The Monday 'Joe: Expectations for Companies

The Monday 'Joe

Mondays are usually slow for news as people start to stir for the coming week. Therefore, every Monday, we will address one topic to start the week and get discussion flowing. It stimulates the week like a cup of coffee, hence the title.

Several companies have released their financial results for the past quarter lately, and it goes without saying that some did better than others. As such, the staff at Gaming Bus has been looking ahead in both the short and long term regarding these companies’ futures in 2012. This week’s question comes from staff writer Crystal Steltenpohl.

What companies do you have high hopes or expectations for and why? Are there any you expect to fail, and if so, why?

Brandon Mietzner: I think the biggest company that will stumble the most is Activision Blizzard, and the catalyst for this problem will stem from Diablo III. I believe too many gamers are going to feel it doesn’t live up to their expectations. Hell, just look at the beta: recently, they revamped the entire the character base attributes. When Blizzard made the announcement that they were going to do this, many beta testers said this would delay the game even further for more “testing,” and then it happened. Just the other day, Blizzard told investors it would be pushing the release date back to Q2 of 2012 and that they would need more beta time. The beta and balance issues are only the tip of the iceberg.

Personally, I won’t purchase Diablo III because Blizzard wants direct access to my account information, and that will be a huge target for hackers. This isn’t a risk I’m comfortable taking with any game company. They don’t need this feature; hell, they removed it from the South Korean release so it could be classified, given a rating, and released because they know that’s their biggest market. They say this is a feature, but it isn’t; it’s control, and I won’t give up control of something that could impact my real-life living situation. No way, no how.

Then there’s the matter of always-on DRM just to play single-player. Seriously, can no one learn from Ubisoft’s mistake? Apparently, Activision Blizzard have either not been paying attention or they think they’re gods among other developers and publishers because they’re making the same fucking mistake. Gaming Bus just reported on Ubisoft’s DRM servers going down, which affected customers when it shouldn’t have. What makes anyone think that Activision Blizzard is going to do a better job?

This game is going to disappoint people on so many levels that I think Blizzard is going to be playing catch-up for a long time to get just the basics down. In fact, they obviously haven’t been able to do it since they started beta testing back in 2008. The only questions that need to be asked are 1) how much will the gameplay disappoint players, and 2) will it be able to recoup the investment for production? I honestly believe we’ll hear a lot of apologizing and groveling coming from Blizzard in an effort to get people to buy the game and keep them from seeing red with this title. Because of that, Diablo III will be the first disappointing title to come from a company that was seen as being in touch with its community until Activision bought them out— er, merged with them. But that’s a tale for another day.

Nathan Wood: First of all, let me start by saying that I hope THQ can get back on their feet before it’s too late. I’ve always enjoyed their games as they’re a company that doesn’t use the online pass, which is becoming rarer and rarer. They publish new, quality titles consistently, and it would just be very sad for a company to go down because of something like the uDraw tablet (which in itself is actually a smart, interesting device that has not been successful in the slightest).

Moving on, a company I have high hopes for is Naughty Dog. Each year they put out a game, it is instantly in the running for Game of the Year. Because of that, I’m very interested in finding out what they’re capable of after working on the Uncharted series the last few years. Also, The Last of Us has a lot of hype around it lately. It’s one of my most anticipated games of the upcoming year, and although it does appear to contain subjects that have been done to hell in the video game industry (e.g. post apocalyptic, zombie-like creatures), I have a lot of faith in Naughty Dog to create something interesting and immersive.

What’s more interesting is what the other team at Naughty Dog might be up to—that is to say, the team that just finished Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Not much is known as of right now, but many are hopeful for a new Jak and Daxter game. However, it’s fairly unlikely that will be coming around anytime soon: Naughty Dog claimed they contemplated making a sequel, but in the end, they decided it would do “everybody a disservice.”

As for companies I see faltering this year, it would have to be Ubisoft, the same company I would’ve picked last year if I’d been asked this same question. For the past few years now, Ubisoft keeps receiving complaints and bad press regarding their DRM practices, and so far, they don’t seem too bothered by it. Although I could go on an hour-long rant about it, I would just be recycling everyone else’s opinion on the matter but utilizing a system that’s generally broken. It’s a system that punishes their paying customers for actually buying their product instead of targeting the actual problem. It needs a constant Internet connection, something that simply isn’t available all over the world today, and games that don’t even have an online multiplayer are unplayable when their servers are down or being migrated. It’s almost like they’re giving people a reason to pirate their games so they don’t have to deal with the bullshit of owning an Ubisoft game.

