News: The Man Who Sold the World

It's not quite cement boots, but it will suffice!
It’s not quite cement boots, but it will suffice!

Stephen Elop Takes Charge of Xbox

A couple of weeks ago Caspius.com reported on the rumour that Microsoft is currently in talks with Amazon to sell their Xbox division. While there is still no confirmation of that particular rumour’s validity, another piece of the puzzle has seemingly fallen into place. Following Satya Nadella’s ascent as the newest Microsoft CEO, former Nokia boss Stephen Elop is set to take control of the Devices and Studios division, which includes the Xbox brand. This is significant because in recent speculation surrounding possible Microsoft CEO candidates it became known that Elop intended to acquiesce to the wishes of shareholders by selling off the Xbox brand if he became CEO. Elop had shortly before been the Nokia CEO where he managed to sharply crash the company’s shareprice, before negotiating the company’s sale to Microsoft. That is motive and capability – and will be a detail noted by Elop’s fellows in the upper ranks of Microsoft’s management team.

It is important to keep in mind that this appointment may just be simple coincidence, yet if Microsoft’s new CEO was of a mind to see Xbox sold then Elop would be the man to carry out his wishes. Moreover, it is certainly passing strange that Julie Larson-Green has been replaced as the head of Devices and Studios mere months after she took over the position in the wake of Don “just buy a 360” Mattrick – though, of course, she may have just been a placeholder executive until Elop could get his ducks in a row.

Meanwhile, in other news Microsoft has once again demonstrated precisely why it is sometimes better to say absolutely nothing on an issue than to hamfist your message with willful buffoonery. This week it was revealed that the Xbone’s extortionate UK pricing is set to receive a permanent, albeit minor, cut from £429.99 to £399.99, while each unit sold will be accompanied by either a copy of Titanfall or FIFA 14. This has led to much in the way of buyer’s remorse, and rather than allow the fracas to slowly ebb, Microsoft UK marketing director, Harvey Eagle, instead elected to fan the flames by opening his idiot mouth and flapping his tongue. According to Eagle Microsoft are “hugely appreciative of people that have supported us since launch“. Be that as it may, it is Eagle’s view that “Unfortunately we can’t offer a retroactive refund to people, but we thank them very much and we’re hugely appreciative of them being on board since the beginning.”

Hardware pricedrops are very much a part of life for gamers, and come part and parcel with early adoption of new technology [even when it occurs a scant three months after launch]. These Xboners very much deserve the cards they have been dealt, yet it was utterly foolish to try and negotiate with them in this manner – especially while employing reasoning which is self-evidently false. Microsoft cannot travel back in time to refund Xboners at the point of purchase, but they could provide them with a thirty pound credit, six months of Gold membership, or a Digital copy of Titanfall. Attempting to wrassle a pig in the mud is always going to be a disproportionate affair, and Microsoft should know better than to try and bargain down entitled fanboys with weasel words.

It is clear that brand Playstation still carries tremendous cache in its domestic market, but will the games be sufficient to maintain sales?
It is clear that brand Playstation still carries tremendous cache in its domestic market, but will the games be sufficient to maintain sales?

PS4 Launches In Japan

After three long months Sony’s popular PS4 console has finally launched in Japan, marking a stark break with tradition. In times past Sony’s domestic audience always got first dibs on any and all new hardware, so it is truly a mark of the decline of console gaming in Japan that Japanese gamers have been kept waiting this long. With that in mind there are some elements of the PS4’s Japanese launch that are promising, and there are several that are worthy of minor concern.

In its first two days on sale the PS4 has managed to sell 322,083 units which completely smashes the 88,443 PS3s sold on debut – that said, it does not come close to matching the white-hot launch of the PS2, though the PS2 substantially benefited from shipping with DVD playback capabilities. In terms of software bought at launch the situation is slightly less rosy. The PS4 has a software attach-rate that is significantly less than one game sold per console. The upside to this is that the poor software sales can be attributed to each PS4 being sold with a free copy of Knack, while the downside to this is that each PS4 was sold with a free copy of Knack, potentially souring Japan towards the console right out of the gate!

In terms of paid software Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin [a Yakuza spin-off entry] performed the best, selling 73,086 units, while Battlefield 4 sold 26,878 units, Killzone: Shadowfall nearly matched that by selling 25,978 units, and Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends sold 13,576 units. It is initially surprising to see a Dynasty Warriors title being outsold by two Western games, yet this particular entry has already seen release on the PS3, so many of these sales are likely new PS4 owners double-dipping for the slight visual upgrade. One is not aware of whether any other significant Japanese titles launched along-side the PS4, yet, despite the fuss that Sony made about postponing the launch so as to wait for domestic content, it seems unlikely given the nature of the top-four performing titles. Finally, it is needless to say that the pack-in title, Knack, managed to shift the most units, meaning that at the end of the day this atrocious pile of richly undeserving shit will have managed sales of somewhere within the vicinity of a million units. That is depressing as shit.

You know the app market is a toilet when you begin to regard swill like this as 'the good old days'.
You know the app market is a toilet when you begin to regard swill like this as ‘the good old days’.

EU To Tackle FTP Software

Europe may be a wretched hive of socialism, impotent diplomacy, and grandiose delusions of becoming a mega-state – but the end result of that is some of the finest consumer protection anywhere in the world. The EU made waves in the gaming world when it ruled that many of the anti-consumer measures contained within EULAs were null and void on account of gamers owning any piece of software that they purchase, and having full re-sale rights for that piece of software, irrespective of whether it is physical or digital. It would seem that the EU is on the verge of another coup, although this time it is a little more consultative in nature. After a spate of complaints the EU has come to have grave concerns pertaining to games that falsely claim to be free *coughDungeonKeepercough*, and also games with obnoxious pop-up windows which encourage children to pester their parents to pay for in-app purchases. In an attempt to tackle this problem the European Commission will be meeting over the next couple of days with various national enforcement agencies and large tech companies in order to find a solution to this grating problem.

This move comes on the eve of the release of a sobering study which finds that 0.15% of FTP players account for 50% of the in-app purchases, while, of the users participating, just 1.5% of them had made any in-app purchase that month. The FTP model has been insidiously gnawing away at the foundations of gaming since its inception, and now, seemingly, we finally have the proof that it really is just a tiny minority of players who are ruining the industry for the rest of us. The results become even more mind-boggling when one notes that of the participants who made an in-app purchase, the average time until they made their next purchase was one hour and forty minutes, while the average price of purchases was $5.94. These hopelessly mediocre trifles are hardly free to play – in fact it would seem that a number of people spend vastly greater amounts of money on them than they would a conventional sixty dollar game. It is high time that the rest of the world got behind the EU in closely scrutinising the practices employed by these bottomless money chasms.

One comment

  1. If people begin to think of ANGRY BIRDS as “the good old days,” I will burn the industry to the ground and salt the earth.

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