Friday, January 18, 2013

Bad Technology

I was listening to the Scriptnotes podcast tonight and the guys on there talked about the future of watching movies and how it is more or less inevitable that everything will be delivered digitally and it reminded me of something I'd been meaning to write about: copyright technology as it's seemingly going to be deployed in the next iteration of the Playstation (though maybe not). It's a big, controversial topic in the gaming world and it strikes me not so much for the disruption in the sales model now in existence for gamers (buy games you really want right when they come out, buy stuff you're less excited about used in a couple of months) but for the problematic implication of the game delivery systems themselves. We're getting an entire extra round of games being sold on plastic discs.

I get that the availability of the kind of fast and secure internet that would be sufficient to stream games at super high res with little to no distortion isn't there right now but a new system is going to be a flagship for at least 5 years, more likely 7-8 years. So the gaming companies are locking into this whole physical presentation for at least that much longer. That's kind of awful, isn't it? I, for one, like the future that is promised by DLC even if the pragmatic reality is much more cynical in nature. Sure, gaming companies are only putting out DLC to ring a few dollars more out of a gullible or, at least, prone public but the system is in place to download entire games straight to your system.

It makes my soul itch to think that I need to own discs. I really don't. Streaming/downloading games would actually help the bottom lines of the companies if you accept that gamers would pay the same price for their electronically conveyed entertainments that they are currently paying for physical delivery. I don't think that's much of a leap. There isn't the same sort of cult of display for games that there once was (thankfully since abandoned) for movies. The portability of downloaded content is as attractive for me, at least, as any silly special edition boxing could ever be. So I could buy a game to my system and then play it, or at least some pared down version of it, on any device that I might own. This could actually be the boon that Sony hoped for with PS Vita and Nintendo assumed with Wii U: games can be ported across platforms and carried into and out of the home but the system needs to be more sleek and attractive.

I have always held that DLC is poorly implemented in the first place and actually inhibits some growth in the sales of video games. EA Sports does itself some bit of disservice (obscured by already gargantuan sales) by forcing gamers to buy full versions of its sports titles on yearly basis when for the vast majority of consumers all that's really important are roster tweaks and stadium improvements. If you released Madden every other year or every couple of years when an entirely new game interface needs to be presented and made people pay for updates to rosters and such as DLC for a lower price point, my guess is that a floodgate would open in the sales. Charge $15 for an update at draft time, another $10 for an update at the start of preseason, $20 for an update at the start of the season that implements all jersey, stadium, firmware updates, and $90 for the hard copy of the software (with an activation key like you use for MS Office) and you will take out a lot of the worry about used copies eating sales while also getting casual repeaters (those who buy the game every couple of years or wait to find a cheap used copy) to repeat every year while also shoving the revenue that was going to Gamestop straight into the pockets of EA. It's easy, right? It also fends off a resurrected nemesis like 2K sports because the investment cost will make people think twice about jumping to the upstart. It's sinister and beautiful and slows down the overcrowded dev cycle for sports games in particular, but it can be of similar use to other games as product platforms (though a franchise like COD or Red Dead might need to stick with a software cost of closer to $60 to entice customers).

Not that anybody comments here but if you yell at me on twitter about my bloggering then tell me if what I'm saying here is organized enough to even make sense. I've got a clear idea in my head of where gaming needs to go but I don't know if I'm imparting a plan or a series of lines from a couple of unconnected sketches. So let me know, if you would be so kind.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

OUTRAGE!!! Te'o, Top Chef, and Twitter, Too!

First off, Happy New Year! Whoops. I didn't mean to take a vacation from blogging just like I didn't mean to stop exercising and didn't mean to slow down to writing only on the weekend. It just happened. Here I am, though, confused and feeling a little reckless. The Manti Te'o bomb that Deadspin set off this afternoon has been reverberating around the internet and around my head since about the time I finished my lunch. I really bought that hard luck story on Manti and was maybe even giving him some slack as a football player/pro prospect because of his tough times. No, not consciously but, come on! Of course it colored (minds out of the gutter) my perception of him. And then I watched Top Chef. And then I watched Argo. So today is a day filled with outrage in my media consumption.

Where should I start poking the outrage? The thing that bothers me the most out of those three topics is the Top Chef stupidity. It's going to be hard to take the show even half-seriously ever again. The product placements and corny challenges were tough enough but they just kicked off the chef that has won like 80% of their stupid challenges this year because annoying retread Josie was unable to cook her food properly. Which means they kept Josie because she isn't a high caliber chef. Which makes my head hurt. There are two (maybe 4) really hotshot chefs on this season and they got rid of one of them because she had ambition. Also, because she is tall and pretty and Padma campaigned really hard to the other judges to make sure the tall and pretty, super-talented chef, got sent home in favor of the middling slow asshole. What a dumb thing to do. Padma has grown on me negatively for the last year. I used to like her, at least as a TV personality, but now she makes me uncomfortable. I took a cursory glance at twitter and, from what I can tell, fans of the show are unanimous in their love of Kristen and their hatred of Josie. This is my high-water mark for personal outrage today.

Argo is a really good movie. I really liked it all the way from conception to execution. It looks great, sounds great, is populated by great acting, and it has a satisfying bit of tension-building followed by relief. It's one of my favorite movies of 2012. If it won Best Picture at the Oscars I would be entirely OK with that. In the same sense that I was and am OK with American Beauty winning in one of the most over-stuffed years in Hollywood history. I don't think that it breaks ground or that it will endure as one of my favorites but Argo was good all the way through and I can understand the fans reacting to the "snub" of Ben Affleck in the Best Director category. I don't feel any sort of outrage but I congenitally hate awards shows of any stripe. American Beauty was a fine movie and so is Argo.

Now we've got Te'o. Oh, Manti. Ohhhhh, Manti. I am not outraged by Manti's lies and coverups. He is a college kid and he's a dummy. It's OK. He just ended up on a massive platform. I can't wait for more news about Manti. I don't think I've ever been so wrapped up in a gossipy piece of shit story as I am with this one. It's fantastic!

Bonus OUTRAGE!!! Good bye, Henry's Tacos, I like your food OK. I liked being interviewed for the news. I am OUTRAGED!!! that some dude is going to tear the building down for lord knows what reason and it's a terrible plot of land.

My eyes are hurting from closing so much and so hard (Oh, yeah!!!) so I'll go to bed now. Goodnight, angry and innocent world.