Category Archives: Miscellany

Digital Resell, 2019 edition

In doing some research on my last article about digital reselling, I found this article talking about Robot Cache, a new storefront coming out in roundabout competition with Steam and Epic. The primary selling point of this store is… reselling. Specifically, you can resell digital games you purchase and get 25% of the cost back.

The gist of Robot Cache is that it’s a new store that uses a blockchain certificate as a form of DRM. That certificate allows the store to track individual copies of a game so they can be resold. The price is the same as a new copy—you’re really just selling a license to a digital good, so it’s never really “used”—and you get a 25 percent cut put on your credit card, while the publisher gets 70 percent and the store takes 5 percent.

“Used” copies up for sale are put into a queue alongside brand new ones and the sales alternate between new and used copies, so on some sales publishers will get 95%, and on others 70%, as long as there are players selling their games back. Crucially, Jacobson says, you can’t sell a game back in the first 90 days after release, when publishers make the most money.

The “used game sold at retail price” thing kind of threw me for a loop at first, but… no, actually, I’m still looped. I understand the concept that used goods are generally cheaper to account for diminished value, which is not entirely relevant with a digital game. I can also appreciate the obfuscation going on insofar as you never really buy explicitly “used” games on this new store, as the keys will be mixed together with new ones.

But it’s difficult to grok how all this works in practice. Is the resell basically guaranteed then? Or will it sit in a queue until enough licenses have been sold/resold? Are there mechanisms in place for banning users instead of revoking licenses? What happens when you go to resell and there’s a sale on the base game? Hell, that 90-day stipulation all but guarantees that the base game will be at a lower MSRP by the time you’d be eligible to sell your own copy.

What I do enjoy though, is the candor:

While Jacobson said Robot Cache’s goal isn’t to compete with Epic or Steam, it’s notably not a reseller like Humble or GreenmanGaming, selling Steam keys at reduced prices. To some extent it has to compete, because its games will be sold elsewhere, too, sometimes with superior features like the Steam Workshop’s mod support. But it does seem like out of the gate, Robot Cache will actually be more fully featured than Epic’s store with an SDK meant to replicate most of Steamworks’ major features, from multiplayer to chat to cloud saves.

I do not expect Robot Cache to succeed as a storefront. But I am hopeful that it will be enough of an agitator to possibly move the needle on digital resells in some small way.

GameStopped

Gotta love this news headline: GameStop’s stock in free fall ‘as business burns to the ground‘.

Couldn’t happen to a better company, am I right?

Still, I am a touch concerned. As the article notes, GameStop revenue is down as more and more gamers rely on digital purchases and streaming services than physical games. It’s been more than five years since I bought an actual physical game, myself. But it is vitally important to me that physical gaming continues to exist because otherwise we consumers lose the ability to resell our games.

While there have been attempts to make inroads in digital resell, the lack of recent headlines leads me to believe things have stalled. The most recent article I could find was from last year, wherein a new storefront (sigh) was going to be launched that could allow digital resell based on blockchain technology. Except, you know, the consumer’s own cut was going to be only 25%.

Which kinda makes GameStop look downright charitable in comparison, yeah?

In any case, if GameStop goes away, I am not entirely certain what fills the gap. There are a few off-market used game stores in my area, but none of them have any particular web presence or meaningful sales. Perhaps we will see more eBay storefronts open up, but where are they sourcing the games? My fear is that once GameStop goes under, there won’t be a big enough lobbying voice to dissuade game makers from pushing an all-digital future and thereby removing one of the last bastions of gaming Consumer Surplus.

Nickeled and Quartered

I was browsing /r/GameDeals and came across a post about Destiny 2. I think this is one of the first times I have experienced a game sale in which I walked away more confused than I started.

The short version is that Destiny 2: Complete Collection is $40. This includes the base game, the “expansion pass” that contains the first two expansions, the third large expansion “Forsaken,” a character boost, and then the “Annual Pass” which covers three additional expansions (Winter 2018, Spring 2019, Summer 2019).

That’s fairly straight-forward, I guess. The issue is that in September, parts of Destiny 2 are going F2P. Specifically, the base game, the first two expansions, and a portion of Forsaken, e.g. the patrol areas, but not the raids and more formal missions. Or something. Also, it’s leaving the Blizzard launcher and going to Steam instead.

Having the base game, as I do from an earlier Humble Bundle, doesn’t appear to be relevant to the primary deal. But what about when it goes on Steam? When there is a Steam bundle, you typically get a discount for pieces you already own. Now, the base game and the first few DLC will be F2P so maybe future Steam deals won’t take those pieces into account.

In this midst of this pondering, it dawned on me how completely unnecessary all of this was. This was a $60 game that had two paid DLCs, one major expansion, and three additional DLCs. On top of a cash shop. Why not just have a fucking monthly subscription and call it a day?

None of this is news, but sometimes it is good to be reminded how far into the weeds the developers are willing to go to monetize every inch of available space.

