Tag Archives: Gaming

Fortnite vs. Father Time: Is Fortnite Taking the L?

Fortnite Battle Royale is an online video game developed by Epic Games. The game pits up to 100 players together to compete to be the last one standing. Fortnite was released in July of 2017 with nearly 1 million players at its launch. After its launch, Fortnite continued to grow into a mega powerhouse that took over the entire gaming community. Several reasons lead to the success Fortnite received, but these same reasons are now leading to its demise.

After hitting its peak in May of 2018, F ortnite has slowly declined with a few jolts in popularity at each season release. A recent report from the Nielsen Company shows how real the decline of Fortnite is. Fortnite was once the top grossing game for both console and PC, and now only remains atop of console games. However, with the constant decline Fortnite is facing, it is only a matter of time it will be dethroned. 

One of the biggest reasons for Fortnite’s success is the constant changing of its game. There are many ways that Epic does this to please its players. Epic has changed the map, nerfed weapons, adjusted building speeds, and added new modes to try and reinvigorate the game. 

These changes have been made to help both professional and amateur players. However, these changes have led to a major divide in the gaming community. This divide is putting Fortnite in parail. Without its immense number of amateur players, the revenue spent on in game purchases will be nearly eliminated. If Epic continues to frustrate its professionals it will be fall behind its competition in the e-sports world. Along with this divide, Fortnite is struggling to stay relevant because Epic no longer has the power to make its own decisions. 

Their core competency of constant evolution has been compromised because of the divide they have created. The best example of this can be seen with the B.R.U.T.E. mech machines they introduced is season 10. The B.R.U.T.E. was an armored robot like machine that was intended to bridge the gap between amaeture and professional players. Epic released many statements defending their decision to these being in the game, but eventually removed the B.R.U.T.E. mech  to please it audience.

Other issues that are leading to the death of Fortnite include: repetitiveness, pressure on lootbox and microtransactions, and legal issues over the in game emotes. Out of all of these issues, I believe the lawsuits over in game emotes is the largest concern. According to a LendEDU survey 70% of Fortnite’s players have made an ingame purchase on emotes (in game dances) or skins (how your character looks). 

While the pressure of eliminating microtransactions will ultimately wipe out Fortnite’s main source of income, it is the lawsuits that I find more detrimental. 

If the lawsuits brought forth from the likes of, 2 Milly, Alfonso Ribeiro, the “Backpack Kid”, and Blocboy JB result in them receiving sole rights to their dances then Epic will have no choice but in wiping out these emotes from Fortnite. If these emotes are removed, they will then have to refund the millions of players who have purchased them. Depending on the court rulings, the plaintiffs will also receive compensation for the intellectual property being copyrighted. 

I believe that Fortnite has come to the end of its run as a popular game. With all of the issues I presented, I do not see how Fortnite can have any more success. What do you think? Is Fortnite a game that will maintain the popularity it had at its peak with 125 million in 2018, or will it become obsolete like many fads of the past? If you believe Fortnite’s fatality is in the near future, what do you believe will be the final nail in the coffin to the games relevance?

-Joshua Farris

Is Everyone Jumping on the Battle Royale Bandwagon?

Battle Royale games have been rising in popularity since early 2017. The two most popular battle royale games, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, currently have over 77 million players combined worldwide. Both games are predicted to bring in over $1 Billion in their first year alone. Combine this with their nearly overnight growth in popularity and it is clear that battle royale games have become a big threat to other game companies.

Battle Royale

The battle royale game type gets its name from a Japanese movie made in 2000 “Battle Royale”. In this movie a class of high school students are put on an island fight to the death until only one remains. In 2012 a similar movie was made in America, “The Hunger Games”.  With a PG-13 rating “The Hunger Games” was able to reach and influence a younger audience. Eventually these movies inspired game creators to make mods, or custom game types, with a Hunger Games theme in mind.

One of the more popular mods was created and cared for by Brendan Greene, aka PlayerUnknown. His mod, with the help of “Unreal Engine 4” by Epic Games, would go on to become the stand-alone game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG for short. Shortly afterwards, Epic Games would release Fortnite, which appeared to be a cartoony copy of PUBG and used the same engine. This sparked some controversy which quickly died down.

Both games rose in popularity, and in a few short months each game had tens of millions of players worldwide. Other game companies took note of this and started plans to hop on the battle royale bandwagon. In an article on GameRant, Activision Blizzard talked about their new game, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. It is mentioned that this Call of Duty game will be significantly different from its predecessors as it will not have a campaign and will focus more on a team style combat in player versus player battle. Later Activision Blizzard went on to announce a battle royale mode would be added to the game to compete with Fortnite.

