did end up saving money overall. In any case, some of these games will be on the 2022 list as they receive updates and/or I get around to focusing on them.
I am tempted to entertain the notion of identifying a Game of the Year out of the ones I played… but nah. Hades would certainly be a safe bet and conform with all the critics. It’s good and I certainly see the argument. Looking at what actually impressed me though, are games like Valheim and then stuff like Ring of Pain, Inscryption, and so on. I don’t usually play relevant games in the year they release, so it’s kind of a futile exercise anyway.
The gaming goals from last year:
- Continue working on the Steam backlog [Yes]
- …but don’t get bogged down with mediocre games [Absolutely yes]
- Maybe buy a Switch. For the wife. [Nope. Probably not even in 2022]
- (Re)Play through the Halo games via Master Chief Collection [Did Halo Reach]
- Give FF14 another shot [Didn’t, and now couldn’t anyway]
- Resist the urge to buy a new gaming PC [Success!]
I don’t see much of a point in identifying gaming goals for 2022, and this post is plenty long anyway. What I anticipate happening is buying a new prebuilt PC – prebuilt due to graphics card shortages and not being super comfortable replacing motherboards/CPU – getting a new monitor, and otherwise sprucing up my battlestation. After that, I’ll pick up Cyberpunk, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Red Dead Redemption 2 for $15-$20 apiece from the Epic summer or winter sale, depending on when a value prebuilt come available. Then, I will bask in the glory of #PCMasterRace or cry in an empty wallet.
Here’s to another year of running my mouth. And thanks for listening.
Yeah, I said it.
Undertale is a cult favorite and Kickstarter darling from 2015 featuring meme-ready characters, NES graphics, and unique game mechanics. Your character has fallen down a hole into the underworld and now must contend with anxious monsters who need your soul to escape their otherwise eternal confinement. Will you leave a traditional trail of bodies and tears on your way to the exit, or will you embrace the spirit of determination and the power of friendship to spare all that you meet?
The very ending(s) depend on it!
It’s possible that I played Undertale too late. The retro graphics did nothing for me, nor did the retro graphics + modern game twists, as I played LISA back in 2015 already. While I did not know exact plot details, I also knew Undertale had a True Pacifist route that led to the best ending – knowledge which prejudges one’s own behavior in the game. Finally, I had already played games that also shifted in narrative tone and 4th-wall breaking, like Nier: Automata. If Undertale was my first experience with any of these things, maybe I would have been more impressed.
My major issue with Undertale though is that it is… not fun. When fighting enemies, they attack you via 5-6 seconds of Bullet Hell in which you move a red heart around a predefined box. It’s an extremely novel concept, and the things Undertale is able to convey through this mechanism is commendable. But at no point is it fun to do. Doing a True Pacifist run means you must talk to enemies instead of attacking them, which consumes several “turns” which results in you doing multiple Bullet Hell levels for each randomly-encountered enemy. True Pacifist also means you never level up or get more HP, so the game just gets progressively harder. Finally, if you get dangerously low on HP, you have to spend your turn using a healing item instead of talking, which delays the end of the fight and can mean you catch more damage than you healed and otherwise wasted your time.
Did I mention that you need to purchase healing items, using money that you receive from successfully navigating monster neuroses, thus potentially trapping yourself into a losing battle of attrition? Indeed, the only way I was able to complete the game at all was from looking up the solution to a puzzle that gave me an item that sometimes gave me free healing items. Supposedly there is also some armor you can buy to trivialize fights if you die enough times too.
In any case, the Venn Diagram of people who enjoy the plot of Undertale and those who like Bullet Hell games are likely two circles on opposite ends of the Earth.
There were some genuinely funny moments in the game, don’t get me wrong. But all I could really think about while playing was that Undertale did not respect my time. Which seems strange considering the game is like 9 hours long. Or perhaps that is expected when you know that every random encounter represents a possible permanent loss of player power (e.g. healing items or money to purchase more) instead of, you know, your character growing stronger over time. Technically you do find better equipment along the way, but that is really a bare minimum to keep parity with ever-stronger foes when you are stuck with 20 HP and losing a quarter of it each time you touch something.