Time-Poor

I have not had much time for gaming for the past week or so, much to my dismay, and the next few weeks aren’t looking either. And by “time for gaming” I mean uninterrupted time specifically. This uncertainty has changed my usual gaming M.O.

For example, I now float between a number of titles. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a meaty title that I prefer to digest over time. It’s entirely possible to play it for 20 minutes or whatever, but you often lose the narrative in the process – it becomes much easier to start treating it as just another dungeon crawler than some kind of grand RPG.

Other times I will boot up ARK and collect resources until (in-game) nightfall and then get bored.

I have been actively trying not to play Oxygen Not Included, because while it is still engaging as hell, my base is hopelessly riddled with the equivalent of spaghetti code, and I get caught in priority loops that paralyze my planning. “I really need to get some plastic up and running. But that requires converting crude oil to petroleum. Maybe I could use that Iron Volcano to boil it? That means I need to prep the area to handle the 2000+ degree heat. Definitely need to solve the Polluted Water situation first though. Oh, and some Heavi-Watt Wire…”

This is not, strictly speaking, a very satisfying scenario. Each day, I am playing the game that I want to play in that moment and having fun. But it’s a shallow sort of fun. These sessions do not engage my mind, keeping me thinking at work about what I’m going to do when I get home. I very much prefer games that consume my life and take up residence in my mindspace. I need games that I look forward to playing, to the exclusion of all others.

And I have those games, technically. Just not the means (e.g. time) to satisfyingly play them.

Gaming Outlook for 2019

Based on my blog roll, this seems like a Thing To Do, so let’s discuss what’s on the docket this year.

To Be Played

I am currently playing Far Cry 5. While the overall experience is similar to Far Cry 4 (which was similar to Far Cry 3), the exact formula has been broken up a bit. Instead of running around trying to skin Honey Badgers for a larger wallet, for example, most character progression is based around achievements and finding prepper caches. It’s subtle, but it does change my focus a bit. A more detailed impression will need to wait for later.

Other games recently purchased on sale:

  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Dishonored DLC (Knife of Dunwall; Witches of Brigmore)
  • Dishonored 2
  • Prey
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

My Dishonored kick might seem a bit out of nowhere… and it kinda is. My criticism from way back 2012 still hold thus far in the first DLC: the game is almost painfully easy even at the highest difficulty. Well, at least so far on the first level. That’s more a stealth game thing than a Dishonored game thing specifically. Nevertheless, I kept reading praise for the DLC specifically, so I snagged it on sale and here we are.

The rest of that list is basically a rehash of what I had been keeping an eye on since Black Friday.

Might Be Played

I have not booted up Fallout 76 in several weeks now. While it has been trashed up and down the internet – for some legit, and some not so legit reasons – the primary reason for my disconnect might be silly: Rifle schematics. Specifically, my character is focused on Rifles, and the two best kinds of Rifles in the game (Homemade Rifle, Lever-Action Rifle) can only be crafted after snagging their schematics from a vendor’s random inventory. The “correct” way to get them is to check the vendor, and then log off and back on again to be shunted to a new server, and then checking the vendor again. Some people report doing this for hours. No thanks. If that nonsense gets fixed or some new content appears, then I might be back.

Battlefield V is another trashed title, but I have been resisting purchasing it even at a $30 price-point simply because I know what’s going to happen. Specifically, it will probably consume my free-time for a few weeks, and I will eventually awaken from a fugue state, realizing that I had not “accomplished” anything meaningful. I mean, games are games, but there’s a difference (IMO) between seeing the ending credits of three games vs spending that same amount of time seeing the End of Match report of a shooter. I’m not here to just kill time with my gaming anymore.

On Their Way Out

My time with Hearthstone is approaching its end, if it has not already snuck up on me. It’s not so much the mechanics or the meta or the card grinding so much as it is… exhaustion. I have never had a particular desire to compete on the ladder; my goal had been to complete the Dailies and other low-hanging fruit. But that still requires you to put a deck together, research the meta, and otherwise go through the motions. Or I could just turn on Twitch and watch other people play Hearthstone, and experience roughly 85% of the joy that I derive from the game.

On a similar note, WoW is definitely on ice for the foreseeable future.

We All Lift Together

This is technically old news, but Warframe came out with a new expansion of sorts.

Accompanying this expansion is perhaps one of the best game trailers ever made:

While the video is a delight itself, I am mainly referring to the song. Luckily, someone created an hour-long loop version so that I don’t have to keep clicking the Repeat button and/or fend off auto-playing “recommended” videos.

Listening to this on loop got me thinking… what even are the other contenders for best game trailers ever made? I had to go through several Top 10 lists to reacquaint myself with a few of them. My own list includes, in no particular order:

I’m a sucker for orchestra and choir and Inception noises, apparently.

If you need me, I’ll be listening to a trailer song of an expansion to a game I don’t even play.