Activision Blizzard is not the only company to take a lesson from PUBG and Fortnite, DICE is also going to be adding a battle royale mode to their new game, Battlefield V. DICE’s battle royale mode, called Firestorm, is described as battle royale done the Battlefield way. In Firestorm sixteen teams of four fight to the last squad standing in a WWII themed battle ground.

Smaller gaming companies are also trying to get into the spotlight by making their own battle royale games. Games like the Darwin Project, Rapture Rejects, and Islands of Nyne are all battle royale inspired games hoping to make a few bucks before this new craze dies down.

battle royaleWhether or not you are a fan of the battle royale game type it seems to be growing in popularity and bringing more and more people into the videogame market. With free to play games like Fortnite people are more inclined to try out a game before they get hooked. The big titles in gaming are losing fans to these free to play games and are combating it with a “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude.

While some companies like Activision Blizzard are quick to change everything about their classic Call of Duty games, other companies are playing it safe. DICE is keeping with what they know and adding in a fresh take on battle royale; this move makes it look like they are not sure if the battle royale fad will continue in the future or not. Do you think that the battle royale games are here to stay, or are they just another footnote in gaming history?

-Lane Larson

Beta Backers – The New and Dangerous Way to Support a Video Game

Over the past few years, Video game companies have started a new approach to delivering their final product to their consumers, giving them an option to offer feedback towards the final product and playing early at the cost of a few dollars. While it might be fun to play the game early and feel like a part of the development process, there are risks involved in being in the Early Access phase of a game.

video gameBefore the introduction of the internet, video games were sold as a final product as either a cartridge or CD. Now with most consoles and PCs having access to the internet, companies can make changes quickly depending on consumer feedback.

video game

What makes a product in beta any better than a fully finished product? Early Access / Betas for video games can be a win-win for both the developers as well as those purchasing the product: developers now have funds to further develop their game to their liking and those that purchased the game can play it earlier than others as well as giving their helpful advice or criticism early into the development cycle allowing the developers time to change some of the problems to make the community happy.

video gameAs small and large development teams alike might take advantage of this strategy and have those that the game give feedback as well as submitting bug reports and crash reports to make their game more stable for the final release. Ben Kurchera of Polygon says it the best:

“…the process often feels like listening to the demos of your favorite band as they’re in the studio recording”

Sure there are problems…While a successful beta can lead to quality word of mouth from reputable sources and peers alike, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch, and by a few, there are quite a few bad apples. According to Steam Early Access in 2014, there was an increase in Early Access games by 123% from the previous year. While that might seem like there is a good quality of games in the Steam store, only about 25% of these Early Access games actually see a full release. Games like Cube World blew up in 2013 generating millions of views on Youtube, but despite the overall well received game, Cube World creator Wollay has gone silent since July 2017.

Today, using Valve Steam’s Application Programming Interface, Steamspy.com [https://steamspy.com/genre/Early+Access], can track various data within the Steam Store. About 2,800 titles with the “Early Access” tag generate an average user score of 70.3% as well as maintaining an average playtime of five hours. Five hours to play a game and never pick it up again? While the company already has your cash, that is still an unfortunate side effect of an Early Access game.

What makes a good beta? With no clear formula to create a quality video game early access experience, there are a few ways that game companies can up their overall performance to help create a better game:

Communication between parties

  • Every update should be accommodated with a short explanation on what and why items are changing for the most recent patch.
  • All forms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc) should be active, whether that be responding to comments, suggestions, or criticism.

Updates

  • Keep the user base interested in the product. Release small updates every week or so to keep your user base around and talking about the game.
  • FREE UPDATES. While yes, video game developers require cash to keep it coming, the game is in BETA. If your game company is looking to monetize, then push for a full release to sell at full price. Small micro transactions can be a tipping point for most people since they might have already paid for the beta/ early access of the game.

Marketing

  • Even though the game is not close to finishing, you still want new people to come and try out your product. Beta and Early Access is a crucial time for the game, for if the game is not successful while in the early stages, how well will it be two years from now?
  • Attempt to use the user base as a form of marketing. Offer unique rewards for referring a friend or liking certain pages on social media. Any word for a starting game can be beneficial.

-Nate Weber

Electronic Arts in Legal Trouble Over Loot Boxes?

Everybody knows about EA’s past struggles and scandals with the loot boxes in their games. Nearly all of EA’s major franchises include loot boxes in some form whether it’s their annual FIFA and Madden Games or their first person shooter games like the battlefield series. One of EA’s games that caught the most attention for having loot boxes is the infamous Star Wars Battlefront 2.