But that isn’t all. What’s more worrying is that of one of their biggest franchises, Assassin’s Creed, has shown some faltering in the lack of innovation with the latest release, Revelations. The end of 2012 is going to see the end of the Assassin’s Creed story (barring some stupid milking by Ubisoft, which I wouldn’t rule out), and I’m not confident that the game will live up to the hype. Alexandre Amancio has left the studio, and I don’t know how a series built on essentially being a ninja has gone so long without a proper, in-depth stealth system. I may be the only one, but I think the series needs an overhaul while delivering on the story that the fans have been waiting on for years. As one of those fans myself, it would certainly be nice after all this time.

Mohammed Al Saadoon: The company I have the highest hopes for this year is Nintendo.

I won’t lie: I’ve been a fan of Nintendo since the NES days, and I’ve always enjoyed whatever they put out. This year, I’m really interested in what the Wii U or whatever they change the name to has in store for this year’s E3. I’m also looking forward to whatever new games they announce for the 3DS, which finally seems to be gathering steam and coming into its own.

I usually don’t wish bad luck on anyone no matter how bad they are, but this year, I actually have a dilemma: I have too many companies that I wish ill fortune upon. Shall I pick Ubisoft for their DRM shenanigans and Rayman Origin‘s intentionally horrible release date? Activision Blizzard for general dickery? Or Electronic Arts for their Origin fiasco and infantile marketing of Battlefield 3? Since Nathan and Brandon already mentioned the first two companies, I’ll pick Electronic Arts to avoid redundancy.

It takes a special breed of asshole to make Activision look mature and responsible by comparison, but in the run-up to the release of Battlefield 3, Electronic Arts looked like a bunch of giant man-babies. By extension, they made everyone associated with gaming look like giant man-babies. Thanks a lot, EA.

The second thing was removing all their games from Steam and running the far inferior system Origin for some reason that they didn’t fully elaborate on. Their new system is far worse than Steam in nearly every metric, but they have the financial resources to keep this charade going for many years. For me at least, this makes once-desirable games like Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect 3‘s PC version inferior to their competitors.

Joshua Moore: Personally, I think Ubisoft is going to see their PC releases fail miserably. Their DRM and ports are terrible, which is something that pisses off a lot of the very vocal PC gamers. Just look at From Dust and this charade with their doing a server migration: “Sorry about this guys, but you’re not allowed to play your game for a while since we have to dick around with the servers. We didn’t think about using temporary authentication servers, so you’ll just have to suffer.”

I also expect EA to give up on Origin eventually. It’s a terrible distribution platform with draconic terms, and the only reason they have a reasonable number of users is because they forced them to use it for their most popular games. On the other hand, Steam is wonderful, and I fully expect Valve to thrive.

Finally, Nintendo has been given a lot of flak by investors who feel that they’re dragging their feet when it comes to understanding the current market. I don’t feel that’s really true: the 3DS simply had a shitty release. As I stated in my article on the subject, the quality and the number of games available for a system at launch really dictates how well it does. I’m excited to see the dawn of Nintendo’s player network. The arrival of DLC and similar things to Nintendo consoles means that they’re finally moving into the 21st century. While Nintendo generally does things right with their systems, I think not including something like this in the 3DS and the Wii from the get-go was a mistake. The 3DS will now be getting an update for this, and the WiiU will make up for what the Wii lacks.

Crystal Steltenpohl: I expect Capcom to do relatively well this year. Resident Evil: Revelations has been hailed as a pretty good game so far, and more Resident Evil games, Monster Hunter, Asura’s Wrath, and a Devil May Cry-related title are forthcoming. While I personally am not terribly happy being without another Miles Edgeworth game and I think it’d be nice to get Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, I can’t say I don’t expect them to do well even if America doesn’t get those titles. I imagine many of my Mega Man-loving friends hope they rot, but I was never too into Mega Man so I can’t quite muster up a lot of hate for Capcom about that.

I’ll agree with practically everyone here that Ubisoft is crapping on its customers. If they don’t rectify this, I would hope that their sales reflect accordingly, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Just like a bunch of people are still buying EA’s stuff even though Origin has so many problems associated with it, I don’t forsee the community as a whole changing their purchase habits because of the stuff Ubisoft has been pulling. It’s very possible people will just pirate Ubisoft’s stuff though, so I guess it is possible to see them fail this year.

Lastly, Sony probably isn’t going to do too well unless their new CEO can really turn things around. They haven’t been doing well the past few years, their credit rating just dropped, and the Vita’s probably not going to do as well as they seem to expect. Those added costs and the whole “You get the UMD Passport! Just kidding!” debacle do not weigh in their favor in the slightest.

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About M. Ngai