The Sequel Blues

We have been penalized by the lack of new consoles on the market. I understand the manufacturers don’t want them too often because it’s expensive, but it’s important for the entire industry to have new consoles because it helps creativity.

-Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft

I’m rarely stunned by the stupidity of words that come from the heads of major game studios, so I have to give Mr. Guillemot credit.  That was a remarkably dumb statement.  One that I wholeheartedly reject.  It was a defensive statement, for something that doesn’t need defending.

Gamers can be an irrational breed of people.  When they’re at their worst, gamers can be reactionary, twitchy, slobbering crybabies.  Or we can shorten that and call it “fanboys.”  I get it with kids.  Santa Claus brings Johnny an Xbox 360 for Christmas, while Bobby gets a PlayStation 3.  They’ll end up doing what kids do, arguing that their machine is the best.  But the bad ones, they’re the assholes who drag this argument out into adulthood.  They’re also the ones who bitch about console manufacturers who push non-gaming content, DLC, and especially sequels.

Minecraft 360 has sold over three million copies. Not bad for a dead platform.

I don’t get the argument against sequels.  Of all the truly stupid shit that gamers get angry over, the resentment of sequels is the one that baffles me the most.  I think many people forget that gaming is a business that exists to be profitable.  That might sound condescending, but it’s true.  When you bitch at developer for being too sequel heavy, you’re essentially telling them to not take the path of least resistance towards profitability, placing their company’s future at a greater risk.

Here’s my question: why does this make you, the angry gamer, so damn mad?  How in the blue fuck does Call of Battlewar Modern Reach 17 possibly affect you?  Other than the fact that you’ll be $60 less wealthy once it’s out because you know you’ll buy it.  Yes you will.

If sequels aren’t your thing, don’t get them!  Their existence doesn’t stop the influx of other purchasing options.  Gaming has entered a second Golden Age of creativity.  The advent of independent gaming, plus the roll out of digital distribution on consoles has opened the door to new and original properties that would never be given a green-light seven years ago.  In 2012, the major digital platforms on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have seen two record-shattering games be released: Journey and Minecraft 360.  Whether these games appeal to you directly or not is irrelevant.  It’s what they represent that is important.  They’re new properties (in Minecraft’s case, new to consoles) that destroys the notion of sequels drowning the industry.  The gaming landscape is full of titles like that.  Rarely does a month go by where there isn’t at least one, maybe two games on those platforms that I just have to try because they look so different.

Are we really ready to let go of the PlayStation 3 when such innovative, never before attempted ideas such as this one are on the verge of fulfillment?

That’s why I think Yves Guillemot’s comment pissed me off so much.  Because it was a pass-the-buck move for something that didn’t require defending or an explanation.  Anybody whinny enough to complain about sequels will never be satisfied with anything because they’re miserable human beings just looking for stuff to moan about.  You can’t please them, and it’s not even worth trying.  Whether they admit it or not, they buy all the mass-marketed stuff anyway.  They just have to try to be “cool” and reject sequels.  That makes them sound non-conformist.  I walked into a Gamestop once (bad decision, I admit.  I think I might have been under the influence of seizure medication) and saw what looked to be a half-man, half-manatee complaining about Crackdown 2 being a soulless cash-in that didn’t really try to be different.  And he said all this with a straight face while wearing a Gears of War 2 tee-shirt.  This is the type of moron you can’t win with.

Why try to justify yourself to these people?  Especially with outright bullshit, as is the case with Mr. Guillemot.  Saying “no no no no, it’s not OUR fault that we’re making sequels.  It’s their fault!  Sony’s and Microsoft’s!  Blame them!  We need new hardware or we simply can’t be original!”  Right.  Because launch-window games are known for their high-risk creative endeavors.  Of course they’re not.  New consoles bring with them 12 to 18 months worth of last-generation gameplay rehashes dressed-up with shiny graphics.  The Wii might have been an exception to that, just because it had that wacky new controller thing, but I don’t think anyone would try to argue the machine sparked a revolution of creativity.  It takes about two years for developers, even first party ones, to get over the learning curve of developing for a new platform.  While that is going on, they stick with what they know.

So Mr. Guillemot is wrong.  New consoles don’t breed creativity.  They might make a game producer’s imagination run wild with possibilities, but that doesn’t necessarily transition to the final product.  That’s why the truly neat stuff doesn’t hit until a console has been around a while.  A new concept, like Katamari Damacy, couldn’t have launched with the PlayStation 2.  Developers stick with what they know works, which is why Touch My Katamari launched with the Vita.

Spec Ops: The Line is technically a sequel, but it’s not really, because the series was never this bad ass.

And that’s why I don’t want this generation of consoles to end just yet.  Look at what the last 18 months have given us.  L.A. Noire.  Journey.  Bastion.  From Dust.  Fez.  Walking Dead.  Catherine.  Dragon’s Dogma.  I just finished Spec Ops: The Line, a game that is a sequel in name only, and I was blown away by its gutsy narrative.  You wouldn’t see anything like that christen a new platform.  You just wouldn’t.  Yea, this console generation has had an unusually long lifespan, but with promising new IPs like Watch Dogs or The Last of Us still on the horizon, why are we already writing a eulogy?  So I reject Mr. Guillemot’s assertion that developers need new consoles to be creative.  An especially hypocritical stance from the guy in charge of the publishing house that is bringing us the next big new IP, Watch Dogs.  According to him, they shouldn’t have even bothered, and instead of focused on the Wii U, which is the new platform his employees need or they just can’t think.  And what is this new platform in essence?  A screen that you have to flail around like you’re trying to swat a fly with it.  What is he doing with that?  ZombiU.  That’s his idea of innovation: holding a screen in front of another screen.  It would be like Firestone deciding the next generation of tires should be square-shaped.  Besides, my faith in that game is nil.  Ubisoft does launch titles about as well as buffaloes do deep-sea diving.  I remember Red Steel.