Electronic ArtsIf you are unfamiliar with the controversy behind Star Wars BattleFront 2, Gamespot wrote a summary of the drama that unfolded back in 2017. In short, during EA’s beta of Star Wars BattleFront 2 players discovered that the loot boxes EA had put in the game made the game very unbalanced and basically made the game pay-to-win. Players took to the internet and complaining about how the game was designed to pressure players into paying to advance at a reasonable rate in the game.

EA attempted to defend their decisions centered around the loot boxes on Reddit but ended up breaking a record for the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. According to the WSJ Fearing losing profitability in one of their biggest franchises Disney’s chairman of consumer products sent a message to EA and expressing his concerns about how the player outrage could affect the Star Wars brand. Shortly before the games official launch EA decided to temporary remove loot boxes fearing it lootboxes would negatively affect their sales going into the holiday season. Eventually after the controversy had calmed down they put loot boxes back into the game but with only cosmetic items that could affect how your characters looked.

Electronic ArtsAlmost a year after the Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box scandal EA is making headlines again due to the company being under criminal investigation in Belgium due to FIFA’s loot boxes according to EuroGamer. Back in April of this year Belgium declared that some loot boxes are considered gambling are are also illegal. After this decision Blizzard, Valve and 2K Games all made actions to remove or modify their loot box systems in the Belgium versions of their games. EA decided to do nothing following Belgium’s decision and now if Belgium decides to prosecute the case will go to court.

The reasoning behind Belgium’s stricter loot box policies is because Belgium’s gaming commission conducted an investigation into games with loot boxes in video games to see if they fall under Belgium’s definition of gambling.  According to a Belgium press release the results of the investigation were that Belgium’s gaming commission considered loot boxes to be a game of chance because of the fact that players didn’t know which items a box may contain when purchasing the loot box. Belgium is also concerned about loot boxes due to the fact that a lot of children play these games and are vulnerable to gambling at an early age. Belgium also states that the only options for games with loot boxes are to remove them entirely from the Belgium version of the game or modify them to display the contents of the box and the chance of how often each player has at receiving an item. The developers would also have to state that loot boxes are a form of gambling in the game if they choose to modify it.

Some consequences that EA might possibly have to face for refusing to modify their loot box system  includes a $800,000 fine for violating Belgium’s gaming commissions’ rules or face 5 years in prison for whoever was involved in the decision of implementing loot boxes into the game. On top of that since the gambling commission also state that minors are involved the fines have the possibility of doubling making EA to possibly pay over one million dollars or 10 years of jail time.

Overall this probably isn’t more of a bump in the road for EA they have already made public the odds of the “card packs” in their FIFA games. They might have done this in attempts to avoid a court case in Belgium all together but even if it goes to court no one is going to go to jail over these loot boxes. EA would most likely just pay the fine if it ever comes done to that. Thanks to EA some countries are asking themselves “Are loot boxes a form of gambling?”

-Charles Schwarz

A Monopoly Crumbles: Distribution in the Video Game Sector

A monopoly is crumbling. This isn’t a monopoly over oil or diamonds, but over video game distribution. Steam, the king of distributing video games, is being challenged by multiple competitors.

Video GameSteam is the largest computer video game distributor in the world with 125 million active users. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, Steam is relatively unchallenged in the world of distribution. Sure, platforms like EA’s Origin and Blizzard’s Battlenet are alternatives, but they are only used for a select amount of games each company has acquired. Steam has tens of thousands of titles.

While Steam does have a positive overall reputation in the video game world, they could still use some competition. It’s not good for the consumers to be forced to depend on one service for distribution.

As pretty much everyone knows, monopolies aren’t a good thing. Steam’s position allows it a lot of power in pricing its games, and unchecked bargaining power because the sellers can’t go anywhere else to sell their PC game effectively.

But now all of that is changing.

Video Game Last April, the video game company known as Tencent announced that it was going to rebrand its online services to create a platform where users may buy and play games. This will be a platform nearly identical to Steam. Tencent is calling their new platform WeGame.

Tencent may be an unfamiliar name to some, but their products are big, and they are a huge brand in China. The own both Riot Games (League of Legends) and Supercell (Clash of Clans).

League of Legends alone is significant as it is the most popular video game on the market. Clash of Clans has a strong following as well. Additionally, Tencent has significant stakes in Activision Blizzard and Epic Games, two major studios in the video game world.

Most importantly, it is estimated that Tencent has 200 million active users, thanks to China and the Asian Market.