Ultimately, I am glad I finished Undertale’s True Pacifist route. I understand that there are a myriad of alternative endings, including one which requires you murdering everyone you meet, but I don’t see the point. I sure as shit ain’t spending another 5+ hours on the endeavor when I already disliked combat.
Will do, Flowey. Will do. In fact, it’s already done.
I bought myself the following games on Epic:
- Roguebook – $6.24
- Banners of Ruin – $5.99
- Inscryption – $5.99
- Disco Elysium – $7.99
Basically three deckbuilding roguelikes and Disco Elysium. One item I had in the cart and then removed was Horizon Zero Dawn Complete for $14.99. My current thought was that I should probably wait until/if I do that PC upgrade I talked about – worst case scenario being I purchase it during the Summer sale for a similar (or less) amount. But… it’s also just $15. So maybe? Any thoughts in the comments?
For Steam, it was just:
- Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale – $7.49
- Dream Quest – $4.99
I had an eye on Dream Quest for a long time, ever since I learned that it was one of the OG deckbuilding roguelikes that ended up inspiring Slay the Spire and the creator went on to Hearthstone. It also seemed like abandonware at this point and unlikely to receive a discount. Until it finally did. Krumit’s Tale was just another notch on the Deckbuilding Roguelike belt.
With tax everything ended being about $41 or so. Not a bad haul, assuming that at least one or two of the roguelikes entertain me for X amount of time. Granted, it seems a bit “counterproductive” to acquire more games that don’t strictly “matter.” I am endeavoring to play titles with more meaningful and/or unique experiences after all. On the other hand, I am so far down the deckbuilding roguelike rabbit hole that I may as well keep digging. As Mitch Hedberg (RIP) said:
If you find yourself lost in the woods, fuck it, build a house. “Well, I was lost but now I live here! I have severely improved my predicament!”
By the end of this, I’ll be able suggest deckbuilding games to people with surgical precision. “Oh, you played Slay the Spire but didn’t like energy usage? Might I recommend Fate Hunter?”
I mentioned recently that I was in the market for a computer upgrade. In fact, I am looking to change a number of things about my current setup. For example, I recently bought a new gaming chair. My old chair was one of those nylon net “breathable” chairs, purchased because my wife’s cat destroyed the prior two I owned. With the cat no longer with us, I decided to upgrade. It’s been working out… kinda okay. Not the amazing plush experience I was hoping for, but it was $120 instead of $500, so yeah.
In any case, here is the list I’m going for:
- Monitor – 27″ 1440p 120Hz+, probably IPS (up from 27″ 1080p 60Hz TN)
- Video Card – GTX 3060ti or better (up from GTX 1060)
- RAM – 16GB (up from 8 GB)
- CPU – Anything from last 2 years (up from i5-2500K)
- USB – Actual USB 3.0 connections, WTF? (up from USB 2.0)
- Desk – Something with drawers, probably, maybe big enough for two monitors (up from Origami)
There were actually some good deals on monitors back during Black Friday, but it was a chicken & egg dilemma. Do I buy a new monitor now, even though I wouldn’t be able to output 1440p or 120Hz given my hardware? But how long would I go after buying the hardware until I get a monitor that takes advantage of the specs? Besides, where would all this shit fit in the first place? My current desk is nowhere large enough to have two 27″ monitors, and my current monitor cannot be rotated.
That said, there isn’t a big big rush. If something falls into my lap or there is some kind of other offer I can’t refuse, then I may go for it. Otherwise? Well, just like everyone else in this pandemic, I hope the shit I got continues working until I no longer want it. Thoughts and prayers to everyone out there having to buy a refrigerator or new/used car in the present environment.
Addendum: I still find my own post about computer shopping from 2011 both hilarious and accurate. The price I paid back then ($1260) is the equivalent of $1557 today. So maybe I shouldn’t be worrying about this shit at all and just buy the first GTX 3070+ prebuild I see in that range.