It’s Beginning…

Fallout76

Oh snap

I’ve been reading the Beta previews on various sites, and am fully aware of the mixed reviews.

Nevertheless, as a member of the Press© it is my solemn duty to soldier on so you don’t have to. And not because I’m an irrational Fallout fanboy willing to settle for damn near anything post-apocalypse.

The Last Reset

This week is the last reset before Battle for Azeroth goes Live.

In the three weeks that I have been back playing WoW, it has consumed a rather large part of my gaming time, as it did in the past. I have since reached the level cap with my paladin, rogue, warlock, demon hunter, and death knight. Two additional classes are just barely past level 100 – the priest and warrior – but I have had great fun with playing them, so I plan on getting them to the cap as well.

I am abandoning my mage at level 92, as I tried out all three specs and found them lacking. In fact, it’s pretty awful considering mage is the only class that can’t face-tank mobs, and yet cannot blow them up either. Or maybe WoD is still overtuned post-squish? All I know is that I accidentally aggroed a bunch of crabs in the the beginning Garrison quests, blew all my cooldowns, and still died. I don’t think I’ve died to non-elite mob pulls in… five years? Maybe longer.

Anyway, the shaman is a big Nope for me, Zappiboi notwithstanding, and I never was particularly serious about the hunter in all my time with WoW. I’m probably going to wait until I unlock Void Elves before using one of my three stockpiled instant-100/110 tokens on getting a monk up to speed.

This last reset is going to be somewhat important for me in the transmog department. Specifically, I have been trying to obtain the Tunic of Unwavering Devotion since the release of the Nighthold raid. A similar model drops from a world boss, but it’s one of 11, and the order was completely random week-to-week until recently. I’m not especially confident that Legion raids or the world boss will be soloable on a leather-wearing class at the beginning of BfA, nor do I imagine there being much interest in small-party raiding of old content. If I have to wait 2+ years to obtain these transmog items, well, they are effectively removed from the game as far as I’m concerned.

We’ll see how it goes. I will have six opportunities (3 leather classes + bonus rolls) to snag the chest piece, and potentially another two if the demon hunter tier piece chest (same model) can be used for transmog on other leather-wearing characters.

Waiting Games

The Alpha 17 patch for 7 Days to Die has been pushed back from “late July” to August. There are some sweeping changes being done to guns and weapon mods in general, in addition to introducing new vehicles and such. It will remain to be seen if these changes are enough to make the game feel fresh, but honestly, it won’t take much to bring me back anyway.

Fallout 76’s release date is November 14th. I was hoping that “beta access” actually meant beta access, but it’s more like the now-current industry standard of pre-release. Evidence? Beta will take place in October, starting with a small group and then getting larger, and XBox users will be first.

Battlefield 5 will be released on October 19th, or slightly earlier if you’re subscribed to Origin Access. There should be an open beta sometimes in September, which I suppose matches the “beta” of Fallout 76. Hopefully the “open beta” is actually open, e.g. free.

WoW’s latest expansion will be hitting August 14th, of course.

In the meantime, I’m mostly playing the waiting game. I log into WoW, check the Emissary quest, WQs, and Order Hall mission lists to see if there are any easy reputation gains, for Allied Races purposes. I recently upgraded all of my heirlooms to level 110, and equipped them on all my alts. I have recently discovered how lucrative the Invasions can be from an XP standpoint – with 55% bonus XP, clearing the map is basically an entire level – but the quests are account-wide, so I’m kinda cycling through my characters. If there is time/interest leftover, I do some mog runs.

Honestly, I should probably be spending this time playing something else entirely. But, as always, it’s tough to play something else when you really want to be playing something in particular that you can’t. In my case, since they have not be released/updated yet.

Finally Burned by the Bundle

The Steam Summer sale came to a close a few days ago.

The end actually snuck up on me. I talked about the items on my wishlist before, but what ended up happening is A) I bought State of Decay 2 at full MSRP, B) I bought The Division (Gold) for $18, and C) I bought Conan: Exiles for $18 via two discounts on GMG. There still seemed to be relatively good deals available, but I wanted to spend all my time playing State of Decay 2 recently, and figured that that was worthwhile. Why buy more games than you can immediately play?

That would have been good and all, but… well…

Conan

Ugh, curses! CURSES!

Yep, that’s Conan: Exiles as one of the early unlocks for Humble Monthly Bundle.

What’s worse is that I’m pretty done with State of Decay 2, and I’m having very little fun with The Division. I’m level 8 at the moment, and wondering if the rest of the game is going to be basically this the whole time. And so I may have been inclined to boot up Conan next, and yet I could have gotten it for $5 cheaper + a bunch of other games had I waited like two days – GMG doesn’t allow refunds once the code is activated. I could always pause for the month, but the cosmic odds are such that the hidden games are probably going to be more stuff I want. Until it’s actually purchased, of course, and what’s inside is really a dead cat. Quantum physics is truly the biggest troll of them all.