Video Game The new platform was officially released September first about two months ago. Here’s the link to their slick new platform. Now there is one noticeable problem with Tencent’s platform; you need to speak Chinese.

Despite Tencent being a “global game distributor,” there is no non-Chinese version yet. It has only been out two months, and Tencent has promised to bring it to as many countries as possible, but for now English users will have a hard time using the platform.

Despite the lack of an English version, China’s market alone is enough to challenge Steam. Things will only get worse for Steam as they will be in more trouble once WeGame can effectively hit American market as well as others. But WeGame isn’t the only competitor Steam may have to worry about.

Twitch announced several months ago that it would be selling games via Twitch. It is clear that Amazon, Twitch’s parent company, wants a slice of the market. Twitch’s offer is unique as well since it will give its Streamers a piece of the revenue earned off the purchase, which will encourage the Streamers to positively influence other users to buy from Twitch.

Video Game The rise of Twitch is an interesting development, and one that shows no signs of stopping. Similar to how YouTubers have become famous and wealthy due to their videos, Twitch Streamers are starting to do the same thing. Viewers on Twitch can now buy the game that their favorite Streamer plays, and that Streamer gets a cut of the profits, which actively encourages Streamers to promote the games they play.

This method of advertisement has been effective in the last few months that Twitch began selling games. Twitch has doubled its library of games and partnered with more game companies. If this pattern continues, they could easily become a significant threat to Steam.

It is unlikely that Steam, or its parent company Valve, will simply fall apart and disappear. However, it is likely that Steam will have to deal with some serious competition. WeGame and Twitch are already threatening Steam’s grip on the market. More competition is good for the market and consumers, so this is welcomed. It looks like another monopoly will be a thing of the past.

-Sam King

Switching Up How to Catch Them All

Since 1980 Nintendo has held a monopoly on handheld gaming.  From the Gameboy Color all the way to the New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo has had minimal competition in this market.  With the release of the Nintendo Switch on March 3, 2017 many questions have arisen.  Being the world’s first “hybrid console”, since it’s both handheld and a console that can be played through the television, it really shakes up the world of gaming.  Having the New Nintendo 3DS and the Switch can possibly result in Nintendo competing with itself and causing self-cannibalization.  So, what’s the next move for them?

SwitchA lot of 3DS owners only have them to play one of the world’s most famous and profitable franchises, Pokémon.  Game Freak, the developer behind Pokémon, has recently announced that Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, released on November 17, 2017, would be the last main title released for the New 3DS.  All games after that will be released on the Nintendo Switch.  In my opinion, this may not be the most profitable at first, but it will be in the future.

SwitchThere are several reasons why I believe that it will not be profitable right away.  The original price point of the New Nintendo 3DS was $199.99 and the price of the Nintendo Switch is $300.  That doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that the New Nintendo 3DS only has a resale value of $60.  That doesn’t put a huge dent in the cost of buying a Switch.  In the first 3 months the Switch sold 4.7 million units, while the New Nintendo 3DS sold 4.3 million units in the first 3 months.

Nintendo moving everything over to the Switch has its advantages and disadvantages.  Obviously, the graphics would be way better on the Switch.  The Switch also has a much better multiplayer interface than the 3DS.  The Switch has also been experiencing some problems that might make people not want to buy it right away.  There have been multiple cases of the controllers (joy-cons) not connecting to the system.  Also, the charging points have not worked for many Switch owners.  There have even been some cases of Switches not turning on.

Switch

How is Nintendo going to handle this switch?  They could do some kind of trade-in deal for 3DSs’ for more money.  Nintendo could also just count on 3DS players to splash out the cash and switch to the switch.  Another probable thing is for them to just discontinue 3DS games.  So what do you think?  The switch over sounds messy but will it be worth it in the end?

 

-Mitch Diamond

Sony v. Microsoft: The Console Wars

Over the course of the 2000s, two major companies have been competing for the attention of the serious gamer. The Xbox and the PlayStation consoles have both been integral to the advancement of not just gaming technology, but the driving force behind a few technological advancements. Sony’s PlayStation series has been known as the go-to console for most serious gamers, while Xbox focuses on being the all-in-one console. The different advertising strategies often attract different people, but with advancements in modern day systems, the main differences will be the exclusives and aesthetics.

ConsoleThe first iteration of PlayStation came out in the late 1990s, and stayed the leading console for many years. For the longest time, Sony had no competition, that is until the early 2000s when Microsoft released their flagship console, Xbox. Over the course of the next couple of years the two companies would start to sync up their release dates and start a pattern of pumping out new consoles. Every 5-6 years a new console is released but within those years are mid-cycle upgrades. For the two companies, they release a slim, and then a slightly more upgraded version (in terms of processing power) around a year later.