Sequels are not the problem with gaming.  I’m not even sure there is a problem with gaming right now.  We live in an era that features multiple thriving platforms, and hundreds (if not thousands) of games of all shapes, sizes, and costs that are released annually.  With so many options available to consumers, I simply don’t understand how so many gamers can be singing the Sequel Blues.  If all you can see is sequels, you need to get your eyes examined, because I do believe you’re more near-sighted than Mr. Magoo.

Kairi on E3 2012: Nintendo Edition

Watch the conference at 9AM, start writing at 8PM.  Sounds fine, except I can’t remember a blasted thing that happened during the show.  Nintendo E3 events all have this problem.  Unless you’re a throbbing Nintendo fanboy, their press conferences all tend to bleed together.  It’s easy to understand why.  “Remember the year Nintendo talked about Mario?”  What Mario are you.. “Or that time that one year when Shigeru Miyamoto came out and pandered to us?”  Well actually that happens every.. “Or that time Reggie Fils-Aime looked like he couldn’t believe he’s 51 years old and trying to shill Let’s Dance?”  NO!  No I don’t remember that time!

Oh thank Christ we don’t have to go a whole fiscal quarter without a Mario game!

Of course, this is a hardware year, so we can call this the year they talked about Wii U.  Which could have been last year too I guess, but work with me here.  Nintendo fans in general seem a little disappointed this year, because Nintendo failed to say all the correct buzz words that cause a reaction in them.  They’re like dogs, conditioned to listen for only key terms.  “Mario!”  Woof!  “Pikmin!”  Woof!  “More Mario!”  WOOF WOOF! But then Nintendo left the poor pooches hanging by not saying other words, like “Smash Brothers” or “Zelda” or “Star Fox.”  Nintendo hounds are sad puppies tonight.  Yep, sorry, I have to cut to the picture.

The face of Nintendo fanboys following E3 2012.

Wii U is coming in 2012, which is ironic given that most Nintendo fanboys are doing the same in anticipation of it.  Most people are of two very different views on it.  They either think it’s brilliant, or that it’s a cumbersome looking piece of shit.  I lean for option two here.  I’m five-foot one-inch tall and I have tiny hands.  Nintendo wants people younger than me with even smaller hands to somehow not develop early-onset carpal tunnel using this.  I’m not saying kids are incapable of using it, but it’s very telling that many of the videos Nintendo showed involved grown adults handling the Wii U GamePad, not children.  Remind me, besides fanboys, what is Nintendo’s target audience again?  And no, it’s not the same as using an iPad.  I can use an iPad just fine, because it has no buttons to press, styluses to hold, or other screens to look at.

It’s weird because Nintendo is kind of famous for making comfortable controllers.  I know the Nintendo 64 bearclaw pad gets some flack, but at age 9 I felt it was just fine.  The Gamecube might have the most comfortable controller I’ve ever used in my life (never did like the Wave Bird as much), and I don’t hate the Wii Remote, even with a nunchuk attached.  It’s just bizarre to me that they could go from being the industry leaders in comfort to being the industry leaders in causing your hand to cramp up just by looking at picture of their next product.  I guess Nintendo wanted a piece of Playboy’s market share.

It doesn’t help that Nintendo showed me absolutely zero games that needed to have this, or more importantly, made me want to own a Wii U.  Yea, they showed a tech demo for a Luigi game that seemed like little more than an update to Pac-Man Vs., itself just a tech demo when you get down to it.  Otherwise, it was mostly used to look at a map.  Next year at E3, for you drinking game fans, just play one for Nintendo’s conference that uses the word “map.”  That’s it.  It’s probably not as potentially lethal to play as one where you take a drink every time someone says “Mario” but you’ll still be blitzed to the point that you won’t remember your own name.

Why do the baby Yoshis look drunk?

Ah yes, Mario.  We’re getting not one, but two games called “New Super Mario Bros.”  Hopefully this means they’ll retcon the previous games in the series to “Old New Super Mario Bros.”  The 3DS entry, called New Super Mario Bros. 2 (because Newer Super Mario Bros. sounded stupid I guess) brings back the leaf from Super Mario 3.  I’m sorry, but when you set out to make a game and call it “new”, maybe step one should be “include new shit in it!”  The Wii U version, called New Super Mario Bros. U (way to phone in the title, Nintendo) brings in Yoshis and the cape from Super Mario World, only this time it’s “new” because it looks like a flying squirrel suit.  It’s like asking your wife to dress up like a naughty nurse.  I don’t get why people do it, because at the end of the day you’re still getting sucked off by the same person.

I have a theory.  I think Nintendo games start off as a game of Mad Libs.  Picture it: a bunch of guys in Kyoto pass a joint around, sip some sake, and then try to name animals.  “Penguin!”  “Flying Squirrel!”  “Frog!”  “Bumble Bee!”  And this is where the power ups in Mario games come from.

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