ConsoleOne key problem faced with these consoles is future proofing. When a new console is sent out every year there isn’t much room for improvement. Many people won’t buy a new system unless there is a significant change. With the introduction of Project Scorpio Microsoft aimed to create a system that would be one of the most powerful. With boasted true 4k gaming Microsoft’s current console, the Xbox One X, has the most powerful processor to date. As well as this they have made their newest console backwards compatible all the way to the original Xbox. Their mission is to make console gaming comparable if not better than computers.

PlayStation’s main focus is a little more different than Xbox’s, where Xbox focuses more on graphics, PlayStation focuses on content. Overall both consoles have good exclusive games, but PlayStation can brag about having a higher percentage of high reviews on their games. Sony’s newest upgrade to the PS4 is the PS4 Pro. This console says it has a 4k experience, but in all actuality it uses a process called supersampling . This process can lower the frame rate of a game, which is very bad when dealing with games that require quick responses. However, Sony’s PlayStation VR is one of the leading headsets in terms of gaming graphics. So much so that they have said they don’t want to advance any farther than they are now, so as to not scare away future competition. When asked about the future of VR in their consoles, Microsoft simply shrugged off the question and instead pointed out their new features of game sharing and backwards compatibility. Unfortunately, PlayStation is more focused on the future of gaming, so they will not be incorporating backwards compatibility.

One problem suggested with the speed of advancements in gaming technology today is that by the time a console is finished, it will already be outdated. A good point to bring up is how Sony released the PS4 pro with already next level graphics, only to be outdone by Microsoft the next year. To combat this both companies can be seen talking about producing consoles faster, or with better gear. The latter will make consoles more expensive and the former will make consoles less worth purchasing.

-Roberto Estrella

A Whole New Game: Independent AAA

Today’s video game industry seems more homogenized than ever. Now, almost every big budget game is required to have an open world with multiplayer, downloadable content, and invasive microtransactions stapled onto it with no regard to player satisfaction. As more games seek larger revenues, the future of AAA video games looks bleak. But one game may have set a precedent that will change the market for the better.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was released on August 8th, 2017 for PC and PlayStation 4. According to its developer Ninja Theory, it’s a cinematic psychological horror action-adventure game based on Celtic and Norse Mythology. That kind of subject matter isn’t something commonly seen in the market. It can be seen as risky and doomed to fail as it doesn’t play it safe. But Hellblade isn’t like other AAA games.

gamePrior to Hellblade, Ninja Theory developed Heavenly Sword and DmC: Devil May Cry along with other games of generally high quality. What sets Hellblade apart from Ninja Theory’s previous projects is that it’s self-published. Before, Ninja Theory relied on large publishers like Namco-Bandai and Capcom for marketing and distribution. But with Hellblade, they’ve done everything independently.

Independent games have been around since the beginning of commercial video games. But the independent market didn’t get to where it is today until the rise of digital distribution. Services like Steam and GOG have allowed almost anyone to self-publish their games and have a chance at commercial success. Most indie games are developed by small teams with relatively small budgets. But Hellblade is different as it was developed by an established studio with a budget more comparable to that of games released my major publishers.

Ninja Theory describes Hellblade as being Independent AAA. According to their website, an Independent AAA game is a game of AAA quality but with the more focused game design, lower price point and open development process that defines indie games. Hellblade has taken this philosophy head on. It’s single player only, released for just $30, and heavily focuses on mental health issues. This is all unheard of with AAA games from major publishers. Without independence, none of the risks Hellblade made would’ve been possible.

Despite being one game in a vast ocean, Hellblade may have created waves that will alter the future of AAA gaming. If other major non-subsidiary development studios see Hellblade as a success, they may choose to follow Ninja Theory’s footprints. This would allow for complete creative control of their own intellectual properties. They could choose to charge however much they wish. Bloated downloadable content and microtransactions forced in by publishers could no longer infect their projects. If Hellblade sets this precedent, a new age of high budget independent games could be on the horizon.

gameAAA games from the major publishers aren’t going away anytime soon. Neither is all of the nonsense we associate with them. The AAA market continues to be lucrative enough for them to remain unaffected. But major development studios no longer have to be reliant on publishers. The internet is now powerful enough for a prominent developer to market and finance a game on their own.

The recent closure of Visceral Games by EA shows that now may be the time for developers that can become independent to make the move. Hopefully, Hellblade can give some the confidence to release their own Independent AAA games.

-Andrew Levesque